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Pokémon Cosmic Reversion

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
Cosmic Reversion

The world is saved from destruction, yet pokemon continue to turn feral. Oli and Sadie must find a solution, or lose their own minds.
Takes place after the events of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red/Blue Rescue Team.
12/20/2020 — Substantial changes to clarify the third scene (thanks to everyone who gave feedback on that).

Moderate injury/violence

Oli and Sadie. The two rescuers were respected for conquering unconquerable dungeons and for saving the world. Neither imagined they would ever have to use their skills against members of the community that held them in such regard.

Oli crossed his arms. Even after all this time the gesture came instinctively, but his wishbone-shaped mienshao arms weren't suited to the motion. The pyroar at his feet was out cold, and snowflakes mottled her flank like swarming ants as it slowly rose and fell. Her eyes were dull, and her fur was frazzled, mane strewn wildly across the beaten path below. Foreign as she looked now, there was still no mistaking her wrinkled old brow or the scars along her flank like she'd wrestled with a weavile. Oli had passed Ferra by a dozen times in town, but he never did ask where she got those scars. He supposed he wouldn't get the chance.

To Oli's right, Sadie inspected a dragonite's arm, turning it over with her feelers. "There there, Reid," the sylveon cooed as she patted the dragonite's shoulder, careful to avoid his bloodied wings. "Just a little scratch. You'll be fine."

Reid nodded tearfully, still trembling a little. "I just didn't think she'd... you know..."

"You couldn't have known. We're surprised too. Nobody knows exactly what's causing folks to... turn like this, but we're working on a solution. Only a few are dangerous, so just keep some stun seeds on hand and you'll be fine." She squeezed Reid's hand, and he smiled weakly in response.

Sadie was good at reassuring others; that was something Oli liked about her. He wished she could reassure him as well.

***

It was early in the day, and the sky was a dark slate blue. The snow in the yard looked more gray than white in the feeble light.

Oli was sat down on an old tree stump, fingering the leaves of a dying thistle that had grown out of its cracks. "...I'd rather not go. To see her all caged up and snarling like an animal..."

Sadie nudged Oli, and he lifted his head. "Someone needs to spend time with her," she said as she looked him in the eye. "She's got to get used to being around other pokemon again. It'll take a while, but she deserves it."

Oli shook his head slowly. "You're a better person than I am, Sadie. If that's what you want to do, then you have my blessing. I just..." He swallowed. "I can't do it right now. Not after yesterday."

"...Alright." She walked up to him, and her body felt warm when she leaned against his legs. "Try and relax a little in the meantime, then. We have a while before Reid's wings recover, so maybe we can treat ourselves."

"It's fine, Sadie," Oli said as he stroked his partner's head. "I just want to focus on getting this whole thing solved. I can spend the day organizing and gathering supplies for whatever lies ahead... The way things have been going, I don't want to take any chances."

"Okay. I won't be too long, so I can help later."

Sadie stepped away, and Oli watched as she followed the wooded path toward town. Naked branches enveloped her like webbing.

***

Great Canyon looked especially desolate from above—its fractured, reddish stone stretched all the way to the horizon. Oli thought that what few scraggly shrubs remained would forfeit their lives in despair if they could only see their surroundings.

The wicker carriage rocked a little as Oli leaned away from its lip. He looked up at Reid, double-checked the straps of his harness and the cables that secured the carriage to it. "How are you holding up?" He was close enough that he didn't need to raise his voice over the wind.

"Fine so far." The dragonite's voice was deep and muffled, like it was coming from underwater. "We'll stop at the oasis in a couple hours, and make it to Great Canyon before noon."

"Professional carriers are sturdier than you think," came Sadie's voice. "Just try to relax and enjoy the ride, yeah?"

Oli turned around. Sadie was curled up comfortably behind him, her back pressed against the side of the carriage. "A little hard to do, given the circumstances," Oli said. "But you have to admit I've improved since our first ride."

Sadie gave a pained smile. "I remember that. I thought you were gonna have a heart attack for the first hour."

"If you hadn't been there to calm me down, I might have."

Sadie giggled, rapid and bright like a house wren. "You're just saying that to make me feel good, aren't you?"

Oli reached over to scratch her behind her ears, and she smiled and purred. "Only partly."

Suddenly the carriage lurched, and Oli extended his arm to catch himself. "Hey, take it easy, Re—"

Reid interrupted Oli with a painfully loud roar, like a hurricane shredding branches. When Oli looked up, the dragonite was clawing wildly at the leather straps of his harness, as though to scratch some unbearable itch.

"Reid, what's wrong? Be careful with that!" Oli stood on shaky legs, and when he reached up toward Reid the dragonite snarled and lashed out. Oli stumbled as Reid's claws raked his head, and he fell backward—but Sadie extended her feelers and caught him before he tumbled over the edge. Oli glanced at her face as she lowered him with a gentleness that seemed unfitting for the situation.

"Are you okay?" Sadie asked as blood welled up along Oli's brow.

"I'm fine," Oli half-shouted. He gestured urgently toward Reid. "Do something about him! He's gonna get us killed!"

Reid angled his head and bit the strap around his shoulder. When he pulled his head away a strip of leather came with it, hanging from his mouth like a dead serpent. The carriage lurched again and skewed to one side, and Oli glimpsed the rocks far below. He grasped the carriage's lip so hard that the wicker crinkled beneath his paws.

"O-okay, calm down, Reid!" Sadie stepped toward him and extended a feeler, which he batted away. She tried again, a little faster this time. Oli held his breath, expecting Reid to unleash a Flamethrower or Dragon Breath, but he did not. Maybe, in turning feral, he had forgotten how.

Finally, after a dozen attempts, Sadie wrapped a feeler around Reid's arm. The dragonite thrashed wildly, almost tipping the carriage, but Sadie grasped the wicker with her spare feelers. She closed her eyes (Oli's heart skipped a beat when she did, worried that she would lose her balance) and her body glowed a soft carnation-pink. Gradually, Reid's resistance subsided, until he stopped thrashing altogether. His face relaxed last, until at last he regarded Sadie with a vacant gaze.

Sadie took a deep breath and slowly opened her eyes. "Reid. It's me, Sadie. Can you recognize me?"

Reid's expression did not change.

"What about Oli?" She gestured toward him, but Reid did not look. Sadie's face screwed up. "Come on, Reid, it's us... You've got to—"

Oli carefully extended his paw and laid it on Sadie's back. "Just try to guide him toward the oasis." His voice sounded awkward when he whispered like that. Sadie hesitated for a moment, then nodded and tugged on Reid's arm. The dragonite snorted half-heartedly but let Sadie use her feeler as a rein. Oli noticed, with quiet panic, that the straps around his body were torn almost all the way through in places.

"How long do you think you can keep him like this?" Oli asked.

"I don't know. Maybe five minutes. I think if I let go slowly, he might stay calm."

"Are you sure we should risk that?"

"We'll have to. It might end up okay. He's confused, but he doesn't want to hurt us." She closed her eyes. "His emotions aren't like I expected, you know. They're... not as scary as I thought."

"Maybe not with you soothing him."

She was still for a moment. "Maybe it is just that. But still, Oli, I don't think it's so—"

One of the damaged straps gave way with a sickening tear. Oli's head jerked up; a wave of vertigo struck him. He flailed his arms in search of something to grasp, but the carriage had already fallen away. Wide-eyed, Sadie reached toward Oli, but her feeler brushed uselessly against the tip of his paw. She lost her grip on Reid a moment later, her other feeler uncoiling from around his arm. As he began to plummet, Oli's mind was consumed with the thought that she might have had time to grab Reid's neck or harness, to save herself, if she hadn't been thinking about him—but as he spun to face the ground, that guilt yielded to fear.

Hard to gauge how much time he had until impact, but it wasn't enough to think. In a sense, maybe that helped. He summoned energy from deep inside and spread it through his bones, focusing through his nausea. Though he knew Bulk Up wouldn't save him from the worst of the damage, it was all he could think to do.

Oli's eyes were still closed when he hit the ground knee-first. His leg snapped with a sickening crunch. His shoulder and cheek hit next and bounced slightly against the hard stone.

Oli clutched his leg and suppressed his scream even though there wasn't any reason to. It felt like someone had jammed a rod through his leg, and he lay there with clenched teeth for a few seconds before he realized it wasn't getting better. This was usually when Sadie would come up to him, wrap her feelers around his body, and make the pain go away. He tried to cope by pretending she was here already. He imagined her baby-blue eyes, her soft fur, her touch that wouldn't have startled a fly. She would lick his cheek, help him up, tell him how everything was going to be just fine...

Oli tried to roll onto his unbroken leg, but pain shot through his shoulder as soon as he moved. He winced, and scanned what parts of the plain he could with his head against the ground, but it was just parched stone and pale scrub for as far as the eye could see. Oli whimpered as panic set in. Sadie has to be alright, doesn't she? She knows Protect. If I survived, there's no way she didn't...

That was what he told himself between agonized gasps, anyway, but he knew it wasn't true. Not completely. Sadie could have fallen on her head, could have suffered internal damage, could have fainted from shock or pain. She might be lying there limply as the hot sun beat down on her and drained her life away like litwick.

"Sadie!" Oli called. No response. He glanced up, half-expecting to see Reid barreling down with claws outstretched—knowing his luck, it wasn't unlikely—but no, the dragonite was just a speck on the horizon now, flying in an anxious zig-zagging pattern. For a moment, despite his own condition, Oli felt a twinge of guilt; this climate wasn't meant for a dragonite, and the odds were high that Reid would die from thirst or heat before reaching somewhere liveable. And it was—at least to some extent—Oli's fault.

Would Reid have preferred it that way? To die in a week rather than live mindlessly for years? Oli hadn't really considered such things, hadn't really wanted to, but maybe-

"I'm coming, Oli!"

Sadie's voice was sweet even in desperation. Oli couldn't quite turn his head far enough to see her, but he soon felt her feelers wrap tenderly around his leg. His pain was replaced by a familiar comfort, like sinking into a cool pond, and he blinked tears out of his eyes that had been there for who-knows-how-long. Soon after the numbing effect had kicked in, he felt his bones slowly shift and mend themselves, and when Sadie let go of his leg a minute or so later, he was able to rise to his feet. There was hardly any pain now, just a dull ache like a bruise. Sadie touched his collar and shoulder next, and he felt her heal these, too.

Oli took a few moments to catch his breath before turning to look at Sadie. The sylveon's eyes were half-lidded, and she was panting either from exertion or the heat. Her legs trembled, and Oli worried for a moment that she would fall over. He felt a pang of guilt as he reached over to caress her face. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Sadie murmured. "Do you feel better now?"

"Yes, much." He checked for his pouch and found it missing, though anything inside it had probably been destroyed from the fall anyway. When he looked back at Sadie her gaze was distant, focused on something above and behind him.

"Couldn't even say goodbye..." Sadie's voice was quiet.

Oli frowned for a moment and then stood up, obstructing Sadie's view of Reid. "We can't contemplate it now; we have to get under way. We're in trouble if we don't reach the oasis soon."

Sadie blinked a couple times and then slowly nodded. "Yeah. It should be..." She looked over at the sun. "This way, roughly. I think..."

"Yeah. South-southeast." Oli turned that direction and began to walk, and he watched as Sadie followed. Her gait was skewed to the right, and her left-front paw barely touched the ground as she walked, as though the stone were scalding to its touch. "Sadie, you're limping..."

She slowed down for a moment, as though to try to conceal this fact. "That's fine. Too tired to heal it now. It will mend with time..."

Oli bit his lip. She should have saved some energy for herself, he thought. If we get attacked in this state, it will be hard to defend her...

"I'll carry you," Oli decided. "We'll make it to the oasis faster that way."

"Oli, you don't have to do that," Sadie said, but she was already in his arms by the time she had finished speaking. She was light; he could feel her ribs and spine.

"It's fine." Oli rubbed his head against his companion's. "You need to get some rest, okay? ...And by the way, I'm glad you're still alive."

Sadie relaxed and smiled weakly. "...I feel the same." She fainted, or fell asleep, mere seconds later.

***

The stone of Great Canyon was smeared from eons of rain, and it looked like the mesas were bleeding rust. Though Oli hadn't had to fight, the walk to get here had been taxing for him; he had spent it constantly scanning the sky and horizon, feeling half-blind without Sadie's eyes, and primed to blame himself if she got hurt. Whatever Xatu had to tell them, he prayed it would be worth what he just went through.

Xatu stood before the setting sun much as he had when Oli had first met him. Spotting him sent a shiver down Oli's spine—it seemed like hell to live alone like this, unmoving, amongst these empty skies and parched gorges. Sadie had insisted his species didn't mind, but a part of Oli still felt like this was a form of self-induced torture.

Oli put Sadie down, and the two staggered toward Xatu until they were right beside him. Only then did he turn to regard them with coal-black and impassive eyes.

"It is no surprise that you should come again," Xatu rasped, his voice old and hoarse and as dry as the canyon itself. "You are concerned about pokemon turning feral, are you not?"

"No kidding," Oli said. "Sadie and I were really hoping you knew something. Do you?"

"I know there is no hope of a solution. Of the thousands of futures I can conceive, there is not a single one in which this cosmic reversion is avoided."

Oli stepped forward. "How long have you known this?" His voice sounded foreign, harsh, with his throat this dry.

Xatu hesitated for a moment. "Almost two revolutions."

"Two revolutions? And you said nothing till now?"

"Yes."

Oli's punch caught Xatu right below his beak.

Xatu's head snapped back, and he took a single step backward from the impact. He recovered mere seconds later, though, and when he looked at Oli again his expression was still unreadable.

"The hell is wrong with you?" Oli spat. "You thought we didn't deserve to know?"

"It would have kept you and many others from fulfilling your obligations."

"Then what about after we fought Rayquaza? Before we had to go fly out here again and almost get ourselves killed in the process?"

Xatu turned away, back toward the sun. He was silent for a long time while Oli's chest heaved. Sadie stood frozen beside the two with her head withdrawn and paw raised as though in mid-step.

"...It was cowardice," Xatu said finally. "Your ire is justified. I have nothing to say in my defence."

Oli raised his fist again, but this time Sadie grabbed it in her feelers before he could swing. "Stop it, Oli! That's enough!"

He turned his head and looked at Sadie. Her brow was tightly knit, and her teeth were bared in an ugly grimace. It was a look he didn't know she could give.

Oli lowered his fist. "...I'm sorry, Sadie."

"Please just try to calm down. Xatu was just trying to protect us for a little while. Let's try to remember that, okay?"

Oli opened his mouth for a moment, then closed it. "...Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry. I'll drop it." He stepped away from Xatu, and sat down a couple paces away from Sadie.

Sadie approached Xatu tentatively. "Anyway, Xatu... What about the legendaries? Have you tried reaching out to them?"

"I told most yesterday in hopes of receiving insight. Upon verifying the truth, many killed themselves for fear of what could happen were they to turn feral. There are a few I have not told, such as Latias." Xatu looked down for a moment. "She is so gentle that I cannot imagine she would cause any harm, even if she turned. I have also just told her of your arrival, so she can come to take you swiftly back home. I just ask that if you decide to tell her what is happening, please do so after you've departed."

Oli threw up his paws. "Fantastic, another flight. Just what I wanted. We'll have to tell her to stay low."

"Y-yes, that's a good idea, Oli. Anyway... thank you for the help, Xatu. It's too bad there's nothing to be done."

"Indeed."

Oli furrowed his brow in contemplation as he looked at the ground through his crossed legs. There had to be something he was missing; he couldn't have been brought back to this world just to lose his mind. There had been a purpose, the first time, no matter how hard it had been to discover, so the same must be true now. Maybe it would take someone more powerful than the legendaries to help, but...

"Jirachi."

Having heard Oli's voice, Sadie turned to regard him.

"I have not been able to contact Jirachi since it retreated to Wish Cave," Xatu said. "No one has. To find its resting place would have been an impossible task even before it became a mystery dungeon. Many have tried."

"I haven't," Oli said as he shot Xatu a glare. "Anyway, we don't have a choice. That's the only pokemon who could fix this."

"I understand your reasoning, but it is naive. Legendaries more powerful than Rayquaza have failed to conquer Wish Cave, and the most your combined powers could do to it was persuade it to glance upward."

"Rayquaza's not an explorer. There's a lot more to the profession than raw power. Stealth, preparation, crafting..."

"All trivial in the face of such a gauntlet."

Oli spat. "Shut up. It's not like you've ever tried."

"Uh, look, Oli." Sadie gestured toward the horizon with her feeler. "I see something over there. I think it's Latias."

"Already?" Oli turned his head to confirm and spotted a pale red speck on the horizon that was quickly getting larger. "I see. Just as well; I think we're done here."

"...Just don't get yourselves killed," said Xatu as Oli stood up. "It would be such a tremendous waste. Even compared to the alternative."

***

The wind buffeted Oli's fur as he clung to Latias' neck. If it hadn't been for Sadie's feelers wrapped around him, he wasn't sure he'd have been able to keep from falling.

Latias' voice rang clear despite their deafening speed, as though it were part of the rushing wind iteslf—and that clearness only made its sadness more apparent. "If all of that is true... Well, I doubt I could fit in a cave, much less explore one. I wish you two luck, and in the meantime..." For a moment her wings stilled, and she sank slightly—but then she lifted her chin up high and righted herself. "I'll help everyone cope with this as best as I can."

***

Seed husks were scattered around the kecleons' stall, and berry juice had stained the wood a dark and faded blue like a bruise. A small note, already faded, was pinned to the front with a sharpened stick. "Take what you want," it said. The kecleons' signatures at the bottom seemed more reserved than usual.

Oli went behind the stand, and the sounds he made as he sifted through the wares seemed loud in the still air. The seeds and berries had all been taken, but there remained a few TMs and bracelets, and, of more interest to Oli, orbs. He picked up one of these and peered through its dark, translucent surface. Within it was an indistinct mass, like a puff of smoke, which billowed ever outward as though blown back from the center. An escape orb, then. Oli put it in his pouch and inspected the rest of the items, but he took nothing else.

Oli stood up and looked around, but there was little besides abandoned buildings, leafless hedges, and paths covered in virgin snow. He walked to kangaskhan's storage space, and when he entered the dim and dusty building he was surprised to find that nothing had been stolen—at least, nothing of his. He sifted through wooden bins full of seeds and apple preserves and trinkets of all kinds. He needed the best he could get for this trip, so that meant reviver and heal seed oil, sitrus extract, petrify orbs, and a half-gallon jug of elixir. After stocking up on these he crammed a few bags of dried fruit and aspear berries into what little space remained in his and Sadie's bags, and closed the flaps.

***

The understory's shrubs and vines were leafless now, fossilized in ice. Sadie was crouched between two magnolia shrubs, rippling her feelers in front of her. Oli followed her gaze to a chipmunk splayed out on the snow, enraptured by her display. Sadie bunched herself up, careful not to snap any branches, and then pounced.

For a moment, Oli swore she had her prey trapped—but then it popped out from between her paws and skittered away. She didn't pursue it—just watched as it kicked up snow.

"When did you take up hunting?" Oli asked as he approached.

Sadie's ears flicked, and she poked her head above the bushes. "Morning, Oli. I only started today. I kinda figured it would help if we end up not being able to... um..." She looked away. "Well, it doesn't matter; I can't catch anything, anyway. I think there's some instinct I'm missing."

Oli glanced behind him for a moment, into the little tarped building they called their home. From here he could just see the vulpix-sized pen in the corner, bedded with wool and sprinkled with stray hairs from the last injured animal they had taken in. "I'm not shocked. It's not your kind of thing." He went over to his favorite stump and sat down.

Sadie approached Oli. "Did you see anyone?"

"No. I think folks are too afraid of each other now. Think they'll get attacked in town."

"I see."

It was silent for a moment. Oli took in the stand of spruce trees that bordered the yard, and the streaks of indigo and mulberry in the darkening sky. This place was familiar to him by now, but the winter made it feel bleak and surreal. "...How's Ferra, by the way?"

"She's relaxed a little. She didn't attack when I came in this time. I think she's just confused, like Reid was. They've been talking about releasing her into the wild."

"Then god knows where she'll be once she comes back to her senses."

"I know, but... who knows if we'll make that happen?"

"We need to believe we can."

Sadie turned away from Oli, and her ears drooped a little.

"Sadie? What is it?"

"...I'm sorry, I'm just... very tired right now. And tomorrow is going to be very difficult."

"Yeah, true enough. Unless there's anything else you need to do, we should go to bed."

"Yeah..." Sadie walked past Oli, and he followed her through the doorway of their home. Even in the fading light, he could make out where everything was—the pen against the left wall, the scarves neatly folded on the ground beside a stack of thank-you letters, and Sadie's orchids that lined the windowsills. Their leaves were yellowing, and bore the weight of fallen flower petals. That Sadie had kept such delicate plants alive this long into winter was impressive; Oli wasn't sure why she hadn't replaced them with something else in all this time.

Sadie padded to the pile of straw by the far wall and curled up just a little to the right. Oli lay down on his back beside her, rested his paw just behind her head, and began to gently scratch. In response, Sadie wrapped her feelers around his arm and began to purr—a soft sound like the rustle of grass in the wind, with a sweet and feminine tone that rose toward the end of each breath like an innocent question. It was better than music.

"Oli... This is nice."

Sadie couldn't see his face, but Oli smiled. "It is."

"I just wish, you know... I just wish we could stay like this for longer."

"Yeah. After we find Jirachi, we'll have to spend some quality time together. We're overdue for it."

There was a long pause; Oli couldn't help but notice that Sadie's purring had stopped. "Sadie?"

Her voice was tinged with trepidation. "Sorry, just... Are you really sure you want to go out tomorrow?"

Oli's stomach lurched, like when Reid had dropped them. "I have to, Sadie."

"Can I ask... why you feel that way?"

Oli was glad his partner couldn't see the bewilderment on his face. "I... So I don't turn feral? So the world doesn't turn feral?"

"But what if we die, Oli?"

"Then..." He closed his eyes. "Then I don't know. We die."

"I don't want to die."

Those words rang in Oli's head like a funeral bell. I don't want to die. "Sadie, do you really think you'd prefer the alternative?"

"Wouldn't you?"

Oli took a long breath, and stroked Sadie's head as he thought. "It would mean losing our relationship. Our sense of belonging. That sort of loneliness is the only thing I remember from the human world, and I would do anything to never feel that way again."

"I don't know if turning feral is as bad as that, but..." Sadie sighed softly. "But you couldn't really be happy just doing nothing, could you?"

Oli shook his head.

"Then I'll concede. I was just scared to lose what we have left. That's all."

Oli turned over onto his side and wrapped his arms tightly around Sadie. Her sweet, fresh scent like jasmine and lemongrass filled his nose. "We're not gonna die, alright? I'll be careful. I'll give you an escape orb, so if anything goes wrong, you can warp us out." He knew that wouldn't guarantee their safety, but it was the best he could offer.

"...Alright, Oli. I'll do my best to help get us through."

"Thank you."

Slowly Sadie began to purr again, and Oli relaxed. The sun set over the course of the next few minutes, and it grew too dark to see.

***

The luminous orbs around Oli and Sadie's necks cast ghostly blue light across the walls of the cave. The tunnels were so labyrinthine that Sadie could have passed this exact spot by a hundred times without knowing. She felt like an ant that had entered the wrong nest.

Oli glanced back at Sadie. "I can't imagine there will be many more ferals," he said, his voice wavering as though he were trying to convince himself. "This place doesn't seem too... hospitable."

Sadie nodded drowsily, barely processing his words. She reminded herself to pick her feelers up off the ground, so it wouldn't look like she wasn't trying.

In past expeditions, Sadie had spared ferals little thought; her only concern had been whether or not they posed a threat to Oli or herself. This time was different; her eyes lingered on the burrowing dunsparce, the aron chewing on rocks, the carbink that blended with the walls and eyed them curiously as they passed. Most of the ferals weren't hostile, and, truth be told, all of them looked more comfortable here than Sadie was. She almost envied them. If she turned feral herself, she hoped it would at least be somewhere more familiar than here, somewhere where she felt at home...

"Sadie, watch out!"

Sadie whipped around at Oli's warning and was swiftly blinded. Flames exploded through the tunnel, and they had already reached Sadie by the time she put up Protect.

Sadie's scream was shrill and piercing. Her vision went white, as blank as her mind. Seconds passed where she couldn't tell if her Protect was even still working, or if she could move, or if her body was still intact.

As soon as the flames stopped, Sadie heard Oli leap over her. The air around her felt even colder now than it had before, but she lacked the strength to shiver. She stood as still as a skeleton, afraid that any movement would crack her skin and make it flake away.

An otherworldly moan reverberated through the corridor, followed by the sound of shattering glass. A chandelure. That stood to reason; it had probably sneaked up on them through the walls. Though she still couldn't see, Sadie heard Oli's hurried footsteps as he approached her a moment later.

"Sadie, are you alright?" The urgency in Oli's voice frightened her. "We still have some sitrus in there, if you want..."

Sadie winced as she bent her neck and poked around in her pouch. Sitrus was a powerful berry, and they had packed rawst as well, but little of either remained. Enough to treat these injuries, perhaps, but not more.

When Sadie's muzzle grazed the escape orb's glassy surface, she paused. She could end this now, she remembered. It could save her and Oli's lives. In that moment the thought of his death, of her failing to protect him, scared her more than the thought of turning feral.

She took the escape orb in her mouth and crushed it.

***

Snow blanketed the tundra almost completely—only the stubbornest peaks still showed their heads, like shards of charcoal in a pile of ash. All the way to the horizon the landscape was as colorless as an old photograph. Snowflakes fell as though in slow motion.

Two flashes of turquoise were quickly subsumed by the light of the snow and cloudy sky. In their stead appeared Oli and Sadie. The former shielded his eyes while they adjusted, and the latter took a single step forward before collapsing into the snow.

"Sadie..." Oli looked at his companion—really looked at her, not just the cursory is-she-still-there kind of glance he'd employed for the past five hours. She was still wet up to her belly from the bizarre underground streams they had had to ford, and clumps of fur were missing from the ferals she had wrestled with. Her feelers were burnt to the point of being swollen, flecked with black in spots. She was beat up, Oli thought, by humans' standards or by pokemons'.

"Not one more step..." Sadie closed her eyes, and seemed to sink deeper into the snow as she let out a breath.

"Come on, Sadie. You're going to freeze if you don't keep moving." Oli wrung his paws for a moment, then knelt down and dug into his bag. He produced a yellow and green fruit—an aspear berry. "Come on. We've still got one of these. Eat it."

It wasn't until Oli touched the fruit to Sadie's lips that she reluctantly opened her mouth. She took a bite and chewed mechanically, pausing at points as though she had to remind herself how to eat. When she swallowed, the food seemed to catch in her throat for a moment and trap her breath before reaching her stomach. "Thanks, Oli..."

Oli followed up the aspear with the sitrus and rawst, then helped Sadie to her feet. She managed to stay up, though her feelers remained tangled on the ground like dead serpents. Oli knelt down and gathered them up in his arms carefully—it was something to help keep them warm, at least. He would have offered to carry Sadie in her entirety, were it not for the fact that he felt scarcely any stronger than she did.

The wind was still as they walked back to shelter. It was quiet.

***

Shadows danced along the walls of the igloo. Sadie was laid down on her side so close to the fire that Oli feared she would burn herself.

"This was a stupid idea," Sadie said lifelessly.

"We had to try and do something..."

"We didn't. Xatu said it himself; even a legendary couldn't make it to the end of Wish Cave. We're both idiots."

"It's just a first attempt, alright? We-"

"There won't be a second."

"But Sad-"

"Please just shut up. I'm done. We've been carrying the weight of the world on our backs ever since you came here. I don't want to still be carrying it when I finally succumb..." She let out a tired breath, shaking as though on the verge of tears.

The look on Oli's face was like he'd bit into an underripe persimmon. "...We can worry about it tomorrow, then."

Sadie was silent. Oli spent a long while just looking at her from across the fire. The flames between them made it hard to distinguish her figure.

"...Do you want to snuggle?" Oli asked.

Sadie nodded feebly, so Oli crawled up behind her and draped his arm across her shoulder. Her sweet scent was masked by the smoke.

"You'll have to take care of me, when it happens." Sadie was barely audible over the crackling of the fire. "I don't think I could make it hunting."

"Sadie, please just... go to sleep..."

"Sorry. But sooner or later, you know..."

Oli held his breath as he waited for her to finish that sentence, but she didn't. It felt like the blade of an axe had been raised over his head just to remain suspended there, ready to fall at a moment's notice.

***

Sadie was no longer in Oli's arms when he awoke, but she couldn't have left long ago; his belly was still warm. Oli stood up and crawled out of the igloo and had to shield his eyes from the blinding snow. It was a few seconds before he noticed Sadie; even though she was hardly camouflaged, she stood so still it was hard to pick her out. Besides that, her head was buried in the snow.

"Sadie? What are you up to?"

Sadie yanked her head up, and tossed snow onto her back as she did. When she looked at Oli her eyes were as vacant as the tundra itself, the blue of the irises washed out in the overbright light. She was as still as an anxious deer, as though caught between approaching and running away. In her mouth, a vole gave its last pitiful, dying spasms—that was what really gave it away. Even learning to hunt, Oli knew she wouldn't have really killed something—at least, not in her right mind.

Oli's cry was deafening in the silence of the tundra. He whipped around and smashed his fist into the igloo behind him, and it shattered like glass. Fragments soared through the empty air, and by the time they landed they were barely visible. By the time Oli turned around, the same could be said of Sadie. She dashed through the snow with reckless fright, kicking up white puffs as she went.

Oli's eyes went wide. "Sadie!" He ran after her, and several times nearly faceplanted in the snow. Sadie ran faster than he could, her footsteps imbued with a sort of instinctive grace, and she had her feelers to help her keep her balance. But, while the distance between them grew for a time, Sadie eventually began to slow down. When the sylveon looked over her shoulder and saw Oli still in pursuit, she changed direction to duck behind a nearby peak.

Oli slowed to a walk and began to catch his breath. His limbs were numb from cold and exertion, and his throat stung from sucking in the frozen air. His chest was dusted with snow, but he didn't think to brush it off.

Oli kept his eyes fixed on the peak as he approached, but he didn't see any movement. When he was finally close enough to touch the stone, he paused for a moment. "Sadie... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. Please come out."

Nothing. Oli carefully rounded the corner, giving the peak a wide berth, but he didn't see Sadie. Her pawprints, however, very clearly led to a crevice in the middle of the stone. Oli grimaced. That crevice could just be a dead end, or it could lead to an underground cave, or another mystery dungeon.

"Sadie..." Oli knelt down in the snow, despite the discomfort it caused him. "It's me, Oli. Come out now. I'm not going to hurt you."

Oli waited. He could see into the crevice from this angle, but even if he squinted it was too dark inside to make anything out for more than a few feet. Just when he had given up waiting and was about to step forward, he saw a faint, baby-blue glint. "Sadie?" he whispered.

After a few moments of stillness, Sadie crept forward, and the rest of her body came into view. She held her head close to the ground, submissive. When she paused just by the crevice's entrance as though expecting instruction, Oli felt ready to punch something again. The creature that stood before him was a painful memento, and her empty gaze seemed to mock him.

Oli bit his lip and held as still as he could. Now wasn't the time for rage—if he scared Sadie away again, he might really lose her forever. Oli shut his eyes and tried to do what he usually did when he had to wait for the pain of an injury to subside, which was to focus on his breathing and think of something else.

That "something else," he remembered, was usually Sadie.

Something brushed Oli's shoulder, light as a snowflake, and he started. He opened his eyes, and realized that they were wet with tears.

Sadie's feeler lingered on Oli's fur, and he traced it back to Sadie herself. Oli couldn't have quite described what he felt as the sylveon looked into his eyes—it was something wistful, like homesickness.

Gradually, Sadie relaxed her shoulders and held up her head. She blinked for the first time in what felt like ages and walked toward Oli. Once she was a few feet away she lowered her head and laid the vole down on the ground. She took a step back and cocked her head as she looked at Oli again.

Oli's head spun as tears formed in his eyes once more, but he managed to keep from sobbing long enough to squeeze out two words.

"Thank you."
 
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Negrek

Only the Lonely
Staff
This is a really neat one-shot! I'm always interested in PMD one-shots, since people tend to go for huge epics in this setting, so it's a lot of fun to see what people choose to do with shorter works. The sort of horror/romance angle you have going on here isn't something I've seen a lot of, but it works quite well with this setting... A lot of the PMD world is honestly kind of terrifying if you think about it, and the apparent dichotomy between "civilized" town pokémon and the ferocious ones that attack you in dungeons is a rich vein to explore. I also like how you used the environment to enhance the mood here. The PMD world is a very lush, magical place, but in this story, we have dusty, empty scrubland and lonesome frozen wilderness... It really helps add a sense of desperation and loneliness to the story.

It was pretty clear where this story would be going from the beginning, but that didn't make it less effective! The question for me in this sort of scenario is always, "Are we going to see them both go feral, or only one?" I think you made the right choice here in leaving Oli himself, at least up to the end; it was clear that for him the fact of being alone, without Sadie, might actually be worse than going feral and not realizing what he'd lost. You do a nice job of the buildup towards the reversion event, with Sadie initially being the determined, hopeful one, who slowly loses her faith until ultimately she's the one who gives up on their quest. Oli's fear and resulting insistence that they not give up was similarly drawn well, and then of course at the end his worst fears come true. The last few paragraphs were really nicely done; great ending line, in particular, and I loved how you brought things full circle, with Sadie somehow managing to take care of Oli again despite being totally changed. A wonderfully tragic but, weirdly, almost sweet end. Also leaves me wondering what happens from here; it would almost be crueller if Oli's human past made him immune to becoming feral and left him alone while everyone he knew turned wild.

Other than that, probably my favorite scene here was actually the brief visit to Treasure Town. Since it's such a familiar place, the contrast between how it was portrayed here and how I'm used to seeing it was especially effective. The sense of wrongness coming from the empty shops and abandoned merchandise was eerie, and that sequence really added to the feeling of isolation, where Sadie and Oli are almost entirely (or might be entirely) on their own, one of a dwindling number of sane pokémon who're going wild one by one.

I was also tickled to see mundane animals in this fic! It's even rarer to see those in PMD fic than in trainerfic, to the point that it sometimes feels like I'm the only one who uses them, heh.

Personally, I wanted to see a little more of the feral pokémon than we did here. We saw a tiny bit of the pyroar early on, but that was basically it until we had Sadie turn at the end. Reid also ended up going feral (mid-flight!), but Sadie and Oli never really saw it happen, as such, and then they never saw Reid again. For horror, having the "monster" be something unseen but always creeping closer can be extremely effective, and can often work better. With the ferals, the real horror is in the contrast between who they were before and what they've become, and the sense that the characters we're following could become the same. For that to be at its most effective I think you do want to give the characters to interact with the ferals a bit, both so we as readers can really get the contrast between civilized pokémon and feral ones, and so we can get the characters' emotional reactions to these pokémon they used to know who've changed so utterly. A scene with Sadie trying to coax the pyroar back to her normal self feels like it would have a lot of potential, for examle. It felt a bit odd, and a bit of a missed opportunity, that neither Oli nor Sadie had much of a reaction to Reid turning feral, too. Like, presumably they knew him reasonably well, and his reversion nearly killed them and left them stranded in the middle of nowhere. Oli's injury takes immediate precedent, but it was odd to me that the two of them didn't talk about what had happened to Reid at all even after he'd been healed. Again, I think you could get good mileage out of actually showing Reid's reversion here, how he goes from friendly guy to dumb animal, and the impact that has on Oli and Sadie.

The scene where Oli was injured also felt oddly-paced to me. I get that you wanted to show Oli and Sadie's relationship and how much Oli relies on Sadie, but the part where he's injured and she's working on setting the bone, in particular, went on a little long to me. I wasn't quite sure what you were going for there. Early signs that Sadie's not dealing with things very well, maybe? This is one area I might look to trim a little if you wanted to add more about the ferals themselves.

All in all, this was a solid fic that works really well with the PMD setting, while also providing an unusual angle on it. I enjoy me a good tragedy, and this was a nice, satisfying read and an interesting take on the PMD formula. Thanks for posting it!

Oli passed Ferra by a dozen times in town, but he never did ask where she got those scars.
*had passed

Sadie stepped away, and Oli watched as she traversed the wooded path toward town.
"Traversed" seems like an odd word to use here, since it implies a level of difficulty I wouldn't associate with walking down a path.

Oli grit his teeth as adrenaline surged through his veins.
*gritted

She might be laying there limply as the hot sun beat down on her and drained her life away like litwick.
*lying

"I'm sorry Oli, I just have to make sure it sets right."
There should be a comma before "Oli" here--in general a comma before any character's name if the dialogue addresses them directly.

Morning Oli. I was just trying to hunt.
Again, comma before "Oli" here.

Oli glanced behind him for a moment, inside the little tarped building they called their home.
I think you want "into" rather than "inside" here.

- Just in general, I felt like there was an overabundance of elipses in the dialogue. They're super handy for when characters are trailing off, of course, but when they pop up too much it makes the characters feel... sleepy... and kind of... disconnected from... everything, to me.

Oli laid down on his back beside her, rested his paw just behind her head, and began to gently scratch.
*lay down

They could have passed this exact spot by a hundred times, and Sadie wouldn't have known it---so labyrinthine were the tunnels.
eh, don't love the em dash


Sadie's scream was shrill and deafening, like a barn owl.
Hmm, barn owls are deafening? Screechy, yeah, but this simile struck me as a little off.

In their stead, Oli and Sadie.
Looks like you dropped a word here. "In their stead appeared Oli and Sadie" or similar feels like what you're going for.

Oli stood up and crawled out of the igloo, and had to shield his eyes from the blinding snow.
No comma after "igloo."

Oli's head spun as tears formed in his eyes once more, but he managed to keep from sobbing long enough to eek out a couple words.
*eke
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
@Negrek Thanks for the remarks, I went ahead and fixed the stuff that was obviously wrong, but I'll have to give myself some time to think before making any more substantial changes. I thought about having a scene with Sadie and Ferra, so now I'm kind of kicking myself for not doing it. I just didn't have a particularly good idea of how to execute it, and didn't think it was that important. Maybe I'll think of a good way to do it later. Don't know yet what I want to do about the scene with Oli's injury.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
Hi there! Here from catnip!

I really like the general premise behind this story. A lot of the fanon interpretations I've read of ferals in PMD never really grapples with the some of the worldbuilding concepts surrounding them in canon, such as 1) ferals were originally non-feral and 2) non-ferals can become feral. I suppose these are actually one and the same, but with different ramifications--and a dichotomy that I really enjoyed watching you unpack as the threat stops becoming "oh no what if we can't save everyone" and becomes "oh no, what if we can't save ourselves."

And I really liked the direction you took with this thematically, where blowing up the meteor doesn't save the day from the long-term ramifications of this problem, the gods can't help you. It's just a sad disaster, a gradual unfurling of the world, and none of the old ways of saving the world are going to work this time. I really enjoyed how you had Oli and Sadie dealing with this realization in different ways, where Oli denies it and Sadie just gives up. It's a really interesting twist on the games as well, since the partner pokemon is usually so responsible for being the optimistic force who convinces you to keep pulling through no matter what--but eventually that hope and endurance becomes her undoing. It's really tragic!

I was definitely reminded of a sort of early-stage zombie apocalypse here (sort of Last of Us/Days Gone vibes!), where people are all meandering uselessly, trying to figure out what to do, where the thing came from, what the cure is--and the answer is really, there isn't. The tight focus on two characters sorting through their opposing views on this was a really good setup to explore how different people end up reacting here. I sort of expected from the premise that this wasn't going to end happily for everyone, and the setup/payoff of the tragedy is done very well. There's a spot of hope, but it's firmly in the camp of no, things aren't going to be okay for a very long time. Very sobering!

The narration choice was interesting to me. We're mostly with Oli, so everything feels very detached. I imagined that he didn't want to look at the problem, sort of like "if I cover my eyes, I can't be seen". From a meta perspective this is beneficial since we get to watch him avoid the (seemingly obvious) risk that he or Sadie could turn, which was horrible to watch. And from an in-character perspective I think denial is a genuine response for dealing with something as dread-inducing as "this world that I fled to, saved, and loved more than my home world is slowly spiraling into disaster"--but the story itself feels lacking as a result because Oli doesn't really seem to make any choices that I can understand; he just gets pushed around by the plot. I found myself asking why he wanted to go to Grand Canyon (since that only gets answered once he's talking to Xatu), how he feels about the ferals, if he thinks they can be rehabilitated, what elements of his old life he wishes he could bring into this new world order. The ferals were especially hard to grasp since the story really only looks at them in the beginning and at the very end--the middle is mostly about the burden of heroism, which, while also an important theme, ends up overshadowing this massive environmental change instead of sharing the stage with it. What does Oli think about ferals? He sort of views them with vague revulsion, distant pity, but I wanted more from him--for instance I didn't even remember that Reid goes feral mid-flight in the first read since Oli immediately moves past it.

There's a scene that switches from close-Oli POV to Sadie near the end, and I found that a bit jarring--it provides us with a glance into her head, which is interesting, but it doesn't really give us any information that we couldn't have gotten from Oli. I found myself asking why this scene in particular was told from her perspective, but I struggled to find the significance of the switch, and then the remainder of the story is told with Oli again. Felt a touch jarring.

Mienshao Oli and sylveon Sadie
I see a bunch of naming conventions floating around PMD, so I apologize if I'm stepping on someone's toes here! But to me this bit read a little awkwardly, like "elf Legolas and dwarf Gimli"--especially after Reid and Ferra don't get introduced as dragonite Reid and pyroar Ferra, I found myself wondering if their species was absolutely the most important information I needed to be receiving in this opening sentence?

Foreign as she looked now, there was still no mistaking her wrinkled old brow or the scars along her flank like she'd wrestled with a weavile. Oli had passed Ferra by a dozen times in town, but he never did ask where she got those scars. He supposed he wouldn't get the chance.
I like the distanced focusing here, where Oli ends up feeling emotionally distracted from the entire thing. It's such a strange fascination to have in the face of such tragedy, and it really sets up for how he doesn't end up looking this problem in the face until he has no other choice. Where did she get those scars? Did I leave the oven on?

Naked branches seemed to wrap her up as she went, like webbing.
Haha, first readthrough I thought this metaphor was a bit weird/confusing, but on the second readthrough I see why you have it--feels like a good setup for how Sadie is eventually entangled into this whole mess, in part because of the path she chooses to take.

Great Canyon looked especially desolate from above; its fractured, reddish stone stretched all the way to the horizon. One had to think that what few scraggly shrubs remained would forfeit their lives in despair if they could only see their surroundings.
Your scene-setting at the beginning of each break was generally really effective, but in particular this one was really good! Also, more undertones of despair, oof.

"Fine so far." The dragonite's voice was deep and muffled, like it was coming from underwater. "We'll stop at the oasis in a couple hours, and make it to Great Canyon before noon."

"Professional carriers are sturdier than you think," Oli heard for probably the dozenth time this trip. "Just try to relax and enjoy the ride, yeah"
The line break here confused me, especially since they're both disembodied/aren't associated with a particular speaker, so I had to reread this a few times to realize it was just Reid again.

"...It was cowardice," Xatu said finally. "Your ire is justified. I have nothing to say in my defence."
Ooh, I thought this line was really cutting. Admission of guilt and helplessness. Not wanting to tell them because they'd give up hope, and ultimately being entirely correct. Xatu's a really tragic, mysterious figure in this, able to foresee this horrible event and powerless to act. I thought this line was very efficient in conveying a lot.

Oli turned his head and looked at Sadie. Her brow was tightly knit, and her teeth were bared in an ugly grimace. It was a look that made him feel like he wasn't her partner.
There are a few bits that I figured were foreshadowing Sadie turning, but this one was the most fascinating to me--since her ugly grimace at him is fueled by her desire to stop him from committing senseless violence, and it still felt driven by compassion rather than mindless rage.

Oli noticed that their leaves were yellowing, and bore the weight of fallen flower petals. That Sadie had kept such delicate plants alive this long into winter was impressive; Oli wasn't sure why she hadn't replaced them with something else in all this time.
I'm a big sucker for foreshadowing via environment, but this one felt a bit too on-the nose.

"I see..." Her voice wavered. "Then, forget I said anything."
In general your dialogue is really strong and I got a good feel of who Sadie and Oli are as people. But this line in particular stood out to me as feeling very JRPG'ish, kind of scripted.

"...Alright Oli.
Dropped a comma here before Oli

She was beat up, Oli thought, by humans' standards or by pokemons'.
I thought this was a really interesting detail to reveal at the last minute--how Oli still can't shake the fact that he's seeing these pokemon from the point of view as a human, even though the only other time it's come up was when he says it was terribly lonely to be a human and he never wants to go back. I wasn't really sure if this parallel was intentional, since it didn't really feel like it ended up going anywhere.

She was as still as an anxious deer, as though caught between approaching and running away. There was a dead vole in her mouth, Oli noticed---that was what really gave it away.
oh no, poor babies
I liked how calm and detached this was. The tragedy already happened; it can't be undone; all you can do is watch, sort of thing. I didn't quite follow what Sadie's doing in this situation, though--is she eating the vole with her head in the snow? Is she just holding it, and if so, why? I thought maybe she was hunting, but previously Oli says that she's being super still, so that didn't feel right either.

---

Overall there's definitely a lot to like here. The concept is really clever and you execute it in this horrible, inevitable way. A lot of apocalypse writing is about finding hope in the darkness, and this is one felt more about ... darkness overcoming your hope. It's heavy but it doesn't feel too melodramatic; it's just, sometimes things don't work out the way you want them to. Everything was very dark and sobering without being oppressive, and I think that's a really hard line to balance sometimes! Really interesting read; thank you for sharing.
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
Thanks for your review, @kintsugi. Took a bit before I had the chance to read and process it. I think you raised several good points, and I am experimenting with some changes that address them (though I am trying to be cautious about overreacting). I may add a new scene, but I am not sure. I have to try to write it out and see how it turns out, first.
 

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
Here for Catnip circle!

I thought this was nicely written overall, and I enjoyed seeing a pretty different sort of one-shot, focusing on character relationships in a PMD world where an apocalypse is looming. The atmosphere was pretty soulcrushing, and you did a good job showing Oli and Sadie's relationship and how they care for each other; I could feel for them and what they went through here.

I also enjoyed some of the little worldbuilding bits here. People trying to rehabilitate the feral Pokémon, Dragonite serving as public transport - it was cute to see that. It would've been fun to see more!

I think the way this is structured and what you choose to show is kind of odd, though. Ultimately, what this story is about is establishing Oli and Sadie, a rescue team in a world where Pokémon are turning feral and they're helpless to stop it, and then showing Sadie ultimately succumbing to it (but retaining some basic affection for and protectiveness of him). I do think you do this pretty successfully. Meanwhile, though, the entire angle of trying to stop it, which takes up most of the story, kind of ends up feeling like a weird detour that doesn't really go anywhere, I think. We spend scenes on them traveling to see Xatu, who tells them about Wish Cave, and them preparing for this journey, only for them to... seemingly immediately use an Escape Orb and just give up on the whole thing. It feels strange, almost as if abruptly rendering the past several scenes pointless.

In principle I think the anticlimax of them failing to get through the dungeon and going back to wait for the phenomenon to take them is something stark and poignant and heartbreaking. But I don't think you quite build up to it successfully enough to make it work, for me. The scene where Sadie uses the Escape Orb just isn't enough to make her choice seem understandable and inevitable. It starts with Oli saying there probably aren't going to be a lot more ferals from here, implying things are looking up and they might be getting there - but then she gets hit by a single attack, and even though she explicitly thinks to herself that she could probably heal herself with the supplies they've already got and be fine, she just gives up anyway for unclear reasons. We can't feel this choice with her like this. All you'd have to do is show more there - how hurt and exhausted they are, how scared she is, what she dreads in the rest of this journey (I'd easily buy that Oli is just trying to be optimistic when he says there won't be many more ferals, and that Sadie knows this and believes things will only get worse if they continue, but you don't really show that).

I'm also a bit dissatisfied by the role of the legendaries here. They all killed themselves when they heard this was happening? If Jirachi really is someone who could stop this, why didn't they attempt to find Jirachi, or at the very least attempt to arrange for some mortal Pokémon to band together to find Jirachi before their suicide? If they fear the consequences if they should go feral, shouldn't they also fear the consequences of keeping this secret and just letting it happen? If Latias is so gentle she wouldn't cause any harm if she became feral, well, why wouldn't Xatu tell her, so that she can help do something about it? Couldn't Oli and Sadie have asked Latias to join them on their journey, having already conceived of the idea of going to Wish Cave? Surely this would've been easier with a legendary by their side. What is the point of keeping Latias in the dark, either for Xatu or especially for them? And for that matter, why does somebody need to get Jirachi - doesn't Jirachi himself notice or care? Is there no concern about Jirachi going feral?

Some quote reactions:

Sadie was good at reassuring others; that was something Oli liked about her. He wished that skill extended more to him.
I like this, although it's not entirely clear to me whether Oli means he wishes he had her skill at reassuring others or that Sadie had more skill at reassuring him.

Suddenly the carriage lurched, and Oli and Sadie slammed into its side. Oli pushed against the bottom to try to regain his balance, but was met with no resistance. When he looked up, Reid was already a gyarados' length away. He let out a painfully loud roar, like a hurricane shredding branches, as Oli's descent accelerated.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around what was actually happening here - it wasn't until several paragraphs later that I understood this had apparently been Reid turning feral. This passage just sounds like Reid's been attacked by something unseen, and I can't tell exactly what's actually happening with the carriage - did Reid drop it? If so, why did they slam into its side? If not, at what point here do they actually fall out of it? I'm not sure what the bit about pushing against the bottom but meeting no resistance means - is he trying to steady himself on all fours or what? People don't normally push down against the floor they're standing on in any way beyond the force of gravity.

Oli clutched his leg, and suppressed his scream even though there wasn't any reason to.
There shouldn't be a comma here in this sentence; generally, when you use an and to connect two parts of a sentence, you only need a comma before it if the parts on both sides of it are independent clauses with a subject and verb that could stand on their own. Since "suppressed his scream even though there wasn't any reason to" is not a valid sentence that could stand on its own (as it lacks a subject), that doesn't apply here.

Oli whimpered, and felt panic start to slowly set in.
Same as above.

Though Oli hadn't had to fight, the walk to Great Canyon had been taxing for him. He had spent it constantly scanning the sky and horizon, feeling half blind without Sadie's eyes, and primed to blame himself if she got hurt. His frustration came to a head when he heard Xatu's impartial admittance, and he threw a punch which caught Xatu just below his beak.
I think this paragraph was a bit clunky - he's reacting to what Xatu just said, but you start by spending a couple of sentences on something seemingly unrelated before suddenly bringing it back around to what Xatu said. Could have been smoother by making the introduction shorter (e.g. "After the long walk to Great Canyon, constantly scanning the sky and horizon, feeling half blind without Sadie's eyes, Xatu's impartial admittance enraged him") or establishing earlier how much of a toll the journey took on Oli so you don't have to fit all that information in before the punch here.

Oli lowered his fist. "...I'm sorry, Sadie. I shouldn't get mad like that around you. It's not fair to you."
This strikes me as kind of a strange way of thinking of it; why is it not fair to her if he gets mad at somebody else when she merely happens to be present? If Sadie just doesn't like seeing him being angry, I think it's strange to describe it as "not fair to her" if he does, while if Sadie is generally concerned about him getting this angry, one would think she doesn't want him to get that angry even if she isn't present, in which case this is sort of a weird "I shouldn't have gotten caught" kind of sentiment.

Oli took a long breath, and stroked Sadie's head as he thought. "It would mean losing our relationship. Our sense of belonging. That sort of loneliness is the only thing I remember from the human world, and I would do anything to never feel that way again."
I thought this was a good, interesting line, implying a lot about Oli's previous life as a human - paints a pretty tragic picture, given humans are sapient but his life was apparently devoid of human connection and belonging and he thinks it's basically the same as not being sapient at all.

Overall, a very atmospheric, gloomy one-shot about sapience and connection in the face of a inevitable apocalypse, but I think it could have been structured a little better to build more clearly to where Sadie gives up on life, and I'm left with some questions! I'm intrigued to read more of your work - some of the way you're working with the subject here jives with my particular tastes.
 
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WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
I enjoyed this! (Not that I'm surprised.) I'll give you some overall thoughts first, then the line reactions. I surprised myself with how much I had to say about this one! A good sign that there were a lot of themes here I wanted to engage with.

The premise is an interesting one! I'm here for anything that asks questions about ferals and personhood. 👏

As usual, your main supporting character is a sweetheart--Sadie definitely graduated from the Lavender School of Friendship. We know Oli is quick to anger, but we actually don't know a ton else about him. We know what the relationship means to him, so the ending definitely lands. But I thought some of Kint's questions about how Oli feels about ferals are good ones. If he knows he was once a human, he must have a unique perspective on being changed against his will: it's already happened to him once! That would kind of explain why he's so much more concerned with losing Sadie as she is than losing himself as he is, but it could be teased out more.

The scene-setting continues to be lovely. Definitely one of your strengths. One of the best moments was when Oli picks through the wrecked town. It gave a strong sense of time passing, the hopelessness ... and Oli's determination to keep going.

I agree with folks who wanted to see a scene with Ferra. There's so much you could unpack with her! I could easily imagine Sadie talking to her, telling her about Reid and how they miss him but that Ferra shouldn't worry because they'll find him soon and cure everyone!! Cue Oli awkwardly doubting that a cure will ever come.

Speaking of Reid .... The scene where he goes feral also definitely needs to be expanded. I didn't realize that was what had happened until much later, and I was also surprised that they didn't question it or try to urge him to "hang in there/fight it!" Expanding that moment could also be a good place to show something about the pace this reversion is happening. Has it been this bad for a while, or is it suddenly escalating? How much time do they think they have?

Another I thought could've been expanded was the Legendaries! I don't agree with Dragonfree there--I think that just because they actually do have a lot of power doesn't mean they would respond rationally and use it. It reminds me of the ways privileged folks in the US are so quick to give up and dip out even when they have the most power in a situation. (Though, if that's the parallel, maybe killing themselves is extreme, but I could easily see them sealing themselves away in dungeons with no entrances or just noping out to some distant, hard-to-reach cloud or something.) But since we do have Latias onscreen, it would be nice to play that out a little further: "No, but really, you could help!" And she refuses, and Oli has to accept that he can't make her want to keep fighting, a parallel with Sadie.

And speaking of Sadie, I also wanted more of her thought process before she yeets them out of the dungeon. I think part of what's missing is some clarity on what she sees as the difference between losing herself and dying. In some ways, they equate to the same thing, especially from Oli's perspective: they're both a kind of loss, and neither of them is something you get to choose. But Sadie sees a difference, and that difference matters to her.

One last thing: I thought it was interesting how the "reversion" seems to be about sudden aggression but also lizard-brain skills. Sadie the person doesn't know how to hunt, but some wild part of her apparently does? I wonder how much of her inability to hunt before is her sensitive nature rather than her skills (the scene with her talking about not having skills for hunting suggests the second one, and I'm a little skeptical of that). It also implies there's something "unnatural" about different species of pokemon living and working together ... or does it? After all, Sadie does find a way to show some care for Oli even after losing herself. And, certainly, my cat and I are friends! Funny enough, our friendship is based on the things that Oli and Sadie seem to value in theirs: snuggling and companionship.

Oli and Sadie. The two rescuers were respected for conquering unconquerable dungeons and for saving the world. Neither imagined they would ever have to use their skills against members of the community that held them in such regard.
It might be nice to see some of their accomplishments broken out in a list here?

snowflakes mottled her flank like swarming ants as it slowly rose and fell.
This is doing to me what that dark footprints/moon line in Divides 10 was doing to you: I think of ants as dark, so it's hard for me to reconcile with snowflakes.

He supposed he wouldn't get the chance.
I feel like this wants "now" at the end.

Sadie was good at reassuring others; that was something Oli liked about her. He wished that skill extended more to him.
I couldn't tell if he's saying she's not reassuring him or if he wishes he had that skill.

The snow in the yard looked more gray than white in the feeble light.
Nice.

"Someone needs to spend time with her," she said as she looked him in the eye. "She's got to get used to being around other pokemon again. It'll take a while, but she deserves it."
Yes, Sadie! 👏 This is a real vote for humanity (for lack of a better word) from her. Ironic, considering she's the one who loses her "humanity" by the end.

Naked branches seemed to wrap her up as she went, like webbing.
I'm down for the web-like image, but the "wrapping" throws me off. Maybe something about seeing them superimposed over her, or how she's pushing through the net of branches?

Suddenly the carriage lurched, and Oli and Sadie slammed into its side. Oli pushed against the bottom to try to regain his balance, but was met with no resistance. When he looked up, Reid was already a gyarados' length away. He let out a painfully loud roar, like a hurricane shredding branches, as Oli's descent accelerated.
The roar wasn't enough to signify to me that he'd changed. I thought he was roaring at something else. The sense of falling could be stronger, too. Maybe instead of pushing against the bottom, he's reaching for the edge of the basket to steady himself ... and keeps reaching but there's nothing and nothing and nothing. Then the basket, not under him but above him. Then Reid hanging above him, a gyarados' length away. Then--Sadie! Etc.

Oli whimpered and felt panic start to slowly set in. Sadie has to be alright, doesn't she? She knows Protect. If I survived, there's no way she didn't...

That was what he told himself between agonized gasps, anyway, but he knew it wasn't true. Not completely.
I like how quickly his concern shifts to Sadie.

Idiot, he thought. If you attract Reid's attention, who knows what he'll do...
There wasn't enough about feral behavior established before, so this didn't hold a lot of weight.

"I'll carry you," Oli decided. "We'll make it to the oasis faster that way."

"Oli, you don't have to do that," Sadie said, but she was already in his arms by the time she had finished speaking.

"It's fine." Oli rubbed his head against his companion's. "You need to get some rest, okay? ...And by the way, I'm glad you're still alive."
I wanted a sense of how heavy she is here.

Oli turned his head and looked at Sadie. Her brow was tightly knit, and her teeth were bared in an ugly grimace. It was a look he didn't know she could give.

Oli lowered his fist. "...I'm sorry, Sadie. I shouldn't get mad like that around you. It's not fair to you."

"Please just try to calm down. Xatu was just trying to protect us for a little while. Let's try to remember that, okay?"
Is she picking up on his emotions here and being swept up in them? Wasn't totally clear if she was mirroring his emotions here or reacting with her own. (Also missing a comma after please.)

"What are you up to, Sadie?"

Sadie's ears flicked, and she poked her head up above the bushes. "Morning, Oli. I was just trying to hunt. I must be missing something though, because I still have absolutely no knack for it..."
If this is true, I want to see something about her movements showing her lack of skill. What would make the most sense to me on a character- and world-level would be for her to come close to catching something only to hold herself back, unable to deliver a killing blow.

"Then god knows where she'll be once she comes back to her senses."

"I know, but... who knows if we'll make that happen?"

"We need to believe we can."
Another concept I wanted to tease out a little more leading up to this. How much of the narrative in town has been about finding a cure? How plausible do people think this is?

Sadie winced as she bent her neck and poked around in her pouch. Sitrus was a powerful berry, and they had packed rawst as well, little of either remained. Enough to treat these injuries, perhaps, but not more. If Sadie was hurt like this again, she would have to heal herself, or die. Or even worse, if something happened to Oli...

Sadie felt the escape orb's glassy surface against her muzzle. She took it in her mouth and crushed it.
We need more about feeling unsure she has the strength to heal herself, worrying about not being enough for Oli. And then that raises the question of what she thinks will happen to Oli if she turns feral. Does she think she can protect him better as an animal than she can if she's dead?

I'm missing a few--lost my quotes and had to dig them up again--but there were a few missing commas or extra commas. Next time you're editing, you might run through Grammarly to catch those easily--it picks up comma errors pretty well. I also spotted a few filter verbs (both Oli watching Sadie do something).

Overall, I enjoyed this! Like I said, the ending lands and I think the questions raised here are interesting. Glad I spent time with this one today.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Hey love, somehow I never got around to this one. Here to remedy that.

Oli and Sadie, huh? They have a very Poppy and Lavender dynamic--one aggressive, cold, pragmatic, the other a kind-hearted healer and emotional support (and eeveelution). Oli's a tad less murderous, of course. It's a dynamic you write tenderly and well, though Oli does feel blanker to me as a character than Poppy--it's difficult to avoid that with isakaid humans, I think. Poppy's beliefs and actions are rooted in her experiences and world, but all we really have to ground Oli's reactions is the mention that he was lonely and disconnected from others in the human world.

The central premise of the fic is an intriguing one. The name Cosmic Reversion is very suggestive--implying this change is a return and part of some higher plan. I was a little disappointed that neither of these points get elaborated on. This world clearly had some 'ferals' pre reversion, but it's not clear what differentiated them in the past. Neither Xatu nor the legendaries seem to have any idea why this happening. Not knowing can be a big element of horror, but horror wasn't really the vibe I was left with, even if it's one the premise initially seems to suggest. There's a strong mood of inevitability and defeat. The change is coming, no one can really stop it, and Oli's attempt fails immediately. It felt to me like the real question the fic was concerned with was, is this such a bad thing?

It's hard to judge. We don't see the pre-reversion world. And we don't really see the futures and fates of any of the reverted pokemon besides Sadie. Oli's fear is that becoming feral will take away the relationship he has with Sadie. But in the end, what seems to stand between them isn't Sadie's inability to care for him in her reverted form, but the sudden gulf between them of high consciousness vs animal. It felt a bit to me like commentary on the whole PMD isekai set-up. The human protagonist, presumably from a more advanced world, finds solace in experiences that are coded as very animalistic. Isn't this the natural extension of the PMD fantasy?

Line-by-lines:

Oli looked down and crossed his arms, tangling up his sleevelike mienshao fur. The pyroar at his feet was out cold, and snowflakes mottled her flank like swarming ants as it slowly rose and fell.
"Tangling" threw me here. It seems very odd to me that fur could tangle just by arms being crossed. Mussing his fur? I wonder if it's awkward because it's an excuse to drop that he's a mienshao. I'm also not sure we need "Looked down." "at his feet" in the next line implies thathe's looking at it. I very much like the snow as ants metaphor--it's unexpected, disturbing, and suggests a decaying corpse.

The creature's eyes were dull, and her fur was frazzled, mane strewn wildly across the beaten path below.
I don't love "creature's" here. Have they depersonified her that quickly?

Sadie was good at reassuring others; that was something Oli liked about her. He wished she could reassure him that well.
I feel like this would read more smoothly as "could reassure him as well."

It was early in the day, and the sky was a deep slate blue. The snow in the yard looked more gray than white in the feeble light.
I get a conflicting mental image from these two lines. Deep slate blue is very vibrant, but feeble light and gray snow is more washed out.

Oli was sat down on an old tree stump, fingering the leaves of a dying thistle that had grown out of its cracks.
I like how you spotlight broken and dying plants here. It's not subtle, but it doesn't need to be.

Sadie stepped toward Oli, prompting him to lift his head.
This reads a bit stiff to me.

Sadie stepped away, and Oli watched as she traversed the wooded path toward town. Naked branches seemed to envelop her as she went, like webbing.
We're doing a lot of stepping here. Traversed is a little formal--followed the path, perhaps? I think you could cut "seemed" as a filter verb. "The naked branches enveloped her like webbing."

Great Canyon looked especially desolate from above—its fractured, reddish stone stretched all the way to the horizon. One had to think that what few scraggly shrubs remained would forfeit their lives in despair if they could only see their surroundings.
Vivid mental image here. "One had to think" is a pretty bulky construction. Maybe give the thought to Oli instead?

It's interesting that we get this invocation of forfeiting lives when the situation is made clear right before we learn that the legendaries have done just this. There seems to be an implication of, if people realized how horrible things actually are, they would give up.

Sadie gave a pained smile. "I remember that. I thought you were gonna have a heart attack for the first hour."

"If you hadn't been there to calm me down, I might have."

Sadie giggled, rapid and bright like a house wren. "You're just saying that to make me feel good, aren't you?"

Oli reached over to scratch her behind her ears, and she smiled and purred. "Only partly."
As usual, you excel at these sweet moments.

Reid interrupted Oli with a painfully loud roar, like a hurricane shredding branches.
Tearing branches? Breaking? Shredding feels a little fine for a hurricane.

When Oli looked up, the dragonite was clawing wildly at the leather straps of his harness, as though to remedy some unbearable itch.
"to remedy" strikes me as a bit awkward here. Scratch? Or sate, if you're trying to avoid scratch?

Oli stumbled as Reid's claws raked his head, and he fell backward—but Sadie extended her feelers and caught him before he hit the ground.
My sense of space got confused here. I imagined them as being in a pretty small, enclosed space. Is there room to hit the ground?

Oli glanced at her face as she lowered him with a gentleness that seemed unbefitting of the situation.
Unbefitting feels a bit formal. Out of place?

When he pulled his head away a strip of leather came with it, hanging from his mouth like a dead serpent.
Oof. Striking image.

soft carnation-pink
That's a very evocative color choice.

The dragonite snorted half-heartedly but let Sadie use her feeler as a rein. Oli noticed, with quiet panic, that the straps around his body were torn almost all the way through in places.
Woah, pretty creepy how Sadie can control people like that.

I can feel Oli's restrained panic here.

"His emotions aren't like I expected, you know. They're... not as scary as I thought."

"Maybe not with you soothing him."

She was still for a moment. "Maybe it is just that. But still, Oli, I don't think it's so—"
Hadn't she already gone and spent time with Ferra? Does Reid feel different from Ferra? This reads to me like Reid is the first feral Sadie had been in close contact with.

One of the damaged straps gave way with a sickening tear, and a wave of vertigo struck Oli. He jerked his head up and flailed his arms in search of something to grasp, but the carriage had already fallen out from under him, and Reid was already slipping farther away. Sadie, wide-eyed, reached toward Oli, but her feeler brushed uselessly against the tip of his paw. She lost her grip on Reid a moment later, her other feeler uncoiling from around his arm. A pang of guilt struck Oli as he realized she might have had time to grab Reid's neck or harness, to save herself, if she hadn't been thinking about him—but that guilt was swallowed by fear as he spun to face the ground.
Some of the phrasing here made this moment not feel like something that was happening fast.

Something like, "One of the damaged straps gave way with a sickening tear. Oli's head jerked up; a wave of vertigo struck him. He flailed his arms in search of something to grasp, but the carriage had already fallen away. Wide-eyed, Sadie reached toward Oli, but her feeler brushed uselessly against the tip of his paw. She lost her grip on Reid a moment later, her other feeler uncoiling from around his arm. As he began to plummet, Oli's mind was consumed with the thought that she might have had time to grab Reid's neck or harness, to save herself, if she hadn't been thinking about him—but as he spun to face the ground, that guilt burned away into fear."

It felt like someone had jammed a rod through his leg, and he laid there with clenched teeth for a few seconds before he realized it wasn't getting better.
*lay

He imagined her baby-blue eyes, her soft fur, her touch that wouldn't have startled a fly. She would lick his cheek, help him up, tell him how everything was going to be just fine...
This rings very true for someone in a lot of pain--trying desperately to imagine something pleasant.

He glanced up, half-expecting to see Reid barreling down with claws outstretched—knowing his luck, it wasn't unlikely—but no, the dragonite was just a speck on the horizon now, flying in an anxious zig-zagging pattern. For a moment, despite his own condition, Oli felt a twinge of guilt; this climate wasn't meant for a dragonite, and the odds were high that Reid would die from thirst or heat before reaching somewhere liveable.
Poo kairyu :(

Oli frowned for a moment and then stood up, obstructing Sadie's view of Reid.
I liked this moment, Oli both verbally and physically ending that conversation.

She fainted, or fell asleep, mere seconds later.
oh boy, that's a pretty significant difference.

The stone of Great Canyon was smeared from eons of rain, and it looked like the mesas were bleeding rust.
Mm, lovely.

Spotting him sent a shiver down Oli's spine—it seemed like hell to live alone like this, unmoving, amongst these empty skies and parched gorges. Sadie had insisted his species didn't mind, but a part of Oli still felt like this was a form of self-induced torture.
Maybe it's too avoid people.

His voice sounded foreign, harsh, with his throat this dry.
This is a nice physical detail.

Xatu's head snapped back, and he took a single step backward from the impact.
Single step back struck me as odd for a bird. I feel like his wings would flare out to steady himself or something.

"...It was cowardice," Xatu said finally. "Your ire is justified. I have nothing to say in my defence."
No one's arguing. No one's fighting back.

Oli raised his fist again, but this time Sadie grabbed it in her feelers before he could swing. "Stop it, Oli! That's enough!"

Oli turned his head and looked at Sadie. Her brow was tightly knit, and her teeth were bared in an ugly grimace. It was a look he didn't know she could give.

Oli lowered his fist. "...I'm sorry, Sadie."
The three paragraphs starting with Oli here were noticable. Converting one or two to "he" would break that up.

"Y-yes, that's a good idea, Oli. Anyway... thank you for the help, Xatu. It's too bad there's nothing to be done."

"Indeed."

Oli furrowed his brow in contemplation as he looked at the ground through his crossed legs. There had to be something he was missing; he couldn't have been brought back to this world just to lose his mind. There had been a purpose, the first time, no matter how hard it had been to discover, so the same must be true now. Maybe it would take someone more powerful than the legendaries to help, but...
Huh, does he know who brought him? Are they a force separate and more powerful than the legendaries? If he doesn't know who brought him, could he ask Xatu?

"Anyway, we don't have a choice. That's the only pokemon with the power to fix this."
Why does he think Jirachi necessarily has this power?

Seed husks were scattered around the kecleons' stall, and berry juice had stained the wood a dark and faded blue like a bruise. A small note, already faded, was pinned to the front with a sharpened stick. "Take what you want," it said.
This was a really stark, poignant image of how the town has been abandoned and turned to chaos.

Sadie bunched herself up, careful not to snap any branches, and then pounced.
"Bunched" is such a nice cat-like verb.

Their leaves were yellowing, and bore the weight of fallen flower petals. That Sadie had kept such delicate plants alive this long into winter was impressive; Oli wasn't sure why she hadn't replaced them with something else in all this time.
Interesting that this portrays Sadie as holding out hope against impossibilities, while it's Oli who holds out impossible hope in this situation.

In past expeditions, Sadie had spared ferals little thought; her only concern had been whether or not they posed a threat to Oli or herself. This time was different; her eyes lingered on the burrowing dunsparce, the aron chewing on rocks, the carbink that blended with the walls and eyed them curiously as they passed. Most of the ferals weren't hostile, and, truth be told, all of them looked more comfortable here than Sadie was. She almost envied them. If she turned feral herself, she hoped it would at least be somewhere more familiar than here, somewhere where she felt at home...
So if there were ferals before, I'm curious what made them turn feral. Often that's pegged to mystery dungeons, but here the change to being feral seems to be spreading without the mystery dungeons spreading.

When Sadie's muzzle grazed the escape orb's glassy surface, she paused. She could end this now, she remembered. It could save her and Oli's lives. In that moment the thought of his death, of her failing to protect him, scared her more than the thought of turning feral.

She took the escape orb in her mouth and crushed it.
Womp womp.

Snow blanketed the tundra almost completely—only the stubbornest peaks still showed their heads, like shards of charcoal in a pile of ash. All the way to the horizon the landscape was as colorless as an old photograph. Snowflakes fell as though in slow motion.
Reminds me a lot of Resting Place.

She managed to stay up, though her feelers remained tangled on the ground like dead serpents.
Ah, the dead serpents return.

The wind was still as they walked back to shelter. It was quiet.
I found that two word sentence very effective.

"Sorry. But sooner or later, you know..."

Oli held his breath as he waited for her to finish that sentence, but she didn't. It felt like the blade of an axe had been raised over his head just to remain suspended there, ready to fall at a moment's notice.
This flows well and maintains tension.

When she looked at Oli her eyes were as vacant as the tundra itself, the blue of the irises washed out in the overbright light. She was as still as an anxious deer, as though caught between approaching and running away. In her mouth, a vole gave its last pitiful, dying spasms—that was what really gave it away.
Mm, the image of the vole spasming as she stares at him is really strong.

Sadie was far swifter than he
This feels kind of formal/archaic. "Sadie ran faster than he could" or something perhaps?

Oli shut his eyes and tried to do what he usually did when he had to wait for the pain of an injury to subside, which was to focus on his breathing and think of something else.

That "something else," he remembered, was usually Sadie.
Oops.

She blinked for the first time in what felt like ages and walked toward Oli. Once she was a few feet away she lowered her head and laid the vole down on the ground. She took a step back and cocked her head as she looked at Oli again.
She's giving him her hunt so he can eat just like she wanted to do before!!

Oli's head spun as tears formed in his eyes once more, but he managed to keep from sobbing long enough to eke out a couple words.

"Thank you."
This ending felt like it cut off abruptly. I don't mind where you chose to end narratively, but the flow of the prose isn't giving me a sense of finality. Eke also reads a bit oddly to me--I associate that word with more tangible, mundane stuff like 'eke out a living' and not so much emotional moments.
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
@Pen An actual review response
You are correct that I was more concerned with the "is it such a bad thing?" aspect than with the horror aspect. You are also correct that the story doesn't give much information to conclusively answer that question. Not the most meaningful thing ever written. I had one reader who said he liked the mystery of it, so who knows. Mostly I just hope the emotions got across okay. Seems like some of them did.

Some of the issues you raised were easy fixes, and some of them were trickier. I'll comment mostly on the trickier ones.

"Tangling" threw me here.

"Oli's sleevelike mienshao fur hung like dead serpents..."
I kid, I kid. I'm wondering if I could just change the sentence to "Oli crossed his arms, covered in sleevelike mienshao fur." or something. This sentence has given me a shocking amount of trouble.

I get a conflicting mental image from these two lines. Deep slate blue is very vibrant, but feeble light and gray snow is more washed out.

maybe "It was early in the day, and the snow mirrored the dull slate blue of the sky." Slightly different image but similar mood. Might need a second opinion on this one.

My sense of space got confused here. I imagined them as being in a pretty small, enclosed space. Is there room to hit the ground?

"caught him before he tumbled over the edge" might imply less space. It is pretty small.

Unbefitting feels a bit formal. Out of place?

I wonder if "that seemed inappropriate for the situation" could work. Or just "unfitting"?

Something like, "One of the damaged straps gave way with a sickening tear. Oli's head jerked up; a wave of vertigo struck him. He flailed his arms in search of something to grasp, but the carriage had already fallen away. Wide-eyed, Sadie reached toward Oli, but her feeler brushed uselessly against the tip of his paw. She lost her grip on Reid a moment later, her other feeler uncoiling from around his arm. As he began to plummet, Oli's mind was consumed with the thought that she might have had time to grab Reid's neck or harness, to save herself, if she hadn't been thinking about him—but as he spun to face the ground, that guilt burned away into fear."

This really makes me feel conflicted. I feel bad about taking that suggestion wholesale, but would I be able to come up with anything better? Realistically... no.

oh boy, that's a pretty significant difference.

Pokemon faint all the time, no big deal /s. But to address this problem, I guess I could just pick one of the two. I wonder if "lost consciousness" would be a reasonable compromise or if that is too vague.

Single step back struck me as odd for a bird. I feel like his wings would flare out to steady himself or something.

Hm. I want Xatu's body language to be very subdued, so I feel reluctant to do that.

Huh, does he know who brought him? Are they a force separate and more powerful than the legendaries? If he doesn't know who brought him, could he ask Xatu?

They did ask for an explanation in the game (sort of) but never really got an answer

Why does he think Jirachi necessarily has this power?

I figured it was reasonable for him to at least know that Jirachi can grant wishes. Whether it is actually powerful enough to grant a wish for the reversion to stop is uncertain. Some wishful thinking on Oli's part, if you'll pardon the pun.

This ending felt like it cut off abruptly. I don't mind where you chose to end narratively, but the flow of the prose isn't giving me a sense of finality.

It's a shame, but I'm not sure if I can find a way to improve this.

Hadn't she already gone and spent time with Ferra? Does Reid feel different from Ferra? This reads to me like Reid is the first feral Sadie had been in close contact with.

I imagined she spent some time with Ferra but never directly sensed her emotions. That would require (possibly prolonged) physical contact, which I imagined Ferra would resist, or Sadie wouldn't feel comfortable initiating. I considered a scene in which this happens anyway, but it just didn't come out right when I drafted it, so I left it out.

Eke also reads a bit oddly to me--I associate that word with more tangible, mundane stuff like 'eke out a living' and not so much emotional moments.

What about "squeeze?" "force?"

Anyway, thanks for reading the story. Hope you got something out of it.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
@love
An actual review response
Whaaat, stop the presses!

Mostly I just hope the emotions got across okay. Seems like some of them did.
They sure did!

"Oli's sleevelike mienshao fur hung like dead serpents..."
I'm dying.

"Oli crossed his arms, covered in sleevelike mienshao fur." or something. This sentence has given me a shocking amount of trouble.
I think it's because you're doing the PMD equivalent here of "Ash's raven-black hair hung in front of his face." You're trying to sneak in adjectival details where they aren't really relevant. I know, the eternal PMD dilemma, how will the reader know what species this pokemon is?? (Though sidenote, I apparently spent the whole fic picturing Oli as a mienfoo because that's what sleevlike fur evoked for me and it didn't really change anything about the fic, so.)

Something that could motivate that adjective might be, "Oli crossed his arms. Even after all this time the gesture came instinctively, but his wishbone-shaped mienshao arms weren't suited to the motion."

That uses Oli being a former human to make what should be a natural characteristic in fact unnatural and so worthy of narrative attention.

maybe "It was early in the day, and the snow mirrored the dull slate blue of the sky." Slightly different image but similar mood. Might need a second opinion on this one.
Swapping deep for dull would do it for me.

"caught him before he tumbled over the edge" might imply less space. It is pretty small.
Yeah, I think that would do it.

I wonder if "that seemed inappropriate for the situation" could work. Or just "unfitting"?
I thought about inappropriate as well at first--ultimately I don't think it works. It makes me wonder who's judging it inappropriate, that's a word that really implies someone deciding the behavior isn't correct, rather than implying a neutral incongruity. Unfitting works, I think.

This really makes me feel conflicted. I feel bad about taking that suggestion wholesale, but would I be able to come up with anything better? Realistically... no.
I mean, it's basically your paragraph with a few small tweaks. I don't like "burned away into" there, if you're looking for something to alter.

Pokemon faint all the time, no big deal /s. But to address this problem, I guess I could just pick one of the two. I wonder if "lost consciousness" would be a reasonable compromise or if that is too vague.
I didn't actually mind this--for me it brought home how inept Oli is at medical care and how dangerous that is. Is she asleep? Fainted? Who can say?? Not Oli.

Hm. I want Xatu's body language to be very subdued, so I feel reluctant to do that.
Hm, hopped backwards, maybe? I'm just finding "stepped" a very odd verb for a bird.

They did ask for an explanation in the game (sort of) but never really got an answer
The fact that Oli seems convinced he's been brought here for a purpose made me think he knew something more.

Some wishful thinking on Oli's part, if you'll pardon the pun.
Unpardonable. You are banned.

Yeah, that checks out, but I guess it felt to me like Xatu accepted the fact that Jirachi could solve it too, since his main objection was just, you can't make it through that dungeon, and not, Jirachi can't fix this either.

I imagined she spent some time with Ferra but never directly sensed her emotions. That would require (possibly prolonged) physical contact, which I imagined Ferra would resist, or Sadie wouldn't feel comfortable initiating. I considered a scene in which this happens anyway, but it just didn't come out right when I drafted it, so I left it out.
Ah, gotcha. We only see Sadie using her feelers without restraint so I never got the sense it was something she felt uncomfortable doing.

What about "squeeze?" "force?"
Either of those would fit better. I wonder if saying "two words" instead of "a couple of words" would give the sentence more precision/finality.
 
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