Shadow Trainer Red

People always joked there was something unnatural about him, something inhuman. They joked about it often, referencing his otherworldly battling skills and silent demeanor.

They didn’t know how right they were.

The first thing anyone noticed about Red was his eyes—or, at least, the fact that it was so hard to see them. The brim of his hat left them in a shadow much to deep for it to possibly cast, and the way he shifted his bearing downward all but obscured them from view. Did he even have eyes, they wondered.

The next missing feature was his mouth. Red has a mouth, but it was so thin and lipless as to practically be a line drawn across his face. Sometimes it half-smiled, and sometimes it was so flat it was barely there at all.

The mouth thing, they figured, kind of made sense. After all, Red never said anything. Not a word. Some people said he was mute; some that he had simply chosen not to use his voice.

A boy like Red attracts rumors like a magnet does metal. The less he appeared to the world, the more the world made of his appearances. The more impassive and inscrutable his manner, the more they imagined lurking behind his silence.

These rumors, sometimes they have a way of rounding themselves into something like the truth.

The darkest set of rumors were the least plausible and realistic, but they were the most intriguing. Everybody whispered them to each other in dark rooms or referenced them in scary stories on the Internet. There were many version, but they were all similar.

Red is evil. A demon. A ghost.

Whenever you are with someone else, you’re safe. He won’t let anyone else hear.

If you’re alone, you are dead.

He likes small children best. They’re easy to frighten, they can’t defend themselves.

They taste delicious.

The first thing you will see is his eyes, and then you will know you’re going to die.

His eyes, red as blood, a color so liquid and deep and sharp it glows; wide, so wide you feel yourself falling headfirst into them and being consumed; horrible eyes that burn like coals as he raises his gaze to you.

He whispers something.

Then you see the much worse thing. Then you see his mouth.

His mouth which opens, the thin line splitting and tearing and turning into a gaping hole that already looks like it is dripping with blood. His mouth which never stops widening, disfiguring his face and stretching on and on as his eyes burn and in an instant you are swallowed up.

It’s a little silly, of course. He never lets you escape. He only gets you when you’re alone. So how do they know these details about the whole thing?

That’s what any sane person would say. That’s what anyone who hasn’t seen what I’ve seen would say. Or, rather, who hasn’t heard what I’ve heard.

I met Red once, before he was renowned enough for these rumors to start. Back when the only fame he had was within Pallet Town for being the strange child who left, set out on his own at the age of ten.

It was in the gate to Victory Road. He was gaining a bit of fame for himself with his fast ascension through the Gyms, and he’d made it to the Indigo Plateau much faster than anyone before him. When I saw him, I—a Trainer, too, then—wanted to say something. Something about how he inspired me. But I knew he didn’t speak, and to speak to him seemed odd. So I only gave him a smiling nod and continued past.

Then, he whispered something.

I turned back, as if he had called my name. I hadn’t caught what he’d said, but the moment I saw him, saw his ghastly terrible face, I knew what it was.
His eyes shining with a sick brightness, and his mouth opening like the unhinged jaw of a snake. That whisper wormed its way in and out of my ears, even though in that dripping, unfathomable gash of a mouth he had no tongue to speak with.

There was nothing there.

I felt primal, soul-consuming terror. This wasn’t just death. This was the abyss. I was about to cease to exist.

Then, suddenly, the mouth was shut, closing not quite perfectly into a tattered or almost stitched-together shape. His eyes remained fixed on me, and the ruined and twisted closure of his mouth formed a half-smile.

I can’t tell you what he said.

I remember it, of course, as much I remember running as fast as my legs have ever carried me.

If you think I escaped, you’re dead wrong.

They called me crazy—and I don’t disagree—and moved on. But it makes a great story, and I doubt I’m the only one he’s done this to, so before long people were telling that story.

I’ll never get back what that mouth stole.

I’ll never be able to look anything without imagining it consumed by the abyss.

I’ll never be able to look at anyone without wanting to whisper to them, and move in close, and swallow them and their screams and their voice up until everything is silent…

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