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Seiren

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by canisaries, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Hi Serebii! I'm finally posting my first multiparter on here. This is Seiren, a complete rewrite of Agápe, an older story which I'd say I consider my first "serious" one.

    If you don't know me, and you likely don't: I'm Canis, and I write Twitch Plays Pokémon fanfiction. Now before you click away and never ever return, I very much try to make my stories readable to non-TPP audiences, and I'm just as interested (if not more) in having people unfamiliar with the lore read and give their thoughts on my stories. To be fair, it's not like my universe is that attached to the common interpretations of the TPP fandom to begin with.

    And with that out of the way, a word on the content: The current rating of this fic is teen, but that may be subject to change. The story and its contents aren't 100% set in stone yet, so I can't say what might be featured in the future - however, I'll be sure to warn of any mature content in the post and I'll promise to come update this when it's needed. Until then, I can say that this story will at least contain strong language, violence and immoral actions. For context, the protagonist is kind of a serial killer, so... there. (Yeah, the same one featured in Vivarium, the oneshot I posted here a while ago! Although this story takes place way before that.)

    And with THAT out of the way, we can finally get started. This is Seiren. Any comments or reviews are greatly appreciated, and as I'm still relatively new on this forum, let me know if something needs to be changed. I know I haven't had time to review anyone else's works on here yet, but I'm intending to do so soon. Enjoy.

    ---

    [​IMG]

    S E I R E N

    Synopsis:
    Red isn't too happy about Helix's new celebrity crush. Therefore, action must be taken.

    Genre:
    Drama

    Started:
    9 June 2018

    Status:
    Ongoing

    Length:
    N/A

    ---

    I N D E X

    PROLOGUE

    (you're here)

    CHAPTER 1
    The New Him


    CHAPTER 2
    Sweet Schemes


    CHAPTER 3
    First Bite


    CHAPTER 4
    Trying Again


    CHAPTER 5
    Lust for Blood and Prawns


    CHAPTER 6
    I Celadon't Want to Be Here


    CHAPTER 7
    Whitefighting

    CHAPTER 8

    (coming soon)

    ---

    PROLOGUE


    ---
    Ding!

    The bell’s ring pierces the back of my skull.

    He needs something.

    I drop the book and flip over to look at the water tank. He stares back with His gray-yellow eyes, His tentacle still lying on the button, too tired to pull back again. My heartbeat surges. Is this it? Is it happening now?

    I bounce out of bed as quickly as any persian on its prey and shuffle to the tank. There’s delay even in the movement and focus of His eyes.

    “My lord, what do You need?” I ask. It could be just another false alarm, but an ominous cold resides in my core. It only grows stronger with each passing second and each new observation on how terrible He looks right now.

    A tip of one tentacle sluggishly rises, prompting me to dive my arms into the lukewarm water and lift up the elderly omastar. Splashes paint dark spots onto my shirt and the towels covering the floor. He breaks the surface, flattening as the upthrust of the fluid disappears. It happens every time, but… He just looks so miserable nowadays.

    “Red...” He rasps. I lean in, determined not to miss a single one of his words.

    “Yes?”

    “You know I’m coming back, right?”

    I unwind for just a second, chuckling. “Y-yes, I know. I just...”

    No, He’s right. I shouldn’t be this worried. He’s come back once, He’ll come back again. I know exactly how to get Him back and I’m absolutely positive it’ll work. Still...

    “And I’ll be young,” he continues, slit-pupiled eyes slowly blinking. “With much more energy... and I’ll be easier to carry around...”

    I sit back on the bed and lower Him onto my lap to give my arms a break. My jeans quickly soak up the water on His skin.

    What He’s saying is all true, but I… I don't know. He's going to have to grow up all over again, learn to speak, go to school… and I don't know which ones of His memories won't stick around this time. What if He forgets me entirely? What if He won't like me? What if --

    His tentacle rubs on my wet forearm, interrupting my worries. “I know I won't remember everything from this life, but I’m still going to be the same mon. And you’ll be the same person. My servant. That won’t ever change.”

    I sigh. “Thank You, my lord.” I’m not content, but to ease His mind, I’ll pretend.

    “Now…” He says, shifting on my lap, “now I would finally like to go to sleep.”

    I nod and lean forwards to get up, but He stops me with a groan.

    “Here,” he specifies.

    “Wouldn’t it be more comfortable in the water?”

    “I’ve had My whole life to be comfortable. You need Me now.”

    That’s the last push the tears in my ducts needed. They’re freed, as is my smile.

    “Goodnight, Red,” He wheezes and lets His rubbery body relax. His warty lids close, hiding the pale yellow.

    “Goodnight,” I whisper back.

    The silence brought by the conversation’s end is filled by the winds outside the window. I look over at the golden autumn view and stop to watch the swaying trees and grass, brown and yellow. The neighboring houses remain still, their hue only slightly altered by the evening sun.

    The mass on my lap slows in its breathing. My pulse receives another boost.

    A part of me, the naive part, urges me to initiate some kind of mollusk-adjusted CPR, but I suppress the need. It's time for Him to go and there'd be no benefit to prolonging His pain. Instead, as painful as it is, it's my job to be here and make sure He leaves in peace.

    The breaths grow weaker. The time between them stretches out - longer, longer, longer… until the next one finally fails to arrive.

    A jagged grip seizes my heart. I shakingly gasp for air. Another wave of hot tears emerges.

    It shouldn’t hurt like this. It shouldn’t hurt because He’s coming back, and it shouldn’t hurt for someone like me.

    It’s just one of those things I’ll never understand.

    ---

    The trees of Viridian Forest dash by as the train hums on. It's a shame this window is so smudgy - the autumn colors seem brilliant. Even the evergreens look majestic among their more vibrant deciduous peers.

    But I don't need to look out the window for a sight that warms my heart, do I? That's right. I have You.

    Two sparkling eyes stare back from the dark of my bag, their image wavering as the rumbling of the train and the bubbling powerhead quake the water’s surface.

    “You hungry?” I whisper. He continues staring, not yet understanding my language.

    I zip open another pouch of the bag and pull out a green plastic container. I pop it open to reveal the numerous leppa berries inside. He shuffles in place as I open His aquarium, unsure of what’s happening.

    “It's alright,” I say calmly. It seems to make His worries subside somewhat. The rest of His shyness melts away as I drop one of the red-yellow berries into the water and He realizes it's edible. His tentacles cover the fruit, He closes His eyes and begins nibbling away.

    The train slows down to a halt. The final jut wakes up the black-jacketed nidoking snoozing on the seat across from mine.

    “Home yet?” Fonz mumbles, blinking his squinted eyes.

    “Just a stop.”

    “Mhhh…” he sighs and lets his lids close again.

    I look back down at the aquarium. The omanyte has lain down on the side of His shell and is retreating inside. Looks like Fonz wasn't the only one who’s sleepy.

    Quietly, I snap shut the lid of the aquarium, return the leppas to their pouch and zip up the bag. May He have the privacy He deserves.

    It's funny. Currently, He must see me as the god in this relationship. Well, technically, the real god is in that other bag, but… I don’t want to think about that right now.

    The only thing that matters now is that He and I are finally together again. Things are right as they should be, and I won’t let anything, anything change that.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018 at 8:34 PM
  2. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Yo, back again with the first chapter. Rating still teen, some language here and there but the filter oughtta take care of em anyway. Alright, enjoy.

    ---

    CHAPTER 1
    The New Him


    ---​

    I’ve walked to the school and timed it. I’ve walked back and timed it. I’ve repeated both three times to calculate the average and know just when to expect Them back. So where the hell are They?

    I crane my neck at the window, trying to find an angle where I could see even further down the snow-lined road. But it’s not like it even matters - this street is emptier than a slowpoke’s skull.

    I understand that people walk at different paces. I understand that lessons don’t always end exactly when scheduled. I understand people might get caught up talking to one another, but I can’t understand being an entire half an hour late.

    I glance at the kitchen table. The berry basket’s contents are still as vibrant as ever, but the fruit just look miserable, having to wait like that.

    Wait, I hear something! Steps! Could that be Them? The steps are heavy and seem like they come from a lone biped… that matches Fonz. It must be Them. I need to go! I need to see Him!

    I pull back from the window and dash to the door, not daring to waste any time putting on a coat. I twist the lock and throw open the door, grinning at the thought of finally seeing my lord again.

    The grin decays away as my stare only meets a bewildered golem.

    “You want somethin’?” asks the mon in a gruff voice.

    Yes, for you not to give me false hope… I let out a tch and close the door.

    “Humans...” sounds a muffled scoff from behind it.

    Sighing, I make my way back to the kitchen. The golem notices me and gives one last annoyed gaze before walking out of frame.

    Alright. It’s possible I’m overreacting. People are late sometimes. It happens. It’s fine. It doesn’t mean anything happened to Him. Oh ****, what if something happened to Him? Did the weather get to Him despite all the scarves? Did Fonz get run over while holding Him? Did He get beat up by some bully so badly He had to be taken to the hospital? If so, I’m going to flay whoever --

    My train of thought stops as my fingers touch the hilt of my knife. ****. This is exactly why it’s Fonz taking Him to school and back and not me.

    Wait. Steps, I hear steps again. I peek out of the window. A purple mon is approaching. It has a warm wool-lined coat on and a ball of scarves held up by its claws. That's Fonz!

    I scramble to the door again and nearly fling it open, but stop. I’ll only let the cold air in, making it less comfortable for Him to be here. I still have to wait. But it's just a few seconds. A few seconds and I’ll see Him again.

    My arms cross themselves and my foot begins to tap the carpet. Just a little more, relax, but don't get too comfortable, you don't want Him to think you like it when He’s away, as if you found Him a burden or… the door, the door is opening! Smile! Smile, for ****’s sake!

    Fonz looks up from the door handle and flinches. “O-oh, hi,” he stutters. I guess he was caught by surprise.

    I nod and step back, allowing him to enter the hall and bring the scarf pile to view. There's no hole in it to see inside. Can He breathe? Of course He can, idiot, it's just loosely wrapped wool. But is He actually in there? Maybe Fonz actually lost Him and is trying to trick me? No, he wouldn’t do that. Or would he? Everyone has their price.

    “Why are you, uhh… looking at me like that?” asks Fonz. I become conscious of the scowl that's formed on my face and quickly revert it back to a smile.

    “Sorry, had something on my mind,” I brush it off and take half a second to think of a way to patch that mistake. “How's my lord?” Assuming He is with you… no, stop that.

    The nidoking grins in a strange way. Can't name what it is, but it certainly isn't from sincere joy. That's worrying…

    “Oh, He's great,” he says. “Had a good first day. Isn't that, uhh, right?” He nudges the bottom of the pile with a claw.

    “Hm?” sounds from the pile. A small sliver opens between two scarves, showing an eye glistening in the light of a smartphone. “Oh, here already. Hi, Red,” the omanyte within mumbles, and lets the sliver fall to a close again.

    Well, He’s there, but... that’s odd of Him. This morning, He seemed anxious when leaving for His first day of school, even hugging me… now I’m air to Him. Did something happen? I give Fonz a questioning gaze.

    “Yeah, He discovered, uhh, something interesting,” he explains and shuffles out of the hall. “You got food ready?”

    “Yes, here.” I gesture to the kitchen and give more space. Fonz carries Him to the table, next to the berries, and removes the scarves.

    The omanyte cringes at the flood of sudden light, but still keeps His focus on the phone’s screen. A thin, forked cord runs from the device to the inside of His shell. Earphones. A quick glance around His body shows all tentacles intact and no cracks in the shell. Nothing physical is off.

    Fonz taps His shell with his claw. When He looks up, somewhat annoyed, the nidoking smiles and pushes the berry basket closer.

    “Oh, thanks,” He replies, nabs an oran and begins nibbling it, eyes still locked to the screen.

    “What’s He watching?” I ask Fonz, slowly circling behind my lord. The screen’s image finally comes to view, but it only raises more questions.

    Bright colors, primarily pink and violet, flash in striped patterns as a big-eyed squid-like mon moves around in the foreground. Its mantle is pink, lined with a transparent coating and containing glowing markings that resemble a shining star. Its lower half quite strongly resembles an omanyte’s, only with the beak being pink instead of beige and it situated above the tentacles. In addition to the eight normal ones, two longer, glassy tentacles extend from right below the mantle. They sway along with the mon’s dancing, their posterior edges somewhat serrated.

    “Think it’s a pop star of some kind,” Fonz responds as he returns the scarves and his own coat to their place the hall. “Forgot her name, but apparently she’s all the rage now. With the girls of the class, anyway...”

    She…?

    “What kind of mon is that?” I ask, trying to think through all the nature documentaries I’ve seen. “Is that even real?”

    “Pretty sure it is. She’s Unovan, but I’m not sure if the species is. Looks like a psychic type… or maybe that’s just the visuals.”

    And water type would make sense for a cephalopod… but not all mon are typed how you'd expect.

    The omanyte finishes His oran and swipes another. One of His arms briefly taps the table, I guess along to the beat. I lean to look at His face. His gaze is unchanging, like a mannequin’s. It’s like He's… hypnotized.

    The doorbell rings, snapping me back to reality - but unfortunately, not Him. Fonz goes to answer the door. Is it Abe there? I thought he said he would come home later today. But who else could it…

    Right as Fonz opens the lock, I remember.

    “Foooonz! How are you, my mon?” shouts a familiar pidgeot, excited to see his old teammate again.

    Right, Jess was supposed to come today. I totally forgot. If only things that disappear in your memory would disappear in real life, too.

    “Good to see you, Jess!” responds Fonz, though his tone is a bit forced. “Been well?”

    “As well as ever! Gettin’ paid, gettin’ laid and... actually, sorry, but could you let me in now? It's cold as jynx tits out here.”

    “Right, sure.” Fonz smiles and steps aside to let the bird hop out of the hall and into my view. Jess shakes a few excess snowflakes off himself, then pulls out a smartphone from the pouch attached to his leg. Using its dark screen as a mirror, he checks his red-and-gold crest and swipes the remaining white particles off with a feather. He grimaces as his gloved foot returns the phone to the pouch.

    I check on my lord. Still entranced.

    “Red! Yo! Miss your ace?” Jess shouts, forcing me to meet his golden eyes. They flick up and down. “I see you’re still working out! You look good, dude.”

    He flits to the table, paying minimal attention to things he might knock over with his well-groomed tail feathers. He offers the wrist of his wing to me for something I don’t figure out before he gives up - a fist bump.

    “Nice to see you too, Jess,” I greet, smiling, because I probably should.

    The bird nods and turns to the berry basket. “Whoa, you got this for me and everything?” he gushes, spreading his wings. “Aww, you didn’t need to do that… but thanks, bros!” He swipes a pecha, but stops to look at the omanyte next to him. “That’s Helix? What happened to Him?”

    “Reincarnation,” I answer flatly. You know He does that.

    “Really? When?”

    “Three months ago. He… His lifespan ran out.” I clench my teeth and hope Jess asks no further questions. I don’t want to be reminded, even if He is back now.

    “Huh… so, what’s He watching?” Jess leaps to His side of the table and twists his neck to see. His eyes open wide. “Is that...” He covers his beak with a wing, snorting. “Like, unironically?”

    “Uhhh...” I look at Fonz. He only shrugs.

    Jess clears his throat. “Eh, forget it. Listen, sorry to cut this short, but I gotta take care of a bunch of things on my computer,” he says, jumping to the floor. He hops to the staircase on his free foot but freezes at the base, his face losing its usual confidence. “It is still there, right?”

    “Yeah, we haven’t touched it,” assures Fonz. Jess, content again, thanks us and takes flight, his small room upstairs as destination.

    The kitchen falls quiet after the bird’s departure. Only some muffled, rhythmic noise leaks from my lord’s earphones. I don’t think He even noticed Jess coming and going.

    That’s it. I need to figure out what’s so special about what He’s watching.

    “Excuse me,” I say to Fonz and head to the stairs. “Make sure He eats enough.”

    He nods, and I climb the stairs. I walk to the door of Jess’s own sliver of the house and enter without caring to knock.

    His room is barely a room, it's more like a closet. It really only houses a white desk with a computer and a saddle-like chair meant for avian users of keyboards and mice. There’s a fake plastic tree with a branch Jess could sleep on, but usually he just crashes on the chair whenever he’s around.

    Jess, sitting in said chair, swivels to me. “You need somethin’?”

    I close the door and come to him. “You seem to know what my lord was watching.”

    “You don't? Right… I guess even normies have their normies.”

    “What?”

    Jess raises a wing. “Not important. So, that girl - that was Shirlee. She's, like, a rising pop star right now. Big with tweens and feminists, as they usually are. And total ****, as they usually are.”

    Uh-huh. “What kind of mon is she?”

    Jess smirks. “I’ve always liked how you don't care about political correctness.”

    What was politically incorrect about… nevermind. “Just tell me what she is.”

    Jess swivels back, clicks his mouse and taps the keyboard with his talons. When done, he turns the monitor to me. The screen shows an array of numerous images featuring the kind of mon I saw in the video. Some of the mon look wild, expressionlessly floating in an underwater abyss. Others are levitating among people in the streets, sometimes wearing a piece of clothing. There’s some noticeable variation in their colorations and light patterns.

    “She’s an inkay,” Jess explains. “A dark-psychic type from Kalos. They use those blinky things to communicate and defend themselves in the wild, and I guess in civilization they use them to look cute.”

    Dark…? “They don’t look dark.”

    Jess shrugs. “Nevertheless, everyone’s heralding Shirlee’s fame as a giant victory for inclusivity, given she’s a non-humanoid coldblood female mixed-type mon celeb. Personally, I don’t see anything special about her, as her music - if you can call it that - is just as poor as any other pop icon’s. Plus, I’m a non-humanoid mixed-type mon celeb too, and you don’t see anyone call me their squid queen. Not that I’d… want that.”

    Jess is not a celebrity - even I can tell that much - but pointing that out isn’t going to lead to anything good. I still need his help.

    “Why do you think my lord is so captivated by her?”

    “Beats me. He's not really in the demographic. Maybe He’s got a crush on her or something. They are both tentacled sea creatures.”

    My gut twists at the thought. “Crush? That's… no, that can't be right. He's never…”

    “We'll, He’s a new incarnation, isn't He?”

    “That's not how it works. He can't have a crush. He's not the type.”

    “Has He seen an inkay before?”

    I give Jess a stern look. He shrinks somewhat.

    “He doesn't have a crush,” I assert. “It must be something else about this… Shirlee, whatever her name was. What more do you know?”

    “Uhhh… not much off the top of my head, but we got the computer right here.”

    “Good. See if you can find anything.”

    “Well, that, or…” Jess shyly slides the keyboard towards me. “You could do it...”

    Oh. Well, I guess I should try to…

    I take a step forward, but my legs lock in place. The screen is… and the keyboard is… right there, right where they were those times… the colors of the interface, blue and white… typing in the letters, searching, while they s-scream, and t-tell me to stop and go on and it takes so long and they don't shut up and it hurts --

    “I-I can't.” I draw back and clutch my forehead, covering the sight of the… no, no more. I’m not doing it.

    I sigh and finally dare to look back at Jess. He looks half ashamed, half disappointed.

    “It's… fine, I’ll just do it,” he says quietly, pulls back the monitor and keyboard and types away.

    Knowing now that I don’t have to interact with the thing, my courage to approach the computer comes back.

    “Hmm, well…” says Jess, scrolling with the mouse wheel. “Looks like she’s touring Kanto this month. Wanna get Helix a ticket? He’d be sure to love it.”

    My glower clues him in on how that’s not a subject to joke about.

    “Well, anyway,” Jess continues, “I can’t find anything especially odd about her. Your best bet is probably to just ask Helix. I mean, He should know best.”

    “Hrmh.” I cross my arms, peek at the screen and by the results, determine that Jess must be right. I sigh and leave the room, closing the door behind me.

    I guess I have to catch Him between two videos, as I’d hate to interrupt Him. If He feels strongly enough about her, shoving myself in between might damage His bond with me, and I still very much need Him right now…

    I make my way downstairs, glance around for my lord and spot Him on the couch. Still holding that accursed phone, of course. The girl - Shirlee was her name, what a stupid name - is there again, but on a different background. Beige. She has a costume on. She's blinking her lights… are the lights what are affecting Him? I don't feel any different looking at them, but I’m not an omanyte...

    Figures. The moment I start to return to routine with Him and feel secure again, some hussy has to come along and tear Us apart… If only I could just get my hands on her and --

    Dammit. There they are again, my fingers on the knife. My heart pounding. I shouldn't be this way. This is bad. I should go cool off.

    Breathing tense, I enter the basement’s door and descend the stairs. At the end of the hallway, a bookcase awaits.

    I have to go there. I need the privacy. I need the silence.

    After double-checking no one else is coming, I draw out a worn, blue book from the shelf. I open it, pick up the key from the hollow inside and return the book to its place. I push aside the bookcase to reveal a door behind it, a door I unlock and enter. I drag the case back to its position by a hole its back. Finally, I close the door, lock it and pocket the key.

    Always such a hassle, but always such a payoff.

    I take a deep breath in the dark, ignoring the air’s stuffiness, savoring the cool silence. My silence. Here, I can do anything I want.

    I flick the light on. The white-tiled floor, gray walls and taupe shelves and cupboards appear, as still as ever. I like it. I like how nothing ever seems to change around here. Only I get older, and the jars in the cupboard to my right shift places and get more content… and even that’s only happened seven times so far.

    On the left, a door-sized dark wooden board leans on the back wall. It knows exactly what those seven times involved. It’s been durable, just as I built it to be, how HE wanted it.

    Yes… HE. HE who resides in the fossil propped up on the altar in this very room, the fossil I took to Pewter three months ago to create another life for Him. The fossil I found all those years ago in Mt Moon, the one that changed my life forever - for the better.

    I dare not turn my head and face HIM again. I don’t want to disturb HIM and I’m not ready for an eighth time yet, which HE would ask for and I would not be able to refuse. I’ll focus on that some other day. Right now, I have Him to worry about.

    I go to the right side of the room to meet my various knives in their various scabbards. Wonderful handiwork, especially the ones I’ve crafted myself. Maybe I should make another to get my mind off things.

    I do feel a lot calmer than I was just a minute ago upon my arrival. I’d say my problem is fixed for the moment, but I know I’m just going to go right back to being pissed off when I see Him with the inkay again. Hmh.

    Well… maybe it’s possible that this really isn’t as bad as it seems. Maybe He’ll have completely forgotten about her by tomorrow. Fads go by fast these days.

    So here’s my plan, then. Go to Him and ask those questions I need answers for while repressing any rage building up with thoughts of how glad I will be when He comes to His senses. If He doesn’t, at least I’ll have something to build on.

    Yeah, I think I’m done with this room for now. If things go well, I won’t need to return in quite a while.

    If not… I’ll worry about it then.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018 at 8:17 PM
  3. Marika_CZ

    Marika_CZ Well-Known Member

    Hi Canis! We already talked on discord so let me jump straight to the review here.

    You specifically asked for how Prologue and Ch1 hold together in Review Game thread, so about that:

    You are doing perfectly in this area. Prologue presents a rather bizzare situation and a very unusual relationship. It establishes two main characters (I presume, but it does seem to be the case), as well as Omanyte/Omastar being some sort of supernatural entity (godhood is heavily hinted).

    So your Prologue does its job right. We did get some first impressions about either plot or characters, while also being hooked for more:
    1. Why is there an omanyte god and what is their deal?
    2. Why do they have human servant who seems more like a worshipper?

    Then we have (presumably) short time jump and Chapter 1 begins with our characters living seemingly normal life (except we know from prologue they are anything but ordinary). The flow is natural and Ch1 kicks off the plot (as it should).
    I cannot comment about pace unfortunately because it is simply too early to tell. If your fic is going to be longer one then feel free to examine characters even more and take your time with plot. If it is going to be shorter, then you need to get on with the main premise soon (IMO) - hard to tell since I only have Ch1 to work with.

    About the characters: As far as I am concerned, they are the main hook so far. We know very little but you planted many questions and slowly start to explore them (oh! so Omanyte comes from seemingly ordinary Helix fossil taken by Red from mt. Moon). Basically everything about the main pair deserves lot of explaining, so be sure to continue this way - tell me something more about them every chapter if possible pls.

    About the plot: There is but a glimpse. At that's after reading your synopsis both in the thread and extra one in signature. As I said before, that is OK if you are going for a longer fic, or if this is intended as heavily character driven fic.
    One interesting note tho... The premise of your story seems mundane compared to the unusual (supernatural?) relationship between main characters. Is that intentional? I mean the fact that an immortal omanyte lives together with Red (possibly with mind control involved) seems much more important and interesting to me than "chapter fic about a guy out to destroy a gal's career" description (unless the gal is somehow involved). You may want to change your pitch about Seiren to reflect that :p

    One extra thing - the setting. This may be me being noob on Pokemon fanfiction scene, but the universe this story takes place in seems totally bizzare to me. I am confused about how things work... is this going to be explained in future chapters? It seems like in your world, Pokemon and humans are two sapient kinds on the same level and equal social status? A pidgeot has his own PC with keybord customized for birds to use it (!). Does this mean humans are not training Pokemon in this world? I don't get it.

    Tl;dr - the Prologue and Ch1 hold well together and do their job right so far. The only issue for me was the setting/worldbuilding details.
    The world the story takes place in is so bizzare it demands some sort of explanation about how things work here.

    Honestly not sure if this review is any help, but since you see me on discord almost every day, feel free to ask me there and we can talk more ;)

    EDIT: Whoops! Turns out I am a n00b after all since I didn't even know TPP has its own thing and continuity worth of research before reading! Take the character observations as first impression of the newbie who never read a TPP related stuff before please.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2018
  4. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    So far, it's not set out to be too long, chapter count is so far only in the single digits. Chapter 1 introduces the main conflict and in Chapter 2, Red will already come up with a plan and put it into motion.

    I do plan on showing more about these two and the other characters as the story goes on, but the story will not really be delving much into the fantastical backstory - it's more about what they do and how they live together than what they are. However, I also have another story in the works that will talk a lot more about this Helixism thing. And the ordinariness of that fossil is definitely only seeming. ;>

    Well, the concept of Lord Helix is a well-established one in TPP, so it'd feel kind of redundant to start explaining it - and I can't think of away to give exposition without it being clunky with a narrator like this, that being first person POV with string flow-of-thought moments. If he suddenly just told his life story he's very familiar with to the audience, it would break the immersion quite a lot.

    For the sig thing, I've always had trouble making my stories sound interesting ;p but you better believe the gal is involved. So far, this current synopsis is pretty much just a placeholder until I can come up with a better one. I should probably change Vivarium's, too.

    I am planning on fleshing out this world and how it works better in this fic, it's actually one of the reasons I wanted to rewrite Agápe. Pokemon here are kind of complicated - they do exist in the wild as animals, but they're able to be civilized. In society, they're kind of second-class citizens, which will impact the story later on. This is probably the most challenging aspect to write in the story, as the mon in TPP are usually portrayed as sentient, but the mechanics and setting of the games themselves have them in an animal-like position.

    This is true, but I also want to keep my stuff accessible to outsiders so that no one is required to read massive loredumps to understand what's going on. This is why feedback from non-TPPers is especially useful.

    Thanks for the review! I know it's a really weird story now that I think about it, but I like weird. ;p
     
  5. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

    Prologue:

    I have to say, I genuinely really really love that opening scene. I remember you were asking on Discord for advice about death scenes - you did just fine. "I've had my whole life to be comfortable" was particularly touching. There's some other really great lines too - the one about mollusc CPR, and the one about Helix flattening once out of the water. They just show such care and attention paid by Red to Helix.

    Not sure about the use of You rather than Him - kinda works, kinda sets off my syntax error detection. I still feel weird about the capitalisation of Helix's pronouns in dialogue that isn't Red's, but I'm gonna leave it be now that I've mentioned it a couple times.

    I'm no pacing expert but it seems fine to me. The death was neither rushed nor prolonged, the train scene passed at a comfortable rate.

    This entry makes plenty of sense to me but it's difficult to tell how I'd find it without the background knowledge for your canon that I've accumulated. It's probably fine, it only takes a handful of inferences about Helix really, and in any case a new reader would probably be more intrigued than confused about the reincarnating godly mollusc.

    The story seems right now like it's gonna be about the security of Red's relationship with Helix - not just the existence of it, but Red's anxiety about whether Helix will feel the same way as before. It's interesting, it's different, I'll be sure to read this going forward!

    Chapter One:

    This was another good chapter. I'm getting very comfortable with the headspace for fics about Red Akai by now. I must say, this is an implementation of the yanderetrope I actually enjoy. He's moderately self aware and murder isn't literally his first resort and has other goals even if they are murderous goals as well.

    I liked that the 'reincarnation' is essentially cloning, with the fossil not being consumed in the process. I wasn't expecting that but in hindsight it's obvious.

    It was nice to see some other characters, considering I've mostly read insular oneshots focused tightly on Red so far. It's fun to see pokémon as members of society with their own eccentricities in that very TPP style. Stuff like the little headphones for Helix, that was darling. Jess is a delight and his line about the temperature had me spewing my drink. I also loved the lines about how having a coldblooded cephalopod pop star was a huge win for equality because, you know, that's such a realline.

    Another moment I really liked was Red's repulsion from the PC. One thing I always enjoy is long term consequences for past experiences. It's also a big weakness on his part to freak out whenever he's faced with a computer. I'm gonna be delighted if at some point in the future this is actually a huge problem for him because he can't solve a problem that requires a computer. It does make me wonder how he researched all his murder infos?

    Good stuff, Canis, keep at it. I'll keep reading. See you next chapter!
     
    canisaries likes this.
  6. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    new chapter. rating is still teen, some language included (including unconventional which will likely escape the filter). too addicted to freakin pokemon quest to come up with anything more to say so lessgo

    ---

    CHAPTER 2
    Sweet Schemes


    ---​

    “Oh my Gods, where do I start with her? Her eyes, her mantle, her lights, her tentacles? Her amazing voice? And her lyrics! They’re so beautiful! When I listen to her, I feel what she’s feeling! She’s just so… perfect, in every way!”

    He then went on to describe every one of her visible body parts in painstaking detail. By the time He was done, I was sure I would have been able to draw up an accurate police sketch of the girl, and I’m no artist. I’m amazed I managed to survive all of that without renovating the furniture with my knife.

    When the night came and I crawled in bed, I still had hope. Hope He would move on and begin noticing me again. But in the morning He was still thumping His arms to the beats stuck in His brain and singing, chanting lyrics so asinine they could only be from someone like her. He's just a loser, he don't know what he got, a begging chooser won't get no one as hot. How does she sleep at night, knowing she’s willingly created and shown to the public something so terrible?

    Nevertheless… I somehow retained a tiny grain of optimism even after that. But when He came from school with His phone still firmly held with His suckers, playing another one of those damn videos, the naivety was thoroughly obliterated. As much as I adore Him, the sad fact seems to be that, as Jess would put it, He just has an incurable case of **** taste.

    Ugh. Even now He’s at the couch watching some trashy celebrity news show on TV, just on the off chance they’ll have something on Shirlee. Is that even normal behavior anymore? Fonz seems to be pretty accepting of it, just sitting on the armchair with today’s news in his claws - you know, the actual news. Easy for him to be calm… he doesn’t need His attention the way I do.

    I sigh and try to focus again on the crossword page I grabbed from the paper, the only page that matters to me. I’m not coming up with much for a plan to fix this Shirlee situation, so I might as well try to jog my brain with something else.

    Hmm. I need an eight-letter word that means “to waste”...

    Ding-dong!

    Oh, the doorbell. Is it Abe? No, Abe already came home a while ago, he went upstairs to work on his school project. Doubt it’s Jess, either, as he can just fly out the windows. Not that he goes outside that much, anyway.

    Fonz leaves his newspaper on his seat and goes to answer the door. “Oh, hello,” he goes, but not in a tone you’d have for someone you know.

    “Hello there!” answers a cheery female voice. “There’s a package here for someone in this house. Can you sign this?”

    “Oh, sure.”

    I hear Fonz scribble his name into something - slowly, as his long claws don’t make clean writing too easy. Fonz Akai. The name he chose when he qualified for a free mon.

    I get up and make my way to the hall in time to see a blonde woman in an orange uniform thank Fonz and leave.

    “When did someone order something?” I ask the nidoking as he fetches the flat cardboard box left on our snow-coated porch. Looks like it’ll need a clearing swipe of the yard brush when the snowfall calms down.

    “We ordered something last night,” says Fonz and brings the package to the living room. I close the door and follow.

    “Is that the thing?” asks Helix, raising Himself on the tips of His limbs out of excitement.

    “Sure is!” Fonz responds, sits down and shows his palm to me. “Spare your knife?”

    I groan to myself and unsheathe the knife on my belt. I give it to the nidoking, but only because I’m curious.

    Clumsily yet still cautiously, Fonz uses the blade to cut the sealing tape of the box. He opens the lid and pulls out a large black t-shirt. On its front, there's a yellow-pink logo printed - a star with ribbons - and in white, the words “BE A STAR”. Below the logo, something’s written in silver marker. A closer look reveals it to be a name. “Shirlee”. Her signature.

    An odd creaking noise arises from somewhere in the room, baffling me until I realised it’s my lord, squealing in delight. “Put it on, put it on!” He urges Fonz, who takes off his usual jacket and replaces it with the shirt.

    “Oh my Gods, this is great!” He gushes.

    “...Since when have you been a fan too, Fonz?” I ask, crossing my arms.

    “I’m not specifically a fan,” he explains, modeling the shirt to my lord in different poses. “But since there was no wearable merch for omanyte, I offered to wear some for Him.”

    They actually bought merchandise. So He’s willing to spend money on her. He's really serious about this.

    “How much did it cost?” I ask quietly.

    Fonz avoids my gaze. “Well, it was a signed copy, so it was a bit more expensive than a normal one…”

    “How much?” I can feel my skull heat up. If it's any more that thirty --

    “A hundred,” he slips.

    A hun-

    “Excuse me for a moment,” I say between my teeth and turn around.

    “I-It's worth the price! I made Him promise to do all of His homework --" Fonz tries, but I’ve already gone to the basement stairs and started descending. I walk all the way to the hidden door, make sure he hasn't followed me, take care of the whole bookcase business and enter.

    As the door touches its frame and the silencer circuit - the brilliant Helixian invention - closes, I’m freed.

    “A ****ing hundred!” I scream, throat burning, fingernails buried in scalp. “Mewfuckin’ Arceus and Dome’s dickhairs! ****!”

    Ohhh, but Red, it’s not like you can’t afford it. **** off. It’s not about that. It’s about Him caring so much about some bimbo that He’d throw a full hundred at her with no care what others might think of it. That means He’s far more than just a casual fan. And that means this **** is going to continue for a loooong time. And I still have no idea on how to fix this - without going to jail or getting shot, that is.

    And it was a hundred. ****'s sake. I guess I know how Rechsal felt when his son Ichal ran away after asking for his inheritance in advance. Ran away, wasted the money on luxuries and prostitutes, lost everything and returned to his father to tell the tale. Only unlike Rechsal, I can't rip the bastard’s face open and serve his eyeballs to the rest of the family.

    I could never hurt Him. It's not His fault, anyway. It's the whore’s fault for brainwashing Him like this. How does she manage to manipulate Him so? What does she do?

    ...Hold on. Rechsal. His grandfather, Karagi. Karagi was a great warlord, terrorizing the neighboring nation Turav, until the end of his reign came with a fatal mistake…

    Turav’s king knew that much of Karagi’s success came from his wife, Nael. Nael, while physically weak as women were, was sharp-minded and helped Karagi find any flaws in his plans. Turav ordered an assassination which was successful, but Karagi had already learned too much from Nael and was undefeatable.

    Then the king had an idea. When Karagi was looking for a new wife, he sent in a female most reminiscent of Nael as a spy, whom the warlord then married. Turav’s king knew Karagi didn't allow anyone close to him any contact to the other nations, so exchanging intel was not an option - instead, he ordered the woman to poison Karagi’s mind with the worst of techniques. Karagi, so used to listening to Nael, really did take the advice, and so came his downfall.

    What if I were to get close to Shirlee and poison her mind with revolutionary ideas that made her repulsive to my lord? If her career’s ruined in the process, that's just a plus. It's an outlandish idea, but perfectly legal. Finally my knowledge of Helixian history helps me with a real life problem!

    But how will I get close to her? Pop stars take great caution so that not just any creep can get within mouthbreathing distance. They have fan interactions at concerts and other events, but those are pretty short-lived, only lasting for a signature or two. I’d need to gain her personal trust before she'd let me see her.

    I’ve got it. Fanmail. I’ll send her letters upon letters of manipulation masked as loving support and cheer. Eventually, she’ll respond, and I’ll keep sending her those letters until she wishes to see me in person. Face to face, influencing her will be even easier.

    The pessimistic side of me buries his face in his palms at the absurdity of this idea, but acknowledges that it really is the only way I can affect this situation. My optimistic side is already grinning at the satisfaction gained from pushing the whore down the stairs of her career. Then there’ll be no more ignoring or squandering from my lord.

    Oh, “squander". That was the word for the crossword. Gotta remember that when I get back upstairs.

    ---

    “...You, uhh, happy about something?” Fonz asks.

    I lean onto the back of the couch, hunched over my lord, who appears to be watching yet another video. “What do you mean?”

    “You’re grinning so much,” Fonz says. “It’s… pretty creepy. Are you planning something?”

    “Why, yes, I am,” I reply, circling around the couch and taking a seat, earning a split-second glance from the omanyte. “I’ve come up with something fun for all of Us to do together.”

    He’s visibly unnerved. Tch. And here I thought he trusted me.

    I place a hand on my lord’s shell and give Him a gentle nudge. He pauses His video and yanks out his earphones.

    I smile wider again. “My lord, you really like that Shirlee, don’t you?”

    “Uhh, yeah I do!” Already He seems excited at the mere mention of His idol. I’d feel delight at His joy if it wasn’t there for all the wrong reasons.

    “Have you considered personally telling her just how much you do?”

    “I have daydreams about that!” Wow, He’s flailing His hind tentacles just like a growlithe pup wags its tail. Maybe He learned that from a schoolmate.

    “Well… you could always send a letter,” I coyly suggest.

    His arms freeze. “A letter? Like, A-B-C?”

    “N-no, my lord. I mean as in… a piece of paper with a message.”

    “Ohh, right, right, yeah, those. But why don’t I just send an email?”

    The thought of the white screen chills my body, but I quickly bring myself back to reality. “Oh, emails are so impersonal and soulless… you don’t have the choice of color, writing style, glitter --”

    Ah, ****. That may have made my condescension too obvious. Luckily, my lord didn’t seem to pick it up, even if Fonz did, based on his disapprovingly narrowing eyes.

    “Actually, you do, if you just put in images,” the omanyte instead comments.

    Ugh, right, technology’s come a long way and all that ****. “But, my lord, going to the trouble of hand-crafting a message and sending it through the slow path shows how much effort You’re willing to put in for her. Wouldn’t she appreciate that extra effort, my lord?”

    “Oh, you’re right. Let’s do it!”

    “Wonderful. You’ll get to use what You’ve learned in school so far, too, and learn even more. We just need to find out where exactly the letter should be sent to...” I turn to Fonz. “I take it you’ll help with that, as He can’t fully read yet.”

    “Mm-hm,” he nods with a smile. It appears he’s warming up to the idea.

    “Perfect. You two figure that out, while I go find Us some materials.” I turn to head off, but Fonz gets up from his chair.

    “Could I have a word with you first?”

    Ugh. “Yes, of course.”

    He leads me to the downstairs bedroom - the room where my lord’s water tank resides, as well as a double bed. The original users of the bed are long gone. One dares not set foot in this house anymore, instead living with a friend and supporting her kids through a bank account alone. The other’s whereabouts and entire identity are a mystery. The merge may have ****ed up this family and house big time, but at least it left the bed behind. I would have loved to move in to that room, but my lord tells me it’s “creepy” how I like to watch Him fall asleep and awaken. Instead, it’s where Fonz sleeps. I guess that makes it king-sized.

    Before the door closes, I take one last peek at my lord through the crack. I know He’s no longer a hatchling and will be perfectly fine by Himself, but still…

    “What exactly are you planning?” asks Fonz, keeping his voice down as he knows the door doesn’t block out everything.

    “A fun activity for a child and His caretakers,” I calmly reply. “What of it?”

    “It doesn’t take an alakazam to figure out something’s off here,” he says, pointing an accusing claw at me. “This Shirlee fixation of His is clearly bothering you. Why would you suddenly make a one-eighty and encourage that?”

    “Well…” I enter the puppy-eyes mode I’ve become quite good at during my years as a lying bastard. “I’ve realized I’ve been pretty selfish. I shouldn’t be so concerned with how happy He makes me, but instead how happy I make Him.” I change my stare to an offended one. “But I’m not experienced in being generous at my own expense, so excuse me if my smiles seem forced.”

    Fonz sighs. “That’s what’s happening here?”

    “Yes. Trust me for once, why don’t you?”

    “Fine,” he mutters and opens the door. “Let’s go do our parts, then.”

    I smirk. The plan is fully in motion.

    ---

    After hours of fidgeting with construction paper, practicing handwriting, drawing flowers and cleaning up spilled glitter - yes, We actually ended up using that - the letter was enveloped, transported to a mailbox and therefore sent to Shirlee’s fanmail address. Her site said she would have the mail redirected and personally read even on her tours, which better happen after all this trouble.

    Nevertheless, the whole experience taught me everything I needed to make my own letter, right here in my secret room at near midnight.

    I rest my jaw on my left hand as I jot down ideas on a sheet of gridded paper. Some phrases I underline, putting extra importance on their content. Some ideas I realize are complete garbage the moment I get them out there on the paper and blacken them away with a scribble of the ballpoint pen.

    Let’s see. I need to be polite, but not formal. Admiring, but not clingy. Supportive, but not bootlicking. But most importantly of all, I need to be consistent in the character I’m going to be playing.

    I take another sheet of grid paper and begin drafting the first version of the letter. It's crude, but at this stage, it’s supposed to be. The draft is finished and another begins on the paper's flip side. This one is better, but too unnatural. The paragraphs are all the same length and all have their own subject, as if I was writing an essay meant to be read with the mind rather than the heart.

    At the start of the third, a crushing wave of impatience and despair comes over me. Why am I even bothering with this? She’ll surely see through these lies. But I know things will keep getting worse if I do nothing. The potential of this plan is what's keeping my anger from growing.

    Besides, people are far dumber than what they're given credit for. And I doubt the girl who writes lines like “shake ass, make cash" is a master of literary analysis.

    Actually… maybe it’s a bit unnecessary to put this much trouble in the very first letter. Shirlee likely lacking in wits is not the only reason. The letter might get lost in the mail or Shirlee might actually only read a fraction of the mail sent to her. Either way, the power of my plan lies strongly on the large number of these letters.

    Well, it doesn’t seem to matter much now - three drafts behind me, I think I’m ready to start the real thing.

    I drag away the drafts and replace their spot in front of me with a clean white card. I spin the ball of the pen on one draft’s corner, making sure there's ample ink. There is.

    Finally, I begin the letter. The pen starts its dance on the white, its partner my hand. Beautiful curves from symbol after symbol as my deceitful story is poured onto the paper. All doubt from before - gone. I haven't been this confident in a while.

    Yes… every chocolate-laced sentence is another loop of the arbok wrapping around the gullible girl, and each period tightens up the coil. The unsuspecting prey willingly lets herself be captured, distracted too much by the sweet words to realize her impending doom. And then, when she’s squeezed too strongly to mind anything more, a kiss comes from the serpent - a tiny prick of its fangs, the venom to poison her mind. Her body loses its color and her living force withers away.

    Then the arbok would naturally separate its jaws and swallow its prey, but I can't come up with what that would be a metaphor for.

    There. A finished letter. So simple, just black on white, but so elegant. Now all it needs is a signature. I guess I should use my real one - getting caught lying will not help in maintaining her trust.

    Red… Akai. Hope she isn't put off by the odd name. Then again, she'd be one to talk.

    I slip the letter in an envelope, seal that and write the address. I get up. My legs wiggle a bit beneath me. I guess I have been sitting for a while, and it's also very late.

    Tomorrow morning, I’ll return here to get the letter, drop it off in the mail and come back to plan the next. For now, I better get some sleep. It's the least I can give my brain when His grace is unavailable.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018 at 8:18 PM
    unrepentantAuthor likes this.
  7. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    surprise surprise, a miracle happened and i got a whopping 1000 words written just today - meaning chapter 3 has become complete a few days before i expected! and wouldn't you know it, surprises are right in line with this chapter... read on to find out. still rated teen. still has language.

    ---

    CHAPTER 3
    First Bite


    ---​

    I push the envelope in through the slit of the mailbox. The letter and the photo included thunk on the bottom, and I drop the cover flap shut.

    Well, there it is. She’s finally going to know what I look like. Can’t remember if I mentioned or even implied I was human in the previous four letters… hope she doesn’t mind. I mean, she probably has lots of human fans. Mostly not my gender, though…

    Although, if anything’s a problem, it’s not going to be my species but my looks. I might consider myself handsome, but approachable? Not so much. Murkrow feathers for hair, tired eyes, body toned with daily exercise. I tried putting on my best face for the photo - taken and printed by a reluctant Jess - but there was just… hatred in my stare, no matter what I did. Jess didn’t mention it, but most likely he just didn’t care and wanted the shoot over with.

    No, it’s no use worrying about it now. I’ve tried my best. And my best better be good enough. My patience is starting to run out and so are pretty words to put in letters. When I'm impatient, I’m angry, and when I’m angry, I get… harder to control.

    A freezing gust of wind grabs onto my clothes and shakes them, some of the chill seeping through. Brrh, I better start heading back home.

    I begin my walk, careful not to step on the blotches of ice on the asphalt of the sidewalk. Gray blurry clouds cover the sky, but it isn't snowing. Just cold and quiet with the occasional breeze.

    I’m not a fan of winter. The sun is often away, and when it isn't, it's absolutely frigid and blindingly bright. I can't rely on calming walks outside to manage my temper. I’m stuck indoors with the very source of my annoyance - people.

    “Jeremy!” a woman yells somewhere, breaking up my thoughts. “Slow down!”

    Upon raising my eyes from the ground, I spot a small boy in a blue tracksuit running from a yard. To the road. With a car approaching. Come on, hit him. Hit him!

    At the last second, tires screech and the vehicle comes to a halt. The little boy recoils in terror, but is left unharmed, much to the relief of the woman who runs to him and drags him away. Damn. That could have been funny.

    Nah… maybe it was better this way. As no one got hurt, no one can call me an eyewitness and drag me into any legal ****. I’m already stressed enough as is.

    I sigh and resume my walking. I still have another letter to write.

    ---

    “Shoot him, Hope! He’s caused us so much pain!”

    The gun shakes in the young woman’s hand as she points it at the dictator. The aimed-at man, his arms in the air, still grins to torment the main character. Oh my Gods. Just shoot him. He’s been a jackass for the entire two hours of my time and twenty years of yours. You have literally no reason not to shoot him.

    After seconds of suspenseful music and closeups of faces, the girl lowers the gun. Dammit!

    “I can’t, Adrien. If I kill him, I’m no better than him.”

    That’s it. I’m done with this.

    I grab the remote, switch off the TV and let my head rest on the on the couch’s end. I glance at the DVR’s clock. 00:12, say the green numbers glowing in the living room’s darkness.

    I sigh. I’m tired, but I don’t want to sleep. I don’t want tomorrow to come. I don’t want to brush my teeth, do my workout, take a shower and eat breakfast, all just to feel His cold shoulder again. The metaphorical cold shoulder. I’d love to feel His physical cold shoulder.

    Why couldn’t it just be the way it used to be? Why do I have to lie on the couch all alone watching some shitty movies, when I should be lying on the couch with Him, watching shows just as shitty but not minding it? There’s an empty spot right here in front of my chest where His shell would perfectly fit. He would be leaning on my sternum, hearing my single mammalian red-blooded heart beat in peace. I would hold an arm over Him, protecting Him, embracing Him. Feeling things I couldn't feel with anyone else.

    Slap!

    What was that? Sounded like it came from the door.

    Slap! Slap!

    I think that's an attempt at knocking. But who the hell would have any business here at this hour? And why don’t they just ring the bell if it’s so important?

    I get up, make my way to the door and unsheathe my knife. If it’s some drunkard or other creep, I may need it for self defense. A part of me hopes that would be the case - I’d get to stab them and see some nice blood in this dry spell.

    My heartbeat accelerates as I reach for the lock. After making sure my blade is hidden yet ready, I twist the lock and carefully open the door.

    On the other side, there is… a floating winter jacket?

    No, something’s inside that jacket. I can see two large eyes peeking from underneath the flopped-down fuzz-lined hood.

    “H-hi,” peeps a voice from within. “A-are you Red A-Akai?”

    “Who... wants to know?” I ask, eyeing the odd creature, trying to make sense of it.

    The sleeves of the jacket rise and bend to open up the zipper. One of them flips away the hood. A pink mantle marked with a yellow star is revealed. I freeze. That’s…

    “Y-yeah, it’s meee-eh,” Shirlee laughs tiredly, words somewhat slurred. “I, like… got your letters and… ughh...” Her train of thought seems to be derailing.

    “...Are you drunk?” I ask, stealthily returning my knife to its scabbard.

    “Aaaa little, yeah,” she answers. “I-I know this is maybe not h-how you thought I would be like, but… like, you’re so understanding, I figured you’d get it.” A shiver of her body makes her pause. “It’s cold… can I come in?”

    “Uhh… sure, yeah, but don't be too loud, everyone else is sleeping.” And I can't even imagine what a mess it would be if He woke up and saw her.

    I let the jacketed mon in and shut the door behind her, sealing the outside chill where it belongs. She slips out of her garment and attempts to hang it on one of the hooks, but misses it enough times for me to quietly sigh and hang it for her.

    “Oh, right, the others,” she suddenly mumbles. “You had that… omamanyte with you who was also a fan…”

    “Omanyte, yeah,” I correct as she floats out of the hall and further into the house. Floats… with psychic powers. I need to protect myself. Especially now that she's drunk - her self-control will be worse, so who knows what tricks she might try to pull. I’m not risking my thoughts being read or manipulated.

    “Sorry, can you wait here for a bit?” I ask, speaking clearly so that she’s sure to understand. “I was in the middle of something and would need to finish it quickly.”

    “Oh, right, s-sure,” she responds, hovers over to the couch and splats down. Rude.

    “Thanks,” I say nonetheless.

    I hurry downstairs and, as quickly as a heavy bookcase can be moved around, enter the secret room. I locate my notebook of seals and the medicinal kit. Flipping through the pages, I get to the one I need and sit down at my dark wooden desk. From the medkit, I produce a bottle of disinfectant, some cotton, gauze and bandages and a tape dispenser. The last one might not fit the theme too well, but it's more convenient to have it in the same place as the others.

    I let my left hand rest on the desk palm up and pull back the hoodie’s sleeve. I wipe the wrist and my knife with the disinfectant, then point the blade at the skin. Faint stripes can be seen running along and across it - remnants from previous seals.

    I prepare my wrist for the sting and push the tip of the blade in. I suppress the reflex of pulling the arm away and tensely drag the tip around to form the pattern shown on the notebook’s page.

    The psychic protection seal. One of the ancient gifts HE gave HIS followers. It nullifies one’s mental presence to outsiders, protecting the mind against any tricks tried. I was going to wait until an an invitation from Shirlee to carve it, as the seal only works until the wounds heal, but I guess I’ll just have to retrace the scars later if needed.

    When finished, I clean the wound, apply the gauze and wrap it up in a strip of bandage, using tape to fasten it. I wipe away the red from the knife’s tip with some more disinfectant-soaked cotton and sheathe it. I realize how long I’ve taken, put away my equipment and hurry out of the room, heart panicking. I don’t want Shirlee snooping around my place or leaving in boredom.

    Bookcase slid back in place and key re-hidden, I dash back upstairs, though slow down for the last steps in order not to appear desperate.

    “I’m back,” I announce my presence, closing the door to the basement. “Hope I didn’t keep you too long.”

    “N-nah, it’s fine,” answers a voice from the couch, followed soon by two tentacles grabbing onto the back and lifting up the inebriated invertebrate. “I showed up unannounced anyway...”

    She sighs and covers her face. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come, I just… I was drinking again and reading your letters and I was so pissed off at everyone and you seemed to be the only person who actually got me...”

    “No, no, it’s no trouble,” I assure and rush to the couch, sitting next to her with the most sympathetic face I can feign. “It really must be tough being someone like you… to have people watching your every move, expecting you to be perfect at all times.”

    “It is! See, you get me. Unlike everyone else… I wish I could tell them off, but the backlash would be horrible...”

    Horrible, huh?

    “Shirlee...” I lean closer to her. Her big, naive eyes open up fully, briefly shedding the fog of the alcohol. “Why not just do it?”

    “B-because it would ruin me, I told you,” she says, puzzled. “And I-I mean, I’ve tried to add some stuff into my lyrics already, but it never works...”

    “I know, but it’s too subtle,” I purr. “Your lyrical genius goes right above their heads. You need to be frank with them. Assert your will. You’re the star, you should have the say in your show.”

    “B-but my fans got me where I am --"

    “Fans?” I spit, startling her. Okay, maybe I should tone it down a bit. “If they don't let you have your freedom, they're not your fans. What have they done for you? Only thrown pennies at you and demanded your life in return. You’ve given them your heart and soul. You don't owe them - they owe you.”

    Gods, I sure hope the alcohol will help me here, as that made no sense.

    “But they’ll leave me…” She looks at the floor.

    She's still hesitant… I’ll just have to pounce on every doubt that pops up and claw it down.

    “They wouldn’t dare leave you. They can't live without you. They’ll see the error of their ways and rectify their behavior.”

    “I don't know…”

    “You do know. You just have to make the right choice. And you being the person you are… I know you will.”

    I move closer to force her eyes on me, then drill an unwavering stare right into them. She will not be leaving until this venom has reached her soul.

    A dull buzzing from the hall interrupts us. Her eyes pull away. Dammit. Did I reach her or not?

    “I gotta get that,” she groans and yanks herself off the couch. My left wrist immediately tingles. The right hand moves to scratch it, but bounces right off as the aching wounds growl back. Gotta get used to that around her.

    Shirlee floats to the hall, slides the vibrating phone out of her jacket and answers it. “Hi...” Her face is guilty, like that of a growlithe pup scolded after nabbing a sandwich off the table.

    “Where the hell are you?” a man’s voice growls on the other end.

    “A-at a friend’s...”

    “Doing what, drinking? You’ve been drinking again, haven’t you? This better be the last ****in’ time. No, what am I saying, it’s not gonna be the last time, it’s never the last time, because you always ****in’ do it again! I’m doing my best keeping this boat afloat and you just keep punchin’ more and more holes in!”

    “I’m sorry...” Something glints in her eye. A tear?

    “I don’t care! Forget it! Just tell me where you are so someone can come get you!”

    Shirlee’s eyes squint as she struggles to recall my address. “Koratta Row 14.”

    “Koratta Row...” The man pauses for a few seconds. “What the hell are you doing in Pallet Town?”

    “I said I was at a frie-”

    “Whatever. Someone’ll be there in twenty minutes or so. You better leave willingly.”

    “Oka-” she tries, but the call ends. She whines.

    Oh, would you look at that, another fantastic opportunity for me to plunge my fearow beak in. I turn my head to hide a quick smile, then reset my face and get up.

    “Who was that?” I ask. “He sounded awful...”

    “My manager...” she peeps. “He’s gonna yell at me even more in the morning, I’m sure.”

    “He has no right to talk to you that way,” I say and walk to her. “He needs to be called out, too.”

    Her eyes widen. “Nooo, no, no, no!” she bumbles, raising her tentacles. “I-I could call out others, but never him. He has too much, too much power.” With those words, she slumps over, defeated. “He’s right. It’s all my fault for drinking.”

    “Shirlee, look at me.” She does. “If a king hoards all the bread in the kingdom, is it the citizens’ fault for stealing it?”

    “That’s not really what’s happening h-”

    “Well, not literally, no - but he keeps you in this situation, and this situation drives you to drink. Therefore, he made you drink. He’s blaming his mistakes on you. You’ve done nothing wrong!”

    She looks down again, silent. I should let her cool off.

    “Sorry… it’s just that I hate seeing injustice happen,” I sigh, stepping back. “We don’t have to talk about this. I mean, you should have a break while you still can.” I move to the kitchen. “Would you like a drink?”

    “I think I’ve had enough to drink for today...”

    “I just mean water. I hear it helps with the hangover.” In humans, at least. No clue about mollusks, as He doesn’t drink and I wouldn’t let Him, anyway. Better safe than sorry.

    “Ohh, the hangover...” She floats out of the hall, holding her head. “That’ll be a *****.”

    “Water, then?”

    “Sure...”

    I take two glasses out of the cupboard.

    “Wait,” she cries out. I freeze. “I shouldn’t take drinks from strangers.”

    I clench my teeth. I was hoping her common sense wouldn’t return until tomorrow. “Yeah, I get your point. We don’t know each other that well yet.” I put away the glasses.

    Both of us return to the couch and sit down. I realize the tingling in my wrist has disappeared.

    “I would… like to know you better, however,” I start. “Anything more you’d like to tell me about yourself? Or…” I change course, noticing her eyelids droop. “Would you just like to rest?”

    “Yeah, I guess I’d like to just… lie down for a bit...” She slides onto her back. “I-if that’s not a problem,” she hastily adds.

    “It’s no problem whatsoever,” I whisper, get up and walk to the kitchen. “I’ll keep watch for your ride.”

    “Th-thanks.”

    I can let myself grin again. Skepticism returning with her sobering up or not, the seed is planted. It may need more watering to grow, but it’s there, and no one knows of it but me. Good luck digging it out in time, Mr Manager.

    I roll up the curtain of the kitchen window, only seeing a reflection stare back. I flick off the light. The darkness outside is revealed, only copper street lights illuminating the snowy road and the clouds above. I pull up a chair, sit down and fix my eyes on the gloomy winter night, knowing it’ll be a while before I get up again.

    ---

    Eventually the car sent for Shirlee arrived. I woke her up, as she’d fallen asleep during the wait, handed her her coat and wished her well. She stopped me and asked me for my number, which I naturally told her I didn’t have, as I had no phone. Upon realizing how outrageous said statement was in today’s society, I explained I had none at the time, which calmed the shocked squid down somewhat. Her ride’s driver begged her to go already, so we simply agreed on continuing to send letters as our form of communication. However, she did give me an address different from the common fanmail one, so exchanging information should be faster this time around.

    Writing comes more naturally to me now, having met her in person and knowing what she responds to and how. I can cut to the chase and press my ideas on her without all the extra sugar. I can even let my handwriting be more casual.

    With this triumph, my anger has receded to a safe level once more. This persian’s paws are staying smooth, claws nowhere to be seen. Just the silky touch with which I’ll stroke the gullible girl’s cheek as I escort her to the edge of the cliff and push her right off. By the time she realizes what's happened, she’ll be halfway to the bottom.

    I just need to wait a little more. Soon I’ll have Him in my arms, seeking comfort after His idol’s sudden turn and hurtful words. Maybe it’ll smart a bit seeing Him unhappy, but that pain will be completely overshadowed by the joy I get from comforting Him. Not that He’ll spend too long worrying about it, anyway. He’s only a child with a child’s attention span.

    And if any other sirens come and try to take Him away, I’ll destroy them too. Grind them to dust without a second of hesitation. Because that’s who I am. What I am.

    Merciless.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018 at 8:18 PM
    unrepentantAuthor likes this.
  8. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

    Hi there, Canis. Here's my short (by my standards) review for ch2, crossposted as you wanted. You asked me specifically to judge whether this chapter was 'boring' so I'll focus on that.

    It genuinely delights me that you wrote real Shirlee lyrics, and they're even convincing!

    Squander! Like Helix is doing with Red's money and His own attention, I guess? Edit: I was right~

    I think it's kinda cute that Fonz chose to adopt Red's surname. Oh Fonz, if only you knew. It's also super sweet of him to wear merch for Helix, I'm not gonna be over that for a while. Fonz is a good dude. Also, I like that Helix expresses excitement by 'creaking'.

    Red's misogyny makes me uncomfortable. Not saying you should change it or anything, just letting you know how it affects my enjoyment of the prose. Regardless, I like the way he decides on his plan. Not sure if I'm supposed to consider his little tale a piece of actual worldbuilding or just an alt-universe piece of faux-biblical stuff but it's fun. I also like how he justifies himself convincingly to Fonz using an explanation which I find myself wishing was the truth. I love the image of Red covering himself in glitter and wiggling his legs excitedly in the process of drafting and redrafting the perfect version of a piece of fanmail it's entirely possible Shirlee wouldn't even receive.

    I didn't find this chapter boring, and that's my official, explicit, and unambiguous verdict. It was weird, and therefore interesting, and there are no serious problems with your prose other than subjective taste regarding tense and perspective choice.

    Now for the ch3 review! It's a snappy one while I have some energy, mate.

    Red really is an utterly vile little man, isn't he? Rooting for a kid to be in a traffic collision is somehow amusing to me, it makes him somehow cartoonishly evil. Up to you whether that's a good thing. I rather love how he daydreams of oddly romantic time spent with a cold, damp mollusc. This guy really just has something desperately ****ed up with his mirror neurons I guess.

    I know you've been fussing over Shirlee's appearance for quite a while. I personally think you've pulled it off okay here. The shift into Red giving her the 'bad advice' is pretty much instant, though. I expected Red to wait for a good opening. Honestly though, I also keep expecting Red to maybe feel a little warmly to her up close due to. You know. Mollusc. His manipulation is pretty decent though, and I like his little manifesto of jealousy at the end, there.

    I was also thinking, do you want us to feel bad for Shirlee? Maybe it's just be being a big bag of empathy but I do feel bad for the lil' squid. After all, the main reason to think she's insufferable is that Red has such a virulent contempt for her, not because she's actually done anything to frustrate me as a reader. Of course, hey, villain protagonist here so it's not like I'm actually gonna root for Red properly. Yet, nor do I want him to fail! He's entertaining precisely because he keeps on being the gross and awful murder man.

    Pretty fun chapter, I get why you were concerned about changing up the scenery and all now because despite the length it did feel a little short. I don't know if it's actually enough of a problem to justify a real edit, but I do hope we'll see some "dates" soon. That sounds fun! Ohohoho.

    Keep writing Seiren, Canis. See you next chapter!
     
  9. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    two words for you boyo: new chapter. feel like this story's moving along faster now that i've adopted a daily word goal. at first it was 200, now it's 250. i've ended up writing way more on a lot of days so i don't think 300 is necessary, at least yet.

    also: pleased to announce that this fic is currently one of the featured fics in the reviewers' leaderboard! this means that any reviews for this fic get +10 bonus points (for as long as it's featured). seiren is also the current fic in the review game, so you can get a review for your own story in exchange. in the words of mr idubbbz: hey, that's pretty good.

    anyway, rating still teen. i'm somewhat shocked i've managed to write this long without having anything mature-rated. any comments and thoughts are appreciated, thanks, enjoy

    ---

    CHAPTER 4
    Trying Again


    ---​

    Dear Red

    First things first, I want to thank you for your amazing hospitality the other night. I had no right to barge into your house in the dead of the night like that, much less drunk, yet you let me in and even stayed awake to see me leave in safety. You’re a true gentleman.

    Then, into the main subject… my memories of what you said that night may be fuzzy, but the message of your words stuck with me. It’s true that I’ve been mistreated and taken for granted. This is why, after a lot of thinking, I’ve decided to create a special video that I’ll be putting up on my official MewTube account at 5.00 pm (Kanto time, naturally) on Friday. I trust you’ll want to see it. Although, I don’t know how your omanyte friend will take it. I hope he’ll understand.

    I’ll be eager to hear back from you once you’ve seen that video. I’d love to see you in person again, too, but that seems difficult to arrange for now. You see, Mr Anders (my manager) has been extra strict on who I’m allowed to see because of that one night and several ones before it. Fortunately, he’s still given me my privacy, allowing me to make that video in the first place.

    Love,
    Shirlee

    P.S. We agreed to exchanging letters that night as you had no phone, but wouldn’t email or some chat be much faster? Let me know your address or accounts. Thanks!


    That’s what she wrote. Or typed, considering the letter was printed out text. At first I found the impersonality a bit tacky, but soon realized her handwriting might not be the best considering her lack of hands. She has telekinesis, yes, but I doubt it’s as accurate and dexterous as the masterpiece known as the humanoid hand.

    For the email business, I’ll have to come up with something later. Right now it's 16.56, meaning her video will be going up very soon. I need to get my lord to watch it.

    I place the bookmark in my copy of Clinical Human Anatomy, close it and lay it down on the bedside nightstand. I’ve enjoyed this reread as more than a timekiller, so I’ll be sure to return to it tonight after my lord has gone to bed.

    I get up, open the door and step from Fonz’s room to the living room. As expected, my lord and Fonz are there, both on the couch looking at my lord’s phone. The nidoking has his favorite leather jacket on again instead of the Shirlee shirt.

    “Hi,” I greet the two mon, and both passingly greet me back. “What happened to the Shirlee shirt?”

    “Oh, well,” starts Fonz, “after a close call yesterday, We figured it’d be better if I only wore the Shirtlee in public. It’s less likely to get dirty that way.”

    I knot my brow, though still manage to keep my smile. “...Did you just say ‘Shirtlee’?”

    “Yeah. It’s what We call it.”

    I suppress a sigh and sit down at His other side. “Anything new about Shirlee, my lord?”

    His eyes light up. “Oh! Oh! Yeah!” He taps on the screen, switching between apps and scrolling. When done, He points to a piece of text in a blue-black environment. Must be Chatter. I lean over to read it.

    Shirlee @officialshirlee - 7m
    Uploading a vid to my MewTube in 10 min on what I feel is an important topic. Stay tuned.

    Love, S


    I check top right corner of the phone screen. 16:57. My heart beats faster. Only three minutes until she crashes and burns. Only three minutes until He throws away His brainless obsession and leans on my shoulder to cry. Only three minutes until I finally get Him back. This is real. This is when my efforts pay off.

    “He read that by himself, Red,” remarks Fonz, smiling. “Aren’t you proud?”

    “Oh?” Right, I should still remember to be supportive of Him. Don’t want Him to lose trust in me. “That’s great, my lord!” I say, patting Him on the back of His shell. It’s only a brief touch, but the sensation of shell’s texture relaxes my core. This is almost over. Just a little more.

    “I’m gonna go to her MewTube now. Don’t wanna miss it,” He says, tapping more on the screen. The blue and black switch to pale red and white. A shadow of dread swoops over me, but is gone the second I remember the phone’s in His hold, not mine.

    Having made it to Shirlee’s channel, His tentacle drags down the screen repeatedly, apparently refreshing the page. “I wonder what that vid’s gonna be about...” He mumbles. He freezes. “Oh Gods, I hope nothing bad’s happened to her!”

    “I’m sure she’s fine,” says Fonz and lays a comforting hand on His shell. “The wording of her chirp sounded more like she was going to talk about some general issue.”

    “I guess...”

    His suckers keep swiping the screen for the remaining minutes. Then, as the hour finally switches, a new video appears in the list. Its thumbnail is simply Shirlee against a featureless white background, looking serious. An Important Message, reads the title.

    “That’s it!” He exclaims, and Fonz and I lean even closer. He taps the video to play and turns up the volume. While it loads, We all stay breathless.

    The video begins with Shirlee’s tentacle reaching beyond the viewer, apparently turning on the camera. She floats further away, stares straight at Us and sighs.

    “Even without her costumes, she’s so pretty...” whispers my lord to Himself. Ugh, so wrong. She looks like a girl’s frilly doll, not a real organism. How did her ancestors survive in the wild? Just by blinking those stupid lights?

    “Hello, everyone,” Shirlee finally starts, and I silence my brain. “I know this is an unusual video for me, but I‘ve been thinking about things and I sincerely feel like someone should speak up.”

    So far not that aggressive… but that wouldn't be a great way to start a video, anyway. For her. For me it'd be great.

    “I know a lot of you little stars of mine want to have fame and fortune like I do, but…”

    Chills of doubt descend upon my back. She's being too calm. Too polite. Too subtle. He’s not going to get it. ****!

    No, no, just hold on. Maybe it'll get better. She knows nothing will change unless she takes drastic action.

    “...the truth is that we are all people. And people have feelings, dreams, doubts, problems. Whether human or mon, whichever gender or age or type.”

    Oh my Gods. Cut it with the fortune cookie bullshit, won't you, and get to ripping your fans new ones. How much is there left of this video? Seven minutes? Great.

    I look at His eyes and find them to be firmly attached to the screen. Fonz is the same, though at least he appears to be emoting. Head tilting occasionally, corners of his lips shifting, he's actually considering her words. But it doesn't seem like the same can be said of Him.

    Figures. His lack of critical thinking is what got me into this situation, and it's what keeps me from getting out of it.

    My shoulders are already slumped and expectations null, but I keep watching. Shirlee goes on to talk about the harassment she and other idols she knows have gone through, how pressures are too high, how she doesn’t mean to belittle anyone else’s problems… yeah, this is just all the same. Nothing mindblowing is going to be said here.

    What exactly did I expect? Her screaming into the camera about how everyone who’s supported her is a sack of **** and Him wiggling underneath my strong, protecting arm, away from the horrifying witch? I wish the part of me responsible for getting my hopes up would be a real human being so I could wrap my hands around his neck and strangle him for being so stupid. My hands seem to agree, given the tendons and veins rising in the skin…

    I force them to relax. I don’t want Fonz or Him to notice my rage. They may ask questions and right now, I don’t feel like answering any.

    The meter at the bottom of the video is nearly full. By now, I’m just tired. Tired of being continuously reminded of what an idiot I am.

    Her coming here out of nowhere, drunk and wanting my comfort… I should've known the opportunity was too good to be true. Of course, in the light of day, she would mold all my ideas to fit in with her career, dulling the corners in the process. I was blinded by my optimism and arrogance. I can't let that happen again. I have to be patient, patient like I originally planned to be.

    I mean, I’m talking to the girl privately, and she's listening. I can still affect her. I just have to find the right way to do it. Until then… I still need to bear His eyes being lifeless and away from me.

    Finally, the video ends. Fonz straightens his neck. My lord blinks. That's a start.

    “Well, that I didn't expect,” Fonz mumbles. “But she had some good points, I guess. Wonder what made her say all this out of the blue.”

    “Yeah, it’s weird,” I say and get up. I should go write my letter now that her video is still fresh in my memory.

    “So what did you think?” Fonz asks my lord as I walk to the basement door.

    “She’s so smart...” He sighs.

    I sigh too.

    ---

    In my letter, I told Shirlee how proud I was of her handling the situation so elegantly and also bringing up a lot of other important points, blah blah blah, all that ****. How I couldn’t have said it all better myself and so on. I did still remark on how I expected her to be a bit more aggressive, though - gotta stay consistent, you know.

    I also managed to excuse my aversion to computer-based communication by blaming Jess. I explained that he didn’t let me use the computer when he was over. She doesn’t know Jess, so she can’t say that doesn’t sound possible - not that it would be that far from the truth, anyway.

    Shirlee soon sent another letter, and this is what it said.

    Dear Red

    I’m so glad you liked the video. I still feel a rush for making it - all of this feels unreal. Just a few days ago I never could have imagined doing something so drastic and out of line, and now here we are. And I don't regret a thing.

    It's been pretty chaotic here after that video dropped. My manager was naturally outraged at first, but as the reactions from the public came in, he saw it was only beneficial - no such thing as bad publicity, as they say. Now everyone is already planning and suggesting “the next move", but I’ve gained enough confidence to be certain that from now on, I really will be the one calling the shots.

    All of this change for the better… you're the one who kickstarted it, and I’m ever so grateful. I want to show it to you in person. My manager has agreed to let me see you on Monday at the Celadon Hotel where I’ll be staying. Someone would be picking you up at 5 pm at your house. If you can't be there then, please leave a note for them telling so. We can figure something out later.

    However, I do hope you can come at that appointed time. I have a bit of a surprise for you and I can't wait for you to find out.

    Love,
    Shirlee


    And now it's Monday, minutes from five o’clock. I naturally have nowhere else to be, since I have no friends and, with my lord preoccupied, no responsibilities. Ones I’d care to fulfil, anyway.

    I button up my pale blue shirt. Been a while since I’ve worn one of these. I figured I should try to look neat for that hotel, as it must be pretty high-end enough to qualify for a pop star.

    After a few more strokes of my fingers through the hair, the man in the mirror looks sufficiently groomed. I check the watch looped around my bandaged wrist. Just in time.

    I leave the bathroom and descend the stairs. From his armchair, Fonz spots me.

    “Is that limo out there for you?” he asks, tilting his head towards the windows.

    Limo?

    I hurry to the window and look out to the street. A lengthy black car sits by the driveway, shining with faint orange from the twilight. Huh. Guess it does make sense for the ride to be fancy.

    “Yeah,” I reply passingly to Fonz as I move to the hall and get my coat. Dammit, I’ll need to come up with an explanation for this, won't I.

    “So… what's up with that?”

    “Well, I met somebody at the grocery store the other day and we hit it off and...” I throw on my coat and put on some gloves. “We’re hanging out now. It’s nothing special.”

    “I can’t remember the last time you’ve ‘hung out’ with anyone… is there something you’re not telling Us?”

    Why are you dragging Him into this? “No, it’s like I told you - just a friend.” I open the door, chilly air flooding in. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours. See You then.” I step out and shut the door behind me. “I trust You’ll be fine alone, like every day before...” I mutter.

    I step down to the yard and head towards the limousine. The driver’s side door opens and a bearded Unovan man steps out.

    “Red Akai?” he asks, opening the door to the backseat.

    “That’s me,” I reply and almost make it to the door, but the man raises a startled hand, eyes widening.

    “What’s that on your lap, pal?”

    I look at the leather scabbard attached to my belt. “My knife,” I respond, keeping my tone casual despite realizing he won’t let me take it with me. I always have my knife with me. “It’s for self-defense. Wild ursaring and such.”

    “You expect to meet a lot of ursaring at the Celadon Hotel?”

    I sigh. “Guess not.”

    I briefly return to the house, Fonz’s eyes tacked on me the moment I step into his view.

    “Guy didn’t like the knife,” I explain, detaching my scabbard and leaving it on the kitchen table. “Don’t play with it while I’m away.”

    Before the nidoking can properly respond, I’m already back outside.

    “Are we cool now?” I ask the chauffeur.

    “Of course we are. It’s winter.” A grin flashes among his brown, curly beard. “Alright, get in.”

    I shuffle onto the roomy backseat coated with white leather. Faux, I’m guessing, as everything is nowadays. How we’ve forgotten our roots.

    Besides that, it’s rather comfy. It has an armrest and everything. Above me is a window, covered, probably because there’s not much to see up there at the time. All surfaces look clean, it’s not too hot or cold and the air smells fresh enough. I’d say I’m quite fine with spending the next hour in here.

    The driver closes my door and enters his. I locate the seatbelt and fasten it.

    “I see you’re a good boy,” quips the driver, yet another smile on his bush of a face. “Want something to drink?”

    “No, I’m good.”

    “Gotcha. Let’s move, then.”

    The car starts and the tires begin to roll. I lean back in my seat, watching my house and neighborhood swipe past. The sights soon switch to less familiar ones, eventually degrading into a highway surrounded by only woods and plains. All coated in white - or gray, at this hour.

    “So,” starts the driver, breaking the monotonous hum. “How do you know Ms Tanner?“

    Ms Tanner…? Oh, right, Shirlee’s real name. “I’m a friend of hers.”

    “Old one or new one?”

    I give him a stern look via the rear-view mirror. “I don’t see how that concerns you.”

    “Not much of a sharer, I see...”

    He exhales. The hum regains its spot as the main noise. Unfortunately, I can already tell that won’t last.

    “You see that video Ms Tanner put up the other day?” he begins again, proving me right. “Stirred things up a lot for us employees. Even me, and I just drive the car.”

    I stay silent, hoping he’ll take the hint.

    “Seems like the public liked it a lot, though. At the very least it got people talking.”

    Yeah, it sure did. It got them talking about how important these issues are and how brave Shirlee was for speaking up. Brave and strong.

    But she isn’t strong. Strong is swinging a wrench at a marowak’s skull and piercing the brain. None of these people would know what that would feel like. They cower at the mere sight of a knife, a sheathed one no less.

    I suppose it’s only a good thing, though. Less competition. Easier prey. Still, I wish I could meet someone who was strong like me, shared my way of thinking. In a safe environment. Or maybe not even that…

    I reach for my knife, but groan as I remember it’s not there. I’ll need to wait a few hours before I can admire its blade again. Once again, the key word is patience.

    Time passes, and buildings begin to appear among the trees outside. I check the time. It's been about fifty minutes. Shouldn’t be too long now.

    I sigh. This ride may be almost over, but it’s probably the easiest part of this visit. I’ll need to act friendly to Shirlee and her crew and try to come up with a new plan to destroy her. All without my trusted knife by my side to calm me down. And she has some “surprise” in mind, no doubt something I’ll hate. I already feel tired.

    Well, maybe it won’t be that bad. She might take me out to eat some good food. This limousine is pretty neat - she must surround herself with the same kind of luxury, and she’s obligated to share, given we’re friends. And she owes me for that one night, anyway.

    Eventually the car reaches the center of Celadon City. The city of the rainbow’s colors - in summer. In winter, it's just another monochrome painting with smears of mud here and there.

    “Alright, we're almost here…” mumbles the driver. “Just a couple more turns and you'll be rid of me.” Good. “Until Ms Tanner sends you back, of course.” Oh.

    We turn a corner, and a blotch of brilliant light reveals itself. My eyes widen in surprise, then narrow to make sense of the sudden break in dullness. Every new turn reveals more details.

    A tall building with strips of windows slithering along its walls shines gold and green in the darkening evening. Behind the glass grow verdant leaves of all shapes and sizes, all the way up to the roof, which appears to be wholly dedicated to the plants.

    As we make another turn - one I realize to be the final - the entrance to the building shows itself. Through large glass doors, well-dress people are arriving and leaving, a fancy-looking mon or two in the mix. In thick, lit up capital letters above the door, the giant structure is named.

    “Celadon Hotel,” announces the driver, slowing the vehicle to a halt. “And what a hotel it is. You ever been here before, boy?”

    In Celadon, yes, but this side of town… “No.”

    “Well, have fun while you can,” he says, unbuckling his seatbelt and exiting the car. I follow suit.

    The driver hurries over to me, glances around the entrance for something and finally stops, smiling. A large black-and-white figure has appeared behind the doors. The driver waves his hand, catching the figure’s attention. Its black, beady eyes stick onto us and don’t leave their target once as it exits the doors and plods to us.

    The figure appears to be an white, ursaring-like mon unknown to me, wearing a black suit and standing about two meters tall. Something prickly surrounds its muzzle. A different kind of fur? No… it’s frost.

    “Evening,” greets the driver as the mon is close enough.

    “Evening,” the mon echoes back in a gruff voice, visible puffs of breath leaving its maw. It stops, towering over me. “You’re Red Akai?”

    I nod, heart beating harder. My fingers reach again for the knife that isn’t there. I trap them in a fist and try to suppress my primal reaction.

    “I am Arktos,” the mon speaks. “Follow me, please.”

    Arktos begins to walk back to the entrance and I cautiously follow, leaving the driver to enter the limousine again and drive off. The glass doors slide to allow us in, and the cold outside is left behind.

    I feel like backing out has now officially stopped being an option.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018 at 8:18 PM
  10. Morton Belgram

    Morton Belgram Well-Known Member

    I really don't know what to say... This is all so perfectly written, straight up poetic. You have inspired me to write a story myself.
     
  11. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Thank you! That's legit the nicest thing I've heard yet about my story, maybe even my writing as a whole.

    Anyway, chapter five is here. Still rated teen. Some violent thoughts, though.

    ---

    CHAPTER 5
    Lust for Blood and Prawns


    ---​

    The lobby of Celadon Hotel is far more elegant than one would expect from its sleek, modern exterior. The floor below is spotless and outstandingly shiny despite its humble material of beige wood. Must be very durable, too, if mon like the two-meter-tall bear I’m following are allowed in - any normal floor would show more signs of wear from their heavy stomps and strong claws.

    Thick, cuboid pillars flank the main pathway of the room, rising all the way up to the high, white ceiling. Three of their sides are pure white, the remaining one facing us, glowing a brilliant green from the lush vines and leaves covering it. Chairs and tables of wood and leaf-green fabric are scattered near the white walls, a few of them occupied by men and women with stylish clothing, talking or on their phones. The bubbling of a fountain can be heard in the air, but I can’t find any water in the room, meaning it either resides elsewhere or the noise is just on playback.

    I don’t get to take the room’s atmosphere for long, however, as the white bear lumbers onward. His stern glances over his suit-covered shoulder make sure I’m not straying. Not that I would dream of it, anyway. With those gargantuan paws armed with curved, black claws, the mon would likely shatter my entire shoulder girdle were he to grab me.

    “This way,” says the mon in his deep voice and makes a sharp turn towards the elevator. We advance to the tan wooden doors, them conveniently opening at the moment to let a middle-aged, suited man out, and enter. The inner walls of the elevator are glass, showing the dark shaft with more greenhouse-tunnels climbing up along it like angular, leaf-covered millipedes. The mon pokes a button among several on the wall, one marked with a nine. The doors close, encasing us in silence, then a hum and a feeling of acceleration.

    I study my travel companion. Arktos was his name. Guessing it’s a he, though with an unknown mon, I can’t be sure. His paws rest at his sides and his eyes are fixed on the elevator’s meter, inching up with every new floor. The beard of frost on his muzzle and neck glitters in the changing lighting, the tiny crystals reflecting the rays in pastel colors. It’s clear he’s an ice type, but does he have a secondary type? I can’t see through that suit, but he seems quite muscular. Fighting? Or dark? He’s rather intimidating.

    Intimidating… surely an apex predator in the wild. Did I tempt fate during the ride here when I wished to someday meet someone like that? Naturally not, as there’s no such thing as fate, but I can’t deny what an interesting coincidence this is…

    Arktos’s eyes flick to me, halting my respiration mid-breath.

    “You appear to be staring at me,” he says, powerful teeth flashing between his black lips.

    I jerk my head away. “S-sorry,” I mumble.

    My heart contracts more wildly. My knife hand is twitching. My instincts are whispering at me to bolt. But I know he won’t do anything, he can’t. This response is ancient, from a time before society, law, safety. For him to be able to evoke this reaction… he truly is a predator. My equal.

    “You haven’t met a beartic before, have you?”

    I overpower my fear and glance back. He doesn’t sound threatening. My pulse lets itself slow down somewhat.

    “That’s understandable,” Arktos continues. “My wild cousins don’t live in the Tohjo area, even if the winters are nice and cold here. Never happened to wander here, I suppose.”

    The elevator slows to a stop and dings. The doors slide open, and we step out into a hall from which two long corridors originate. Wooden doors marked with golden numbers are peppered throughout the walls of both. The wall ahead of us is glass, showcasing the dimming city outside. It’s like a starry sky, but far below instead of above. We’re quite high up.

    Arktos leads me to the left corridor, past numerous doors and then stops in front of the one numbered 931. He curls his right paw into a fist and lightly knocks four times.

    “Who is it?” calls out a familiar voice - Shirlee. A cartoonishly unsubtle attempt at allure is embedded in her tone.

    “Your guest is here, Ms Tanner,” Arktos announces.

    “Coming,” the inkay coos. A buzz appears in my left wrist. The seal is reacting to her telekinesis again. I’ll have to live with it patching in and out for the duration of our meet.

    Shortly after, the door opens, showing the big star herself. A golden necklace is draped on her mantle, circling her three-pronged head fin. Matching bracelets are looped around her longer tentacles’ “wrists", as someone unfamiliar with invertebrates would call them.

    “Red! It's so great to see you!” she cheers, floating back to give us space. Arktos gestures me to go in, and so I do.

    “It's great to see you too,” I greet back, unable to come up with anything creative in time. My lips ache at the smile I force. Yeah, well, get used to it.

    The door closes behind me. Arktos has left us alone. Good - he can't stop me from executing any new plan I may come up with.

    “Please, have a seat,” Shirlee says, hovering over to the clean-looking beige couch in the corner.

    I thank her and obey, watching my shins as I shuffle them between the couch and the fine wooden table. The cushions are quite firm. I guess they prioritized the look when designing it.

    “So,” starts Shirlee, tentacles twirling together, “like I said, I have a surprise for you. Wait here!”

    I nod and she floats off to another room. The buzzing in my wrist softens, but strengthens again as the inkay returns, holding a plain white box with her tentacles. What could be in it? I don't think it’d make sense for her to get me jewelry for me this soon. Do women even get men jewelry? I’ve never seen it on TV, at least.

    “Go ahead, open it!” she urges as she places the box on the table and slides it to me. Slowly, I grab the lid and lift it. Inside lies a charger, a pair of earbuds and a black, shiny rectangle - a smartphone. Oh…

    “For me…?”

    “Yeah! Isn't it great?” Shirlee gushes. “Now we can keep in touch so much better! And, well, your life in general will be so much more convenient too, as you'll have the internet wherever you go! We already got all the SIMs and plans and whatnot, so don't worry about those. Details are on here.” She points to a piece of paper in the box, one I didn't notice on my initial look. I guess I’ll ask someone at home about that.

    But she… she's going to force me to use this, isn't she? Trigger those… memories again?

    “...Is something wrong?” she asks, cheer dropping. Oh ****, I can't be looking glum now.

    “Oh, no, no,” I laugh, “I was just… surprised, that's all. This is a lot to do for someone…”

    “Nah, it was nothing - I have a whole crew, remember? And nothing's too much for you, given how you've helped me.” She winks. People actually do that?

    “Anyway,” she continues, lifting the lid with telekinesis and setting it back on the box, “we can get back to this later. Right now, we ought to get going - we have a reservation at the restaurant around the corner.”

    My stomach wriggles in excitement at the offer of food. I guess it's been a while since I ate. And Shirlee’s right in that I can worry about the phone business later.

    “Sounds lovely,” I say, getting up. “What sort of place is it?

    “Oh, just a general one, I guess,” she replies, zooming to the door. “I didn't know if you had any special preferences, so I went with the safe option.” Her tentacles curl. “Another problem that'll be gone when I can just text you! I love technology!”

    Well, that makes one of us. You go ahead and think about circuits all you want, I’m only going to have food on my mind. And superficially any boring subject you’re going to bring up in smalltalk on the way there, no doubt.

    ---

    “Ah, warmth!” she sighs as we finally step through the door of the restaurant. Already forgot its name. It was something Kalosian, I think.

    But disregard that - what the hell are you doing, sighing about warmth? You’ve been warm for nearly the whole way here, unlike the unfortunate soul who had to give you his coat because you wouldn’t stop dropping hints about how cold you were. If you’d only taken your own coat, my skin wouldn’t be burning with a freezing flame right now, but noooooo, you wanted to take your purse because it went with your jewelry and it didn’t go with any coat you had there. You said it was alright as the restaurant was only a quick walk away and I, the fool, believed you, only to find out you’d vastly underestimated the distance because you usually only went there with a car. And you didn’t want the car this time because you thought the evening and the city were so pretty tonight and the moonroof of the limo didn’t show enough.

    And for the final kick in the nuts, you acknowledged all these things with a laugh, like that would make it all okay and just a little funny joke. Good thing the winter was there to literally cool my head.

    At least we’re finally here. I’ll get the food I deserve, and she can’t talk with her beak full. Unless she’s one of those people. Dear Gods, don’t let her be one of those people.

    “Good evening,” Shirlee says, and I snap out of my thoughts. She’s talking to the woman behind the counter, who I’m guessing is the receptionist. I glance at the coat rack and see mine hanging there.

    “I’m Shirley Tanner, though you probably already knew that,” Shirlee continues, smiling. “My date and I have a reservation.”

    “Yes, of course. Right this way,” responds the woman, standing up and beginning to walk. I hurry over to Shirlee, who’s already gesturing me to follow.

    The woman leads us to a table for two not too far away. She asks us if the table is to our liking. I nod to Shirlee, not that she notices, as she affirms right away. The woman tells us a waitress will arrive shortly and leaves us to seat ourselves.

    Now that we’re alone, I could ask a thing I’m at least a little curious about.

    “You used your real name?” I ask quietly as I sit down. “I thought celebrities like you liked to use pseudonyms.”

    “Elsewhere, yeah, but here it isn’t necessary,” replies Shirlee with a dismissing wave of her tentacle, its bracelet gleaming in the chandeliers’ light. “This place is a hive for celebs.” She swivels around, searching the room with her gaze, then stops at a certain direction, eyes wide. “Woah, like him!”

    I squint my eyes, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary, but fail. The walls are velvety red with dark wooden paneling on the lower parts and the floor seems to be made of that same wood. Small chandeliers hang from the ceiling, illuminating the furniture below - the chairs with swirling carvings and the tables with tablecloths white like fresh snow. Most of the tables are full with people as fancy as the ones in Celadon Hotel, enjoying their colorful meals or patiently waiting for them. I scan each of their faces, but find none I would recognize.

    I give up. “Who?”

    “Can’t you see him? Oswin Lyndon! Right there!” She points as hard as one can while still managing to stay relatively inconspicuous. I think she means the wide-nosed bald Unovan guy in the blue suit.

    “Who’s that?”

    “You know, Oddish Boy?”

    “Uhh...” What the hell is an oddish boy?

    “You don’t know who Oddish Boy is?” Shirlee hisses in disbelief, though covers her beak right after, having realized her volume. “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t know Oddish Boy,” she adds in a softer tone.

    A tick of unease skitters on the back of my brain. It’s true that I don’t keep up with the latest celebrities or even the older ones, and that could be a problem. If I appear too unordinary, she’ll get suspicious of me. Why would someone not in the loop of the current trends become such a big fan of a pop star? She’d look more into my background and find out all kinds of things - my journey with the Twitch, my skipping and later dropping out of high school, my bond with my lord, and possibly even my… oh Gods, I definitely can’t let her think I’m abnormal. Who knows how deep those private investigators can dig.

    “S-so who is Oddish Boy?” I blurt. I need to find out how big my mistake is.

    “A rapper. Like, a really big one.”

    Oh, thank the Gods. No one important.

    “That explains it, then,” I laugh. “I don’t listen to rap much.”

    “That’s still odd… he has several hits, playing on just about every station.”

    “Haven’t listened to the radio in a bit, either. Computer’s been occupied, I’ve had no phone and no car and all that...”

    Shirlee beams. “Well, it’s good that now you have a phone, then. You can find out about all the musicians that way. And hear more of my songs, too!” Gods no.

    Her face abruptly loses its joy. “Oh, right.” She looks down at the menu before her. “We should probably decide what we’re gonna get before the waitress comes,” she says, levitating the dark crimson paper and returning the buzz to my wrist, not that I’d noticed it had left.

    True, I should pick my meal. Finally she’s right about something.

    I open my own menu and skim through my options. Onion soup, cheese plate, lentils, tamato stew, snails, mushroom steak… no mon meat to be seen. Damn, I guess I won’t be trying anything actually rare then.

    There’s no way this restaurant couldn’t afford mon meat if they wanted to buy it. Its absence must be because of ideological reasons. Ugh. It doesn't matter if it's from a savage wild mon or a mon dead from natural causes. It doesn't even matter if it’s a slowpoke’s tail painlessly cut off - people just keep saying it's immoral and despicable. Yet, for a wild mon, it's perfectly natural to maul and eat a human…

    But what else can I expect from the human race? As soon as they received non-stop shelter, safety and food, they begun to worry about all kinds of non-issues - rights of the poor and weak, rights of mon, equality for all… it makes me sick. Only a few beings are like me, unbridled by feelings of pity or guilt. We are the ones truly strong, yet the blind continue to rule. We are the ones who remember our roots and the fact that this civilization was built by humans, not mon. If mon truly were our equals, they'd have been the ones to craft the first kingdom.

    No need to waste time dwelling on that, though. In due time, HE will merge with me and return the world to its rightful state. When that day comes, I will feed on anything and anyone I want.

    “Picked anything yet?” Shirlee’s voice asks, bursting my thought bubble. I look up and see her staring at me, her menu closed on the table already.

    “Uhh…” I speed through my options again. “I think I’ll have the prawns.” Because it’s flesh, it isn't snails and I’m okay with prawns. My lord likes them far more than me, though.

    “Me too!” she laughs. “I guess it’s kind of a cephalopod thing...”

    Please, you hardly count. I haven’t seen you in water even once and you barely use your tentacles for anything.

    Soon after, the waitress arrives, asking if we’re ready to order. Yes, prawns for both, Shirlee tells her. Appetizers? Shirlee declines, says we only have limited time. What would we like to drink?

    “Grepa wine for me, and, uhh…” Shirlee stops to stare at me. “How old were you again? Are you allowed to drink alcohol?”

    “Eighteen. So I could, but I don't really want to.”

    “So, like… soda for you, then, or --"

    “Water. Just water. Please.” I may be from Pallet Town, but I’m not going to order a common soda from a high-end restaurant.

    “Alright, anything else?” chirps the waitress, and upon receiving a negative answer, heads off.

    “So,” begins Shirlee, leaning on her suckers, “you said that one night you'd like to know more about me… does that still stand?”

    Well, it must. “Of course,” I reply, smiling. I hope she says something useful soon so that I can tune out and start working on a plan as fast as possible.

    “Well… I’ll start from the beginning, then.” She clears her throat. “As you probably know, I grew up on a kelp farm at Undella Bay…”

    With those words begun a grand, riveting adventure through the life and times of Shirley Tanner. Or so it would have probably been if I’d actually cared. I tried to, Gods did I try - for my lord’s sake - but all I got out of her stories was a sharp, stinging deja vu. I’d been disappointed in the exact same way as I was when watching that video of hers.

    I could try to track down any of the childhood friends she's mentioned and use their influence to have her make a career-ruining style change, but I can't visualize a scenario of that actually working. My lord is so attached to her by now that He’d listen to anything she'd put out, rendering that whole feat useless.

    However… I guess I do know one aspect of her that may be used against her. Drinking. She hasn't gotten to that part yet, though. She’s still talking about her childhood, more accurately her teenage years - or the years that correspond to those in an inkay’s life span.

    How long have I been here now? An urge to check my watch comes, but I have to suppress it. I can't do that in front of Shirlee. She's supposed to think I’m interested.

    I let my eyes wander around the table instead. Napkins, water pitcher, plates, glasses, forks, knives… knife… touch the knife.

    I’m unable to stop my right hand before it complies. The loss of control is troubling, but the metal of the blade… smooth, shiny, strong. Feel the edge. It's serrated, formed to saw through the most stringy of materials. The dips and points are like waves of a steely sea… the demise of any seafarer. Feel the handle. The handle is wood, silky and dark like a murkrow’s feathers. Grab it. With pleasure… it fits in my palm so perfectly. Now, stab her.

    ...No. I can’t do that.

    Why not? You’d get rid of her so fast, and don’t tell me you don’t want to do it...

    Murder is illegal. There are plenty of witnesses here. How many times do I have to tell you this?

    Then take her somewhere private and do it there.

    If I could do that, don’t you think I would have done it already? Actions have consequences, you brain-damaged primeape.

    Like how shoving that knife into her pink, fleshy mantle would cause all kinds of organs and fluids to leak out? Mollusks have blue blood, you know… it’d be pretty exotic...

    Stop. Stop putting those images in my head. They’re bad. You’re going to get me in trouble. Us both. You don’t want to get locked up any more than I do.

    So what are you going to do, then? Stay here, nodding like a bobblehead as this waste of living tissue vomits her memoirs directly into your ear canals?

    Yes. And I’m going to do a great job at it. Just to piss you off. Now leave, I want to think about how great the prawns are going to be instead.

    They’re just going to suck and you know it.

    I imagine a black, satin sack and shove it on the urging voice’s head. Whatever he tries to say is too muffled for me to hear or consider. I pull my hand away from the knife and place it on my lap. As a reward for overcoming my more primal side, I allow myself a quick peek at the watch on my wrist. I now know the time, but… I didn’t check it before, so it doesn’t tell me much of anything.

    Motion appears at the corner of my vision, which turns out to be the waitress carrying two plates and a bottle. Thank Arceus, even if he had nothing to do with this as he is only a fraud.

    “Prawns for two,” announces the waitress as she arrives, shutting up Shirlee at least momentarily. She sets the plates on the table - oh, those prawns look and smell so good - and pours Shirlee a glass of the clear but yellowish liquid. The inkay seems delighted by what's been put in front of her as well, nodding and thanking.

    “Bon appétit,” the waitress says and leaves.

    Oh my Gods, yes, finally. The prize for my patience. See, primal side? It pays off.

    Those prawns aren't going to last forever.

    Alright, I’m putting the bag back on.

    I grab the fork and knife, free of the urge to stab from before. I dig the prongs of the fork into a beautiful, magikarp-orange prawn, some of its juice oozing out from below. Yes, this is good. This is great!

    I sigh in contentment. Maybe tonight won’t be so bad after all.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018 at 8:18 PM
  12. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    I remember TPP very well and I really love this concept and how you've written Lord Helix and Red Akai. I found Shirlee to be very likeable.
     
    canisaries likes this.
  13. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    hello all and welcome back to red's TWISTED MIND. here is chapter 6. still rated teen.

    ---

    CHAPTER 6
    I Celadon't Want to Be Here


    ---​

    “Man, it feels so good to drink without having to show a license or ask some guy on the street to buy me some…” Shirlee sighs as Arktos opens the door to her room. We move in and the beartic is left outside like before.

    Shirlee claps her tentacles together. “Alright! Now you can start up your phone!” She floats over to the couch and plops down, eyes on me and awaiting.

    I stare at the white box resting on the table, just where we left it. My breathing becomes heavier and manual.

    Do I have to do this? Couldn’t I just ask Abe or Fonz or even Jess for help? They know the issues I have and give me my space. But what could I say to her? I’m supposed to be normal. A phobia of screens and interfaces in this era is anything but that.

    Okay, okay, okay. Maybe it won’t be that bad. Luck can sometimes favor me, too. Like it did with the prawns at the restaurant. They were fantastic. Yeah, everything is fine. It's going to go just swell.

    I skitter to the couch and seat myself, mouth in a tense smile. I grab the lid of the box and lift it… stop shaking, hands, stop shaking.

    “Whoa, you seem kinda shaky. Are you alright?” asks Shirlee.

    “Y-yeah, I’m fine, I’m just… slowly realizing what's happening,” I patch up. “I mean, I just had dinner with the Shirlee, and now I’m getting a phone from her. You.”

    “Oh, okay,” she laughs. “There’s no need to be stressed, though. Like I said in my vid, I’m just a person. And you're doing great, anyway!”

    I force a chuckle. It comes out pretty nervous, but luckily that only helps my narrative.

    After a second or two of gathering my courage, I yank off the lid fully and place it aside. The black rectangle nested between cords of different grays stares back, soulless. Wary of anything suddenly flashing on the screen, I lift it up and bring it to my lap. Nothing yet.

    “So… how do you turn it on?” I ask.

    “The same as your last phone, probably.” She pauses. “Or… when did you last have a phone?”

    “Uhh...” I only remember spots of my childhood, and some time during it I think I had one with buttons and such… similar to my burner in the basement, the one I use to recycle after a case. Man, I liked those phones. Small screens, nothing like computers, could use ‘em with your gloves on. They should come back.

    Oh, ****, right. The conversation. “I’m not sure… some years ago, I guess.”

    “Well, anyway,” Shirlee starts and takes the phone, “you hold this button at the side until it lights up, like...” The device vibrates briefly, and a white icon appears in the middle of the screen - a stylized silhouette of a leppa berry. “This.”

    She returns the phone to my hands, which I wish she didn’t, but I guess I can’t do anything but go along with this.

    The screen lights up. It’s white. Oh Gods. No, no, you’ve got this. It won’t be like back then. That’s all behind you. You’re safe. A word appears. It’s black. Hello. See? The PCs never did that.

    A grid appears, of numbers. Boxes of numbers. Boxes. White. Enter the passcode. Enter the password to access the… t-the…

    “Oh, it’s just… four-five, let me… that.” Shirlee’s speaking. I hear her words, but her words are unclear.

    Covered! Screen covered. I’m back. I’m back here again. Close eyes. I’m back here. Come to your senses. Shirlee’s pressing on the screen. Why? What did she say before? I open my eyes, but fling them to the wall as the white is revealed again. I can’t look.

    “You should probably change it later,” Shirlee says. Change what? The passcode? The passcode. Four-five. One-two-three-four-five. A placeholder. Okay. Got it.

    But the white. I can’t look, it’s too similar to… I can’t look. Can it go away? How can I make it go away?

    “Hey, is there, uhh...” I start, lungs still tight. “Way to make the... stuff… darker?” I wave my hand above the screen, trying to make up for the words I lack.

    “Oh, like a dark theme?”

    “Yeah, exactly.”

    “I bet there is. Hold on, I’ll get it.”

    The weight leaves my hand and I can exhale deeply. I hear taps, tap tap tap. The white sheen goes away. I dare to glance, hopeful. The screen is not white. It’s dark gray.

    “There you go,” says Shirlee, again returning the phone to me. This time it doesn’t hurt.

    “Thank you,” I breathe. Actual gratitude was in those words.

    “No prob. So, what do you wanna do next? I already added my number before, so don’t worry about that. It was like the first thing I did.” She laughs lightly, then clears her throat. “Anyway, what’cha wanna do? Download some apps?”

    The flames of before are now extinguished, but I don’t want to try my luck. The best course of action to take right now is to put the phone away. In the end, I’ll look more normal down that path.

    “Well, actually, I can probably figure that out on my own later...” I put the phone back in its box, screen down. I look at Shirlee, at her eyes, finding peace in the organic forms and tissues. “I feel like… we should be together now that we have the time.”

    “Oh… yeah, you have a point…”

    I smile reassuringly. “So, anything more you'd like to tell me about yourself?” I still don't care, but at least that's a subject I’m comfortable with by now.

    “No, no, I’ve talked about myself enough today,” she refuses. “And you already know so much about me. I want to know more about you!”

    “O-oh?” This… will be tricky.

    “Yeah! Your childhood, your likes and dislikes, hobbies, school, all that!”

    “Ah, I don't know, I’m not all that interesting…”

    “No, I wanna know! I insist! It's only fair. So, how was growing up for you?”

    She’s not backing down… oh Gods, I’m going to need to lie a lot now. About everything.

    “Uhh… well,” I start, fingers rubbing together, “I was born in Pallet Town, I’ve lived in the same house for all my life…”

    “What's your family like?”

    Family… ugh. The father I don't know, the mother I wish I didn't, the half brother who appeared out of nowhere… “Uh, single mother, younger brother, two mon… pretty standard.” Don't think I’ll include the rest of my team. They come over either rarely or never.

    “Oh, how'd you end up living with those two mon?”

    A horde of interdimensional voices in my head told me to get both. “I, well… the nidoking I befriended in the wild when he was young, and the omanyte…” I have to pause to think. “I adopted Him from some scientists after He’d been restored from a fossil.”

    “That's awesome! You're so generous. He’s the one who was also a fan of mine, right?”

    “Yeah, that’s Him.” Please don’t ask more. I don’t know how to make my relationship to Him sound normal.

    “Does He know about us?”

    “Ahh… not yet…?” Not ever would be the ideal, but what does she want to hear?

    “Oh, good…” Shirlee sighs. “I don't know if He’s the gossipy sort, but I’d like our relationship to be private. It would just be way easier for both of us.”

    I nod, though the word ‘relationship’ brings me shivers. It's like we were romantically involved. Disgusting. Wait… oh Gods, maybe she might want that? And I can't say no!

    “Okay, next subject. How’s your school? You’re in high school now, correct?”

    Incorrect. “Yeah, high school. It’s going pretty well, I guess...”

    “Got any friends?”

    Someone who I’d like to be around and vice versa? Excluding my lord - that’ll be the day. “A couple, I guess.”

    “What do y’all do together?”

    Hold hands and skip on hills while singing about how much we respect each other. Do I look like I know what friends do together? Why do you even want to know these things?

    “Just… stuff.” Come on, come up with something. “We don’t hang out that much, to be honest, just see each other at school.”

    “Oh… so what do you do in your alone time, then?”

    I… oh Gods, what do I do? Normally I tend to His wishes, but nowadays He’s distracted and Fonz is taking the most care of Him, anyway. I work out, yeah, but usually only once a day and it’s over with quite fast… where does all the time go, then? Do I just sit around wallowing in my own hatred for the world while accomplishing nothing?

    No, of course not. That's a silly thought. I do all kinds of things. I just can't remember them right now.

    Four knocks come from the door. “Ms Tanner?” calls a gruff voice - Arktos. Phew, saved by the bear.

    “Coming,” responds Shirlee. “Sorry, I probably need to take this,” she adds to me before zooming to the door. With her telekinesis, she cracks it open. “Yes?”

    “Anders is here,” says the beartic, voice lowered.

    Shirlee’s words get quieter, too. “What, the time’s up already?”

    “Well, it's a couple minutes short, but he says it's important.”

    “Hrmh…” She turns to me, disheartened.

    I notice an opportunity and stand up. “It's alright. We can always talk more at another time.”

    “I suppose…” She unhooks the chain on the door, bringing more of Arktos to view. A tuft of ghostly gray hair peeks out behind his shoulder.

    I restrain my smile to an appropriate degree as I walk to the door. I grab the handle, but Shirlee interrupts.

    “Wait, don't forget your phone!” She swoops up the white box on the table and hands it to me.

    “Oh, thanks.” Yeah, thanks.

    “I’ll be texting you!” says Shirlee as I exit the door. “Don't forget to text back!”

    “I won't. See you later.” As they were the last words, I had the energy to make them more convincing.

    “Hey, mister,” says Arktos, freezing me in place. Gods, he sure has a daunting voice. “I’ll call the ride for you, he’ll be here soon.”

    I nod. “Got it. Thanks.”

    The beartic opens the door, and a man walks into view from behind him. Oldish, Unovan, sharp black eyebrows. Weird. I think I smelled a hint of cigarette smoke around him.

    Well, whatever. It's time for me to make my well-deserved exit. I can't wait to get to bed and fall to a deep, sweet sleep, oblivious to the situation I’ve found myself in.

    ---

    Then there was Craig. Oh my Gods, I wish I didn't remember Craig, that fat jackass. Thought he was hot **** since he was brainless enough to start fights for the smallest reasons… and then there was Annie, who was just… such an annoying *****, which every other girl agreed on with me. Not that they were any good, either. I swear, no one at that school was deserving of the oxygen they breathed. Everyone was just terrible. Except maybe Tamaki, who I guess was okay because he let me beat him up for money, but outside of that he was of no use to anyone.

    Dammit. Why did she have to bring up school? All kinds of bad memories are flooding my mind now. As if I needed to feel any worse.

    At least I get to go home now, even if that means having to tolerate that bearded grinning **** for the whole way home…

    As soon as that thought crosses my mind, something long and shiny slides into view on the street outside. The sneasel has arrived.

    It’s fine, it’s fine, I think to myself as I get up and leave through the entrance. But as I reach the limo’s side and that nutcracker-looking ass steps out… something changes.

    I can’t do this. I’ve met my limit. I’ve been tortured with never-ending blabbering. I’ve had my old wounds ripped right open with my face forced onto that screen. I’ve been interrogated and played with like the puppet that she was supposed to be in this scenario. The churning waves of fury are crashing onto my ears, millipedes of fire scratch their way through my veins. And now you - you want to talk to me? Inject yourself into my headspace? Dive into the scalding sea and expect not even a singe?

    You’re totally right. He should pay with his blood...

    And now look what you’ve done. You’ve brought this guy back. He’s going to slip himself into my skin at any moment and cause irreversible damage, unless I…

    “Good evening!” some unknown strength in me comes forth to say. It constructs an impossible smile. “Sorry, but do you mind if I take a quick walk around before we leave? It’s a pretty night and a pretty town.”

    The driver’s eyebrows rise. “Oh? Well, are you sure you won’t get lost?”

    I hand him the box and he takes it - because he has to. I do like this power. “I’m sure, I won’t go too far. I’ll be back in just five minutes.”

    “Alright, then. I’ll wait in the car.” The man shoves himself back in his seat, and I skitter off like a cockroach in a sudden spotlight.

    I turn a corner and slow my pace to a more comfortable one. Brick and concrete surround me, the little color they had washed away by the dark and substituted with the orange of the street lights. The sky above is dirty black and starless. The clear nights in Pallet aren’t all galaxies and asteroids, either, but I’m used to seeing at least a few twinkles here and there.

    Traffic and steps of busy shoes paint the soundscape. Exhaust fumes and a moderate chill linger in the air. It's not the most calming environment, but I’m alone. Solitude in itself is beautiful.

    I breathe in the cold and curl my toes as my soles propel me forward. I’m alive. Alive with a frail human body. And that's why I shouldn't be losing control. I’ll get myself broken. Got that?

    No response. My cooling nerves seem to have hidden that inner urge for now. I can't decide if that's good.

    Sighing, I check my watch, barely able to read the time in the low light of the alley. It's only been about two minutes since my last check back at the hotel. I still have time. Shouldn't venture too far out anymore, though.

    A loud clatter rings out. Spikes of alarm prick through my skin and I jump like I’d stepped on a pineco. My eyes flick around the darkness in search for the source. They spot a metal garbage can with its lid lying next to it, but no large moving things. It's unlikely to be a threat. My mind regains some clarity. The hand leaves the scabbard. Not that it would have reached a weapon, anyway.

    So what was it? I should probably be turning back soon, so I think I’ll just quickly check it out and then leave…

    I creep closer to the can, crouching to see better and look less intimidating. From the darkness beyond the metal, something stares back. It could be diseased, aggressive or both, so I keep my fingers to myself and thank my past self for putting on gloves.

    “Who might you be?” I softly ask.

    The creature moves back. The motion exposes the eyes - two big yellowish ones - along with a third gleam above them. I think I know what it is.

    I move back a few steps and dig out my wallet. I sink two fingers into the pouch with the change and jingle the coins together. The eyes in the dark widen and silently approach. I can make out a tiny paw.

    Smiling, I draw out a nickel. If the critter wasn't engaged before, it is now. It lets out a mewl and cautiously speeds up. I begin to back away, leading us both towards a streetlight. The glow eats away the shadow covering the being and my guess is confirmed.

    It's a little meowth. Not a total kitten, yet not a fully grown adult. Its pale fur is somewhat dirty with awkward tufts sticking out in places, but the coin on its forehead is marvellously shiny. Shows where the priorities of the species lie.

    This specimen seems pretty much feral. Odd, I would have thought no mon could remain as such while surrounded by human activity all day, but maybe this one had no desire to learn. Maybe its parents didn't want it to… I couldn't blame them. Plenty of times, I’ve had the thought that being born a mon and growing up feral would’ve been preferable. Why would one want the ability to lose one's happiness purely through the power of thought? Why would one want the burden of a civilized creature, for laws to apply to them? Why wouldn't one just rather refuse to take that path and remain a blissfully unaware animal? All you need is to isolate yourself and wait out that crucial learning period, then no one can sway you after that…

    ...if you're a mon, that is. Unfortunately, humans still manage to retain their potential for sentience. It's a must, as our wit is our only weapon against the entire arsenals that mon may bear. As mentioned before, our bodies are quite fragile and pathetic.

    “Mroaw…” The meowth has stopped, its snout almost touching the coin between my fingers. Its whiskers and tiny nostrils waver.

    Slowly, I pull my hand towards me. “Want it? You need to do something for me first,” I whisper. I snatch the coin with the other hand, then lower and open the first. As I’d hoped, the meowth realizes the terms of the trade and gently pokes my gloved fingers with its muzzle. I nudge the tips. It's unsure of the act at first, but soon it raises its head and allows me to scratch its chin.

    “Good kitty,” I purr and offer the mon the coin. It nabs it from my hold with its teeth and recedes, but stops again as I show my wallet once more. There are probably humans out there who'd act exactly the same way. That thought is somewhat sad.

    I repeat my process of the nickel-for-touching trade, getting to stroke the meowth’s warm soft fluff again. I may be gloved, but the creature’s heat is still noticeable in the cold environment.

    I’ve lost ten cents to this now, though… I pocket my wallet, causing the cat to mrow in protest and push its head onto me.

    “You want even more? Greedy kitty you are…”

    I pet its neck, which now appears to be enjoyable to the meowth by itself, but it doesn't stop its begging. Its begging doesn't get me to budge, either, but I keep stroking its fur. It feels nice. It calms me down. Maybe I should catch something fluffy back at home and keep it. Gods know I could use something to douse my rage now that He’s not available…

    ...ugh. And now we're back to this. I almost managed to forget what I’m wrapped up in.

    Why couldn't dealing with Shirlee be as easy as this meowth? Why can't she be company as tolerable? I bet I could have this cat doing backflips in just a few days, and it would only end up costing me a dollar or two. No time wasted by being bored out of my mind, no past traumas resurfaced…

    My tendons have tightened again. My heart jabs at my chest. It’s all her fault. Her songs, her dances, her fame, her existence. I could end her life in just a blink of an eye, but I can't. She's protected by law and her presence in the public conscious. I have to grasp at all kinds of straws to change her both subtly and drastically at the same time. If I had my way, I’d let that urge of mine go unrestrained - not only on her, but everyone else as well. The brats from my old school, the security making my hunts so difficult, my ***** of a mother, and yes, the driver I’m probably supposed to be back to by now as well. I know that someday I’ll ascend and that will all become reality, but I have to find a way to manage in the meantime, a way to bleed this anger away before it ruins everything...

    A silent, still warmth grows at my core as I realize something quite convenient.

    I have that way right here.

    ---

    “Oh, there you are. I was starting to get worried,” says the driver as he exits the car. “Did you get lost after all?”

    “Sorry, sorry,” I laugh. “I just found a little boutique and I couldn't help myself.”

    “Fair enough,” he responds and opens the door for me. “Buy anything?”

    “A good luck charm.” I allow him a glance at an elongated gold coin.

    “Oh, that looks real. You sure it isn't?”

    “Says ‘Made in Hoenn’ on the back.”

    He flashes that signature grin of his. “Alright then. Let's get you home.”

    ---
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018 at 8:19 PM
  14. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    new chapter? new chapter. also i've given all chapters individual names now. anyway rated teen although there's some violence and talk of gross imagery. enjoy.

    ---

    CHAPTER 7
    Whitefighting


    ---​

    “Bye! Can't wait to see you again!” chimes Shirlee, waving her tentacle as the glass doors of the hotel slide closed.

    “You too!” I wave back, the prettiest smile on my face. As she turns away from me and I from her, I let my face bounce back to its usual, gloomy self.

    That's another date behind me. Still no luck. Still boring as hell. But at least it's over now --

    “Hey, mister.”

    I know that voice. That gruff growl. It's Arktos. What does he want?

    “Yes?” I turn around, phony grin restored.

    The beartic doesn't seem convinced. His legs are firmly rooted to the snow-covered asphalt beneath him. His stern, dark eyes stare into mine as the cold winter sun glimmers on his frost-beard. White steam slowly rises from the ground around us.

    “I've seen the way you talk to Shirlee,” he snarls. “You're up to no good, and I can't let you have your way.”

    He takes a step forward. The stomp quakes the very earth. I should be intimidated - but this time, I have my knife with me. This arbok’s venom glands are fully loaded, and he will not hesitate to use them. But first I must lure my prey out of sight.

    “I don't know what you're talking about,” I say as I begin heading towards the alleyways. I hear the beartic’s paws follow. “I’m only a friend of hers…”

    “Yeah? Well, so am I. And that's exactly why I’ll have to ask you to stop.”

    “I see no reason to,” I sing and speed up. Bricks appear at my left and right. Soon we’ll arrive at a fantastic crime scene.

    “Stop,” he commands, “if you value your life.”

    A corner comes. I turn it. Perfect.

    “Hey!” shouts the mon, his stomps faster and louder. I rush a moderate way ahead, then finally swivel around.

    “What is your issue?” barks Arktos, entering my current alley. “Stay right there, and you'll get off easy.”

    “I certainly will,” I chuckle. “You, however…”

    My fingers pinch the smooth wooden handle of my trusted knife and yank it out. I wrap my palm around the hilt. A perfect fit. Like puzzle pieces linking together, forming a masterpiece.

    “What the hell kinda samurai do you think you are now?” Arktos sneers and begins to approach, paws raised and ready to act. “Put that thing away before you hurt yourself.”

    He doesn't believe that I’m a threat. Good - that means my facade has worked to some degree.

    But now, now is the time to let it collapse. Show the true self. Oh, it feels so wonderful each time! My smile barely fits on my face!

    “Fine, then,” says Arktos, only a meter away now. “You’ve made your choice!”

    With the last word, he dashes forward, but I dodge to his left. My legs are as fast as they’ve ever been.

    “Stay put!” he roars, swinging another paw at me. I duck to avoid and see a window for attack.

    I slash at his unguarded abdomen, but he jumps back, leaving only the fabric of his suit impacted. He glances down to see the vertical rip. His eyes spark up with rage. “You’ll pay for that!”

    His black claws glint in an attempted slash, his thinking regressed to a more primal stage. He’s a beast now. Like me. No punches pulled. A worthy opponent.

    Naturally, the claws miss me by a mile - I’m simply too quick and nimble. He’s quick too, however, meaning I can’t just rush at him and finish this. I have to strike at the right times.

    The beartic bares its powerful white teeth and unleashes a barrage of attacks, all of which I manage to slither through unharmed, though some calls were quite close. But it only spurs my spirit, fueling the fervent beat of my heart and feeding my muscles.

    As I learn to read my adversary’s motions, his weak spots are revealed. Like a scyther, I strike at his chest every time he’s recovering from a miss. The edge rips the fabric further. White hairs sprout from the crevices, and then finally I see it - the red.

    “**** it!” Arktos suddenly roars, leaping back. Is he surrendering? He knows I’m not going to spare him, right?

    Arktos hooks his claws in the tears of his suit and tears the garment right open. He shakes and slashes away the rest of the clothing, then stares me down, snorting and huffing.

    His white-furred chest is bared and… surprisingly muscular. I suppose pectorals that robust are needed to swing those monstrous arms. Those strong lats, too, creating that triangular shape to his thorax. The obliques stemming from his ribs are thick, I can tell even under all that pure, soft white hair… do bears really have these muscles? Do they work the same way, feel as firm, feel as nice to touch? Are they warm? Cold? He’s a mammal, but an ice type… oh Gods, he's coming this way, I better -- no, I’m too late!

    The beartics paw wraps around my neck faster than I can react and lifts me up. I can't breathe! I grab his thumb with both hands, trying my best to pry it off, but with little effect. Not knowing what else to do and submitting to my panic, I end up flailing my legs and lower body around like a freshly fished magikarp in a pidgeot’s talons…

    “Not so tough now,” the mon mocks. All I can do is snarl. I’m suddenly so pathetic. Laughable. Tripped on my own pride and now I’m falling on my face. And what's next? Imprisonment? Or will he… kill me?

    Arktos’s grip tightens. “If you meet my father in hell, tell him I hate him.” No, no no no no!

    He shoves me towards the side, his throw having so much power behind it that I hear a very, very worrying crack from my neck as its bent painfully out of its normal range. But before I have a chance to mull over it, another much louder crack comes along with a shockwave of agony on my right temple - and I no longer feel anything below my jaw.

    My shivering eyes only see white snow below, blurry bricks to the side and borders of an unknown color invading my vision. That's it. That's death. It's come for me.

    Vrrrrr!

    What is that noise? Something's vibrating… but what importance does that have, now that I’m about to --

    My surroundings melt. Their colors bleed, and then they from something familiar. A nightstand. Mine, in my bedroom. I feel my body again. Oh, it was a… it was just a dream.

    The flat black shape on the nightstand is the source of the vibration. I raise my left arm and drag it over. The vibration stops right then.

    2 New Messages, reads the screen. Must be Shirlee. Or spam. I input the passcode and tap on the notification. Both are indeed from Shirlee.

    (10:12) good morning!
    (10:12) enjoyin your new phone?


    Dammit, 10 in the morning… I guess I forgot to set my alarm. I was pretty tired when I got home. Not that I have anything to hurry for as I’m still invisible to Him.

    Anyway, I guess I should respond somehow. I tap to write my message, and the keyboard pops up - white. My back hardens to a shell. Inside my ribcage, the little pump is startled and returns to the pace it gained during the end of my dream.

    This can't go on like this. If I’m going to be the confidant of a modern star, I need to move on to the modern age. And the sad truth is, technology is everywhere at every time. So… I suppose I should just suck it up the best I can and keep going. Eventually, the fear has to go away.

    Morning, I type, not exactly at any record speed. It's great since I get to talk to you. Well, that nearly made me throw up. Send.

    Shirlee’s typing. Already?

    (10:14) aww lol
    (10:14) so what else is up


    Not much. Just woke up. How about you?

    (10:14) gettin ready to leave for viridian
    (10:14) anders said we gotta leave early to figure some stuff out at the arena
    (10:14) (my manager)
    (10:14) anyway p hectic
    (10:14) annoyed rn since this one roadies an ass and keeps bein rude to security
    (10:15) id kick him right away but like anders owes his dad a favor or some **** and he gave him a job
    (10:15) but this guy is such a douche like


    She's still typing. I might as well get up and do my chores while she rants.

    I turn the phone's screen off, now prompting another buzz with every new reply. Because that's not annoying. Ugh, I’ll just bear it, I guess. I don't feel like trekking through the settings searching for a mute mode right now.

    ---

    How in the **** is she still texting? Good Gods, she's writing a novel here. I thought it was supposed to be hectic for her. I need to shut her up somehow, I’d rather do my morning exercise routine in peace.

    I open my phone and look. A waterfall of text cascades from the top of the screen to the bottom. And there's even more above, probably screenfuls. Cool!

    I skim through the lines. Seems like she’s covered a whole variety of subjects. None of them relevant to me, though, just whining about the people around her.

    A pop up shows, saying there are new messages. I sigh and scroll back down.

    (10:21) u still there?

    Oh crap. Yeah, just thinking. That sounds awful.

    She begins to type her response, but I decide enough is enough. Hey, sorry, but I should really go now. Mind if I take off for a while?

    (10:22) oh yeah go ahead
    (10:22) sorry for ranting so much


    It’s fine. See ya.

    I place the phone on the floor next to my mattress and pray it’ll stay still, at least for the next half an hour or so.

    ---

    Well, that was it. That was Clinical Human Anatomy. Everything from its introduction to its footnotes. All illustrations admired.

    I stroke the plastic covering. Hard and waxy with signs of wear, but not abuse. Much has been learned from the words and images between these covers. Curiosities piqued, interests awakened. The sentences reread many times, the latest taking place right now - or before this moment. It’s over now. Again.

    I have other books, a case full of them, but they all have so much that only repeats what I’ve read here, with scraps of new information scattered here and there. I don’t feel like starting one of those right now. I should do something else.

    I set the book on the living room table and turn to my side on the couch. The black screen of the TV stares back. I doubt anything good is on there, either. Just people doing people things or less believable people things… though there might be nature documentaries. Hmm.

    Hey, hold on. What about Shirlee? Has she really been quiet for this long? I draw the phone out of my pocket and check it. She really has. Should I send a message? She’s annoying, but I’ll look like I care and I don’t have much else to do…

    Hey. What’s up? I tap and send.

    The screen stays immobile. Not a sniff of Shirlee.

    Has something happened to her? Is she dead right now? Wouldn’t that be great? It’d make all my efforts be for nothing, which would piss me off quite a bit, but she’d be gone.

    Oh, nevermind, she’s typing.

    (11:37) ...hi.

    That’s oddly punctuated… Is something wrong? I send.

    (11:37) well
    (11:37) i took a walk
    (11:37) or float
    (11:37) and i saw something pretty ****ed.


    Oh? What was it?

    (11:37) i saw this little kitten


    Well that doesn’t sound too -- oh, wait.

    (11:38) it was dead

    Yeah, figured. Didn’t expect her to go to alleys like that, though.

    (11:38) like rly dead
    (11:38) dirty and beaten
    (11:38) its coin was gone and it had a bloody spot in its place
    (11:38) like what the ****?


    Maybe a murkrow took it?

    (11:38) yea but would a murkrow beat it up like that
    (11:38) it must have gotten there afterwards

    Were its eyes pecked out?

    (11:38) ...what the hell? whys that important

    Wild murkrow really like eating eyes.

    (11:38) stop. thats gross.


    Geez. Sorry nature gets a little gruesome sometimes, missy.

    Sorry. I’ll stop.

    (11:38) yeah so thats whats got me ****ed up atm…
    (11:38) just what did all that to that poor kitten?
    (11:39) oh gods do you think it was a person?
    (11:39) like how ****ed do you have to be in the head to just kill an innocent kitten for your own sick pleasure


    I mean… not that ****ed…

    (11:39) it seriously makes me mad


    Don’t worry. It was probably just some wild mon.

    (11:39) i hope so…
    (11:39) i wouldnt feel safe if sickos like that were roaming the streets
    (11:39) ugh


    “Why are you --”

    “Son of a whore!” I recoil, flipping around to see who spoke. I’m faced with golden eyes and a hooked beak. Jess. I completely forgot about him.

    “Don’t sneak up on me like that, for celebi’s tits,” I growl, covering the phone.

    “Alright, sorry,” Jess mutters. “Either way, why are you texting with someone pretending to be Shirlee?”

    “It’s none of your concern.”

    “You don’t actually think it’s the real Shirlee, do you?”

    Uhh… what do I say? “No?” Why did that come out as a question? Dammit!

    “You haven’t sent her - or, ‘her’ - any money, have you?” asks the pidgeot, with air quotes and everything.

    “No.”

    “Personal information?”

    “No. I know what I’m doing. Piss off.”

    “Fine, then,” sighs Jess and waddles off.

    I return to the text messages. There’s a couple of new ones.

    (11:39) oh but on another note
    (11:39) i know my schedule in viridian better now
    (11:39) im pretty sure i can meet you again before the show this saturday


    Ugh. Sounds great!

    (11:39) yeah, ill get back to you later when i have more deets
    (11:39) for now i gtg
    (11:39) bye!


    Bye!

    Another date with this squid. I knew there would be another and without a doubt even more, but it doesn’t exactly make me elated.

    I’m about to put the phone away, but stop as I realize something.

    The keyboard didn’t bother me at all anymore. All of this texting has diluted my fear to nothing. I’m able to chat through texts now like a normal human being - even if it’s a bit slow, but that’s natural for any new touchscreen user.

    This is great news. This means my phobia really is possible to conquer. I just have to desensitize myself. So… what’s the next step after the keyboard? I don't think it would be smart to turn off the dark theme just yet. What could I try out…

    I tap my way back to the home screen and scan the icons it offers. Internet, camera, gallery, app store, calendar, clock, settings… I don't think I should rush right onto the internet yet. I know there are scams and viruses out there. Maybe I’ll play around with the camera for a bit.

    I open the camera app, and the screen is… black? Oh, maybe my finger’s covering the… yeah. As I move my digits, an actual image appears, that of the ceiling. Moving the phone makes the image shift accordingly, with an admirably small delay. This really is a camera. I remember when phones were brick-shaped and could barely handle the few colors they had. My… mother had a phone like that back when I was small, back when she still had faith in me and I still had hope I could be...

    ...No, I shouldn't dwell on the past now. I’m specifically trying to move on here. Let's try to take a photo of ourselves, shall we?

    I memorize the location of the camera and the snap button as best as I can, flip the phone around and tap. No noise… did it work? I flip the phone back. There's a small thumbnail of a new photo in the corner of the screen. I tap it, and it enlarges. It's a lovely shot of a forehead. Alright, I guess I need some more practice.

    But shot after shot, I can’t seem to both get my face in the frame and hold the phone still enough for the result to not be blurry. How exactly do people --

    An accidental tap at the upper corner of the screen flips the view, turning the phone into a mirror. Oh. Ohhhhh. Front camera.

    With the newfound feature, snapping a photo is a cakewalk. I'd say that turned out pretty good. Let's see that ag… what the hell? Oh, it's… mirrored. Or I guess the right way round, as this is how everyone else sees me. It's what I looked like in the photo I sent Shirlee, too, didn't I. No wonder it didn't seem right. Hell, I look like a rapist. That lady was right. I’m deleting this. I’m deleting all of these. Once I figure out how.

    I guess Shirlee doesn't mind my looks, though. And why would she, she’s not human. She's a floating lava lamp.

    Alright, all deleted, and now I know how to browse the gallery, too. I’m making a lot of progress. Should I tackle the app store next? I should be fine as long as I don't download anything. I mean, they need to make these safe enough, right?

    Press home button to go back, tap on the icon, there we…

    It’s white.

    It’s fine. I just need to not think about… about… don’t think about it, no. Just browse. Don’t mind the panic that’s slowly creeping in, just do your business and get out, scroll through the list of m- apps, apps, they’re just apps, games and gadgets for the bored, no one’s forcing you to pick any certain one, you can move just fine, no jittering, no twitching, no, no no no, I’m shaking now, shaking like then, and they tell me to stop shaking and just get the mon we need and get out or you’ll kill something and it’ll be gone forever and everyone will scream, scream, why did you do that, why didn’t you just do what you were told, it’s not hard to click on what you need and get out, but yes it is hard when your brain is frying and your skin is crawling and it hurts, it all hurts so much that I can’t even hold on to the mouse and it slips out of my hand and drops down and --

    Thump.

    Soft. Thump. On my chest. It’s pumping hard. This is not… the center.

    This is my home. Living room. It’s quiet.

    It was six years ago. It’s not here anymore. It can’t hurt me anymore. It’s alright.

    The phone should go away for now. I’ll deal with it later. Probably when Shirlee texts again. Yeah, I’ll get to it then.

    For now, I should… calm down.

    ...I feel cold.

    ---
     

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