Today, Christine was really hating her job.

Not that working as a factory inspector was ever glamorous or enjoyable, mind you, but some days were certainly much, MUCH worse than others. And, as she found herself walking alone through a darkly lit ramshackle toy factory/potential sweatshop (or so she'd been told - the place seemed rather abandoned right now), today was certainly shaping up to be one of those worse days.

As she walked through the dim hallway with no sound accompanying her other than the click of her own shoes on the floor, the exit seemed miles farther and farther away with each step... god, it felt like something out of a horror movie. But she reminded herself not to think that way, it was ridiculous-

"Looking to sightsee, are we?" a jovial voice suddenly called in the darkness, interrupting her train of thought.

Christine nearly screamed at the sound of the sudden voice, but held it back. She was a professional, dammit! Regaining her bearings, she turned around to face the speaker. And... immediately she was unnerved.

The man in front of her wore a dirty dress suit, colored like some nauseating Hawaiian button-down that'd never leave the racks of a thrift store - she got the impression he probably didn't change clothes much, if at all. Several weird off-color and off-model Pokemon figures of varying species and sizes were stuffed in his pockets. He seemed to be maybe middle aged, but she couldn't tell since over his face he wore a cheaply-cast, poorly-painted plastic Pikachu mask that looked like it had seen better days. She couldn't make out his real eyes behind the mask's eyes in the shadows of the factory, but he was twitching his head to the side oddly as if scrutinizing her.

"H... hello." Christine greeted uncomfortably, taking a step back. This was NOT what she signed up for today.

The man stared for an uncomfortably long minute in silence, as if waiting for something. Finally, he spoke again. "Again I ask, are you another wandering child looking to sightsee the magic of the Pokemon world toys?" His voice was overly friendly, though muffled by the mask.

"I'm... 37," Christine replied, baffled. It was the only thing her mind could immediately supply in her stupor.

"Oh. I see. Would you like to sightsee anyway?" he asked, his tone almost grandfatherly in nature. That only made it all the more disturbing that he kept twitching his head from side to side like a janky puppet as he spoke. "Good Pokemon are an all-ages whimsy that everyone can enjoy, after all!"

She took a deep breath. This was going to be a long and miserable inspection, wasn't it. "I've been sent here to inspect your factory. There's been rumors that you're running a sweatshop here." She explained stiffly and quickly.

"Sweat... shop...?" The man muttered to himself tentatively, sounding like he was rolling the word around in his head as he stared at the floor.

Christine felt a pit of dread in her stomach. Did she offend him? This guy was clearly completely off his rocker, and she couldn't help but wonder if he was going to perhaps attack her over this "slight."

Finally though, the man looked up, his expression still obscured by that horrible plastic mask. "No, I don't think we sell sweat here. I think your employers must be confused!"

...Was this some fucked up prank? If it was, it really wasn't funny. She grabbed her phone to call up her offices, but conveniently she had no cell reception here. Of course not. She swallowed her pride, fear, and common sense and turned to face the man. "I guess I am here to look around, yes, Mr....?"

The man paused, seemingly recognizing that she was asking his name. "I'm..." He appeared deep in thought, eventually clutching a hand to his head as if stressed. Christine really, really did not like how long this guy was taking just to remember his name. "...Well! I'm the overseer around here! So call me Mr. Overseer!" he finally answered cheerily, though with barely-concealed anxiety tingeing his voice.

Great. So this guy was either so insane or so drugged up that he couldn't remember his name. "Mr. Overseer, all I'm here to do is inspect the safety conditions of this factory and ensure your workers are being treated correctly. Would you mind showing me around?" she finally asked in as professional a tone as she could muster.

"Not at all, not at all!" he laughed. "Giving tours is one of my jobs! Though I will say, I'm not the one who runs this place - like I said, I'm just the overseer."

"Then... who actually is in charge, here?" Christine asked, not really sure she wanted the answer all that much.

Mr. Overseer put a hand to the chin of his mask and looked up pensively. "You know, I'm not so sure. It seems more like this place runs itself, in fact! Buuuuut that's the magic of the toy Pokemon cute gift for you!"

Christine wasn't entirely buying it. "Riiiiight..." She figured she'd just focus on seeing things with her own eyes, because she wasn't sure anything said by this guy would be reliable anyway. Would help if she could see better, though. "Anyway, why's it so dark in here?"

Mr. Overseer gave a childlike giggle, like he thought the question was silly. "Because the lights are off!"

No shit? She didn't end up saying that, though. "...And why's that?" she actually said.

He hesitated to answer. "It... helps my headaches, you see. I can turn them on for the tour, but when it's just me, the workers, and the Pokemon, I prefer to keep them off. It's kinder on my migraines." He shuffled off farther into the hallway. "Hold on, let me get the lights."

Christine had a few questions, but she decided they weren't worth asking. She shielded her eyes as the lights flickered on. As her eyes adjusted, she realized the lighting was still awful dim, but at least she could see far better now. And... she still couldn't tell what was at the end of the hallway. She could tell now that what she had thought was metal making up the walls was really just worn-down chunky plastic with metallic paint... and she swore she saw something red behind the cracks in the plastic that she decided she would simply NOT think about right now.

"Long hallway, huh?" she asked just out of the need to say something as Mr. Overseer returned to her.

"Indeed!" He kept his chipperness, even as he clutched a hand to his head in the light. "I don't know why it's here or how long it is, but I like to run from one end of it to the other for fun sometimes."

"That's... nice." Christine said with no idea how else to reply as she followed him down the hallway. The echo of their footsteps and nothing else was hell on her nerves.

As they walked, a dizzy haze started to descend over Christine's mind. Her fight or flight instinct realized something was wrong and dimly kicked on, but it was swallowed up by the strange vertigo. And, the farther they progressed in the hallway, the more weirdly painted cheap-looking Pokemon figures lined the walls, all angled like they were looking at the two people.

She hadn't really paid attention to the Pokemon series since what, Gold and Silver? So, she couldn't really recognize most of the Pokemon on display... (there were plenty of Pikachus, at least, she could certainly name that one) but even she could tell they absolutely didn't look right. Obviously, this was in no way a legitimate Pokemon merchandising facility, but these standards seemed too low even for knockoffs.

"So, uhhhh..." she began, hesitation in her voice. She wondered if speaking ill of this guy's "Pokemon" would be some great mistake... "What's with the, uh, crazy color schemes on these things...? Seems pretty, um... creatively off-model?"

There was an uncomfortable silence before Mr. Overseer finally replied, sounding mildly confused. "I... don't understand. They're simply Pokemon Go fun cute gift for children variety."

"No, I... I mean like, there's a bright green Pikachu in that corner, and a violet one over there, and that Gyro-- Gyarados is pink-and-teal..." Christine pointed out. But... she got the feeling she'd probably get another non-answer. Maybe more word salad. "I mean, Pikachu's supposed to be, y'know, yellow?"

Mr. Overseer paused mid-step and turned to look at Christine. Even through his mask, she felt like he was scrutinizing her. He then took a sweeping glance at the numerous Pokemon figures surrounding them, and kept walking.

"I'm... I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean," Mr. Overseer finally said as they walked, his voice sounding surprisingly meek. "This is just how they look." How helpful.

It took all of Christine's willpower not to groan. Was nothing she said getting across to this guy, or something? "...Let me guess, they talk to you and they told you that?" she asked sarcastically - immediately, she regretted impulsively saying something so outright hostile, and yet she was too tired and hazy and confused to care.

"No, no, not quite," Mr. Overseer began as he kept walking. "They just get made like this, and they don't talk all that much - they don't know how to do it properly, y'see! But I've came to an understanding with them and now words aren't so important anymore. Which is good because words are tricky!" Then, in a startling motion, he stopped in his tracks and wheeled around to face Christine, bursting with an unnerving enthusiasm. "Oh, perhaps you could stick around after the tour and you could learn how to talk to them too!!"

Christine stepped back, grimacing. (Well, can't say she shouldn't have expected this - ask a freaky question, get a freaky answer.) "I'll... pass. Thanks." she said agonizingly.

Mr. Overseer stood there blankly and tilted his head to the side. Then, sounding dejected - "...Ah. Okay." He quietly turned around and returned to walking down the hallway.

They continued like that in silence for a short time (though still much longer than Christine liked) until eventually they reached an oversized brightly-lit doorway from which most of the lighting that had lit up the hallway had been spilling out. Actually, it was so bright by comparison that Christine had to shield her eyes to enter... no wonder the light gave Mr. Overseer headaches.

She walked in, her arm over her eyes. As she lowered it and adjusted to the light she heard Mr. Overseer announce excitedly: "Here we are, where all the magic mystery Pokemon cute toy wonder gift happens!!"

And as Christine took a look around the so-called "factory," her breath caught in her throat. There was no way in hell this was real.

It was all one single room, seemingly, stretching onwards in every direction without end. The ceiling above seemed impossibly high, consisting of increasingly dense collections of misshapen gears and cogs in all sorts of bright, plasticy colors, unable to all turn properly due to their deformations... And, spread unevenly throughout the room, there were strange and inconsistently proportioned faceless mannequins stationed at conveyor belts, robotically yet sloppily painting hundreds of plastic Pokemon figures and packing them into plastic bags, then dropping them down metal chutes in the ground where they disappeared. It was like a child's crude parody of a factory, more than anything.

Aside from Mr. Overseer, of course, there wasn't any sign of any other living thing anywhere. And, again, those weird looking Pokemon figures were aimlessly strewn about everywhere carelessly and haphazardly... (In the corner of her eye, she thought she saw some move, but she couldn't be sure if she'd imagined it...)

"...W-what..." Christine breathlessly began, rubbing her eyes. But what was in front of her didn't change. This had to be a dream... but if it was, why did it feel so real? And yet, if it was real... why did she feel so foggy, like she was walking on air? "I've- I must've been-" She'd been drugged, hadn't she? She had to have been, she needed to run, get the hell out of here- ...but something stopped her. Some sort of mire of confusion or wave of morbid curiosity or mix of the two kept her from making the choice to flee.

"Impressed, no?" Mr. Overseer asked fondly, either missing or completely ignoring Christine's panic. "The folks here, they're very efficient!" Then he paused, looking over his shoulder at one of the mannequins. "But... they're not much for conversation, that's for sure!" There was a playful tone to his voice, but the kind that seemed clipped and uncomfortable, like he didn't quite find it anywhere near as funny as he was trying to play it off to be. "...Come along, now! Let's begin the tour!"

"R-right..." Christine muttered, following him despite herself. In her mind, she turned over potential escape routes in case something here tried to kill her.

Approaching one of the conveyor belts, Mr. Overseer gestured towards a nondescript tube that extended downwards from the ceiling, depositing unpainted Pokemon figures cast in various incorrect colors onto the conveyor belt. "Here is where the good Pokemom fun children's toy happy arrives from," and then he gestured towards one of the mannequins at the conveyor belt, who was blankly and stiffly painting facial features onto the figures as they passed. "and there, our workers give them faces and feelings!"

Christine hesitantly stepped closer to one of the "workers" to get a better look. They seemed to be made of some kind of thin gray artificial skin stretched over a complex mess of colorful gears that seemed almost entirely for show... She waved a hand in front of the face of one, and it showed no indication of either intelligence nor awareness. She shuddered.

"And then, once the figures are painted," Mr. Overseer continued. "other workers put them into groups in little plastic bags and then drop them down these chutes, where they then move on to get sold and delivered to bring a happy toy Pokemon gift to the world!" As he spoke, he caught a sealed bag of figures before it could fall down the dark depths of wherever the chute lead, then handing it to Christine. "Here, have these free as a souvenir for your visit! Please take good care of them."

"T-thanks," Christine said as she took them - only out of obligation and fear. Awkwardly she stuffed the bag in one of her pockets. She promised herself she'd throw these away as soon as she got home.

"Now, now that you understand the basics, the tour can really begin!" Mr. Overseer clapped cheerily. "You see, I've named most of the employees around here, and I'd like to introduce you to them!"

Christine was not even a little bit interested in the full tour. Honestly. She just wanted to go the hell home and never think about this again.

Mr. Overseer began to skip away merrily, before skidding to a stop and turning back around. Seemingly he hadn't even noticed Christine wasn't following, because instead he asked, "Well, first, before the full tour starts proper, do you have any questions about the workings of our humble factory?"

If this had been a normal factory, now would be the time she'd be asking about the health standards and writing the answers down on her clipboard. But this was not a normal factory, and it seems she had somehow not even brought her clipboard in. The usual questions seemed vague and foggy in her mind, and she sort of doubted that her employers would believe a single goddamn thing she had to say about this place so she probably wasn't going to get paid anyway, but...

...Well, wouldn't hurt to try asking anyway, right? "So, uh... is it safe around here? Everything, uh, well-maintained? Living standards well and good? Any major accidents?" Hell, she felt stupid even asking.

"Ah, well, we have had an accident or two around here... Someone has died here once, but! It wasn't one of our employees, and certainly not our fault!" He chuckled with the lightness of someone recalling a funny story, but also was hasty to defend himself. "Our safety standards around here otherwise have been quite excellent."

Oh, god. "One death? How?" Christine asked despite her better judgement. She glanced around at the "workers," half expecting one to get up and tear her head off or something.

"Well, it was more of a suicide than anything..." A brief sadness crept into his voice, but it was gone as quickly as it came. "You see, one of the visitors here ended up throwing himself into the gears of one of the machines during a tour and got completely ground up inside... I still don't quite get why anyone would do such a thing! He seemed quite normal the previous sixty-three hours of the tour..."

Her mind took a moment to process the story. "SIXTY-THREE?!"

Mr. Overseer shrugged. "I know, I couldn't believe it either! Not even halfway through the tour, even!"

Oh, hell no. No, no, no, no. "Can I cancel my tour?!" Christine asked frantically.

Mr. Overseer huffed, sounding genuinely offended for the first time this entire... encounter (for lack of any better descriptor.) "But that simply won't do! You're a guest here, you've asked for a proper tour, and it's my duty to give you one!"

"But I--" Christine wracked her brain to think of an excuse, but her mind was cloudy. She always figured herself pretty good at worming her way out of unpleasant situations - meeting new people, lengthy conversations, work - but her mind was drawing a total blank. She couldn't help but wonder why she even agreed to this inspection... "-I... I have a job to do, I have to-"

Mr. Overseer seemed to stare at her expectantly, his posture a bit more lax than before.

...actually... wasn't she not supposed to even be working right now? Racking her addled brain desperately, Christine abruptly remembered. She wasn't a factory inspector anymore. She got fired over a year ago. Why was...

"Um, are you alright, miss?" Mr. Overseer's masked face was directly in front of Christine's, causing her to leap back in fear and shock.

So, she did what any reasonable self-respecting person would do in the situation of a potentially-unstable freak who may or may not have drugged you getting all up in your face - slammed her fist into his head as hard as she could.

With a squeak of pain, Mr. Overseer was knocked to the ground, his mask sailing off his face. He was splayed on the cold factory floor, face-down and trembling, and Christine almost would've felt bad for him if she wasn't half-convinced he was a damn serial killer.

Christine felt eyes boring into her. Everywhere in the factory, the off-model plastic Pokemon were turned to face her. Every single one. Her breath caught in her throat.

There was a pained grunt. Christine rapidly turned back to see Mr. Overseer slowly, agonizingly pushing himself off the floor, back turned to her.

"I... I can't see... w-why can't I see...?" he mumbled to himself with terror, clutching his face with his hands. "I... wh... where...?"

Christine didn't really get a good look at him, though, before something else caught her attention - that awful fucking Pikachu mask. Skittering across the ground on clawed, twitching, sickly meat-red limbs. Limbs that were growing on the inside of the mask's eyeholes. For the sake of not puking on the floor, Christine decided she neither wanted to find out what Mr. Overseer's face looked like, nor what the process of him putting that mask back on looked like. In fact, she'd rather prefer to run like hell!

Why hadn't she, already?! Why did she play along with this feverish nightmare bullshit for this long?! Where the hell was she, and what was even happening?! More and more questions like those swirled around her dizzy mind as she sprinted through the factory room, but... she had no idea where the hell she was going. It seemed to stretch on forever and ever in here, conveyor after conveyor of identical mannequins making the same repetitive movements, making more and more of those awful little figurines that all seemed to be staring into her soul...

She hated them. She wanted to get rid of them, and she wanted to go home and go to sleep and cry and forget about any of this. Nearby on the floor, all in the wrong colors, there was a Charizard or something and some kind of monkey something-or-other and some weird fat dinosaur thing with tusks. Taking out her frustration, she violently stomped on them. Anything to get rid of some of these damn things. She refused to think about how beneath the crack of plastic, there was the sound of something... squisher. Red spilled onto the tiles. It was just paint, it was just paint, nevermind that there'd be no reason to fill a goddamn plastic toy with paint it was JUST PAINT-

Somewhere a short distance away, she heard some kind of... schlunk-ing noise and footsteps. But she didn't stop to look. Destroying these things was the only damn thing that was making her feel any better right now.

"S-stop!" a panicked voice cried. Mr. Overseer. "You're... you're hurting them!! Please, stop!"

The sound of his voice only made her feel more violent. You and your fucking monster mask are next, freak, she thought to herself, lost in this frenzy. It was easier than thinking. Thinking was so heavy and hurt so much. It was so, so much easier to just go berserk until everything went away and left her alone alone alone alone alone alone-

Christine suddenly had the breath knocked out of her as Mr. Overseer tackled her full force, pinning her to the ground. His mask was back on, of course, but some kind of sticky black paint bled from the edges of it...

"P-please...!" Mr. Overseer pleaded, even as he held Christine to the floor with a surprising strength. "I... I don't know what it is you want or why you're so mad or trying to hurt my friends, but please...! Please calm down!! You're scaring everyone!!!" His hands were shaky. Christine could probably knock him off-balance if she tried hard enough.

"I'M scaring everyone?!" Christine hissed through shaky breaths. Every nerve in her body was screaming that everything was wrong. "I'M NOT DEALING WITH ANY MORE WEIRD MONSTER BULLSHIT!!!" With significant effort and incredible force, she flung Mr. Overseer off her, taking a sort of violent satisfaction in seeing him painfully stumble backwards into one of the conveyors, ending up in a sprawled heap.

But Mr. Overseer recovered a lot faster this time, untangling himself from the mannequin he'd crashed into. "I... I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave, miss...!"

For a moment, she snapped out of it. (Out of what? What was happening?) Staring at the terrified and confused... person(?), she realized she hadn't found the exit because she was running in circles. ...Why was she running in circles? Why was she here again? Where was here?! She felt herself about to start hyperventilating again-

Shakily, Mr. Overseer raised up a single hand and pointed off to the side. "T-the... the door is that way. P-please don't come back..." Then, silently, he curled up into a ball and laid down, clutching his head with a pained whimper.

Christine went sprinting towards that door and didn't look back. When she reached the hallway, the lights were out again. Of course they were. But she could still see everything. The figures were gone (perhaps they didn't want to be anywhere near her?), the door seemed infinitely far away, and around her the walls seemed to be... pulsing, with a quickened rhythm.

She ran down the hallway, refusing to think of anything. She reached the door much sooner than expected. Swinging it open and blindly dashing through, she found herself...

...in her apartment, crashed into her couch. Everything was exactly as she'd left it that morning. Behind her, the apartment door swung wide open, revealing the same old halls of the apartment building she lived in.

Mind reeling, she got to her feet and went to get herself a cup of coffee. What just happened? What was... any of that...? But, now that she was trying to think about it, she was finding it harder and harder to remember... There was something about her old factory inspection job, and about Pokemon, of all things, and she remembered leaving her apartment and of course she remembered coming back just now-- maybe it was all just a strange dream she had? (Somehow, the thought of that didn't sit right.)

Then, she realized there was something large in her pocket that she didn't remember putting there. Pulling it out, she found a small plastic bag, full of about a dozen tiny, incredibly off-color Pokemon action figures.

For some reason, she felt dizzy.