Nurse Joy did not quite recall when she clocked into work that day. She'd simply stirred from a half-asleep bored stupor to find some plucky young brown-haired boy standing at the desk expectantly.

Not many new people came through the Mistralton City Pokemon Center - a bit surprising, honestly, given the fact that the town was a glorified airport - so it was always a bit of a relief to see a fresh face.

"Good morning!" Nurse Joy greeted from her canned script that was as secondary to her as breathing. "Welcome to the Pokemon Center."

The kid nodded quickly in that way that implied he'd already heard it a few dozen times before. And (judging from the determined look on his face and the way his hair was frizzled in the way only someone who'd just fought their way through Chargestone Cave would be) he was probably a wannabe League challenger, so he probably had.

Joy continued her spiel as per protocol, but tried to keep it quick as to not waste his time. "We restore your tired Pokemon to full health, would you like to rest your Pokemon?"

Another nod. Not much of a talker, huh? He handed over the Pokeballs in his bag.

"OK, I'll take your Pokemon for a few seconds..." Joy said as she placed the Pokeballs into the healing machine. After a few moments of the machine doing its thing, she handed them back over. "Thank you for waiting. We've restored your Pokemon to full health." Then, she briefly bowed. "We hope to see you again!"

Without so much as a thank you or a wave or anything like that, the kid ran off. No respect for the receptionist, huh? He milled about the Pokemon Center, briefly conversing (well, he didn't say anything himself, it was more like he was being talked at than to) with the cop loitering around the Center (and the cop's Ducklett), buying a few things at the Mart, and leaving.

And that was that.

Back to waiting for her shift to end. Doing nothing. After an indeterminate while of standing there, beginning to slump over her desk a bit, she'd begun to slip into that bored half asleep stupor again.

Just then, though, she'd been interrupted by the kid from earlier returning, a look of bemused defeat on his face. (Skyla must've sent his team flying. Heh, flying. Because she was the Flying-type gym l... Oh, keep it together! You've got a job to do! Joy reminded herself.)

Straightening out her posture, Joy began her speech again. "Good morning, welcome to the Pokemon Center,-"

The trainer gestured quickly for Joy to hurry it up.

"-we... have some patience, kid, I can only talk so fast!" Joy interrupted herself, a bit exasperated. It was totally unprofessional, sure, but she was already incredibly tired and bored from doing nothing at all...

The boy stood there for a moment, staring wide-eyed. Guess he'd never had a clerk talk back to him like that before.

Joy was suddenly very much hoping her little outburst wouldn't get her in trouble with her superiors. "...Ahem. Would you like to rest your Pokemon?"

Very slowly and hesitantly the kid nodded, handing the Pokemon over. After a few moments in the healing machine, Joy returned them. "Your Pokemon've been restored to full health. We, uh, hope to see you again!" She awkwardly slipped back into her customer service voice at the very end of her sentence, which quite frankly made her sound more hysterical than welcoming.

The trainer stayed there staring for a longer time than Joy was comfortable with, before leaving the Center with only slightly less haste than the way he'd entered.

For the next however-long-she-stood-there (this time mercifully much shorter than last time) she tried to tune out the ever droning tune of the Pokemon Center background music, which was getting increasingly infuriating the longer she stood here. She used to be rather fond of the little tune, but listening to it on repeat a hundred million times had sapped any appreciation she'd once had for it. For Arceus's sake, turn on a radio station or something!

When the trainer unsurprisingly returned, he had a look of triumph on his face (probably got that gym badge). There was still the slightest of hesitations as he came up to the desk, though.

With a twinge of embarrassment, Joy followed through the motions of her script to the letter, though the kid only appeared more confused than before. Joy sighed as he left - patrons can be as rude as they want, but the receptionist be snippy once and that's all they'll know you for, she guessed. (...Well, okay, sure, she probably shouldn't have snapped at a 12-year-old. Oops.)

That was the last time she saw the trainer for quite a while. And, unfortunately, it didn't seem like anyone else was showing up either.

She did what she could to entertain herself and pass the time - fidgeting, studying the intricacies of the Pokemon Center music, drawing on her clipboard, daydreaming about getting a better job and moving to Nimbasa, staring at the eerily pitch-black ceiling, wondering why she even bothered with medical credentials if all she did was stick Pokeballs in a machine and press a button, wondering if every day she'd been working here was this agonizingly slow and wondering why she could barely remember...

Idly she stretched her legs - stiff and aching from standing in one spot Arceus knows how long - and drummed her fingers on the counter. She really wanted to take a break. Did she even have breaks? She couldn't recall. Was it legal to force someone to stand at a receptionist desk all day in one neverending shift without even a lunch break?

Hell, maybe she should just go for it. Maybe she'd somehow just forgotten when break time was and been skipping her breaks carelessly this whole time. If she got in trouble, well then that's whatever.

However, in that moment, Joy had a sinking realization she had no idea what time it even was.

She'd never had a very good sense of time. (It was hard to keep track when almost nothing interesting ever happened, anyway.) The blue-hued "windows" of the Center were totally opaque, and there wasn't a clock on the walls to be found. Even if her job did provide breaks, she wouldn't have the slightest clue when they'd even be.

Leaning forward over the counter and raising her voice to get her coworkers' attention, Joy called over "Heyyy, uh, the hours at this place are pretty wild, am I right?"

The closer of the two clerks (truthfully Joy didn't even know her coworkers' names) took a moment to even acknowledge her. They didn't even face the right direction, just vacantly turning northwards towards the stairs. "Hello!"

"Lunch break's gotta be soon, right? Yeah? Maybe?"

"Welcome! May I help you?" the clerk droned in that perpetual customer service voice.

Joy groaned, drumming her fingers on the healing center counter. With a mildly hysterical forced smile twitching onto her face, she sighed. "You have any, uh, watches for sale? Or clocks?"

The clerk then began blandly "Poke Ball - $200. Great Ball - $600. Ultra Ball - $1200. Potion - $300. Super Potion - $700..."

Joy tuned the spiel out. "...don't know why I ffffucking bother..."

Whatever. No one ever came to get their Pokemon healed other than that one kid who seemed to have already moved on to greener pastures by now. Everyone else here did nothing but stand around staring vacantly, as if waiting for something to happen.

Weirdoes. At least she was being paid to stand here and do nothing all day.

Er... actually, was she being paid? She couldn't remember the last time she got a paycheck.

Actually, she couldn't remember the last time she left work and went home.

Or the last time she had a real conversation. Or ever actually seeing anyone who wasn't either that trainer or one of the people standing in this building.

Or eating. Or sleeping.

Or literally anything that wasn't standing behind this desk staring vacantly waiting for something to happen.

As the professional she was, Nurse Joy had a very rational reaction to what she could only assume was a stress-induced amnesiac spiral into madness. "I need some damn sleep," she mumbled miserably before laying her face on the desk and passing out. If she was lucky, maybe this would all turn out to have been some horrible work nightmare.

When she came to from her dreamless sleep, she felt worse than before. That Arceus-damned cheery music hummed on in a constant loop to the pounding of her headache. A figure she could only barely make out through her bleary and blurry just-woke-up as being that kid standing over her, trying to shake her awake.

Joy didn't even lift her head from the desk. " I in hell?" she groaned. She'd meant it as a joke, but the moment the words had left her mouth she'd began wondering for real.

The kid stood there hesitantly, before slowly shaking their head.

"I... I'm sorry, your Pokemon are gonna have to wait. I need a minute." As Joy looked around to figure out how to leave her desk, she realized it wasn't designed with any actual way in or out. What kind of... She gritted her teeth and climbed over the desk, nearly slamming to the ground painfully. The trainer took several alarmed steps back as Joy sat down in one of the chairs by the entrance with immense relief at finally being able to sit on a chair.

The kid walked over to the table uneasily, though made no movement to sit down himself.

Joy looked at him blankly. "Sorry, I'm in the middle of a nervous breakdown right now."

The young trainer continued to stare expecting some kind of an explanation, but Joy didn't bother to muster up much of a response.

Instead, she asked "...Hey, how's it like in the other Pokemon Centers? Are the other receptionists doing okay?" Were there other Pokemon Centers? Arceus, she wasn't even sure anymore.

The trainer nodded uncertainly.

"...Are the other Centers just like this one?"

Another nod.

"Man, am I the only one in the entire world who's freaking out over Center work being so boring?" That question was meant to be rhetorical, maybe even a bit sarcastic. She was mostly just talking because at least this kid was listening.

There was another nod from the kid. Joy felt her heart sink.

"...w-wait. Really? No one cares?-" The trainer was nodding again but Joy was already pushing herself out of her chair. How had it taken so long for it to sink in that something was wrong? Why was this kid the only one who ever even meaningfully reacted to anything? "Fuck, fuuuck,"

Hastily, nearly stumbling, she made her way over to the shop desk and stared one of the two (startlingly identical) receptionists in the eyes, professionalism be damned.

"Welcome! May I-" the cashier began, as Joy grabbed them by the shoulders. "-help you?"

"Say something else. Please." Joy hissed through her teeth sharply.

"Poke Ball - $200. Great Ball -" the cashier began, and got a slap in the face for their efforts. They didn't react in the slightest, simply continuing to list off store inventory.

Joy slowly backed away, trembling, sitting down on the floor. The never ending grating chime of the Pokemon Center music made her dig her nails into the floor tiles.

Laying down on her back in defeat, she looked up towards the ceiling - where she saw a sight which broke whatever was left of her to be broken. Where the already unsettling featureless black abyss would typically have been, instead a very confused and alarmed looking face of a teenage boy stared back through some kind of rectangular window.

In her state of panic attack, this - whatever the hell it was - was the funniest and most inane thing she'd ever seen. She just laid there, laughing hysterically until there were tears in her eyes.

Apparently unable to watch this any longer, the trainer from before sprinted out the door - and when he left, the "window" vanished with him.

Yeah. Sure. Whatever. Checks out. Joy thought, her laughter turned to hyperventilation.

When she'd finally worked up the strength to get back up, she trudged blankly towards the exit to the Center. Her hand hesitated shakily at the sliding door, afraid that if she went outside there wouldn't actually be anything out there.

Tightly shutting her eyes, she took an uncertain step outside into Mistralton City, seeing it with her own eyes for what she was beginning to realize may be the very first time. (The kid was nowhere in sight - probably booked it out of dodge as fast as he could.)

There was still music playing. It didn't make a damn lick of sense, given that she was outside and all, but it was a different song and not that fucking Pokemon Center song, so honestly she didn't even care.

The people outside stood and stared vacantly the same way the people inside the Center had, occasionally milling about stiffly and lifelessly.

Apparently, it was in the middle of the night in mid-winter. However, Nurse Joy did not feel cold.

...But, still... anything was better than that fucking desk.