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SCIENCE IS VICTORIOUS.

Flat, unblinking eyes watched as many programmers and technicians gave one another hearty pats on the back while exchanging optimistic and congratulatory conversation. 

It was indeed a victory for science. After many years of difficult study and intensive research, this epiphany had illuminated the world of Pokemon and sent shock-waves of awe through trainers and professors alike. The findings, among other scientific advances, were on display at an exposition in one of the several research institutes of the Pokemon world.

Although the appearance of this remarkable creature remained virtually unchanged, the core components of the Pokemon in question were radically different. What had once been only a shade of a living creature was now true flesh and blood.

More or less. 

"...And this version is capable of organic processes down to the sub-atomic level. It eats, breathes, sleeps, and breeds just like any other Pokemon. It even gives off warmth. Feel," 

A few curious reporters reached down, stroking the smooth, flat back of the Pokemon, "ooh"ing and "ahh"ing at the feeling of a faint pulse thumping away deep in the chest of the otherwise silent Pokemon. 

"Does it speak?"

"Not currently, no...we are still in mid-process of giving it the ability to vocalize. For now we have only been able to remove its programmed speech processes."

"I see,"

"...As I was saying, we have given this Pokemon a new life, enabling it to become sentient and able to think on its own, just as any other Pokemon you might see out in the world-"

"Sir?"

The scientist who was leading the group paused, looking for the source of the voice.  "Yes?"

"Sir," repeated one of the observers, his bright blue eyes acute with wonder and laced with a haze of concern, "Does this self-awareness endanger the Pokemon or others around it? I mean, especially if it should be evolved, because everyone's heard about-"

"There is nothing to worry about," the scientist interrupted him sternly, shaking his head, "Porygon is as stable as ever, especially now that it is a truly living creature. You may put your mind at ease about that. Now...where was I? Oh, yes. We hope that, in time, we'll be able to release Porygon into specific route regions, monitoring it closely to ensure that..."

The voice of the scientist gradually drowned itself out into the background as the blue-eyed student stood still, returning the vacant gaze of the silent Porygon. It seemed to be staring right at him out of one eye, its blocky figure still surprisingly rigid and polygonal in spite of this revolutionary change it had endured. Sidling back toward the Pokemon as the tour group moved on, blue-eyes squatted down beside the waist-high Pokemon with its trademark pink and blue coloration.

"Hi, there," the young man introduced himself, "I'm Ambrose. How are y-...oh...right..." he faltered, laughing weakly. "I forgot...you can't communicate, can you?"

The Porygon just sat there, only slightly tilting its head and watching the young man as he moved. 

"Um...Can I...?" Ambrose asked softly, extending a hand toward the front torso, wanting to feel the Pokemon's pulse for himself.

It didn't show any signs of protest, blank stare ever unchanging.

Just as his fingertips came within mere inches of the Porygon's side, Ambrose nearly had a heart attack. A bellowing shout grabbed his attention like a slap in the face.

"HEY! YOU! Back away from there! That's not yours to mess with!"

"I was only- I was...just..." Ambrose stammered, quickly scrambling to his feet, turning to face his new addressee. 

"Just nothing!" boomed an older man in a lab coat, storming over and glaring down at Ambrose, "You don't touch what isn't yours...damned little... get out of here!" he snarled, coarse white beard nearly trembling with every word, agitated tension practically oozing off the man. 

Before he could say anything more, Ambrose slipped out of his way quickly, waving awkwardly as he rushed to regroup. His heart was still pounding from the unexpected interruption and he could still feel that vacant gaze pressed against his spine. Shivering, he wondered what had caused the scientist to become so angry, and why he suddenly felt like something was watching him, even as he entered a separate wing of the research institute altogether.

"What is?" Ambrose asked, his attention swept back into reality by his friend's familiar voice, still staring intently at the TV screen. A young Steel-type Pokemon rested on the sofa arm beside him - it was a pudgy little Aron.

"This!" the other young man in the room snuffed, navy eyes alight with impatience as he gestured to the television, "I can't believe the fuss they're making over a Pokemon that looks like it came out of the damn 80s. Couldn't they focus on something more worthwhile?" 

"Oh, come on, Ichorus. It isn't like this is kid stuff. They turned a Pokemon made entirely of programming into flesh and blood and squishy stuff! I think it's pretty neat,"

"Ambrose," Ichorus sighed, giving his friend one of his famous degrading looks, "You would think that watching paint drying was 'pretty neat' too."

Ambrose scrunched up his face in irritation, trying to ignore the other and focus on the footage from the exhibition.

"Something's weird, though," he finally added, his brow pinched in a grimace of suspicion,

"Eh?"

"One of the head scientists snapped at me for trying to pet the Porygon. Got real grouchy," he explained.

Ichorus shot him an amused grin. "I'd be pretty pissed if you were getting your grubby hands all over my belongings, too."

"Ichorus, will you take me seriously for once?!" Ambrose retorted, folding his arms and slouching in his seat, "As cool as all of this is, something isn't right. Maybe this whole thing isn't supposed to be. The poor little thing couldn't even make a noise. What if it was in pain or something?"

"Pff. It's a computer program. It can't feel any pain, you idiot!"

"It isn't anymore, Ichorus! How the heck do you know if it can or not?!"

Ichorus just stared the other young man down, glancing at the wide blue eyes of the little Pokemon beside him. He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his elegant nose.

"Will the both of you quit staring at me? I've got things to do beside argue with you all damn night long!" he snuffed, dismissively waving at them as he left the room, leaving Ambrose and his loyal Pokemon lounging on the couch, glancing at one another before looking back at the TV. They both let out a sigh, and Ambrose changed the channel.

------------------- THE NEXT DAY -------------------

"Sir, what do you have to say about the events of early this morning?"

"Sir, can you say without a single doubt that this was not an act of foul play on behalf of your company?"

"What are your thoughts on the nature of the victims in question? Do you have any idea why this could have happened?"

"Please, tell us what you know about the deaths of these visitors!"

"No comment, NO COMMENT!" came the gruff, short reply of an aging man clad in laboratory attire, circular-lens glasses shielding his eyes from clear view as he crouched into his limousine and slammed the door shut in the reporters' faces. As the vehicle swerved away, the journalists rushed back toward the law officials, trying to see what damage had been done to the exhibition hall, enticed by an unpleasant wafting scent emanating from the central wing of the building. 

From within the massive building, blank and unblinking eyes watched the silhouettes pressing at the front doors and windows. The polygonal Pokemon moved not an inch as investigators completely passed it by. Even if they hadn't been too busy marking the gruesome scene, they would not have even known it was there. The once pink and blue skin was perfectly cloaked to match the surrounding area, having not once moved from the spot it had been set on display.

The unseen gaze looked out upon the living and the dead, emotionless toward the corpses that appeared to have been twisted inside out, apathetic toward the forensics team that looked like they could barely keep down the contents of their stomachs.

Why should it care? What good would that do, anyways? It couldn't tell them what had happened here. 

Not even if it had wanted to.

"What do you MEAN you can't find it!?"

"E-exactly that, sir... Porygon is not where we left it! Even the officials who analyzed the crime scene said they didn't see it anywhere," a tentative voice replied hastily, clearly intimidated by the man interrogating him.

"Was it hiding? Did it camouflage itself? It camouflaged itself! It had to've!"

"Sir, it isn't there. We checked..."

"Damn it! You incompetent-...ngh. The restraints could not have been removed, could they? COULD THEY?"

"N-no, sir! The Pokemon was incapable of moving itself. We tested it many times, that couldn't have happened!"

"Then where the Hell is it!?"

"W-we're already searching, sir!"

"Who knows about this? Who knows about it!?"

"J-just the special forces, sir. N-no one else!"

"...The victims?"

"...Anyone who came in contact with the Porygon, sir..."

"Damn-!"

---

"Skarmory! Steel Wing, now!" 

"SKAAAAR!" 

A flash of light and a tinny ring echoed as the agile Armor Bird Pokemon dove and struck one of its razor-sharp wings against the stubborn hide of a Graveler, chipping off some of the surface and knocking the sturdy Pokemon to the ground.

Hovering before landing nimbly, the shiny Skarmory screeched again, flaring the bold green undersides of its wings. Ambrose, standing back several yards behind his Pokemon, watched his excitable opponent intently. He'd been on his way to revisit the exhibition hall after hearing rumors about the accident there when he'd been blindsided by the young trainer eager to battle. Ambrose would normally have enjoyed a good competition, but he was in a rush to find out what had happened at the science exhibit. It took all of his willpower to keep his focus on the fight at hand.

"Graveler! Rollout, again!" the opponent called, desperate with no other Pokemon to call out after having had his small team KO'd fairly quickly. 

Skarmory screeched, trying to get into the air in time, but the timing was not enough as a powerful 3rd-turn hit sent it staggering back, clearly weakened with little strength left. Ambrose gritted his teeth. He wasn't focusing! He had to finish this battle. Then he could-

"Hey! HEY! What do you think you're- hey!!" 

Ambrose's eyes snapped wide open as a woman ran screaming right in between the fighting Pokemon, collapsing to her hands and knees, shaking and as pale as death. 

"Stop the battle!" Ambrose shouted to the other Pokemon trainer, who seemed almost disappointed, albeit grateful, for the reprieve. 

"Lady, whassamatter?" the challenger asked, recalling his Graveler and rushing over to check on her. Ambrose drew Skarmory back into its own Friend Ball, clipping it to his coat and rushing over, as well.

What he saw next sent chills like cold needles down his spine, staring into the same blank and listless eyes he could have sworn he'd seen only the day before.

The woman (she couldn't have been older than 30 years of age) was kneeling with her hands clawing at the concrete, long hair matted and hanging raggedly down the sides of her face, framing her whited-out eyes. Her breathing was uneven and labored, and she looked like she was starting to go into convulsions.

"Medic! Get a medic!" Ambrose cried, staring in horror at the woman before looking back over to the other young man, who looked like he was about to cry. He was almost as pale as the sick woman. Ambrose got back to his feet quickly. "I'll get one, I'll get, I'll-" he stumbled over his words, backing away and making a dash for the nearest hospital he could remember being in the town. There was one near the Pokemon Center. It wasn't very far from-

Ambrose felt his blood run cold as an ear-splitting scream tore through his consciousness. He spun on his heel just in time to watch the woman hunch over sharply, tightly hugging herself around the waist. She violently spasmed several times before her ribs seemed to curl in on themselves, erupting out through her back in a spray of blood. Ambrose could taste bile as his eyes refused to tear themselves away from the nightmare unfolding only yards from where he stood.

The screams never seemed to end. 

They carried on for what felt like eternities until the cries suddenly became garbled and hoarse, as if someone were screaming as they drowned under rising water. The other young trainer, having stumbled backward from the deformed woman, looked as if he were frozen to the spot, trembling and gasping as he watched the human being in front of him twist and contort in every way unimaginable, flesh and bone protruding as if she had been shattered like a large vase and clumped back together in a million pieces.

Ambrose was about to shout for him to get away from her. This was wrong. This was all wrong. He only wished he could have spoken soone-

"AAAAH!!" 

A nightmare! God, let this just be some sick and twisted nightmare...!

The inverted corpse twitched, spewing blood and all manner of vile bodily fluids. The young trainer frantically scratched at himself, crying out in pain as the acids and blood that landed on him burned on contact, seeming to consume every cell in vein-like patterns, angled and blocky, breaking apart like brittle hard candy.

Ambrose covered his mouth, on the brink of tears, as he watched the youth hunch over, screaming, screaming, until his throat tore itself apart from the inside out, garbled wheezing and whistling being choked out of the- 

Ambrose felt himself hit something hard, yelping and holding his head.

"Dumb ass! Move it!"

"Wh-!?"

"MOVE!" 

Ambrose was barely aware of what was happening, his mind racing at warp speed. It took him several moments to realize it was Ichorus talking to him, dragging him away from the scene and to a safe distance behind the gathering crowd of terrified spectators and police forces. 

"The Hell is going on!?" Ichorus shook him, trying to get a reasonable response. This only disoriented Ambrose more, and ultimately resulted in the young man turning over on his hands and knees to vomit. 

Ichorus knelt nearby, having moved out of the way in the nick of time. He looked disgusted and impatient, staring back toward the crowds.

Once Ambrose had recovered, he leaned back, panting and shaking in a cold sweat.

"What the Hell happened out there...?" Ichorus tried again, less frantic this time.

"..." Ambrose tried to open his mouth to speak, abruptly snapping his jaw shut lest the urge to vomit overtook him again. He whimpered, unwilling to even look back toward the scene of the incident. 

"...Ambrose, what happened?"

Ambrose just shook his head fervently, clutching his hands over his ears, tears running down his cheeks. 

"You have to calm down, damn it. Breathe, damn you. Breathe!"

Inhaling sharply, Ambrose tried to regulate his wild pulse and stunted breathing, covering his eyes as he leaned forward, trying to fight away the relentless tears. What the Hell HAD he just witnessed!? 

"Breathe," Ichorus repeated, his dark brow furrowed with concern, not having seen Ambrose so distressed before. They had known each other for years, and in spite of the constant banter between them, remained like blood-bond brothers for all that time. Ichorus knew how lighthearted Ambrose should usually be, and this was a morbid change for him.

"G-God, she...Ichorus, this woman...she...she..."

"It's like the others,"

Ambrose froze at the new voice, staring up from his hands toward a slender figure before him. A woman in her mid-30s sporting a modest skirt and blouse with jet-black hair fastened up in a loose bun. She looked down at him over the rims of dark red wire-frame glasses, expression a mixture of worry and carelessness.

"Th-...the...others?" Ambrose weakly managed, stumbling to his feet sheepishly as Ichorus stood nearby, eying the woman under a dubious navy gaze.

"Other bodies were found like this at the exhibition hall. The exact same cause of death," the woman explained.

"Which is what, exactly?" Ichorus pressed, radiating suspicion from every pore.

The woman returned his gaze with one of impatient displeasure.  "Muscular deformation. The muscles of the entire body work themselves in ways they were not meant to, involuntarily. The body can do nothing but go along for the ride, so to speak..."

"God..." Ambrose rasped, covering his mouth again.

"You know damn well what I meant. What's causing it?" Ichorus snapped, looking back toward the crowd as the police tried to dispel curious bystanders.

"Mhmhm...my, you are feisty, aren't you?" the woman jeered, "I don't think you ought to have access to that information..."

"Please," Ambrose whispered, rubbing his eyes to clear the tears away, "Please, what-...what could have-...what did this to-..."

"You were very lucky, did you know?" the woman interrupted him, her dark eyes narrowed knowingly.

"L-lucky...?" Ambrose repeated, staring at her in confusion. "H-....how so?"

"You didn't come in contact with it... even though you tried, didn't you?"

Ambrose stared at her blankly for a moment, his eyes growing wide. 

"Yes, you know what I'm talking about now, hmm?"

"But...how could it-..."

"You there! Trainer!"

Ambrose blinked, looking back toward the crowd as he was called, noticing an Officer Jenny approaching. He turned to her, glancing back toward the strange woman, staring at unoccupied concrete. Ichorus looked just as puzzled, having been distracted by the police officer, as well. Their unexpected conversationalist had hauled it out of there in record time, and to run in pursuit now would just look suspicious.

"Young man, bystanders tell me that you were the other trainer involved in this battle before...well, before the event. Could you possibly come with me and answer a few questions?"

Ambrose nodded, though he still had a pale look about him reminiscent of extreme nausea. Ichorus sighed, folding his arms.  "If he goes, I go with him."

"Who are you?" Officer Jenny asked, an eyebrow raised.

"A friend. I found him passed out on the ground after what I assume was this 'event' you mentioned."

"...Very well, come along, then."

Ichorus did so, keeping an eye on Ambrose in case he passed out again.

Ambrose followed with them, averting his eyes the moment he glanced toward the bloody mess of lifeless flesh and bone that covered the ground, gulping down rising acid from his belly with a choking sob, unaware of the listless gaze still watching him from the crowd of terrified bystanders. 

Blissfully unaware.

have a feeling they don't know anything, either,"

Ambrose hugged his knees to his chest, sitting on the steps of the police station with Aron huddled up atop his head. He heard Ichorus talking to himself grouchily as he came out of the revolving front door and sat down beside him.

"Not a damn thing," Ichorus grumbled, cracking his neck absent-mindedly. "You'd think the ridiculous amount of taxes we pay would give us some kind of competent police force, am I right?"

Ambrose didn't reply, chin resting atop his knees, gaze tired and distant. Ichorus sighed.

"Are you going to give me the silent treatment all day? I can understand that you're upset, but this really isn't like y-"

"That would have been me," Ambrose whispered, barely audible.

"Eh?"

"I had my arm out, and I almost...almost...I just wanted to feel its heartbeat, too...just like...oh, God...just like them...just like them!"

Ichorus exhaled slowly, his eyebrows knitted low.  "How could anyone know? This thing obviously wasn't safe to be around people. Something obviously went wrong."

Ambrose exhaled weakly, a sarcastic half-laugh. "Obviously," he muttered, hugging his knees tighter to his chest. Aron cooed softly, kneading its little forelegs gently into its master's scalp, big blue eyes full of worry.

"Well...what happened today...I wasn't able to get much information, but..." Ichorus began slowly, "Rumor has it the culprit has disappeared. Poof, into thin air. No one knows what happened to it."

Ambrose looked pale again. Well...paler. "Disappeared?" 

"Mhm," Ichorus replied matter-of-factly, trying to hide the hints of anxiety that nagged at his mind as persistently as Ambrose's own fear.

"Rumor has it, this Porygon never quite forgot its roots," 

Ambrose tensed, looking aside to see a familiar face, framed by dark red-rimmed glasses and night-black hair. "You!"

"Yes, me," she chuckled at his reaction, waving him off, "You always seem so surprised when someone comes along with useful information,"

"...Which I could have sworn you said we weren't privy to," Ichorus replied curtly, obviously annoyed at the woman's reappearance.

She just gave him a depreciating smile and looked back to Ambrose, pretending that Ichorus wasn't even there.

"As I was saying, there is...a theory,"

Ambrose blinked at her, tilting his head a little. Aron had to wiggle around to keep its footing, snuffing disinterestedly at the woman.

She looked just as discontent with the Pokemon as it acted toward her.  "This theory, which is all that it is...says," she paused, glaring at Ichorus. He just gave her a sickeningly fake smile, acting as if he hadn't been mocking her moments before. "...basically, the theory is that the bio-Porygon was converted from programming streams into flesh and blood-"

"Not news,"  Ichorus snorted.

"- and in the process, some of the data integrated directly into the DNA and molecular structure of the Pokemon itself...something like a cellular disease."

"...disease..." Ambrose repeated warily, frowning. 

"It's quite possible that, through physical contact, this data-infused DNA was able to absorb into living tissue and within minutes to hours, corrupt and destroy the entire body...of course, attacking the musculature first."

Ichorus rolled his eyes, looking doubtfully at the woman.  "You mean to say that...this mutant Porygon is infected with a computer virus that can kill people?"

The woman looked extremely put off to have her theory so bluntly shoved back into her face. "If you want to put it that way, fine. Yes. In a sense, you are correct."

"Which sense would that be?" Ichorus drawled coldly, rather enjoying harassing the vain woman.

"It is still a theory. It may be nothing of the sort. In fact, it may be something wholly different, and I have simply been misinformed!" she rebuked him, absolving herself. 

"Then, you prissy little thing," Ichorus shot back, "Why don't you take your misinformation someplace else and leave us alone, hmm?"

Ambrose sighed, his chin resting back atop his knees. He was too busy wondering about the theory, trying to ignore Ichorus's arrogant arguments, wondering about where the Porygon could be, and trying to ignore the Aron's strong little legs poking all over his scalp as it tried to get comfy.

"Hey..." he suddenly murmured, eyes wide. "Hey!"

"Hey, what, hey?" Ichorus replied, looking over. 

"...I had a thought...that...if what you say is true," Ambrose continued, glancing up to the woman.

"And that's a damn big 'if'," Ichorus added under his breath.

"...then isn't it possible that Porygon could..." Ambrose faded off, looking puzzled. "I mean, if it can..."

Ichorus just stared. "Can what?!" he finally snapped, grabbing Ambrose's full attention.

Ambrose stared hard at the woman before carefully getting up on his feet, Aron plopping down on his shoulder and yawning.

"I need to go," he interrupted himself, "I'm sorry, ma'am. C'mon, Ich. We need to get home. I didn't realize it was already so late-"

"...Ma'am...? Now hold on just a minute there," the young woman huffed, hands planted on her hips, "Just where do you think you're going?"

"Me and Ichorus need to talk," Ambrose replied simply, not even looking at her.

Ichorus stood, dusting himself off, giving Ambrose an odd look. 

Ambrose glanced back at her. 

"Alone?" he added expectantly. 

The lady gave a long sigh, folding her arms. "Fine, fine, have your little talk. Some thanks I get for offering you information. Ungrateful little brat."

Ambrose just shook his head, gesturing for Ichorus to follow with him until they were out of earshot.

"Ichorus, what she said has me worried," 

"You actually believe that load of bulls-?!"

"Sure, I mean, as a theory. A workable theory. I can't really say it's truth or anything. We don't even know her name, after all. But...what if she's right? You know what that means? Even if it's still organic, it might be able to convert itself down to the most basic data...maybe not lines and lines of programming language, but...biological data. You know what I mean?"

"You're off your damn rocker, Ambrose," Ichorus griped, arms folded. 

"But wouldn't that be a possibility? Even a teeny tiny one?"

"Loony! Daft! Out of your freaking gourd!"

"Ich, come on! Be serious for a sec!"

"I AM serious! You're a total nutcase to even have heard a word she said!"

"Ichorus, listen to me! If a Porygon could break itself down on a cellular or molecular or whatever level, it could directly infect someone...instead of going into cyberspace or transferring itself from one computer to another, it..."

"Ambrose, grow up. That stupid imagination of yours has you making up all kinds of garbage. Stop living in the freaking past, will you?"

"I'd like to know how you would explain it!" Ambrose cut in on him, nearly at the verge of tears, "People are DYING, Ichorus! I watched two of them die right in front of me! Do you think I can just set this down like a bag of trash and walk away from it?!"

Ichorus flinched as Ambrose raised his voice into a frantic shout, looking away.

"God! I don't care! You go do whatever you want. I'm going home! I'm so tired of all of this...I feel so sick...so sick..." Ambrose finally spat, unable to get his thoughts together any longer. "So tired..." he whimpered, pushing by Ichorus and storming away. 

Ichorus began to say something, but kept silent, sighing long and low. He turned to give the woman a piece of his mind, but she was already gone. Giving a frustrated groan ichorus went to the nearest restaurant to ear a drink

"Why are you...why are you doing this?"

Į̀ ͞A̸M͢ A̧L̢IV̧E͢҉.̵

"You're killing people!"

I̸͜T̡̕͠ ̡̕͘I͟͜S̛͜ ̛́F͝͝R̕͜E̸̕E̶D̶͜O͠͞M̵.̶̶̛

"You call that freedom?!"

H̡̕E̢̨̛Ĺ̷͟P͡ ́͏͢M̸̀E͜.̵

"Stop hurting people, why are you-"

H̵͢͠E͏̴Ļ̢̕P̷̡̕͢͝ ̵͢M̧̕͡͞E҉̵̛͞.̵̷̛͟͜

"How?"

H͐̉͐͛͐́E͑͂ͮ́̓̀L̨̈̃ͧP̢ͧͩ̆̐͌ ̷͂̎ͧͪ͗M̛̃E.ͩ̎͏ 

"You have to tell me how!"

Ḧ̡̩͍̰̦́͐̾E̖̻̭͖̖ͮ̃̉̍͆L̪͉ͯP̜͕͍͋ͣ͢ͅ ̱̖̗̏̿̽ͫM͇̞͗̊͜E̟̲͕̫ͪ͑̽ͬ͞.̖͔͓ͥ̽̃ͯͣ 

"I can't help you if you don't tell me-"
H̩̣͈͈̯͛͘E̘̩̓̂L̝̂͘P̥̬̜̳ͨ̒̿͐͌ͨ̐ ̳͆̑̿͂͛̍M̳̲̬̗̄̍̄̆͑ͮE͉̘̫̺̥̳͝ ̸̬̖̩̤̃̏̌H͙̦̯ͪ̓̃E̊́͊L̆̐P̩̤͍͎̒̎̋̎̅ͬ̋ ̱̫̮̀ͩ̿͋͐͑M̲ͤ̈̈́̅ͤ̈E̤̺ ̛͉̱͓͊ͤ̊̊̑P̨͉̱̦̗̖̓̄̂́ͭ̈́L̘͍͂ͨ͗͗̽͗͜E͈̹͎̻͠Ą̮̲̼͔̠͙̲̐̔Ś̷͖̰̬̤͑Ẹ̭̥̹ͥͅ ͙̄ͬͩ̈ͯͬ͡H̩̝̞̦̉̑̉͂̀͞Ẹ̠̒L̹̼̥̃P̋̔́͆̌͞ ̰̯͂̃̍ͣͪ̄ͅP͛͒̋ͯͭͬ͜Lͧͦͣͨ͒̈͏̣̭È̘͚̙͉̳ͨͮ͞A̱̱̘̳̯̬ͨͧ͑S̳̮̻̲̳ͮ͆́̔̾̅ͅE̡̼͕̜ͭͯ̌̈ͅ ̹̖̘̖͕͙̊͋͗H̰͍̞̄͂ͭͩ̈̃͜E̡̲ͮ̈̓̾̃͐ͨL̟͐̑̆͛̑̄̐̕ͅP̛ ̶͎̹̫͎͖͓̀ͭM̍ͮĘ͇̟͔̟̣͔̻ͥ̔̚ ̟̼̮͍̣̃͐P͗̏̂L̴̻͔͎̖̭̤̐͊̄͊ͮḘ̷̗͇̙̺ͫ̈A̼̩̝ͣͭͤ͒ͅS̫͎̣̝̩ͣ̽̏ͤ̍͟ͅEͯ̽͜ ̛̂͛̅̅͆͆͌H̐ͥͫͬ͋́ÊͮL̴̥̻͚̼̬̆P͎̬̫̤̫͙̌ͨ̾̐͑ͥ͆ ͇͍̜͙̭̖̀ͦ͂̑̇̽͗M̞̫̫̲͈̖͈͒̉ͯ̾E̢ͪ̆͐̋̈́ͫ̄ ͨ͏̱̮H͐͂̚҉̝͚̟̠͖͖̙Ȇ̥͔̝̆̈́̿ͨ̂L̸̘͈̝̈́̊P͙̼̭̜̅̒ͥ̇ͭͅ ͈͚̓̀̉ͬ̿M̥͖̲̦ͪ̉Ẹ͚̈ͤ͐͂̋

I̽̋̊̚T̶̪̖̩͓͔̲ͬ̀̆ͫͮͥ ͈̼̥̘̪͙̗͟H̨̖̝͔̠̠ͥ̀ͮŪ̦͚͋̉͑R͉͕̾ͯͭ̒̆̏͗͟T̙̟͔̖ͨ͟ͅͅS̫̙͓̠̹̼̣̒ͣ̀̌̑ ͍I͌ͣ̐̎͗҉͔̞̙T̲̱͚͔̤͙͌ͫ͑ ̤͓ͮ̊ͬ͆̈̌Ḥ̤̩̅U̗͔̘̤̻̫̟ͩ̔̅͛̅R̦͚̟̣͓̈́́T̢̫͙̊ͩ͊͆S̭ͩ̐ͫ͝ ̞͎́̏ͥ͆̆̎͛̕I̖͚̞͎̬͕ͬ̏̆͌̉̑ͅT͙̙̟̰͔̐ͧ͡ ̱̠̪̅̐ͣ͒ͥ̎ͬ͡H̸͔͉͙̄̍͆Ụ͓̫͊̽̐̔̾̕R̳̤͔̱̰͇ͧ́̽̀ͮ̇̏̀T̯̫͈̺̤ͯ̌ͫȘ̸̗̱͚͈͍̽ͅ ̝̠̦͕͔ͨ̈́͟ͅI͖̯̹̦͛͆͐̄ͨ͗T͙̙͓͎̲͛͋̔ ̬ͧ̿̇͐H͛͗҉̦̥̙̞̦U̪͍̞͑͂ͯͫͨ̆̈R͓̄͢ͅT̨͚̅ͮ̂͐͌̊̊S̖̤̫̎̒̓̔́̿ ͜IT̮̓ ̈̌҉H̶̼̠Ū̗̞̯͇̏͋ͫR̮̫̫̠͔͔̓ͯ̇̓TS ̲I̦̥͇̱̝͌̂ͦͥ̐̂͠T̹ͬ̅͋̔̚̕ ͔̭̲͚̜ͨ͌ͥ̽͌̓ͨH̸̱͖̺̮̱̱̯U̙̳͚̩̬̫̳͗͒ͨ͒̋R̜͉̫̳̳̔̂͗͛̿͢T̨̥͍̯̓͛͛͋̇S̻̼̗̲̤̪̑͐̚ ̠͆̎̒͐I̙̘̱̠̮͕̼̓̔̍͆͡T͚̝̤ͮ̉̋̽ͨ̔̾ͅ ̟̖͚̟̯ͦ̉̀ͅH̙͎ͦ͆͟Ṳ̲̆ͮ͜R̟̹̼͚̪̜͂ͣ̌̆T͇̞̖̦̟̖ͩS̱͙̺̐̈́͟ ̸̞͉͎͆̅ͥ̆̊I̥̰̫̗̔̄ͅT̨̜̮̎̂ͥͅ ̺̜͑̏ͭ͘H̺͍U̻ͫͣ͂͟R͚͓̩̠̬̗̯ͩT̼̫̹ͪͤ̈͌̓̅͗Șͭ͌ͭ͐͌ ̨͙͚̝̙̯̫̩̎I̪̼̍ͤT̫̙̤ ̘͛̓̆ͬͦ̔̉Ḩ̖͍̰͙̦̬̋̆͛U̧̲͚͕̱̘̳̚ͅṚͪͦ̔ͩ̈́T͇͙̬͖̙͇̉̈ͦ̎̏̍S͈̰̖̼̎͑͢ ̞͓̠͆̽͗Ī̤̜̣̫̗̏̿ͤ̚͟Ť̥̬͉̻͗͆ͯͦ͊ ̹̜̦͍̟H͍̮̗̺̳͔̻̒̏̀̎̊̇͑U̢̫̥͖͈̲ͤR͚̬̥̣̗̂̈͐T̤̱͉̦̀̍̾ͫ̀ͯS̝̠̹̠̻͚̰̅̈ͩ ̦̃ͨ̊̍̎ͩ

H̵̪̜͉̰̠͍̳̝̙͍̼̳̠̋ͮ̂̿̋̓͐̿ͥ̚͠ͅͅ ̢̛̫͈̟͍̯̠̫̬̱̹̝͍̐̽ͬͫͣ̇ͧͧ͂ͦ̓̈́̔̚͢É͚̪̠̙̰̟͙̺̗̬̞̗̤͖̠ͫ͛͆͒͐̈̋̏̔̽͌ͬ̇̾ͣ̏ͤ͟͟ͅ ̂ͯ̓͗̔̒̑ͫͭ͏҉̛̞͉̦̻̟̠́ͅL̵̢̖̖̖̤̖̭͔̫͉͙̼͚̝̙̟͚̋͛̇̽ͮ͐̒͒̀̒͊̏ͨ̌ͭ̆ͭͬ͠ ̡͑ͮ̑͐͑̇ͯ̕҉̴̻̦̤̩̟̞̠͙̖̳̘̱̳͉̜̟̰̣͘P̢̢̢̪̮̙̱̜̹̻̫̝͓͈̞̻̘̟̦̗͋ͦͯ́̅ͮ́ ̷̨͚͚̠̲̰̗̥͎̺̺̙͉͚̤͉̻̺͇̦̅̎́ͤ̋ͭ̾̋̎͠M̯͚͉̮͕̙̾̌̿ͮͩͫ̉͌ͪ̒̒̌̈́͊͞ ̛̛̘̙̠̮͖̫͉̟̮͔̺̯͓̙̠̽ͬ̔̾̍̿̈́̃̚͜E̥͇͉̻͕͈̭͓̗͈̮̹̿ͭ͆̆̂ͧ͗̾̉ͪͯ̓̌̋͋̑́͘͝ͅ ̶̝̠̗̬̻̙͋̐̉̓̾̎͂̐̈ͪ̄̀͟͠ ̭͕͈̤͈̦͖̅ͫ̓ͮ̔͊ͪͣ̉ͨ̔̊͛͌̇̈̉̈̚͜͟H̴̛ͥ̅̏̿̽͛͛͑̔ͨͥ͛̚͏͏͉͚̗̺̫̼̥̥̳̦̙̫̪ ̏̆̈́̏̍ͨ͛͒̇̉͞͞҉͉̤̗̥Ȩ̴̳͉̹̥͗̅͛̋̂ͫ̀̏ͨͪ̄̔͋͑ͧ̀ͤ̋ͮ͟ ̃̒ͭ̇̍̅̃ͭͥͧͩ҉̢̼̦̲̝̬̘̬̟̺͇̩̟͔̱̝͚̪͟L̡̛̛̳̟̯͙͚͎̼̻̯͔̱̞̳͚̘̤ͩͨ̄́̉͗̿̂̀ͪͦ̏͢ ̶̡̛͍͙̰͍̮̥̙͖͔̭̺ͨͩͨ͋̌̏̓̄̍̃̾̒͐͌P̶͂͛͌̿͒̂̈́ͩ̇͌̔̾͆҉͖̮̩̫̳̻̖͓͡ ̶̤̯̞̩̆̿̎͂̔̀̕̕͜M̰͓̰̤̅̉̌̑ͯ̇ͧͤ̉̄ͭ̈́̽͢͠ ̧̼̜͈̣̹̗̼̻̲̜ͩ̃̄ͥ͂̍̎͌ͥ́́́Ȩ̷̡̯͉̪̲̯̤̇̄̈́͑̓̓ͤͦͭ͢ ͬͥ̓̄͋̿̆̿ͣ̓̒ͬ҉̗̩̱̠̥͍̣̞̗̦̙̱͙̥̹̦͔̟̩̀ ̷͇̬͉͉͇̽͂́̓ͭͤ̄ͮͩ̈́͋ͥ́̐͡Ḩͬ̒̅ͫ͂ͨ̈́ͫ̏͏͚͎̟̭͉̺͎͖̼̪̩̘͠ ̳̬̪͔̙̠͉̹̗̗̥͋̉̇̏ͬͦ̕͜ͅE̶̋ͧͦ̾̇ͨ̚͞͡҉͈̙̗̼̲̳͙̘͉̝͚̪̟͉̻̣̲ ̷̉̎ͩ̌̂ͫ̃́͟҉̝̞̘̺̬͈̻̀Ļ̢͓̙̝̘̭͎̄̐̆̆̌͌̃͆̂̐́̂̉̅̓ͤ͛̐́̚͡ ̷̵͍̰͙̆̓͂ͭ̾ͥ̏̅ͤ̈ͪͤ̂̅͜͡ͅPͨ̑̆ͥ̇ͫ̏͑̉͛ͫ̊͛ͮ҉̷̶͈̦̳̞̺̮̩͎͇̯̠͚͕̭̫̳̞ ̶̶͉̲̗͇̯̥̪͓͖̬̦̩̖͙̣̲̊̽̒̅ͤ͋ͮ͘͡M̶̵̛͎͈͎͓̄̀̄ͤ͑̐̊͋̆̋͌̎ͦͫ͛͗̇͒ ̛̲̤͍̠̲̱̜͔̰̙̼̗̯̒ͫ̑ͯ̈́̎ͧ̚͝͡ͅE̷̺̖̳͕̳̘̼͙̰̭͉̜̩̦̬̯͇͉͈ͣͧ̓͐́͟͟ ̧͚͎͈͉̗̑̃͒ͧ͂ͨ̄͑ͤͦ̇͆̈̿͊̈̿ͥͦ̀̀ ̡̱̤̥̘̼̇͑ͧ͊ͫ́̅̑̿̑̅̂͋ͬ͘͘


H̛̲̲̗̻̏ͦͭ ̷̰̠ͦ̏̀̒̓̈͆E̸̞̬͖̖ͪͧͫͣ̓̌̌̀ ̵ͦ̆̂̆̌́҉̳͓̮͓͍L̳̩ͤ͋͊̿ ̴̟̭̯̜̣͌̂̀̐ͮ̋̇̚͢͞ͅP̷̠̟̖̐̓ͪ͂̄͛͋ ̟̰̤̤̖̙͓̏ͣͭͪ̈͌̍̕ͅM̵̎ͣ̐͂̓ͬͩͬ̈̀͏̹̞̭̗̩̻ ̺̗̺̫͈̯̥̚Ẹ̠̠͙̰̩̝̦ͭ͂̈̌́ ̜͕̜̘̠͔̪̋͑ͭ̀͝P̨̫̬̠͊ͮ̓̚L̳̤͎͔̹̏ͤͨͬ̚͟É̢̮͉̈́ͯͨ̀Ą͕̰̯̱͛ͧ͊ͫ͐ͯ͝S͎̦ͤ͟Ḛ̫̹̩͚͕̤̖̥ͨͥ͊̆̎̀̃͘͜ ̛̭̠͙̺ͦ͊̆͌̍ͪ̕P̸͖͎̬̼̫̋̾̓̍ͨͦ̀L̠̏̀ͯ̿͂̈͛͠E͆̑̚҉̯̗͔̘͕̱A̸͔͚̺͈̪̞̺̹͔̓̃̀̓ͪ͒Ŝ̛̜̣̀̓̋̽͒ͨ̐Ḙ̏͒͐ ̸̩̫̗̰̲̳̤ͪ̓͊̽̂ͮ̊͞͝P͋ͬ̐ͩ̑̕҉̗̯L̺̹̻̰͍̠ͮ̌̈́E̵͔̣̱͈͈̟͈̓̈́̂̈́ͅĄ̷̙̙͉̗͙͒ͮͭͭ͛S̡̺̳̺͛͐̿̈́́͜ͅE̾̅͏͕̙̖̝͔ ͙̝͕̫ͪͬ̇̋̿ͭ̆͋̀P̢̩̫̽̀̽͋̇P̎̍̉͏̹̜̰̤̰̫̣̻̲͡P̼͓̰̮͛͘͟L̜̗͍͈̗͔̋ͫ̋͟L̲̹̖͕͛ͥ͠L̡̦̜̰̥̠ͥ̓E̪̅̍̐̀̋͆ͦ̎Ẻ̷̵̗̘̞̳̻͖̥͆̌̂ͥͣͦẺ͇̹̰͈̩̦̇̈͘Ẽ͚̥̬̱̔̽̿̋ͯ̕͘Ḛ̡̛̻͓̳͈̔̂͟E̞̓̓A̵̠͇̬ͨͤ̓ͅA͇̦̣͉̒ͣ̓ͧ̑̚͟͡Ả͍̹̲̗̺̙̓ͨ͒̌ͯ͌̓̚͘͝Ă̙̩̞̟̿̉̂ͥͥ̇-̖̲̣̜̂̅̂̾̌̌ͮ͜͞-̨̘̈̆͑̽-̞͔̪̝̘̇̍-̧̮͖̂͌͌̀̃ 

"Stop!... Stop it! STOP! STOP! ST-...!"

Ambrose yelped, thudding to the floor of his bedroom, ensnared in a tangle of bedsheets. He struggled his way free of them, huddling with his back against the bed, trying to catch his breath. The dimly lit screen of his idling computer monitor was the only source of meager brightness in the room, and it cast an eerie glow over the familiar items that seemed almost sinister without the gleam of daylight on them. He ruffled his blue pinstripe pajama top to fan himself, having broken into a cold and hot sweat.

Stifling a weary sob, Ambrose tried to collect himself, leaning his head back against the mattress, resting the back of his lower arm against his forehead. How long had he been asleep? It was pitch black outside, and the house was silent. After a few moments of deep breathing, Ambrose was able to get to his feet, tossing the blankets and pillows back onto the bed and peeped out into the hallway, wondering if Ichorus had come home yet. It felt unusually quiet now, as if even the Kriketot didn't want to sing their nightly lullabies to one another.

Whmp whmp whmp

Ambrose froze.

Whmp whmp thmp thmp

The thudding of his heart was like a kettle drum in his ears.

Thmp thmp th-

Ambrose let loose a yowl of a scream as something pinched around his ankle, stumbling out of his door into the hallway, overcome by a wave of relief as an apologetic Aron waddled up his back and cooed at him.

"Thank God, it's only you," Ambrose chuckled feebly, feeling like an idiot for getting so on edge. "Did I wake you, little guy?"

"Rororoon," Aron replied, seeming more concerned for his master than his own sleep schedule.

"I'm fine," the young man reassured the Pokemon, climbing up onto his hands and knees and straightening up, picking Aron up in the process to set him on his shoulder.

"I need some water or something..." Ambrose murmured to himself, hoping it would calm his nerves as he made his way toward the kitchen. Thankful for the somewhat-bright bulb that shed glorious light onto the counters and sink from near the window, Ambrose got out a glass and filled it with tap water, too worried to bother with the filter on the fridge. He picked up a Cheri berry from the counter, offering it to Aron, smiling lightly as the Iron Armor Pokemon devoured it with gusto.

Ambrose leaned on the counter, gazing at the LCD clock on the microwave. The glowing panel read 3:57. Damn. He HAD been out for a while.

ryeh rehh

Ambrose almost choked mid-sip on his glass of water.

"Roro..." Aron murmured, hopping from Ambrose's shoulder to the counter, pacing as it intently stared around the kitchen. 

"You heard it too-"

REH RYEH REH 

SMASH

Aron leaped in surprise as the glass fell from his master's hand and shattered on the kitchen floor.  "Aroro!?" 

Ambrose was staring at the clock, frozen as if he had seen a ghost, eyes fastened unmoving and unblinking on the neon blue numbers. 

4:04

"Ro? Aroro?" Aron pried, nipping Ambrose's pajama sleeve worriedly, giving it a few gentle tugs.

4:04

Ambrose wasn't responding to the prodding.

4:04

"Aro! Aro! Arororon!" the armored Pokemon cried, tugging more, pawing at his trainer's arm frantically. What was wrong with him? Why wasn't he saying anything? What was he-

4:04

REH RYEH REH RYEH REH RYEH

Aron blinked big blue eyes toward the microwave clock, not seeing what the problem was. 

It read 3:58.

"Aro, aro!" Aron whimpered, backing up and scuffing its little front leg on the counter, wiggling its hindquarters in the air. He had to shake Ambrose out of the daze! If this didn't do it, nothing would!

4:0-

Aron used TACKLE!

"What the h-?!" Ambrose yelped, finding himself on the floor for the third time since this whole insanity had started the previous day. He got up, looking around anxiously before spotting a fretful little Aron sitting on the counter with its stubby forelegs wiggling at him.

Ambrose went over, picking the young Pokemon up and holding him out with a tired grin.  "Thanks buddy. I needed that. My arm's gonna hurt for a week, though... yeesh." he sighed, cradling the Pokemon in one arm as he inspected the slowly-growing bruise on the other. "Man...you're getting too big for this kind of horseplay, little guy. You can't throw that weight around like that anymore..."  Aron cooed sadly. Even though it was still a baby, it was well on its way to full size - only just under 70 pounds now, and still growing. 

Glancing back to the clock, Ambrose tilted his head. It was 3:59. Shrugging, he set Aron down and went to sweep up the broken glass before heading back to his room, turning on every light he could find on the way.

All the while, a silent and apathetic gaze followed him, watched his every move, and never once blinked an eye.

Ambrose didn't even have the chance to extend his leg to make a run for it. It felt like something had sent a jolt of electricity through him from the soles of his feet into the backs of his eyes. He staggered back, clamping clutched hands against the sides of his head to cover his ears, crying out as the pain sharply worsened. All the while, a garbled and erratic scream of unbelievably high pitch wailed out from every direction, rapidly elevating in tone and growing more unbearably shrill by the second.

Ichorus was in an equally disoriented posture, trying to keep his eye on the mutating ex-human-being in front of him, finally unable to even hold the umbrella as his hand muscles spasmed uncontrollably. He had to back down, afraid the inhuman monster would attack while he was in such a state.

Just as unexpectedly as the sound had begun, it terminated into an ear-ringing silence. A very short-lived silence. 

In the time it finally took for the two young trainers to gather up their faculties, a new sound filled the air like an invisible ooze. 

Ambrose immediately choked, covering his mouth and nose as he stared in horror as the disfigured creature before him, backing away a few more unsteady steps. It was as if he couldn't look away from what happened next.

The crooked red-rimmed glasses finally gave up hope of resting appropriately on ears and nose, and simply clattered off the bruised face to the wood panel floor, sliding away from their owner. The two milky-white eyes seemed to be glowing more intensely, veins creeping from the corners toward the empty black pupils, streams of blood beginning to trickle down from them. The trails marked crimson stains down discolored cheeks, slowly joining other such streaks until they formed a thick torrent of rich red that cascaded in heavy droplets to the floor below. To accompany this grotesque sight, the sounds were ghoulishly fitting. The weighty pit-pit-pat of the blood tapping on the wooden floor, the ragged breathing of lungs barely intact, and worst of all... the sickly, wet noise of flesh rending itself apart like slowly-melting cheese.

Ambrose would have vomited, if he could remember how. 

The colors of the skin seemed to be changing, too. No, it wasn't just the color. It was the shape. Everything was warping itself out of shape, tearing and fusing and tearing again. Some pieces of flesh simply sheared themselves off, sloppily falling to the floor with a slimy SPLUCK before wriggling and twitching like a lizard's lost tail.

The eyes never faltered, however. They were the one blessing and curse of the entire unholy process of backwards metamorphosis that this thing was undergoing. They were the constant reminder that this abomination was alive and watching them, unblinking and utterly devoid of emotion. 

Ichorus took a few additional steps backward, noticing the growing pool of blood was nearly lapping at his boots, tugging a disturbed and transfixed Ambrose along to help him avoid the same, the thought to run crossing his mind, but immediately dashed away before he could act upon it.

Ḫ̰̱̱̤̘͔́̉ͨ̽E̬̦͈͂̀̇ͮ ̺̞̘̝̃̓ͯL̹̪̼͖͕͈̽P̻͍̝̮͂́͆̍͛̿̊ ̻͙̩͐̔ ̖̗̻͇̦͈̰Ḿ̼̘͙͎̹̥̽̽ͨ̊ ̣ͫ̒ͭ̀̋̈E̪̰͕̬̫̓̋ͯ͐

Ambrose gasped, unsure of how to even respond, if he wanted to. He could taste the foul odor of death and carnage in the air, and it almost caused him to heave on the spot. 

A deafening crash behind the two trainers sent them whirling on their heels to face nothing but a solid wall of impenetrable darkness mere feet behind them.

F̗͙͉̮̪̟̏ͨ ͈̞̂̐̌̆͐R̘͎͕̺̥͊E͖̩͈ ̤͚͚̦̍͐͐ ͓̺̣̌̌Ě͖͎̼̲̻̍ͫ́̂ ̱͍͖̲̞̩̗́̈́̇̓͌̈́Ḍ͕̍Ó̆ ̖̈́̆͛ ̝̳M͇̞̗̓ͥ̂̇̃̇ͧ ͖̈́ͩͤͯ̊

"...Stop it!" Ambrose cried, taking a step back as the unrecognizable monster took a step in his direction, blood pouring out of where its face used to be, vile and unidentifiable fluids creeping out of countless new lesions all over the bruised and crumbling mass of bloody flesh.

Ḫ̿ͣͮ̊ͯ̚ ͚͎̯̻̣̫̬ͪ͐̃̈̓Ḙ͉̯̘̳̤̮̆̑ͮ͑ͥ ̘ͭL̫͚͓͕͙͈ͬ͌͐ͦͮ̽ ̙͔̫͎͇͑̎̓P̘͓͕̻̫͊̐̋̃ͭ ̰̦͕̆̀͂̂̃̒ ͊̐̐̐̈͐ ͍̭͙̂̽̄ͪ͛̆ ̹̩ͦ̽͊͌ ̭͚̥͎ͨ͆̑M̂ͩ̀ͣͫͥE̙̼̳̣̖̳̩ͦ̂ͨ ̗̩̖̟̥͐ͯ͑̑̐ ̥͈͖̫ ̝̹̼ ̲̤͎͙̪̑̒̏͂ͅ ̱̼̖͎̹̲͋ͦ̆̊̄̿̐ ̤͔͍̌͆Hͬͣ̎ ̦E͙͙̼̫̜̎L̝̱̭̱͓͙͎̿͗ͧ͐ ͈̣̊̋͂̃̇ͅP̙̅̒ͥ̇ ̥͖͙̩͉̝̘͒̿ͭ̋ͬ̃̆M̳͉̑ͥ͆̒̓̾ ̦̩̦̈̓ͭͨͯ͊ ̘͎͔͙͖̱ͣ͌E̘͉̹̹ͦ̀͂̅̆̉́

Ichorus frantically looked for the umbrella he'd dropped earlier. He swore under his breath, spotting it half-buried by chunks of flesh and discolored blood several feet away. They couldn't fend this thing off with their hands. Not unless they want to turn out like that woman-

A̖̹͔̺͈͕̮̓ͪ̍̐͊͛ͧͣͅA͙͂͐͆ͨͧ̿̾ͨA͙̙̰̩͍̞͚͕ͮ͂̋͌̚A̪̦̖ͥͦA̭͈̻̳̗͊ͭ̔͊ͦ͆͆A̭̮͓̥͎͕͂ͦ͐A̲̳͕̍ͅA̫̰͕̰̙̣̳̜ͣ̿ͨA̭̥̜̝͍̯̳̘ͯͬ̐̊Ạ̣̠̪̺̮͖̇̀ͭ͂͆ͯͪ̅Ã̠̫̺̻͈̎͌͌ͨ̚Ằ̟̻͈ͬ̾ͥẢ̟̞̳̻͈̭̒͒ͪA̼̠̤͎̲̪̝͔͒͆̃̄Ā̦̘͆ͯA͈͈̭̣͈̭̅ͭ̈́̏̌ͅÂ͔̙͚Ȃ̦̼͎̖̦̺͊̈́̾ͧͮͅĀ̲̗͇̩͍̼̝ͯ͑͋A̮̺̠̝̮̟͇̠͌̽̂͂̋͋̔ͩ̋Ā̦̪͎̬̹̖̒À̰͓̘̗͙̤̹͍̿̋͆ͪ̏̒A̮̼͙̮̽ͦͅȂ͓̗̱͙̥̤̼͉͂̇̇ͦ̋̔A͉͖ͥA͖͓̬̍A̞̬̋̓͑̆̈ͮ̓͌Á̮̦́̀́ͧͯA̙͉̟͙̱̺̓̋ͫA̠̠͍͚̪̠̻̼͐͛̔͋͐̿A̘̣̩̦͊̿̉͑ͬ͐Ä͍̮͆̓͒̋̈́͆A͖̤̥ͩ̅̌̎͋A̪ͯ̉A̝̩̜ͮ̃̑̏̎A̳̼̬̙͇͌̅ͯ̅̾̋A̩̠̒̇̾̔̂͐ͣẢ̰̭̗̩͉ͬͅA̺͓͕ͧĀ̜̲̼̗̜̥̥̘̙̏͂ͦA͖͓̹̩͆͗ͪ̍ͬ̂A̺̱̰̠͗̆͑ͯ̾ͫ̚A͎̞͔̗̫̞͋̈́͌̔ͪ͒A̪̟̒̌͐̋̒À̯̬͉̝͓͖͈ͬ̃ͬͤ͆̄͒̑A̳̠͖͙̘̪̔ͣ̌ͯ̈́̋̚̚A͍̒͋A̺͙̖̾͐ͣ̒̚Ḁ͈̭ͨͯͥͬA̱͖̼͔̱̱͎̮̫͗̒ͪ͒̆Á̠ͮ̊̆̈͆̂̆A̹̘ͤ̊̌Ằ͖͎͊̈͌͂A̤͈͗̓͗̎̀̇Ā̱̜͇̀̀̓A̙̰͙̲̰̭̖̫ͭ̽̊̃Ǎ̮̳̺͍̲̜͒̀ͦ͛̏̎̚A̱̔ͫͤ̓̂A̩̣̪̽̒͆̋A͎̟̣̲ͫ̈́̇̿A̻̰͕̟̰̣̋̀A̖̮̼̫̙͔̩̐̄̅̍ͥͨA͍̰͓̯̦̱̟̤̾̈̓ͯͪ͑͒ͯȦ͓͎̙̰͉͎̬ͦ͌̂Ä͚͈̮̬̩̻̜͕́ͫ̀̒̔́̋̾A̜̺̺͈̠͖͉͗̂̋̈̽ͭ̓ͫͅA̺̦̻͔͚̫̤̔̌Ȁ̙̤ͩA͖͍͙̠̲ͬ̈́ͪ̂͐̇̿̓A͓̮͎̻̹ͯͬ̈ͅA̯̤ͬ̓̔ͨ͗͆̋A̠̅͐̏͊A͇̱̘͑̄̏̎̋̋Ḁ̞͙̩̖̤̺̓ͨͧͦ̚Ȧ̪̭̝͕̩̽̍́ͧĀ͈̘̤̑̓̑̃ͧ̾ͨA͖̩͚̋͑ͥͮ̌͛ͬA͖̩̫͓̜̖ͨ̓̋͒̏A͈̜͖̳͈̰̩̯͋ͤ͛͗ͣͦ́


Ambrose's hands flew to his ears again, crying out as another wave of pain disabled him. He stumbled back to get away from the source, panicking and screaming, suddenly aware that his voice was gone.

Along with the rest of the house. 

 Ambrose couldn't feel the ground beneath his feet, but he was certain that he wasn't falling. Instead, there was a sensation of simply floating there, barely held in place by some form of indecisive gravity. Taking a moment to look around, Ambrose could see nothing but impregnable darkness. He tried to reach out in all directions, hoping to find where he'd come from in hopes he might step back out, even if it was only to that godforsaken nightmare-

REH RYEH

Ambrose tensed, looking back to where he'd been originally facing (his best guess, anyways, he could never be sure in such blackness) noting a slowly-brightening tint to the endless darkness, dimly lit just enough that he could make out the details and outlines of what he presumed to be a room in a research laboratory.

He immediately recognized the blocky shape of a Porygon, floating idly above a glowing console. A projection. This one wasn't flesh and blood, thank heavens.

RYEH? the polygonal Pokemon tilted its head at one of the scientists that suddenly brushed past Ambrose, making the boy jump in shock, surprised that he didn't feel him pass by. 

Ambrose attempted to apologize, but his words fell on no one's ears. He felt at his throat, baffled by his silenced condition, but his attention was soon torn back to the scene unfolding in front of him.

...Was it some kind of memory?

RYEH! the Porygon greeted the lab worker, its pixel-like eyes flickering into the angled carat shape to show that it was happy as it mechanically moved its two legs up and down alternately.

The scientist seemed to be speaking to it, but the voice was muted, just the same as Ambrose's was. Never much good at lip-reading, Ambrose gave up trying to figure out what was being said, instead focusing on the Porygon's reactions and the machines and cylinders lining the walls of the room. The supercomputers were functioning busily at whatever they had been assigned to do, flickering and flashing and generally appearing quite chaotic. They didn't make a single hum or beep or click, of course. Nothing seemed to make any kind of noise in this place except for that single digital Pokemon. 

GLU-U-UP

Ambrose tensed back up, bright blue eyes darting intently to find the source of the noise. They fell upon one of the multiple cylinders near the wall.

Glancing back toward Porygon, Ambrose felt like he should have been more surprised when he found it wasn't there. Turning his gaze back to the cylinder, he approached a few steps out of curiosity, eying the pink and blue specimen suspended inside. It was a much duller palette than its previous appearance, and its eyes were a matching shade of pink. Closed.

Large bubbles occasionally drifted by its angular form, creating the eerie gurgle he had heard before. Mere feet from the glass, Ambrose crouched over until he was eye-level with the Pokemon, inspecting it with childlike wonder and fascination. He took note of the numerous little tubes that must have been supplying it with nutrients or some form of sustenance as it slumbered, tilting his head to inspect other wires connecting its otherwise "loose" limbs and head. Well, that explained how it could live as an organic-

REH RYEEEEHHH!

Ambrose felt his blood run cold, timidly raising his gaze back to eye-level, voicelessly yelping and backing away as wide white eyes met his own, flickers of LED-red gleaming from the pinpoint pupils. He felt himself bump into something warm and wet, pulling away from it in shock. Sticky strands of deep blood red dyed his arms and back, trickling between his fingers and clinging to tiny little pale grubs that crept on his skin. This time, he managed an audible scream, frantically shaking off the maggots and staring in utmost horror at the corpse he'd bumped into. It was well into the rotting process, and it was soaked in blood and absolutely crawling with maggots and flies. 

"H-help...me!" 

Ambrose tore his eyes away from the suspended Porygon staring at him, seeing a fallen scientist on the lab floor, feebly reaching out for him with bloodied hand. Ambrose slowly extended his arm, freezing as he suddenly saw the Pokemon again, casually sitting where the man's lower half should have been. Everything below his bellybutton was torn away, leaving nothing but a pile of blood and the occasional internal organ. 

That wasn't the worst of it.

The Porygon was staring directly at Ambrose. Its colors were even more faded than before. Almost shades of mottled gray, and the texture was appalling. It looked like the Pokemon had been skinned, revealing every discolored muscle and tendon beneath. And those eyes...

"P-please...help...m-"

REH RYEH

"W-we gave it...t-too much...f-......f-......."

REH RYEH

Ambrose tried to keep from fainting as a shudder ran up his spine, a sickening ripping sound coming from the Pokemon as its face slowly began to split lengthwise, beginning at the snout.

Blood was pouring out of the new wound, joining the cooling blood of the dead scientist at its feet. 

IT HURTS

Ambrose stared, his throat dry. 

HELP ME

"S-stop...p-pl-..."

MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP

"Stop it! J-just...leave me a-...alone!" Ambrose whimpered, grabbing the closest blunt object he could find, a computer monitor, and flung it at the Porygon with all his might, tears already streaming down his face as he began to sob.

Everything went black. 

 

Ambrose screamed.

Ichorus jerked away from him, giving him a smack upside the back of the head.  "God, you idiot! You scared me half to freaking death!" 

Ambrose stared at him, frantically glancing around to ensure that he was no longer lost in the haze of destitute darkness. He exhaled shakily with relief, earning a fretful stare from Ichorus. 

"The Hell happened to you? You vanished into that black fog one minute, and the next thing I see is..." he gave his head a quick jerk to his right, gesturing with a wag of his thumb, keeping his distance.

Ambrose followed the gesticulation, spazzing as he suddenly seemed to remember the situation they were in. Dimming milk-white eyes stared up at him, bloodshot, tired.

Ambrose sidestepped a little, but the skinless Porygon did not move, except to slightly crane its neck. The young man could tell that it was trembling and bleeding slightly from its exposed muscles. It looked utterly miserable and helpless now that it was a more manageable size. 

That didn't make the fact that its face was torn in two any easier to accept.

Ambrose opened his mouth, but he wasn't sure what words to speak. He felt as if he was muted again, but only due to his own lack of what to say.

Ichorus, fanning some of the persistent stench of blood and rotting flesh from his face, moved away, gazing out through a window. The panic that had overtaken him before seemed to be replaced with some other indescribable emotion.

Ambrose knew just how he felt. 

Looking back down at the Porygon again, Ambrose realized that it seemed smaller than he had remembered it being. It almost appeared to be wasting away as more blood and a few scraps of moldering flesh slid off its quivering figure to the floor.

H̗̯̘̗̣̮.̮͍͚͈̭͇̺.͎̺̤̫͓̩̻̝E͈̻̥̦͙̮͙͖L̮̞̟̪̻ͅP͖̰̫͔͓̘͖̝̻.͕̟̩.̜͙̜̩͉͚̻̝ͅ.̙̺̝͍͉̪̫ͅ ̝͉͉̝̫M̖̺̦͙̗͚̻.̦̥͕̲͍͓̯̖͈.͓͉͖͓̳̳͚ ̗̭̝̗̗͕͔E͚̫͓̟̤̣

Ambrose shivered.  "...I don't..."

H̫̃̃͑̍ͥͥͅE̺̩̰͔̻͆L̟̘͙͔P͈̖̘̪͉̻͒̽̂̀̄ͩ̓ͅ

"How? How do you expect me to...HOW?!"

H̟̳͓̯͉͚̍̑́̅E͈̞̒̾̅͆ͅL̮͙̎͂̀͊ͭP̼͈̗͉̰͈̅ͮͨ͗̒.̱̩͍̭͇͕̟̔ͭ̊́.͙͉͉̲͉̝̅̿ͪ̓͂̾ͅ.̻̅M͚͖͕̜̗͙͐̓͐͆͋ͨ.̩̰̥͉̼̥̼́ͤ͂ͧ́.̎ͦ͗ͨ̍̓̏.͓̳̈̓͑E̞̺̲͕̘̯̲ͥͪ̿.ͨͪ͊.͔͕̤̥͇̘̐ͬ͛̒́͌.̭͚̘̐̄ͦͤ.̰̖̰̘̘͙̇ͬ

Ambrose was almost feeling impatient, his blood pulsing like ice water through his veins. He flinched as he heard tires screeching on the gravel outside the house. Glancing aside, he wondered for a moment who could be arriving at such a late hour of the n-

Ṋ͔̩̟̰͚͚̞̻̟̺͙̪̖̌̽̎̂̓̈O͉̰̤̗͚̗̮̙͉̍̽ͨ̌ͦ̍ͫ̅́͒͊ͤ̎ͅ!

Ambrose leaped at the sudden intensity of the thing's unspoken voice, staring back at it. The emaciated creature shook, blood pouring from its face and exposed flesh. It looked terrified, its eyes wild.

"No? What n-...?"

I̩̪͖̮͛̂̂ ̠̺̪̩̻͈͌̒͑̀̽T̗̜̻̲̤̽ͩ ̫̟̤̼̖̒H̖̲̫̝̗̘̆̐ ̥̺̱̹̣̅͒ͪ̍U̙̻̳̮͎̪̖ ̩ͧ͋R͓̋ͯ̋ͦͭ͂̋ ̜̰̙̱ͤ̿T̳̬̜̫̤͓̮̽̎ͮͪͣ̑̓ ̭̖̱ͤS̱͔̯̠̟̘ ̅̊͋̄S͕̥ ͫ̐̚S̙ͥ͋͋̈̾̎̈́ ͓̰̼̓̐ͫ.̱͂̏̃̾̓͒ ̫͖͓̋̿̓ͩ̅͐́.͌̑ͪ̌̚̚ ̾ͫ͆͒̊.̟̹̬̦̽ͣ̉͋̄͑ ̯͙́̓̄͊̚Ñ͕̬̫̦̇̈̐̄̑ͨO͖̫̣̙̟̹ ͓̫̂͌̓̆̓͋̏O̺̣͇̝̯̟͉̔ͤ͗ ͈͍̣̪̯̤͌ͣͩ̉ͤͅO̗͈̟̘̙̤͒̾ ͧ͊ͭ̽M͈̺̺ͮ̅̂͑̓ͦȦ̘̮̖̣̤̳͎͆͐ͤ̄̾K̫̻̱̏͐ͥ̚ͅE̮̒̒̇̀̅ ̭̮̭̠̳̖̳̈́ͭ̑̂I͓̜͈̮̳̘̍̊̄ͯ̚ ̪̪̹̬̅̃ͤT̯ͩ̊͂͐ͫ͆̄ ̉S̭͇̙̱̖̣ͬ̀̽̊̍ ͩ̾̐̒͗̀̚T̯͎͍̹ͅ ̣̮̙̘̺̗ͥO̘̖͚͓ͭ͊ͪ́̒ͣ̚ O͓̩͙͇̞̺͈͆͛̾ͭ̀̓̑ ͋̋̾̏͐̓̄Ö͇̼̫̝̹ ̺̻̬̩̝̖͙͋̿P͔̥͇͚͆ͩ̿̃̅͋̽ͅ ̘̰̥͚̺̟̱͛ͧ͋̽P͑͆͑ͪ ̯̙̩̠̪ͅͅP̻̞͔͓̈ͩͤ͒P̖ͪͨ̃́̿̃̚ͅ ̣͙̘̏̎.͔͈͎̫̜̈͂ͦ̇̑̄ ̮̑ͪ.̹͕̅̑̄͐ͣ͐͆ ̯͔̤̟̙̍͛ͬ͑

Ambrose cringed from the uneven, almost screeching tones of the words, tears involuntarily collecting at the corners of his eyes. "Please, I don't understand...what do you mean!? What hur-"

Car doors slamming.

"...Hey..." Ichorus murmured, peering intently into the early morning darkness, "...I've seen that guy before...somewhere..."

Ambrose glanced back, cocking his head in confusion, wincing again as the Porygon gave an unearthly scream. It was the most gut-wrenching noise Ambrose had ever heard in his entire life. He couldn't even begin to explain why, but the very sound of it made him feel as if something was about to go terribly wrong. The tears were already leaving wet trails down his cheeks as he choked on a sob, shaking his head.

"I don't...I don't know what you expect m-me to do! I c-can't even touch you!" Ambrose pleaded with the estranged Pokemon, trying to make it understand.

"Damn! Ambrose," Ichorus suddenly interjected, eyes wide, "It's that guy from the news they've been interviewing! That scientist who was in charge of the expo! I knew I'd seen him somewhere before!"

The Porygon screamed again, making Ambrose shudder from head to toe, weeping in confusion. "Th-They can h-...can't they help...?"

M̱̜̀̇ͮ͐ͨ̔͌Ȃ̱͚̩́̓͋K̟͚̳͕̪̏̂͗ͭE̠͚̮̰̜̙͉͂ ͕̼̬̻ͧͣ̒͑ͯ͛̎I̭̼̝̝̩͖̔͐ͩ͂̐̃̌ͅT͍̼̯̭̊ͬ̾ ͙̗̗͎̚ͅS͖ͨͬͧͪ̀T̪́̔O͔̙̦̓͐̾͆ͭ̐P̖͕̠̰̝̗̳ͪ ͔̣̙̬̺͇̼̉ͭ̌̏̆ͨM͙͕̟͖̔̍̆́̾̇̚Ȃ̼͍̫̗̀̄ͥ͐̑̃K̠̫̙̼̩ͧͣͮͫE͖̲̙̥̖̪ͦ̔́ ̗̬͖͓̭̺̣̔̔̎̀͋̏ͤI̓̉ͥ͊Ť ̣̟̭͙̅S͑͗͛T̤̙̘̣̒̂̑͂ͤ̃O̼̞͔̯̱͌̑P͙̏̚ ͚͈̙̟̽ͫ̆ͣͦN̜̬O̾̓̏̑ ̳͍̫̣̜̝̼̈́ͩͬͭͨ̊M̖͓̫̙̫̺͑ͮ̿̄ͯͅÓ̳͎̹̖̣̬̓̀ͫͅR̽̋̓̃̐̉E̾̾ͩ̑͂ ̼̜̈͆N̻̹̝̫͈̱̥̄O̻̥̦͙̥ͯ̇ ̰̟̱̲͖̏M̫̏̀̐̂ͣ̆Ȏ̙̪̮̰͍̟͈̑ͧͨ͌Rͬ̿Ḛ͙̥͓̭͋̓͊͗ͥ̑͆ ̙͉͙͕̼N̞͓͙̹͎͂́ͣ͑͗ͯO̝̙͍̩ͩ ͉M͍̹̝͇̉ŌͨͣͯṘ̰̯̃̾ͅĖ̞͖ͧ

Ambrose shook his head, feeling like screaming himself. "What do you want from me!? Why me!?"

Footsteps crunching outside, growing closer, faint beeping. It sounded like a radar or something similar.

Porygon screamed again, shaking more erratically. It looked like it would have had all kinds of seizures, but something was holding its body rigid in the neutral stance.

Ambrose stared at its frantic form through bleary, tired eyes. Why was it so terrified now that its creators were-

Oh, God.

Ambrose's eyes widened, immediately remembering the Porygon's memories with painful accuracy.

The Pokemon seemed to shake somewhat less, staring at him with eyes that were stricken with agony and hope. 

"...You..."

...̼̜̈͆N̻̹̝̫͈̱̥̄O̻̥̦͙̥ͯ̇ ̰̟̱̲͖̏M̫̏̀̐̂ͣ̆Ȏ̙̪̮̰͍̟͈̑ͧͨ͌Rͬ̿Ḛ͙̥͓̭͋̓͊͗ͥ̑͆ ̙͉͙͕̼N̞͓͙̹͎͂́ͣ͑͗ͯO̝̙͍̩ͩ ͉M͍̹̝͇̉ŌͨͣͯṘ̰̯̃̾ͅĖ̞͖ͧ....

The doorknob rattled.

P̦̼̬͚͔̈́̇͋͛͗L̹ͭͯ͆͊̌̿E̱̝͈̣̖Ä̜̥̠̤̭̪́̑̏͂ͬS̬͖̱͙̅ͥ̽͗ͤEͨͥ͛̍̾̅̉

Ambrose rubbed his eyes, shivering. It felt so cold in the house, and the smell was so awful, and the sight of the creature sitting there, held motionless by some invisible force, bleeding and bleeding and bleeding, and staring at him with that unnatural gaze-

Voices muffled outside the door. 

Ichorus moved away from the window, staring between Porygon and Ambrose. He looked like he wanted to haul it out of there and couldn't understand why Ambrose was hesitating and trying to communicate with the thing that had almost killed them both only moments before.

P̞̮͔̦̩͙̒ͦL̪̮͒̋E͚̫̼͔͍̲A̖̞͈̤͚̎S͓̃ͯ̃ͮ̅̐͌E̗̠̖̓ͬͤͫ ̝̫͙͓͚̳͍̓ͦ̏̑̑̿̉P̥̜̦̤͔͛̌͋̉̆L͙͂ͦ̆̈̓̔̈́Eͣ̈́̃ͪA͖̤ͪ̿̆ͩ̈́S̯ͧͨͩE ̘͇͗ͮͧP̯̼͎͎̺͉ͭͬ̿̓̐L̖̲͕̩̻̱̣ͮ͆̈ͨẼ͎͈̩̼̣͙̤͊A͍͎̲S̻̦͙͕̮ͥͮ̉̽̃E̖ͯ̏͛ͩͣ̑ ͮP̖̲̙͔͓̖̙̽ͣ̀ͯͥ͑͐L̲̣͍̘͙ͅẼ̙̞̍͗̂̽̑̈́A̟̥̫S̠͎̤̠͇ͣ̏̌̐̒ͅȄ̠͇̬͇̫ͤͥ͐̌ ̜̰ͯ̄ͥ͂ͤ͗ͯ

The doorknob rattled again. It sounded like someone was fooling with the lock.

"Please what!?" Ambrose finally cried, not wanting the answer he suspected.

The Porygon sputtered blood, its split face looking like a sideways pair of jaws as another piece of flesh tore itself loose and splattered to the floor at its feet.

T̫̠̹ͧ̉̔E̼͕͎͋̀͆ͦ̈́R̾́̐̂̄Ṁ̯̯͖̔̑̋ͅỊ͚͖̣̝͔̼ͩͫN͓̠̠͈̰͔̖̉ͬA̮̲T͙̬̭̮̤͓̐͐͛́͋̀E̎̊ͨ

Ambrose bit back another sob.  Was this even remotely possible?  Had all of this nightmare consumed him and the entire city just for this one definitive moment?

Angry muffled shouts from outside. Ambrose couldn't make them out. He stared into the white blank gaze, exhaling forcibly. He was having a hard time breathing.

"Ichorus..."

"...Wh-?"

"Hold them off outside..."

I̖̖̗̹͇͎̅ͩ̏̅́T͖̬̩͒ ̦̓͂̇ͯ͂͂H̰ͬ̊̓̉U̹̼͕͙̹̺̤ͪ͋ͪ͒ͯ̚R͈̞̊̈͌̄̆̈̅T̂͗S͎̮̖͈̘͂̓͗

Ambrose clenched his teeth, shaking his head as if he could clear away the urge to cry by doing so. He moved to the kitchen with staggering steps, clattering around for something clumsily. 

Ichorus breathed through his teeth, moving back toward the foyer, wondering what the Hell Ambrose was hoping to accomplish, placing his hand on the doorknob.

T͖̘̼̫͔̤̮͆̄̀ͤ̑̃̆Ê̬̘̰ͯͅR͍̯̙̩̤̃ͮͫͪ̎ͣ͊ͭ̅Ḿ̼̼͚̘̹̼̊̎͛͗̐ͥI̮̰̙̬͈͙͌̀̾̽̐N̙͈̦̻ͫ̄Â̼͔͓͉̪ͭ̍ͮ̉̉Ț̼͔̭ͤ͗̈̅͗̌̈́ͭ̚E̘̟͕͎̮ͫ̔̀ͪ̚

T͙͎̃ͥ̌̈̾̇ͪĖ̦͙̉ͯͭR͍͚͓ͤ̍̇̒M̤̘̰͑̀͌̈́̄I̬͎̮̭̥̝ͣͫ̽̿ͧ͊̈͐̐N͖͈̠̭̲̔̋ͮͤA̳͎̓̈́͗͐̐̚T̝̰̼̫̬ͪ̈ͯͫÈ̬͚̗͍͈̻̮̹

T̥͓̖͎͓̣̰͖͗̂ͤ̋̓̅Ë̫̣̯̺̪̳͇͒͗͐̆̂̇̌R͓̤̲͊̀͊̂M͉̳͉ͧ̈́͊̊̃I̺̝͚̞̼̅͆ͪ̏ͣ̓N̩̫̠̄ͪ̄̓ͪ̚A̭̗͇͆̌T̙͚͚̹̖̺̤ͬ̂̿̾̀͊̒̉ͅE̖̠͙͍̮̮͖̮͆̏̎͂-

Just as Ichorus opened the door, an ear-splitting screech echoed through the entire house, shattering several of the windows, causing Ichorus to fall backwards against a wall, covering his ears, stunning the scientists at the door. 

The noise did not stop. It only seemed to grow louder and louder with every millisecond that passed by, until the sound itself seemed to be the only thing in existence. Anyone in earshot could even taste the bitter, acidic sound of it as it seared the tongue, burned the ears, scoured the nostrils, scathed the eyes, and rendered the muscles numb and weak. 

Another scream could be heard beneath it, a less mechanical cry. It was almost like a human voice, ragged with absolute terror and broken with the unrelenting pain that words could never describe. It was this second voice that made the first as terrible as it was. It was this second voice that made all the difference.

It was this second voice that echoed out in an empty, darkened room, startling a little armored Pokemon off the foot of the bed with a terrified yelp. It was the owner of this voice that sat up in bed, panting and grasping the covers to his neck, bright blue eyes wild with night terrors, haunting memories of a horrific past that refused to pass away.

Beside him on the floor, two startled white eyes watched widely in surprise, head tilting in confusion. 

REH RYEH?

Ambrose breathed out, as if he were clearing a poison out of his lungs, slouching and burying his face in his hands. He wept bitterly, even as Aron hopped back into the bed, cooing worriedly at his trainer and pawing at him.

"S-sorry...I...I'm so s-sorry...I never meant t-to...I didn't want to...to..." Ambrose simpered to himself, tears abundant as they ran down his face. He flinched as Aron bumped into him and snuggled beside him, and slowly looked up to see a familiar pink and blue face peering at his own. The eyes that had chased him through a land of nightmares now benignly watched over him. The voice that had made his ears ring now seemed like a puppy's whimper by comparison.

"You're all right, now..." Ambrose whispered, more to himself than to the Porygon he faced. "It's going to be all right, now..."

REH RYEH! the virtual Pokemon agreed, eyes lifted into the typical angled carat shape that expressed joy.

Ambrose pursed his lips, almost managing a weak and weary smile, reaching for the Pokemon's baby-blue snout.

He paused, his gaze shifting ever so slightly to the left of the Pokemon, and again his blood ran cold. His Marill-shaped alarm clock rested in its usual place on the dresser, tail raised above it with a bell attached four the alarm. However, the novel design of the item meant little to nothing to the trainer at the moment. What did matter was the LCD panel on the Marill's belly, and the brightly glowing blue numbers on it that read  

4.04

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