Thread: [Pokémon] Survival Project
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Old May 10th, 2013 (09:24 PM).
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Illinois, USA.
Age: 22
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SURVIVAL PROJECT

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

*

To my pokémon—

For you all to understand me is the last thing I want. It is a type of contradictory consolation when you tell each other that you want to know me better and I instruct myself to be gracious, but it is true. To truly understand me, my thoughts must flow through you and then consume you. You must see through my eyes to believe what seems to be a million tower-inspired legends, and you must fall victim to numerous pits. I would never demand this of you. For you to understand me is the last thing I want because I am nothing but the sum of the parts that others have made for myself, and that means I am either next to nothing or I am too much, an endless source of devastating fireworks (yes, I’ve seen those—once) and breath that feels like smoke. In the end, if I ask you to understand me, I will be selfish, and I will disappoint you somehow. I would never demand this of you, so think, think before you take a memory…

*

I was only four years old when Team Rocket claimed that I was a threat to everyone around me.

My mother had moved to Johto from a place that she called France. She said that she adored the things that we call pokémon because of their potential power and because of the kind of all-important feeling that they gave her when she owned this strength of theirs. She upped and left without a problem. My father was in prison for constant drug abuse, anyway, so she had nothing else to lose. When she reached Johto, she heard of an organization called Team Rocket and immediately went to join them, as her goals and Team Rocket’s were one and the same. She was loyal and a hard worker, and she went through the ranks faster than anyone the organization had ever known. Within no time at all, she was considered an executive, and she suddenly had a say about what went on in that little laboratory in Mahogany Town. But she was pregnant with me at the time, and I was inevitably her downfall. I was soon born, and for the first few years, I was fine; I was her precious little thing. At the age of four, after my brain had some time to develop, something went wrong with me.

Supposedly, I was an outrageous child—one that couldn’t be controlled by any means. First of all, my mother suddenly found it impossible to send me to any sort of daycare or babysitter because I would scream bloody murder every time I was apart from her for more than a few minutes. This separation anxiety that I experienced forced her to take me to the laboratory with her each and every day, which was where my recklessness shined further.

Unlike a normal child, I wasn’t interested in playtime. My moods shifted faster than the ticking of the clock, but no matter how I felt, I only wanted to follow my mother and do whatever she was doing. She was often in her office filling out paperwork and talking on the phone to other members in other cities, other regions. Besides this, she would supervise the experiments that went on in the laboratory, or she would supervise the battles that tested how strong pokémon were and whether or not they were fit to join a Team Rocket member on their endeavors. I would watch as pokémon were hooked up to machines with what seemed to be an endless number of black and white cords, and I would look at the fear in their eyes and wonder if I would ever want to trade places with them. I would watch as pokémon fought until their eyes were clawed out, until every part of their bodies were paralyzed with exhaustion.

It didn’t take long for me to start interfering with the experiments and the battling. During my frequent outbursts, I was running into the middle of the arena, screaming at the top of my lungs and getting hit by pokémon’s attacks. While I broke quite a few bones doing this, they always healed, so I felt no need to stop. I ripped cords out of the machines and I destroyed a ton of the research that the scientists had spent so much time working on. I was irritable and miserable and unstoppable, even as people tried to hold me down. I was irritable because I wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else, but I couldn’t find my own strength to actually leave. I was miserable for no discernible reason, and I was even more confused when my mood would skyrocket within the next few minutes to the point where I thought that I was the most special person in the world. I thought that I was the only person in the world who could fly, and instead of destroying things, I felt that I was creating. I jumped on desks and tried to pretend I had wings as I hopped off. The workers found this, at least, somewhat humorous, but I was always made angry yet again by their laughter and then I continued my destructive tendencies. I was unstoppable not only to others, but I also couldn’t even control myself.

I never listened to my mother when she told me to quit this kind of behavior. I wanted to listen, but I didn’t have the heart to do so. More research was ruined and more experiments were interrupted. More bones were broken. After a while, the leader of Team Rocket even called me into his office to speak with me in the sternest voice I had ever heard… but even he didn’t cease the insane thoughts that went through my mind and were translated into actions.

As time went on, things only got worse. My thoughts had changed from not only wanting to hurt myself by being a part of experiments and battles, but I also wanted to hurt others. I didn’t like the other scientists. They looked at me funny, they never seemed to smile, they hurt the pokémon that my mother loved so much, and they obviously wanted me—and my mother—gone. It started with me simply drawing pictures of stabbing them and killing them by breaking their necks. When I was finished with a drawing, I would show my mother proudly, thinking that she would agree with me, as she never spoke too highly of the other workers. But apparently her words were only jokes, as she quickly reprimanded me and told me never to draw things like that again. Of course, I didn’t listen.

What happened from then on was also out of my control. My thoughts raced so quickly that I couldn’t tell what I was thinking about most of the time. When I did unbelievable things, I only realized it after it had all happened. I spilled vials full of chemicals all over the workers, sending quite a few of them to the floor with their skin being torn apart. They writhed in pain, and I only laughed at them like they laughed at me. I yelled at them to try experiments on humans to see how they liked it. (Later, I would regret this, as it seemed that they took me literally.) I felt the pressure to keep talking, so I insulted them incessantly until my mother came to seize me and take me home for the day, even if she wasn’t done with her work.

Things weren’t much better in our actual home. I destroyed things and the house was often a mess that my mother never cleaned up. At night, I would either sleep too much or sleep too little. When I slept too much, I had vivid dreams about violence and gore that made me wonder every day about whether or not they had really happened. It was likely that they could happen, after all, given the nature of the laboratory. At other times, I found it impossible to sleep, even though my own bed was familiar to me. After spending about six hours trying to fall asleep, I would wake up sweating and screaming because of night terrors. The lack of rest only contributed to my untamed moods and actions.

Occasionally we went out to other places. Sometimes we went to restaurants and went to celebrate holidays and went to the park and went to buy things, and soon, I would have even been sent to school. But mostly there was no time for that, so I stayed inside those four metallic walls and learned about the world that way. If I had known that this was all I would see for about ten years of my life, I would have been fine with leaving more.

For two years this went on, until the leader of the laboratory had finally gotten sick of me and my wild antics. The boss had given my mother leeway since she was of a higher ranking, but there was only so much he could take.

I was only six-years-old when Team Rocket wanted me executed immediately.

*

“This boy has contributed 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 people 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. He wore a black suit with black slacks that were held up by a belt. He wore an evil grin, too… and I didn’t think he was much better than the others I knew. My mother was the only good person in this place.

He had specifically set up a meeting time for my mother and me to come see him. She had brought me along, of course, since the meeting was about me. We were on the seventeenth floor, watching the leader intently as he casually sat back on the blue couch in the middle of his office. We stood in front of him, on the opposite side of the coffee table. All I knew was that he didn’t look happy, so I clung to my mother and let her do all of the talking, though I definitely had something to say.

“Master Giovanni, I can explain—”

“There is nothing to explain. If you had an explanation, the boy would have been stopped a long time ago. He has destroyed years of work, and he has put a temporary halt to our future research. He has blatantly hurt other workers in this building and made several of them quit. Above all, he has shown no signs of getting better throughout these past two years.” There was a pause. I flinched at his words and hid behind my mother now. “I like you, Melanie, and I want to like your son. But he is too much to handle, 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 he has no home in a place like this. I want him gone for good.”

“Master Giovanni, with all due respect, I don’t want to do that,” my mother said quickly. I clung to her harder, trying my best not to lash out. “He is my son. I have nothing left but my son. My husband is in jail, and I don’t want to lose my last connection to him. I can’t go through another loss like this. Besides, where will he go? Who will take care of him?”

“Melanie,” Giovanni said gently, though he was grinning. “If you let the boy loose now, he will speak of everything he has seen. You cannot tell me that he won’t speak, because he’s not yet been put in a situation where he could tell someone something. 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 didn’t know the meaning of the word “execution” at the time, but my mother cleared it up for me. The leader of Team Rocket wanted me gone for good. I was only six years old. It didn’t seem plausible to me. Even though the team was ruthless and heartless, they didn’t kill people. They didn’t kill pokémon. At least, I had never seen them kill anyone… My hatred for them grew tenfold as I realized that this had probably been done in the past without my knowing. My feelings welled in my chest, and I huffed. I darted forward, reaching forward with my hands. I jumped at Giovanni, attempting to scratch at his face, but he had apparently been prepared for this. He held out his arms and kept me still. He was much stronger than I was, and there was nothing I could do to get any closer to him.

My mother gasped and pulled me away from him. “Sai, how could you attack Giovanni, of all people?”

“He’s evil! He wants to get rid of me!” I cried.

“Master Giovanni, please reconsider. This is probably just a phase. He will grow out of it…”

“I’ve given him two years, Melanie. As I’ve said, he’s shown no improvement. I want him gone, and that’s final.”

“Surely, there must be another use for him,” my mother said. She was struggling to speak, as she was still trying to hold me back. Eventually, finally, I went limp and started crying. I wailed and wailed and wished that my mother’s grasp was more comforting. I started thinking up ways that I could hurt Giovanni further—in his sleep, when he wasn’t expecting it…

“Another use? I cannot think of anything this miscreant could be useful for.”

“…I thought you might try to get rid of him. Hush, Sai, this is important,” my mother said, though I could tell that she was trying to hold back tears too. I sobbed quietly, but I couldn’t stop myself completely. “I thought about what happened if he couldn’t get better. Look, Giovanni, I don’t want to lose my job here. Or my son. There has to be a way. Why don’t we keep my son here while I’m working? In the basement, with the other pokémon?”

“He does apparently think he’s a pokémon that deserves to fight like one,” Giovanni mused. “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 others? We can’t have him ruin our reputation.”

She gulped. “As you wish, Master Giovanni. He’ll stay in the cells. I will teach him there in my free time, as if he was going to school.”

“I have yet to see how he will be of use to us.”

“Well, as you said… Sai seems fond of pokémon. When he is old enough—you are free to choose the time, so that you no longer see him as a threat—we will set him loose on a journey.” She paused, waiting to see if he would interrupt again. When he didn’t, she continued, “He will raise pokémon and send them back for Team Rocket to use. We can see if he is any better at raising pokémon with his… outlandish personality, compared to the rest of us. It will be a… survival project of sorts.”

Giovanni leaned back in his seat, smiling. “Now this,” he said, “sounds interesting. Again, go on.”

“Okay,” my mother breathed. Her voice was barely audible. “Okay.”

“Mommy?” I said quietly, looking up at her.

What was she possibly planning for me?

*

Giovanni demanded that the plan be put in effect immediately, so that I wouldn’t cause any more unnecessary damage. We went home shortly afterward, though my mother certainly was in no hurry. She walked slowly and stayed quiet the entire way. When we got there, she instructed me to get my suitcase and pick out my favorite toys while she looked at clothes. It was one of the first directions I got as an experiment for Team Rocket, but I didn’t know it at the time. I was still lost and asking questions that had no clear answers.

“We will feed you there, so there’s no need to pack food. Or water,” she said. She kept mumbling things like this, and then she was mumbling obscenities about Giovanni, which again made me wonder why she obeyed a man like him.

For once, I listened to her. It seemed like a life or death situation that I should follow. Since I didn’t care much for playtime, I didn’t have many toys to get. I only picked up a few stuffed animals and some talking machines that reminded me of the ones back at the laboratory. I put them in a suitcase and watched as my mother filled it with all different kinds of clothes, pieces even for different seasons.

In the middle of her packing, I stopped her by climbing into her lap 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 something, anything. It was a small yet enormous amount of apathy and hatred and loneliness and sadness all built into one hollow soul. Depression was needing all day tomorrow to recover from today. It was something that no one should have to experience, so I tried to comfort her. And I tried to get some answers.

“Mommy,” I said, “are you going to leave me?”

“No, Sai,” she said. She immediately broke into sobs and switched from holding me to holding her face in her hands, trying to mask her sorrow. It didn’t work; I could feel it emanating from every fiber of her being.

I sat there quietly, listening to the sound of her crying mixed in with my racing thoughts. Neither was pleasant to listen to. I couldn’t even come up with anything to say to her because I was thinking too quickly.

We sat there in silence for a long, long time.

Finally, she said, “Let’s go… before he thinks too much and changes his mind.”

We made our way ever so slowly to the laboratory. We passed the green brick houses and the green grass and my mother told me to remember the view forever, because it would be a long time until I ever saw it again. I didn’t take her seriously, of course, but I wished I had later on. The grass below tickled my feet and the green of the houses—including my own—made me feel envious of other people. It was an emotion that I would continue to feel for many years to come.

When we reached the laboratory at the edge of Mahogany Town, the one I had grown so familiar with, we went into an area that I had never been to before. We usually always went upstairs, but this time, we went downstairs. I thought that it would resemble the basement that we had in our own house—which was comfortable as it was a combination of a family room and a toy room—but it didn’t. Not at all.

In the middle of the basement was a movable cot which had a long, leather strap lying out. What caught my eye closely after that, however, were several cages lined up on the walls. They were all filled with pokémon. Some of them even had two or three of them in one small cage. So this was where all of those experimental pokémon came from, I thought. They came from these cages in the basement, and they were strapped onto that cot and wheeled upstairs for further examination or to battle. It all made so much more sense to me now.

My mother brought me over to the far left wall where three empty, larger cages stood. She explained that they were there for bigger pokémon… but now, they would be used for humans.

“This,” she said, “will be your new home, Sai.”

I stared at it, unimpressed. While my old home had two floors and several rooms, this cage was only about as big as the bathroom. It had a small bed in the corner, a sink, a toilet, and… a barred door. It wasn’t exactly appealing. I swallowed hard, squeezing the handle of my suitcase, wishing that there was no reason for it to exist.

My mother went to open the door, waiting for me to go inside. After a few minutes of me refusing to move, she pushed me and told me not to be so difficult. The time for being difficult had to be over, or I’d never get released. I didn’t think that the things I had done were really that bad, but I was starting to reconsider my notions.

“Sai, you are going to do extraordinary things for us,” she said in a more lighthearted voice. “Can you do that for me? Can you agree to this? I’ll be here with you always. I know that will help you. Can you do this for me?”

For her, I nodded. I trusted her wholeheartedly. I was only six years old; I didn’t know what I was agreeing to at all.

She smiled weakly and she shut the doors, but I couldn’t tell if they 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 beginning to live in a relatively peaceful state of mind, which happened once in a great while. It had started when I had attacked Giovanni and had been hushed by my mother… I knew that I was going to be quieter because I hadn’t been as tough or as violent as I usually was. I felt luckier than ever whenever these kinds of serene moments happened in my life. For a while, it made me think that this cage was meant to be my home, after all. It was cozy enough. The bathroom was always accessible, and the pokémon that often stared at me from across the room looked away when I had to go. And I had my toys to play with whenever I felt interested. And the bed was comfortable, even if it was small, and I wondered what would happen when I outgrew it. Would my mother buy me a new one?

As she promised, she didn’t abandon me. She came to visit me every day—several times a day, in fact. She was becoming more involved in my life than ever before! It seemed like a great deal to me. She was teaching me my numbers and my letters, saying that I’d normally be in school by now and that she wanted to keep me on a regular schedule, like most kids would be on.

But as time went on, my old habits returned. The only thing that had improved was my separation anxiety; I had, indeed, grown out of that phase. Still, it became increasingly difficult to think about numbers and letters long enough to attempt memorizing them. I wanted to destroy things… and people, if given the chance. I was either too sad or too angry. When I was too sad, I spent most of my time huddled over my suitcase in the corner of the room, begging to go home. This riled up the other pokémon in the room, but I ignored them. And when I was too eccentric, I tore up the clothes that I had and the flashcards that my mother had given me to practice with. I yelled and yelled and yelled, both obscenities and random things on my mind, just to get the thoughts out of my zipping head, but no one came to rescue me. Not even my mother.

“If you ever want to get out of here,” she told me sternly, “then you have to focus. You can’t let your emotions get the best of you. I’m going to teach you everything that you need to know so that 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 forever growing fingernails to etch the alphabet into the stone wall of my cell. I continued to do the numbers, zero to one hundred, even when I started bleeding. It was the only thing I could think of doing. I needed something that 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 being completely destructive. As a reward, she told me that most pokémon trainers set off on their journey at age ten, which was only four years from now. Four years! The first four years of my life now seemed like a blur, so perhaps the next four would go by just as quickly. I didn’t think anything of it.

Time passed so quickly I couldn’t keep up with it. Since I didn’t even have a window in this place, I couldn’t tell if it was day or night, winter or summer. Many things happened, but the one event that stands out the most to me is when I received a very special visitor.

He was a short man with a shiny bald head. His face was lean and taut. He had a soft, inviting smile, so I didn’t scream or attempt to attack him, though I was feeling especially wild when he came. He wore a red tie and a gray suit, and all I could think about was how I was so glad to see those colors outside of the blood and stone on my walls. I had never seen him before in my life, so I knew he wasn’t from the laboratory. He said that his name was Dr. Richards, and then my days were filled to the brim with new experiences and feelings that I didn’t even have names for.

*

“Sai… Sai Luart. Age ten. Is that right?”

“Oui.”

“I don’t speak French. It’s my understanding that your mother has taught you several languages thus far. Is that also right?”

“…Sorry. I guess so.”

“It’s best to learn multiple languages when you’re young. You’re able to speak the different sounds and learn them better.”

Silence.

“You know, I don’t get many young patients like you. I would say that you’re special.”

“That’s what they all said.”

“Who said that?”

“Everyone above us. They wanted me dead.”

“That’s not very kind, is it? Well, I don’t want you gone.”

Silence.

“Sai Luart. Age ten. I have a lot of information written down about you besides this, but 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.”

“…Nevertheless, I have no story to tell.”

“I bet you do. Everyone does. From my understanding… You were a very worrisome young boy. You seem to harbor a ton of anger toward yourself and others, and you seem to cherish 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.”

*

It was true—I had learned many languages. And several other things. After teaching me the basics, she taught me how to write and read. Writing didn’t take long, since I had already partially taught myself by carving in the letters. My handwriting was legible enough for her. She said there wouldn’t be many instances where I had to sign something. Next came reading. This, at least, gave me something to do when sitting in my cell, but it was extremely difficult with my short attention span. It took much longer than it should have to teach me to read according to her, but she succeeded eventually by giving me plenty of children’s books. She had to replenish them every two weeks or so because I tore those apart too. When I said I wanted harder material, she brought young adult books for me. The new books were a challenge that I gladly undertook. My mother occasionally made jokes about me reading the research materials that were always being made on floors above, but I didn’t find it funny. I really did want to take part in that, just to have a chance to be somewhere else, breathing in air that wasn’t heavy and full of unpleasant smells.

Next, she taught me the basics of pokémon. There were different types belonging to each individual pokémon, she said. She used the ones across the room as an example. Mostly, there were fire-types and 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 highly rewarding. She taught me 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, and I passed these tests with flying colors. I thought that if only Giovanni could see how intelligent I was becoming, he would let me out sooner, but my mother solemnly told me not to get my hopes up.

History and basic mathematics came next. I learned addition and subtraction and division and multiplication, and my mother told me that although the lessons didn’t seem too fun, they would be useful later on when trying to keep money. Money would be absolutely vital, she said, and she promised that she would have plenty of it prepared for me. Every time, I told her not to go through the trouble, but she just shook her head and asked me to repeat the stories behind Kanto and Johto and Hoenn and other pokémon regions, along with the story of how pokémon were discovered in the first place. Apparently, these regions were uninhabited in terms of humans, and one day, pokémon showed up on the shores of Africa. Though plenty of animals lived in Africa, pokémon were deemed as reckless monsters at first, and the people there went to great lengths just to keep them in their native habitats. It took many years for the trusting bonds between pokémon and humans to form. It made me wonder whether or not I was meant to be a pokémon instead, only I ended up in the wrong body, the wrong life.

The lessons, though simple, kept me busy. The books kept me busy. My mother’s daily 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 simply sit there, looking at the pokémon from across the room. While my mother taught me French (our family’s main language, I knew) and English and German and Japanese—she told me that I’d want to be prepared to speak to anyone I came across on my journey—I, out of sheer boredom and slight curiosity, taught myself the art of speaking to pokémon. When all I had was time, it was relatively easy, and I figured that it would be important to talk to my partners. Why my mother hadn’t taught me this on her own time was beyond me.

I learned by genuine observation. Since, to anyone who couldn’t understand, pokémon only spoke their names, intonation and body gestures were key. Each and every pokémon had a clear voice that they used for all of the individual emotions that they could possibly have. I learned the sounds of sadness, of anger, of happiness. The pokémon shook their tails in delight when they wanted something (in the cells, it was usually food), or, if they didn’t have tails, their eyes glittered when they talked. Ears flattened when they were worried or feeling guilty. And so on. I could feel the emotions pouring out of them with every action they did, and this translated into an understanding of their speech.

The first full conversation that I had with a pokémon—a long, purple snake named Arbok—went something like this:

“Hello?” I said, feeling pretty prepared. I wanted to practice. Above all, I wanted to socialize. It had been far too long since I spoke to anyone besides my mother and Giovanni. I knew that saying hello was appropriate, at least, 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 that he had thrown my way over the last couple years. These insults had triggered numerous rages of mine, but I hadn’t stopped them. With my lack of self-control, I didn’t know how.

“That’s not very nice,” I said now. 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. And then his face softened and mouth opened in surprise, revealing a long, red tongue that looked like a fork. Forks were one of the things in the real world that I missed, since my mother couldn’t give them to me for fear of me using one as a weapon. The sight of the arbok’s tongue made me want to give up, but I somehow kept pressing on.

“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 and finding the courage to go on, “it’s just because I have nothing else to do. I have a lot of time to learn, whereas everyone else is too preoccupied with life.” I shifted around uncomfortably, the bareness of my feet feeling the cold of the stone floor below me. It seemed appropriate and fitting, so I didn’t put any socks or shoes on. I wasn’t even sure if I had some anyway.

“That could be it, too. Would explain why all the Nurse Joys in the world can listen to pokémon and understand them perfectly fine.”

“Nurse Joys?” I asked curiously.

“You’ll meet one someday, I’m sure. They do nothing but spend time with pokémon… just like you,” the arbok said rudely. He sneered and looked away from me, and I could hear the sarcastic tone of his voice. It rang through my entire body, and I could feel his scorn firsthand amidst all of my own emotions that were stirring in my heart.

“Why do you say that?”

“You’re getting out of here. We’re not,” Arbok said, his contempt abruptly showing.

“I’m still stuck here for a long, long time,” I said sadly. I couldn’t bear to look at the snake anymore, so I stopped.

“Then rest, little boy. Quit making so much ruckus all the time. Be calm. And prepare yourself for the world,” Arbok said. It turned away from me and didn’t look back, and I knew that that was the end of the conversation.

Rest, he said! It was easy for him. He didn’t have a never ending list of things he needed to do when he got out of this forsaken place running through his mind. Okay, maybe he did have this, even though he was supposedly never leaving, but I could say for certain that my thoughts raced faster than his, so that didn’t count. He didn’t have a mind that constantly ticked over, counting the amount of specks in the patterns on the stone walls surrounding three sides of his body. He didn’t have three songs running in his head all at once, songs that were once sung to him by his mother. He didn’t have images from last night’s dreams haunting him and talking to him. Rest, he said… I would, if only it were that simple.

But it was getting easier. The symptoms of my mental illness (as Giovanni called it, though I wasn’t sure what it entirely entailed) were changing dramatically as I grew older. I no longer wanted to tear things—or people—apart. That was one thing that I had always been worried about thanks to the boss. My impulses consisted of other things now. And when my moods shifted, they stayed for longer periods of time instead of changing every hour or every few minutes. That meant that I had longer moments of peace and clarity as well. And my delusions of grandeur graduated from thinking that I was impossibly able to fly to thinking that I was, more realistically, sent as a special gift from the sky above to do Arceus’ bidding.

But while many things were different, many things were still the same.

I was still sick, no matter what happened.

*

“I would love to hear it, if you’d be willing to tell me.”

“I either feel too much or feel too little. I believe that I am better than everyone else and that they’re just keeping me locked up because they don’t want to admit my greatness. Despite this, I have no desire to live my life half of the time because things can’t possibly improve. When I do want to live, I want to do too many things at once. 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, dissatisfied. I can’t overcome my loneliness or fear for the future. 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 are very, very overwhelmed.”

“I am. I am beyond overwhelmed. All the time…”

“I think I can help you, Sai.”

“You can? Are you sure?”

“Yes. Why not?”

“No one’s ever offered to help me before.”

“Yes. Well. I can give you medications to keep your moods stable.”

“What’s wrong with me?”

Silence.

“Give me a name. Tell me what’s wrong with me.”

“They call it bipolar disorder. Very uncommon in children, but it does happen.”

“…Thanks.”

“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?”

“No.”

“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.”

Silence.

“You’re young, but this isn’t going to be a phase you’re going to grow out of. Bipolar disorder is forever. Medication will almost be a necessity for the entirety of your life. Nevertheless, it’s up to you. What will you do?”

Silence.

“For your mother, will you take the medication?”

Silence.

“Sai?”

“…Yes… I will.”

“I hope they work well for you. I sincerely do. It may take a long time to find the right one, so… let’s get started.”

*

Another peculiar symptom that came to me when I was about eleven years old was… delusions. That was what my mother called them, though she regretfully said that she could do nothing for me. She said that Dr. Richards would have to take care of it. Dr. Richards only said that he wasn’t sure if it was because of medication or if it was just natural. He suspected the latter, as it was apparently common among the mentally ill. And I had come to accept that that was what I was—mentally ill. Messed up in the head. Forever sick.

I was lying in my tiny bed—I was, indeed, starting to outgrow it, and my mother promised that it would be replaced soon—trying to sleep when it happened. The room started spinning around me. I completely forgot where I was, even though the room was so familiar to me. My breathing grew heavy, and I wanted to punch myself or burn myself and convince myself that I was real. But I couldn’t move. It was hard to even breathe when it felt like a heavy weight sat on my chest, and my lungs seemed to have finally noticed that there was a dead spot in the middle of my chest, shriveled up due to lack of use. Everything I looked at quickly became blurry. I kept blinking to make everything clearer, but in my mind, everything was still muddy. I was suddenly convinced that all the memories I had belonged to someone else because I believed that I was a pokémon. In reality, I knew that I wasn’t, but that was what it felt like.

I was a small creature. I looked down at myself when I finally had the strength to do. I was a dark brown color, with some cream on a circular part of my belly. I had tiny paws and tiny feet. My sense of smell had increased tenfold, and the ears that I now had felt nothing but danger nearby. Yes, I was a pokémon, yet I was not.

Images flashed through my mind. There were images of destruction, of blood and gore, just like I had seen in my dreams so many times before. This felt different. This felt utterly and terrifyingly real. Several pokémon that looked just like me were being torn apart and eaten alive, even the babies. From far away, I was a spectator who was powerless and unable to fight, even though the urge to do so clung and screamed at every part of my body. I couldn’t do a thing. I watched and watched, mouth hanging open in disbelief.

I violently shook myself back to reality. I sat straight up, taking in the view in front of me. All was dark. All was quiet, aside from my obvious panting. I jumped out of my bed and tried to run to the other side of the room, crashing into the bars in the process. I wanted to look for that pokémon, but I had never seen it before in the laboratory. I had to find it. I had to find it and save it, but I didn’t have the means to do so.

The next day, someone was brought into the cell next to me. I was in my bed yet again, sleeping, so I never got a good look at him. When I woke up, the pokémon were murmuring and laughing to each other, saying that the person next to me was “just as crazy as the Sai boy.” I didn’t dare speak to the other boy because he was talking to himself frantically, wildly, praying to Arceus that He would shed some light upon him or that He would come rescue him, Senori Deliro, from the life that he had so suddenly been thrust into. Apparently, I had been so successful up to this point that they decided to bring in another test subject.

I had thought about it all night. I still vowed to find that pokémon. I vowed to put that pokémon on my team and take care of it as best as I could, since it was obviously injured emotionally after what it had seen. Remembering that everyone had to have something to call their own, I decided that I didn’t want to use my mother’s name, and I didn’t want anyone to remind me of the boss. I would find that pokémon, and I would call him Senori… for the sake of the one that was just like me, stuck behind bars in a life that was 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 having intentions for suicide.

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 tried to refuse all 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.
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