Author's Notes: Originally for Poképrompts' blitz challenge; the prompt was "reality shift." Warning for psychological horror.
For extra fun, count the number of words in each section and then think about N's part again.
She knows it was sunny the day she left. She remembers the softness of her mother's kiss on her forehead, the way the grass scratched her bare calves, the gruffness of the old professor's voice as he rushed to her. She remembers the plastic smoothness of each poké ball in his laboratory. She remembers the way that bulbasaur, her bulbasaur, croaked and smiled at her.
Her entire world is full of memories. It took her a week to get to Pewter City but only fifteen minutes for Bulbasaur to defeat Brock's pokémon. The white light that surrounded Bulbasaur's body was so bright, so beautiful that Leaf nearly cried when she watched it. Pidgey and Rattata were envious for weeks.
Leaf thought Misty was cool, Erika was nice, and Sabrina was scary. She didn't care for the male gym leaders that much, not because she didn't like boys but instead because they were so old and talked about things she didn't understand. Leaf wasn't exactly stupid, but she was young. The girls understood this.
She remembers her rival, Blue. He was annoying at first, but then, one day she saw him at Lavender Tower, his gaze towards the ceiling, his arms wrapped around himself even though it wasn't cold. When he saw her, for a brief second, she thought his eyes were red, but then, he did his best to swallow it all, to storm at her, to push her and battle her and take out all his anger on her. And she let him because she didn't know what to say.
Team Rocket. She remembers them. She remembers their black suits, their twisting hideouts, the way the people in Silph trembled and begged her to help them. She remembered his smirk most of all, the one of the eighth gym leader – smirking at her in the president's office (triumphant then, as if losing to her was just part of his plan) and then in Viridian Gym (wistfully, as if he lost something).
She remembers the Elite Four, Blue, the thrill of battle, all of her hard work coming to that one point. At the end, she wanted to apologize to Blue for everything, but she never got the chance. The Hall of Fame waited for her – her, the Champion.
Leaf knows. She knows she was a hero. She knows she saved the region from Team Rocket, defeated the strongest trainers in Kanto, captured legends. Everyone should be talking about her.
But then, when she came home, her mother looked up, smiled at her as if she was a stranger, and apologized for her son's absence.
Leaf knows she doesn't have a brother.
There's a reason why he's standing at the top of the stairs of the pokémon center in Ecruteak City, but he only vaguely knows why. He was there to fix something, but what?
Lately, he's been remembering multiple dreams all at once. In one of them, he's there because he fixed a time machine. It's his latest work, and he's proud of it because only he could be brilliant enough to defy the laws of time and space. In another one, he's there because they needed someone to fix the region's wi-fi, which doesn't make sense to him, but he feels like this memory is what's supposed to be true this time around.
There are other lives, too – ones where he helps save the world and others where he only serves as a teacher. He doesn't know how many different lifetimes he's led, but they're all bleeding into one another, one detail crossing with another until he's not sure whether or not he's awake this time.
He wanders downstairs and approaches the desk. His mouth knows what to say, but the rest of him doesn't. This is when a girl approaches him. He turns and finds her, brown-haired (Wasn't she supposed to be blue-haired?) and wide-eyed with a typhlosion (Didn't she have a meganium?) by her side. It's his cue. He introduces himself and speaks before she can, explaining that he's there for the wi-fi system.
But his mouth stumbles partway through. He mentions the storage system and Lanette (who doesn't exist in any of the other dreams except two), but he feels like the trainer already knows that, like his words no longer have meaning. But he can't stop. It's his cue. He has to say something. They wanted everything to be as close to the old timeline as possible. It's not his fault they made him redundant!
Bill knows he's just barely grasped something when it slips away from him. Something's nagging at his mind – the thought that he just came to be one day, as dictated by someone else. He barely remembers a computer, a line of text, a face just beyond a glass screen. But that's ridiculous! He had a childhood! He went to school! He has an entire history beyond this—
The girl stares at him. He shakes himself from his thoughts and quickly excuses himself. As he walks towards the door, he can't help but feel very, very tired, and he wonders if this is just another one of his dreams. The memories of a lack of childhood and the other lifetimes are already fading away.
Bill remembers, but he isn't sure what.
In her mind, there are multiple rifts, jagged chasms between one truth and the next. She knows that Team Magma, where her loyalties lie, is trying to awaken Groudon so that it will create a new landmass on which people and pokémon can live, and in one truth, she is the admin of Team Magma, the organization stealing submarines and sensitive documents to achieve this goal. She also knows that Team Aqua, her sworn enemy, is trying to awaken Kyogre so that it may produce more water that people and pokémon can use to live, and in another truth, she is the admin of Team Magma, the organization using all of its power and reserves to stop them. And in her mind, there are three realities: one in which Aqua nearly succeeds and almost drowns the world, one in which Magma nearly succeeds and almost burns the world beneath bright sunlight, and one in which Aqua and Magma nearly succeed in destroying the world together.
Courtney stands on the shore of Lilycove City. In the distance, she sees a small mountain jut out of the waves. There was once a cave there, and within it was Magma's hideout.
No. That's not right. It was Aqua's. Magma never needed to hide.
No. That's not right. Magma needed to hide, but they did so in Mt. Chimney, nestled between fire and rock.
They disbanded. Maxie saw the errors of his ways when Groudon scorched the earth, right? No. It was because they had no purpose now that Team Aqua saw what Kyogre could do. No. It was because the world was nearly destroyed because of the both of them, and Maxie and Archie knew this.
Courtney fell to her knees, her fingers worming their way into the warm sand. She wasn't sure why her head throbbed. The truth, the mess of one reality clashing into another was never an issue until recently. Why? Why now? Did she dream something? Was she sick?
Who are you?
She froze. She lifted her chin, and all of a sudden, she felt eyes staring deep into her body.
Are you good, or are you evil?
How could something ask her that? She was good! She was always good! Sure, Magma never always had the best methods, but—
They always had the best methods! They never stole anything; that was Aqua!
Are you sure?
She was sure! Was she?
She couldn't be a thief. And even if she was, it was for the best, right?
"Stop judging me!" she screams.
It echoes. The feeling of something staring at her won't go away.
Courtney feels as if she's breaking apart.
She has an entire list of reasons of who and what she hates. She hates Jupiter for her attitude. She hates Charon for his ideals. She hates Saturn for refusing to leave when Charon declared himself the leader of Team Galactic. She hates the child from Twinleaf Town who defeated Cyrus – her only true superior – so easily. She hates Giratina for dragging Cyrus into the Distortion World.
But right now, she stands at the peak of Mt. Coronet, her hands tracing along the rock surfaces of each broken pillar and each shattered wall. Every fiber of her being hopes and prays that in the next instant, she'll see a glimmer of something – anything – that would be a clue as to where she could enter the Distortion World.
She imagines it's Hell. Mars doesn't necessarily believe in Hell, but she imagines it's a dark place where Cyrus is alone, each thread of his mind unraveling one by one.
Her pace quickens. In her mind, she finds herself exploring what-ifs. What if she was stronger? What if she stopped the child from Twinleaf? What if she stayed and tried to pull Cyrus from the dark pit Giratina dragged him into?
What if only one of the gods had appeared that day?
In her mind, there is another reality. Within this one, there is only Palkia or Dialga, not both. Giratina never notices, never reaches through the barrier between this world and its own, never takes Cyrus. Instead, Cyrus sees it as a disappointment and vanishes, but Mars still hopes. Even though she knows Team Galactic would die without him, she sees herself in that other reality, not tracing rock with numb fingertips but instead searching the world over for Cyrus. She would find him in that reality, and she feels that in that one, she has a chance to convince him to go with her, to go back to Sinnoh and Galactic.
Within this reality, her heart doesn't want to accept anything but the hope that she might find the entrance to the Distortion World, and beyond that, she doesn't want to believe in any other possibility than the one in which Cyrus listens to her. But her rational mind says she should give up hope, and Jupiter called her crazy for it.
But how could she be crazy? The world needs Cyrus. She needs Cyrus. And it's possible, isn't it? Her other self found a way, and so will she. She will break through to the other world. She will find Cyrus and bring him back, no matter how long it takes. She will. She swears.
Mars hates everyone who tells her otherwise.
His home, Unova, came pre-fractured. It wasn't just subtle differences like which team was good and evil. It was entire places. He knows that in one Unova, there are vast cities, oceans of light glowing softly in the night, and in another Unova, those same glass towers are trees and stone walls. In one Unova, he rides the white dragon of ideals; in the other, the black dragon of truth. Sometimes, he wonders which of the legendary heroes he is because of this confusion, but it doesn't bother him much because he knows why the rifts are there.
From his vantage point above Cinnabar Island, he notices the girl from Pallet Town first. Her lapras carries her up and down the coastline, edging the foot of the ruined mountain. Strands of her brown hair fly in her face, flicking across tired eyes. She hasn't slept in days, and N doesn't need any special powers to get this from the look on her face.
He knows why she's here, and he feels sorry for her. She was a change, but because they wanted the storyline to be perfect – to be exactly as it was the first time around – she was quickly forgotten. And now, this is her purpose, to search for that creature from the first timeline, the one with the power to unravel reality. N wonders if it's true that it's still there, even though he knows it hasn't been seen since the beginning of the first timeline, since before Cinnabar was nothing but a ruined volcano.
Part of him is curious, but he knows he shouldn't be curious – because if this girl is right, then it would all be over.
She doesn't understand. Why would change be a bad thing? Why would it be so terrible to be reassigned a purpose?
The rifts are there for a reason.
He has this dragon for a reason.
They're forcing him to wander the world for a reason.
She has no right to fight it. Destiny is a beautiful thing. Soon, he'll receive a third timeline, and with that, he will have another purpose. His mind reeled with the possibilities that this new life would give him. Why won't she understand?
He has his purpose now. They want him to stop her and all the others who know. All of them are suffering; all of their minds are coming apart. Not his. No, not his because Unova was always fractured. He will help them all: the one in Johto, the one in Hoenn, the one in Sinnoh.
He orders his dragon to descend.
N understands, and he wants you to understand too.