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Pokémon Postcards

1. Wilderness and Wonder: Route 119

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Summary: You mean to write more than you actually do, but you do think of home often. A series of self-contained vignettes about relationships between people and place, inspired by Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities."

Status: COMPLETE.

2nd person POV. Started as a world-building junk drawer and gathered a momentum of its own. Each chapter stands on its own, but the entire set also has an arc of its own. I'll post on this thread every few days or so until the entire things is up.

Some of these episodes were originally in a different order. You can enjoy them in the threadmarked order or hospscotch around Cortazar-style and forge your own path. A suggested alternative reading order: 16/8, 9, 4, 14, 1, 13, 2, 10, 5, 12, 15, 3, 6, 11, 17, 7.

I am open to constructive crit! I'm unlikely to make any major changes here, but I'll keep feedback in mind for future works.

Other places to read this journey: FFN / AO3

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1. Wilderness and Wonder: Route 119

Leaving there and continuing east, you eventually reach a plateau that overlooks the clouds. A rainbow arcs between two clouds where the waterfall splits them. Beads of moisture cling to your eyelashes and stream down your rain poncho. Below you are the miles and miles of gentle but insistent rain you’ve been hiking through for two days.


And there are still miles left to go.


On either side of you, your mightyena and sceptile are like living sculptures, glittering with each movement. Predictably, your mightyena shakes himself, casting off mini rainbow sprays and the smell of wet fur. You cover your face, but not quickly enough. All week, everything has been damp, so it shouldn’t matter. But the endless cold and wet began to wear at you quicker than you expected. Any patch of you that you can keep dry is precious.


You wrap your backpack in a second rain poncho to keep it dry (you hope) while you take a break and enjoy the view. You alternate between doing shoulder stretches, munching on jerky, and tossing a mini frisbee for your mightyena to catch in the air. Each time he makes an impressive leap or catch, you toss him a piece of jerky. Your sceptile carves strips of inner bark off a nearby tree and eats them before shimmying up its trunk.


All around, water drips and plinks from every surface.


Then there are new sounds behind you: crunching footsteps and rustling leaves, heavy splashing, a trumpeting cry.


You turn in time to see a tropius come swaying out of the jungle, so close you could count the wrinkles around each eye. Your mind boggles at the creature’s proportions: it’s the size of a car, and yet it somehow nearly snuck up on you. It glances at you briefly and continues walking past unfazed. Before you can make a move to grab a pokeball, a second tropius pushes its way out of the trees, and then a third, and then a forth.


A herd of tropius makes its way onto the plateau, first stepping with surprising gingerness for their size and then picking up into a gallop. They move with no regard for you or your pokemon, forcing you to dive out of the way or be crushed. One thunders over the place where you crouch. You watch as each one reaches the cliff edge, spreads its enormous leafy wings, and glides over clouds broken by snatches of rainbow. They call to one another as they fly. The power and joy of that sound immobilizes you with awe.


You army crawl to the edge of the cliff and watch for over an hour, chin resting on your fist, as the tropius herd sink and rise and wheel about. You don’t care at all that you’re soaked by the time you stand up.
 
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2. Wilderness and Seeing: Route 34

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
2. Wilderness and Seeing: Route 34

The northbound route to Goldenrod is pocketed with pools. You can’t see the ocean yet, but you can smell it. Unsurprisingly, the water is too salty to drink or refill your water bottles, but you leave your boots and socks among the reeds to wade into one pool and you find it’s delightfully cold. Not so long ago, you would’ve been put off by the pond skaters and the prospect of mud between your toes. Now with sweat dripping between your shoulder blades and two days of dirt on your face, you crave it.

Once your feet are wet, you carry your shoes under one arm and squelch father through the salt marsh, your furret darting a few paces ahead, until you find a pool deep enough to submerge yourself completely. No longer caring who might see, you go in nude.

As the water closes over your head, you think of the bikini wadded in the bottom of your backpack. You remember telling your sister that it was a practical choice (even as you scrutinized your shape and tan lines in the mirror) because it wouldn’t take up much space. You imagined swimming laps at a gym with the dewgong you hoped to train, inventing need for the purchase. You haven’t used it once since you started your journey. You’ve become less vain.

However, you can’t help but wince looking at yourself more closely. Tens of bug bites and tiny cuts sting as the salt water washes over you. The bruise on your hip is turning yellow, a sign it’s healing but nasty-looking all the same. It’s been months since you’ve shaved your legs or painted your chipped toe nails. And why would you out here? Maybe you’ll treat yourself when you get to the city, look impressive for your next gym challenge. You clamber onto a rock with your cake of biodegradable soap and scrub at the dirt in the cracks of your callouses until your skin burns.

The scream of a predatory bird makes you look up. You spot the pidgeotto circling overhead. Not until it dives, surprisingly close by, does it occur to you to scan for your furret. You hear a squeak of terror and your stomach drops.

You splash to the edge of the pool and snatch your belt off your pile of clothes. As you raise the pokeball, the pidgeotto flashes past with something wriggling in its talons. You manage to recall your furret to her ball, and she dematerializes out of the pigeotto’s grip. The pigeotto visibly falters, off-balance at the sudden change in weight. With a scream it wheels and flies past you so closely you’re forced to duck. For a moment you worry you’re going to have to fight off a wild pokemon in the nude, but the pidgeotto pushes higher into the sky to continue its circling search.

Chastened, you towel off and throw your clothes on with your hair still dripping and the taste of salt water in your mouth.
 
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Negrek

Triple Cross
Staff
I've been meaning to check out your work, and this seems like a really cool project! I'm not familiar with "Invisible Cities," so if there are any particular references or parallels I won't catch them, but the idea of a series of bite-sized looks at different places in the pokémon world sounds like a lot of fun. It's an idea that works especially well with this canon, too; there are a lot of really interesting/flavorful places to explore, and even relatively mundane ones kind of have an air of the fantastical about them.

I also love Hoenn and Route 119/120 in particular, so this starts off on a great note for me. :P You've painted a wonderful picture of the rainy plateau, too. I love the descriptions of how the water droplets coat everything and rainbows hang in the air everywhere. In addition to being a gorgeous image, it feels very "Hoenn" to me... IGN complained about it, but it really does feel like the region with the most focus on water and water features to me, and they're often beautiful. I really liked the tropius encounter, too. It felt genuine to me, reminiscent of encountering a big wild animal and being stunned/awed while it obviously doesn't care about you and is just going about its business as usual. Though thankfully I've never been caught in a herd of anything that's on the move.

On the other hand, I appreciate that you went with a fairly "standard" location for the second entry. I never thought of Route 34 being marshy, since in the games it's rendered as such a standard "grassland-bordered-by-water" route. While Route 119 was nice because it went a bit more in-depth in what's already a pretty fantastical location, I like how you used this postcard to add some real interest to what in canon is a pretty short, undistinguished, A-to-B kind of route. Though it looks like HGSS jazzed it up a bit, so to some extent I guess I'm biased in that the way it looked in Silver is how I'll always think of it in my head.

In any case, I liked how relatable this postcard is for anybody who's used to being out in the wilderness... feeling so gross and tired that nothing sounds better than a dip in a cool , even if you're ot totally sure what might be living there. I've certainly jumped in for an impromptu bath just off the trail before, although I admit a marsh pool is more hardcore than I'd go for, personally (the mud! the bugs!!!). What might be my favorite part of this one is actually the narrator's enumeration of scratches, bruises, welts, and so on that she's managed to acquire. This reads very genuine to me--you definitely get banged up when

I admit I think of furret as being quite big in my head, so a pidgeotto coming down and snatching one up makes me boggle a bit... I'm probably going to be shocked if I go and look up how large pidgeotto are supposed to be, aren't I?

A couple little nitpicks about Route 119:

It's a little weird to me that the mightyena is referred to as "it" the first time and "he" the next. Based on how pronouns are used in the Route 34 postcard, I'm guessing the "itself" was a typo?

Before you can make a move to grab a pokeball, a second tropius pushes its way out of the trees, and then a third, and then a forth.
*fourth

For me it would have worked a little better if Route 34 were first and Route 119 followed. This is just because the opening of Route 119 explicitly refers to events/a place we didn't actually see, which was a bit jarring and confusing for me. On the other hand, Route 34 starts in media res but doesn't reference what came before, which makes it seem more like a little vignette rather than a case of me opening a book to a random page. This is one of those things where I wonder whether "Invisible Cities" started on a reverse cliffhanger and you chose to open the same way, heh.

These are fun and colorful snippets--quick and relaxing reads, someone nearly getting eaten in Route 34 notwithstanding. I'll have fun keeping up with these as they come. Seems appropriate to have them serialized, like actual postcards arriving one at a time in the mail. :)
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
but the idea of a series of bite-sized looks at different places in the pokémon world sounds like a lot of fun... Seems appropriate to have them serialized, like actual postcards arriving one at a time in the mail.
Definitely part of why I decided to start with posting this one here. It's easy to get into, doesn't take a ton of time to read. It started as a junk drawer for thoughts about world-building and became its own thing.

You're not missing much context not knowing Invisible Cities. (But it's a delight and I highly recommend it!) Basically, Marco Polo describes a series of dreamy nonsense cities to Kublai Khan, and each is a parable about the human condition. Mostly, I borrowed some of the language Italo Calvino uses.

IGN complained about it, but it really does feel like the region with the most focus on water and water features to me, and they're often beautiful.
I'm a ho for Hoenn. It's so pretty. Funny enough, it's Sinnoh I think of as wet and unpleasant. Like, Hoenn is warm and floral and almost mediterranean. Sinnoh is cold and sludgy and your feet stick in it.

While Route 119 was nice because it went a bit more in-depth in what's already a pretty fantastical location, I like how you used this postcard to add some real interest to what in canon is a pretty short, undistinguished, A-to-B kind of route.
Yes! That's a lot of the joy in this project for me, adding depth and life to those little pixel worlds.

I admit I think of furret as being quite big in my head, so a pidgeotto coming down and snatching one up makes me boggle a bit... I'm probably going to be shocked if I go and look up how large pidgeotto are supposed to be, aren't I?
I honestly didn't look it up! I went with my gut and what food chain sounded appropriate to me.

A couple little nitpicks about Route 119:
You're right! Good catches. Especially the he/him vs it/itself. "It" is for furniture. "He" is for pets and friends.

For me it would have worked a little better if Route 34 were first and Route 119 followed. ...This is one of those things where I wonder whether "Invisible Cities" started on a reverse cliffhanger and you chose to open the same way, heh.
I'll consider it! I can't remember if Invisible Cities opens with a reverse cliffhanger per se, but I know "Leaving there and continuing east," is definitely one of the openers, and it often feels like a non-sequitur because of the dreamlike flow of the thing.

Glad you've been enjoying it overall so far! ✨
 
3. Wilderness and Silence: Viridian Forest

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
3. Wilderness and Silence: Viridian Forest

When you walk a long time through the wild, you begin to crave a city.

It’s not loneliness. Or… not only that. You’re fine without playing another game of Twenty Questions or I Spy.

For several months you traveled with a girl from your hometown named Olivia. “Challenge accepted,” she said when you invited her along. And it was a challenge. You’d been friends for several years, through high school and the trainer certificate program, and had spent most days after class at your house or at the arcade together. You were unprepared for how different it would feel to have only her for human company all day every day and all night every night. Even the silences were different, more crowded.

The two of you had a routine: You packed the tents while she made breakfast (usually oatmeal) and cleaned the cook gear. She made camp while you cooked dinner (usually EZ-Mac with soy protein bits and dehydrated greens). After dinner you ran your pokemon through drills together and sparred. You miss that the most. She trained a delcatty (Darcy) and a swellow (Lurie) that paired perfectly against your manectric and golbat, blow for blow. You haven’t had a partner as driven and eager without taking losses personally, and you know your team was leaner and faster when she was around.

But with Olivia there was always too much else going on. She masked her sentimentality with bathroom humor and punches, but she constantly took on strays. She would catch a pidgey with a broken wing or a rattata missing a fang sooner than something she actually wanted to train — she had a sixth sense for finding them, whether it was in a back alley of Saffron City or under a rock ledge. They were endearing to her because they were pathetic, and her fascination with the sickly repulsed you. She named them after her favorite movie characters and athletes (like a scrawny rattata she inexplicably named Tebow), and had detailed theories about what flavor of retiree or housewife in the next city would be best to adopt each of them as pets. She dragged you with her to knock on doors and make adoption pitches only once — you didn’t allow a second excursion. You spent a lot of time reading junk magazines and waiting for her when you traveled together.

One day, after a fight about Darwin and ecology, you told her you were going ahead and you’d meet her in town. You both knew without discussion that you wouldn’t meet up again. You also knew you both accepted the loss.

You still exchange emails when you pass through a town.

Since then you’ve shared your campfire a few times, but never for long. Always when it was someone who was headed the same way on the same trail and it would be more uncomfortable not to speak.

Tonight you sit on a blanket next to your fire, shuffling cards furiously and slapping them down. You hum a few lines of a song that was popular before you left home, but your voice sounds tiny and silly against the enormity of the forest at night. Maybe even disrespectful — of what, you couldn’t say. So you stop. Insects spiral in your lantern’s light, flinging themselves at the cards and at your hair, but you ignore them. Pokemon call to each other far off in the darkness, but you don’t even notice it anymore unless you think about it.

You like the heat of the fire along one side of your body and the cool air through your unzipped parka. Your manectric rests his head on your thigh while your golbat hunts moths and maybe bigger things. You’re comfortable, but you wish it were a bar.

It’s not the crowd or the noise or even the alcohol you’re aching for but the choice. To talk to the person next to you or not. To have an IPA or a cocktail. To play pool or watch. To stay or go outside and experience something completely different: a bar with better music, a quieter bar, an empty street, a room with a door that locks.

The only way for you to exit this still night in Viridian Forest and choose something else is to walk. A lot.

For hours, you play solitaire by campfire light. You play so much solitaire lately you’ve invented a few versions of your own. (In one, the suits represent wild pokemon of either advantageous or disadvantageous typing, pokeballs, or potions, and must be defeated or avoided.)

What you want more than anything tonight is to play poker, not for the chance to win cash but for the thrill of an intellectual challenge, an ending you can’t guess by yourself.

You want someone to say challenge accepted.
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
oh, these are really quite fun. I love the angle you take here; sure, pokemon can be epic and dramatic, but there's plenty of room for quieter moments. The TOC is particularly promising too -- looks like we'll be doing a deep dive into the wilderness, and then a mirror perspective in the cities? me gusta

wilderness and wonder

Then there are new sounds behind you: crunching footsteps and rustling leaves, heavy splashing, a trumpeting cry.
This structure is interesting to me? "1 & 2, 3, 4" is sort of the reverse of how we normally see things, so I spent a while trying to figure out if there was a specific reason why things got paired together the way they did. Didn't find one, but that doesn't mean there isn't one (?)

rainbow-streaked clouds
Overall, I think your descriptions are A+ and awesomely realistic, but in this case I don't follow -- rainbows don't really leave streaks in cloudlines? Or is this meant to evoke feelings of sunset?

You don’t care at all that you’re soaked by the time you stand up.
As a closing line I felt this was a little strange, since there was such a heavy focus on "more water won't make a difference" earlier on.

This one is a lot of fun though. I love how you captured a lot of different feelings at once -- "miles left to go" and "they move with no regard for you or your pokemon" a really beautiful images painted in a few words.

wilderness and seeing

north-bound
I think this is one word?

but you leave your boots and socks among the reeds
You carry your shoes under one arm
:thonk:

You haven’t used it once since you started your journey. You’ve become less vain.
Love this mood though -- it's such a real thing too, lmao -- fretting over getting cute/cool/fun-looking gear and then trashing it for the most comfortable stuff you can find as soon as you're a few days out.

It’s been months since you’ve shaved your legs or painted your chipped toe nails.
tbh the more surprising thing is that there's even nail polish left at all

The pigeotto visibly falters, off-balance at the sudden change in weight
iirc from my research in og old school johto furret are actually freakishly huge -- like, six-ish feet and 70 pounds huge. I think pidgeotto are actually a bit smaller.

wilderness and silence

Love the mood presented here -- the solitude of the wilderness is relieving, but it can also be quite lonely. I like how you pinpoint this to the inability to make choices/how few options you truly have; a lot of times this gets romanticized in the other direction (unplug! step away from your newsfeed, etc).

And I like the direction you take travelling companions as well! It's not all fun and games; it's going to end up being deeply personal and sometimes people just clash but end up leaving relatively peacefully. I think you do a great job of capturing how those strains develop, and how people can look back on them after the fact.

This one definitely felt a bit meatier than the first two. Part of it is probably the physical size, but I think it also is the first one to really start digging in to complex feelings? Wonder was about precisely that; it's mostly observation and awe. Seeing had hints of past growth and a bit of current drama/action with the pidgeotto. But this one ends up being a lot deeper, a lot more philosophical -- I like the change and I think it's fitting, given that it's the first time that a human besides the narrator ends up playing a major role in the narrative, but the transition does feel a little abrupt.

My favorite bits by far are the ones that have to do specifically with pokemon, like sceptile eating bits of tree bark before climbing it, sparring before bed, the enormity of a tropius. The rest feels like a travelogue -- in a wonderfully-written way -- but besides the names of the routes, sometimes this world feels a little too close to our own.

Overall these are a ton of fun. Loved to read them. You do a good job of nailing down the broader aspects of the wilderness and travel here, and I like how you engage with a lot of different thoughts about travel while still keeping things realistic. Rocking that biodegradable soap, hell yeah.

Thank you for sharing! These are a lot of fun and read really easily, so looking forward to seeing the rest soon!
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
OOH you’ve made some good catches there! I’ll make some edits to fix the wording and continuity errors you spotted.

"1 & 2, 3, 4"
You’re right! I think that “and” wants to be a comma. I know that grammar rules want it to be “3, and 4,” but sometimes I like the rhythm in skipping the “and” better than I like being correct.


Rainbow-streaked cloud
I was trying to evoke that thing when there’s just a tiny sliver of rainbow lodged in a cloud — just one little patch— or when there’s a rainbowy shimmer but it’s very faint. I’ll figure out a better word than “streaked.”

tbh the more surprising thing is that there's even nail polish left at all
It always amazes me how long it clings!

I think that height on furret refers to body length. Either way, the username is really a misnomer because I only ever use the “old school” as inspiration. :wink: I went with what felt realistic to me — pidgeotto as an eagle (with pigeot being the size of a smart car maybe) and furret as something an eagle would want to eat. I’m not too concerned about whether my version of things matches the canon exactly.

I hear you on the abrupt ending of “Silence.” It might need more but I’m not sure what that would be right now.

Glad you enjoyed these overall! As I post the rest of these, if you notice some that might transition into each other better than the order I have, I’m open to hearing about it. But, yes, travelogue is right! (That was once the title!) They’re not quite pieces of the same puzzle — maybe leftover pieces all in a box together — so they might not all run together smoothly, and I think I’m okay with that.

I also hear you with it being “too similar to our world.” I’m definitely most interested in stories about people as affected by the existence of Pokémon, not necessarily the pokémon as characters. I’m interested in what it feels like to wander the road with only creatures for company, how the trainer lifestyle would strain relationships with others, how people pay for their travels, etc. Definitely makes me an outlier in this pocket of PMD-heavy writers... but I like what I like! Some of these episodes are lighter on Pokémon than others, for sure.

Thanks for mucking through them regardless and for the apt suggestions.
 
4. Wilderness and Hunger: Route 205

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
4. Wilderness and Hunger: Route 205

Most of your diet comes from boxes and bags: shrink-wrapped blocks that become noodles and ground meat when water is added, dried sauce in separate cellophane with flecks meant to represent vegetables, smoothie powder. You don’t mind it.

Re-hydrated meals have a limited range of flavors, but they remind you of childhood and the time your father bought several crates of military MREs at a flea market. He kept things like that around for the same reason he ran weekly drills with his hoary old luxray — “Just in case,” said with a wink. You ate one under your bed with your pikachu plushie, unwrapping each inscrutable component with rabid fascination, and imagined yourself camping in a distant forest.

You’ve become an expert in repackaging meal kits for maximum efficiency. For example, the cardboard wrap is always the first thing to go. It takes up too much space, and even the lightest stuff can weigh you down if you have too much of it. Instead, you write labels and expiration dates on the cellophane in permanent marker. Sometimes you dehydrate your own food at a trainer supply store in town to save money (and you know folks who do it for their pokemon too, especially when preparing to travel through low-forage zones) but you prefer to skip the extra work if you can.

Even trainers who gripe about re-hydrated food have to admit to one truth you learned early on: most nights, you’re so tired it doesn’t matter what you’re eating. After walking for miles with a backpack so heavy it bruises your collarbones, until you eventually get used to it— after your pokemon accidentally singes off your eyebrows or tries to eat one of your other pokemon— after crawling through brambles chasing a gible that eventually gets away— after making camp and then immediately sitting on a stump and staring into the canopy for half an hour because you’re too tired to move… anything hot tastes good. Or tastes like nothing at all.

What you do miss, almost to your embarrassment, are sour straws, poke-O’s cereal, and especially cupcakes. Trainer meals are designed (yes, definitely designed and not cooked or crafted) with consideration for vitamins, minerals, and calories but not much else. They’re uniform in color and texture. Every now and then a meal pack might include what’s optimistically labeled as a “brownie,” which is firm, dense, and dry. (It contains ten percent of your daily recommended iron and protein intake though.) It doesn’t satisfy the craving. You lie in your tent at night, listening to the kricketunes and fantasizing about your last birthday at home with the frosted funfetti cake. The luxury of sprinkles! You want cake so badly your stomach almost hurts from it.

When you finally arrive in Eterna City, you buy ten Hostess cupcakes at the first convenience store you pass. You plan to ration them out — and indeed, you start by pulling the first one apart and eating each layer slowly, licking icing off your fingers — but instead eat all ten in one sitting, wrappers spread around you on your hostel cot. The next day your stomach is so upset you reschedule your gym challenge.

You never eat another Hostess cupcake again — the smell alone is enough to make you sick.
 
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5. Wilderness and Wonder: Route 37

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
5. Wilderness and Wonder: Route 37

Leaving there and continuing north until golden light streams between the trees, you come across a grove of pecha berries. They are sun warm and so ripe they burst upon your lips. Up to your waist in weeds and leaves, you fill an improvised sack you’ve made by tying together the ends of a handkerchief. In delirious joy you fill your stomach with at least as many as you put in your bag.

The pidgeys watched you from the edge of the clearing at first, making low sounds of displeasure, but after a time they got over themselves and alighted on the nearby trees. Now, a few of them are so close you could almost touch one. For the moment you’re equals, just a bunch of creatures eating from the same tree.

At sunset, licking your sticky fingers, you come to the top of a hill and see the tower peeking above the distant trees. You’ve been told some of the best restaurants of the region are in Ecruteak. There are several famous theaters with something to watch any given night, though they say the dance hall is the one that truly cannot be missed. The hostels, you know, will be pretty to look at — traditional style — but pricey, and the bars too. This time of year there will also be lots of tourists. And you.

“Do we really have to go?” you say to your furret, who only scratches her ear. “Yeah, you’re right. Only place to get a Fog Badge."

Though, you have to wonder… would it be so bad to stop at three badges? People do it all the time. Get bored or homesick or hurt, retire. Some go for years, others hardly go further than a few towns away before doubling back. No one would think less of you if you stopped here.

But no. You’re not actually ready to be done being a trainer yet, even though sometimes you think you might be ready to be done with civilization.

Before the daylight disappears, you make camp in a clearing where the tree branches reaching overhead are almost like the arms of a protective parent. You unpack your tent, start a campfire, and take stock of your rations. You sigh. “What do you think, Gretel? Crisp N Creamy Pasta Primavera or Hearty Beef Stew?”

You should head to a trainer supply store first thing and get some new flavors. Probably some batteries and duct tape too. Though… You reach out to touch the knotted handkerchief, bulging with fresh-picked fruit.

Do you really have to?
 
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Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Coming in on this series in the middle!

Up to your waist in weeds and leaves
This rolls off the tongue beautifully, but I have trouble imagining it. A berry grove doesn't seem like a place where you'd be up to the waist in weeds.

The pidgeys watched you from the edge of the clearing at first, making low sounds of displeasure, but after a time they got over themselves and alighted on the nearby trees. A few of them are so close now you could almost touch one. But for the moment you’re equals, just a bunch of creatures eating from the same tree.

This passage doesn't flow as well as the others to me. Perhaps moving the comma here to "The pidgeys watched you from the edge of the clearing, at first making low sounds of displeasure." And the "But" was strange. It implies a contradiction or reversal between the sentences that I don't see. I think it could just go "You're equals, for the moment . . ."

This time of year there will also be lots of tourists. And you.
Are trainers by definition not tourists? Or does the difference lie in the mindset?

But no. You’re not actually ready to be done being a trainer yet, even though sometimes you think you might be ready to be done with civilization. Almost.
Mm, strong line. Would be even stronger without the "Almost" I think. You've already qualified the sentiment once at the start of the sentence.

where the tree branches reaching overhead are almost like a cathedral or the arms of a protective parent.
Might be better to pick one or the other here. Also a cathedral implies structure and civilization, and is a type of structure that's alien to Johto architecturally speaking, so that sits in a kind of tension with the discussion of Ecruteak.

Though… You reach out to touch the knotted handkerchief, bulging with fresh-picked fruit.

Do you really have to?
😊
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
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She/Her
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@Pen -- Good calls on all fronts, actually! I'll adjust...at some point. I think the only point where I disagree is the weeds and leaves, but I'll chew it over. You know me -- my heels are never dug in that far when it comes to making changes.
 
6. Wilderness and Silence: Route 211

WildBoots

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6. Wilderness and Silence: Route 211

Lanna complains she has a headache, and of course Cliff is at her side in an instant, one hand on her shoulder and the other holding a water bottle out to her. You roll your eyes. She repeats several times, “I think it’s altitude sickness. I really do.”

There’s no point in saying you think she’s being a baby, even though you do. The three of you are obviously stopping here regardless of what you have to say about it.

You make camp and, because there are still hours of daylight left even after you run your team through drills, you break out the cards. The deck is well-worn and missing a couple of green sevens, but it still works.

Miracle of miracles, Lanna brightens when the cards come out and manages to win the first two games.

“So,” you say, “you guys think we might be able to get in another mile before sundown?”

“Nah, I think we should take it slow and easy. Eterna isn’t going anywhere, ya know?” says Cliff.

Lanna purses her lips and says, “Yeah, my head’s still hurting.” Then, “Oh, you can’t play that. You have to draw.”

“No, Cliff does.”

She daintily plucks your card off the stack and holds it out at you. “You can’t put a plus two on a plus four.”

You can’t keep your voice from rising. “Since when?”

Lanna winces and brings her fingertips to her temples. “Oof. My head.”

Cliff says, “Just draw your cards already. Jesus.”

You slap down your hand. “You two play. I’m taking a walk.”

You’re angry at Lanna for being Lanna, angry at Cliff for dragging her along, and angry at the mountain for being so much to deal with. And it makes you careless.

Doubling back the way you hiked this morning until you can no longer hear your traveling companions, you come to a place where you can peer over the ledge and into the misty foothills far below. It’s pretty up here. You almost forgot to notice. To one side of you there’s a craggy boulder and you reach up for a handhold, wanting a higher vantage point. No sooner than you lay hands on it and get one knee up, the boulder groans, shifts, and blinks.

There is no time to grab a pokeball or even to think. The graveler grabs your leg and —with a bellow you feel from the soles of your feet to the tips of your fingers — sends you tumbling.

When you wake up, you find yourself in the dirt looking up at a sky framed by branches. Your head is throbbing, but nothing feels broken. All three pokeballs are thankfully still firmly hooked to your belt. And you see nothing you recognize.

At first you’re annoyed. It’s going to take forever to hike back up to where you were. When you find that graveler again, you’re gonna kick its ass all the way to Hoenn.

As long as you keep heading uphill, you’ll find the path again. You just have to keep moving.

At least you’re not without water. You ask your floatzel to spray water into your cupped hands. After, you’re left with wet shoes and socks, but you won’t die of dehydration at least. You wish bitterly that you would’ve caught a starly when you had the opportunity so you could send it scouting ahead. Thank gods you’re not alone. You notice your aipom plucking berries from a nearby bush and you eat some too, crouching among the scrub grass.

But as the sun begins to set, leaving you in the maddening criss-crossing shadows of the trees, you’re panicking. Delilah, your luxio, lights the way—much good may it do you both when any direction you choose everything looks the same. You might as well be doing this with your eyes closed. And your wet feet are cold. You shout and scream your throat raw, but hear no answer except the screech of a hunting noctowl.

The temperature plummets. The tent, your backpack full of food and warm layers, and Lanna’s heavy-lidded numel are all lost in the dark distance.

What a stupid way to die, you think over and over again.

Finally, you’re too tired and miserable to do anything but curl up under a tree with your pokemon tucked against you for warmth…and for protection against anything that might be prowling in the dark. You desperately miss Cliff’s snoring, but you don’t die. You don’t really sleep either. The hours ghost past, sleep and not-sleep blurring: The cramp in your legs. The bark against your cheek. The dream of your little brother folding origami. The stars between branches. The dark. Bolting upright at the sound of leathery wings — no, only leaves. The smell of wet earth. The dream of more stars.

A fog creeps in before sunrise, and you stir from half-sleep to the most perfect calm you’ve ever experienced. The only thing you can hear is your teeth chattering. For a moment you wonder if you’re in purgatory or someplace stranger. Years later the memory still gives you goosebumps. You do the only thing you can: you rise and start to climb again.
 
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Pen

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She mewls several times, “I think it’s altitude sickness. I really do.”
So . . . I was really confused at first because I thought Lanna was a pokemon. She mewls, perks up, pouts. It's kind of animalistic description, you know? I get that the narrator's irritated and that's coloring their perceptions, but I think I would have preferred if that dehumanization was entering the narrative more subjectively, like: ["I think it's altitude sickness. I do," she says— mewls, really, you think. Like a glameow begging for scraps.]

There’s no point in saying you think she’s being a baby, even though you do. The three of you are obviously stopping here regardless of what you have to say about it.
The frustration bubbles through really well here. It feels like the kind of frustration that's been building a long time. I like how the backstory here seems open—why Lanna came, why the narrator feels stuck with them, that third-wheel sense.

You’re angry at Lanna for being Lanna, angry at Cliff for dragging her along, and angry at the mountain for being so much to deal with. And it makes you sloppy and stupid.
The first line works really well. The second . . . I wonder if you've verged into telling instead of showing? Could be expressed more physically, like "Your footsteps crash through the undergrowth, loud and sloppy." or whatever.

It is pretty up here. You almost forgot to notice.
I like this moment. For flow reasons, think it should be "It's pretty up here."

You start to pull yourself onto a craggy boulder to rest. No sooner than you lay hands on it and get one knee up, the boulder groans, shifts, and blinks.
The action could be clearer here. Pull up didn't imply climbing up to me.

When you wake up, You find yourself
Typo, you is capitalized.

You command your floatzel to pour water into your cupped hands until you’ve drunken your fill.
Tonally, this sentence struck me as off. The language is a little grand, a little archaic, with "command" and "drunken your fill." Also, pour doesn't quite work for me as verb here. It implies a passive flow of water out of flotazel's mouth that doesn't fit with the kind of active spouting of a water gun. Could also be a chance to emphasize the lack of amenities? Water going everywhere, getting the narrator's clothes wet, making a puddle on the soil.

But at least you’re not alone. You notice your aipom plucking berries from a nearby bush and you eat some too, crouching among the scrub grass.

But as the sun begins to set, leaving you in the maddening criss-crossing shadows of the trees, you’re panicking.
Think this is one but too many in such close succession.

You shout and scream your throat raw, but hear no answer but the screech of a hunting noctowl.
Again, think you can easily get this down to one but: "but nothing answers you except the screech of a passing noctowl"

The temperature plummets. The tent, your backpack full of food and warm layers, and Lanna’s heavy-lidded numel are all lost in the dark distance.

What a stupid way to die, you think over and over again.
This felt very intense and the imagery of the dark distance, the night that can't be illuminated, is very strong.

You desperately miss Cliff’s snoring, but you don’t die.
This felt a little abrupt to me.

A fog creeps in before sunrise, and you wake from half-sleep to the most perfect calm you’ve ever experienced. The only thing you can hear is your teeth chattering. For a moment you wonder if you’re in purgatory or someplace stranger. Years later the memory still gives you goosebumps. You do the only thing you can: you rise and start to climb again.
Well, you gave ME goosebumps here. (Maybe "stir" instead of "wake" here, for alliteration and more of a slow shifting between states.)

I think my favorite part of this vignette is how you handle the transition from mundane irritation to the gravity of a survival situation, to a moment of transcendence, where the fear becomes the sublime.
 

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So . . . I was really confused at first because I thought Lanna was a pokemon. ... It's kind of animalistic description, you know?
Ooh I didn't even consider that at all. I'll course-correct.

The first line works really well. The second . . . I wonder if you've verged into telling instead of showing? Could be expressed more physically, like "Your footsteps crash through the undergrowth, loud and sloppy." or whatever.
That's fair. I've wondered too. Maybe not stomping though. I don't think the "you" in this story is raging and making noise, they're just no longer paying attention.

I like this moment. For flow reasons, think it should be "It's pretty up here."
The "is" was supposed to be italicized, if that helps. Though I don't mind cutting it to "it's" either.

Tonally, this sentence struck me as off. The language is a little grand, a little archaic, with "command" and "drunken your fill." Also, pour doesn't quite work for me as verb here. It implies a passive flow of water out of flotazel's mouth that doesn't fit with the kind of active spouting of a water gun. Could also be a chance to emphasize the lack of amenities? Water going everywhere, getting the narrator's clothes wet, making a puddle on the soil.
Mm fair! I think command is also... not treating floatzel like a homie. I'm not convinced that a messy blast of water is the only thing water-type would be capable of, but I do like adding extra stress and uncertainty by having to deal with wet clothes.

Think this is one but too many in such close succession.
I'm learning that I need to add "but" to my list of words to scan for and remove along with "just" and "where" and phrases with "of."

This felt a little abrupt to me.
I think you're right. I think I can fix that with a sentence or two.

Well, you gave ME goosebumps here.


--------------------------

Thank you as always --all of you -- for all the feedback! Most of the comments I've gotten on FFN have just been variations of, "Wow is good," which is nice, but... Clearly these vignettes could still benefit from fine-tuning. I'm grateful for the pointers in doing so!
 
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7. Wilderness and Silence: Faded Red Tent

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7. Wilderness and Silence: Faded Red Tent

Home means two different things: there’s the place you came from, and there’s your faded red tent. Or, the place you left and the place you return to each night. The place where you feel…content, perhaps.

It’s hard to describe.

You’ve lost some of your skill with words. They’re not so important in your trade. When you meet new people, you find yourself either too eager to share your thoughts, having held them to yourself for days or weeks, or too impatient with small talk. But others don’t seem to know what to say to you either, so you hardly see it as a personality flaw. Being with pokemon, being in wild spaces, you’ve stopped expecting perfect understanding, of anything. The world doesn’t need your understanding for it to keep turning.

Sometimes as you lay in your sleeping bag you imagine you can almost, almost hear it, that turning.

The first night on the road, the very first, it was too quiet to sleep. You hadn’t realized how accustomed you were to sounds of traffic, humming appliances, and your neighbor’s teenage son practicing guitar. You hadn’t even noticed those sounds until they were gone. All that space, the quiet, all the things it could be hiding—it frightened you. The radio was the only thing that got you through that night, an unfamiliar station that didn’t come through to your side of the mountains back home.

You can’t remember the last time you played the radio. You’d rather be able to listen for sounds of an approaching trainer or pokemon. A nearby river. Thunder. You’ve learned to recognize more than ten bird pokemon by their calls alone, and you know the difference between mating calls and songs that warn others from their territory.

When you enter a city now, first it’s too loud. Then, in your hostel bed, it’s too quiet. Or, the wrong kind of quiet. It’s not an absence of sound, it’s an absence of life.

Most mornings, the birds sing you awake. The drone of bug pokemon in the bushes sings you through the day. The wind in the trees sings you to sleep. And you, in return, keep your peace.
 
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8. Liminal Space

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8. Liminal Space

8. Liminal Space

Summer is around the corner, the nights still chilly but not too cold to pitch the tent in the backyard. Mom supervises the setup, just in case, but you’re proud to do it without help. Well, James helps, but that’s different. The tent pops up more easily with two pairs of hands stretching out the corners, but he doesn’t tell you what to do.

You know, of course, that you are still lying only feet away from the barbecue, the chair where your mom smokes and watches the sunrise every morning, the empty cola can where she stuffs the butts, your father’s zucchini plants, the neighbors’ always barking growlithe, the off-key wind chimes your aunt sent as a holiday gift last year. But once you’re inside the tent with the door flap zipped shut, you can imagine yourself elsewhere.

Summer means freedom from homework and early mornings waiting for the bus. But it teases you with bigger, truer freedoms, held still out of reach. You used to imagine you would start your journey close to home and return often with souvenirs for the entire family. Now, you imagine Hoenn, Sinnoh — the furthest places you can think of. The greenest places. The wildest places.

You know James is thinking about it too because he says, “My brother is leaving next week.” There’s a flashlight between you and James, propped up on the tent floor with a pillow and a book, and he makes hand shadows as he talks. Swanna. Cloyster. Scrafty.

“It’s not like you’ll never hear from him again.” You make your hand into a growlithe, moving its mouth along with your words. “That’s what vidphones are for.”

“I know, but… still.” He makes a numel, one hand becoming the curve of its back and the other its mouth and ear. “Things won’t be the same.”

It’ll just be James and his dad after that.

“Yeah. I guess not.”

Your butterfree hand-shadow suddenly twists on the tent wall, even though you haven’t moved.

You and James look at each other, wide-eyed. In a whisper, he says, “That’s not me.”

The butterfree-shadow jerks and becomes long and toothy — an impossible shape to make with human hands. It forms eye-holes and winks.

You sit up and grab your water bottle, the closest thing to a weapon in arms’ reach, as you calculate how quickly you could get to the back door if you run. Probably not fast enough — whatever it is, it’s close.

Before you can decide whether to throw something, bargain, or shout for help, the shadow moves again. For a moment you can see the outlines of the gastly’s vaporous body passing outside the tent, and then it rearranges itself into a thumbs up sign.

You and James stare.

After a beat, the thumbs up flickers and becomes a question mark.

James whispers, “What is it doing?”

The gastly-shadow reforms itself into a copy of the butterfree hand shadow you made before. After a moment of waiting, it dissolves. Then out of the haze a butterfree again, a bigger one this time, wiggling its finger-wings.

Tentatively, you reach across the flashlight beam. “Playing…?”

You make a two-handed magcargo shadow, and the gastly rushes to copy you. Abandoning its pretense at having hands, it shapes itself into a slugma to go with your magcargo, complete with bubbles shifting across the surface. It blows a smoky kiss to your magcargo.

“I’ve got one!” James pushes you aside and makes a hand shadow of the head and horns of a sawsbuck. The gastly becomes flowers bursting and falling from its antlers.

You’re not sure how long the game lasts, only that you and James are both laughing all through it, and there’s a third, almost-human voice laughing too. Finally, the gastly mimics a hand again, fingers spread. It waves, and then it’s gone.

You and James signal shadows into the night for a while, but it doesn’t come back.



Summer is almost over, but it’s still warm enough to pitch the tent in the backyard one last time. You’re clumsy handling it alone, but you manage. Just as well that you start getting used to it now.

With the door flap zipped shut, the tent feels both smaller and larger than it used to. You’ve grown taller, but now there’s empty space beside you. You’ll lay your pack there each night. Maybe your starter will curl up there too.

James agreed weeks ago to join you out here, for old time’s sake, but you’re not mad he canceled.. It’s a family thing. You know how that goes.

The closer you get to graduation, somehow the more there is to do. Finalizing paperwork. Accommodating family members from out of town. Farewell dinners. Posing for photos — struggling suddenly not to cry even though you’d been fine a minute before.

In fact, you remind yourself, it’s good to have a moment to yourself for once. Time to sort out your thoughts.

Staring at the tent ceiling, you think about the stories you and James used to tell together, imagining your future journeys. He would talk until he ran out of ideas, and then you took over, inventing encounters with wild pokemon and discoveries of ancient treasure. Then it was his turn again. You haven’t done that in years — way before the last time you pitched the tent — but you miss it now. Dreaming up the future is frightful work by yourself.

You haven’t changed your mind about your journey. But now there are logistics to consider, details that hadn’t factored into your childhood fantasies. Have you packed enough food, the right kinds? What if you need to take a bus when you get to a city — how will that work? Will you be able to get your pokemon to listen to you? And then there’s James.

Stretching towards the empty space to your side, you grab your book. It’s just dark enough to need the solar-powered lantern, which you prop at an angle with your folded sweatshirt. The words slide past you, each one forgotten the moment your eyes move on to the next, but it’s still something to do.

When you’re on the road for real, is this how nighttime is going to feel, like time to fill?

Maybe it’s intuition that makes you turn your head, or maybe it's just a flicker of movement in the corner of your eye. All you see is your own shadow cast on the tent wall. But you close your book and say, “Hello?”

You think you hear a ghostly giggle.

Very slowly, you sit up. “I’m leaving in a couple days. For an adventure,” you say. And then you wait. Your shadow is still just your shadow. Maybe you were too slow. Or maybe it was nothing at all.

You keep talking anyway, in the same low voice you used late at night to avoid waking Jame’s parents. “I don’t really know what it’s gonna be like. I could get lost out there. Sometimes people don’t come back. It’s risky, traveling alone.” You stop to pick at a loose string on your pants. “We used to talk about treasure, like it was a guarantee. One per trainer. Sounds stupid now, but I guess part of me still believes it, in a way. Maybe not treasure but… something. Secrets. Forgotten places. If I don’t go, I’ll never find out what is out there.”

When you look up again, your shadow is lying on its side to watch you, head propped in its palm, even though you’re sitting up cross-legged. Goosebumps run down your arms, but you smile and ask, “Have you ever been past the city limits before?”
 
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Pen

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I really enjoyed number 7!

There are two ways of describing home: the place you’re from and your faded red tent. Or, the place you left and the place where you feel…content, perhaps.
I get what you're going for, but I'm not sure "describing home" is the right way to put it. It makes this seem like alternate descriptions of the same thing, rather than two different things that relate to the same concept, of home.

The first night on the road, the very first, it was too quiet to sleep. . . .When you enter a city now, first it’s too loud. Then, in your hostel bed, it’s too quiet. Or, the wrong kind of quiet. It’s not an absence of sound, it’s an absence of life.
This whole meditation on the sounds of cities and natural spaces was great, swept me up completely. The last line here really hits home.

Most mornings, the birds sing you awake. The drone of bug pokemon in the bushes sings you through the day. The wind in the trees sings you to sleep. And you, in return, keep your peace.
Lovely ending, with nice flow.

Some thoughts on 8:

I like the individual elements--the uncertainty of transition, the interaction with the ghastly--but I'm not sure they work in cohesion. The two parts felt like two different stories to me. The interaction with ghastly doesn't seem to bring closure to the themes of change, growing up, the fear of a dream becoming reality. You've called this one "Liminal space" and I certainly see how that concept is present in both parts--the liminal space between home and not-home, trainer and not-trainer, and of course everything involving ghost pokemon speaks to the liminal, but while the idea of liminality is present in both, these don't seem to be complimentary expressions of it. If there's a thread I'm missing that ties the two parts together for you, maybe try to bring that out more? Both parts are strong, it's just that the connection doesn't feel there for me.
 

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I get what you're going for, but I'm not sure "describing home" is the right way to put it. It makes this seem like alternate descriptions of the same thing, rather than two different things that relate to the same concept, of home.
Absolutely fair! This is one of those places where I’m borrowing language from Invisible Cities. Sounds like it doesn’t quite flow, so it’s time to let go of cute in favor of functional.

Glad you liked 7 overall!

Both parts are strong, it's just that the connection doesn't feel there for me.
Ooh I think you’re right! That one’s a harder fix. I’m sure I can figure out something, but it’s going to take more thinking and rearranging than some of the other adjustments.

Maybe it’s a daylight conversation about the gastly. (Lord — autocorrected to Gaston, of all things.) Too many other obligations to spend time looking or trying to contact it, signs the two friends could be growing apart. You suggest ouija board, James has other priorities. Hmmm. I’ll think about it some more.

Cheers!
 

Pen

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Maybe starting with the ghastly encounter? As this sort of magical liminal moment that cemented their friendship, expanded the world for the narrator? Now flash-forward, the journey's almost here, the narrator sets up the tent again in the backyard, James doesn't come. So you've got this new liminality, of being independent, alone? Is it better? Different? Scarier?
 

WildBoots

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Maybe starting with the ghastly encounter? As this sort of magical liminal moment that cemented their friendship, expanded the world for the narrator? Now flash-forward, the journey's almost here, the narrator sets up the tent again in the backyard, James doesn't come. So you've got this new liminality, of being independent, alone? Is it better? Different? Scarier?

Oh that’s a way better idea! That gives me several thoughts I can sink my teeth into.
 
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