Chapter 20: Shupster
Before my eyes was a dark, obscure space, occupied mostly by a thick, cloudy vision which seemed to be bent on preventing me from seeing beyond. In my blindness I took the time to wonder where I had last seen these clouds before, but I couldn’t think clearly for some reason – meaningful thoughts wouldn’t process and my senses were still partially numb. As consciousness began to collect in my head, I continued to try to make sense of my surroundings and attempt to look past the fog but soon realized that the only way to find out where, what, and why this was, was to begin moving on… I did so, hoisting myself up tentatively. It wasn’t the cave; it was something further back…
Now enshrouded in the fog, I floated cautiously, feeling strangely weighted and resisted as if I were moving through water. The image of the trainers and the Pokemon burst like strained blood vessels into my mind, and the effort of strenuously prying it out of my mind must have caused some actual vessels to burst as well… A searing pain in my head stopped my panicking thoughts as all this not knowing had been building up a dreaded apprehension. “Cassidy? Butch?” I called, my first words up till now here. “You guys out here? Are you anywhere?”
Heart pounding, I realized I was emerging from the hazy clouds into a dull yellow light that came from far back. Breaking into the light, my surroundings plunged into a sudden clarity – in a split second, everything became horrifyingly familiar. No strangeness, no confusion, no cloudiness – clear as day. This terrifying notion had barely time to register itself in my wildly panicking brain before an all-too-acquainted voice punctured the silence and my suspicions:
“Welcome back, Shupster.”
Ringing pierced my ears and an invisible hand clasped my air tract. I choked and tried to speak, in futility – the fear that had seized me acted as an unforgiving cage to all my anger and emotion, censoring them out in stifled gulps.
The smooth, fluid drawl continued after a light chuckle. “It’s been a long time since we last met, eh?” I faintly heard sound of a swivel chair’s wheels and then, I was seeing him. Him in all my dreams, visions and radical emotions. The cave and the memories. Why?
“Why not?” smiled Proz, his amber-like eye gleaming with amusement.
I gasped and bit my lip. I hadn’t realized I had said it out loud.
“You didn’t,” said Proz.
Oh, yeah. I remembered…
“I knew you would.” His eye gleamed some more. “Okay, I’ll stop that.” He chuckled again, the short, silky sound reverberating in the stone-walled laboratory.
The imaginary piece of desiccate cheesecloth which up until now I had felt gagging my mouth was released, and I choked out, through my incessant shivering and the fear that seemed to fasten me in its grip, my first word since I had entered: “You…”
“And good evening to you too,” replied Proz.
I struggled to control my emotions – anger and fear all mishmashed in a strange unreal compound. “You did that?” I whispered weakly. “You…?”
Proz’s smile widened. “Yes. I did that. Not without regret, of course. I am, after all, human.” He winked his despicable amber eye. At this, something inside me cracked, I lost control, and the words burst out of my liberated mouth through the fear and hatred as I fumed:
“Human? Killing is HUMAN? YOU THINK THAT’S HUMAN? You think what you do – what you DID – you think any of it’s justified to be righteous in human existence? There must be something WRONG with you.” Something inside forbade me to stop myself, as much as I feared him. “You have a SICK, TWISTED mind if you think what you’re doing is human. PROZ.” I spat out the name bitterly.
Proz looked apparently unperturbed, even slightly entertained, by my rant. I glared at him heatedly. In a split second, his face was inches to mine. “Gained bit of a temper over the past few weeks, haven’t you?” he said quietly. I stared down into his eye, the wild fear seizing me once more.
“My reasons for what I did were justified, Shupster. They wouldn’t comply, you see. Death was their selection.” He gently pushed himself away from me in the rolling chair. With a click of his fingers, a dull orangeish glow, one not unlike the freakish hue of his left eye, lit up the laboratory. Tubes crisscrossed the ceilings into a grotesque contraption at the back of the room. Stacks of paper reclined on the crudely cut stone desks. I spotted an unfamiliar structure at the far left – it appeared to be a satellite dish of some sort, some kind of weird, distorted information receptor prototype that connected to a giant screen spread across the opposite wall.
“My research to a latest project,” said Proz breezily. “One that would’ve greatly involved your services, Shupster. Your power. A spellbinding, accomplished entwining of the abilities only present in Pokemon and my own. The Electric type plays a part… to say the least.” He laughed softly and pushed off in his chair towards me again. “A high-caliber experiment of the advanced technology that is Pokemon – justified enough?”
My words broke free. “Over the past few weeks, I’ve traveled with two humans whose actions are more justified than you ever will be in your pathetic, murderous life.”
At this, I thought I detected a spark of anger flicker across Proz’s face. It went as quickly as it came, however, and now I could spot no difference in his relaxed, carefree expression. He turned away from me in his chair. “Judging from your last sentence… I assume you’ve enjoyed the time you’ve spent without me?” he said.
“Yes,” I said firmly.
“I see.” He turned to me. “Unfortunately, I myself must say otherwise. I’ve sorely missed your presence ever since you…” he paused for a second, and the final word emerged softly from smiling lips. “Escaped.”
“I prefer to call it emancipating myself from the ****ing torment you put me through,” I muttered.
Both Proz’s eyes were now twinkling in fascination. “Ever so fluent in the English language, dear Pokemon. Maybe even more than back in the day. Though I must comment on the increased vulgarity… the lack of control, perhaps?”
He pushed a strand of his black hair out of his right, regular eye. I suddenly realized I couldn’t breathe. Something was brutally forcing my mouth shut, along with my abilities to speak and respire, and I instantly knew it wasn’t a product of the terror screaming in me again. No….
“You were my prized possession, you see. I’ll bet my life I won’t find as intelligent a Pokemon as you, ever. It’s too bad you don’t realize your own potential, my dear Shupster. Luckily, someone did – that was me, wasn’t it?”
Possession, eh? I thought bitterly through my fear and pain – Proz’s power persisted, and I was suffocating. A dull, all-too-familiar ache had gripped my head in its vice. No…please…
“You could have stayed, Shupster,” said Proz. “We’d go through the best and the worst. You’d be the key to the treasure chest of my plans. You’re powerful, Shupster. Even before me. Immensely powerful. Only needed some fine-tuning.” He chuckled again. “You and I, we’d be the driving force of existence. But…”
Suffocating. I no longer had the strength to keep myself hovering – I hit the floor heavily. A paroxysm of pain, now sharp and real. I couldn’t breathe…
“Perhaps it was my fault I hadn’t assumed you and I did not share the same dream,” Proz was saying, a distant voice in a distant universe. Yet he was right there – a blurry shadow with his hand outstretched, his freak eye burning dementedly, the source of my pain. “My plans go far and long – even before you. I hope you understand how truly regretful I am to have not been able to utilize you to your full potential.”
The laboratory blurred and dimmed – my consciousness was wavering. The unimaginable pain pressed into my mind. Suffocating. Where was my energy? I had no energy. Not even enough to lift my head. Drained. Let me breathe, you sick bastard. Let me breathe.
“You’re not my possession any more, you see. You’re of no use to me. In fact, you’re even a threat to me. You’re powerful…though perhaps not any more, are you?”
I’m dying, screamed a voice in my head. My vitality began to collapse under the weight of the agonizing torture, my life squeezed and seeping out of reach, the thoughts…
“Guess I’ll regret this for the rest of my pathetic, murderous life, eh?”
As laughter rang out in the stone-walled laboratory, I saw black and felt nothing.
Where am I?
I blinked. Proz had gone.
I wasn’t lying on a cold, hard floor, my consciousness sucked out of my very being, suffering, suffocated, murdered. I felt energy coursing through me, enough to lift my head and open my eyes. What met them was a window, and through that a silent, white mist spread out across a deep blue lake in the darkness of 4 AM. Mauville Lake. An alarm clock
I was in the motel. Of course.
Guess that’s enough negative feeling for a whole meal today, I thought bitterly. Then I hovered to the bathroom and was violently sick.