We walked for about an hour before our first encounter with a wild Pokemon. Just as I saw the path ahead clearing out to lead the way to Cherrygrove City, we stumbled upon a Sentret.
It squealed in surprise and jumped up, balancing on its tail. The sound it made was something like a cross between a screech and a growl. Its brown and tan fur bristled and its muscles tensed.
Easy, Gold, I told myself. Don’t freak out. It’s only a Sentret. Maybe we can go around and avoid it.
Not so easy, as it turned out. I tried to side step it, but it was far too late. The Sentret was on guard, it was defending its territory, even if that meant attacking first. I took a step back, hoping to reason with the animal, but there was no reasoning with wild animals.
But as I stepped back, Tiko took the lead. Why didn’t I think about this before? I thought. Of course my Pokemon were meant to protect me. I didn’t have to back down to wild animals.
The Sentret didn’t waste any time. It scratched at Tiko, who avoided it at the last second.
“Tiko, tackle it.”
Bam! Tiko’s aim was spot on, and she was faster than I expected. Sentret toppled over from the impact and got back up, unsteady, but determined.
“Oh man,” I said. “My first battle.”
I was drawing a blank on what to tell Tiko. Thunder kept popping into my head, but there was no way Tiko would know what I was talking about. Meanwhile, Sentret was continually scratching at her.
“Keep tackling,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
And Tiko did just that. She kept tackling.
Long after Sentret was dead.
It was like watching a train wreck, as they say. I couldn’t look away, but I was horrified at what I saw. Tiko would take a few steps back and then run head-on into the lifeless corpse. Over and over, until the swelling mass of battered flesh began to burst and mush poured out of the skin.
Somehow, I croaked out a, “Stop,” and Tiko trotted to my side, oblivious to what she had done.
Was she oblivious, though? I started to wonder after the seizing in my stomach ceased and I was able to sit up and turn away from the bloody mass. What was life like for Pokemon in the wild? Did Tiko kill other Pokemon to survive? Surely, that seemed like a fair evolutionary defense mechanism. Maybe Pokemon evolved to breed quickly and die quickly, hence their bizarre fighting abilities and their periodic metamorphosis. Maybe Tiko would metamorphose someday and be better able to survive the harsh, violent environment to which it was born.
Or maybe it was just a bloodthirsty killing machine, delighting in the murders of its fellow Pokemon…
“Good job, Tiko,” I said, not sure of what was appropriate. She had, after all, protected me from a feral Sentret. I could have been hurt, and Tiko saw to it that I came away unscathed. If I couldn’t answer all of the philosophical questions about the nature of Pokemon, I could at least acknowledge my safety.
I retrieved a bottle of water from my backpack and washed my mouth, then cleaned Tiko’s head of the gore she collected in her tackle spree. Then… we moved on.
We fought a Rattata next, about thirty minutes later. You might think that it would give me more anxiety than a Sentret or Marill–hell, I thought I would freeze up when I saw one. But I didn’t feel one way or the other about it. There was simply a Rattata. No longer did I feel it necessary to restrain it and try to battle my abusive father-figure–it was now an obstacle in the way between me and the safety of a Pokemon center.
Tiko broke its neck with one perfect tackle. I told her to stop before she got out of hand, and then we walked on.
As the roofs and chimneys of Cherrygrove City peeked out over the treetops, I ran into a Hoothoot. I figured that Tiko was getting pretty tired–I was, after all–and I didn’t think it was necessary to fight the stupid bird.
I picked Tiko up and ran toward the nearing town, but the Hoothoot crashed down on my head, battering me with its wings. I dropped Tiko and fell, knowing that I’d have to kill this one like the others.
“Tiko, tackle,” I said.
The Hoothoot fluttered to the ground, cawing a threat that I understood only as a death wish. Tiko missed when she tried to tackle; the Hoothoot hopped out of the way at the last second. Three times that happened, where the bird would just hop to avoid being struck.
“Tiko, tackle a little higher this time.”
She puffed out an acknowledgement that sounded like, “Mer”, her back flaring in unison, and she kicked off in preparation for another tackle. The Hoothoot, trapped in its pattern of narrow avoidance, took the blow head on. It flopped to the ground, landing on its back and thrashing wildly.
“Tiko, use…” an idea came to mind. “Use ember.”
While the Hoothoot tried to regain its composure, which was made unlikely by its broken wing, Tiko looked at me like she was lost in thought. Then she acknowledged me again, turned back to the bird, and shot a ball of flame from her mouth.
The fireball torched the bird, singing its feathers off. It screeched in pain, squirming even more violently than before, until it was unable to breath. It fell to a twitching state, then was still, burning to a patchy black crisp before the ember subsided.
The Hoothoot’s movement set fire to some of the nearby grass, and I spent a good ten minutes stamping it out and making sure I wouldn’t blaze the field.
When the smell of fresh-cooked Hoothoot registered in my mind, I thought about Thanksgiving. My appetite came back and I raced Tiko to Cherrygrove City.