Deeper Than It Looks

By Jason L. Langlois

A surprising amount of the worst possible things happen, not on the dark and stormy nights, but in the bright sun shiniest days. It is, perhaps, understandable that one would associate horrible, mysterious acts with conditions that already set even the most stable heart on edge, but it isn't so. The darkest, most atrocious things come out not at night or on the wind of a storm, but in the brightest, safest seeming days.

It was just such a day, full of light and warmth, which found Ash Ketchum and the Gym Leader of Cerulean City , the young lady known as Misty. They had traveled together to the Oak Research facility, both to visit the now aged professor, and to visit their pokémon in the facility used to store those pokémon that were not in an active party.

Their relationship was much different than it had been on their travels together a decade earlier. Ash had, of course, matured into a premier battler and was considered the reigning expert on pokémon, going from traveling the regions to being invited as among the first when they opened their borders. Misty had, for her part, made her gym one of the strongest in the region, in many of the regions. When Ash returned home, she would be the first or second to greet him, and rumors abounded more and more that they had were everything from illicit lovers to secretly married. If such a thing had happened, neither was telling the press.

They sat together in one of the rooms, surrounded by pokémon that couldn't be easily categorized. Most where ghost type, and Misty was checking a pair of ghost pokémon that resembled small lanterns, pointedly keeping her back to Ash. It was not due to insult, or fear of ghosts. It was that he was handling a pokémon that drove her to shudders, even after ten years.

A bug and ghost type called a shedinja.

She peeked back at him as he cleaned the pokémon's carapace. He was also sitting with her back to her, blocking her view. It was, while a small gesture, also sweet. She smiled, and went back to caring for the smaller lamp like pokémon.

"I wonder if it's true," Ash said, thoughtfully, holding the shedinja in front of him and regarding it with a jaundiced eye.

"Wonder if what's true," Misty said, glancing over her shoulder.

"The various pokedex entries about this little guy. A lot of them say that if you peer into the hole in its back," he said, taking on a spooky tone, "It'll eat your soul.. OoOooOo"

Misty giggled. "I wouldn't want to test it. There must be some truth in those entries."

Ash was silent for a bit, and when Misty peeked again, he was still regarding the shedinja. "I dunno," he finally said. "I mean, the entry for houndoom says that burns from its flames never heal. I've been burned by a houndoom a couple times, and I've healed just fine." He held up his arm, which had a patch of hairless, shiny skin, but was otherwise fine.

"Still, I mean... it's creepy. Why would anyone say that if it didn't happen?"

"Those things are all based on old information, when pokémon were still considered new and monsters," Ash said, waving his hand dissuasively. "I mean.. how would you test that?"

"Right, exactly, Ash. Who /would/ test that?" She hunched her shoulders. "Why would you need to, anyway?"

Ash did not answer, and Misty knew he was probably sulking because she didn't believe him. Typical Ash, she thought, scowling. It's just like him to take such a stupid conversation so seriously.

She stewed for a bit , then sighed. He'd been gone for too long for her to let this get to her and ruin their time together. As much as she loathed to admit it, she would have to apologize.



"Ash, I... I'm sorry. I mean... I guess it just creeps me out..."

Silence. He was still sulking.

"Ash, are you listening to me?"

"D-deeper... deeper than it looks..."

Misty's brow furrowed. "What? Ash, you're not making sense..." She turned, and gasped, dropping the pokémon. Ash was staring at the shedinja, but he had turned it around.

He was now staring into the hole in the back of the shedinja.

Misty stood there, stunned, watching as his back tensed.

"It's... it's an eternity in there," Ash sputtered, his voice becoming hoarse, frantic. She could see his fingers tightening on the shedinja's carapace, his arms beginning to pull taught. She rushed to his side, forgetting her fear of bugs, forgetting her anger at Ash being obstinate.

"Ash, let go! Let go!" She pulled on his arms, and he began to convulse.


She looked up at his face and let out a sharp, high screech. His hair was beginning to whiten, and his pupils clouded over.

"Ash!" Misty wailed, tying to pull his fingers open, then, as he convulsed out of his hands, leaning against the wall.


Drool fell from the rictus that his mouth had become, lips pulled up against his gums, flat and thin, showing his teeth. His head snapped back, and Misty heard a crackling noise. She leaned back against the wall, unheeding of the tears falling on her eyes.

The shedinja dropped, and Ash thrashed against the ground, his fingers curled in unnatural shapes. His arm twisted, and another, deeper crack sounded; his muscles had tensed so hard it was breaking his bones.

Misty screamed, a loud, long wail, her own mind unable to grasp the fullness of what was happening.

He went still. He was breathing, labored and rough, with a wheezing sound that brought Misty out of the temporary mind lock the event had thrust her in. His hair was fully white now, his trademark cap on the ground beside his head. He rolled, slightly, and Misty watches as his eyes, yellowed and blind, sought out any sight. His throat moved, but no sound came out, and after the slight rocking of his body, he was still.

"Ash..." Misty crawled to him, pulling his head in her lap, stroking the white, brittle hair. "Oh, Ash..."

She had no sense of time, no sense of fatigue. She didn't know how long she had pet him, and she didn't know when he died. But he was gone, and she began to weep, to keen. She hadn't told him, and he hadn't told her, and now it was too late, and she missed him, and she loved him, and he was gone.

What would she do now? What could she do now?

Only one thing was left to do...

She reached over, picked up the shedinja, and looked into its eyes. She thought, though she knew it had to be whimsy, that it looked sad. Apologetic. But she didn't hate it. It wasn't its fault.

"It's not your fault," she whispered, stroking its head below the halo. "What happened... it wasn't your fault."

She looked at it, hoping, if it was sad, that her words comforted it. It seemed it did. It seemed as if the eyes on the otherwise still pokémon sagged in relief.

"Neither is this," she said softly.

Then she turned it around, and looked into the hole in the back of the pokémon.