There were a lot of problems with the 3DS. Sometimes the lower screen wasn’t as responsive as it could have been, so you had to tap once or twice to select things. With an old 3DS like you had, if you were battling with more than one trainer at a time it would get laggy. As sturdy as your little handheld was, it still had its issues (and it was certainly a trooper for having lasted this many years in your possession, albeit not without some minor damage). This issue, however, was foreign to you. And, judging by its effects, you doubted a call to Nintendo customer service was going to resolve anything. They probably hadn’t ever gotten this complaint before.
Most handheld consoles never eat their users.
Okay, to be fair, it didn’t exactly eat you. You were just sitting on your bed, scarfing down a meal you’d definitely forgotten to eat that day and resetting your save file so you could do your umpteenth playthrough of Pokémon Moon . It wasn’t like you had anything better to do at 4 AM on a Tuesday, anyways. Reset, select language, blah blah blah. Half focusing on the passing police sirens outside, you scooped up a mass of black beans on a lime tortilla chip and tapped “Begin game”.
Your settings have been saved.
The yellow camera icon began to pulse at the top right of the screen, and you continued onward, having almost memorized the opening text.
You have a message from the Alola region’s own &--f=ir3.2 ,,93ie _!
“The fuck?” you muttered to yourself, swallowing down a bite of your dinner (breakfast?). You didn’t even have to know that the text should have said Professor Kukui to know something was up. Should you reset your console? No, that wouldn’t help, it was probably the cartridge that was getting all wonky on you. Maybe it’d fix itself. You clicked forward, watching the text box disappear as the faux video chat window popped open, fully expecting to see the same little cutscene of the camera struggling to focus on Kukui adjusting the camera. But you didn’t. It stayed pitch black.
Han03g on.. , now. Gi1mme jus_6 tt t a sec.
Okay, there was something definitely wrong with the cartridge. There wasn’t even the dramatic, upbeat chanting music playing. You pressed down on the power button, waiting for the game to close. You tried again, pressing harder since the button was so little it was a pain in the ass to use sometimes. Still, it stayed open.
Hey there! Good evening! So th edayhasfin allycom e th at 82nm, 5 fe,, s e veral islands cho oo32,3 rare Pokém0n, yeah_,,!
It was skipping dialogue, running off the screen. You weren’t pressing the buttons, but chat boxes were opening and closing of their own accord, and you noticed that the handheld was getting kind of hot to the touch. Sometimes your phone would do that, but never your 3DS. Eyebrows furrowed, you reached around the back of the console and tried to pop the cartridge out, but it wouldn’t press down. You felt a chill of fear shoot down your spine- wasn’t this how most of those haunted cartridge creepypastas started?
No. That’s silly. You almost felt embarrassed for letting your malfunctioning handheld spook you. But still… it was a little concerning. You were distracted from your ponderings as the screen froze and flashed white, empty except for a buffering icon.
For a moment you felt relief; it must be sending a report to Nintendo. You hadn’t ever seen it do that before, but then again you had never seen it get so screwed up before, either. You waited patiently for a good thirty seconds, watching the grey circle spin in place, before a loud mechanical screech boomed from the handheld’s tiny speakers. You jumped and nearly screamed, knocking your plate out of your lap and face-down onto the floor. Oh for- even with the volume all the way up I’ve never heard that little thing make a noise that loud.
You were just a second from getting up to clean the black beans out of your carpet when another much louder noise blared from the 3DS, causing you to bolt straight up and slam your head against your headboard. The hit was so hard your vision went blurry for a minute, and in your haste to get your bearings you felt your foot hit your device, sending it and the loud, almost dial-up like noise crashing to the floor.
“Holy shit,” you mumbled, rolling off your bed and gripping the duvet for stability. Was it just you or was everything shaking?
As the rumbling grew louder and louder, you began to doubt that a mild concussion was the reason you felt like the ground was shaking beneath you. Still disoriented, you whipped your head around and assessed the room- your pencils were rattling in the tin on your desk, the chains of your fan clinked against the lights as they swung back and forth, the blinds on your window were beginning to sway. An earthquake? Right now? This had to be a coincidence, this couldn’t be connected. Right?
It was growing harder to believe as the modem noises grew louder and louder. You flinched as your lamp tumbled to the floor, and stumbled over to the doorway, flinging your door open to stand in the threshold. That’s what you were supposed to do during an earthquake- or, well, that’s probably what you were supposed to do. You gripped the doorframe tighter as you heard pots and pans tumbling to the floor, echoing through the hallways. Somewhere outside somebody was yelling, and there was a veritable orchestra of car alarms and dog barks seeping in through your windows. You turned back to look into your room, seeing the lights flicker and feeling the blood drain out of your face.
And then it stopped.
All of a sudden, the shaking stopped. The ground was still. There was no rumbling, and even your malfunctioning handheld was silent. Somewhat faintly, you could hear people’s front doors opening as people began to mill out into the street, filling the air with panicked murmurs. One by one the car alarms shut off, the panicked cries of children and pets were soothed to mere whimpers, and you shuffled back into your room. Collapsing against the side of your bed, you slid down it, pulling your knees to your chest. Swallowing hard, your eyes flicked to the 3DS lying deathly silent beside you. Logically, you knew it had nothing to do with what just happened. It couldn’t have caused an earthquake. But… something in your gut told you otherwise.
Partly to prove yourself wrong and partly to soothe yourself, you picked the device up, holding it up and observing the little gray smiley face that occupied the top screen. You tapped A, and nearly jumped when a calm, mechanical voice chirped at you.
“Connection established! Have a nice trip!”
“What the f-”
That was the last syllable you got out before a blinding flash of pure light shot out of the screen, sucking you in, leaving nobody in the room to clean up your carpet.
You didn’t register feeling or seeing anything at all until a split second later you were flying in the air, eyes wide open but moving too quickly to comprehend what you were seeing. You felt your back slam into what you assumed was a wall, face-planted into the corner of something soft, and came to a stop as your body landed on the floor in fetal position. Groaning, you squeezed your eyes shut, trying to make sense of the shadows over your eyelids and the voices shouting nearby, making your head spin.
You reached back and rubbed the sore spot on your head, pushing yourself up onto your forearms and feeling your head do a 360 spin on your shoulders. The voices weren’t going away, and they were arguing. Are auditory hallucinations a symptom of a concussion? Or am I dead and those are angels? Can angels argue? That doesn’t seem very godly.
Eyes still closed, you let your hand lift from the ground to lightly pat the back of your shorts, looking for your phone with the intent to google “concussion symptoms”. A solid thirty seconds of buffering passed before you realized you weren’t wearing any shorts. Beginning the ever-so-familiar routine of blindly patting the floor around you, your eyes slipped halfway open, sweeping around the area lazily. You were wedged between a wall and what looked like a bed with a green duvet on it. The bed was crooked enough that there was a large gap between it and the wall, allowing you to sit inside. That was weird, you didn’t remember redecorating. Oh, of course, this wasn’t your room. Huh.
Your eyes flew wide open, and you bolted up (and immediately regretted it as you nearly collapsed to the floor again from the sheer dizziness). Ratty pink carpet, ancient red rug with gold trim, old-fashioned pink wallpaper peeling up from the crown molding. No, you didn’t live here. Thank God, because it smelled like weed and axe body spray. On that note, nobody you knew had a room like this in their house, either. Where were you? Using the bed for stability, you pulled yourself up and looked around the room.
It was poorly lit, littered with bottles and cans of every shape and size and damaged looking rich people decor. The walls were marked with busted drywall, peeling paper and stains of indeterminate origin, and the closet had a straight up hole punched through it. Is this what a crack den looks like? There was a huge red chest overflowing with tiny green crystals, sitting next to what appeared to be two overturned armoires that acted as a makeshift platform for a heavily beaten up purple armchair, two small tables, and a laptop. The window behind the chair- wait, that wasn’t a window. Correction: the large painting behind the chair was so covered in neon graffiti you could barely even tell what it was. You squinted, trying to remember why it looked so familiar when your mouth went completely dry. This whole room looked pretty familiar now that you thought about it, although a little shittier than you remember, but the large magenta symbol painted messily across the wall was the cherry on top. You had to be dreaming. Of course you were dreaming.
“You are such a useless moron, Guz- who are you?” A calculating, PTA mom-type voice addressed you. You didn’t want to look.
“Yo, who the fuck’re you?” You would have continued staring slack-jawed at what you knew had to be the throne, too scared to look at a voice that you’d never heard but knew so well, but you felt yourself turn and look. It was them. It was them.
She looked just as cold and sterile as you expected. Like she didn’t belong in a room like this. Oddly enough, that impossible-to-replicate anime hair looked almost exactly the same as it did in the game. It didn’t look weird or unnatural, either, just a little styled. The bad vibes you got playing on your 3DS were multiplying tenfold as she scowled at you, eyes looking a little too wild and hands a little too shaky to be entirely stable. Not particularly enjoying the sickening green glare, you looked a little to the left and saw him.
He looked a little more tired than he did in the games- although, to be fair, playing something on a small screen was entirely different from standing six feet away from them. He was half-dressed- nice - with hair that needed both a brushing and a root touch up. He did look tired, but the bags under his eyes weren’t all that bad, it just looked more like he had suddenly been woken up, which would make sense given the no-shirt, saggy sweatpants look he had going on. So that meant he must actually wear eyeshadow under his eyes to make him look more tired. I guess those fics were right then. Dork.
“You listenin’? The hell did you come from?” he demanded, reaching behind his back to whip out a-
“Fuck, dude, chill!” You couldn’t stop the words from leaving your mouth as you stare down the barrel of a glock. Why would Guzma be pointing a gun at you? Well, it wasn’t like you didn’t joke about him having a gun all the time, but you didn’t actually expect it to manifest in your dreams. You shut your eyes, trying to reset, before opening them again. Nope, still at gunpoint. If this was a lucid dream you obviously had no say in how it was going to go down.
“How did you get- wait, wait…” Lusamine trailed off, slimming her eyes and studying you very carefully. You felt your blood run absolutely cold when she quietly murmured a name you would never expect her to know. How could she know your name?
“You came to the Aether Foundation yesterday- the creature from the other world pulled you into the wormhole,” she said, face lighting up in a way that would be endearing if she didn’t look absolutely feral. “Did you see the beasts? What was the Ultra Space like? Tell me- Guzma, put your damn toy away- tell me what you saw there!”
Reluctantly, Guzma shifted his gaze from the president to you, back to the president, and carefully tucked his gun back into his pants. His glare made your stomach jump into your throat, but it seemed he was equally as uncomfortable with the extended staredown, as he was the one to break it by huffing loudly and running his hand through his hair. Warily, you lowered your hands, and Lusamine guided her stilettos carefully around the various areas of broken glass and discarded clothes to scurry up to the bed. Excitedly, she began to lean down on the bed to settle her weight over it, but quickly retracted her hands, thinking better of touching the haphazardly pushed back sheets. Instead, she clasped them together, looking at you with a mix of mania and desperation.
“Tell me everything!”
You paused for a moment, mouth like a desert. Came to the Aether Foundation yesterday- no, no I wasn’t… I was in my dimension yesterday! And every day before that! Lusamine’s smile faltered, her displeasure with your silence apparent.
“Tell me you saw the Ultra Space, you’ve been gone for an entire day!” she complained, but you shook your head. You knew what the Ultra Space looked like- at least, in theory you did- and you hadn’t passed through there since you left home.
“Uh, no, if I did I don’t remember it. Listen, I think there’s been a misunderstanding-”
“You didn’t see any of it? At all?” Don’t cut me off, bitch.
“No, I was only in that wormhole for a second, I didn’t stop anywhere. Listen to me, I wasn’t at the Aether-”
“The lab did say that time might pass differently in the wormholes. If it was that little time, the time difference must be immense… that information may prove useful,” she pondered aloud, interrupting you yet again. Was she really this blatant of an asshole or was she just oblivious?
“... Are you sure that I was at Aether Paradise yesterday? Like, one hundred percent sure that was me?”
Lusamine gave you an odd look, then smiled. It was a chilling grin, shark-toothed and carnivorous.
“I’m sure that the trip must have been disorienting. You look rather… pale, dear. Maybe you should sit down- or, uh, maybe you shouldn’t.” Lusamine looked dubiously at the messy bedsheets.
“Ay, that’s clean!” Guzma protested, a little pink in the face. Taking his word for it (after all, you were feeling a little faint), you got on top of the absolutely enormous bed and crawled across to the other side, tucking your hands in your lap and keeping a safe distance from Lusamine.
“Oh! I had Faba bring your items that got left behind when you were sucked into the wormhole. Guzma, go get them from him,” she commanded sternly, and while Guzma nodded obediently, the second she turned her back he made a face of disgust and trudged out the door. At least he felt the same way about Faba as you did.
“H-how did you know I was going to show up here?” you asked suspiciously, and Lusamine cheerily waved her hands.
“Oh, it’s a mother’s intuition! Well, I don’t have any children, but I am rather motherly,” she chuckled to herself, and a chill ran down your spine. No children? Yeah right, you psychopath. “I’ve had Faba carry your things around with him for safekeeping. You’re lucky you appeared back here, how terrible would it have been to have gotten stranded in another dimension!”
“Uh, yeah, that sounds really scary,” you agreed, unnerved by her villainous giggle, wondering how the hell you were planning on making it out of here.
“Hm,” Lusamine fell quiet, contemplatively crossing her arms. “If you only saw a tiny bit of the wormhole, I don’t see much of a point in taking you back to Aether Paradise for any testing. You’d have to change first, anyway. It looks like some things went missing on your way here.”
“What- oh.” You pulled your worn t-shirt a little farther down, feeling your face heat up. Who wears pants in their own house? It wasn’t like you had expected to be sucked into a video game! Speaking of, you should probably tell her you weren’t from this dimension at all. If she’d quit interrupting you. “I think I should clear some things up-”
“I have your bag,” Guzma announced, cutting you off by slamming the door open and tossing you a plain black messenger bag. You jumped at his loud intrusion, and scrambled to hold the bag on your lap.
“Be gentle! Can’t you see how shaken up she is?” Lusamine scolded, and Guzma muttered an almost comically childish apology.
You looked at the bag- a little heavy, but light enough to carry around practically. Ignoring Lusamine’s rambling about the Ultra Space, you opened it and peered inside. Holy shit, real pokéballs! At the bottom of the bag, past a change of clothes, were five pokéballs rolling around, cushioned by a folded shirt. And there was a pair of shorts! Before you could get the chance to pull them on, though, you noticed something hanging off the side. Wait. No way. No goddamn way.
It was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, made of wood, leather, and painted wooden beads. An unmistakable symbol of Pokémon lore. An icon of Alolan culture.
An island challenge amulet.
“Why did I come to Aether Paradise yesterday?” you asked quietly, interrupting Lusamine’s near rant.
“Faba asked you, of course. You and that sweet Hau boy came to our Paradise to tour the facilities when that wormhole opened and a beast came out and took you back with it. I spoke with Kahuna Hala today, it seems that everyone will be overjoyed at your return. Professor Kukui and Hau have been worried sick about you, he says. Apparently the poor boy hasn’t left his room since he came home! What a poor thing…” she tutted, shaking her head and holding a hand over her heart. You would have scoffed at the display of uncharacteristic empathy if you weren’t so absolutely paralyzed.
You had an island challenge amulet. You went to Aether Paradise with Hau when a wormhole opened. Why did that sound so familiar… oh, no.
They think you’re the player character, you dumbass!
Lusamine must just be confused! She’s totally insane, anyway, and if you thought about it at this point in the game you hadn’t met Guzma yet, so he wouldn’t know better. But weren’t you much too old to be on the island challenge? You were hardly eleven. Yeah, none of this made sense- you were right to think it was a dream. How were you supposed to wake up?
Somewhat dazed, you slung the bag over your shoulder and stood up. What were the signs you were dreaming? Check that your feet are on the ground? Or, wait, maybe it was look in a mirror. Or it was look at a clock…
“Are you quite alright? You should sit down, dear, you look rather ill,” Lusamine fretted, sounding almost genuine. Almost. “Is there something wrong?”
You looked between Guzma’s apathetic glare and Lusamine’s concerned one, and immediately felt sick. Quick, say something, say anything!
“Lu- uh, Miss Lusamine, why are you at the Shady House?”
Shit, wait, don’t say that!
All the color drained from Lusamine’s already pale face, eyes looking particularly striking as they blew wide open and her mouth hung ajar. The corner of Guzma’s mouth ticked up in a nervous smile. Their eyes met for a split second, silently sharing a familiar message: we done fucked up.
“Well, uh, y’know, Madam Prez was just-”
“Guzma, you moron, don’t call me that! Er, what he meant was that I was just, um-”
You began to back up slowly, inching towards the open door as the two frantically attempted to explain themselves. Was this really the menace that you had imagined while playing through the games? Some crazy rich lady and a sweaty guy with a gun?
“Never mind, I’m gonna go, actually, uh, thanks for the stuff!” you called, turning heel and bolting out the door, slamming it behind you. You had no time to breathe as the moment you turned around, a familiar nasty lima bean man was eyeing you curiously.
“Why, hello again- where are your pants?”
He fell back with a shocked huff as you shot past him, pushing aside various grunts and making fast for the giant hole in the wall. You heard Lusamine’s voice screech as a door flew open behind you. You had almost made it when a team of grunts stepped in front of you, causing you to skid to a halt. You looked to your right and saw the wall of trash that had prevented you from just walking to Guzma’s room normally in-game. You could hear Lusamine’s frantic squawking growing closer.
Thinking quickly, you launched yourself up onto the wall of garbage, ignoring the grunts’ shouts of surprise and displeasure, and scrambled over. You slipped on an empty spray paint can at the top, tumbling down to the floor (on the opposite side, thankfully). How much head trauma were you going to be subjected to, today? You had no time to ponder it as a deep, gravelly voice barked an order from beyond the wall.
“You useless grunts, go get her!”
Within a second you were up on your feet again, stumbling and sprinting as fast as you could. Before you could make it past the hall, another team of grunts appeared, sending you running in the only other direction you could: out on the balcony. It was only when you stepped foot into the pouring rain that you realized you’d let yourself get cornered again. For real this time.
“Be nice ‘n quit runnin’, pal, y’ain’t making this easy,” a grunt behind you growled, and you spun around and felt the railing hit your back, swallowing hard as grunts approached you from either end of the balcony. You jumped as the grunts to your right raucously ordered the others to make way for “the Boss and Madam Prez”.
The rain felt a couple degrees colder as you heard the planks leading to Guzma’s room creak, two sets of footsteps growing closer. One was precise and unhurried, the other loud and angry. Lusamine approached, holding a white umbrella that you’d never seen before, but then again you couldn’t really imagine her standing in the rain either, even if Lillie told you she’d done it. Guzma glowered behind her, seeming even bigger than he had been before, and you froze as he reached behind him. To you relief, Lusamine shook her head, and he dropped his hand.
“Nobody’ll know if she’s dead, Madam Prez, nobody even knows she’s back in our dimension. She’s seen too much,” he argued, and you felt your blood run cold as she seemingly considered it.
“That’s true,” she admitted. “But killing her here is a bad idea. I’ll do it after we take her back to Aether Paradise for testing.”
“Testing…?” You had no desire to find out what kind of twisted experiment she had in mind. Quickly, you looked around, assessing your situation. Legions of grunts to your left, to your right, and in front of you. Back to the railing. There was only one way out, but as you looked behind you down at the ground so very far below you, your only chance at escape wasn’t looking so good.
“Guzma, subdue her.” Lusamine ordered, all shred of previous empathy dissolved into thin air, and you felt your stomach jump into your throat as the boss grew closer.
Honestly, you’d had a little crush on Guzma since you finished your first playthrough. He was so endearing, and definitely a fan favorite, so how could you not? Who can resist a tall, strong, bad boy with a heart of gold? Even now, as he hovered above you, looking less like a person and more like a giant, you couldn’t help but flush. Maybe it was the adrenaline, but something about the way he was looking at you with wet hair hanging in his focused, steely dark gray eyes was… kinda hot. Especially considering his state of partial undress- man, those sweatpants were hanging low low.
“Take a picture, it’ll last longer,” he growled, smirk sending shivers down your spine. Whoops, you were staring. Not like you could look at anything else, though. “Come on, doll, you’re comin’ with me.”
You flinched as he grabbed your arm, and instinctively tried to pull away, only to realize he was a lot stronger than you. He looked lowkey kinda jacked, and apparently it wasn’t just for show.
“Hey Guzma?” He blinked, smirk falling. Maybe he wasn’t used to being addressed by soon-to-be lab rats.
“I’m really sorry about this.”
“What’re you- fuck!” It was finally your turn to cut him off, kneeing him in the balls as hard as you could, leaving him coughing and spluttering backwards. You heard your audience of grunts cringe, even hearing a few hisses and a yikes , but it had the intended effect, and you were freed from Guzma’s hold. He fell to his knees, gasping for air and cradling his junk.
“Why do I have to do everything myself!” Lusamine declared, marching up to you, face an unsightly red. You didn’t hesitate, knocking her block off the second she was within punching range. You probably wouldn’t have landed the hit had she been expecting it, and the pure bewilderment on her face melted into rage. I don’t have much time. Now or never.
Trying not to shake, you hopped up on the railing, dodging Guzma’s halfhearted swipes at your legs and standing up on unstable legs.
“There’s no way out, just give up!” Lusamine crowed, swiping away the grunts that attempted to help her to her feet. Guzma glared at you, and you nervously smiled. Hey, I said I was sorry.
“Time to find out if I’m dreaming,” you announced, trying your best to stay jovial so you wouldn’t chicken out. Guzma’s brow creased, confusion washing over him, before his eyes flew open and he sputtered. He seemed genuinely scared. It was almost enough to make you get down.
But, before you could change your mind, you squeezed your eyes closed, said a Hail Mary, and jumped.