Back in high school I had a friend, Ryan, who loved to make Pokémon roms. He had been making roms since we were in middle school, but only during high school had he contemplated the idea of making one to release online. He had an idea he wanted to make using Leaf Green as a base. The story was similar to most Pokémon games. You and your mother moved to a new town and the professor (Redwood was her name) would give you and your rival a Pokémon. As you fight through the eight gyms you discover an evil team your character would end up having to defeat by the end of the game and of course there was the elite four. My friend was so invested in this game he had even created a bunch of new Pokémon so he wouldn't have to just use existing Pokémon.
Ryan spent the entirety of freshman year and the better half of sophomore year making the game. As he got closer to finishing the game he asked me if I could test the game for him to make sure there weren’t any bugs, glitches or continuity issues. I told him I’d be happy to, he just had to send me the download. He said it would probably be another month or so before he would send it over as he still had a decent chunk to finish. That was understandable as we’d just finished midterm week and he’d probably had no time to work on it that week.
Two weeks later I noticed as I went to lunch that Ryan was absent. Thinking he was sick I just brushed it off and thought he’d show up the next day. He was absent again the next day so when I got home from school I texted him asking where he was. He didn’t respond so I texted him again, no response. Despite how worried I was I realized there wasn’t anything I could do about it and sent him one last text before having dinner with my family.
The next day he still wasn’t at school, but the sophomores were called to a class meeting during first period. There our principal told us that Ryan’s mother had passed away on Saturday and that’s why he had been absent the past two days. Ryan was supposed to come back to school next week and we were told that we shouldn’t hound him with questions but be there if he needed us.
I knew this must’ve been tough for Ryan I’d lost my mother at the beginning of sixth grade but at least I still had my dad. Ryan’s dad had never been in the picture so all he had now were his grandparents. I called Ryan’s house and his grandmother answered. I told her I was a friend and I just wanted to express my condolences to Ryan. She told me it was a kind gesture but Ryan didn’t want to talk to anyone right now but she’d pass along the message. I thanked her and hung up.
Next week Ryan was back but he was still upset which was understandable. I didn’t ask him if he was okay or how he was handling it because I knew how annoying those questions were so I just told him that if he needed to talk he had my number. During Ryan’s first week back the rom was completely gone from my mind, so naturally I was surprised when I got a text from him that said, “The game’s not finished but here’s the link, have fun.” late that Friday night. I clicked the link and waited for it to download, after it finished I opened it up in my GBA emulator. The game started up normally expect the title screen read “Pokémon Aurora” and had an Amaura next to it instead of the normal Leaf Green title screen. Ryan had told me he was naming the game Aurora since the game had a focus on astral things so I wasn’t worried but was impressed at the work put into it so far.
Upon starting up the game and watching Professor Redwood give the normal speech about Pokémon, it skipped asking me my gender and name and immediately gave me a female sprite with the name Cecilia, which was my name. Now I was a bit concerned, why did he program it specifically for me? Didn’t he want to post this online? I thought it might have been a bug but it did the same for the rival only it gave him the name Ryan.
I was pretty unnerved at this, Ryan obviously meant for this to happen but why was beyond me. After the naming process was over the game started up and I was in my room. When I went down an exclamation point appeared over mom's head and she ran up to my sprite.
“Cecilia! Professor Redwood stopped by earlier today and said to give this to you.” She gave me a Pokéball that had a level 35 Swanna. Swanna was one of my favorite Pokémon but I was confused as to why I wasn’t given an option between the three starter Pokémon Ryan had designed and why I was given such a high level evolved Pokémon as a starter.
“Ryan also came by and said he’d be waiting for you in the next town over, so why don’t you take these and go meet him?” I was given a pair of running shoes and my mom went back to her seat at the table.
Thinking I might get some answers when I met up with Ryan I ran out the of the house and took the only path that was open. I noticed though that the town looked almost exactly the same as in leaf green, the only difference being that the houses were red and there was no lab. Taking the first route I saw it was just a straight path, there were no ledges, grass or NPCs. Ryan was always talking about how much effort he put into creating the map, so where was all of it? After a nearly a minute of walking I entered the next town which had the same layout as the other town but with a gym in the left corner. As I walked to the gym Ryan ran up to me.
“Hey Cecilia, I need to tell you something, but first show me your new Pokémon,” he said before a battle began. Ryan had a level 35 arcanine which I managed to defeat in two round due to the type advantage. The game paused for a second and I feared it froze but then Ryan’s defeated message came up and said “Heh, looks like you don’t need me anymore.” After his defeated message disappeared he began to talk again.
“It's been a rough few weeks hasn’t it? Everyone says I need to be strong but I can’t. My mom was the only person I had left, now she’s gone. I’m sorry Cecilia, but I can’t keep on without her. You’ve been the best friend I ever had so please don’t cry for me, I’m happy.” I immediately closed the app and called Ryan’s house, maybe his grandparents could stop him.
“Hello Dear.” His grandmother answered and I knew by her shaky, teary voice I was too late.
“Ryan?” I managed to croak out.
“He’s gone dear I’m so sorry,” she said.
In a blind rage I threw my phone against the wall and screamed. My dad rushed into my room and asked what happened, I told him about Ryan before I started sobbing. My dad hugged me and told me it would be alright. I spent almost the entire night crying and mourning my friend.
His funeral was three days after, it was a small thing only me, my dad, Ryan’s grandparents and a few more of his friends were there. After the ceremony my dad was talking to his grandparents while I placed a bouquet of roses on his grave. I stopped and stared at the slab of stone for a moment before pulling out my new phone. After throwing my other phone it was broken beyond use so I had to throw that one away and with it went the rom that doubled as a suicide note. I turned it on only to look at the lock screen picture, it was of me and Ryan last summer. We were so happy, so unaware of what the next year would hold in store for us.