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May 10th, 2013 (9:26 PM).
you can breathe now. x
Time went on and revealed more events that I didn’t want to have to experience. The scene at the radio tower had told me that Team Rocket was lurking around for whatever reason. Automatically I assumed that they were after me. They had caught on to all of my misdeeds and were ready to take me back to my prison. I had to do something quick to make up for it. My choice: I had to make Rennio fight, despite his fear of battles. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have made him do it, but it was up to people who were much more powerful. When we lost to Whitney, my intention wasn’t to leave my pokémon behind for days at a time. I only wanted to leave and find a safe hiding spot for us to go to as quickly as possible. Before I could find any suitable location, however, I had already been confronted by a Team Rocket grunt who was instructed to come to me and bring me back to Mahogany Town for “rehabilitation.”
When I found out what this “rehabilitation” was, it seemed unnecessary for me to go all the way back to Mahogany Town, but others apparently differed in opinion. The rehabilitation involved me being in my cell once more while being asked to take my medication. This time I was forced by Dr. Richards to do so. He called me out on not taking it, saying it was fairly obvious when someone stopped. I had no choice but to give in to him. He would check my mouth after every swallow to make sure that the pills were actually gone, and then he would leave me alone with my thoughts.
Soon enough I was starting to feel manic again. I couldn’t sit still and I couldn’t think about my pokémon’s whereabouts and conditions anymore without my mind wandering off somewhere else. I asked him why this happened because the goal of medication, I thought, was to keep me stable, not to make me go up and down. He explained to me slowly that Giovanni had paid him money to give me antidepressants instead of mood stabilizers in order to keep my moods “high” and energized for proper travel. Supposedly I was more active and successful during these times in my journey.
“So they’ve been watching me the entire time,” I said bluntly.
“Yes... and they’ll continue to do so. I’m sorry.”
When I left about two weeks later (after they said I was “fully functional” once more), it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen my mother at all, but I wasn’t going to stick around and prove to her that I had temporarily failed. I fled back to Goldenrod City, hoping my pokémon were still there and that they were being well taken care of in my absence.
When I returned, I was overjoyed to find that my pokémon had waited for me. If they hadn’t waited for me... Well, I didn’t know what I would have done. Started over? Tracked them down? At least I didn’t have to think about it for too long, since my pokémon noticed my arrival almost immediately and of course wanted to know where I was. With me being secretive as always, I tried to pretend it never happened. It worked, to a certain extent. I could tell there was a different feeling in the air now, one of tension and mistrust. There was nothing I could do about that, and perhaps it was for the best, anyway. Now I could do things better than before.
But I quickly ran into a problem: Sasha. I had another choice to make when she confronted me about taking my pokémon to the fan club. Either I could say no and insist on going to the gym in order to not waste time or I could go with my own instincts, my own desires of wanting to be her friend. Despite everything, I went with the latter. I just didn’t have the heart to say no, and it was only for a few hours, anyway...
Seeing Senori evolve into a furret at the Goldenrod City rematch was worth it. It was a proud moment for both of us. He looked as if he were finally letting go of his past somehow, as his new movements were much lighter, much less tense. And to see my very first pokémon come so far in such a short amount of time made all of the exhaustion and pain I had gone through thus far seem like nothing compared to the joy I felt when I was with them. When Senori came to me that night with my antidepressant bottle in hand, asking me to stay with them, I felt like a true trainer for the very first time.
I thought that things were looking up then, and I didn’t just think it was the medication having an effect on my brain. But then the incident with Rennio and Ezrem happened. Once again, I had a choice... and I chose to backtrack and save Ezrem from the burns that he suffered. There was no way that I could leave him behind now, not with Rennio trying so hard to battle for me. When I actually called him by his real name in the waiting room and when I saw him cry, I had to try not to cry too, for similar yet different reasons.
Things got worse. That day, Atis told me that he wanted to leave the team. I understood and didn’t question him at all. After the Ezrem ordeal was settled, I tried to celebrate one last day to make Atis happy, and also to try to get him to stay. I couldn’t come up with anything that would convince him. I couldn’t even convince myself of wanting to stay. Only the evil thought of turning him in swayed in my mind. In a way, it was perfect timing. I hadn’t meant to deceive him... but I couldn’t let him go. If I had let him go, I was risking more suffering on my part. It was selfish, I admit. When I watched him faint in front of me, the disbelief in his eyes ripped into me. I felt sick myself. I could only hope that my promise to miss him every day had rung true in his mind.
It felt unnatural, but I cried all night. My pokémon tried to comfort me despite their own sadness, but there was no way I could tell them what I had done. They would all leave me and know me for the terrible person that I was. I couldn’t afford any more mistakes now. Anything else would have let Atis’s sacrifice be in vain... but when had I ever been known to stick to the rules? When had I ever not followed my own intuition? Never. I just didn’t have it in me. My adventure without Atis didn’t last long at all. When no one wanted to fight for me versus Morty, it reminded me of Atis and his introverted self. When Senori couldn’t attack the ghosts, it reminded me of Atis’s knowledge of the world that surpassed my own. My team was falling apart because it wasn’t just me that could hold the team together. We all held the team together in our own way, and the absence of one of us was showing.
I panicked. I wailed. I screamed random obscenities because I was so very tired of keeping quiet about all of my lies, all of my secrets. I didn’t know how much I was revealing, but I didn’t care. The only thing I cared about was getting to Atis as soon as possible, before he became an experiment of Team Rocket’s, like I had been. He was a special pokémon, just as I was a special child... but his situation could be handled much more effectively. Something else could be done—or so I hoped.
Thanks to the map that my mother had given me, I knew exactly how to get back to Mahogany Town. Coincidentally, there was a cave to the right of Ecruteak City that led me directly there. I didn’t stop to rest until I got there, even when my limbs felt like they were about to break down from fighting so many wild zubats and geodudes. I didn’t sleep or even hesitate a moment before running back into the laboratory that offered so many unfavorable memories to me.
Inside, I violently grabbed the first person that I came into contact with by the scruff of his collar and yelled, “Where’s my mother? Where is Atis?”
“I-I don’t know any Atis…” he stammered, dropping the papers that were in his hand.
“Where’s my mother, then? Where’s Melanie Luart?”
“Sai…? W-What are you—”
“Where is she?!” I said more fiercely, gripping more tightly onto his uniform to make a point. He was making small talk, and it was unacceptable to me.
“Last I heard, she was going to train and—”
I let him go, not needing to hear anything else. There were only two training locations in the entire place, and whichever one she was in, I knew that she—and Atis—weren’t too far from me anymore. I scrambled up the stairs in the corner, causing two more scientists to make a mess with the materials in their hand. I didn’t even stop to apologize, for I felt I had no reason to and I was in a rush. My head felt like it was going to explode at any moment if I didn’t see that Atis was somewhere in this building, safe. Not locked up or bruised or bleeding.
It seemed that, for once, there was one good thing about living in this place for so long. Despite being locked up for years, everyone recognized me. Everyone knew who I was and no one questioned my presence. There were no alarmed shouts about an intruder, so I could go wherever I wanted. They all chose to ignore the wild fire of tears that was undoubtedly falling down my face.
I ran up the next set of stairs, to the second floor, to the first set of training grounds. My gaze shifted from one person to another, from one pokémon to another, but neither my mother nor Atis were there. They all stopped to stare at me, even the pokémon who were in the middle of attacks. I panted for a moment before sprinting once more. I crossed the middle of the arena to save time, despite the fact that I might have been hit. It reminded me of the time when I was a child and would purposely do this, but I had grown up now. Couldn’t anyone see that? Couldn’t anyone see that I was as normal as I would ever be?
I went up and up and up, to the roof. That was the only other place they could be now that I knew the second floor wasn’t where I needed to be. Please be there, I thought. Please be there. I didn’t want to have to hurt anyone else just trying to find them. But at last, I did find them. Thankfully, I found only the two of them. No other pokémon—no other signs of harm—were present. The only bad sign was that my mother was standing next to Atis. She was too close, too close.
She looked at me in disbelief. “Sai?” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“You know exactly what I’m here for,” I said, motioning toward the fighting-type. Atis was also staring me down, but I couldn’t tell if he was glad or disappointed. It was times like these where I wished that he was easier to read.
“Hmm…” my mother said. “This pokémon is no longer yours. The moment we took him away, he was the property of Team Rocket.”
“But I’m… I’m part of Team Rocket, too!” I said, the words leaving a foul taste in my mouth. It was the first time admitting this in my entire life, and I could only wonder if I would regret it after all was said and done.
“You’re not part of this group. You’re… an experiment yourself—”
“Don’t remind me,” I said, gritting my teeth. “I’m a toy, I know. Don’t I have a say in anything, too? What about the others? Where are they right now?”
“The others? Well, we followed them for a short amount of time…” she said, shifting her gaze away from me and lowering her voice.
“What are you saying?”
“They’re dead, Sai. They’re all dead. Killed by pokémon, suicide, murdered… You name it, and it probably happened.”
My eyes widened. To know that I was the only survivor was hard to believe. Wasn’t the will to live supposed to push anyone through any adversary? Wasn’t misfortunate eventually supposed to give way to good fortune? It made no sense to me. I put my hands over my ears, wishing I had heard nothing.
“But they were sick like me… They were special…” I said, taking a few steps back.
“Whatever they were means nothing. All they are now is dead,” my mother said, shaking her head. “I told you that you would be able to overcome anything, Sai. By the looks of it, you didn’t even run into anything truly dangerous. Besides yourself, that is…”
I looked up and saw that she was walking toward me, still moving her head disapprovingly. I peered over at Atis and saw that he was shuddering. Lost and confused. What had I learned from Atis? How could I prove to him that his journey with me wasn’t for nothing? I tried to persuade him with pleading eyes. His mouth opened for a moment as if he were going to speak, but then his face scrunched up and his eyes closed.
“Sai!” he suddenly shouted, darting forward. But my mother seemed to anticipate his actions and caught him by the arm before he could even get close to reaching me.
I bit my lip. “I just want Atis back. I’ll do anything you ask.”
“You say that, but you haven’t done much of what I asked of you before you left.”
“I… I mean it this time. Do whatever you want to me, but let Atis go.”
“I can’t do that, Sai. Pokémon are more than beneficial to us. You know this.” She paused. “It looks like you have friends that are here to see you.”
I cut myself off. Confused, I turned around to see Senori and the rest of the group close behind him. I gaped at them, wanting to shout at how crazy they were, how they should be far, far away from here and why did they come here anyway? How did they know where I was?
My mother went on, talking about how I had such loyal pokémon now… She said I was still lonely… Was I lonely? Yes, I felt lonely in the sense that no one knew what I was up against in my life… but of course I didn’t want to give her the pleasure of knowing that. I yelled, this time being random, I just want Atis back, you told me things would get better and they never did, they never did, I won’t follow your rules because you lied to me. You lied to me!
But she knew where to get me most.
“…And then you will never see the light of day again...”
I wanted life. I wanted freedom. When she brought up the idea of me dying, I remembered the others and how they were gone now, and I fumbled with my pants until I found the pocketknife that I had bought at the Goldenrod City department store. I held it out threateningly toward her. It was the only weapon I had left, if words weren’t going to work and if my pokémon were going to leave me after what they were seeing.
“Are you going to hurt me, Sai? Just as I’ve supposedly hurt you?” she asked.
Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what my intentions were. I just wanted to seem like a scary person, just as everyone else seemed to me. I almost didn’t believe it when she put her hands up in surrender and let Atis flee over to the rest of us. Atis ran right past me, as expected, and started mumbling things to Senori that my mind couldn’t properly process. I could only focus on my mother’s words, which hurt me more than any damage the knife could ever do.
“I’m done listening to you,” I said, and it was the most confident thing I had said during the whole conversation.
“…Then you will pay for it.”
I watched as my mother reached behind her and pulled out a few pokéballs off of her belt and extended them toward me. “A pokémon battle,” she said. “If you win, I will see to it that you are allowed to leave this town and leave this project. If you lose… you must subject yourself to us once more, or choose death. It’s up to you.”
I stayed silent for a moment, unmoving, thinking through the proposal. How could I beat her, a trainer of many years? I had little experience in battling. I had done little actual training with my pokémon. Having three badges couldn’t be enough—and I didn’t even have the badges to prove my strength. They were lost. It felt like I myself had already lost. And would my pokémon fight for me, anyway?
Slowly, I put my arm down, and I put the knife back into my pocket.
“Unlike some people… I am not a torturer. I am not a killer.” I sighed. “I agree to your challenge, but only under fair one-on-one conditions. I also won’t be forcing any of my pokémon to actually fight. If they choose to leave me alone in this battle, then so be it.”
I turned to face my team. They looked up me with such innocent, questioning eyes. I smiled as best as I could and kneeled down so I could look at them directly.
“I’m sorry I left again,” I started. “I had to find Atis, but I didn’t want to put you guys in any danger. I hope you understand, but if you don’t… it’s okay. If you don’t want to fight for me right now, that’s okay too.” I extended my hand out toward Atis gently. He flinched slightly at my touch, but he let me pet him on the side of his head for a few moments. It was all I needed. I had intended to tell them everything after the incident was over, no matter what happened, but the touch felt so final, so conclusive, that I explained everything in that moment: that I was mentally sick and I had been imprisoned for it. My goal as a Team Rocket experiment was to train pokémon for usage in battles and other projects better than any normal person ever could. I told them everything and I was out of breath by the time I was done. I shook my head and repeated that they didn’t have to fight for me.
I didn’t wait to see their reactions. I didn’t think I could handle it. I simply stood up and turned to face my mother, saying I was ready, and that whoever wanted to fight could step forward.
“If you’re ready, then let’s begin,” my mother said, tossing a pokéball into the air. Out popped a small lizard pokémon whose tail lit brightly with fire. The orange creature let out a fierce growl, saying it was ready to go. It was my mother’s first pokémon, a charmander from the Kanto region, and it didn’t seem to recognize me. To go from playing with this pokémon as a child to fighting in a life or death battle seemed beyond surreal to me.
I held my breath and waited for the inevitable, my mind reeling with words of false persuasion and comfort. I knew in my heart that not a single pokémon was going to step forward. They had no good reason to defend me anymore, and I wouldn’t blame them for leaving. But Rennio—Rennio, out of all of them—stood in front of me and faced the fire-type pokémon in front of him.
“Are you sure this is what you want, Rennio?” I asked quietly.
He turned his head to me and nodded. Though he was frowning, I could tell his reaction was sincere.
“All right,” I said. “I won’t be commanding this battle… as usual. Everything is up to you.”
Again, he nodded. And then it began.
I would like to say that everything that happened next was by my own design. I would like to say that I watched Rennio battle and cheered him on like any normal trainer would. But I was manic from before, and now I was also depressed from everything that had happened. When you’re manic and depressed at the same time you can only keep yourself occupied on a single thought or situation for a few seconds before you succumb to something worse. The battle, then, was sporadic for me, and I only thanked myself enough to have found the strength, courage, and the time to be able to explain everything to my pokémon before the end of it all.
Come on, self. Keep me on my toes. Keep me in the know. But I couldn’t do it. Rennio shocked the charmander and the charmander retaliated with a tackle and then my thoughts turned to death. It was all over for me. I didn’t raise my pokémon well enough. I was a failure of a trainer, just as Marty had deemed me to be. He should have taken everyone away while he still had the chance.
Team Rocket should have executed me when they had the chance, all those years ago. I should have been a different experiment, one with cords and machinery and a bunch of paperwork filled with invaluable information. The white cords would have been happy cords and the black cords would have been sad cords and they would have hooked up to me simultaneously, sending me back and forth between the two extreme emotions that constantly pervaded my life. Because that’s what life was to me. It’s all a game, it’s all a game. It’s all a joke, a fraud…
Rennio was swinging the charmander around by the tail, an otherwise amusing sight. The charmander smashed into the wall. At this point, Kuiora asked to switch in, since her water attacks were much more effective. There’s another one on my team. Two out of five. Why are my pokémon here, anyway? Is that Ezrem cheering Kuiora on? Three out of five. My god, they’re raising hell. They’re raising hell to give to me what they already gave to me once—a chance at independence and happiness. They can’t do it again. It’s too late for me.
It’s okay. If I don’t make it, someone else will. A normal person, maybe? It has to be a normal person. Everyone else is dead. All they had ever been was dead. But I believe one of my kind will prevail someway, somewhere. We’re special, after all. Kuiora, when did you get so strong? I didn’t train you at all like I should have. You did all this for me? Stop raising hell already. It’s too late for me.
I couldn’t sit still anymore. I started making my way around the edges of the battleground, watching them as intently as I could, which doesn’t say much. Kuiora took down the charmander, as expected. She’ll be happy to know that my mother is a fire-type pokémon trainer. My mother sent out her ninetales next. I remember it being a young vulpix. Why hadn’t Charmander evolved? Is my mother threatening me again? If you mistreat a ninetales, she’s saying, you can be cursed. Do I want my pokémon to be cursed? I’ll take the curse for them. But you’re already cursed enough as it is, the ninetales said…
Unbelievable. I was cursed with depression and mania. Depression is needing all day tomorrow to recover from today and mania is needing all day today to prepare for the invincible tomorrow. It’s a vicious cycle. It doesn’t end. Because of my medication I hardly have had any periods of normalcy. I don’t know what it means to be stable, but my pokémon do. That’s why Atis just ran into the middle of the battle to make Kuiora save the rest of her strength for what was to come. Four out of five. That leaves Senori. Senori? What do you think of me? …What do I think of myself?
Well, how can your mind get this messed up? How can you be so clueless, so lost? How can you be so lonely that you don’t even like yourself for company?
How could you not?
I tried to give my love to the world. The world didn’t seem to want it. The only constant I have ever had in my life is my mood swings and air. Air has kept me alive and breathing and together with my pokémon. It has been with me in the cells, in my dreams, in my lungs.
It would be the perfect way to go. …And I was in the perfect position to go.
The ninetales was defeated. Was I winning or was I losing? I wasn’t even part of the battle anymore. Maybe I never was to begin with. I really can’t get over this pokémon training thing. I wanted it for so long and I never even grew accustomed to it. I liked the feeling of learning and having my pokémon teach me instead. I liked not being expected to know everything. Tell me, Senori, that I’ll never get used to this—this so-called form of living. The unknowing and uncertainty will come to me and I will always be ever so inviting.
Senori was the last one. He was the only one I had any hope of getting help from, and he was last. He was last! This told me something, but I couldn’t figure out what. My mother has six pokémon, and I only have four usable pokémon. We are overwhelmed, no matter what my furret does. It’s too late for me.
I backtracked to the edge of the building. This way I could see not only my pokémon but also my mother and my opponent. I felt like I was watching a show that I had no part of. I was completely dissociated from myself. My only thought: I was already gone. No matter how much I wanted to live, the idea of death and death itself were overtaking me. Even if I won the battle, I would never get better. I would forever be sick. If I lost… Well, then I was even more gone. Either way, I was dead. Who is dead? I’m dead.
It’s such a shame that I’m drowning in my goddamn shame.
…I always wanted to see myself become a better person. I wanted to see Senori stop having to worry about me all the time. I wanted to see Kuiora evolve into her final form and fulfill her dreams. I wanted to hear Atis smile so much that I forgot his normal scared voice. I wanted to continue watching Rennio learn to fight again and I wanted to feed him… whatever that meant. I wanted to see Ezrem through his old trainer’s eyes.
It never once occurred to me that any of these things could still have happened.
I might have begged for help, once upon a time… but I didn’t.
Joined Jun 2007
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