Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 1 Week Ago
FLYING IN THE DARK
You’ll have to forgive me for taking delight in your nervousness, which assures me that mine is not unfounded. I can overlook your fear of the risks involved because you are the inconvenienced party here. Assuming that Route 14 is how I remember it, it is no walk in the park, although you’ll pass a literal one before the marshy humidity assaults your sinuses and the lopsided reeds tickle your skin as you walk. I’m sure the money you earned from your gym battle victory will cover any and all supplies necessary. If not, be cautious. Hoard even what you only might need, and I will see to it that I cover your extra expenses somehow. Should you sustain any injuries on your hike up to me… I am not a superstitious man, but I cannot tempt fate by transferring the rest of that sentence through ink.
And please, should Kenneth threaten to part ways with you after all, choose your physical traveling companion over me. It is clear to me that your appreciation of him has soared. I can relax in spite of my initial doubts about him. Someday you can backtrack to Laverre, when your journey concludes and you return to Anistar. Understandably, you may avoid Anistar for years to come, but there are flights, railways, pokémon-powered transports…
It escapes me, whether or not Laverre was on your original itinerary. I would’ve—should’ve—commented on such an idea, back when it was especially ill-advised. My primary concern now is not exposing to you my embarrassing self, my shameful world, but that you reach me safely, and absorb the bare facts of my reality.
If I could, I’d conspire with Kenneth to use his League associations and convince developers that trainer routes should be acceptably tended to, and monitored, in all regions. (Then foreigners could not claim that the Hoennese handle their land recklessly.) It helps that conservation efforts can go a long way in strengthening the bond between pokémon and humans, a goal that few resist. Also, children, the target population for training advertisements, are the most prone to danger due to their lack of foresight and experience in the wilderness.
That is no slight against you, Haley, just a piece of an old man’s worries. Besides, plenty of younger trainers are traveling alongside you—not physically, but in Kalos, other regions, parallel trails… I say again that Valerie’s intentions are misplaced, particularly as a gym leader. She should hand out gym badges and promises of safety to trainers. What is her interest in inmates? But perhaps my bias is too forced. For me, the world has failed to feel safe from birth.
On the topic of tricks doubled with illusions, and the struggle of separating them… It is obvious that all of us, all of us will hurt someone during the course of our lifetimes. This is impossible to avoid. What may be less obvious is that we will hurt several someones, maybe several times over each—and in several locations, thereby reducing the number of havens the world has to offer for these someones. We don’t think of it this way because then we’d develop the habit of wallowing in fear, guilt, self-pity, and other counterintuitive emotions. Constantly anticipating a phrase we utter thoughtlessly, or an action of ours unearthing a sensitivity they will dwell on for hours, days, weeks… Frankly, it’d cripple us. The knowledge resides in our unconscious regardless. So we hide ourselves, just in case, to shift the blame onto our faux roles when they cause hurt.
The flip side of this is that you waste other people’s kindnesses when you don a mask. What should be a positive encounter becomes affiliated with a veiled darkness. Say someone does a double take on the streets of Lumiose, unbelieving at first that they’re seeing you smile the most beautiful smile. They compliment you on it. But you only smiled because social conventions required you to. You say thank you, again out of obligation. But. “That smile wasn’t me. I’m sorry you thought it was, sorry you saw what wasn’t there to begin with, sorry you saw what could never be.” How do you discard such guilt—for deceiving someone, for deceiving yourself, for not embodying what others want to see in you? How do you skillfully peel all the layers of each conversation, each expression of body language, to perceive the authenticity of what takes place? Where does the real you go when it’s stifled so adamantly?
To answer you, illusion encapsulates the self as a longstanding disguise which fears the light and relishes the night. What we create with ourselves, what we put into the world, those are the tricks. We secretly delight in them. We’re proud of winning our game of hide-and-seek over and over. Sometimes we grapple with loneliness, but our self-hatred is stronger, as is our belief that we cannot be loved as we are lest we are abandoned. To want connections with others but ultimately resort to the destruction of others to protect our private selves, all the while self-destructing anyway—that’s the dance between illusions and tricks.
It’s time to digress toward your first and foremost question: when we should meet. You’re right in that my schedule is predictable, up to a point. I am not warned beforehand, for example, when Rowe will make his appearance. I prefer that he not hover over us. His role in rehabilitation may be a noble one, but his overall character has a habit of dampening the atmosphere.
I suppose that’s irrelevant, still. There’s no chance we’ll be needing a restaurant’s reservation, or to buy tickets to a festival or concert before they’re sold out. Visitation hours were specified to me my first week here but ceased to be enforced once the statistics revealed how seldom they were used. As long as you arrive before lights out, the guards will lead you straight to me. And you must depart before lights out.
This is a most unsatisfactory answer so far, I know. Shall we meet in mid-August, then? When the leaves will begin to decide on a new look, it’s a tad cooler, and no tourists should remain. It’ll be when one season ends and another begins, when fall hints at wanting to visit and play once more.
Why wait so long, when I’ve already prolonged your journey an improper amount? But you said you don’t mind, so I request this of you: I want you to see Laverre in its natural state. The common expressions on the faces of those who reside here, year round, pretending not to notice the prison; the pokémon fan club, where you may meet bird enthusiasts like yourself; the rumors of Dana, thought to have collected every gym badge across every region and now lives in Laverre among the marsh’s treetops; the stump stools all around and remnants of old bonfires; the wind curling around the trees and the smell of perfume wafting to cover the pungent marsh stench. Won’t you see it all and report back to me? There’s only so much I can spot from my window. The bars obscure a full picture, anyway.
What I am most nervous about is… not talking. Not having much to talk about. A silly notion, that, when my letters indicate the necessity of nonstop speech. Sound must make up for the deprivation of other senses available to us. Indeed, there’s the courtyard we may explore with precautions in place, but otherwise, what you will experience is exactly my inability to see the full picture because of the cell bars between us. Should we be bold enough to pass objects through—our letters, perhaps, for tangible proof of our closeness—the guards will scrutinize us and eavesdrop with the intensity of an exploud. Let’s avoid this.
All right, here’s a date picked at random for us to meet: August 15. To eliminate any hardship a grumpy guard might inflict upon you, I will notify them in advance of your arrival. Your last name is Zamor, I believe… I’ll double check. Knowing that will simplify matters.
I ask as politely as possible that you do not reply to me until our meeting. Until then, I want to focus, and practice focusing, rather than fretting over returning your letters in short bursts of time. Physical preparations are futile; shaving days are random, supervised, and my wardrobe blends in with the rest of the inmates. But mentally, I can prepare. As I said, I want to know what to say to you, how to react to you. It has been so long since anyone fond of me looked me in the eye, and I cannot allow myself to falter and watch you turn away from me by reflex. Nor can I allow the following scenario: you seeing too much of me and changing your mind about me, after all these months of building the impossible between us. And it is ironic, now that I think about it, how my cell bars have been what’s perpetually closed the gap between us…
The final, most prominent reason I ask that we not correspond until August—unless it is of dire necessity—is because I want us to be absolutely sure of this. I hope I am inventing my worries, fabricating them with imagined evidence that a judge at trial would overturn. I hope before me is a fog which, once dissipated, will reveal to me with clarity the ideals I expected were there all along. Ideals that will stay rooted in our very beings, unable to be pried away by outside forces.
If I come across as clingy here, forgive me. Holding on to long-term prospects is a unique experience for me. My skills must be dug up from their graves, their corpses brushed off. I hope you understand.
I may or may not speak to you again before August 15. I hope not. I hope I’ve made all my intentions and thoughts clear. Do not hesitate to write if things go awry. I will keep an eye out for a letter from you and question the guards about my mail, to be sure.
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 1 Week Ago
FLYING IN THE DARK
Here’s to hoping that this letter reaches you before you reach Laverre. The labyrinth of trees, meadows, and dry lakes may make it a difficult endeavor for the prison flying-type to find you. But no doubt you are close, perhaps past the heart of Route 14 at this point. Are your pokémon sifting through the mud tracks left behind by the local quagsire and stunfisk to scavenge for worms, bugs? I chuckle when I think of Seybs flying to your shoulder, dirtying your clothes, then you rushing to ensure there’s nothing crawling on you.
Now, trust me, I write to you for a reason unrelated to sheer old man loneliness or boredom. Yes, I know how my mind rejects all except the subjective whenever possible. It claims that time has slowed considerably, stretching each second and prolonging the arrival of August 15, while the calendar clearly informs me of the microscopic nature of the last two weeks. If only the world would slow and enable us to savor our togetherness. That was another fear of mine, you coming and going in the blink of an eye.
But… I cannot reject an objective truth I’ve come to know. As a result of it, all of my fears have been rendered irrelevant, replaced entirely by one matter.
Recently, activity for Valerie’s rehabilitation program has dwindled. Rowe’s number of visits was reduced without warning, and the guards weren’t aware of when, or if, things would resume as planned. “Great news!” you might say, given my past abhorrence toward this whole charade, and I’d have agreed with you up until Valerie and the prison warden made a pressing announcement.
As it turns out, the charade is taking on a new form. It is their wish to relocate some prisoners to another city in Kalos. Which prisoners exactly were randomly selected to ensure an unbiased transference of the research data being collected from this program. I hate this, Haley, I hate this, but I was chosen.
Rowe will not follow me, unsurprisingly. A new partner, since I must have one against my will, is for the best. Your fate is your own, however. I cannot expect you to follow me in his stead, not after all you’ve done for me as is, not after you’ve come so far, figuratively and literally, only to meet disappointment instead of a friend. I foretold too much when I depicted myself as a concept to you, it seems.
Why? Why, why, why, though I know why, I know it’s not an impulsive whim which Valerie controlled from behind the scenes, and I’ve known for a while that we’re short on guards. Job postings for the Brun Way Correctional Center have gone unnoticed. The prison warden has fruitlessly pleaded for the guards work longer hours but with no pay raise. And so, because leaving us deviant creatures unguarded is an inconceivable notion, even though we have no energy to so much as lift a finger most days, something had to be decided. Nothing was decided, as usual, about preventing citizens from devolving into prisoners to begin with. No, just that the guard to prisoner ratio must be rebalanced.
I do not know where I will be yet, or when I shall move to this unknown location. It was my right to know that the move is happening, that’s all. An inmate I’ve scarcely interacted with, Simon, is the only inmate who knows more. He volunteered to organize the switch, with technology being a forte of his. He can ensure proper scheduling and organization about who goes where, and he can gather the contact information of our new homes for Valerie to send our personal data there. This way, he gets points with the prison warden should there be a possibility of parole.
Understandably, he wished to savor this advantage. All he was willing to leak to those of us left out of the loop was that this process will happen quickly. “Quickly,” yes, to prevent deterioration of the progress us inmates might have made thus far and to resume the program with less difficulty. “Quickly,” likely meaning before August 15. So please, turn away from Laverre and continue your journey the way you would otherwise. Or explore the city to your heart’s content while forgoing expectations of a meeting.
This does not—I repeat, this does not signal the death of our friendship. At worst, I have wasted further weeks of your journey. And I can count on a few months of adapting to a new prison’s schedule, its surroundings, its cafeteria food and cooks, a new cellmate and new neighbors… None of it will be insurmountable, a promise I can already attest to thanks to you. I must not regress toward naiveté, however. Prepare for slower response times on my part once more, because these changes will drain me.
While I am eager to finish this letter and demand for an expedited sendoff, I wanted to thank you for your lucky coin. I received it after all. Belatedly was better than never, I must admit, mainly because you went through the trouble of sharing a nightmare with me and it deserved to be heard. I’ll add that I’ve read about it not once, but twice, to fully absorb the nightmare’s implications. In a sense, I tried to experience it for myself, awake, in an attempt to understand it (and you, by extension).
Your stress seems to have abated since your victory against Clemont, thankfully. In the event that this letter whorls you in that direction again, I am sorry. Throw your grief my way, and I will add it to my repertoire of memories about you, and we can lament together, side by side, spiritually rather than physically. It’s the best we can do.
I have been turning your lucky coin in my hand over and over since it arrived here. I inspected both sides, first the dratini/dragon side, then the clefairy/fairy one. Incidentally, Rowe was nearby, ignoring his duties by refusing to communicate with me as long as no guard looked our way. I must have whispered the word fairy, because his ears perked up. He flattened them out of embarrassment. Ashamed of showing interest in me, of what I possessed. Could we not find a common ground and make our assignment work? It is too late to ponder this question. I’ve lost my chance at having him as a constant once I transfer prisons. Alas, I couldn’t have guessed being transferred, uprooted once more, but I feel regret regardless.
Mostly I have been fingering your coin out of a growing, growing, growing sense of dread. My eyes. My ears. My chest. Everywhere it’s there, all the different reasons for it colliding and fighting to dominate, resulting in a melodramatic caricature of anxiety that I’d laugh at if it wasn’t inside of me.
Before I was arrested, I would react to distress like this by sleeping until nighttime and then prodding the local dealers to sell me whatever they had on hand. Your coin is no replacement for drugs, but it may curb my cravings as I travel. Whether we go by truck or airplane, there will be opportunities to seek reprieve, just as there has been opportunities within these prisons walls. I must avoid relapse as I have been. Depending on where I end up, too, I may know exactly where to look. Exactly who to talk to. I have not taken a single step out of my cell since I heard the news, yet I shudder at the belief that I am not being shipped to a new life but a past one full of sensational highs and lows…
Valerie’s program aims to teach me how to look inward and trust myself to make appreciable decisions in life. Others can help me but not all the way, barely even halfway, rehab tells me. You taught me that I can mostly rely on others and to expect great things from others. Who am I supposed to believe? Hallucinogens, depressants, dissociatives… I cannot blame drugs for my differing perceptions of reality when such differences are ingrained in all creatures. I am not alone and never have been.
Take care, Haley. Tell Kenneth I said hello and thank him on my behalf, for taking care of you where and when I cannot. Which is everywhere and always, or close enough to it. I am sorry I can no longer change that, if just for a day. This is a constant I can anticipate, I suppose, though it is an unwanted one. What I want is for you to write back to me, as always. Which I know you will.
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 1 Week Ago
FLYING IN THE DARK
Ugh. Okay, so Kenneth’s been all about the non-Lumiose scenery, but I’ve convinced him that we’ve got to hurry, we can come back later if he wants to that bad! He wants to take pictures and search for items that travelers dropped, then sell them. Goomy slime, he says, is in high demand because it’s a core ingredient in glue, and artists combine it with minerals to make clay. Even if we could stay, his hands are getting full, literally…
I did tell him you said thank you. He was speechless. I went right on to explain why you’d finally conceded to our friendship, and, true to character, he promptly informed me that maybe it wasn’t wise to have planned our trip so that we’d arrive at last possible moment. Yeah, I know. I know. Whenever I see a flying-type overhead, I stare at it until it’s out of sight, wondering if it’s looking for me, if you’re looking for me to say it’s too late. I don’t want it to be too late. So I feel stupid, but it’s not too late until you’re officially gone. And as far as know, you’re still at Brun Way, waiting for me or waiting to be corralled to your new home, whichever comes first.
Why am I writing, you ask, when I could be closing in on Laverre, step by step by step? Well, everyone wanted to stop to eat. I’m not hungry. I feel sick, because you were right, the stench here is awful. How their appetites are intact here is strange to me!
Anyway, I have to do something, and writing to you in the interim feels as productive as anything else. I think I’ll feed my pokémon by hand next time and promise Kenneth that I’ll buy him gift or something if he agrees to walk and eat at the same time.
Kenneth’s packing up his goodies now. What he’s found is valuable, right? Maybe I could convince him to donate it all to the prison. Then your warden could sell it all and use that money to advertise better, or temporarily increase the current guards’ paycheck. Would that be enough? Brun Way must already have the funds to shift prisoners from one city to another, so who knows what they could do with just a bit more money? Or what about Valerie’s gym? If she really wants to help her program stay on track, she could use the popularity of gym leaders to raise awareness and money!
I’ll talk to the Brun Way warden and Valerie myself. Hopefully you, too. I know you can’t control what happens from here, but… please don’t go. I’ll respect your wish for me not to respond for now. No point risking this letter getting lost in the mail, too. Oh, but I’m grateful that my coin made its way to you. I figured you’d simply forgotten to say that you received it a while back. Hold on tight to it. It’s a lucky coin, you know, and luck is what we need right now!
Never mind, we don’t need luck. We need the truth, all of it, unraveled and flattened out with not a kink to be seen.
…What can I write here? What role can words serve anymore? I guess I’m going to attach the first part of this letter, because I mean, I don’t want you to think I abandoned you, or considered it, like you predicted. Look, I don’t blame you for your anxiety, your weak memory, your self-loathing. What do they all have in common? They’re irrational. You insisted that was the case, over and over, like an unwanted encore from your performing days. I believed you the first time, Markus! Now it’s crushing me, how you characterized me as a friend who could write you off after all.
Kenneth’s torn on whether he wants to lecture or pity me. But you knew, too, how I stopped needing his approval about you forever ago. Our writing back and forth was enough. You chose to share yourself bit by bit with me, and that was okay. More than that, I appreciated it. I knew how difficult your own journey was. The images and words that slowly compiled in my brain and made you, you… were enough. I feel guilty, like I failed to make that clear. Did I need to be louder? YOU WERE ENOUGH!
I hope this reaches you, wherever you are. Yeah, read that again: wherever you are. Because guess what? Me and Kenneth clocked in at the Laverre Pokémon Center this morning, then rushed to Brun Way. And you were not there.
Oh, you warned me that you might be relocated by August 15. But that’s the thing. You located, just of your own volition.
The prison’s gates, and the fence extending from it to form a huge rectangle, were taller than I’d expected. Five of me could’ve created a ladder that still wouldn’t permit anyone to look or jump inside. The surrounding branchless trees, I thought, must be that way because the space they needed to grow was snatched away.
I felt warned, and no longer confident in my plan of marching through the courtyard and straight to the guards. I rang the gate’s bell and moved forward anyway, with your very first letter folded and tucked it into my pants pocket. I found myself gripping it with my hand, unconsciously. Your last name, I was scared to forget it, shy as I am and prone to choking up in confrontations with strangers.
Inside, I could see what you meant about visitors. The waiting/visitor room was fit for, like, two people at most, and the chair seats, cheap but plush, weren’t broken in but layered with dust despite the disinfectant smell in the air.
I stared too long. The guard on duty at the desk asked what a young girl like me could possibly need, which made me red in the face. I rehearsed your last name in my head and, confident that I wasn’t at risk for stuttering because I remembered, I told him the reason for my visit. The guard didn’t hesitate, either, in widening his eyes and coughing. He had a birthmark on his neck—it reminded me of the shape of a foreign country—that darkened to purple as he sputtered gibberish. He fled through the office’s back door for a minute to compose himself, only to return and admit that you weren’t there.
I didn’t have to put on a surprise act. Without his genuine uneasiness, I would’ve suspected that me and Kenneth were too late, and I’d have reacted appropriately. With disappointment, and with questions about your whereabouts. But the guard was too nervous, his movements too theatrical. Something was wrong. So I told him your story about a guard shortage, relocating a list of prisoners, and all that. His face looked rumpled as he explained that none of that was even close to true.
I briefly wondered, hoped, that he was forbidden to admit private information like that, or that he was deceiving me because of my age and situation. If that were the case, though, finding your information wouldn’t have been so easy, Markus…
I was on the right track, I knew, when Kenneth nodded to me, his mouth set in the deepest frown I’d ever seen from him.
I pressed the guard. Was I at the right address? Yes, I was. And you weren’t. Still, the man knew your name, your cell number, Eyeball and Bouncer’s nicknames, and other basic trivia I threw at him. Silence hung over us afterward until he offered to show me your cell, which was the invitation I wanted but didn’t have the courage to demand.
The prisoners, slouched and withdrawn, perked up as we passed by. The lights were on, but the black tiled walls offset the brightness and enhanced the whiteness of each cell’s bare bed, toilet, and tiny desk. I couldn’t tear my gaze away, not until I found Eyeball and Bouncer. Two halls later, I recognized them based off of your descriptions. So there are at least two stories you told me that were honest.
When the guard opened your cell, I kept my eyes on your side, your belongings. Kenneth stood behind me, blocking the invasive stares that urged me to bolt and purge the memory of coming here. I focused on finding my lucky coin to see if you’d taken it with you. There was nothing, though. Just cleanliness, bareness, as if you wanted to convince everyone you were an imaginary person.
Who leaves letters and personal items out in the open, though? I wasn’t allowed to open your desk drawers to see. I choose to believe that there are signs of you and me in there. Or would you take my letters with you, too?
On the way out, I lowered my head, unsure and ashamed. I spotted a granbull in the visitor’s room, mumbling about how he’d been dropped off for his shift and could do nothing but wait, and he’d always sensed a dark type of energy from “that pointless man,” so Rowe is true, too. I didn’t dare approach him. My skills communicating with pokémon could use some work, for one thing, and I didn’t want more reasons to be angry with you.
Kenneth said he’d head back to the Pokémon Center. Would I join him? No, I wanted to be alone. I couldn’t say so, I was that pathetically close to tears, but he understood.
Wandering the quiet streets of Laverre, I stumbled onto a road undergoing construction. The workers were resurfacing it. I had to turn around. What I wanted was to disturb the workers, have them yell at me because I deserved it. I did not deserve to be lied to and abandoned, but I would deserve to be yelled at for preventing people from improving the city.
When Kenneth and me parted ways, I overlooked the fact that my pokémon were with me. One of the pokéballs in my backpack’s outer pocket vibrated, advising me to quit standing there, gawking and awkward. A few blocks later, the vibrating hadn’t stopped. Had it always felt that violent? “Okay, okay, I’ll let you out,” I said, not sure which of my birds I was referring to yet. Then out popped Ribbons, on his own. It was just like him to wait for my permission when he felt like exploding inside. I stroked the feathers protruding from the back of his head and assured him I was fine.
This didn’t calm him down. He pointed his wing in the direction of Brun Way, exclaiming something about it being too close… can we leave… wrongness everywhere… I sensed that he’d been calling for my attention ever since we arrived in Laverre, and I’d neglected him in my excitement to meet you, then again in my stupor upon realizing you’d escaped from prison.
Did he sense a kind of darkness, like Rowe did? Even from all the way inside his pokéball? His disadvantage to dark-types couldn’t possibly extend to human immorality, could it? One thing’s for sure: I missed your memo. “Danger, danger, DANGER!” you said, and like the stupid kid I am, I ignored you and plowed ahead anyway.
There's posters everywhere, you know, with your picture and status as an escaped convict plastered underneath in bold, capital letters. It's a drawing of you, more accurately. The sketch artist portrayed you as a fierce looking man. To him you are sullen and bitter and liable to act on it. Well, you've acted on something, just on more tender emotions. Fear. Guilt. Attachment to me.
But you've overcome all of that plenty of times. Why not this time? Why would you avoid me at the last minute? You could've written me, called off the meeting. You know I'd have respected that. Since when was there something we could never, never tell each other? Sure, we couldn't predict when we'd be ready, but...
Whatever. You probably won't even see this letter. I don't know where to send it. Brun Way is a moot destination now. Still, I have so many other questions. How did you escape? Please don't tell me you pulled a stunt from your Enmity and Markus stage days. The other inmates had no part in it, I think. They looked too bewildered, not mischievous at all. And if you come back, won't your sentence be extended? Is solitary confinement a punishment at Brun Way? If so, I doubt you're allowed to receive letters in there, hold a pencil, anything.
And... why fabricate such a longwinded story about relocating and stuff? You sounded so real and convincing. Now I wonder what else you've lied about. Was it to have something to say, to hide just how bad your memory is? Or something else?
I don't know what else to say, myself. It's a good thing the guard who showed me to your cell didn't hear my name. He didn't get to recognize me as the girl writing to you and feel sorry for me, or ask questions. I feel horrible for writing that, even thinking it. But I'm sorry, I can't hide my shame this time.
Wherever you are, I hope you’re okay, Markus. My worry is stronger than my anger. Please understand that I can't help either of those things. But more importantly, please, please be okay. And of course, I hope to hear from you… although I don’t know what hearing from you means anymore. Please don't retreat into total silence. You didn't like when Enmity did that, did you? You don't have to do this. You don't have to run away. We can work it out, and you can be who you want to be still!