Phantoms and Dust

a set of Morty and Eusine short stories

I

Assiduous

Time was a funny thing in Ecruteak City.

It wasn't like it seemed to move too fast or too slow. It was more like someone had tried cramming too much of it in one small space.

People in Goldenrod City claimed that you couldn't predict the weather. In the Radio Tower, they would still try. Too random, they said. Patterns changed too often, little shifts in the air. The wind would come and go, and there were signs that they could pick up on with shiny instruments and their own two eyes, but those could change in a second when a Butterfree in Viridian Forest flapped its wings and suddenly instead of a drought their was a hurricane blowing through Azalea Town.

To Morty, the weather worked like clockwork.

"I know he's in there! Why can't he just talk to me?"

Morty dreaded the change. When the Northern Wind swept in for a visit, there was always a thunderstorm blowing in behind it. Then, the newly appointed Gym Leader would lock himself up in his bedroom and sit on his floor with his back against the wall, playing chess with himself (this was back when he was young and he and Gengar weren't on speaking terms yet). After that, he would play games of Solitaire until his fingers turned red and numb from shuffling the deck so often. He didn't go out very often anyway and his presence wasn't missed. He even started canceling appointments that trainers made with him to fight, all because because a young man who called himself Eusine wanted information.

Eusine was not a good pokemon trainer, but little details didn't stop him from making challenges.

"I just want to know if you've actually seen any evidence of Ho-Oh yourself!" Eusine yelled, standing at the other side of the black floor of the gym.

His voice made Morty wince as it cut through the incense-soaked air in the gym. It made his palms start to sweat and duck his head into the large neck of his sweater. Morty was used to small, simple conversations. He was only required to utter a phrase or two to the trainers, who spoke mostly in battle commands and prepared speeches. He offered badges when they won and his condolences when they lost.

During the season when the Northern Wind was blowing hard, Morty kept the curtains drawn and the lamps off, even at night, so that Eusine couldn't easily figure out which window in the apartments located above the gym was his. Just when he thought Eusine was gone for good, the man caught Morty taking one of his evening walks as the sun set. Morty would practice how to breathe in the cold evening air and then make his way home in the dark. They walked together along the fence, Morty shutting his eyes and silently counting by odd numbers while Eusine ranted and raved.

"…and you know what those idiots in Cinnabar are saying? I read an article they published in a very prestigious science magazine last year and they still think that Suicune is only a water-type! They think they've got a chance at capturing Suicune with their slapdash grass-pokemon types when I know for a fact that Suicune has dual elements. He's called the Northern Wind for christssake, and they still haven't noticed that he's part flying…"

Morty was afraid of everything. He saw too much when he closed his eyes and heard things that shouldn't be heard by the living. People made him twitch uneasily and blink too often when he didn't have a whole gym floor between them.

Eusine terrified him. Eusine was unpredictable. Eusine would disappear in the space of a blink, then pop up months later, waving around magazine clippings and the spine of his monstrous journal would be an inch thicker. He was tall and loud and could carry on a conversation by himself for hours, which was probably why Morty found he could eventually tolerate standing near him for more than one second, but Eusine was also a very good listener, which was a problem. He would always pay attention to what Morty said.

Somewhere along the fence, Morty found a few words slipping out, enough to count for conversation. No matter how quietly he spoke, how thick his voice was or how many times he stuttered, Eusine always figured out what he was trying to say and recorded every word of it in his monstrous journal.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," Morty said miserably.

"Don't be ridiculous," Eusine's ink stained fingers didn't even pause as he scratched Morty's name down once again next to a quote. "If I don't site my sources people will think I just made this up. Credibility is essential."

Most days Morty just kept his mouth clamped shut. Eusine would leave, eventually, taking his journal and his storm with him, and life would be blessedly quiet in Ecruteak again. Morty could go out and get his own groceries without having to be afraid of saying any more than "paper, please" and "thank you." Then the Wind would come again, though, and sure as anything, Eusine would ride in with it, a little bit taller, hair a bit longer, a little more wiser, a little more insane, with just as many questions, and a lot more to say. Morty, each time a little bigger, less pale, would answer in his own way, his voice a little stronger.

The one thing that Morty was sure of, though, was that Eusine was, most assuredly, not his friend. He told himself that it would only be a matter of time until the Wind stopped running, and so would Eusine. After that, he would only hear of him through the newspaper and the radio.

Until then, he would brace himself for the conversation.