Aries

It all started so innocently.

All he had been dared to do was to spend ONE night in the old house - the same one which that old maniac had once lived in. No one had been into the house since he had kicked the bucket fifteen years ago, the last people to cross the threshold being the paramedics who had carried his corpse away on a white stretcher. And it wasn't even a large house at that; it stood just two stories high, though one could easily see the blackened, grimy window panes of a basement from the house's front side. The paint was peeling off the walls, as expected, and the windows were all devoid of glass, having been smashed in quite some time ago. Some retained a few sharp fragments of filthy glass at their edges, looking like gaping maws with jagged teeth that occasionally reflected some incident light.

Indeed, the first and last sign that he had been about to die was a piercing scream that had broken the midnight silence. His neighbors had been woken up by the practically banshee-like trill, and the next morning old Mr. McCarron was a cadaver in the local morgue. Soon thereafter, the neighbors had moved out, claiming that strange disturbances were taking place in the house.

From there, the stories started, and within no time at all there was a respectable number of disturbing stories about the house circulating about the town. Some claimed that drug addicts had once made it their little hiding place, but something had driven them off. Also, there was the little boy that had supposedly gone in to retrieve his Growlithe, but who had not spoken a word to anyone since he was found wandering in the woods near the old bungalow. And yet another story said that the old man had been killed by a malevolent presence in the house itself, and this was apparently deduced by the look of horror that had been his death mask. The most questionable of the rumors, however, involved bright lights flaring up on the upper floors in the dead of the night.

Worn bicycle tires crushed long, unkempt grass as they rotated, carrying the bicycle's owner towards the derelict house. The wheels squeaked as he put some pressure on the brakes, stopping not ten feet away from the porch. Taking off his bike helmet, the cyclist - a freckle-faced boy barely out of his teens - looked up at the house looming before him.

It took him a second to notice the shiver running down his spine. It took him another to start wanting to turn back and go home. In the end, the thought of being labeled as a chicken by his group of adrenaline-junkie friends won out.

Which was how, at seven thirty in the evening, Jacob found himself parking his bike on the old house's porch. Carefully placing the bike on a patch of wood that seemed solid enough, he hung his helmet on the handlebars.

At seven thirty-two, he pushed the front door open and took his first steps into the late Emil McCarron's home.

xxx

The time was now eleven forty-three p.m.

Jacob had made himself quite at home in the living room - well, as comfortable as one could get in a cobweb-filled, dusty wreck of a house. He had found some candles on the mantelpiece, and had lit them with his trusty old Zippo lighter. So he sat in the dim candlelight, twiddling his thumbs and wishing that the night would hasten its progress and give way to dawn. Not only was it boring in the house, it was admittedly a little... creepy.

Suddenly, he heard the distant sound of a clock ticking.

Reflexively, his hand went to the lone Pokeball clipped to his belt. He hadn't wanted to let his Grotle out, since it would have probably have given him a lecture on his being foolhardy enough to spend a night in the McCarron residence. However, now the shivers running down his spine made all thoughts of a nagging Grass-turtle go flying out of the proverbial window. With a practiced flick of his wrist, the Pokeball opened up, and Grotle materialized in a flash of light.

"Gro? Grotle!"

"Yeah, I know... But we're here already, so spare me-"

"Grotle grotle, grotle!"

"Meh, all that superstitious crap is bullshit."

"Gro."

"Touche..."

At that moment, the clock stopped ticking - if it had been a clock in the first place - and there came the unmistakable DING! of a microwave oven from the back of the house. Both trainer and Pokemon froze where they stood, both of them shocked into silence.

"Did- did you hear that?"

"Grotle..." whimpered the turtle, moving closer to his feet and pressing against him with its shell, "Gro!"

"... lets check it out," Grotle gave him a look that clearly questioned his sanity, "Probably just a mischievous Rotom or something, right? Nothing you can't handle."

After a few seconds of contemplation, the turtle-like Pokemon nodded, and the two of them plodded towards the darkened back portion of the house, where the strange sounds had come from. Just as they left the living room, passing through a rotting doorway, the candles Jacob had lit earlier all went out simultaneously, throwing them into pitch-black darkness.

"Grotle!"

"Wha-? What happened?"

The squat Pokemon merely growled in response, even as the mysterious clock began ticking again, this time much closer to them.

"Be ready, Grotle. If there's a Ghost Pokemon there, use Energy Ball."

Nodding slowly, the Pokemon plodded ahead of its trainer, with him keeping a hand on its shell all the while.

Neither of them noticed that back in the living room, several glittering eyes were now watching their progress eagerly from beneath puddles of molten wax.

xxx

Just as they entered one of the house's back rooms - presumably the kitchen since it lacked a door - the clock stopped ticking once again. Sure enough, they had made it into the kitchen, and Jacob saw the unmistakable silhouette of a grandfather clock illuminated in the pale moonlight that came in through the kitchen's smashed window. Somehow, the clock's pendulum was swinging ponderously, as though it was just done with winding down. Even as he took in the sight of the strangely-behaving antique, it began ticking again, the pendulum picking up speed with every successive oscillation.

"Energy Ball on the clock!"

"Gro!" his Pokemon eagerly complied, firing a sphere of pulsating green energy at the ancient timepiece. The clock's upper quarter exploded into a shower of wooden and glass fragments, causing both of them to duck so as to avoid being pelted by the shrapnel. Heavy and no longer held up by its bolts, the pendulum crashed to the floor, smashing through the glass face that had once kept dust away from it.

With a shrill cackle, a glowing ball of electricity rocketed out of the ruined grandfather clock, hurtling towards the Grotle's head. Caught off-guard, the slow Pokemon gasped in panic as the released Rotom latched onto its face and began shocking it with a powerful Thundershock.

"No! Use Bite!" Jacob shouted, as the Ghost/Electric type continued its assault on his partner's face, "It's a Ghost-"

He was cut-off by an abrupt explosion of light that lit up the entire kitchen and rendered the crazed Rotom semi-transparent. Upon seeing the bright flash of light, the Rotom let out a shrill whistle, and took a dive into the broken down fridge in the corner, making the fridge come to life with a strangled hum and a blast of unnaturally cold air that threw its door open. Jacob rubbed at his eyes in an attempt to regain his vision after the light flash, and his Grotle collapsed to the floor with a wary sigh, drained after the brief tussle with the mechanically-inclined spirit.

When his eyesight came back to him, Jacob immediately found himself wishing that it hadn't.

Floating in the air not six feet away from him was an Baltoy-like creature with several blue flames burning at the ends of its slender limbs, and on the top of its centrally-located head. Two circular, beacon-like lights glowed from under the large flame that was presumably its head, and it moved through the air with a delicate clanking sound not unlike metallic wind chimes.

"Why have you entered our domain?" asked a metallic voice that echoed in his mind.

"I- I- Don't hurt me!" cried the terrified teenager, hastily stepping back, "Grotle! Energy Ball"

Before his partner could respond, the hovering being wheeled about in mid-air and unleashed a jet of bluebell-colored flames in his Grotle's direction. To his horror, he saw the turtle's symbiotic foliage begin to smoke and curl, some of the drier bits catching fire. The worn-out Pokemon let out a cry of pain, even as its body caught fire.

"No! Grotle- Grotle!" fingers that once upon a time could easily handle a Pokeball fumbled with the familiar device, "Re- return!"

However, he never got to return his Grotle. One of the flaming thing's limbs fired a fine stream of fire that knocked the Pokeball out of his hand, charring his skin badly in the process. As he doubled over with a scream of pain, the Rotom hiding in the fridge began to laugh hysterically, the sounds echoing sinisterly through the derelict appliance's coolant tanks.

"We so rarely get to feast on human flesh... And often enough, it gets away..."

"NO!" he wailed, as the monstrosity advanced on him, causing him to backpedal and crash against the wall, "You can't-"

"Oh, but I CAN!" laughed the creature diabolically, its eyes glowing with latent energy, slowly coming closer to him with every passing second, "The Grotle shall be the appetizer, and you shall be our main course... for a CANDLE-LIT supper..."

No one heard the agonized screams coming from the abandoned house that night, nor did anyone notice the strangely-colored flames that were apparently raging in the kitchen but yet were not consuming the house like any decent inferno would have done. Within minutes, about a dozen other flames of varying sizes had ignited at various locations inside the house, all heading down towards the kitchen. Somewhere about half-past midnight, the screams and flames died out, leaving the house ominously silent.

xxx

Jacob's disappearance was the talk of the town for a while. When his bicycle was seen outside the McCarron house, the rumors became steadily more gruesome. For the first time in god-knew how long, Officer Jenny and two trainee constables entered the house with their Growlithe, searching for clues as to the teenager's sudden vanishing act. All they found was a charred Pokeball lying in the kitchen, next to a destroyed grandfather clock.

"Potts, scan that ball."

"Yes, ma'am!" saluted the younger constable, whipping out a portable Pokeball scanner. After passing it over the ball, he turned to his superior with a grim expression, "Yup, it belonged to the kid's Grotle."

Officer Jenny sighed, running a finger through her hair wearily, "Pack it up, boys. File it as an M-P report."

"An M-P?" asked the other constable, puzzled, "But we just found-"

"An M-P report, I said," she interrupted him, "When you've been on the beat around these parts as long as I have, you'll learn things about this place."

"Alright, then..."

"But what is it that could have done this?"

Jenny grimaced, gesturing for them to come closer. Once they were within whispering range, she cast a quick glance around to make sure no eavesdroppers were in range.

"Emil McCarron's insane Shandera did this."

"What's that?"

"Old McCarron was a Ghost-type specialist. This house is practically saturated with Rotom and that Shandera's family. Rumor has it that he managed to smuggle a Ranpuraa in from Isshu sometime back, and that he was training it in here. It wasn't entirely sane, which was how he was said to have gotten a breeder to spring one for him. But he only ever got two badges, and when that mentally-unstable Ranpuraa evolved, I guess it decided to disobey him for the first and last time."

"Heckers... Why doesn't a Gym Leader or someone get rid of them?"

As she turned to leave the house, she shrugged, "Maybe even Ghosts need a place to haunt. But then again, Mr. Moore was the last Gym Leader who tried to chase them out."

"Man, those spooks must really be strong, to make a Gym Leader retire..."

"Agreed. Now lets get out of here before people get nosey."

As the three police officers left, they failed to notice that above their heads, the kitchen's chandelier was surprisingly free of dust and cobwebs, and that two faintly-glowing eyes on its spherical body had been tracking their movements all the while.