Chapter 9 – Altered States
Esaax refused to believe it at first. Wake up, wake up, wake up! he screamed silently, again and again. But in truth, he knew better. This wasn’t a dream. There was no denying this new reality.
He’d shut his eyes to the sight of what was befalling him, wishing he could just pretend it away. Now that he was fully convinced that he couldn’t, a sort of morbid curiosity arose in him and compelled him to look again.
When he did, he saw the same thing his eyes had last shown him before he’d closed them in horror: his body was stretching itself out of shape, giving off a somewhat dim white glow as it did so. He was now longer than the bed on which he lay rather than the other way around—and he was still growing.
This surreal warping of his body had confused and terrified him more than it had actually hurt him up to this point, but now it made the shift from mere discomfort to sheer pain, starting when his head suddenly tore away from his shoulders in a single, violent jerk that threw him from the bed and onto the floor.
Esaax lay there in stunned bewilderment. His mind was almost frozen with fear, but his body was writhing and flailing in panic and agony. He vaguely wondered how he could possibly still be alive when it had genuinely felt like he’d just been beheaded.
The answer was that his head was still attached, though distantly now; he’d grown a very long neck. Its curvature gave him a clear, complete view of his transformation from a distance, as if he were watching it happening to someone else.
Still, the sight of his changes wasn’t anywhere near as awful as the way they felt—or the way they sounded. There was an audible creaking and crunching as his face bulged outward into an almost saurian shape. There were snaps and pops as his tail gained new vertebrae. There was a ripping sound as a meager coating of flesh raced to keep up with the rapidly elongating bones in his legs. There was the wet, sickening churning of altering organs, all the while accompanied by the violent pounding of his heart, every beat like brass knuckles to his sternum.
Pain exploded in his mouth as his original teeth were shattered by the sudden eruption of a new, more dangerous set: one row above and two below of curved, serrated teeth. At the same time, something searing-hot stabbed straight through his eyes to his brain, changing his vision.
His hands then seemed to tear themselves apart from within. Esaax watched in horrified revulsion as each of them split wide open, first at the knuckles and then off to one side, near the wrists. From the gashes, spindly, blood-soaked fingers began to emerge, four to each hand.
He wanted to scream. He’d been trying to all the while. But he was nearly breathless, and his voice wouldn’t come to his summons anyway. It was too consumed by its own changes to obey his involuntary commands.
Finally, there came the worst feeling of all, one that slowly spread up his now nearly eight-foot-long tail from the newly-formed bulb at its end that contained his pseudobrain. It wasn’t a pain but rather an impossible lack thereof. The part of him that should have been suffering the most instead felt nothing at all.
And furthermore, as he noted in fearful bewilderment, his new tail appeared to be eyeless… only to prove it wasn’t, right before his eyes. One by one, his new oculons opened in a ring around the bulb at the end of his tail, four in total.
Esaax’s tail twitched suddenly, and slowly, involuntarily, the multisensory organ curled inward. It brought itself to bear before his eyes, locking on to the center of his forehead. In that moment, in the dead stare of his own tail, Esaax’s heart seemed to stop, and he became as numb and still as a corpse. Then his tail and all of its senses came back to life, and with those senses, Esaax discovered an aspect of his new form that terrified him more than any other.
Right on cue, his voice returned. An unearthly roar tore its way out of him that was almost like two voices in one, simultaneously deep and piercing.
The weak light that had surrounded him finally gave out altogether, and the moment it did, the gengar who’d entered the room earlier appeared once more, rising up through the floor on the opposite side of the bed from Esaax. No sooner had she fully emerged than she seemed to melt back into the floor, her body losing definition as it rapidly dwindled, but she stopped shrinking once she was in her true form: that of a ditto by the name of Anomaly.
Anomaly flattened themself against the floor. As they did so, they extended part of their shapeless body in the form of two long, bright blue tendrils that were each as thin as a hair at the end. One of the tendrils reached out to grab the now spent evolutionary stone that lay a couple of feet away, while the other lashed out toward Esaax, who was now panicking, seemingly crazed.
Esaax’s tail noticed the swiftly-approaching tendril and flicked toward it. But Esaax, too absorbed in the fear and pain that still gripped him, gave no further reaction even as its end darted swiftly into the skin of one of his ankles.
The ditto withdrew both tendrils just as quickly, letting the stone rest on the floor right in front of their face for a moment as they hurriedly transformed again. As soon as a pair of white hands emerged from their changing form, they scooped it back up.
The shape Anomaly was taking was so familiar that they achieved it in no time. Where the ditto had sat mere seconds ago, the gardevoir known as Adn now crouched, but only for a moment before disappearing in a burst of golden light, leaving the Haven behind with no intentions of ever returning.
Almost immediately afterward, a small group of chansey nurses, drawn by Esaax’s screams, arrived at the scene to find the result of his unexpected evolution but nothing at all of its cause.
* * *
Esaax floated, suspended in some strange, viscous medium. Though smotheringly hot, the gel that was wrapped around him was also comforting. He knew it protected him as it held him fast.
There were tubes entering his body from all sides. They fed substances into him that burned like the worst of all acids and brought pain to every part of him, but they also nourished him and gave him life. Despite the hurt they caused, he was grateful for them.
Something appeared in the murky distance, moving toward Esaax with incredible speed and grace. Esaax distantly wondered how it could cut through the gel so effortlessly when he was held so firmly in place by the viscous substance. When the thing drew close enough, Esaax saw that it had the form of a huge, disembodied, four-fingered hand—or rather the shadow of such a hand.
It closed around Esaax the moment he was within range of its long, thin fingers. Its grip felt like being enveloped in icy water. The contrasting cold was sudden yet not terribly harsh. It soon registered as a pleasant and soothing change after having been in such sweltering heat for so long. As the chill sank in deeper, it even started to dull the acidic pain that had been flowing through him.
The hand was snuffing out Esaax’s suffering. It was also snuffing out his life. Little by little, he felt less and less. The coldness filled him completely, consuming his every feeling. And Esaax found himself thinking it was fine to let this chill flush out his soul and leave him hollow, so long as the pain was purged along with it.
The dark hand began to carry Esaax away, and Esaax was perfectly willing to let it. This new void that the shadow-hand offered was comforting. It was good, and it was right. It was where he belonged.
Dragged ever further into the darkness, Esaax felt his nourishing lifelines start to break and pull out of him. Each one lost left him more unfeeling. It was good. It was right. It was…
Wrong! Suddenly panicked, Esaax fought against the tow of the dark hand, straining and thrashing in vain to escape the nothingness—
—and succeeding instead in escaping his unconsciousness. His eyes opened, and he was instantly aware that he’d been moved to another location. There was no bed here, and there was no door, either. There was barely any space at all, just enough to comfortably hold his large, spidery form. This room was nothing more than a place to contain him. It was just a box—or rather a cage, Esaax couldn’t help but think: a cage with soft, padded walls rather than metal bars.
“Nicer than being in a poké ball, anyway,” he thought aloud, and he was immediately surprised by the voice he’d just produced. It was a rasping, guttural kind of voice, sounding somewhere between a hiss and a groan.
I don’t sound like that! Esaax thought fearfully, but the fact was he now did. And oddly enough, he became bored of the new voice just as quickly as he’d been shocked by it. All at once, he felt as if the new voice and all his other changes had always been there.
A movement to his right caught his attention. His tail immediately focused on the source of the motion. A window that had been well-concealed opened there, and a familiar chansey’s face was visible through its thick, reinforced glass.
Esaax pushed his torso up from the floor and got up onto his feet, standing at more than eight feet tall. His neck naturally curved forward and downward, preventing him from having to duck more than just a little to avoid the ceiling.
Teresa watched him stand up, her expression unchanging as he aimed his gaze directly into hers. Her view of the large, blue pokémon was blurred every few seconds by the fog of his breath clouding the glass, giving Esaax an almost miragelike appearance.
“Esaax Evergray,” Teresa addressed him.
Esaax turned his head. The room, he realized, was soundproof. Teresa was speaking into a microphone, and her voice was reaching him through an unseen speaker somewhere behind him. Meanwhile, she listened through a speaker outside.
He turned back toward Teresa. “What?” he responded.
“You’ve evolved,” Teresa said.
“Good eye,” Esaax said blandly. He folded his arms and cocked his head at Teresa. The senses of his tail told him that she wasn’t happy with him, but he found that he didn’t really care. “So what of it?”
“I wasn’t aware that multiple-stage evolution was possible for your species,” Teresa said. “Do you know what you’ve evolved into?”
Esaax only stared at her in response. He hadn’t been aware that wobbuffet could evolve, either. For a moment, he wondered just what he’d become, vaguely annoyed at the fact that he didn’t know. But soon he decided that something else about his current situation was much more important.
“Why did you imprison me?” he demanded.
“Are you honestly saying you don’t remember? Or are you just being a wiseguy again?” Teresa had a hard time disliking anyone, but this creature Esaax had become—or more specifically, the attitude that apparently went along with the change—was threatening to push it. “You exhibited threatening behavior. The nurses who found you following your evolution told me you tried to kick and bite them, so we sedated you and put you here.”
At those words, Esaax wondered how long he’d been unconscious, but that moment of curiosity was as short-lived as the one that had preceded it. He gave an annoyed sigh. “I seriously don’t remember doing any such thing,” he said, “but if you insist that I did, well… sorry. Now how about letting me out of here?”
“I don’t think so,” Teresa said. “You see, wobbuffet are incapable of direct violence. We don’t know what else evolution might have made you capable of. So we’re going to have to keep you in there until we’ve managed to figure you out. Oh, and by the way: if you’ve learned to use any beams or projectile attacks to compliment your new physical advantages, and you’re considering using them to break out, don’t bother. The room is elementproof.”
“Huh. Well, could you at least get me something to eat? I’m starving in here.” The cell that held Esaax blocked sounds but not scents. It wasn’t until he smelled the chansey and tasted her scent of warmth and life and flesh on the air that he realized just how hungry he was.
“All right. Just give us a few minutes, and we’ll bring you something,” Teresa assured him, her tone and expression softening somewhat.
“No,” Esaax said. “I can’t wait that long.” He took a step back, then suddenly lunged forward, trying but failing to kick down the door. His jaws snapped against the window, the sharp teeth scraping the glass again and again with a harsh screeching sound.
Teresa jumped back from Esaax’s futile but nonetheless startling strike. She uncapped a hidden button on her microphone unit and pressed it. With a loud hiss, sleep powder sprayed forcefully into Esaax’s cell from all directions. In a near-instant, the cell was filled with obscuring, bluish-white powder. Seconds later, vents and fans siphoned away the dust, and Esaax was visible once more. He was completely subdued now, curled up and sleeping on the floor.
Teresa sighed, gazing at him with pity. I’ll find a way to get through to you. I swear it, she said silently.
She made her way to the waiting room and the arbok and snorunt therein. Once there, she explained the current situation to them. She then brought them to Esaax’s cell and allowed them both to have a look at him.
“You honestly have no idea what he’s become?” Syr quietly asked Teresa as he held a troubled stare upon Esaax.
“Not at the moment, no,” Teresa answered. As she spoke, she flicked a switch on the microphone unit. The cell’s small window and its view to the pokémon within were closed off once more. With a determined expression, Teresa turned to the others. “Come with me,” she said. “We may be able to find out yet.”