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Old March 16th, 2013, 10:28 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
> I'm imagining spending time looting in Ecruteak would be... Unwise. Head straight for the gym upon arrival.
> After Meeting morty, lets check out the towers, maybe some of the legends can help you in your quest.


The ride north is swift and uneventful, and it isn't long before the black dome is close enough to fill your entire field of vision. Jawson touches down on the northern end of Route 37, just south of the place where the old gate once stood – where it may still stand, for all you know; the darkness is completely impenetrable.

“There it is,” says Falkner, staring at the wall of blackness. “Ecruteak City.”

You stare with him. It is not an encouraging sight.

“Clair went in, you know,” he continues, and somehow you get the feeling he's not quite talking to you. “Soon after it all started. I can get him, she said. I can find Morty and bring him out of there. He can help.” He shakes his head. “Christ, Clair... why did you do it? You must have known, really...”

“I – I thought Clair was back at the shrine?” you ask hesitantly.

“That's a puppet, you idiot!” roars Falkner, suddenly furious. “Don't you get it? Don't you see? I know – I know it's not real! I know I'm – that my mind is broken...” He's scratching his head again now, mechanical and fierce. “I know it's not real,” he says quietly, half sobbing. “I know... but I can't believe – and I – they can't die—” He breaks off. “I've got to get back to the others,” he says, getting back onto Jawson's back. “They've probably fallen asleep again, and I have to wake them up... have to make sure they're OK...”

He doesn't say goodbye. Considering his state of mind, you're willing to forgive him for that. You watch the vast bulk of his Pokémon recede into the distance, and as it dwindles you suddenly feel very certain that you're never going to see him again.

Poor guy. You hope he makes it. You hope he can hang on just a little while longer, until you can fix this.

Because you are going to fix this, you tell yourself. You're going to solve this mess once and for all, and put everything back the way it was. You're going to do it for mad Falkner, and haunted Morty, and Clair who went into the dark and never came back. You're going to fix reality, and Mr. Pokémon won't be flattened under his TV any more, and Elm will be back in his lab and everything will be OK.

“I promise,” you say quietly, watching the dot in the blue that you know is Falkner. “It's going to be OK.”

You take a deep breath and take out Vesta's jar. You don't have a Spooky Flaming Torch – you needed both hands to hold on during the flight, and you couldn't exactly put it in your Bag – but the light she gives off will be enough. You hope.

More to put off having to enter Ecruteak than anything else, you have a look at the Bad Egg.

The Egg Watch: It looks like this Egg will take a long time to hatch.

Fair enough; you didn't really expect much else.

OK.

Another deep breath.

You step into the dark.

---

For a moment, everything is unrelentingly black—

—and then you're through, and you're in Ecruteak. Dark mist curls down the streets, but it's light enough to see. The black dome seems to be more of a wall than a solid chunk of darkness. You don't put Vesta away, though. You have a feeling you might need her, though you're not sure what use she'll be against the creatures here.

Ecruteak itself, like the rest of Johto, seems largely untouched. The buildings stand exactly as they did before; the houses, the theatre, the Centre, the Mart – and the Gym, down the road to the west. That strange grey mist shivers and eddies down the streets like a living thing, dancing across windowpanes and coalescing into vague and horrible shapes on rooftops, but other than that, the city looks much as it did before. The ruins of the Burned Tower loom over the city to the north; the Bell Tower is invisible behind the black dome.

Despite how normal it all is, you feel very, very afraid. Something is here, you know, that should not be – even more than the Cyndaquil, or That Thing, or any of the other abominations you've encountered so far. It is something old and powerful and from unimaginably far away, and finding it here, in a city you once knew so well... it chills you to the bone. You almost turn back – but then you remember Falkner, and your determination returns. There's no option. You've failed him before, hundreds of times, but not this time. You're going to save him, and everyone else.

“Poor mad Falkner,” says a mocking, gleeful voice on the wind. “All twisted and scarred, tilting at windmills and fleeing the monsters on broken wings.”

You start.

You know that voice – or something like it.

It sounds an awful lot like Morty, only now it has a horrific, alien edge to it that no human could never imitate: it is the voice of something that learned to speak by listening to Morty, but was held back by a lack of conventional larynx.

It's the voice of the Ghost-types, you realise with a shiver.

“You'd like to save him, wouldn't you?” giggles the voice. “You'd like to make everything good again. To save the world.”

You don't reply. You can't. You just can't talk back to this thing.

“Don't be shy,” it whispers. “Come find us. We're waiting, Othodox. We saved a place for you, darling boy.”

ssss, whines Vesta uneasily from her jar. darkcoldssmoke...misstsssflee...

Crap. Even Vesta's scared, and she doesn't have a brain to be scared with.

But there's no choice, and you begin to walk – slowly, ever so slowly – towards the Gym.

“That's right,” says the voice. “Come, Othodox. Just a little further now...”

You pass a house; you remember there was a man there who gave you an Itemfinder – or a Dowsing Machine, you're not sure. What happened to him? Did he die, like the others? Or did the Ghosts find him, use him like they did Morty?

run, hisses Vesta, a note of genuine panic in her crackly voice. sss...sscared...badplace...

“Will you listen to a fire, Othodox?” asks the voice mockingly. “The very thing you've been running from all this time? We'd have thought you would have welcomed our dark, cold little town after all that heat and flame.”

The Gym looms closer, and now you can see that its windows have gone jet black. There will be no seeing what's inside before the Ghosts want you to.

“Almost there!” sings the voice. “Step inside, Othodox. Just remember to watch your step!”

You remember the mass of teleport pads that take you back to the start if you make a wrong move in the Gym, and wonder with a certain detached horror what the Ghosts have made of them.

ssss, says Vesta insistently. noenter...badbadcold...

The automatic doors slide open, and you hesitate for a moment on seeing the absolute darkness within – but there's no other choice.

You hold Vesta up in front of you, and step once more into the dark.

And there he is.

It's Morty all right, standing just where he always does, at the other end of the long, dark room. He has his back to you right now, but as you enter, he turns and spreads his arms.

“Welcome!” he cries, in that terrible, unnatural voice. “Welcome to our Gym!”

You stare. His movements are strange – swift and jerky, like a low-grade animation. And his face – oh God, his face! Those eyes, that skin, that smile... You know exactly why Falkner left town now, and why he can't speak about it. You find it difficult to believe that this could ever have been a man.

Vesta lets out an incoherent, crackling shriek, and burns down low in her jar in fear. You only wish you could do the same.

Morty's grin broadens, and his jaw opens and shuts noiselessly, lips held still as if made of wax. A moment later, just enough to be noticeably out of sync with his movements, the voice rings out:

“I'm over here, Othodox. You remember the way across, don't you? We have the answers you want, if you'll only come and get them.”

No turning back, you think. I am the player character.

You take a step closer, towards the part of the Gym where the warp panels begin. He's right, you do know the path – and with Vesta's faint light to guide you, you think you can manage it easily enough.

“That's right,” says Morty, leaning towards you with something nameless crawling in the pits of his eyes. “Closer...”

First step. Your foot makes contact with solid stone. So far so good. On either side of you, you see the voids where the warp panels were – and where there is nothing now but roiling clouds of that awful grey mist, fitfully illuminated in Vesta's eerie green. A wrong step here, you realise, is going to cost you more than a few minutes' return time.

“Well done,” coos Morty, head jerking about grotesquely on his shoulders. “Such a clever boy.”

It's not Morty, you tell yourself. It's not. He doesn't talk like that. This is that Gengar of his, or the Haunter, or those Gastly... Or all of them together, piled up one atop the other to create some kind of mega-Ghost. Maybe that's possible; you don't know. After all, they're all made of gas, aren't they? Can they mix?

“Closer,” he insists. “Closer, if you want your reward.”

sss, babbles Vesta fearfully, beyond even her usual semi-coherent speech. sss...

More steps. The path goes just as you remember it, and now you're moving faster, gaining confidence. You keep your eyes on the ground, partly to make sure of your way and partly to prevent yourself seeing the thing you're approaching.

“Closer,” repeats Morty hungrily. “Closer.”

Wait...

Should you be obeying him?

You stop, and immediately he starts talking.

“Closer,” he says. “Come over here, and we can talk. We know everything, Othodox. Morty saw it all, before we flowed into him and he became us. We know what lies on the sea floor, and why the smell of petroleum prevails throughout.”

You risk a glance at him, and wish you hadn't. From here, you can see more of his face than you want, and the image lingers horribly before your eyes when you look away.

“Why closer?” you ask – the first thing you've said since setting foot here. “Why can't we talk here?”

“We have the knowledge, we make the terms,” says Morty, part of the hideous sing-song tone fading from his voice. “Come here!”

“No,” you say, surprising yourself with the strength of your voice. “No, if you want me, you'll have to come over here.”

Morty screams. It is the single worst experience of your life – not because of the noise, although the unearthly shrieking is certainly bad; no, this is more because of the way it distorts his mouth into a perfect, gaping circle, blasting teeth from his jaw in a percussive wave of sound.

“Come here!” he growls, and any trace of Morty in the voice is gone now. This is simply the voice of the Ghosts, you know. “Or we will come to you.”

Actually, you don't like the sound of that. In fact, you're no longer sure whether to keep going or to stay where you are.

You're going to have to decide soon, though.
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For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.