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Pokémon Metanoia (oneshot)

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
It's finally here - the oneshot that bridges Seiren and Hunter, Haunted. This was actually originally written as not one but three oneshots back in 2017, but I wanted to rewrite it as both my writing skills and the stories sandwiching it have since evolved and changed.

This story does contain spoilers for Seiren, but out of context enough that I doubt they'll affect the reading experience, so reading/finishing Seiren isn't required for reading this. The setup can be somewhat confusing if this is the first work you're reading of the series, but it's my hope that the story is still an interesting read and the conflict clear enough to follow.

Rated mature and contains the following:
- explicit self harm, bloody injury and suffocation
- themes of mental illness, mental abuse, manipulation, existential horror
- implied cannibalism
- some strong language
- big scary worm :(

Let me know if you feel like something else should be added to that list. In the meantime, enjoy.

---

metanoiacover.png

METANOIA

Synopsis:
Between the events of Seiren and Hunter, Haunted, Red pays his true god a long-overdue visit.

Genre:
Drama, Horror

Status:
Complete oneshot.
First uploaded 19 June 2020.

Length:
8 000~ words

---​

The sky shines a brilliant azure.

Patches of cloud drift across the sun every now and then to give the earth time to cool off. A gentle breeze slithers across the sea, rippling its surface, then climbs the shoreline cliffs to rustle the grass of the plateau and finally the trees further inland. Their leaves haven’t found the courage to leave their buds yet, but the pale slivers of green peeking out suggest the time for that isn’t too far off. The stray calls of wingull from the cliffs and the chirps of smaller birds from the trees highlight the spring awakening of nature…

I love this season. Everything’s so alive. It really was a great idea to have a picnic today.

I imagine They agree. They do look happy, my lord and Fonz - eating Their sandwiches, chatting about His school. Pausing on occasion to take in more of the lovely weather.

But it's hard to be glad when all of this has to take place three meters away.

Three meters. That’s the minimum distance I have to keep, even when sitting on the same quilt.

I can't be closer than that to Him. He would be afraid. I would give Him a negative experience, associate myself further with harm… make Him worry I might freak out again the way I did two weeks ago.

It's that slipup that has forced this unspoken restraining order on me. Months of raising Him down the drain because I lost sight of reality for less than a minute.

And what did I even do during those seconds? Try to protect Him. From an imagined threat, sure, but it was still the opposite of wanting to bring Him any harm. It just doesn't feel fair for that to have ruined so much…

At least I’ve managed to speak to Him a few times since. How was your day, what do you want to eat, so on. He seems to be okay with that, at least at this distance. I’d hoped that speaking would lead to more interaction and gradually help me close this gap, but progress is still stuck at just mundane exchanges. The next threshold feels too high to cross for now. Too risky.

I stare at Them one more time, then stare at the sandwich container in front of me. I confirm what I've known for a while now - I have no appetite.

I get up slowly, eyeing the two mon. They don’t seem to notice. That figures. But at least that means I can freely leave for a walk.

I venture out into the vast yellow-green of the grass awakening from winter. The words of the mon gradually fade, drowned out by the shuffling of the wind and waves. Soon enough, I’m alone. It’s just me and the grass underneath my feet. The rock beneath that grass. The soil in between. The birds calling out. Maybe a cricket somewhere. That hum from the sea beside the normal waves, like a whispering voice, a voice that speaks… my name.

I stop. No, it can’t be saying my name. My brain’s mistaken. Falsely alarmed. And way too easily. A sea’s swirling can’t sound like…

RED.

It does sound like my name. This is strange. What could make a noise so close to my name? It has to be something like… a special rock formation. That the waters trace, playing it like an instrument. Or a mimicking bird? No, it's coming from the sea.

Before I even notice it, I’m headed for the cliffs. My curiosity is that strong. It feels like a sign... I don't believe in signs from the universe, but ignoring something this peculiar would feel… disrespectful, almost.

A meter from the edge, I slow down. Half a meter more, and my self preservation freezes me. It isn't smart going any further. I won't hear the noise any better, I won't see anything I don't see now, save for a couple of niches in the cliffside. But the voice isn't coming from there. It's coming from the open sea. The horizon. It wants me to watch the horizon.

The edge between the sky and sea bulges upwards. The waters part, breaking into white foam, and reveal a gigantic serpentine form.

It turns to me, hood wide and mouth-arms spread, staring without any eyes.

YOU OWE ME YOUR SANITY.

---​

I awaken in a blink.

The realness of my bedroom catches me off guard. The softness of the bed, the brightness of the sunlight leaking in. Immediately, it registers how stupid I was not to realize I was dreaming.

But I can't blame myself. Dreams always feel real in the moment, no matter how inconvenient a quilt wider than three meters would be to drag along for a simple picnic. And, yes, how impossible it would be for that giant worm to appear during one.

That giant worm only exists within the visions HE gives me. It's one of the forms HE uses to appear to me, specifically the most intimidating of them all. HE considers it beneficial to associate HIMSELF with a powerful, alien form in order to help me understand HIS power. Remember it. Intuit it on a primal level. That way the short-sighted and stubborn parts of my personality can be kept in check. HE is not someone to rebel against. My logical side agrees.

What HE said was true, after all. I owe my sanity to HIM. Had HE not come to me, I'd be a lot worse off. Possibly dead. That's what my desperation would've eventually caused - loss of control, which probably would have led to one of two things, those being suicide or an ill-prepared massacre resulting in death by police.

I sit up and sigh. It has been a while since I last saw HIM, hasn't it? Several months. Maybe even half a year? I do know why - I was focused on His resurrection and early care - but is that really an excuse? Especially now that… it all turned out to be for nothing. Because He hates me now. Maybe not hate, but doesn't want me close. Not quite three meters away like dream-me had decided, but that's what it feels like…

No, don't stray from the subject. I need to figure out what to do about HIM. Sooner or later, I'll have to see HIM. Probably sooner. HE wouldn't like me avoiding HIM. It's not like I have a good reason to postpone a meeting. It's been more than long enough for the tracks from the last ritual to sufficiently fade - and while this whole Shirlee thing left some new ones, they're unrelated to my hunts proper. And He certainly doesn't require my attention anymore. That ship has sailed and sunk.

But what is 'sooner'? In a week? Tomorrow? Today? I have nothing to do today and, like said, no reason to dawdle, so I should really get to it as soon as possible. That realization makes me flinch. Every second I'm spending here is more reason for HIM to be angry with me. I should get my day started right away. Breakfast, workout, shower. Or skip those? Are those necessary or just more avoidance? Well, I should look presentable for HIM if HE wants to check up on my body again… so I'll do my routine normally. That seems like the smart thing to --

Hey, get moving! You don't need to be lying down to think, you can process whatever you need to while you’re getting ready!

I fling off my blanket and hurry out the door.

---​

Alright, that's probably enough. Twelve lovely candles placed around this wing of the room, little flames gnawing on the wicks. I switch off the light, and a warm, wavering glow takes over the room. Perfect.

I remove the towel wrapped around my waist and place it on the stool next to the desk to dry. I check my body, not that it would have changed in the last five minutes - still trained, still scarred. At least there are no new scars this time. Surprising considering the lows I've had. Maybe I'm getting mentally stronger as well. That'd be a welcome development.

I walk up to the altar and grab the cloth, ready to lift it, but my joints lock in place.

Right, yes, I know. HE is going to be upset. And it’s not the kind of upset a mother gets when her child comes home hours after his curfew. This is the wrath of an ancient god. A wrath that would punish a mortal with brain-splitting agony to make them collapse and convulse on the floor in a cold sweat, screaming for mercy - if they can even find the words through their pain and terror…

But if I come to HIM with a regretful heart, understanding the error of my ways, there won't be a need for punishment. At least not one that severe. But whatever it is, it'll only get worse the longer I wait. So just lift off that cloth and get to it, okay?

My trembling hands finally comply. I keep my eyes closed while I back up and get onto my knees - I want to summon him from a submissive position. I throw away the cloth. Alright. I'm as ready as I'll get.

After five beats of my heart spent with sickening hesitance, I open my eyes to see the spiral.

"I'm sorry!"

The words just came out. I didn't even have time to process them. What drew them out was the fossil - the spiral pattern on its face - and how it glares. It's bright, even though it's not bright, and it burns my eyes like the sun!

I bow to escape. I bow my head and body, curling up like a sandslash, elbows touching the ground.

"I'm sorry I'm so late!" I squeeze out of my lungs. "I-I was… no, I have no excuse, I've been insolent, a fool! I deserve to be punished!"

Wait, wait, wait, why'd you go and say that? You don't want punishment! I lift my head to get at least some clue of how HE reacted --

HE isn't there.

Nothing is there, none of the room. Instead, open sky, open sea. But the sky is blank and the sea isn't water. Too dark. Too uneven. Too… slithering.

Thousands - no, millions of tentacles squirm around me, circling the tiny island I sit on, an island of floor tiles identical to the ones in the room. But this floor only spans a meter in diameter before it quickly tapers downwards into the tentacle-sea, as if it had melted.

The damp cold of the air nips at my skin. The heaving flesh all around fills the air with constant sloshing, accompanied by a faint scent of rot.

Well, what does this mean? How does HE feel about me? What does HE want me to --

Something grabs my arm from behind. Cold, slimy, strong! It pulls back, I resist, barely managing to, but then more appear, coiling around me -- tight, I can barely breathe… they drag me down, down into the sea, wet and cold! It splits to engulf me, no matter my struggling, and the light above me closes off…!

Tentacles crash into me on both sides, pulling me deeper, squeezing me tighter, eliminating any breathing room that was left there before. Breathing… how am I gonna breathe? I can’t! There’s no oxygen! The air I can get is just the same that’s left my lungs! I’m gonna suffocate! Why does HE -- why does HE want this? I-is HE really trying to kill me? So painfully?

The pressure to breathe, it’s building up, it tickles my throat, itches, scratches, tears, I need to --

Gasp.

There’s air. There’s air again. The tentacles have backed off, all except the ones grasping me from beneath and keeping me anchored. I’m in some… some air pocket. My breaths echo back at me in the darkness. It doesn’t sound like this pocket is too big, but it’s better than nothing.

Light? I see light. Just a little - no, now a lot. The tentacles in front of me part, cleaving a hole in the fleshy wall, and on the other side…

HIM.

I don’t remember HIM being this big.

HIS form towers several storeys above me. Twelve jointless limbs, like trunks of centenarian oaks, maneuver HIS slithering body on the bed of the cavern. A hood like that of an arbok decorates HIS neck with uncanny majesty, at the very end framing HIS eyeless face - a gaping mouth covered in fleshy spikes pointing inward, encircled by eight coiling tentacles.

In a blink, the serpent leans forth. My body jolts, begging me to flee and hide lest I be eaten, but my bindings are not ones I can break. Not that I should flee in any case. It would be… blasphemous.

I consider speaking, but no words come to mind. Instead, I bow my head. Anything to show my submission.

"YOU REGRET."

HIS dark, booming voice reverberates in the hall of flesh. Only after the echo has died do I comprehend HIS words.

"Y-yes. Yes, I regret, my lord," I say, cautiously lifting my head.

"GOOD," HE says, shoving a boulder of terror off my heart. "IT SHOWS YOU ARE STILL LOYAL."

HE shifts back. "BUT WHAT IS IT THAT HAS KEPT YOU FROM ME FOR SO LONG?"

Memories arise, and I make no effort to stop them. They will only show HIM faster and more accurately what's happened than spoken words would.

An old omastar, ill, dying. His death. Then His resurrection - HE was there for that. Then a hatchling omanyte. Big-eyed, so curious and sweet. Feeding it, playing with it. Teaching it to speak - or helping it remember. Watching it grow.

Then… everything in the past month or so. All that led into the incident of two weeks ago. My distance from Him since. I don't even want to think it out in words.

My memories reach the present. I focus again on HIS face. HIS coiling, terrifying face. HE is… not pleased.

"MY PRIEST," HE begins as my heart bangs at my ribs. "WHAT I SEE DISAPPOINTS ME."

O-of course. I took far too long to come see HIM again. I should have used that time of Him being distracted to catch another sacrifice, really --

"IT IS NOT MERELY THAT."

Not merely… wh-what else have I done?

"IT CONCERNS YOUR BOND TO MY VESSEL."

My bond to Him. What about it? It's beneficial, haven't YOU said that?

"IT IS TRUE THAT I HAVE CONSIDERED IT BENEFICIAL. HOWEVER, THIS VIEW RESTED ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT YOUR CONNECTION WOULD EVENTUALLY FADE. FROM YOUR MEMORIES, I CAN SEE THE CASE IS ALMOST THE OPPOSITE."

Fade…? Why would my bond to Him fade? Why would it need to --

"ARE YOU TRULY THIS BLIND?"

The aggression in HIS tone nearly stops my heart. HE is angry. Oh Gods, HE is angry.

HE draws back. "YOU SHOULD HAVE REALIZED BY NOW THAT YOUR ATTACHMENT TO THE VESSEL DOES NOT BEFIT A HELIXIAN - AND CERTAINLY NOT THE BRINGER."

Doesn't…

But He… I'm meant to protect Him. He gives me joy. He's one of the rare things that do. Sometimes the only one. How can something that feels so good be… wrong?

How can HE be against it?

"DO NOT MISTAKE YOUR POSITION FOR ONE THAT WOULD ALLOW SPECIAL PRIVILEGES," HE booms. "ON THE CONTRARY, THE BRINGER HAS FURTHER RESTRICTIONS. THEY ARE THE DEMANDS NECESSARY FOR THE VESSEL OF ASCENSION."

The… I…

It feels impossible. But it clearly makes sense. A predator… shouldn't have these feelings. A predator should be a ruthless killer. But… how did I never… and why didn't HE ever bring this up before? A-and why did HE just let this happen? Why did HE let me get so attached? And why -- why doesn't HE just remove it from me now if HE needs it so badly?!

"IF YOU CANNOT SUPPRESS THAT EMOTION BY YOURSELF, YOU ARE NOT SUITABLE TO BE MY BRINGER."

I cower at HIS harsh reply, remembering my place. It's not smart to yell at a god, even if it's just internally.

"THIS IS SO," HE continues, "AS THERE ARE COMPLICATIONS RELATED TO ALTERING ONE'S MIND BY FORCE SO DRASTICALLY. MENTAL DISCONTINUITIES. THEY COULD WELL LEAD TO YOUR BODY BECOMING UNSTABLE AND THUS INCOMPATIBLE."

Complications… incompatible… they feel like excuses --

No, HE does not lie. HE does not lie to me.

"MY PRIEST…"

HE leans in closer. Slowly, gently. Like a mother about to nuzzle her cub. My fear subsides, giving rise to relief. A feeling of reassurance, even.

"KNOW THAT IT IS NOT MY WISH TO CAUSE YOU PAIN. TO SEVER YOUR DETRIMENTAL ATTACHMENT IS SIMPLY THE BEST ACTION FOR BOTH YOUR SAKE AND MINE."

The tentacles holding me in place loosen and let go while the ones beneath me pack up into a stabler platform. I'm allowed to sit on my own. I know why - I've lost the desire to flee.

"I WOULD NOT BE FORCED TO REJECT SUCH A PROMISING APPRENTICE TO SEEK A NEW BRINGER, AND YOU… SURELY YOU STILL REMEMBER THE PRIZE THAT AWAITS YOU AT THE END OF THIS PATH?"

The prize. Ascension. Omnipotence. Happiness.

"UNQUESTIONABLE BLISS, YES. AND ALL OF REALITY FULLY MALLEABLE IN YOUR HANDS."

The best possible outcome for any living being. Its value is infinite. And infinite happiness…

"OUTWEIGHS ANY FINITE PAIN."

It's obvious. I was never great at math, but even I know infinity is always bigger than anything else. There should be no question, and yet… the thought of abandoning Him…

"ANYTHING MY VESSEL MAY CAUSE IN YOUR BRAIN NOW PALES IN COMPARISON TO THE JOYS MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH ASCENSION."

I… I know. Or I should know. But I don't know if I know. Every time I think of Him…

"IT IS MOMENTARY INSANITY. IT SHALL FADE ONCE YOU REALIZE HE IS ONLY FLESH. AN IMAGE ON THE BACK OF YOUR EYES THAT EXCITES YOUR BRAIN."

HE is right. He's just another animal. And a meek one at that - He could never accept the Helixian truth.

No. Not He, only he. No... it.

HE rumbles in approval. "ALREADY YOU HAVE BEGUN TO RECTIFY YOUR MIND. YOU HAVE MADE THE CORRECT DECISION."

I'm on the right path. This is the path that will lead me to happiness. The one that will take away my pain. All others only lead to despair and death.

HE leans back. "WITH THAT SETTLED, THERE IS ANOTHER MATTER TO DISCUSS."

Another matter? My heart jumps. What if HE wants me to give up something else, too?

No, don't think like that! You're ready to give up anything! The only thing that matters is HIM!

"IT IS A MATTER YOU ARE ALREADY ACCUSTOMED TO," HE says. "ANOTHER RITUAL."

A ritual. Of course. Yes, that's what I was expecting when I came to HIM.

"I'll take care of it!" I say, though cringe at the weakness in my voice. I clear my throat. "I'll make it happen, my lord."

"GOOD. DO NOT FORGET TO ENJOY THE PROCESS… INDULGE YOUR PREDATORY URGES."

The search for the prey. The stalking. The seizing and the trapping after the long wait - and finally, the consumption.

It's mouthwatering.

Tentacles creep up my body - gently. I realize how warm they’ve become. Their suckers brushing against my skin draws the hairs on their ends. They caress my form, the muscles I've spent so long developing. An appraising, praising touch. Intoxicating, euphoric.

"THAT DRIVE TO HUNT… THAT IS WHAT PLEASES ME GREATLY TO SEE. I LOOK FORWARD TO INHABITING YOUR BODY. PERHAPS BY THE TIME OF THE RITUAL… A TEST RUN SHALL ALREADY BE POSSIBLE."

A… test run?

“ONCE YOU BRING ME THE OFFERING, YOU MAY FIND OUT WHAT THAT MEANS.”

The tentacles recede. The coldness left in their wake almost makes me dive after them, but I regain my composure in time. I’m not that needy, am I?

HE withdraws. The cavern of tentacles begins shifting, unraveling.

“I HAVE NOTHING MORE TO SAY TO YOU FOR NOW,” HE says. “IT IS TIME I END THIS MEETING.”

So soon? No, I suppose this has taken a while...

“REMEMBER THAT WHICH I HAVE ORDERED. SEVER YOUR BOND TO MY VESSEL, AND PREPARE ANOTHER RITUAL.”

Whatever HE orders, I must obey. I bow deeply. “I understand, my lord. Farewell.”

“FAREWELL, MY PRIEST. MAY YOUR HUNT BE BOUNTIFUL.”

Before I can lift my head to look at HIM one last time, a curtain of tentacles has already closed me back in my little pocket of air. A pale, bluish light ignites beneath me and eats away the limbs, lowering me to a hard floor - familiar white tiles. The glow rapidly expands, consuming the rest of the fleshy surroundings... and so I’ve returned to the room I started in.

For a while, I just breathe. Reconnect with reality. The sweat on my hands and shins sticking to the tiles, the flickering glow of the candles and their pleasant, gentle scent. The stone resting atop the altar in front of me. Its spiral. So deceptively quiet.

So... that was it. That was the meeting. That was how HE reacted to my absence.

I guess it wasn’t that bad in the end. HE suffocated me a little, but that was it. My regret paid off.

I get up. The air streams past my skin, snatching away precious heat and bringing me a shiver. I quickly fetch the fresh clothing I left for myself and put them on. Okay, that’s better. Now I’m warm.

I blow out the candles one by one. Shame their atmosphere was largely overwritten, but I supposed HE has HIS own plans. Intimidation. That worm... was the dream also HIS doing? Could HE reach me all the way upstairs? Or was it just coincidence? I guess it also could’ve been something in the middle, like HIM sparking just the right neuron to remind my brain of HIS existence at the crucial moment...

I guess it doesn’t really matter. HIM and I will combine soon enough, anyway. I won’t have to worry about anything after that.

Alright. Now I'll just go pack my usual supplies and take the next bus to Viridian. Look around for possible prey. In what part of the city, though? The ones I’ve hunted in previously have had enough time to cool down, but a new place could be refreshing. And it never hurts to play it safe.

Either way, that'll take a few hours. I should leave a note to let the others know I'll be out late. On a walk or something. They know I do that sometimes, just go out and wander for hours on end. Can't blame me for it when I have nothing else to do, especially now that my lord --

My lord.

But He's not my lord. Not anymore.

He isn't even a He. He's a he or an it, preferably an it.

Did you forget already?

My teeth clench. The hand that had reached for the door handle lowers.

I can't leave this room as a proud Helixian until I've hammered this into my brain. He is not my god. It. Fuck!

I almost punch the door, but remember my responsibility. I can't go breaking my hand when I'm supposed to keep this body in the best shape I can for HIM. And while my machismo insists that a mere wooden door couldn't possibly harm my fist of steel, I've bruised my knuckles enough in fights to understand the fragility of the human body.

I shove my hands in my armpits to deter any more hand-breaking urges. I should use logic to settle this problem instead. I'm a human, a thinking creature - and logic is what HE used as well.

Let's identify the problem, really distill it to its core. That's how you can solve it. Alright. The problem is that I want to obey HIS will, but HE wants me to sever my emotional connection to HIS vessel, the omanyte. And the reason I can't sever that connection is…

Well, what is the reason? Why can't I just do it?

There's no logistical reason. Turning cold towards the omanyte isn't an issue. Hell, He's turned cold towards me already. It. So there isn't even any social obligation to keep up good relations. Nor financial. He lives -- it lives in this house on my permission. Well, my mother's permission. And Fonz already takes care of Him, it, it, it. No law requires me to be close to it. I think I could even have it kicked out -- no!

Oh Gods, that no was too quick, too visceral. It didn’t come because I know keeping Him around and safe helps HIM gather power, it came because the thought of letting Him go is too much.

I can’t even think of Him as an it. To call Him an it would be to call myself an it. But can’t I call Him just a him? Just a person among others? None of my victims have been its, and I’ve killed them without hesitation. If they get to be shes, why couldn’t He be a he?

Look, is this really relevant? Calling Him a he or an it won't magically make me not care about Him. It doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. But what would?

Maybe if I really think hard about Him, find the reasons why it hurts to let Him go, and try to resolve those.

I close my eyes and picture Him. I feel delight at seeing His form, but I let that pass without judgement for now. He’s sitting on the couch, doing homework or whatever He does. I want to approach Him and ask to hold Him. For the sake of this thought experiment, let’s say that He allows me to do so. My bond to him has been there for a long time, after all, and it’s based on the version of Him that isn’t shying away from me like the current one.

I pick Him up and lower Him onto my lap. I stroke His shell as He continues His business. He probably doesn’t even feel it, but I do it anyway. It just feels good, calming somehow.

I ask Him how He's doing at school. He says it's going alright. I ask about friends. I worry about bullies. My heart pumps harder at the thought of someone mocking Him. I want to kick that someone. Hurt them until they break and plead for mercy. If I see the fear is truly instilled in their soul and they aren't just lying to get free, I let them go. If not, I continue pummeling until success or their death.

But I shouldn't have such violent thoughts near Him. I could end up harming Him in the process, and that would cut deep.

Now pause. Analyze. Why do you treat Him like this? Why would it be wrong if you didn't?

I’m… not sure how to answer that question. It’s kind of vague.

Alright, for a more concrete example… imagine that someone is teasing Him. Calling Him a snail or whatever they'd do. You’re right there as it happens. You want to hurt that bully. Why?

They're a bastard. A coward, a little bitch. Bullying to look cool to their friends or to avoid facing their own issues. Weak, pathetic scum.

That's focusing on the wrong thing. What if the bully was someone you knew was respectable, like a Helixian king? What if they called Him pathetic and weak? What would you do then?

I would…

Don't worry about giving the 'right' answer. Let your feelings guide you. We're here to study those.

Well… I'd stand up for Him. I'd tell that Helixian to back off.

Even though he was right? By Helixian principles, the omanyte is weak, and certainly not a predator if He relies on others to get around and feed Him.

He's just a child…

True, but He's the same as an adult. You know that, you've carried Him around in His past lives.

He doesn't normally live on land. This isn't the environment He could be His wild self in.

Then why is He here? Why does He stay here?

His… friends are here.

So He denies His true self for social reasons - exactly the behavior Helixians condemn. He is weak.

Fine, He's weak. I understand He's weak. But I'd still stand up for Him.

Why would you do that?

Because… I see Him feeling bad about it. Withdrawing a bit to His shell. His eyes have that look, that look that something’s hurting Him. I don’t want Him to be in pain.

Why not? You have no problem seeing other people in pain. You even enjoy it.

I know. But with Him… it’s like… the idea of Him suffering… twists my guts. Punches at my heart. I have to stop it.

His pain makes you feel bad?

Yeah.

But why? What about Him being in pain is so bad? It’s not your pain. His nerves aren’t connected to yours. You don’t experience it. Nothing changes for you.

I… I don’t know. It just happens.

Why?

It just happens!

Why does it happen?

“I don’t know!” I growl. Spoken aloud, the words hurt a thousand times worse.

I know it shouldn’t happen. A Helixian shouldn’t feel this way. But I just do. And how am I supposed to stop a feeling? If I could control my feelings at will, I wouldn’t have to do all this. I could just decide to be happy and that’d be it.

Powered by that unending happiness, I could live just like anyone else. I could be one of those people that smile. I could go back to school, finish my education, get a job. Become a doctor, even, put my skills and passions to use. Do what humans do.

But I can’t. I don’t have the pleasures necessary to counteract the frustration inside. The hatred and the fear. The screaming emptiness in the spot where joy would usually go.

No wonder I cling to Him. He gives me those scraps that I hunger for. But they’re not enough. I had Him when I was still in school, and I still hated everyone. I had to hire someone as my personal punching bag just to keep my cool during the days, and in the end, that failed too.

And now I shouldn’t get joy from Him anymore. It’s not allowed. And I don’t want it. I don’t want to be held back. I don’t want to be a slave to outdated instincts. I want to be a predator, the next stage in human evolution. One of HIS warriors.

How do I snuff out the joy that He gives me? How do I cut the last tether keeping me from ascension?

Cut.

Could it be that simple?

I get up - I suppose I kneeled at some point during that whole storm of thoughts - and walk to the shelves at the right wing of the room. The one where all my knives hang.

If I’m going to feel things no matter what… maybe I can cover one feeling with another.

I pick a knife and move to the desk. From one of the drawers, I get my medicinal kit and from there, a bottle of disinfectant. I spray the knife with it. Oh, the smell. I love this smell, makes me feel like a professional.

Having wiped the excess fluid off the knife, I set it down and remove my shirt. Actually, maybe I should remove everything else as well. Don’t want stains. People ask about stains.

Well, everything’s off now. Again. Nothing left but to… do it.

A part of my brain asks me if this is necessary. That part is only cowardly. It seeks to prevent my purification. I silence it, as I must.

I check again that I have all the medical equipment readily available - disinfectant, gauze, butterfly bandages, regular bandage, tape. There's no reason to postpone this further.

Sitting stably on the chair, I choose a spot on my abdomen that’s still free of scars and disinfect the area. I pick up the knife and bring it to the skin.

I think about Him. I think about all the delight He gives me.

This is what it will lead to.

I drive the tip of the knife into my skin. It stings, it stings! Okay, a little less now since the blade's not moving - but that's not what I want. Before my primal side can understand what it'll lead to, I yank my hand to the right.

The knife tears across the flesh. New pain, more pain, even more pain than before. Oh Gods, oh Gods, I just want it to stop, can't you take it out? What's the point of this, why are you hurting yourself? Shouldn't you keep this body intact for HIM?

I pull the knife away and drop it on the floor. I gasp for air, release the tension in my jaws I didn't notice before. I guess I was clenching my teeth to cope with the pain.

The pain… it still hurts, but not as much. It's a different kind of pain, a more manageable one. My vision can actually focus. I can think.

...And I realize I gave in to my cowardice.

Dammit. I need to concentrate. Keep His image in my mind so I connect it to the pain. Because He will bring me pain if I keep my attachment to Him. The pain of living as an imperfect being. A being doomed to unhappiness in his current state and surroundings. Only HE can take that away. He cannot.

And, primal self: this body is allowed to have scars. HE has told that before. And I'm not gonna cut deep enough to actually damage my muscles. Just skin and fat. It'll heal, even if it'll leave a scar. Just like the previous four times.

It must have been a while since the last time, honestly. It feels like I've forgotten all this. How to deal with the pain, how to keep going. Have I gotten weaker?

I take deep breaths and focus on the fresh wound. Blood oozes out, strikingly red, and slowly slides downwards. At least I really did manage to damage myself.

But it's not enough. This first try failed, so I need to do it again.

I bend to pick up the knife on the floor - ow, ow, ow - and get back up with equal pain. I clean the blade again with some disinfectant in case there was dirt on the floor or whatever. Giving myself an infection wouldn't help anyone.

I pick another spot from my abdomen and recap the strategy. Think of Him. If you can't think of Him, you're doing it too fast - stop and gather your thoughts, then keep going. There's no point in damaging myself with no benefit.

Well, here I go again… wait, my hand is shaking. I take a moment to stabilize the hand. Okay, it's fine now, so just think about Him… and go.

I pierce the skin again. Already the pain is worse than I expected - it always is. But I’m not giving up. I’m thinking of His shell, His eyes, His little limbs, His innocence. I’m thinking of Him shoving this knife in me. That’s what He’s doing, after all. Dooming me to pain.

I try to feel anger towards Him. That would be perfect for combatting the bond, and it would be justified, after all. But I can’t.

Even when He’s hurting me like this, I can’t be angry at Him? I just... forgive Him?

I grit my teeth and carve further. More pain. More suffering. More screaming from my primitive instincts. I’ve evolved beyond them. Beyond immediate gratification. Beyond the shackles of my species’ social beginnings. We are smart now. We shouldn’t feel guilt for doing what is necessary. We shouldn’t be held back by imaginary barriers.

I flinch. The pain just spiked. It spiked because the blade jutted a bit deeper for a moment. I didn’t mean to do that… oh. My hand’s shaking again. Dammit…

I don’t want to harm my muscles, so I take the knife away. Again the pain fades somewhat, though it's naturally worse than last time with two open wounds instead of just one. Two bleeding wounds. While they hurt, they're also… satisfying to look at. Exposed flesh, the dripping blood. I love seeing blood. I love having blood on me…

Actually, yeah, yeah, there's another reason I can't be close to Him. This side of me. The side that likes all this, all this stuff, blood, flesh, all that. He wouldn't understand if I told Him. He'd be afraid. Think I'm some kinda, some kinda psycho. Which I guess I am? Yeah, I'm a psycho, but I wouldn't hurt Him. Though I should want to hurt Him, actually, given what HE wants… but even besides that, He wouldn't trust me. Even though I've taken care of Him for so long. That's not fair. Would I really have cleaned up all His shit if I was someone that wanted to hurt Him? I mean I, I…

...feel kind of lightheaded. It's like I can't focus...

...oh Gods. Wait. Waaait, wait, wait.

I check the wounds. The blood's dripped down to my thighs, I think some is on the floor - yeah, there's a puddle on the floor. Or 'puddle' may be exaggerating. Or is it? How much is in there? Could it really be enough to be causing this? I thought I'd have to lose way more blood to… but what else could it be? Why else would I be dizzy, shaking?

The realization only makes my heart pound faster. If there's a chance this is blood loss - or a chance that this dizziness will make me unable to patch these wounds and consequently lead to blood loss - I need to stop the bleeding now.

But I can't do it for unclean wounds. Fuck, I need to get to the shower…

I shove my supplies back into the kit, pick it up and rush to the door - fuck, really hurts to move! Augh, hurts even more to push the bookcase out of the way… I didn't think this through… but I make it through and even shove the bookcase back for some cover. Then to the shower… oh Gods, this is gonna sting. I leave the kit far enough away from the splash zone, bite on my forearm and turn on the water.

"Ghhnnnfff-!"

I wasn't wrong, fuck, fuck, ow, ow, ow. But at least the wounds are getting washed. Who knows what crap could get in them with me being this sweaty. You really didn't think this through, idiot, idiot! Augh! Can't this pain end? I know I'm injured and that's bad! I don't need to be reminded every millisecond! Couldn't the lightheadedness dull this sense as well?

I shut off the water and dry my upper body off with a towel, then the wounds with some gauze sprayed with disinfectant. Okay, finally, I get to close them. With some butterfly bandages - quite a few of them, to be sure - the job is done.

Well, not fully. I still get some bandage and tape it on for further protection. But now… I think I've done what I can. I'm safe.

Safe from… blood loss. That's what I did this for, right? To prevent blood loss?

But it didn't bleed that much. It couldn't have. Did I ever see that much blood leave my body? I just saw the puddle. How big was it? Just a few drops?

I grab the kit and almost stand up, but remember the used gauze I threw on the floor. Begrudgingly, I gather it up to throw in the trash and return to wash my hands. I watch the water run until all the red on the floor has disappeared. Can't leave tracks, after all. The others can't know what I'm up to.

I return to my secret room and even seal it properly with the bookcase. I check the stain under the chair. It really was just a few drops. I freaked out for nothing.

I sigh. A wave of fatigue passes me, and I lie down on the floor for some rest. I'll clean this place up later. They don't know it exists in the first place.

Some seconds pass without complex thought. Then a sense of foreboding seizes me.

What did I just do? What did I accomplish? Did I accomplish anything?

I think about Him. Immediately I want to touch Him, hold Him. No!

Nothing was solved. Nothing was changed. All that pain was for nothing… why did I even bother patching myself up? I should rip this all off and get back to work!

I reach for the bandages - but something stops my hand. A tether. A freezing flash. An order not to touch, and order that bypassed my conscious control.

I know the primal warnings that come when I’m about to hurt myself - I’m used to them by now - but this was different. There was a type of… dread. A dread of things going very, very wrong were I to pull those bandages off and reopen my wounds. Danger. Danger of death.

Death. That’s right. While these wounds opening again could hardly cause it, this was a valuable reminder of a fact I had previously overlooked.

If I stay with Him, I will die.

My life will eventually end and I'll have to face… whatever comes after.

No body, no brain. No thought. Just a soul. But without a vessel, a soul experiences nothing. What is 'nothing' like? All I know is that it terrifies me to no end.

Or maybe it's like some people believe - there are afterworlds of some kind. In that case, I'm also fucked, since there's no way I'm going to a good one after all I've done.

But I have a possible escape. The immortality HE offers. HE offers so much. Why would I ever reject that offer? I have to take it!

But… I can't! It's not that I don't want to, I'm physically incapable! It's a floating cloud, radiant and welcoming, but I just don't have wings!

My throat implodes on itself. Hot tears squeeze out of their ducts. All I hear is my blood churning in my ears. I feel like whining, whining like a pathetic mangy pup left on its own. But whining won't make the creator step down from the heavens and apologize for what he's done. For this sadistic game he made us play.

A sob leaves my throat, and the wounds sting from the sudden motion. Right, there's that, too. I'm hurting inside and outside. Miserable. Just miserable.

With each breath, my body becomes heavier. With each blink, my eyelids want to stay closed.

Eventually, I decide there's no point in resisting. I let go of my consciousness, and I fall.

---​

Blue sky. Dry grass. Pale cliffs. The hums of the wind and sea. I'm here again…

"Red!"

I turn to the voice. It's Him. He's a dozen or so meters away, waving at me. He looks… happy.

He's actually happy to see me? To interact with me?

My heart blooms with joy. It's been too long since I've seen Him like that…

Wait. Behind Him.

A small tear opens up in the air. Inside, blackness. Stillness. Nothingness.

It grows. Eats more of the space around it. Blades of grass bow to it, air whistles as it rushes within. It's --

The omanyte yelps as He realizes what's manifested a few meters behind him. He scrambles forward - painfully slowly and clumsily, of course, He was never meant for terrestrial locomotion - and reaches a stray rock to use as cover for now.

He looks at me, eyes pleading, digging into my soul. His terror is mine. It's shredding my insides.

The hole in reality begins to move. It's coming closer, headed straight for Him.

Without hesitation, I leap into a run, to get Him into to my arms and out of harm’s way - but the void’s glare is unrelenting, its darkness so deep and comfortless that its implicit threat is almost audible: if you try to save Him, I’ll devour You both.

It stops me in my tracks. Betrayal flashes in His eyes and almost gets me running again, but I can’t, I can’t rush in there, even the mold of the ground is getting sucked in by now, and as soon as it enters the hole, it blackens, disintegrates, disappears. That’ll happen to me.

But it’ll also happen to Him if I don’t stop it.

But I can’t stop it!

A shadow covers me. I turn around to face what cast it - HIM. The colossal worm, lying on the clifftop, its tail dipping in the water. How did HE get here?

Doesn’t matter, I need to decide! Save Him, or save myself? No, I can’t even save Him! I’d save nothing!

He slips. Oh Gods! How did that happen? Why did that happen? Was He trying to get into a better position? He’s still behind the rock, but less securely than before. If I don’t save Him now, He will die. But I can’t save Him. But I can’t leave Him. But I can’t --

It’s tearing my heart in two! I know the right choice, but I can’t make it! I can’t go forward, I can’t go backwards, oh Gods, is there no --

HIM! I turn to HIM. I look deep into the eyes HE doesn’t have and beg, beg, beg HIM for help. Please help. Please help me. “Please! Help m-”

Something shot through my chest silences me.

Dark. Thick. Slimy. A tentacle of HIS.

Everything’s quieted. No wind, no sea, no heartbeat. The reason for the last becomes apparent as HE retracts HIS limb.

A deflated heart rests in HIS grasp, leaking away the last of its blood.

Decay overtakes it, and it rots into ashes, ashes that a gentle breeze blows away.

I turn back around. The omanyte’s grip on the stone slips, and He flies into the void. It swallows Him whole - and then it’s gone.

Staring at the upturned turf left in its wake, I feel nothing.

---​

Where…

Oh, the hidden room.

Right. I fell asleep. Or passed out? No, I fell asleep, I remember that now.

I make a motion to get up, but an immediate complaint from my abdomen stops me. The wounds, right.

Their hot, dull ache make it painful to stand up, but I manage it nonetheless. I don’t think it hurts as much as it did before. Still, these will take time to heal, and running about won’t make that any faster. I guess I should stay home for today after all.

Ugh. I hurt myself for nothing. I damaged the body meant for HIM for nothing. All that pain, but I just couldn’t let go of...

...Him.

The omanyte sits before my mind’s eye.

He’s… just there.

An omanyte. A creature. An object. Shapes and colors.

Why don’t I… feel anything?

I continue staring. I observe Him from different angles. I make Him move. I make Him look at me.

Something twitches.

I quickly remove Him from my mind. Whatever’s causing me to feel this numb, I shouldn’t break it. This is exactly what I need. This is exactly what HE wants. I need to keep it.

But will it stay? Will it shatter within moments? Hours? Days? Never?

It feels fragile. If it’s bound to break, is it worth trying to defend it?

It is. There’s a chance. And even if it breaks, who’s to say it couldn’t come back?

Yes. This is valuable. Valuable proof. It proves that I can be cold towards Him, even if just momentarily - and if I can manage that, surely I can eventually sever the attachment completely.

And if I can…

I have to.

Because I have to stay alive.

---

END

---​
 

Equitia

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partner
espurr
Huh, Red's feelings toward Omanyte in the middle there were... unexpected.

Hello! I read Seiren a while ago but am not familiar with any of your other TPP works, so I had no idea what this was going to be about. I wasn't expecting this. There's not really any humor compared to Seiren, but this is some nice character exploration. In Seiren, I interpreted Red's protectiveness toward Omanyte just as cult-like worship. When HE (nice cephalopod abomination btw) said Omantyte wasn't anyone special, that was a plot twist for both me and Red. And Red's feelings toward Omanyte following that revelation were... kind of touching??? I mean, wow, Red had a human emotion like a nor --

I worry about bullies. My heart pumps harder at the thought of someone mocking Him. I want to kick that someone. Hurt them until they break and plead for mercy. If I see the fear is truly instilled in their soul and they aren't just lying to get free, I let them go. If not, I continue pummeling until success or their death.
-- almost like a normal person. Anyway, his internal interrogation where he realizes he cares for Omanyte beyond the cult-worship was really well-written and compelling. I also like getting more details about his cult, what he gets from it and seeing him in conflict with it now. I enjoyed seeing that facet of his character.

So yeah, I actually felt for Red in a weird way during his internal struggle. And for a piece that focuses almost exclusively on internal struggle, this moved very quickly. I was surprised when I reached the end seemingly so quickly; felt a lot shorter than 8k words. I still don't know what Hunter, Haunted is about exactly except Red does a murder which goes wrong, but I'm even more interested to read it after reading this.

I have some issues continuing from Seiren that also reach into this piece, though. Red and Omanyte don't have much direct interaction together, so it's hard to have an interest in the two's dynamic. In particular I feel like this story could have used a scene where Red and Omanyte talk to each other or something. It kind of feels like Red's feelings toward Omanyte are just being told without anything in-story to back them up.
 
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OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
The finished cover image turned out really nicely!

Wow, Red is just so very well-adjusted and okay. 🙃 I feel like your narrative voice shines with these unhinged characters—you use simple, clear prose to walk us through the machinations of an irrational mind in a rational way. Especially how he sets up for self-harming: every item in its place, clinical and telling himself that what he’s doing is good and logical.

I think your ending needs a little work! His attitude in the aftermath of being “fixed” by the dream doesn’t reveal anything new—it’s just a continuation of what he was telling himself when he was trying to make himself stop caring. For it to be narratively satisfying to me, I need to either see 1a) the fix fail to hold 1b) Red readying himself you see the omanyte again for the first time, fearing that the fix won’t hold or 2) some kind of change in how he sees himself or his trajectory. Maybe smugness, one step closer to his goal? It might even nice to bring the sense of peace and prettiness from the beginning of the fic full circle: in his new coldness and emptiness, Red finds peace in a way he couldn’t before? Or maybe he can no longer appreciate the beauty in nature, even though he feels closer to his goals? So, you’ve got a couple options, but there needs to be some kind of indication of a change or failure to change.

Pausing on occasion to take in more of the lovely weather.
“Taking in the lovely weather” was a little vague for me. I wanted a little more specificity—pausing to watch the clouds, pausing to enjoy the sun’s warmth, etc. This sunny dream sequence really stands out in contrast to the typical Red Akai mood—that’s a fun reversal. I do wish the first few lines hinted at Red’s inner conflict at least a little though. You could do something like, “The weather was beautiful and Red was with Him, so I didn’t even mind having to sit on the very edge of their blanket.” Or a, “The birds were singing, the sun was shining—and He sat three meters away with his back to me.”

Maybe not hate, but doesn't want me close. Not quite three meters away like dream-me had decided, but that's what it feels like…
I’m left feeling a little confused what their actual arrangement is. The “rules” are laid out clearly ... only for us to realize that was only in the dream, and I don’t know what exactly the distance between these two looks like in the waking world. Some redirections on the specifics of the omanyte’s behavior toward Red would be useful.

No, don't stray from the subject. I need to figure out what to do about HIM.
“Don’t stray from the subject” felt a little out of place. Didn’t quite flow.

That ship has sailed and sunk.
Nice turn of phrase here.

But this floor only spans a meter in diameter before it quickly tapers downwards into the tentacle-sea, as if it had melted.
This was a little hard for me to picture. I couldn’t tell how literal the melting was—is this happening through dream-logic, or is it just ... a small ledge?

I guess it doesn’t really matter. HIM and I will combine
HE*

And while my machismo insists that a mere wooden door couldn't possibly harm my fist of steel, I've bruised my knuckles enough in fights to understand the fragility of the human body.
Recognizing it as machismo feels a little too self-aware for Red. Maybe: And although I want to believe a mere wooden door ....

Just like the previous four times.
I’d swap previous for “last”—keep the words real clipped to make this sentence punch even harder.

This first try failed,
This needs a little clarity. He did, in fact, succeed in cutting himself. Where he failed was changing his mind.

Fuck, I need to get to the shower…
I’m sure you’ve researched this more than I have, but I’m not convinced this is the best route. Hot running water means more blood flowing. I’d think that a clean, wet cloth would be a better idea.

Just a soul.
I’m shocked he believes in souls.

and reaches a stray rock to use as cover for now.
I’m not sure about “stray” here.

even the mold of the ground is getting sucked in by now,
“Mold” threw me off. Doesn’t feel like the right word here.

He slips. Oh Gods! How did that happen? Why did that happen? Was He trying to get into a better position? He’s still behind the rock, but less securely than before.
The last sentence here lessens the impact of the first couple. I’d really feel Red’s horror here if it felt like the slipping really put the omanyte in more danger.

A tentacle of HIS.
This felt unnecessarily wordy.

A deflated heart rests in HIS grasp, leaking away the last of its blood.
Maybe MY heart rests, for clarity.

Why don’t I… feel anything?
He seems to feel alarmed here, which feels a little off. And he also seems to already know the answer! He’s already credited his god with intrusions into his dreams.
 
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