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Warnings: This fic is rated 15 for a good reason. Why? Blood and gore, pokémon death, National Geographic style pokémon lovemaking (sexy it ain't), a creepy zombie eevee, Ash Ketchum having a mental breakdown - you know, the usual reasons one would rate a fic 15. XD This fic presents a rather dark and violent view of what the life of a wild pokémon is like - they do not talk to each other, natural selection and survival of the fittest is very much in play, and battles can be deadly. Blood is shed, cute little creatures end up dead, and the vicious depths that lurk in the mind of your average wild pikachu are clawing at the brain, trying to escape....
Also, there are a few nontraditional warnings I feel I should give out:
1. First thing first - this fic stars Ash Ketchum. In third person limited. If you don't like Ash, you probably won't enjoy this too much. ' The inspiration for this fic came from looking at too much fanart, and also from disappointment with how the anime squandered a golden opportunity with the episodes Hocus Pokémon/As Clear as Crystal. I see it as my way of righting a wrong, and doing something interesting with the world's most adorable Big Lipped Alligator Moment =D
2 This fic is AU, and is set in a VERY AU version of the Johto Arc. Hocus Pokemon and As Clear as Crystal never took place; Ash still has Noctowl, Bayleef, Pikachu, Phanphy, Cyndaquil and Totodile with him; and he's never even heard of May or Dawn or Iris or Cilan, much less met them. The year is 2001-2002, and Ash is 13-14 years old. I wanted to warn you ahead of time since, because of its AU nature (in comparison with normal anime canon), this will be a slightly different Ash in a very different situation than what we saw in the anime. Virtually nothing here could ever be in the anime XD
3. This is the first fic I've ever written primarily from the perspective of a developed canon character. I'm not as familiar with anime canon as I probably should be to be writing something like this, and I ask that you keep that in mind as you read. ’ I likely made some silly errors in Ash's characterization (though I made him a bit less dense with age, since it seemed realistic), and I appreciate being informed of anything I might have done incorrectly. The main purpose of this rewrite is to try to fix the really, really BAD errors that I had made previously; though even now I feel like I didn't do that great a job. ' Meh, I just hope I did good enough to get by...
Author's Note: This fic is a rewrite of this fic; the first chapter of which has also been posted on PC once before. This version of Chapter 1 is around 3,000 words longer than the original; and the circumstances surrounding the chapter's main event have changed...rather a lot. XD The story's plot as a whole has gotten quite an overhaul compared to what it once was, but a lot of the fic's themes remain the same - forgiveness, reconciliation, what it means to be a Trainer and what it means to be a human; what it means to be a father and what it means to be a son. To those who have read earlier versions of this fic, welcome - and if you're new, I hope you like this polished up version of a tarnished story; and will forgive me if a bit of tarnish still shows through ' You're in for quite a trip!
Paws for Alarm
by Pink Parka Girl
The most intriguing and miraculous; and indeed, possibly the most dangerous, of all the 'Evolution' Stones would be - if only I could conclusively prove them to exist! - the Transmutation Stones. It is said in the old myths of exotic Sinnoh that they are the size and weight of a pidgey’s egg, and in hue they are rumoured to be a stark white, with swirls of colour reminiscent of mother-of-pearl. Touching the artefact is said to transmute pokémon in strange and wondrous ways - but for those of our own race who handle the stone, the transmutation is generally not beneficial; indeed, it is said to be sobering or even terrifying. Time will tell their true effect – if the minerals ever leave the realm of myth and enter into the tangible reality. - Richard Locke, from the notes to a speech given at a dinner for the Plinian Society, 1827
-Chapter One: Transmutation-
The wildness of squirrels is an awesome wildness. – Douglas Fairbairn
The pikachu cowered back in her drey, teeth bared; with the long fur upon her tail fluffed like a dusting brush. The heavy smell of a predator surrounded her, penetrating the mass of leaves and twigs in which she lived, cloaking her in an instinctive terror. Her pichu kittens lay curled up before her in a mess of eggshells and dried leaf dust; their large, silky ears folded tightly against their skulls. Unaware of the danger, they continued to mewl; pulling themselves towards their mother with tiny claws.
A paw pushed through the mass of the drey wall and tore down, widening the entrance gap; and a small, sharp muzzle worked its way into the pikachu's home. She snarled, the fur along her spine rising, and she lowered her body further over her pichu. Instinctively, she knew the slightest electric spark could have set her entire drey ablaze, yet her body still pulsed with power; her cheeks glowing an eerie blue in the darkness.
The sneasel outside gave a heave and tore the entire wall of the drey asunder; the full smell of the rodents within hitting his nose. He had not been able to find food for himself since he had been abandoned by his Trainer several days ago, and his chance discovery of the pikachu nest was certainly a stroke of good fortune. Slavering in anticipation, he tensed his paws, preparing for a Metal Claw attack.
The female pikachu glared at her attacker and growled louder, before sitting up on her haunches and hitting at him with her forepaws. The sneasel, his attack readied, slammed her muzzle with his bladelike claws, knocking her face to the right and exposing a stretch of nape. The pikachu screamed as he snatched her neck in his jaws and pinned her down, gouging into her sides.
The pikachu knew from instinct what she could expect next. After incapacitating her, the predator would kill and eat the drey's pichu at his leisure before returning to finish her off. Twisting her neck as far as she could, trying to ignore her terrible pain, she picked up the nearest of the pichu and propelled herself forcefully away from the sneasel with a Quick Attack. She knew that no matter how strong the instinct burned within her to protect the rest of her clutch, the choice was saving one for sure, or losing every last kitten.
As the sneasel began his slaughter of the pichu behind her, she flicked her ears parallel to the ground and leapt for a branch beneath her, her plumy tail acting as a parachute to slow her fall. From this lower branch she soon reached the tree trunk and made her way swiftly to the ground, traveling deeper into the forest with long, bounding strides.
She ran right into a snare trap.
The wire loop cut deep into the female's throat, crushing her windpipe. Her jaws went slack and she released the pichu; the kitten tumbling slightly before coming to rest not far from its dying mother. Her paws scratched desperately at the wire as she tried to release the pressure; her mind and her instinct all too soon clouding and dissipating into inky black nothingness as she passed out.
The scent of terror surrounded the pichu kitten, and it huddled deeper into the dried grasses surrounding it, wanting to vanish.
“We don’t want Trainers here.”
The old man regarded the youngster with a weary eye, carefully folding his gnarled hands on the desk before him. His snow white hair hung in limp, thin wisps upon his spotted scalp and along his temples; framing his weary, furrowed visage. “This part of Mt. Silver is a game preserve - a protected area. This isn’t some sort of Safari Zone where you can capture things willy-nilly!”
“I’m not here to catch anything!” The young teen sat down and observed the old man with a studious air; the pikachu on his shoulder chittering. “Well...not anything that's supposed to live here, at least.” The warden sighed, his heavy wrinkles becoming more prominent as he slouched forward. “What is it you want, then?”
“I just want to find the sneasel.” Ash stood up again, clenching his hands together and glaring down at the warden, who blinked his rheumy eyes in ignorance. “I heard some big jerk of a Trainer brag about abandoning a sneasel in the preserve. A tame sneasel! He probably doesn't know a thing about how to survive in the wild.”
“Nature is cruel.” The warden coughed; a raspy, phlegmy sound that made the pikachu flinch in surprise. “What does another man’s sneasel mean to you?”
Calming the pikachu with a gentle scratch behind the ears, Ash looked the warden straight in the eye, his gaze dedicated and intense. “I don't care who the original Trainer was. No pokémon deserves to be abandoned to a slow death like that.”
The warden held the stare for as long as he could, before finally lowering his head with a meek acceptance. “Fine then, foolish child. Go and get the sneasel. But I'd be quick about it if I were you, young sir. And...”
Taking off his bifocals, the warden carefully wiped the lens with a tissue. “There are plenty of things in this wide world of ours, beyond what most of us can know and perceive. There are reasons, and very good reasons, that this area was shut off from people – especially Trainers - like yourself. If you must be noble for this sneasel, just remember...be careful.” Resting his head on the desk, he watched, through half-lidded eyes, as the young Trainer left through the backdoor – and into the preserve.
The pikachu lay where she had been snared – partially on her side with belly aimed to the sky; back paws spread and limp forepaws uselessly dangling. Foamy spittle, stained with a crimson tint, glistened along her slack-jawed muzzle, occasionally bubbling as she took what few remaining breaths she had left. Her neck, brutally torn by the sneasel and further maimed by the thin wire of the trap, gleamed with blood; which had also pooled and collected amid the leaves and pine needles on which she lay. Although not quite dead, there was little she herself, or Ash, or even a Pokémon Center could do about her situation - with injuries as terrible as those she possessed, there would be no hope for her survival.
“How...how could they do this...why...” Tears itching at the corners of his eyes, Ash bent down to examine the sad little creature, who made a weak attempt to bear her teeth; fresh blood pooling about her jaws. He was not unfamiliar with poachers – flinty-hearted individuals who trapped and captured pokémon for no other reasons than exploitation and profit; caring nothing for the feelings of those they so callously pursued. He had even traveled to this very mountain once before to confront them; and reunite a baby larvitar with the mother they had so cruelly separated it from. But this...this was a level of horrific cruelty far above anything he had ever encountered before. The pikachu was an innocent wild creature; who had done nothing to deserve the level of suffering she now endured...
“The...the jerks!” Furiously, Ash wrenched the snare up out of the ground; causing the wire about the pikachu's neck to go slack. “I...I don't know why anyone would want to do something like this to you. But I promise...as sure as I'm Ash Ketchum, I'll...I'll try to help you...” Feeling the moist tickle of tears along his cheeks, he touched his hand lightly to the pokémon's soft back; the feeble rising of her chest a slight pressure against his fingertips. “No...I won't just try to help you...I will help!” Taking his jacket off, Ash carefully wrapped it around the tiny animal, lifting her from the hard packed soil and holding her close to his chest. In too much pain to try and defend herself, the pikachu made no protest as Ash began to run; the afternoon sun flickering through the maples.
Curled, dead leaves; a thick and heavy carpet of browns and faded yellows; crunched and rustled under Ash's feet as he swept through the forest; the branches of saplings waveringly slightly in his wake. Larger trees – an array of hackberries and maples, horse chestnuts and the occasional Mobi fir - grew massive and proud; the multifarious foliage casting an infinite variety of shadows, that flickered and danced amid afternoon's fading glow. Tall bamboo stalks brushed lightly against each other in the breeze; their pale, greenish-white sides glinting pallidly in the feeble sunlight. It was a gorgeous landscape, with an ancient stillness that seemed almost to be from another era, but its splendors were lost to Ash; whom had only one thought on his mind.
He had no idea where he was.
Panting; Ash grasped a bamboo plant in one hand to steady himself; his hair, dampened with sweat, clinging to his neck and brow. He had intended to travel back towards the warden's station and get help for the injured pikachu; but his impulsive panic, anger, and unfamiliarity with the area had cumulated into the perfect set of circumstances to result in his current situation. What was he going to do? Being lost was a terrible enough position to be in; especially when little could be discerned about his surroundings. But the pikachu...the pikachu...
Ash sank down to the loam and carefully lowered the bundle unto his lap; drawing back the flap of his jacket to reveal the pathetic rodent within. The small creature looked at him with a milky gaze; large black pupils, rimmed with a pale amber iris, pained and yet emotionless. Her breathing was shallow and infrequent; the whiskers about her muzzle barely ruffling as she exhaled. The cut around her neck had, for the most part, dried into a congealed mass of rusty dried blood and matted fur, but just under her chin the blood still trickled; leaving crimson smears across the fabric of the coat.
“I haven't failed you yet...I'll get you out of here!” With eyes closed and body shaking; Ash wrapped the jacket once more about his helpless charge – the one who relied on him for her very survival. If she died, it wasn't just blood on the hands of those terrible poachers - it would be blood on his hands. She needed him, and this time...he had to go against his impulsive instincts. There had to be a smarter solution to his problem...
A strange glint flickered in the waning sunlight just beyond the bamboo; and Ash stood up slowly, brushing his hair back from his brow. What was that? Shifting the wounded pikachu slightly so that her head rested beneath his chin; Ash took a few tentative steps forward, keeping his movements light and fluid to avoid disturbing the leaves underfoot. With poachers in the area; it was a very real possibility that what he had spotted was, in fact, a rifle's sight; cold, glittering glass aimed at...what? Pushing the brim of his hat down over his face, Ash then turned his attention to the pikachu perched upon his shoulder; touching his fingers lightly to the little rodent's nose.
“If that's a poacher, he's not going to get away with it,” he whispered; scratching Pikachu under the chin to ease his own apprehension. “I don't know what he's looking at, but no matter what, I won't let him hurt anybody. Sneasel and our new friend are counting on us to save them...and no poacher is going to stand in my way!” The little rodent chuffed lightly in response; fluffing up the fur along his spine as the acrid scent of his best friend's fear hit his muzzle. “Pikapi?”
Ash squared his shoulders resolutely; not letting his gaze waver from the faint flicker of light. “Duck down, Pikachu,” he said softly; bending his knees slightly and letting his free hand rest against his calf. “If he shoots, I...I don't want you getting hurt.” He closed his eyes; the scrabbling of Pikachu's claws against his shoulder and the weight of the wounded female in his arms his only grounds on reality. It was now or never; any further hesitation would only give the poacher an increased opportunity to fire. Time to put some action behind your words.
Snapping his eyes back open, Ash leapt from his crouch and charged forward through the forest; the spot of light consuming the whole of his vision. Wet bamboo leaves slapped against his cheeks as he stampeded his way through the underbrush; twigs and thorns catching on his clothes for only an instant before the sheer force of his momentum pulled them away. Poacher! Do you know who I am? The boy swept aside a maple sapling that grew directly in his line of travel, bending the tree almost double with the force of his rage and determination. I'm Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town! And if you want to hurt any more pokémon, you're gonna have to go through -
Ash stumbled to an undignified halt as he broke through the treeline; kneeling down into a half-squat to try and regain his center of balance. Of poachers, there were no sign – the flash of light, he sheepishly acknowledged to himself, was nothing more than the sun reflecting off the pointed twist of a barbed wire fence; the small, gleaming spot the only area upon the barrier not discolored by a faded, dun-red patina of rust. Small shelf fungi grew in circling rows upon the crumbling fence posts; and bright green ferns, their thin, uppermost leaflets curled into a tight spiral against their stalks, twined their roots about the weather-beaten wood with a choking embrace. Sagging with age and wear, the dilapidated fence seemed almost pathetic amid the otherwise untamed wilderness; a sombre reminder of a past lost to the never-ceasing march of time.
Running a finger gently along the wounded pikachu's muzzle, Ash hesitantly pulled his body into a standing position; allowing his vision to fully take in the strange new landscape that he had found himself in. The clearing was small and rimmed in by tall trees and undergrowth on all sides, and the spreading branches of the larger conifers above gave the illusion of a fractured, crazy-quilt ceiling - the dusky rose of the sunset colliding with craggy browns and sprays of earthy green. Long, unkempt blades of grass, their viridian hue shifting to a splotchy yellow-brown at the tips, covered the expanse of the ground like a shaggy carpet, broken only by clumps of ferns or the occasional stalk of chickweed. It was a quiet, understated tableau that felt almost ancient in its stillness – but it was what grew just beyond the fence that arrested Ash's attention the most.
A large tree, unlike any Ash had ever seen before, almost seemed to sprout from a massive, sloping pile of stones; which had been arranged, cairn-like, around and against its trunk. Its pallid white trunk, the surface dotted by short, small streaks of grey and russet, stood out sharply against the green backdrop of the forest beyond; numerous paper-thin strips of bark dangling uselessly against its sides. That's strange...where did it come from? Stepping over the barbed wire lightly, the teen made his way to the mound of stones; carefully sitting down upon it with his back against the side of the bizarre tree. Although curious, it was an issue that he didn't feel particularly inclined to investigate; not when time was working against him. There were much more important concerns that needed to be addressed...
Carefully unfolding his jacket, Ash picked the limp pikachu up from her cocoon; setting her down upon the rock on which his feet were resting. “Don't worry.” The boy spoke softly as he stroked the little animal with one hand; his tears flowing freely as he observed her chest rising with shallow, spasmodic bursts. “There aren't as many trees here, and there's a fence, too – we might finally be close enough to people to get a phone signal. And if I could just call for help...”
Ash felt about his jacket pocket with his free hand; withdrawing a bulky, silver-chrome colored object from its fabric confines. Although its vivid pink interface frame had made him unwilling to accept it at the time, he was glad, in retrospect, that he had taken up Misty's offer to bring her Pokégear with him as a precaution. Remember the last time we were at Mt. Silver, Ash? He closed his eyes, his fingers tightening about the watch-like device's round contours. “I remember.” He remembered the poachers; remembered the pain and rage in the eyes of the tyranitar that they had so viciously scarred and pursued, and the fear and mistrust in the mind of the larvitar they had separated from her. It was the fury that such recollections had triggered in his soul that had evoked such visceral, hair-trigger reactions to finding the wounded pikachu and the flash of light – heightening his naturally impulsive personality to the point of tunnel vision. If only he had stopped to think, just for a moment...
“N...nothing bad's gonna happen.” Ash managed to choke the words out somehow; depressing a small button on the right side of the Pokégear to turn it on. The slight hum of the device as it sputtered to life was a welcoming sound; a reassuring monotony tickling lightly along the edges of his perception, that served to mask the deep feelings of anger, frustration and shame that swirled about the distant corners of his mind. Such emotions were, for the most part, foreigners to his experience; demons that had no place interfering with one who had always been able to look at evil head on – and who had always been able to vanquish it. Criminals, poachers, and Rocket agents alike had always eventually faltered in the face of his spirit and determination, and success, it seemed, was virtually guaranteed him. Nothing...bad! Even now, he fruitlessly checked the Pokégear; feeling no change in his mood as the inevitable registered in his consciousness – no bars, no signal. There would be no call for help.
He switched off the Pokégear and placed it back into his pocket; his knuckles bumping lightly against the pokéballs he also kept there. Deep down, Ash knew that the wounded pikachu was beyond rescue; and had been from the moment he first encountered her. A wild animal that had any strength or will left to survive would have fought against his touch, his odor, his very presence – the pikachu's stillness and docility had been deeply disconcerting to his Trainer instincts; but his optimistic spirit had rebelled fiercely against any such notion that failure was possible. If she died, it was only because he didn't work hard enough to correct his earlier mistakes; mistakes that he never should have made in the first place. It was utter futility that was causing his tears; causing his pain – but he wouldn't - couldn't - accept such a thing. Ash Ketchum never gave up!
Swallowing hard, he picked up the stone nearest to him; clenching it tightly within his fist as he tried to focus his mind on what to do next. I'd try letting Noctowl out; but I don't want to take a chance on those poachers firing at him. Or maybe...maybe, if I follow this old fence, it'll lead me back to the warden's station. Couldn't hurt to try, could it? Anything is better than just sit -
An odd sort of warmth tingling against his inner palm interrupted Ash's train of thought, and he slowly spread his fingers apart; looking down at the rock in his hand. It was small – only about the size of a pidgey's egg - and it wasn’t a terrifically heavy object, but something about it completely captivated his attention; a suffocating, inexplicable influence that drove out even his concern for the pikachu and the lost sneasel. Its creamy-white surface was faintly mottled with pearlescent impurities, that sparkled with the promise of potential in the evening's fading glow. Why can't I stop looking at this?
“What a weird rock,” Ash said softly, holding it up for Pikachu to see. The colors flashed and twirled like beautiful, formless dancers as the sun hit the stone more fully; casting refractions upon the pale bark of the paper birch tree. The pikachu watched the swirling rainbow dash across the tree's surface, his ears pricked attentively and his eyes focused. “Still, it's...” The boy hesitated; turning away from his partner as his shoulders slouched. “It's still just a rock. It shouldn't be important. There couldn't be a worst time to get distracted!” He rested his head upon his free hand; trying to focus his gaze upon the pathetic rodent lying stiffly at his feet. “I...I just wish I could just get my thoughts together for you. I've already wasted so much time...what sort of Trainer would I be; to let some stupid rock get in my way?”
He reached down to stroke the little female with a finger; the other four still wrapped tightly about the stone as if his life depended upon it. I'll follow this fence and carry you away from here, even if I have to take this dumb rock with me! I'll...I'll make sure you live...somehow.
The pikachu lifted her muzzle slightly; touching her nose gently to the stone in Ash's hand.
Scarcely had the pikachu touched the stone when a fierce, suffocating pressure seized Ash about the chest; slamming him against the tree with enough force to shatter the side. Splinter-like shards flew past his body as he gripped the torn edge of the birch; gasping in pain and digging his nails into the spongy heartwood as tightly as he could. While tornadoes or earthquakes were rare occurrences in Johto, he knew from other Trainers that both had occurred before. Struggling to think, Ash tried to figure out which had led to his situation. It's gotta be one or the other...right?
A bright, blinding glare suddenly filled the clearing; a white so pure it made Ash dizzy. “Pikachu!”
His partner made no reply; and, struggling to find his pokémon, the teen groped about his feet blindly with one hand, wanting to make contact with something – anything - familiar. The vague outline of what had to be the wounded pikachu shimmered before his vision, and, steadying his body, he grabbed at it.
With one hand holding the pikachu's ear and the other still holding the tree, Ash clung to both as tightly as he could. Whatever this was, he couldn't let any further harm come to her...
The white glow retracted, fully enveloping the two figures in its center and squeezing them with a suffocating force. Digging his fingers in further, Ash hung on for all he was worth; even as the crushing light tore at their very existence. The pikachu, with nary a whimper, faded into mist and slipped through his fingers; a clammy fog that invaded his pores and nose.
No! You have to come back!
You have to...
Struggling to stay conscious, Ash gasped as the pressure upon his body increased even further, as if a giant was trying to compress him into a small, manageable form. Pikachu...Sneasel...the rock...I have to win!
Unable to think further from the crippling pain, Ash passed out; the light fading away into nothingness.
It was night when Ash awoke.
Small creatures rustled through the trees enveloping the clearing; the sound of paws pattering against mouldering leaf matter sounding almost unbearably loud to his ears. Startled out of his dream-like state, Ash opened his eyes; struggling to adjust to his surroundings. A choking, overbearing darkness surrounded him, which was surprisingly tangible – reaching forward, he could feel thick, heavy strands of fabric enveloping his entire body; that were saturated with a strong, musty odor that was both entirely alien and yet chillingly familiar.
Pikachu...where's Pikachu? Carefully forcing himself to move, Ash pulled his body along the strange fabric; hooking his hands around the tightly-wound fibers and inching forward. Somewhere ahead of him, the darkness shifted; a thin sliver of grey moonlight glittering like a beacon just within his reach. The end of the tunnel was near!
Still crawling, Ash shuffled forward into the world outside; wondering what would await him.
Something sparkling rested between his hands.
Sitting up awkwardly, Ash examined the object; studying it as well as he was able to in the moon's hazy glow. It was silver colored and made of thin metal, which was shaped into a rough rectangle. Another piece of silvery metal, slightly thinner than the first and threaded through a strange material, rested against the larger shape. The other material had a rich, smoky scent and felt smooth to the touch; with large holes, though which he could fit an entire finger, evenly spaced along part of its length. Around it, strips of fabric, different than the sort he had been trapped in before, held the entire arrangement in place.
I...I think I’m sitting on...a giant pair of pants!
It felt foolish even to think it. But what else could the metal be but a belt buckle, the smoky material a leather belt, and the strips holding it in place part of an oversized pair of Levis? Mind reeling, Ash carefully turned around and crawled unto the thick threaded fabric he had been trapped in; even with the faint illumination, he could identify it as a massive sweater, glowing a sickly green in the moonlight.
It’s...it’s my sweater...
Backing up in horror, Ash tried to convince himself that what was going on was a dream, just a terrible hallucination of the night. He couldn’t have shrunk! Not for real! Crawling – why did he feel the need to crawl everywhere in this nightmare? – backwards at a fast clip, he didn’t even notice the details of his surroundings until he felt his foot bump up against some sort of large object.
He spun about wildly; feeling an odd prickling along his neck and back as the fear and surprise registered in his mind. A rock, which looked to Ash to be as large as his head, rested before him, massive and cold. What had once been a pure white stone with faint swirls of color was now the hue of poor-quality quartz; whatever inherent magic it had held was now gone. That must be that crazy rock...but where's the pikachu? Isn't she supposed to be here? He stared down at the cairn below him with a growing sense of panic; but other than a few rusty smears of congealed blood, there was no sign a wounded pokémon had ever been here at all. When I had that...dream...the pikachu vanished. She couldn't have gone anywhere on her own; and if she's not here, that means...
This is real. Whatever has happened here, all of it is real...
A dark shape swooped down suddenly; and Ash, aware of his current small size, swiftly ducked behind the birch and tried to still his pounding heart. A murkrow, eyes glittering with an almost mischievous glee, had alighted upon the quartz-like stone; cocking its head in seeming curiosity. A few moments later, it gave a little hop and landed on a stone level with the smears of blood, looking for the carcass it had expected to uncover. Finding only a left behind scrap of offal, it took it up in one claw and tugged at the flesh with its beak; attempting to rip off a bite-sized bit. Once it had freed a strip, it flicked its head upwards; a sudden movement that caused the already skittish Ash to yelp in surprise.
Born of a moment of irrational phobia, his shout echoed about the previously quiet clearing, shocking not only Ash himself but the murkrow; which abandoned its food and flew off with a petulant caw. Yet as noisy as the bird was, its voice could not drown the memory of that yell...
The sound replayed in Ash's mind, over and over like an unwanted earworm; a disturbing revelation that a smaller size was the least of his problems. There had been nothing human about the high-pitched, squealing noise that had burst from his throat – rather, it had been the cry of a pikachu.
Shaking his head in frightened bewilderment, Ash held his hands up to his face for examination, hoping to find them unchanged. The general shape still seemed to be vaguely human; although the fingers were somewhat stubbier than they had been, and the new size and positioning of the thumb digits made it clear they were now lacking in opposability. Reaching up with his strange new paw, he traced the outline of his face, experiencing the strange sensation of his now small, moist nose pressing into his newly thick and fleshy palm; running his digits along his slender, blunt muzzle, and reaching up as best he could to feel his tall, tapered ears. Turning his head, Ash scrutinized the rest of himself, his mind still not quite accepting what had happened. His body was small, stocky and covered all over with thick, short fur, which grew much longer and fuller upon his new tail. The digits on both fore and hind paws were tipped with short black claws, which curved over slightly at the tip.
What the...this can't be me. It can't be! I'm not supposed to be a pikachu! What is going on? Did that stupid rock do this to me?
Pikachu! Ash screamed mentally; his mind reeling with confusion. Where was his pokémon? Had the bright light that turned the dying pikachu to mist destroyed his best friend as well? Heart beating furiously, he cried out loud; not caring that simply more animal vocalizations emerged from his throat. He was alone. Forced into a new body; crushed under the guilt of having failed the little female, and without even his own partner for companionship…
“Pika?” Something damp brushed against the back of his neck, and Ash jumped back instinctively, feeling the fur along his spine rise and a strange, tingling pulse in his cheeks. Another pikachu stood before him with his ears pricked attentively; a confused but responsive gleam in his eyes. Pikachu…it's really you!
An image of himself as a human sitting on the rock cairn suddenly filled Ash’s head, as if he were reliving the events of earlier in the day from outside his own body. Lingering feelings that were not his own hovered around the periphery of the vision; an intense puzzlement, tinged with slight fear and hints of loneliness. The form of the vision-Ash suddenly shifted to that of a pikachu and back again, a pattern it repeated several more times before it faded, with the implication of a question attached.
Where did that come from? Ash wondered, peering curiously at his pokémon. The pikachu stared back at him, and again the vague idea of a question entered his mind; a question that could not be asked, nor its answer understood, in human words. Pikachu is sending me messages?
He lay down, resting his muzzle on his forepaws; and tried to send a message of his own to the pokémon. Pikachu?
The pikachu sat up, staring straight at Ash. This is Ash, Pikachu. I…somehow…somehow I’m a pikachu now, too…
The pikachu looked blank, and he cocked his head, chattering anxiously. An image of himself had appeared when he thought “Ash,” and an image of his pikachu when he addressed the pokémon, but the other words seemed lost on the little animal. How can I let him know? If words don’t work…
Closing his eyes, Ash concentrated, thinking back over his ordeal. The pikachu pricked his ears and carefully approached his transfigured master, sniffing him along his cheeks and muzzle and giving an occasional nibble at his fur. Yes, Pikachu, Ash thought, it’s me. It’s Ash. You’ll stay with me, won’t you, Pikachu? He added an image of traveling through a forest, his loyal partner still by his side despite his altered state. The impression he received in return was heavily infused with confusion, but even stronger were the feelings of assertion and love, mixed with a single word – his own name.
Pikachu! Grabbing the pokémon in as human a hug as he could manage; his own feelings of love needed no translation.
Pikachu, curled up in a ball at the foot of the cairn, waited obediently; his muzzle resting on the tip of his tail as he watched his master at work. Ash stood upon his jacket, his face stuffed into one of the outside pockets. His much more sensitive nose rankled at the scent of old sweat, decaying crumbs of food, and general human odor that clung tenaciously to the fabric; and he scrunched his muzzle with distaste. At least I don’t have to stay in here long, he thought wryly, nudging aside Misty's Pokégear – how was he ever going to return it to her now? - and taking a small object into his jaws. Just long enough to find my other pokéballs. If Pikachu would listen to him, he thought, than it stood to reason that his other pokémon would as well; providing him with additional companionship and protection. And I need as much of that as I can get…if I got in a battle…I only know how to fight with pokémon, not as one…
He felt his ears droop at the prospect. I can't battle as a pokémon. My only hopes lie with you guys…my team…
Feeling deeper into the pocket, his paws brushed against the rest of his pokéballs, which rattled against each other with a sharp clicking sound. Scooping them all up into his mouth, Ash retreated; spitting them unto his sweater and taking huge gasps of air. The pokéballs, in their miniature state, lay where they landed in a small depression in the sweater; their gleaming surface faintly illuminated by the thin moonlight. I hope you’re not too disturbed by my appearance, guys, Ash thought fretfully as he walked carefully around the small objects; wondering which pokémon he should release first. Maybe Bayleef, he decided, nudging her pokéball with his nose. That silly pokémon would know me anywhere.
Turning the ball over, Ash depressed the button with his paw, enlarging the object to its normal size. He sent Pikachu an image of Bayleef, and the small pokémon stood up, eyeing the pokéball. Well, Pikachu, here goes…
He pressed the button once more, and the ball opened with a blinding flare; the shape of his bayleef materializing and forming before his scarred vision. Once solid, she looked around; a puzzled gleam in her eyes as she scanned her surroundings for any sign of her beloved Trainer. Bayleef, Ash projected to her, waiting to see the recognition arise in her gaze. Bayleef! Ash is here. It's me!
Bayleef paid no attention and sniffed at his clothes instead; her face registering sadness. She pawed at his jacket, shoving it aside and sticking her head under his sweater and hat. Sitting up with the hat perched awkwardly atop her cranium and his sweater dangling from about her neck; she looked around, a hint of panic beginning to show in her demeanor.
Bayleef! He thought her name as intensely as he could, a frenzied panic threatening to overtake his senses. Bayleef!
“Baaaaay!” The pokémon bellowed, stamping her feet and swinging her head about threateningly. A pungent, spicy scent filled the air as the bayleef grew more agitated; desperately searching for the Trainer whose presence she was not aware of, whose messages she could not hear. Giving a final heave of her head and sending the hat and sweater flying, the pokémon began furiously attacking the birch tree from frustration; sending wood chips and flakes of bark flying with each Razor Leaf she launched.
Bayleef…you…you must not be able to hear me like Pikachu can…
Ash picked up Bayleef’s pokéball in his paws, hanging his head dejectedly. Without the power of speech, he had no way to return her to her ball, where she’d be safe until someone else found his cast-off possessions. Once again, his reckless actions had put someone who depended upon him at risk...
No! I failed in my promise to the pikachu...but...I can't fail again; I'm not supposed to fail! There must be something I could do to show her who I am! Anything!
His hat lay in a crumpled heap where it had landed, and the boy ran to it; nudging at its fabric sides with his nose. Lifting it slightly with his head and forepaws, Ash squirmed his body underneath and then sat up inelegantly; with the hat sagging at an angle over the left side of his face and the brim bumping against his muzzle. It’s not much, but at least it’s something…there’s nothing else I can do…
Nudging the cap out of his face, Ash cautiously approached his anxious bayleef; half-raising a paw towards her foreleg but unable to bring himself to touch her. The pokémon’s whole body shook with fear and apprehension, and she panted; her head lying wearily against the paper birch. Pieces of bark and wood clung to her scales and the ground around her, intermingled with the sharp green leaves she had launched at the tree in her anger. Bayleef…Bayleef…if only I’d known, I would never have let you out to suffer like this…I just hope you can finally recognize me, by my hat and by my actions…
Ears drooping with shame, Ash swallowed his uncertainty and rested his small paw delicately upon Bayleef’s foreleg; a gentle, soothing Trainer’s touch not unlike those he often gave his team to show his support and affection. ”Chuuu….”
The Grass-type lifted her head and stumbled back in shock and surprise; her feet scrabbling for purchase upon the loose stone cairn. Quickly regaining her footing, she spun towards Ash; her eyes blazing with rage and a blind fury, and her body language speaking louder than any words ever could – this monster, this creature who would mockingly wear her Trainer’s hat and dare to touch her in the same way he always had, would have to be punished.
With a yelp of surprise, Ash instinctively sprang to the left as a barrage of leaves enveloped the space he had been standing only a moment before; hitting the ground forepaws first. Undeterred, Bayleef scrambled down from the rock cairn and turned about swiftly to meet his gaze; chest heaving and the leaf upon her head quivering. Bayleef, no! Stop this! I can't fight you...even if I could, I wouldn't... Keeping his eyes focused upon his pokémon, Ash attempted to scramble backwards away from her; his lack of experience with quadruped movement causing him to stumble over his own paws as he fought to retreat. Seizing the easy opportunity presented to her, Bayleef lowered her head and charged her Trainer's fallen form; slamming her forelegs against his chest to keep him right where she wanted him. If she so desired, Ash knew, it would be a simple enough matter for her to finish him off.
Bayleef. Struggling to breathe with the pressure of the Grass-type's weight upon his chest; Ash let his eyes meet hers and steeled his resolve, refusing to look away. He thought back over the memories he had of her – gaining her confidence as a chikorita by saving her from Team Rocket's clutches, and when she had evolved to save him in return. He recalled fondly her victories at Cianwood and the Silver Conference; and smiled a little at the stubborn fierceness of her passion – a trait she was displaying even now; even as she tried to kill him...
The pokémon wavered as she stared down at the strange pikachu who did nothing to defend himself; seeming to detect an unusual quality in his expression – a warm humanity, tinged with a Trainer's pride and a Trainer's love. Confused, Bayleef placed her forelegs back upon the ground; stepping away from Ash and curling up around his fallen sweater. Shakily, the teen pulled himself into a standing position as he observed her; his ears drooping and his heart aching with melancholy as he forced himself to acknowledge what it was he had to do next. Without a way to convince Bayleef of his identity, he had no other choice than to leave the clearing and try to get help for her; and for the rest of his team, as well. Bayleef, he thought, his mind choking with sorrow, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I had to put you in a situation like this…but I'll get you out of it! He sat up on his haunches excitedly as the thought hit him; his pain taking a backseat to his natural optimistic faith. I'll mark a trail, and when I finally find my way out of here, I'll call Professor Oak on the Pokégear. That will have to tell him something's up, and they'll send someone out to look for me…though I wish I could do more, this is the best I can do for all of you right now. But I know it'll have to work!
Dropping his forepaws to the ground; Ash instinctively tensed his hindquarters and leapt forward, landing roughly upon his head next to his crumpled jacket. Pikachu, I don't know know how you do it, he thought with a wince; sitting up and brushing pine needles and bits of grass from the long fur on his forehead. I just hope I won't have to stay in this body very long...
A furry cheek rubbed against his own, and Ash turned to see his pikachu beside him; making a sad, anxious sound. He hugged his pokémon again, resting his muzzle against Pikachu’s shoulder. It'll be okay...Bayleef's feeling calm now, and I'm going to get her help! He gently pawed at the jacket's rumpled pocket; pushing the Pokégear out into the open and taking it carefully into his jaws. It's all going to work out, somehow. I know it will!
Pikachu, sensing the intensity of Ash’s emotion, churred sympathetically; grooming his friend’s ear lightly in response. Without thinking, Ash dropped the Pokégear and returned the gesture, feeling an endorphin-induced calming effect wash throughout his body as he ran his tongue along his partner’s fur. Mmm…that feels nice…
With a start, his human mind realized what exactly he had been doing, and he pulled away from Pikachu sharply; snapping his teeth about the Pokégear once more and mentally castigating himself. You’re not a pikachu! You’re a human! A Trainer! Humans don't lick; and they shouldn't...I mean, they don't...think licking feels good!
Ash shook himself with revulsion, the hat’s brim slamming against his muzzle from the force of his movement. I don't want to get used to this body! Once I make sure help is on the way for Bayleef and the others, I need to find a way to fix this. I have so much I still need to do in life...and Brock, Misty...Tracy and Professor Oak, and my pokémon back in Pallet Town...and Mom...I need to be there for them. I don't know what caused this or why it had to happen; but there has to be a cure...
Come, Pikachu. With that command, he started to follow the rank human odor he had left on the way to the clearing; giving Bayleef one last reassuring look before he padded past the treeline.
Everything in the forest was a new experience for Ash. Every twig that snapped, every pokémon that cried, and the rustling of the plethora of foliage all above and around him was picked up by his sharply acute hearing; while the stink of pitch and loam, birth and courtship and decay, the grasses of the sweet summer and the dried husks of last year’s leaves blended together into an overwhelming cornucopia of scents. His rough pads were not as perceptive to textures and sensations as his human fingertips had been, but this was more of a boon rather than a loss, as stepping repeatedly upon twigs, thorns and thistles soon proved. His new tail dragged along in the dirt behind him – he had tried holding it upright as instinct advised him, but the alien feeling was too enormously foreign for him to keep it up.
Stopping to scratch at yet another tree, he wondered what could possibly be done about his current situation. If there was a way to turn him into a pikachu, he reasoned, there had to be a way to turn him back into a human. But if I can’t talk, how can I let anyone know what happened to me? And…what if there isn’t a way?
What if I’m a pikachu forever?
Swallowing, Ash shook his head and tried to set his sights on the path ahead of him. The senseless tangle of wilderness had eventually receded slightly, revealing an almost completely overgrown trail; filled with towering weeds and burdocks and tinged with a stale, unfamiliar human scent. This must be near the area where those poachers had their snares, Ash thought, suddenly tensing fearfully. What if there's still traps around here? Sending a frantic mental image of a deadly, gleaming snare to Pikachu; he carefully made his way to his partner. Flicking his tail anxiously, the pokémon seemed to have made the connection between the image and the memories of the dying female from earlier in the day, and he gave Ash a fretful look.
We just have to be careful, Pikachu, Ash thought, shuffling forward at a magcargo’s pace; sniffing and examining the air in between each step. A few hundred feet down the trail, however, the suddenly overpowering smell of blood and fear hit him like a semi truck.
The snare lay where he had tossed it; the lethal strip of metal stained and spattered with cruor. A tiny pichu, eyes still a milky blue and ears still folded, licked at the salty congealed mess anxiously - upon seeing Ash and Pikachu, it arched its back and fluffed its fur defensively; bearing its minuscular, dagger-like teeth in what it thought was a threatening manner.
Poor orphan, Ash thought, guessing from its natal features that it couldn’t be any more than a few weeks old, and much too young to be away from its mother. I wish I could have saved your mom…
He had barely taken a few steps towards the kitten, wondering if there was anything within his power he could do to help it, before a new scent hit his nose; one of savage ferocity, ravenous hunger, and tortured rage born of loneliness. With a vicious snarl, a sneasel sprang onto the path, his eyes upon the helpless baby pichu. Although he was not especially hungry after dispatching and gorging on its siblings, his anger at being abandoned by his Trainer burned brightly enough to make him want to take his frustrations out on anything smaller and weaker than he was – and yet another pichu was a perfect opportunity.
No! Ash thought forcefully, instinctively leaping towards the sneasel and mimicking the pichu’s defensive posturing. Don't attack me! I came here to help you! The sleek black pokémon sat back on his haunches and swung his massive, blade-like claws towards Ash’s face; making the boy back off anxiously. What on earth did I think I was getting into? I don't think I can reason with you like I did Bayleef; and besides, I can’t battle! I’m just a Trainer…
Pikachu! His pokémon lifted his head up; eager and attentive. Pikachu, Thunderbolt! Upon receiving the command, Pikachu tensed his body into a crouching position; cheeks glowing blue, sparks of electricity dancing along their surface. The sneasel turned from Ash towards this new attacker; swinging his paws threateningly. It looks like he’s preparing Slash…Pikachu! Duck, and then release your attack!
As the sneasel swung forward with his devastating blow, Pikachu ducked down underneath his paw and dove between his hindlegs, leaping unto the other pokémon's back to deliver the Thunderbolt. Stunned, the Dark-type fell to the loam, his muzzle agape and forepaws twitching spasmodically.
He should be down for a while, Ash thought, sniffing the fallen sneasel carefully. His muzzle jerked at the touch of the boy’s nose, and his eyes rolled back into his head, bloodshot and frazzled. Long enough to get him and pichu somewhere safe, at least. Returning to the tiny creature, he set the Pokégear down and carefully picked the pichu up by the nape; like he had seen females do with their offspring. The little creature instantly went limp; tucking its paws close to its body and curling its small tail in between its legs, the black fur standing out sharply against its creamy white belly. Ash looked back at the sneasel; the pathetic, abandoned creature. The reason I came here was to help you. And I'm going to do my best to do just that...
Placing the pichu next to the Pokégear, he returned his attention to the sneasel; resting his forepaws and head against the ground and pushing his muzzle up under the Dark-type's fallen form. All I need is one good push! Digging his claws into the dirt; Ash shoved forwards with his hindquarters and upwards with his muzzle, rolling the pokémon up against his face. Stretching out his back legs and arching his spine to keep the stunned animal from falling back unto the forest floor, he tilted his head back; the sneasel tumbling down his neck and coming to a rest upon his back, with his head and forepaws dangling down one side and his hindpaws down the other. That should do it, as long as he doesn't wake up...
Taking the pichu back into his jaws and instructing Pikachu to pick up the Pokégear, Ash set off once more; the fading scent of his prior humanity tickling at his muzzle like a ghost.
After a few minutes of carrying, the overgrowth faded as the weathered trail was left behind. The roof of the old warden’s station was visible over the crest of a hill, and, with a fierce burst of energy, Ash propelled himself forward; up to the top and down the other side, with the sneasel's claws brushing lightly against his fur and the little pichu swinging back and forth in his jaws. How natural his leaping, four legged stride felt now! It was strangely smooth; and the simple act of running, testing the bounds of his own strength – it was absolutely invigorating and exhilarating, a rush not unlike that of winning a tough battle. It…it feels great!
Though...I don't want it to feel great…
Forcing his speed back down to a walking pace, Ash allowed his body to relax the last few hundred feet to the station. Upon reaching the back porch, he set the pichu down carefully; giving its head-fur a little ruffle with his paw. The warden will help you, Pichu. He then lay down, tilting his body slightly to allow the sneasel to fall to the ground below. I'm sure he'll help you too, Sneasel. But now, I have something else to do… Reaching up, Ash nudged the cap off his head, feeling only the slightest twinge of loss as it landed, with a slap, upon the worn wooden slats. My Pokémon League hat…you’ve served me well, but now’s the time to let you go. Maybe the warden will see you, and follow the scratches I left to find Bayleef and the others. Or, he may give it to who ever comes looking for me once I call…
He jumped down to the bottom step, sitting up on his haunches next to Pikachu. If I head south of here, I’ll hit New Bark Town, and from there I can get to Tojho Falls, and then Kanto. If anyone would know something about all this, it would be Professor Oak, wouldn’t it, Pikachu?
He sent an image of the Professor to the pikachu, who chattered knowingly.
Yeah, Pikachu…everything will be okay for me, and Bayleef, and Sneasel, and Pichu, and for my other Pokémon. At least...I hope so…
Interesting tidbit: The rock cairn and the birch tree are real (as is the pathetic barbed wire around it). They're about a half mile from the house where I lived for many years in Bradford, Vermont - it was a place I liked to climb up on and around as a child; and I always used to imagine someone was buried under all those rocks...
I included it here in this story as a sort of "in joke" for myself. XD Though as far as I know, no transfiguring rocks lurk within it!
Signature under construction. Watch this space~
Not a very clear post...file for download? At any rate bumping threads over a month old since the last post is against the forum rules - this is almost a year gap between the first post and yours.
Hence closing - PPG, tell myself or Astinus if you want it reopened if you want to add more.