Ghost Coast, pt. 1

Years ago my younger brother, grumpy from getting himself grounded, stomped downstairs, dropped a fresh college-ruled, spiral notebook in front of me, and stomped back to his room. Inside was a note, complete with a hand-penciled logo (click to enlarge):

PokemonBook

Below is the first half of what I wrote, about a dozen pages of hand-scribbled detective story thought up and written mostly in one night. I don’t know if he ever actually read it. But because reading took up a lot of my time this week (also, the post-ghost eps. are really random), and since no one is going to read the blog over the U.S. holiday anyway, I’ve decided to post it here in lieu of an analytical post. What follows is pt. 1 of the only pokémon fiction I’ve ever written.


Ch. 1–New in Town

The wind was blowing damp and heavy from the inlet to the south, gusting sporadic drives of rain. Detective Ito Satou pulled his collar up against the wind and knocked once again. It hadn’t taken them long to find the Fuji house. Although the radio tower replacing the memorial had brought more jobs and more people to the town since Satou had last been here, it was still small, and the few new houses and businesses looked out of place among the rest of the weathered town. Even the radio tower was simply an addition onto the old memorial, the tangle of modern equipment rising from the top of an ancient pagoda. Grotesque gargoyles hunched beneath the new steel spires. Even with a fresh coat of paint here and there, Lavender Town, like the rest of Kanto, felt weary. Everything here was history.

“Are you sure he’s home?” Jiro asked after a moment. Satou pulled his eyes away from the tower brooding above them. Jiro was hunched under an umbrella, and as always, he had a small taillow perched on his shoulder. Most of his coats had patches there on the left where Bluff’s small claws dug into the fabric. Jiro Tanaka was a newly minted detective, shipped over from Hoenn. He was bright enough. Young, long hair pulled back in a tail. Curious to the point of being eager. Satou thought that maybe, sometimes, Jiro’s eagerness bordered on desperation to convince himself he wanted to be here in Kanto. After Hoenn, Kanto must’ve felt backwater and provincial. And it was, a bit. Satou had lived in Kanto all his life, loved it but still knew it was small, old, unsophisticated in many ways.

“It’s the right house. He said he’d meet us here.” Satou pointed to the small plaque next to the door:

Fuji Residence
est. 1753
Kanto Historical Society Heritage Home

“Anyway, look, the lights are on, someone’s in there.” Satou knocked again, a little louder. “Mr. Fuji,” he called. “Mr. Fuji, it’s Detective Satou. From Fuchia.” They waited for a few long, wet moments. The rain drummed on Jiro’s umbrella. His taillow ruffled its feathers, puffing itself up and glaring more severely than usual out at the damp.

The door opened suddenly. A small, balding man, past middle age, stood before them to the side, beckoning them in.

“Detectives.” He greeted them in a somewhat hushed voice. “Come in, come in. I am so sorry to keep you waiting.”

They stepped over the threshold, removing their shoes on the mat. Jiro shook off the umbrella.

“You don’t mind…” Jiro gestured with his head to the taillow.

“Not at all.” Even as Mr. Fuji answered something small and fast skittered in a room somewhere nearby. “I didn’t hear you at first, I was praying over the body.”

It was a small house, floorboards smooth with the patina of great age. A few very old maps and ink drawings hung on the walls of the small foyer. But it felt like a home, even still. There was a fountain somewhere nearby, and the whole place smelled of some herb or incense, very clean and refreshing, like mint.

“No trouble, Mr. Fuji. We are honored to be here in your home.” Satou bowed, and Jiro followed his lead. “It isn’t every day one meets someone from as honored a family as yours. This is Detective Jiro Tanaka.”

“Honored, Fuji-san,” Jiro said, bowing again. He may be eager, Satou thought, but he had impeccable manners and knew when to dust off the archaisms.

“Likewise, Detective Tanaka, Detective Satou. Would either of you like tea before you begin?” Fuji wasn’t old. At most he was sixty. But his face was very deeply lined with care and with smiling. Weathered, as well. But his eyes were bright, and he moved with such grace and strength that, as he gestured them further into his home, Satou thought he looked almost ageless, like some idol in a roadside shrine, a small and unassuming god of quiet blessings.

“Thank you, but I think we’ll get started immediately, and take tea after.”

“Fine idea. We’ll have time for tea and talk later, and maybe some dinner? Come, he is laid out in the back.”

Fuji led them to the farthest room, slid open the door, and stepped aside to let them enter first. The room was dark. That herbal smell came from here, and another scent, sweeter and more spiced. The only light in the room came from two small braziers lit with bright flames. The bare flames heated small censers of scented water hanging from the rafters from, long, thin silver chains. There were pokémon in the room, too, one in each of the shadowy corners—two bellsprout, swaying gently in an intricate, slow-stepping dance—it was from them that heavier scent came. Two abra sat in the other corners, perfectly still, holding lotus positions a foot above the ground. In the middle of the room was a narrow, high table. This was old, too. Dark wood, legs carved with ancient characters and stylized figures. The body was laid out there, draped with a grey shroud. Fuji went to the table, took hold of the cloth. He rubbed it between his thumb and forefinger absently, looked up at the detectives.

“I should tell you before you look… I don’t doubt your fortitude, either of you, but this is… this is something quite different from anything I’ve seen.”

He carefully folded the shroud down.

“Oh, shit,” Jiro hissed, and then, catching himself, murmured, “Sorry, sorry.”

The body was a mottled blue and white, like all the oxygen had been pulled from the blood. The face had been deformed, the skin pulled so tight across the bones that one could see the skull frame clear beneath the flesh. The teeth and gums showed in a death-snarl. In the eyes, still wide open and bulging from the tight face, the blood vessels had burst and the sclera was a dark, wet red.

“Look at these, here,” Fuji said, motioning them to look more closely at the neck. “See, those marks. Do you have a light?”

Jiro pulled out a small pen light, very bright and white. Jiro was always very proud of his pocket gadgets, but he seemed less pleased at the chance to use one now.

“Scratches, do you think?” Jiro’s voice shook a little. From his shoulder, Bluff puffed up again, clicked her beak.

“No, look, they haven’t quite broken the skin. It looks more like a burn of some kind, like it nearly blistered.” Satou took the light, peered closer. “There are photographs of these in the coroner’s report?” Fuji himself was the coroner.

“There are. The report is quite thorough.”

Satou spent the next few minutes in a cursory examination of the rest, but it was all unremarkable from the neck down, except for the strange mottling.

“Well.” Satou sighed. “I think Detective Tanaka and I would both like some very strong tea after this rough start.”

“I thought you might.” Fuji replaced the shroud, slowly, reverently. “Do you mind going out? While there is a vigil in my home, I do not prepare any food or drink here. The restaurant near the tower is very good, and I know all of the staff. They will give us privacy to talk of official matters in peace.”

“Sounds good. Jiro? Yes? Alright.”

They rode the small street car up the sloping main road. From the car they could see clear down to the waterfront and the boardwalks over the inlet. Even in the rain there were a few brave souls out fishing. Lavender had never been a commercial port—the inlet was wide but very shallow and rocky. Locals harvested shellfish among the rocks and there were a few rare pokémon that liked the shallow, inshore waters; these, along with the memorial and some cave tours, were the main draw. Set between the mountains and the sea, Lavender had never had any space to sprawl. Satou was impressed they even had a streetcar. He supposed bikes wouldn’t work as well in a town that was built on a hill.
He glanced at the coroner’s report on the ride up, grateful to have some time to read while Jiro made awkward small talk with Fuji. The drive up, with just the two of them, had been tiring. Jiro’s stamina for making nothing-conversation was far greater than Satou’s.

The report had nothing more remarkable than what he’d seen for himself. Strangely deoxygenated blood, some evidence that suggested a sudden change in pressure; undetermined cause of death, probably heart failure or asphyxiation, officially under investigation as a murder. He had almost hoped to see evidence of radiation, but there was nothing unusual there, not that any instruments had showed, and with no trace of poison there was little to go on. And while Fuji was the spiritual leader in the community, he was also a trained medical doctor, and a good one. (Another Fuji family tradition.) If he had found nothing more of note, there was probably little that anyone else would find, no matter how many tests they had them run at the lab.

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