Chapter 0:

From Zero


The sound of the alarm clock was probably one of the things in my life I hated most.

The shrill beeping the electronic timekeeper produced was awful because I couldn't exactly ignore it or push it out of my mind, the same way the cry of a baby was virtually impossible to ignore.

What made it worse was the knowledge that I myself had set that alarm.

I opened my eyes, I felt the two parts of my brain waking up at their own pace. The lazy part told me to call the alarm clock's bluff, ignoring and trying to outlast it.

The right side told me to get up, for there was no point in ignoring my own instructions. Better to just face the music.

I watched the heated debate take place between the two halves, deciding to wait and see which part gave up first. I took small pleasure in the time I allowed myself to keep my eyes closed.

Eventually, the rational part won the argument, and the drowsy laziness faded away.

I hit the alarm, and its torturous song quieted down.

My bed was peaceful. It was a safe haven. I tried to find a reason to leave my bed now that the alarm had been dealt with.

A small amount of sunlight slipped through the heavy curtains, and the muted sounds of life slipped into my bedroom.

My room was a mess. My belongings were all over the place, a constant reminder that I had to clean and organize my belongings, but seeing it all on the floor— abandoned projects, discarded ideas on paper and tools, none of it particularly motivated me to make anything better. In fact, it only reinforced the idea that nothing really mattered.

At least there were no leftovers on the floor. I could stand junk, but the thought of food decaying on my floor made me quiver with disgust.

I slowly got out of bed, feeling more like one of the living dead than a living… well, alive person.

Oh man, it's going to be one of those days again, I realized.

It was still dark in the room, so when I left the bed, I accidentally stepped on something hard. I retracted the foot and found a smooth white plastic brick lying on the ground.

Two red lights blinked in the top corner.

Did I forget to turn it off?

Shaking my head, I shifted my gaze away from the lights and focused my attention back on the object I had stepped on. I picked it up and flipped it open.

The light of two bright LCD screens glared at me.

The bottom screens showed me a frozen menu display while the top screen showed a field of pixelated grass and a tiny boy in the midst of it.

Walls boxed in the small area while the white dots representing snow were, ironically, perpetually frozen on the screen.

I hesitantly tested the buttons, but found them unresponsive. The game had frozen.

My brain tried to recall how long I had been playing last night, and where my last savepoint had been. I vaguely remembered saving inside a Pokémon Center before I entered Route 216, but I couldn't be sure.

I turned off the Nintendo DS and threw it onto the bed, mentally making a note to plug it into the charger later.

With some moderate amount of skill, I managed to navigate through my room, despite the scattered paraphernalia and permeating darkness. I was blessed to have great balance.

I reached the sink within no time. Toothpaste stains marked the edges of the steel and the lower side of the mirror.

I flipped the switch beside the sink, illuminating the soft light above the mirror. Once I turned the knob, cold water started leaving the tap.

Deciding to take the plunge, I briefly cupped my hands underneath the stream before dousing it over my face.

Nope, that didn't work. I still feel like shit.

I faced myself in the mirror. Deep brown orbs that were almost black stared back at me with faint disgust. Long black hair fell in front of them.

"You, sir, look like shit," the person in the mirror said humorlessly.

I didn't laugh.

My upper torso was visible in the mirror. I always found some morbid fascination in how skinny my body was. It wasn't unhealthy per se, I think, but it didn't look very pleasing.

The phone next to the sink buzzed, lighting up and informing me of my schedule.

I could only stare back at my own agenda with disdain. School. Work. Call my mother. Go to bed.

There was nothing about it that was different from yesterday. Well, except for calling my mom. I added that so that maybe a future version of me would find the willpower to do it.

Today was not that day, I decided.
I picked up the phone and dragged myself back to bed before sitting down at the edge.

School. I pictured the word and concept in my head. I had hoped picturing it would give me the push to get up and start preparing myself for it, but actually doing so only accomplished the opposite.

I groaned a curse word and allowed myself to drop backwards, resting on top of the blankets.

Inside my head, I was going through all the steps of my day. I could practically picture every step.

I would attend lessons and do things I had no real passion for. Then go to work so I could do the same thing all over again. Over and over, dragging myself from day to day.

It all seemed so utterly boring and pointless.

I stared at the ceiling.

The same thoughts and questions I always had during these times popped up.

Was it really worth it?

Should I just stop?

Is this really life?

I knew those thoughts weren't normal, but whenever I was caught in one of these moods, I could not escape the feeling that these ideas were absolute truths.

I mean, what was my future? More of what I was doing now, either until I died or until society collapsed under its own weight.

Books were piled near my beds, stories of people who had anything meaningful to do. My DS was lying next to me, alluring me to do something that was actually fun. I could boot up my laptop, maybe find something online that could fill that void.

"God, I am so pathetic." I couldn't help but to let out a short laugh. I knew I should just start doing my shit and getting over myself, but despite that realization, not a single thought in my head could find a reason to do anything.

Should I just end it? I frowned as that ever so familiar thought began whispering to me once more.

I had considered it at times, and I knew that it wasn't normal. It wasn't really a problem to me, because I knew I wouldn't do it.

Or maybe I would today?

The thought, for some reason, excited me. It was a macabre excitement. I knew I didn't want to die. I just wanted to escape this utter boredom.

I sighed.

At that moment, nothing that could happen to me would surprise me. I just felt that I was done with everything.

Was I going to do it?

My thoughts, which hadn't been very straight from the get go, became fuzzier. It felt like my thoughts swam in all directions.

Something was wrong.

I got up.

At the corner of the sink I could see it. The pills I had slowly collected over the course of the past few weeks.

You can do it right now.

I stumbled my way over to the sink. My head still felt like it wasn't in one place, but spread out across a plane I could not visualize or comprehend.

The person in the mirror looked like shit.

I looked like shit.

These thoughts were the only ones that were somewhat coherent.

Just give up.

This isn't right.

It's all pointless.

I took a step back from the mirror. Something was wrong. Terribly so.

Without really wanting it, my thoughts went back to the game I had left on all night. What Pokémon were on my team? Why was I there?

What had I been doing before I picked up the game?

Nothing came up.

I shouldn't be he—


My eyes shot open.

{Dust!}

The sky was blue. The air was fresh. I heard noise. People. No, not just them, Pokémon.

Something was beating against my chest, I was still sucking in air as I tried to realize what was real. What had happened.

{Listen!}

Adrenaline flushed through my body, but it didn't help. I just feel more panicked. More out of this world.

I was lying against a cobblestone wall. I found another one opposite me. Wind chattered through the alley. I was in an alley.

The bricks had a vaguely yellow-orange glimmer under the embrace of the bright sunlight. I could hear festivities in the background, but the alley was practically abandoned.

{Dust, calm down!}

Still frenzied, I looked to my left. A Kirlia is sta— no, that was Luna. She was giving me a worried look. Her face was pale and red, either with anger or embarrassment. Hard to tell.

"Uh…" I tried to speak, but I struggled to form words.

I felt like I had slept an entire day, but instead of feeling refreshed, I woke up feeling worse.

What was that? I asked myself, trying to comprehend what was going on and where I was.

I stared and blinked. Like an old computer, my brain was slowly working on getting all the minor components in working order.

"A dream," I managed to say. I blinked again at Luna. "What happened?"

Slowly, my panic died down as memories began to fall back into place.

There was a fight. All of us against Claire. We nearly lost, but then Midna managed to snatch the ribbon, earning us the victory.

From that moment on, it was all blank.

{Darkrai,} said Luna. She tenderly touched my shoulder. {Darkrai suddenly attacked and pulled you into a nightmare,} she explained with a soft smile. {We got you out of it and managed to chase off the nightmare's creator.}

"Uh," was my smart reply. "My weapons," I didn't need them, but it was the first thought that came to mind and escaped my mouth. A part of me felt much safer with a loaded gun.

Luna pointed at the backpack that was put against the wall to my right.

"Thanks," I said as I slowly got up, using the walls for balance.

I reached out for the back and found the gun in the side pocket.

{Where are you going so fast?} Luna asked, almost with a scolding tone.

I frowned. "To find him, obviously." Somehow, I managed to say this with far more confidence and strength than I actually had.

{You're in no shape to fight or find anyone right now.}

I had already slung the backpack over my shoulder. I looked at my own hair, the blue color standing out against the warm backdrop of yellow and orange. How could I have forgotten it that easily?

"Let's go, Luna," I said with a grin. I gazed at the setting sun that managed to pass through the cracks of the alleyway. "Oh, before we forget. Luna, tell me something I don't know."

Silence.

I turn my head around. "Luna?"

The Kirlia gave me a concerned look. She fidgeted with her hands.

Hesitantly I try again. "Password, Luna?"

"But why?"

"Stranger protocol, we talked over this—" I stopped halfway through my sentence. Suddenly, it felt like ice had replaced my blood.

I waited for Luna to say something, but she just gave me a lost look.

My mouth became a determined line. "I see."

Without further ado, I pulled out my gun and aimed it at the psychic.

"Good try," I said. My voice slightly trembled. "You almost had me." My finger squeezed the trigger.

As the gunshot rang the entire town became silent.

The winds died down almost instantly, and the warmth from the sun dissipated. It was as if time had suddenly frozen.

I didn't look back. Instead, I strode out of the alley and back into town, still holding the gun.

The streets were now empty. The sky was motionless. I could see all the buildings and places where people used to be, but now they were empty and devoid of anything resembling real life.

"A dream inside a dream." I made sure my words were loud and clear, my voice steady and confident. "Sucks for you that I've seen Inception."

My words echoed against the brick walls and through the streets, but no one responded.

As I walked, I studied myself and the surroundings. Everything looked and felt real. I could feel the fabric of my clothes, the cobblestone underneath my shoes, and the weight of my own body.

If it weren't for the silence, I could have been easily fooled.

It was kind of crazy, but I didn't really mind.

I turned around the corner and found another empty street. Although the town was devoid of life, its layout still followed the rules of the real world, I could see the Space-Time towers peaking over the rooftops.

I had suspected something like this. I had seen the movie and heard the myths about Darkrai. But still, it was surreal to actually experience one of his created nightmares.

Somehow, he had pulled parts of my own memories into a vivid reality. Almost impressive.

I wondered how much he could pull and create from my memories into dreams. I had seen and read a lot of material in my life. Could he manifest everything into the dream world? Like, let's say, advanced blueprints and papers?

I fumbled through my pockets, finding the three miniaturized Pokéballs. But none of them were real; I knew that. Still, they felt real, and for some reason, I knew that if I opened them, I would find a dream version of my team.

I giggled. It was really happening.

"I've been trying to contact you for quite some time," I said out loud. There was no way he wasn't hearing me. "But you are quite a difficult Pokémon to find."

I could feel the wind pick up around me. Cold air brushed past my skin and traveled deeper into town, towards the heart of Alamos.

I could almost hear a faint voice being carried by the wind.

The gun in my hand felt just like a real gun. I wonder…

And the gun inside my hand was replaced by a sword. Not any sword, the Sword of the Sinnoh Knight. Heartbreaker, right?

Dreams. I suspected Darkrai didn't deal much with lucid dreamers.

I found the creature floating in front of the towers.

After hearing so much about him, trying to catch his attention for so long as he remained just out of earshot, I finally had a chance to see the legend for myself.

He was made entirely out of smoke and shadows that weaved and intertwined around themselves to form a solid shape. The fumes all had different shades of black, gray and white, and they seemed to be generated by something buried inside his almost skeletal torso.

A neon blue eye shined through the fumes and glared at me.

Darkrai almost looked demonic, something that physically shouldn't exist. His physique kept changing, like he was a hole in reality, filled with darkness. There was no real definable point at which Darkrai began and the smoke ended

The Pokémon was looking at me with malice.

I answered it with a pleasant and genuine smile. "I want to thank you for reminding me what I hated so much about my life. I won't make that mistake in this life."
Darkrai remained silent. I briefly wondered if he could talk. Didn't matter, I could talk for the two of us.

"You wouldn't believe the effort it took for me to have you show any interest in me." I sighed. "But you've been busy, haven't you?" I didn't know the exact laws of this place, but so far, everything was going according to plan for once.

I summoned the three Pokéballs.

"This world functions like the real world, right?" I couldn't help but ride the rush of adrenaline flowing through me. Standing here, in this bizarre reality that only existed to facilitate the two of us. Darkrai reminded me of what life had been. Right now, I felt more alive than ever.

"Okay, let me make an educated guess. You tried to get information from the last guy through torture, but clearly it didn't work." The man with the Greninja. I still wasn't sure what his exact link was to this mystery, but Darkrai was linked to him. He tried to get something from him. Answers. Considering the way Robin, seemingly, disfigured his own face, I had to say it didn't work.

Did he not realize he was inside a dream? I shook my head, best not to get side tracked. I had to put on a show. "I have the information you needed, you adapted your strategy to subtlety, trying to deceive instead of overwhelm your victim. That was the point of this whole fake reality. Am I close?"

Darkrai's eyes shined brighter than before.

Clearly, he had nothing but warm feelings for me.

"Well, you want answers and I want your help."

I'd been working towards this confrontation for so long. A smile escaped my lips.

It was most likely that Darkrai saw me as the enemy. Or at least an anomaly. He wasn't wrong, but I had to prove to him that I wasn't messing around.

Darkrai was a legend; impressing him would be harder than any other Pokémon.

I showed Darkrai Midna's Pokéball. "Let's battle. You win, I will give you all the information I have. I win, you and I become friends."

My smile stretched from ear to ear.


A/N This fic wouldn't have gotten this far without you. Thank you for reading.

Edited by Atomic.

-CaptainMoonShine-