We huddled in the darkness, Eva curled up against me, her little body shivering with silent sobs. Outside, thumps and thuds. A low rumble, and the earth beneath us shuddered as though it were awakening from slumber. Eva squeaked, muffling the sound with her hand. Litwick’s flame flared then died down to a tiny glowing pinprick.
After an eternity, silence. Eva wriggled out of my arms. She held out both hands, palms up, and Litwick jumped into them. “Litwick,” she whispered. “You know what to do. Thank you.”
The tiny candle nodded, saluted her with equally tiny arms, and jumped up onto a narrow ledge, before disappearing into a tunnel. Darkness enshrouded us.
“We’ve got a few hours now, before Papa will come after us,” Eva explained. She didn’t elaborate, and I dared not ask – but how was one tiny candle Pokemon going to stop a god?
Eva’s hand brushed my arm, found my hand, and tugged me to my feet. I was beginning to feel better. The heavy tiredness that had encapsulated me appeared to be lifting. A rustling, and something was pressed into my arms.
“Put this on.”
It was a backpack, packed full, and fairly heavy. “You’re prepared,” I remarked.
Eva’s laugh was gentle and sweet. “Yes,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for you to wake up for a very long time. So that we could escape together and I could begin my Pokemon journey. Are you strong enough to walk?” The kindness in her voice made my heart ache.
“I think so. Where are we going?”
“Outside,” Eva replied. “We’re leaving the island.”
Together, we stepped off into the darkness. An awkward kind of shuffle on my part, for the ground was littered with pebbles, and narrow rock ridges that threatened to trip me. Eva stepped through it all with the careful precision of someone well used to the route. At several points we were forced to crawl up steep slopes, and squeeze through narrow tunnels, and I can tell you that now, that was terrifying. I was a lot larger than Eva, and those walls felt awfully tight. I focused on taking deep breathes and thinking ahead. What would happen once we got outside?
It felt as though we walked, crawled and clambered through the darkness for hours, but in truth it was probably less than 20 minutes. Then, light again, and sound. A sound gentle, soothing, and familiar. Waves.
The world was dim, it must be twilight, or perhaps early morning, but I still found myself blinking furiously. Sand shifted beneath my feet. Sand, and something lighter, flakier, almost like leaves? I breathed deep, inhaling the rich tang of salt air, intermingled with the dry dust of cinders. Looking up, thick grey clouds filled the sky, a thunderstorm looming? Beyond them, a pale glowing circle high in the sky indicated it was midday. Flakes drifted down, gently borne on the warm sea breeze. I caught one on my finger, and it disintegrated into dust with one tap. Not snow.
The air was filled with smoke, and ash fell from the sky. We stood in a barren landscape. Massive boulders had been torn from the cliffs behind us and scattered on the ground like discarded toys. Not only boulders though: buildings too. Timber, bricks, strange twisted pieces of metal, a crushed bicycle, all littered the beach.
Was it even a beach? Was that not a strip of tarseal? Spider-webbed with cracks and pebbled with potholes?
The waves hungrily lapped amongst the detritus, as though greedy to swallow more of the landscape. But it was the silence that felt most profound to me: no screeching of wingull, no distant hum of traffic or burr of insects calling to one another. No birdsong. Nothing but the gentle sussuration of the waves, the muted rustle of the wind, and the quiet clinking as we stepped cautiously across the tiny fragments of shattered glass.
I really wished I’d had more suitable footwear than slippers. Eva, despite being barefoot, and burdened under a backpack of her own, forged ahead. “Ampharos,” she called softly.
“Am-phar!” The response came at once, so close that I almost leapt out of my skin. The electric sheep Pokemon raced out from the metal husk of a SUV and raced to wrap his stubby arms around Eva in an enthusiastic hug. “Am-phar-phar-phar,” he insisted, examining her arms, her face.
“I’m fine,” she laughed. “Not hurt, thanks to you. Do you think you could send the message? Call for help? We haven’t got long. Litwick’s strong, but it won’t take long for Papa to break free from him.”
Ampharos nodded and – still holding Eva with one hand – turned his face to the sky. His eyes narrowed in deep concentration. A red flare of light leapt from the gem, spearing up through the ash clouds as a glowing beacon.
“Who’s he calling?” I wondered.
Eva didn’t answer, just stared out across the waves. I felt as though I were caught up in an adventure that was not my own – but that made sense, I guessed. After all, children were the stars of the Pokemon franchise, we adults were merely there to go act as sidekicks and advisers.
Or occasionally villains.
A low, ominous rumble came from somewhere deep us. It seemed primal, and made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle and my body tense in instinctual anticipation. A moment later, a shiver passed through the earth, followed by a sharp jolt. I dropped to my knees as pebbles rained down the cliffs behind us.
“It’s just an earthquake.” Eva didn’t even turn to look at me. “Papa must’ve beaten Litwick. Come here.” She held out one hand to me. I hastened to her side and took it in my own.
The two things happened at once.
Behind us, another rumble, followed by a sharper, more violent jolting that physically threw me to the ground. The rock behind me groaned, and stones – some as large as Eva’s fist – showered down on us, bruising my shoulders, my back. A torrent of flame erupted from the tunnel’s mouth.
And an immense wave rose from the ocean. The force of it bowed us from our feet. Steam rose in a hissing cloud as we were tugged out to sea. An immense monster rose from the depth, opened its glistening maw.
And gulped us up.