A Pokèumans One-Shot by TheEeveeWarrior
It was a quiet day.
Even in a place such as Voyageurs National Park, it was a very quiet day. For a park of over 18,000 acres, not counting the additional 84,000 acres of lakes and ponds, one would expect at least some form of natural ambience. Maybe a few fish breaching the water here and there, the sharp chirping of bird song heard in the distance, maybe even a few tourists laughing happily as they spent a fun-filled day on the water.
And yet, there was none of that here today. The water lay still, save only the gentle back-and-forth lapping of waves against rocks on the beach. The entire avian population seemed to have caught a frog in their collective throats and fallen silent; either that, or left in a massive group the day before for parts unknown. And nowhere in the park, not even on the water, could a single tourist be found.
Out of all of these oddities, only the last had any real explanation, known all too well to Detective Cole Phelps of the local police department as he and a number of others sat in the small motorboat that had been commandeered by the Park Rangers. The buzzing of the propeller against the waves was all he heard, gazing around in the noon sunlight across the sapphire waters. For a wistful moment, he imagined himself and his two children setting up a tent on one of the many campsites scattered around the area. It really was a beautiful place, one that he knew his sons would appreciate greatly - even despite their obsession with their smartphones.
All this happy imagination was, however, ruined as the reason for his presence, as well as the presence of a large portion of the forensics department, drifted back to the forefront of his mind. It also served to explain, for any that might have cared, why the entire park was now barren of humanity, save for the authorities swarming to one particular portion of the main island.
Seven days prior, the usual crowd of campers and hikers and outdoorsey people had poured into the park to begin their rugged overnight (and often multi-night) stay in the psuedo-wilderness of Voyageurs. Two particular groups, a family of four (mother, father, two daughters) and a family of six (mother, father, one daughter, three sons), had reserved a pair of lakeside campsites in the heart of the park, less than a mile away from each other.
For the first three days, everything had seemed normal. The father of the family of four had returned to the visitor center to buy an extra lantern on the fourth day - their old one had fallen down a rocky slope and tumbled to a stop in multiple pieces. The ranger on duty thought nothing of it and escorted him to the store of the visitor center, where a full oil lantern was purchased. The father thanked the ranger profusely before heading back to the campsite.
Then the sixth day came. Supposedly, the family of four would be checking out that day, reporting to the ranger on duty at the visitor center before leaving. By noon, however, there was no sign of the family. This was an unusual point of note, but not by too much - technically, campers were not required to check out until nightfall, and the sun still had a far way to go before setting. So, deciding not to interfere, the on-duty ranger dismissed the topic and resolved to wait a bit longer for them.
But, as the sky grew black and a small group of clouds drifted in to block the light of the rising moon, there was still no sign of the family of four. This was strange. While he was not allowed to evict the family from the park for staying an extra day, especially since the campsite in question was not reserved for that night, the ranger was still required to check up on them and, if necessary, issue a fine. His shift lasted a bit further into the night, and he knew the terrain fairly well, so he fetched his flashlight, alerted another ranger to his intent, and set off into the night.
Thirty minutes passed as the ranger, motorboat humming beneath his feet, slowly sailed up the shoreline of the park towards the campsite in question. Conveniently, the campsite in question was actually rather close to the area's pier, so he would not have to do much extra hiking once he arrived. After another ten minutes, he pulled up to the pier, tied down his motorboat, and began making his way towards the campsite.
It took him five minutes to reach the campsite.
Fifty minutes later, the ranger in question burst back into the visitor's center, an uncomfortable amount of blood smeared across his jacket, and yelled for his partner to call 911.
And then it was the seventh day, as Detective Phelps and the forensics crew made their way towards the very same pier. By sun-up that morning, over a dozen rangers had made their way across the park, not-so-politely ordering the campers to evacuate (refunds promised later, of course) for reasons of danger. A short public statement had been issued to the press, consisting of little more than "Multiple Homicide in Voyageurs National Park."
Detective Phelps blinked himself out of his reminiscence. This was no time to be drifting off. These murders, while tragic, seemed to hold a greater significance than simple homocide. The initial police team that had arrived a few hours after the call the night before had reported that the family of four was confirmed dead, as was the family of six in the neighboring campsite. More worryingly, the murders seemed to match the M.O. (Method of Operation) of a serial killer that had been plauging the region for three years. Most of the bodies, though, had not been found for months after their deaths, by which point they were too decomposed to discern anything other than the tell-tale signature of the killer. But these... these bodies were fresh. If handled correctly, the police department could crack this string of murders wide open, possibly even catching the murderer before he killed again.
The Puppetry Killer. Each and every time he killed, the bodies were found horribly disfigured. The first murder, three years prior, had turned everyone in the department a bit green. The bodies were mangled, ripped apart, and sewn back together, eventually resembling gruesome, fleshy dolls more than anything else. Each "doll" was posed, too, through some sick form of taxidermy. But, what really scared the department was how these... alterations... seemed to be made, at least partially, while the victims were still alive.
This had sent every officer in the state of Minnesota into a panic. Murder was bad. Post-mortem abuse was worse. But this... this reflected a mind that was so far off the deep end it almost needed a life raft. The kind of demented mind that it took to think up something like this, let alone to actually do it, was a little more than simply intimidating. It was terrifying.
Each and every month for almost three years, reliable down to the exact day, a new "exhibition" from the Puppetry Killer would turn up, rotting just enough to prevent the authorities from tracking him further. So far, the victims had only appeared in areas out of the public eye, but there was a grim betting pool between some of the departments on how long it would take for one of them to turn up in a museum.
There were no witnesses, no traces, nothing. The bodies would simply appear one morning, with no traces of the killer present, posed as if they had always been there. Even with so many murders, tracking him was damn near impossible. He was never seen once - only the bodies would be found.
The only delay in the killings had been with these two families - following the pattern, the last "exhibition" should have been about two weeks before. Given the regularity of the killings, this had scared some of the newer officers... and now this case had come up. Ten murders, seemingly on the same night. All mangled and posed within a matter of days. Now it wasn't just the rookies; everyone was scared. Something was different, now... and different meant bad things where serial killers were concerned.
Cole had had a bad feeling about this case from the moment it landed on his desk.
Slowly, the boat pulled in towards the pier, just a five-minute walk from the crime scene. "Detective Phelps!" Called a young, female park ranger waiting on the dock. "It's good to see you here!"
"Likewise!" Cole replied, yelling slightly to be heard over the still-buzzing motor. A few seconds later, the boat collided lightly with the pier and the motor spun down to a stop. The forensics team grabbed their things as the ranger grabbed the ropes, tying down the boat before laying down a small wooden boarding panel. "I suppose," the detective continued as he walked up onto the dock, "that you've already been to the crime scene."
The ranger nodded grimly. "Unfortunately..." She sighed, wiping a hand down her face. "I've seen photos of the Puppetry Killer's victims, but..." She bit her lip nervously.
"It's harder to see them in real life, isn't it." It wasn't a question, but a statement that Cole used to finish the park ranger's sentence. Out of the thirty-six murder cases committed by the Puppetry Killer, Phelps had been assigned to fifteen. In a way, he had developed a sort of rivalry with the murderer, a bond between predator and prey. Nobody had seen those bodies more than Cole himself, not even the forensics teams.
Surprisingly, the ranger shook her head. "No, that's not it..." She paused. "Well... it's part of it... but these kills don't follow the descriptions of his previous victims."
That got Cole's attention. First a two-week delay in a killing spree so reliable you could mark your calendar, and now the M.O. itself had possibly changed? If this case hadn't felt bad to the detective before, it certainly did now. Something was off about this, and he didn't like it.
"What do you mean?" Phelps asked, suppressing his anxiety to maintain a calm, focused outlook on the case.
The ranger sighed and waved for him and the forensics team, which had finally finished offloading their equipment from the boat, to follow her. "You'll see... just... have a bag ready." She finished lamely, walking towards the campsite trail. Exchanging brief glances of nervousness, the group followed her into the forest.
Sure enough, five minutes later, the team arrived at a clearing in the middle of the woods, just large enough for a mid-size campsite... and the latest "exhibition" was already in full view. "Sweet baby Jesus..." Cole muttered under his breath, looking around the scene and taking it all in.
The first and most obvious of the four bodies was hanging from a tree. Not figuratively, literally - the corpse was hanging from a noose almost twenty feet up, the rope itself nailed to the tree with a tent stake five feet above that. This, stretched out in a ballerina pose, was the father, his flannel red shirt fluttering open in the breeze, both the shirt and his chest stained with what was very clearly blood. His eyes and mouth had both been sewn shut, the latter sewn into a smile, as was usual for the PK's victims. All four limbs had clearly been severed and sewn back on, the same going for the head. His pants were missing as well, although the sewn-on flat patch of skin between his legs didn't exactly reveal anything. All of that, disturbing and cruel as it was, was normal for the Puppetry Killer.
What was most certainly not normal were the numerous thin lacerations across every inch of the body, almost like carvings into the corpse's skin. This was very unusual for the Puppetry Killer. In all previous cases, the victims on "display" had all been unharmed save for the usual mangling and sewing. The psychological experts had concluded that the PK might find the unblemished, undamaged skin conducive to his demented art. Regardless... this was a massive departure from the norm.
The second body was the mother, completely naked and, once again, censored by sewn-on flaps of skin here and there... although the source of that extra skin had yet to be located. Her face, limbs, and pose (this one standing upright and holding a wilted flower) all reflected the usual signs of the PK... but this one as well was carved. Whereas the father had been cut in some strange, abstract pattern, the mother had words etched into her skin, the message of "Hello Mommy" engraved across every inch of her body.
The third and fourth, the daughters, were posed sitting next to the campfire, the usual manglings being shown. But with these two, there was something strange about them... oh. It took the detective a moment to realize it, but the faces of the two girls had been cut off and swapped, only the sewing holding the skin to their skulls.
As far as "fucked up" goes, this was par for the course for the Puppetry Killer. That wasn't what terrified Detective Phelps. No, it was the fact that these killings, while so similar were also very... different. That meant one of two things, neither of them good: either the Puppetry Killer had changed his M.O., which would throw the departments off his trail for a long time; or these murders were committed by a copycat killer, which meant there were now two Puppeteers running around, if not more.
Either way... the differences scared Cole far more than the "exhibitions" themselves.
Something was very wrong here.
"Cole!" The detective blinked and removed his attention from the bodies to see a moderately large man in a golf vest walking towards him. The man was wearing white rubber gloves with no small amount of crimson staining them, and held in his right hand was a briefcase that Cole knew contained a number of tool used for field autopsies.
Phelps nodded to the coroner as he approached. "Any news for me, Mitchell?" Coroner Mitchell Werner had been on the Puppetry Killer cases for almost as long as Cole, save for the first case where he had been indisposed due to his son's wedding. Generally, it was Mitchell's post-mortem reports that helped bring the cases together, even if it still wasn't quite enough to start hunting for suspects.
The coroner nodded grimly and motioned for Cole to follow him towards the mother's corpse. "A lot, sadly - most of it bad. I assume you've noticed the differences between this case and the priors?"
Cole nodded, the variations all too obvious to him. "I saw."
"Well," Mitchell began, "if those weren't bad enough, there are even more beneath the surface." As they reached the upright, posed body of the woman, Mitchell directed the detective towards her left arm. "Look at the cuts, Cole. Notice anything odd?"
The area of fine details had always been Phelps' strong suit, but not where eyesight was concerned. Still, he made an attempt and looked closely at the points where the limbs had been severed and sewn back. "...I don't see it."
Mitchell sighed and reached forward, running a finger down the seam between the right shoulder and the torso. "First of all, in previous cases the limbs were severed with a hacksaw, which cuts with a back and forth motion." The coroner moved his hands back and forth to demonstrate. "That generally means that even in the hands of a master, there's going to be some wobble. These cuts, though," he pointed at the seam again, "are straight and clean, going right through the bone and flesh without stopping."
Cole blinked. "That's... disturbing. Are the others-?"
"The same?" The coroner finished. "Yes. All of them, across every last body. Including," He pointed off into the forest, "the second family of victims."
The detective swore under his breath. He'd almost forgotten the additional six murders. "How do you think he did that?"
At this, Mitchell simply shrugged. "No idea. It would take a heated steel blade to make cuts that clean, and I see neither burn marks across the severing points nor a way for him to have heated a piece of metal that much out here anyway."
Cole just sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "This day just keeps getting better and better..."
The coroner let out a dry, humorless laugh. "You don't know the half of it. I took a look inside one of the seams to check if the killer used the usual rebar method to pose them."
"Nothing of the sort."
Cole blinked again. "What do you mean, nothing?"
"There's no metal in there, detective." Mitchell repeated pointing at one of the looser seams and illuminating it with a keychain flashlight. "Look in there. There's no metal that I can see, but there is some sort of sticky white... fiber holding it in place."
"White... fiber...?" Cole muttered, reluctantly looking into the joint of the semi-severed limb. Sure enough, there was a white fiber-ish substance coating the split joint like a cast, holding the pose of the mother just right. "...huh." He muttered, slowly pulling back from the seam.
"I've worked in this department for twenty-five years, Cole," Mitchell muttered, shaking his head in frustration, "and I have never seen anything like that before."
Cole just rubbed his brow and tried to think happy thoughts. "Think it's a copycat killer?"
Mitchell shook his head. "Perhaps... but it'd have to be more of a replacement to explain the two-week delay. Either he's died and someone else has taken over for him, or he's still on the job but something's... changed about him."
"And both of those mean bad things for us." Cole muttered with a sigh.
The coroner nodded grimly. "I'm afraid so. Perha-" He paused midsentence and looked off past Cole's shoulder. "What are they doing here?"
Phelps turned around to follow Mitchell's gaze... and immediately wanted to beat his face into the nearest tree. Suits, three of them, mirror-glasses and all. Two of them were carrying thick metal briefcases that obviously had more than paperwork in them. And they were just strutting right out onto the crime scene.
"Hey!" Cole yelled, briskly walking over to the trio. "I'm afraid you'll have to leave, this is-"
"We already have the necessary clearance, detective." He was cut off by the closest member of the three men, the other two continuing to walk past him, likely towards the second murder scene.
"I don't care what clearance you pulled out of your ass." Cole replied through gritted teeth. "You three on trespassing on a crime scene. If you don't leave-"
An earsplitting, inhuman shriek silenced all other conversation, forcing Cole and the others to cover their ears while the suit merely stumbled back a bit. The sound was deafening, high and shrill, echoing through every last inch of the park. Slowly, over about ten seconds, it faded away and Cole let go of his ears, looking around the crime scene.
All three suits had vanished, no trace of them whatsoever. The others from the department were slowly releasing their own ears and looking around much the same, trying to discern the source of the unholy noise.
"What the fuck was that?!" Cole yelled, wincing at the bell-like ringing in his ears.
Mitchell walked over, nervously glancing towards the second campsite. "I don't know, Cole, but I think our jobs are about to get a thousand times more complicated."
"Where's Colin?" Both detective and coroner glanced back at the forensics team to notice that yes, one of their number was now missing. Cole and Mitchell looked back at each other, exchanging glances beyond mere concern, before Cole slowly reached into his jacket and pulled out a Glock-17 handgun.
Nobody moved, only the faint sound of the wind whistling through the trees breaking the silence. Slowly, Phelps flicked off the safety on his sidearm, looking around the campsite for any sign of the missing team member. "Colin?" He called out, his voice sounding unnaturally loud in the tense quiet of the campsite. "Colin, if you can hear-"
A loud rustling, off near the direction of the pier, cut him off. Whirling around towards the noise, he leveled the glock at... nothing. Just empty bushes. "Mitchell, gather up the rest of your things and get ready to move."
Phelps waited, but there was no response. Nothing at all. Slowly, he glanced over his shoulder... but the coroner was nowhere to be found. "Shit." Cole muttered, backing up towards the center of camp and looking towards the rest of the forensics team. They too had drawn their weapons by now and were moving to do the same. They met at the campfire, back-to-back-to-back-to-back, staring in four different directions with four lethal weapons.
There were no birds chirping in the trees.
No squirrels rustling in the underbrush.
No insects buzzing in the distance.
Even the wind had fallen still.
There was only pure, terrifying quiet.
And yet, even in the silence, there was a tension in the air that the loudest of conflicts could not have matched.
To the officers, the only sounds were their heartbeats drumming in the ears and the quickened pattern of their breathing, in and out in perfect regularity.
It was quiet...
...Quiet as a tomb...
In an instant, all four had whirled towards the direction of the sound, their weapons leveled at... empty brush. In the silence, the lack of contrast from the sudden sound had rendered them incapable of determining the distance of the gunshot.
More gunshots. "MOVE!" Phelps yelled, a commanding tone in his voice that squashed all nervousness in his companions. There was a firefight going on nearby, and they were the only units they knew of capable of serving as reinforcements. Like it or not, they were going in, and they were going to help.
Within seconds, the clearing was empty, all four of its previous occupants having sprinted off towards the sounds of combat. All thoughts of leaving had been banished from their minds, replaced with a sharp, adrenaline-fueled focus as they darted around trees and through bushes. The gunshots continued to grow louder as they approached, pausing once for a few seconds (presumably to reload) before firing off another three shots... then silence.
Instantly, Phelps stuck up his hand to order them to a halt. Something had changed. Best case scenario, the fight was over and the attacker was subdued. Worst case scenario, the attacker had overwhelmed the defending officer and was now moving towards the four of them.
After a few moments more of empty air, Cole motioned for them to continue, but to do so slowly and quietly. While Phelps would have liked to imagine the former situation, he had far too much experience to operate on an assumption like that. Caution was best for now.
The four continued onward, taking careful steps and keeping an eye on the forest around them. There was something very wrong about this whole case, and Phelps had the sinking feeling he would soon find a reason for it. A cloud had drifted in front of the sun, slightly darkening the entire forest. Cole's eyes darted around the greenery in front of him, looking for any sign of movement.
All four officers were sweating now. The only thing worse than a fight with an unknown opponent was not knowing where the opponent wa-
Phelps jumped, spinning around behind him, handgun ready... to find one of his own officers pointing their own pistol at him. This sight stunned him for a moment, just long enough to notice the other two officers on his sides doing the same to each other. There was a tense silence as the four realized what had happened and looked down... to see Phelps' own foot resting on a broken twig.
The detective sighed heavily and lowered his handgun, wiping his brow with his free hand. "Jesus Christ..." He muttered as one of his companions chuckled nervously to herself. They were high-strung at the moment, and, while it was somewhat excuseable, there was a point where it became excessive. "Eyes forward, try not to step on any twigs." He said idly, turning back around-
And coming face to face with a pair of beady red eyes from behind a tree. His pistol flew up, a surprised curse leaving his lips, and he fired twice at the eyes. As soon as he spoke, the eyes vanished, leaving one shot to fly past the tree while the second embedded itself in the bark. "I saw something!" He said, not looking away from the tree for an instant. He heard two pairs of footsteps spin around to point their weapons at the figure supposedly hidi-
Two pairs of...
That thought registered in his mind a fraction of a second two late, spinning around to see the lead forensics specialist of his team, wrapped in some sort of sticky white substance, be snatched away into the thick shrubbery. The three remaining officers didn't think, they simply fired, releasing five bullets each in the direction that their teammate had been taken. No cries of pain were heard, simply the cracks of metal hitting wood at high speeds.
"The hell was that?!" The woman to his right yelled, her grip shaking as she waved around her Glock-17. Phelps was wondering much the same, his aim only steadier by a small amount. Nothing moved that fast, not even animals. How the hell had it gotten from that tree all the way behind them so quickly?! And what was that white... stuff that had trapped Office-?
"...there is some sort of sticky white... fiber..."
What the fuck were they dealing with...?
The officer on Cole's left was muttering "Ohshitohshitohshitohshit-" to himself on an endless loop, his hands slick with sweat and barely keeping his weapon stable. Whatever they were fighting... it was very clearly not human. None of them could be blamed for thinking such, even with the absurdity of modern science fiction, but the immediate evidence was just too much.
Are we fighting some kind of alien here...? Cole wondered, turning around to cover the group's exposed back. The idea of fighting aliens of all things made the detective want to laugh, both out of nervousness and out of absurdity. Aliens. Giant alien spiders or... something. Would that make the white fiberous substance a kind of... web...?
A yelp split the air, followed by a series of frantic gunshots from the officer on Cole's current right. The other two fired in the same direction, but, as with before, they had hit nothing.
And then they heard it. A high voice, not quite distinguishable between male and female, echoing through the trees from all directions. "Detective Cole William Phelps...~" His blood froze at those words. How the hell did this thing know his name?! "Senior Officer Sheryl Miriam Sycadia...~" and that was the name of the woman to his right! "Officer Miles Damian Upshur...~" A soft whimper could be heard from the man to his left. This thing knew who they were. It knew who they were, and it was singing about it!
"Detective Cole William Phelps...~" Cole grunted nervously, looking around at every possible hiding place for this... thing. It was singing their names and ranks, and now it was repeating them... "Senior Officer Sheryl Miriam Sycadia...~" The woman in question tightened her grip on her handgun and glared off into the forest.
"Shut up!" She screamed into the trees. Undeterred, the voice continued.
"Officer Miles Damian Upshur...~" Miles whimpered again as Cole blinked quickly, trying to avoid any chance of missing even the slightest detail. He was not going to lo-
A strangled scream split the air from Upshur's direction, the other two whirling around... and seeing the officer clutching at something... greenish... piercing his chest like a blade. They only got a glimpse of the tall, yellowish figure holding the blade before it dashed back into the trees, taking a screaming Miles with it. Cursing, Cole and Sheryl fired off a few more shots in the direction that the thing had fled. The bullets only connected with bark and empty air, leaving the screams of a dying officer to be abruptly cut off a few seconds later.
"The fuck was that?!" S.O. Sycadia whispered, assuming a back-to-back position with Phelps.
Cole cursed grimly. "I have no goddamn clue... but I think that is the Puppetry Killer."
Sheryl let out a nervous laugh. "Really?! You want to start this discussion now?!"
"Detective Cole William Phelps...~" The officers fell quiet and gritted their teeth, glancing around like mad in some vague attempt to find the monster that had attacked them. "Senior Officer Sheryl Miriam Sycadia...~"
"Detective Cole William Phelps...~" Phelps' grip on his Glock was so tight he thought he could feel the metal bending.
"Senior Officer Sheryl Miriam Sycadia...~" Sheryl just cursed vehemently into the woods in response.
"Fuck you!" She yelled. "Fuck you, fuck your mother, fuck ALL of-!"
Cole spun around... and saw a piece of greenish metal, shaped like a leaf and covered in crimson, sticking out of his teammate's back. Her legs gave way and the detective caught her, making sure that the creature attacking them was not within view. Whatever it was that had hit her, it had most definitely been thrown, the blade digging in at an angle and slicing clean through the ribs on the left side of her chest. Her left lung and, likely, her heart had been pierced, assumptions only confirmed as the senior officer's eyes glazed over and her head fell to its side, a thin stream of blood trailing from her mouth.
He was alone.
"Detective Cole William Phelps...~"
Alone in this damnable forest.
"Detective Cole William Phelps...~"
It took him a few moments to come back to his senses, standing up and looking all around him for any sign of the creature. "C'mon, you bastard! WHERE ARE YOU?!"
"Detective Cole William Phelps...~" was the only response he recieved.
It took him five additional seconds to realize that he was ridiculously vulnerable at the moment. This... thing could attack him from any direction at any moment and his chances of survival would be minimal. And so, he ran. No particular direction, just away.
"Detective Cole William Phelps...~"
No matter how far he ran, that damned voice would not get any quieter. It echoed from the trees, from the bushes, from the ground beneath his feet. He fired off a shot into the trees at what he thought was motion, only hitting wood once more.
"Detective Cole William Phelps...~"
He could see a light up ahead, something other than forest. Anything other than forest was preferable to this! He sprinted out of the trees-
And found himself back in the campsite he had just run from. The equipment and trees and corpses were all exactly as they had been left only a few minutes before. Cole cursed for a moment - he had ended up right back where he started - only to realize to his relief that the boat he had arrived in was likely still at the pier. He could leave and call for reinforcements later, maybe from the national guard. Maybe that would be enough to kill this goddamn thing.
He turned back to the forest and began backing away as quickly as possible. He was not leaving himself exposed, not now. He would get away, he would call for help, and he would make damn sure that this thing was sent right back to the hell-pit it had crawled out of. Preferably in many pieces. A flash of green, brighter than the bushes, caught his eye, and he leveled his pistol. The green flashed brightly for a second-
The next thing he knew, he was back-down on the ground, staring up at the blue sky and blinking away stars. Something had hit him, he knew that much. He tried to raise his arm to fire at the bush again, but the greenish thing was gone. Well, that and his arm refused to move. Confused, he looked over to his right... and saw his arm.
Three feet away.
Severed at the shoulder.
His Glock still clutched tightly in its grip.
Exactly two thoughts drifted through his mind at that moment.
That's my arm.
I'm going into shock.
He looked up again... and found himself face to face with the same beady red eyes as before. But, unlike before, it did not dart away, and he got a perfect view of the face of the creature that had attacked him.
Two eyes, red and shiny, spread far apart on its face. A sharp insectoid beak, seemingly in the shape of a smile, was spread between and just below the two eyes, and a small scrap of crimson flesh could be seen hanging from its corner. The red of the meat contrasted heavily with its yellow carapace, tall antennae, green leaf-like hood. A long, pink tongue darted out of its mouth and picked up the scrap before retracting. "Detective...~"
A scythe-like, unnaturally sharp arm slid under his left shoulder and wrapped around his chest, dragging him across the ground. It occured to him at that moment that it was the arm, not a blade, that had pierced Miles' chest earlier. "Cole...~"
A second later, he was thrown through the air and landed heavily on his remaining arm, breaking it with a crack. Pain lanced through his brain, but he forced himself to look back at the creature. It stood tall, a pair of green and yellow legs extending down from its thin, dark green carapace. An ant-like appendix stretched out like a tail, brushing lightly against one of the still-standing cloth tents and painting it red. A pair of dark blue athletic shorts and a snarky black t-shirt clung loosely to the creature's body, both just as drenched in blood as the thing itself. "William...~"
The insectoid monster cocked its head to the side and grinned a malicious, mad grin, made only worse by the crimson liquid running down its carapace. "Phelps...~"
In that moment, the last shred of hope fled Cole's heart.
Slowly, one step after another, the creature walked towards the detective's prone body. He tried to right himself and scoot away, but it sped up as soon as he tried and pinned his left hand to the dirt with one of its arm-scythes. Cole could only scream out in pain, his eyes shut tight as tears of agony leaked out and ran down his face. Shock was still lessening the pain he felt, but the effect was clearly beginning to wear off. After a few seconds of screaming, Cole forced his eyes open and, through the blur of tears, he found the creature's own beady, red eyes staring into his own from only a few inches away.
"It is so nice..." It whispered gleefully, the melodic tone gone from its voice and replaced with pure, unmistakable malice. "To finally meet you in person."
With a wet scraping sound, the scythe-arm was pulled free and wrapped around Cole's chest, pulling him up and pressing him against a tree. Blinking away his tears, Phelps could only watch helplessly as the creature opened its mouth and spat out a globule of the same white, fiberous substance that he had seen before, pinning his upper chest to the tree and temporarily closing the gaping wound where his right arm used to be.
Cole was starting to feel lightheaded as the creature spat out a few more balls of the substance - web, he realized - and stuck the rest of his body to the tree. "Now that you're all snug..." It grinned, idly licking off some of the blood on its right scythe-arm, "It's time for us... to begin..."
The bladed arm rose into the air, sunlight gleaming off the blood still dripping from its surface-
And a glowing red bolt lanced out the trees behind the creature and blasted off the arm at the elbow.
Letting out an inhuman screech, the creature whirled around and spat a globule of web in the direction of the bolt, only for a hail of red beams to answer it, slamming into the monster by the dozen and turning to ash, which gently drifted to the ground below. Then, out from the forest, came two out of the three agents - suits, the word echoing through Cole's brain - running towards the detective with large, silverly rifles in hand. They reached him only seconds later, pulling out a pair of knives and quickly cutting the man out of the web, laying him down at the base of the tree.
The lightheadness that Phelps had felt before had gotten worse, making the world around him spin even though he was clearly immobile on the ground. Faintly, he could hear one of the agents frantically speaking into a radio.
"Tar... elimina... got a surviv..." His eyes slowly began to droop closed...
"Reques... ical evac..." Weakly, Cole fought to stay awake, but it was no use...
A few seconds later, his eyes shut and the darkness claimed him...
As if from a coma, Cole awoke to the sound of a heartrate monitor. His body felt like lead and eyelids even heavier. Faintly, a groan escaped his lips, barely audible.
Apparently, though, it was loud enough as the detective heard a pair of footsteps rush out of the room. A few seconds later, the footsteps returned, accompanied by a second pair. "Oh my God, he's awake!" The voice of a nurse met his ears, and any doubts about him being in a hospital were removed from his mind.
A fit of coughing erupted from Phelps' lungs, shaking him to the bone and sending the nurse running off once more. A second later, she returned and Cole felt a straw being pressed to his mouth. Without hesitation, he used it and felt cool, purified water rushing down his throat. He drained the glass in under a minute and laid there for the remainder, simply breathing and acknowledging his lack of pain. Only when he felt calm enough did the detective open his eyes.
As he suspected, he was laying in a hospital bed in a sterile white room, a nurse standing off to his right side. She smiled lightly at him as his gaze drifted over her. What caught his attention, however, was the man in a black suit standing in the doorway with an impassive expression, holding a pair of black sunglasses in his hand.
It was the same man, he realized, from the campsite, the one that he had talked to. It was slightly harder to recognize him without the glasses, but the resemblence was still there. The two stared at each other for a moment, and Cole thought he could see a trace of regret in the man's eyes.
The man turned to the nurse and asked "Is he stable?" She nodded and he stepped into the room and out of the doorway. "I'm afraid Mister Phelps and I have something to discuss. If we require you again, you will know." The nurse nodded curtly and strode out of the room, leaving the agent to close the thin metal door.
A few seconds passed in silence as the man strode over to Cole's bedside and pushed a button, causing the upper half of the hospital bed to angle upward, putting Cole in a reclined sitting position. "I trust you remember what happened?" He asked the detective, who paused for a moment before slowly, stiffly nodding. While he wished he could not remember the attack, it still haunted his mind. At his response, the agent sighed. "I... must apologize. When we arrived on the scene, we did not realize how close the killer was.
"The creature that attacked you is something that we call a leavanny." The man continued, "A plant-based insectoid being that usually only exists in a series of video games... known as pokèmon." Cole's expression of disbelief did not escape the man, who simply sighed. "Yes, I know. I was of the same opinion when I first ended up here.
"A long, long time ago, Pokèmon were a very real species. Hell, they predate the human race by a good hundred thousand years. Their civilization wasn't advanced, per se, but they were powerful. Then humanity came along. For a while, they just observed us, then eventually our species made first contact with each other. Tensions were high for a while, but things eventually began to calm down.
"Then things started to go... wrong. Long story short, there was a really, really bad war between our two species, and it ended with the pokèmon fleeing to another universe entirely. And before they left, they erased everything, every trace of their civilization here. Every relic, every city, every memory, was wiped away, and humanity was sent right back to the stone age.
"However... not all of them left. One stayed behind, a legendary - one of their deities - named Mew. He's been watching our race since it started to rebuild all those years ago. We didn't know about him, nobody knew about him. He didn't do anything, merely watched. Then, about a century ago, he decided to give humanity a little present.
"Starting about a century ago, Mew has been transforming humans into pokèmon, and messing up their brains in the process. They still know who they are, but they get a lot more... dangerous. Aggressive." The man gestured helplessly and sighed. "It's... hard to explain. The jist of it is that it makes them extreme threats to society. Good becomes bad. Bad becomes... worse." He grimaced at Cole. "You've already met one of the more extreme cases. Our best guess is that he turned about a week ago.
"We," the man gestured to himself, "are humanity's response force. We capture these tranformees before they start killing people. If things go particularly badly, then we're forced to... well..." The man's frown grew deeper, and Phelp's knew what the man would say. "Kill them. It's a tough job... and it's only made harder by the fact that most of these 'pokèumans' as they call themselves are practically supersoldiers right out of the gate.
"For the most part, we've managed to keep these incidents quiet, but enough evidence has gotten out for someone to make video games of all things based on these creatures. Then, to make matters even worse, Mew's started gathering these transformees to try... something." The man slouched down in a chair. "To be perfectly honest, we're not sure what he's planning... but we think he might be trying to reopen the portal that the pokèmon fled through. If he does that... we can kiss our whole god-damn civilization goodbye."
The agent looked over at Cole. "That's why we brought you here. Injured or not, you managed to survive a direct attack from a rogue pokèuman, which is something that disturbingly few civilians can claim. We... are offering you a position in the PKE." Cole did not know what 'PKE' stood for, but that was not exactly a concern to him at the moment. Other species? Mutations? A literal deity looking to wipe out the human race? It was a lot to take in.
A thought occured to the detective. "You want me to help you... even though I lost an arm?" The agent let out a barking laugh, bending down and lifting up his own pant leg, revealing a glimpse of metal underneath.
"You're not the first amputee we've seen here. For obvious reasons, we've had to conceal much of our technology from the rest of the world. Prosthetics are just one part of that. We can get you a replacement in under a week." The thought was appealing to Phelps, who had by now noticed the gaping numbness in his mind that his right arm had once occupied. Even among war veterans, prosthetic limbs were often very expensive, and much lower quality than what the agent had suggested. And to be given one for free...
"I'll do it." Cole said, causing the agent to grin - not malicious, as with the... leavanny, just legitmately happy. "But," He continued, causing the man's smile to fade. "I have a condition. My sons are granted the same shelter as myself."
The agent nodded. "I can understand. Not married myself, but I'm friends with a few people here who are. Their families were given asylum, I'll make sure your sons are granted the same."
"Well then," Phelps said, shifting in his hospital bed. "I guess that means I'll be joining you, Agent...?"
"Chester." The agent replied, holding out a set of sunglasses to Cole. "Lucas Chester."
"Welcome to the PKE."