Il faut cultiver notre jardin
References to torture and death.
Professor Birch’s Last Day On Earth
Professor Birch stood several yards away from the edge of a cliff on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, watching the sun set. The fading light painted the rocks brilliant shades of orange and red. A golden eagle circled in the air above, hoping for one last chance at a meal before the day passed. Birch considered taking a photo, but decided against it. Not everything needed to be documented. His memory of the moment would be enough.
“Greetings, Mr. Birch,” a voice rang out from behind the professor.
It was a name that no one within a thousand miles should’ve known. It was a voice that made Birch’s heart skip a beat, that made his blood run cold. He turned around, the motion almost involuntary in its rapidity. The sight before his eyes banished any hope that he'd simply misheard those words, imagined that voice. “Y-You. You finally found me.”
“Yes, Mr. Birch, I’ve found you. You didn’t make it easy for me, I’ll give you that. Scurrying this way and that, leaving behind two false leads for every real one, desperately throwing anyone you could get your hands on in my way… Would it surprise you to know, Mr. Birch, that at times I’ve even found myself applauding your more creative efforts? The three dittos at Ever Grande… the surprise Ultra Wormhole in Slateport... They’ve made this little game so much more enjoyable than it might’ve otherwise been.” The figure chuckled, and then began to advance. “But, alas, all good things must come to an end..”
Birch stepped backwards slowly, cognizant of the sheer cliff behind him. “Look, I- I didn’t come here just to run from you! I’ve been looking for something that could fix things-”
“And I didn’t come here just to pursue you, Mr. Birch. I just came to admire the view. What a strange coincidence that we both met here, then...”
“No, really!” Birch had taken off his backpack and was frantically digging through it. “Look, I’ve found some documents that-”
“That can bring back the dead? Erase a decade of suffering?” the figure snarled, teeth gleaming white. “No, Mr. Birch, nothing can be fixed. Nothing can be repaired. The only thing left is to punish the man responsible for the crisis, so that he might serve as a warning to other meddlers...”
Birch trembled, dropping the paper he had just fished out of his bag, and then anger rushed into his voice. “So what? That’s it? You’re just going to kill me now?” he asked, hands clenching into fists.
“Oh no no, Mr. Birch, you make it sound so simple, so quick! Just kill you! As if it would be like flipping a switch!” The figure shook their head, chuckling to themselves. “Ah, no, you see, you’re not the only one of us who’s been doing research. There are ways, you know, of paralyzing a man without taking away his ability to breathe or feel. And there are so, so many ways a man can be hurt before he dies. I’ve been planning this for years, Mr. Birch. Nothing about this is going to be quick.”
Sweat ran down the professor’s forehead. “I’m – I’m not afraid of you! I’ve escaped you before- I’ll do it again!”
“Ah, but this time, Mr. Birch- you don’t have a child to hide behind!” the zigzagoon standing before him hissed, and then charged at the professor, teeth bared.
Suddenly, Birch grinned triumphantly and stood up straight, staring down his aggressor. “Or so you think! Mecha-Brendan, activate!” he yelled. A sound like a rocket engine igniting echoed across the canyon, and a gleaming metallic figure rose up from the cliff behind him, soaring into the sky as white exhaust poured from a jetpack on their back.
“Wha- what is this!” the zigzagoon cried, leaping backwards as the figure landed in between him and Birch. It was a robot in the rough shape of a ten-year-old human child, with a white beanie hanging awkwardly off of one corner of its cubical head. The machine’s eyes flared with red light. “A WILD POKEMON HAS APPEARED! GO, MECHA MUDKIP!” it called, and threw down a red and white cube on the ground before it. In a flash of brilliant white light, a mechanical mudkip appeared, rivets visibly joining together the pale blue and grey plates of metal forming its body.
“Mecha-Brendan, order Mecha-Mudkip to use mecha-water-gun!” Birch ordered.
“MECHA MUDKIP, USE MECHA-WATER-GUN!” the robot announced. The zigzagoon simply stared, slack-jawed, as the robotic amphibian turned to face him, its hinged mouth swinging open with a click. A small robotic arm emerged from the robot’s maw, clutching a tiny plastic squirt gun. It pulled the trigger, sending a few drops of water to splatter against the zigzagoon’s face. “GOOD SHOT, MECHA-MUDKIP!”
“Enough!” the zigzagoon roared, and leaped at the smaller robot, body glowing red with the charge of a frustration attack. He slammed into mecha-mudkip’s side with full force, causing it fly back and roll across the ground, emitting sparks, before it finally came to a halt. Its limbs jerked wildly as smoke poured out of their joints, and then its movement ceased.
“MECHA-BRENDAN IS OUT OF USABLE MECHA-POKEMON! INITIATING WHITE-OUT.EXE...” The robotic child fell over with a loud crash, the red glow in its eyes fading away as Birch stared on in horror.
“N-no!” the professor cried. “He never even got a chance to complete his mecha-pokedex!”
“No more games,” the zigzagoon snarled, turning his attention back to the white-faced professor. “This ends now-”
“Hey, what’s going on here?” A new voice called out. Two heads turned to see an irritated-looking young woman with long brown hair gazing at the scene from some distance away.
Birch gasped. “Flesh-May! You’ve come to save me!” he cried, staring in astonishment.
“Please don’t call me that,” May said, walking up to the pair. “Have you really been spending all this time running away from small mammals again? Your wife hasn’t seen you in over a year, you know.”
“This zigzagoon is a monster! He’s the same vicious beast you saved me from all those years ago! If you hadn’t shown up, he’d have tortured me to death!”
“No, this man is the real monster here!” the zigzagoon protested. “He’s responsible for the death of half my species!”
May sighed. “Is that really true, Birch?”
Birch swallowed nervously. “Er, well… It’s like this… Many years ago, I happened to meet this zigzagoon while I was out on a population survey hike. I was looking at my trail map at the time, and he asked me what it was...”
“Yes, I was a fool back then. I didn’t know the danger such a thing posed,” the zigzagoon said, shaking his head sagely.
“Wait, you mean the trail map?” May asked, brow furrowing slightly.
“Yes. You see, after I told him what a map was, he started asking more and more questions, and well, I started to explain the basics of geography to him, one thing led to another, and er, I may have eventually let it slip that the world is, contrary to immediate appearances, round instead of flat. And then, after our little meeting, he started going around the forest, letting everyone know about the amazing fact he discovered...”
“So some of the forest Pokemon learned that the world is round. So what?”
The zigzagoon scoffed. “Is she one of your students? It seems you must have taught her poorly...”
“Er, well, she’s not exactly my student per se...” Birch mumbled. “But to answer your question, May, the problem is that zigzagoon’s evolved form, linoone, has a psychological compulsion to only run in straight lines. As soon as they began to believe that the ground they were running on was not a flat plane, but rather a large sphere, they became completely incapable of any kind of movement, since they thought that whichever way they ran, they’d always be running in a path that curved at least very slightly.”
May stared incredulously. “Seriously? I thought that thing about linoones was just a myth.”
“Yes, seriously. As the knowledge started to spread, more and more of the evolved members of my species began to become totally paralyzed. Without the guidance and protection of our elders, our numbers began to dwindle as predators started to pick us off, one by one. We became afraid to fight back, lest we gain enough experience to evolve and become paralyzed as well.”
Professor Birch was gathering up the papers he’d dropped earlier. “But I have a plan to change all that! See, several years ago, I ran into a version of myself from another universe, where they’d developed a technology that employed infinity energy to travel between dimensions. Supposedly the technology had originally been developed to re-route a meteor headed towards their planet to us, but luckily, they managed another way to solve their problem. The other Birch had come to warn me about any similar uses of the dimension-shifting technology that might occur, but when I told him about the issue I had created with the linoones, he mentioned of hearing about a strange world called ‘Earth’ where people believed very strange things. One of those things was that their planet was actually a flat disc rather than a sphere. So, I traveled the dimensions in search of this Earth, and eventually was able to reach this land. I then tracked down the so-called ‘Flat Earth Society’ and acquired some of their literature, which I have here,” Birch said, gesturing at the documents he was holding. “I believe that if I can adapt this material to our world, I’ll be able to convince the linoone that the world is flat again, thus ending the crisis.”
The zigzagoon scoffed. “It’s hopeless. I’ve already tried everything I could think of to convince afflicted linoone that the world wasn’t round.”
“I think you underestimate quite how creative us humans can be when it comes to thinking up elaborate reality-denying conspiracies,” Birch said. “Have you tried telling them that if our planet was really a sphere, sailors would bring globes with them since that would be the best model, but since they bring flat maps that proves that a flat planet must be the best model? Or what about pointing out that it’s still possible to see the North star on the so-called ‘Southern hemisphere’ of the planet?”
“Hmmm…. I’ll grant that some of that might work in their world, but our world has a successful space program! How are we to explain away that?” the zigzagoon asked.
“Actually, Earth does have a successful space program!” Birch said.
“So let me guess, these flat-earth people claim it’s all a massive conspiracy to cover up the truth that the world isn’t round?” May asked.
“No, that’d be ridiculous. See, because they’ve never really been to space before, they don’t know the truth that the world is flat, so that’s why they keep showing it as round in all their faked media!”
“Hmm… maybe I really have underestimated the humans of this world...” the zigzagoon muttered.
May crossed her arms. “Look, I don’t have much time left before the portal back to our world is going to close. And it sounds to me like you were just as responsible as Birch in causing the linoone-extinction disaster I somehow never heard about before. And he’s very obviously sorry about the whole thing and he’s literally traveled across universes to try to fix it. So I want you to forgive him, and then we can all go home.”
“You can’t just order to me forgive the man I’ve spent my entire life seeking revenge on!” the zigzagoon protested.
“Fine. Then we’ll leave without you. Come on, Birch,” she said, turning to leave.
“Er, okay,” he said, putting away the Flat-Earth society papers and following after her.
“No! My revenge will not be ignored! Die!” The zigzagoon charged at Birch once more.
May rolled her eyes, then stepped in front of the professor. The zigzagoon slammed into her leg, and May collapsed to the ground, moaning in exaggerated pain. “Oh no, you totally defeated me! You won the battle!”
“Ha! Now you’re next, Mr. Birch- wait! What’s happening to me!” the zigzagoon cried as a bright white light consumed his body. His form elongated and his claws grew out, and then the light faded away to reveal the form of a linoone. “What- no! NOOOOOOOO!” he called out, suddenly finding himself frozen in place, unable to take a single step for fear of traveling in a non-straight line. “All that experience I gained searching for Mr. Birch – the trail of corpses I left behind – how could I have been so blind? How could I have overlooked how close I was to evolving!? And how could you have known?”
"Simple. I scanned you with my Pokedex earlier." May got to her feet, glaring down at the pathetic creature. “Oh, and by the way, just in case you manage to convince yourself that this world is really flat, did you know that gravity actually causes a curvature in space-time, so even then you still wouldn’t be moving in straight lines? Just thought you might want to chew on that for a while.”
“That was really mean, May,” Birch said, although he looked rather relieved at having finally eluded the pursuit of the small furry creature.
“Eh, we can always come back for him later. Find some sort of ‘flat space-time society’ somewhere”, she said.
And as the two humans walked into the portal that would bring them back to their home dimension, Profesor Birch’s last day on the planet Earth finally came to an end.