Initially written as an entry to Pokecommunity's GT8 Small Writing competition, this has to be one of my personal favorite stories that I've ever written, certainly going within the top five.
Hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. And if you're curious, I tied for sixth place. :D Happy Ian.
The air was crisp, that fresh smell to it that Gardenia Florence loved so much being very present. Petals of blooming flowers fell from their sources and into the steady wind, creating a scenery that only the most cruel hearted of individuals would be disgusted by: it was a great day for this particular nature enthusiast, and she was not going to let a thing ruin it.
That was what she had vacationed to Johto for. For the relaxation that came with its beautiful natural scenery, and the kindness of the people that lived there. Overall, it was a great region – she had made the decision long ago that if Johto ever needed a gym leader, she would grab the position immediately.
“And guess what, folks? If you guessed, 'Ol' Joe, seems like there's gonna be a storm soon', you guessed right. There's a severe thunderstorm warning for Ecruteak City, and it's lookin' to be a bad one.”
“Good thing I ain't there,” she murmured. The young lady supposed the rainwater would be good for her grass-type Pokémon, but her? She hated getting wet. With a sigh, shrugged the thought off, instead opting to go inside and get a soda. She would drink it and then take a nap – if there was one thing she had to appreciate about this region, it was that their hotels provided comfy beds.
She glanced at the clock: four o'clock. She would sleep until six, then go out for dinner. Maybe the Azalea Kitchen- yeah. Sounded good for her. With a satisfied smile on her face, the young lady stretched, turned around and headed to complete this nice little set of plans.
Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep-
A hand flung out and furiously scrambled around the various buttons on top of the unfamiliar alarm clock, until it finally turned off and stopped that racket that had woken Gardenia up. She absentmindedly looked up and checked the time before closing her eyes and starting to drift off back into sweet sleep.
So much for that. She slipped out of bed in sudden panic mode – this was not good. She had a schedule for this evening, and she had already missed dinner because of her laziness. She was supposed to be having a friendly battle with Bugsy, the local gym leader, at 8:15. After all, she was still a trainer – battling was her primal urge. But the thing was, she had precisely fifteen minutes to get ready and then get to the gym.
She leaped toward the dresser in which she had put her clothes in, quickly stripping down and changing into something fresher. With the speed of a Ponyta on drugs the woman then rushed into the bathroom, combing her hair down into an acceptable style, before rushing out the door.
Halfway down the hallway, she made a quick turn around, dashing back toward her door. She ran out again a couple seconds later, this time with the belt that held her Pokéballs around her waist. Breathing heavily, the panic-stricken woman dashed down the hallway with keeping her schedule on mind. God damned obsessiveness. She couldn't not keep her schedule if she wanted to stay sane. That was why she hated making them: she had guessed this would be worth it, but she was reconsidering that idea now.
~ ~ ~
As she arrived at the gym, she finally allowed herself to slow down to a walk. Her chest heaving, she glanced around, noticing the young purple-haired boy at the back making his... preparations? She had panicked for nothing? She drew in a sharp breath and exhaled with equal sharpness, her body relaxing itself from its previously tense state. She walked up to the young man and placed a hand on the shoulder of his khaki jacket, earning a startled yelp.
“Who's there- oh! Gardenia! Hello!” A smile crossed the young man's lips, and Gardenia smiled in return.
“Still making preparations?” she asked.
“Well, I guess we can start five minutes early, if you're really that impatient.”
Gardenia's heart sunk, but she decided to shrug it off. Better early than late. “N-...no, no. Finish up. Take however long you need.”
It took some time to make preparations for a gym battle – you had an awful lot to factor in. Mainly the typing and basic strength levels of the opposing Pokémon, but there were definitely other factors too.
Bugsy's smile faded slightly, causing Gardenia to raise an eyebrow. “Nah. I gotta get out of here soon anyway. Business. Why don't we get this started?”
Gardenia stood in silence for a few moments, waiting: Bugsy did the same, each of them wearing nervous smiles. Gardenia couldn't fathom why Bugsy was acting so nervous – he had the type advantage. Maybe that business?
She shrugged it off, and decided that if Bugsy wasn't going to release first, she may as well do it herself. She lowered her hand down to her belt, pulling off one of the tiny spheres with their red top and white bottom, pressing the central metallic release switch with her thumb – she felt it expand and force her hand open further, before opening entirely and sending forth a flash of blinding white light.
Bugsy followed shortly, and Gardenia's heart pounded in anticipation. It had been a grand total of three days since she had last had a battle: but Pokémon Trainers that went that long without battles tended to lose their minds (figuratively, of course) from the lack of them. It was just... natural.
“Leafeon, looks like we're in a bit of a jam here.”
She spoke to the Pokémon as it walked toward her feet, the leaves curled atop its tan body swaying, invoking a beautiful image – but it was something Gardenia did not have the time to truly enjoy, instead being forced to pay attention to the much more brutal image in front of her.
A red zip burst forward at speeds that Gardenia's eyes could barely keep up with, and that Leafeon's body could not. The quadrupedal creature was forced to endure a barrage of swift attacks, each fist like a comet soaring through the night sky, sinking into rough tan flesh with ease.
“Get back and Swords Dance, Leafeon!”
Leafeon's leaves began to glow a shade of neon green, slowly spinning as if on their own. Gardenia smiled: a couple repeats of this odd ritual, and there was no way Leafeon could be an easy target. Unfortunately, he was going to be for a few moments... but after that...
“Ledian!” Bugsy said. “Don't let it do that any more! Hit it with a Supersonic!”
The small bug creature's mouth opened, tongue visibly flapping up and down to make an odd clicking sound. To Gardenia, this meant nothing – but she recognized what it meant to her Leafeon. The poor thing was bound to be confused right now. Most Pokémon couldn't handle certain sound waves – things that humans could not hear, but Pokémon could. These messed up the brain for a short amount of time, impairing the senses in the processes. Overall, Supersonic was an efficient attack, but measures could be taken against it.
If you knew what they were.
“Leafeon, drown out the noise! Grasswhistle!”
Leafeon pressed its lips together, emitting a steady, slow melodic tune. Gardenia smiled – it was in time. The counter had been just in time, and this could also turn the battle in her favor.
“Ledian, Agility!” The frame of the six-armed ladybug began to quiver ever-so-slightly, its large black eyes wide and focused upon Leafeon. Gardenia could sense its desires: it wanted to end this quickly. So it would be done.
“Leafeon, Swords Dance!”
So this was the case. The true battle hadn't started yet – both of them had the same idea. They were settiing the stage for the real thing.
Quite a few ability-upping turns later, things really started to get interesting.
“We finally done with this, Gardenia?” Bugsy asked, raising an eyebrow, a sly smile plastered across his face.
“Indeed we are,” Gardenia responded. She pointed forward. “Leafeon! Use Baton Pass! Let's hand it to Torterra!”
“Ledian, do the same! Let the true force of the insects be unleashed – Heracross!”
Twin flashes of light suddenly burst forward – on each side. One set was red, signifying the return of the two Baton Passers, while the other was white, revealing the forms of the two released and powered-up fighters.
“And now, Heracross! Use Megahorn!”
A grin crossed Gardenia's lips, no matter how much she tried to stop it. Right into the close proximity range, Heracross darted: without showing any signs of hesitation, the blue beetle lowered its head and charged toward Torterra.
“Dodge it, Torterra! Show it the overwhelming force of nature!”
Torterra nodded its understanding. Leaping into the air, the behemoth with a tree on its back landed a few feet away, and Gardenia watched with amusement as the tree on its back began to shake: a small jumble of vines and small green pods burst forward and connected with the charging beetle. Unfortunately for Gardenia, Heracross changed its direction in just a few moments. The Megahorn attack hit dead-on, causing Torterra to fall flat, a roar escaping its mouth. Gardenia's heart stopped in her chest, rising to her throat.
If this succeeded, her setting up stage would have been a giant waste of time. It could very easily cost her the battle. She willed herself to try and stop panicking. I need clear thought... c'mon.
“He's done, Gardenia. Your next Pokémon, please.”
Slowly, Torterra stood up. Gardenia let loose a sigh of relief, closing her eyes and taking a moment to regain her composure. “Torterra, can you handle much more battle?”
“Tor...terra! Tor, tort,” Torterra said.
Gardenia nodded understandingly. “Alright then... shake it out! That necklace of yours!”
Bugsy raised an eyebrow. “Necklace? Jewelry isn't gonna help.”
Torterra shook the tree on its back yet again – this time, a simple tan, grainy object was removed, sliding down to the short neck of the tortoise Pokémon, wrapped around like a necklace.
Gardenia nodded again. “Now, use Giga Drain!”
It seemed to hit Bugsy then. “No- that's- crap! Heracross, dodge it!”
But it was too late. A neon green aura surrounded both Torterra and Heracross, and most prominently, the “necklace” that Torterra wore. Moments later, an odd white substance began to float in Torterra's direction, coming from the aura hat surrounded Heracross.
“Move, Heracross!” Bugsy ordered.
“You know a Pokémon can't move during a draining attack. Especially not one caused by a Big Root,” Gardenia said, a hint of cockiness slipping past her radar in her voice.
“...Touché, Gardenia Florence.”
The Big Root was an item that, when worn, increased the power of energy-draining moves: Leech Seed and Giga Drain included. Gardenia figured she could get through the rest of the battle using this strategy – attack with Leech Seed each Pokémon, then attack more, and when low on stamina, Torterra could Giga Drain. It was her ace in the hole, honestly – but with this guy, she knew from the start she would need it.
“Heracross, return. You can't win this one.” A flash of red light burst out from the Pokéball Bugsy held in his hand. Bugsy clipped the ball back to his belt, then prepared to pull another off: but suddenly, a loud ringing sound entered Gardenia's ears, startling her.
“What the heck-”
Bugsy muttered a quick “huh?” before reaching down to his pocket and pulling out his phone. Pressing it to his ear, he began to speak.
“Hello? Oh? It's... getting that bad that quickly? What in the name of Tornadus?”
Gardenia raised an eyebrow.
“Ha, you're probably right... say, I've got a friend here. Good trainer. On vacation from Sinnoh – think she can help?”
Was this guy gonna volunteer her for something? He didn't seem the type.
“Right, anyone we can get. I'll ask her about it.”
Oh, so she did have a choice.
“Right. See you in an hour or two.” Bugsy pressed a button on the phone before sliding it back into his pocket. A serious look overcame his visage all of a sudden, causing Gardenia to follow the same path.
“Ecruteak's got a pretty bad looking twister heading its way. Could hit any time now. Morty--”
“The Gym Leader, there, right? The g-...ghost type one?”
Bugsy nodded. “He wants me to help the citizens evacuate. Do you want to help? I understand if not.”
“Of course I do,” Gardenia said. “Gym Leaders like us just can't sit back and watch stuff like this. We're society's role models after all.”
Bugsy grinned. “s'pose so. Sorry, but best form of transportation I've got is my Yanmega. I've got two of 'em, so it'll be a little more spacious, but...”
“Eh, it's fine. Gross, definitely, but it's 'kay.”
“Let's go, then!”
~ ~ ~
“Alrighty, folks! All ya gotta do is remain calm. Just head on through these checkpoints and the guides will take you down to Mahogany. Simple as that, eh?” Gardenia repeated for the... what was it? She had lost count. She hated the monotony of this task. She had been expecting action. All she got was a megaphone.
“...Momma, I'm scared,” a voice said in the crowd.
Another voice spoke up. “It's okay. We'll be just fine. Won't we, Miss?”
She saw a pair of tiny eyes look at her, and she smiled the best she could. The truth was, according to Bugsy, this thing could arrive at any second and carry them all off to Unova for all they knew. But telling a little girl that would be very cruel indeed.
“Everything's gonna work out, lil' missy. Okey doke?”
The little girl nodded, before turning and walking with the older woman. Gardenia glanced in their direction. She was doing this for a good reason, she told herself. She would not die of boredom. Just go braindead.
~ ~ ~
Gardenia glanced up from where she sat in the small home, nibbling on a waffle. She had given up her spot with a local gym trainer sent by Morty, in order for her to be able to sit down and rest for a while. And get something on her stomach, considering she had missed dinner, but that was of her own decision.
“...Rain's comin',” she murmured. Cramming the remnants of the breakfast food into her mouth (she was lucky she liked it without syrup; sticky hands did not help in stressful situations), cursed mentally and headed out the door.
Once outside, Gardenia glanced into the sky. Indeed, the rain was falling and at an increasing pace, this could only mean one thing.
“God damn it, why didn't anyone tell me about this!?”
She closed her eyes and began her attempts to gain her composure, which were failing miserably as the cold rain hit her head at a steadily faster speed. She gave up quite quickly, instead opting to go inside. That was what they reccomended with tornadoes, she believed. Get inside, get in a corner away from windows, cover yourself in a blanket. That was what she would do- wait, was this even a tornado? Or it was a hurricane? What was the difference? They were all going to kill her.
She ran inside, and slid into a corner, awaiting her demise at the hands of the wind. For a moment, she actually got a smile in – it was like a gigantic gust-attack. So the flying types would be getting her in the end.
bang bang bang
Gardenia recognized the voice. She did not know how she did it: the rain and wind outside were now howling, a conglomeration of sounds that focused anyone but the most primal of human beings on their might. But the girl's voice rose above it all for just a second, and Gardenia's legs moved on autopilot.
“Hang on!” she said.
Gardenia opened the door, and grabbed for whatever was there. She felt her hand close around hair. Not a desirable object, but it was something. The noise outside was deafening. Without so much as a concern for pain over safety, Gardenia brought the girl in by her hair and slammed the door shut.
The two of them dived for the corner, and Gardenia held the soaking girl, whispering comfort to her frightened child, stroking her brown hair. “...How did you get separated from your mother?”
“Shh. No need t-to talk.. I'll... everything's gonna be fine...”
Unfortunately for Gardenia, this was a lie. The home she was in had an unstable support system to it – as the wind drew closer, it began to break apart. Windows shattered. Rain soaked the two of them immediately, and panic filled Gardenia's mind. She was going to die here.
The roof was torn away from the fragile home, and she felt the wind swiftly toss her up. She held the little girl close, still whispering words of comfort, as her heart pounded in her throat, her mind all in a blur of things: she knew nothing other than fear. Fear for her life, fear for the life of the child in her arms, and plain, simple fear.
The little girl was slipping from her grasp. The strong force of the winds was too much for both of them to handle.
In just a moment, Gardenia was holding onto her by a finger. And then she was gone.
A piece of debris flew by, knocking her in the stomach. Still swirling in the midst of a twister, Gardenia Florence lost consciousness.
~ ~ ~
Her heart thumping. Thump, thump, thump. Her breathing, shallow and ragged, sharp pain from each inhalation. Ha...hooo...ha...hooo...
These were all that she knew. All that she really cared about. She wished that they would go away and that she would die already. Death. So dangerously close, wasn't it? She thought for a moment that she felt herself smile, then dismissed that ridiculous notion.
“You almost became a ghost, didn't you, Miss Gardenia?” The voice had no identifiable source.
“Who's there?” Neither did her own.
Her heart sped up.
“Why are you here?”
“Why are you here?”
“Because I'm dead.”
“No you're not.”
“Why am I here then?”
“Why are you here?”
“Stop being so dodgy!”
~ ~ ~
Everything that Gardenia had hurt. Her face, her torso, her arms, her legs and even her fingers and toes – all of it. But she willed herself to sit up, ignoring the pain in her stomach that came from it. It was in this moment that she allowed herself to open her eyes, and take in her surroundings through blurry optical senses.
She saw nothing. Nothing but destruction. Wooden support banisters decimated, walls collapsed and leading to other rooms, holes in the floor leading down to pits with no bottom in sight. She stood up, and freaked out for a moment when she heard the floor creak – her legs, already wobbling towers of Jell-O, froze, and she snapped her eyes shut again.
Nothing happened. This was her confirmation to continue.
Carefully, the woman treaded through this place of unidentifiable origin. The smell of water pierced her nose, sharp and fresh, giving her the excuse to momentarily entertain the possibility of this place being near a body of water of some sort. Then it struck her: rainwater.
It was possibly an old house, she thought. Ecruteak was renowned for being one big old folks home: various elderly men and women living in old-style wooden homes. This was a big one admittedly, but who was to say it wasn't a rich man's place or something?
Either way, it was totally annihilated in the storm. It was too bad. It looked to be a beautiful place. She sighed: partially in her disappointment, partially out of her initial despair. She had no idea how she was going to get out of this place. The foundation seemed pretty unstable after the damage, so knocking a wall down was not an option.
All she could now, she decided, was explore, and try to find a viable option. She giggled nervously and wished herself luck with this endeavour. She was going to need it.
~ ~ ~
This was not good, Gardenia thought. With her muscles as tired as they were, with the bruises all over her body, and the distinct possibility of broken ribs, she would be lucky to live a couple hours longer in this place. Her worst case scenario: collapse of exhaustion, lay there and die before anyone finds her. Best case scenario: she got out of here with little to no other injuries.
She heard these sounds: but she ignored them. The implications were too horrifying.
Are you afraid?
She walked into the next room, and that when when she saw it.
Her entire body locked up, sending a sensation of pain throughout her nerves. Her mind shut down for a moment, devoid of any thought oter than, “here is where I'm going to die, isn't it?”. Her eyes were wider than she ever thought she could possibly stretch them.
Trapped under a broken down pillar was the girl. She could not remember her name. Her brown hair was scattered and dirty, hiding her face, but Gardenia knew it was her. Blood was streaked across her small arms, and she could not see her legs. Were they broken under the weight of that thing? No. The pillar was too light for that kind of damage. But she was unconscious, trapped, and in front of her sat Gardenia Florence.
Not the real Gardenia Florence, of course. Gardenia could at least tell that. She was here, and the other one was there. But how did this happen? She did not know. No, she realized: she knew. She just could not bring herself to admit it.
“You're awfully dumb, Miss Gardenia.”
Gardenia remained silent.
”Who am I?” A smile on Fake's lips. ”I'm you.”
Gardenia could not speak. She wanted to: but her lips would not open, and her vochal chords refused to make the right sounds.
”Silence is such beautiful music, don't you think, Gardenia?
”You are not strong.”
”You are my prey.”
”You will die!
“I can't die! Not yet!” Gardenia whispered.
”You can, and you will!”
She knew what was coming next.
The Fake began to morph. A substance like melted wax began to slowly drip off its form, revealing its true identity. A purple, gaseous form that floated mid-air, large eyes taunting her.
“Gastly-...ghost...I...I knew it...”
Phasmophobia. That was her debilitating phobia: the one thing that she could not overcome, no matter how hard she tried.
”And that is how this girl will die! It will be your fault... because you're incapable of doing anything. All you do is stand back and watch her die... waiting for your own death to be delivered afterword. Delicious, isn't it?”
Phasmophobia. The thing that would haunt her for the rest of her short life. Haunt: she giggled audibly at the thought.
The girl was awake.
”Fright makes a soul taste even better.”
You will and you know it.
Directly into her mind this time?
Gardenia Florence let out a combative roar that she did not know she could muster. “JESSIE! I won't let this happen!”
”...You know my name? Heh. It doesn't matter. Die, children!”
Phasmophobia. Her one major flaw. The reason she had lived her life in fear: every noise around the corner was a phantom. Every bump in the night was a ghost. It was crippling. She lost sleep because of it.
It would be no longer. She would cast it aside, for the girl's life, and for her own. She reached down to her belt to realize that she still had her Pokéballs. Miracles never cease. She clipped one off.
“C'MON AND GET ME, YA GASSY FREAK!”
~ ~ ~
“Morty, looks like the Tin Tower had some people in it.”
“Oh? Must have been blown there by the hurricane. Damn. This is bad... sucks living next to a city of the sea, doesn't it?”
“Hurricanes come here often?”
Morty smiled. “Fortunately not. But it still provides the risk. And the risk provides risk of lives. How were the people in the tower?”
“Alive. One of them actually wants to talk to you.”
“And what did you tell him?”
A laugh on the other end. “I told her, of course. Here she is.”
A voice on the other line, Morty thought, quite different from Lloyd's there. “Morty Spectre, right?”
“Yep. Who might this be?”
“Name's Gardenia Florence.”
Morty raised an eyebrow. “That so? Sinnoh's Gym Leader?”
“Was here on vacation. Caught in the damn twister. Talk about a vacation, huh?” A giggle on the other end. A more childish giggle: this wasn't Gardenia.
“I'm sorry to hear. How can I help you, Gardenia Florence?”
“I was hoping I could ask for a battle from you.”
Gardenia Florence was famous for her phasmophobia. Well-known, despite her wishes to keep it secret. It unfortunately led to the occasional challenger using ghost-types in her gym quite purposefully.
“A ghost-type gym leader?”
“Do you accept or not, Morty?”
“Alright. Whenever I can make it convenient, we'll battle.”
“Thank ya. That'll be all. A pleasure.”
~ ~ ~
Gardenia Florence smiled widely. Now that she knew she could do what she thought to be the impossible, all she needed to do was make it through. She would accustom herself, and cure herself of her curse.
“...Jessie,” she said. “Thank you.”
The brown-haired girl sitting next to Gardenia nodded slowly. “...Anything I can do to help, old friend.”
Then, Jessie faded away. Gardenia smiled. “Rest in peace.”