July 24th, 2010
Photoshop and drawingtablet
PCBCOS Entry: Round 3
Entrants: Sandy Gano and team
Opponent: Aka Kanda and his team (Edowaado)
Theme song: Link
"Raising the dead"
It had taken her a few months, but Sandy had slowly come to accept the painful truth: the poor boy hadn't made it. Aka was dead. The Black Tourney, with all its horrors, its twisted mind games and its traps lay fresh in her memory. The Master of Ceremonies, the 'MC' who had hijacked the Contest Hall and used it as a stage for his own sick little games, took so much pleasure in torturing the poor fools inside the building. Like moths drawn to a flame, coordinators had flocked to the Contest Hall in response to the MC's enigmatic invitation.
"Free your happy little Contest Hall, if you dare."
"See if you have what it takes to stop me."
But what first seemed like an unusually-themed tournament soon turned into a nightmare. People started disappearing, Pokemon turned into monsters, judges were possessed. Reality itself became warped and contorted. And in the end even the MC himself turned out to be something not of this world. Something... twisted and evil. Not human. Not Pokemon. It had taken all their strength, their wit and their sheer brutal will to survive to tear that place free from the monster's grip.
The nightmare was now over, but at night when she had trouble sleeping, Sandy could still see the MC's twisted form. The Darkrai it had chosen to disguise itself as; continually morphing into a mockery of that creature, jaws snapping and claws shredding at the army of Pokemon they had sent against it. And that was just the MC's weaker half in the basement. Sandy couldn't even begin to imagine what it must have been like for the group of survivors who had fought his stronger half in the attic.
All things taken into consideration, it was a miracle that so few people had gotten hurt. Sandy's friend, a man who called himself 'the Black Dragon' nearly bled to death after he was accidentally shot by another coordinator. The old woman had a heart attack and almost died. Several people fell down pits, or narrowly escaped being impaled, squashed or slashed to pieces by the various traps in the building. Sandy herself had nearly snapped her right ankle, and of course Solaris, her Blaziken attempted to block a bomb blast with his face. Yes, all things considered, it was indeed a miracle that only two lives were lost back then...
Nearly everyone in that building was either a judge, possessed or otherwise, or a contestant trying to defeat the MC. However, there had been one unlike the rest. A small boy who really had no business in that hellhole. Sandy remembered him well. Perhaps because of what happened him, she even recalled his name.
He was an enigma in the guise of a young lad. All she knew about him was that he sneaked into the building, curious about the contests being held in there. Talk about being in the wrong place at the worst possible moment. Black had been the first person to take him under his wing, but even he couldn't save the poor boy's Raticate when it triggered one of the many hidden traps and was subsequently sliced in half. It happened right in front of Aka's eyes, or at least that's what Sandy was told. She hadn't been there. The former champ only met Aka much later. But the first moment she laid eyes on the boy, she could see it. His eyes gave it away. Something was broken inside. Snapped. He was still your average thirteen-year-old on the outside, with big brown eyes staring out at the world from underneath heavy chestnut locks; full of wonder at the hostile realm he had unwittingly blundered into. Clinging to terrified adults for comfort, even if he only did so unconsciously with pleading eyes. However, when Sandy looked at him, she couldn't help but wonder whether he still even had the will to live. It was heart wrenching. That's when she and her masked friend, Black Dragon, made a silent pact. Together they would see the boy through all this. He would live and he would see the blue sky again. He wouldn't lose his other friend, a scarred Venusaur. And maybe Aka would even smile again one day.
Aka was alive when the MC went down, but the bastard didn't die quietly as he rightly should have. No, of course he had to blow up like an Electrode stuffed with C4. His death shook something loose as the creature's world collapsed around them. Sandy didn't understand what happened exactly. All she remembered was the floor falling away from her, as if she was being propelled up. White light filled her field of vision and strange new memories came flooding into her mind. She saw herself fighting matches which, as far as she knew, had never taken place. Saw herself making mistakes she never should have made, or avoiding ones she did make. She won fights she should have lost, and lost battles despite clearly recalling she had once won them. When she finally woke up the building was a wreck, but it was no longer in a state of dimensional flux. It was real. It was tangible. Her senses were reliable once again, she knew this as soon as she opened her eyes. But now her mind was is disarray. Confused with memories and experiences of things which never took place. What really happened, and what was fake? At first she didn't even notice the bodies of her companions scattered around her, huddling down on the floor and groaning as they cradled their tortured heads.
She had been so puzzled and scared even. Sandy's mind was one of the few constants in her life. Whatever happened, she knew she had reason and intellect to fall back on if things went wrong. But now she could no longer trust her own brain and it was driving her nuts. It became even worse when she realized the other survivors were experiencing the exact same thing. Nobody knew for sure which memories were real and which were false. In the end it had been one of the hosts who simply said that as far as she was concerned all the memories were real. Just different versions of the same event, created by the MC and his reality-warping powers. Sandy didn't want to buy into that junk. There could only be one truth. Stubbornly she searched for it for several days, but then another realisation gradually took hold. It grew and grew from a gnawing sense of unease, the idea of having forgotten something important, to a sudden question; urgent and direct.
Wasn't someone missing?
Where was the boy?
He had been at her side right until someone dealt the final blow to the MC. She was sure of it. Slightly tucked away behind her and Black, wearing the latter's mask for comfort, Aka had been right there. Yet nobody recalled finding a brown-haired boy among the survivors. None of the medics knew, nor did the hospital staff or the police who stormed the building shortly after it suddenly reappeared in front of their eyes. He was just not there. In a state of frenzy Sandy scoured the building, the hospital and the surrounding area. Black was hospitalized and kept unconscious. He couldn't help her find him. So she asked the others, but with no result. It had infuriated her when at some point they started asking if he had ever been real to begin with. Perhaps Aka had been an illusion too. It had angered her, but...
... what if it was true?
Months passed and physically at least the survivors healed. They all knew they'd always have mental scars. Some would be better at dealing with these scars than others, but eventually they'd all move on. It was as if a determination had taken root in all of them: they would not let the monster destroy the rest of their lives too. Every day was a gift he could never take away. The survivors all settled down and life resumed. It even returned to relative normality for Sandy. The former champ resumed her delivery service and continued to dodge angry former fans. Even when the hosts of the Contest Hall strong-armed her into entering the PCBC OS tournament to earn money for repairs on their ruined building, this was relatively mundane to her. Any thoughts of Aka were slowly driven to the back of her mind. She had slowly come to accept that he was dead. The boy had not been an illusion. She flat-out refused to believe that, but he probably hadn't made it. This was simply another regret added to an already sizable pile of unfortunate facts of Sandy's life. It would always overshadow her gratefulness for surviving the Black Tourney, but outwardly at least Sandy had reclaimed her calm cheer. If there was an afterlife, she hoped the boy was happy now.
Sandy slammed the door shut forcefully, instantly surrounding them with darkness. The two trainers crouched down on the hard concrete floor and listened intently to the muffled sounds coming from the other side. Swallowing hard, Sandy tried to bring her breathing under control. Her leg muscles were still twitching from the short sprint, and the slightly pounding, grinding sensation in her right ankle told her it had been a bit too soon to strain her injured limb quite so much. Yes, she thought, next time I need to run from the police, I'll just calmly WALK away. That'll work. Sandy inhaled and held her breath. It only took a few seconds for the diving reflex to kick in, swiftly slowing her pounding heartbeat down to a more reasonable rhythm. Slowly she exhaled through her nose, following up with another slow and controlled inhalation. The air was dry and stuffy. Laden with dust, it made her nostrils twitch, but she was able to repress the urge to sneeze.
The man kneeling next to her seemed to be hyperventilating. She could hear him breathing loudly through his mouth as he twitched and shifted his weight around. His leather coat crackled noisily every time he moved. The girl closed her eyes as she focused on her ears. Of course closing one's eyes in pitch dark made little difference in terms of visual input, but it seemed to trick the mind into concentrating on the other senses. Almost immediately sounds became clearer for Sandy. It was relatively quiet on the other side of the door. She could hear crumbling concrete and somewhere a waterline had sprung. Every now and then she could hear distant footsteps growing ever more faint, indicating that people were still fleeing the Underground Tunnel she and her panting opponent had just wrecked. Satisfied that the police were not coming, Sandy shifted her weight and focused back on her immediate surroundings. Sensing her shift her attention, Sandy's companion stirred again.
"Okay..." he said, "Now what?"
Sandy shrugged and then, realizing he wouldn't be able to see the gesture, she said: "Now we lay low for while." Her companion let out an audible groan. Apparently patience was not one of his strengths.
"Greeeaat! Lights please!"
He was addressing his partner, a Porygon-Z which had up till then been silently hovering over his left shoulder. The Pokemon did not reply, but in an instant its eyes lit up like beacons. It strained Sandy's eyes to look directly into the piercing white beams, so she looked away and slightly tilted her head. The new angle made the rim of her straw hat block the worst of the assault. Suddenly the man's breath stalled mid-inhalation. It only started again when he managed to stutter: "Oh boy..."
But Sandy didn't pay attention to him. From under the rim of her hat she had caught sight of a pair of legs standing a few meters away from her. A small Raticate stood curled around them, casting her a curious glance. Her heart jumped, before she forced it back down in its earlier rhythm. Had they been found? Was this a police officer? Sandy's mind involuntarily started rehearsing its various escape plans. It literally zipped through its options. She could run, or perhaps try to sweet-talk her way out of it. She'd even lie if she had to.
"A Steelix? No of course I wouldn't use one of those underground! That would be insanely dangerous!"
"A fight? I didn't fight. Was there a fight?"
"What's a Torterra? It rammed out the support structures, you say? Well, I just told you, I don't even know what a Torterra is, officer."
But upon closer inspection, perhaps those excuses wouldn't be necessary after all. The feet, she noted, were a bit on the small side for an adult man. They were wearing sneakers and the legs were clad in jeans. It's a boy then. All this milled through her mind in just an instant. Sandy raised her head to inspect the owner of these mysterious legs. The Porygon-Z had also noticed the individual standing out there in the open and it was conveniently shining its spotlights on him. As the rim of her hat cleared her field of vision, Sandy could clearly make out the boy's face in the beams. He wasn't really a boy, actually, but rather a young man. His pale skin covering high cheekbones betrayed his young age. No older than seventeen, Sandy guessed. Thick chestnut locks fell over the sides of his face and forehead, partly obscuring his eyes. Brown eyes.
Sandy's breath suddenly stoked when she caught a small glint in those unblinking eyes. They were quiet. They were shy. They were withdrawn and tinged with sadness. In a strange way they even seemed to be pleading. She'd never expected to see that look again.
But it couldn't be! Forgetting all attempts to compose herself, Sandy jumped to her feet and stared. Was it really true? As she gawked at him with all the subtlety of an Aipom, his expression subtly changed to that of recognition. It made her shed any doubts she had. Months it had taken her to accept his death. And suddenly here he was, in the flesh and apparently very much alive.
"Y-You... I thought you were dead!" She stuttered.
Previous: Cover page
Next: Chapter 2
This is about as BT heavy as this entry is going to get, so no worries. I'm not just going to ruminate that entire OCT. ;)
Athens Runner (Black Dragon) Athens025
Zing (not named, but still) Iron-Zing
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