This story is a bit of an experiment for me, based in a small part upon 'The Hyperion Cantos', by Dan Simmons. Fair warning for those more squeamish readers --it contains content which traverses some rather dark spaces. I hope this will not discourage you from reading, however, as I believe journeying into these dark places can help us both understand them better, and attain a greater appreciation for the light. As always, thanks to my proof readers, Guri, Cetacea, and Six.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Chapter Notes:
In terms of the contest, I'm not sure if this will be completed 100% in time, but I wished to at least upload the parts which have been finished. The rest will follow soon.
Til Death Do Us Part
Life is composed of a profound harmony of opposites. Hot and cold. Rough and smooth. Truth and lies. Life and death. For every action, an equal and opposite reaction. The delicate balance between these myriad pairings waxes and wanes in equal proportion. Day after day, contrary forces ebb and flow ad infinitum, and in that chaotic symmetry, life thrives.
But, what about that variable quantity resting between, represented by the sinuous median line drawn across the divided forces? If exactly half of a page is black and the other white, where does this crossing fall? Is this division then considered infinite as well as minute?
There are always those who stand upon that vast bridge; granted the unique perspective offered by the ability to both gaze into the unknown abyss in front, and at the fondly remembered brilliance behind. What secrets lie there, on that meeting of light and shadow? Is there any hidden wisdom divined by those who straddle the gap? Difficult to define. The only certainty is this: they have a story to tell. It is up to us to listen, and decide for ourselves.
12 hours before execution
It was 10:22 p.m. when the single, yellowish night light fizzled and went out. It left an instant of brilliant afterimage, as though the electric bulb were reluctant to allow the darkness to take hold after keeping watch for so long. Yet, like all things in cell block eight, it had reached the end of its life span.
With the loss of sight came the enhancement of other senses. Distantly, beyond several layers of security doors, the steady footsteps of a patrolling guard echoed through the settling gloom. Water from a leaky pipe kept time in a steady, monotonous drip, puddling in an empty cell. Tiny scuttlings that might have been mice or insects in the walls came from everywhere and nowhere at once. Presiding over all, however, was the permanently dank, musty odor; a combination of water damage from years past, seldom cleaned cells, and unwashed bodies. It made the air lie thick to the touch, driving home a profound sense of confinement, and left a bitter taste in the mouth of any who entered.
The heavy silence following the light’s death lasted only a moment. Within the single occupied cell in the block, five pairs of eyes adjusted to the new darkness. Not even a hint of illumination trickled through the tiny grate set high in the cell’s door, adding to the claustrophobic atmosphere.
A mightyena resumed his restless pacing along the breadth of the cell, nails clicking on the stone floor. Occasionally, he would shove his shoulder against the heavy metal door, give a growl of frustration, and take up his march once more. In one corner of the large cell, a zoroark scraped tirelessly with a fragment of metal at the mortar surrounding one of the wall’s cinder blocks. Crumbled bits of masonry gathered incrementally at his feet. The stone might have wiggled slightly, but it could also have been a trick of the light. The zoroark continued his self-appointed task without complaint.
Opposite the zoroark, a typhlosion huddled in a fetal ball of dirty blue and golden fur. Her shoulders shook, the odd, quiet sob escaping from the protective curl of her body. The lucario sitting nearby looked at the ball of fur with each sniffle and whimper, but made no move from her slouch. Her claws drummed the floor, almost in time with the barely audible drips of water.
Of all the cell’s inhabitants, only one remained perfectly silent, save for the soft wheeze of each inhalation. It may have been the white, puckered scar on the audino’s neck that caused the respiratory distress, or perhaps it was merely the pokémon’s portly belly weighing on his lungs. Bright blue eyes followed the ghostly shadow of the mightyena, as though hypnotized by the pacing canine.
It was the mightyena who spoke first. Whipping around, he levelled a glare at the typhlosion, his voice cracking into a whine from lack of use. “Can’t anyone shut her bellyachin’ up?”
The typhlosion didn’t react, but the lucario matched the dark type’s glare head on. “Leave her alone! What’s your problem?”
“Problem? Problem is, I’m listenin’ to that racket when I’m tryin’ to think!” retaliated the mightyena.
“Thinking you might wear a hole in the floor and escape?” the lucario shot back.
The mightyena let out a low growl, hackles rising. “Maybe I’ll wear a hole in the both of you. It’d be better’n nothin’.”
The lucario rose to her feet, stepping in front of the curled typhlosion, paws raised. “Try it. I dare you.” The gesture was marred slightly by her knees choosing that moment to buckle, making her stumble.
“What? You gonna-”
This last was little more than a croak, emanating from the ball of fur. Even the zoroark’s relentless scraping halted, all eyes on the fire type as her head rose from between her paws.
“Please... don’t fight each other. Not now, so close to the end.”
“So, it has a voice after all,” grunted the mightyena. “Figured the waterworks for the only sound you could make. You ain’t stopped that sniveling since we all got tossed in here this morning.”
She looked away from the intensity of his feral gaze, sniffling. “Sorry...”
“Hey, you don’t have to apologize to this jerk,” said the lucario, moving to the other female and laying a paw on her shoulder. “It’s alright to cry, considering where we are. Arceus knows I’ve barely been holding it in myself.”
“And thank Arceus for that,” muttered the mightyena. Turning his back on the two females, he returned to his wandering vigil.
The typhlosion shook her head, swiping the back of her paw across red-rimmed eyes. “That isn’t the reason.”
“No?” The lucario looked about at the cell, snorting. “Well, if this isn’t reason enough for you, how about telling me what is?”
“Oh, I-I couldn’t.” The typhlosion trembled, retreating in on herself further, though she was already wedged tightly into the corner.
“Okay, okay. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, I understand.” The lucario sighed, rubbing the fire type’s shaking back, murmuring quiet reassurances. “How about your name then? If we’re going to spend our last hours together, it might as well be as friends instead of strangers.”
A moment of silence, broken by the steady scrape of the zoroark’s improvised tool. Then, “Haley.”
“Haley,” repeated the lucario. “That’s pretty. Suits you. Afraid I don’t have anything quite so exotic to share though. My name’s Pam.” For the briefest moment, the lucario’s lips twisted as though at a foul taste, before her features smoothed, the revulsion hidden in the darkness.
Immeasurable seconds ticked by, Pam’s paw drawing gentle circles across the sensitive burners on the typhlosion’s shoulders, feeling the corded muscle bunched beneath. Their heat tickled against her pads, suggestive of the mighty gouts of flame their owner could wield on a whim. Ever so slowly, as though easing into a hot spring, the fire-type relaxed, her body stretching out from its defensive posture.
“You really... want to know?” Haley said abruptly.
“Only if you want me to,” Pam replied.
“It’s... not a fun story.”
“Neither is mine. I promise I’ll share it too though. Seems better than just waiting here in the dark.”
“O-okay.” Haley drew herself up against the wall, taking a deep breath.
“Great...” growled the mightyena.