10th March 2004, 04:19 PM #1
The Last Of Its Kind
I originally posted this creepy little fic under a new name I was trying out (inspired by the fic itself), but it didn't work out. Nothing gory, just eerie. R&R, please!
The Last Of Its Kind
Toxitrice, Toxitrice, cunning and quick
His poisonous bite will make you sick
Your heart will beat faster, your skin will turn red
How many seconds until you're dead?
~A child's skipping rhyme
He’d only glimpsed it for a second. A dark shape out of the corner of his eye, its purple scales glittering in the sun. Then it was gone. He’d looked sharply in that direction, and although he thought he’d seen a fleeting shadow disappearing behind a rock, he couldn’t be sure. It may all have been a trick of the desert sun.
Brett turned slowly, his pack heavy between his shoulders, the glare of the sun making his eyes squint. For miles around him there was only bland, expressionless sand, his footprints marking the slightly meandering trail he’d walked over it. It was a view you got bored of very quickly, and after three days Brett was sick of the sight of it. His heart leapt up at even the most mundance differences—a cactus standing to attention, a Fearow listlessly circling overhead in search of fresh carrion. He’d become to bored of just sand that it was very possible the thing that he thought he’d just seen had been created by his brain simply to give it something to do.
Hallucination or not, his trainer’s instincts were engaged, and he found himself creeping towards the brown rock that looked like an enormous mound of melted chocolate left out too long in the sun. His sweaty hand grasped one of the Pokéballs at his waist and detached it from his belt; holding it; ready.
Slowly, he crept around the edge of the rock, and peered at where he thought he’d seen the Pokémon.
There was nothing there. Just a rock, and some sand.
Damn, he thought, just a trick of the sun.
His shoulders slumped slightly in disappointment, and the hand that had been holding the Pokéball lowered, muscles relaxing. Boy, if he’d actually seen what he thought he’d seen, that really would’ve been something! But nobody had seen that Pokémon in years—not one person in all the world, and you could be pretty sure that if anyone had seen it, they’d have talked about it. It was presumed extinct, since all attempts to breed it in captivity had ended not just in failure, but in disaster. This creature was a tough cookie to keep.
Or rather, it had been a tough cookie, before it joined the Dodo.
It’s no wonder you’re hallucinating, Brett thought, you’ve been walking through this desert for days. Days in the baking sun, days without a decent conversation, days with nothing to look at but sand. Anyone’d start seeing shadows. Just be glad that’s all you saw.
All of which was true. What was also true was that he’d better get going. The Gym towards which he was heading—led by Larry, a mysterious individual whose speciality in training Ground-type Pokémon had given rise to one of the few element-based Gyms still in business—was probably still another few days’ walking away, and he wanted to make it there in good time. He hadn’t yet noticed another trainer’s footprints in the sand, and while the desert was fairly big, he was also fairly certain that this meant he would be the first to arrive. That would be a pretty big deal, since the desert through which trainers had to travel to reach Larry’s Gym was deemed to be just as big a challenge as the Gym itself.
Better get going, he thought. He looked forlornly for a few seconds more at the sandy ground which had disappointed him, sighed, and got ready to walk on.
That was when something clucked behind him.
You’re hearing things, he thought. But he turned around anyway.
And now you’re seeing things.
The Pokémon stood at just over three feet tall, most of that made up by its fairly long neck. The neck was curled into a gentle S-shape, and, had it been fully extended, the creature would have been slightly taller. Its tiny, bright red eyes glittered with curiosity as it watched him, flicking its head from side to side in the classic birdlike manner, appearing to consider him from all angles. Every time its head moved, the fleshy purple comb on its forehead and the wattles under its small beak would quivver comically, and the black iridescent feathers on its head and neck would shimmer in the light. The feathers ended at the base of its neck, and the rest of its body—except for its yellow feet—was covered in shiny purple scales, right to the tip of its serpentine tail. The feathers returned on its stubby wings, which were really no more than feathered arms, ending in two small, yellow, reptilian fingers with tiny, sharp claws.
That’s some trick of the sun, Brett wondered. Can this really be happening?
As if in answer to his thoughts, the Pokémon clucked once more, bobbing its head for emphasis.
It’s really in front of me, Brett thought. The Pokémon no one has seen for years. The one they thought was extinct.
I’m the first person to see this creature in decades. More than decades—centuries. Almost nothing is known about this thing, apart from that they’re poisonous. And now I have a chance to catch one!
There really only was one thing he could do, as a Pokémon trainer. Slowly, trying not to make any sudden moves, he reached once again for the Pokéball at his waist.
The Toxitrice saw his hand clasp around it, and suddenly its head drew back and it raised its feathered forearms before it. Its beak opened, and a rising hissing sound rose from it like a nest of cobras.
Brett’s back, hot, sticky and soaked with sweat, suddenly raised in goosebumps. Creepy little dude, he thought. Cool.
He threw the Pokéball into the air, and cried, “Go, Absol!”
The ball opened in mid-air between himself and the Toxitrice, spitting out a burst of white light that hit the ground and formed Brett’s Absol. The Pokémon shook itself and stretched, ready to do battle. It was completely at home in the desert environment, its white coat reflecting back most of the sun’s heat while the areas of naked black skin on its face allowed what heat that did build up to be lost to the atmosphere. The Pokémon had won five of Brett’s six Gym battles so far, and was ideally suited to take on a creepy customer like this Toxitrice.
Absol saw its quarry and flattened itself onto the ground, getting ready to pounce.
The Toxitrice hissed once more, this time directing it at Absol.
“Okay, Absol, watch out for its venom,” Brett said. He clapped his hands together. “Let’s begin! Slash attack!”
Absol leapt off its feet towards the Toxitrice, raising its left paw and preparing to strike forward with its deadly claws.
But the Toxitrice was quicker.
The Pokémon dove to one side and Absol landed with something less than its usual grace on three of its feet. It staggered slightly before regaining its balance.
It didn’t even have time to turn.
The Toxitrice dashed towards Absol’s flank and delivered three sharp pecks in succession to its leg, causing Absol to cry out and kick backwards with its claws. The Toxitrice nimbly avoided this also, jumping backwards and walking away from Absol, eyeing it and Brett closely.
Absol turned towards the Pokémon, but its feet seemed to trip up over each other, it staggered and fell onto its side. The large white Pokémon lay there, its side moving up and down fast as it breathed rapidly.
Brett ran towards his Pokémon. “Absol, Absol! You okay?” He kneeled down beside it and stroked its soft fur. The Pokémon was panting heavily, its eyes staring straight ahead. Slowly, they turned towards its trainer. Its breathing was already beginning to slow. It seemed its eyes were the only part of its body Absol could move, and it was having trouble even with them.
He stroked his Pokémon’s fur and looked into its large brown eyes.
“Oh God, Absol, are you okay? Please be okay! Please!”
The Pokémon’s eyes moved once more. This time, they rolled up to the whites.
He continued to rub its fur, harder and harder, as if he could some how massage away the toxic venom that was now coursing through Absol’s body. Venom so potent that even an amount small enough to be delivered in three small pecks could evidently be dangerous.
Could evidently be fatal.
Absol’s sides slowed. Eventually, they stopped rising altogether.
Brett stared in disbelief.
The Pokémon was dead.
This couldn’t be happening, could it? His Pokémon wasn’t really dead? Somehow, that seemed more unbelievable than the fact that he had encountered the legendary Toxitrice.
Shaking with rage, Brett got to his feet and turned towards the small Pokémon. It looked up at him with its beady red eyes.
“You little bastard,” Brett said, staring right into its eyes.
“Trice,” the Pokémon clucked.
Suddenly, it turned and began bounding off over the sand. It leapt high into the air, pushing itself off the ground with both feet like a kangaroo, and then opened its arms out on either side of its body, gliding for several feet before launching itself into the air again. Brett watched as it dwindled into a dot in the distance.
He turned back towards his Absol, lying dead on its side in the sand.
For the first time in his recent memory, Brett began to cry.
Brett sat hunched by a small fire in the darkness, a blanket draped over his shoulders, his chin on his knees as he stared pensively into the flames. A can of food lay opened but untouched on the ground beside him. Around the fire, his other Pokémon morosely ate their meal and tried not to look at the mound of sand which covered the body of their fallen team-mate.
Probably won’t even protect him against the Fearow, Brett thought bitterly. Or the Trapinch. They’ll find him.
In the dancing light of the fire his Pokémon looked drawn, afraid, and angry. He’d done his best to explain to them what happened, but he doubted they really understood. Hell, he didn’t really understand himself. After everything they’d been through together, everything they’d survived—including a ravenous troop of Cacturne that had followed them for a good portion of their passage through the desert, until Charmeleon had sent them packing—for it all to end like this was unspeakably cruel. His Absol, gone. Dead. Fearow-meat.
He looked at his remaining five Pokémon as they tried to comfort one another or simply stared into space. Pinsir had her arm around Raichu, the rodent’s face buried into the big bug’s side as his body shook with tears. Raichu always had been emotional, only now such emotion was appropriate. Raticate sat on his haunches, moisture on his eyes glinting in the starlight. Kadabra sat with his back propped against Raticate’s, looking thoughtfully into the night sky and scratching his forehead from time to time. And Charmeleon ...
Charmeleon just stared into the flames, his face blank. Stunned. Lost. He and Absol had been extremely close, sharing a similar warrior temperament. They’d battled together against Joan and Melissa, the joint Gym Leaders in Cardinal City, and Absol had ...
Oh, but it hurt too much to think about things like that.
Brett reached into his backpack and brought out his old, battered Pokédex. He switched it on and waited for it to warm up. It was a fairly ancient model, it had in fact been handed down to him by his dad. It didn’t have internet access, email or weblog facilities like all the newest dexes, but it suited his needs just fine. When it was fully operational, Brett switched to the rare Pokémon section.
After some browsing, he found what he was looking for.
Toxitrice, the poisonfowl Pokémon the entry said. It described Toxitrice’s physical attributes, which Brett skipped, having seen one first hand. He noticed it was a Dark/Poison hybrid, which, with its ability to flutter above any Ground-attacks, meant it had effectively no weaknesses to any element type. The rest of the information was extremely sketchy. Toxitrice’s poison is thought to be the most potent of all animals, the entry said. Small doses are thought to be fatal within minutes, even affecting Poison type Pokémon and Pokémon with immunities to most venoms, such as Zangoose. Fortunately—or unforunately, depending on your viewpoint—this creature has not been reliaby witnessed in over a hundred years.
Brett looked over at the mound of sand under which his Absol was buried. The Pokéball had become useless as soon as his Pokémon had died. He couldn’t even take his Pokémon’s body back with him and bury him somewhere that he could visit. Instead, it would be out here alone in the desert. Well, alone, except for that ... thing.
Brett switched off his Pokédex and climbed into his sleeping bag. His Pokémon, having rested most of the day inside their balls (he refused to allow any of them to assist in digging Absol’s grave), would now stay up during the night and keep watch. He didn’t think any of them would be able to sleep, anyway.
He certainly wouldn’t.
But after a while, he did.
Brett had never heard a cockerel before. Well, apart from on cartoons and such as a kid, but that was hardly the same. He’d grown up as an inner city kid, his only scenery a litter-filled stretch of grass with a tree in the middle of the town park. That was why he’d taken to being a Pokémon trainer so well—travelling far away from the dirty, smelly, unhealthy city was enjoyable for him.
So when he was startled out of his sleep by an unearthly crowing across the desert air, he was utterly terrified.
It didn’t sound like something from the cartoons.
It took him a moment to realise where he was. The fire had gone out, and he had only the stars for illumination. He could see the last dying embers of the blaze, the blue-tinted sands surrounding him, and, dimly, the slumbering forms of his Pokémon squad lying prone around the fire. Evidently they had fallen asleep.
As the crowing sound came again, a horrifying thought chilled Brett’s blood.
He knelt down beside Pinsir. The Pokémon wasn’t breathing, or moving. He shoved her. No response. He hit her, hard, on the tough exoskeleton of her thorax. Again, no response. Then he noticed a small puncture wound just below her right arm. It was about the size of a chicken’s beak.
Brett gazed around at the prone forms of his Pokémon in the darkness, his mouth working in anguish. In the dim light of the stars, he could just make out Charmeleon’s eyes. They were both rolled up so that only the whites showed.
The crowing sound came again, rolling across the sands from everywhere at once.
Brett jumped to his feet and cried out, joining in with the Toxitrice’s cry. He screamed at the heavens until his lungs burned. The stars merely looked back at him coldly.
He looked down once more at the dead bodies of his Pokémon. All of them, gone. The thought wouldn’t sink in. He almost laughed.
Again, the Toxitrice crowed.
This time the sound was different. Nearer. He could pinpoint its source. Brett looked in the direction it had come from, and could just make out a small dark shape standing on the sand. It bobbed its head, as if in recognition that they had seen one another.
Brett’s face broke out in a grim, bloodthirsty grin.
Cockadoodle-doo, you piece of crap! he thought.
Why hadn’t the creature killed him in his sleep? It had made short work of his entire team, probably stealthily sneaking up to nip them and then running away until its venom finished them off, like the coward that it was. Brett had always hated Poison Pokémon. They never fought fair.
Why had it let him survive?
The Pokémon bobbed its head, turned, and strutted off into the desert. After a few yards it stopped, turned, and looked back at him expectantly.
Evidently, the Toxitrice wanted him to follow it.
The same humourless grin bolted onto his face, Brett began to walk across the desert sand in pursuit of the creature. It strutted ahead of him, sometimes bounding ahead in that same leaping-gliding way he’d witnessed before. But, if it disappeared from sight, it always eventually reappeared, waiting impatiently for him to catch up, urging him on with head-bobs.
How he loathed it.
Eventually they approached a large rock formation, a dark shape rising out of the ground like a slumbering Snorlax. Brett looked around, but he couldn’t see the Pokémon anywhere. Suddenly it crowed again, and he flinched. The sound echoed, and, squinting, he could just make out a darker area in the rock. The mouth of a cave.
The Toxitrice was inside there.
So, you want me to follow you in here, do you? Brett thought as he cautiously approached the entrance. Do you have a little surprise for me in there?
He knelt to the ground and felt around the entrance of the cave. His hand closed over a large, sharp rock, and he picked it up.
I might just have a surprise for you, too.
He walked into the cave. The tunnel sloped downwards, the light going from dim to pitch black, the walls of the cave seeming to greedily absorb all illumination. Brett walked onwards, wildly staring from side to side at nothing, his eyes wide, his hair sticking to his sweaty forehead, one arm raised above his head and clutching the rock. The Toxitrice crowed again, the sound becoming even more distorted and alien as it was warped by the walls of the cave. Brett flinched.
The floor underneath him suddenly began to level out, and the sound of his footsteps clapping against hard rock was replaced by the gentle whisper of sand. He had reached the bottom of the tunnel.
He turned in a circle, but he could see nothing. He could only barely make out the tunnel itself because of the faint illumination feebly penetrating into the darkness.
He heard something move on the sand, and spun in that direction, the arm holding the rock tensed, ready to throw it for his dead Pokémon and his own survival.
Suddenly, something scampered across the floor towards him, making a low rustling sound on the sand. He half-screamed and threw the rock in the direction of the sound. There was an anticlimactic thump, and he heard the scampering veer off to the right, followed by an almost human snickering. He realised it was actually a low, thoughtful clucking sound.
He was now blind, and defenceless.
He patted the pockets of his clothes desperately for something to defend himself with. He felt something square on the inside pocket of his jacket, and took it out. It was the box of matches he’d used to light the fire. Carefully, not wanting to drop the match onto the pitch black floor, he removed it from the box and dragged it across the abrasive edge.
It didn’t light.
He tried again. The match made a light cracking sound, and bent.
Oh God, he thought.
Clutching the broken match in his hand, he very carefully dragged it one last time over the abrasive edge of the box. The match burst alight and cast a weak orange glow into the gloom which to his formerly blind eyes was like a floodlight.
The Toxitrice stood at the bottom of the tunnel, blocking his only exit.
It was not alone.
Flanking it on either side were six small, scaly creatures. They came up to the Toxitrice’s leg in height, their small beady eyes glinting with the same red malevolence as the fully-grown Pokémon’s. Their hides were a light lavender. They lacked any black feathers, or the purple wattles of their parent. As they caught sight of Brett clutching the match, they broke out in excited cheeping noises. The mother Toxitrice clucked warmly, and they quieted slightly.
Brett finally understood why the creature had lured him down here.
A primal scream escaping from his throat, Brett ran straight at the Pokémon, dropping the match which hit the sand and sputtered out. He leapt into the air and jumped over them, landing painfully on the hard rock of the ascending tunnel. Behind him, the Toxitrice chicks had begun their excited cheeping once more. Brett struggled to get to his feet, the pain in his knees and hands unbearable.
He heard a light fluttering noise, and a pair of claws dug into his back. He cried out as he felt a sharp stabbing pain on the back of his neck. He flailed his hands beside him, trying to dislodge the Toxitrice, but it held on fiercely. He rolled onto his back and finally the Pokémon let go.
Brett staggered back to his feet and shambled up the tunnel. He could already begin to feel the venom take a hold on him. His heart was beating faster in his chest, his pulse pounded in his temples, and his eyes felt like they’d been wrapped in cotton wool. But he was approaching the mouth of the tunnel. If he could make it into the open, grab another rock, or something, maybe he’d be all right. Suddenly his left leg went into spasms, he tripped, and fell onto his face on the hard rock floor of the tunnel. Blood gushed from his nose. He didn’t feel any pain. He didn’t feel anything, much less the urge to move anymore. He began to feel strangely calm.
Behind him, he could hear the excited chirps of the Toxitrice chicks, and the maternal cluckings of their parent. Tiny claws scrabbled on the stones as they rushed towards their meal.
His lungs suddenly seemed lined with molten lead, and it became very difficult to breathe. How had he gone on breathing for his entire life without noticing? It was clearly one of the most arduous tasks in the world.
As his lungs slowed and his heart beat faster, and as he felt the first tiny claws clambering up over his back and scrambling eagerly towards his face, Brett used what remained of his energy to drag his eyes upward and take one last look out through the mouth of the cave at the cold, indifferent stars.
They had come, at last. This year they were later than they had been in a while, but not the latest they had ever been. He’d actually begun to think that, for once, none of them would make it—they’d either give up, or fail, succumbing to one of the numerous hazards along the way. But as he sat on his porch and looked at the tiny figure making its way slowly but determinedly towards his ranch, Larry had to admit that, yet again, at least one person had got through.
Well, alright, he thought, and spat off the porch.
He heaved himself off the chair and stretched. It would be another half hour before the trainer got here, judging by the distance. Plenty of time to get a few chores out of the way first.
He walked through the screen door back into his house, setting his stetson down on the dining table as he passed through the various rooms towards the kitchen. He finally got there and opened the huge chest freezer, enjoying the icy coolness enveloping his desert-worn skin. He loved living out here—you had to to put up with it—but it sure got hot. After some rooting, he produced what he’d been looking for: a box filled with strips of blood-red meat. Prime Tauros steak, from his own herd.
He slammed the freezer door shut and carried the box towards the door to his basement, whistling a jaunty tune as he went. A metal sign was screwed to this double-padlocked door, with “DO NOT ENTER” screaming from it in bright red letters. A pair of thick leather gloves hung on a nail on the door, and he put them on before unlocking it. He walked through, slamming and locking the heavy metal door behind him.
As his footsteps echoed down the stairs, he continued to whistle. Another trainer, another worthy challenge. You had to be a worthy challenger to get through that desert. Miles of sand, baking heat, little water, not to mention some hungry Cacturne and the occasional Fearow only too willing to assist in reducing you to a bleached skeleton half-submerged in the sand.
And, of course, a few little challenges that he himself had personally set up.
He reached the bottom step and walked towards the bench on the far wall, still whistling. Behind him, he heard excited chirps and the scratching of tiny claws on the basement floor.
“Just a second, girls,” he drawled comfortably, opening up the box of meat.
He lifted out a few strips and turned towards the Toxitrice chicks standing eagerly in a line before him. They jumped and chirped excitedly at the sight of the meat, and he grinned as he tossed it to them. It hit the floor with a wet splat and instantly they converged on it, squabbling and pecking. As usual, the biggest chick—he wasn’t really a chick anymore; now that the first black feathers were sprouting around his neck and arms he was a young adult—took the lion share, chugging it down and waiting eagerly for seconds. Larry laughed and tossed them another strip.
Once again he thought back to that night in the bar when the young Asian man with broken English had approached him with the box of eggs. He’d tried everyone else in the bar, selling them as eggs of a Pidgeot, but nobody was interested. The eggs were dark black with purple spots—probably a lousy Ekans, or something, they most likely thought. Not worth their time.
Only Larry had recognised the eggs for what they truly were.
He’d bought them there and then, not dickering over the price or trying to conceal his excitement, confident that the young Asian man had no idea what the eggs contained any more than the other bar patrons had. But Larry, who’d forgotten more about Pokémon in his forty-five years on the planet than more of those so-called League officials would ever learn, had instantly recognised the Toxitrice eggs. Where they had come from, he didn’t know. He’d presumed they were extinct just like everyone else. It happened. More than one Pokémon species had joined the Dodo in oblivion.
But he should’ve known to expect more of the Toxitrice.
He’d taken the eggs home, set up an incubator in the basement, and padlocked the door. Even before the first scaly, deadly-poisonous chick had hatched, a plan had been forming in Larry’s mind.
Trainers nowadays had it easy. Any brat could pick up a starter Pokémon and go around a few pansyass Gym Leaders collecting badges. The Pokémon League had become a joke.
But Larry, with his Gym in the middle of the desert, had always thought of himself as different. He alone upheld the standards. He alone provided a challenge for those trainers with enough guts to seek it out.
And in the Toxitrice, he had found the perfect challenge for all those young hopefuls who wanted to cross the sands to reach his Gym.
Now, three generations of eggs later, Larry was beginning to wonder if maybe he’d been too hasty in basing his Gym on Ground Pokémon. Poison did, after all, have its charms.
He did wonder whether any trainer had truly overcome the Toxitrice’s wily nature and deadly poison. Certainly none had ever spoken of it. But then again, Larry didn’t blame them—alone in the desert, hearing that unearthly crowing sound, was not an experience you wanted to remember. Even so, he thought most of them had only gotten through by luckily avoiding the Toxitrice.
And for those unlucky few who went missing along the way ... well, they just hadn’t passed.
The Toxitrice chicks finished their latest strip of meat, and Larry tossed them another. He watched as they fought over it, the biggest chick once again making off with the largest portion. The smallest chick, the runt of the brood, once again came out with nothing. He doubted it would survive.
After all, in life, as in Pokémon, there were always some who didn’t pass the test.
14/11/04 Chapter Three: A Walk In The Woods has been posted
~ Tangled Web ~
"Your writing style is just incredible ... you, as a writer, are awesome."
~ PancaKe @ TPM
"An original concept, intelligence, cynicism, an interesting and amoral protagonist, some great Pokemon action - damn, we don't get enough of this sort of Pokefic around here!"
~ Charles Rocketboy @ FanFiction.Net
"Wow ... Just ... wow."
~ Cosmic Mewtwo @ FanFiction.Net
10th March 2004, 04:23 PM #2
A black and white world
That was so freakin' cool. Even though I guessed where it was leading Brett.
I can see there being a creature like that. Not in the games, for obvious reasons, but in the Pokémon world itself (how many creatures remain 'undiscovered', for instance?)
(and yes, I just cut-and-pasted my reply from the previous posting of this fic)
14th March 2004, 12:44 AM #3
not for miners
Oh, there's more fic! And just as dark and powerfully written as Tangled Web... Larry, you twisted old man. Though he had good intentions. I just love your anti-League leanings.
14th March 2004, 05:59 AM #4
Goronda Type Vice-Webmaster
You're really something as a writer CRJ is all I can really find to say. You have a knack for thinking outside the box few people have these days when it come for writing pokémon stories, and it's certainly something welcome.
In response to Pika-Zukin's comment I wouldn't quite say this fic is much on the anti-league scale - after all, what Brett is doing is not *that* different from the kind of thing a certain psychic gym leader from a certain Saffron City has been known to do in the anime.
"It is said that the federal government, if it was in charge of the Sahara, would run out of sand in five years. Private enterprise, being more efficient, would do it in half the time - and they'd make money off the bridges." - me.
Originally Posted by Mintaka and Hurristat
"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world." - Jack Layton's last letter. Rest in peace, Jack.