Prologue 1
Death Time

Dying isn't such a scary thing in the end. That surprised me.

I dunno. It's weird, but you spend so much time thinking about it sometimes. How will I go? Will it hurt? You wonder, is this it? Is there anything after? Some nights, you peer into the pitch black of your bedroom and you imagine that this might very well be what shuffling off the mortal coil is like. A profound pitch blackness surrounding you. Only it doesn't end when the first hints of dawn start to appear against the eastern sky. It never ends. The darkness comes and it stays forever. You strain and squint your eyes, but the best you can do is maybe make out sort-of shapes in the dark. The foot of the bed. Your dress drawer. A poster on the wall. Maybe. Is this what it's going to be like?

You lay in bed some nights turning back and forth and you think maybe it'll be like falling asleep. You think maybe you won't even notice because one minute you're wide awake and the next thing you know you're blinking awake into the new morning. Probably, you don't even remember your morbid midnight thoughts. Probably.

Or the dreams you had.

The lives you lived.

The ones you loved.

You wonder: what's the point of even living if that's how it all ends?

So much time, so much worry. Wasted. Let me tell you how it really goes. Let me tell you about the end—

My ending.


I passed through a series of low hedges and entered into a sort of clearing. The full moon was high in the sky that night and it's silvery light draped everything in a glow of soft warmness. The silvery light reflected off the dew on the hedge leaves, the swaying branches, the tall grass.
I remember thinking it was beautiful.

Like a dream.

But I didn't stop to appreciate it. I was in a hurry.

No, that's wrong too. An excuse. I was always in a hurry. Never stopped in one place for too long. Never the type of person to stop and smell the flowers. Or watch the moon.

I know it's a silly sentiment but I regret that a lot.

It was half-way through the clearing that I first noticed his footsteps. My stalker. I turned around and saw him, edging silently towards me in the shadows. A man in an over-coat who held something in his hand.

As soon as he realized he had been spotted he abandoned all pretense and ran all out towards me. His dirty coat whipping out behind him.

Instinctively I reached for my belt, for a pokeball. But I hesitated. It was beyond ridiculous, but I actually took a moment to consider which of my three friends would best serve to protect me. Ludicrously. Foolishly. Like I was in an official pokemon battle at a gym.

But this was no battle and, for that instant of pause, I died.

By the time I had a pokeball gripped in my hand, he was upon me. And he didn't hesitate.

He grabbed me by my shirt and pressed the item in his hand into my belly at least four times. A knife, short but sharp. It sank into me easily enough again and again. I remember counting the motions as he swung into me. One. Two. Three. Four. And then my legs gave out and my eyes rolled and I couldn't count anymore.

I should have been screaming. Instead I counted.

I felt—

I felt like it was important. As if later this was a fact I would have to report to someone important. A police officer. Or a doctor. Or a judge. And if I got the number wrong, it would matter.

I was wrong. Again.

When I opened my eyes next I was looking up at the sky from the ground. I felt very cold. And something was yanking and pulling at my body, and I wanted to fight whatever it was off, but my arms, my legs, nothing listened.

I opened my mouth but I couldn't force anything beyond a whimper.

It is a curious feeling to lose one's body. In any other situation it would surely have been terrifying.

But instead I felt—well, not peace. But I did feel strangely calm. It was a sureness. A certainty had taken over. I didn't suspect that everything would be okay in the end. I knew it.

So when the grizzled and strange face suddenly appeared above me, peering into my eyes, I wasn't afraid.

"Where is it?" he hissed at me. "The Nugget! The Nugget!"

And while he resumed pawing through my pockets I thought: oh. Is that what this is all about? The tiny nugget of gold I had won earlier that night for beating five trainers on the Nugget Bridge challenge on Route 24? Was that why he had followed me?

Why he had stabbed me one two three four times?

For a little rock?

The man let out a cry of joy as he finally found it, stashed with my petty cash, in my back left pocket.

The stalker unhooked the pokeballs from my belt. He forced open by palm and took the ball there too. He opened my backpack and emptied the contents out, clawing through my extra clothes and food stuffs until he found my gym badge collection and pokedex. The former he stowed and the later he tossed behind him. I heard it crack where it landed.

And then he was gone.

I laid there in a dark scarlet pool and I finally felt something outside of the placid calmness.

Rage.

My fingers dug into the dirt. My teeth gnashed together. I forced my eyes open.

It wouldn't end like this. I wouldn't let it. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right.

I promised myself that I wasn't going to die.

I wanted to fight. Scream. Survive.

But when I opened my mouth again, instead of speech or yell I hacked out blood. And then I lost my fingers like I lost my arms. And then I couldn't breathe anymore. And I realized I couldn't possibly keep my promise.

My stolen friends. My sister. Father and mother. I would never see them again.

So much more to do. To see.

It wasn't fair.

And there was nothing I could do about it.

That thought only added fuel to the black wroth; the anger burned on inside me like an inferno—but I was dying. Life slipped from me and there was no possible outlet for the black rage.

And in those final moments, a new thought possessed me: this was not the way to go. Not like this, consumed by fury.

I looked at the white moon above.

I thought of the silver dew, the whistling grass and rustling leaves.

I made a new promise. An empty one. But powerful enough to distract me. Strong enough to focus on and let it carry me away.

I promised myself: I will be back.

A youngster found my body the next day. My eyes open, a calm expression on my face.


And that's it.

Or at least, that's how it's supposed to go.

But how's that one quote go?

Death is but a door. Time is but a window.

I'll be back.

Poke-Ghost Busters 2. I like that movie.

Liked, I guess I should say.

Anyways.

Yeah.

I'll be back. I promised myself. I'll be back.

Thing is, well, death isn't the kind of thing you shrug off. Everything catches and your thoughts spiral out into a dull note of infinity. Like I said, it's not like falling asleep. Not even close. It's not like anything else. Death is... well, death. You lose yourself first.

I'll be back becomes be back.

Be back. Be back. Be back.

But without an identity, the tense loses its meaning. Its stripped from you and all you start repeating is.

Back. Back.

back

ba

You can't fight it. Death isn't a thing to be beaten. When we are, it is not come. And when it is come, we are not.

I want to make that clear.

I didn't defeat or overcome death. I cheated it.

And I did come back.

But I guess I had a little help.