Ghost Coast, pt. 2

First–Pokécology is not only on Tumblr, we’re also on Instagram! There are a lot of funny, dramatic, or visually striking images I screenshot in the course of watching the show that I don’t end up using here or on Tumblr. If you’re interested in seeing more of those, along with the occasional digital doodle of my own, find us here or search Instagram for “pokecology” on your preferred mobile device.

Today you get the last section of the fanfic, because, surprise, still busy. Ugh, and in the episode I just watched Brock talks about something called “pokémonitis,” which according to him means that people think they’re pokémon; but in this case the kids are under the influence of hypnotic waves so the “-itis,” indicating inflammation, makes absolutely no sense, but Brock says it like it’s definitely a thing so I think I just have to conclude that Brock is an idiot and has been all along, which is disappointing. But then again, in the end they counter the hypnotic waves by using a dif. ‘mon to hypnotize the affected children into sleep and this causes them to emit “dream waves” which counter the hypnotic waves… which, incidentally, bounce off of mirrors, so you know what, this is just bananas and I’m putting off discussing it and thus you get more of Ghost Coast.1

The small, darkwood interior of the teahouse was nearly empty. A peeling sticker graphic on the door announced that pokémon were to be kept in their pokéballs while in the restaurant, but Fuji had waved that aside, saying, “It’s only for the health inspectors, don’t worry.” Inside, Satou had immediately noticed the wide, staring eyes of an aipom looking down on them from the rafters. They had taken seats in the back corner table looking out through the huge, floor to ceiling window. It offered a view of the entire sweep of the town in all its rainy glory. Bluff was playing with the aipom, both of them weaving through the rafters back and forth. The taillow swooped by, the wind of its wings sweeping napkins from the table, chirping exuberantly.

Satou poured another cup of tea, listening to Jiro quiz Fuji.

“And for how many generations has your family lived here?”

“Oh, we have always been here,” Fuji replied, looking fondly out of the window at the town, scattered down the hill right up to the edge of the ocean.  “Before there was a tower my ancestors built shrines and graves on that very hillside. Then a crypt, and then the tower. We were here during the first invasion. My great-great-great grandfather led the last army in east Kanto, held the town against the rebels’ ships during the last civil war. In between wars we’ve soothed the restless souls of the dead, pokémon and humans. We’ve grown gardens. My father won an award for his flowers.” He laughed. “We have the soil and the salt in our bones. But you must excuse me, I’m being rude. I love this town so much that it is hard not to sound like a maudlin poet. Tell me about Hoenn, Jiro. Where are you from?”

“Fortree City.”  Jiro beamed. He was very proud of Fortree City. Satou prepared to hear yet more about the beauties of the trees.

“Oooh.” Fuji, apparently, was suitably impressed. “Is it truly as beautiful as I have heard?”

“Only in the summer. They don’t say how cold it can get on the tourist posters.” Jiro laughed. Satou laughed, too, but only because he had heard Jiro make that weak joke at least three or four times before. “But in the summer we attract the largest number of different beautifly varieties in the entire region. And we are part of the last unbroken wildlife corridor for tropius migration.”

“We could learn from you, here in Kanto,” Mr. Fuji said, watching the pokémon in the rafters now. “The power plant to the north of us, pumping waste into the ocean. The big cities to the west putting waste into the air. The whole economy here, all of it built on blood sport, and they wonder why we encounter so many restless souls.”

Satou had wondered how long it would be before Fuji brought up his politics. There were not many anti-battling activists in Kanto, founding province of the four-champion league system. Fuji was one of the few.

The Fuji family had fought for generations to prevent any gym or battle attractions being built in Lavender Town. It was a controversial move—pokémon battles drove Kanto’s economy. The beauty contests so popular elsewhere had never really caught on here. The success of the Fuji family’s campaigns meant that Lavender would never be a rich town. The radio tower and its new jobs had lessened the flow of criticism again the Fuji name; still, even Jiro looked uncomfortable at “blood sports.” Fuji was an institution, but people preferred he keep his radicalism hidden away as much as possible. Satou himself felt a grudging admiration, smiled to himself at Jiro’s discomfort; he was no great fan of the arena himself.

“Speaking of restless souls,” Satou broke in to change the subject anyway. “Is it possible one of your ghosts may have killed this man?” He tapped the file with the coroner’s report.

“We haven’t had an unnatural death here in my living memory. This is a place where the restless come to be healed, Detective. We don’t have so many ghost pokémon because this place is cursed. We have them because it is the only place left in the region in which they feel truly safe.”

“So no strange attacks on other people or pokémon, then? No sightings of invasive or uncommon species?”

“No. There has only been… Well. It sounds very superstitious. But I have had nightmares.  . I’m no psychic, so probably it’s nothing, but in this place, with ghosts, you can’t tell, sometimes. I know this—almost every pokémon here, wild or not, they know me and I know all of them. None of them would kill. The restless souls that come here, they move on quickly. There is nothing evil about this town except what is brought here. Whatever this is, it’s new, and it doesn’t belong in Lavender.”

They left soon after, taking the street car back down the hill to Fuji’s home where they’d left Satou’s little two-seater.  They drove down to their hotel across the street from a narrow, pebbly beach. As they drove, everything, everyone looked pale, washed out, weary in the mizzle. The feeling was infectious. Over everything stood the spiked tower, the antennae blinking with red eyes along its length. Fuji was wise, Satou knew, and Satou trusted him; but this place wasn’t right. Brought or born here, something was wrong, and it seemed to have a deep hold already.

In the hallway outside their adjacent rooms, Satou and Jiro held a quick conference.

“What’s the next step, then?” Bluff was preening now, furiously smoothing feathers pushed out of place by the sea breeze. Even pulled back, Jiro’s hair looked wind-rumpled. Satou felt the same.

“Go over that report, send a copy to HQ. Ask them if there’s been any gang activity out this way. That’s probably a dead end, but you have to check, cover the bases. . . Oh, see if they have anything in the system on the victim, get them to run his name.”

They separated. Satou spent the next hour combing archived local news, looking for patterns, for any mention of the victim. It was all banal, the usual mix of determinedly optimistic and bitter tones one found in small town newspapers. It, too, was a contagious tone, and it was frustrating reading. A single unproductive hour (the biggest find being an “Our Town” blurb about the victim with the headline, “Local Hooks, Loses Golden Magikarp!”) was all he could take before he needed a shower and then a stiff drink out on the narrow, covered balcony.

He took an old blanket out with him and sat in the plastic chair the hotel set on the cramped third story veranda. There was just enough room for him to prop his legs up on the balcony railing. He’d brought a pokéball out with him, the only one he carried. It was old now, the surface of the smooth red metal crosshatched with ten years’ worth of faint silver scoring. Settling back in the chair he tossed it gently across the balcony boards.  A burst of familiar red light and a sudden frantic beating of wings as the crobat found her balance in the unsteady breeze still fitfully gusting off the sea. Her movements were so familiar to him he knew exactly how the second pair of wings would stiffen like rudders, knew even which direction she  would swoop to stretch herself. After a few sharp turns she caught the currents so that she hovered for a moment a few yards away, ears swiveling to catch her own sonar echoes. Then, after a few minutes of sharp parabolas she steadied again and drifted slowly to rest against his chest.

“Sorry about the dull afternoon, friend,” he said, running a finger across the warm velvet of her ear. She looked up at him, her claws gently hooking onto the cloth of the blanket, and then snuffled her way under the blanket herself to take his warmth. They ate together from the brownbag he’d brought with him, and then fell asleep together wrapped in the blanket, lulled by the sound of the waves and the town traffic.

1. Seriously, though, the games are far and away the best aspect of this franchise. Once I survive this season I’ll write about the games as self-contradictory procedural arguments that tell you to value relationships but ultimately encourage a form of resource-ism of the (digital) pokémon body. But then there are ways that professional competitive battlers have subverted the procedural argument of the games and stayed true to the ostensible message, winning the world championship using overlooked, little-valued pokémon. Something to look forward to. 


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