You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen
to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
— Mary Oliver
chapter 24 ; [SAI]
stand my ground
I was four-years-old when Team Rocket considered me a threat to others.
My mother upped and left the Kalos region specifically to join the underground organization. She adored pokémon because of their potential power and the important feeling they gave her when she owned said power. She moved without a problem, as my father was in prison for drug abuse. She had nothing else to lose and everything to gain as she realized her goals were the same as Team Rocket's. She was loyal and a hard worker. She went through the ranks faster than anyone the organization had ever known. Soon she became an executive and made decisions about what went on in Mahogany Town's laboratory. Her pregnancy caused some complications, but when I was born I was a precious addition to the team. After my brain had some time to develop, however, things went wrong.
I was an outrageous child. No one could control me. My mother found it impossible to send me to a daycare or babysitter, as I would throw a tantrum until she was back in my sight. The separation anxiety forced her to take me to the laboratory to work.
Unlike a normal child, I wasn't interested in playtime. My moods shifted with every few ticks of the clock, but no matter how I felt, I only wanted to follow my mother and do whatever she was doing. Often she was in her office, filling out paperwork and talking on the phone to undercover agents stationed in other cities and regions. She would also supervise experiments and practice battles. I would watch as pokémon were hooked up to machines with numerous black and white cords. The pokémon had fear in their eyes, and this fear remained until their eyes were clawed out or until their whole body was paralyzed with exhaustion.
It didn't take long for me to start interfering with what I saw. During my frequent outbursts, I would run into the middle of the arena, screaming at the top of my lungs as I was hit by a pokémon's attack. While I broke a lot of bones doing this, they always healed, so I felt no need to stop. I ripped out cords in the machines, too, successfully destroying research the scientists spent weeks collecting. I was irritable and miserable, even as people tried to hold me down. I was irritable because I wanted to be somewhere else, but I didn't have the will to actually leave. I was miserable for no discernible reason. I was even more confused when my mood would skyrocket to the point where I thought I was the most special person in the world. I jumped on desks and believed I was flying as I hopped off. The workers found this, at least, somewhat humorous. Their laughter made me angry and led me back toward my destructive tendencies.
I never listened to my mother when she scolded me. I wanted to listen, but more research was ruined, more experiments were interrupted and more bones were broken. At some point, the leader of Team Rocket called me into his office to speak with me in the sternest voice I had ever heard, but even he couldn't keep me from thinking insane thoughts and translating them into actions.
Things got worse. Not only did I want to hurt myself, but also I wanted to hurt others. I didn't like the scientists. They looked at me funny, they never smiled and they didn't do what my mother told them to do. I drew pictures of me stabbing them or killing them by snapping their necks. When I completed a drawing, I showed my mother proudly, thinking she would agree with me. Instead she took away my crayons and burned the drawings before they instigated further problems.
What happened from then on wasn't my fault. My thoughts raced, and I couldn't stick to a single subject for long. When I acted out, I only realized it after it was all over. I spilled vials full of chemicals, which scarred some scientists' skin and made them writhe in pain. I laughed at them as they had laughed at me. “Try experiments on humans!” I yelled. “See how they like it.” I felt the pressure to keep talking, so I insulted them until my mother took me home for the day.
Our house was a mess that my mother wouldn't clean up. Every room, even the bathroom, was used as a storage area for the boxes my mother couldn't unpack, perhaps for sentimental reasons. I had to dig for towels and soap, toys and blankets... Eventually I gave up and forgot about hygiene and entertainment. I was bored and rotated between sleeping too much and then sleeping too little. I had vivid dreams about violence and gore, waking up to ponder the reality of what happened. Other times, I'd spend six hours trying to fall asleep, only to end up sweating and crying because of night terrors.
Occasionally we went out. We ate at restaurants to celebrate holidays, walked to the park and bought groceries at the mart. If we had had the money, I would have been sent to a private school, but my mother insisted on me staying inside those four metallic walls. “You can still learn about the world this way,” she said. If I had known that this was all I would see for most of my childhood and adolescence, I would have been okay without her by my side.
For two years my antics got the better of me. Team Rocket's finally became sick of me. The leader had given my mother leeway since she was of a higher ranking, but there was only so much he could handle.
I was six-years-old when Team Rocket wanted me executed.
“This boy has offered nothing positive to Team Rocket's goals,” the boss started bluntly. I had heard once or twice that his name was Giovanni, but not many workers dared to say it. His appearance didn't help matters. He was a tall man with broad shoulders. He had dark brown hair and thin eyebrows, and he wore a black suit with black slacks held up by a belt. He sported an evil grin, which made me think my mother was the only good person in this place.
He had set up this meeting for us. She brought me along, of course, since the meeting was about me. We were on the seventeenth floor, waiting for him to speak. We stood in front of him, staring at the coffee on the table, as if this would be a normal conversation during which he might ask us if we wanted some. But he didn't look happy, so I clung to my mother and let her do the talking for once.
“Master Giovanni, I can explain—”
“There is no explanation, otherwise the boy would have been tamed long ago. He has ruined years of work and has put a temporary halt to our future research plans. He has blatantly injured other workers, making several of them quit. Above all, he has shown no signs of recovery.” There was a pause. I hid behind my mother. “I like you, Melanie, and I want to like your son. But he's too much, even for you.”
“What... What are you trying to say, Master Giovanni?” my mother said. Her voice was unnaturally weak.
“The boy is clearly mentally impaired,” the leader said, “and this is no home for him. I want him gone.”
“Master Giovanni, with all due respect, I don't want him gone,” my mother said quickly. I clung to her harder, trying my best not to lash out. “I have nothing left but my son. My husband is in jail, and I can't lose my last connection to him. I can't... go through another loss like that. Besides, where will he go? Who will take care of him?”
“Melanie,” Giovanni said, grinning. “If you let the boy loose now, he will tell everyone what he's seen. We cannot depend on him going somewhere else and staying quiet.”
“Master Giovanni, please—”
“I want the boy executed.”
My mother's eyes widened. “You want him... killed?” she breathed.
I was six-years-old. I didn't know what an execution was, but I'd never outright seen Team Rocket kill a pokémon, let alone a child. My hatred for them grew tenfold as I realized they might have done it without my knowing. My feelings welled in my chest, and I huffed. I darted forward, reaching with my hands. I attempted to scratch the leader's face, but he held out his arms and kept me still.
My mother gasped and pulled me away from him. “Sai, how could you attack Master Giovanni?”
“He's evil!” I cried. “He wants to get rid of me!”
“Master Giovanni, please reconsider. This is probably just a phase. He will grow out of it...”
“He's shown absolutely no improvement in two years. I want him gone, and that's final.”
“Surely, there must be another use for him,” my mother said. I went limp and sobbed, wishing my mother's grasp was more comforting. I thought of ways I could hurt Giovanni further. Maybe in his sleep, when he was least expecting it...
“Another use? I cannot think of anything this miscreant could be useful for.”
“I thought you might... try to dispose of him. Hush, Sai, this is important,” my mother said, though she was holding back tears too. “Look, Master Giovanni, I don't want to lose my job here, or my son. There has to be a way. Why don't we keep him here while I'm working? In the basement, with the pokémon?”
“He certainly fights like a pokémon,” Giovanni said. “Go on.”
“He'll stay... locked up as I'm working. I'll take him home at night, and—”
“No more. Have you not thought about him running away and hurting outsiders?”
She gulped. “As you wish. He'll stay in the cells. I will teach him there in my free time, so he gets proper schooling.”
“I have yet to see how he will be of use to us.”
“As you said, Sai seems fond of pokémon. When he is old enough and is no longer a threat, we will send him on a journey.” When Giovanni didn't interrupt, she went on, “He will raise pokémon and send them back for Team Rocket to experiment on. We can see if he is any better at raising pokémon with his... illness. It will be a survival project of sorts.”
Giovanni leaned back in his seat, making it creak eerily. “Now this,” he said, “sounds interesting.”
“Okay.” My mother's voice was barely audible. “Okay.”
“Mommy?” I said quietly, looking up at her.
What was she possibly planning for me?
Giovanni demanded that my mother's plan be put in place immediately. Though my mother was in no hurry, we went home shortly after the meeting. When we got there, she told me to get my suitcase and to pick out my favorite toys while she looked at clothes. It was the first direction given to me as an experiment for Team Rocket, but I didn't know it at the time. I was lost and asking myself questions that had no clear answers.
“We'll feed you there, so there's no need to pack food. Or water...” she said. She kept mumbling things like this to herself, and then she mumbled obscenities about Giovanni, which again made me wonder why she obeyed a man like him.
Since she was so stressed, I listened to her. I chose a few stuffed animals and some talking machines that reminded me of the ones back at the lab. I put them near my suitcase and watched as my mother filled it with different kinds of clothes, pieces even for different seasons.
In the middle of our quiet packing session, I stopped her by climbing into her lab and hugging her because she seemed so depressed. At such a young age, I even knew what depression was. It was feeling too little when you wanted to feel anything else. It was a small yet enormous amount of apathy, hatred, loneliness and sadness all built into your soul. Depression was needing all day tomorrow to recover from today. It was something no one should have had to experience, so I tried to comfort her.
“Mommy,” I said, “are you going to leave me?”
“No, Sai,” she said, but then she broke down and switched from holding me to holding her face in her hands. She was trying to mask her sorrow but I could feel it and see it.
I sat there quietly, the sound of her crying mixing in with my racing thoughts. Neither was pleasant to listen to. I couldn't even come up with anything to say to her anymore.
We sat there in silence for a while.
Finally, she said, “Let's go... before he thinks too much and changes his mind.”
We made our way back to the laboratory, acting deliberately slow. We passed the green brick houses and the even greener grass. My mother told me to remember the view, because it would be a long time until I saw it again. I didn't take her too seriously, but I enjoyed the grass tickling my ankles anyway.
Inside the lab, we went into an area I had never been to before. We usually always went upstairs, but now we were in the basement. I thought it might resemble the basement we had in our own home, but it didn't. There was a movable cot which had a loose leather strap lying out. What caught my eye were the small cages lined up against the walls. Each cage was filled with two or three pokémon. So this was where all those experimental pokémon came from. It made sense to me now.
My mother brought me over to the far left wall where three empty, larger cages loomed. They were there for bigger pokémon and, in special cases, humans.
“This,” she said, “will be your new home, Sai.”
I stared at it, unimpressed. While our house was nothing to brag about, the cage was only about as big as a bathroom. It had a bed in the corner, a sink, a toilet and a barred door. I swallowed hard, squeezing the handle of my suitcase, wishing there was no reason for it to exist.
My mother opened the door and waited for me to go inside. I refused to move until she pushed me and told me not to be so difficult. I could no longer be difficult or I'd never get released. I didn't think the things I had done were really that terrible, but I was beginning to second guess that notion.
“Sai, you are going to do extraordinary things for us,” she said in a more lighthearted voice. “I'll be here with you always. That'll help you, right? Can you do this for me?”
For her, I nodded. I trusted her wholeheartedly. I was six-years-old. I didn't know what I was agreeing to at all.
She smiled weakly. She shut the door, but I couldn't tell if the bars were shutting me out from the world or if they were shutting me in to keep me safe.
And so began my life as a human experiment for Team Rocket.
At first, it didn't seem so bad. I was living with a relatively peaceful state of mind, which happened rarely. The serenity of it all made me think the cage was meant to be my home. It was cozy enough. The bathroom was always accessible, and the pokémon on the other side of the room looked away when I had to go. I had my toys to play with whenever I felt interested. And the bed was comfortable, though I'd outgrow it within a few years. Would my mother buy me a new one? Was she allowed to?
As she promised, though, she didn't abandon me. She visited me every day—several times a day, in fact. She was more involved in my life than ever before! It seemed like a great deal to me. She taught me my numbers and my letters, saying I'd normally be in school by now and that she wanted to keep me on a regular schedule like most kids.
But soon my old habits returned. My separation anxiety had improved, but it became increasingly difficult to think about numbers and letters long enough to memorize them. I wanted to destroy things, and people, if given the chance. I was too sad, or too angry. When I was sad, I spent the hours huddled over my suitcase in the corner, begging to go home. This riled up the pokémon, but I ignored them. When I was angry, I tore up clothes and the flashcards my mother had given me to practice with. I yelled and yelled, both curse words and random things on my mind, just to get the thoughts out of my head. But no one came to rescue me, not even my mother.
“If you want to get out of here,” she told me, “then you have to focus. You can't let your emotions get the best of you. I'm going to teach you everything you need to know so you're prepared when you leave this nice place. But we have to start small.”
I tried my best. I used self-made routines to help me. I used my fingernails, which were never cut, to etch the alphabet into the stone wall of my cell. I did the numbers, too, zero to one hundred, even when I bled. I needed something I couldn't destroy, and this was it. My mother didn't seem to approve or disapprove. She only seemed pleased that I wasn't hurting others. As a reward, she explained that most pokémon trainers set off on their journey at age ten, which was only four years away. The first four years of my life were a blur now, so I didn't think another four years was a big deal.
Time passed so quickly I couldn't keep up with it. There were no windows, so I didn't know if it was day or night, winter or summer. Many things happened, but a very special visitor stood out to me the most.
He was a short man with a shiny bald head. His face was lean and taut. He wore a red tie and a gray suit. He had a soft, inviting smile, so I didn't scream at him, though I was feeling especially wild when he showed up. I had never seen him before, so I knew he wasn't from the lab. His name was Dr. Richards, and then came along new experiences and feelings I didn't have names for.
“Sai... Sai Luart. Age seven. Is that right?”
“From Kalos? No Kalosian accent, I see.”
“I guess not.”
“You might learn their language someday. It's best to learn multiple languages when you're young. You're able to speak the different sounds and learn them better.”
“You know, I don’t get many young patients like you. I would say you’re special.”
“That’s what they all said.”
“Who said that?”
“Everyone at the lab. They want me dead.”
“That’s not very kind, is it? Well, I don’t want you gone.”
“I’d like to hear your side of the story. Is that all right with you?”
“Did my mother bring you here?”
“Yes. She did.”
"...Still. I have nothing to say.”
“I bet you do. Everyone does. From my understanding… You are a very worrisome young boy. You seem to harbor a ton of anger toward yourself and others, and you seem to use violence when it seems most convenient for you. Many interviewees pointed out that they knew how you were feeling based on the look in your eyes. What do you think?”
“Yeah. Well, I’ve changed an awful lot since then. I’d love
to tell you about it.”
I ended up learning those languages after all, and then forgetting them soon after because there was no one to talk to. I learned the basics too. Writing didn't take long, as I had partially taught myself by carving the walls. My handwriting was legible enough for her. There wouldn't be many instances in which I had to sign something, anyway. Next came reading. This, at least, gave me something to do when sitting in my cell, but it was hard with my short attention span. My mother gave me plenty of children's books, but she had to replace them every two weeks or so because I tore those apart too. When I said I wanted something more challenging, she brought young adult books. She made jokes about me reading the research materials from the lab, but I didn't find it funny.
Soon I was ten years old and I hadn't learned anything about pokémon yet. She had lied to me, but tried to make up for it. She told me there were seventeen types of pokémon. She used the pokémon in the basement as an example. Mostly there were fire-types, poison-types and dark-types with us, with a small number of steel-types. These types were the most difficult to raise, she said, but they were worth it. She explained which types were effective against others and which were not so effective. Fire beat grass, water beat fire, grass beat water. It seemed simple enough. If Giovanni could have seen how intelligent I was, he might have let me out sooner, but my mother told me not to get my hopes up this time.
History and mathematics came next. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and divison weren't too fun, but they would be useful when trying to budget money. Money would be essential, and she promised to have some saved for me. When I went to protest, she hushed me and had me repeat mythological stories originating from Kalos, Kanto, Johto and other regions.
The lessons, though simple, kept me busy. The books and my mother's visits kept me busy, but it wasn't enough. As it turned out, four years was a very, very long time when most of what I did was sit there, looking at the caged pokémon. While my mother taught me different languages, I taught myself how to talk to the pokémon due to boredom and slight curiosity. It was relatively easy, and I figured it would help me talk to my own team. Why my mother hadn't taught me herself was beyond me.
I learned by observing. To anyone who doesn't understand, pokémon speak their names, so intonation and body gestures are key. Each pokémon had a clear voice they used for all of their individual emotions. I learned the sounds of sadness, anger and happiness. The pokémon shook their tails when they wanted something, or their eyes glittered when they smiled. Ears flattered when they were worried or guilty, and so on.
The first full conversation I had with a pokémon—a long, purple snake named Arbok—went something like this.
“Hello?” I said, wanting to practice. I wanted to socialize
. I knew that saying hello was appropriate because that was what my mother used to say when she answered the phone.
“The boy is talking to himself again,” I heard the arbok say nonchalantly. He wasn't even trying to be quiet, and in truth I had come to understand the many insults he had thrown my way over the last couple of years. These insults had triggered my rage, but with my lack of self-control, I didn't know how to stop him.
“That's not very nice,” I said. I was in one of my calm, peaceful states. It wouldn't last long, so I had to make use of it while it was still there.
“It's not?” the arbok said, glaring at me. Then his face softened and his mouth opened in surprise, revealing a red, forked tongue.
“It's not.” I repeated his words, suddenly too overwhelmed to think of my own.
“It's apparently a special gift to be able to talk to pokémon, boy. How long have you been listening to us?”
“I think,” I said, ignoring his question, “it's just because I have nothing else to do. I learn while everyone else is too preoccupied with real life.” I shifted my body, the bareness of my feet grazing the stone floor. I didn't have any socks or shoes on. I wasn't even sure if I had any.
“That could be it too. Would explain why all the Nurse Joys in the world can understand us perfectly fine.”
“You'll meet one someday, I'm sure. They do nothing but spend time with pokémon... just like you,” the arbok said snidely. I could feel his scorn firsthand among all of my own emotions.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“You're getting out of here. We're not,” Arbok said.
“I'm stuck here for a while.”
“Then rest, boy. Quit making so much ruckus. Prepare yourself for the world,” Arbok said. He looked away from me and that was the end of the conversation.
Rest. It was easy for him. He didn't have a list of things he needed to do when he got out of this prison. He didn't have a mind that constantly ticked over, counting the patterns on the walls surrounding three sides of his body. He didn't have songs that his mother used to sing to him. He didn't have images from last night's dreams haunting him. Rest, he said... I would, if only it were that simple.
It was getting easier. I had a mental illness, as Giovanni had called it, though I wasn't sure what that entailed. My symptoms changed drastically as I grew older. My delusions of grandeur made me believe I was sent to do Arceus' bidding, and I no longer wanted to tear things apart. I had new impulses, and when my moods shifted, they stayed for longer periods of time. That meant I had longer moments of clarity as well.
But I was sick, no matter what happened.
“I want to hear it, if you're willing to tell me.”
“I either feel too much or feel too little. I think I'm better than everyone else and everyone's just keeping me locked up because they don’t like my greatness. I have no desire to live my life half the time because things don't improve. Yet I have many plans for the future... My father is dying in prison, miles and miles away, and I feel like I’m the one killing him. I feel guilty, like I’m being punished for doing that to him. I can’t eat, or I eat too much. I can’t sleep, or I sleep too much. I can’t make any decisions for myself, so I have my mother make them for me. I am bored with everything. I can’t overcome my loneliness. I can’t be with others without going crazy, but I can’t be alone. I can’t concentrate on anything for too long. I want to fight and fight and tell everyone that they’ve all let me down. I want to talk too much, all the time… if you couldn’t tell by now.”
“It sounds like you're very overwhelmed.”
“I think I can help you, Sai.”
“You can? Are you sure?”
“Yes. Why not?”
“No one’s ever offered to help me before.”
“Well, I can give you medications to keep your moods stable.”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“Give me a name. Tell me what’s wrong with me.”
“They call it bipolar disorder. Very uncommon in children, but it does happen.”
“There is one problem, however. As I told you earlier, Sai… you are very young. Medications for younger patients aren’t forbidden, but they aren’t encouraged, either. Do you know why that is?”
“This is because your brain is still growing. Your body is still growing. These medications can do things to permanently… mess up your brain chemistry.”
“You’re young, but this isn’t going to be a phase you’re going to grow out of. Bipolar disorder is forever. Medication might be a necessity for the entirety of your life. Nevertheless, it’s up to you. What will you do?”
“For your mother, will you take the medication?”
“…Yes… I will.”
“I hope they work well for you. It may take a long time to find the right one, so let’s get started.”
Another peculiar symptom that came to me was delusions. That was what my mother called them, anyway, though she regretfully said she could do nothing for me. Dr. Richards would have to take care of it, but he couldn't say whether or not it was the medication. Delusions were common among the mentally ill, but medications could cause terrible side effects.
By then, I had accepted I was mentally ill. Messed up in the head. Forever sick.
I was lying in my bed, which I was starting to outgrow. My mother promised it would be replaced soon. The room spun and I forgot where I was. I wanted to punch myself, burn myself, convince myself I was real. But I couldn't move. My lungs seemed to have finally noticed there was a dead spot sitting in the middle of my chest, shriveled up due to lack of use. My vision became blurry. My mind was muddled. I was convinced all my memories belonged to someone else—a pokémon.
I was a small creature. My fur was dark brown, with some cream color on a circular part of my belly. I had tiny paws, tiny feet. My sense of smell increased tenfold, and my newfound ears felt nothing but danger nearby. I was a pokémon, and yet I wasn't.
Images flashed before me. They were images of destruction, of blood and gore. This felt different than my normal nightmares. This felt too close to reality. Other pokémon that looked like me were torn apart and eaten alive, even the babies. From far away, I was a powerless spectator, unable to fight. I watched and watched, mouth hanging open in disbelief.
I violently shook myself. I sat up, taking in the view in front of me. All was dark and all was quiet, aside from my panting. I jumped out of my bed and ran to the other side of the room, crashing into the bars. I had to find that pokémon and save it, but I didn't have the means to do so. I had never seen it in the lab, either.
The next day, someone was brought into the cell next to mine. I was in my bed, sleeping away my terror, so I didn't get a good look at him. When I woke up, the pokémon were laughing at each other, saying the person next to me was just as crazy as I was. The other boy yelled frantically, praying to Arceus that He would shed some light upon him, Senori Deliro, from the life he had been unwillingly given.
He was another test subject. Supposedly, Team Rocket thought I was successful.
I thought about the boy all night. I vowed to find that pokémon and to put it on my team so I could take care of it as best I could. I would name him Senori, for the sake of the boy just like me, the one stuck behind bars in a life less than ordinary.
Sertraline hydrochloride, anti-depressant, 50mg. Used to confirm the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder. Reported frequent headaches, symptoms of mania (delusions of grandeur, high motivation and energy). Discontinued.
Fluoxetine hydrochloride, anti-depressant, 10mg, increased to 20mg. Used upon request by Master Giovanni upon seeing the effects of sertraline hydrochloride. Reported weight gain (10lbs), frequent nausea, sweating, symptoms of mania (worsened insomnia, delusions of grandeur, impulsive and aggressive behavior). Discontinued.
Lithium carbonate, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 300mg. Reported severe pain and tremors, and thinking that he was a “zombie, though I’m not sure what that means, but I’ve heard my mother describe it as a bad, bad feeling.” Discontinued upon experiencing suicidal ideation.
Lamotrigine, anti-convulsant/mood stabilizer, 25mg. Reported better sleeping, calmer moods, slight paranoia. Discontinued upon seeing rash.
Quetiapine fumarate, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 50mg, increased to 100mg. Reported sleeping too much (16+ hours a day). No other reaction. Discontinued.
Aripiprazole, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 15mg, increased to 30mg. Reported extreme paranoia (thinking that others wanted to poison him) and an unwillingness to eat. Discontinued.
Patient refused further treatment but called for me five days later, saying he had changed his mind.
Divalproex sodium, anti-convulsant/mood stabilizer, 25mg. Reported severe weight gain (30lbs), returned homicidal thoughts, frequent dizziness and aggression, strange and vivid dreams. Discontinued.
Chlopromazine hydrochloride, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 10mg. Reported lethargy, depersonalization, numbness. Discontinued upon request.
Risperidone, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 0.5mg, increased to 1mg, then 2mg. Reported slight anxiety, calmer moods, better sleeping.
I asked my mother to stop celebrating my birthday at the beginning of every January. She tried to cram Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day all into one. It only made me miss the outside world more, which wasn't what I needed. I think I was fourteen-years-old.
What I needed was to get smarter and stronger. The readings got harder, the mathematics got crazier, and the history more complex. Science came into play, since I needed to know what kind of land I'd be traveling through, as well as human and pokémon biology. Soon, my mother went back to teaching me life skills too.
Cooking came first. She stated the obvious fact that food would be essential not only for myself, but also for my pokémon. This endeavor failed anyway, as Giovanni forbade me to work in the kitchen. He thought I'd go on a vengeful rampage if I were let out too soon. It would be he who decided my departure date. So my mother told me all about berries, both the poisonous and beneficial ones. She brought well-planed meals to my cell and explained human foods that would give me energy. Not that I needed it, but still. She warned me about avocados and flying-types, excess chocolate for anyone, and so on.
She taught me how to fight. This, she said, was something we could learn together. She read up on martial arts and watched videos, then relayed the information to me. In the small basement, we practiced kicking, punching and headlocks—any move that could put a murderer or poacher in his place. I hoped I wouldn't have to use these techniques someday, but it never hurt to be prepared.
Traveling tips, of course, were included. I was told how to make fires, how to find clean water and how to stock my backpack properly. Keeping pokémon out of their pokéballs at night was necessary so as to ensure safety while sleeping. I would have to order them not to sneak off, which would be easy enough to enforce, since I barely slept. I asked if this was really okay, since one of the rules was to not build bonds with my pokémon. My mother said it was a risk I'd have to take. If bonds did
form, then I'd have to find a way to prevent separation anxiety when the time came to give them away.
Lastly, I learned how to read maps. My mother taught me what the little symbols meant, and how to tell which way was north, south, east and west. I only saw the map of Johto, though, since it would be impossible to leave the region. Each city took up its own area of the map, with routes made of forests and roads in between. I located Mahogany Town and hoped I'd never have to come back here again.
I tried to keep this all straight in my head, but my ability to retain information was starting to fade. Ever since Dr. Richards had given me medicine, my memory had become worse and worse. That was what he meant when he said medicine could potentially ruin my brain chemistry, I supposed. I didn't tell anyone. I didn't want Giovanni to know my mother's lessons were for nothing.
So I focused on getting better. But it was the hardest thing I had ever done and would probably ever do. Not being sick anymore required me to be an entirely different person, a person I just didn't know how to be. I couldn't live vicariously... I couldn't choose
to think differently... My brain was making me this way. There was little I could do.
More people came into the cells. They were mentally ill, too, so they couldn't teach me normalcy. A woman named Kuiora Loki had bipolar disorder, though she controlled herself by being creative. She was obsessed with sculptures and carvings of pokémon. She etched her drawings into the stone walls at first, threatening to break through. My mother, officially in charge of the project, brought Kuiora some carving blocks over the course of a few months. Giovanni released her after seeing how gentle she was when she expressed herself, and once he made money off of selling her work.
Another man, Atis Harleen, was the quietest person I had ever met. It took me weeks just to get his full name out of him. He slept most of his time away, and once I was released, he was still there. I never figured out what was wrong with him, or if anything was wrong at all.
The last person to come into the cells was another man. He only withstood it for one night. He went into a screaming frenzy, yelling about how he didn't deserve to be put in a place like this. He wanted to go somewhere else. He said he'd give my mother two hours before he let himself go. “If you really want me,” he said, “you'll come and get me!” But no one came. Two hours later, I heard the loud, familiar sound of bones cracking against concrete. I covered my ears but I heard it until there was nothing. Later I found out he banged his skull against the stone walls until he put himself into a coma. Giovanni had him executed, not wanting to pay for the hospital bills needed to repair him.
These people meant the world to me, though I had little to no contact with them. I felt them in my heart and I didn't even know them. They gave me hope and strength, even the unknown man. I especially rooted for Kuiora when she was released, knowing I would be set free someday too. My mother promised me the same thing and I smiled wider than I ever had before.
I decided they'd help me shape my future pokémon team. I wanted to honor their lives and memories. I pledged to gather pokémon with similar personalities or hobbies. They would even have the same names. There was Senori and Kuiora and Atis and... Well, I would figure out the unknown man's name eventually. It seemed like the perfect plan to me, if I ignored the idea of handing them over to Team Rocket.
Thankfully, the medication made the delusions subside. I had strange, vivid dreams instead, ones that also helped me shape my future pokémon team. I saw flashes of yellow and cackling electricity, as well as rivers where water wavered between rippling calmly and wildly. A top spun in an army of pokémon fighting against each other. There was a leader in front.
I dreamed and dreamed, and for once, my future seemed beautiful.
“So what was that man's name? I'm sure my mother tried to get you to talk to him.”
“The one who put himself in a coma.”
“That has no place here. I'd like to know how you're feeling.”
“I’d feel a lot better if I knew the man’s name.”
“I don’t know the man’s name.”
“Are you sure?”
“...I feel better. But I still miss the outside world.”
“I don’t think that will go away.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be the optimistic one?”
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
“How about if I do you a favor?”
“Tell me anything that you want to see. Anything from the outside world, and I’ll bring it to you.”
“I will. Right now, whatever it is.”
“Well, I don’t have a window in here. Show me what looks like outside your window at twilight. My favorite part of day.”
“I can do that. I’ll be right back.”
A very, very long silence.
“I was starting to think you’d never come back.”
“Of course I would. I had to think about it, though. I couldn’t just take a picture, since it’s not twilight yet.”
“What time of day is it?”
“I brought you this.”
“Yes. I guess I can tell you one bad thing about myself... since I know so much about you. I’m, ah, afraid of the dark. At twilight, everything starts to turn black, just like the dots on the die. And for me, it’s scary. The only safe place is inside. It’s light and bright inside. The white resembles the purity that I feel from this safety. The intensity at which I feel this fear varies each day… thus the varying numbers on each side of the die.”
“You’re highly creative. I wish I was.”
“So I’ve been told. Does it suit you?”
“It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but yes, I suppose so. …Can I keep it?”
“Thank you. Thank you.”
To keep myself occupied, Dr. Richards suggested I find ways to make my upcoming journey special. If I wanted to be creative, I'd have to follow the rules at the same time. So I did.
I'd have a lot of money, apparently, so I would give each of my pokémon their own rooms. That would keep us separated, and each of us would get much needed privacy. And I would use the pair of die... somehow. I would make my pokémon roll the die for me before catching them. If fate willed it, then the die would land just right. One, two, three, four, five, six pokémon... I knew it would work because every time I thought about Senori being my starter, I rolled the die and it landed on the number one. This would surely make them feel like they belonged on my team, even if they didn't particularly like me (which I assumed they wouldn't, given my illness).
This only made me more excited to be released.
Of course, things didn't always go as planned, especially not for me.
The medication kept my partially stable at best. I went off into rages, and a few nights later, I went into my worst one yet. It wasn't my fault, but the damage was still the same.
The caged pokémon were restless. For some reason, my mother was late with our food, and the water was dirtied. I didn't mind (and neither did Atis), but the pokémon fretted. If they had to be loyal test subjects, then they needed to be treated as such.
“It’s bad enough that I have to share a cage with this goddamn kadabra,” Arbok said.
“Don’t forget that I can mess up your mind. You should watch what you say,” the kadabra replied in an even voice.
“Yeah. Right. You should have ruined these scientists long ago and gotten us out of here. You’re useless.”
As their exchanges escalated, my mother arrived, a tray of food in hand. She apologized, but she had thought of something great for me. This made the pokémon glare in my direction, and I shied back into the corner of my cell. She went on, saying she had to get approval from the boss. It always took a while to be able to talk to the boss. The pokémon settled down as they ate. She left and returned with Atis's food, which he thanked her feebly for. Before I knew it, she was in my cell, grinning. I stared at her, expecting her to pull me out of there and into the real world.
“Sai, battles are going to play a huge, huge part during your journey,” she said. “Giovanni won't let you battle on the second floor but he said”—she extended her arms to show me the room, as if I had never seen it before—“we could fight in here.”
“That sounds quite a bit dangerous,” I said stupidly, “even for you guys...”
“Well...” my mother said regretfully, “it's big enough. And the pokémon know better than to disobey by now,” she added, peering over at them. The pokémon didn't dare look up from their bowls.
“Okay. I trust you,” I said.
“As you always have. Let's get started.”
She locked my cell door. Once the pokémon finished eating, she just had
to choose the arbok and kadabra to battle. I should've told her about their earlier scuffle, but I didn't have the courage. Luckily, they were on their best behavior, which consisted of mindless obedience. They cooed and shook their tails with vigor. Once the stage was set, I saw that the arbok would be mine, and the kadabra, my mother's.
“You've been a part of battles before,” my mother said. “It's an entirely different thing to be controlling the battle. You have to know your pokémon inside and out. You have to make predictions and come up with strategies on the spot. You have to balance offense with defense. Do you understand?”
“Good. It's better for you to learn by doing,” she said. “I'll let you go first.”
This was what I'd be doing in the real world if—when
—I got released. I froze as a million emotions swirled within me, threatening to make my chest explode. I didn't want to make pokémon hurt and bleed. I wanted to make friends and to share my dreams with them. But I had to follow the rules. To do anything else would lead to my death...
I gulped and said, “I don't know any of Arbok's moves.”
“Then think of standard moves. Think of the basics.”
“Okay... Arbok, use tackle!” I said, remembering to sound forceful. I had to sound like I was the boss, or else my pokémon wouldn't respect me.
The arbok lunged at the kadabra, headfirst and with full power. It seemed that the arbok had acted patiently just for the chance to tear the kadabra apart. My first command as a pokémon trainer worked, at any rate. An odd sense of relief passed through my body. I welcomed it.
The feeling didn't last long, however, as the arbok did more than tackle the kadabra. The kadabra was flung backward, and the arbok didn't allow for the psychic-type to stand up. Arbok plopped down on the kadabra's torso and stayed there.
“Arbok, get off of him!” I said, rushing to the bars and clinging to them. The arbok didn't appear to hear me.
“Kadabra, use psychic! Don't hold back,” my mother said.
The kadabra's body stiffened. He held out the spoon in his hand, closed his eyes and focused. The arbok was enveloped in a bluish light, and he rose up in the air. He tried to lash out at the psychic-type without my ordering him to, but it was too late to reach his opponent, anyway. He went higher and soon his body was twisting in peculiar ways. His tailbone cracked and broke, which made him wail. The horrible sound mixture reverberated in the air.
“Why are you doing that? This is supposed to be a battle!” I cried, my heart hammering now.
“Arbok's neck could have been broken instead,” my mother, unaffected by the scene. “We believe that a pokémon should never hold back. They should maim and kill when necessary. If they can't, then they're useless to us. ...I thought you knew this, Sai.”
“I do know that! I do... But bad things should only happen to bad people, like the ones I hurt. These pokémon are good, trapped here for no reason...” I let my voice trail off. My attention then centered on my abruptly shaking limbs. My volatile thoughts argued with each other. Some of them said violence was the answer, while the other half claimed that no, there had to be another way, or life was meaningless. The sight before me became a blur, and the arbok's screaming deafened. I was rolling and rolling around in my head. I had a front row seat to the end of my world, and there was nothing I could do about it.
My grasp on the cell's bars tightened considerably. I was used to my view being obscured by these thick pieces of metal that took away my freedom. Sometimes they moved, but I could never see out the door long enough to keep myself satisfied. Even if I were to be let out of this place, would anything ever be enough? Maybe I'd never get over the sun's warmth, or the grass tickling my feet, or how I could converse with others about the simple things in life. Still. It had to be better than this, right?
I had always wanted to be set free. I had always wondered whether my illness would change, for better or for worse. But the desire to to learn, to know
, wasn't actually something you could get used to, like catching colds or eating three meals a day... It was just as a terrible, just as terrifying every time the yearning came.
I shook the bars, trying to make them bend and break, like the kadabra had done to Arbok. My
actions wouldn't have been cruel and unnecessary, at least. The bars weren't living, breathing creatures. ...Or were they? What did I know? But they didn't budge. Instead I beat at them with my head, which reminded me of the nameless man, and I didn't want to be like him, I really didn't, so I used my arms and legs instead. I didn't even make a dent. This only made me angrier. I tried again, ignoring the pain that coursed through my shoulders and down to my feet. If I gave up now, I'd never get out. I'd be stuck in my own devious mind and in my own spiteful body. I couldn't deal with that. I couldn't...
I turned to my mother. “Let me out!” I yelled. She was the one who had given birth to me. She was the one who had raised me. She had homeschooled me for years. So why couldn't she let me out? Why was she so powerless when I needed help the most?
Let me out!
Bruises were forming, bruises that would last for weeks, an everlasting reminder of rage that can't leave.
Let me out!
My feet struck a small, sharp section protruding from the main bar, which sliced my toes. Blood seeped to the floor, drip by drip, as if that part of me was crying.
Let me out!
My mother was on the other side, trying to soothe me. It didn't work. She was scared of me, otherwise she would have come in and held me.
Let me out!
I slid to the floor and sobbed for a life I didn't even know.
(continued on next post)