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This Is... (PG-13, one-shot)

Discussion in 'Completed Fics' started by JX Valentine, Oct 31, 2015.

  1. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    WARNING: The following fic contains violence, blood, gore, character death, and one brief mention of suicidal thoughts. Please do not read if you're squeamish.

    Author's Notes:
    Soooo ... basically, I originally wrote this for the Quarterly Challenge (y'know, the one with no dialogue), but it's about zombies, so hey! Halloween fic!

    This also probably needs a bit of an explanation, kinda like a disclaimer. As always, I'm totally A-OK with any kind of review, buuuuuut I just feel the need to explain the following briefly:

    1. Yep. Second person. It was done partly to make the narrator ambiguous and to make the emotions more impactful. The second reason really feeds into the first there. I didn't want to identify the main character simply because if I had, the story would be about who they are, rather than what they felt. Buuuuut ymmv, so feel free to sound off on how you thought I did there.

    2. I paid particularly close attention to tenses (because the narrator is all over the place when it comes to memories, so it was a necessity), meaning if it looks like an error it was probably done intentionally, but feel free to ask.

    3. I am totally aware that this is super flowery, and I apologize in advance for that. 8D

    WITH THAT ALL SAID, here we go~!



    This is hope: a growlithe lying on a grave, its head resting on its paws.

    It lifts its head when it sees you. You make no effort to run, and neither does it, not even when it sees that you’re carrying a gun. Then again, it might not know what a gun is, and you’re aware of that possibility. It must have been years since this growlithe has seen another living being. After all, the city is empty. Dead. It’s right there, just at the foot of the graveyard’s hill, yet you can’t hear a thing from it—no cars, no voices, no music. Just the wind groaning between the buildings, like an ancient thing that has forgotten how to sleep. And because of that, the graveyard, this place where you’re surrounded by the names of the dead, feels less desolate to you. It is full of people; the city is not.

    The growlithe stands, and you hesitate, feeling the butt of the rifle in one of your hands. With some effort, the growlithe trots forward, and in its walk, you can see its skin sag, its bones jut out, its remaining fur fan over pink-brown patches of bare skin. Yet its eyes shine when it sees you. Its tongue lolls out of its mouth, crossing the jagged line of yellowed teeth, and its step is sure and steady. And then, there it is, the growlithe, standing before you with those bright eyes. It barks once, twice, three times, but the third bark tapers off into a high-pitched whine. With a rough shake, it jerks its head towards the grave it had been standing over, then back to you. You don’t need any further explanation. You know who’s buried there now.

    And your heart hurts because now you know what it wants.

    —​

    This is peace: warm sun, the sparkling sea, an eevee running ahead.

    In the time before the outbreak, it was just you, your eevee, and a few others. You made very little room for humans in your life, but to you, it didn’t matter. Humans didn’t mean as much to you as pokémon did. Pokémon never judged you. They simply loved you, demanding only food, water, affection, and a place to call home in return, and you gave them all these things in abundance.

    You remember smiling that day. You remember that moment on the beach, the way the sun felt on your skin and the way the day seemed so perfect. All of the colors—the gold of the sand, the green of the sea, the blue of the sky—seemed more vibrant, so much more vivid, than they were in any of your other memories. And the eevee. You remember the eevee, the one you had raised from an egg.

    You remember your eevee. You remember all the days you spent caring for her egg, polishing it, maintaining just the right amount of light and warmth in its incubator. Even on cold nights, you sat there, blanket wrapped around yourself, eyes fluttering open and shut with lack of sleep, mind desperately focusing on that egg.

    And you remember the day she hatched. Winter, just as the days grew warmer and the snow began to thin. You sat there with your work on your lap in front of you, just as you had for months prior to that moment. With each passing second, your fingers laced together words (important ones, although looking back on them now, they don’t seem important at all) with a rhythmic tap, tap, tap on your keyboard. You even remember the exact word you were forming when you heard it: the m, the e, the c, the h, and then your fingers stumbled from the crack. Looking up, it took you a moment before you realized what you were hearing, and when you glanced over, there it was—the tiny crack on the side of the egg.

    Piece by piece, you watched it, your work abandoned. You had no words—or, rather, you had plenty of words, but at that moment, they felt like they were all jammed together in your throat. Sometimes, you found yourself forgetting to breathe, asphyxiating on the things you wanted to say, and others, you felt as if those words were bubbling up against your teeth.

    And then, at last, after what felt like entire days, the shell broke apart, and there she was. Tiny. Mewling. Silver.

    You cried that morning, and even after taking her gently and cleaning her, you did not go back to your work.

    All of the time that you spent with her thereafter were a series of moments. The first time she opened her dark eyes to look at you. The time she hobbled across your floor to her food bowl and dove face-first into it. The morning she bounded from halfway across the house to you because she heard you call her name. All the cold nights in the distant wilderness, when she would curl up next to you in a purring, warm ball of fur. All the warm days in the distant wilderness, when the two of you would go for a walk, and she would bound in looping trails around your feet and bark and smile at you—for you. You had handled many pokémon besides this one, yes, but she was one of the first to love you back. And you knew that. (And you still know that.)

    And now, now that you’ve gone back to the day on the beach, you remember the way her fur glistened pale silver in the summer sun. You remember the way she forged her wandering paths in the sand with her scrambling paws. You remember her voice, the high-pitched bark, playing over and through the sound of the crashing waves.

    Somewhere along your walk, you picked up a piece of driftwood. It felt rough against your then-soft palms, yet wet and soft with seawater. You weighed it in your hand for a few seconds, stopping in your path to consider something. At your feet, a sharp bark drew your attention back to the beach, back to your eevee, and there she was, bouncing up and down as her tail wagged frantically. Her pink tongue lolled out of her tiny mouth, and her eyes glittered as she stared intently at the wood in your hands.

    It was the way she looked at you that made you settle on a decision—the way she stared at you as if you were God. How could you possibly say no to a face like that? So you pitched the piece of wood as hard as you could away from you, and you watched it silently as it arced—as your eevee bolted after it, yipping and jumping to reach for it.

    And then, she burst into a brilliant, white light. Instantly, your heart twisted. You found yourself shouting, running after your eevee before you could think clearly about what that light meant. It took you a few more seconds to slow, to gain a grip on your thoughts, and when you did, you remember stopping short. Staring. Feeling your heart pound in a different kind of excitement.

    Your eevee was no longer an eevee right then. She stared at you, her larger jaws gripping the driftwood. Her head tilted, and even with the wood filling her mouth, she whined in curiosity as she fixed her narrower eyes on you.

    Your eevee was an espeon.

    As you ran forward, crying and laughing and smiling all at the same time, you couldn’t remember feeling any happier than you did at that moment.

    And, years later, as you think of that day, as you think of how you embraced your espeon and how all of a sudden, you felt complete and content and at peace with this single creature, you still can’t think of a single moment after that one in which you felt as happy.

    —​

    This is fear: the silence of a long night.

    It began in the places where trainers went—the virus, that is. There were theories as to what it was or where it came from, but the thing about outbreaks is you would know the country where it started, the place that it would lay waste to, the aftermaths, the death tolls, and everything else—everything but who, specifically, was the first patient.

    Some nights, you were curious. You thought about it when you saw the news with its images of riots and panicking reporters. It was your job to know things, but you didn’t. Not this time. You had no theories, no answers, nothing that anyone who called you or emailed you wanted. That was why you withdrew from society and why you eventually turned off the TV. By your calculations, the virus would be in your region in a matter of months. When you stopped listening, you knew that the virus began in Mistralton and swept quickly down to Striaton. You saw how swiftly it cut through an entire region. That was all you had to know.

    Your espeon was still by your side then. At night, her ears would prick, and her fur would stand on end. She would curl around your legs and look up at you helplessly, and all you would do was take her in your arms and stare out the window with her. The nights were long and silent and cold, and part of you wished with everything you had that the virus would be stopped by the winter. Wild pokémon hibernated in this region. That you remembered. And so you hoped that the infected would too—or that, at the very least, the virus wouldn’t survive the frost and ice.

    It was a long shot, and in the end, that was all it was.

    The night they came was dark and deep and colder than most. You weren’t sure what day it was except that it was mid-winter, and you knew it had been months since you had last spoken to another human being. You had stopped going into town too. They wanted answers from you, but you didn’t have them. You weren’t a doctor. You weren’t a general. You weren’t anything at all. You were just smart, so they thought you would create a solution. You knew you couldn’t. So you didn’t.

    That night, that particular night, your espeon stood on your chair. Silent. Still. Her body bent and bowed, and her ears angled back. You kept your eyes on her as you moved through the house. You could feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand, and you felt all your muscles tense with each movement. This feeling did not subside when you stood in the kitchenette with the handle of a knife in your hand. It did not subside when you slid the knife out of its block and felt the weight of the weapon in your palm. You turned it then, examining the blade you hoped was still sharp. Glancing up, you found your espeon staring at you with wide, dark, almond eyes. She had refused to sit down, refused to relax in the entire time that it had taken you to find the knife.

    You walked to her, the knife by your side. Your fingers gripped the handle tightly, but you kept your other hand relaxed as you reached out to stroke your espeon’s head. She responded by rubbing her lime-green snout against your palm. Inside, you felt a blank—neither the tension of anticipation nor the peace of confidence but rather a numbness, a lack of either.

    And you stood there for hours on end, waiting for the darkness to recede into the morning light. Your hand stroked your espeon’s green fur as your eyes wandered to the window.

    You tried not to think about it in those long, lonely hours, but you did. The other things that you saw on the news when you last paid attention. The victims. They would always be pokémon. There were theories as to why that was too: mutated strains of pokérus, a strain of the flu born from psychic-types, new forms of meningitis that attacked only some parts of the brain. But no matter what the truth was, the stories were all the same. Brainless pokémon, rising up to attack the living. Newly dead pokémon, rising up to attack the humans. Entire cities reduced to cinders by pokémon controlled by something else. Your hand stroked your espeon’s back a little harder, eliciting a whimper from her lips, and at that, you looked down at her. It had been so long—so very long—since you had seen another human being or another pokémon. All you had was her, and all she had was you. You knew this, and you knew what it meant.

    But the truth was, even if she wasn’t all you had, you would have done anything for her. You watched her hatch. She was with you on all those sunny days. It was far from civilization, far from all the humans who only saw you as useful, but her? Your espeon saw you as a parent, as a friend, as a god, as everything. She kept you warm. She kept you safe. She kept you company. Yes, you would do anything you could for that espeon, and that included keeping her safe from the things outside.

    By the time your front window crashed open, you were ready. You almost felt relieved that it happened because it meant the wait was over at last. But you didn’t let yourself dwell on this for too long. You threw your hand out to espeon, and she leapt off of the chair and bound towards the stairs. Out of the corner of your eye, you saw her: a sleek, green form sparkling in the moonlight, ears back, fur standing on end.

    Your knife went through the first intruder before you could see what it was. You didn’t let yourself look at first. It would make things harder if you knew. You had always wondered what it would be like if pokémon were no longer your friends.

    But then, right then, you realized this was not a question you wanted to answer. Not really.

    Five more pokémon came through the window. You slit their throats and stabbed their tiny bodies. They swarmed you, biting at your legs and arms. You remember screaming, your voice animal-like and scratchy with panic and disuse. But still, you attacked.

    Under your hands, their bones crunched and shattered and snapped. Their blood felt slick and cold on your skin, and their organs popped and splattered. In your hands, their skin slid off like fur-lined gloves, and even as you held their hides, they came at you in droves.

    Their claws were cold—as cold as their teeth and as cold as the snow. And their eyes were blank and milky and dead.

    Buneary. They were buneary, you realized then. You couldn’t help but look at them—really look at them—and because of that, you hesitated. You hesitated because you noticed their tiny bodies—noticed the way they stumbled across your living room floor, leaving splatters of blood and pieces of skin wherever they dropped themselves. And your heart ached. Actually ached. You couldn’t help but remember their tiny faces, remember what they must have looked like when they lived, remember what their burrows looked like...

    ...Remember the first time you saw one in the wild.

    Sinnoh, in their home region. Your best friend showed you because you were curious about a rock that was supposed to be in their forest, a rock that was supposed to help eevee to evolve. Your best friend, the one who later gave you your espeon. You wondered if she was still alive.

    That was all it took: that instant of distraction. And in that instant, the swarm leapt on you, teeth bared and screeches erupting from their dead mouths. For a moment, you felt them, their cold breaths on your skin, their glistening teeth just inches from your face.

    And then, you saw green. Glittering green.

    Your espeon hissed as she curled around your neck. Her arm stretched before her and slammed into the head of the first buneary, and then, her body lit up blue.

    Psychic always made you feel safe. It didn’t matter which pokémon of yours used it. All of their abilities had the same effect. That warmth, like a thick blanket wrapped tightly around your shoulders. That power, ebbing around your body. That drive from the pokémon beside you. Your espeon ripped into the entire swarm with one hit. She threw them into the walls of your home and watched as their tiny frames split open and splattered across the windowpanes. You watched—silent, still, shivering—as entrails and blood trailed down plaster and pooled across hardwood. It was over in seconds.

    Or, the battle was, anyway.

    Beside you, you heard a whimper. You turned your head and looked at your espeon, and in that moment, you felt your heart ache once more. But this time, it wasn’t out of sympathy for the dead. It was out of the same cold, silent dread you had felt before the swam had come.

    There, on your espeon’s thin, outstretched arm, was a scratch.

    And although you didn’t know much about the virus, you knew it was transmitted by touch.

    —​

    This is rage: a smoking gun, a dead espeon, and you.

    When you came to them for help, they had you kneel in the middle of the town—what was left of the town—with the barrel of a rifle to the head. It was clear they had never killed a human before; the rifle, you silently noted in your usual brand of gallows humor, was overkill. Later on, when looking back on this moment in hindsight, you realize that was exactly what it was: overkill, because despite being psychic, espeon were simple-minded creatures. She could have dodged the bullet or manipulated it or any number of things, but she didn’t because they had the gun to your head. It didn’t matter that it was for show or that it was too much. It was a gun, and that was why she hesitated. And it made her hesitate just enough for someone else to pull the trigger of another one.

    In the instant it took for her to fall, you remembered the day she hatched. You remembered the way she looked, bedraggled and wet and vulnerable. You remember all the smiles she gave you, with her pink tongue out and tiny fangs exposed. You remembered the way she barked for your attention, the way she stumbled for her food bowl, the way she ran ahead of you in those looping paths on your walks. You remembered everything that she was, before and after the evolution, and your heart, for a brief second, hurt beyond any other form of pain you had ever experienced.

    Her brains splattered onto the cobblestone. Her blood formed a fan around the front of her lime-green head. And then your espeon fell like a rag doll to the pavement. Her almond-shaped eyes never left you.

    In hindsight, you know why that was the first thing they did. All pokémon were threats. Any pokémon could be infected. No pokémon could be cured. Kill them off early and burn the body, and you won’t have to worry. Years later, you will have the people who will travel with you do the same thing over and over and over again. No pokémon. Only the dead.

    But this was not years later. This was then, the transitional period between the halcyon days you still yearn for each night and the desolate days that have become your reality each morning. And perhaps because they knew you as the past you, none of them expected you to react with much more than shock. They expected you to be silent, to be unmoving, to need to be carried off and cared for until you were ready to tell them what they wanted to hear.

    That’s not what happened.

    You remember feeling as if something inside you snapped. You remember your blood burning not like fire but like acid. You remember screaming but not with fear. You remember reaching for the gun at your head.

    And you remember the first time you shot a man.

    It was so easy right then. Easier than you thought it would be. But the gun flipped in your hands until the muzzle jammed against the man’s throat, and the trigger barely resisted your finger. It was even easy watching the hole open in his flesh and his blue eyes widen and then turn glassy and dark. He didn’t scream, but everyone else around you did. And your body was a cobra then, tight and angry and ready to strike, and so you did. You turned and fired off three more shots: one to shoot the man who killed your espeon and two more to shoot total strangers. It didn’t even matter that you had no idea who they were. You needed the message.

    Then, you fired off a fourth, this time at the cobblestone, at the feet of someone who had started forward to relieve you of the gun. They stopped, staring at you, eyes wide with a sudden rush of fear. Their skin looked sicker and paler in the full moonlight, and they stank of sweat and something else. You pointed the gun at them first, finger resting on the trigger. Then you swept the gun slowly, aiming it at each individual around you in turn. Finally, you shouldered it and narrowed your eyes at the man who had stepped forward. He returned the stare, gazing back at you as if you were an animal. You responded by looking down at your espeon, dead and lifeless. And then, you swept yourself down and scooped her ragdoll body under one arm. She was lighter then, smaller—as if life had filled out her bones more than her organs did. You didn’t think about this as you walked towards the crowd and watched them part for you. You didn’t think about anything, really.

    Except about where to bury your espeon.

    You decided to do it on the beach.

    She always liked the beach.

    —​

    This is pain: two thousand days without her.

    By some miracle, the town followed you. They seemed to think you had answers, as they always had. You stopped trying to prove them wrong. That was not what they needed, and you know that now. They need hope; they have always needed hope. They need some sign that there was something out there—some reason out there...

    That thought always ends in an ellipsis for you. In the absence of pokémon, the world wilted. It was all science, really. What were humans to the ecosystem, after all? You weren’t pollinators. You weren’t food. You weren’t anything at all but there. And it doesn’t become any more obvious than when you killed off the pokémon. There were no forests anymore. You had no home.

    So they followed you because what else were they going to do? And they fed on the remnants of humanity: canned tuna and condensed milk and all. In your opinion, it was no existence worth fighting for, but because you were still with them, the townspeople thought otherwise.

    You thought about it, of course. How easy it would be to just tuck your rifle into your mouth. But you never did because they needed you, and you are nothing if not reliable. You were always that. Reliable. Responsible. The person everyone counted on. And the townspeople think this, and you don’t point out that you failed them five years ago, when they came to you the first time for answers. (It doesn’t seem relevant anymore.)

    Sometimes, on your travels, you saw her—your espeon. She trotted between empty buildings and curved around dying trees. She stood over you as you slept and followed just behind you as you walked. You saw her in the other pokémon too, the few you encountered as you traveled. Sometimes, you saw her lunging for your companions, her teeth snapping and latching into screaming throats. She wore blood and sinew on her mouth and death on her eyes, and she was beautiful to you. And sometimes, thereafter, you saw her, dead with bullet wounds or in the heart of the fire. Her skin would bubble and blister like honeyed meat until it popped and blackened away.

    Those nights, you wouldn’t sleep. (You didn’t sleep much for those five years.)

    Then, finally, you simply stopped seeing the dead. Not her, of course. Your espeon would always stalk at the corner of your eyes. No, you stopped seeing the infected. You thought this might happen, that the virus would eat away all the pokémon eventually. And it did. And the townsfolk rejoiced when they realized that.

    But you still did not sleep the nights thereafter.

    —​

    This is hope: a growlithe rising to its paws, eyes locked on you.

    You have no idea where the growlithe came from. Perhaps, after five years since the outbreak, the virus died out, killed off all the viable hosts until only a handful were left. And perhaps that handful grew and mated and began to repopulate, taking on the cities as havens for their fledgling kind. Perhaps you are looking at the Noah of growlithe: the first after God parts the storm clouds and places the ark back down on earth. Perhaps.

    Staring at it, you shoulder your rifle. It has been five long years since you had last seen an uninfected pokémon. Five impossibly long years. But now you stand there, in a graveyard, looking for your parents and staring down at a growlithe instead. The growlithe pants, wagging its thin, pink tongue as its eyes sparkle at you. How old was it when its master died?

    It rears back and bounces its front paws at you, and you know at once what it wants. It wants a new master. It wants food and shelter and warmth and love. It wants all the things a growlithe could want.

    You could do it. You realize this. The townspeople listen to you, so if you say a pokémon is safe, then it’s safe, even if it looked closer to death than this growlithe. And you know you have enough supplies, and if there’s a growlithe here, then that must mean there are other resources. A hungry growlithe could find food anywhere in a ten-mile radius.

    The growlithe whines again and places its paws on your leg. You kneel and run through its matted fur. It feels nothing like espeon, nothing like the silky fur or the cat-like agility. Yet it has a warmth to it, a trembling anticipation that makes your heart ache. It looks up at you, locks eyes with you, and for a second, you forget any other alternative besides taking this dog.

    You stand. Tears sting your eyes, but your mouth stretches and twists into a smile. It’s the first time in five years you’ve felt either. You realize this now. You realize how much time you’ve spent screaming at nights and staring straight ahead during the day. You forgot what it felt like to do anything else. But here you are.

    In front of you, the growlithe sits back down. Its tongue hangs out of the corner of its mouth, and its eyes sparkle at you like you’re God. You look up, back towards the desolate city. The townsfolk are waiting for you. They need you to come back. They need something to hope for.

    If you say a pokémon isn’t infected, then it’s not infected as far as they know.

    But that’s not good enough for you. And it’s not good enough for you because it wasn’t good enough for her.

    So you put the muzzle of your rifle to the growlithe’s forehead and pull the trigger.
     
  2. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    ...HALLOWEEN! THIS IS HALLOWEEN! PUMPKINS SCREAM IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT! THIS IS HALLOWEEN, EVERYBODY MAKE A SCENE...

    *Checks date* Halloween was more than a week ago? Oh.

    Sorry, the "This is Halloween" song is the first thing I thought of when I read the title of this thread. Pardon me. Let's get down to business, shall we?

    Hey there! American--Pi here, and welcome to the Sunday Review (I know, it's Monday now, but shh.)! Here's how it works: Every Sunday (well, at least I try to make it every Sunday in my timezone) I pick a one-shot or a single chapter of a chaptered fic to review. I try to alternate between the Fan Fiction and Shipping Fics forums. My reviews are Review Game-style, which means that for Fan Fiction I pick four out of the eleven Review Game criteria and comment on them as much as I want to (but at least two sentences per criterion). Every time I try to pick four different criteria, but usually I just comment on whatever in the story catches my eye.

    This week, I've chosen "This Is…" to review. I actually wanted to review it the Sunday after it popped up in the Fan Fiction forum, because I was pretty excited to read and review something written by a very helpful and experienced mod. However, last Sunday it was a Shipping Fic's turn to get a review, so I had to postpone reading and reviewing your story until now. But better late than never. So without further ado, here's the (belated) Sunday Review!

    AAAAAAAA!!!!!

    (That was me screaming.)

    For the record, the American--Pi AAAAAAAA!!!!! Award goes to fics that give me so many EMOTIONS that I feel like screaming. I thoroughly enjoy fics that bring about strong emotions in me. I don't know why, but it's quite an exhilarating experience to have your emotions thrown around while reading something. "This Is…" definitely played with my feels, so great job!

    Ending
    But the Growlithe isn't dead. There isn't any blood or guts anywhere. There was a hollow clicking sound, and nothing more. Then you realize: you're out of bullets.

    You shoulder your gun and stare at the Growlithe, this hopeful pile of skin and bones that was just spared from death. This could only mean one thing. Despite all of the struggles and horrors you've gone through, God must have seen a pure heart deep underneath your bitter exterior and intended you to take this scrap of hope under your wing.

    You pet the Growlithe's head, and a strange sense of warmth fills you. You haven't felt this way for how long, years? But you enjoy the feeling as you gather the Growlithe into your arms and walk towards the city. The Fire-type feels warm against your cold body. Maybe there was hope for a happy ending to your journey after all.


    Pardon me for adding my own twist onto the ending. It was fun to do. The reason why I did this is because the ending, as it stands, made me confused. I was hoping for a happy ending after all of my struggles, but I just got more tragedy. I was confused as to why I decided to kill the Growlithe. It was a scrap of hope in a horrible world, and it didn't look infected at all. I could befriend the Growlithe and begin looking for signs that the horrors of the disease are over.

    So why did I decide to kill the poor thing? Because I was just too tortured and bitter to have any hope of any sort? Because I was paranoid that the Growlithe was diseased? Because I thought I could never have a second chance with another Pokemon, after I let my Espeon die?

    Either way, the ending left me with more questions than answers, and I felt it didn't really provide the best closure to an otherwise captivating and amazing story.

    Writing
    I think your writing style is great. I don't mind the flowery prose at all - in fact, I think your writing does wonders at expressing mood and thoughts in the absence of dialogue. With your detailed descriptions, I really, well, lived the story and felt like I was in the moment. I genuinely felt hope, peace, fear, rage, and hope again as I read your story, and the excellent writing really helped. Great job!

    Plot
    Although the story was very interesting and well-paced, I would have liked some more explanation in some parts, because your story left me with many unanswered questions. For example:

    Actually, it took me about ten seconds to figure out that the Growlithe wanted me to shoot him so he could join his master in death.

    ...Which turned out to be totally wrong. Wow, I'm such a negative thinker.

    ...But I ended up attempting to shoot him anyways. Well, I was half right.

    I don't think I understand this part, but this is probably because I'm not that familiar with zombies. Isn't my Espeon dead already? Didn't she get shot to death after she contracted the disease? And what exactly does the disease do? I know that it turns the infected Pokemon into zombies that want to infect more Pokemon, but what happens when the zombies die? Do they respawn and keep walking around? And what happens after that?

    The plot leaves me with a few more questions: Why did the authorities decide to kill all the Pokemon, when there was no proof whatsoever that the Pokemon would infect humans? Why would the townspeople look to me for leadership when they watched me murder, like, five people? Why, before my Espeon was killed, was I held at gunpoint? That last question especially is really confusing to me. Why would anyone want to kill me?

    Techniques
    You used a lot of very great, effective writing techniques to make a really artsy one-shot. Your flowery prose really painted vivid pictures, and I felt like I was living the story. Heh, I fancy the word "artsy" a lot. I seem to use it in reviews of fics that to me read like a well-done work of art. And that's a good thing! I really, really liked the way your story is structured - the "This is" phrases set the tone for each part, and I love the parallel "This is hope" between the beginning and the end.

    All in all, "This Is…" was a delightfully scary read. Great job!

    - Pi
     
  3. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly

    Here is your promised FFQ review! For a Halloween fic about zombies, yay! Halloween does not deserve to end on November 1st, darn it!

    I’ve never read a zombie Pokémon fic before (in all honestly, I’ve barely read any fiction about zombies and tend to stay away from most zombie narratives), but zombies as a whole still kind of fascinate me, and zombies in the Pokémon world has always seemed like a concept with scarily good potential. All this is to to say I am reading with fresh eyes.

    I like this concept. I read it once having no idea who the protagonist was supposed to be, so when I did some digging before my second read-through you can imagine that I felt somewhat silly. This is you we’re talking about, here! That said, I still think it works quite well either way, though the fact that you include detail about the beach and the Buneary swarm and what people think of him does make the location and character’s identity rather unquestionable. I’m still glad I got to read it once without knowing, though! The second-person definitely works here, and it felt so seamless that I hardly noticed, which seems like quite the feat. If I was ever confused at any point by the chronology it was almost immediately cleared up, so I think you did very well on that front.

    I quite liked the protagonist’s relationship with Espeon. The descriptions of her looking at him like he’s a god feels genuine, and probably how real pet-owners feel, and it was really endearing. I was confused that he cried the day she was born, though - while the egg was obviously given to him by his friend, it’s never really made clear if the egg is really special to him or why. Still, I love that he starts seeing her everywhere he goes, like her ghost haunting him. I quite liked that detail, and how it made the landscape even more nightmarish. I’ve also got to say that her being shiny felt a bit unnecessary, but damn do I love the imagery you create of that silver Eevee and green Espeon.

    There were a couple of other beats I found a bit weird. I would have loved to see an extra scene between Espeon’s evolution and the Buneary attack, if only to get more description of how he always catches her in the corner of his eye and how she winds around his legs, so that imagery is further seared into our memory just like it’s seared into the protagonist’s. In addition, I can’t help but find it a bit strange that he would a) take Espeon into town, and b) shoot four different people, only for the townspeople to follow him to hell and high water anyway. I get the desperation and need for a leader, but assuming all four died...yeesh.

    The ending was bitter and awful and made my heart sink, and yet I must begrudging admit that it is appropriate. It lends the impression that he kills the Growlithe because of a grudge - if Espeon couldn’t live, neither can this Growlithe. It feels like he’s punishing himself here, which is really fascinating. His decision certainly makes sense, and seems in-character for someone who’s been through the zombie apocalypse. At least there is that bit of hope that there might be other Pokémon that survived as well. But it still sucks.

    I am no good at commenting on titles, but this title did feel a bit odd. I liked the repetition of "this is [emotion]" throughout, but I wonder if the title needed to reflect that. That said, I don't have any alternative suggestions, so. *shrugs*


    Here are nitpicks, as well as other general comments and things I liked!
    I think it could be “wrapped around you”?

    The word “decision” feels strange here, and a bit overly dramatic.

    “Twisted” seems like an odd word choice - would the protagonist really think something awful was happening?

    Hah, I suppose that sort of makes sense, considering they have an airport there. On my initial read-through, for some reason I assumed the fic took place in Unova because of this line and because of the comment about hibernation, which I assumed only happened there for whatever reason. I realized on my second read-through that since Unova was hit first, that wouldn’t make much sense.

    There’s something about this that feels like a nice twist. The protagonist could totally try and find a solution, but he's so helpless he doesn’t even try. This characterization remains consistent with the ending. It makes me kind of hate him, which makes me admire how you crafted him all the more.

    I think there ought to be a comma before the “but” and before the “too.”

    This is a delicious line and I love it.

    Should this be “eevee" instead of “espeon”?

    Huh, this makes me wonder why she didn’t just use Psychic from the beginning. I get that the protagonist wanted to keep her out of harm’s way, but it would have made more sense for her to use those long-range moves from the beginning.

    Singular “night.”


    Overall, this was a really neat Halloween read. I agree that I rather liked the flowery language, and I didn’t really find it over-the-top - it worked. The characterization was really solid and consistent, and the protagonist felt like a really unique character in his pessimism and practicality, painful as it was to witness. The story was really good and hit all the right spots, though I do think it could use an extra scene with Espeon pre-attack. And, of course, it adhered to the prompt and fulfills my desire for Halloween fic. Thanks for the great read!

    ~Psychic
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015
  4. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    Iiiiin honor of the fic awards (and thanks to the folks who nominated this fic thus far!) and because it's hella rude to make y'all wait so long after offering up some really good insights, finally getting to review responses! So sorry for the wait! D:

    That’s okay! Halloween is now… *checks date* ...Y’know what? Never mind.

    Aww, thank you. ;D And thanks also for all the work you’ve done going back and forth between the two forums. You’ve offered up lots of helpful feedback, and in any case, it’s always cool to see an active reviewer ‘round these parts. (I mean, there have been a lot of active reviewers these past couple of months, but the more the merrier!)

    (ʘ‿ʘ✿)

    Haha, thank you! :D It’s flattering to hear when something I’ve written affects someone.

    Especially when it induces screaming. 8D

    I’m okay with this. 8)

    Ngl, I wrote this fic when I was going through a lot in general. Last year wasn’t exactly my worst (the award for that goes to the 2014), but when you go through a lot, sometimes, you just deal with the aftereffects for a very, very long time. So a lot of this fic was designed to put into words a lot of that anger and frustration and a bunch of other things I was feeling.

    But! I also like the idea of a happy ending—or of people giving this story a happy ending, anyway. I mean, sometimes, other people have better perspectives on a situation than the folks going through them, so sometimes, if you’re going through rough times, it takes the perspective of someone else to see the bright side of things. Or in other words, by giving this story a happy ending, it’s kind of a reassurance that not everything is the end of the world—even the end of the world. And that’s cool.

    Haha, sorry for the personal note there! Idk, this story is kinda personal for me, but that doesn’t mean folks can’t criticize it or anything. I fully encourage criticism (and will get to Psychic’s in a moment—although ngl, I don’t think I’ll go back and rewrite this fic, so!), but I kinda feel a little obligated to explain why this fic is so gosh-darned depressing, in case anyone is at the “wtf did I just read” stage.

    (But for folks wondering, new year = better place. So no worries!)

    All of the above! Baaasically, you came from a life where everyone was depending on you to find a magic cure for their problems. When you couldn’t (or didn’t from the get-go because you’re naturally a pessimist), you holed yourself up in your cottage at the edge of the world with the only thing that still loved you. And when the only thing that still loved you died because someone else killed it, you snapped, and hot damn, did you snap for a very, very long time. So when you’re confronted with a thing that simultaneously represents hope for (your) future and a potential threat (of repeat hurt), you decide to kill it in order to avoid figuring out which of those options it’s supposed to mean.

    (Aaaaand have I mentioned that this fic is hella metaphorical?)

    Totally a valid observation! It is kinda cowardly of the main character to just kill off the pokémon instead of provide any sort of real solution, yeah? (And no, that isn’t a metaphor. It legit is. XD;)

    Thank you! :D

    *cracks knuckles* Absolutely!

    Haha, yeeeeah, there’s just no right answer to that ending. XD Well, no right answer that the protagonist decided to take, but hey!

    This one I’ve gotta answer separately from the other zombie questions because the short answer is that your espeon isn’t actually there. You’re hallucinating her—or just straight-up equating the pokémon you do see with clarity to her. (As in, you ever hear of the phrase “I see a little bit of X in you”? Pretty much same thing going on there.) In some cases, it’s the former, and in others, it’s more of the latter.

    Well! They’re traditional zombies, so once the brain’s gone (by way of shooting a zombie in the head, decapitating it, or so forth), the rest of the body’s as good as dead. If you try to kill them any other way, they’ll just get right back up because it’s the brain that’s the important part.

    Good question, and the answer is if you have something capable of literally setting you or your home on fire just by breathing, you’ll want to be able to control it. Zombies, meanwhile, couldn’t be controlled because they’re mindless. They’ll attack anything that happens to be in their way—hence the fight between the protagonist and the undead buneary.

    Haha, that I have to admit is more of a plot hole (as Psychic explains why). At the time of writing it, it was supposed to be a hint as to who the protagonist actually was. Like, they were far too important to imprison or kill, and once they calmed down, they were a valuable asset to the community. It runs on the same line as why everyone expected the protagonist to have all the answers to the dilemma: even though they killed four people, the townsfolk wouldn’t give up the hope that they still could somehow magic away their main problems. Which, as it turns out, they did, so it wound up working out in the end.

    The reason’s twofold, but both of those reasons can be summarized with “this is the best way to keep you from doing anything.” Specifically, the protagonist is basically being told that if they move or order Espeon to do anything, they’ll be shot. At the same time, the same threat is being given to Espeon to prevent her from attacking the townsfolk. This buys the crowd enough time to execute Espeon. So it’s not so much that the townsfolk want to kill you; it’s just that they want to kill Espeon and are using you to keep her from killing them first.

    Aww, thank you! ;D I’m really glad you liked it, and thank you for the nomination as well! It was cathartic as hell to get this out, even though you and Psychic are 100% correct in saying it could probably be better. Still! I enjoyed writing this, and thank you for putting forth a set of really excellent questions. :3

    Lmao, according to Tumblr, it never ends. 8D Except for Christmas.

    Still, aww yeah. Agreed about how zombies and Pokémon seem like an excellent combination. 8D Someday, I’d like to see someone tackle the other side of the equation—like, human zombies and Pokémon. Probably told from the perspective of a trained Pokémon, but not in a talking-Pokémon kind of way, if that makes sense.



    I’mma gonna write that fic someday.

    XDDD For anyone curious, I can quit whenever I want. 8D

    My excuse is that it’s so very easy to come up with fics about background characters. Pet background characters, doubly so.

    Haha, and I regret nothing. 8D

    Still, I’m really pleased that it works, even if you don’t exactly know who the protagonist is. (I mean, to be fair, a lot of one particular question hinges on the idea that you do, but at the same time, still, I’m glad it works out either way!)

    Thank you! I think this is pretty much the first time I’d used second person POV for a complete story (although I’ve used it for parts of a complete story in the past), so I’m glad it worked out too. And, in particular, I’m glad that it doesn’t just seem like a thing I did just to hide the identity of the main character and make them seem a little more like a template than a character who’s actually supposed to be someone. If that even makes sense. XD

    Or tl;dr, I’m glad it doesn’t seem like a gimmick! 8D

    I have to admit, this is definitely one of the parts I struggled the most with (the other being the understandable bit about why the townsfolk followed him). Originally, I wanted to convey that the egg was given to him by a particular someone (and if you know my headcanon well, you probably can guess who) and that it was guaranteed to be a shiny, but even then, that doesn’t entirely make sense because this particular character canonically doesn’t really think twice about giving away eevee. So I stopped trying to come up with an explanation and tried to rework the angle so that he’s just being sentimental, which is an explanation that’s a little closer to canon (he’s been shown to cry over clefairy evolution, for example) … but still something that probably doesn’t entirely make sense in light of the whole “he doesn’t seem to mind giving pokémon away” part.

    Tl;dr, in this case, it’s just because he’s sentimental as eff, but I can definitely see how that’s still a confusing point.

    Thank you for both the crit and the compliment! ;D But with the crit, I totally see what you mean. It never really plays that much of a part in the story except to make Eevee/Espeon seem a little more special, but even then, given both of the possible explanations above, that probably doesn’t really matter that much in the long run. XD; But! Thank you for the comment about the imagery~!

    Hmm. I like that thought, actually. I have to admit, at the risk of repeating myself in the exact same post, I’m not sure how willing I’d be to go back and add the scene in (if only because this story was pretty draining to get out the first time around for probably understandable reasons), but I wholeheartedly agree that this would have been a lot better than simply flashing forward. Heck, Eevee’s entire life feels like it could’ve been fleshed out a little more to give you more of an idea of how close she and her owner are and why her owner snapped the way he did. That and it would’ve made the scenes after her death a little more poignant. *nod* So that’s definitely a valid point there.

    XD Well, when it comes to taking her into town, to be fair, that’s where the pokémon center is. While the protagonist is brilliant (and would probably have a laboratory), he also realizes he’s not equipped to deal with an actual medical emergency, so he was taking her into town to get help—or at least enough supplies to delay Espeon’s zombification. But the townsfolk found him before he could find the center, and that’s where pretty much everything blew up.

    The rest is a mix of a plot hole and what I’ve said to Pi up there. *nod* Shooting the townsfolk was more or less the result of him snapping after spending an extended amount of time in isolation out of fear of what the townsfolk would do to him (because he couldn’t resolve their problems). But! As for why they followed him after that, that’s the rub there. To be honest, I’m not completely sure if the explanation I have is a decent one, but I feel like this could benefit from an extended scene too—at least one that shows him being held until he calms down enough to, y’know, not murder people. But ultimately, it’s a case of the townsfolk being ridiculously hopeful that somehow, he’s got the answers, which he does, but it takes awhile for him to finally come around to being a decent enough human being to show them that he does. It kinda ties into why he shoots the growlithe, which in turn ties into something you say later about how much of a problematic person he is before this point (and a little after).

    Buuuuut like I said, it’s not exactly a great explanation, no—which is to say I can see how this is more than a little weird too. XD

    And both are absolutely true. 8D It’s definitely not a fun ending, and it’s not a fun ending because the main character refuses to make it so. Like, that totally could’ve been avoidable. But unfortunately…!

    XD I hear ya. I’m terrible at titles myself (the only one I like is Electric Sheep, and that’s because that’s inappropriately hilarious). In this case, I was going for something very subdued, but I can totally see how it doesn’t quite fit. It’s probably a little more generic than I was going for. *nod*

    Ooh, yes. I have a bad habit of using -self when I just mean object pronouns, so thanks for the heads up!

    Hmm, you’ve got a good point. The phrase in general is a bit wordy and could be simplified down to “that made you settle.”

    Haha, in this case, he’s totally being an overprotective dad. Like, it’s definitely true he knows what evolution is, but it’s like that split second of, “Oh ****, something is happening MY BABY NEEDS ME.” Buuuut I can totally see what you’re saying here. It could probably be conveyed just as well without the dramatic heart twisting. *nod*

    I was about to say that your train of thought during the first read-through was actually something I was afraid would happen. D: But! I’m glad to hear it works out as-is too. Still, I can totally see how anyone would be confused about where the story takes place, which on a level is something I kinda wanted (i.e., aww yeah, ambiguity), but at the same time, I also didn’t want folks to think this was Unova because I don’t want to send the message that this virus stayed in one region. XD; Tl;dr, if I went back to clarify, I totally would. *nod* I kinda have to admit I’m not sure how, but I would!

    Aaaand this is what I was talking about earlier. 8D I’m really, really glad he came across exactly like this. It’s meant to be consistent with his character (at least, in a certain manga adaptation), but in general, I also wanted to challenge myself to write this character in a way that really makes the reader actually disgusted with him. Because, idk, I spend a lot of time in other fics going on about how he’s amazing but also this flawed human being, but I never really let him be a realistically flawed human being. (Even in that other fic I’m writing about him, where he’s 100% a stubborn dick.) So it was definitely cathartic to establish from the get-go that he has flaws, and these flaws can make him be a downright unlikable person, even if he doesn’t mean to be.

    Aha! Good eye there! Indeed there should be!

    It wouldn’t be a Jax fic if there wasn’t artistic gore, amirite? ;D

    This was actually something I was kinda curious about because when you talk about pokémon that have evolved during the time they spent in their preevolved state (because that’s their current identity), do you do so by naming their evolved form, or do you refer to them with their preevolved form (because that’s the identity they had back then)? Ngl, Pokémon raises some interesting questions in grammar.

    But! It probably makes more sense to refer to his pokémon as an eevee in the long run, yeah. Because when you get right down to it, the friend gave him an eevee and not an espeon, so that would be more akin to saying your friend got you a puppy and not exactly a dog. So! Tl;dr, as interesting as this discussion is, your suggestion actually makes a lot of sense here. XD;

    Aye, therein lies the other rub. In this case, the weirdness is a little two-fold. First, you have Espeon, who both wants to protect and is loyal to her trainer, so when her trainer tells her to go upstairs, of course she goes upstairs. Then she comes back down when she hears the commotion and then she disobeys her trainer’s express instructions. Granted, I’ve never had a dog, so I have to admit I’m not sure what would happen if you told your dog to go upstairs so you can fend off a robber by yourself. I suppose it’d depend on the dog, but tl;dr, there’s Espeon’s explanation there.

    But the second part of it is you have the protagonist, who canonically sucks at battling and is, in this case, too scared to get her hurt because of that. XD; In other words, if this is more of a question as to why the protagonist didn’t order Espeon to use Psychic, it’s totally for the same reason why he didn’t even try to find a solution to anyone’s problem: he’s already decided he can’t do the thing (in this case, properly command a pokémon), so he doesn’t do it. Which is both stupid and damaging in the long run, definitely.

    Buuuut if it’s a question of why Espeon didn’t do it on her own, that’s where the shenanigans may be. *nod*

    Lmao, how did I even do that? XD Good eye!

    And thank you for the analysis! :D I’m really glad a lot of this worked (even though it is missing at least two explanatory scenes), especially regarding the prose and characterization of the protagonist. All-in-all, this was definitely A Thing to get out, so it’s a relief to hear that folks enjoyed it, by and large.

    Have to apologize again for the uncertainty about delivering those extra scenes (although now I’m kinda tempted), but minor edits, I can definitely do. :) Thanks again for all the suggestions and providing the excellent insight~!
     
  5. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    Hey Jax, just wanted to say that I really appreciate you getting back to these reviews. After posting the review in November I kind of waited and waited for a response, but decided to let it go because I knew you were a mod and understood that you were busy with many things. But thanks for responding eventually! Thanks for the explanations, too. The story makes a lot more sense now that I have the explanations. :)
     
  6. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    Haha, sorry about the lateness. XD Yeah, the modwork was definitely part of it. Christmas season in general is an odd time for me, between work (like, actual work) and organizing the Yuletide/NaNo event and everything. That and it just took a long, long while to figure out what it is I wanted to say. XD; I mean, there's that whole personal thing, not to mention I have to admit, I wasn't sure how this fic would be taken. (Which means I'm even more appreciative of the feedback I've gotten for it!)

    So, actually, I have to thank you and Psychic for your patience with that. And rest assured, to the rest of my readers, I'mma gonna be a little more active around the forums, which means review responses should hopefully be faster. XD;

    Also! Thank you again for the review! I'm glad to hear that the explanations have helped shed some light on what's up here. :D
     
  7. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly

    It is never too late for a reply to a reply to a review!

    See, that’s the way it should be! Frankly, I am disappointed that we are not all celebrating Halloween right this instant! January is a legit time for spoopiness!

    Hoooooly cow that would be awesome. o_o I would never have even thought of this and now I want it. Please do this preferably not in a way that is emotionally draining for you, though!

    Yeah, I actually quite like that it can be read either way, and I enjoyed having both reading experiences. I think I would recommend other readers to read it once with fresh eyes, and a second time knowing who it is, just because it answers some lingering questions and adds to the experience, imo!

    XD I think I mostly understand what you’re saying, here. I don’t think it was gimmicky, nor overall forced.

    Huh, “he’s just really sentimental” is a perfectly reasonable answer, though I guess if that was the case then you could have shown it a bit more throughout the story, since right now it feels more like a couple over-the-top outbursts of emotion than something consistent. (Again why having an extra scene would have done a lot there!)

    Yeeaaah, it’s always kind of a funny question when to include shinies, huh? *scratches head* But you’re welcome, and I very much stand by my enjoyment of the imagery.

    Yeah, I think devoting some extra time to their relationship would be really awesome, but I get that this was emotionally draining for you and you’re not really looking to go back to it. Something to think about for future writing endeavours, then!

    Ahhhh, this makes perfect sense!

    Hm, fair enough, I suppose. It might also help if the gunshot wounds don’t kill the four townspeople (so he probably couldn’t shoot a guy in the throat). But yeah, having that scene of people holding him down until he calms down and then waiting around hopefully would get that message across, but again, I realize you may not be down to add that, so!

    Gaaaaah that is so damn good, I love it.

    XD Huh, okay. Still kinda weird, but I see what you mean. Yep, keep the moment of panic, but maybe not a dramatic twist of the heart.

    Fair enough! Like I said, when I thought about how you said it *started* in Unova it clicked that this probably wasn’t Unova. Considering you have the line “By your calculations, the virus would be in your region in a matter of months,“ I’d think most people would realize it wasn’t Unova.

    Huh, that’s interesting! I like this.

    That is a really interesting point. o.o Also, this is why nicknames are the best. *nods sagely*

    Hm, your second paragraph makes quite a lot of sense, and remains pretty consistent, I’ll give you that! I can't comment on what a dog would do, but I’m sure it’d depend on the dog like you said. It sounds like you gave this a lot of thought!

    Yay, you’re very welcome, I’m so glad it proved helpful and gave you stuff to think about! I’m glad the effort of writing this payed off for you, and again, no worries about adding those extra scenes. :) Congrats again on a great job!

    ~Psychic
     

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