Chapter 1

The child comes home with the chill of the caverns still clinging to it, slush under its fingernails and inner fire stoked against the cold. The inside of the house is cool as well, the windows in the small kitchen showing mostly the underside of palm leaves. It stows the goods in a corner, to be looked over later, but there is one thing that cannot wait.

There's a drawer where it keeps its little collection of souls, and it takes them out now. It sits at the table flipping through the tiny cards, turning each one gently over between its fingers, remembering. There aren't more than half a dozen, but it goes through them again and again, until the ice melts from its hair and the shadows recede from its mind and an appropriate amount of time has passed. Then it brings out the pokédex and pries open the door in its back. The card inside joins the pile, and the new one, rescued from the freezing depths and now warm from the heat of the child’s body, is slotted in its place.

Then it's back in with the battery and turn the pokédex over, wait for it to boot up. All alone, hunched over the table in that dark room, the child waits for the flickering screen to tell it who it is.

You are Nicholas Garret, a trainer. You left Pallet Town on the morning of May third with a charmander. Four years later you own the charizard that evolved from your starter, a primeape, a nidoqueen, and several more of little consequence. You have six badges. You are a slow trainer, then, but a thorough one.

Today you were exploring the Seafoam Islands. Who knows why you'd stopped there? Perhaps you'd been on your way to Cinnabar, ready to chase that seventh badge, and headed over on a whim. Perhaps you were remembering the stories, the ones that said Articuno's icy nest lay somewhere in the bowels of the caves. Probably you hadn't been planning your journey there, or you would have put on some heavier clothing. But ultimately, why you were there, you don't know. All that's sure is what came after.

You were in deep, down where the currents rage and everything is slick and glittering with the constant churning spray. There wasn't much cave left, and maybe you were getting ready to turn back. You turned, anyway, and were starting to climb up, when you slipped.

It was all ice down there, ice and freezing river, and you fell too far, landing hard on the narrow spit of rock sloping down to the water. The arm trapped beneath your body snapped, and you were still sliding, feet already in the water and current starting to tug at your shoes.

You grabbed at the rock with your good arm, tried to scramble with your legs. When you couldn't get a hold and the water was reaching for your waist, you grabbed for your pokéballs, fumbling with cold-numbed fingers, but then they went under and then you went under, and the river pulled you in and down.

With your broken arm and heavy gear, there was no fighting the current. It swept you along its subterranean bed, dumping you over underground waterfalls and knocking you against rocks as it went. It was all over well before the pull gentled and left you floating, dark and lonely, so far below the sea.

You died down there, Nicholas Garret, drowned in the blackest pit of the Seafoam Islands. You were fifteen years old.

What do you do now?