I'm visible only under the dim streetlights of the dusty road, but no one is there to see me, not yet anyways. The sun has long set by now, but my day hasn't ended.
I will never see it end.
Why Team Plasma wanted us is beyond me. My friends and I broke off ties with Team Plasma years ago, to become trainers. All I know now is that they came for them, and now they're coming for me. And they won't allow me the pleasure of a tomorrow.
My hands are bloody; but I can't tell if it's my blood or theirs. I look up toward Anville Town. My final destination. Sighing at the thought of having to run for my life for another quarter mile, as I am already exhausted to the point of collapse, I suck it up and sprint until I've reached the edge of the city.
It was always a relatively small town; not a lot of activity or people, except on the weekends, when trainers would visit from other towns. Tonight, a Monday night, will be different; the entire city would be abuzz the whole night. But not for the usual reasons.
The Plasmas won't be in the city yet, but I don't risk going into town. Besides, my home is right on the edge of the city limits. I jog along Anville's edge for another half mile until I'm home. The two-story, brick house blends in with the darkness of the night; none of the lights are on. I edge toward the sliding back door of my house and walk in.
"Mom?" I whisper. "Mom? Laura? You here?"
No answer. On the kitchen table I spot a note that's weighed down by the salt shaker:
Laura and I left, like you told us to. You were pretty secretive about exactly what's going on, so I didn't write where we went, just in case. Call my cell when you sort everything out. Please be careful; if you're in trouble, call me and I'll help in any way that I can.
P.S. Laura said goodbye, too. I'm not telling her anything.
I sigh in relief, for I realize that my mother and younger sister received my voicemail from earlier, the one that I left hurriedly before destroying my phone. Knowing that they've left before it hits the fan is one less thing to worry about before the Plasmas come for me.
And yet it takes all of my willpower not to cry upon reading her note. It kills me that she's worried, yet she will never know how serious this is until it's far too late. I think about calling her, to say goodbye before it happens, but I dismiss the thought. There won't be enough time for that. Instead, I crumple up my mother's last words and stuff it in my front pocket.
I take off my shoes, leaving me with nothing on my feet. I stand in the kitchen, expecting them to come any minute, but they never do. This makes me restless; I know that they're coming; it's just a matter of when. I drum my fingers on the countertops, making little round dots of blood on the oak table.
Running is an option, I think, but it's one that I don't take. There's no point. I'd die anyways. Fighting is futile, too; those Plasmas would mow me down in five second flat. So I just sat there, waiting idly for it all.
On a whim, I walk up the creaky stairwell and up to my bedroom. Fourteen hours earlier, I had woken up fully unaware of the fact that I wouldn't wake up again. A lot can happen in fourteen hours. That much I learned today.
Once there, I caress my linen sheets, the ones that kept me oh-so warm during the bitter winters. Something about their texture reminds me of youth. How precious it is, how easily it disappears.
Why I think this, I don't know. Then again, there's a lot that I don't know.
It's not the texture of the sheets that keeps me in the room, but my nightstand. Better yet, it's what's on my nightstand that's so alluring. I grasp the picture frame with trembling hands. In this picture is a younger me and my Riolu, who's a Lucario now, beaming brightly into the camera. At my sides are my two friends, Walter and Ana, also grinning brightly with their pokémon. The picture was taken two years ago, when we went to Nimbasa for a day.
I can't help but feel emotional as I stare longingly at the picture. Two years ago, even two days ago, we were happy, worry-free, and jovial.
Now all we are is dead.
Well, they are anyways. But I'm not far behind.
The distant roar of a pokémon alerts me. I take a deep breath, knowing that my time has come, and walk toward my window. A dozen behemoths fly from the horizon toward my house. I can only make them out as specks, but even then I can see the Plasma grunts that man them. I recognize the wings of a Charizard, the grey ones of an Aerodactyl, but I'm unable to identify the other ones. The thought of how they will do it briefly flashes across my mind – my guess is that they'll bash my head open with Headbutt, or Cut me until I bleed out. Either way, it won't be pretty. "Pretty" isn't Team Plasma's forte.
I walk out of my bedroom and jog down the stairs for the last time, leaving the frame behind. As I walk back into the kitchen, I glance out the window by the front door to see my death bringers drawing closer. Brushing the sight of them aside for now, I stride into the kitchen and jerk open the sliding back door. I take a few steps out, allowing the cool, dewy grass to trickle my bare feet.
Now I do what I knew had to be done. I put off doing it for as long as possible, but now I know that it's time. Either I do it now, or it never gets done.
I pull from my pocket three Poké Balls and unclasp all of them. Out come my only surviving pokémon: Lucario, my partner pokémon, Servine, and Darumaka. Darumaka stands as the youngest member of my team, and I only now worry how he will fare on his own. But now's not the time to worry about that.
"Things are about to get bad," I explain to them, "and I'm not gonna make it out."
At first, they don't know what I mean by that. Then they hear the roar of the approaching pokémon and they understand. Even though I've told them almost nothing about what happened, somehow they know.
Lucario bares his teeth, but I put my hand on his shoulder to calm him. "No," I tell him, "there's no point in fighting. They'll kill you too if they get the chance. But I won't let that happen." I then throw the empty Poké Balls at my feet and, in one swift move, stomp them to bits. The official sign that marks the release of my pokémon.
They look shocked, and Darumaka starts to whimper. I, however, remain stoic as I say, "You need to go. Run into the backwoods, and don't stop until you're out of sight of the house."
Servine gives me a look that says, "Why can't you come with us?" In reality, I could run away with them. But that would only delay the inevitable.
"They'd still find us eventually," I explain, "and they'll kill you, too."
I turn now to Lucario. "You're in charge of these two, okay? Make sure that they stay safe."
Lucario puts his paw on my shoulder and nods.
"Good," I say. "Now get going. I love you."
Lucario nods again and, scooping up Darumaka, starts running into the dense foliage of the backwoods, with Servine following close behind.
It's funny, really. I always thought that I'd tear up when I parted with my pokémon. But now, when it's actually happening, I don't feel a thing.
Maybe it's the thought of my imminent death that's doing it, or the thought that they'll be safe. Maybe there's no thought to it.
Maybe it's all of the above.
I turn around and walk back into the house. There's no point in shutting the sliding door, but I do it anyways. I sit down at the kitchen table and sigh, not out of resentment but of boredom. I continue to drum my fingers on the table, since there's nothing else to do. There's at least a whole minute before they reach me, a whole minute to reflect. On what? Life. Memories. Sappy stuff like that.
I'm only seventeen. Too young to die. I mean, there's still so much that can be done when you're only seventeen. Settle down from Pokemon training. Land a career. Have a family. Things that I will never get to do.
Too young to die, I think again. But nothing I can do about that now.
I think back to my mother and sister, how clueless they are right now. They'll see on the news tomorrow morning our wrecked home, my lifeless corpse. This morning, they had no idea of what would happen. No one had any idea, actually. Oh, how clueless we were…
The growls from the enemy legion cease to grow louder, which means that they've reached me. I expect the door to come crashing down, for everything to just come crashing down all at once, but it doesn't. It never does. I can hear shouting outside; Plasma grunts, yelling for me to come on out.
I don't move. If I go out there, they'll kill me anyways. I would rather die in my own home a coward than give in to them. I'm not sure why the urge to resist their demands overtakes me, but I don't question it now.
The shouting continues, but nothing happens. For a group of people that want to waste me, they're not afraid to take their time.
I hear the churning of fire outside, and I realize what it is just as the fireball makes impact with the house. The living room bursts into flames, and I am swept off of my feet. I make a hard landing on the tiled floor of the kitchen, but I shake it off and stand back up, knowing that the worst is yet to come.
Two more fireballs hit, both of them upstairs. Of all the ways to die, I think, they just had to use fire. And here, this whole time, I had hoped for a quick death.
I can feel the heat, the excruciating heat that envelops me. By the sound of it, the entire house could collapse any second. A fireball bursts through the wall a few feet from where I stand and strikes my leg. I'm down in an instant, the pain becoming more real, more tangible.
Dense smoke invades the air, fills every precipice in my body. Breathing becomes next to impossible, and my eyes sting and water. The pain in my leg is unbearable; it burns and sizzles and oozes blood. I can't see it, but I'm positive that fire is brushing up against my body, as the heat intensifies exponentially.
It literally feels like hell on earth.
Even thinking becomes a hassle. As much as I'd like now to try and save myself, I probably couldn't. I try to think of my late friends, of my family, of myself, but I can't. Nothing comes to mind as all I know and feel is pain and burning and…
The roof under the living room collapses with a great roar. Through the smoke I can just see the backwoods behind my house. I can make out the wild pokémon, fleeing from the scene. But there's one pokémon, a Braviary, that is perched under a neighboring tree, watching me. He doesn't speak, but his deep, glaring eyes send a message that I understand promptly:
"Climb on my back and we can fly out of here, or just stay here and die. Your choice."
I do not recognize the Braviary. No one I know owns one. Naturally, I don't know why it wants to risk its life to help me.
Before I can decide whether to go with him or not, the fireballs that were pelting my house suddenly stop. No rhyme nor reason to it, they simply stop all at once.
"Hector!" A voice calls out. I immediately recognize it as that of my former superior, Gilderoy. He runs quite a large sector of Team Plasma, and he's the highest ranked executive, apart from Ghetsis and a few others that I can't remember.
"What you did to us was your choice!" He shouts. "But you know what? We're gonna give you another choice. You can give yourself up, and you'll get to live without any major harm, or you can just let yourself die in your crumbling home."
At that moment, another fireball hits the front door, paving a clear path between me and the Plasmas. I look back to the Braviary, who is still silently beckoning me to freedom. So now there are three choices: surrender myself to Gilderoy and hope they don't kill me, run toward the Braviary and make a daring escape, or stay where I am and die.
I'm seriously considering death; what is there to live for at this point? My friends are dead, my pokémon are gone. But at the same time the thought of being allowed to live, whether it be by Braviary or by the Plasmas, sounds deliciously tempting. My leg would make it hard to get out of the house. Hard, but not impossible. It's better than being in a burning house, anyways. "It's my choice," I think, "in the end, it's my choice."
Choices. I realize now that everything that's led up to this, from leaving Team Plasma to unknowingly pissing them off to allowing myself to stay in the burning house, it was all because of my choices. This whole time I thought that it just happened for no reason, that Team Plasma was out for me simply because they could. But no, all of this is happening because of the choices that I chose to make.
But now I must make one last choice. Flee. Surrender. Die.
It's my choice.
The house is devoid of life by the time it collapses.
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