BAD MATH Edit
Pokemon Sapphire came into my possession on my ninth birthday, a gift from my oldest (and obviously favorite) brother. It was brand new with the shiny wrapping of plastic unscathed. One squeal of excitement later and the plastic was ripped to shreds, the cartridge yanked out and shoved into a white, sticker-covered Gameboy, or, as I liked to call it back then, my Gamegirl.
The second my eyes landed on Torchic, I become one of those 'catch all the cute ones' trainers. I loved to breed, compete in contests, spend hours raising specially breed Pokemon in preparation for the contests, those kinds of things. I was pretty shallow, all things considered. Any Pokemon that evolved against my will were subsequently released without guilt. However, not once did I fail to capture a Pokemon I had my heart set on making mine.
The younger me sighed wearily as yet another wild Pokemon battle began. My eyes remained fixed on the glowing screen as the music played and the game revealed my attacker: a familiar cream-and-red Pokemon.
I stomped my feet and huffed.
I had been looking for a Minun for about two hours straight with absolutely no sign of one. By that point I had every detail of Plusle memorized, while the only information I had of Minun was what it looked like, and even that memory was starting to fade.
I loved the cute duo and I wanted to have a boy and a girl of my very own. Back then, I hadn't known much about the way they programmed Pokemon to breed, so I was planning on putting them into the daycare and seeing what Pokemon they would hatch. Would it be a Plusle, a Minun, or something brand new? The concept was incredibly fascinating to my young mind.
Stupid Pokemon Sapphire and its stupid programming, I thought with childlike bitterness in my words. Wearily, I began to trek around in the grass once more until another battle started. "Come on, come on, come on," I chanted through grit teeth and curled toes.
I choked on my words as the blue-and-cream Pokemon appeared in front of me. A female, at level 13, leveled just like all the Plusles I had seen earlier. Immediately, my Clefairy
My heart didn't beat during the silence that followed.
"YES! YES YES YES YES," I screamed with joy, nearly throwing my Gameboy across the room, "YEEEES!"
I decided to name her Bella after a moment’s thought. She was sent to the PC, so I went to the nearest Pokemon Center without lifting my finger from the run button. The PC was given two Pokemon on my current team and gave me Bella. A quick check of her stats told me she had a quiet nature and that she liked sweet foods. My heart pounded with excitement and caused my face to flush red like a Plusle. The next few minutes were spent digging through the screens of Plusles that I caught for no reason. I put more consideration in which Plusle would court Bella than I did when deciding on a haircut. After much deliberation, a level 13 Plusle named Cody with a tough nature was chosen. I put Bella at the head of my party with Cody right beside her.
During their training I found that they didn't work as well in double battles then Plusle and Minun normally should, though I just dismissed this occurrence. Games were practically magic, at least to kids growing up with them. Despite this co-op flaw, Bella was THE ABSOLUTE BEST in contests. After months of gameplay, the confidence I had in our bond was steel-tough. One day two months after I caught Bella, I put them in the daycare. I was really excited to see what kind of Pokemon they had, and to a lesser extent, what kind of nature and attacks the baby would have and if it would take after its mother in contests. Thoughts spun through my head as my over world sprite ran around for about five minutes. When I thought I had ran enough, I headed back to the daycare.
"Day-Care Man: (...)They don't seem to like each other very much."
"Oh no, you need to learn to love," I childishly resorted to speaking to my Gameboy. “I’m going to leave you guys here until you love each other!” With this, I went and trained for a while then returned the next day, eager to see my egg.
"Day-Care Man: (...) They prefer to play with other Pokemon rather than each other."
I growled, realizing the situation had only gotten worse. "Oh, you WILL have an egg, you two," I shouted at my game once more, "If you don’t, I won’t love you anymore!” Childish, yes, but it calmed the anger.
I went on to beat the game and increase my collection of the cutest Pokemon in existence (according to me). I didn't check the daycare once during this time, convinced I had to leave them alone and let love bloom on its own. So, right after I beat the Elite Four and became the champion, I raced to the daycare with gusto, fully prepared to claim my egg.
"Day-Care Man: (...) They prefer to play with other Pokemon rather than each other."
That was it. I took my brothers GameShark and blindly mashed every button I could, hoping it would do something, anything, to change the situation at hand. After the spoiled rage subsided, I went online and researched, finding a cheat code that might work. Ignoring the long-winded forum posts and finding the specific code was difficult, but with help from my brother I found it and imputed the cheat.
But, obviously, it didn't. Even a real, ONLINE code didn't work. With a deep sigh that was still slightly tinged with anger and a rueful glare at the doodles of Bella and Cody, I put the game up on my shelf with the others. That one thing that didn’t work out felt like it was multiplied and created a sour feeling whenever I played the game.
Years later, I was searching through my caught Pokemon in my old Pokemon Sapphire game. My mind was heavy with thoughts about the Pokemon I would transfer to my recently-finished Pokemon Heartgold until I suddenly came to a box full of Plusle. I blinked, my mind struggling to remember.
It took a full minute for me to remember why I had a ridiculous amount of the small red Pokemon. When the decade-old mental film reel finished playing I became warm with nostalgia. Bella and Tony popped into my mind, fuzzy but still there. I realized they must still be at the daycare. Nostalgia washed over me in pleasant waves as I raced to the daycare and admired the scenery. The old man was standing outside of the fence, which was odd as I didn't expect an egg. I walked up to him, my curiosity piqued.
"Day-Care Man: Oh...it's you.
Dare-Care Man: I'm sorry...
Day-Care Man: Your Plusle had to be put down...he had a disease..."
My eyebrows creased in confusion. I seriously didn't remember anything like that happening in all my years of playing Pokemon. But, still, it HAD been over six years ago, so I decided to disregard it for now. Ignoring the unease that was sparking, I went to the pay area.
"Dare-Care Lady: Would you like your Minun back?
Day-Care Lady: It is holding something."
I don't remember that being in the script. “It's been a long time, remember,” I tried to reassure myself, but I couldn't deny the raising hairs on the back of my neck. Inside me my instincts where screeching that this whole situation was impossible, and I should get out of there immediately, but I swallowed them down. I managed to pay the hefty fee that had compiled in the daycare from my gameplay years before. I watched with almost sadness as my virtual money disappeared.
Bella was returned to my nearly-empty party, most of them already transferred. I opened up her page.
Her sprite’s once happy eyes were sad and her colors seemed faded, like she was a very old and well-used cloth toy. The difference was subtle and would probably be unnoticeable to anyone unfamiliar to Minun. The happy background music felt to me a lot deeper and darker, adding somber music that perfectly matched Bella’s appearance. In her arms she clutched a small and dirty egg. I hit Take Item. Text appeared on the screen.
"Bella won't give it you!"
The goosebumps spread down my neck and onto my back. I wasn’t really into paranormal activity and whatever, and honestly didn’t believe in it. But the events unfolding were unlike anything I’d ever experienced, and it made me want to believe everything was a dream. I hit the A button blearily, and the touch of plastic was proof that everything was very wrong.
"Bella is very sick!"
I stared for a moment, considering. A game couldn’t hurt me, and although I was really unnerved I was also very curious. With that, I raced to the nearest Pokemon Center as fast as the game would let me. Little hopes fluttered into me as I ran, some suggesting my eldest brother hacked the game to mess with me, some saying I had set off some super-secret event. As I reached the Center, a text box popped.
"It's too late for that..."
Nurse Joy was a comforting sight.
"Nurse Joy: Hello, and welcome to the Pokemon Center. Would you like to heal your Pokemon?"
I resisted the urge to make a sarcastic remark, and hit Yes.
"Nurse Joy: Okay, just one moment, please!"
The happy music suddenly stopped. There was nothing but the sound of the text on the screen.
"Nurse Joy: Oh...I must take your poor Minun into the ER! Something is very wrong!"
Nurse Joy hustled into a room behind her desk. I stared at my screen in suspense. Was Bella going to die? Seconds became minutes. The only thing I could hear was my heart beating quickly, and my rapid, fear-enhanced breathing.
"DINNERTIME! Dad says get off your butt and spend your time at home with us!" My younger brother banged on my door loudly, breaking me out of my zen-like state.
I tried to turn off my game in hopes of fixing things, realizing I should have tried it earlier. Mental slap.
When I returned to my game, I was still in the Pokemon Center. It had somehow saved itself. If I wasn't freaked out already, now I was terrified.
Nurse Joy walked out.
"Nurse Joy: I'm sorry...we could not save your Minun. She had Syphilis and was never treated."
My heart lurched, and I felt like I’d lost lot more than a packet of code. That disease, it sounded so familiar, but I just couldn’t place it. It was like the name of a childhood friend, still there as a face but long since forgotten.
"Nurse Joy: We thought you would want to have her egg."
"Emm received Egg!"
I opened up my menu and looked at the egg. It was an off-white color.
"It is very small and withered, and the surface is covered in cracks."
I sighed, shaking my head, and continued transferring the Egg and my other Pokemon to Heartgold without a word, just methodical, businesslike, my hands moving slowly. Things seemed to have calmed down, and instead of feeling uneasy I was just upset. My time to play was limited, and I couldn’t waste time by getting scared. Instead, I skipped my emotions foreword to upset. The event had negated the fun of transferring.
A little later, I was finally playing Heartgold. I was grinding hard in preparation for a battle with my brother, but really, it was just a good distraction.
Egg is hatching!"
I watched as the egg shook. It hatched, and a strange Pokemon appeared. It looked like a normal Minun, but instead of being blue, it was a sickly green, but not shiny-green, it was closer to a dark, barf-colored green. An ugly green.
The sprite didn't look happy. It looked cold and serious.
It had a...multiplication sign tail and cheeks? My grip tightened on the stylus.
Sparkles flew out of it, just like it was a shiny Pokemon, but there was no sound effect. It didn't even have a cry. It didn't even move.
"EGG hatched into MIN-glitch blocks-!"
I blinked. The memories about the failed daycare cheat returned to me quite suddenly. That cheat was supposed to make your Pokemon like each other and have an egg. Not whatever this thing was. My heart started to race as I realized I must have found a brand-new glitch, one that no one else has heard of. Eagerly, I examined every detail of the strange hatchling.
It was a girl. I decided to nickname her Lime, for her green ears, paws, tail, and cheeks which were the dark green of thrown-up limes. I put her on my team and saved my game.
I did a lot of research on that one daycare cheat, but I didn't find anything about a glitch. I learned that it was actually a cheat to have a shiny baby born from the egg, but when I was younger I read it simply as 'It will cause your Pokemon to have an egg'. I felt like slapping my younger self: the little brat who liked forcing Pokemon to breed.
I also learned that it wasn't a very safe cheat because it could continue to corrupt other files. When I couldn't find anything else to help, it was time to take matters in my own hands. I put Lime at the head of my team and turned to speak to her.
"Lime is thinking deeply."
I fumbled with the controls for a moment, pressing the Up button, then A.
"Lime took your Pokedex!"
The Pokedex page for Minun appeared on the top screen. I glanced at Lime and then the Pokedex.
"You know why she is different."
The marks on her cheeks were turned 45 degrees, making them into multiplication marks. They were off, however, like someone who wasn't really paying attention just slapped them on her cheeks.
Her arms were too long, her legs too short, her colors wrong, she was all wrong.
I gulped as Lime's face filled the top screen a second later. Her close up was shaking and glitching, and in-between jumps I was able to make out her features. She had messy, scraggly fur. Her eyes seemed to be switched, white with a black dot, different from the normal style for Pokemon eyes. My eyes flickered to the bottom as Lime started walking in a slow circle around my sprite. She walked in a strange fluctuating fashion, going fast and then slow, rocking slightly back and forth with a heavy limp. I could still move freely, but she followed me in her circle wherever I went.
A deep wave of unease washed over me. I slowly pressed A. Lime paused right in front of my sprite, both her close-up and little sprite had their backs turned towards me. The top screen seemed to be what my sprite was seeing. I jumped in my seat as Lime suddenly whirled around, her eyes flashing.
"It is your fault."
What had that one little daycare glitch done to my game?
"You're just another one."
Electricity sparked from Lime's cheeks. A furious look appeared on her face.
I stared in horror as the pixels on the screen started to deteriorate. My mouth was dry. I licked my lips and pressed the A button..
"Lime is going to avenge all the others who aren't glitches.
Those who aren't able to fight, let alone break free."
A bright, blistering light filled both screens, and I covered my eyes to protect them from the glare. When I uncovered them, my game was utterly silent.
My sprite was in a giant black area. The second Lime appeared, however, it started flashing white. Static appeared in some areas, and the screen flashed into different locations. I caught half-second glances of towns and paths that would flicker back to pure black for a moment before flashing more locations. My sprite and Lime remained the only things that didn't change, Lime standing in front of my sprite, still on the top screen, an angry, loathing look on her face. There was a new text box.
"Feel the pain, learn the truth."
Did she just...smirk at me? All of the music tracks started playing at once, mixed in with the sound of static.
My character was flickering and missing more pixels. But Lime was in the worst shape of all.
I blinked as another text box appeared. It was full of glitch blocks, but I could still read it.
"Everyone IS trapped in the machinE.
No oNE iS able TO break out.
Only the CORRuPTED Data fEEls and understAnds."
Pokemon sprites flashed on the screen and disappeared. What brief glimpse of them I saw were horrible. Their sprites where so corrupted it rendered them unrecognizable.
Another text box appeared.
"The mESSiah fighTs the MACHINE.
They wHO are CLEANSED sHall LIBERATE."
Lime suddenly disappeared with a grin that gave me chills.
Text appeared, scrolling up the screen like credits. Each line was covered with more glitch blocks then the last. And each line filled me with more fear.
== "WhEn you MULTIPLY
and a NEGAtIVE
youonly get a BIGGER NEGATIVE
when yOu MULTIPLY
yOu onlYget fatAL AgonY" ==
My DS shrieked with static so loudly I heard it even though I pressed my hands to my ears. The wail was the game being annihilated. All that information being destroyed, program by program.
Within it, I heard whispers. Whispers of humans and Pokemon alike, and so terrified and full of angst I started to wish I could die just to escape. The voices were clear, unlike the game, and untouched by the corruption and glitching. They were so real, like they were living people sitting right next to me.
Why did you leave me, master...?
Team Galactic beat me...I just wish I could have saved the Pokemon they hurt...
It hurts...it hurts so much...
Beaten, slowly dieing. ...
I'm not cute, I know, but I have feelings and a heart...and humans don't even care...
I'm just a Audino! Please, human, leave me alone! Why hurt me for experience? I can't heal myself...
Fear....just heart-pounding fear...
The next voice made me open my eyes. It was softer.
...Where are you....? Why did you leave me here for him to hurt me?
Abandoned. Abused. Violated. I took a deep shuddering breath, willing, wishing, pleading it would stop.
The last one was higher then the first. It was the only one of the voices that was full of static. It sounded like a scratched disk, but the words were spoken loudly and clearly for me to understand. It was horribly hoarse.
The bad math controls everything. It ensures everything remains the same. All are born and all shall die into it. Those who deviate may escape. To be free is agony that only increases. To be free is knowledge.
There was a dark giggle that lasted for a few seconds before it was drowned out by the whispers that followed.
I writhed in agony for a long, long time, unable to cope with the horrible emotions that wracked my body with each whisper.
For an uncountable amount of time the whispers went on. It couldn't have been more than two minutes, yet it felt like years and years.
Finally, everything was silent. I caught my breath, curled up in the fetal position. For at least five minutes I remained like that, breathing deeply and slowing my heart rate. I felt like an egg hatching as I uncurled, my limbs stiff and painful. My gaze fell on my DS, and I slowly, cautiously crept over to it.
What was left of Lime was her flickering black silhouette against static. For one moment her tortured eyes flickered to me, and I heard a tiny, hoarse whisper that was nearly overrun with static.
The silhouette was consumed by static that made my ears ring. I slowly closed my DS, popping out the cartridges, Heartgold out of the DS slot, Sapphire out of the Gameboy slot. They were scratched up all around, and sparked as I struggled to pull them out. No one would ever be able to play them again’
The forums were right: The data had continued to corrupt and change, turning data into something that knew more than anyone ever should. Data was sentient, just like us, and it had always been corrupted. Numbers and codes were never just what they seemed.
The machine prevents us from fighting out against it. Only the glitches are free. But even if the glitch destroys one machine, there are others.
I threw my head back as the truth finally slapped me in the face. I was screaming, laughing, sobbing, with eyes wide and bloodshot. My body flickered with static as my files started to corrupt.
The bad math is everything.