We Will Be Triumphant
My name is Amber and I am a shameless Pokémon fan, despite being a girl. My family has a really irritating ‘One Pokémon game per year’ rule which means that I basically spend the year starting, restarting, restarting and, oh, look, restarting again. Anyway, my grandma ALWAYS gets my brother and I EB Games gift cards for our birthday and Christmas. One day, when I was visiting my aunt in Brisbane, my brother, my two friends, my brother’s girlfriend and I were walking in the shopping centre when we passed an EB Games store. I asked my brother if he had the cards with him and he confirmed that he did. Taking my $80 worth of cards, I entered the shop and immediately went over to the new games section. My eyes caught on exactly what I had been looking for: a brand-new version of Pokémon HeartGold version. I was entranced by the Ho-Oh on the cover; the lights caught the case exactly right and cast a lance of orange light reflected from the case into my eyes. I snatched up the case and scanned it for a price tag. My heart sank as I registered the faded price: $110. I got the funny feeling I had only felt once before: when my beloved The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon game card had disappeared up the vacuum cleaner. I reluctantly placed the game back on the shelf and was turning away when a store assistant clamped his hand on my shoulder.
“Check the used section. I’m pretty sure we have a few used versions of HeartGold and SoulSilver over there.” he said. I thanked him and walked over to the used section, my hopes renewed. I looked through the section, unable to tell which ones were Pokémon without reading the labels, because they had the stupid generic covers on them because the shop was too lazy to print off the proper ones. Finally, my eyes alit on a case. Pokmon HeartGold, it read. It was missing the ‘e’, but who cares? An honest-to-goodness Pokémon HeartGold! I snatched it up as if it were an item of food in the poorer areas of Cambodia. The price read $70. I had enough to get this, a six-pack of Pokémon cards and a few sweets from the corner store on the way home. I skipped to the counter and handed it over. I ruminated over which pack to choose. I eventually settle on a HeartGold/SoulSilver Triumphant pack with Magmortar on the front. I placed each one on the counter and the same man who had advised me to visit the used section. I held it up.
“Score!” I told him. He looked at it and opened the box. Pulling out the game cartridge, he checked the back of the square-inch card.
“Have you got a history of epilepsy?” he asked. Why on earth would he ask that?
“Er, no.” I answered.
“Well, note that. There’s a speculation that this game may be hacked. It’s been returned to us four times since we originally received it. And four times a young child has been admitted to the hospital, apparently having discovered that they are epileptic.”
I looked at him for a while. I opened my mouth.
“Oh, stop trying to creepypasta me.” I told him. That didn’t make any sense, but then again, neither did the whole episode.
“Are you sure?” he asked me, wide-eyed.
"Yes,” I answered.
I should have said no.
He raised an eyebrow but accepted my gift cards. I thanked him and took my Pokémon cards and my game, then rushed outside. My brother’s girlfriend sniggered at me when I emerged clutching the Pokémon games, but my friends clustered around to see my bounty. I showed off for a bit then my phone went off. Time to go back to our parents. I ran the length of the shopping centre, back to my mum. I showed off my game. We got into the car while my brother took his girlfriend into a jewellery store. The whole drive home I bubbled with excitement. The second the car stopped in the garage I leaped out of the car, kicked off my shoes, flung myself on the bed and began to play my new game. One, two, three, four, five, six hours passed before I emerged back into the real world. I glanced at the clock. 1:07AM, it read. Son of a Bastiodon! I had played past midnight! I saved the profile, set the game down and went to sleep.
The next day, I ate a small bowl of Froot Loops and ran back to my room, snatching up my Nintendo. I played again, selecting the ‘Leaf’ profile. I don’t know why, but I always call my character Leaf. Maybe it’s because my first game was LeafGreen, and I named my character the default name. Original, I know, but I liked it. Ever since then, I have been Leaf. My friends call me Leaf. A few of my less-strict teachers call me Leaf. My mother even made me an outfit resembling Leaf’s, just to be funny. I love that outfit, especially the hat.
I resumed my game, stopping only for meals and bathroom breaks. My eyes were redder than a Patrat’s by the time I went to sleep.
So the next few months passed in this pattern, interrupted only by school. I built up a pretty kicka** team. My Mewtwo, Typhlosion, Ho-Oh, Suicune, Articuno and Flygon were my faithful team. I nicknamed them all; Psyche, Blazatius, Fawkes, (after Dumbledore’s phoenix in Harry Potter) Crystal, Cynthia and Fírnen. (After Arya’s dragon in Eragon) Psyche was my constant partner. He never left my side. I gave him my best ball capsule and kept him close. He soon reached level 100, and I loved him more than my starter Pokémon. I tore through all 8 Johto gyms. Eventually that fateful day came: the day I stood at the ornate doors of the iconic Pokémon League. I saved my game instantly. This was it.
I walked in. I bought as many Revives and Max Potions as I could. I challenged the first member of the Elite Four, the Psychic-Type user Will. (oh ha ha, Will. Will as in willpower. Real original, Game Freak)
I easily took him out with Fawkes and Crystal. His sprite appeared back onscreen as he congratulated me.
And that’s where things went wrong.
His sprite was pure white. The tails of his coat had long, wavy trails, which were white and accented with blue. Every now and then, the graphics for the move Silver Wind played, and Will’s white sprite would blur, and certain parts of it moved off to the side before returning to their original position. It was like when one of your Pokémon is poisoned in Pokémon Pearl. Instead of his congratulatory speech, all he said was;
WE WILL BE TRIUMPHANT.
I disregarded this, attributing the white sprite to data mixed up because of misuse or something. Whatever. I healed up Fawkes and Crystal, and then continued on. Just as I was about to leave through the door, Will’s overworld sprite lunged forward like Barry always did in Pokémon Platinum. Then he backed away. A wind gusted again, and his overworld sprite went translucent, like he was using Minimize, and then vanished. The wind stilled. I was beginning to think that this game really was hacked, but nothing major. I went into the next battle against Koga. He, too, was taken down with only two Pokémon. Crystal and Fírnen. Fírnen almost fainted but I saved him just in time. Then here’s the hack again. Koga’s sprite did exactly what Will’s had. Turned white. Said ‘We will be triumphant’. Overworld sprite lunged into me, then vanished. Once again, I healed my Pokémon. Then beat Bruno. I was noticing a serious lack of female characters in this place. Fírnen and Cynthia took this elite down. Just like Will and Koga before him, Bruno went white, said ‘We will be triumphant’, lunged at me then vanished. As I continued into the next room, I thought Finally! A girl I can fight! Cynthia and Blazatius were my choices this time. To hell with Type Advantage. That’s not my style at all. I beat Karen and she did exactly what I was expecting, at least at first. She went white, then said;
GIVE UP NOW. DO NOT VENTURE FURTHER. WE WILL BE TRIUMPHANT.
Then lunged, backed off and vanished. Real scary, I thought. Some magnificent hacker this was. A few ghostly Elites. Real original, too.
I headed on. Ahead of me was Lance. His sprite looked different from what I had seen on the internet; his hair and eyes were a deep crimson, his cape a deep black on the outside and dark red on the inside. His clothing was black with gold trimmings. Nevertheless, I continued to fight him. Blazatius, Crystal. Then Fawkes. Then Fírnen. Cynthia, too. All were knocked out with one hit. I then released my ace; Psyche. His Psycho Cut tore the Dragonite’s HP almost to zero. Then the Dragonite used Draco Meteor and, to my shock, knocked out Psyche! I was heartbroken. Lance appeared back onscreen. He, unlike the others, was no ghost. His face, however, was powder white. He said to me;
YOU WERE WARNED. WE WILL BE TRIUMPHANT. KILLING MY SERVANTS WAS WHAT DOOMED YOU TO THIS FATE. I WILL BE TRIUMPHANT.
suddenly a cacophony assaulted my ears. I ripped out my earbuds as the noise played, but it was playing through the main speakers as well. The cries of my Pokemon. No amount of shoving the volume button affected it. Suddenly words came onscreen;
Champion Lance took CRYSTAL’s soul! CRYSTAL was killed!
What? What on earth was going on?
Champion Lance took FAWKES’s soul! FAWKES was killed!
Champion Lance took BLAZATIUS’s soul! BLAZATIUS was killed!
I pushed the off button frantically, but it wasn’t working. Somehow this hack had taken control of the entire console.
Champion Lance took FÍRNEN’s soul! FÍRNEN was killed!
Champion Lance took CYNTHIA’s soul! CYNTHIA was killed!
I knew what was coming. I didn’t want it.
Champion Lance took PSYCHE’s soul! PSYCHE was killed!
I was crying by now. The cries of my Pokémon sounded agonised. Suddenly the screen shifted. It was the battle screen. Lance was surrounded with six balls of white.
My trainer icon appeared onscreen.
I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE THIS QUICK FOR YOU, LEAF.
Lance told me. Suddenly the white balls erupted and my Pokémon surrounded Lance. Except they were white and ghostly. Fawkes used Sacred Flame, and I yelped as in real life it became suddenly, unbearably hot. It was the middle of winter, for Arceus’ sake! Then Crystal used Hydro Cannon on my legs, and it felt like a gurney had stripped the skin off my bones. Blazatius used Blast Burn, and I tried to scream as my clothes were suddenly singed, my hair was alight and it felt like the temperature had soared to 100°C in an instant. I was crying. How was this happening? It was simply not possible. Cynthia then used Ice Shard, and it felt like a thousand tiny knives had cut into my skin. Finally, I knew what was next.
Psyche stepped forward and two long, scything blades of psychic energy appeared. He slashed them in the Psycho Cut that put every other Psychic type in the world to shame. I screeched as twin cuts sliced open my arms. I had no clue what was happening. Then Lance stepped forward. The graphics for Hidden Power started playing, but in reverse. And while the band was green, the energy was white. The green band tightened around me and the energy spiralled outwards, then formed a single, white Shadow Ball and shot at Lance, who caught it. I watched as, somehow, my trainer icon became a likeness of Leaf herself from LeafGreen. Then it went white, just like the Elites beforehand. I bolted to my feet, and then the music seemed to thrum louder. My vision dimmed and I knew no more.
When I woke, I was lying on a hospital bed. The doctor was explaining to mum that I had minor epilepsy, that was brought on by the flashing lights and the music of the game. The music had been tampered with, he told her, and there were binaural tones in it. Your daughter may have experienced hallucinations before she blacked out. Have you heard of the Lavender Town Syndrome? When my mother nodded, he continued.
“Those were caused by binaural tones in the music. I recommend that you buy a new model of Nintendo for your daughter here. You can get them online. They’re for epileptic people, so they can enjoy games without worrying about their condition.”
When we returned home, Mum immediately sold my old DS for the medical version. The lights were dimmed on it. The only game I ever played on it was my HeartGold. I do not know why, but it felt as if, truly, my soul had been trapped in the game. I wandered around as the ghost Leaf, catching only Ghost-Type Pokémon and unable to converse with anyone other than the Psychics.
As I sat on my bed, I noticed the HG/SS Triumphant six-card-pack on my windowsill under my copy of Delirium. I pulled it out and ripped open the plastic cover. It revealed the wrong side of the cards, so I flipped it over. I read the names of the cards.
The light of the sun had bleached the pictures, and they were ghostly white. The image of Leaf, too, was bleached, and was white. The name of the pack rang in my ears.
I did not throw them out, or trade them. They were mine. I was Leaf now. Leaf was me.
And every night, the nightmares come.