Sorry for the long wait between chapters, but hopefully this one will make up for it! It ties back to the prologue and will hint more at the wider mystery of the story, so enjoy!
Chapter Seven: A Ghost in the Graveyard
There is nowhere lonelier than a silent graveyard in the dead of night.
The Sunyshore Graveyard was barely within the city limits, situated right on the border that connected to Route 222. The wide field was enclosed on three sides by a forest made of never ending rows of trees that stood tall and proud during the day, but at night housed only darkness between their roots and branches, the shadows making their tops resemble fangs creeping across the graveyard. Old fashioned gas lamps stood at the entrance and in all four corners, but they provided barely enough light to see by, simply the crumbling headstones into nightmarish creatures across the grass.
Viktor preferred coming here during the dark though. When the sun was shining overhead, it only highlighted what a dilapidated and depressing place this was. Any headstone more than a few years old was generally cracked and falling apart, while some of the oldest ones to the southern end where the graveyard had first begun were simply piles of rubble or rotten wooden sticks tilting out of the ground. The lawn had dried up during the scorching summer, and the grass crunched beneath Viktor's feet as he stepped inside, a grim feeling creeping throughout his body.
This is supposed to be a happy place, that's what grandma always said, he thought. She always said that this was a beautiful spot and everyone loved being buried here as they could be surrounded by trees but still get a sea breeze… but why does it only look beautiful when it is cast in shadow? Viktor felt grim as he left the rusted fence and entrance sign behind, disappearing into the neatly ordered rows of death. A Noctowl hooted in the trees, startling Viktor, but he quickly regained himself and tried to stay calm, but he was weary and his mind couldn't focus on being brave. It took a while to get to the graveyard by foot, and Viktor had spent most of the day training with Cynthia, so as the clock ticked closer to his usual bed time the young boy found himself being overcome with tiredness. Getting home would be a struggle, and Viktor glanced behind at the road leading here, wondering if his grandparents were looking for him. Surely they would have noticed his disappearance and they'd be searching the entire city… right?
They will see I'm gone, of course they will! Viktor told himself. I am being ridiculous, they are my grandparents, they will realise that I am not in the house! They still love me, despite all that has happened… don't they? Viktor felt something on his face and quickly touched his cheek, afraid as to what it could be, but quickly realised it was simply a tear creeping down to his neck.
Without paying attention to the ground for open graves or rubbish covering the grass, Viktor sprinted forwards, the tears beginning to stream down. His vision blurred, but it was so dark that it barely mattered, and he knew exactly where to go from memory: past the marble grey headstone, one of the few in the row that was still solid, past the grave of Mr Johnson that Mrs Johnson always puts flowers on, right next to the stone less grave…
James and Maria Fischer were buried in the same grave, the sole benefit that had come from them dying at the same time. Viktor stared down at the familiar patch of grass, the only thing marking it out as grave being the simple stone headstone that had since been badly weathered. He could remember when he had first come here all those years ago, and Viktor had stared down into the rectangle of darkness that had been open before him. It was only then that he had cried, as the six year old Viktor only realised that once they went down, they would never come back up again…
"Mum… Dad…," Viktor whispered, and he fell onto his knees. He pressed his a hand against the grass, wondering if his mother would reach out and grasp onto it, but there would only be bones and dust left inside the coffin now. Viktor cried harder for a moment, but he wiped away the tears and stared firmly downwards, imaging a whole, healthy face with warm blue eyes and long blonde hair like his was staring back. "I am sorry I have not visited… I have been so busy lately. I… I made a friend! Her name is Cynthia; her family is on holiday, right here in the city. She saved me from some bullies, and now we are helping each other out. Cynthia has a lot of strong Pokemon, you see, so she is training mine up. Feebas nearly defeated her Swablu today, you should have seen it! But I am not being selfish or anything. I am helping her get books out from the library as she does not have a card or anything in return. Cynthia is really amazing: she is funny, is great with Pokemon, always wears cool clothes, and… well… she is really pretty as well, just like you mum!"
Viktor paused, taking a deep gulp as he thought about what he would say next. "There have been some issues at home lately. Flint, Volkner's friend… we have not been getting along very well. He caused my curtains to catch on fire, but Grandma and Granddad let him come back! I got angry with him over breakfast and accidentally hurt him, and now I think everyone is angry with me. It's not fair though! Flint is always mean to me and he gets away with it, but I do one bad thing and I get in trouble!" Viktor broke down, rolling onto his side and stroking the grass, tears streaming down his face. "I wish you two were here! I know that if my parents were still alive, Flint would never get away with doing stuff like this! I miss you all so much and I…," but Viktor's voice began to break under, and he fell silent and simply lay on the grass and wept. He shut his eyes and imagined his life back in his old house, when his parents were still beside him to guide him through everything, and nothing ever seemed to get him down. If only they were still alive now, than Viktor would never have to deal with Flint, he could make his science projects with his parent's help, his father could train his Pokemon instead… it would be a simple life, and that was all Viktor really wanted…
"The first signs of madness, talking to dead people that aren't even there," a feminine voice said with a giggle from behind, and Viktor jumped to his feet, startled. "Of course, talking to dead people that are floating in front of you is probably a greater sign of madness, wouldn't you agree?" The voice laughed again, and Viktor screamed as a girl emerged out of the shadows, appearing directly in his face.
"Keep it down boy, your loud enough to wake the dead!" The girl guffawed and she moved backwards, letting Viktor get a better look at her. She appeared to be around his age, possibly a few years older. She was wearing a dress was blowing in a wind that wasn't even there, and it seemed frayed and old fashioned as if she had worn it for a long time. But Viktor was more captivated by the fact the girl was transparent: her skin, her clothes, her body, it was all like a foggy window, see through but with some sort of whiteness that did not make her completely clear. Viktor looked down and saw the girl's feet were floating above the ground as well as showing the next few gravestones, and it dawned on him who this person was.
"Checking me out, are you?" the ghost asked with a cackle. Viktor was too shocked to say anything and tried moving away, yet unable to look away. "My god, why does everyone always act like this! You would think you had never seen a ghost before!" She tutted, and reached out as if too grab him. Viktor began shaking uncontrollably, but his voice managed to creep back to him
"B-b-but I have n-never seen a gh-ghost before!" He stuttered out, and the ghost glared at him, annoyed at having this thrown her way.
"They did tell me you were a smart little boy," she said with a slight purr, moving closer, but Viktor stumbled backwards towards Mr Johnson's grave, stomping on his latest batch of flowers. "I am not a fan of smart little boys though, I prefer my men strong and stupid, it makes them so much easier to control." The ghost laughed at this, flicking her hair back and letting her cackle echo across the silent graveyard. Viktor glanced around and saw that the lights at the corners had begun to die down, and the shadows spread across the dying grass seemed to be dancing around, shimmering and moving, creeping closer and closer towards them.
"Who are you – wait, what are you?" Viktor asked, trying desperately to control his nerves. "Why are you here?" The ghost stopped laughing but the smile remained on her face, and she floated back towards his parent's grave and fell to the ground, her ghostly shade lingering on the surface of the earth.
"My name is Charlotte. I am a two thousand year old ghost that was destroyed and turned into an eternal slave. I am both magic and psychic, which means I can kill you with a click of my fingers right here, right now, yet I already have a vague idea of when and how you will die. And, to answer your last question, I am here for yooooouuu," she finished with an extended cry, and she flashed Viktor a broad grin. "Is that enough information?" Viktor was stunned silent once more, all of this information rushing through his mind, but the only thought he could grasp onto was that he should not have been so petty, he should not have gotten jealous and run away; maybe then he would not be in this situation.
"Is this all real, or am I… hallucinating or something?" He asked, and Charlotte laughed again. It seemed to be all she ever did really, and Viktor glanced back at the fence, wondering if he could keep this ghost laughing long enough for him to slip away. But when he looked back, Charlotte was right next to him once again, silent but with a wicked glint in her eyes.
"Oh, trust me dear, this is very real!" She hissed, and a sudden gust rose out of nowhere. Viktor cried out as the wind slammed into him like a giant fist, and he was sent sliding backwards. He slammed into a marble gravestone, making his back and shoulders crack, and Viktor moaned as Charlotte rose back into the air, the sudden wind making her entire body shimmer.
"Poor Viktor Fischer… the boy with no friends, ignored by his family, oblivious to love and longing, unaware of his capabilities. You have spent far too long wishing you can live in the past, be back with parents that have long since died, and due to that you have never moved on. You may look older now, but at heart, you are still six year old Vikky Fischer."
"Shut up, you don't know what you're talking about!" Viktor snapped. "I have friends, I have Cynthia!"
"Ah yes, Cynthia!" Charlotte said, smirking. "I see great things for her in the future, though I don't quite see the two of you sticking together… even though you think you love her, don't you?" Viktor fell silent as this, and Charlotte flashed a smile.
"I don't… she doesn't… we are just friends!" Viktor protested, but he said it in a sheepish voice and refused to look at Charlotte, not wanting to let her stare into his eyes and search for the truth. Yet the ghost seemed to already know the answer, and her sly smile remained.
"Of course, you are far too young to truly understand love, and I doubt you ever will," Charlotte continued, floating around Viktor and the gravestone with an air of superiority. "You are a much damaged little boy, and I cannot see you ever getting past that. Women… Pokemon… men… you will never understand what love means with any of them, poor child. What a tragic life you're destined for!"
"Shut up!" Viktor screamed, and he tried to get up but Charlotte waved a hand and forced him back down the gravestone. "You are just some stupid ghost, you don't know me!"
"Ah, but I do!" Charlotte said with an air of mystery, waving her hands about. "I know all about you, Viktor Fischer, from the past you live in to the future you are trying to avoid. You wanted to know why I am here? I am here to help you, Viktor Fischer, I am here to warn you."
"About her," Charlotte purred, and Viktor knew exactly who she meant, but had no idea why. "Cynthia Carter is lying to you, and she will keep on lying to you as long as it pleases her. Quite the manipulative little madam and she has you wrapped right around her pinkie."
"Am I?" Charlotte paused and leaned in close, a chill creeping through Viktor's body as the ghost got right into his face. "You have been wondering the same thing though, I can tell, the thoughts still linger in the back of your mind. You ask yourself why she would want to be anywhere near you, why she chooses to hang out with you. You wonder if you are simply a library card to her, and I can tell you Viktor, you are. When you first met her and you went into the library, she insisted on whispering, didn't she?"
"Yes, but that was so we wouldn't get kicked out!"
"Was it really Viktor?" Charlotte asked, pursing her long dead lips. "Maybe she was afraid that people might hear what she was talking about. But why hide in the library anyway? There are so many places to hide in this city, why there?" Viktor opened his mouth to protest, but his words caught in his throat as he realised that Charlotte had a point. The ghost brushed his chest with her hand, making his heart freeze, and she leaned right up next to his air, her long dead hair being blown across Viktor's face.
"And finally Vikky, tell me this: what is the name of the hotel she's staying in?" Charlotte asked, and it had the effect of a bomb being dropped. Viktor found himself gasping for breath as the shock washed over him, and the cold feeling lingered in his body even as Charlotte floated backwards, smirking triumphantly. It was true, he did not know where she was staying, nor had he ever met any of her family or heard her speak of them in great detail. Was Cynthia really lying to Viktor, really using him for the library? It seemed unreal… his first real friend…
"She will string you along until she finds the book she is looking for," Charlotte continued, "and once Cynthia Carter gets her greedy little paws on it, you will be nothing many than some summer memory!"
"LIAR!" Viktor shouted, and he jumped to his feet. Anger flashed across Charlotte's face but Viktor didn't care. "Cynthia is my friend, you cannot go and say things like that! I don't care who you think you are, but just go away you… you… you stupid bitch!" Viktor had never called anyone a bitch before, but he had heard his grandfather angrily called women it before. Viktor was not sure what it meant asides from it being an insult, but he felt glad to see Charlotte looked stunned and he felt that he had put her in her place.
"Now, if you don't mind, I am going to go home before my family gets worried!" He said, and turned to leave, trying to push the dark thoughts of Cynthia out of his head but confident that his nightmare was over.
"How dare you," a deep, angry voice hissed, and Viktor paused, another chill going down his spine. He went to turn around, but something grabbed his leg and Viktor screamed: he looked down to see a dead, pale-blue hand missing two fingers was clawing at his leg, attached to an equally dead arm that had burst through the ground. Viktor continued to scream and tried to break free, but the hand pulled tightly and he fell, slamming into the ground and getting a jolt through his body.
"YOU IDIOT!" Charlotte screamed, her voice losing its airy quality. "I came here to save you, to stop you from throwing your life away, and this is what I get in return!" Viktor was afraid to look at her as she was starting to sound demonic, and he did not want the ghost to see the tears coming down his face. The wind was much stronger now, roaring through the graveyard and making the trees creak and groan. Viktor saw more limbs bursting through the graves, hands clawing their way out of the earth, dirt and wood being tossed everywhere, and he felt like he would be sick.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Viktor screamed as he tried kicking the hand away that was digging into his leg, but it wouldn't budge, only gripping tighter and pulling him towards the grave.
"PUNISHING YOU!" Charlotte roared back, and she appeared before him: her mouth was open in a constant scream, her hair was flying all over the place, and Viktor had never seen anger like the look coming out of those dead, seemingly transparent eyes.
"I'm sorry, please let me go!" He cried, the tears beginning to blur his vision. "I didn't mean it! Please don't kill me!"
"Remember what I told you, Viktor Fischer, because I never lie!" Charlotte's voice hissed inside his head. "I simply never tell the whole truth, it's more fun that way. Cynthia will hurt you, and you will know only pain for the rest of your life! I will spare you tonight, but soon, you will wish my creatures had killed you here rather than what is waiting for you!"
"PLEASE JUST MAKE IT STOP!" Viktor screamed, and he dug his hands into the ground, trying to pull himself free, but he found himself slipping away. Charlotte laughed as Viktor was dragged across the ground, and the thirteen year old screamed into the night…
A cry echoed through the night, and it was like a spell had shattered: Viktor opened his eyes and found the graveyard was empty. No Charlotte, no reanimated corpses, simply himself lying on the ground, breathing intensely with his face streaked with tears. He turned, waiting to find a hand grasping for his ankle, but there was nothing there, not even a hole in the ground…
"VIKTOR!" The voice cried again, and Viktor turned to see his grandfather, Volkner and Cynthia all rushing across the graveyard, with Swablu flying overhead and Volkner's Shinx leading the way forwards. His grandfather was out front with a lamp, still calling out for his grandson.
"Oh Viktor, what are you doing out here at this time of night?" He cried. "We were getting so worried! Your grandmother and Flint have gone all the way to the Square to look for you!" Viktor did not offer an explanation, instead jumping to his feet and running forwards. His grandfather passed his lamp to Volkner and pulled his grandson into a hug. Viktor sobbed quietly into his shoulder, his leg still feeling as though there was the cold, dead hand digging into it.
"What's wrong Viktor?" Cynthia asked, coming over and touching his shoulder. Viktor glanced at her but did not say anything, silently reading her expression: Cynthia looked worried, but was this genuine sympathy for his wellbeing or concern over the future of her plan?
She has you wrapped around her pinkie… what a tragic life you are destined for… nothing more than a summer memory… Viktor was not sure if Charlotte had been real, as her and her illusion had faded away very quickly, but then again they had started just as fast. But regardless, her words lingered, and Viktor was not sure what to think. It seemed impossible that Cynthia could just be using him, yet he could not deny the thoughts had been there…
"Come on, let's get you home and warm you up, then we might get a few words out of ya!" Peter said, and he turned his hug into a one shoulder grip and began to manoeuvre Viktor away from the graves. Viktor noticed Cynthia and Volkner exchanging a look, but he was too worn out and shaken from his experience to say anything about it. He glanced back at the grave he had come all this way to see, wondering what his parents would say if they were here… and if they would tell him to stop living in the past as well…
It was a long, dark night in Jubilife City.
Mr Arnold Adiem stood at the floor to ceiling windows that made up the southern wall of his office in the Sinnoh Broadcasting Company Building, staring out at the city around him that he had lived in his whole life and was quickly becoming the center of the Sinnoh Region. All the lights made the city shine gold, and the streets were bustling with nightlife. At least a dozen building projects were going on across Jubilife, while nearly as many new buildings had opened in the last month. The SBC Building would quickly be dwarfed by many of the ones in the pipeline, but Mr Adiem only cared about being at the front and center of the media world, with his growing empire of newspapers around the world and the Sinnoh Now Network and SBC television channels. The competition did not worry him as long as he stuck to his core aim, his core goals….
Arnold sighed and turned away. He could not focus, not with that thing still in the room. He constantly felt tense, nervous, his eyes always flickering towards the thick wooden box that sat on his desk. It should have been gone by now, Charlotte was only meant to take a few days to eliminate the problem, yet the two orbs lingered, and the feeling they left with Mr Adiem was getting worse and worse.
It has been a long time since I was trusted with these, Arnold thought as he stared at the box he had once longed to possess. Too long in fact… I should have gotten rid of them when Charlotte first appeared, but I was a fool… a selfish, foolish young man…now look where we are…
"DICKHEAD!" A voice suddenly screamed, and Mr Adiem dropped his glass and turned as Charlotte appeared out of nowhere in the middle of his expansive office, and the look on her face made it clear she was not in a good mood.
"He dare call me a bitch, he dare even after I just tried to save his life!" She bellowed, and angrily waved her hands around. The windows cracked as if a rock had been thrown at them, papers scattered in a mini tornado and priceless artwork fell from the walls, clattering onto tables and desks. Mr Adiem was taken aback, but quickly recovered as Charlotte's anger made a set of drawers burst open.
"Stop this at once!" He roared. "If something has upset you, kindly explain it rather than destroy all of my things!" Charlotte reared furiously at him, but Arnold kept a stern face and the ghost relented, letting the papers fall back into neat piles and the pictures re-hang themselves automatically.
"It is that boy!" The ghost hissed, and Mr Adiem took a guess at who she meant. "I went to warn him and to stop him from becoming what I saw, but the little shit threw my help right back into my face!" Arnold frowned at this, and he glanced down at the chest before him: he had been waiting for Charlotte to return to him, but the media magnate had been expecting better news.
"Was your warning sufficient enough to prevent what you foresaw?" He asked. "Will we be able to safely move the orbs now?" Charlotte looked at him and Mr Adiem regretted his words, seeing the fury burning across her face.
"I don't care about that!" She snapped. "He insulted me, that is all I can think about right now! I tried to say him from a life of misery, despair and death, and he completely ignored me! If you want my advice, this is the best opportunity you are going to get to move them because I am not going back to deal with that kid unless I absolutely have to, or I notice him walking down a dark alleyway at night, then he may just find a little surprise when he turns the –"
"Yes yes, thank you!" Mr Adiem said irritably, and Charlotte looked pouty, but the media mogul ignored her and went to examine the box. He rubbed his hands across the top, feeling the power emitting from inside, imagining everything that the two orbs meant, everything that could be achieved by simply touching them… Arnold was tempted to open the box and look at them once more time, but pulled his hand away and snapped out of it, knowing what a bad idea that was.
"It is time," he said, and turned back to Charlotte. "You have tried to warn this Viktor Fischer, there is nothing more we can do without murdering the child. Whether your prophecy comes true or not, it is time for us to move the orbs and find them a new location. We have been putting this off for too long! It is time that I consulted with the Elite Four before we waste another decade fretting about!"
"And what if Viktor manages to get to them, what then?" Charlotte asked. Mr Adiem sighed as he stared down at the box, remembering what Charlotte had warned him about all those years ago… death, destruction, the end of the world…
"Then we must live with the consequences of our actions and hope that we can find a way to stop him."
Look out for these two to recur as the story carries on and gains momentum. Any theories on what is occurring and what Charlotte has predicted?