Author's Note: This was originally meant to be a oneshot, but, big surprise, I overplanned it and realized that if I wanted to get anything else done this Spring Break then I'd have to make this a chaptered affair. Much of the inspiration for this fic comes from the move The Exorcist (which I just recently wrote a paper on).
Chapter 1. Contact.
It began with… a close. The fastening of the casket lids, encasing my parents' made-up bodies within their dark, airless beds; the click of the hearse door, black and sleek as it slammed shut; the soft piling on of dirt on mahogany as the earth healed the breach the gravediggers had made; and finally the slow close as Aunt Polly shut the door to her house in lower Ecruteak City behind me, staring at me as though not sure what to do.
She crouched down to look me in the eye, her hands fidgeting as though she wondered whether a hug was a prerequisite in this situation—perhaps a mere pat on the shoulder would do? Even that seemed too much for her. She folded her arms together and instead tried: "You've had a hard day, haven't you Morty?"
I stared at her. I nodded.
She flashed me a weak smile that I'm sure was meant to be understanding. "Well, I'm sure you'll want to get used to the place… maybe see your room? Your Uncle Richard," she said, referring to her brother, "brought everything over and helped me set it up, so it's all ready for you." She looked at me helplessly. "Why don't you go up and see your new room? You'd like that."
I knew that I was being dismissed, though she framed it as though I was being dismissed by my own preference. "Okay," I said.
Aunt Polly stood up and smoothed out her dress. "Your room is up the stairs. Turn left and it's the room at the end of the hall."
I walked over to the stairway and climbed its rickety heights—slowly. What was the point in rushing to anything?
Aunt Polly had walked up to the base of the stairs, clasping her hands together worriedly as she watched me move. "I'll get dinner started," she said, "and afterwards I'll show you the rest of the house."
"Okay," I said again, turning from her and setting my eyes back on the stairs in front of me. I don't think I'd said more than two words in a row since the burial. My mouth was too dry to be talkative and I couldn't think of much to say anyway—nothing at least that I could say to anyone living.
I walked into 'my room' which then I could only consider Aunt Polly's guest room with all of my worldly possessions laid out awkwardly within. The Eevee comforter was mine, but the bed was different. My bed had been wood, but this one was made of iron. I sat on the mattress and felt it give beneath me with a croak. I looked out at my toys—old Christmas gifts or begged for impulse purchases—books that had been read to me aloud so many times that even before I'd learned to read I could recite them. My clothes hung in the open closet with short sleeves mixed in with the sweaters. Mom would've put the summer clothes in storage—the weather was getting too nippy for them. In a place of honor on the shelf built into the wall was the six Poke Ball set that my parents had given me for my seventh birthday last year. They weren't toys, they'd said. They were for when I was older, they'd said. I'd make them proud with them, they'd said.
That was it… the gifts, the photographs, my memories and finally… me; that was all the… the residue my mom and dad had left.
Intellectually I knew what death was even then, but that was the first time it had touched me personally—and I didn't see how it could be. They were there and then suddenly… I'm supposed to believe that they've vanished? That everything that made them up was gone?
It didn't help that dewy-eyed relatives I'd seen only a few times before had come up to me at the wake and told me: "They're in a better place."
"Then are they coming back?" I asked, resilient to their efforts to set me at peace.
"No… no, Morty," they'd told me sadly. "I'm afraid they can't."
"Well, then can I go to them?
They hadn't liked that. More tears and no one knew what to say.
Mom and Dad couldn't have been gone. I knew they were, of course, but… but still I'd insist that they couldn't.
I lay back in the bed and clasped my hands over my chest the way I'd seen my parents lie. I stayed still and tried not to breath. I didn't move until my aunt called me down to dinner.
I panned my flashlight across the attic, eagle-eyed for anything that might be an obstacle to my exploration—a rat, a broken section of flooring, an upended nail. I didn't see anything like that—only boxes. I hunkered down close to the nearest one and began to search its contents.
Technically this was snooping and technically I should've known better, but there was little else for me to do. Aunt Polly had taken me out of school for the time being so that I could "have time to process things." I almost wished that she hadn't. I probably was in no fit state to do anything at school and would've been a basket case anyway but… at least it would've been a distraction. Aunt Polly had a friend over and I felt it had been implied that I was to go off and amuse myself. She'd had a lot of friends over since I arrived. She'd never seemed like the social type. I thought that she did it to avoid talking to me about… about anything that might've mattered—anything more emotionally draining then, "why don't you go outside and play with your friends?"
My friends were in school and I wasn't going to go outside. It was getting too cold out. I was always cold then and I wasn't used to it yet. So I decided to climb the old ladder outside my bedroom and explore the attic.
There wasn't much of anything interesting in the first box I searched—just some old newspaper clippings. The second box had a collection of VHS tapes, many of which were broken and had shiny black tape spilling out of them. The third box had a bunch of yellowing mystery novels with titles like Kiki Star and the Case of the Endless Staircase and Detective Dodrio and the Pidgeot Police. They smelled like decay and when I moved them choking dust filled the air. I was about to either give the books a look or check the next box when I noticed something sitting in the bottom of the box hiding below the books.
I levered it out and held out my flashlight to see it better. It was a wooden board with black writing on it. The middle part had all the letters of the alphabet and numbers zero through nine. On the top were the words "Yes" and "No" between a drawing of a skull with bat wings. On the bottom were the words "Hello" and "Goodbye." Illustrated stars had been painted onto the border.
I'd seen something like that before… yes… at a sleepover once someone had brought one out… a Ouija board. We hadn't actually tried it. One of the boys had chickened out and they'd put it away. But I'd wondered…
I set the board on the floor and looked inside the box for what I knew I was missing. Sure enough the little heart-shaped piece of wood with a hole in it was lying in the bottom of the box. I picked it up gingerly. It certainly felt like nothing more than an ordinary piece of wood. I set it on the board so that the little hole in the middle of it showed half the P and half the Q on the alphabet part of the board.
I realized that if I put both my hands on the planchette then I wouldn't be able to hold the flashlight too so I wouldn't be able to even see the board. Sure that I was doing it wrong, I set one hand on it and held the flashlight up with my other hand.
"Is… is anyone there?" I whispered.
For the longest time nothing happened. I watched the board for any sign of movement and listened intently for any voice—anything beyond the normal.
And then there was a slight sigh. It could've been a draft of late autumn wind blowing through the roof of the house… or maybe not. It was just enough to push the casters on that little heart-shaped piece of wood and roll it upward.
The word was incased in the circle in the wood.
I breathed out, suddenly anxious both to abandon my experiment and continue it. I stared at the word. YES. YES. YES. Someone was there… who?
"Who are you?" I asked, somewhere between caginess and deep curiosity.
The little slab of wood my hand was resting on slid downward once more with ponderous slowness toward the alphabet.
WHO… ARE… YOU?
That… that seemed a fair enough question to ask (it had seemed fair when I asked it).
"M-Morty," I said.
The planchette slid back up toward the top row of the alphabet, gliding through the three rows easily and without my intervention.
I didn't know what it, whatever it was, meant by that, so I decided to try my question once more. "Will you tell me who you are now?" I asked.
I… AM… NAMELESS.
I stared at the board as though it might provide me some further context. "What do you mean nameless?"
NAMELESS. The letters repeated.
"Everyone has a name," I insisted.
I… DO… NOT.
The mysterious spirit didn't seem to be willing to budge on this. "Well… what should I call you then?" I asked.
YOU… WILL… NOT… NEED… TO.
I puzzled over what it meant by that, but I decided to leave it be. I was growing anxious to ask what I'd wanted to ask ever since I'd set eyes on that Ouija board.
"Do you…" I tried to think of how to open up the topic. "Do you know my parents?" I asked helplessly.
There was a silence, then…
I leaned closer toward the board, my skin clammy with sweat and a chill running down my spine. The flashlight nearly slipped out of my fingers as I asked: "Can I talk to them? Can you get a message from them or something?"
I waited in the darkness for some sign, some answer to my long awaited question. The planchette wobbled slightly as though it might glide toward an answer any second and…
"Morty?" I heard Aunt Polly calling from downstairs. Her footsteps were close. "Where are you? …You're not up in the attic, are you? It's dangerous up there."
The planchette stopped its movement. I stared at it, gripped by the sense that I'd been robbed.
"Morty?" she called again, this time from the base of the ladder.
"Coming!" I called, slamming the board hurriedly back into the box and piling the books back on top of it before she could reach the attic.
That night I dreamt I was underground. My vision was dark and the blackness around me smelled like charcoal. A gust of wind blew at the dirt, scattering like ash and uncovering me. As my body was freed from the ground I looked around and saw three rocks, each of them taller than me, that had been buried along with me. They were black and shining and had a sort of liquid look about them as though they'd once been molten and had solidified in a hurry.
I stepped between the rocks, touching them lightly as I passed. When I first put my hands on them, they felt cold, but as I touched them they grew warmer and warmer until I had to pull my hand back to avoid getting burned. A red fire seemed to glow from inside of the rocks—pulsing on and off.
I heard an inhuman cry and then the world began to shake. I struggled to keep my footing as white light burst from each of the rocks. From one of the rocks came the smell of a spring rain, from the other the sizzle of a campfire, and from the other the rumble of thunder. I finally could stand no longer and fell to the ground as the shaking continued.
Lying on the ground, I looked up in the sky and saw… something. It was too high up to see it very clearly, but I could tell that it was massive—it just had a weight about it. Any detail as to what its form was like was obscured by the beautiful haze that followed it as it moved across the sky—all the colors of the rainbow.
There was a crash and my gaze snapped back to the rocks. They'd shattered, sending shards of sparkling rocks flying. Out of the stone I could see the silhouettes of three creatures—black and featureless. They ran at me with such incredible speed… their black forms blocked out my vision, blocked out the white sky, and blocked out the rainbow.
Then I woke up.
…I like to think, that is, I cling to the notion that that was my very first premonition. But… who even knows if it was? And even if it was a premonition… who can say that it was my future?
The next day I eased my way back into my room, hoping that my aunt hadn't heard my quick jaunt up to the attic. She hadn't wanted me there, but I had to go back just once to get the board. I closed the door quietly behind me and slid the Ouija board out from under my sweatshirt where I'd stashed it. I brought it over onto my bed and sat cross-legged in front of it with my hands rested on the planchette.
I tried to think of exactly how I should reopen the conversation. First of all, I wasn't even entirely sure if the same spirit from before would show up—maybe since I was in a different place it wouldn't speak to me. And I wasn't sure how to bring up the topic of my parents again… to put words to all the things I needed to know.
Before I could even form the words to ask anything, the planchette tugged under my fingers toward the alphabet.
DID… YOU… ENJOY… THE… RAINBOW… POKEMON?
I gasped. "How did… how did you know about that?"
I… SHOWED… IT… TO… YOU.
"Really?" I dug into my memory and tried to grasp at the insubstantial picture of that majestic, but far off creature and its rainbow. If only I'd been closer…
I… COULD… SHOW… YOU… MANY… THINGS.
"Do you think you could show me the rainbow Pokemon again?" I asked enthusiastically, childlike greed to reclaim the experience shining in my eyes.
PERHAPS, the spirit spelled out.
Then, with a rushing sense of guilt, I remembered what I'd initially come to ask the spirit about. "And… what about my parents?" I asked. "You said you knew them. Could you show me them?"
I prayed Aunt Polly wouldn't interrupt me again. The planchette glided away from the alphabet.
YES, it said.
I took my hand off the planchette to punch the air. "Really? Would you do that for me?"
IF… YOU… WOULD… LIKE, it said.
I nodded vigorously, smiling so hard it hurt. I rubbed the moisture out of my eyes before saying, in unthinking gratitude, "Thanks! If you can do that then I'll really owe you."
I stared down at the board. My business was done and the spirit was going to give me what I wanted—the contact I desperately needed. But still… I felt like I couldn't break off the conversation just at that.
"So…" I said, unsure of what to say. "What's it like being a spirit?"
Catching me in the attic the previous day seemed to have convinced Aunt Polly that she would have to occupy me herself is she didn't want me rooting through her possessions. We played cards that afternoon—a nice, structured, non-confrontational activity.
She'd asked what game I wanted to play. I'd said Old Maid. …I didn't really know why I suggested it since I didn't even know how to play it myself. She'd stiffened up and said she'd prefer to play something else.
We sat at the kitchen table with our cards fanned out in front of our faces. Aunt Polly lowered her hand to pick up a card from the deck. I could see her thin lips pursed in a frown—perhaps because of the state of her cards, perhaps not. She discarded.
I sighed and picked up another card from the deck. The cards smelled of coffee that had gone bad and were ragged around the edges. I reordered my hand to make room for the interloper and got rid of a useless card.
I wanted to escape this enforced 'family time.' I might have embraced it a few days ago when I was desperate for anything to break the monotony, but now… it was only keeping me from the more welcome company that spoke through the board I'd hidden under my bed.
Aunt Polly chewed her lip and played a card. "Your Aunt Clara will be coming to visit for Christmas," she announced, pleased to have hit upon some neutral news with which to fill a conversation. "She'll be staying with us for about a week—you should enjoy that."
I didn't even look at her, gravely drawing a card. "No she won't," I said simply.
Aunt Polly looked at me over her hand, a perplexed expression on her face. "What do you mean she won't?" she asked. "I just spoke with her on the phone. She'll be driving down on the 23rd."
"No," I said again. "She won't make it." I stared blankly at the glass door that led out into the sparse backyard. The sky was white and cold—a few flakes of snow drifted down onto the grey wood of the deck. "There'll be… an accident."
Something close to pain crossed Aunt Polly's face. She picked up a card to cover for it. She sighed as though realizing that she finally had to address something unpleasant before it got out of control. "Morty… what happened to your mother and father was… just because it happened to them doesn't mean it'll happen to everyone else." She sniffed, seemingly not sure of what else to say. She discarded. "Anyway, you don't have to worry about your Aunt Clara."
I couldn't take my eyes off the sparse snowflakes from outside. My mouth hung slightly open as I watched them.
"She'll crash into a tree and try to walk to the nearest Pokemon Center," I said in a monotone, unsure how I knew or even that I'd consciously decided to say any of this. "She'll try to walk across a frozen lake that she thinks is just a field covered in snow. She'll fall through the ice. They won't find her until the thaw."
Aunt Polly stared at me, numb with disbelief.
"Gin," I said and laid all my cards down.
In my dreams that night I wandered through a long gallery that I knew I'd been in once before. Yes… on a trip to Goldenrod City I'd gone to see the magnet train with my mom and dad. This place had to be the station. It had the same cement walls, the same benches at regular intervals, the same lit boards with advertisements, and the same occasional spray-painted lettering that my mom told me was the work of vandals. But… it felt so empty. When I'd been there before it had been bustling with people who all seemed to be in a hurry. It was darker too, only the glow of the advertisements and a hanging light from the ceiling that swayed this way and that.
I stared across the track and saw them, there, on the other side. My heart practically stopped.
My mother and father were there—dressed as they were last time I had seen them. No, not in their funeral bests, not the last time I'd seen their bodies, but the last time I'd seen them. They'd seen me, and they were gesturing to me. I could see their mouths moving, but even in the empty, echoing passageway I couldn't hear anything beyond a fuzzy sort of white noise.
I jumped over the edge of the platform and ran across the tracks to reach them, but a roar froze me halfway across, cutting over the static that had been all I could hear. Down the tunnel, out of the blackness, a small light shown… and it was growing. The rattling of something large approaching shook the ground below me… but I couldn't move! It was like I was frozen to the ground.
I looked up desperately for help from my parents, but by the time my gaze reached the platform they'd been standing on, they were already gone.
A whistle screamed through my consciousness. Down the tunnel the blackness was being swallowed up by that horrible white light and the thundering mechanism hurtled toward me.