The First Burial
By: Jason Tandro
Author's Note: I have been playing my first ever Nuzlocke Run of Pokemon Red. Due to the harsher rules the world of Pokemon I envision within this fanfiction is decidedly much darker to match. Battles are to the death as per the rules of Nuzlocke but I have also envisioned everything being far more dystopian. This is a downer as the inspiration for this story (and the subject of the story itself) is the very first death I have suffered in the game. In the game I lost a Diglett, Nightman (an Always Sunny reference) and my Raticate, Splinter. However as I feel the poignancy of this piece would be lost with a commemoration of two deaths, I've decided to focus it on Red's loss of the latter (this also mirrors that lovely creepypasta that cut about a few years ago about Blue's Raticate, though unintentionally so.)
Thunder crackled through the sky as Red ran through the outskirts of Celadon City. He knew the patrol would catch up to him sooner or later, he heard the distant barking of police Growlithes closing in on his location. They were going to take Splinter from him. He looked down at the body of the Raticate, a bit runty by comparison to others and with a chipped front fang he'd carried with him since his days as a Rattata. His companion not an hour prior was full of life, battling his heart out with all the energy he'd shown in every battle that had come before.
Now, he was just the husk of rat – a shell. There was no reason why Red shouldn't return Splinter over to the patrols. He knew what would happen to his body – ground up into meal to feed to other Pokemon. Stronger, vitamin rich, all-natural. Candy for the body, but poison for the soul. That wasn't going to be Splinter's fate. He might not be able to protect any other Pokemon, maybe not even any of his own, but he was going to protect his Raticate.
He tossed one of his Pokeballs on the ground and out popped one of his newest captures – a thick-coated Growlithe of his own.
"Burnie, listen to me," Red said patting him on the head. "I need you to do something for me. I need you to distract the patrols long enough for me to do something. Just run around and bark like crazy, but don't get caught yourself okay?"
New though he was, Burnie had the obedience of a well-trained bloodhound and set out to his task, running through the underbrush and beginning to howl. Red released another of his Pokemon, a Pidgeotto.
"Jet. Can you be my eyes in the sky? If you see the patrols getting close let me know."
Jet chirped excitedly and took off into the sky. Despite the rain and thunder, Red knew he could count on him. He just prayed that he didn't get hit by a lightning bolt.
Red marched further into the woods, carrying his friend until he reached a small clearing. There was soft earth near here thanks to some recent tunneling by Digletts but they appeared to have long since moved to better pastures. He no longer heard any howling, either Burnie's or the police dogs. The distant shadow of Jet was looming about just above the tree line. The thunder had stopped, and the rain settled down to a slow drizzle.
He tossed his third Pokeball and his Mankey was released from its confinement. He was loyal enough but foul-tempered. Red just hoped he was in an agreeable mood at the moment – despite being fresh from battle.
"Day, I need you to dig a hole for me," Red said.
The Mankey wound up its claws preparing to dig an escape tunnel but Red stopped him.
"Not all that. I just need... well... I need a grave, Day," Red tried to explain.
It was ludicrous. Nobody buried their Pokemon. Wild Pokemon that were killed were eaten up. Trainer's deceased Pokemon were turned food for other Pokemon. This hadn't been done in over a hundred years, since the creation of the Pokemon Tower in Lavender Town. Sure people still went their to pray for the lost souls of their Pokemon, but no fresh corpses ever entered.
Day dug a hole and with a little patience from Red he got it to roughly the right size and shape. Red set down Splinter into the hole. People always said the same thing about the dead. "They could be sleeping." In this clearing, staring at the body of his companion, nothing was further from the truth. Splinter was dead – his body was battered, bloodied and everything about him that was once good had vanished. In a sudden surge of rage he almost wished he was caught so that the patrols could remove this profane mockery of his fallen friend from his sight.
He took a moment to try and master himself, wiping tears from his eyes. He looked up towards the bushes and saw a small family of Raticates and young Rattatas watching from the distance. And idea formed quickly and he released his fourth – Ekans.
"Sev," Red said. "I need you to go catch me one of the Raticates, understand? Don't eat it for yourself, but kill it and bring it back here."
The snake Pokemon slithered off into the brushes and soon there was a loud scuffle. Red gestured to Day and the Mankey went off to help. Red took this time to finally look at the badge he'd been handed by Erika before he was forced to flee. The Rainbow Badge. His fourth Pokemon League badge. Without Splinter he would never have earned any of them. The brilliant rainbow gems in an octagonal pattern were sullied by a bit of Splinter's blood. He would leave it there - a mark of what that badge had cost him.
He didn't deserve any of them. Any of his badges, or any of his Pokemon. How could he? He wasn't able to protect them. The tears began to flow as Red remembered that it was his own arrogance that had led to Splinter's downfall. Erika's Vileplume spun in a dance of petals and Red was so damned sure Splinter would be able to win the fight.
In a way it had – its final attack bringing Vileplume down to its knees such that its own confusion caused it to misstep and hit itself in the rain of razor sharp leaves. But Splinter feel to them too, both falling on the battlefield in a haze of green. Erika had no reaction to her losses. Clearly, as a gym leader, she had lost so many of her comrades that it no longer registered. Every other gym leader Red had faced had the same stoic expression. Absolute indifference.
Was that what he wanted? Is this who he wanted to become? Did he want to reach adulthood only to become the same as all of them – treating these animals as tools of combat and nothing else?
He released his final Pokemon, and the one he'd begun his journey with, a Charmeleon.
"Stay under the canopy, Spitfire, it's raining," Red said.
The Charmeleon didn't need convincing, keeping the flame on its tail close at hand.
"Spitfire," Red said, pointing towards Splinter's corpse. "Use Flamethrower."
The creature obliged, spitting a beam of fire at the Raticate until nothing remained but ashes. Practically, Red wasn't sure of the difference here. Arguably it meant that Splinter's corpse would be just that – a corpse and never help any other Pokemon again as a food source. But the way Red chose to think of it was that Splinter's legacy would not end like that. He wouldn't be just another dead Pokemon. He would be the first Pokemon in the new age to receive a proper burial.
Day and Sev returned, the latter carrying a Raticate corpse in its mouth. Red had Day close the grave up. He found a smooth, flat rock and laid it atop the small mound, carving a crude S into it. He then shattered the Pokeball in two and placed both halves atop the stone. It wasn't much. It was less than Splinter deserved. But it was the best he could do.
Burnie came charging into the field along with Jet. Red finally heard the sound of the patrols growing ever closer.
"You guys," Red said standing up, wiping his face. "I can't be your trainer any more."
The Pokemon remained in front of Red, not moving, awaiting their return to their Pokeballs.
"I mean it! I don't deserve you guys. I don't want any of you to end up dead for my stupid quest!" Red shouted. "Go! Get out of here!"
Day was the first to move, walking slowly over to where his ball had landed and tapping it with his claw. He was absorbed into the capture device. Sev followed suit, bopping his Pokeball with his nose.
"Guys..." Red sighed.
Burnie licked Red's face before pawing at the Pokeball on his belt. Jet let out a stalwart screech before returning to his as well. Spitfire looked right into Red's eyes, and a moment of solidarity he'd never felt off the battlefield enveloped Red. The unspoken words were clear.
"We're in this together."
Spitfire tapped the ball in Red's hand and returned. Just then, three officers and two Growlithes rushed up into the clearing and surrounded Red.
"What the hell do you think you're doing kid?!" A burly sergeant demanded. "Running from the cops in the middle of this storm."
"Take it easy Sergeant, I bet this was his first time losing one," said a kindly looking woman wearing an officer's pin. She looked him in the eyes. "Wasn't it?"
Red nodded solemnly.
"And no harm done. Looks like the Raticate's body is still here," she said, pointing to the one that Sev and Day had hunted for him. "Kids get very emotional over losing their companions, it's only natural. I think we can let him go with a warning."
The sergeant grumbled and the other officer just shrugged.
"Right then. Let's pack it in. Blitzer, retrieve!" The female officer ordered. Her Growlithe picked up the Raticate in its mouth and began to carry it back to town. She then looked down to Red. "We're not going to arrest you this time, just remember that death is a normal part of life. It'll get easier when you get older, I promise."
She said a million other platitudes which carried no weight for Red and were lost on a sea of words he'd rationalized to himself over the meager years of his existence. The excuses, the lies and the stories he'd based his entire foundation on were now stripped bare and a new world was opened up to him. It was ugly. It was pitiless. But it was far more real than the fantasy he'd been surviving in. How many trainers had he fought up til now. How many people had he made feel this way without a second thought for their feelings.
Was he already a monster? Or was he finally realizing what it meant to be human?
"Do you understand?" The female officer asked.
Red nodded. For the first time in his life, he understood perfectly.