Separate Ways

Mind Games

James awoke with the strange feeling that he was being watched. He sat bolt upright and looked around, squinting in the dim early morning light. There was no one else nearby. He had fallen asleep next to a little stream which was gurgling calmly beside him. He could feel a knot in his stomach and it took a few seconds for him to remember why he felt so tense. His whole life had crashed down about his ears. That was why.

He got up and approached the stream. Just as he splashed his face with the cool water, he heard a noise behind him, like someone or something moving through the undergrowth.

"Hello?" he asked, staring around at the bushes that surrounded his sleeping spot. He heard the same noise again, but this time it was louder, closer.

"Jessie?" he called. There was no reply. Of course there was no reply, Jessie had made her choice, she had chosen Jasper over him. Personally, James thought Jasper was an arrogant, demanding ass, but that was beside the point. Telling himself that the loud rustling was probably just a Pokémon passing by, he ran his fingers through his lilac hair and stood up. No sooner had he done this when he stepped on something sharp.

"Owwww!" he moaned, rubbing his foot. He looked down to see what he had stepped on but he could see nothing except grass and leaves. Then, for a third time, he heard a rustling behind him.

More quickly this time, he whipped around to see a Pokémon standing just a few feet away from him. It was unlike anything he had ever seen before. It had the body and tail of a scorpion, but the black, furry, eight legs of a spider. It stared him down with its solitary yellow eye, its tail arched and quivering over its back. It looked angry - probably because James had just stepped on it - and he didn't want to stick around to see what it was going to do about it. Never breaking eye contact with the strange bug thing, he started to back away from it but as he moved, it became increasingly more difficult to manoeuvre his limbs. His legs felt heavy and he caught his foot on a rock. His arms wouldn't move fast enough to catch him before he fell, so he landed on the cold ground with a painful thud. With a huge effort he pushed himself further away from the creature until his back hit a tree. He reached for one of the Pokéballs on his belt; he didn't care which Pokémon he sent out, he just needed one of them to get help for him. His fingertips grazed the smooth surface of one of the Pokéballs, he grabbed it blindly and let it fall to the ground. It rolled a little way away from him and bumped in to the scorpion thing. No Pokémon appeared. He had thrown an empty ball. He tried to reach for another one when his arms went limp altogether.

He tried to keep tabs on the aggressive looking Pokémon but his vision was blurring. He started seeing double, then triple. He blinked hard, trying to clear his vision and discovered that his eyes were not playing tricks on him, there really were three of the scorpion Pokémon approaching him now and even more were emerging from the woods. Then everything faded to black.

Despair enveloped him when his fears were confirmed; these were the same Pokémon that attacked Jessie. But unfortunately for him, there was no one around to help. Lost in the middle of a deep forest, no one would hear his screams.

For what felt like hours, perhaps days, James lay on the ground, paralysed by blinding, white hot pain. He just wanted the agony to end. Finally, at long last, it did. But in just a few moments, he would come to realise that the pain was actually preferable to what was about to happen.

He opened his eyes and to his relief, the Pokémon were gone. He had no idea how he had survived that ordeal. He was not nearly as strong as Jessie, physically or mentally. Being poisoned by that Pokémon had left Jessie completely drained, but now that the pain had passed, James felt alright. Exhausted, but alright. He could feel a cold sweat still dripping down his face, but when he went to wipe his brow, he found that his arms wouldn't move at all, nor would his legs. He was completely immobile and he was beginning to feel a little panicked when something caught his eye. He could have sworn he just saw a flash of magenta amongst the trees.

"Jessie?" he croaked. And this time, it really was her. She emerged from the gloom, a relieved smile on her face. The relief he felt was almost overwhelming. She had come back to him.

"James," she breathed. "I have been looking for you everywhere!"

He was about to tell her about his - hopefully temporary - paralysis when he saw something that made his mouth drop open. The Boss followed Jessie from out of the trees.

"Jessie, what's the Boss doing here?" he asked. She was still smiling when she said,

"I brought him here. I wanted you to hear it from the Boss himself."

"Hear what?" he asked.

"Well, for a start, you've been kicked out of Team Rocket," she said with a little shrug. "I asked the Boss to get rid of you because you're... well, you're a bit clingy and I didn't want you teaming up with me again. The truth is, I never really liked you. You were pretty easy to boss around which was fun for a while but now I'm bored, so it's for the best that you leave. I'll be so much better off without you," she finished, with a casual smile on her face.

James couldn't believe his ears. All his worst fears about his life with Jessie, their relationship, were coming true.

"Jessie," he began, his voice catching in his throat.

"James, don't whine," she said, abruptly. "I don't want to be with you. I never have and I never will. You have to accept that."

James looked to Giovanni as he stood quietly behind Jessie, a look of great pleasure on his face. Then in one swift movement, for absolutely no reason, the Boss put his arm around Jessie's neck and snapped it like a twig. James yelled out in horror as he watched Jessie fall in to a crumpled heap on the ground, the ghost of a smile still playing on her lips. Giovanni just raised an eyebrow at James and disappeared back in to the trees.

James struggled relentlessly against his invisible bonds, desperately trying to reach his best friend with hot tears streaming down his face. He looked urgently around, hoping against hope that someone might be passing by, but the forest was empty. And dead silent.

When he looked back to Jessie, she had gone.

"What – " James gasped, staring around. Jessie's broken body had been lying just feet from him and now it had vanished.

Confused and scared, he closed his eyes. He had no idea what had just happened, where Jessie's body had gone, or why he couldn't move. Then he heard footsteps. His eyes snapped open and he looked up to see Jessie standing in front of him, alive and well.


"James! I have been looking for you everywhere."

"You've... what?" James said, utterly confused. But then realisation hit him.

He knew what was happening. He probably wasn't even awake, trapped inside his own mind watching his worst fears unfold before him. This was exactly what had happened to Jessie and he knew that the worst part of his ordeal was only beginning.

James was going to have to watch his best friend – the love of his life – be killed over and over again.

Hours went by and he watched Jessie get stabbed, poisoned, beaten... Every time he watched her slender body fall limp to the ground was as horrible as the last. Sometimes she would appear before him and tell him how much she disliked him, other times she would proclaim her love only to be killed seconds later.

At one point, his would-be-wife, Jessiebelle appeared. She told him that they were going to get married, be together forever, but first she had to get rid of Jessie. And that's exactly what she did.

Time began to lose all meaning. All he knew was that he had seen the life leave Jessie's eyes thirty seven times, each time by a completely different, yet equally distressing method. He tried to tell himself that this was all in his head, that none of it was real, but this Pokémon knew exactly what he feared, what kept him awake at night and it was going to make him experience it.

By the time Jessie had been murdered forty two times, he was so distraught and exhausted that all he wanted was for this ordeal to stop, he didn't care how, he just wanted to be out of this misery.

"James! I've been looking for you everywhere!"

She appeared in front of him again. Once again, he watched her die.

"James! I've been looking for you everywhere!"

Over and over again.

"James! I've been looking for you everywhere!"

And it wasn't stopping.

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