The next two chapters are very short in comparison to others, so I am releasing this final chapter and the epilogue at the same time. Here it is, guys. The ending of Survival Project. I will leave a few notes after the epilogue if anyone’s interested…
My sister told me a soul mate is not the person
who makes you the happiest but the one who
makes you feel the most, who conducts your heart
to bang the loudest, who can drag you giggling
with forgiveness from the cellar they locked you in.
— Sierra DeMulder
We were in the middle of our first apartment soon enough.
After a week of extensively searching the city for all possible living spaces and after a week of sleeping on the grassy ground once more, Sai had finally chosen a place that he figured was suitable for us. The apartment complex lay just on the outskirts of town, near the gym (Jasmine had indeed helped us upon request). Just north of the place was the route that led back to Ecruteak City, and all features of Olivine would require a bit of walking. This was perfect, Sai claimed, for both states of his mind. When he was manic, he could burn off energy walking to wherever he was going; when he was depressed, he’d have to fight himself to get anywhere at all. We also promised to not let him wallow in his self-pity when those times came.
The building we would be living in was actually a series of buildings, all owned by the same company. We were asked to pay a deposit fee. Sai did so, though afterward he compulsively counted all his money over again to see if we had enough to stay for a while. I whispered in his ear, telling him not to worry because I would battle for him some more if I had to.
We were on the first floor, specifically requested by Sai. He didn’t want to be reminded of being high up, though three floors high wasn’t particularly high enough to hurt him should he decide to jump again. No one pointed this out. We thought that if we had to protect him from potential burglars, we could do so easily—that’s what pokémon with trainer badges do. Anyway, the room was fairly normal. Kitchen, couches, television, bathroom. Only one bedroom—it was impossible to get a room for all of us. He promised us a room to ourselves at the pokémon center if we ever needed it and we just smiled, nodding our heads as if it really mattered…
Time passed at an unbelievable rate. Not only were we incredibly lucky to have found a home so quickly, a place we could relax at and help Sai at the same time, but also we were adapting nicely. Each one of us developed a daily routine that was impossible to break once started. Senori, loyal and faithful as ever, decided to stay home and be the sole protector. He would keep the place clean, would keep watch for any danger, would go out hunting for food when Sai didn’t have time to buy anything. He would be responsible for making sure Sai slept on a regular schedule. Jokingly, he said he’d also keep Ezrem from destroying the place with a huge gust of wind, but Ezrem isn’t around much (thankfully, I thought at first). The bird pokémon spends much of his time in the northern route of the city, where a small forest-like area and several wild pokémon reside. He, too, keeps watch over them, flying in the sky during the day (and sometimes even at night), looking for possible predators and performing good deeds that the pokémon couldn’t do themselves. It’s his stable act of atonement, he told me once, and from that day on he became slightly tolerable to me. I haven’t entirely forgiven him yet, and I doubt I ever will.
Kuiora, in the beginning, didn’t want to hone her battling skills anymore. She was afraid she would have to evolve someday when she didn’t want to. Sai, however, convinced her otherwise, said nothing would change if she evolved, nothing but her appearance, and he asked her to come with him to the Cianwood gym to train. She reluctantly agreed, and she goes twice a month to practice with him. Lately she’s said she’s having growing pains, her limbs are about to burst with the desire of wanting to evolve, and I suspect she’ll have to give in soon enough.
As for Atis… Sai and Atis do even more together now. The hitmontop probably spends the most time with him. He goes the other two weeks of the month to help Sai with type match-ups and commanding a battle. The gym leader himself, named Chuck, helps Sai physically, as the boy’s skinny, pale body leaves a lot to be desired. During the other days of the week, Sai works part-time in Jasmine’s gym as the person who guards the gym and leads challengers in to the battleground. In addition, he volunteers at Olivine City’s hospital in the psychiatric unit. This was a suggestion made by Atis, and Sai had been hesitant because he figured it would be triggering. So far, nothing seems out of the ordinary. He returns home on those days with newfound information about himself, about his illness, about things he can do to help others. Soon, he says, when he’s eighteen, he’s going to sign up to be an organ donor. The doctors can take anything they want, he says, if someone will have me…
As for me and Gracie, we try to pass the time as best as we can. She helps me get over my fear of death by fighting with me. Her being a fire-type is especially convenient and helpful—I couldn’t have asked for a better new member for the team. She says she’d like to be productive like the rest of the team, and I feel the same way. We have one idea—but it’s one I’m skeptical of. I’m still gathering the courage.
Yes, time has passed. It’s interesting, really, how certain events slow down time and other events speed it up. Sitting in a pokémon center waiting room or a hospital hindered our journey in more ways than one, for example. Battles and the calling of death startlingly hasten my life and make it feel shorter. Watching Sai jump was an odd, encumbering mixture of both senses.
But that was in the past now. He had made a vow to tell us whenever he was feeling that down again, and so far, we were in the clear. He’s so open that sometimes we have to ask him to stop talking, he’s going to break our hearts if he speaks anymore. I hope he understands when that happens, but I can’t be too sure. He leaves the room and we find him either looking out the window or we find him sitting at the edge of the sea, as if contemplating himself even more, as if he’s asking himself, “Who spilled this secret about my past, when it was supposed to go with me to the grave?”
I can tell you, Sai—it was the child within you, the one that still lives inside you despite your age, the one you’ll be trying to make amends with for many years to come. I believe you can do it because I’m growing up, too. It doesn’t seem like it, but I am. Remember the first time you brought home groceries? You were so excited that you almost blew down the door with your energy. Everyone asked you what was wrong and you only paid attention to me, told me to come to you, you had a surprise. You held out a shining red apple and explained that the clerk told you apples are definitely one of a pokémon’s favorite foods. You took a bite out of it and handed the rest to me. I’m feeding you, he said. I helped you start it. Now it’s your turn. You reminded me so much of Annie in that moment, but you’re a person all your own, with your own quirks and silly stories to be told. You almost made me melt with happiness, you know that? Yeah, well—I don’t need that anymore, and that’s all right.
Soon enough, it’s time. I’ve heard rumors for the last year that the lighthouse on the southeast part of town is a home to many electric-type pokémon. I’d always wondered—hoped—that there would be an elekid there for me to meet. Ezrem, in his one moment of truth, had told me there are elekid in Johto, after all. Upon asking Jasmine, his words were confirmed, and my chest tightened considerably, so much so that I thought I’d never recover.
Apparently, Jasmine’s ampharos is in charge, while there are other trainers’ pokémon that give off their electrical energy to keep the light glowing at night for ships. Water-type pokémon trainers are always present, too, to test their abilities. After I explained my situation to her, she encouraged me to talk to her when I was ready, and she would set up a specific day where an elekid could be present. And so I did.
That day is today.
Gracie agrees to come with me. I told her about everything because she’s a good listener and she doesn’t like to talk about herself except in vague riddles. She’s too good to me, really. I enjoy her warmth, her kindness, and if all goes well, maybe she can get something out of this, too.
“Maybe I can get over my fear of water with all those water-types there,” she says cheerfully. She seems just as excited as I am, somehow.
“Maybe. Don’t tell Kuiora about the place, though, or she’ll drive you crazy by asking you to take her there every day.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
We make idle chitchat like this, nonsensical and only half-witty, until we reach the front of the lighthouse. Jasmine told us to meet her at the very top, so we start at the very bottom, moving ever so slowly, as if we don’t want the suspense to end. Step after step makes me want to cling to her and never let go because I know she won’t lie to me. She’s not Ezrem. She’s not the pokémon whose words still resound in my ears.
We reach the top but see no one. Gracie doesn’t seem disappointed, though. She scours the place and realizes that the middle of the room is enclosed by a brick wall that extends to the ceiling. She pushes me to the entrance of the middle of the room, and I try to resist her force, but then I see Jasmine and I stop. Jasmine’s smiling that pretty smile of hers and I know she can’t be tricking me.
“Jasmine?” I say, as if she’s a ghost, a hologram that will vanish in an instant, but Gracie makes one final push and I stumble into her covered feet. The girl laughs and picks me up, unafraid of any possible sparks residing within me. She must be used to this, I think. She must be accustomed to picking up an elekid. One must be here.
She twirls around, me feeling frantic and her being as quiet as ever, and it is then I see them. Not just one elekid, but two. Twins, Jasmine says. Born and raised in Johto by the daycare people. I remember them. It seemed so long ago. If only Ezrem’s lies had been exposed then, but this makes up for it. They make up for it. The elekid on the left has a red bow tied to her left spark plug, and the one on the right wears a blue wristband. Otherwise, they’re identical, and I can see why trainer wanted to distinguish them. All the same, I know they are just like me. Just like me…
I try to run to them, but I realize I’m up in the air, in Jasmine’s arms, and I ask weakly if I can be let down. She obliges and my legs suddenly seem clumsy. I trudge up to them, trying not to seem too eager but I’m sure I’m failing. Awkwardly, I ask if I can hug them. I don’t want to get electrocuted and have the moment ruined. They nod, grinning in anticipation.
My life, up until now, has been nothing but a long, long list of events with asterisks next to the ones that would have been better had there been another elekid at my side. I would be lying if I said that everything was marked, but the majority is overwhelming and leaves me to wonder if now I can stop waiting. Is it strange that every day before now suddenly feels like a dream? This seems like a dream, too, my arms wrapped around them, feeling their cold, metal skin against mine.
I want to know all about them. I want to know where they’ve been, what their trainers are like. I want to save them from their fears, I want to watch them grow old. I want to show them what it means to be broken and then whole again. I want to hold their hands in such a fashion that I won’t scratch them. I want them to see the kind of sparks that respond to the music of them laughing.
Before I do any of this, I fear they’ll disappear.
They’re still in my arms. In an instant I gain two friends and my sanity, my hope. I gain this all in one breath. They tell me they know my story, and they’re very sorry, but there’s nothing more extraordinary than a face that has come so far in life only to finally get what they desire most. They say they can feel my heartbeat—it’s still untainted, despite everything. I tell them they’re a savior from my loneliness and a cure for my fears. My way of showing gratitude in that moment is just breathing, in and out, and not disappearing on them, too.
When I finally come back to reality, I vaguely hear Jasmine talking to Gracie. She’s saying that Gracie should tell me I can stop by when I can. I can help out around here, too, and see the two elekid whenever I want. Gracie, on the other hand, can help out at the gym by brazing together metal statues, which always get ruined in the heat of battle, despite her efforts to keep the battlefield far away. Gracie agrees.
“I’ve been listening, don’t worry,” I say, releasing the two elekid. How long had we been embracing? I hope that I haven’t made them despise me already, but they seem resolute right where they’re standing, as if there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
“So you’ll help out then? Is this what you want?” Jasmine asks calmly.
“Yes,” I say instantly. “We’ve been looking for things to do, and this seems right. Now I wonder why I put this off for so long.”
“I can understand,” the female elekid says.
“Me, too,” the male elekid says. “It must’ve been hard.”
“It was,” I say, but in truth, the pain seems long gone, dissipated into another dimension, somehow, with this one twist of fate.
I feel utterly relieved and redeemed in the name of my evolution line.
I’ve decided, and maybe Ezrem has, too, but I won’t dare ask. Sai’s home is my home. Here in Olivine City, I’m safe and secure. I have exactly what I want. I visit the elekid whenever I want, just as Jasmine had promised, and we get along just fine. We share hopes and tell stories and meet other electric-types that make us feel closer together than ever. Once, I even offer to bring Ezrem with me so he can meet them and see how happy I am, but he declines gracefully. Yes, Ezrem, you lied to me—but you gave me a half dream, one that I don’t mind if it rests unfulfilled. I want to visit other places, too, with you and with the others.
“I trust you’re doing fine,” Ezrem said. “I always knew you’d be fine.”
“Yes. I knew I couldn’t fool you forever.”
I tell Sai, too, on a day where he doesn’t seem exhausted. That’s how he comes home most days, and he crashes without eating. Senori has to wake him up so he can get something in his stomach and gain some weight. Kuiora gives the team baths, but she treads carefully with me and Gracie. The two of us stick to ourselves and take normal baths. Atis speaks more and more with every passing day, and soon I think that I’ll have to tell him to shut up, too.
We’re in our home, I’m in our home, my plugs sparking to a nice internal rhythm. I’m such a small thing still, though I’m grown up—I’m only up to Sai’s knees, and I can still fly on Ezrem’s back without hurting him. Maybe one day I’ll grow bigger, but I’m not concerned at the moment. No one’s concerned about changing right now—we’ve done this enough. Inside we all feel like nobility, special and lucky and completely right. It’s like we’re draped in gold, watching rainbows glitter at our feet. Here, my team can be anyone they want, can do whatever they want—and so can I.