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Pokémon Hunter, Haunted

Author's Notes & Prologues New

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
It has arrived. The subject of many a meme. The story the author would not shut up about. Her magnum opus.

Hunter, Haunted is a story very dear to my heart, as anyone who's heard me talk on the Discord has probably witnessed by now. It was the second multiparter fic I'd ever written, and still remains the longest story I have written to date. Its start dates back two years (or now closer to three? oh boy this year's been such a mess i haven't even realized how far into it we are), but it's been through a major revision since, and I'm going to be revising it again as I post it here, though much more lightly this time... at least I hope so, for the sake of my own sanity.

So what's Hunter, Haunted about? Well, it's another story in my TPP (aka Twitch Plays Pokémon - don't worry, though, you don't need knowledge of that to read this) fic series, which follows my... unique version of Red and the very bad and awful things he does. This time, Red finds out his latest murder victim has returned from the dead as a yamask, and so he must figure out how to eliminate this witness before she can rat him out. Paranormal and psychological horror ensues.

In the series' timeline, HH comes after the oneshot Metanoia, which in turn comes after Seiren. In fact, Metanoia is the story that bridges these two multiparter fics together, and if you've finished Seiren, I strongly recommend you read Metanoia before this. If you're only now jumping in to the series, though, you can start either directly from this story or read Metanoia before it.

Before continuing to the story, it's important that I warn sufficiently about the content featured in this story. Hunter, Haunted contains:
- explicit, detailed depictions of violence and gore
- disturbing/disgusting concepts and imagery such as intense body horror, cultism, torture and cannibalism, as well as depictions of vomiting
- psychological (and perhaps in places existential) horror
- themes of mental illness and suicide, especially towards the end
- strong language
- no explicit and rather little implicit sexual content, but some non-sexual scenes can be vaguely reminiscent of sexually charged ones
- spiders.
Due to all this, Hunter, Haunted is rated mature.

Alright, I think that's all! If you're alright with all this, I hope you enjoy the story. Feedback is encouraged and appreciated - I really want this story to be the best it can be. Thank you, and here we go.

---

hh2020cover.png

H U N T E R , H A U N T E D

Synopsis:
Red, after a successful sacrifice, is shocked to find his victim reincarnated as a ghost. He must kill her again before she can expose him - but can ghosts even be killed?

Genre:
Drama, Horror

Started:
18 Sep 2017

Status:
Initially finished 17 April 2018
Revision finished 15 June 2019
New revision ongoing, started 1 July 2020

Length:
82 000~ words with both prologues and extra included
(measured 8 July 2019)

---

There are two different Prologues - Original and Alternate.

These two differ from each other by featuring a different scenario with different levels of graphic/disturbing content, but they fulfil the same narrative purposes. Either one can be read, as the events of both are canon. Reading both is permitted, but do not be surprised to see information repeated between the two.

The recommended version is Original, but Alternate is for those who'd prefer a less gruesome entry to the story.
PROLOGUE (Original)

---

Breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out…

Air, warm. Soft. Sweet. Fills lungs, squeezes out. Kind of hurts, breathing this fast, but have to, have to or choke...

So hot. Hot and wet, sticky skin. Sweaty. Heart pounds in ears, in chest, right above stomach, stomach is heavy, full, satisfied… too much? Bloated? Not sure, maybe if I move…

Ah, sharp, hard, something on back… move, move to floor, oh, tired, tired arms and legs, body sticky and bare -- red? Red smears? Blood! Am I hurt?

...No, nothing hurts. Only smears. Can move rest of way. Ugh, sweat glues to floor, wet hair on neck, gross. Foot uncomfortable, move --

Hot! Take foot away! What's so hot there? It glows, bright. Orange, crackles - fire. Above it, shining - metal. Bubbling. Water inside? Why…? Where am I?

It's blurry. Can't tell. Just grays, browns, blacks outside that big light and other lights, smaller, scattered around.

Depth. Sharpen. See shapes. Recognize. Room of basement, the hidden room. My room, should be safe.

But it’s not clean. White floor has stains, red and orange. And there are shreds, lumps of something...

Human! Human shape to the left! Who?

...Not moving. Not a threat?

Lots of red on it. Glistening middle. Blotches of color. Matches the lumps, kind of. Behind the human, there’s a board. Wooden. Belts. I made that. I… put her on that.

Her. I remember. I brought her here, unconscious. Strapped her to the board. Lit the candles - the little lights are candles. Set up the fire and water bowl - big light and metal - like I always do. Always do when I… bring an offering for...

HIM.

Behind the fire. The rock on the altar. Its spiral. No longer speaking. HE has left - or was HE ever here?

HE was, right. I started the ritual, HE was there. HE approved of my offering. But then… I can't remember. How did I go from that moment to this? Who killed the woman? Was it me, or…

...could it be? Could it be that HE…

Yes.

Yes!

The corners of my mouth pull towards my ears. I can't help but laugh, even if it strains my lungs.

HE took over! HE took over my body! HE entered it, HE used it, used it to kill her. Accept the offering. Eat her flesh. Beautiful, wonderful, yes! This means the time is near. The time of ascension. Soon, very soon, HE will merge with me fully, and then everything’s gonna be --

Ah. Soon, but not yet. I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I’m still mortal for now, and I have a mortal’s obligations. Like cleaning all this up before it starts reeking. So I should get up…

With tired limbs and the grace of a newborn fawn, I struggle to upright myself. I use the bookshelf - apparently the hard object I’d woken up leaning against - for support, though regret it soon after noticing the red stains left on the wood by my palms. There really is a lot of blood on my body… HE must have really enjoyed HIMSELF. Maybe part of this elation I’m feeling is a high HE got my body on. An absolutely welcome gift.

As my surroundings sharpen further, I can make out the details of the lumps on the floor. As one could have guessed, they’re parts of her. Muscle, skin, fat, all sorts of tissue. Wildly and savagely thrown about. Just like you’d expect from the god of predators. Oh, I have to take a closer look at her body now. Cleaning up can wait just a few minutes.

Careful not to step on anything slippery, I stagger over to the body. After five or so slaps of my soles against the floor tiles, I can grab the board's edge and lean on it. Now I can survey her.

Oh, what a sight she is.

Red, pink, yellow, gray, purple, dark green. A flesh-tinted rainbow nested in her ventral cavity. Her organs - the ones that still remain - glisten in the fires’ light, eager to show off their beauty after two decades of darkness. Many of them, though, have lost large chunks of themselves, the lungs especially. They still leak blood and other fluids. It looks sad in a way, as if they were crying. But they're at rest now, just like all the others. Enslaved no more by the brain.

The digestive tract, though, took little to no damage. With the greater omentum mostly torn off, I can see the loops of the intestines, their surfaces smooth and unscathed. HE probably avoided them because of the smell. For that, I'm grateful.

The middle of the small intestine, though, seems oddly parted. Looking closer, there seems to be something pooled on the mesentery, something viscous… oh.

Moving on. I decide to inspect the intact parts of her for a change. Her skin is quite pale, understandably, though small, red crescents encircle the sections torn off, becoming sparser the further away they get. I check my fingernails to find bloody gunk underneath them. Matches up. Though I can't imagine these weak simian nails doing that much damage by themselves… HE must have brought some of HIS own strength along. That explains the missing anterior of the ribcage, too. I suppose HE just… ripped it off. Gods. Did HE even use the knife? Where is the knife, anyway?

Oh, there it is, on the floor near the altar. Clean. Next to… the bowl of boiling water… which is also clean.

The gentle mush filling my stomach hardens into a rock and becomes just as heavy.

Did HE not… cook the flesh?

I rush to the bowl and look around for any stains to prove me wrong. No, nothing. Where's the smaller bowl, the porcelain one I gather the flesh in --

There it is. Spotless, of course. Dammit!

Ngh, what do I do now? Is this a hazard? I know eating flesh raw is something HE discourages, but is it something HE would want me to try and empty my entire stomach for? I know the offering's blood was clean, thanks to HIS pre-ritual check, but does that translate to the flesh? Ugh, I really don't want to have to vomit, it burns my throat and leaves an awful taste in there for the whole day, but...

...you know what, it's probably fine if I don't. It wouldn't make sense for HIM to eat something HE considered a risk. HE just confirmed this body is the one HE wants. HE wouldn't go and spoil it now. HE must have checked the flesh was good to eat or made it good by force. If HE can enhance the human genome, I'm sure HE can take care of a few microbes. And if HE didn't… well, they're unlikely to cause severe harm if I seek help in time. I'll probably just feel shitty for a few days and then go back to normal. Right now, I should only worry about this mess…

I catch myself scratching my forearms. The blood has started to harden. Is there even some in my hair?

A touch confirms my guess. Hm. Maybe I should take a quick shower first. I can't imagine dried blood coming off too easily.

For safety, I decide to extinguish the fire before leaving. Using the porcelain bowl, I cast some of the boiling water on the flames. The room darkens considerably as they reduce to plumes of smoke. That ought to do it.

Now to freshen up...

---

Gods, did the room smell this bad the whole time? It's like something died in here. Oh, wait!

Now wearing a raincoat, rubber gloves and boots - even a shower cap in case of sudden squirts - I return to the crime scene. I grab myself a garbage bag and begin gathering the various pieces of the victim off the floor. To have something more to listen to than just the crinkling of my coat, I hum a directionless tune.

With the floor rid of the largest clumps of flesh, it's time for the body. I spread a tarp beneath the board and then, one by one, undo the belts that keep her body fastened to the board. Ankles, wrists, forehead - grab her neck for support - and finally, arms. She comes free, and I lower her onto the tarp.

Sure, having a tarp set up in advance for the whole ritual would make cleaning easier, but I'm just not a fan of how it looks. Brings down the atmosphere. And if the Helixians didn't need tarps all those millennia ago, neither do I.

Alright. I think I'll chop the head off first. I fetch my trusted axe from the wall it leans against, along with a plank of wood. I slip the plank under her neck to make sure I won’t accidentally shatter the floor and begin to hack away. Eventually, I cleave through the spine. I sever the remaining skin with the sharper knife, and so her head comes free. I grab it by the hair and, to humor myself, lift it up high like a Kalosian revolutionary.

Her face now level with mine, I stare deep into her eyes. No life gazes back from the darkness. They resemble my own, really. Uncannily much. I choose to move on to the rest of her face.

Ignoring the missing flesh around the mouth, she's rather good-looking. Symmetrical, aesthetically pleasing proportions rather typical for a Tohjoan female. Smoothly curved bridge of nose, deep-set eyes, widow’s peak. Pure and healthy skin, although discolored now by loss of blood. Thin, neatly shaped eyebrows. They feel silky to the touch. As much as I can tell with gloves on, anyway.

Odd that she didn't seem to have any company with features like these. Maybe she just wasn't interested in dating. Or maybe that friend she had was more than a friend. Fuck if I know what love is like. Not that I care. It's worthless.

Her teeth look healthy, with a regular shade of yellow-white - but also red stains from the blood, of course. Hard not to bleed on your teeth with your lips torn off. Why did HE go for those, anyway?

Oh! Speaking of her mouth, almost forgot…

I separate the corpse’s jaws. To my disappointment, the tongue is missing.

But I also didn’t come across it on the floor…?

The realization disturbs my gut. Oh, it’s in there then. Unwashed tongue, that’s a little disgusting… though I suppose regular people exchange spit voluntarily all the time. Would this count as first base, then?

Either way, this means I won't get to keep a trophy for this one. I suppose it makes sense, as I didn't get to be the one to kill her either…

No, don't think like that. You're overjoyed to have been taken over. It's way better than to have killed her yourself. This means ascension is near, after all, and once that happens, you'll get to kill to your heart's content. No fear of getting caught, no worries about disease. Only carnage. And you'll love it.

Anyway… even if I don't have a tongue to store, I'll still add a jar among the rest. It'll be empty, but a jar doesn't need to contain anything to mark a kill. That's what the label is for. A number and a name.

Name. Hm. What was hers, again?

I pause to take in her features once again. Her eyes, her nose, her mouth - or lack thereof…

Ah, now I remember.

Her name was Joanna.

---

PROLOGUE (Alternate)

---

A gentle breeze blows through the streets of the neighborhood.

The trees and bushes sway gently in this wind, showing off their emerging leaves or the needles that braved through the winter. Simple little houses flank the asphalt roads, their pastel walls near blinding in the strong sunlight. Only a few puffy clouds here and there obscure the wide, azure sky. A faraway pidgey twitters - judging by its familiar song, a yellow-breasted one.

The streets and yards seem devoid of people. No humans, no mon. Makes sense - most have work or school at this hour. That means the only one out on this sunny April morning is me.

I love getting away with murder.

Alright, that's enough for a break. I lift up the handles of the wheelbarrow and continue pushing. The smell from the garbage bag nested within is starting to leak… but luckily the outdoor air is fresh and fast to circulate.

I take a turn, and there it is, the entrance to the woods. The escape from all prying eyes. Not that there are any. And not that I wouldn't have an explanation ready. What's in the bag? Why, green waste, of course. I'm dumping it in the woods, returning it to nature. Don’t want to pile it all on the yard to be an eyesore and bug hive. For the good of the neighborhood, you know? The community. My fellow men. And mon. I’m socially conscious, you see.

And if they still remained suspicious, I’d just make them socially unconscious. Ha! No, it wasn’t that funny.

I clear my throat and enter the woods. Blotches of light, filtered through the branches of spruces and pines above, dance on the floor of dirt and detritus. More and more birds join the choir of chirps and whistles, proclaiming their territory or wishes for a mate. I can't possibly see how someone could live without immediate access to a place like this. But, well, it's become apparent over the years that there's a lot of things I don't understand about people.

My arms are starting to get tired again… but the spot isn't that far anymore. I can make it there without another break. After that, all I have to do is make the evidence disappear, and then I can make the trip back at my own pace. So just hang in there…

"Kraw!"

Oh, not a murkrow.

With a shuffling of feathers, a black bird lands in my path. It stares at the bag with hungry eyes.

Yes, yes, I know you can smell it and it’s probably a fantastic fragrance for a scavenger like you. I have no ideological opposition to giving you a piece, but in practice, it’d mean opening up this stinky thing and exposing myself to all kinds of risks. What if a little civilized growlithe was roaming around in these woods, caught the stench and decided to follow it? Then I’d have a witness to worry about. I probably wouldn’t even be able to kill it, being a fragile, flammable human. And then I’d be caught because of a little puppy. A little puppy would be the one to cancel Judgment Day. I’m not letting that happen.

“Kraw!”

What's Judgment Day, you ask? Well, when an ancient god of chaos likes a priest of HIS very much, HE leaves HIS stony fossil home and incarnates in the body of the priest, morphing him into a being above all others. The god-imbued priest, with his new omnipotence, will then rebuild the Helixian kingdom and reshape the world into its rightful state, where the strong roam and hunt the weak as they please, no longer shackled by a civilization built by cowards.

Now, as it happens, I've had the great honor and joy of being chosen as that priest. I'm only waiting for the moment HE declares HE has gathered enough strength for the transition proper. HE already took my body on a test run today, you know. It may have led to at least a kilo of raw flesh being stuffed into my stomach, but I'm not that bothered about it. HE wouldn't let any microbes ruin my body now after three years of training me.

Not that any of it concerns you. Get out of the way.

The murkrow flits off the path to avoid the approaching wheel of the cart, but to my annoyance, the bird sticks around. In fact, it seems to be following me.

I set down the wheelbarrow and leap at the murkrow. It scrambles into flight. Good riddance.

I resume my pushing -- oh for fuck's sake! The crafty corvid only flew a circle. Now it's landed on the cart itself. I shoo it with my hands... which is of course pointless, as the bird only flies back each time. Dammit. I should just hurry to the dropoff spot…

I speed up my pace. This makes for a bumpier ride for the bird, but it doesn't seem deterred - it keeps pecking and tugging at the bag, rustling the plastic. Until finally… pop.

That lights a fire under my feet. Unfortunately, I'm already going as fast as I can while making sure any stray roots can't tip the cart over, so all I can do is suffer the heat under my soles. But the place is close now, only a little more, I can already see it. The stench of the corpse reaches my nostrils, fuck, now it's out there, but now I enter the opening and here I go!

I shove the cart forwards at a right-leaning angle, startling the murkrow into flight. As planned, the cart tips over and stops at the center of the gravelly opening. The garbage bag falls out.

I scan the area for any fallen branches and soon find one not far off. I snatch it into my hands and begin dragging its tip across the ground. The murkrow watches from its perch as I draw the circle, until it realizes I’m too busy to bother with it and dives into the center to rip a new hole in the bag and bob for scraps of meat. Let it. I’m almost done.

The base circle is complete, now for the details. Line there, curve there, circle there. Is it done? I analyze the pattern once more. Yes, it’s finished.

I leap to the wheelbarrow and heave it out of the circle. It scares away the bird, but only for a moment, as it returns immediately once I rush back to front of the pattern. Okay, the cart’s out. Only the activation remains.

I unsheathe my knife. The murkrow pulls its head out of the bag to give a quick, suspicious glance. No, it's not for you. You'll see.

I take the blade to my little finger and slide it across the skin. I flinch and I hate that I flinch, I shouldn't feel a thing from cuts this small anymore after what I've been through… but I suppose it doesn't matter as long as I can take the pain without fear. Either way, I've drawn blood as needed, and the red fluid is gathering, dripping… and with a small flick, a droplet detaches from the finger. It falls right where it's supposed to - inside the little circle at the edge of the ring.

The new stain on the gravel glitters. Then its red begins to glow. Then the light expands.

I step back for safety, watching the light creep along the edges of the circle and trace the grooves of each detail on the way. The murkrow throws glances at the glowing pattern, perplexed. Is it going to flee? Is it smart enough to realize this is something it should get away from? Is it greedy enough to ignore it?

Just before the advancing lights meet at the other end of the circle, something clicks in the bird's brain. It flaps its wings frantically, stumbling into the air, the circle's edge as its destination. Another red glow envelops everything within the circle, murkrow included. It brightens, and...

Flash.

The lights are gone. The bag is gone. The pattern in the gravel has returned to being a simple drawing. The wheelbarrow rests next to it, tipped over. There's nothing else in the opening but me.

And the murkrow, of course, staring at its newly trimmed tail.

"You're lucky you're alive, you know," I remark.

It glares at me, caws with spite and flies off into the trees. Oh well. Some folks just can't appreciate their luck. Hope it isn’t getting its friends on me… I’m not so good with those kinds of murders.

With the needled end of the branch, I sweep at the gravel, erasing the grooves little by little. While no one who happened to find this would know what it was for, it's still better to keep the pattern a secret. Someone might try to replicate it and accidentally set it off with a papercut or something - and then the whole world would be sniffing for tracks to learn more about this strange new kind of magic. I couldn't use it anymore in fear of getting caught, and that would make these murders a lot riskier to pull off unnoticed.

I finish erasing the pattern. The gravel looks disturbed where the circle used to lie, but it’s nothing that couldn’t have been caused by just a group of children playing. I toss away the branch, upright the wheelbarrow and begin pushing it back the way I came, not a speck of worry on my mind.

My tracks are clear. There's nothing left of the victim outside of the blood washed down the drain and the flesh within my digestive tract, and I doubt they’re going to look through my sewage or cut my belly open to get what’s inside. And, well, even if they catch on to me… who’s to say they can do it before I ascend?

Though I suppose there’s still a third piece of evidence. Myself. While I do have the means to wipe my own memories of this incident, I shouldn’t go messing around with my brain. It needs to be in mint condition for HIM. Not to mention the though of my own brain malfunctioning is… terrifying.

Besides, these memories are ones I’d really like to keep. I want to remember how it felt realizing HE had taken over my body, and I want to remember the preparation that had led to that wonderful moment. Perhaps at the time it had been just like any previous hunt, but in retrospect, it seems so much more special. Walking the streets of Viridian, looking for a suitable target. Finding and choosing her. Stalking to find out her daily rhythm, her name. Striking at the precise right moment. Transporting her to my basement with the help of another spell. Washing her, fastening her to the board, waiting for her to wake up and then seeing that terror on her face...

She is the one that gave me all this satisfaction. Maybe I should thank her.

I smirk. Nah. She’s dead.

Joanna is dead.

---
 

Equitia

Junior Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partner
espurr
And I'm back for more Red. I'm glad to be reading Hunter, Haunted since you've been talking about it so much. I wanted to wait until you started posting the updated chapters; now that have, I'll try keep up with each chapter.

I read both prologues. Both are good, but overall I think I prefer the second.

The first prologue's beginning was very strong. Red's coming back into himself was brilliantly written; your choice of short sentences and fragments really helped to give this fic a compelling start. I loved the gradual painting of the scene and the slow reveal. I was gripped throughout. And the gore. Seeing how Red viewed the violence he caused... was certainly something. Some of his descriptions were almost poetic. In particular, this bit --

Red, pink, yellow, gray, purple, dark green. A flesh-tinted rainbow nested in her ventral cavity. Her organs - the ones that still remain - glisten in the fires’ light, eager to show off their beauty after two decades of darkness. Many of them, though, have lost large chunks of themselves, the lungs especially. They still leak blood and other fluids. It looks sad in a way, as if they were crying. But they're at rest now, just like all the others. Enslaved no more by the brain.
-- stuck out to me. I'm a horror fan and have read some nasty stuff, but this prologue was distinctly disgusting and gripping. I can tell you put a lot of effort into this, and it really paid off.

However, although I liked the gore on its own, it felt a bit too jarring compared to Seiren and Metatonia. I'm viewing Hunter, Haunted as a sequel to those works, and, while Red was an evil shithead in those, having his desecrated murder victim's organs described in loving detail is several notches darker than what has been depicted before. Of course I haven't read the rest of Hunter, Haunted and don't know what I'm in for, but the gorn feels somewhat sudden and out of place.

The second prologue starts off with less intensity, but it's still far from uncompelling. I like the structure of it, how it doesn't directly state what Red has done until the very end, just letting the reader go "oh, oh" as the picture clears. I especially like the buildup for Joanna's namedrop in the last line here. That line has a great punch, fitting since I have an inkling about how she comes back. Overall this prologue had less memorable well-written moments than the other, but the structure and buildup are very solid.
 

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
Ah, holy fuck Canis. That was a read. Christ. All right, well, review time.

It's altogether very well done in that it achieves fully what it sets out to do. In both, you can very clearly tell that Red's unhinged very quickly. I'm also so glad to see someone actually use first person properly instead of just third person from the main character's perspective. It really feels like Red is the narrator. He has his own distinct voice, and you really nailed that.

I don't often read present tense stories, partly from preference and partly because I don't see them often, but it really works here. That feeling of constantly happening helps the feeling of disorientation and I honestly didn't know what to expect from one paragraph to the next. It adds to that feeling of being in Red's head—which gets more and more terrifying as the story goes on.

Between the two prologues, though, I'd say the second is better. The first shows your hand too quickly. It's a horrifying, gory mess. It's hard to read because of how unnerving it is, and that's not as great of a start to your story as the second. It's jarring to start, but now that I've read the prologue, I'm acclimated to it. Now that the violence happened "on screen," I have a clear image of what to expect. Getting much more brutal than the first prologue would be hard, and even if you did, the presence of the first prologue would lessen the effect.

The second works better because it only hints at all of this. The picture in someone's mind is always going to be more horrifying, as they say. It gives the reader more, but tells them less. It's much more engaging not knowing exactly what happened. It also doesn't undermine the potential later use of gore like the initial does. The surprise at the end with the ritual working, as well, adds to the mystery of if Red's really just insane, or if HE is real (Red's still insane in that instance, but...).

The second prologue feels like the start of something. The first feels like its own thing.

Edit: I forgot to add this, but I thought of these songs for each prologue.
Prologue one: "Empire" from Passover by The Black Angels
Prologue two: "Sniper at the Gates of Heaven" from Passover by The Black Angels
 
Last edited:
Chapter One New

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Here we are, the first chapter proper! Rated mature for violent imagery and strong language. Enjoy!

---

CHAPTER ONE
Just Another Day


---​

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Ah.

Morning.

My room. Gray walls. Light leaking in from the crevice between the curtain and the bottom of the window. Pale light. You know what that means - another cloudy day.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I suppose I should get up. Or at least turn that thing off.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.


Alright.

I roll over and tap the button on the clock. Its buzzing gone, the quieter soundscape of the outside reaches my brain. Winds. Distant traffic. Birdsong. Nothing new there.

I draw my hand back to myself and tuck it near my chest. It’s cold out there. Again.

I sigh and stare at the digits of the alarm. 9:00. The prime time to rise and shine. To get out of bed, do your morning chores and then set off for school to learn about all the wonders of the world. Or for work, to earn the bread to eat, to give a share to the government for all the nice services they provide.

But I don’t do either. I can’t do either. Because to do those human things, you'd have to be human.

Instead, I spend my days at home, trying my best to pass the time. Exercising. Watching TV. Doing crosswords. Going on walks. Cooking. Hunting. I like the last one best, but it's also the most difficult and illegal, so it's more of a rare treat.

And so, time after time, I drag myself through the hours and reach the prize at the end - sleep. That well-deserved escape from reality. Not that I remember any dreams, save for the occasional nightmare. I just like the idea of being able to skip eight hours of further boredom.

All of this is of course funded by my dear mother who cares just enough to give me food and shelter. And then, I suppose, some money comes indirectly from her husband, whose son is the only family that dares to share a house with me. And then whatever Fonz earns from his short time jobs to live here and provide for -- it.

Anyway... it's alright, actually, all of this. Because it's all temporary. Everything will change once HE is ready, and that time will be soon. The ascension is right behind the corner. HIS taking me over proves that. HE just needs to… wait a little longer, to gather HIS strength. I just need to wait a little longer.

Of course, I’ve been telling myself that for a few weeks now…

Steps downstairs. Sounds like Abe. I guess I should get up too.

Or should I? There's nothing to do, remember?

No, that's not true. Daily exercise is required to keep this body in proper shape. To skip that would be betraying HIM. You don't want to do that, do you?

I get up without delay. Gods, it's cold without the blanket… more reason to get through the routine sooner, I suppose. I'll get to put on some proper clothes.

With a sigh, I leave my room behind.

---​

I stare at the towel I've just hung on the drying rack. Strands of damp black hair dangle before my eyes, twitching ever so slightly with each beat of my heart.

The last part of my morning routine has finished, and now I've entered the wasteland once again.

Should I even go upstairs? Should I challenge myself to spend all day in the basement instead? Could be fun, in some kind of way. I could use that time to work more on that Helixian textbook. Even if I know it's completely useless, as I can't show it to anyone pre-ascension, and post-ascension I'd be able to just will the information into the brains of anyone I wanted…

Maybe I should pay HIM a visit instead.

No! No, I shouldn't. I shouldn't interrupt HIM - HE must be hard at work, making preparations and gathering strength. And if I saw HIM, HE might ask for another offering, and I wouldn't be able to say no even if it's only been a few weeks and I should wait longer to let the trail cool down… and lastly, I don't want to come to HIM while I still don't have that… one thing under control.

Speaking of… the two mon are probably up by now, getting ready for school and work. I should go upstairs and see them. Not going would be avoiding them, and avoiding is a sign of cowardice. I need to face them, face my weakness. It's the only way to overcome it.

Determined, I climb the stairs. I grab the handle of the door at the end…

They're talking. Fonz is walking around, his claws clacking against the wooden floor.

Stop hesitating. You have to do this.

I force the handle down and step through the door. Before anything else, I decide to sit down at the kitchen table. I should at least get to do this in a well-supported position.

Okay. Time to take the plunge. I pry my gaze off the table and finally direct it at the nidoking in the living room.

As expected, the omanyte lies in his arms. Big bright eyes, little tentacles. Watching the nidoking pace about, getting all the things ready for His school.

No, its!

Oh Gods, another mistake. I thought of Him as a Him again. It!

I slip a mental hand inside my ribcage and squeeze my heart. No feeling. No feeling of joy or affection or anything of the sort. You’re not allowed to see Him -- it in that light anymore. As far as you’re concerned, the omanyte is just an omanyte. An animal, a pile of flesh and organs. Not your lord, not your master. That role belongs only to HIM.

Having gathered his and the omanyte’s bags, Fonz heads for the door. Almost over, thank the Gods. He looks over here and so does… the omanyte, and they wave and say goodbye. With the strength of a mindless reflex, I manage to raise my hand back. And then - they’re gone.

Oh Gods. I let go of my breath and lean onto my elbows. I release my heart from its chokehold. That was worse than usual… again. And here I thought I was actually making progress.

Is it the pronouns? Did I have it right the first time? Are they just a needless song and dance that in the end don’t affect anything, or are they really steering my psyche in the right direction?

A door opens. Abe comes out of the bathroom. I straighten my back as I don’t want him to start saying anything. Though now he’s looking straight at me. Is he gonna bring it up?

“Oh, Red!” he says, raising a finger. “I wanted to remind you earlier, but I forgot...”

Remind… huh?

“Today’s your psych appointment.”

...Oh.

“Remember?” he continues. “The one we reserved two weeks --”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“I’m gonna come pick you up with a taxi at ten to three. Be at home and ready then, okay?”

Well… I’m not head over heels about getting my sanity questioned by some quack, but agreeing to see a shrink was clearly the only way to get Abe to shut up about it. Not to mention, giving a good performance will get me listed in the system as a completely normal and non-dangerous human being. And, of course, anything out of the ordinary is exciting by now, so gods damn it, sign me the fuck up.

“Yeah, I’ll be here,” I say.

Abe’s eyes adopt a rare sternness. “Do you promise? You have to go.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll go.” Gods, it’s like he’s calling me a ticking time bomb to my face. I guess that at least means he’s grown some guts.

“Good,” he says, like a parent. Then the tone changes back to a sibling’s. “Oh, by the way, can you get some groceries if you’re not doing anything else by then?”

Two things to do today? Oh boy, I’m being spoiled. “Sure.”

He nods with a smile and hoists up his backpack, becoming the striking image of a bipedal bulbasaur. He opens the front door. “Ten to three, alright? Be here then.”

“Yep.”

He slips through, and so I’m left alone.

Sighing, I get up. Might as well take that grocery trip right away.

I gather everything I need - grocery list off the microwave, my old backpack from its corner in the living room and my trusty knife from my room upstairs. Well, I guess I don’t need the knife, this town being the idyllic little paradise it is and wild ursas being a rarity, but it’s the only part of my true self I can actually show in public. If I didn’t have that, it’d be like needing to breathe in my mareepskin disguise without airholes.

And with that - and the keys, almost forgot them, holy shit - I leave the house. Welcoming me to the outside is a cold, gray sky. Right.

I forgot this was just another day.

What a waste of the late spring season. These days should have warm sunshine while the air is still cool and dry. Nature should be shaking its grogginess from March and April, fully awakening to blossom and celebrating life in all its forms - plants, animals, wild mon. But here I walk under a sheet of hazy clouds too thin to bring rain, but too thick to let the warmth of the sun through. What a parasite. What a disgrace.

A gust of cold wind dives down my collar. Shuddering, I zip my hoodie rest of the way up. It seems this weather hates me back as well.

Under its mocking gaze, I march on. Past the high school, library, hospital, graveyard, each at a glacial pace… until finally, I see a familiar yellow peek over the roadside pines - the supermarket’s sign. A little way more, and there’s the parking lot, not much longer now…

Laughter. Two men next to one of the cars. They’re smiling, they’re talking about their families. They’re doing great. Yeah, I bet they’re doing great. Doing great is so easy for everyone else, so easy when you’re just like everyone else. Gods. I force my eyes onto the automatic doors and don’t let myself blink until I’ve slipped through.

Alright. Finally, some warmth. Color, even, though unnatural. Hundreds of cans, cartons, boxes and other packages nest in the shelves across the gates and checkouts. Like birds of artificial feather, the products proudly present their plumages in hopes of enticing buyers. If they could squawk as well, it’d be a cacophany.

Not that it’s very far from one as is. Dozens of voices, beeps, shuffles and taps echo around the spacious hall to assault any lovers of solitude. It reminds the listener that yes, humans really are just ants scaled up, just as busy and erratic and unable to think for themselves...

Let’s get this over with. I walk through the gates, grab a basket and begin to hunt down the items of the grocery list. By now I know where to find them all, but the sections I don’t visit are still a mystery to me. They can remain as such. I don’t really care.

With each addition, the basket becomes heavier, until there’s only one item left. It’s written in a much shakier, scrawlier way. Given that and what it says, I know who wrote it.

It’s a request from m- the omanyte. He -- it would like some shrimp. I walk to the aquatic aisle, the shelf stacked with cans of the product in question. There’s the brand He -- it, it likes. Then there’s the brand it hates.

Should I pick the bad brand? Would that be a good way to show I don’t care about the mon? No - wouldn’t that mean I do care, if I care enough to pick the wrong one on purpose? But if I pick the good brand, I’d feel like I did it because I didn’t have the heart to pick the bad one, that I was weak. But is it really weakness? It’s what I’m used to doing, it’s normal. And it’s not like the good brand even costs any more than the bad one.

No, it is weakness. If I make the omanyte happy, I’ll just want to make it happy again and again. I’ll lapse back to my old ways and fail to do as HE ordered, and then...

But imagine it. Imagine His disappointment, heartbreak, when the can’s pulled out of the bag and He --

It. It. It!

How many times does it need to be repeated? When will you get it through your skull?

The Bringer cannot love.

Shut up! I’ve had enough of this. I don’t want to waste time thinking about anything related to that mon anymore. I’ll take a third, new brand. It costs more, but fuck it. It’s only money. I shove can into the basket and head for the checkouts.

Gods damn it, it seems all the lines are just as long. I guess I’ll just pick the closest. Though now I see that the tired, graying woman in front of me seems to have a full cart. Great.

At a snorlax’s pace, the line slouches onward. Products get dumped on the conveyor belt, picked up by the cashier, read for their bar codes, the reader beeps, the cashier places the item on the other side, then she grabs the next, so on, yawn…

A wailing noise pierces the air. What? What is that, a siren? No - it’s a baby, a few checkouts over. And it is loud. Gods, my ears…!

I glance at the other people around me. They, too, wince every time the screaming surges in volume. But nothing more. They just stand and take it. And it just keeps going! I really can’t stress enough how horrible this is. This screech could put a victreebel to shame!

Isn’t the mother doing anything? No, she isn’t. How can she bear this? If this was my kid, I’d have chucked it out the window a long time ago.

No, it’s okay. My turn is coming up. I can already start placing my items onto the conveyor. Look, look, there they go. Maybe I have to wait a few seconds every now and then so that more space clears up, but I’m advancing. Time is passing. And now the woman in front of me is already paying. She leaves to pack, it’s my turn. See, everything’s okay. All I have to do now is to wait for my items to scroll past…

But how could I?

How could I let this go?

These people… they so clearly want that screaming to stop, and yet they refuse to act. Why? Because they’re worried they’ll make a scene. Be part of the scene already happening. Get disapproving glances thrown their way. Stick out from the group. Show some kind of individuality, free thought, free action! It’s terrifying to them to look bad for just a moment!

What worthlessness! What thanklessness towards their ancestors! The ones that built their own shelters, hunted their own food, made their own rules, all for these meek mareep to take it for granted and worry about the utterly pointless instead! Humans used to struggle for survival, and now these overgrown infants take it on a silver platter. They’re domesticated. Inbred by good times to be harmless, lazy and stupid!

They should be taught to fear again. And I… I should be the one to teach them.

No, I have to teach them. It’s my duty. I’m the only one who understands. The only one with a knife, the only one with the power. Yes, I should be the predator to rid the ecosystem of these pathetic slobs. The fearow to dive into this swarm of fat rattata and impale them with its beak and talons.

My fingers have already gotten the message. They stroke the smooth, wooden hilt of my excellent knife, caress it. These people might all think I have this for self-defense alone, but oh, no, no, no. This is my fang, my claw, and it’s itching for flesh to wrap around its blade.

I know what I have to do, and I know how I’ll do it. I’ll unsheathe my knife in the blink of an eye and slash it across as many throats as I can. Blood will spray on my face, mark me as the danger. They’ll all see it, and they’ll all run. Run and scream. In blind panic, some will flee deeper into the store and doom themselves merely by shortsightedness. Those will become my prey. Prey I’ll chase into the aisles, prey I’ll catch and tear apart, consume. Inhale their fear, taste their agony as my as my claw makes outsides of their insides. Their blood will soak me, splash onto the shelves. Paint the rainbow red. Brilliant, authentic red to break up the phony, lifeless hues of capitalism. Warmth for this cold day.

Yes. Yes. This is what I was meant to do. I was meant to cease these maggots’ lives, turn their mundane into massacre, strike when they thought they were safe. I’ll kill and keep killing until only two remain. That accursed infant and its mother. I’ll trap them into a corner. The woman will cry, scream, clutch her child and beg for mercy. ‘Please! At least spare my baby!’ She’ll pray for me to feel pity. I’ll only smile, approaching. Tears and snot will stream down her distorted, bawling face. Oh, Gods, why? she thinks. Why did it have to be me, today, in a supermarket, in such a gruesome, terrifying way? Why did my child have to be with me? How does something as awful as this happen? The only thing I’ll be wondering is if an infant’s flesh will taste any different from an adult’s.

“Ninety-seven, forty-nine.”

Hm? It’s the cashier, blonde, deep green uniform, looking at me with her big blue eyes. Shit. How will I kill her? I don’t have the element of surprise anymore. Do I just go for it? Pull out my knife and stab her in the throat?

“Is there a problem?”



“No. How much was it?”

“$97.49.”

I draw out my card and stick it in the reader. After inputting the code - 2778 - and submitting, the screen confirms my purchase. I take back the card, and the cashier hands me a receipt. I nod and move on to load the items in my backpack one by one.

The baby's wailing is gone. It probably stopped a while ago. All that remains is the normal background noise of the store. It's like nothing else had been there at all.

Items packed, I zip the bag and walk away from the checkout. Some steps later, I finally allow my brain to process what happened.

That was close. Way too close. I was millimeters away from making that fantasy real. Had it not been for that miraculous moment of sensibility, I would've thrown away my entire future... if it wasn't theologically incorrect, I'd say HE was looking out for me.

Gods, just… how could I lose all my rational thought like that? How did I not play that scenario to the end? Obviously I would've been shot, put down like a rabid animal, and then I would've been dead! Dead, dead, life over. No body for my soul, no brain to think with. Only the void. What is the void like? No one knows. Not even HE knows. Perhaps not even the creator. Terrifying. And that's why it's important I don't let that happen to myself, why I should become the Bringer and ascend to divinity. Don't forget that.

Alright, enough scolding. I take a deep breath. With the exhale, I force out as much stress from my body as I can. Unfortunately, it's not much. But at least I get to go home now…

Wait. There's a commotion by the exit. Seems like a bunch of people are showing all passersby some pieces of paper… dammit, I bet they're activists or something. I guess the other people share my annoyance given none seem to stick around for longer than a second before shaking their heads and moving on.

I don't want to risk snapping for real, so the secondary exit it is. I walk across the store to reach it and slip out. No one seems to be around, good --

"Excuse me, sir?"

Shit! I couldn't see that guy behind the pillar, and now he's stepped out to block my path. But this is also a free country, so I can just tell him to fuck off and be on my…

He raises the paper in his hand. What's on it freezes me.

"Have you seen this woman?"

Against all odds - yes, yes I have.

In fact, I was the last person to ever see her.

I compare her face to the man's. There's an undeniable resemblance. Were you to stretch her out a bit, strengthen her jawline and stamp a permanent dopey expression on her face, you'd get this guy.

Before I've realized the importance of self-preservation over curiosity, I've let a question fly. "Who is she?"

"Oh, she's, um, my sister," he says. "Joanna. Sh-she's been missing for the past few weeks… almost two months…" He sounds like a combusken learning to crow.

I almost ask why they're looking here and not in Viridian where she lived, but remember swiftly that I don't want to go to jail. They probably have looked in Viridian, anyway, but why come to Pallet? Does the family live here? Will the investigation take place in this town? Shit…

"So, um, have you seen her?" he asks.

It's time to cut this confrontation here. "Sorry, no." Wow, both words were lies.

Something breaks in the man's dark eyes. It lights a little something in mine. Not expected, but not surprising.

"Alright, well, if you do, please call the police and let them know, okay?"

"Yeah, I will."

"Thanks."

With a nod, I step past him and resume my journey back home.

Huh. That was unexpected. I'd killed seven people before this, but I never bumped into any relatives of theirs. Should I consider this a momentous occasion? Should I have reveled in it more? It was a pretty great setup - such dramatic irony. Oh, please, mister Houndoom, won't you tell me where my seven little kids went…

A freezing wind snatches away my warmth, both physical and mental. Right. Can't let that darn Red have any merriment, that's against the rules.

I slip between the spruces at the edge of the parking lot and enter the forested path beside the graveyard. The wind stops. Finally, shelter… from both weather and people.

Walking onwards, my eyes stay stuck to the bench next to the graveyard's gates. The closer I get, the more I want to sit down. But I'd just get home later...

Eh, you know what, I'm not in a hurry, and I could use the improvement to my mood. I pace faster to reach the bench, take off my backpack and sit down.

I sigh from the relief in my shoulders and legs and lean back. The old dark wood of the bench is cool, but comfortable enough. I look over my shoulder to let my eyes rest on the sight of the graveyard itself.

Graveyards are always nice. Everything about them is designed to be tranquil. Sturdy stone monuments plant to the ground in rows and columns, some simpler and less ornate than others. Engraved on their surfaces are names and the occasional aphorism. Flowers at the graves dot the scene's otherwise mild palette with vivid reds, yellows, purples and whites. The natural vegetation is much more modest - soft moss and short, prickly grass grow at the edges of the tombs and cobblestone paths.

To think this silent, beautiful yard conceals the ashes and bones of dozens of burnt corpses within…

This is where they all end up. Well, not in this particular graveyard, but dead nonetheless. They'll all perish - maybe of old age, maybe of disease, maybe in an accident, maybe in the hands of someone like me.

They won't make a difference, and even if they do, they'll still die. And what matters to the person after that? Nothing. They're dead, like everyone else will end up being.

Everyone except me.

I have a reason to keep going. I can reach immortality, endless bliss. They can’t... or they could, but they’re not aware of that option.

Either way, they’re still okay with it. How? Is it ignorance? Apathy? Have they not fully realized it? I know how weak they are - they wouldn't be strong enough to feign peace of mind in face of inevitable doom. Yet I’ve never seen anyone on the street break down into tears, cry at the heavens, curse their gods for creating this stage of never-ending anguish.

If life is such pain, how can they be happy?

A rustling pulls me out of my thoughts. A mon?

It comes from the row of bushes at the edge of the graveyard. As soon as I pinpoint the leaves that move, the creature slips back into hiding. I only got a glimpse, but what I saw was… golden?

My first guess is a meowth, but it doesn't seem to fit. The shape and size of the golden object was wrong. What else could it be… oh! A golden magnemite? That'd be a sight!

Quietly, but wasting no time, I stand up and get my backpack. I enter the graveyard gates and sneak along the fence, then the bushes. A meter or two away from the spot I saw the creature in, I slow down.

Whatever it ends up being, it might get startled and attack. I unsheathe my knife and hold it in front of me, then slowly, slowly circle the bush to see…

Nothing. Oh. That's disappointing.

Wait, at the edge of my sight! Another glint - and it's immediately gone. Disappeared behind that pine tree.

This thing is quick… and it makes no noise when it moves. It has to be a magnemite. Nothing else around here could be golden and float. Except maybe staryu, but why would one come out so far from the sea…?

I cross from the yard into the forest proper and hide behind a tree of my own. After a few eventless seconds, I sneak to a tree even closer to the creature's presumed hiding spot. Motionless, I stay in wait, keeping my eyes out for anything golden. Or anything at all moving independently from the wind.

Something. Something's emerging.

A golden edge peeks out from behind the pine’s trunk. Come on, come out. More floats out. Wait… that's not a sphere. It's a… it's like a concave oval. With eye holes. A mask from behind?

It floats in midair, supported by no limbs or wings. It seems to move with conscious intent, but no clear destination. It seems confused. That makes two of us.

Just what is it? Where did it come from? What's its purpose? Is it dangerous?

I might get somewhat closer to knowing the answers if I saw its other side. But it doesn't want to turn on its own, it seems. Some encouragement is in order…

Slowly, I crouch to pick up a piece of gravel. I pick a direction - towards the bushes, they'll make more noise - and chuck the little rock. It lands in the bush, shuffling the leaves sharply. The mask quickly turns around --

No.

There's no way.

---​
 

Equitia

Junior Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partner
espurr
I really liked the depiction of Red's depression here. I actually related to the monotony and dullness with which Red viewed his life, which was a weird experience because Red is Red. The atmosphere created by Red’s mood was really potent. I especially liked this passage when he enters the grocery store:

Alright. Finally, some warmth. Color, even, though unnatural. Hundreds of cans, cartons, boxes and other packages nest in the shelves across the gates and checkouts. Like birds of artificial feather, the products proudly present their plumages in hopes of enticing buyers. If they could squawk as well, it’d be a cacophany.
Red's breakdown in the grocery store was hilarious. I liked that his rant about how all people are sheep and etc etc was triggered by a literal infant. Then when he started fantasizing how he would definitely kill every single person in the store, I lost it and started laughing. I love how Red can both remain threatening and yet still be oh so pathetic. I know that he's a murderer, but most of the time I am incapable of taking him seriously because he's such an edgelord.

I've harped on about this in my reviews for Seiren and Metatonia so I'll drop it after this, but I still wish Red would have interacted at least a little with Omanyte. Red wouldn’t have initiated, but Fonz could have attempted to start a conversation when instead he just waved and left. Red’s agonizing over pronouns and cans of shrimp was still good and entertaining, but a little direct interaction could have established Red’s and Omantyte’s relationship better to make those more meaningful.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
So the first time I read this way back when, I was mostly distracted by trying to figure out, like, the specifics of how Helix's importance differs from TPP canon, why Red wasn't allowed to like omanyte, why this was such a problem, etc.

But now, upon rereading with more context, I just have one thing to say:

Let!👏 Red!👏 Love!👏 His!👏 Son!👏
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
it murder time. lez go.

Prologue 1 - Gore Palooza

but can ghosts even be killed?
The real question.

HE took over! HE took over my body! HE entered it, HE used it, used it to kill her. Accept the offering. Eat her flesh. Beautiful, wonderful, yes!
Oh nice, this is going to be a fluff fic. So wholesome that Red is appreciating his role as an instrument of HIM.

I think this should all be in past, though. So "Accepted the offering. Ate her flesh." And I don't think we need "used it to kill her." That interrupts the nice staccato knife-stab rhythm here. "HE entered it, HE used it. Accepted the offering. Ate her flesh."

Wildly and savagely thrown about. Just like you’d expect from the god of predators. Oh, I have to take a closer look at her body now. Cleaning up can wait just a few minutes.
Red's fangirling comes through nicely here.

Her organs - the ones that still remain - glisten in the fires’ light, eager to show off their beauty after two decades of darkness. Many of them, though, have lost large chunks of themselves, the lungs especially. They still leak blood and other fluids. It looks sad in a way, as if they were crying. But they're at rest now, just like all the others. Enslaved no more by the brain.
I really like this paragraph. Positioning the internal organs as the most beautiful part of the human and celebrating that they've escaped the darkness of the body, as it were, is a reversal that really makes me feel the different perspective of the narrator. the line about crying also is effective precisely because it's stubbornly attached to the physical appearance of the organs, without a hint of empathetic realization that the owner of the organs might have cried. You leave it to the reader to make that connection.

"Enslaved no more by the brain." Maybe, "No longer enslaved by the brain."

HE probably avoided them because of the smell. For that, I'm grateful.
Was a little confused by this. The smell they produce if torn open? Seems a bit weird to think HE would have considered this in the midst of the primal range flesh-tearing that red was getting so excited about earlier.

Though I can't imagine these weak simian nails doing that much damage by themselves… HE must have brought some of HIS own strength along. That explains the missing anterior of the ribcage, too. I suppose HE just… ripped it off. Gods. Did HE even use the knife? Where is the knife, anyway?
Amazing it's taken Red so long to miss his knife.

The gentle mush filling my stomach hardens into a rock and becomes just as heavy.

Did HE not… cook the flesh?

I rush to the bowl and look around for any stains to prove me wrong. No, nothing. Where's the smaller bowl, the porcelain one I gather the flesh in --

There it is. Spotless, of course. Dammit!
This flips the switch nicely from Red fangirling to Red suddenly having to deal with the icky implications of his body being taken over and used for cannibalism.

Gods, did the room smell this bad the whole time? It's like something died in here. Oh, wait!
ha.Ha. You joker. Such humor, Red. So original.

To have something more to listen to than just the crinkling of my coat, I hum a directionless tune.
I like the sensory detail of the coat and the mental image produced by Red humming and cleaning up the sloppy organ blood fest.

Sure, having a tarp set up in advance for the whole ritual would make cleaning easier, but I'm just not a fan of how it looks. Brings down the atmosphere. And if the Helixians didn't need tarps all those millennia ago, neither do I.
Damn right. I love how if you remove the whole ritual sacrifice thing he just sounds like a really committed historical reenactor or someone recreating period clothing using the original sewing methods.

I grab it by the hair and, to humor myself, lift it up high like a Kalosian revolutionary.
Another nice mental image,.

Ignoring the missing flesh around the mouth, she's rather good-looking.
Ah the weird push pull of serial killer sexuality

Fuck if I know what love is like. Not that I care. It's worthless.
Glad we had this deep introspective moment, Red.

The realization disturbs my gut. Oh, it’s in there then. Unwashed tongue, that’s a little disgusting… though I suppose regular people exchange spit voluntarily all the time. Would this count as first base, then?
That's a really interesting question, Red. If you consider romantic interchanges as a series of goals marked by bodily contact , maybe!

Either way, this means I won't get to keep a trophy for this one. I suppose it makes sense, as I didn't get to be the one to kill her either…

No, don't think like that. You're overjoyed to have been taken over. It's way better than to have killed her yourself. This means ascension is near, after all, and once that happens, you'll get to kill to your heart's content. No fear of getting caught, no worries about disease. Only carnage. And you'll love it.
"And you'll love it." I can see how convinced he is by the fact that he's lecturing himself in second person. No slivers of doubt here. No deep-seated fears that actually he's not an apex predator and won't cut it. It's going to be great.

I pause to take in her features once again. Her eyes, her nose, her mouth - or lack thereof…

Ah, now I remember.

Her name was Joanna.
Really solid ending line. It's startling almost, after a prologue that has worked so hard to dehumanize the murder victim, portraying her exclusively through the details of her inner body, evaluating her as a set of parts, as handiwork, we suddenly run smack into a named person.

Prologue 2 - Second Time, Same As The First, A Little Less Gore Though No Less Worse

I wasn't initially going to do both prologues, since I assumed the second was like the first, just less explicit, but no! These are quite distinct openings.

A gentle breeze blows through the streets of the neighborhood.
"Streets of the neighborhood is a little redundant." Just "A gentle breeze blows through the neighborhood." works fine.

The trees and bushes sway gently in this wind, showing off their emerging leaves or the needles that braved through the winter
Hm, this language of 'showing off' worked better for me when it described organs. Red doesn't seem super into natural beauty, so this framing seems a bit odd to me and since it's not the most natural construction, it does stand out.

Only a few puffy clouds here and there obscure the wide, azure sky.
Not sure about "obscure" since a few small clouds can't really obscure the sky. Maybe, "Only a few puffy clouds here and there interrupt the azure of the sky."

That means the only one out on this sunny April morning is me.

I love getting away with murder.
Hah, strong first line for Red.

Alright, that's enough for a break. I lift up the handles of the wheelbarrow and continue pushing
This transition was a little jarring. Some reference to his muscles feeling sore here would add context.

The smell from the garbage bag nested within is starting to leak… but luckily the outdoor air is fresh and fast to circulate.
I like "fresh and fast to circulate." It ties into the pastoral opening sequence, while emphasizing what quality Red is actually prizing in the lovely spring day.

What's in the bag? Why, green waste, of course. I'm dumping it in the woods, returning it to nature. Don’t want to pile it all on the yard to be an eyesore and bug hive. For the good of the neighborhood, you know? The community. My fellow men. And mon. I’m socially conscious, you see.

And if they still remained suspicious, I’d just make them socially unconscious. Ha! No, it wasn’t that funny.
I like Red's little excuse here and how much glee it clearly gives him. The unwarranted smugness is one of my favorite things about the way you portray the character.

The socially unconscious pun is cute. I wanted a little more here, though? Does he stop to grin a bit and then be like oh wait, gotta get the organs to the dumpsite and that wasn't a funny joke anyway.

More and more birds join the choir of chirps and whistles, proclaiming their territory or wishes for a mate.
I think it would read better if you keep to the same number, so instead of territory (singular) and wishes (plural) maybe "proclaiming their territory or desire for a mate."

What if a little civilized growlithe was roaming around in these woods, caught the stench and decided to follow it? Then I’d have a witness to worry about. I probably wouldn’t even be able to kill it, being a fragile, flammable human. And then I’d be caught because of a little puppy. A little puppy would be the one to cancel Judgment Day. I’m not letting that happen.
AU where a cute little puppy ruins all Red's plans, when?

What's Judgment Day, you ask? Well, when an ancient god of chaos likes a priest of HIS very much, HE leaves HIS stony fossil home and incarnates in the body of the priest, morphing him into a being above all others. The god-imbued priest, with his new omnipotence, will then rebuild the Helixian kingdom and reshape the world into its rightful state, where the strong roam and hunt the weak as they please, no longer shackled by a civilization built by cowards.
Hm, so this does feel pretty exposition dump-y. Definitely necessary for someone who hasn't read any previous stories, but otherwise I think the exposition in the other paragraph was a lot more organically integrated and effective.

It may have led to at least a kilo of raw flesh being stuffed into my stomach, but I'm not that bothered about it. HE wouldn't let any microbes ruin my body now after three years of training me.
I really liked how in the first paragraph we experience the moment of "oh crap did He as me eat unsanitary raw person tongue?" with red. Here, he comes off as very blase about it, and there's no way of knowing how much it bothered him in the moment and how hard he worked to rationalize it. The other prologue definitely opens space for more internal ambivalence in Red than this one does.

That lights a fire under my feet. Unfortunately, I'm already going as fast as I can while making sure any stray roots can't tip the cart over, so all I can do is suffer the heat under my soles.
Not sure the extension of the metaphor works here. Light a fire under the feat doesn't really have an implication of heat to me, it just means "go faster" and so "suffer the heat under my soles" felt random.

I flinch and I hate that I flinch, I shouldn't feel a thing from cuts this small anymore after what I've been through…
Comma splice here, and I don't think there's any flow reasons to go for a comma instead of the period that should go between "flinch" and "I."

Then its red begins to glow. Then the light expands.
Don't think the double "then" works so well. "Then its red begins to glow. The light expands." reads a little better to me and more ominously.

The murkrow pulls its head out of the bag to give a quick, suspicious glance. No, it's not for you. You'll see.
The murkrow throws glances at the glowing pattern, perplexed. Is it going to flee? Is it smart enough to realize this is something it should get away from? Is it greedy enough to ignore it?
The use of the murkrow as an interlocutor here and someone for Red to bounce off of was a really smart choice.

And the murkrow, of course, staring at its newly trimmed tail.

"You're lucky you're alive, you know," I remark.

It glares at me, caws with spite and flies off into the trees. Oh well. Some folks just can't appreciate their luck. Hope it isn’t getting its friends on me… I’m not so good with those kinds of murders.
Ba dump. The trimming of the tail is an effective way to hint at the power at play here.

I want to remember how it felt realizing HE had taken over my body, and I want to remember the preparation that had led to that wonderful moment. Perhaps at the time it had been just like any previous hunt, but in retrospect, it seems so much more special. Walking the streets of Viridian, looking for a suitable target. Finding and choosing her. Stalking to find out her daily rhythm, her name. Striking at the precise right moment. Transporting her to my basement with the help of another spell. Washing her, fastening her to the board, waiting for her to wake up and then seeing that terror on her face...

She is the one that gave me all this satisfaction. Maybe I should thank her.

I smirk. Nah. She’s dead.

Joanna is dead.
I definitely found this prologue's ending less strong than the previous one's. The summary recounting of this doesn't measure up to experiencing it with Red. Also, the invocation of Joanna's name feels a lot less impactful here. In the first prologue, Joanna's body is such a presence, the center of attention throughout the whole sequence, except that it's always considered as a body and not a person, so the naming carries real force. Here the focus has mostly been the inconvenience of the disposal, and the introduction of Joanna feels like a little bit of an afterthought.

Obviously these two prologues serve different functions, and the second one is certainly necessary for people who don't want to deal with heavy gore/need more backstory filled in, but in terms of which was a more compelling opening, I would go with the first one. The first prologue gives us a much more nuanced portrayal of Red, in that you can see his glee, his uncertainty, and his attempts to lull his uncertainty. In contrast, the second gives us a pretty self-assured Red and has no implication that to Red this whole affair wasn't an unmitigated success. His visceral reaction to the unsanitary nature of the flew-eaten-raw thing, his slight resentment that HE killed Joanna instead of Red--all that's lost when we gloss over that scene. I also think, considering that Joanna's going to be coming back from the grave, the way the first prologue puts her at the center of things creates a much more rewarding set-up. I'm probably preaching to the choir, since the first prologue is the recommended one, but since other reviewers contrasted the two, wanted to throw my two-cents in there.

I was planning to review the prologue and chapter one, but since there ended up being two prologues, I'm going to cut off here for now,. I'll definitely be back for chapter one, though!
 
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