Theo quietly entered the Safari Zone lobby, a small grin on his face. He felt good maybe today would be the day that he'd finally catch a Chansey. He'd been coming here every afternoon for the last week, waiting quietly in the grass, hoping one of those elusive pink puffballs would amble by. He'd seen one or two, but they'd always run just before he could toss one of his Safari Balls. It would be much easier if he could just send out his Hitmonchan, but the Safari Zone prohibited the use of the trainers' Pokémon. Instead, catching a Pokémon here was almost a game of timing, gauging just when a Pokémon was edgy enough to weaken its guard, but not enough to actually run. Theo had spent a lot of time strategizing, reading the Pokémon's mood and trying to judge when to catch. He would typically stay until his mother would get fed up and call him, telling him that his supper was cold and that he'd catch his death out there and blah, blah, blah
Theo shook his head briefly and chuckled at his thoughts and the sudden derailment of such. Parents
He walked up to the counter. It was positioned parallel to the entrance to the field, so there was no way to get in or out of the Safari Zone without the attendant noticing you. People had occasionally tried to sneak in, but not since they had rebuilt the lobby. Now, you pretty much had no choice but to pay to enter.
"Welcome to the SAFARI ZONE!" The attendant called, almost shouting. "For just $5.00, you can catch all the POKEMON you want in the park! Would you like to join the hunt?"
As he answered "Yes", Theo couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. Always the exact same spiel, with the exact same enthusiasm. You'd think they'd try to spice it up or do anything to keep ennui away. And why such an emphasis on certain words, like 'Pokémon'? Regardless, Theo jabbed a hand into his pants pocket and pulled out five dollars. He handed it over the counter, and the attendant snatched it up, wearing his usual inane smile.
"We only use a special POKEBALL here," the attendant said as he handed Theo a small gray drawstring bag. Theo didn't even have to look inside: there would be thirty Safari Balls. There were always exactly thirty; no more, no less.
"We'll call you on the PA when you run out of time or SAFARI BALLS!"
Theo gave a slight snort as he walked out of the lobby and into the Safari Zone proper. In his mind, he was mocking the enthusiasm of the attendant: "SAFARI BALLS!" He exhaled again, trying not to burst into laughter.
He surveyed the field. A breeze came from the west, and the sun was bright, warming everything and creating some lovely weather for a Pokémon hunt. Theo closed his eyes and sighed happily how could you not enjoy an afternoon like this?
A large tree stood several yards away from the door. As its leaves flitted back and forth in the breeze, they created a cool shadow underneath. Theo watched as bits of sunlight appeared and disappeared between the leaves. A Pidgey chirped somewhere behind him.
Suddenly, Theo felt a bit sleepy. Sunlight seemed to have that effect sometimes. He decided to sit under the tree for a little while. It would be all right; the Safari Zone counted steps taken, rather than actual time spent in the field. While it seemed like a strange business model, it allowed for a lot of creative freedoms in time management. He knew some people who would stand in one spot and spin around until Pokémon ran into them. They certainly looked strange doing it, but it was usually worth it for the rare creatures that could be found; there were many species of Pokémon that could only be encountered here.
As Theo sat on the grass and shifted himself closer to the tree trunk, his sleepiness suddenly grew. Before he knew it, he had peacefully dozed off.
The sound of his phone ringing shocked Theo awake. He looked around: the sky had gone from clear blue to dusky pink, and the sun was low near the horizon. How long had he slept? He picked the phone from his pants pocket, and answered.
"Theo!" It was, not too surprisingly, his mother. She sounded a bit concerned.
"Where are you? I just got back from running errands, and you're not home!"
Theo explained that he had accidentally dozed off in the Safari Zone, and that he would be home shortly. His mother understood she was upset, but she knew it was just a mistake. Theo was glad, and he apologized for his falling asleep.
As he hung up, Theo hopped up and ran back to the lobby door. The attendant was still there, somewhat creepier than usual. Theo shook the thoughts off, attributing them to the time of day. He gave a polite wave as he started to walk toward the exit.
"Welcome to the SAFARI ZONE!" The attendant suddenly shouted, making Theo jump. "For just $5.00, you can catch all the POKEMON you want in the park! Would you like to join the hunt?"
What? But Theo had just come out of the Safari Zone
That was just a little too weird. Theo dashed out the door, wondering if the attendant was actually a cleverly-disguised robot. As he exited, he could hear the attendant say, "OK! Please come again!"
Shaking from the startle and the cool evening air, Theo pulled out a Poke Ball the size of a walnut and gave it a flick. It quickly grew to the size of a grapefruit, then opened with a pop. A red light spewed out, forming the shape of Fearow, his most trustworthy Pokémon. Theo had been Fearow's master since he had first left home she was what they called a 'starter Pokémon'. They often had a reputation for being 'inferior' to Pokémon collected later on, but Theo would never believe it.
With a leap, he landed softly on Fearow's back and held on to her neck. She bent down, and with a mighty downbeat, leapt up and began to fly toward home.
After a very nice supper with his parents, Theo headed upstairs to finish the next day's homework. As pre-algebra passed by uneventfully, it became late, and Theo's mother finally came up and told him it would be wise to get to sleep. Theo did so and slept soundly and dreamlessly.
"Theo, it's time to get up!"
Theo's father was an early riser, and had already started his day before Theo had even woken up. As his father went downstairs, Theo mumbled and glanced at his alarm clock it read 7:20. Begrudgingly, he rose and slowly got out of bed. Still warding off the thought of just climbing back into bed, he flung off his pajamas and slipped on some halfway decent clothes.
He shuffled off to the bathroom. But, just as he set foot in the bathroom door, he heard shouting. It was as clear as a Water Stone, yet it seemed to be inside his head.
"Ding-dong! Time's up! Your Safari Game is over!"
But, before he even had time to consider the message, he blacked out. When he awoke, it wasn't to the carpet outside the bathroom, but to a cold, white tiled floor. His head pounded behind his eyes. The lights in the ceiling were rather bright, so Theo squinted as he sat up and clutched his head. He found that he was staring straight at a wooden counter. The cherry wood, glossy and smooth, was jarring compared to the rest of the room. He looked up.
The Safari Zone man was standing at the counter.
Theo jumped up, his bare feet nearly sliding out from under him. His eyes went slightly wider, and he ran out the entrance, slipping and tripping in his panic. However, he would find that the Safari Zone was the least of his worries
He took in the landscape, his lower lip dangling slightly. Everything was a hellish mixture of buildings, nature, and numbers, of all things. Parts of houses, half-built and staggered in an unholy fashion, were scattered randomly along the ground and sky, almost flat, and yet substantial. Numbers were littered all over the ground, as if they were deliberately planted there. The numbers also floated in midair, unnatural specters among the horrific 'city'. Finally, Theo noted the boundaries: outside the town, there was an amalgamation of trees and cliffs completely surrounding the area, as well as appearing in spots within the 'city' proper.
Theo turned around, but to his shock, the Safari Zone had completely vanished, replaced by the soup of rocky crevices and wood. He backed away and, turning around, he jogged toward the buildings, deciding that they were the least likely to harm him. Walking among the buildings, Theo noticed that a light fog swirled around them, granting an almost spectral air. He called out, but heard nothing not even an echo. He hardly noticed, though the laws of physics and logic were already far too twisted and gone to make note of something so simple.
He walked up to the house that looked the most structurally sound, hoping that somebody reasonable lived inside. The second he touched the doorknob, though, the entire city flooded. This was no normal flood in the space of a blink, five feet of water appeared.
Theo, caught off guard by the sudden appearance of water, shouted in surprise. Coughing and sputtering, he grabbed onto the doorframe. He shut his eyes tight, silently praying that the torrent would fade as quickly as it had appeared.
And it did.
Theo expected to hear dripping from the eaves of the houses, and the slight splat of his own feet on the wet ground as he dropped from the doorframe, but everything was as dry as it had been before.
And it was no longer the town.
Instead, it was as if the flood had muddled everything together, forming a scene even more disturbing than it had already been. There was no logic or sanity in how things were placed now, leaving what almost seemed like holes in reality itself.
And the flood came back.
And Theo cringed.
And it vanished again. It flickered on and off, like an old light bulb, completely real one second and completely gone the next.
Alright, this was too much. Theo ran toward what had been the northern boundary of town. But, he found that it was completely impassible, despite the shaky nature of its appearance.
So, trapped in a hellhole of a physical impossibility of a facsimile of a town
why not Fly out?
Theo reached down to his Pokeballs
and, with horror slowly dawning anew, realized that they were all on his bedside table. So was his Bag. And everything.
With an expression horror-struck yet impassive, Theo lay down and curled into a ball. It finally happened there was no escape. There was no way for a ten-year-old boy to escape this nightmare. Life
it would all happen here for Theo.
Before Theo faded into a fear-induced daze, he had one last thought