“What should we do, Sands?” Leah asked her Pokemon quietly as she leaned against the wall of the bedroom, where she hopefully couldn’t be seen by anyone. Her eyes glanced back to the door, which she left ajar, and her ears prickled to the sound of Sands yawning in response. Her body tensed and she found herself frustrated by the lack of attention.
“Be serious,” she hissed at it. “This is important!”
Sands didn’t seem to think so as it put its head back on the fire stone, eyes closed.
Sighing in exasperation, Leah took one last look at the door before abandoning her hiding spot and stiffly walking over to her Sandshrew. She bent down and wrapped her hands around Sands’s middle. Sands tried to curl into itself and get rid of the intruding hands, but it was in vain as the trainer lifted the Pokemon into her arms. The ground type made a mournful yowl as the Fire Stone slipped from its clawed grasp and landed on the floor with a thump.
“Stop kicking me!” Leah said as she held her Pokemon tighter, despite its struggles for escape. Sands growled softly in warning when its trainer wound one of her arms around the area of its neck and as the limb started to tighten, the Sandshrew suddenly bit down on the flesh with its tiny fangs.
The trainer swore as she immediately half-dropped and half-threw the Pokemon away from her. Sands landed on its side and let out a yelp before getting up and scampering back to the Fire Stone, its teeth bloody. Leah cradled her arm and accessed the damage before glaring at the Pokemon.
“Your lucky my jacket took most of that,” she threatened. “Seriously. It’s just a Fire Stone. It’s not that cold out! You don’t need it.”
Her hand found the semi-familiar feel of her Pokeball and she let the beam of red light immaterialize Sands, who didn’t notice what was happening until it happened.
“Stupid Pokemon,” Leah muttered as she put the sphere back into her pocket.
She sighed; her anger vanishing until she just felt tired.
Okay, she had to face the facts. Someone was in the house with her (probably). She didn’t know who it was and her only weapon was a flashlight and a misbehaving Pokemon who couldn’t even beat a baby Paras. Leaving the house wasn’t an option since she refused to face the storm, and there wasn’t anything she could do about that.
Her only options? Stay where she was and hope that no one would come upstairs and find her. Pros: she didn’t have to move and she didn’t think there was any reason for anyone to suddenly come upstairs (except for the expensive stones). Cons: she had no clue when the storm would end, there was no lock on the door (she checked) and she really didn’t like being in the room.
Leah swallowed and looked at the window hopefully. The window, as if sensing her misplaced hope, cheerfully showed the rain coming down harder than ever and it silently promised that the rain wouldn’t stop any time soon.
Damn it. What was she supposed to do?
Leave, her mind supplied. Not the house, but the room. There was another door, just outside in the hall, and it looked strong. Maybe it even had a lock on it, but was conveniently unlocked, just for her. And even then, there was another hallway with more doors. There was bound to be a room she could hide in that wasn’t as creepy as the one she was currently in.
Leah took one last look around the room. The calm blue glow that the outside light produced didn’t ease the situation. It was like the room was in the eye of the storm and it made her wary. The whole house was like a well-kept museum with a past that somehow refused to be forgotten.
Slowly and quietly, she went to the door and peered down the hallway, her cheek pressed against the doorframe. Her eyes spotted the door she was looking for and it was still closed, its solid frame seemingly beckoning her to open it to find out what was inside. It was funny, she thought. Just for a moment, she had expected the door to be open. Isn’t that what always happened in the movies?
The coast was clear, so she made her way over to the door and lightly grasped the handle. It turned, slowly but surely. It was unlocked and she held her breath and she kept her free hand wound around her Pokeball. She pushed the door open and coughed as dust came drifting out of it. Her eyes closed against her will and she struggled to open them again, but when she did, it didn’t help.
The room was so dark she couldn’t see inside. The only things she could see were vague outlines of what could have been furniture. Her hand fumbled with the flashlight before turning it on. Though, once the light was on, she found herself standing nervously in the doorway, trying to use the light to gain a perspective on the room.
The room didn’t look very big and, surprisingly, it wasn’t another bedroom like she expected. Nope, it was just a room with dust-covered chairs and a coffee table. It didn’t seem all that special and since the whole room was simply covered in dust, she didn’t think that anyone had bothered to go in for a long time. She even doubted that the door had been opened.
As she stood there, she reminded herself that she could always send Sands out and go in first if she didn’t feel like it. That way, if there was something dangerous, nothing bad would happen to her. But, she also thought, she wasn’t a coward and didn’t need to get a weak, little Pokemon to go in first. She could do it. All she had to do was walk in and check it out. It wasn’t that hard.
The door, she found, didn’t have a lock on it and she felt a bit foolish to think that it would have. Maybe if the house was a bit more modern it would have one, but with it being as old as it was, she didn’t think any of the doors except for the ones that went outside would have a lock.
She took a few steps forward and entered the room. Dust floated in the air and gave her the urge to hold her breath, just so she wouldn’t inhale any. Her flashlight illuminated every speck of the room: the corners, behind the chairs, under the table… but luckily, she didn’t find a single thing. It was completely normal.
Clear, she thought to herself in relief.
Suddenly, she heard a tiny noise, a creaking sound. It wasn’t much, but she felt her body tensing and her heart starting to speed up. She brought her Pokeball out into the open and held it out as a silent threat. She took a step back, but froze when she heard the tell-tale creak again. This time, it was louder with a couple small cracks accompanying it. Her flashlight spun around the room, light flashing to every corner as she twisted her body around without moving her feet.
Again! Damn it. Where was it coming from? She tried to calm herself down as she listened deeply, straining her ears to pinpoint the location of the sound. It echoed around her and she vaguely wondered whether it was some type of ghost Pokemon causing it. Though, it didn’t matter as when another crack sounded to her immediate right, she found herself unwilling stepping back again.
Another creak sounded, but this one was different as it dragged out until it evolved into a loud, terrifying crackle.
Leah got a sinking feeling in her chest and just happened to look down. Under the light and under her feet, the weak and worn floorboards cracked, showing the thin, devastating lines that spider webbed across it. With every crackle, the lines grew and spread out, like braches of a tree.
In the seconds that followed, Leah’s mind wondered if the cracks were the reason the person in the mansion had never come into the room. It had been fifty years. It was a wonder that the other floors weren’t in such a sorry state of decay as the one under her.
In one movement, she tried to throw herself backwards and off the splintering lines, but found herself unable to when the floor collapsed around her. Suddenly, the only thing holding her up was air and she felt a weightless feeling. Unfortunately, it only lasted a split-second as gravity took a hold of her and she fell.
“Ouch…” Leah groaned as she came back into the waking world. Her head spun and she mourned the loss of being unconscious. She would have stayed where she was because she didn’t feel like moving, but a thing was poking sharply at her back. It was uncomfortable and annoying, so she got up.
As she sat up, she felt the odd and slightly nauseous sensation of her world spinning on its axis and when she opened her eyes, the feeling just got worse. Her hand blindly groped around to where she was laying and she pulled out a small piece of floorboard. It was cracked and its edges were sharp, which explained why it was so uncomfortable to lay on.
Her dull gray eyes looked around. The room she was in was unfamiliar to her. The walls were stone gray and had hairline cracks along the bottom. The floor was made of cold, hard cement and it was covered dust and pieces of wood. A few chairs were lying splinted around the floor, their legs and backs broken. There was even the old coffee table, cracked along its middle, lying almost right next to her. If she landed even a few feet then where she had really fallen, she could’ve been smacked by a table. Ouch.
Oddly, for such an abandoned place, there was a dim light coming from a single door that was ajar, on the other side of the room. Leah would’ve guessed that someone might be in there (maybe the mysterious person in the house?), but anyone, except for a deaf person, would hear a floor caving in and would check it out. If no one did, then no one was there.
Maybe the person in the house left a light on before leaving or something? How long was she out for?
Leah felt like she had better get up. As she did so, she winced at her ripped and bloodstained pants. When she got upright, a sharp pain made its way up her body from her leg when she put some pressure on it. Her vision blurred slightly and she grimaced at the feeling of wanting to throw up.
After she got her bearings, she groaned quietly. Just what she needed. Not only was she trapped in a haunted house, but she was injured too? Unfair.
There weren’t any other entrances and exits in the room that she could see, only the lit door. She checked and made sure her Pokeball was still safely in her pocket before she shuffled to the door, wincing at every step her pain-filled leg took. She leaned on the door for a moment before pushing it open and glancing into the next room.
A single light bulb with no protective covering shone down from the ceiling. It was a bit brighter than she thought it would be, but as she looked around, she really, really wished that she could turn the light off. There were a few tables on the side of the room, pushed against the wall and on them, old machines that looked like they hadn’t worked for a long time. On one of the tables, there was a deep and smooth slash that seemed to have been made by a giant claw; something like a Kabutops or a Scyther.
There were more slashes on the walls. They sunk deep into the concrete, like it was made of butter and the claw-marks sometimes overlapped with each other. But that wasn’t all; not at all. On the floor, in the middle of the room, was a cage; though, that was as far as the resemblance went. The twisted metal lied on a ragged, red-checkered cloth and was colored burnt silver. The bars were wildly out of shape and they were wrapped around each other in a loving embrace. The base of the cage seemed only big enough to fit something like a Rhyhorn and the cage ceiling couldn’t even be described since it was no where to be seen.
Overall, it didn’t look like a pretty place.
“What the hell…?” Leah gaped as she stood frozen in the doorway. It became apparent to her that she probably looked silly just standing there, but it was hard to keep from staring. The scene looked like something straight out of a horror movie. It was like the mad scientist’s evil lab where he conducted his evil experiments and generally did evil stuff.
Though this…? This was beyond even that.
“Did someone resurrect a Kabutops or something?” she asked herself as she held her Pokeball like a lifeline. She took a couple steps forward, but immediately wished she hadn’t. When standing in the doorway, she was only able to see around three fourths of the room, but now she could see what she hadn’t beforehand.
It wasn’t anything spectacular, it was just a statue. Though it was the most lifelike statue she had ever seen in her entire life and that was saying something. It had a general cat-shaped body, but was standing in a position like a human. It had a head shaped like an upside-down triangle with two pointed ears and two long, bushy, mustache-like whiskers. It was standing on two short legs with clawed feet and had two armor-like shoulder pads. At its back was a long and fat tail that was stretched out behind it. Its two clawed hands were held out in front of it, both holding onto the same spoon that was pointing at the cage.
It looked in remarkable condition, but that wasn’t the reason Leah was staring at it. The Pokemon looked like it was defending itself from… something. It looked scared, like it couldn’t win.
It did bring up a question though. Why was a statue of a Kadabra doing in the lab of an abandoned mansion?
‘-Kadabra has warned me that it is going to rain for the next few days and my dear psychic type has nary been wrong-’
Leah’s hand uncertainly reached out, trembling, as if to touch the lifeless statue.
It was impossible, but yet…
“Excuse me, miss?”
Instantly, Leah pulled back her hand in a snap and whirled around, Pokeball ready to be thrown and a command at her lips.
The old man took a step back and held his hands up in surrender, an apologetic expression on his face. “Sorry to startle you. I didn’t expect to see anyone else down here.”
“What?” Leah said, confused, her Pokeball still ready for action. “Who’re you?”
“My name’s Benjamin Chambers,” the old man explained. “I’m the professor that works here.” The so-called Professor Chambers did look pretty book-ish from Leah’s point-of-view. He had thick glasses and thinning gray hair. His buttoned up white coat dripped water onto the floor and was partly see-through due to being wet.
“Wait… what? You’re a professor?” Leah couldn’t help but be confused. Was the man in front of her the mysterious intruder that had been making that noise and pretty much causing all her anxiously? “What’re you doing here for?
“I should be asking you the same question, but I suppose anyone would want to take shelter from a storm like this one.”
The comment was spot on and Leah’s eyes narrowed as alarm bells rang in her head. “How’d you know I came in because of the storm?”
The old man chucked warmly. “Well, it wasn’t very hard. Your clothes are damp and you have mud on your boots. Besides, people rarely enter the mansion and that’s only to either get out of the weather or to find Pokemon that might live here.”
“Oh.” Her mental alarm bells had turned off and she felt a bit embarrassed. Though the feeling disappeared quickly as she remembered where she was exactly.
She pointed at the statue beside her. “What’s with this?” Then she motioned to the cage and slash marks. “And with those?”
The professor sighed to himself and rubbed the back of his head. “I’m not exactly sure, but they’re the reason I’m here. I’m trying to figure out what Pokemon caused it. Unfortunately, I’m not having the best of luck.”
“So… this,” Leah said, looking at the statue. “Wasn’t always like… that?”
“I don’t think so. Actually, I’m pretty certain that it was once a living Kadabra, though I can’t prove it.” He changed the subject. “Judging by the question, I say you read those papers on the second floor?”
“Yeah. What happened?”
“I’m not sure,” the professor repeated and looked a bit apologetic.
“Huh.” Leah frowned and tried to turn her attention away from the statue. She really didn’t want to look at it since she couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be alive one moment, eating and breathing, then to be immobile and stone the next.
“Why don’t you come upstairs,” the old man said, finding nothing else to talk about. “You don’t look too well, though I don’t think anyone would after falling through a floor.”
“You heard?” Leah asked as she followed the professor back into the other room.
The professor carefully walked around a chair, careful not to step onto any of the bigger pieces of floorboard. “Not really. I was outside, enjoying the storm. Actually, my Magneton was enjoying it and I mostly just stood there. It was really surprising when I walked back inside to find that the ceiling collapsed.”
“There’s another door? I didn’t see any.”
“It’s hard to see in the dark.” The professor motioned to the gray colored door that blended perfectly in the wall, but was visible now that there was more than a little of light. He held it open for her and Leah dully went first to see a small and thin hallway seemingly squeezed between the walls. As they walked along the corridor, the pain in her leg burned, as if to remind her that it still existed. At the end of the hallway, she pushed open another door to find herself in a hallway adjoined to the entrance of the mansion.
They stood in silence before the stairs, the rain humming from above. Leah found herself disappointed the rain still hadn’t stopped and she now more then ever wanted to just go back outside.
“What do you think of the mansion?” the professor asked her, breaking the quiet.
Leah was pulled out of her thoughts. “Huh? Oh, I dunno. Seems creepy and old.”
“Most people think that. Did you see the bloody handprint upstairs?”
“Yeah. Do you know what caused it?” The phrase was getting a bit redundant.
“Not yet, but I hope I’ll find out soon.”
“So,” Leah started, “you’re studying this mansion?” She was curious, despite herself.
“Yes,” the professor said. “Though I’m mostly studying the thing that caused the scene downstairs. Whatever it was has to be powerful.”
“Is it a new Pokemon?” She tried to imagine the Pokemon, one with blades and the power to turn flesh to stone, but couldn’t.
“I’m certain of it since I can’t think of any Pokemon that can bend bars, have huge claws and can turn a Pokemon to stone. Well, maybe a Groudon, but those have long since been extinct-”
Leah tuned out the professor at that point as something had caught her attention. Was it a trick of the ears or was the rain lessening just a bit? It certainly wasn’t the roar she had been hearing beforehand. It was more like a pitter-patter sound, a welcome change from the previously angry weather.
“-or something like that.” The professor stopped talking and seemed to catch onto the same line of thought she was having. “I think the rain is letting up.”
“Finally!” Leah said, a small smile coming onto her features. She really, really wanted to leave. She had had enough of the spooky mansion to last a lifetime, at least.
Then something occurred to her.
“Hey, uh, professor?” Leah asked and continued, “what’s that smell?”
“Yeah, the burning one.”
“Oh, Oh!” the old man said, looking a bit embarrassed. “That’s the repel I put down this morning. It keeps the wild Pokemon from making their home here. It’s only in this area that I put it down, so it wouldn’t bother me while I work. Though, the smell is horrid, isn’t it?”
Leah snorted. “That’s for sure. I suppose that means that Sands had another reason after all.”
She mentally jumped as she didn’t intend the say the last bit out loud. “My Sandshrew. It completely ignored me and went upstairs to sleep in the kid’s bedroom.”
“Does it do that often?”
“Yeah, but I thought it was just cold or something.”
The professor stared at her for a moment from behind his glasses. “You don’t really like your Sandshrew, do you?”
“Why do you care?” Leah asked rudely, not willing to talk about her Pokemon. The rain would stop soon, she’d leave and soon after, she could go back home and forget about this little adventure.
“It puzzles me,” he admitted as he took off his glasses and put them in his pocket. “I don’t often talk to Pokemon trainers, but whenever I do, most of them seem to carry a great deal of affection for their Pokemon.”
Leah shrugged. “Well I don’t. There’s probably lots of people who don’t. What does it matter?”
“Because, despite you calling your Pokemon an ‘it’, your Sandshrew sports a nickname. Sands, was it? If you didn’t care about your Pokemon, why did you name it?”
Leah didn’t reply, a memory swelling over her ears.
“Your name is going to be Sands, okay? Sands is a special name, a unique one. You’re not a Sandshrew anymore, you’re a Sands. One of a kind! Grandma says that if I name you, we can become close friends and be like that forever. And that’s what we’re going to do, no if, ands or buts! Got it, Sands?”
Then the only thing she could hear was the rain.
“My grandmother told me to,” Leah said shortly. “Besides, I was ten. All ten-year-olds want their Pokemon to be special.”
“Isn’t your Pokemon special?”
She shook her head. “Nope. Sands is stupid, lazy, selfish and can hardly beat a Rattata. Hardly even likes me. It’s just a weak, average Pokemon.”
“Then can I give you some advice?” the professor asked calmly before continuing. “Don’t ignore me if this sounds cliché, but if you want your Pokemon to be strong and like you, why don’t you try doing the same thing?”
“Be strong and be nice to Sands?” Leah asked skeptically. “Why?”
“Basically, If you show your Pokemon encouragement and spend time with it, it will do its best to be loyal and follow your commands since it won’t want to disappoint you.”
“Yeah?” she said and she was surprised at herself for actually starting to consider what the old man was saying. “But I’m only going to be training for like, another week. What does it matter?”
“Pokemon isn’t just for a journey,” he said. “But for life. If you nurture the bond between you and your Pokemon, it will always stay loyal and who knows? Maybe it will come in handy one day.”
Suddenly, a ringing sound went off, the shrill and persistent noise making Leah jump. The professor stayed calm, however, and took out an old black cell phone from his pocket. He looked at the main screen for a moment before turning to Leah.
“Sorry,” he said to her in an apologetic tone, pressing one hand against the speaker, muffling the sound. “I have to take this call.”
Without another word, he hurried off, back down the corridor to the lab.
And Leah was left alone with the sound of the rain.
“… Handy, huh?” she said quietly to herself, going over the man’s words. “Never needed it before.”
Until now, that is.
Her boots splashed in the wet mud as she made her way out of the mansion’s yard. Her hood was down and she felt the unpleasant sensation of the chilled wind blowing into her face. The rain had stopped, but the clouds were still hovering in the air, just waiting for her to get in the middle of the forest before dropping their cargo.
She really didn’t want to be walking under a cloudy sky, but she didn’t have much choice. It was either take the chance of quickly walking back to the Pokemon Center or wait another half-hour in the mansion for the off chance that the clouds would go away.
Her choice was obvious.
The professor had never come back from his phone call and she refused to stick around to say goodbye. Reluctantly, she had taken a slight detour before leaving and she hoped she didn’t regret it.
The professor’s advice, despite being uncalled for, made her do a little thinking. If she and Sands were going to be stuck together, then she would rather have it- him obeying her. And hey, she had to look on the bright side. If she was nice to Sands and actually trained him, she would get a loyal and powerful servant at her beck and call.
“Why didn’t I ever consider this before?” Leah asked to the sky, which only replied with a slight rumble.
She redirected her question to her Pokemon. “Do you know why, Sands?”
Sands only shivered slightly and his claws dug into her jacket as Leah’s hands held him to her chest.
“Hey,” Leah scolded. “Don’t go all silent on me, Sands. This is our bonding time. You should be happy of what I’ve done for you so far. I’ve let you out of your Pokeball and I’m actually holding you.” She paused and warned, “By the way, you better not drop that Fire Stone. I technically stole that for you and it wouldn’t be nice if my gift to you was damaged.”
The swirls of the red and orange stone glowed slightly as Sand’s free paw leaned against it as the rock was wedged between his and Leah’s bodies. The warmth the stone and Sands’ body gave off was comforting in a way she couldn’t describe. Though she didn’t admit that, of course.
“We’d better hurry, Sands,” Leah said as she glanced at the sky. “The clouds aren’t looking too good and I hate to get caught in the rain again.”
She heard Sands whimper in reply and nodded.
“Yeah, that would suck.”
A/N: Gods, I hated this chapter. I did like writing some parts, but wow, I never knew I could hate dialogue that much. And don’t get me started on the beginning. Stupid beginning. I was going to finally reveal Leah’s past in this chapter, but when I noticed that the word count was already over 4600, I decided to move it a few chapters ahead.