All right, this fun little one-shot is dedicated to the guy who stands in front of Cerulean Cave in the FireRed/LeafGreen games. It was really interesting to write, and I like how it turned out. Tell me how I did!
My Life as a Cave Guardian
Hi. My name is Joe. So, one day this guy comes up to me and says "Hey, wanna guard a cave for some money?" He looked pretty professional too. He had on this gray uniform with a red 'R' on his shirt and boots and stuff. Well, I didn't really have anything better to do. I'm not a trainer or anything, just a poor middle-aged sap who can't get a job. And, well you know, I'm gonna be paid for this. So I think, what the heck? How hard is it to stand in one spot all day?
Well, it's pretty damn hard.
First off, let's get this straight. I'm a regular, average small-town guy. I've lived my entire life in Cerulean City, and I go fishing on the Cape every Saturday. (My mother still thinks I should drop the hobby and get a girlfriend, but that's beside the point.) I've hiked to Mt. Moon and back, and I swim in the river once a week. I have pretty good eyesight too, so if there's anyone who can spot a huge opening in the face of a rock, it's me. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when the guy gave me a ride on his boat and drove us right to the entrance to Cerulean Cave. It was right there the whole time, in my freaking face, and I didn't even notice. I guess that really says something about my intelligence.
Anyways, the guy makes me get off there and tells me to guard this cave with my life and soul. He also tells me that once I've taken this job there's no turning back, and I'm now an employee of Team whatever, yadda yadda. He didn't tell me what was inside the cave, by the way, which I think is really stupid of him. If I'm gonna be a guard, you might as well tell me what the hell I'm guarding. I mean, if it's a time bomb or something important, then I'm bound to do my job with a lot more enthusiasm. Idiot.
The guy also tells me that if anyone passes by and wants to enter the cave, I should try to deter them at all costs. He put emphasis on the last three words, so I could tell that he meant business. And then he just got back on his boat and left. No 'thank you', no kind word of advice or anything. It was just me, all alone, standing like an idiot in front of a cave.
I get bored by mid-afternoon, so I sit down and just stare off into space. And there's nothing much to see, really. Just the same old grass, river, and trees all around. I always thought it was kinda weird how there's a mountain right behind me, then in front of me the land's all flat. Just another lesson I probably slept through in school. (If I had gone to school and gotten a good education, would I have had a better life? I'll have to think about that...)
It's really hot outside. And here's some bad news. There are no clouds whatsoever, so no chance of rain. Just me standing there sweating all day. And I can't go swim in the river, because every time I try that, something bites me. At first it was no big deal, but the bruises haven't been going away lately. I don't think you want to hear about that, so I'll stop there.
Night rolls around pretty quickly around these parts, and guess what? I have nowhere to sleep! So I collapse right there on the spot. I know, it's really lame. The one thing I'm happy about is that nothing has crawled out of the cave to devour me yet. I'm still trying to deduce what could be inside, by the way. Lately I've been hearing noises, but it might just be the heat messing with me.
The next morning, I wake up. After my initial oh-my-God-I'm-in-front-of-a-freaking-cave-why-did-I-take-this-stupid-job mental breakdown was over, I calmed down enough to sit down and watch the clouds. And... yeah. The day went by kinda slowly. But when I get up again, I see some kid walking my way. I'm really thankful for the company, even if I'll most likely have to be an ass and make him leave.
So the kid comes up to me. I think he's a trainer. He's got this big red hat and pokéballs strapped around his waist and everything. He wants to get into the cave. Well, I want my money's worth, so I stand firm and say "No". And the kid's like, "Why not?"
The man from yesterday really didn't give me a reply line, so I make one up: "This is Cerulean Cave. Horribly strong pokémon live inside here, and it takes a special trainer to be allowed inside. If you want to go in, you'll have to beat the Elite Four, for starters. And you'll also have to make a great achievement."
That really showed him. The kid bolted away like a little bunny, shouting something that I couldn't really hear. The part about the Pokémon League was pure genius, I think. I mean, what trainer doesn't dream of beating it? I think that should keep him busy for a while. Still, I have this stinking feeling that he'll be back...
Now that I think about it, guards have a pretty hard job. Sure, it may seem easy to the regular fellow, but it's a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of willpower to stand in one spot, and I don't think that many people could do it. I think I have some sort of talent for this, and that's probably why I haven't left yet. Heck, that might be why I got chosen in the first place.
Another thing that makes this job hard are the idiots that can't understand the meaning of the word 'no'. You see them everywhere, but when you're a guard, you really have to have patience. I'll make an example out of my second visitor.
A boy showed up around noon, and he looked even younger than the first one. He was wearing a baseball cap and a pair of shorts that I think were bit too small for him. He comes up to me and says, "Can I go into the cave?" I say, "No." He says, "Please?" And I say, "No," again. He says, "Please?" I say, "No," again. It went on like this for about ten minutes, then the kid finally got tired of me. He stomped his foot and said, "You suck!" Then he ran away.
See what I mean? People are idiots.
Okay, the fifth day passes by, and I admit, curiosity is getting the better of me. It's practically to the point of obsession. I. Have. To. Find. Out. What. Is. In. The. Cave. Now.
But shady characters with 'R's on their uniforms tend to show up in unexpected places. For all I know, I'm probably being monitored by a full squad of gunmen that will club me to death with maces if I try to enter the cave. With today's technology, anything's possible. So yeah, I gotta be careful. First I take a good look around to see if anyone's watching, then when I feel safe, I take a step inside.
The first thing I notice is that the ground is a bit mushy, like there's an underground lake there or something. And the dirt is gray, not brown like the regular dirt outside. The walls are the same color, and are covered in this weird algae or something. Whatever it is, I'm definitely not gonna touch it.
I take a few more steps, and I'm really relieved that it's somewhat cooler in here. I was right about the lake thing too. There's a narrow stream that begins almost right near the entrance and gets wider and wider until it's practically an ocean. There are a few ledges here and there, like tiny little rock islands. The water's this healthy shade of blue, and I could tell that it's really clean and good for drinking. Overall, it seemed like just an innocent cave. I just might be able to sleep here...
But while I'm busy thinking that, I feel a sharp pain in my ankle. I panic, give this high-pitched girly scream, and jump back about five feet. Turns out, there was a Zubat right there on the floor. It was a scrawny little thing, with tiny teeth that didn't even look that pointy. But if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's never underestimate puny pokémon. Because this one right here almost tore off a whole chunk of my leg. I kick at it a little to make it go away, still keeping a good distance. The Zubat flaps its wings, but it doesn't really do anything else. It backs away into the shadows, never to be seen again.
At that point, I kinda realized that there might have been some truth to my made-up phrase from earlier. And if I'm making other people stay out of this place, I might as well stay out too.
My next visitor is a girl. Brown hair, pretty tall, and she's got this huge white hat. Weird, but I guess some people don't like sunglasses. Well, surprise surprise, she wants to get into the cave too. Of course, my reply is "No." I was ready to defend my position again, but she surprised me a little by not arguing. She perked her little eyebrows and just walked away without another word.
I'm beginning to wonder if any of these 'visits' could be tests to make sure if I'm doing my job. It would make sense too, so I have to always be on the lookout. If one person catches me goofing off, they could report directly to the authorities.
Well, it's the end of my first week at the cave, and I'm proud to say that I've developed a pretty good way of surviving. I found out that there was an Oran bush nearby that's really been stocking up on the berries. I eat three of those for breakfast, three for lunch, and three for dinner. The river is comfortably close, so I get my water from there. It's enough to keep me alive, but I still want something else. I fantasize about running to the city and getting a burger or something, but then I always remember the part about the hidden snipers.
My new way of living reminds me of those survival shows where people who survive a plane crash have to live for weeks in the desert. It's kinda hard to relate to their situation when you're sitting on your couch with a bag of popcorn, but now I totally understand where they're coming from. Every day for me is a battle. The Oran bush is really hard to pick, and of course, it'll run out of berries at some point. So I need to think of another good food source before it's too late. The water from the river isn't the cleanest either. It has all these chunks of dirt from the river bottom, so I have to filter it through my shirt. I don't know if that works, but I guess if it's on TV then it must have some truth to it. I haven't died yet either. That's a plus.
The girl with the white hat came by again today. She still won't say anything. All she does is walk past me with that eerie, knowing look on her face. I think she's using some sort of strategy to get me to run away from the cave, but I'm telling you, it's not gonna work. When you're a guard, you have to be prepared for anything and everything.
But honestly, she's starting to scare me a little. For the past few days, she's been coming first thing in the morning, then around noon, then during the evening like clockwork. And she still won't talk! She just walks past like it's her daily routine or something. I pretend not to care, but between you and me, I'd rather have someone scream in my face.
Remember when I said that the boy in the red cap would be back? Well, I was right.
He came in the early evening, when it was just beginning to get dark. And here's the thing - he wasn't alone. He brought a whole posse of tough-looking guys with him. They cornered me right in front of the entrance. One of them, the tallest of the group, just came up to me and jabbed his fingernail into my ribs. I thought it was really rude of him, and it hurt too.
"Listen, punk. You're gonna stand aside for me and my buddies, and you're not gonna tell anyone about it! Understand?"
There comes a time in a man's life when he has to fend for himself. And that time was upon me. I was getting ready to throw a really hard punch, but before I could, the kid started screaming and rubbing the back of his head. Then, two of his friends did the same thing. They began hopping around on their toes like a bunch of toddlers.
I was a little confused at first, but then I saw that the boys were being hit with all these stones. I couldn't tell where they were coming from, but it sure seemed to be annoying them. The rocks hit their knees, heads, and generally everywhere else. I could see them try to fight it off for a while, but there's only so much you can do when you don't know what's attacking you. Eventually, they gave up and ran away.
That really got me scared. Either I was just saved by a mystical force, or there really are people watching my every move. All I know is, I'm never setting foot in that cave again.
I got a little happy after the rock incident yesterday, because I thought I might be blessed or something. But all that drained away today. And the reason for that was that the kid in the red cap was back. Again. This time, though, I could tell he was at the end of his string.
He literally broke down and kneeled at my feet like I was some sort of god and got into this ten-minute rant on why I should step aside and let him enter the cave. He included some stuff about his PokéDex, his mom, and other stuff I really didn't care about. Right in the middle of it, he started crying. And I don't get why. I mean, it's just a cave. There are caves all around Kanto - go find you own. The kid was getting all whiny and annoying, so I finally decided to take advantage of it.
"Listen, kid," I said. I put my hand on his shoulder for effect. "I understand perfectly. And I'll let you into the cave. All I want is one favor."
Immediately, his eyes widen and he leans in closer. Score.
"All right," I said. "What I want you to do is go into the city and bring me back a burger with some fries. Guarding this place isn't easy, and I want to be sure that you care before I let you in."
The kid smiled at me and ran off just like that. He came back about an hour later with a large to-go box. I have to admit, I was surprised he went through with the deal. If that were me, I'd just give up and go home.
I opened up the box and found a warm, juicy burger inside with a pile of French fries. The cheese was all melted, just the way I like it. My mouth was beginning to water, but the kid was staring at me like he was waiting for something. I needed something to stall him with, so I ordered a drink to keep him busy. At this rate, I can keep him running for weeks. Life is looking up.
All right, I am officially sick of this job. Wanna know why? I'll say it plainly - it sucks.
For one thing, the boy with the red cap stopped bringing me food. For a while there, I was actually getting pretty happy because I thought my berry-picking days were over. But apparently, they weren't. One day he just shows up and starts yelling at me for not being 'trustworthy' and bossing him around. He didn't give me a chance to reply either, he just kicked me on the side with his sneakers and left. Whatever happened to caring and understanding? He didn't even bring me a final burger or anything to announce his resignation.
Speaking of resignation, I am seriously beginning to consider it. I mean, look at the facts. I have nothing to do all day. I'm living on berries and water from the lake, which is less than satisfying. And just because I'm not allowed to leave my post, people think they can do whatever they want when they're around me.
Like today, there was one girl who walked to the other side of the river and began staring at me. She didn't say anything either, just stood there with her arms crossed. I tried to ask her what she was doing, but she didn't answer. Then, after a while, she started throwing things at me. Of course I couldn't do anything about it, but I think she knew that. (I'm telling you, word gets around pretty fast in Cerulean City.)
And this girl had pretty good aim. She hit me like five times on the knee and four on the shoulder. I was practically on the road to becoming a handicap. One rock barely missed my head, and that was because I ducked. Three more kids joined in along the way, and the next thing I know, there's practically a party going on. Throw Rocks at the Dumb Guard Day or something. Seriously, what have I done to make so many people hate me? Can't they understand that I'm only doing it for the money?
Okay, so after my second week of pain and suffering, the red 'R' dude finally shows up in his little metal boat. He tells me that I've done a good job, but honestly, I think I deserve more than a pat on the back. He gives me my money, which is pretty sad compared to what I had to sacrifice to get it. Then, he tells me to go home. Just like that. I'm not needed anymore. Goodbye, Joe.
Well, that really made me reevaluate my choices in life. My mom always told me not to let anyone take advantage of me no matter what, but I guess I kinda broke that rule already. At any rate, I'm just glad I can go home.
I guess my new freedom really gives me a chance to evaluate my two weeks as a cave guard. I mean, I guess it wasn't all bad. Technically, it was the most interesting thing that happened to be in months. I got to live like a professional survival in the wilderness (even though there's a city less than a mile away) and learned a thing or two about the natures of different types of people. My mom used to tell me that for every experience in life, there's a lesson to be learned. My lesson?
I'm never going to be a guard again.