They say on the eve of the longest night of the year, strange clawing sounds can be heard outside the windows of all the children that have been bad that year. The worst of the children were stolen away, only to be brought back a few days later, usually scratched deep and sobbing. Tales of Santa and Santa-like pokemon had long lost their charm, but something still lurked in the shadows that made the children behave. Very few reports of anyone actually trying to catch this being in the act have been given, but that all changed one night.
It had been a while since the rumors of the Santa-pokemon had reached the ears of the townfolk of Nuvema. None of the adults were sure that was really the cause of the scratches a few of them had heard when they were kids, but they weren't about to dissuade their kids from their wild imaginations. The adults always grew a little more cautious as the winter solstice, the longest night, drew closer.
Little did the adults know that two teenagers were planning on sneaking out that night and searching for the mysterious source of the sounds on their own. Two best friends, Dylan and Mikaela, had been slowly gathering supplies in a shoebox that Mikaela kept under her bed. There were a few escape ropes and flashlights, among other things. Each of them had done extra chores and picked up part-time jobs delivering packages for the pokemart one town up.
The pair was fortunate enough that their parents knew and trusted the teenagers with allowing Dylan to sleep over and stay in Mikaela's room. Unlike most kids in the town, Mikaela had a downstairs bedroom. She was grateful for this when the night's plan came to fruition. They would be able to sneak out of the window. A few of their friends promised to leave their windows cracked and to help out how they could, but no one wanted to risk the inevitable punishment of sneaking out after curfew.
The night of the adventure, Dylan came over just before dinner. He joined Mikaela, her parents, and her younger sister for a feast of hamburgers and tater tots. Her mother's handy helper aided with the dishes. The pair snuck away to Mikaela's room and began preparing for the trip.
"Mikaela…" Dylan said as he was inventorying the entirety of their mini stockpile. "Have you heard what Old Man Hektor was saying the other day?"
The girl looked up, brushing her hair out of her face. She thought for a moment, trying to recall any fragmented bits of conversations she might have overheard, and then shook her head. "Nu-uh. Nothing. What's up?"
"He's been telling the school-kids about the pokemon that comes out on these longest nights. He says it brings a big, empty bag and scoops up all the bad kids and takes them away to a cold, harsh land. I think he's just talking about Icirrus City up north." Dylan laughed. It was obvious he took little interest in what the crazy old man had to say.
Mikaela, however, thought otherwise. Of course she had heard the stories from second-hand sources at school. Her own parents rarely mentioned it to her or her younger sister. She had always thought it was a conspiracy, or even better, just a bed time story told to kids that would act up. She had been a well-behaved child growing up save for some isolated incidents at school. She shivered but shrugged it off quick enough.
After she finished checking her email, she turned in the chair to look at Dylan. "Don't tell me you actually believe that hocus-pocus, Dy! It's just stuff the old people tell kids to make sure they go to bed on time or, like, do all their homework and eat their vegetables."
Dylan frowned and put the lid back on their supply box. "I dunno Mika. Doesn't it seem really odd that there are stories of this pokemon, but no one's actually seen anything like it in this region?"
"Yeah, but that's only because no one's actually gone looking for it! We're gonna change that tonight, Dy. You and me. We're gonna make history." A wicked look flashed in Mikaela's eyes as thoughts of the fame and possible fortunes that would come by capturing this wild creature and turning it in.
The male saw this in his friend. He knew he should have started worrying, but he didn't dare say anything. They were so close to starting their own adventure. Neither of them had wanted to become trainers of their own. Someone in their family had already claimed that role. They had nothing to make them stand out. Maybe that was what fueled this crazy idea of theirs.
Maybe it was something else.
About 10 p.m., Mikaela's mom brought in a plate of cookies and two glasses of chocolate milk for them. She set it on the table and smiled to them both before walking out. They both knew this ritual. Usually it meant that they could snack and had an hour before being banished to their sleeping bags on the floor.
This common ritual came and passed. They were in their pajamas by the time Mikaela's mom came by again to say good night to them both. They crawled into sleeping bags and snuggled in as if they would sleep. The lights went off, and the door shut.
Mikaela and Dylan stayed quiet until they were sure everyone else in the house was asleep. They got out of the sleeping bags and quickly changed into their dark colored clothing. As Dylan grabbed their supplies, Mikaela slowly opened the window. When she realized it wouldn't squeak, she pushed it open enough for them to be able to climb out through it. She motioned for Dylan to follow, and they went out and started exploring.
After 20 minutes of walking around, a shadow moved. The motion caught the young woman's eyes, and she froze. "Dy… did you see that?"
Dylan looked around, and then shook his head. "No. What was it?"
"I think I saw something heading out to the route! Come on, let's go check it out!"
Mikaela grabbed her friend's hand and pulled him along as she walked to the entrance of the route. The girl was the first one to take a few timid steps into the route. Even at her age, she hadn't gone out on her own very often. She froze, hearing rustling coming from the patch of grass nearest to her. She unfroze enough to grab the rope from her belt, waiting for whatever made the noise. Nothing came out, but Dylan noticed the route marker.
Instead of the route number and a cautionary note about how wild grass is the perfect habitat for wild pokemon, a piece of paper had been taped over it. The pair abandoned the rustling noise and went to it. They read it, and Mikaela dropped the rope. Written in a sloppy, untrained style, were 7 short words.
"Good kids don't sneak out at night."
That was enough for the girl. She grabbed her rope and ran off in a random direction. The darkness and the absence of her flashlight made her lost. Instead of running home, she ran further along the route. With heavy steps, she disturbed many sleeping pokemon. Most of them only growled in protest and went back to sleep, but a couple watched her closely. She stumbled over her own feet and fell flat on her face in front of the next trainer's tips sign.
In place of the familiar etching and warning about using potions and healing regularly was another piece of paper. On that paper was another short sentence written in the same untrained hand. Mikaela's eyes widened as she read it, fighting to scramble to stand up again.
"I'm coming for you, Mikaela."
She turned the opposite way she came and ran again. Everything looked distorted. Nothing was the same as it was moments before. She could no longer see Dylan. She suspected he was gone, royally freaked out by the first sign. After a few more stumbles, she finally regained her composure long enough to grab her flashlight and turn it on.
Mikaela walked back to where she left her friend, trying to not think too much about the signs. Anyone could have put those there! Dylan himself could have done it, now that she thought about it. She didn't see him where she left. She did see another sign, now taped on top of the other.
"I took your friend. You're next."
That was all that it took for her to run back to town, screaming. As soon as she entered the town, she turned off her flashlight. She told herself over and over again that this was just a dream… just a cruel prank. Dylan had put the signs there. He was back at her house, in his sleeping bag, waiting for her to catch on and come back.
As she got back to her house, she noticed the window had been pushed open a little more. She also noticed the deep scratch marks… and the empty bag sitting on her bed.