This one was a challenge to write, but I finally got it to where I wanted it to be. It's small, but important. You'll see why at the end. ;)
By late afternoon, the sky had blossomed into shades of orange and yellow over the park of Amity Square, and Michael had filled two more notebook pages with information. Most of it was basic stuff, observations, and vague connections about possible type matchups that he made a note to test later on, but his most desired information—the type status of Psychic pokémon—remained out of his reach.
As the crowd in the park trickled away, and workers began to close off gates, Michael went back to the central fountain and decided to call it a day. He went looking for Henry, and found the boy sitting on a bench, with his notebook open on his lap. His Clefairy, who had been skipping at his feet for practically the whole day, seemed to have finally run out of fuel. The pokémon was curled up beside him now, like a dozing pink gumdrop.
Michael approached and leaned against the bench. “So what did you find?” he asked.
“Not much,” Henry replied, flipping a page. Up close, Michael saw that the boy looked rather irritated, his mouth curled into a half-pout. Over the many days that they had traveled together, Michael had learned to recognize the Henry Face when he saw it, and crossed his arms.
“What’s with you?” he said. “Did you not get anything or something?”
Henry shook his head. “No. It’s just this trainer I met about an hour ago. He was really annoying.”
“He kept watching me while I was walking around and stuff. At first I kind of ignored it, but then he came up to me.” Henry’s expression darkened. “And he asked me if I was a spokesperson for Contests, because nobody in their right mind would walk around with a wimpy Clefairy.”
Michael bit his lip to keep from laughing. “And? You told him to shut it, right?”
“Kinda. Well, I tried to.” Henry let out a breath. “We got into an argument, and at the end he threw a rock at me.”
Michael perked an eyebrow at the sudden twist. “Whoa. Really?”
“Well not at me, but at my feet. Then he just ran off.” Henry reached into his pocket and pulled out a bumpy black stone. “I kept it.”
The laugh Michael had been fighting to keep down escaped him in a sudden burst, and he clutched his stomach as he shook. “Why? Man, why?”
A brief smile shone through Henry’s gloom. “I don’t know… I think it’s cool. It's like one of those pumice stones that they find near volcanoes, only it's heavier. Want to see?” Henry proffered the stone.
Michael let his chuckles subside, and placed his hand on the bar of the bench. “You’re hopeless, you know that? First of all, when someone calls your pokémon wimpy, you call their mother wimpy. Second, if someone throws a rock at you, you throw it back. Don’t keep it, for Pete’s sake. Did you want to commemorate the occasion or something?”
The boy was silent. Michael sat down on the arm of the bench, placing his hands on his knees. “It’s about time I taught you how to deal with people. Remember how I told you that people are gonna keep stepping all over you until you learned to stick up for yourself?”
“Yeah,” Henry said.
“Well now, if that kid ever sees you again, he’s gonna think you’re an easy target. And you are, because that’s how you presented yourself. Even worse, you kept the thing he threw at you. That’s like taking an F paper and framing it on your wall.”
“I guess…” Henry looked the stone over again and placed it into his pocket. The motion roused the sleeping Clefairy, who cracked open one eye and squealed in disapproval.
“Sorry,” Henry said. “You can go back to sleep.” He patted Clefairy’s head, and she rolled over to the side.
Michael opened his notebook. “So did you get any stuff on Psychic pokémon?”
The boy lowered his head towards his notes again. “I think so. There was this one lady who was out with a Kadabra. She let me watch as it bent these two spoons.”
“And how did that go?”
“Well, it held them up.” Henry drew up his arms in imitation. “Then it sort of squinted… and they bent. Just like that.” He smiled. “It was really cool. It didn’t touch them or anything — it just sort of used its mind.”
Michael pondered this. “Well, yeah, that makes sense. Psychic moves are non-contact. Stuff like Hypnosis and Confusion. It must be some sort of special process that goes on in the brain, that only certain species can utilize. Otherwise all pokémon would be Psychic.”
Henry snapped his fingers. “Hey, like Byron’s Bronzor!”
“That's what I was thinking too. Remember how it used that one move and its opponents just dropped unconscious?”
Henry nodded. “Yeah! But wait… wasn’t Bronzor a Steel type? That was why Ground moves affected it. How could it use Psychic moves too?”
“Well, apparently you don’t have to be a pure Psychic pokémon to use Psychic moves. Bronzor’s a Steel pokémon, but it must also have a Psychic part that allows it to manipulate energy. That works for some other pokemon too. I think it’s called dual types.”
“Are you sure?” Henry looked to him, and Michael shrugged.
“It’s the best we’ve got.”
The boy processed this, and nodded. “Okay. But what about strengths? What’s Psychic good against?”
Michael thought back to his battle with Byron. “Well… there was this one moment when I sent out Turtwig against Bronzor. Then it just used its crazy powers and Turtwig fell flat after practically a second. As opposed to my Goldeen and your Clefairy, which held out longer. So I guess Grass must be vulnerable. We’ll have to test it somehow before the battle to be sure, though.”
Nodding, Henry added ‘Psychic’ to their compiled chart. “Okay, so it’s effective against Grass. What else? What could Psychic be vulnerable to?”
“I guess it depends what the second type of the pokémon is,” Michael said.
“But what if all of Jerry’s pokémon are pure Psychic?”
Michael puffed out his cheeks. “Then I don’t know. We’ll wing it.”
Henry nearly dropped the pencil he was holding. “But we can’t! You said that we’d be preparing!”
Michael lifted a hand to stop him. “I know, I know, I was kidding. Sheesh. I’m just tired.” He brushed his hair from his forehead. “God, all this feels like studying for final exams. Which I didn’t do, but still.” He cast his gaze over the afternoon sky, and was silent for several minutes. After some time of consideration, he stood from the bench. “I guess we should go now. I’m hungry.”
Henry nodded. “Yeah, let’s go.”
The boys gathered their things. Clefairy had fallen sound asleep against Henry’s leg again, and when the boy stood, she slid off the bench and plopped into the grass. With a gasp, Henry rushed to pick her up.
“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry!” Henry scooped her into his arms and brushed a tuft of hair from her eyes. “Are you okay?”
But Clefairy didn’t seem to be paying attention. She had made no attempt to break her fall, and her eyes, still half-closed, were trailing and unfocused. She seemed caught in a dream. Michael stepped closer, and in the waning light he could see that her skin was abnormally pale, bagging beneath the eyes as if from a sleepless night. As Henry held her, the pokémon gave a soft sniff.
“Uh, Henry,” Michael said. “Your Clefairy’s sick.”
Henry’s eyes widened in alarm. “What? No she’s not.”
Michael pressed two fingers to Clefairy’s forehead. Sure enough, he could sense a feverish warmth simmering within. “Yes she is. Feel.”
Henry felt Clefairy’s forehead. The boy’s lips parted, and as if by maternal instinct, he hugged Clefairy closer.
“But she was fine two hours ago!” he protested. “She was walking right by me and everything!”
Michael shrugged. “We’ve been out in a public park for almost four days now. She probably caught it from one of the other pokémon.”
Henry looked down at his Clefairy, biting his lip. “Should we take her to the Pokémon Center?”
“Your battle’s on Monday. I sure would if I were you,” Michael said.
But Henry did not seem to have heard him—his decision was already made. The boy gathered his things, and with the ailing Clefairy in his arms, he scampered down the path. Michael rushed after him, frustrated by Henry's panicked speed.
“Relax!” he called. “Clefairy’s not going to die!”
“Just hurry!” Henry said. To the contrary, he began to run faster, the tote bag bouncing comically against his side.
They zipped their way through the park, across the road, and along the street leading to their hotel. The Pokémon Center was a separate building that stood in the same parking lot, dwarfed by its multistoried companion. By the time they arrived, blue evening had begun to cool the flaming sunset, and the Center's 24-Hour sign had been turned on, calling out to them like a shining beacon.
Michael and Henry made a loud entrance, bursting through the doors, stumbling and panting from their long run. Their arrival hardly disturbed the lobby, however, which was alive and running at an efficient, professional pace. Nurses and staff members came and went from a series of doors at the head of the room, pushing carts and carrying pokémon wrapped in blankets.
The lobby was built with trainers in mind as well, its walls and furniture accented in pink, its living room-like seating areas sporting fake flowers and large, cushioned couches. Heat therapy stations dotted the walls like soda machines, and Michael was about to pull Henry over to one, but the boy did not want to take any chances.
Henry immediately approached the front counter, where a lady sat, looking over some files. She was dressed like the other nurses, complete with the apron and cap, but her eccentricity lay in a pair of thin, zebra-striped glasses perched on her nose. When Henry arrived, the nurse looked up, immediately reading the concern on his face.
“Hello,” she said, frowning. “Is something wrong?”
“My Clefairy’s sick. She was all right this morning, but then she sort of crashed and fell asleep. She's really warm too.” Henry held up Clefairy, who in the artificial light, looked even worse than before. Her stubby ears had drooped, and she squirmed at the elevated noise level in the room.
The nurse gently took the pokémon into her arms and laid her palm against its cheek. “Yep. She has a fever. I can feel it right through here. I can run some quick tests for you to determine a possible virus.”
“Yes please,” Henry said.
The nurse nodded. “I’ll be back. Wait here.” She left the counter and disappeared behind one of the doors.
They waited for several minutes, during which Henry began to pace around the lobby, his eyes running across the walls and furniture, his fingers toying with the vases of flowers that adorned the tables. Every time a nurse or staff member would emerge from the back door with a pokémon, he turned to them with hopeful eyes, then grumblingly cast his gaze away again when he saw that it wasn’t Clefairy.
Michael was utterly puzzled by the boy’s reaction, and though he tried to put himself in Henry’s place, he couldn’t bring himself to sympathize with him. Pokémon had never been a big part of life in his family. Neither of his parents had been trainers, and the only pet Michael could ever remember having was a Glameow, which Patricia had brought in when he was five or six, probably to patch up the already-growing tensions in the household. At first, Michael’s brothers had been okay with it, and his father even offered to get up early to take it outside. But over the weeks, Andrew grew tired of the Glameow’s constant mewling and attachment to him, and Michael’s brothers complained that it was leaving claw marks all over their doors and messing through their stuff. Michael had also found the Glameow’s presence invasive, and would often enter his room to find that it had stretched itself out on his bed, its prim, slanted eyes watching him threateningly should he dare to push it off. Swayed by majority vote, Patricia grudgingly donated it to a pet store, and the Rowans never got another pokémon again.
Michael had been relieved by Glameow’s absence, and at the fact that he could sleep peacefully without worrying about claws or whipping tails. Back then, having a pokémon around was like dragging along a cinderblock wherever you went. It was an extra body to take care of, which the Rowans were simply too busy to do. And even though he was older now, Michael still held the same viewpoint. Henry, however, was nothing short of an oddity.
Michael followed the boy's confused beeline across the lobby, keeping a few paces behind him as if he were holding an invisible leash. Finally, the zebra-striped rims appeared from behind the back door, and their nurse hurried over to them, clutching Clefairy in her arms. Her face, as of yet, betrayed nothing.
Henry met her somewhat tentatively. “So what is it? Just a cold, right?”
The nurse’s face clouded. “I’m not sure. She came up negative for a bacterial infection, and we didn’t detect PokéRus. But her blood was a bit… odd. She has an unusual amount of antibodies circulating in her body right now.”
“What does that mean?” Henry said.
“Well, you know how you have lots of antibodies in your blood? They help you fight off diseases. With a human, that’s normal. But pokémon don’t get sick like we do. Their immune systems are structured differently, and they only have one main type of antibody in their blood. For them, that’s normal. When they get sick, that one type of antibody is usually enough to cover most diseases they can be affected with. But we found a second type of antibody in your Clefairy’s blood, which technically isn’t impossible, but it means that her body’s dealing with an unknown pathogen and doesn’t quite know how to attack it yet.”
“Uh-huh...” Henry nodded. His face was visibly losing color.
“We weren’t able to find the exact microbe causing it, which means that either it’s an advanced virus, or our equipment isn’t good enough to detect it. Either way, I’d recommend visiting a more advanced hospital. There are a few pokémon-specialized hospitals in Hearthome—”
“We don’t have time to visit a hospital,” Michael said. “We have a battle on Monday.”
The nurse shook her head. “Then I suggest rescheduling. I would get this Clefairy to a lab right away. She’s probably suffering from a mutated pathogen of some sort, but a specialist will be able to give you better answers. Here.” She handed Clefairy back to Henry, and Michael noticed that the boys arms were shaking.
“What’s gonna happen?” the boy looked up, his voice small.
“For now, just wait and see,” said the nurse. She pulled a small glass bottle from the pocket of her apron. “This should help with the fever. One tablespoon an hour. Other than that, my advice would be lots of water and sleep. I’d also recommend keeping her out of her pokéball for a while. I know being in containment can be really stressful on pokémon’s bodies.”
Henry took the medicine and nodded slowly. “Okay,” he mumbled. “Thank you.”
The nurse smiled warmly. She clasped her hands together and went back to the counter. Henry guided himself towards the exit, but instead of going for the doors, he veered aside and plopped down in an empty chair. Michael sat down across from him, weirded-out by the boy’s reaction.
“Look, relax,” he began. “You’re acting like you’ve gotten a statement from the morgue. I bet that nurse lady just read something wrong on her equipment, and thought it was something serious. If you ask me, she didn’t look like she knew what she was talking about at all. Clefairy will be fine.”
Henry did not seem at all comforted by Michael’s words. He sank into a long, deep silence, during which he stared mostly at his hands, unflinching as the people came and went about them. Then, finally, Henry lifted his head. “I want to go see Bertha.”
Michael blinked at this sudden pronouncement. “Why Bertha all of a sudden?”
“Because I want to go see her,” Henry repeated.
“Well, okay,” Michael said. “We’ll go see Bertha. I don’t know what good it’ll do, but sure.”
Henry narrowed his eyes. “What, do you not want to see Bertha?”
“No. Who says I don’t want to see Bertha?”
“Why would I say that?”
“I’m asking you.”
“I told you already, it’s fine with me.”
“But you still don’t think it’s a good idea,” Henry pressed.
“And what made you think that?”
“Because you said it.”
“I didn’t say that I didn’t want to,” Michael said. “I just said that I didn’t know why you wanted to see her all of a sudden, but I guess if you really want to, then we’ll go.”
“But that’s not what you meant!” said Henry with sudden anger, rising from his seat. “You said that you didn’t want to!”
Michael felt his temper flare. He gripped the arm of the couch and leaned forward. “Look, I never said that! All I said was that I didn’t know why you wanted to see her, and then you started going all ape about it and put words in my mouth! What’s your freaking bag, man?”
“I don’t have a problem! Maybe you should stop putting words in my mouth and just listen to what I’m saying, for once!”
Michael opened his mouth for a retort, when he realized that the argument was going absolutely nowhere. Michael shook his head slowly, his anger dissipating into a blank gape. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Henry blinked. Then, as if by some magic trigger, his face regained its former calm. “I guess… nothing. Never mind.” He rubbed his eyes and sat down.
“So… do you want to see Bertha or not?” Michael said carefully. “It’s up to you.”
Henry thought for a bit, then nodded. “Yeah. Let’s go.”
With that, they left the Pokémon Center and went back to the hotel. Henry agreed to pick up some dinner first, though he insisted on avoiding the large, germ-spreading crowd at the cafeteria and eating alone. So with their take-out containers in hand, Michael and Henry marched up to Bertha’s room and knocked.
“Bertha, it’s us!” Henry said. “Can we come in?”
Michael heard a distant rustle. “Just a second!”
They waited for a moment, and then Bertha opened the door, flooding the hallway with orange light. Her curtains were drawn, and the usually tidy room she kept was now slightly disheveled. The beds and table were piled high with clothing of all sorts, making the space look like a colorful whirlpool. Empty shopping bags were stuffed into the corner.
Michael was the first to comment, lifting an eyebrow. “What’s with the new decor?”
Bertha smiled somewhat sheepishly as she guided them inside. “I did some shopping in my free time. I figured that while summer lasts, I might as well take advantage of city department stores.” Coming around to one of the beds, she lifted a white sundress and held it against her frame. “Would this look all right on me? I think it’s too low-cut, but the color’s nice. You don’t see a lot of white these days.”
Michael nodded. “It looks fine.” As he heard himself say this, he couldn’t help but chuckle. His own mother had been a splurge-shopper, and in her frequent swings of mood and taste, she would end up returning nearly half of what she had bought, resulting in piles and piles of receipts on their counter.
As he and Henry sat down at the two-person table in the corner, food containers and all, Bertha sorted through a few more items. “I bought stuff for you boys too,” she said. Bertha showed a couple of tye-dye shirts to Michael and a pair of plain pants. For Henry, she laid out a similar outfit, only one of the shirts featured a pokéball. Michael was surprised at Bertha’s well-picked assortment for him, though his gut instinct was to shake his head.
“You didn’t have to do this,” he said.
Bertha shrugged. “I guess I just wanted to say thanks for putting up with me all this time. I know it can be annoying to tug along a third wheel wherever you go, especially someone like me who’s got her own agenda. And plus, those pants will look much more decent on you than jeans. Just sayin’.” She smiled.
Henry didn’t comment on his gifts, but smiled somberly and placed Clefairy in his lap. Bertha looked up at him.
“Hey, what’s wrong? You don’t seem like yourself.” She came around and kneeled beside the bed.
“My Clefairy’s sick,” Henry replied. “The nurse at the Pokémon Center said that there was some sort of problem with her antibodies… that there were too many or something. And now I’m not sure if she’ll get better.” He sighed.
Bertha knit her eyebrows. “May I?” Henry nodded, and she scooped Clefairy into her arms. The pokémon squirmed, but for the most part lay still as she stroked its head. “Mmm. Poor thing…When my pokémon were sick my mom always made them tea to help them sleep. I’d do it for you guys now, but I don’t have anything to brew.”
“That’s okay,” Henry mumbled.
Bertha looked at them, and their unopened containers of food. “You boys can eat here if you want. I don’t mind. I could use the company.”
Henry smiled gratefully. Bertha pulled up an extra chair for herself and set Clefairy down in her lap. Michael and Henry ate their food, and she watched them, occasionally giving Clefairy a rub on the head, which always made the pokémon giggle, snorting softly through her stuffy nose. It was almost like they were seated at Bertha’s dinner table again, and though the surroundings were different, Michael still felt oddly at home. Even Clefairy looked somewhat happy, and seemed to regain some of her former playfulness as Bertha cooed to her.
“You know, I wouldn’t worry too much about what that nurse told you,” Bertha said to Henry. “I’ve been around pokémon for my whole life, and I’ve seen it all. They bounce back from sicknesses even better than we do, sometimes.”
Henry shrugged. “The nurse said that it was something she had never seen before, and that I had to take her to a hospital and get her tested. But I really don’t want to.”
Michael nodded his agreement. If they were to start hunting for hospitals now, then it would throw their whole schedule off track. He didn’t even want to think about what Henry would say if those tests came out bad as well. Thankfully, though, the boy did not seem to need convincing.
“I hate hospitals,” Henry continued. “They scare me. And the doctors are always so unfriendly.”
Bertha laughed. “My grandma always said that the best doctor is joy and good company. Though that was way back when. Medicine’s gotten much more respectable now. I’d say there’s nothing wrong with getting professional advice, as long as you’re smart about it.”
Henry bobbed his head slowly in a nod. “Yeah. But… what about our battle? I don’t want to make Michael miss his just because of me. We’ve been practicing really well so far.”
Both Henry and Bertha turned to Michael, eyeing him tentatively as if unsure of his reaction. Michael tilted his head to the side as he pieced together an answer. “Well, we could always reschedule, like the nurse said. I mean, it doesn’t really matter if we stay for an extra day or two in Hearthome.”
“Wow, Michael,” Henry said. “You’d do that?”
“Sure…” Michael felt a sinking sensation in his stomach, and he suddenly wondered what consequences he would suffer from what he had just said. Still, he figured it was better to travel with a happy Henry than a neurotic one. And the extra days would give him more time to polish his knowledge about Psychic types… right?
Henry’s eyes were beginning to widen with surprised gratitude, so Michael looked away. Bertha tapped her fingers on the table, and nodded.
“That sounds like a plan,” she said. “But I don’t like the idea of you boys putting off your battle for too long. Spots in Hearthome fill up pretty quick, and you don’t often see trainers rescheduling. I think we should devote some time tomorrow to ask Jerry if he has any other days available that we can reserve just in case. I’ll have to tweak my own schedule if we’re going to stay here a bit longer than planned—”
“No, don’t!” Henry blurted. He was blushing from embarrassment. “It’s okay, you don’t have to. I’ll just be messing everything up now.”
“No,” Bertha said, lowering her hand onto the table. “You have a sick pokémon that needs to get better. That’s just as important as any battle or petition. We’re not talking about weeks here, only an extra few days in the city. It won’t kill anyone. So don’t worry about us.”
Henry looked at her for a moment, then dropped his gaze. “Okay... Thanks, Bertha.”
Bertha’s expression softened. “No problem. Now you boys should go get some rest. I can see you’re both tired.”
Michael rose from his chair and yawned. “All right. Let’s go, Henry.” He took his emptied take-out container with him and dropped it into the trash can. Bertha handed Clefairy back to Henry, and after sharing a few good-byes, the boys left the room.
Michael woke up in the middle of the night with a mild headache and a sour mood. His pillow was bunched up against the headboard, and his blanket was sliding off the edge of the bed, leaving one half of him exposed to the evening chill. With a grunt, he sat up to make the necessary adjustments, his tired mind swarming with fragmented thoughts.
In the neighboring bed, Henry was sound asleep. Moonlight was spilling into the space between them, illuminating the TV, and the shadowed pictures framed on the walls. Michael had crashed to sleep at around eleven, while Henry had chosen to stay up to look after Clefairy. He had fashioned an entire shelter for her, complete with a mattress made out of shirts, a cup of cool water, and some toys in case she got lonely. The last thing Michael saw was the boy taking out the pumice stone and playing a sort of baby-catch game with Clefairy, but after that, he had been too tired to keep his eyes open.
And now, he couldn’t sleep.
Michael’s annoyance at himself faded into dull acceptance as he sank back into his pillow. He heard a cough and a scuffle from nearby. Apparently someone else wasn’t getting their sleep either.
As Michael began to close his eyes again, trying to latch onto what remained of his fading dreams, he heard a loud thump. His eyes flew open, and he looked around. Henry was as still as ever, but the pile of clothing on the table had unraveled, and was now on the floor. In the weak light, Michael saw a round, pale shape stumble around on the carpet, blindly crawling away from the table.
Great. Perfect. With a disgruntled sigh, he lowered himself back down again, pulling the covers over his head. But then he felt a tiny pang of guilt, and with another groan, brought himself out of bed, dropping onto all fours on the carpet.
“Here, Clefairy,” Michael whispered, crawling half-blindly after the pokémon. “Come ‘ere. That’s it.”
He held out his hands, and when the Clefairy noticed his presence, a shudder ran through its body. As it backed away from him, the moonlight caught its face, bringing a pale, eerie flash to its eyes. Michael advanced further, his frustration climbing.
“Come on. To me, Clefairy. To me.”
The Clefairy continued to back away, and he continued to follow, forming a slow, annoying cycle in the center of the room. Michael found himself being oddly considerate of his sleeping roommate, muffling his movements and trying not to bump into anything, but as a result, his reflexes were sluggish and imprecise. When Michael’s patience finally wore thin, he made a blind lunge for the Clefairy, but the pokémon skipped out of the way with surprising agility. Michael fell flat on his stomach. The pokémon ran a few more steps, then stumbled drunkenly and fell down as well.
Michael scrambled to lift himself. The Clefairy regained its footing and continued to walk. It disappeared behind his bed, then came out again, looking even more haggard than before. The pokémon did not seem to have a particular destination in mind; it simply moped about like a zombie, arms scabbing at its body.
A sudden idea sprang to the forefront of Michael’s mind. He turned back to the table and grabbed the small black stone, and held it out to the Clefairy, putting on the best playful-child smile he could manage.
“Come on, Clefairy. Want to play? Come on. Look, I have your favorite toy right here. Right here, that’s it…” He found the Clefairy, who was currently backed up against the wall, one arm holding the surface behind it for support and the other clutching its stomach, in a comical posture of nausea.
Michael got down on his knees again and waved the stone around, and the Clefairy’s glittering eyes found his for a moment. Sniffling, the pokémon flinched away, and Michael’s smile turned into a snarl. “Ugh. Come on, Clefairy! Just get over here! Get over here, you little—”
Michael made to push himself forward, when he realized that he was leaning as far as his position would allow. Feeling a sudden wave of exhaustion wash over him, Michael instead sat back down on his knees. What was he doing? Getting carried away again, that was what. If Clefairy wanted to produce a giant vomit-puddle on the carpet, that was fine with him. He’d deal with it when he woke up.
Michael rubbed his eyes again. Beside him, Clefairy let out a whimper. “Argh, whatever. Play with this.” He tossed the stone.
It fell about a foot away from Clefairy’s feet, but when he heard the resulting shriek, Michael whipped back around, afraid for a moment that he had hit it.
In a way, he had.
The Clefairy was doubled over now, staggering from a series of violent convulsions that were shaking its body. Any moment now, it would start blowing chunks.
As the Clefairy fell away from the wall and stumbled forward, Michael backed away by instinct, too stunned or amazed to tear away his gaze. The Clefairy came to a halt in a patch of moonlight cast upon the carpet, and by then, Michael’s back was pressed up against the side of his bed. The pokémon let out a horrible retching sound, but nothing came out. Instead, it seemed to shrink, balling itself up and lying on its side like a withered prune.
And then it grew.
The change was like an explosion, swift and graceful like a flower blooming at high-speed. The Clefairy’s torso inflated like a fuzzy balloon, and all at once, the structures and appendages on its body began to morph of their own accord. Limbs thickened, ears lengthened and sharpened like carrot sticks, and the tiny comma of a tail blew up to the size of a soccer ball. On its back, a pair of new, tiny stubs sprouted out of its back like little knobs, then unfurled into a pair of pink cupid wings. The pokemon turned and wrenched with the force of the shakes, every angle bringing a new glimpse of a body that was tweaking itself like a machine, grinding gears and turning switches.
When it was over, the quakes subsided, and the final fragments of the transformation fell into place. The tiny tuft of hair between the pokémon’s ears grew into a neat, single curl, and its eyes, which had been baggy and congested only moments before, now rounded against smooth, dimpled skin.
With calm lucidity, the pokémon slowly uncurled itself from its slouched position, swaying a little with its unfamiliar height. All traces of sickness had faded from its appearance. The silver light of the moon traced its full silhouette, its no-longer-stubby legs, round belly, and pointed ears. Suddenly one of them flicked, and the pokémon turned to Michael, casting him a knowing sort of smile.
It was only then that Michael became aware that he was gaping like an idiot, eyes bulging out of their sockets, hands slack at his sides.
Roughly a minute later, he found his voice.