Pokemon – Chapter 16

April 22, 2013

On the top floor I faced three monks. They all had Bellsprout, naturally, and they left with smoldering sticks.

I was humbled by their reverence. They didn’t seem to mourn their losses, but they didn’t celebrate it either. They had a middle ground.

“I’m legitimately curious,” I said, after burning  through a monk’s three Bellsprout. “How do you feel after seeing this? This carnage?”

“We reach enlightenment through Pokemon. That is the way of the Sproutlics. We study them, learn from them, feel through them. Through death, we see glimpses of the afterlife. We learn of the nature of the world.”

Another monk, one I had defeated earlier, approached.

“We trust our Pokemon. Not to win or lose, but to be brave in the face of death. We train them to trust and be trusted.”

“Through that trust,” added the other, “is how we are able to feel what they feel.”

“I…I see. I think.”

They nodded, seemingly satisfied with what they had told me.

I approached the pillar. It this height, it barely looked like it was moving, but the creaks and other vibrations traveled up the entire length and hummed at the top–right where I was standing. I could feel the sound in my feet. I imagined the Bellsprout, with roots for feet, and how sensitive they must be to their surroundings.

“Die you weak muthafucka!” screamed a voice. I recognized it.

Peeking out from the side of the pillar, I saw Assmunch and an old bearded monk.

“Yes, you won, my child. You have earned the prize.”

The monk gave something to Assmunch. Assmunch then turned and spotted me.

“Hey, weakling. I just tromped this old guy and got a cool TM. Awesome, right?”

He pulled a device from his pocket. I caught a glimpse of the logo:

“Escape Rope! By Silph!”

He pushed the button and said, “Sorry. Gotta run.”

In a flash of light, he teleported away.

I approached the monk.

“That boy has no compassion for his Pokemon. He’s a strong trainer, but he will never go far in this world with that attitude.”

“I’m sure,” I said, pondering his words.

“Are you here to battle for the prize?”

I nodded, absent.

“Then face me with your Pokemon. Prove your worth!”

I stepped back and let Tiko take the lead. The monk produced a Bellsprout. Only this Bellsprout had some girth to it, like muscles or something.

It was strong. No doubt. But muscles didn’t give you much resistance to fire, and though the post-ember results were instant death, the head monk’s two Pokemon weren’t as charred as the previous ones. The battle was not difficult, but may have been if Tiko wasn’t as strong as she was.

“Oh ho ho ho!” laughed the monk. “Such strength you have!”

I wasn’t sure if I should be insulted or proud.

“Excuse me?”

“Your fondness for your Pokemon shows! You have a lot of respect and admiration for them. Not like that last boy. He was a dick. You, however, will be a remarkable trainer someday, so long as you don’t forget to respect and trust your companions.”

I laughed at the word, “dick,” but only because it was accurate.

I then realized that I was on a path to become like him. Like Assmunch. If I became so desensitized to the violence and death, how big a step was it to becoming a horrible person? To lose all respect for Pokemon? If I lost respect for Pokemon, would I lose respect for humans?

Hadn’t I already, though? Did I have much respect for my mom or her boyfriend? No, but I did have respect for Lyra, Professor Elm, and Professor Oak. The people who didn’t abuse Pokemon were my favorite people.

And that’s who I wanted to be. Someone who was filled with love and kindness for not only his own Pokemon, but all Pokemon, living or dead.

“Here,” said the monk. “You’ve earned this.”

He handed me a small device. It was something like a clamp and drill.

“This is a TM–a Technical Machine. You use it to teach your Pokemon the move, flash. It’s great for lighting up caves and blinding your opponent’s Pokemon. I hope you find it useful.”

“Thanks,” I said, not sure how I felt about it.

“Also,” the monk continued, “There’s a spare Escape Rope over there. That way you don’t have to climb back down the tower.”

I retrieved the escape rope, but I didn’t use it. Instead, I made my way down the tower, watching the pendulum swing ever wider as I got closer to the bottom.

The Sproutlics may have been a little nutty, but even the nuttiest people can sometimes give you good insights into life. The Bellsprout, though not a strong Pokemon, was a fascinating species. The way it remained still and flexible, the way it flowed through life, yet having uprooted itself so that it didn’t have to remain still forever–that was cool. Like a person who left home but carried with her or him the lessons he or she learned there.


Pokemon – Chapter 15

April 19, 2013

I heard another monk up ahead and decided to check on Tiko once more.

“Are you okay, Tiko? You okay to fight?”

Instead of answering, she stared at the wooden beam that was suspended in the center of the tower, reaching from top to bottom. It was a threatening pendulum, an ominous representation of… of what, exactly? I didn’t know. But it seemed to bother Tiko, and despite my excitement at her evolution, I was worried that she needed rest.

I put her back in her Pokeball and decided that Quartza might as well get some training in, if, after all, she was going to be my trump card in the battle against the gym leader.

Quartza blinked up at me, and she rolled along at my heels, following me around the corner to the opponent.

“Respect,” said the monk.

“Excuse me?” I stammered.

“Respect Pokemon. Respect all life. Respect all battles.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you heard some song lyrics or some supposedly deep and meaningful proverb, and you’re left with a dichotomous sensation? Where you both reject and accept what you’ve learned?

On one hand, I felt the power in those words. Respect Pokemon. What had I been doing on my journey so far? I was killing Pokemon left and right, sending them to whatever awaits Pokemon after they die. Some of them died horrible deaths, others quick and painless deaths.

But on the other hand, who the fuck was this guy to go about spewing this kind of talk to random strangers? How pretentious can you get?

I brushed it off. I sent Quartza forward. He released his Bellsprout from his rosary Pokeball. Ah yes, another Sproutlic Monk.

“The last monk I encountered is the proud owner of a charred stick that was once a Bellsprout. Are you sure you want to battle?”

What was I saying? I threatened him and gave him an offer of escap in the same breath, but… what kind of person taunts like that? Who would take that threat and leave?

The monk, however, was expressionless.

“So be it,” I said, half mocking myself with such a pretentious phrase. “Quartza, use tackle.”

“Vine whip,” commanded the monk. The Bellsprout extended two vines out like bullets, and they lashed across Quartza’s face.

Quartza followed through with her tackle, but just barely. It didn’t hurt the Bellsprout nearly enough to be worth a second shot, considering the pain that Quartza was obviously feeling.

Then I noticed, she was bleeding.

I didn’t even know a rock-monster COULD bleed, but there it was. The vines had left deep gouges in the rock, and blood was trickling out, pooling on the floor.

“Shit,” I whispered, realizing how close I had come to losing a Pokemon for good. Even though I had only known Quartza for a day, I had no intention of letting her die like this.

I put her back in her Pokeball, chastising myself for not remembering how weak rock types were to grass. A rookie mistake. Snaps was a no-go then, also weak to grass.

Looks like Tiko was my only choice.

“Tiko, be careful,” I said.

The Bellsprout whipped her with its vines, but all it seemed to do was distract her from the swaying pillar. She growled–a much more threatening growl than she had as a Cyndaquil.

“Ember,” I said, quietly and half to myself.

The ember that Tiko could now produce was bigger and hotter than what she used to make. The Bellsprout didn’t stand a chance.

Seeing that charred stick of a Bellsprout made me slightly nauseous. It was little more than kindling now. Sure, that was the circle of life. Animals die. Humans use their remains for all sorts of things–clothing, tools, computers–but for them to die at my command?

The monk sent out two more Bellsprout, and they met the same fate.

As I walked away from the monk, he called to me one last time:

“Respect for Pokemon.”


Pokemon – Chapter 14

April 15, 2013

I left the Pokemon Center in time to see the meth-head clown accost another innocent traveler. While he was distracted, I made a break for it.

I decided to explore the city a bit before going to the gym. Who knows what all I would find, I thought. Sure enough, as I was walking down the street, a trainer invited me into his home.

“Howdy,” he said.

“Hi.”

“You’re a trainer, right?” I nodded. “Cool. I’m looking for a Bellsprout. Having some trouble catching one, you know? So I’m willing to trade my Onix for a Bellsprout, if you have one.”

“I would, actually, if I had a Bellsprout. Ran across a few of them east of town, but I haven’t tried to catch any.”

“That’s cool. Just let me know if you find one. Offer is still good.”

After that, I went toward the tower, but stopped at a building that had an ad painted on the outside:

“Trainer School! Learn all about Pokemon here!”

Meh, why not? I walked inside, Tiko following at my heels. There were a few people studying at desks, reading books, discussing Pokemon at tables. I was greeted by a rotund man.

“Good day!” he said. I shook his hand and said hello.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

“Just wanted to see if I could fill in some gaps in my knowledge.”

“Well, then you came to the right place.”

“First, do I have to pay? I’m a little low on cash.”

“Nonsense,” he said, shaking his head. “We operate on a federal grant commissioned by the Pokemon League. You sign up for nothing, pay for nothing, and reap all of  the benefits.”

That didn’t sound too bad, I thought.

“Okay then, let’s learn.”

We spent about an hour discussing things. Turned out, my years of TV watching and occasional Wikipedia browsing was enough to put me ahead of most trainers. The only thing I didn’t know about was a Pokemon’s Ability. Apparently, Pokemon were apt to develop a specific ability. Some could intimidate other Pokemon which weakens their attacks. Other Pokemon can put pressure on the foes which saps them of energy when they’re battling. It was fascinating stuff, and something hard to quantify.

“You just have to battle with them to find out what they are capable of,” said the teacher.

I thanked him for his time and left. The tower to the north was beckoning to me. Why not? I thought. I’ll face the Gym leader later.

The sign outside the Tower said, “Sprout Tower,” and had a picture of a Bellsprout. Maybe that trainer from earlier could come here and find someone willing to trade.

A monk greeted me.

“Welcome to Sprout Tower,” he said. “Don’t mind the noises from upstairs. Just Pokemon training.”

“Okay. Um, what’s this place all about?”

“We are a group of monks that study the strength of Bellsprout. We worship the rigid yet flexible power that it has. We also offer prizes to trainers who face us on their ascent and are capable of defeating us in battle.”

“Um… one of those things is not like the others,” I said.

“We have to make money somehow,” he replied, smiling shyly.

Getting a little practice in would be good for me, I thought, so I climbed the ladder and began my ascent up the Sprout Tower.

The first Monk to approach me held a rosary in his hands. He fingered the beads, which made me look closer. Each bead was a miniature Pokeball. Where the cross would normally be, sat a full-sized Pokeball.

“Are you Catholic?” I asked, unable to stop myself.

“We no longer follow the old order. We call ourselves Sproutlics now.”

I suppressed a laugh, then asked:

“Are we opponents?”

“Yes. Prepare yourself.”

The Sproutlic Monk released his Bellsprout.

“Tiko, you’re in charge,” I said.

The monk’s eyes grew wide with worry.

“What?” I asked, “Afraid of a little fire?”

“N-no. I’m sure Bellsprout’s resilience will make itself known.”

“Okay, good. Tiko, use ember.”

“Mrrr,” she replied, then shot a ball of flame at the opponent’s Pokemon.

The water in the leaves and stalks hissed out as it boiled away, and within seconds, the Bellsprout was nothing more than a charred stick.

A visible sheen of sweat glistened from the monk’s shaved head.

“C-con…Congratulations,” he said, trying to regain his composure. “You may continue your ascent.”

But I wasn’t listening to him. I was looking at Tiko, who was looking around and at itself in confusion.

“Are you okay, Tiko?” I asked.

She chirped, but it sounded like distress to me. I crouched down to pet her, to comfort her, but she recoiled and the flames on her back burst erratically.

Then she began to change. She grew longer, bones cracking and rejoining, her feet grew, claws visibly protruding. Her fire ports relocated. Some to her head, some to her lower back.

After a moment, it was over. Tiko was bigger, breathing heavily and confused, but alive.

“Tiko?”

“Mrr?” she said. She looked herself over.

“Did you just evolve?”

I pulled out my PokeDex. Sure enough, that’s what happened. Tiko was no longer a Cyndaquil. She was a Quilava.

And she was badass. Fire mohawk! Fire skirt! Silky black and yellow fur! Once I was sure that she was okay to go on, we went to the next ladder and continued our ascent up Sprout Tower.


Pokemon – Chapter 13

April 12, 2013

As it turned out, there were only a few trainers in the valley before Violet City. I took care of them with ease. It didn’t bother me that I essentially murdered their pets; that was the name of the game.

I came across an apricorn tree, chuckling to myself over the bizarre experience I had with the apricorn addict. Little did I know that I would meet many addicts on my adventure.

The checkpoint to Violet City was empty, save for the one guard who stood watch at the counter.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Morning. You coming to Violet City to get your badge?”

“Sure am. I’ve been training for it.”

“Good luck to you,” he said. “You’re cleared to go.”

I thanked him and stepped through. Just as I was about to exit, someone tapped on my shoulder.

“Surprise!” Lyra cried. It about made me wet myself.

“Whoa! Lyra, what are you doing here?”

“I should ask you the same thing,” she said. “How in the world did you get ahead of me?”

I shrugged, unable to think of something clever to say.

“Oh well, it won’t happen again,” she declared. “The race isn’t over yet.”

“Race?” I started to say, but she was gone before I could get the word out. I watched her go, dazed by her beauty.

I was such a dork, standing there in my shorts, wearing my baseball cap backwards. We all dressed silly as kids–Lyra was no exception–but I still have trouble forgiving myself for the “lock of hair falling out of the back of the baseball cap” thing I had going on.

Snaps tugged at my leg, suggesting it was time to move on. He was right.

The exit from the checkpoint opened to reveal the city. The closest building was a Pokemon Center, painted in darker colors than the others. The city had lots of  trees and a beautiful pond with lilies and a wooden walking path through it. At the end of the path, to the north, sat a looming tower.

Just before I got to the Pokemon Center, a man in clown makeup approached me.

“Hey man,” he said, voice barely audible.

“Hey?”

“Yo, whatsup. You got any shards, man?”

“Shards?” I asked, brain recognizing the term but not sure what it meant.

“Yeah, man. Shards. Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, doesn’t matter.” He scratched at his arm and looked around nervously.

“I, uh, don’t have any. Sorry.”

“It’s cool man. It’s cool. Just come to me if you have some. I’ll make it worth your while. I got berries. I got a shit-ton of berries. Pokemon love that shit. You bring me shards, I’ll give you berries.”

“Uh, okay. Yeah. I’ll keep you in mind.” I started to step away.

“Remember,” he insisted, “Any color. You bring shards, I’ll give you the good shit. Think about it.”

“Yup. Will do. See you.” I turned and made straight for the Pokemon Center, not breathing until I was safely through the doors. I remembered what Shards were when he started scratching his arm.

Shards were the prime ingredient for crystal meth.

Still a little shaken, I approached the service counter and had the nurse check my Pokemon.

Then I sat down on a bench, waiting for the nurse and hoping to calm myself down.

“…that Team Rocket was gone for awhile,” I overheard. “Are you saying that they’re back?”

Two men were talking at the other end of the bench.

“It’s only rumors so far. That one kid took them all out years ago. I can’t see how they survived.”

“Stealing Pokemon from people and creating a mafia organization. Despicable.”

“No doubt. I hope they aren’t making a comeback. Those would be troubled times.”

Stealing Pokemon? I wondered. Was Assmunch a member of Team Rocket? Surely, just because you stole a Pokemon didn’t mean you were a member. That was a dumb conclusion to make, but it stuck in my head.

I listened in to some other conversations. People watching, if you will. It was educational, and helped distract me from the meth addict that I worried might be waiting outside for me.

“This computer is free for Pokemon Trainers!” a man declared, talking to what looked like his kids. “You can store your Pokemon in here for safekeeping, then pull them out whenever you like.”

“But how does it work?” asked one of the children.

“I’m not sure of the specifics,” he said. “I just know it’s the same idea that Pokeballs use. The Pokemon is digitized and transferred to a database somewhere in the world.”

“That’s so cool!”

And creepy, if you think about it. Pokemon are killed and cloned repeatedly, every time you take them out of the Pokeball or put them in the server.

I listened in to another couple. Two young trainers were trading Pokemon.

“Be careful when you raise it,” said one. “Cause if you don’t have a badge, the Pokemon might not obey you.”

“What?! That’s no good! I’m only trading cause I want to get an edge on my training.”

“I know. That’s the downside. Traded Pokemon develop faster than Pokemon caught in the wild. Something in their radioactive signatures, they say. But they don’t obey secondary trainers if they feel like they don’t have enough experience. That’s part of why the badge system was created, to help trainers actually train traded Pokemon.”

How arbitrary, I thought. Why do Pokemon care about an arbitrary little pin when they decide to obey or disobey?

“Mr. Gold?” asked the nurse. I retrieved my three Pokemon.

I decided to check out the computer. From there, I logged into my email account.

I had a message from Lyra:

“Dear Gold. I love Pokemon! They are so cool. –Lyra.”

How silly and weird and wonderful and I had such a crush on her. Damn my hormonal teenaged mind.


Pokemon – Chapter 12

April 8, 2013

Snaps and Tiko were killers by nature. I suppose all Pokemon are, or, at least, trainers make them so.

We trained all day, making our way toward Violet City. I only encountered one crazy bug trainer, and moved on as quickly as he approached me. It almost bothered me how numb I had become to the carnage in such a short amount of time. Almost.

By afternoon, I made it to Dark Cave. Original name, I know. They call it Dark Cave because it is relatively dark inside. Who knew?

“Hi!” called a man. He was standing near the entrance, shading  himself under a tree, petting a boulder.

“Hello,” I replied. “How are you?”

“I’m great. I just caught this Pokemon in the Dark Cave. I’m going to train it to take on the Violet City Gym leader.”

“Oh really? You’re doing the Badge Challenge too?”

“Yup. I’m thinking strategy, so I figured that catching a rock type would be good for facing the flying gym.”

That got me thinking. Maybe it would be in my best interest to catch another Pokemon. Though I wasn’t sure that a big rock was going to do me any good.

“And you caught that…thing, in there?” I gestured to the Dark Cave entrance.

“Yup. But it’s really dark in there. You’ll have a hard time seeing unless you can light it up.”

“Uh huh. Well, thanks for the info.”

I decided to check it out. Sure enough, it was dark in the Dark Cave. I couldn’t see anything beyond the bit of light that spilled in through the entrance. Rubble littered the floor. I heard the squeaking of Zubats. Freaky little things. I didn’t want to run into them.

It was too dark to do anything, and I was less interested in spelunking than getting to a nice warm bed before nightfall.

But as I turned to go, something happened.

A rock grumbled at me.

“What the…”

By the dim light, I could just make out the shape of the boulder. I soon realized that this particular rock had eyes and arms.

Snaps jumped out in front of me, taking in the brunt of a harsh tackle.

I pulled out my PokeDex and pointed it at the boulder.

“Geodude,” it said.

So the guy outside wasn’t crazy after all. He caught a Geodude.

“Snaps, tackle it right back.”

Snaps was tough, as evidenced by the way the Geodude flew backwards, smacking into the wall of the cave with a dull thud. This caused the Geodude to retreat into itself, like some kind of defensive curl.

“Hit it one more time,” I commanded, and Snaps did so.

I pulled out a Pokeball, throwing it at the stone creature.

It occurred to me that this was my first unassisted catch, or would be, if I was successful.

The Pokeball struck the Geodude, then opened up, transforming the rock into a glowing plasma. It collected inside the Pokeball, which shut and fell to the ground. It twitched, 2, 3 times, then beeped in success. My trainer card beeped, and so did my PokeDex.

I might actually be a Pokemon trainer after all, I realized. I’m catching Pokemon, battling trainers, traveling the country–but it seems so easy…

I picked up the Pokeball and released the Geodude, then read the information on the PokeDex. Turns out, the GeoDUDE was more of a GeoGIRL.

“Female, huh? You’d think someone would have the foresight to name a species without a fixed gender association.”

The Geodude grumbled, as if to agree.

“You will be called Quartza,” I said. This registered on my equipment, and Quartza made something like a smile on her face.

“Quartza, I’m going to keep you in your Pokeball until we can get to a Pokemon Center. Rest up.”

When that was all said and done, I left the cave, waiting a few moments outside to let my eyes adjust to the bright sun.

“Well, Snaps. Shall we be off?”

He saluted me. I laughed.

Though we walked for several hours, we didn’t make it to Violet City. I camped out at the edge of a pond, able to see the glow of city lights, but unable to travel that distance within a reasonable amount of time. There was a valley to cross, rife with thick grass and trees, probably infested with Pokemon trainers–it was in my best interest to wait out the night.

Snaps played in the water for a few minutes, then curled up near the fire when I went to sleep.

 


Pokemon – Chapter 11

April 5, 2013

I spent that night at the same Pokemon Center as before. We didn’t get as early a start as when I had to be at Mr. Pokemon’s house, but we left early all the same.

I trained Snaps a bit, tackling Pidgeys and Caterpies into oblivion. At one point, Snaps started to foam a bit at the mouth, like he was just raring to blast something with water.

“Use water gun!” I said, but he looked at me like I was stupid.

“Bubblebeam?” Same look.

“Plain ol’ bubble?”

That got him going. Snaps blew these huge bubbles with thick mucusy walls and expelled them with enough pressure to slam into a Caterpie we were fighting.

I congratulated Snaps, who gave me a stalwart salute.

That afternoon, diverting from the path that lead to Mr. Pokemon’s house, we took a slight west turn and then continued up a steep hill. I was headed for Violet City, which I could see on my PokeGear.

Suddenly, as I was walking, a kid wearing shorts and a blue baseball cap leaps out of the grass and towards me.

“I keep losing at Pokemon battles, so I’m looking for new Pokemon.”

Well, naturally. If they keep dying you’re gonna have to replace them, which is equal parts barbaric and indicative of your trainer skill. I didn’t say that, but I thought it. In fact, I was so surprised by his approach that I didn’t say much at all.

“Let’s battle!” he said, and threw out a Pokeball.

“Whoa, dude, calm down,” I said. “We don’t need to battle.”

“Sure we do! I need to get better!”

“What’s your name, kid? Do you want me to destroy your… Rattata?”

A sickly Rattata fell out of the Pokeball. It was young, thin, and tired.

“I’m Joey! Rattata, use tail whip!”

“Ugh, Snaps? Use bubble.”

Snaps cried out, “Rah!” and blew a giant bubble. It slammed into the Rattata and some of the sticky mucus from the bubble clung to its fur. It still tried to whip its tail, however, and it seemed to disorient Snaps. He let his guard down ever so slightly.

“Tackle, Snaps. Let’s get this over with.”

But before Snaps could build up any speed with which to tackle the Rattata, Joey said, “Quick attack!” and the Rattata disappeared.

Snaps looked around for a moment, then got smacked in the shell by the speeding creature. It bounced off, looking worse for it, and Snaps shrugged it off. He pummeled Joey’s Pokemon to death, breaking its neck to end the battle.

“Aw man!” Joey said, looking disappointed. “I guess the secret is in having more than one Pokemon. I should catch more.”

“Or, you know, train them. Take care of them. Don’t let them die.”

“So can I have your phone number?” Joey asked.

“What?”

“Your phone number! That way, I can call you for battles.”

“Sure, I guess. Whatever.” I gave him my number. I’d probably just ignore him, but maybe he’d be a worthy opponent someday.

Joey went back to the grass and I started back up the steep hill, taking Tiko out so that Snaps could have a well-earned rest. Just as I rounded a corner, however, another trainer came running toward me.

“Hi! I’m Mikey and let’s battle with my many Pokemon!”

“What the…? What’s wrong with you people?”

“Pidgey! Use gust!”

“Tiko, use ember.”

The Pidgey became ash. So did Mikey’s Rattata.

“Huh,” Mikey said, “I usually win battles.”

“Yeah, okay. I’m going to be on my way.”

And yet again, I went up the hill. I saw a blond girl sitting by a field of grass, taking a rest. I tried to avoid her gaze, lest she do one of these weird battle challenge things that those kids did to me.

But I walked right past her and she said nothing. I stole a quick glance and she just smiled.

She’s probably not rabid, I thought, so I waved and sat down next to her.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she returned.

“You didn’t chase me down for a battle,” I said, taking a sip of water from my canteen. “The last two people I met wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“Oh, I’m not a trainer,” she laughed. “I’m just out traveling. But you’re right. Trainer culture is really weird. If someone spots you, you aren’t going to get out of a battle.”

“Huh… that’s not one of the things they talk about on TV when they advertise the Pokemon League or the Badge Challenges.”

“I know what you mean,” she agreed. “On TV it’s all formal, in an arena with people watching, the trainers are wearing crazy costumes and holding these ridiculous poses. Out here? It’s like…”

“People are crazy desperate to be wonderful…”

“Yeah, that sounds about right.”

I drank some more water, then decided to head out.

“Well thanks for the info,” I said. “It’ll probably help a lot when I don’t want to battle.”

“You’re welcome. Just try not to let them see you if you want to avoid a battle.”

I fought one more trainer that day; Don was his name. He was young, missing teeth, had a wife-beater on and was covered in bug bites. His two Caterpie shriveled and popped under Tiko’s flames.

When I made camp for the night, a few hours later, I realized that my journey was going to be filled with interesting, or perhaps insane, people.


Pokemon – Chapter 10

April 1, 2013

“Okay, Gold,” I said. “You can do this.”

I was standing outside Lyra’s home. Trying to get the courage up to face her, and also processing what had just happened at my own home.

Mom had “offered” to take care of some of my funds for the trip. You know how Assmunch lost some of his money when I beat him in battle? Every time I won, Mom would get some of the money for safekeeping. That way, if I lost a battle, I wouldn’t lose too much money.

The downside was that Mom was probably going to spend my hard-earned credits on booze and drugs. Hopefully, and this is why I did it, she’d be able to eat as well.

I breathed in and out, psyching myself up. I could do this–I knew I could. I just had to shut off that one part of my brain that actively made me out to be the stupidest guy in town whenever I was near Lyra.

I knocked on her door. I was ready. I would give her the news, that I was leaving for a long time. It would be terribly tragic for her, for us, and how we only just became reconnected. She’d hug me and we’d cry, and she’d give me a kiss to remember her by. Something to come back for someday.

“Oh, hi Gold!” said her father.

“Uh, um, is–is Lyra here?”

“She just went out to play with Milly. You can probably find her somewhere around town.”

“Oh… okay,” I said. All of that adrenaline had nowhere to go, so I ended up jittery and nervous for no reason. “Thanks,” I said, and I left.

I looked all over town, but didn’t find her anywhere. Maybe it would be better if I just left, saying goodbye to no one, like a lone Houndour.

Yeah, my stupid teenage brain said, it’s best to be a loner. Better get a move on.

And as I stepped outside of town, once again encountering the wall of grass that represented mystery and danger, I ran into Lyra.

“Gold! Hey! I was waiting for you.”

Of course.

“Hi, Lyra,” I said. “I, uh, was looking for you, actually.”

“Oh! Haha! Sorry, maybe I should have stayed put.”

“It’s okay,” I said, wishing I could just stare at Lyra and her beauty, but unable to meet her eye. “Um, I was going to tell you that I’m like… leaving.”

“Yeah, Professor Elm told me you were thinking about doing the Badge Challenge! That’s so cool.”

“I–yeah, I didn’t tell him I was doing it for sure though. I just said I might.”

“Oh,” she said, knowingly, “He’s smarter than he seems. He knew you’d go for it. And so did I. You’re real trainer material, you know?”

“Huh? I don’t know about that…”

“Well,” she said, stepping closer, “Some of us pay closer attention to you than you realize. In a good way. And we can tell that you have some talent.”

“I really don’t know the first thing, a-about… Pokemon.” I shrank as she approached, terror burning in my stomach.

“We all need a teacher sometimes,” she whispered. Then she took my hand. “Come on! Let’s catch a Pokemon!”

And she pulled me into the grass.

She gave me a rundown that I basically knew, but had never done, for obvious reasons. She had Milly tackle a Sentret a couple times, then she threw a Pokeball at the quivering little thing and after a few moments, it beeped and registered the Sentret under Lyra’s name.

“See?” she said. “Easy. Weaken the Pokemon you want to catch, then throw a Pokeball at it. Though, I hear if you poison or put a Pokemon to sleep, it makes it easier to catch them.”

She reached into her bag and produced five Pokeballs, then handed them to me.

“A going-away present,” she said, when I tried to say no.

“Fine. Thanks,” I said, embarrassed and uncomfortable, but still enjoying my time with her.

“Now you try,” she said. “I’ll watch.”

The pressure was on, but somehow, I did well. We walked for a few minutes until another Sentret popped out.

“Tiko,” I said. “Tackle it once.”

Tiko puffed an acknowledgment and hit the Sentret hard. I threw the Pokeball and that’s all it took. I caught a Sentret.

The PokeDex chimed shortly after my Trainer Card interfaced with the Pokeball. I read the entry, which was mildly interesting, and put the PokeDex in my backpack. When I went to put the Pokeball in with it, Lyra stopped me.

“One more going away present,” she said. There was a mischievous glint in her eye that was the most attractive thing I had ever seen in the world. I think my mouth hung open while I got lost.

She turned away, rummaging through her bag, and she pulled out a Pokeball.

“Your first trade,” she said. “If you want. Would you like to trade your newly acquired Sentret for my Squirtle?”

“A–a Squirtle!?” I gasped. Squirtle were rare. The last known was somewhere in Kanto, the country east of Johto, where I lived.

“I take it you’re impressed,” she said, still grinning.

“I–I… why would you trade that for a Sentret? That’s not an even trade at all.”

I never thought I would see what I did just then. Lyra blushed. She turned away from me. I was sure of it. I would spend the next several nights wondering what it meant and if maybe there was a mutual affection in that gesture.

“I’m… well, I thought if you encountered Assmunch again… You know, he might be dangerous, and Squirtle has great defenses. He might protect you if Assmunch gets the jump on you.”

I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say.

“Bu–but, that’s so nice of you,” I managed.

“Just take care of him,” she said.

“You know I will, of course, yes,” I stammered. “I can’t even think of how to repay you…”

“Don’t even think about it,” she ordered.

“Yes’m.”

She giggled. I handed my Pokeball to her and she held out hers. We each held the Pokeballs together, waited until our Trainer Cards beeped, then I took hers and she took mine.

“Go on,” she urged, “Say hi.”

I pushed the button and the ball opened. A moment later, the Squirtle was standing at my feet, looking up at me.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Snaps,” she said, a note of longing in her voice.

“Hi, Snaps. I’m Gold. This is Tiko.”

They sniffed at each other, then Snaps patted Tiko on the head.

“Snaps,” Lyra said, “Gold is your new trainer. Be good to him.”

Snaps looked up at me with his big eyes. His blue skin was scaly and slick with dew. His brown and yellow shell covered most of his body. His look was skeptical, as if he wasn’t sure I was worth his time, but after a moment, he stood to attention and saluted.

“Ha!” I said, surprised.

Lyra was laughing.

“I taught him that! I’m so glad he remembers.”

We stood around, interacting with the Pokemon and growing more comfortable in one another’s presence, but we hit a lull in the conversation. I knew it was time to go.

“I should probably be on my way,” I said.

“Yeah,” she replied. “My dad always says the best time to start something is right now.”

“That’s a good saying.”

“Yeah…”

We were quiet for a moment. I didn’t really want to leave at that moment.

But Milly made the call. She started tugging on Lyra’s leg.

“Well, I’m actually headed this way. I have something to do. Maybe you can catch up to me.”

Lyra gave me a quick hug–too quick–and took off toward Cherrygrove.

I stood and watched her as she went ahead. I’ll hold on to her, I thought to myself, after I’ve proven myself. I’ll become someone more deserving of her affection.

“So,” I said. “Who wants to walk with me?”

Tiko yawned. Snaps raised his hand.