Pokemon Captures: Litwick, Growlithe, Murkrow
Needed Characters: 40000
Actual Characters: 44361
Author's Note: Generally, when I write about people I know or events I've been a part of, I am careful to mask them, both for their privacy and so that I am not accosted because they are offended. However, this time, I'd like to make it very clear that this is absolutely about you. Yes, you, reading this right now. Every single one of you. Whether you get a character that is mentioned, or you are a part of the nameless crowd, it is about you. This story is not just a story. It is what I see happening and the ending is what will happen to us if people keep behaving as they are. Just like George Orwell's Animal Farm taught us, sometimes the only way you can get a message through people's thick skulls is to tell them a fairy tale. So this is my fairy tale. It is the story of a people attacked and divided... Just remember: all members are equal, but some members are more equal than others.
For my broken virtual family, but most of all for my ojiisan, Hkim
You do it to yourself, you do
And that's what really hurts
Is that you do it to yourself
Just you and no one else
You do it to yourself
-Just by Radiohead
The first was found pale and cold, his eyes empty and vapid like a notebook bought with the intention to fill it, but is instead left blank, forgotten forever in a dark corner. He was tucked into bed, a blown out candle on his nightstand. Mousy hair still hung into his face.
The woman trembled as she looked down at him. Her heart skipped several beats. Her face seemed to shudder, before finally a grimace stuck and tears began to stream down her cheeks. She screamed wordlessly and fell onto the young boy, clutching him and screaming his name, over and over. Candles were lit in the houses around hers and men left the safety of their homes, shouting for an explanation. They found her mumbling to herself, paralyzed with grief.
When the leader of the village finally barged into the small room, his piggy brown eyes glittered with suspicion and a trace of fear. When he saw the dead boy, he stroked his filthy, knotted beard and scowled. "Call the Watcher," he commanded, and one of the younger men behind him reluctantly left to find the doctor.
In only a few moments, she arrived. The house cleared of everyone but the mother, the son, and the village leader. "Watcher," he said reverently and knelt at her feet. She smiled crookedly at this and dipped her long, multi-colored draping skirt in a curtsy. The black, crow-like Pokemon on her shoulder cawed, and it sounded like laughter.
"Watcher," it echoed in a scratchy voice, "Watcher."
"Get off the ground, you blithering fool," the Watcher said, caught between affection and annoyance. The leader did as he was commanded. She stepped past him and the Murkrow flapped its wings, brushing the edges of his face with its feathers. The Watcher reached out a withered old hand and touched first the mother, then the boy. The mother took only a second, but she lingered on the boy, her mouth turning into a deep frown and her brow wrinkling. "Well," she said finally, "the mother is merely in shock, as can be expected. I can give her some poppy seeds and she'll be right as rain soon enough. The boy on the other hand..."
"Yes?" the leader asked expectantly.
"The boy is another matter entirely. His soul was stolen from him during the night."
The leader gasped and began muttering and crossing himself. She rolled her eyes. His efforts to inspire the protection of the gods, known and unknown, amused her. Pitiful human. Eventually, he stopped his inane mumbling and looked back to her for guidance. "What should we do next, Watcher?"
She bit her lip, thinking. "Burn the body. This is very, very dark magic, and we don't want it spreading. Just be careful. I'll handle the mother."
The village leader nodded and went to gather his men. Once he'd left the room, the smell of his unwashed furs went with him. The Watcher sighed in relief and led the woman from the house. She crossed the dark village grounds fearlessly. No creature of the night frightened her. When they arrived at her hut on the edge of the forest, she placed the woman on a cot, and began brewing her a tea made of poppy leaves. The Murkrow fluttered onto her bed post and began humming to itself. By the time the woman was drinking the tea, still dazed and shaking, a fire was raging in the center of the village. The men of the village stood around and watched wordlessly and the inferno cleansed the body of the young boy. They pressed their fingers to their lips and said his name, releasing him into the afterlife.
Many voices blended into one, and finally stopped.
In the distance, something howled.
A black, shadowy shape crouched on the edge of the fire. Watching.
The village was quiet for about a month. The morning after the incident, it was as if a deep scar had been scratched into the soul of the town itself. Children stayed indoors and women ran about everywhere, yelling and crying and gossiping. The ashes in the center of the town were evidence of what had taken place the night before. No one went within twenty feet of them.
Soon enough, however, life returned to something close to normal. The farmers went back to farming. The merchants sold their wares. The children played games in the streets, kicking pebbles and dirt, covering the ashes, concealing the memories of the boy who had once played among them. They forgot him quickly. He had been meek and easily frightened, not much fun. Certainly not memorable. The only person who seemed to keep from recovering was the mother. For the first week she laid in the Watcher's cot all day. After that, the Watcher became tired of her.
"Quit your moping," she said, yanking her up. "Life is difficult. If you're going to spend all day brooding, you can do it while you weed the gardens."
This may seem cruel, but she knew what she was doing. She began giving the mother chores on a regular basis. Something to keep her mind busy, to take the edge off the pain. Regular servings of poppy tea and biscuits helped as well. They lived together in a sort of harmony.
Time heals all. But not forever.
The second was found in the forest. She wore no clothes. Her skin was blue against the blinding white snow. Her eyes, which had in life been a rather pretty hazel, were now grey and colorless, staring upward into the eternity of the overcast sky.
She was the leader's wife.
This time, when the body was found, no one crowded around it. Only the leader and the Watcher. They stood next to it silently for a long while.
"She went to pick berries," he said helplessly.
The Watcher answered after a moment's pause. "The road to hell is paved with berries." She touched the woman's forehead and flinched. The Murkrow screeched. "Gods, she's so empty." She looked up and met eyes with the leader. "Her soul has been taken as well."
He stared blankly at her, before retching into the snow.
She waited for him to stop before chiding, "That can't be healthy, you know. Anyways... if it pleases you, I will cleanse the body. It may be better if I do it."
He nodded, knowing she was sparing him.
"Go home and sleep," she advised. "I'll bring you some tea later."
So the leader went back to the village. He walked the path from the forest silently, and the road through town alone as well. No one would approach him. Word traveled quickly. Soon enough, a wisp of smoke rose from the tree canopy. In his bed, where no one could hear him, the man sobbed.
The Watcher stood before the blaze, a little closer than was comfortable. The heat would cleanse her. "Hecate," she murmured, "End this. Give me strength. Take from my enemies."
In the underbrush, something watched her.
Every morning for the next month, the Watcher set the mother to work in the gardens under the watchful eye of her Murkrow. During the day she worked. In the evening, she took a cup of poppy tea to the village leader before retiring for the night.
The villagers went about their work as before, but they were unhappy, and frightened. The leader's wife had been popular among many of the women, and the children liked her as well. She had often given them sweets and pieces of wool she had left over from her knitting. Their games seemed more subdued than before. A gloominess hung over the town.
That month was the beginning of the rains.
Every year, the rains began in the third month. They were torrential. The children stayed inside all day, becoming restless and agitated. The women worked at their sewing. The men still toiled in the fields or their stores everyday, though few people went out to buy much. The village leader sat inside, watching the rain come down, imagining that the entire earth was weeping for his lost bride. Only him and the Watcher knew that she had been with child. He knew that soon he would have to return to his duties, but... He was so empty.
The third was discovered in his fields. The rain had turned the earth around him to mud, and it coated his skin. The water soaked into his clothes and the elements warped him until he was bloated and near unrecognizable. His eyes were a watery blue. Hollow, as well. His wife ran from the body, screaming, her infant child on her hip. Men from the farms around them came and stood near the body, ignoring the downpour, trying to pay respects for their friend. The leader was sleeping when this happened. He was roused from his nap by a messenger boy. As he was pulled from sleep, he cried out. He had been dreaming, dreaming about something better. The boy looked at him strangely, shaggy blonde hair hanging in his eyes.
"Oi, sir, there's been another one."
He ran away without any more of an explanation. Not that one was needed. With sleep still tugging at his mind, the leader left his bed and went to the fields. The Watcher was already there, her Murkrow cawing in disgust at its drenched feathers. When the Watcher saw him, she raised an eyebrow. "I have more tea," she whispered. He nodded absentmindedly.
"Do you even need to check this one?" he asked.
Her lips curled upward, not quite smiling. "You're becoming rather cynical. Yes, I suppose I should. Just to make sure. It'd be rather embarrassing if he just had a bit of pumpkin fever or something of that sort, eh?" She placed her hand over his heart. "Ugh. Yep. Another one."
"How will we burn this one?" the leader wondered aloud.
"Don't worry," she said, "I've got a plan. Everyone back to your homes!"
The farmers retreated. She grabbed the man's body and tossed it over her shoulder, ignoring the mud. The village leader looked at her wide eyed. "Watcher, you're so strong."
"I didn't get this job for nothing. Now hurry home, before you catch cold."
He did as he was told. As soon as he walked through the door of his home, the darkness returned to his heart. He missed his wife. It was like someone had cut out a hole inside of him. It ached and ached and ached.
The Watcher took the body back to her hut. She sent the mother into a back room. She started a fire in her stove. "Hecate," she said, almost singing, "Rid us of evil." The fire turned violet, before exploding. The body had disappeared.
Outside the hut, a creature paced back and forth, panting wildly.
It rained through most of April, but stopped in the last week of the month. The sun came out from behind the clouds and lit up the village. They could feel the gods smiling on them. Moods were brightened as the first flowers of spring began to blossom.
The mother's mind began to clear, just the tiniest bit. Once, the Watcher caught her humming to herself as she pulled weeds. The village leader was still melancholic. However, he came outside more often, to comfort the villagers and help with minor issues. He was able to bear his pain on the inside.
The clear skies seemed to be a good omen, a sign that from now on, everything would be better. Unfortunately, omens are often ill read. The Watcher expected as much, and so when the month began to draw to a close, she prepared herself for the worst.
The fourth was found propped against the stand where he often sold his wares. Pokeballs, wooden ornaments, and healing potions lay scattered about. He was slumped over, eyes staring into his lap, his short black hair doing nothing to mask their barrenness. He was spotted by a young boy who claimed he was playing kick the bottle, but in all likelihood had tried to steal the man's wares. The boy was the same who had woken the village leader before. He stood behind the legs of the men who had come to stare at the body of their fellow merchant. When the leader and the Watcher came, the leader did not recognize him. The Watcher, however, stared at him and her eyes shimmered with recognition. She gave him an odd grin. He shuddered.
"I don't think I'll be checking this one," she told the village leader. "I can tell by the eyes now."
The leader nodded. "Yes. They were not that color before. I had spoken to him often." He sighed. "Another fire then."
The majority of the men left to get wood. A few remained. One stepped forward, a tall, skinny man with black hair that fell to his shoulders. "You tell us to burn the corpses, but it doesn't seem to be stopping the killings."
The leader was taken aback. "We have no way of stopping them yet. The Watcher says this is all we can do."
She nodded sagely.
The man growled. "Really? Because when the boy showed me this body, I found this." He reached into his ragged leather pants and pulled out a scrap of white fur. "I'm fairly sure there were footprints around that farmer's body as well, but the rain washed them away and I didn't want to mention it since I couldn't prove they were there."
"Hmmm. Well, then, thank you for this evidence. Now we may find and kill whatever is doing this."
"No," the man said, "I think not. You are weak. I've watched you. For more than a month, sitting and crying, like a woman."
The men behind him nodded and murmured agreement.
The leader was furious. "How dare you!? I've been leader for many years, and I have not neglected my duties. Get back to work, all of you, or you'll be punished for your insolence!"
The skinny man spit and turned around, his friends trailing after him.
"He's going to be a problem," the Watcher told him when the skinny man was out of hearing distance.
"I don't think so," the leader responded. "Everyone is just very upset right now."
"Mmm." She seemed to have more on her mind, but didn't say anything out loud.
Soon, the men came back with wood from the forest and dry grass from the plains. They started the fourth pyre. The fourth body burned.
A white-furred Pokemon watched from behind a market stall, its black eyes glittering with the firelight. It whined as the body turned to ash. The Watcher's ears pricked up and she turned her head a fraction of an inch towards the noise. The Pokemon stood completely still. The Murkrow began to cackle.
May was full of flowers. Crocuses, tulips, roses all bloomed around the buildings of the village. But no one, other than perhaps the youngest children and the daftest young women, were enjoying themselves. The leader had begun to enforce a curfew. No one was allowed out after sunset. Even during the day, people often chose to stay home. Only a few farmers and merchants still braved the nearly empty roads to work each day.
With almost no one working, and the entire town paralyzed with fear, it soon became painfully clear: the village was dying. The leader went out everyday and attempted to perform his normal duties, but there was hardly anyone around. The Watcher made the rounds, handing out packets of poppy leaves to people, and greeting them. The mother was one of the few in town who were actually improving. She still would not talk, but she now occasionally whistled at the Murkrow, who seemed quite taken with her. She seemed oblivious to the deaths that had been occurring each month. She spent much of her time planting flowers.
The skinny man and his friends had left everyone alone since their confrontation with the leader the month before. In fact, the leader had hardly seen them. He assumed they were hiding in their homes, with the rest of the village.
On one day, one where a few clouds lingered in the sky, hiding the sun occasionally, the village leader walked into the forest. He wished to go to the spot where his wife had been found three months earlier. He had never really feared the forest. Even as a boy, he had played among the trees, chasing wild Buneary and Starly around all day. Those had been easier times. As he walked, the sky grew darker. The clouds grew in number. He began to feel slightly uneasy, as if he were being watched. Finally, he reached the spot. The snow had melted, grass had grown. nature had washed away every sign of her. But he knew the spot in his heart. He sat down on the ground and sighed deeply, digging his hand into the soft, warm soil. Something rustled in the bushes. His head snapped around, his body suddenly tensed. He readied himself to fight.
When he saw the creature that emerged from the bushes, he relaxed. It was small, for a start. In fact, it was almost cute. Definitely harmless. It looked like a small candle, with a flame on top, only instead of being solid, it seemed to shift and ripple with every breeze, as if it were made of very thin paper. It drifted towards the leader. He sat very still, hoping not to scare it off. It came closer and closer, and as it moved, he found himself entranced by its movements. Finally, it paused only a few inches from his face.
"Hello," he started to say, but as soon as he opened his mouth, the small Pokemon attached itself to him. He tried to scream, but the sound was muffled. Suddenly, he felt a suction deep inside of him, as though he were vomiting in reverse. He gasped, unable to breathe, but there was no air. He tried to struggle, but the Pokemon's mouth was like a vice. He saw spots, and then his vision began to fade completely. Just as he was losing consciousness, he fell backwards, hitting his head on the root of a large tree. He lay stunned, as a black and white Pokemon leaped forward from the bushes. It hissed and batted one paw at the Pokemon that had latched onto him, its claws sinking into it. The smaller Pokemon cried our and released him. He gasped at the air, trying to fill his lungs. Meanwhile, the Pokemon locked themselves in battle.
The black and white Pokemon was now much more clearly in view. The leader could see it was very cat-like, and that it has a large scythe on its head. It was covered in downy white fur, just like the tufts of fur the skinny man had had. It all made sense. The cat Pokemon knocked the smaller one to the ground and shot him a look, as if telling him to run. The village leader was still out of breath and exhausted, but he was also terrified for his life. He climbed to his feet and limped away at first, but after regaining some of his strength, he began to run. He ran and ran until he reached the edge of the forest and the Watcher's hut.
"Watcher!" he called, "Watcher!"
The Watcher opened the door to her hut and looked out, confused. "What happened?" she said, genuinely surprised and concerned for the first time since he had known her.
"I know what's been killing our people," he gasped. "A Pokemon, a little candle-like Pokemon. It tried to kill me."
She grabbed his hand and pulled him inside her hut, made him lay on the cot, and began fixing him some poppy tea. "You're sure of this?"
"Yes, dammit, I'm sure. It was on my face."
"Shh, shh," she hushed him, "Don't over excite yourself, you'll go into shock. Drink this and then tell the villagers." She shoved the teacup into his hands. "Watcher's orders."
"Fine," he growled, taking it. The tea actually made him feel quite a bit better. He drank it as fast as he was able without burning his tongue. "May I go now?"
"Sure, but I will come as well. I have a feeling things won't be as easy as they seem from here." She stood up out of her chair and her Murkrow fluttered to her shoulder. It cooed gently.
They walked to the town center, but found it empty, emptier even than it had been earlier in the day. They had expected to find at least one or two merchants left. Instead, there was no one.
"This can't be good," the Watcher assured him.
They kept walking down the road, and eventually they found the villagers. They were gathered in a circle in a field of flowers. The village leader and Watcher ran up to them. "What's happened here?" the leader demanded.
The crowd parted to reveal the fifth.
The body was fresh. She was curled in a ball, ribbons of black hair hiding most of her face. Her eyes were tilted upwards, so that she seemed to be looking expressionlessly at the pale blue sky. Her lips were parted slightly, as if she'd tried to whimper. Her yellow sun dress was stained green in places from the grass and flowers she'd been laying on. She could not have been older than ten.
The leader shook his head back and forth slightly. "No, no, it was supposed to me," he whispered to himself, "Gods, no."
The crowd opened up once more, to reveal the skinny man and two of his companions. "It's happened again," he roared. "How many more will it take before you end this?"
The leader looked up at him, hatred written across his face. "None. I know what's killing these people."
"And what's that?" the skinny man asked, his voice tinged with sarcasm.
"There's a Pokemon. It attacked me in the forest."
The villagers gasped and the skinny man narrowed his eyes. "The white furred one?"
The leader shook his head. "No, the white furred one rescued me. The Pokemon that attacked me was smaller and looked like a candle."
The skinny man laughed. "A Pokemon that looks like a candle? Whoever heard of such a thing. Not only are you weak, but you're crazy too."
Before the leader could do anything, the man and his friends slinked back into the crowd. The villagers seemed uncomfortable, though a few were muttering, a handful followed the skinny man away from the circle.
In the forest, the black and white Pokemon licked its wounds and waited.
In June the flowers grew fuller and the trees grew lush and tall. No one was happy. The leader stayed inside all day. When he did come out, it was to go to the Watcher's house for a cup of poppy tea. He did not fulfill his duties. He did not comfort the villagers. He just passed through the town like a ghost.
The skinny man, on the other hand, seemed to grow in strength. Him and his followers walked around the town all day with knives in hand, talking as if nothing were wrong. However, though they would not admit it, they still felt a creep of fear. It were as though they were living in a ghost town.
The Watcher was moody. She set the mother to planting vegetable seeds and rocked back and forth in her rocker, her Murkrow singing songs in another language to her. She could feel something, dark and rising, like a storm cloud on the horizon.
When the storm did come, it rocked the town. The clear blue sky was choked by black, malevolent looking clouds. Lightning flashed across them and thunder rocked the earth below. The winds became like maelstroms, stripping the trees of leaves and knocking anyone who dared to go out over.
The skinny man continued to lead his followers around despite the stormy weather. "Nothing can hurt us," he would scream through the wind, "We are prepared for the worst!"
It was on one of these stormy nights when the sixth was found. His lips were blue and parted, as the leader's wife's had been. He was laying on his back with his hands by his sides, and he looked calmer than he ever had in life. Pale eyes watched the clouds above.
When the skinny man found him, he shook with anger. The sixth had been one of his closest friends and confidants. He examined the body carefully as a few brave souls gathered round. "Look!" he called to those around him, "There are burn marks on his palms!"
Indeed there were. The man's palms were bright red and blistered, as if he had touched a hot stove. "Something has burned him," the skinny man growled, "That black and white monster must truly be a beast from hell if it can breathe fire."
The village leader arrived just then. "No," he said, "it was the candle Pokemon! It had a flame upon its head."
Once again, the skinny man and his friends laughed at him. "A candle Pokemon in this weather?" he asked sardonically.
The leader just shook his head and walked away. From out of the crowd, the little blonde boy slipped, and followed the leader back to his house. He asked him questions about the village, trying to ease his mind. The Watcher refused to help the skinny man, so they waited for the rain to come to a standstill before burning the body. Lightning crashed around the fire. The gods seemed angry.
In July the thunderstorms passed. The sky was clear again and the sun baked the land dry. The grass withered and turned yellow. It had been almost a month since the last killing, and when they could, children would slip outside. It was hard for them not to make use of the beautiful summer days. The merchants and farmers were running out of food and coin, and so they returned to their posts. The skinny man divided his followers up and posted them as guards. He trained the children's Growlithe as guard Pokemon and gave one to each of his guards. They sat proudly at their master's feet. The leader sat inside and watched. Occasionally, the blonde boy would come and talk to him, sometimes bringing him fruit or poppy seed tea. It cheered him, but only enough to keep him from the noose.
The Watcher began to make overnight trips to the forest. She left her Murkrow behind to watch over the mother, who spent time every day watering the seeds she'd planted. They were beginning to sprout, tiny green leaves and stems fighting their way out of the black soil.
The warmth of the sunlight seemed to chase away some of the chill and fear. Thing's were slightly more peaceful. Then the seventh was found.
The skinny man chewed on his lip as he stared at the body. It was another member of his guard. The man's Growlithe lay dead on top of him, its fur gray and white, as though all the life had been sucked out of it. The man himself had turned just as pale. His eyes were empty, like all the others. His neck was red and blistered. The skinny man swore and kicked a rock, sending it flying into the crowd of onlookers. It narrowly missed the little blonde boy, who came forth from the sea of legs and locked eyes with the skinny man.
"See here, you," he said, as though he weren't a child of twelve years, "the leader was right this whole time! Even if it is that 'mon with the white fur, you can't do anything about it!"
The skinny man glared at him for a moment, before slapping the boy so hard it knocked him to the ground. He moved forward to kick him when the Watcher ran out of the crowd, her eyes lit up with anger. "How dare you!" she screeched, "Hitting a boy for standing by the law of his leader! Away with you before I curse you all. The gods will tie you down like Prometheus on his cliff and the Mandibuzz will eat your livers for all eternity!" The crowd retreated, but the skinny man stayed, still glaring at her.
"I don't believe in your sorcery, witch woman."
"Oh really?" she said, practically hissing. She spoke loudly in a strange guttural language. Nothing happened for a moment, and the skinny man smirked a little. Then he saw the cloud on the horizon. It was moving towards them incredibly quickly, and as it grew closer he could see that it was no cloud. It was a swarm of thousands of Murkrow, all cackling wildly. He screamed and ran back towards the village. The Watcher cackled and picked up the boy in her arms.
In the long grass, the black and white creature smiled, just the smallest bit.
By August, the cheer at the good weather was starting to fade. It was replaced by animosity and suspicion. The village divided into half, one closer to the forest and the Watcher's hut, one closer to the plains. The leader's supporters never strayed far from the Watcher's hut, trusting her to protect them. The skinny man's followers stayed towards the plains, fearing the forest. The guards stayed firmly on the skinny man's side. The Watcher strolled freely around the entire village, as if making a point. She could go wherever she wanted. No one would oppose her.
Several times, the children of each side would start 'wars' with each other, throwing rocks and punching and spitting until the Watcher or their mothers would come and scream at them to stop. One boy from the leader's side ended up with a broken nose. He had been the former commander of that particular gang of boys, and was close to fifteen. The blonde eleven year old took his place, leading the gang to victory after victory. He was cunning and vicious in his defense of his own side. When the leader saw him, he couldn't be a bit proud, and sometimes the Watcher would choose to watch from the sidelines rather than break up the fights.
The mother was delighted in her garden. The plants were now green and beginning to grow their fruits. She watered and weeded them carefully, caring for them as only a mother would know how. She seemed unaware of the schism in the village. She sang to herself as she worked in the garden.
Normally, the Murkrow watched over her all day, singing along with her sometimes. However, one day, the Watcher left the village overnight to meditate in the forest. She took the Murkrow with her, as it helped her to connect to the spirit world.
She walked into the forest without a trace of fear in her. She began to follow the path farther than she had in years, into the very heart of the forest. It took her many, many hours, but eventually she found a small side road, which lead off into the brambles and bushes. She took it. Finally, she arrived at her destination: the shrine she had visited when she became a Watcher. It was said that the shrine belonged to the protector of the forest. The Watcher agreed. Everything around the shrine felt... special, protected even. Her heart beat slowed and she felt perfectly calm. She found a clear patch of grass under a willow tree and sat down. The Murkrow flew up into the branches. She closed her eyes and waited.
They found the eighth in the Watcher's garden. Unlike the others, her eyes were closed, and instead of her lips being parted, they were stuck in a small smile. The leader found her when he went to get his poppy seed tea. He paused for a moment, unsure of what to do, before opening one of her eyes. It was the same as the rest he'd seen, completely colorless. Another soul had been taken. When the rest of the village heard, they gathered round the Watcher's house. Now, they were more frightened than ever. To think, something so evil would go near the home of the most powerful protector they had... They shuddered at the thought. When the skinny man arrived, he was nothing short of triumphant.
"Do you see?" he said, "Even the witch woman can't protect us. Her power is gone. If you want to live, come with us. No one's died on our side." He smirked and walked away, turning his back on the leader. One by one, his followers drifted away from the crowd and followed him. Only about ten people stayed with the leader. They looked at him with big eyes.
"I will protect you," he told them, but his voice shook.
They burned the body where it laid, and the garden burned with it.
Deep in the forest, the Watcher was shaking uncontrollably. Sweat ran down her face and tears of pain streamed from her closed eyes. She was communicating with the spirits. When she awoke, her eyes flashed colors, from no color at all, to violet, back to their normal green. She sighed loudly. Curled in her lap, was a black and white Pokemon. It looked at her knowingly.
"Ab?" it asked, its voice soft. Up close, the Watcher could see the scars and missing patches of fur all over its body. Her eyes grew wet with tears. She knew now, what this Pokemon was giving up for them. For her. She stroked its head softly.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
The Murkrow cawed.
The Watcher poured the leader a cup of tea. "I saw the black and white Pokemon."
"How was it?" the leader asked.
"It was... it's good. You know, I wasn't sure. I believed you but I didn't know for sure until I saw it. It's fighting for us. We have to protect it."
They sat in silence. Outside it was sprinkling. The garden was now a muddy pit. The sky was grey with light rain clouds. Everyone was inside. Over the past month, the wars between the children had continued. The leader's side won less and less, but the blonde boy made sure that the battle never ended before the other side had at least a few bruises and scrapes. Afterwards, he would always visit the Watcher for a biscuit or a cup of tea, and perhaps to talk to the leader if he was there. He was a source of comfort for both of them. He walked around the leader's side of the village, talking to the women and men at their market stalls.
When the ninth body was found, no one could believe it. That day was rainy as well, but it was a light rain. The children had been playing in the streets, wrestling in the mud. One of his friends found him. The blonde boy's hair had faded to a much drabber color, and his eyes were completely devoid of the life that had once dwelt there. His hands were still curled into fists, and there were burns all over them. Before any adults arrived, the children of both sides gathered around him, staring, morbidly curious. They reached forward and touched him, gentle at first. Then a red haired boy from the skinny man's side threw a rock. It hit the blonde boy in the face. The children stared at him. Then, one by one, the boys from the skinny man's side began to throw pebbles and kick the body. The leader's side erupted in fury, beating and trampling the other boys. Several fell to the ground. A few ended up with broken noses. One boy had his arm snapped when a much larger one stepped on it. The Watcher heard the chaos and came running.
"WHAT IN THE WORLD-" she started, holding a rake threateningly, but when she saw what they were fighting over, she dropped it, her hand limp. Her mouth became a thin line. "Away," she hissed. "ALL OF YOU AWAY, NOW!"
The children all ran as fast as their legs could carry them. Those who had been inured limped away, and instead of offering them tea, she merely swatted at them until they were gone. Then she approached the body. His face and arms were now marred with scratches and cuts from the stones. Now that he was still, the Watcher could clearly see the scars he'd gotten fighting the skinny man's boys. Her mind flashed back to the black and white Pokemon she'd found in the forest. He'd gotten those scars trying to protect them.
When the leader came and saw the body, a lump formed in his throat. He could not speak. No other adults came to see the body. They burned it together alone, the light rain keeping it small and smoldering. The world seemed too quiet. In the forest, something howled.
Without the blonde boy to lead them, the village leader's boys were routinely beaten. They never stopped fighting. All of the warmth of summer fled and was replaced by icy winds and more rain. It grew cold. More and more villagers either moved to the skinny man's side of the village or left entirely, taking off across the vast plains. There was no safety here any longer. Those who stayed believed that they would be safe as long as the skinny man and the Watcher were around. No one paid attention to the leader any longer.
The mothers kept their children inside. They could not go out any longer. The muddy streets instead belonged to the guards' Growlithe, who wrestled and fought over what few scraps of food were left. People starved. The farmers and merchants would no longer go out to work. The rain and the fear kept them inside. Only a few members of the skinny man's followers dared to go out anymore. The Watcher sat outside her porch and watched the endless rain. She thought about the boy. She thought about the mother. She thought about the leader and his wife, who she had married when they were still young. The Murkrow glared at the villagers who walked by darkly.
No one was surprised when the tenth was found. The Watcher found him by the side of the road, his skin and eyes an awful, dead blue. She remembered him too. She had married him to a young girl not long before. She remembered all of them. The first boy, the wife, the farmer, the merchant, the young girl, both of the skinny man's followers, the mother, the blonde boy she had begun to think of as hers... She could sense the others who would be dead soon. She would remember them as well. She did not tell anyone of the body. She simply waited for the rain to stop and then burned it. The smoke against the gloomy sky told them all that they needed to know.
That night she brought poppy seed tea to the widow. Luckily, she was childless. She could start over. The Watcher returned to her hut that night to find the leader laying on the floor, his face in the dirt. He did not ask her about the dead man. She did not offer to tell him. She made him a cup of tea. The Murkrow hung its head.
The village was dying.
In November the snows came. Pale white, cold, its very form reminded the villagers of death. The death that had already taken from them, and the death that still had yet to come. Only a few villagers stayed near the Watcher's hut. She rarely brought them tea and comfort anymore. The leader was seldom seen.
On the last day of the month, when the sun was pale in the sky, the skinny man called a meeting in the center of the town. For the first time in almost a year, the entire village came forth from their huts. The young and the old, the men and women, the believers and the sceptics gathered to see if they could expect salvation.
"Listen closely," the skinny men called to all of them. "We have known for months that there is a Pokemon killing us off, one by one. Our so called leader would have us do nothing. Do you wish to do nothing as your sons and daughters and wives and husbands are killed?"
"No!" the crowd roared back.
"No!" he agreed. "So tonight, I call on all the men able to, to go on a hunt. The Pokemon has black and white fur, and has paws like a Glameow's. It is something unique around these parts. It will stand out against the snow. If we can catch it, the killing will stop. This ends tonight!"
The crowd cheered, enthusiastic, hungry for a taste of blood. The men and boys stepped forward eagerly. The skinny man paid no attention to age, he gave each and every boy a weapon. A knife, a rake, a scythe, it mattered little. As long as it was sharp, it was fine.
The Watcher returned to her hut, a bitter taste in her mouth. The leader was asleep in the cot where the mother used to sleep. The Watcher sat in front of the stove and began to pray. "Oh, Hecate, spare your creature. Do not worry any longer for your people. They have betrayed you. Just spare the creature." She sat there begging for a long time.
When the sun dipped below the trees and the sky turned dark, the men and boys lit torches and ventured into the forest. The Watcher called together the few women on the leader's side left. They formed a circle outside her hut. The Watcher gave them words and they sang. They sang for the dead, for those who death would come to soon, and for the creature in the forest that had used its strength to help them. However, one woman was missing, and it was not long before someone noticed.
"Where is Eira?" they asked. They called her name. The Watcher already knew deep in her heart.
They found the eleventh behind her house. She had been trying to sweep snow away from the walls, so that the water would not seep under. She looked like the others. Dead eyes, dead skin, dead heart. She was gone and they were not. The women howled and cried, but the Watcher just stood. Something worse was happening. She could feel it.
That was when the men returned. Before they saw the lights of the torches, they heard the wild, screams. Screams a human could not make. The Watcher ran out from behind the house, leaving the women to burn their companion. She hid in the shadows, knowing that this was something she would not be permitted to see. The men came up the path to the village as they had left. Each held torches and weapons. Except for four. Those four men each held a plank of wood. A black and white Pokemon was stretched across the planks, unable to move. It cried loudly. The skinny man led them to the center of the village. They were all shouting loudly, singing praises to the gods and praises to their new leader, the skinny man. When they passed by her, the Watcher could see why the Pokemon could not escape: it's arms and legs had been nailed to the planks of wood. It's pretty white fur was stained with blood. She felt bile rising in her stomach and held it back. She whispered prayers under her breath and followed the men to the center of town.
Once they reached their destination, the skinny man barked a harsh command and several men ran behind a group of houses. They returned carrying a huge rock between them, which they set down before the skinny man. Then, almost reverently, the four men laid their planks of wood onto the rock. The black and white Pokemon lay belly up, unable to protect itself.
"Ab- Absol," it moaned.
The Watcher herself felt like moaning, but instead held her tongue, crying prayers out in her head. Save this creature, Hecate, save this creature, save this creature...
The skinny man looked down at the Pokemon, the Absol, and grinned, his teeth as sharp as fangs in the firelight. "Shave the fur," he commanded.
A man stepped forward with a pair of shears and began to cut every scrap of hair from the creature's body. As if in defiance, it stopped crying out, and instead glared hostilely at the men around it. It bared its teeth. The men crowded around it so closely that for a moment it was lost from the Watcher's view. When they backed up, she winced. The Absol's beautiful fur had been completely cut away, leaving it small and weak looking. Its legs and arms twitched, causing more blood to gush from its wounds. It refused to acknowledge its own pain.
"Bring me the knife," the skinny man commanded.
One of the boys, one who could be no more than eight or nine, went into the skinny man's house and brought him a long, thin, curved knife. The skinny man ran it across his thumb experimentally. One scarlet drop of blood fell onto the ground, staining another piece of fur. Once again, the Absol disappeared from view. It shrieked and there was silence. Not even the men made any noise.
The Watcher stole away into the night.
As soon as she was safely away from the men, she began to run, to run and run and run, wishing she could never stop. When she arrived at her hut, her heart stirred, and she knew the horrors of the night were not yet over. She stepped inside.
The village leader was hanging from the ceiling, his lips blue, his neck encased in a noose.
In the dark, the men cheered, the women wept, the Murkrow cawed. The Watcher screamed.
The night that the Absol was captured, the Watcher left the village. Those few who had still followed the village leader left for the plains. On the first of December, everything was peaceful. Children played in the street, farmers tended their fields, merchants sold their wares. There was a new, fresh layer of snow. There was even a bit of cheer in the air. There was no trace of the Absol, or any monster for that matter. Everyone felt safe.
All day long, everyone played and celebrated. Many brought gifts to the skinny man. Several young women even thanked him in particular. He grinned at each of them and welcomed them in turn.
When night fell, the village went to sleep. Even thought the monster was dead, they still retained a slight fear of the dark. That was no matter. It would disappear in time.
A cold breeze blew across the plains, through the village, and into the forest. The tree branches rustled against each other. They sounded almost as if they were whispering. Something was stirring.
When the moon reached its zenith, they came. There were hundreds of them, each with their own tiny flame. They looked like stars fallen to earth, creeping across the land towards the village. You might have called them cute. Even beautiful. The villagers who woke and looked out their windows did, at least. Then the screaming started. When he heard the voices of his people, the skinny man knew what had happened. He tried to climb out of his window, to run to the plains, to escape. He was cornered by three of them with the long, dry grass only a few feet away from him. In the end, he became blue. Cold. Dead.
The creatures returned to the forest.
When the sun rose, no one stirred. No one was around any more, for that matter. The village was empty, its only inhabitants a hundred empty bodies. Not a single soul remained.