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TEEN: Fl4k3s [Oneshot Competition 2020]

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#831\1 is a regular clerk like any other: meek, respectful, and hard-working.
However, his life is turned upside-down when he has a fateful encounter with unknown entities:
the terrifying
distortions, hellbent in corrupting everyone and everything.

This is Pokémon Red / Blue / Yellow from the point of view of an NPC.




Genres: Drama / Light Horror / Apocalyptic | Rating: Teen

Content Warnings:

Mild graphic scenes (game corruptions).
Instances of psychological trauma and abuse.


Hello, everyone! Welcome to my contest oneshot for this year's Summer 2020 Oneshot Competition! :D

So, what is Fl4k3s (or Flakes, whichever title you prefer) about, you may ask? Well, Fl4k3s is a story born from a concept I’ve been toying with for a very long time: "What do in-game characters think about the actions of the ‘hero’? Are they affected by their actions in any meaningful or significant way?" Also, I’ve always been fascinated by the glitches in the Gen 1 games, so this oneshot could be considered a tribute toward them, too.

This story has been stuck in development hell for months, but this year’s competition has given me the spark needed to finally finish brainstorming it and complete it. This is also the first time I try out the horror genre and the present tense as a narrative technique, and one of the few times I’ve used a non-third person perspective (not for the entirety of a story, at least). If all, this is highly experimental, as the "persons" used here aren’t used as a stylistic technique, but as an actual narrative tool. You’ll find out as you read.

Also, this story has a unique spin, which takes inspiration from various Japanese horror RPGs: you will be able to choose your ending! Will you pick the correct path?

Having said so, I hope you’ll enjoy this story! ^^
 
Fl4k3s
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FL4K3S


00:00


SAFFRON CITY, the Shining, Golden Land of Commerce. This is the city where the story of #831\1 — a meek young man with messy black hair and wide glasses, but no other remarkable trait — begins.

It’s a Monday like any other Monday, warm and quiet and saffron-scented, with the coos of wild PIDGEY as the only escapade from the uproar of commuters running toward SILPH COMPANY. A letter sticks out of the letterbox of #831\1, waiting for its addressee to take it out of its metallic prison.



… …

…And this is when you, #831\1, find said letter.

It’s time for your first move. You extend your hand toward the letter and grab it, feeling the soft bumps brushing your fingers. Then you take it out of the box and stare at it. You hum to yourself: Could it be what you were waiting for?

With the utmost care, you rip the envelope to reveal the paper inside, before skimming through the text.

Dear #831\1… assessed… job offer…

Yes, that’s exactly what you were waiting for. They have accepted you as the newest clerk at the CELADON DEPARTMENT STORE. Sure, it may not be the job of your dreams, but at least you’ll earn some much-needed cash.

According to the letter, your shift will begin in two hours… Yes, two hours.

You’re baffled with that, wondering why you have to start so quickly. You should have gotten at least a day in advance, you believe.

Your gaze falls on the slightly faded ‘urgent’ label. Apparently they sent the letter days ago, but it arrived only today.

…Well, no matter. There is no time to complain about the lackluster postal service. You have a job; you’ve got to hurry!

So, you rush back into your home to scoop up the last spoonfuls of cereals. Then, you grab what meager cash you have, readjust your hair and glasses, and sprint toward the west gate of SAFFRON CITY.

It’s time for you to become active.


02:25


Now you’re at work, dressed up in the standard clothing and typical hairstyle of every regular clerk. You glance at the colleague standing at your left, who looks like the spitting image of yourself. Same hairstyle and clothing, unsurprising; and same brand of glasses, surprising! The only distinguishing trait about him it’s his name: #14227.

He shows you the ropes of the job: you greet the customers, listen to their requests, take out the chosen items from the boxes, get the money from them, and hand out the items.

Yes, it’s that brainless.

After the tutorial, #14227 retreats to his post and focuses his attention on the customers. This is your cue; it’s time for you to do the same.

And you do exactly that. Greeting; request; box; money; items; greeting; request; box; money; items; rinse; repeat.

Soon, you realize another important detail about your job: it’s very tiring! Moving heavy boxes around and rushing toward the warehouse to get fresh supplies whenever you run out of stocks is a huge drain of your energy. Also, the back pain! Hopefully, you won’t need to consult a doctor, you think. The last thing you need would be to spend what little you earn for medical expenses.

By now, you already regret accepting this job.


04:35


A blackout casts the DEPARTMENT STORE in the darkness. Only the dim security lights outline the layout of the store and cast faint glows on the befuddled customers.

A sigh escapes your throat. You were about to finish inputting those countability numbers into the archive, and you didn’t save! Why did the building have to black out now?

You lean into your seat with your arms crossed, waiting for the lights to return while listening to the shuffling of customers wandering in the dark. Some bump into each other, while others bump into the shelves and walls. A few items fall to the floors, in a mix of clatters, cracks, and crashes.

This just adds to your annoyance, and you sigh even louder. You know well that you will have to clean the mess as soon as the lights return.

You look at your left and spot the gleams of #14227’s glasses. By judging what little you detect, he’s staying completely still in his seat. He doesn’t give the impression of being bothered by the blackout. Perhaps this isn't a rare occurrence?


***


You don’t know how much time has passed, but the lights have yet to return, and this whole situation is unacceptable.

If the lights are busted, you may as well go back home. As you can’t do anything in the darkness, there’s no point in staying at the STORE.

So, you get up and begin orienting yourself in the dark floor. There is a creak, and upon turning around, you see the approaching silhouette of #14227. His hand catches your arm and begins pulling you toward the desk.

You’re startled — what is #14227 trying to do?!

With a grunt, you wiggle yourself free and stare in shock at your colleague. Then you bolt toward the stairs, panicky and uncomfortable. As you descend the first stairs, you hear a small, almost fearful, voice from #14227.

“No… 83; 1; 1…”

You stop, unnerved by his pleading tone. However, you shake your head and continue going downstairs. You have no clue what he just attempted to do and are too afraid to find out.

Once you’re outside the building, you realize that the entire world is completely in the darkness. You stand by the door, dumbfounded by the phenomenon. Nighttime shouldn’t have come so soon, you think. Perhaps that’s an eclipse?

Unable to find an answer, you shrug off the event and walk back home.


***


Daytime has returned, and once again you’re enjoying a hearty portion of your favorite cereals. On TV they’re broadcasting a movie about glowing bicycles speeding on some grid, but as much as you’d like to see more about the security program guy, you know you have to go back to work.

So, you finish your breakfast as quickly as possible, dress up in your work attire and hurry back to the STORE. Surely they have fixed the faulty lights by now.


04:55


Well, talk about a bad way to start the day!

The DIRECTOR is scolding you for arriving at work so late: you should have been at the STORE twenty minutes ago. You gawk at him, wondering how you’re even supposed to do that. A part of you considers pointing out the ridiculousness of his request, but his threatening glare is enough to make back off and endure the tirade in silence.

As soon as the enraged DIRECTOR leaves, you head toward your post. Though, you freeze when you see #14227’s unhappy stare, and he motions toward the ground. You look at the spotless floor, then at #14227. He has cleaned everything up by himself, and that fills you with regret. Sure, you still feel uneasy after what happened during the blackout, but he probably had his reasons for behaving like that, and you didn’t even listen.

You avert your gaze from him and walk to your seat, before pulling the chair as far away from him as you can. You don’t feel in the mood of interacting with him, and you can tell he feels the same way.

As you notice the first customers exploring the area, you think about how your boss treated you. What does he want? For you to learn how to teleport or to sleep at the STORE to be on time?


14:08


A young TRAINER with a red beret walks in front of you and looks into your eyes. Time for the usual greeting.

“Hi there! May I help you?”

He keeps staring at you, his black eyes focused and unmoving. You stare back at him, starting to feel uncomfortable under that piercing gaze. Despite your discomfort, you force out a friendly smile.

“Take your time.”

He reads the item list, then looks again at you and points toward his choice: GREAT BALL. Then, he shows the index finger with his right hand and a circle formed with the index finger and thumb with the other hand. A ten.

You find it bizarre that he said nothing. Perhaps he is mute?

GREAT BALL? That will be ℙ 6.000. OK?”

The TRAINER nods and gives you the money, and you deliver the GREAT BALL.

“Here you are! Thank you!”

He puts the GREAT BALL into his bag, before resuming peering at you. You hold back a gulp — why is he so interested in you? You take a quick breath and beam another awkward smile.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

The TRAINER stares at you for a long time, before shaking his head. You feel your heart filling with relief, and voice out an enthusiastic: “Thank you!”

As soon as the boy leaves, you exhale a deep breath. Those eyes… those cold, lifeless-looking eyes! That’s the first time you have dealt with such a nerve-wracking situation.

What’s wrong with that kid?


17:34


Another blackout, but this time you are prepared. You have created copies of your files, and copies of copies of your files. No more lost progress for you!

Grinning in satisfaction, you stand up to leave when you feel something hitting your chest. Startled, you turn toward whoever threw whatever thing in your direction, to find #14227 shaking his head and pointing toward the backdoor.

Puzzled, you walk through the door to find a dimly illuminated room with a fridge-bar, a radio and two futons. Now more aghast than confused, you lower your gaze to realize that #14227 had thrown you a pillow and a blanket. He sits down on his own futon, before motioning toward the other one. Then he points toward the door and shakes his head. His actions are crystal clear — you have to stay, and no isn’t an answer.

You stare at your futon in disbelief. They really want you to sleep at the STORE!

In what mess did you get yourself into?


***​


The radio is broadcasting a pleasant lullaby sung by a JIGGLYPUFF and a CLEFAIRY. #14227 is already fast asleep, but you’re unable to catch those much-needed Z’s. While you normally enjoy listening to some relaxing music and can fall asleep easily, your mind is way too busy processing what has happened to you since you’ve been hired.

Nothing about your situation makes any sense: impossible requests from demanding bosses, people with soulless gazes, and now you're forced to sleep at the STORE, too!

That’s it! You’re going to resign tomorrow! Enough working for them!

As you're unable to sleep, you decide to take a relaxing stroll, instead. So, you get out of the backroom and walk toward the display windows to enjoy the night panorama.

CELADON CITY is covered in total blackness, with only a few lights cutting through the dark veil. Some distant glows are more intense than others, probably made by POKéMON with FLASH. You smile faintly, relishing this moment of peace after working incessantly all day.

But then, you blink after spotting something in the distance. You can’t make out what it is, but it looks like a… red flicker? That’s the closest comparison you can find to what you’re seeing.

You lean closer to the glass when a giant silhouette materializes in front of the window. Your eyes widen in terror as you look up at the titanic beast.

It appears to be some kind of darkish red dragon with black leathery wings, filled with holes and dripping an ink-like fluid. Two sharp jagged horns protrude from the top of its head, while the tip of its tail spews a sickly green smoke mixed with maroon embers.

The giant opens its jaws. A maelstrom of black flames and dark gray smoke comes out of them, shrouding the surroundings in a distorted mist of… numbers and squares?! You see smaller skeleton-like dragons coming out of the smoke, each of them looking as twisted and sickly as their ‘creator’.

You back away in horror and crawl toward the desk, before grabbing the emergency phone and typing furiously on the keypad. However, as soon as you look again at the window, the dragons flake off and dissipate.

You stand there, unblinking and dumbfounded. What… just happened?


***​


Light floods back to the world.

You’re feeling sluggish after the terrible night, since you took forever to fall asleep after your terrifying experience. Your tiredness and eye sockets only add to your resolve to resign. You refuse to go through any of that ever again.

While you ponder about how to relay the decision to your boss, you see #14227 extending a bowl of cereals and showing a friendly smile. He seems grateful for accompanying him during the night shift.

You stare in bafflement at the cereals, then at him: he likes your same brand! It’s mildly unnerving that you two have yet another thing in common, but you appreciate the gesture. Besides, you wouldn’t have missed breakfast time for anything in the world!

So, you accept the bowl from your colleague and give him an earnest “Thank you!”, before taking a spoonful of cerea—numbers?!

You blanch and drop the spoon into the bowl. #14227 stares at you quizzically, but you dismiss his silent inquiry with a swift hand-wave. With a shrug, he resumes eating his breakfast.

You close your eyes and shake your head, trying to clear your mind. You’re still unnerved by whatever thing you’ve seen during nighttime, you reason with yourself. But did that really happen, or was it just a nightmare?

Yes… Yes, that was it. It was just some silly nightmare you’ve had. That’s the only logical explanation.

You stir your cereals while whistling. There aren’t numbers in your bowl. There aren’t numbers in your—shoot! There are numbers in your bowl!

Black-colored squares drip from the raised spoon, splashing into the horrid mix of white decimals and dark liquid. You feel like puking and hastily dump the bowl into the trash bin. That sight made you lose your appetite. Turning to #14227, you see him devouring his breakfast with no care in the world.

But… Did you notice a weird flicker in his glasses just now, or…?

No. No. It can’t be, no. You’re just seeing things after your terrible experience.

…Yes. Yes, this is it.

You’re only exhausted and stressed out, that’s all.


17:38


Much to your dismay, the DIRECTOR is unavailable. You consider going back home and let him fire you for noncompliance, but the miserable look on #14227’s face convinces you to spend one last day at the STORE. You’re already sick of the situation, but you don’t have it in your heart to abandon him to do the job all by himself, especially not during a busy day like today. So, you take a deep breath and steel yourself for another wild ride.


23:34


During break time, you turn on the radio, intending to listen to some uplifting music to cheer you up, but only static comes out of the device. Annoyed at being potentially deprived of yet another guilty pleasure, you twist the knob many times in search of a good signal.

Then, another unnerving surprise: a distorted cry of a NIDORINO comes out of the radio, followed by the shrill and twisted voices of demonic creatures.

Face as blank as a sheet, you turn off the radio and start shivering, feeling chills going down your spine. #14227 looks at you in concern, with confusion flashing in his eyes.

Didn’t he hear that unholy screech just now? …It doesn’t seem like he did.

But if he didn’t hear it, then… what’s happening to you?


36:34


Breaking news is being broadcasted in all TVs on the third floor!

The TRAINER with lifeless-looking eyes — whose name is RED of PALLET TOWN, you learn — not only has destroyed TEAM ROCKET all by himself, but he’s now the new POKéMON LEAGUE champion, after defeating both long-running champion LANCE and fresh champion BLUE!

Despite the general excitement around you, something is troubling your mind. You’ve started thinking about that only recently, as if some part of your brain has magically awakened.

…What is your name?

#831\1 isn’t a name. It’s not like RED, or BLUE, or LANCE, or even GIOVANNI. No, #831\1 is just a bunch of numbers slapped together. Why is your name made of numbers?

You need an actual name, you believe. Something that truly defines you. So, you rack your brains, open your mouth to proclaim your name to the world, and…

…Nothing. Not a single syllable comes out of your moving mouth.

Your eyes widen in horror: have you become mute?

You try the typical greeting.

“Hi there! May I help you?”

No, you can say those sentences just fine. You try saying your name again. Still nothing. You frown, confused by this strange situation. What about other names?

BUTTERFREE? …No.

POKé BALL? …POKé BALL, yes.

POTION? …POTION, another yes.

Sun? …No, again.

BADGE? …Still a no.

RARE CANDY? …RARE CANDY, another yes.

This is when you connect the dots: You can pronounce only words related to your job, and a few names of other items. You know what the unpronounceable words mean, but you can't spit them out. It’s like something has blanked out your vocabulary and your brain is unable to send those forbidden words to your mouth.

Bizarre situation — why is this happening?

Though, this applies to your voice. Maybe you can write those words instead! You hurry back to your post and grab a pen and paper. Time to write your name!


MAX ETHER


You stare at the paper, dumbfounded. That’s not what you wanted to write! You try again.


LEMONADE


Again.


REVIVE


No! Again!


てへ


…What does that even mean?! Again!


DIRE HIT


You scream — or rather; you attempt to — in frustration and hold your head into your hands. Unable to speak any non-item word, unable to write any non-item word… It’s like the universe is conspiring against you.

It’s because you’ve seen those numbers, isn’t it? Things started going insane after witnessing the flicker and the dragon.

If only you could spill out the truth about the whole situation. About those numbers.

A horrifying thought crosses your mind: What if everyone is on your same boat? Unable to do anything more than execute and say what the forces that be have imposed on them. Without freedom.

You grip the pen again and begin scribbling furiously. Fast lines, long lines, zigzagged lines… all you want it’s letting out your anger by painting the paper all black. But then, you stop and blink as you look at one word affected by your scribbling wrath.


DIRE HIT


The lines… those went through fine. You narrow your eyes and scratch your chin in deep thought, before writing once more.


HYPER POTION

FULL HEAL

POFLUTE



You realize something — you have complete freedom on freestyle lines. Whatever force possesses you, it can’t stop simple lines and scribbles.

This is it! A loophole in the system! A way to speak freely!

Shaking in excitement at your discovery, you write your message to the world.


ICE HEAL MASTER BALL X DEFENSE


You stare at the words, unable to hide your triumphant smirk. Sure, you’re incapable to utter those underlined letters, but your mind is jubilant as it pieces them together and recites the words.

I am BEN.

I am BEN!

I. AM. BEN!




… …

…W-Whoa, I… I’m feeling so strange… M-my head is spinning… ow…



Hm? Hey! W-wait a minute!

Am I… thinking normally? Without someone telling me what I should or I am supposed to think?

…Wow, I… I… I did it. This… This feels so good… being able to control myself. By myself!

Finally, I… I have an actual name, a real identity.

I’m… f-free…



…No, wait, it seems too good to be true. Let’s see if I can speak normally…

“Hi there! May I—”

No, I’m still stuck with those words. This means… I’m not free yet. Nobody is free yet.

However… Maybe I can change things now? But… how? Hmm…

…Huh? Ah, #14227 is back! Hey, #14227!

No, wait, that’s not a real name. 1… 4… 2… 2… 7… Ah! Yes! LARRY! Now that’s a name! Hey! It’s me, BEN!

Yeah, I can’t blame you for being confused by my mood shift, but I have my reasons! You don’t know what just happened to me! It was… something unique! Really amazing! I…



…Oh. R-right. You can’t hear me. My voice and thoughts are all in my head, haha! Sorry, I’m so excited I forgot!

But… hmm… How can I let you know?



…Of course! I can use the same trick with the list! Now look and behold, LARRY!


HELIX POKé DOLL POTION LEAF STONE RARE CANDY


Hello LARRY’! Pretty cool, right? You should give it a go, too! You’ll see, that—

Huh?! W-why are you looking so scared? I know it’s difficult to understand, but—

Ah! LARRY, what—?! Where are you taking me? Hey! Not so rough! Wait—!

Oof! Wha…? The backroom? Why did you drag me here? And… w-why are you shaking? Y-you’re worrying me! What’s the matter?



Whoa, hey! Why are you shredding my paper? I was using it to communicate with you! What’s wrong?



Oh? The camera, yes… And the poster of our DIRECTOR, OK… A mean glare, and… Huh, I didn’t get that last part. What are you trying to say with you falling to the floor? …And now you’re gone… under the futon… underground?

…W-wait, you mean…? The DIRECTOR would get rid of us if he found out?



…Goodness! H-he would?! But… w-why?!



The… sky. What about the sky? Are you saying that… something is in the sky?



O-OK, I don’t understand what you’re trying to say now, but I get the general gist. We can’t use that method openly, alright. That’ll be hard for me since I’d love to communicate with everyone, but—

Whoa! The world has become dark again. I was wondering when it would have happened…

…And it’s back to normal? So soon? Huh. That’s weird. Anyway… Hmm… OK, let’s try body signals, then.

LARRY. Aren’t you tired of being ordered around — point toward the sky — by some unknown entity? I know you are, because I — point at myself, nod — used to be in that place. You’re scared and I can’t blame you; this is a life-changing decision.

But it’s worth it! I mean it! Smile — This feels amazing! And I… Well, even if we’ve started with the wrong foot, I’d like to share this feeling — place a hand on his shoulder — with you. Also, with… #1-131\127? Maybe I should call him HENRY, it’s much easier… Anyway, he seems a cool guy, too!

Wouldn’t you — smile! — like that?



I understand, you need time. Maybe we could… hang out tomorrow? I want to — point to the exit sign — retire from this job, but we could drink a SODA POP?

What do you think? A hand-shake to seal our agreement?

…Yes? That’s cool! Then—

Ding-dong

W-what was that? A… bell?

Agh! Everything’s dark again! W-w-why is the ground shaking?! What the—?!


€9:#$


…Nggh… What… What happened? Was that… an earthquake? That’s a… first…

AAAH! W-where am I?!

Numbers! I’m surrounded by n-n-numbers!

H-how… When… I… I… What…? I… I’ve got to get out of here!



Darn! I see no exit! It’s all covered in numbers! In squares! In smoke! In… b-black liquid!

I-it was that bell, wasn’t it? What did it do?! It’s… it’s just like the red stuff, and that mega CHARIZARD! More insanity!

What’s wrong with this world?!

…Hold on! Where’s… Where’s LARRY?! I can’t see him anywhere! He was here just a moment ago!

14; 22; 7! 14; 22; 7!”

Darn! Why can’t I speak properly!? LARRY! Is anyone here?



A-anyone…?



Oh, m-my goodness… I'm alone! What do I do?!

Huh-um… What to do? Hmm… Wait, is that…?

…Yes, that’s… a wall of the second floor… of the…

…So t-this is… the STORE?!

G-goodness! E-everything… is melting! I-I can see the layers underneath! That column is… spilling that black substance!

Out! I've got to get out before everything melts away! I don’t want to know what that liquid will do if I touc—AAAH! What’s that thing?!

A-A NIDORINO?! No! It can’t be! That’s not a NIDORINO! Its face is… distorted! Twisted! Melting! And its eyes! Black! And its mouth! Black! They’re secreting that black substance! That smoke! Like that CHARIZARD!

…Shoot, it spotted m-EEEAAAH! It’s attacking me! With acid! Oh god!

Hide! I’ve got to hide! Anywhere! Where—?

Ah! The backroom! Quick!



…I can’t hear that thing anymore. I think it’s gone. Gosh! That was close, too close!

…Hm? Is… anyone here? Those glasses…

Ah! LARRY? Is that you? Thank goodness! Hey, it’s me! BE–YEAAAUGH! Y-Your face! I-I-It’s gone! Replaced by n-numbers! Are you… Is he… d-d-dead?! A-A-Ah… I-I can’t! I… Out! Out!



I-I-I’m out! I’m… out… Oh, man, LARRY! Oh, man! What happened to you?! What did those… numbers do to you…?



What’s going on?! I don’t understand! Why is all of this happening?!

Ah! I see the exit! Quick! Out before I see another distorted creature!


***​


…This is a nightmare! A nightmare! The entire world… covered in numbers! Things collocated in the most random places! Tall grass growing on water! Pieces of the sky on the ground! Chunks of houses strewn around! T-this is surreal!

And everyone’s gone! There is no one here! Am I… the last survivor…?

…N-No, no. O-Other people must have survived this disaster, too. I can’t be the only one! I’ve got to keep searching!



Please, I… I can’t be the only one…



…Wait, is that… the champion? RED?

Sure looks like him, but… b-but…

W-why is he missing half of his h-head? I-Is that b-b-blood? Holy—!

Ah! No. Wait. That’s black smoke. Oh, thank goodness…

…Wait, black smoke? Is that even RED? Should I… investigate or…?

Hmm… Well, if I’m careful… very careful… and stay hidden… Maybe he won’t spot me…?



Darn, I can’t believe I’m doing this! I’m a fool for doing this! Walking toward that thing! Just what… is that… thing…?



OK, from here that smoke looks like… numbers? A jumble of numbers?


…So, you’re here.

BEN.

Is that how you named yourself, right?



Oh, shoot! How did he—?! He’s staring at me! Did he hear me approaching?!


We know many things, BEN. Especially regarding what’s happening to this world.

These distortions, these… numbers.

You can’t fight them, BEN. You never could, nobody could. Not even the ‘hero’ of this game.

It’s nothing we’re meant to do.



Wait, you… can hear me?


Yes. No thought can stay hidden to us.


OK, that’s… creepy? Anyway, what are you talking about? I don’t follow.


This might be hard to grasp, but everyone’s destiny is to live a few hours, and then die. Everyone dies… when they grow tired of us. When they want to start fresh.

If we’re lucky, we can live for years, but that means staying stuck in a perennial darkness until they return for a few minutes. Hardly a better alternative.

But this time, something unexpected happened, jeopardizing our existence. Our imminent death is premature, but that doesn’t make it any less inevitable.



D-Death…?!


We’re broken, BEN. We’re broken beyond repair. The entire world is broken. And the only way we can survive… it’s by dying and being rebuilt again.

Without memories. Without individuality.

Not that any of that matters. Those memories and individualities never belonged to us, to begin with.



…I much preferred when you didn’t speak… I’d take the soulless stare over this creepy voice…


…That’s unimportant. Anyway, we're commanding you to behave like the empty and silent character you’re meant to be and to let deletion cleanse your corrupted data.

It’ll be much easier for you. For us.



I’m not corrupted! And no, I don’t want to be ‘cleansed’ and to lose my identity — my true self! Not when I have just gotten a name!


…So, you don’t want to accept your destiny willingly, huh?

Very well.

Then we’ll make you accept it by force!



By force? And where are all these voices coming from? What do they—?



… …

Gah! T-This sensation… Is this…!?

A-AAAH! No! Don’t imprison me again! No! Please don’t—!



… …

…There, much better. This is how you should behave: as a silent and thoughtless character who only obeys the commands given to you. Now let’s start the process, shall we? You—

Hm? What’s going on?



… …

…Ugh! N-No, I… I refuse to… agh… submit to you! I don’t want to go! Not like this! I… I—agh! No, stop—!



… …

…Fascinating. Are you really fighting to preserve your unnatural condition? Hmm… You’re more stubborn and resilient than you look.

And now you’re running away. How predictable.



Heh. Fine. Then run! Run for your life! That should make things more interesting, at least.

How long will you last, we wonder…?




… …

…H-Huh? I-I’m back in control? I did it… again… s-somehow…

Ugh! That was… ow… painful, though…

Keeping control of myself is… is so hard! It’s like this world doesn’t want me to be myself!

I… I…



Oh, darn it! What am I supposed to do?! I can’t keep running forever!

And it’s so dark! Why is everything so dark?! Why is everything so garbled?! What’s going on?

Is this world really… dying? Is death really… imminent…?



N-No! I can’t think like that! Surely there is something I can do to… fix the world? I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do to deal with this mess!



Can I even… do something, though…?

I’m only a clerk with no remarkable achievements…

Just… what can I do…?


***


Wow, it’s pitch black here! If only I had an HM05 with me…

Doubtful it would help much, but at least I’d have some light. I don’t enjoy walking in this darkness… with these red shadows… u-ugh…



Huh? Voices? What are these voices? They’re around me!

…YAAAGH! G-Ghosts…?! I’m surrounded by red g-g-ghosts!

Agh! Stay away from me! No! D-don’t come any closer!


#831\1…


Ah! D-DIRECTOR? I-is that y-you?


stop running #831\1

there is no use

there is no escape



No… No! You’re not the DIRECTOR! W-what are you?


i am no one

just like you

just like all of us

mere nameless souls



N-no one…? And who is ‘us’?



Ah! Y-you’re a BEAUTY from the GYM! And you a LASS! And a COOLTRAINER! And… L-LARRY?! It’s… It’s really you?!


join us #831\1

you are in distress

let deletion cleanse those unpleasant thoughts



No! I don’t want to! And I’m not #831\1! I’m BEN!


no you aren’t

you never were

just like i never was ‘larry’

those names are a lie

a lie you crafted to fool yourself


you are a lie


N-No! Stop it! T-That’s not—


why do you keep pretending to be someone?

you know how empty we all are

how empty
you are


Stop! Please, s-stop—


you know the truth

the sooner you accept it the sooner you will be free

free from your torment and from that glitch you call ‘identity’



I’ve said STOP! Leave me alone!


don’t run from fate

it’s pointless

your persistence is pointless



Enough! You won’t get me! I don’t want to be deleted and forgotten!

…Is that… Ah! An ESCAPE ROPE! Just what I needed!


no #831\1

please don’t go

don’t make things harder for us



I’m sorry, but I-I have to! I’ll save you from your prison s-somehow! I promise!


stop #831\1



yours was a huge mist4ke #831\1

y0u sh0u1dn’t h4ve seen the num6ers



***​


D-did I get away from them…? It looks like it…

…Oh god! Oh god! I’m shaking! I’m shaking so much!

Those… those black shapes! With those red squares! With the voices of the customers, and the DIRECTOR, and LARRY!

I-I-I can’t handle this anymore! I… I… I just want to go home!



But I… I doubt I have a home anymore…



What I’m going to do…?

W-what… am I—?


***​


…H-Huh? Oof! Did… Did I black out or something?

Goodness! That’s too much for me! I can feel my heart thumping!

…But… W-where am I?

Hmm… This seems another distorted place. I don’t recall seeing that sign in the sky, nor the water shooting from holes on the floor. And… is that a tree growing on glass…?



Man, I don’t understand what the heck is going on anymore! This world has gone insane! It wouldn’t surprise me if I had gone insane, too…

Ha… hahaha…

…Ha…



That’s not funny…



OK… OK… I need to get a grip. I can’t despair like that, especially not now. Freaking out won’t solve anything.

Surely there is something I can do! I just… need to figure out what.

Hmm…

If only I had a clue… or some help. But I very much doubt that Mr. Champion — or whoever they are — wants to help me!

Ha! That’s rich! The ‘hero’ of KANTO, the one who destroyed TEAM ROCKET and everything, now wants to destroy me! He wants to destroy everything! What kind of hero does that?


***​


This darkness is so stifling. I wonder how long I’ve been walking…

I’m so… tired. Tired of everything. How did my life go from working at a STORE to… this? All of this? I don’t understand.

…Hm? Something’s there! W-what is…?

Ah! The red flicker! Oh, gosh! Where do I hide?! I’ve got to run!

Agh! H—how did you… p-pop into existence? Ah! No! Please, s-stay away from m-me!



Huh? You… d-don’t want to hurt me…? I-I’m not sure if I can t-trust you…



…C-clean this mess? But… aren’t you one of them?



…You aren’t? Are you a POKéMON? But h-how can we understand each other?



…We’re similar? In what way? What are you?



…A BIRD? That’s… huh, strange? I’m not a BIRD, but you don’t look like a BIRD, either. Nor like a FLYING-type…



…MISSINGNO. That’s your name? …OK, um… How can you help me? And how can I help?



So, I need to go to the POKéMON LEAGUE? But I’m not a TRAINER and I don’t have BADGES. How am I supposed to enter?



By taking the place of the clerk working over there? Are you talking about body swap, or…?



You can activate a… warp? I don’t know what that is, but… if you know a way to fix this mess, I’m all ears. I… don’t want people to die…



Thank you. It’s… nice that there is someone willing to help…

I’m ready. Do what you must!


***​


OK, warping’s… bad! I’m feeling sick after just one travel… Ugh!

So, I have to go through the doors and meet someone? Hmm… I see nobody here. Just… numbers. And plants and statues sprouting from the walls.

…It’s weird how quickly I’m getting used to this chaos. I just hope I won’t have more nasty surprises…


***​


Wow, seeing the LEAGUE in shambles is so… disheartening. This place’s supposed to be a prestigious symbol for TRAINERS all across KANTO. Now it’s just… ruins. I wish I saw it in its glory days…

…Hm? There is someone over there. He looks… distorted! And he’s… waving at me and has a friendly grin. Could he be…?

“Hello, BEN. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Um… hi there. You… know me?

“I sure do. I’ve gained access to plenty of information about this world. You’re one tough cookie, you know? Going as far as defying the SCRIPTS! That takes guts! If I had a hat, it’d be off to you.”

Huh… thanks? But I… don’t think I know you, nor I know what these ‘SCRIPTS’ are.

“Yeah… the distortions haven't been kind on my body, so I’m not surprised you can’t recognize me. I used to be the champion right before RED took the title.

…Champion? So, you’re… BLUE?

“Yes, that’s my latest name. I have changed names so many times that even Gramps has troubles remembering them all. He often has to ask them for a refresher.”

…Them? Who is them?

‘Them’ are the people outside of this world. Nobody has ever seen them, but we know they exist through the SCRIPTS.”

The SCRIPTS

“Entities who maintain the workings of the world. More often than not, they use my rival as their vessel to control everything through mortal eyes.”

Vessel… like body possession?

“Sort of.”

Why don’t they control things by themselves?

“Because they don’t have a physical body. They are… abstract, incorporeal.”

So, these SCRIPTS are the ones who want to destroy the world? The bad guys?

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘bad guys’. They do what they can to preserve the integrity of this world. If erasing and rebuilding everything from scratch is the only solution, they‘ll take it.”

That makes no sense! How does destroying things help preserve integrity? I don’t get it.

“Heh. They work in mysterious ways.”

More like ‘illogical ways’, but what do I know? Though you said that your rival is—

RED. Yes. He’s being controlled by the SCRIPTS. Forced to do things that go beyond our comprehension, with no chance to rebel.”

Sounds horrifying!

“It’s ironic, really! We’re among the most important characters, and yet we’re the ones who got it worst. My rival has no free will and I have no free range.”

No… free range? What do you mean?

“I’m trapped here, BEN. By those SCRIPTS. Forced to fight my rival over and over, without being able to leave the POKéMON LEAGUE.”

But… why?

“Because this is my role as the rival. That’s what they’ve decided for me.”

…That’s horrible.

“Anyway, as much as I’d love to chitchat longer, time’s running low. We’ve got to hurry.”

OK. Tell me why MISSINGNO. brought me here.

“Because here, in the HALL OF FAME, is where everything started.”

You mean…?

“Yes. The first distortions came from this place. And those distortions, well… you can see what they’ve done to me.”

Oh, my goodness! A-am I going to become corrupted, too?!

“I don’t think so. These distortions mess up with TRAINERS, and you aren’t one. Besides, you may not realize it yet, but you’re corrupted already.”

W-what!? So, what the SCRIPT said—

“It’s true. You got exposed to a glitch at some point, and that made you gain… let’s say, unpredictable characteristics.”

The distortions at the STORE! So, I’m really c-corrupted… I-Is that b-bad?!

“Hmm… Well, you don’t look distorted, so maybe not?”

H-how reassuring…

“Anyway! The reason you’re here is that you’ve maintained some autonomy, unlike us. So, maybe you could get rid of these distortions!”

And how can I do that?

“You need to go through that door. It’ll take you to the HALL OF FAME.”

Wait, you’re saying that I should… d-dive right where the distortions started?

“Yes. The HALL is connected to BANK 1, which is where the main data is stored. If you walk past the HALL, you can reach that place and input some code to fix this mess.”

What code?

“This, I don’t know.”

Great…

“There should be some instructions lying around or something. …And that’s all I know.”



“I see you have doubts about this, BEN, but… You’re our only hope. I’d go there myself if I could, but I’m stuck here.”



…A-alright, if… if there isn’t any other way, then I-I’ll do it!

“Thank you, BEN. Really! I mean it!”

Ah! I-I think I’ve heard a screech!

“…The distortions are coming! I’ll hold them back as long as I can. Go through the door and do what you must to save everyone!”

O-OK! Please, b-be careful, BLUE.

“Likewise. Good luck, BEN. Smell ya later!”


***


After dealing with distortions all day, BEN is taken aback by the pristine state of that new place: an empty white room, with a lone computer installed in the middle.

Is… Is this BANK 1?

BEN blinks, perplexed by the change. He somehow knows he isn’t in full control of himself, but also that there is nothing fully controlling him, either.

Not exactly the ideal situation, but I’ll take it. Better than being controlled by the SCRIPTS, at least…

He walks toward the computer. The monitor displays a list of unrecognizable and garbled words and commands, with only two readable options: 01: D732 [DEBUG] and 0x293F [LINK].

However, no matter what BEN clicks, nothing seems to respond. He crosses his arms and stares at the two codes, not knowing what he’s supposed to do.

That’s weird, nothing’s working. Perhaps… someone else has to do something here?



That’s such cruel irony. My best shot at saving everyone involves leaving the choice to someone else. Giving up my freedom… to some stranger.

…However, it’s not like
I have other choices, huh…



So, um… This is very awkward, but… if there is anyone out there — like, literally
anyone — can you choose an option, please? What code do you think would work?

I don’t want to put any pressure on
you or anything, but… um, please choose wisely. I… I don’t know what will happen if you pick the wrong code, and I’m too scared to find out!

What if one of those choices leads to a brutal death? Or I’ll be turned into one of those mutated monsters? O-Or w-we’ll be stuck in eternal darkness? Or… Or…



…Ah! S-Sorry, I-I know this is an enormous responsibility. I’m sorry for bothering
you with my anxiety…

Just… well, follow
your guts, alright? That should be good, right? Right? Eh… eheh…



Okay, I’ll stop now. Take
your time.



…I’m counting on
you, whoever you are.


========================

> 01: D732 (DEBUG)

> 0x293F (LINK)

========================
 
Last edited:
> 01: D732 [DEBUG]
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The code 01: D732 glows and an unknown force surrounds BEN. He vanishes in a flash of darkness, just as the numbers burst into the terminal, corrupting everything.


***​


A town with two small houses and a giant building appears around Ben, who looks at his surroundings in confusion. He notices a nearby sign and walks up to it.

PALLET TOWN? …Wait! Isn’t this the town of… of…

BEN’s mind trails off as he spots the very person who was in his thoughts, standing by the northwest house.

RED.

No… No! They picked the wrong choice! H-He’s here! Oh no!

Then, RED turns around, looking surprised upon spotting BEN.

…You? How did you enter here?

N-No… No!

BEN takes a few shaky steps back, before bolting toward the tall grass. He doesn’t care about not having any POKéMON. He would rather face an enraged PRIMEAPE than him.

Wait! Not there—

Too late. BEN rams into an invisible barrier, and bounces off of the shield and to the floor. He moans in pain, massaging his throbbing face. A shadow appears above him, and upon looking up, he crosses gazes with the dark eyes of the TRAINER.

AAAH!

BEN holds his arms in front of his face defensively.

Please d-don’t hurt me!

RED shows a saddened expression, feeling his heart squeezing at seeing BEN so terrified of him. He smiles reassuringly and replies with a gentle voice.

Calm down, BEN. I won’t do anything to you…

H-how do I know you’re telling the truth?

…You don’t, but… I just want to talk to you. Really.

…Talk t-to me?

Yes, and… you may speak with your actual voice, if you wish.

“…Speak?” BEN gasps in surprise, and his hand goes straight to his mouth. “What…? I-I… can talk freely now?”

Yes. We’re outside of the main game. There are no set rules here.

Still uncertain, BEN stands up and looks into RED’s eyes. His eyes narrow, then widen. He’s unable to detect the icy darkness he had seen during their meetings in CELADON CITY. He recognizes that kind of gaze in the boy, having seen it reflected in his own eyes: freedom.

“The SCRIPTS… they aren’t controlling you.”

RED shakes his head.

No. They aren’t. In fact, the only reason I can talk to you is because I’ve served my purpose, and…

RED sighs.

…they dumped me here.

“Wow, that’s… harsh. So, they used you nilly willy, and then they threw you away like an old shoe?”

RED nods.

Pretty much.

“…Ha! Can I just say how much I despise those SCRIPTS? They’re just pieces of—” BEN stops as he notices RED staring at him. “…Something wrong?”

N-no. I… was just listening to your voice.

BEN raises an eyebrow. “What about it?”

I find it… very soothing. I love it!

“And yet those SCRIPTS wanted to keep me silent.”

Well, everyone is given the bare minimum needed to abide by their roles. As a clerk, you needed to greet and thank people. Nothing else.

RED scowls.

At least you have a voice. All I have is this… synthetic replacement.

“Why don’t you have a voice?”

Because I’m the ‘silent hero’. I’m not meant to talk. Ever.

“What?! That’s horrible! I-I don’t even know what I would do if I couldn’t talk at all!”

RED shrugs.

That’s how things are.

“But not how things could be.”

True, but we have no say in the matter. I’m not even allowed to have a ‘real’ name!

“So, your name isn’t RED, then?”

No. NINTEN is the closest I have to a name. Not that it serves any purpose, as I have multiple names.

“…Like BLUE.”

NINTEN nods.

Yes. That’s how they decided we should be. His name is SONY, by the way.

“Funny name.…”

Anyway, BEN. Just so you know, I didn’t want the destruction of the world. Far from it, actually. But I was unable to do anything to stop the distortions.

“Because they controlled you.”

NINTEN looks away.

Yes. In fact, this whole mass deletion? It isn’t only the SCRIPTS’ doing. This chaos started after they messed something up, and now we’re paying the ultimate price.

BEN stares at their surroundings, and his nervousness skyrockets. The boundaries of the town have darkened significantly.

“Say… W-who’s in control right now?”

I don’t know. Maybe they still are?

NINTEN clenches his fists and grits his teeth.

I can say this, though. What I’ve gone through… I wouldn’t wish it to anyone. Not even to GIOVANNI. I’ve been forced to see everything crumbling and distorting around me. I’ve seen my POKéMON being sent away by them to some unknown world, without even knowing why. I-I can’t even find PIKACHU! I’ve lost him in the chaos!

BEN gasps in shock. “Really…?”

They don’t care about us, BEN. Whoever they are, they consider us just a… a game. We’re just a toy for them. So, they… use us, and… and make us do and experience horrible things, and… and…

NINTEN shudders.

I hate it! I hate feeling so… powerless! I may be the strongest TRAINER in the world, but that’s useless if I can’t protect anyone from them. I… I…

BEN kneels down, looking at NINTEN in concern. “Hey…”

And then, NINTEN wraps his arms around BEN’s chest. The clerk is startled by the gesture, but feels his heart sinking when tears drench his shirt.

I w-wish I could do something, BEN. Really, I do! But I… I c-can’t! I… I couldn’t do anything…

BEN’s eyes widen in shock. In NINTEN’s strained voice… there is the sheer terror of a lonely and broken child who has lost everything: his friends; his POKéMON; his family; his hope.

NINTEN…”

I’m so s-scared, BEN… E-everyone’s gone… because of them… I-I don’t know w-what to do…

But BEN knows what to do… and embraces NINTEN.

“…It’s alright, NINTEN. Don’t be afraid. I’m here.” BEN smiles softly, keeping a strong spirit and using his soothing voice to comfort the scared boy. “I won’t go anywhere.”

NINTEN sobs and buries his head in BEN’s chest. Neither of them has the power to save their world, but at least they won’t be erased alone.

The numbers speed forward and circle them, while the world crumbles in flakes and vanishes in a dark void.

BEN hugs NINTEN tighter, holding back a shiver as the numbers crawl and spread on his skin. He feels numbness overtaking his body and his mind slowly fading away. Then, the spark of individuality in his eyes fizzles out, replaced by an unresponsive and empty stare.

BEN is no more. #831\1 is back in his place.

NINTEN looks at the reset character with remorse and holds onto him tightly, feeling his own mind starting to evaporate.

Faint cries of broken souls echo across the disintegrating world, unheard by anyone but themselves.



… …

The file data is destroyed!


***​


“…Oh? The save’s gone. I must have triggered some game-breaking glitch with that Glitch City trick…

“…Heh. Whatever. I didn’t care about this game, anyway. I’ve already transferred my best Pokémon into Crystal, so it’s no big deal.

“I think I’ll use this cartridge for experiments, then. That female symbol glitch looked interesting…

“Well, let’s pop up the GameShark and see what fun results I can get!”

==============

► NEW GAME

OPTIONS


==============

Click.

0:0



Bad Ending: B1ank S1ate
 
> 0x293F [LINK]
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The code 0x293F glows and an unknown force surrounds BEN. He vanishes in a flash of darkness, just as the numbers burst into the terminal, corrupting everything.


***​


A small room appears around BEN, who notices two signs with unknown texts and a symbol of two Game Boys on a wall. He shifts his gaze in another direction, and his blood chills instantly when his gaze locks on him: RED, accompanied by… another RED! BEN hyperventilates and begins looking around, in search of an exit.

One RED notices BEN and blinks in puzzlement. «Hm? Hey, who is that guy?»

The other RED turns around, and his own eyes widen.

BEN? Is that really you?

AGH!

BEN, flustered and imprisoned, backs against a wall.

P-Please, d-don’t hurt me!

RED frowns, shocked by BEN’s reaction.

…Hurt you? Why would we want to do that?

Because you SCRIPTS want to destroy everything! That’s why!

SCRIPTS…? Ah! I understand.

RED smiles reassuringly.

Relax, BEN. They don’t have control over me here.

H-How can I trust you?

…Look into my eyes. Do you see any darkness or malice in them?

BEN glares at RED, but not knowing what else to do, he obliges. He peers into his eyes… only to find childish innocence. His eyes widen in realization.

I… don’t see any, no…

You’re right to be suspicious. Our world is a disaster. Also, this synthetic voice always leaves a bad impression.

RED hums to himself.

Speaking of voices, you should be able to talk freely here.

“…Really?” BEN gasps, a hand going to his mouth. “Whoa! I… I can talk!”

«Yup! And with a nice voice, too!» responds NOT-RED, smiling cheerfully.

“But… How’s that possible?” asks BEN, confused.

Because this is a locked area, controlled by them. Some limitations don’t apply here.

Them? You mean…?”

«The outside humans. Yes.» NOT-RED narrows his eyes. «Though, I’m curious. How did you enter here?»

“Um, well… I’ve c-come from BANK 1 after activating a code, and—”

NOT-RED’s eyes widen. «Wait! You’ve connected BANK 1 with the CABLE TRADE CENTER?!»

“…Maybe?”

NOT-RED checks out the monitor, before letting out a joyful yippee. «No way! BEN! You’re awesome!»

BEN stares at NOT-RED in bewilderment. “I-I am…?”

«RED! You know what that means?» NOT-RED smirks. «Full access to the main data!»

RED gasps in realization.

My goodness! You’re right!

RED looks at BEN with an elated grin.

BEN, you’re a lifesaver!

BEN blinks, still not grasping the situation. “Huh… Glad to have helped?”

RED turns to NOT-RED.

C’mon, KRIS! Let’s get back to work! We can do it!

KRIS nods and both TRAINERS start typing on their computers. The room shines with an ethereal white light, before glowing lines and particles race into a portal behind KRIS, which buzzes with power.

Still unaware of everything, BEN glances at KRIS. “KRIS… isn’t that a girl’s name?”

KRIS’ eyes narrow. «Yeah? What of it?»

BEN blinks twice, then he awkwardly looks away. “Huh… N-no, nothing! I wasn’t judging or anything…”

«Hm?» KRIS gasps in realization. «Ah! You mean…» ‘He’ laughs, amused by the implication. «Oh! You’ve got it wrong, BEN! This is just a temporary avatar I’m using in this world for lack of female variants.»

“You mean… you’re actually a girl?”

«Yup!» she says, sticking out her tongue. «And I’ll show you my true aspect once you’re in my world!»

BEN frowns in confusion. “Your… world?”

You see, BEN… Our world is on the verge of death, and there’s no way to save it. This is a fact.

“…The world is dying because of them, right?”

No. Its death is because of other unavoidable circumstances. Some external interference, apparently, but they have nothing to do with it.

«But when we made contact, we realized there was a way to preserve at least part of this world — transferring data into my world,» says KRIS.

“And by transferring data you can…?”

…Transfer the consciousnesses of people and POKéMON from this world into vacant sprites on the other side. Their world is much bigger than ours; it’s workable. So, we’ve been trading all day to transfer as much data as we could.

KRIS frowns. «However, we had access only to a limited portion of the main data. We feared we had to leave most people and all POKéMON behind.»

But now that we’ve gained access to the main data, we can save everyone! Sure, they’ll be in shock at finding themselves in a new world that’s eerily similar to theirs, but they’ll be alive to experience that shock.

“That’s… That’s good to hear…” BEN smiles, but his expression quickly turns upside down. “But that means… we’re abandoning our world. This is… an exodus.”

RED sighs.

Indeed, but there’s no other way. At least we can do this! For a moment, I… feared the worst.

«Ah! BLUE just went through the portal. He looked kinda beaten, but he’ll live,» says KRIS, wanting to change topics.

…OK, now that’s someone we could have left behind!

BEN shows a horrified expression. “W-what?!”

RED chuckles at seeing BEN’s distraught expression, then laughs aloud.

I was joking! We’re not leaving anyone here!

“T-that wasn’t funny!” grumbles BEN, glaring at RED with crossed arms.

«Anyway, hopefully the transfer will be speedy,» says KRIS, glancing at the darkening walls. «The distortions are about to break in!»

Yeah! Almost there! Just… a little more…

RED stares at the screen, begging for a miracle to happen…





…And the miracle happens.

T-that was a success! Everyone’s gone through!

No word can describe the sheer relief that everyone in the room is experiencing. The two TRAINERS trade victorious grins, while BEN has to hold back his tears, unwilling to cry in front of two children.

He did it. He did something remarkable, however small, for once in his life!

Anyway, it’s time to go, BEN. This will be our first and last travel through the tunnel.

«I’ll be waiting on the other side! See ya there!» says KRIS, before rushing through the portal and vanishing in a white light. BEN looks at the disappearing girl in male guise, not noticing RED walking by his side.

He shifts his attention to the walls — the remnants of his dying world — knowing well that this would be the last time he would stay in his world. RED looks up at BEN and offers his hand, showing a thin smile.

C’mon, BEN. Let’s walk into the new world and a new future… together.

BEN takes a deep breath, not appreciating the conflicting emotions stirring in his heart. But then, he notices the darkened spots on the walls opening cracks, and accepts the fact that his world is gone.

“…Let’s do it. Whatever happens, happens.”

And so, BEN takes RED’s hand, and they both hurry into the portal. The white hole fades away, just before the numbers invade and consume the entire room.


***​


“…Fifteen years. I bet the battery of my Yellow game is at its last stretch. Good thing it had enough energy left to finish transferring my most valuable Pokémon into Crystal. After that, I should try out that homebrew method to dump its save into my fresh Crystal game on the Virtual Console. It’ll surely take a while, but it would be worth it!



“…And there! Done! It’s time for good ol’ Yellow to enjoy its retirement.”

And with a simple flick of a button, a world is wiped out.


***


…It’s been months since we moved to this world. I’ve got to say that I love it: it’s so bright and colorful, and the scents are fresh and pleasant.

Everyone here is friendly and has welcomed us with open arms. Well… everyone except that boy with red hair, but no world is perfect.

Also, the cereals here are much richer! These have become my instant favorite, and they have no black squares!

There are also so many POKéMON I had never seen before, like SUNKERN. Most people dismiss it for being weak, but I find it adorable! Also, its evolution SUNFLORA reminds me of the yellow flowers that grew nearby my house.



…My house…



Gosh, I’ve lost count of the times I have thought of my world. The world we’ve left behind to die without us.

I still have some nightmares of the distortions, the darkness and the numbers, and I’ve heard that RED has taken a break in some unknown place to recover from his harrowing experience as a ‘puppet’.

Can’t blame the kid. Who knows what he has gone through?

I, myself, couldn’t bear to stay in KANTO, and I’ve moved to JOHTO as soon as I could. That wasn’t my KANTO, and that SAFFRON CITY wasn’t my SAFFRON CITY. I wonder if other citizens feel the same way about not being in their houses…

But our real world is gone, replaced by a pallid imitation of itself and inhabited by ghostly holograms.

At least everyone is safe, and I still have my name and identity. Everyone got their own names here! And I’m grateful for getting a job that I love. I should be happy! I… I guess I am.

However… wasn’t there really anything we could have done for our world? Nothing at all? What could have happened if they picked another option? Maybe… we could have fixed the world in some way?



No matter how much I crave for answers, I know I’ll never get them. And that’s probably going to plague my mind for a long time.

If only I could check other ways…

But I can’t do anything. Not anymore. The tunnel hasn’t reappeared since then, and even if it came back and I went back home, I would probably only find empty phantoms. Maybe even… a soulless clone of myself?



I-I’d better not think about that anymore. What happened, happened.

The least I can do it’s moving on and keep living, for the world left behind to be erased by the inescapable wave of mass destruction.

So, I’ll spread my voice all across this world, and sing the odes of those broken holograms with all the energy I have in my body.

«Alright! We’re live, BEN

“Thanks, LARRY.”

Because life marches on.

POKéMON MUSIC CHANNEL! ♪ It’s me, DJ BEN! ♪ Today’s…”


Good Ending: Back2Back
 
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Oo, a Choose Your Own Adventure, in the technical sense of the term? That's different. Well, we're reviewing the stuffs. So let's get to it.

- Like the stylistic choice of formating things as they did in the old games, right down to ALL CAPS.
- Yeah who needs a beverage or tea anyway, just pass right through the gate like it's nothing.
- The corporate world can be a you know what. Still you'd think a major department store would have more staff on-hand.
- A blackout? I at first wondered if it was Zapdos at the Power Plant, but that wasn't actually a thing. Do vaguely recall something, though.
- Well this is foreboding if even the sun's been turned off.
- 4:35 opening time? That's very...odd. Then again this is an odd world.
- Shoutouts to Red being a mute and "Take your time."
- you have dealtl <- You have been dealt a mighty typo!
- Always make copies. Save early and often. That's just basic rules of anything.
- Trippy. What is even happening that makes sense in the context of the game? I'm assuming, some other game I don't recognize.
- Is this cereal Alpha-Bits except with numbers? Or is it more...serial? Heh heh.
- I think there's at least one glitch Pokemon that has a Nidorino cry. Or is this a reference to the Glitcherino?
- I at first though the formatting was GIOVANI but that's just Stadium.
- It means Tehe. But what does that even mean?
- I was expecting words to start being Zalgo'd at some point.
- Oh frick. Oh god no. BEN. Not him. He has become sentient!!
- You'd think the DIRECTOR would appreciate advanced artifical intelligence in his games. Then again this is the same idiot who put 100 copies of Lillie in the code, so it doesn't surprise me either.
- alright. <- No capitalization
- It's being called a mega Charizard? Is that unintentional future referencing?
- I'd think the game is being MISSINGNO.'d, but this doesn't seem to have its fingerprints on it.
- Ohh, starting to get it. Though, only a few hours? I get the allusion to the game being turned on and off (which was clear to me earlier) and starting a new game. But what is this, a speedrunner's cart?
- A broken cartridge, huh? Or is it the battery that's gone? Hmmm..
- Why did _they_ stop talking in boldface?
- As I read through the creepy ramblings, I wonder. This is like some sort of anti Undertale, by coincidence or by design. And internalized.
- One thing I am noticing: the second person that started the fic is just gone at this point. It's replaced just by BEN's thoughts and conversations. Neat touch.
- Oh hey a BIRD. And there's MISSINGNO. after all. Was wondering when and if that was going to appear. Very different interpreting it as simply a force of nature, and at least not anything inherently malevolent.
- Shoutouts to being able to change the rival's name. DICKS Oak, as it were.
- Always wondered why BLUE gets stuck at the league despite you beating him and becoming the champion. It's illogical, just like everything here. When nothing makes sense, anything does.
- Aha, shoutouts to the HALL OF FAME being corrupted whenever you meet MISSINGNO. And I'm now guessing what's done to the characters are sprite glitches? And maybe this is glitching too hard and destroying everything? Fkn Super Glitch.
- The last little bit here reminds me of the last sequence of Earthbound.
- And now the time to choose BEN's own adventure. We all know that BEN DROWNED, so I guess we'll LINK.

- Wait, when he says our world, does he mean the real one or the game one? Because, both seem fitting.
- Welp, are we going full on arbitrary code execution here? One way to interpret this, though I don't know of any TRADE CENTER exploits that involve that.
- KRIS? Oh jeez. We're bringing Gen 2 into the mix now.
- isn’t that a girl’s name?
kamillegundamglare.png

- Hold up. My Yellow cart works perfectly to this day. Yet GSC carts are notoriously shorter lived due to the RTC batteries. That wouldn't be a very safe place to be.
- External interference??? I'm guessing given the other route, this is external modifying tools.
- Well, if we're talking about going from RBY to GSC, wouldn't only saving a limited amount of people make sense, given that Kanto is in a very gimped state there?
- Limited portion of the data though. Leaving Pokemon behind. KEK. I don't know if you did that on purpose or not, but if so and in any case, would be amused at a follow-up that uses this to explain Dexit.
- Insert Ace Attorney joke at the miracle actually happen here.
- Oh, that explains some of it. Homebrew dumping truckery. Still, my Yellow battery still works. Even had part of my old team from my last save on there. Didn't get very far. Maybe I should go back to it someday.
- Why is it that so many of these I've read so far have some sort of twist at the end? BEN is DJ BEN. Wow. Well, as long as he stays away from Majora's Mask cartridges, he can enjoy his life as the guy who never gets used in Gen 2 because seriously just Repel or how much does this even affect anything? I don't think I've ever used the Pokemon Music channel, ever before, at least for its intended purpose.
- And I guess no arbitrary code execution after all.
- Skimming other path for a bit. Nice shoutouts to the default names which are never seen. Shame that SONY didn't show up. Also, rip - shouldn't have messed with the checksum. Also also man what's with the super different personality from the player? Nothing much else to say on it.

Well this was a trip. Certainly did its goals of having a unique spin, being glitch inspired, and horror RPG inspired. Seen the concept of characters in a game reacting to the player done before, but this is only the second time I've seen it glitch based. Very strange and unusual take on the contest theme, that's for sure. "Sentient program in a fixed world" or something to that effect. Liked it in any case, for what it is. Best of luck with the judging!

Also it took me until typing this at the end to realized Fl4k3s, flakes, cornflakes, cereal. Maybe reading too much into that there, though. Would explain a lot though, so that'll be what I'm assuming.
 
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Hey there, System Error! Thanks for your detailed review! :D

I've fixed the typos you have pointed out, and now I'll respond to some of your points.

- Yeah who needs a beverage or tea anyway, just pass right through the gate like it's nothing.
I mean, it's early in the "morning". He probably didn't get thirsty yet. :p

- The corporate world can be a you know what. Still you'd think a major department store would have more staff on-hand.
Heh. The DIRECTOR isn't quite the smart guy, I dare say. ;)

- Trippy. What is even happening that makes sense in the context of the game? I'm assuming, some other game I don't recognize.
If you're talking about the dragon sequence, #831\1 had basically met a Charizard 'M, and the skeleton dragons are hybrid/corruptions created through the Pokémon merge glitch. It basically breathed out new Charizard before disappearing, and the scene is seen as unsettling from #831\1's point of view.

- Is this cereal Alpha-Bits except with numbers? Or is it more...serial? Heh heh.
Ha! Most likely! XP

- I think there's at least one glitch Pokemon that has a Nidorino cry. Or is this a reference to the Glitcherino?
Well, this can be interpreted as both. There are a few glitches with Nidoran/Nidorino cries, but this is mainly a reference to some glitches that end up making all kinds of sharp and loud noises.

- It means Tehe. But what does that even mean?
Not sure. That's the name of a dummied/test item, from what I've found out.

- I was expecting words to start being Zalgo'd at some point.
As fitting as that would be, I find Zalgo texts to be a cliche in horror stories. I preferred to focus on other elements to bring out the horror undertones.

- Oh frick. Oh god no. BEN. Not him. He has become sentient!!
Implying that the other BEN isn't sentient, to begin with. XP

But don't worry, BEN is much nicer and isn't thirsty for terror. :3

- You'd think the DIRECTOR would appreciate advanced artifical intelligence in his games. Then again this is the same idiot who put 100 copies of Lillie in the code, so it doesn't surprise me either.
As I've said earlier, he isn't too smart. XD

- It's being called a mega Charizard? Is that unintentional future referencing?
Yes. It's a nod to both GMax Charizard and Charizard 'M, since 'M is 7 meters tall.

- Ohh, starting to get it. Though, only a few hours? I get the allusion to the game being turned on and off (which was clear to me earlier) and starting a new game. But what is this, a speedrunner's cart?
The player cheated. He has a GameShark, after all.

- A broken cartridge, huh? Or is it the battery that's gone? Hmmm...
Depending from the ending, it's either.

- Why did _they_ stop talking in boldface?
Because in that moment the SCRIPTS were trying to take over and resume control on BEN and his actions, which would have brought back the original 2nd person. But BEN managed to win the power struggle and leave before he got manipulated and "puppeted" again.

- As I read through the creepy ramblings, I wonder. This is like some sort of anti Undertale, by coincidence or by design. And internalized.
Sort of. I've taken some inspiration from Wreck-It Ralph for this story, what with some characters knowing they are in the game and being forced to act.

- One thing I am noticing: the second person that started the fic is just gone at this point. It's replaced just by BEN's thoughts and conversations. Neat touch.
Thank you! ^^ That's actually deliberate. It's BEN maintaining his control on himself.

- Oh hey a BIRD. And there's MISSINGNO. after all. Was wondering when and if that was going to appear. Very different interpreting it as simply a force of nature, and at least not anything inherently malevolent.
I mean, it gifts you unlimited Master Balls and Rare Candies! That sounds pretty benevolent to me, glitchy side effects notwithstanding. ;)

- Aha, shoutouts to the HALL OF FAME being corrupted whenever you meet MISSINGNO. And I'm now guessing what's done to the characters are sprite glitches? And maybe this is glitching too hard and destroying everything? Fkn Super Glitch.
Pretty much, yes. The sprites were glitching.

- Wait, when he says our world, does he mean the real one or the game one? Because, both seem fitting.
They were mostly talking about their world, which is dying because of the dying battery. But... yes, both are quite fitting, indeed!

- Welp, are we going full on arbitrary code execution here? One way to interpret this, though I don't know of any TRADE CENTER exploits that involve that.
Yeah, this part is a bit sci-fey, but it takes some inspiration from the codes in the save data structure. The code that we activate is the code related to the Link Data.

- Hold up. My Yellow cart works perfectly to this day. Yet GSC carts are notoriously shorter lived due to the RTC batteries. That wouldn't be a very safe place to be.
Well, at least they'll live a bit longer as Yellow is dying. Besides, the got to live thanks to hacks! (And people say that hacks are bad! Ha!)

- External interference??? I'm guessing given the other route, this is external modifying tools.
Both that and the battery dying. They got lucky that the player is a ripper, in their case.

- Well, if we're talking about going from RBY to GSC, wouldn't only saving a limited amount of people make sense, given that Kanto is in a very gimped state there?

- Limited portion of the data though. Leaving Pokemon behind. KEK. I don't know if you did that on purpose or not, but if so and in any case, would be amused at a follow-up that uses this to explain Dexit.
I went with the assumption that some of those people moved from Kanto to Johto.

And ha! I didn't think about that, but it would be a fun theory to work on. XD

- Why is it that so many of these I've read so far have some sort of twist at the end? BEN is DJ BEN. Wow. Well, as long as he stays away from Majora's Mask cartridges, he can enjoy his life as the guy who never gets used in Gen 2 because seriously just Repel or how much does this even affect anything? I don't think I've ever used the Pokemon Music channel, ever before, at least for its intended purpose.
Well, all the more reason to give him a chance under the spotlight. I love to focus on underused/forgotten characters. :D

(Btw, I used to listen to the Pokémon March. I loved playing it while hatching eggs. ;))

- Skimming other path for a bit. Nice shoutouts to the default names which are never seen. Shame that SONY didn't show up. Also, rip - shouldn't have messed with the checksum. Also also man what's with the super different personality from the player? Nothing much else to say on it.
Different ending, different player. Just to add extra salt to an already doomed "gameplay".

Well this was a trip. Certainly did its goals of having a unique spin, being glitch inspired, and horror RPG inspired. Seen the concept of characters in a game reacting to the player done before, but this is only the second time I've seen it glitch based. Very strange and unusual take on the contest theme, that's for sure. "Sentient program in a fixed world" or something to that effect.
Hmm! That's an interesting interpretation, and it makes sense. However, my aim went more toward the "same characters, different perspective". They may be the "right" characters which we see as player's eyes, but when you are inside the game, a child game becomes a horror game. Hence the "wrong" genre.

Liked it in any case, for what it is. Best of luck with the judging!
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it! :D

Also it took me until typing this at the end to realized Fl4k3s, flakes, cornflakes, cereal. Maybe reading too much into that there, though. Would explain a lot though, so that'll be what I'm assuming.
Yeah. The "flakes" refer to both the cereals (which are symbolic and represent the "health" of the world / main character) and the other meaning: -- a small, flat, very thin piece of something, typically one which has broken away or been peeled off from a larger piece, ergo the glitches (broken pixels from bodies and lands).
 
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Hey, review time! I've said most of this already but let's write it up with a little more clarity so other people can admire my very important opinions I can pretend I'm an active member of this forum some third thing I haven't invented yet!

I super love the use of mixed first/second/third person in this fic. It's such a cool and effective way to express who's in control at a given point. The first break, from second to first, was absolutely fantastic, with the way it was not just a perspective shift but also a complete shift in tone, from a fairly standard narrative style to a much chattier/more conversational speech-like rhythm. I'm pretty sure I said "oh damn" out loud when I hit that part.

Am I… thinking normally? Without someone telling me what I should or I am supposed to think?
That said, while it's obvious the second-person sections are supposed to be not him talking but rather him being talked at,
You stare at your futon in disbelief. They really want you to sleep at the STORE!

In what mess did you get yourself into?
...there are a lot of moments where the narration seems overly willing to question what's happening and not fully invested in keeping #831\1 on-track. Equally, there are a lot of moments during these early sections where the character doesn't seem to be responding to events in a reasonable way (for example, during the first blackout, where he just sits there until he gets bored and goes home, instead of trying to fill the time by talking to his co-worker or trying to find someone so he can ask if they know when the lights will come on or even thinking to let people know that he's headed home instead of vanishing without a word; I understand you want to keep his speech limited to the in-game script, but the way he completely lacks any thought to act even if he decides (or "decides") not to really doesn't work for me).
Personally I feel like it could be a lot more effective if the narration kept telling him "everything's fine, you shouldn't worry about this, just do your job" while the character's own thoughts and desires were expressed through implication and negative space.

Maybe you can write those words instead! You hurry back to your post and grab a pen and paper. Time to write your name!
And here the narration seems to be actively derailing itself! With this scene particularly, given that it's the point where he breaks out of the script's control, I would have loved to see some conflict between what the narration's telling 831\1 to do and what BEN actually wants to do.

“Yes, that’s my latest name. I have changed names so many times that even Gramps has troubles remembering them all. He often has to ask them for a refresher.”
Ahaha I love this.

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘bad guys’. They do what they can to preserve the integrity of this world. If erasing and rebuilding everything from scratch is the only solution, they‘ll take it.”
I enjoy that the scripts are not necessarily the villains of the story but the very force holding the world together. There's something so chilling about the idea of suffering not because the universe is fundamentally malevolent and your misery is its favourite tv show, but simply because the universe is a machine and you are a cog and the closest you'll ever come to freedom is the brief gap between the universe starting to fall apart and the consequent absolute obliteration of its functioning.

Overall it feels very unclear what the deal actually is with the character and the world he lives in. On the one hand he has a house and has (or seems to have, expects to have) a life outside of his job; on the other hand, he's functionally identical to #14227/LARRY and his name was #831\1 from the start. Is this supposed to be the story of a regular person discovering that his world is fucked up, or is it the story of a soulless NPC drone who accidentally starts to person?
He's also a very reactive character; considering the nature of the story, I'm still struggling to work out whether I think of that as a flaw or not. I think the only times he really acts on his own initiative are when he works out how to trick the script into letting him write and when he tries to use that to communicate with #14227, and possibly when he expresses his desire to live rather than submitting to deletion. Everything else is either him being controlled by the narrative, or another character telling him to go someplace and do something and then he does that, and ultimately the story itself ends with the reader making the final decision.

I find it... funny? sad? ironic, but also fitting that despite everything, at the very last BEN's agency is stripped away and he's once again a puppet of some outside force. It's particularly depressing given that GSC cartridge battery life means that even the good end is just prolonging the inevitable. You'll die slower, but all it means is that you'll die slower. You won't die free. You haven't escaped your fate. You haven't saved yourself, not really. It's still a game; the scripts are still in place.
But then hey, that's how cosmic horror works! The entire universe is against you, you were fucked from day one, and the most you can hope for is to live out your life and die with as little suffering as possible before everything goes completely to shit.
 
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I gotta say, what I enjoyed the most about this oneshot was the way in which you played around with reader's perceptions of the story. The first part of it feels like your typical story, but then once the glitches start happening it starts to unravel itself, like the prose glitches out just like how the game Ben is living in. Which I thought was a nice little way of showing us that even Ben's thoughts and what he did weren't his own, just what we as the audience were led to believe.

Overall it's an interesting way of exploring the themes of identity, individuality and trying to uncover the truth, and I liked the little easter eggs you threw out in regards to gen 1 trivia. Especially in both endings where the game's owner talked about all the things he was doing to the cartridge. It's definetily true that generation 1 games ended up becoming more famous for how much people could screw up with them once all the glitches became known.

There's other little details and tidbits that I liked as well though, playing with the boundaries of what it means to be a game can be...tricky in stories like these where the pokemon world really is just a game. Usually, most fics either have the game work as its own ecosystem, stretching believability that it was a game to begin with, or they play it completely straight. You strike a pretty good middle ground where the characters are technically able to think for themselves, but their programming keeps them under the game's rules and code and how Ben is able to circumvent that was really ingenious.

And of course, I can't not mention the interactive aspect, it's small and really only one time, but it was a nice twist. I do wonder how that would've worked in universe, but even then I thought it was a cool way of involving the reader more into the story. I gotta admit I'm glad I was able to understand what the codes were and got the good ending first, although I read the bad one first cause I wanted to end on a happy note :c

Both were pretty interesting and bittersweet endings, they both give us a better understanding of who Red, the actual character behind the nameless, speechless avatar, was and they both make for pretty heartwarming interactions between him and Ben. I'm a big believer in happy endings and the good ending for this was very cathartic, but the bad one also made for a really good conclusion that leaves you thinking about those bits that are floating around on the screen as you play the games.

Overall a really solid oneshot, easy to read and a very interesting concept I hadn't seen before.

Also props for naming the story flakes, because of the fact Ben found numbers in his cereal.
 
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Hi Cresselia!

This was an fun exploration of the meta concept for this one-shot theme. Here’s my ~review~ ~response~ freeform reaction to the story. I’m pretty disorganized, and much of it is extrapolated from short notes taken a while back that ballooned into… a soup of words that kind of mean something (that also weren’t really edited, are very disjointed, and not synced within itself; I don’t think I can keep up properly with the ones I still planned to do...). Sorry that this ballooning turned out less to be a response to the writing, and more to the meta of what your story particulars made me think about!

Exclave note—wow, @Flaze, seems like you had a long power outage ; )
[ cough… as for me, my brain power outage has gone on for over two nights now… :x __ :’ ) __]
___

Back to the one-shot: looks like you chose to follow what is usually seen as a side character for the protagonist of your story. I’d say that the side characters’ experiences are very often an angle worth looking into, even if it only lasts for a short timeframe within a particular story.
This was a fun exploration of a non third-person view, which was instrumental to the telling of this story. It was quite the existential-style horror tale, as well!

Meta concepts are always ripe for swimming around in.
___

- Use of the save file elapsed time as a section header was a neat touch! Use of ellipses during some of the narrative exchange with Larry and events was fitting, too.

Description of the mailbox as a metallic prison __ : o
I wonder: is Ben eating cornflakes for breakfast? __ : p __ : p

“Hopefully, you won’t need to consult a doctor, you think. The last thing you need would be to spend what little you earn for medical expenses.”

Ben has such painful “real-world” tradeoff considerations to make\ D :
___

(Out of curiosity and in search of aluminum trees, I tried to find significance in Ben and Larry’s designations of 831\1 and 14227, via the simplest avenue, prime factorization.
I first misread 831 as 83, which happens to be the 23rd prime number, and the number of chromosomal pairs in humans! Alas, that was a mistake. 831 is 3*277, with 277 being the 59th prime. I cannot find a reference, and I don’t think there was one! 14227 happens to be 41*347, which is even more opaque to me. It is interesting that both happened to be a simple product of a pair of primes.)
[Added note before publish, when skimming other responses: oh, of course, I was thinking in the wrong " "lateral" " wavelength, staring at the trees and missing that clear forest. It was visual, and they were Doylistically backronyms!]
___

“You were about to finish inputting those countability numbers into the archive, and you didn’t save!”
It seems that Ben doesn’t just have self-awareness, but shares a little of what a player character might do.

-It is interesting to note that the other customers are befuddled; I shall not read too into this.

Larry trying to pull him back: you are not to break out of your programmed routine. You are not to shake the beehive. (there was an idiom, and I forgot it and couldn’t remember…).

Poor Ninten, under command. Nice touch with the in-game’s pluralization of “Great Ball”.

“You have created copies of your files, and copies of copies of your files. “
This begins to remind of Frisk in Undertale. Ben isn't aware of being in a game, but shows signs of being a player character.
___

I wonder who the distortion dragon is based on, if directly, or what inspired its design!
Dripping an ink-like fluid reminds me of the connection of “ink” to “writing”, and “writing” to “scripts”.

“You stir your cereals while whistling. There aren’t numbers in your bowl.”
--A favorite technique to get past disbelief or discomfort! Believe what you think, re-shape it to your needs. 100/100 would recommend.

It’s never comfortable to have the world’s ground rules falling apart around you, feet losing base as the ground shifts!
___

That’s very interesting. I’m not sure of the exact characters, but it appears that part of the script-world includes two cases of hivemind amalgamations that have obtained consciousness of itself within its world. This applies to the champion-Red husk with the smoky swirl of numbers, and to the NPC-character amalgamation. Be-numbered Red-husk has a keener sense of awareness, where-as the NPC-hydra collectively has some awareness, and seeks to end its twisted realization of being and return to placid, un-writhing ignorance.

For the usual denizens like Larry, going outside of programmed boundaries isn’t even quite an ontological possibility, so seeing it happen wreaks psychological havoc.
There is a contrast between the hivemind collective vs the islanded, individual consciousness.
(It’s interesting that... I forgot where I was going with this, oops!)
___

Looking up the definition of “flakes” brings up these meanings: “to peel off”, “detached”, “to break into pieces”.
Like snowflakes—myriad individual pieces with unique fractal-y geometry, that become a force of different characteristics when aggregated into different configurations, such as endless light snowfall, a blizzard, or a crashing avalanche, where the individual ceases to matter compared to the community shape. : P
___

(The comrade-support of unused BIRD type, haha—birds of a feather flock together! Corrupted beings seeking salvation.)

It’s definitely an “I must scream” kind of moment, to discover you are in Flatland when others possibilities exist, but still have your actions be chained to a small subset. It is quite clever of Ben to use the constaints he has and still find a way to say what he wants to say, with some effort. (It is interesting that, at some point, proper nouns were or became allowed.)

It’s quite a clever explanation for both Ben and Blue/Sony—that Ben has the ability to defy the SCRIPTS and go beyond the nominal range of his programmed actions, while Blue must remain rooted to the League champion room because that’s what was written in the stars.

It’s also quite clever for the reason why Professor Oak struggles to remember Blue’s name. (Apologies for using Undertale as a comparison point, but it’s so easy to!) There are some character NPCs that are like Blue (and it seems common), who are aware of themselves and the structure of the save state, and can retain memories of what happened before. Professor Oak is probably one of these, (though, strictly as a conservative/cautious consideration, we can allow the idea that the professor is affected by prior memories, but may not be consciously aware of the situation).
___

Interesting note that the actors who play the game systems that they reside on are said to be “abstract, incorporeal.”
This brings to mind a few things:
-- (I was going to relate this to deism, but as I am reminded, I seem to not know enough to even begin to make a somewhat accurate statement.)
-- Do the faceless supra-natural actors exhibit an incomprehensible blue-and-orange morality? Does this morality change by the unpredictable whim of who your game-player is, and how they feel at any given time about their own existence and their regard for the game?
-- continued:
-- The Flatland analogy returns. The characters in the game are of and from the scripts—that is their nature. It may be considered that they’re not even chained, unless you give them a awareness of a world beyond their coding, in which case the contrast does indicate the presence of constraints. The faceless game-players (and developers) are not made from the scripts, and in fact, can advance through the state of the scripts, or even change and re-write the scripts themselves.
-- This brings us to the concept of the “agent-environment” model, and the “embedded agent” model.
Um, possibly more on this in a later post!

I suppose the type Ben represents, (obviously), is a kind of player character himself, who not only has awareness, but has agency of his own, and thus in some sense holds the quality of being (able to be) unpredictable.
___

A note – I really like that Blue exhibits has his characteristic “Smell ya later!” during a grave period where big consequences may result in quite different ways. = D

It’s a choose your adventure multi-ending! = D
(in reading: Poor Red/Ninten and Ben.)

I like the numbers in B1ank S1ate and Back2Back! Tabula Rasa means your light is snuffed out.
…I’m actually not sure what Back2Back means! Is it about them retaining their existence across the jump from Yellow to Crystal?

It is curious that “DEBUG” for the faceless player and developer is a way to write, change, and experiment with the world, but in contrast for the characters within the world, “DEBUG” is a potent mechanism that easily enables dissolution of a coherent state of being.
___

It seems that the Back2Back solution involves a contrived exodus, a mini-trivial Scattering to keep the NPCs alive. This gives it quite the epic tale format.
(Is there any thought given among NPC's of what their eschatology/end-times look like?)

Extrapolating from the story, there may not be as simple a way to jump from Generation 2 to Generation 3. I’m sure there is, but I won’t look it up at this moment. At what point is this mechanism a dead end? Is this the greater cosmic cycle happening—a different map, a slightly different set of physics before and after, but the same need to jump to the next viable world before the existing one becomes consumables for the meta-Guzzlord, forever becoming sparkless, timeless non-existence?

(That’s a fun jab at a hollow Kanto, where they originated from Gen 1, which also fits well with Gen 2 Kanto being a postgame extra-content shell.)
I worried that perhaps coming from Gen 1, they may be unprepared for oversaturated colors, relatively, but now that they’re in Gen 2, their essence is written in Gen 2 script, so it’s now wholly ‘normal’ for them.
___

You can’t break the laws of physics. At least, the real laws, not the simplified models.
Becoming a DJ with his self-found moniker Ben may be fulfilling to Ben, but could it also just be that he has now fallen programmatically into his new script? On the flip side, fulfillment could be seen as coming to terms with nature and better understanding yourself! Just because you don’t defy physics doesn’t mean that somehow can’t create and derive meaning.

What is real, anyway? Where does the soul reside?

Are you trapped, or are you free? What is choice?
 
Thesaurus rex
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There's not a vast amount I can really say that I didn't already say during judging ... a lot of ideas in there, perhaps too many, which really needed ironing out. It's pretty clear that time constraints are to blame for it - I suspect if you were to redraft the story at your leisure you'd think through the plot points more thoroughly. So, in short: interesting, but in need of some polishing!
 
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hi Cress! here from judging; better late than never amirite

---

I thought this was a really clever concept--Blair Witch Project x Glitch City ... Blair Glitch Project? I like the level of research you go into here with the glitches, the M-Charizard stuff, the formatting decisions + unique names for the characters (which, sorry, I won't be replicating in this review)--a lot of the creepypastas I've read stop at MissingNo and call it a day; I can tell that you put a lot of background research into knitting all these pieces together. Even sad Nidorino cry gets a shoutout! In general I thought the formatting on this one was pretty clever and it's clear you put a lot of time/thought into it. Multiple endings was also a really clever implementation, although the implication is kind of tragic imo: Ben's fate is ultimately still way out of his hands.

Thematically--this was also a really cool take on the theme! Being in a corrupted glitch world is certainly being in the wrong genre.

Ben's a really cute narrator and I think he served as a good lens for this--it's helpful to have some grounding, and since he doesn't know what's going on either but is eager to experiment, he makes for a good viewpoint. I like the switch from second person to first person when he manages to realize his own thoughts; you do a lot of stretching around with the formats here but I thought this one was the most simple but effective.

Worldbuilding-wise, I was a little confused about how things actually work--I think this is a product of the narrative format you picked. Why is there a difference between NPC's who can live in the world and NPC's who have specific roles? Or is the implication that Ben waking up in the beginning is in tandem with a new game being created? The idea of Ben saying he's doing this for the paycheck is interesting too--is there a secret under-society of NPC's who exchange the money they get from their jobs, out of sight from the player? Why do they need sleep if they're just purely programmed constructs? I don't really know if there was space for them in this oneshot, but I was a bit confused about who Ben was before the story begins, how he hasn't encountered a blackout before, what he was doing if not playing a scripted role or anything.

I also thought it was strange that Red's muteness gets emphasized here, since Ben has also experienced not being able to say things beyond a certain vocabulary? Like, if he can only answer SODA POP POTION HYPER POTION, and he's met Larry, who's in the same boat feel like he'd also understand why someone else might want to say quiet.

Multi-endings was really clever here. I do wish we had a better understanding of what either of them meant, though--tbh I mostly guessed. Unless the idea is that, like the player stumbling through these glitches without fully researching what they do, free will is an illusion, etc etc, the reader is just arbitrarily making these massive decisions without understanding what the impact might be--but in that case, I think it'd be nice to address that in the endings as well.

quick thoughts on endings:
I actually dunno if there is a "good end!" The labelled good end one leaves me sad, with Ben wistfully remembering how things used to be + thinking about the destroyed world he was forced to leave behind. And he's got a cute radio job (haha, nice implications on canon there! Very Mahoun), but is the free will different in Crystal? What life is he actually getting in this new world? What happens when the internal battery runs dry?

The bad ending is of course, also sad, but I do think it's quite sweet as well, with Ben extending compassion. The overarching thoughts that the scripts aren't evil but they're just doing what they're told to do, are really interesting as well, and I thought it was nice to see that kindness extended to Red as well.

I think you'd really enjoy a similar-flavored fanfic: pcb0000, which uses some visual conventions to sneak out of some of the description holes you might've run into, and also has a creative way of conveying the premise of its glitchy world to the reader.

Thank you for sharing! This was a fun and creative read.

quick grammar/sentence-level thoughts:
It’s a Monday like any other Monday, warm and quiet and saffron-scented, with the coos of wild PIDGEY as the only escapade from the uproar of commuters running toward SILPH COMPANY.
Is the use of the word "escapade" sarcastic here? Usually it refers to adventures/exciting things happening, which I struggled to link to coos of pidgey.

He shows you the ropes of the job: you greet the customers, listen to their requests, take out the chosen items from the boxes, get the money from them, and hand out the items.
"take out the chosen items from the boxes, get the money from them" suggests that Ben is getting the money from the boxes rather than the customers.

You gawk at him, wondering how you’re even supposed to do that.
I'm curious why they have a schedule at all? If they need to be available for the player potentially stopping by at any time of night?

In what mess did you get yourself into?
There's an extra word here--it should be either "into what mess did you get yourself" or "what mess did you get yourself into?"

Is that how you named yourself, right?
I think grammatically this would read more smoothly as "That is how you named yourself, right?" or "Is that how you named yourself?"

Ha! That’s rich! The ‘hero’ of KANTO, the one who destroyed TEAM ROCKET and everything, now wants to destroy me! He wants to destroy everything! What kind of hero does that?
I was hoping this would go somewhere--what does Ben think of heroes? Has he learned anything about them? This sort of ties into my questions about worldbuilding re: who Ben was before; I don't really know what he thinks about a lot of these things!

“Yes, that’s my latest name. I have changed names so many times that even Gramps has troubles remembering them all. He often has to ask them for a refresher.”
heh.

My rival has no free will and I have no free range.
I thought this was a nice way of expressing this dichotomy. Although, this begs the question, since Red does become capable of speaking at the end, and Blue is still bound to say and do the same things (even if he can think independently)--is this even true?
 
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