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Pokémon Song of Two Worlds

Chapter One: Tonic Dissonance

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
Vincent was a wreck: anxiety, fear, panic attacks, everything a fourteen year old wouldn't in their lifetime ask for. Then, he found an orb, turned into a pichu, and it all just kept getting worse from there. Once his only connection to others, now music's all he has to connect him to his fleeting humanity. With nothing but an otherworldy orb to work with, he'll have to work fast before he loses himself, or the world turns to ash.

Chapters:
One: Tonic Dissonance
Two: Born Under a Bad Sign
Three: Can You Hear Me?
Four: Tell Me
Five: Barefoot in Baltimore
Six: Strawberries Mean Love

Chapter One: Tonic Dissonance
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The night was frigid and clear, only the city lights obscuring the stars above. Vincent, crumpled into a fetal position up against a wall. Not against the frigid night, but in fear. Tonight, his piano teacher had organized a recital for all his students to show off to their parents that he actually was doing his job. As an unfortunate byproduct, this meant Vincent would have to play in front of several strangers. Just the thought made him shiver.

Reaching into his rented tux's breast pocket, he pulled out an orange bottle to read the label. He already knew its contents, but he read it anyway. "James Brown, Xanax, take one tablet by mouth as needed." It was supposed to be plan B when he got it a few weeks ago, but as the night drew closer, the idea of going on stage without "help" seemed impossibility. So, plan B became A, and even with thirty minutes left until his performance, he needed it now.

He pulled off the cap and took out a capsule, turning it over in his hands. One last time, he tried to convince himself he didn't need it, that he could manage on his own, but a burning weight in his stomach said otherwise. Just as he resolved to take it, he heard the rhythmic crunch of grass underfoot approaching. In a panic, he tossed the pill back, closed the lid, and hopped up, tossing the bottle back into his jacket's inside pocket just in time to see his brother Peter facing him with arms crossed.

With his hand still in his jacket, he quickly came up for an excuse as non-suspicious as possible. "M-man," he stuttered with a (now fake) shiver, "Sure is cold out here, right?" Peter, unconvinced, remained unmoving, towering over him. With an expectant gaze, he stuck out his hand.

Vincent spent another moment trying to keep up the lie before letting himself deflate, cradling his right arm and leaning up against the wall. Peter didn't provide an ounce of sympathy. "Give them to me."

His eyes were glued to the ground, heat swelling in his cheeks as his throat tightened. "I can't," he whimpered, tears forcing themselves out.

Peter put his hand on Vincent's shoulder. "Yes you can, you don't need those to perform."

Shoving his hand off, Vincent took a step away, forcing himself to face Peter. "No! No, I can't! You don't know what I have to deal with!" His anger ebbed out, a few seconds of silence hanging between them. "You're not broken."

Dense, silent air floated between them for an eternity, Vincent waiting for Peter to yell back. "You're right." Vincent blinked. "I don't have what you have, I don't get panic attacks, go through what you do, have to deal with what you do." He took a step forward, once again placing a hand on Vincent's shoulder. "But I've seen you deal with it before, I know you can." Vincent wanted to argue further, wanted a point to prove, but the resolution in his brother's eyes told him it would be pointless. "Come on, if you don't make me take them by force, I'll buy you a booster pack."

Even despite his building anxiety, Vincent chuckled. Wiping the tears off his face, he pulled out the bottle and handed it to his brother, mumbling, "Thanks."

Peter took it, tussling his brother's hair with the other hand. "I could get you to do anything for Pokémon cards," he jibed. Before Vincent could make a retort, Peter yanked on his arm, pulling him along behind him. "Come on, they'll be needing you backstage soon."

While Peter led him to the hall, Vince tried to occupy his mind, keeping a tight hold on his thoughts to stave off panic. To keep busy, he thought about the piece he had to perform, the first movement from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. A rather ambitious first piece, but it had significant sentimental value to him as it had been one of his father's favorites to play.

His teacher had laughed at him when he said he wanted it to be his first piece (the jerk), but once Vince showed what he'd managed to learn on his own, his teacher agreed to help.

Help Vincent definitely needed; even though his starting point showed promise, he'd still had a long way to go. At the start, he could barely even read the bass clef, and moving both hands independently seemed like a pipe dream. But, through many frustrating nights of tedious practice, he had finally been able to perform the piece from beginning to end without stopping. Not devoid of mistakes, just not enough of them to warrant starting over.

The two brothers finally made it to the backstage entrance, Peter patting him on the back muttering, "Break a leg," before heading off. Alone with his thoughts once more, Vincent took inventory of his mental state: scrutinized every thought, making sure not to dwell on any that were disturbing; accepting anxiety for what it was, nothing more than an emotion; keeping his breath at a steady rhythm, making sure he wouldn't hyperventilate.

Gingerly opening the door, he stepped lightly as he could to respect the pianist currently playing. He kept his mind focused on his piece, leaving no room for panic to creep in, eventually managing to lose awareness of his surroundings until his teacher tapped him on the shoulder. "You're on next, ready?"

Vincent's gaze snapped up to meet his teacher's, time's fast passage surprising him. While his teacher's expression and tone were eager, Vincent could hardly share in the excitement. With a weak smile, he nodded, standing to approach the stage.

Entering the stage, he didn't let himself focus on the crowd to his right, his teacher's introduction of him, the soft shuffle of the previous and next acts back stage, only looking at the piano. Each step brought him closer until he slid around the bench and sat, allowing his fingers just barely rest on the keys.

He kept his full attention shifting from the piano, to his hands, to the music, rotating between the three in no particular order. With a deep breath in and out, he began to play the triplets that began the piece, his mind intensely focused in the beginning on every note, beat, and rhythm. Yet, as time went on, thoughts of panic began to seep through his defenses, slowly welling up more and more as time went on. He tried desperately to shake these thoughts out of his mind, to hold tight to the feeling of calm that he associated with music, but the harder he tried, the worse his anxiety became. He tried harder and harder to stop the anxiety, the fear, the panic, but this proved to be his mistake. Putting so much energy into his thoughts, his mind hadn't had enough to focus on the sonata, and his hands had ceased movement. For a moment he was so lost in thought that he didn't even notice he'd stopped playing. The instant he did, though, his mind went into full on panic.

Time slowed down, sped up, his mind racing to try and get back to where he had been in the piece, to try and start playing again, to do anything but sit there and have a panic attack. Unfortunately, this only resulted in him playing the same wrong note three times in no particular rhythm. Frustration began to mingle with fear, self-doubt becoming self-hatred, anxiety becoming panic, until he decided to just play the tonic chord and walk off the stage, no bowing, only running backstage once more, through the door he had entered, through the hall he had walked with his brother only minutes before, eventually leaving the building itself.

He ran to the corner where he had held the Xanax, hands now empty. He crumpled up into a fetal position, clutching his legs close to his chest in an attempt to become as small as he felt. Rocking back and forth, panic wracked his system. His mind raced with hardly coherent thoughts, devoid of rationality but filled with horror. He moved his hands up to his head, gripping his hair, tears pouring from his eyes. Within his thoughts, a common thread began to connect them, subtle at first, but it grew and grew until eventually the thought was screaming at him from his mind. "You failed."

01001001

Vincent listened intently to the noises of the forest (birds singing, bugs buzzing, the wind rattling the branches of trees, even the occasional skittering of an animal) while walking a path he'd worn very well. He walked in an attempt to forget last night, trying to edge the memory of his failure and panic from his psyche with very little success. Anxiety, however, wasn't the emotion at his throat anymore: his panic attack had tortured most of the anxiety out of him, the serene forest drowning out what little remained.

No, he retreated to the forest to deal with contempt he held for himself. When it came to failure of any kind—be it his fault or not—he always went into a state of self-flagellation that lasted until he had thoroughly destroyed any and all self-worth in his system—a most effective and healthy coping mechanism.

He didn't even try to blame his brother for not letting him take the meds that weren't his; he knew it was wrong. His brother wasn't the problem. He was. It was his fault he'd bought the pills in the first place. He'd tried to give himself support through the wrong channels. He'd succumb to his own anxiety. His thoughts brought him panic. This train of thought continued until he had fully convinced himself that his anxiety, his failure, even all the world's problems in general were his fault. He just wanted to forget last night had ever happened.

Sufficiently worn into his emotional rut, he looked to the forest around him for a better subject to focus on. He always felt at home in the forest. Never knew why. Even as a kid, the lush green, huge trees, multitude of little creatures that inhabited it, all brought him some kind of peace.

Even still, he could remember the first time he'd retreated to the forest: the day he'd come home from the hospital and his father hadn't. His mother didn't even notice his frequent trips, too busy with her own grief.

But that was all very long ago, and he hardly even gave heed to those memories as he lost himself in the forest's beauty. He'd memorized every step of this path, but awe still filled his mind as he surveyed the flora and fauna. Eventually, he came to a circular clearing somewhere in the area of ten yards in diameter that he knew better than the back of his hand. Because of this familiarity, he immediately noticed a white, round, blemishless stone that lay in the exact center of the clearing. As if waiting for him.

He approached the stone, kneeling down to pick it up and examine it. The more he looked at it, the less it made sense: despite being partially buried in the ground, not a speck of dirt remained when he lifted it up; it fit comfortably in his hand; seemed to shimmer when he held it up to the sun, yet didn't even remotely reflect the color of his shirt, almost seeming to produce its own. He rolled it around in his hand to find some mark or blemish but found none.

He examined the stone, completely perplexed to what it was, where it came from, why it was there, all memories of last night long erased from his consciousness. He didn't know of anyone else that frequented this area, yet the stone had no natural qualities. Mind engrossed in the object, he couldn't stay in the comfort of the forest, so he forced himself to go back home where he had at least some equipment.

Leaving on the same path he'd entered, he returned home. Luckily, he wouldn't have to explain the odd object to his brother or mother since they were at school and work respectively. Of course, he should have been at school as well, but he didn't care. One day wouldn't really have an effect on his grades.

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Vincent had no idea what this material was. It had the density of hydrogen yet didn't need to be hundreds of degrees below zero to retain a solid form or burn his hand to touch, so it obviously couldn't be hydrogen. Chipping off a piece to look at under a microscope he'd (permanently) borrowed from school proved impossible as it wouldn't even yield the tiniest fragment, instead breaking the screwdriver he'd used as a chisel.

Now, he was on his way to his computer to see if the internet could yield any info about this strange material. When he walked into his unlit room, he noticed the stone really did emanate light. A very dull, barely visible glow inside ebbed in a manner similar to a heartbeat. His heartbeat. He placed it on his desk, and the pulse stopped the moment it lost contact with his hand, light changing from yellow to stark white.

Touching the stone once more, he felt a very faint energy, so faint he wondered if it was even really there. Some light, tingle through his veins. Out of ideas, he decided to experiment with the energy hypothesis: if it produced energy, perhaps it would even accept it. He pulled out a box from under his desk that held frayed wires, power cords, dongles, pulling out what once was a lamp's power cord. It was split down to the plug, with just an inch of exposed wire at the end. Once he taped the exposed ends to the sphere, he placed it on a plate (putting it on his wood desk could be a fire-hazard) and put the plug in the outlet.

This was a bad decision. Immediately, the light became so bright that it filled the room, nearly blinding him if he hadn't managed to shield his eyes just in time; a slight hum became a loud screech and the orb burst into two pieces, launching to opposite ends of his room. After the moment of terror passed, he checked to see if he'd sustained any damage.

After counting his fingers, he yanked out the power cord so it wouldn't start a fire before going to turn on the lights. After seven flips of the light switch, he determined that some strange force had knocked out the power. Even without the lights on, he could see the room well enough, as well as both orb halves: one embedded in the dry-wall and the other lying beneath a sizable dent in the wall. "It's a shame that didn't kill me, 'cause now Mom definitely will," he mumbled to himself while he retrieved the orb halves.

Both were the same size, and the break points were smooth as silk. Holding both in his hands, he had another bad idea. He knew it was a bad idea. Didn't know how, but he knew that putting them back together could only make the situation worse. Felt it in his jellies. But, be it the reckless nature of a teenager, the absurd curiosity that had him pick up the stone to begin with, or some other third thing, he decided to put the orb back together.

Nothing happened. At least, not at first. He tried to pull apart the fragments again but found that it had once again become one stone. Holding it in his right hand, he brought it up to his face to get a closer look. Then, a sudden shock shot out of the orb, down his arm, and throughout his body, pain bringing him to his knees. He dropped the orb to cradle his right arm, eyes clenched shut, grimacing as the pain flowed to the beat of his heart, as if it had joined with his blood's flow. The pain hit its climax, quickly dissipating, though he could still feel the energy flow through him.

He cracked his eyes open, only for the somehow floating orb to assault him with piercing light. Bringing up his left hand to shield his eyes, he saw his bed was gone. No evidence it had ever been there, even. No impression in the carpet, faded wallpaper, nothing.

Too shocked by his bed's disappearance, he didn't even notice the orb's light diminish as it slowly floated to the ground. He looked around his room that more than just his bed had disappeared. His desk that once held his computer, cluttered with schoolwork, gadgets and knick-knacks he'd managed to get for cheap at pawn shops had been replaced by a significantly nicer computer, a printer, and a stack of printer paper. All of his stuff had been replaced by office materials or emptiness.

He tried to stand up, but the energy that once had coursed through his veins burst through him again, making him feel as if he'd been filled with magma. His thought that the pain couldn't get any worse was demolished by burning needles pushing themselves out of every inch of his arm. Fighting against the pain, he forced his eyes open to see what was happening. Once he did, he wished he hadn't. Pale yellow fur covered his arm and rushed rapidly up his shoulder. He tried to throw the fur off with his left hand to no avail as it continued spreading, carrying with it the intense pain.

His grimace grew tighter and tighter as knives forced their way out of his skin, climbing across his chest, up his neck, down his back, until fur covered every inch of him. Terror tormented him as he tried to comprehend every impossible event that had led to this one, all of them swirling into his mind until he fell into a state of complete panic. His heart beat faster, which just seemed to increase the heat's spread.

Tears poured out of his eyes as the heat engulfed his body, melting his bones and shifting them into shapes entirely unfamiliar. He felt his body shrink, hands deform and lose the dexterity that made them human, devolving into paws, arms losing what little definition they had as they became little more than nubs that bent in the middle, shoulders shifting forward to better equip themselves for walking on all fours, his chest compressed and rearranged his torso into what vaguely resembled a trapezoid, hips shifting as his legs contract and disappear into nearly nothing, his feet rounding off into ovals, his toes melting from five to three, some obtrusion crunching its way out of his spine.

His head hurt the most as his jaw rounded off, all his teeth but the front two on top turning into molars, the front two flattening and becoming almost like squares, his head molding into an oval. The crunch of his bones mashing into these unnatural shapes drove him mad, the crunching and reshaping of the cartilage in his ears into diamonds brought him further over the edge, further than he could ever comprehend.

While he'd slowly been shrinking throughout this, it kicked into high gear as some invisible force squeezed him like a stress ball. He tried to scramble out of his shirt to no avail as it engulfed his shrinking form, his new limbs far too strange for him to move properly.

Finally, the heat and pressure subsided, leaving the entirety of his form breathless, sweating, and squirming underneath the cloth that had once fit comfortably around his torso. The last few hour-long minutes exhausted him so much, he hardly felt energy fill and stretch his cheeks to even more bizarre proportions. He squirmed, wriggled, and flailed towards the neck of what once was his shirt. By some stroke of luck, he managed to flop himself out of his shirt and onto his back, heart pounding out of his chest.

The perversion of his room in grayscale assaulted his vision. Every bone, muscle, tendon, fiber of his being cried out in pain, dispelling even the thought that any of this was a dream. He uncoordinatedly flopped onto his stomach and forced himself to stand. Just as he was about to fall to the side, an obtrusion on his back shot to the other side to correct his balance. He carefully turned to look behind himself to see a tail. His tail. He had a tail.

He buried his eyes into what once were his hands and tried to mumble, "This can't be real," but his mouth wouldn't respond properly. Instead, his mind searched for how to say what he wanted to, a string of repeated syllables of varying pitch and order floating into his thoughts. He tested out these new "words" and found them uncannily easy to produce. "Chu pi pichu pi." Despair overcame him.

He loved Pokémon. It was probably (definitely) his favorite game series and, because of this, he had developed an almost anthological knowledge of it. So, without a moment's thought, he knew exactly what he was: a pichu.

He shook his head, trying to bury it even further into his paws, spouting the syllables he had just learned over and over again, hoping desperately that verbally rejecting reality enough would change it. It didn't. Despite the obvious evidence, he couldn't believe what had happened. How could he? He was trapped in a fictional creature's body! Not just a fictional creature, but a baby! That couldn't be true! Sure, he was only on the early side of fourteen, but he wasn't a child! He was a teenager!

After what felt like hours, it sank in that wishing this away wasn't accomplishing anything. He pulled his head out of his paws and looked in front of him at the orb. That was it! If the orb changed him, it could change him back! He hobbled over to it as fast as he could, falling almost every step, but he didn't care. He had to get to the orb, had to touch it! Had to change back!

He fell once more, now only a few inches away. Being so close, he felt… odd. Sensed some sort of energy inside the orb. Not emanating from it, simply resting inside it. As he focused on it, he felt the same coursing through his body, a large pool of it in his cheeks. Before he could even ask himself what the feeling was, electricity floated through his mind. Shaking the curiosity out of his head, he stood up one last time to reach out to the orb.

Much like every other decision of the past hour, this proved a horrible mistake. The instant he made contact with it, electricity poured into his body, filling him beyond what he could bare, beyond what his body could handle. He tried to pull away, but the electricity shooting into his body locked his muscles in place. His cheeks tried to rid himself of the electricity by launching it out, but it just arced back and shocked him, bringing even more pain. The onslaught of energy forced his body to expand in every area that held and carried electricity.

Just before he thought his life would end, a final spurt of energy flung him a few feet onto his back. He couldn't even form a coherent thought, pain overriding any that floated through his mind.

He didn't even fight against the darkness as it overtook his mind, bringing him the relief of unconsciousness.
01101000
A/N: Well, uh, there it is. Hope you liked it. Or, at least didn't hate it.
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Equitia

Junior Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partner
espurr
Vincent was a wreck: anxiety, fear, panic attacks
I know the feel. :(

I’m not well-versed in PMD fics, but in any case this is the first I’ve read that starts with such a strong focus on the protagonist's human life. I feel like going this direction could have easily made your first chapter boring, but you used it really well! Your opener is short on Pokémon, sure, but in the first scene I started to love Vincent and understand his character.

Great job establishing Vincent in just the first scene. Dear god, I wanted to hug this boy so much in just the first few paragraphs. The series of emotions he went through that first scene were so heartbreaking. You really set us up for some hope, and then when Vincent just crashes, I felt for him so much. So much anxiety can be hard to describe without it getting repetitive (I’ve tried and failed), but you managed to keep it realistic and engaging.

In general I like your writing style. It’s clear and really vivid. You do a great job with descriptions; it really helped to convey Vincent’s emotions throughout the chapter. That being said… I feel like you have a tendency to overwrite. For example, the last paragraph of the second scene doesn’t actually do anything. We’ll know that there will be no one home to disturb Vincent when no one disturbs him. The scene peters out in the last paragraphs because I think it really ended when Vincent found the stone.

I also feel like Vincent’s transformation into a Pokémon was weak because of too much detail. I like the concept of it. Again, not well-read for PMD, but the human being conscious for the transformation seems novel to me. (And also I like body horror, so it’s to my tastes.) I liked the start of it, especially Vincent panicking when he starts growing fur, but you document the process too well. When you go into detail about how each and every part of his body changes, the horror wears off and it starts getting boring. Less detail would have been better, maybe just focusing on what Vincent could feel.


Quotes for minor stuff:

The night was frigid and clear, only the city lights obscuring the stars above. Vincent, crumpled into a fetal position up against a wall. Not against the frigid night, but in fear. Tonight, his piano teacher had organized a recital for all his students to show off to their parents that he actually was doing his job. As an unfortunate byproduct, this meant Vincent would have to play in front of several strangers. Just the thought made him shiver.
I’ll nitpick this paragraph because it’s the first. You set up a tone in the first three sentences, but lose it with the next. I realize that Vincent is truly terrified of having to perform, but just stating that he has a piano recital doesn't convey why he’s so scared.

Glancing up revealed not a hint of sympathy on Peter's face. "Give them to me."
Vincent winced at the hand Peter placed on his shoulder. "Yes you can, you don't need those to perform."
These paragraphs indicate that Vincent is talking, not Peter. I could make out the true speaker by context, but it threw me out of the story and made other bits of dialogue unclear.

"No! No, I can't! You don't know what I have to deal with!" His anger ebbed out, a few seconds of silence hanging between them. "You're not broken."
:’(

For a moment he was so lost in thought that he didn't even notice he'd stopped playing. The instant he did, though, his mind went into full on panic.
He ran to the corner where he had held the Xanax, hands now empty. He crumpled up into a fetal position, clutching his legs close to his chest in an attempt to become as small as he felt. Rocking back and forth, panic wracked his system. His mind raced with hardly coherent thoughts, devoid of rationality but filled with horror. He moved his hands up to his head, gripping his hair, tears pouring from his eyes. Within his thoughts, a common thread began to connect them, subtle at first, but it grew and grew until eventually the thought was screaming at him from his mind. "You failed."
Oh god, you’re really making me feel for this boy. You describe his panic attack well.

Vincent had no idea what this material was. It had the density of hydrogen yet didn't need to be hundreds of degrees below zero to retain a solid form or burn his hand to touch, so it obviously couldn't be hydrogen.
I like the detail that Vincent would try to scientifically figure out what exactly is this weird rock he's found, but it’s a weird enough thing for a fourteen-year-old to do that I think it should have some introduction.

Holding both in his hands, he had another bad idea. He knew it was a bad idea. Didn't know how, but he knew that putting them back together could only make the situation worse. Felt it in his jellies. But, be it the reckless nature of a teenager, the absurd curiosity that had him pick up the stone to begin with, or some other third thing, he decided to put the orb back together.
Having a mysterious, foreboding feeling about putting the orb together seems unnecessary. It would be perfectly natural if he just casually held the part together.

His thought that the pain couldn't get any worse was demolished by burning needles pushing themselves out of every inch of his arm. Fighting against the pain, he forced his eyes open to see what was happening. Once he did, he wished he hadn't. Pale yellow fur covered his arm and rushed rapidly up his shoulder.
The crunch of his bones mashing into these unnatural shapes drove him mad, the crunching and reshaping of the cartilage in his ears into diamonds brought him further over the edge, further than he could ever comprehend.
Noice. (y)

He hobbled over to it as fast as he could, falling almost every step, but he didn't' care.
Extra apostrophe.

I won’t put in a quote for this, but there are a bunch of paragraphs that don’t have a space between them. You might want to go through and fix that.
 

Adamhuarts

Junior Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
Man, I guess you could say this first chapter was quite shocking!

...

Well corny jokes aside, I do like what you're going for here. The first part of the chapter was really well done in showing us just the kind of person Vincent is. I think a lot of people can relate to an anxiety ridden character like that, though I can't say I wasn't let down by the lack of follow up with him and his brother after the failed performance.

The transformation sequence did make me feel low key uncomfortable to read, but I can praise the fact that sudden undergoing metamorphosis like that would definitely result in a lot of pain as depicted here. Also considering how he speaks like a regular mon by the end of the chapter, I wonder how communication between him and other mons in the pmd world he's getting isekaid to will pan out.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
It's great to see you posting this after hearing you talk about it for so long! This is definitely a different spin on the traditional PMD opening, with more of a focus on the human world rather than starting immediately in the Mystery Dungeon universe. And certainly a different sort of PMD protagonist... One who more fits the mold of the Time/Darkness/Sky partner, anxious and with a bit of baggage to bring along. I wonder whether the early real-world focus in this story means you won't go the amnesia route and instead will have Vincent's past have more of an effect on him than the usual PMD protagonist--maybe he'll have to work through some of his grief about his father while he's off saving the world or whatever, for example.

Based on the summary and the opening here, I'm really interested to see where you're going with the music theme, here! It's so rare to see a PMD protagonist that has non-pokémon or -video-game-related hobbies, and you pretty much never hear about any sort of music in the pokémon world, aside from maybe the passing mention of someone singing now and again. From the details you put into Vincent's recital, I'm guessing you play an instrument, too?

In general I think this opening works well to establish Vincent's character, not only as an anxious person struggling with some family issues, but also one with maybe more of an intellectual bent than the usual "hero" character, which was especially evident from how he went about investigating the weird orb thing he found. Little details like the fact that he permanently borrowed a microscope from school, presumably because he uses it to check things out on the regular, do a lot to establish who Vincent is and distinguish him from the more traditional shonen-y hero. (Although if he frequently does experiments or whatever in his room, I'd kind of expect him to have experience with blown fuses instead of attributing the lights going out to "some strange force," heh.)

At times you do kind of belabor things with your descriptions; I don't have a problem with prolonged transformation scenes, for example, and I thought that the detail of Vincent trying to swim out of his suddenly-gigantic shirt was great. However, I think you do want to avoid kind of listing things, and the problem with painful stuff, specifically, is that it can get a bit repetitive to talk about how everything hurt over and over. Throughout the chapter, I think focusing on which details you think are most important, rather than trying to list them exhaustively, would help give a vivid picture without feeling drawn-out. It also helps to tie the description in with how it affects the characters, for example, how is Vincent reacting to the fact that he's getting squashed down to a quadrupedal shape?

Also, while your writing is generally solid and you look like you do know your mechanics, there are definitely some typos, missing words, etc. slipping through here. If you haven't tried it, maybe consider reading your work aloud when proofreading? It often helps me find mistakes more easily than simply reading through things again, especially missed words.

In any case, I think you're off to a good start, and I'm curious to see how things will proceed once we get to the pokémon world! What's most interesting to me so far is Vincent's character, and how he's going to deal with the shock of getting bamfed to another dimension. Good luck with your edits!
 

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
I know the feel. :(
Thank you so much for the review! Sorry I've taken so long to respond, don't really have an excuse for that.

I'm glad you were able to feel for Vincent! This first chapter's really low-paced in regards to action, so I was sort of banking on emotional manipulation; glad it worked out. You're right about the first paragraph killing the start, though. I'd intended to lighten the mood a bit with the joke of the recital being so parent's could see he actually was doing his job, but it gets in the way of more important things. As an opener, it's better to just lay out the setting, situation, such and such.

I definitely do tend to overwrite. It's something I struggle with a lot because I used to be of the mindset that if it wasn't explicitly stated, it didn't happen. At my worst, I described a character standing up, walking over to a door, stop walking in front of the door, turn the knob, step back, and then open the door. I've improved at least somewhat since then, but as you've pointed out, still got a ways to go. Like the transformation scene just drags once I stop describing how Vincent feels and start just saying what's happening. I'll work on cutting that down a bit.

The fact he's comfortable skipping school and that he tries to scientifically figure it out are both there to suggest without outright stating he's a bit on the smarter side, so I could probably combine a more in depth bit of him experimenting with the thing and explaining how he's home alone so it flows more naturally. Thanks for pointing out where I misplaced some detail.

The mysterious, foreboding feeling doesn't really serve a unique story purpose, no, but I was kinda hoping to make a bit of a joke about him making three bad decisions in a row regarding the orb. Guess I should tweak it a bit so that actually comes through.

Thank you again for the review! I'm really glad you liked the start and hope what comes later'll meet the same standard.
 

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
Man, I guess you could say this first chapter was quite shocking!
I'm both sorry and glad you find Vince relatable; on one hand, it means I wrote him decent enough, on the other, it means you've felt the same, so... thanks! (and I'm sorry.) While not in this chapter, and not directly, there will be follow up to Peter's making decisions for Vince.

I'll admit, I definitely got carried away with over-describing the transformation. It's something I've got a bit of interest in, but I overdid it to the point that I started missing the point of it all. Definitely need a bit of a trim on that section.

Thank you so much for the review (and sorry for taking forever to respond)! I'm glad you liked at least the beginning, even though the end made you feel uncomfortable. Hope you stick around for more!
 

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
It's great to see you posting this after hearing you talk about it for so long!
Music definitely plays an integral role in this fic. I won't say how in the hopes that the work itself makes it apparent, but I'll just say it is indeed important to the story.

I'm a bit not great at figuring out which details to focus on and which don't need as much. I tend to, as you sort of say, just over-explain everything. It's something I'm working on, and there's definitely still work to be done. Eventually (hopefully) I'll get a better grasp at figuring out which points need to be belabored.

I've heard of reading aloud to yourself to help catch typos and such, but I kind of read and reread my stuff so much that I just kinda glaze over it because I know what I'm trying to say. Still, I don't usually read out loud (for fear of someone hearing), so I'll give that a shot. Thanks!

I'm glad you like it so far, and I'm glad you're interested in Vincent! I'm admittedly a bit nervous about his potential as a protagonist, so it's good to hear that he at least piques your interest. Thanks so much for the review! I'll definitely keep in mind what you've said going forward.
 

NebulaDreams

Pokémon Trainer
Partner
luxray
So, yeah, poor Vincent. Okay, to backtrack a little, I was grabbed by the beginning since I resonate with protagonists that struggle with mental issues like this, and I got immersed in his character pretty easily. You can tell he's passionate about what he does, but at the same time, his mental issues get in the way of that, and not only that, it's implied his family doesn't have much of an idea of what he's going through, if his brother is of any indication. Yeah, sure, pressuring your crying brother to stop taking potentially helpful medication by baiting him with Pokemon cards works. Jackass. So that, combined with Vincent suddenly dealing with turning into a Pichu and possibly trying to reconnect with his humanity through music, makes for one hell of a premise. When Vincent actually becomes a Pichu as well, you captured that sense of alienation well, which is even more interesting since this also takes place in a world where Pokemon is also fictional. So I'm really excited to see how this will develop, especially with how his family would react to it and how he tries to claw his way out.

There were a few elements that did take me out of the story a little. The transformation scene for instance, I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, it does sort of portray the kind of horror Vincent would be feeling in that situation, so it succeeded in making me uncomfortable, but on the other hand, the detail distracts from his viewpoint since he wouldn't really know how to process what's happening to him with such clarity as it's happening, so like Equitia said, it gets a bit repetitive. I also get an inkling of why it has that much detail in the first place from an author appeal perspective. At the moment, the main hook for me is how Vincent would deal with being put in such an alien situation as well as try to cope with some of his personal issues, rather than the transformation itself, since that's honestly not my cup of tea. It's just a personal quibble I have, so feel free to disregard that last point.

While I also relate well with Vincent's struggles as well as his anxieties, I think mentioning the emotion by name in phrases like 'He'd succumb to his own anxiety' also takes away from the scenes where they do occur. Not only can the word usage get a bit repetitive, they also come across as a bit on the nose, since it's obvious that Vincent is experiencing anxiety and it doesn't need to be spelled out. I try to avoid labels like that when writing stuff like anxiety since from a personal perspective, when I get anxious episodes like that, I don't even realise what's happening until after the fact. It also makes some scenes vague in conveying that sort of panic where it should count, like when Vincent is struggling at his piano recital:

Frustration began to mingle with fear, self-doubt becoming self-hatred, anxiety becoming panic
To use an overused writing adage, show, don't tell. I liked it when you described time slowing down, so I think it would've been great to carry on for that. How does fear become self-doubt and panic? Is Vincent catastrophizing about the what-ifs, like what would happen if he got a note wrong or if he was afraid he'd start acting up on stage in front of all of those strangers? Or afraid that his family would disown him as a result, or something similarly out of proportion? What about the physical aspect of it, like a tightness in his chest, or cold sweats? While I understand what you're going for, strengthening that sort of description would make it more relateable to those who don't necessarily suffer from acute panic attacks like that.

In any case, I'm looking forward to seeing the other chapters and how Vincent reconciles with That Time He Got Reincarnated As A Pichu, except without the isekai stuff. Reverse-isekai? It's technically bringing something over from another world, so... 🤷‍♂️
 
Chapter Two: Born Under a Bad Sign

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
Chapters:
One: Tonic Dissonance
Two: Born Under a Bad Sign
Three: Can You Hear Me?
Four: Tell Me
Five: Barefoot in Baltimore
Six: Strawberries Mean Love

Chapter Two: Born Under a Bad Sign
"Born under a bad sign
Been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all"
— "Born Under A Bad Sign" from Wheels of Fire by Cream​

Vincent couldn't feel, smell, touch, hear, taste anything, as if he'd been engulfed in nothing, and his thoughts were disjointed and random. One flowed in and out with no connection to the next or the last. Any time he tried to grab hold of one, it would drift away. Finally, an image of two spheres floated into his awareness. The image grew and grew, not stopping even once they'd both filled his vision, continuing to grow until he could only see one.

It was his room. He was in his room. His bed, desk, computer, everything was all where it was supposed to be. He felt awash with relief but couldn't sigh. He couldn't anything. He wasn't anything, just in his room. Looking down, he only saw the carpet.
But he didn't have time to be confused before the world violently shook, a blast launching him down to the ground.

Help! he heard someone scream. No, he didn't hear it, he… thought it? But it wasn't his Help!

H-hello?
He thought back in an attempt to respond. Who are you?

Someone else!
The voice brimmed with excitement. I'm Short Circuit! Who are you? Why am I in the not-place?

Not… place?
Vincent tried to look around, seeing the room had once again been robbed of most of his belongings.

Yeah! It's like where the humans let me sleep, but my nest is gone, and the thing the humans sit on is different, and-

Nest, humans, what?
Vincent interrupted, trying to find sense. Are you not human?

I-no? I'm a pichu! Are you? How can you understand me?
Sense only seemed to flee further away.

Yeah, I'm human Vincent started, but before he could continue, the room around him disappeared, all replaced by one pale, white sphere, and then it vanished into darkness.

A familiar grogginess filled him in on what happened. Of course, he thought to himself, It was a dream. All a dream. No pichu, no orb, no new room, just a stupid dream. He'd open his eyes and be laying in his bed, looking up at his ceiling, all from his own body. While he would have preferred to continue his slumber and keep his eyes closed, he needed to prove he'd returned to reality. Peeling his eyes open revealed an ajar, greyscale view of his desk holding a nice computer and a printer.

He jerked upright, only to stop halfway and creak back down when his whole body protested in pain. Every muscle, tendon, bone, hurt. He looked down to see what was wrong, confirming his worst fear. He rolled up into a sitting position (more carefully this time) to hold his head in his hands.
How did this happen? Can it be fixed? He had to! But how? What was he gonna do until then? What would his family—how would he even tell his family? He couldn't believe it, how would he get them to? Whatever, believing would have to be secondary considering he still didn't know how to tell them. He had two tasks to complete: tell his family, then hopefully they could help him change back. Looking around his room for ideas brought his eye to the stack of printer paper. Write! Of course, he could write a message!

He leaned onto his feet and realized he had no idea how to walk. One foot in front of the other, right? But his legs were so much shorter, and his feet so much bigger (proportionally, at least). Carefully, he lifted his right paw up, inadvertently leaning to the left. He thought he'd lost his balance before his tail swished right, righting him once again. A shiver worked his way down his spine and a grimace across his face; having a tail felt so foreign, and feeling it move even more so.

Shaking it off (at least, trying to), he continued waddling forward, trying desperately to ignore the tail swishing back and forth behind him. He somehow managed to make it over to the printer paper and grabbed the sheet on the top by pinching it between his hands, accidentally making a bunch fall off the stack. When he tried to curse, his mind couldn't manage to find a pichu equivalent, so he just let out a frustrated groan.
Still, he had the paper. Now he just needed a writing utensil. Racking his brain, he remembered he used to have various pens strewn about his desk. He looked up with a dejected frown. Getting on top a desk multiple times his own size seemed impossible. He started turning around and noticed the chair. The same rough, uncomfortable wicker chair that he'd always hated, was now perfect.

A normal office chair would have been impossible to climb, but the slanted beams wrapped in wooden thread were perfect. He stepped over to it, dropped the papers, and used all his strength to dig the claws of his right hand into the wood, then doing the same with his left foot. Pushing himself up, he latched onto the wood with his left hand and right foot. It wasn't until he pulled on his right hand that he realized his mistake.
It was stuck. Tugging on it just a bit harder proved as much. With another frustrated groan, he let his head hang down and stared at the ground. His breath hitched. It shouldn't have seemed high. He couldn't be more than a foot off the ground. But that was his entire body-length. His body froze. He didn't know if he could move. He didn't want to. Any wrong move would send him tumbling down, surely resulting in horrible, injurious, painful death.

Then, he felt a lurch. Like a hand turned his brain inside-out. While he winced at the intense discomfort, he realized how short the distance he'd climbed really was. In fact, he knew it'd be easy to climb the rest of the way. With newfound ease, he pulled his paws out of the wicker and continued his ascent. Within moments, his paws rested on the seat of the chair as he looked up to the desktop. On some level, he knew it'd be easy to jump up, but the distance still seemed massive. Plus, since his legs were still held a dull ache, he figured he wouldn't be jumping at full capacity either. So, he rolled back onto his haunches tensed up, and launched himself up, over the desktop and smashed into the computer monitor.

The screen shattered, shards of glass slashing his skin as he slid down, a few embedding themselves inside. Finally thudding into the desk below smashed a whimper out of him. He lay motionless for a few moments, trying to fathom the torrent of stinging pain consuming him. Every slice in his skin burned with pain more intense than he'd ever felt in his life. He couldn't think, just bask in the agony assaulting him.

His throat tightened, warm tears streaming from his eyes. A few whimpers forced their way out, soon becoming weeps, even sooner after that becoming sobs, growing in intensity and frequency until he lay there blubbering uncontrollably. Tears poured and poured while he wailed and wailed, convulsing in pain.

His crying did nothing to reduce the pain, but somehow, as he ran out of tears, it became more manageable. Slowly, his wits returned until he managed to raise his paws and wipe some tears away. Forcing himself to sit up, he looked down to asses the damage. As expected, lacerations of various sizes covered his front, a few patches of blood in his fur still growing as more seeped out his wounds.

He carefully tried standing simply to see if he could. A few spikes of pain came from bending forward and onto his paws, but he still just barely managed. "Chuuu," he groaned, wincing as he took a tentative step to find a similarly agonizing but bearable amount of pain. It hurt, oh did it hurt, but he could walk.

A quick scan of his desk revealed not a single pen, pencil, marker, or even crayon. No writing utensils whatsoever. All this pain for nothing. He wanted to lay back down and cry. A few tears did manage to force themselves out, but he clenched his eyes shut to stop their flow. He had to keep going. He needed to find something to write with.

Walking to the edge of his desk, a touch of dread filled his stomach. He didn't want to fall that distance—definitely not in his cut up state—so he went over to the chair. Even that seemed like too far a drop, though. Maybe if he hung from his arms first, he wouldn't have to drop at all. He took a deep breath in, out, and cautiously slid his paw over the edge, positioning his arms to grab onto the desk.
Just as his other hindpaw neared the edge, a shock of pain coursed through him, forcing him to cringe. He didn't notice he'd started falling until his head smacked into the side of the chair, his back smashing into the ground before he could react. All the air coughed out of his lungs and a new torrent of tears and cries streamed out.

He just wanted to curl into a ball and weep again, but forced himself to roll over onto his paws, careful to get them under him before any cuts grazed the carpet. He tried to push up onto his hind-paws, but just couldn't muster enough energy. After pressing the carpet down for a third time, he decided to walk on all fours.

Then again, how did that work? One paw at a time? Right then left? Just to get moving, he put his right forepaw forward. Since he didn't have much leverage to pull up his left forepaw, or enough balance to pull up his right hindpaw, he pulled his left hindpaw up. Then his left forepaw, right hindpaw, right forepaw, left hindpaw, he established a rhythm that lasted until he stepped on one of the fallen sheets of paper.
If he left it here, he'd just have to come back for it when he found a pen, but he didn't know how to carry it while on all fours. Mouth? He leaned down and clenched the paper between his lips. As much as he wanted to ignore his relative size at the moment, he couldn't ignore that the paper being significantly larger than him meant he wouldn't be able to walk forward. Backwards, then.

Reversing the sequence he'd already established worked well enough and he quickly managed to pick up a rhythm again, well on his way out of his room.

Had he been facing the door, he would have noticed it was only slightly ajar, not wide open like he'd assumed. If he'd noticed in time, he could have easily nudged it open enough to go through. But he didn't. He didn't notice until his back smacked into the door, a resolute click sealing his fate.

He shut the door. He couldn't open the door. He just trapped himself in his room. The paper fell out of his mouth. With what remained of his energy, he leaned over to his side and curled into a ball. Tears flowed and he didn't even try to resist wailing.
He was so hurt, frustrated, hopeless, sorrow drowned him. His body shook with every sob, cries drowning out any thought other than how much it hurt. He couldn't even acknowledge time's passage, far too busy crying. Only when he heard the front door slam open and shut did an inkling of hope return, instantly squashed when he heard his brother shout, "Vincent! Mom! You here?" It was so loud! Low! It terrified him. But he recognized it: it was Peter's voice. How could he possibly be afraid of Peter?

Dread only grew as he heard footsteps thump closer. The knob turned and he rolled out of the way just in time for the door to swing open, Peter rushing inside. Vincent cowered up to the wall, watching his brother frantically scan the room. He wanted to call out, let Peter know he was there, but his voice wouldn't sound. Any attempt got stuck in his throat. He could only watch in silence as Peter stepped over to the computer's broken screen. "What happened? Is this blood?" He turned around, reaching for the clothes left on the floor when his eyes met Vincent's and he jerked up, staggering back a step.

By his expression, he seemed equally as scared as Vincent felt, but not for long. He must have noticed Vincent's wounds and panic, because his face softened with concern. "You okay, little guy?" Even though he was clearly making his voice softer, it still put Vincent on edge. Peter took a very slow, careful step forward, and Vincent couldn't help taking two back, gasping when he backed into the wall. Raising his hands and backing up, Peter said, "It's okay, I don't want to hurt you. I just want to help, is that all right?" Peter slowly gestured his hand forward and it took all of Vincent's will-power not to press himself further against the wall.

It's fine! he's your brother! He shouted in his head. Despite terror's best efforts, he forced his head to nod, clenching his eyes shut tight, trembling at Peter's approach. Peter softly cooing, "It's okay, it's okay, I'm not gonna hurt you," managed to calm Vincent just enough that he didn't flinch and cower away when Peter's hand made contact. The touch felt so foreign, so strange, yet it still felt weirdly comforting as it ran down the length of his back, coming back up to scratch the itch he only just now realized he couldn't reach. Put that together with the soft (if low) cooing, and Vincent didn't even realize when Peter picked him up to examine his wounds.

Delaying the realization, however, did not lessen its effect when he realized his brother held him and was staring down at his body in its (uncovered) entirety. Blood rushed to his cheeks with a familiar feeling of embarrassment. While the sensation was familiar, it had a bizarre effect: instead of his cheeks growing a darker shade of red, they spouted a few sparks of electricity, snapping and crackling right into Peter's hands.
"Stop, stop!" Peter shouted, and Vincent recoiled, shaking with fear. "Sorry," Peter managed to return the softness to his voice, "Please don't shock me, I just want to help." Vincent frantically nodded, and Peter set him back down carefully. "I'll be right back, I have to go grab some stuff to help, okay?"

Vincent nodded, taking a few unconscious steps away once his paws touched the ground, sitting back once Peter left the room.
He looked down at his body, feeling his fur with a paw, examining the pads on his paws, even lightly poking at a few wounds. It certainly looked real and he definitely felt his paw touch him, pain's constant sting verifying he wasn't dreaming, but he struggled to believe it really was his body. He doubted he'd ever get used to it. With any luck, he wouldn't have time to.

Peter hurried back into the room, kneeling in front of Vincent and setting a bag beside him. "Now, a lot of this is going to hurt, okay?" Peter explained slowly while delivering a reassuring pet to his head, "But it's just for a little bit, and it'll help you get better. I promise." Vincent nodded, so Peter reached into the bag, pulling out a set of tweezers. "I need you to lay back, okay?" Peter explained, lightly coercing Vincent down with his free hand.

Once he'd laid down, the hand stayed on top of him, lightly but firmly holding him down. When Vincent resisted, Peter pulled back just enough to calm him down. "You have some glass in your cuts, I'll need you to stay still while I take them out, so I'm going to lightly hold you down."
The excuse didn't make Vincent feel any better, but he stopped resisting to brace himself for the pain to come. "Ready?" No, but he nodded anyway. For a number of excruciating moments he couldn't track, spikes of stinging pain shot from his torso where he felt the tweezers make contact. He tried to wriggle himself free, but Peter's grip tightened just enough to hold him without hurting him.

The second Peter lifted his hand, Vincent bolted up, leering up at him with teary eyes, so mad that he just wanted to scream at him, he didn't care if he'd be understood. "Ow!" he tried to shout, the synapses connecting his brain to his mouth translating it to its pichu equivalent, "That hurt!"
Peter had his hands up, awkwardly shuffling a few steps back with a twinge of terror in his expression. "I'm sorry, I had to. I told you it would hurt." He carefully reached for the bag, Vincent took a step back in response, anger giving way to worry. "Are you going to let me finish?" He pulled out a bottle and a roll of bandages.

Much as Vincent wanted to stay mad, he knew on some level that Peter was right. Before he could convince himself otherwise, he sat back and nodded with his eyes clenched shut, consenting to the next barrage of Peter's hellish treatments. Pretty soon after, he felt Peter wrap a hand around his back and lift him up, a freezing spray coating his torso soon after. Though it froze his fur, any cut it touched burned with excruciating fury.
Just as the shout of pain left his lips, he felt a thumb press down on his chest, holding a bandage in place as Peter wrapped the roll around his torso, only barely tight enough to complain about. The bandage softened the burning pain to a dull itch as it covered him, and Peter finished wrapping and set him down before he had a chance to squirm.

The dull itch didn't go away, so Vincent started scratching at the bandage with his paw, biting at it when his paw proved insufficient. "Don't pick at it," Peter scolded, gently nudging Vincent's head up by the chin. Right before Vincent could complain, Peter started scritching lightly at his chin. For just a moment, every discomfort, worry, whatever, melted away. Despite having no irritation on his chin, having it scratched seemed to get rid of the itchiness altogether, seeping him in bliss. "Good boy, just leave the bandage alone, okay?"

"Chuuu," he purred, so steeped in contentment he likely would have agreed to any request. Though he wanted it to go on forever, the lingering euphoria left him happy enough when Peter pulled his hand back.

"Better now?" Peter asked. Vincent absentmindedly nodded, slowly regaining enough awareness to better assess the situation. He didn't like the bandage, how it rubbed against his fur and just felt unnatural, but he could tolerate it for now. If he really needed to, he could probably get it off while Peter wasn't paying attention. As the blessed bliss faded, a growing emptiness in his stomach took its place.

He grabbed his stomach as it developed a vacant ache. What was he supposed to do for food? He'd usually just go for whatever leftovers in the fridge, wait for his mom to cook, or cook something simple for himself, but he doubted he could even open the fridge now. "What's wrong?"
"I, uh, I'm hungry," Vincent mumbled, a few sparks bouncing down his cheeks. He hated already having to ask for help again, especially for such a mundane task. It felt so helpless.

Of course, Peter couldn't understand what he actually said, but luckily holding one's stomach crossed the language divide. "Hungry?" Vincent nodded. "Oh, uh, all right. Here, I'll take you to the kitchen," he offered, picking Vincent up and holding the boy against his chest. Vincent squirmed in protest, but stopped once he looked down, opting instead to clutch onto Peter's shirt. "Don't worry, I've got you'," Peter cooed, rubbing Vincent's head with his off hand.

While he hated being carried, they made it to the kitchen a lot faster than his stumble-steps would have allowed. Peter placed him on the counter and went to rummage through the fridge. Vincent stepped just close enough to the edge to take a peek down before scurrying backwards. He did not like being this high.

Peter came back and dropped the food in front of him. A single slice of ham. The moment the scent reached his nostrils, he violently crinkled his nose, covering it with one paw and turning away. It smelled like ham always had, but that scent utterly revolted him now; it was a rotting corpse, not at all the honey-smoked promise on the package. But he couldn't rudely refuse the food, nor did he want to comply with instinct.

Unfortunately, pichu being essentially the babies of their species made them some of the worst at deception, so Vincent had no chance at hiding his disgust. "So, you don't like ham?" Peter asked, reaching down to take it back. Vincent fought tooth and nail against his unease to force himself forward and place a paw on the ham, holding it down and looking up with a very unconvincing smile. Peter let his hand drop, looking down with brows furrowed.

Ignoring every fiber of his being that screamed in protest at simply touching the meat, he forced himself to sit back, pinching it between both paws and bringing it up to take a bite. The moment his teeth sunk in and it touched his tongue, he wanted to vomit despite tasting just like he remembered. Even still, he forced himself to chew. Or, at least try to, when he tried to chew the meat, it didn't break down at all. He eventually gave up and forced himself to swallow the oversized chunk. Unfortunately, in its fall from his throat and into his stomach, it caught halfway down.

He immediately went into a coughing fit, each cough more intense than the last. With three final, strong heaves, he finally jettisoned the ham, covered in saliva, onto the counter in front of him. The ham he held in his paws made his skin crawl more than ever now, so he flicked it away and scooted himself backwards. He looked up to see Peter's confusion had grown significantly. Suddenly aware of how strange his behavior must have seemed, he averted his gaze and felt embarrassed static pop off his cheeks. "Why did you try to eat that if you knew you wouldn't like it?"

After a failed attempt at eye contact, he resumed looking at the counter. "I didn't want to be…" he wanted to say "rude," but couldn't seem to find a pichu equivalent, "Mean." Another flurry of embarrassed sparks bounced down once he realized Peter couldn't understand him anyway. Worse, the process of speaking in pichu had become so quick and easy his mind didn't even have time to intervene.

Ignorant of the boy's internal struggle, Peter asked, "Well, what do you like? Lettuce? Berries? Apples?"

The same part of his mind that thought the ham revolting perked up at the last suggestion. Before he even thought to stop himself, he shot to his feet, vigorously nodding and almost shouting, "Apples, apples! I love apples!" He hadn't cared much for apples before, but now the very thought of them brought the same level of joy as Christmas morning.

His eagerness must have been contagious (or funny), because Peter chuckled and put on his own smile. "Which one? Lettuce?" Vincent shook his head. He knew he should fight his instincts, but a mix of the hunger in his gut and the prospect of so glorious a treat made it impossible to resist. "Berries?" He probably wouldn't mind berries, either, but they weren't close to the same quality as an apple, so he shook his head again. Peter chuckled with a playful grin. "An apple it is, then." He grabbed the ruined ham off the counter with a paper towel and tossed it on his way to the fridge.

Excitement strong as his hunger welled up within him as he imagined sinking his teeth into the apple, its taught skin giving way as he bit a chunk of the delectable flesh. This mix of hunger and excitement made him so anxious that he tackled the fruit even before Peter had let go. His mouth filled with its sweet, tangy goodness and he savored every moment. Even when he'd sated his hunger, he kept eating, going so far as to gnaw on the core even despite his already bursting stomach.

He lay back, beyond satisfied, savoring the taste that lingered in his mouth while contentment washed over him. His brother's chuckling snapped him out of his state, contentment replaced by shame and contempt. What a display. He probably looked like nothing more than a wild animal! How could he convince his brother who he was if he just acted like that? Through self-derision, he forced himself to stand up on his hindpaws and face his brother. Talking was pointless, but he said, "Thank you," and bowed his head in an attempt to express his gratitude in a way that seemed human.

Peter just laughed harder. "You're really cute, Pichu." Vincent gasped, shock overcoming him. He immediately shook his head. Peter's amused expression gained a hint of confusion. "What's wrong?"

Wracking his mind for a moment to figure out how to communicate he wasn't a pichu, an idea popped into his head. He pointed at himself, said, "Pichu," and then shook his head, repeating the process until his brother attempted to interpret it.

"You don't want me to call you pichu?" Figuring that was as close as he'd get, he nodded. "Then what should I call you?" Vincent wanted to scream. I still can't tell him! I can't speak English! But his despair only lasted a moment, as he came across what he thought to be a brilliant idea. Writing! I could write it down! He held up his left paw and began mime writing with his right. "Paw? You want me to call you paw?" Vincent shook his head and kept repeating the motion. Had he known he'd face this language barrier, he would have spent much more time practicing charades. He kept up his miming, so Peter kept guessing. "Writing? Are you writing?"

"Yes!" Vincent shouted, nodding his head with an excited hop.

"Wait, can you write?" Peter asked with confused surprised. Vincent nodded with the same level of excitement as before. "Oh, okay. I'll, uh, I'll get you something to write with." His eyes were wide with astonishment as he went off to find paper and a pen. Vincent eagerly nodded his head. He was about to do it! He was gonna tell his brother! He couldn't contain his excitement, his jubilation coming out in a random expulsion of excited syllables. He didn't know what he was saying, but it sure sounded triumphant.

Peter came back and put a piece of paper and a pen down in front of Vincent, looking about as curious as Vincent was excited. Vincent eagerly grabbed the pencil and sat down on the paper, pinching the pencil between two paws and using his mouth to stabilize. He pressed the pen down onto the paper and realized his mind was completely blank.

He felt a hint of dread. Thinking harder didn't help at all. He knew exactly what sounds he needed to put on the paper, but he couldn't remember how. Dread turned to panic. He couldn't write! How far had he already regressed if he couldn't even write? No matter how hard he wracked his brain, he couldn't even remember the first letter of his first name. Any hint of an idea dissipated like a wisp of smoke if he tried to grab onto it. Desperate to write anything, he gave up on his message for the time being, hoping he could remember any letters in general. At least he could prove he was more than feral.

After an intense thought session, he could just barely remember a tune. He hummed it along to himself and the memory became a bit more solid. A bit of the way into the song, he could just barely picture some of the letters. He immediately started sketching them down to solidify their place in his memory. He drew two angled lines down from a point, connecting them with a line in the middle. A.

Once he had that down, the rest of the letters seemed to flow a bit more easily. He scribbled down about half the characters to be as thorough as his attention span would let him. Now, to try writing words. Words presented their own unique challenge in that he had to be careful not to replace them with their pichu equivalents. Despite a long, intense thought, he couldn't figure out what letter "I" started with, eventually giving up on it all together. A full sentence was probably out of his wheelhouse anyway, he'd have to hope he could write his name.

Just as he placed the pencil down to try and figure the first letter of his name, the front door slammed open and shut, followed by a shrill, "Peter?! Vincent?! Are you here?"

"Mom!" Peter shouted back. Vincent cringed at the auditory onslaught, flopping his ears down and dropping the pen to hold them against his head. Once his mind processed, "Mom," though, he completely forgot his discomfort, writing, everything. Be it the instinct of a son to seek his mother, the growing strain of remembering characters, the infantilization of his psyche caused by his current form, or some combination of the three, he needed to see his mommy.

Without a second thought, he hopped off the counter, hitting the ground running. His paws skidded on the tile a moment before they finally caught enough friction to propel him forward. Sprinting around a sharp turn, he saw his mother and brother embracing and ran towards them, hoping to join in the reunion.

His mother's shriek squashed that hope. He dug his heels into the ground to stop, looking up with a mix of pained fear. His eyes met his mother's terrified gaze while she pointed a shaky finger down at him, hiding behind Peter. "A rat—a big yellow rat!" she shouted, "One of those, those things is in our house!" She grabbed Peter, pulling on him and trying to run away.

"Mom, wait!" Peter protested, grabbing her shoulders with a light shake. Vincent sat back, staring down at his paws with tear-soaked eyes. Thing? Rat? He couldn't believe his mother could call him that. To hear that from anyone would hurt, but his own mom? But he couldn't even wallow in pain. One of those? Were there others? Why were she and Peter both so panicked when they got home? What happened? "He's not dangerous, I found him in Vincent's—"

"Where's Vincent?" she practically shouted. Peter stayed quiet. An oppressive silence filled the air, even Vincent's choked sobs couldn't break it. "Where is he?" She shook him, desperate tears streaking down her cheeks.

"I don't know!" he finally answered, tears of his own dropping to the floor. "He wasn't at school today, he wouldn't answer the phone, he wasn't in his room, but I saw his clothes on the floor." They pulled each other into an embrace, the silence resuming.

Vincent just wanted to go over and tell them, desperately wanted to go join in the embrace, wanted to be part of the family. But he couldn't. Of course, there was the language barrier, but that wasn't all. His mother's shriek echoed in his mind, holding him back more than a physical barrier could. Would she even want to know if he could tell her? Would she believe him? He wiped the tears accumulating in his eyes and got a clearer picture of the embracing pair's sorrow.

Their bodies shook ever so slightly with every sob, tears running down and into each other's shirts, voices hitching softly sporadically, holding each other so tight it seemed they'd never manage to let go. They deserved to know. He had to tell them. Wiping the tears from his eyes again, he turned around and headed towards the kitchen, making it to the base of the counter. He forced himself not to think about how high it was—at least twice as tall as his desk, from his perspective—leaned back on his hindpaws, putting all the power he had into his jump, skittering his paws along the side and finally managing to just barely catch his forepaws on the edge and pushing himself over it with his hindpaws.

A quick gasp from the exertion and he plopped down onto the paper, pinching the pen between his paws. He read the letters he'd already written, hummed the tune to himself, trying to jog his memory. The stream steadily started flowing and he pressed the pen down onto the paper.
After a minute-long eternity, he finally realized his name started with a "V" instead of a "Pi" and started sketching it immediately. It took a few tries, but he eventually managed to get the two slanted lines to meet at the bottom. The dot with a line was much easier, the arch after it took a while to figure out, the curve somewhat less so, but the one with a loop after it took a bit to figure out. He did it. It took more mental effort than any test he'd ever taken, the penmanship was horrible, it had taken forever, but he did it.

Dropping the pen, he started to go get his family when terror glued his paws down. It was so high. He'd already leapt and fallen that distance with no trouble, yet he somehow knew for a fact that trying to fall this distance would leave him a splat on the ground. His heart raced, breaths rapid and ragged. He closed his eyes and tried to control his breathing. In… outinout…inout…in…out…inout…in…out…in…out. It's fine. You're okay. You're fine, he told himself. One paw forward. Then the next. Then the next. When he felt the edge with his forepaws, he shifted up onto his hindpaws, scooting slowly closer until he felt it with the tip of his paws.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Without letting himself think about it, he pushed one paw over the edge and gravity did the rest. Before he had a chance to reorient himself for the landing, he slammed into the ground, smashing the air out of his lungs in a pained, "Chu!" With a clench of his teeth to hold back tears, he forced his paws beneath him, his right forepaw aching slightly when he put weight on it. He did his best to walk but only managed a slow limp.

Still, he made his way to the other end of the kitchen and turned to see his family hadn't moved. Quick as he could on three and a half legs, he dashed over to them and began to prod Peter's ankles. To no response. He kept poking. Nothing. More prodding. Nothing. Peter didn't move. "Hey!" Vincent shouted with growing frustration.

"It wants something," his mom mumbled, a hint of fear mixing with her melancholy. Finally, Peter turned around, lightly bopping Vincent's nose with his heel accidentally. Vincent stumbled back, clutching his nose while Peter knelt down.

"Hey, that hurt!" Vincent shouted at Peter's blank, teary-eyed expression.

"Do you need something?" His voice hitched. Vincent forced himself to swallow his anger and started pointing at the kitchen, turning, and waving at Peter to come along. He glanced back to see Peter standing up to follow. He was gonna do it! He was gonna tell Peter! He—

A violent banging on the door preceded the pleasant ring of the doorbell, another series of bangs followed. Vincent turned back to see Peter give an apologetic shrug and go to the door. Vincent cried out in frustration, sat down and buried his face in his paws. He was so close. He took a moment to pout, then decided it'd be much more productive to go pester Peter some more. On his way over, he noticed his mother. Her face was soaked in tears, familiar and terrifying. He couldn't tell if he wanted to help her or run from her. She noticed him and flinched slightly before meeting his gaze. After a moment of awkward staring, she mustered a terrified smile and waved. Another awkward moment later, Vincent convinced himself standing on his hindpaws and returning the gesture wouldn't put his life at risk, so he did so. His smile was even less convincing than hers.

They were both glad to see Peter running over. Before either could ask, frantically explained, "That's Alex, something's wrong with Chris. He collapsed at school I have to go help." Though she didn't offer any verbal objection, her posture and expression made it clear she hated the plan. "I have to at least try."

His request hung tense in the air. "Fine," she reluctantly agreed. Vincent didn't know what to do. He needed to tell his family. He had the sheet of paper that would one room away. But Chris was his best friend. Of the few Vincent had managed to connect with, Chris was definitely the closest. To hear he'd collapsed terrified him, and what if it was connected to what he'd done? He had to go help however he could, or at least go see him. Just as Peter walked off, his mother mumbled, "I'll stay here. Just in case…"

Peter stopped in his tracks, then came back to give her another tight embrace, before walking to the door, Vincent close behind doing his best to keep up with Peter. His brother didn't even notice until they got to the door and Alex frantically pointed at Vincent. "Careful!" he whispered, urgently quiet, "One of those things is following you."

Peter's face contorted into confusion, getting a flash of realization when he looked down at Vincent. "Don't worry, he's not dangerous," he muttered at Alex before kneeling down to Vincent's level. "Hey, buddy," he rubbed Vincent's head with one hand, "I need you to stay here. My mom will take care of you, okay?" His tone was so patronizing it made Vincent want to vomit.

Vincent vehemently shook his head with an equally fervent, "No!" escaping his lips. Not only did he want to go see his friend, but instinct told him spending any more time with that loud predator would be life threatening. Had he given his thoughts any heed, thinking about his mother like that would have appalled him, but he payed attention to instinct about as much as he did his sight was greyscale.

Peter opened his mouth to object, but just shook his head and sighed, "All right, fine, but be careful." Vincent nodded and started forward when Peter's hand swooped down and lifted him up before he could object. At least, not verbally, but his body shot out many objections in the form of random spurts of electricity. "Hey! Stop that!" Peter shouted, holding him eye to eye and waving a scolding finger in his face. "No electricity! It hurts and it's dangerous! I told you, you have to be careful!"

Vincent averted his gaze. "I don't have any control over it, it just happens. It hurts me, too." Shame quickly changed to indignation, and he shouted back, "What did you think would happen? Picking me up with no warning at all? That's really scary!" He knew very well that his brother wouldn't understand him, but still felt compelled to shout at his brother. As a human, he had trouble showing any emotion at all, but now, he couldn't hide it if he wanted to.

Despite the obvious language barrier, Peter picked up on the anger. "If you don't keep your electricity under control, I'm not taking you."
Vincent clenched his teeth, feeling his blood boil. He wanted to explain exactly how difficult it was to control electricity, that it seemed to have a will of its own, but he knew he couldn't. With a miraculous level of self-control, he held his tongue and nodded. In response, Peter cradled him. Like a baby. He thought he could actually feel his blood bubble up as it went from a liquid to a gas. But he had no way of saying as much. He crossed his arms in resentment, face twisted into a grimace as his brother carried him out the door.
 
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Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
It’s been long overdue, but I’ve finally decided to take a look at what you have to offer. I’ve known you for several months now but I’ve been so occupied that I only know about your work from small anecdotes here and there, but now I can finally read it firsthand. This review will cover the first two chapters—everything you have posted on Thousand Roads so far.

I’ll open by saying that since I already know your writing style from quick posts in roleplays and social events, I had a feeling of what I was going to see, but with more structure. And despite this, it still pleasantly surprised me on what you could do when you have more time to think about what goes to the page! What came off particularly well was the little bits of narrative voice and humor you have in what would otherwise be a confusing, disorienting situation.

Particularly impressive is the fact that you were able to transition from the mentality of an anxious, teenage human to the thoughts of a baby Pokémon with the intelligence of a human. It was subtle at first, and then it was eventually pointed out, but not dwelled upon, in narration. I also noticed that while the narrative leaned on the fact that Vincent wasn’t able to express himself well as a human, he was nothing but expressive as a Pichu—but I don’t think that was everything that changed about him. His crippling anxiety also was mitigated a lot once he became a Pichu—yes, he has some prey instincts now, but compared to how he had been before, it seemed like he handled himself a lot better, all things considered.

One bit that stood out to me was how you handled the strange, smooth orb. For some reason, the portion where he was experimenting with things to fiddle with it, particularly saying offhandedly how he tried to chip away and study a piece under a microscope, handled so many things in so little time. I admire that; you show that he’s not quite beyond rule-breaking, since he stole school property, but also that he’s very curious, and you also quickly summarized what would have otherwise been a lot of filler. That was good, tight, and efficient.

Unfortunately, there were some spots that felt repetitive as well, but mostly because of how long it had been dwelled upon, or how long things lingered. The two main points that went on for longer than they probably should have was Vincent’s anxiety attack after he had run away from the building, and then later, the whole saga of him trying to climb things and escape his room. After he found the orb, and after his brother found him, respectively, the pace felt like it was back at something healthy. Before then, it sort of dragged.

I think part of the problem with the first one in particular was the word repetition that started to get tiring; I think you could have found somewhat better ways to describe his anxiety and panic than, well, by repeating those words over and over—anxiety and panic. It was really noticeable, and near the end, I was more or less thinking, “I mean, yeah, I get the point. You don’t have to say it all the time.” Related, but the various forms of tears flowing out of his eyes was slightly repetitive, too.

Still, for two quick chapters, those were the only real gripes that I could really glean from the whole reading. Everything else felt purposeful and enjoyable. Please keep up the narrative style you have going on—I laughed aloud at least twice for some of it. Just be careful about your repetitive word usage and perhaps dragging something on for a few paragraphs longer than it might need to be. Oh, and this just occurred to me, but it was a little frustrating how it seemed a ‘hand of fate’ in the form of various interruptions and people coming at the door seemed to interrupt Vincent from getting across that he’s, well, him. I hope that doesn’t keep up every time he tries, because that sort of ‘almost but not quite’ pattern can get tiring fast.

Oh! And the first part of the second chapter was a good call at giving a bit of intrigue to the bigger picture. I hope we can get more answers to that trickling in for the coming chapters, heh. And the amount of time spent on the orb makes me think that there’s going to be a lot circling around that in the future, as well as songs helping tie Vincent to his humanity. That was something I also noticed early on.

Anyway, that’s all I have going for me with this one. Great work, and I’ll be doing my best to follow it via your uploads to TR.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
I really like the secret message in the section breaks here; it's clever as hell and I wish I'd thought of something like this. Any reason that this one in particular is capital when the rest are lowercase?

Overall I really liked the direction that you're taking this story -- most PMD fics start with the protagonist washing up on the beach, but I think it's really neat that you take a step backward and let us know who Vincent is before he makes the big transformation sequence. You also do a great job of establishing Vincent's character before that, and I like how "Song of Two Worlds" isn't just a metaphorical song here, but there's music as well.

Vincent specifically is... oof. Characters with mental illness are hard to write, but I think you do a good job of tackling things here. It's not easy, it's not something that Peter/your best bro friend can just pep talk out of you, and it comes crashing down with catastrophic consequences. That's a lot of realism to hit hard with in the beginning of the story, but I'm kind of glad that you did it -- it'll be particularly interesting to see what happens when he's in the incredibly anxiety-inducing situation of literally no longer having his own body, and I'm really curious to see how you take the story through that lens. Otherwise, yah, other reviewers have already nailed how you handled Vincent's characterization, so I don't want to spend too much time rehashing it -- but I did think it was really refreshing and adds a lot to this genre of fic in general.

I think sometimes your prose could use an extra edit or two to iron out some kinks. The sentences ramble a bit, and while I get the big picture ideas that you're trying to put down, I really struggle to digest the sentence itself:
The night was frigid and clear, only the city lights obscuring the stars above. Vincent, crumpled into a fetal position up against a wall. Not against the frigid night, but in fear.
In broad strokes, what you're trying to say here is really straightforward: it's cold and not cloudy; Vincent is having a panic attack. But you obscure things in a really strange way by contradicting yourself -- the night is clear, but the city lights are obscuring stuff; Vincent is crumpled, but because he's afraid. These sentence structures make it hard to digest what's happening because there's a lot of contradictory information coming at once; especially since this is the very beginning of the chapter/fic, it's hard to get a grasp for what's actually happening in addition to what's not.

Peter, unconvinced, remained unmoving, towering over him.
You have a lot of commas. You're gramatically correct here but this is probably just too many commas and you could split these thoughts up into more sentences.

His eyes were glued to the ground, heat swelling in his cheeks as his throat tightened.
His anger ebbed out, a few seconds of silence hanging between them.
he whimpered, tears forcing themselves out
Your sentence structure often boils down to "He [verbed], [verbing]" -- this gets repetitive over time, and it also makes the narrative a little harder to follow since the focus of each sentence changes quickly. In the first sentence, it's his eyes/the ground, and then it's his cheek/throat, and so forth. There's nothing wrong with this type of sentence structure, but I would vary it up a little bit to keep the fic from having the same cadence over and over again.

He felt his body shrink, hands deform and lose the dexterity that made them human, devolving into paws, arms losing what little definition they had as they became little more than nubs that bent in the middle, shoulders shifting forward to better equip themselves for walking on all fours, his chest compressed and rearranged his torso into what vaguely resembled a trapezoid, hips shifting as his legs contract and disappear into nearly nothing, his feet rounding off into ovals, his toes melting from five to three, some obtrusion crunching its way out of his spine.
I think this sequence is pretty interesting -- you describe the panic attacks with visceral emotion; we're tightly in Vincent's head and we know exactly what he's thinking and feeling as this happens to him. But on the other hand, the transformation into Pichu is very removed and clinical. We get tons of details about the body, and there's a lot of anatomical information, but we're thrown out of Vincent's head and we don't really know how he's reacting. For me, description is a matter of focusing on the important details -- is it vital that we know that his torso is a trapezoid, for example, or would it be more important to take a look at how Vincent's character is reacting to this body-horror situation? It's honestly up to you; I think that the latter would be more in-line with what you've established so far given your focus on his internal monologue in previous parts of this chapter.

It had the density of hydrogen
That's an interesting fact! Hydrogen is pretty much one of the least-dense materials we know about, so it'd be cool if Vincent mentioned how lightweight the stone is -- for reference it'd be like 16x less heavy than a regular rock.

Once he taped the exposed ends to the sphere, he placed it on a plate (putting it on his wood desk could be a fire-hazard) and put the plug in the outlet.
I really love that he's plugging this thing directly into a wall and his concern is that his desk is made of wood.

After seven flips of the light switch, he determined that some strange force had knocked out the power.
Vince, buddy, you blew a fuse; it's not a mysterious power.

Overall, this is a really interesting start! I love the intersection of PMD and how it deals with character growth, so getting to know Vincent's flaws early really sets him up for a great arc. I'm looking forward to seeing where you end up taking this!
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Oof. That was what I felt at the beginning of that first chapter, oof. All that anxiety stuff is... holy shit, immensely relateable, and the whole time I was basically just... oh.

And then? And then it gets WEIRD. And it's delightful.

I am a sucker for elaborate transformation sequences, and this one DELIVERS. I almost wish more PMD fics did that.

...Which brings me to my one criticism, and I can't believe I'm saying this: where's the beef PMD? There doesn't seem to be much of a PMD world here even two chapters in, so far it's more of a Pokecentric fic about a human-turned Pichu. That by itself is definitely not a bad thing but I believe you advertised this as a PMD fic and I'm curious about when that will come into play. Alternatively I'm comp[letely wrong in which case I will gladly accept your premise as is.

But yeah, color me intrigued (and already attached to your protagonist). Hope to read more.
 
Chapter Three: Can You Hear Me?

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
There were a few elements that did take me out of the story a little.
Not much I can say to these points other than yeah, I agree. The transformation's waaaay too long. You're right on the author appeal perspective bit but no, not like that, so I did kinda get carried away. A lot of it should probably be cut, or at least merged. As for the emotions, yeah, I tell way more than I show in these earlier chapters. I think I get better as the chapters progress, but I'll let y'all decide that for yourselves.

especially since this is the very beginning of the chapter/fic, it's hard to get a grasp for what's actually happening in addition to what's not.
I'd never thought of that, but you're right. I focus way more on what's not happening than what is and it sorta mars the opening here. You also really got my number with the sentence structure. It's something I've struggled with in my prose for a while. It's all really same-y. My most recent approach is to focus more on rhythm than sentence structure, and that's been somewhat helpful, but I've still got a long ways to go.

I believe you advertised this as a PMD fic
Yeah, apparently I gave a lot of people this impression. I'm not sure where that came from.

I’ll be doing my best to follow it via your uploads to TR.
; )

Chapters:
One: Tonic Dissonance
Two: Born Under a Bad Sign
Three: Can You Hear Me?
Four: Tell Me
Five: Barefoot in Baltimore
Six: Strawberries Mean Love
Chapter Three: Can You Hear Me?
"Tommy can you hear me?
Can you feel me near you?"

—"Tommy Can You Hear Me?" from Tommy by The Who​

The body was stiff and nearly motionless, only shaking and seizing every few minutes. To convince himself his friend still lived, Vince pressed a paw against him to feel the warmth. "You found him like this at school?"

"Yeah, collapsed, clutching his head," Alex confirmed.

Chris felt just as warm as he should, yet the warmth only reached the surface of Vincent's fur before cold guilt took over. "I'm so sorry," Vince squeaked.

On the walk over, Peter and Alex confirmed the situation with each other as if to ensure they at least shared in their insanity. A shockwave blasted its way across the town, engulfing it and showing no signs of stopping at the city's limits. Buildings morphed, changed, or disappeared completely, and plenty of people were missing, with more gone than remained.

Guilt consumed Vincent. Breaking the orb caused this. How many lives had he ruined, or eradicated completely? But worse than any vague pondering, his comatose friend lay in front of him. He fell back into a sitting position, tears making their way out of his eyes without any resistance.

Tears flowed out, immediately soaking the fur on his paws when he tried to wipe them away. So engulfed in grief, he didn't notice Peter scoop him up into a cradle, nor did he mind. In fact, he quite liked it. The compassionate touch, the warmth, the extra cloth his brother's shirt provided to soak up tears since his own paw's fur had quickly saturated. Peter caressed the back of his head, cooing, "What's wrong little guy?"

Vincent didn't even try to answer; not because he knew they wouldn't understand him, or because he was too preoccupied bawling, but because he didn't know what he would say. How could he admit to this? He knew for a fact anyone who knew he'd caused all this would have him cast out of society, abandoned, sent off into the wild like the animal he was. "Does it think he's dead?" Alex offered.

"I don't know, he seems a bit young to even have a concept of death. Still, I've never seen an animal brought to empathetic tears, the little guy's full of surprises."

"All these monsters are surprises," Alex cracked, tone bleeding disgust.

"Calm down. Some of them are dangerous, but he isn't. The little guy's harmless." Peter shifted Vincent into his left hand, using his right to feel Chris's forehead.

"Harmless? You had to tell it not to shock you!"

Peter offered only a glare in response, returning his attention to the crying mouse. "Come on, little guy, it's all right. He's okay, just… sleeping." For once, despite being loud and low as ever, Peter's voice soothed Vincent. Maybe it was because his humanity needed comforting, or maybe his body was growing used to humans, either way, it made his tears ebb away to occasional sniffles. Peter placed him softly back onto the bed. "Better?"

Vincent nodded, wiping away the few remaining tears with his hand. After one last glance up at his brother, he stumbled over to Chris. He couldn't help but notice his friend's head was larger than his entire body and chuckled despite himself. Chris used to poke fun at his height, so having it this exaggerated seemed all too fitting. Even though he'd always been hyper-sensitive, Chris could somehow make Vince laugh at himself.

Alex picked this moment of joy, however slight, to voice a painful, accusatory objection. "Are you sure it's safe for that thing to be so close?" Even though he kept his tone subdued, the words alone made Vince flinch. But since he couldn't voice any sort of defense for himself, he kept pawing at Chris.

At least Peter defended him. "Look at the little guy, does he really look violent?" Vince resented the little guy epithet but ignored it. He continued poring over his friend's face (Alex made no response), only seeing breathing's rise and fall. "He doesn't have any temperature, heartbeat seems normal, color seems fine, he looks fine."

"Well, he's clearly not!" Alex shouted, cracking Vincent's already fragile emotional state.

With growing desperation, Vince started pressing on Chris's cheek, trying to shake his head. "Please wake up. Please, please wake up." His pushing grew more frantic and his voice followed suit. "Wake up! Please! Please, please wake up!" Tears started leaking out again, and he almost screamed when his brother's hand yanked him back. But he didn't take his eyes off his friend.

"No! Stop that!" Vince didn't even acknowledge Peter's reprimanding, too focused on Chris's eyes. They'd opened.

He pointed frantically, shouting, "Look, look! He's awake! I woke him up!" as loud as his little lungs would let him. Wriggling out of his brother's grasp, he scurried over to Chris's blank, exhausted face, stumbling back to avoid Chris's hand rising to his head.

"Why's everyone so loud?" he grumbled, clutching his temples.

Alex dashed over, harshly brushing Vincent to the side to lean over his brother. "Chris, you okay? What's wrong, what happened?"

Chris answered with a loud groan and bringing another hand up to his head. "Please, can you keep it down?"

Vince managed to get back up with a burning anger toward Alex. If it weren't for his concern for Chris, he would have liked to enact some kind of (likely shock-based) revenge. "What do you mean?" Alex asked, "We're not being that loud?"

Chris winced, clutching his head tighter. "Please, I've got a splitting headache, and you three yelling doesn't help!" A confused silence cast over the room for two reasons. One, the only person shouting was Chris, but more importantly, three? Just to be completely sure, Vincent carefully counted everyone in the room. "Yes! Three! What don't you understand?" Chris emphatically shouted at the silence.

"Chris," Alex whispered tenderly as he could, "There's only two of us in here with you, and no one else is yelling."

Chris dropped his left hand to leer at Alex. "What are you talking about? There's you, Chris, and V-" He gestured aggressively at each of the three until he got to Vince and deflated, face shifting from anger to abject confusion. "Vince?" He sat up to hold his head in his hands, giving elation just enough time to consume Vince.

Chris knew, Chris knew! "Yeah! It's me!" he shouted, hopping up and down. Chris acknowledged him by looking up with eyes wide and mouth agape.

"You guys hear that, right?" He used one hand to point weakly at Vince, voice floating between terrified and confused. The other two boys finally gave Vince a glance, only to silently shake their heads and look back at Chris. "What do you mean, no? You seriously don't hear him talking?"

Peter scratched the back of his head. "I wouldn't really call it talking, Chris, and it definitely doesn't-"

"Yes, it does, it absolutely sounds like him!" Chris interrupted.

Alex stood up, leaning over to Peter and whispering, "Is he replying to stuff you haven't said yet?"

Despite being so quiet even Vince's massive ears barely picked it up, Chris still shook his head at the words. "Okay, first of all, no, I am definitely not, and second, how would I even do that?" How'd you even hear that? Vince thought to himself, getting a look from Chris. "Do you guys seriously—" he started before waving the thought away and focusing on Vince. "You, talk."

"T-talk?" he stuttered. No one had understood him all day, then someone finally asks him to speak and he had no idea what to say.

He'd just decided to blurt out the first words that came to mind when Chris interrupted. "No one else can understand you?" Vince's eyes popped open. He hadn't said that. He'd thought it. And Chris had heard it. Chris heard his thought. Chris could hear his thoughts. As if on cue, Chris's eyes mimicked Vince's. "Th-thought-you're thinking-thoughts?" he could barely get it out, bringing his hand back up to continue to rub his temple. "I can hear your thoughts, which just so happen to sound exactly like Vince's voice," he mumbled under his breath.

"That's me!" Vince cheered, hopping up and down, "They sound like me! I'm Vince!"

"Oh," Chris took a deep breath before a long sigh, "Even better."

Alex grabbed his shoulder lightly. "Who are you talking to?"

Chris turned to let his legs hang off the bed, taking a moment to convince himself of the situation as well as figure out how to convince the others. "Okay, so," he started, taking a deep breath, "I was talking to that," he pointed at Vince, "Because I can hear his thoughts, and he says he's Vince." Silence fell over the room, bewildered confusion in the air. "Yes, I recognize this sounds crazy, but considering there is a pokémon in my room, I think crazy's on the table. You two see the pichu, too, right?"

"Yeah, okay, yes," Peter answered. "Things are a bit ridiculous right now, but you can't honestly expect us to believe this." He forced an unconvincing chuckle. "Come on, you can hear his thoughts? What, are you psychic? Can you hear ours?"

Chris bit his lip, carefully considering his next move. Hesitantly, he answered, "I think so." Peter rubbed his eyes in response.

"Okay, let's start from the beginning." Peter took a deep breath before gesturing to Vince. "You think you can understand him, right?" Chris nodded. "Okay, well, we can check that pretty easily." He took a step to kneel in front of Vince. "Why don't you say something, he'll say what he thinks you said, and you nod if he's right, shake if he's wrong."

Vince nodded, "Okay!" barely able to keep himself from bouncing up and down. Finally! He could finally tell Peter! Everyone! "It's me! I'm Vince!"

Everyone looked expectantly at Chris. "He says he's Vince." Peter shook his head, smirking at the pure absurdity of the claim and froze the moment he saw Vince joyfully nodding. His face kept its smirk but lost all its color.

His mouth fell halfway down as if he'd tried to speak, but just stayed there. Vince's exuberance faltered, smile fading into worry. He took a step forward before Peter burst into loud laughter, making him stumble back, clutching his ears. "I get it! He means his name is Vince! He's not Vince, he just, it's just a coincidence." He leaned over Vince, waiting for an answer. "Right?"

Vince recoiled away, a mix of terrified and hurt. He had to wonder if Peter would accept this, accept him. Would he really never believe? Worse, the erratic behavior made him seem so much more threatening. He wanted to run away too much to answer. Peter reached to grab him, but Chris put his hand between them. "Calm down, you're scaring him."

After staring at Vince a few moments longer, he finally faced Chris. "That's Vince?" His voice was barely audible. When Chris nodded, he looked at Vince, desperation growing. "Vince?" The distress from his brother made Vince feel less afraid, but no more certain. He gave a hesitant nod, terrified of the response it would bring. But Peter didn't respond. At all. He just stood over Vince, frozen.

Chris grabbed his shoulder, giving it a shake. "Peter?" He shook again, placing his other hand on his chest. "Peter! You all right? Talk to me!"

Suddenly, he shot up out of Chris's grasp. "All right? Yeah, I'm fine!" he shouted, pacing around the room, "What's not all right? You're a psychic, people are disappearing, pokémon exist now and one of them happens to be my brother! Everything's f-" His rant stopped when he looked at Vince, who'd just about started to cry.

Vince had never seen his brother lose his cool, always staying calm; seeing Peter freak out like this scared him. And of course, he fronted all the blame himself. Peter couldn't be struggling to accept the altering of reality's very fabric, no, he was refusing to accept Vince. And why wouldn't he? How could he love a little yellow rat? But he saw his brother's gaze soften into regret, feeding off Vince's hurt.

After a second to let the shock pass, he knelt in front of Vince again, reaching forward with a wary hand. Even though he'd held Vince just moments ago, he seemed hesitant to touch him. One scratch on his head, and Peter ran his hand down, lightly clutching Vince's side. "H-how did this… what happened?"

Vince cradled his right arm, letting his eyes scan the ground. "I.." he tried speaking, but the rest got stuck in his throat. That they couldn't understand him for once felt like a blessing since he wouldn't have to admit his guilt.

"He uh… doesn't know," Chris translated, making the fur on Vince's back stand up. Chris could hear his thoughts. Chris knew. He froze for a moment before Chris rubbed his head. "Same as us, it just happened to him." Vince looked confusedly up to see Chris give a concerned wink. He fell back, unconsciously shaking his head. He hadn't realized it, but his legs had grown tired of standing. He tried rubbing away whatever suddenly made his eyes so heavy to no avail, head bobbing as he struggled to keep it up. "Vince, you all right? What's wrong?"

Peter chuckled, "Oh, he's fine," reaching his hand up to scratch behind Vince's neck. "Just tired."

"Tired?" Vince asked, yawning despite his attempt to suppress it. "I shouldn't be, I just…" but he trailed off, another yawn taking over. It hadn't been long since he'd woken up, why was he already tired? Shaking his head again, he tried to get rid of the drowsiness, but only succeeded in letting his ears flop down.

Another yawn forced its way out, and a hand started scratching at the scarf behind his neck, making him even drowsier. "You're cute when you're sleepy," Chris chuckled, lighting a fire in Vince. Cute? How dare he? He wasn't some adorable pet to be cooed about, he was a man! So filled with indignation, he had no choice but to roll over and fall into a very grumpy slumber, mumbling near inaudible gripes.

"Tommy can you see me?Can I help to cheer you?"​

In his sleep, only darkness greeted him. It faded ever so slightly, and a voice came.

Vince, Vince! Is that you?

I… am, yes?

Finally! Why do you only listen to me here?

Listen? Do you talk?

Yeah! You're afraid of stuff you shouldn't be, but you like stuff that's scary, and you don't move right, and you try to eat weird things, and-

I don't-didn't know that was you. I couldn't hear you, I just felt… feelings, I feel how you feel. Are you conscious while I am?

Kind of? I can think and see and stuff, but I can't really move.


The darkness bore down on him once again, a new sense of guilt coming with it. I'm sorry. But he couldn't hear the faded voice's response.

"Oooh Tommy"​

The sun's rays fell through the forest canopy, dim orange light sprinkling through the shadows on the floor. Ampaw had foraged early in the morning, eating as much as he could stomach before heading North. It had been days, and everyone told him not to, but he couldn't help it. He just couldn't accept his son was gone. He had to hope, even against everyone's advice. Hope was all he had. But as the light faded, he knew he'd need to rest for the night.

Climbing up a tree, he let himself think about the colony. While one of the stronger pikachu, he wasn't the strongest, and of course Volt was there, so they'd be able to protect themselves. Still, he couldn't help feeling guilty for leaving the watch. Someone would take his place. Hopefully he'd find a new place when he returned. As the light continued to fade, he fell into a troubled sleep.
 
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canisaries

everyday is halloween
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Finally got around to checking this out. Here are my thoughts on Chapter 1.

"M-man," he stuttered with a (now fake) shiver, "Sure is cold out here, right?"
You'll either want to replace the comma with a period or uncapitalize "Sure", depending on if you want the lines to be from the same sentence.

Dense, silent air floated between them for an eternity, Vincent waiting for Peter to yell back. "You're right." Vincent blinked. "I don't have what you have, I don't get panic attacks, go through what you do, have to deal with what you do." He took a step forward, once again placing a hand on Vincent's shoulder. "But I've seen you deal with it before, I know you can." Vincent wanted to argue further, wanted a point to prove, but the resolution in his brother's eyes told him it would be pointless. "Come on, if you don't make me take them by force, I'll buy you a booster pack."
I think this could really use some breaking up into more paragraphs. While it's apparent from context that this is Peter talking, the active agent of the first sentence (which tends to code the coming dialogue as the agent's) is technically Vincent, and most of the sentences between the lines also have Vincent as the subject. So while the speaker doesn't change, the agent does, and I think that would make this flow better with a break for each agent change, like this:

Dense, silent air floated between them for an eternity, Vincent waiting for Peter to yell back.

"You're right."

Vincent blinked.

"I don't have what you have, I don't get panic attacks, go through what you do, have to deal with what you do." Peter took a step forward, once again placing a hand on Vincent's shoulder. "But I've seen you deal with it before, I know you can."

Vincent wanted to argue further, wanted a point to prove, but the resolution in his brother's eyes told him it would be pointless.

"Come on, if you don't make me take them by force, I'll buy you a booster pack."
This has a clearer rhythm of back-and-forth in my eyes. It is sparser, which can seem weird (seemed weird to me when starting out), but I really think its better functionality excuses it, if it's even really anything to excuse.

Frustration began to mingle with fear, self-doubt becoming self-hatred, anxiety becoming panic, until he decided to just play the tonic chord and walk off the stage, no bowing, only running backstage once more, through the door he had entered, through the hall he had walked with his brother only minutes before, eventually leaving the building itself.
bet peter feels real silly right about now

He examined the stone,
He's kind of already been examining it as mentioned before ("kneeling down to pick it up and examine it"), so perhaps an addition of "some more" or some different word would be better?

Vincent had no idea what this material was. It had the density of hydrogen yet didn't need to be hundreds of degrees below zero to retain a solid form or burn his hand to touch, so it obviously couldn't be hydrogen.
Okay, so: it seems by this description that Vincent is intended to come off as at least kind of good at science, but the facts here seem to go against that.

"Density of hydrogen" can mean many different things. It would most intuitively would mean "density of hydrogen in NTP", where NTP means regular atmospheric pressure and +20 degrees Celsius, about room temperature. (Another standard named STP is also often used, but it's at 0 degrees Celsius and slightly lower pressure and Vincent is clearly indoors.)

However, having the density of NTP hydrogen (which is gaseous) would mean this stone would float right up into the sky being lighter than air, so it can't be that and the density must refer to solid hydrogen instead. Which is weird, considering solid hydrogen is extremely hard to produce/maintain and so would not really be a relevant guess for what this material is, especially given it's not extremely cold like Vincent says (or not burning, but the implication of that seems to be that it would be a miniature star, in which case it would have an extremely strong gravitational pull). In fact, guessing it's homogeneously one chemical element is already a very illogical conclusion, as most people would just assume that a light "stone" is just hollow or very porous inside. Vincent also doesn't remark on that lightness when he picks it up, only mentioning its odd density for a stone after he's measured it.

To get to an actual point, it would make sense for Vincent to 1. notice the stone is light right after picking it up and 2. assume the stone is either hollow or filled with something less dense than its outer shell rather than assuming the whole thing is the same throughout. Only after the orb has split would he go "hey what the hell this thing is solid?" and even then probably just assume the orb has an internal wall that it happened to split through. I understand that this artifact is supposed to be odd and magical, but Vincent should still approach it with a modern human's logic.

Once he taped the exposed ends to the sphere, he placed it on a plate (putting it on his wood desk could be a fire-hazard) and put the plug in the outlet.
WHOA OKAY

This was a bad decision.
YOU DON'T SAY BRO

Like I was never great at electric physics and stuff, but I'm pretty sure he just hooked that thing directly into the domestic power grid. That's pretty much juice. I mean he is 14 and everyone's a little stupid in their teen years, but as said before, if he's meant to come off as science oriented then he's being pretty careless. I feel like he should also know that the "strange power" that caused the lights to go out was the fuse burning. (Unless I'm overestimating this setting's education, which I might be.)

Some light, tingle through his veins.
Light tingle, or light tingled? Either way, comma seems accidental.

his chest compressed and rearranged his torso into what vaguely resembled a trapezoid, hips shifting as his legs contract and disappear into nearly nothing, his feet rounding off into ovals, his toes melting from five to three, some obtrusion crunching its way out of his spine.
Describing these forms with two-dimensional shapes rather than three-dimensional kind of makes it feel like he's turning into a drawing of a creature rather than a real creature. They're also kind of needlessly detailed, as a Pokémon fan will know what this species looks like and a non fan will likely just feel like they're getting painstaking geometric advice on what they should visualize.

---

Alright, so the beginning and end were certainly night and day, lol. I don't mean that as a bad thing, though, things getting weird was definitely established in the premise. We start off with a pretty grounded scenario, sorrowfully so, as Vincent struggles with his anxiety. The description of his state of mind throughout this chain of events felt very true and relatable (even to a reader with no personal experience of clinical anxiety), going through familiar negative thought patterns. Just like most of those that suffer from mental illness, he can't break himself out of those notions and ends up ruminating on his shame and self-loathing for extended periods of time. I'm not sure if it's intentional, but how no actual physical repercussions seemed to come from that failed recital is a nice touch, as it further shows how Vincent views the failure as far more severe than actual consequences would suggest, and twisted perceptions like that are often part of mental illness.

Then the story shifts as he's walking through the woods and finds O R B and takes it home to make more sense of it. I already gave my gripes on the details of this section, but outside it, it does create intrigue - though when the orb starts acting up is when it really gets mysterious. How it seemed to affect his furniture was very strange, and my best guess for its logic so far is that it somehow "enhances" things, perhaps to become truer to their "ideal" counterpart, meaning computers get upgrades and Vincent gets a body that better reflects his skittish personality. Why this caused some objects to disappear completely isn't really explained by this, though, so I'm not locking this as my final answer.

And speaking of Vincent's transformation... you really weren't lying when you said it might come off as kink charged. In fact, I will have to say it comes off so pretty strongly. This is mostly because the transformation is described with overwhelming detail and the elements of pain and fear stressed at nearly every point. This already makes it rather longwinded to read, but the fact that Vincent is only fourteen and turning into something even younger makes it have a very uncomfortable air to it.

My suggestion would be to shorten the sequence and make it more concise. It's currently 600 words, which is quite long, and it describes Vincent's pain (both mental and physical) during the change with at least a third of those peppered throughout. It feels pretty overkill, and pain is a bit like swearing: the more it's used, the less effect it has, and it starts to lose meaning. Given this, having two strong descriptions of pain are actually stronger than ten strong descriptions. And minimalism helps the author, too - less need to worry about being repetitive.

Finally, I want to talk about the binary element. I'm mixed on it. On one hand, it can be a fun way to add extra content to a chapter, but on the other, it doesn't feel like it ties into the story. Binary is heavily tied to technology and computers (hell, the only reason these numbers have meaning is because computers were taught to see those meanings), but there doesn't seem to be any theme like that in this story. The main theme seems to be music, actually, like the premise suggests (and the title of this chapter, which is pretty clever). It also seems like you ran into a problem with fitting all 5 letters of the word into the post, with two of them bunched up into the end, which makes it really apparent you want them all there and there's a meaning that you want readers to check, when the charm of mystery is usually its hidden nature.

For example, in Gravity Falls, the message was at the very end of the credits where most watchers would miss it, and the code's cracking required a hidden message of "three letters back" to be found backwards in the opening credits. This fit perfectly with the theme of the show, as it was all about mystery, and was very unintrusive to the watchers, meaning you had to be curious and invested to find and solve it. Here it's not really all that mysterious given binary ASCII code always works the same and easily convertible to plaintext via online converters. (Though one can encode binary ASCII, e.g. through XORing with a keyword!) I also managed to guess its word already before converting, which kind of defeats the purpose of a code entirely. Also, I should point out that the message spelled out is actually "PIchu" with a capital "i". You'd want 01101001 instead of 01001001 for the second letter. ASCII is case sensitive, so lowercase and uppercase letters will have different values.

In the end, though, it's your story and you can do with it what you want. This is just my opinion - others may disagree, and I don't want to ruin their fun if they like it. However, here's a suggestion that could help distribute those binary values without worry of needing more scene breaks: string all letters together and then split the thing up to however many scene breaks you naturally have. ASCII characters will always be 8 bits (numbers) long, so they can still be parsed just fine afterwards.

Anyway - this story is very clearly only starting, and I want to see where this goes from here, so I hope to continue reading at some point. Until then, good luck with writing, and feel free to ask if you want elaboration or clarification on these points, or you want my thoughts on some aspect I didn't touch on.
 
Chapter Four: Tell Me

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
To get to an actual point, it would make sense for Vincent to 1. notice the stone is light right after picking it up and 2. assume the stone is either hollow or filled with something less dense than its outer shell rather than assuming the whole thing is the same throughout.
I agree, yeah, he should've noticed how light it was immediately. Really, the whole orb section needs a bit of reworking because of all the reasons you've listed. There are tons of odd tidbits that don't make sense.

A note on him being science oriented, though, is that yes he's smart... but for a fourteen year old, so he's still an idiot. Plug rock into wall socket kinda idiot. He knows a bit more about science than most kids his age, but it's not really much more than that. It's more a passive curiosity than a vested interest. Same with tinkering. He's got all those knickknacks, but no safety materials other than a plate. Essentially, I'm trying to get across that he's not really a science nerd, just that he probably read a few more wikipedia articles than most fourteen year olds would care too likely just whatever article was tangentially pokémon related.

The "some mysterious force" bit was supposed to be a joke, but most people seem to be reading it straight, so I think I'll add something to make it more clear.

I'll be honest, the ascii really has no deeper meaning here. I just wanted creative scene breaks, but this chapter doesn't have a song for it, so I went with binary. I'm really sorry you went so in depth on something I gave so little thought.

Everything else, though, yeah, I agree with. They're all good points. The transformation sequence concerns were particular cutting because I already didn't like the kink association, and then you mentioned it's a minor becoming even more of a minor and just wow I hate it. I'm trying to stay out of edit hell, but I might go back and fix that because echk.

Thank you so much for such an in depth review! Every review makes me giddy, but this one had so much, it means a ton. Thank you! I hope you continue reading, too.
Chapters:
One: Tonic Dissonance
Two: Born Under a Bad Sign
Three: Can You Hear Me?
Four: Tell Me
Five: Barefoot in Baltimore
Six: Strawberries Mean Love
Chapter Four: Tell Me
"I want you to tell me, maybe
Where I need to go
I want you to help me, tell me
What I need to know"
-"Tell Me" from Another Light by Red Vox​

The forest engulfed him. Trees, grass, everything towered over him as he dashed away, too terrified of the flame-tailed lizard chasing him even to breathe. Gasping, he struggled to keep his distance from the predator, flames and fear bearing down on him. Just as he passed the last tree before a clearing, a root ripped his paw out from under him, sending him tumbling into the ground. He screamed, shooting out every shock he could manage, horrified tears streaming from his eyes while a hand jerked him up.

He was done for. He knew it. The predator caught him. He'd be dead within a moment. But when he peaked his eyes open, he saw the charmander scurrying away below him. He looked up to see the human holding him: it was Peter. A bed replaced the forest floor and he hopped up onto his paws. His breath remained frantic while he scanned the area for the charmander, or any other predator, struggling to remember where he was.

One paw rubbed some residual sleep out of his eyes, which helped jog his memory. Chris's room. He'd fallen asleep in Chris's room, and all the rest had been a dream. He pawed at the blanket beneath him, trying to steady his breath. Just a dream. No predator, no forest, nothing to fear. He was alone in the room. His breath hitched. Alone in this big, open space. He didn't like it.

He jumped off the bed and ran over to sidle along the wall. Perking his ears, he faintly heard voices from the other room. Chris, Alex, Peter—he sighed in relief, the distant worry they'd abandoned him sufficiently destroyed. He scurried over to and through the door, anxious to end the solitude, voices getting clearer as he approached the living room.

"…crazy out there, Chris. Everything's gone, changed, or got demolished in the shift." Vince stopped in his tracks. "And then the people, so many people just vanished, and I'm sure some died in the carnage," Alex continued.

Vince gulped, trying to swallow the guilt clawing at his throat. He pressed further into the wall, trying to shrink away as best he could by curling up into a ball. What had he caused? Who had he killed? And for what? To mess around with some stupid rock? His thoughts slipped away, helpless as they spiraled down, deep into self-evisceration. What had he done? How could he have known?

"Vince?" Chris's voice jerked him out of it, and he hopped up, staring with panicked, teary eyes. "You all right? What's wrong?"

Vince pawed at the carpet, noting its artificial, rough texture while he tried to think up a convincing lie. He couldn't tell Chris the truth, of course. "I, uh, nobody—I was alone, and got… scared." A few embarrassed sparks bounced down his cheeks. He hated admitting that wasn't a complete lie. Glancing up, he froze at Chris's confused bemusement. A realization shivered down his spine.

"Well, uh, don't worry. You're not alone anymore," Chris said, sure to make it audible to the other two in the living room. Too quick for Vince to protest, Chris lifted him by the scarf on his neck, whispering, "We'll talk later," with a chuckle before cradling him. He'd normally vocalize his hatred of being carried like this, but his tongue felt too tied for now. Chris sat in an armchair, letting Vince slide down into his lap.

Rather than face the others, he picked at his paws. "H-hey guys." A few sparks bounced down, luckily not strong enough to make it through Chris's shorts. "What's going on?"

Chris rubbed Vince's head to calm his nerves. "It's good that you woke up, actually, we wanted to talk about something." His ears perked up and his head tilted, waiting for an answer. "It's…uh, about your," Chris trailed off, struggling to find the right words.

Luckily, Peter managed for him. "How are we going to tell Mom?"

Vince flinched, eyes wide at the idea, and he violently shook his head. "No!" he shouted, surprising everyone. He couldn't tell his mom, couldn't! Wouldn't!

"Did he just say no?" Peter asked. Chris nodded. "Vince, we have to tell her." Vince shook his head again, looking down while he cradled his right arm. Peter came over and knelt in front of him, lightly petting his head. "What's wrong? Why wouldn't we tell her?"

He loathed being pet but couldn't ignore the immense tranquility it brought. Still, he forced himself to shake Peter's hand away. The room waited in silence for his answer, only furthering his hesitation. The memory of his mother's voice bit his ears. "She, she doesn't," her voice screaming, "big yellow rat," echoed endlessly, "like me, like this."

After Chris translated, Peter's bewilderment softened. "Hey, come on, you know that's not true. She loves you."

Vince twisted his mouth, eyes glancing along the floor. "B-but she, she said…" he rubbed away the tears on the edge of his eyes. Shaking them away didn't get rid of the tightness holding his throat shut. He opened his mouth only for nothing to come out.

"She said… something that bothered him?" Chris looked up to Peter. "His thoughts are really jumbled, I can't make 'em out."

Briefly furrowing his brow, regretful realization gleamed across Peter's eyes. It took him a moment to gather a response. "It's not that she doesn't love you, she didn't know it was you. She was just scared." Vince visibly deflated. Scared? His own mother scared of him? He unconsciously scooted over to lean into Chris's shirt, not resisting when Chris started to pet him. Peter grabbed his paw, holding it between his thumb and index finger. "She loves you."

As much as Vince doubted the claim—her terrified screech still echoed in his head—Peter spoke with a resolve that set aside worries. With a deep breath in, and a long one out, he nodded his head. The air's oppressive weight lifted; he could finally breathe easy.

Then, the footing beneath his paws shifted, and right as he started to worry about falling, Chris grabbed him. "Ready?" Chris asked, dropping Vince on his shoulder and glancing at the others.

"What? No!" Peter stood up as well. "We never figured out how to tell her."

Chris just shrugged, rolling his eyes. "There's only so many ways to say, 'Your son's become a fictional mouse.' We'll figure it out when we get there." Vince held on tight while his ride headed to the door, jostled by the sudden stop in front of Alex, who remained seated.

Alex pulled at his fingers. "We haven't seen mom or dad." He took a breath and looked up. "You gotta go help Vince'n Peter, I get that, but I'm gonna stay here and wait for them." Chris knelt down to hug Alex, jostling Vince so much he decided he'd rather walk. He started carefully making his way down Chris's back to the floor, trying his best to avoid a tumble.

Since Chris was slumped over, Vince figured he could just walk down. He couldn't. The shirt shifted beneath him, sending him hurtling to the ground. He grasped desperately at the cloth to stop the fall, but, in his panic, failed to respect just how thin the fabric was. His claws pierced right through, scraping into the skin as he skidded to a stop. "Hey!" Chris shouted, "Watch the claws!" Embarrassment sparked off Vince's cheeks and into Chris's back, eliciting another pained groan. "Off."

Vince scurried down, apologetically turning his forepaws over each other once he hit solid ground. "Sorry," he mumbled, more sparks bouncing down his cheeks.

Chris broke his embrace with Alex and started heading to the door. "It's fine. Come on, let's go." Vince hurried after Chris, forced to run on all fours to keep up while he considered how he could apologize harder since Chris still seemed so upset. Unfortunately, they made it to the door before he could and transitioning from the carpet's unnatural warmth to the cement's piercing cold demolished his ability to think any further.

Not just cold, freezing, and while the texture might have seemed a touch rough to a human foot, each uneven pock and pebble poked agonizingly into his little paws. Each new step stabbed further into his pads, wearing away his stamina until he started looking for some relief. He immediately headed towards the grass, hurrying as much as the agonizing asphalt would let him, gasping in relief the moment his paws met the grass.

The relief didn't last. His paws didn't hurt anymore, but the chilling air covered him. His fur could only do so much, feeling more like a light shirt when he really needed a coat. He shivered, standing up so he could try and rub some warmth back into his arms. Was it this cold earlier?

He trudged along behind Chris and Peter. A shrill shout, "Peter!" from their house's front porch shot panic through Vince's veins, forgetting the cold for him. He dropped to all fours. His mom ran towards Peter until she saw Vince and changed course.

Pavement blocked his flank. He had to dash around her to get away. He heard her feet pounding after him and her desperate cries for him to wait. Too horrified to listen to what she said, he just ran, trying to find an escape. Some quickly approaching pavement blocked his path, so he dashed behind the yard's only tree.

This didn't help anything, as she showed up in front of him clutching a piece of paper. He dashed to the opposite side of the tree. She followed. They continued circling the tree until Chris and Peter intervened, Chris grabbing Vince and Peter grabbing his mother, both shouting, "Stop!"

Vince retreated into Chris's hold, shivering from a mix of cold and terror. Peter tried to get her to calm down, but she kept on her near incoherent rambling at Vince. "Mom!" he screamed, finally getting through to her. She took a deep breath, then slowly knelt in front of Vince. He flinched further into Chris until she carefully put the paper down in front of him.

He instantly recognized the scribbled symbols of varying legibility. "Did you do this?" she asked, desperation cracking her voice. Nodding, he hesitantly pushed out of Chris's embrace. Once his paws hit the grass, she pointed down at the bottom where he wrote his name. "This, did you mean to write 'Vince'?" He nodded. She leaned in, stopping once he cowered away. "W-what did you mean? Do you know something about him?"

His paws kneaded the ground. All at once, he remembered his anxieties of telling her. He tried his best to swallow them. Cautiously, he stepped to the paper, pointed to his name, then back at himself. She looked confused, so he repeated the process. "Y-you wrote it, is that what you're trying to say?" He bit his lip. Maybe she just couldn't accept it. He shook his head, repeating the gesture a while longer.

Her eyes creased, growing more desperate. "What is it?" She grabbed her hands. "Please, tell me!" He kept trying, now employing both paws to point at himself and his name at the same time. Finally, her eyes went wide. "Y-you're—" she looked up to Peter, "—That's…." He nodded, and she looked back at Vince.

He gulped, shame pulling his eyes to the ground. She must have been scared. Horrified. Disgusted, she couldn't believe her son had become this pus-colored rat, wouldn't—she hated him—she grabbed and yanked him into an embrace. After the initial shock, tears streaked down her cheek and into his fur. "Vince." She squeezed him tighter. "You're here."

She still loved him. Relieved tears flowed from his eyes, and he finally managed to squeeze her back. She loved him. He wept. Her warm hands warded off the winter's freeze. He forgot the cold completely. She rubbed his fur, patting his back, squeezing when the tears grew into sobs, careful around his bandages. Then, he felt her chuckle. "I always said you played those games too much." She held him back just enough for them to look at each other. "Now look at you!"

He had to laugh. They both did for a while. Maybe too long, but neither cared; it was funny. Even Chris and Peter couldn't help but join in. All that time spent playing Pokémon, it almost made sense he'd become one, it some absurd way that just made no sense.

Vince squirmed his way back to the ground, giggling all the way. He felt good. Happy. Excited. Bouncy. Napping, running around, laughing, it all filled him with so much energy, he just couldn't sit still. Didn't wanna. He wanted to play! Now that he knew his life wasn't at immediate risk, running away from someone sounded like great fun. He beamed up at Chris to shout, "Chris! Ask them if they wanna play!"

Only after seeing Chris's bewilderment did he have second thoughts. His grin grew sheepish while he waited for a response. "Y-you want to… play?" He nodded, scratching a nonexistent itch behind his ear. It occurred to him that his request was a bit less than mature. But he couldn't help it; all this vigor had to go somewhere. He needed to run, jump, shock, whether alone or with others.

"What did you wanna play?" his mom chuckled.

Yeah, it was childish, and yeah, he'd get embarrassed about it later, but for at least this very brief moment, he didn't care in the slightest. He threw his arms up, shouted, "Catch me!" and dashed away. By some miracle—call it mother's intuition—she didn't need a translation and immediately scrambled up to run after him. Maybe it was strange, but they didn't care.

Keeping out of her grasp proved a bit more difficult than he'd thought, her significantly longer legs a truly worthy advantage. But she couldn't bend down and run near as fast, so he could always just evade her grasp. A few times, when he felt particularly mischievous, he even risked a little taunt her way, be it a quickly stuck out tongue or a riskier dash between her legs.

But she wasn't quite so young nor so spry as him, and exhaustion hit her first. He noticed she'd stopped a moment to catch her breath, so he turned and stood up to blow razzberries her way, mockingly waving his arms. He stood tall in his victory, proud. So elated, he failed to notice a pair of hands wrapping around his torso from behind until it was too late.

"No fair!" he whined, grinning from one pink patch to the other. Chris turned him around, holding him so they could face each other. Vince was glad to see an amused smile instead of the expected scorn. He wouldn't have to feel ashamed quite yet.

He started squirming against the grip to start another pursuit, but Chris kept hold. "Mind if we talk?" Chris spoke low; even Vince's massive ears struggled to hear him.

Said ears drooped a bit. He'd hoped to play for a bit longer. "Talk? About what?"

Seeing Chris's eyes shift with concern pulled Vince's smile away. "The whole, 'you caused this' business."

All remaining joy fell from his face. He felt like he really had been caught. "Can we do that somewhere," his brow furrowed while he searched for a word, "More alone?"

Chris nodded and said, "Sure," right as Vince's mom walked up.

"What's going on?" she panted.

Chris dropped Vince on his shoulder and headed towards the house. "He's cold, wanted to hang out in his room for a bit." She didn't voice any concerns if she had any, though he didn't really give her a chance to. Vince needed a death grip to stay on Chris's shoulder while he ran up the steps. Even when Chris's gait smoothed as they went through the door, Vince couldn't wait to get back to the ground. He already started down when they made it to his bedroom door.

Chris helped him down the rest of the way and sat in front of him, hand lingering a moment to offer a comforting touch. "What's wrong?"

Vince rubbed his paws against each other. He didn't know how to admit this. Didn't really want to. But Chris already knew, so he couldn't keep the secret. His throat tightened when he tried to speak, but he pushed through anyway. "I caused this."

He waited for the judgmental glare, the reprimanding, maybe even a public humiliation and execution for his unforgivable sin. None came. After a moment of silence, Chris burst out laughing. "You've got to be kidding," he sighed between chuckles. "A worldwide catastrophe somehow your fault. Of course. That's just like you."

Vince teetered somewhere between embarrassment and rage. "It's true!" He pouted. Admittedly, it did seem ridiculous, but so did this whole situation. He'd need some evidence. He glanced around the room to find the orb. Once he spotted it, he dropped to all fours and cautiously headed over. He'd really rather not share a hemisphere with it but forced himself over to it.

He felt that same aura of energy as he approached. It made his skin crawl. Even though he could tell it was just electricity, it felt disgusting. Like a bowl of putrid water. He tried to shake it off, stood up and turned to face Chris.

Chris, right behind him, stared at the orb. Didn't even glance at Vince. He squinted, eyebrow half-cocked, and knelt down. "You feel that?" he asked, gaze still fixated on the orb. Before Vince had a chance to respond, Chris started reaching out to touch it.

"No, stop!" Vince screamed, leaping at the outstretched arm. Just as Vince grabbed hold, Chris's hand contacted the orb. Chris froze. His eyes went blank. Vince hung from his arm for a moment, letting go when he saw Chris's vacant expression. He swallowed his terror and ran over to the orb to try and tug it away. Even though Chris didn't seem to grip it at all, Vince couldn't get it out of his hand.

No matter how much Vince pushed and pulled, the orb wouldn't budge an inch. Still, he tugged, pushed, pulled, yanked, even tried shocking it in desperation until it finally broke free, tumbling him back as it bopped his nose. It might have been unnaturally light, but his little nose was sensitive. He clutched his paws over it and sat up. The orb was really starting to get on his nerves.

Chris grabbed his head, fell off his knees and barely managed to stay sitting up. "What the hell was that?" He rubbed at his temples, clenched his eyes shut.

Vince ran up to him, quick to forget his own sore nose. "Are you okay?" No response. He pawed at Chris's leg. "Hey! Are you all right?"

At the second attempt, Chris squinted one eye open. "Oh good, your thoughts are quieter now," his eye clenched shut once again, "and yet, somehow twice as painful." His right-hand stopped rubbing his temple to rest on Vince's head.

The moment it touched, Vince felt the fingers extend into his brain. Like tentacles, they squirmed around in his head, bringing memories back into his consciousness, making him relive each one all at once. He retched. It was disgusting. He tossed himself backwards, even throwing a shock somewhere in the direction of Chris.

After a tumble, he looked up to watch Chris's expression shift between confused, entranced and shocked. It finally stabilized on guilty horror when his wide eyes locked with Vince's. "I-I'm so sorry! I didn't—I don't know how, what that was I—" he clutched his head and cinched his eyes shut once again. A groan forced its way out and he started to teeter, barely managing to stay upright.

As much as Vince wanted to shout at Chris for putting him through that, he was far too disoriented. "What was that?" He shook his head. Sorting between now and memories took several more shakes. It all just blended into one for a moment; he stared down at his paws and waited for his mind to sort itself.

Chris wobbled a bit more, but eventually stabilized his balance. "It just… it just happened. Like when I touched the orb, stuff just rushed into my head, but this time it was your memories instead of just… whatever it was before."

The orb. Of course. Vince decided he hated that white ball of bad luck. Now that the present had reasserted itself, he could look up at Chris. "You saw my memories?" The idea made him feel a whole other kind of violated.

Chris finally unclenched his eyes, slowly relaxing. "I, yeah, but I couldn't make out most of it. Just random snapshots of today." A hand rubbing the tension out of his temples fell back to sheepishly scratch at his neck. "Seriously, sorry, I didn't know."

Vince clenched his teeth and nodded. Great. The apology came before he even had a chance to get angry about it. He swallowed his anger and tried to move the conversation forward. He had his own guilt to worry about. "Today? Does that mean you saw… me, uh," he scratched at his scarf, glancing at the carpet. Chris could hear his thoughts anyway; he didn't need to finish saying them.

Silence. It told Vince all he needed. Chris knew. He knew what Vince had done. He'd probably tell everyone else. The rest of the world would know soon. Vince had to wonder, when would they decide to execute him? No, that'd be too humane, they'd probably torture him for at least eternity. It only made sense.

Chris burst out laughing. Of all the responses Vince expected, this was not one of them. Was it maniacal laughter, maybe? "Vince, you're—please!" Chris tried to stifle himself. "This isn't your fault."

Vince's ears and tail fell. "B-but you saw!" He looked down at his paws turning over each other. "I, the orb, and me and, and, you know."

"What I saw," Chris leaned forward over him, "was you messing around with a rock you found in the forest that just so happened to have Earth shattering magic inside." He let out another laugh, not bothering to stifle it this time. "You had no idea."

Vince wasn't convinced, but it relieved him a bit that Chris believed him innocent. "Thanks." He sat back, picking at his bandages. They used to be white, but running around in the yard, around the house, falling off various furniture, and all the rest of the day's events had smirched, smeared, dirtied and smudged every inch of them. He sighed. What a long day. Had it really been just one?

"What's it like?" Chris asked, snapping Vince out of his thoughts. Vince tilted his head, hoping for more of an explanation. "Being a pichu. How's it feel?"

Vince pawed at his chin, pensive expression quickly turning sour. "I hate it." He looked down at his paws. "Everything's so big, scary, and I can't talk to anyone else, and I don't want to anyway because they're all so scary and I think they want to eat me, and—" he shook his head, crossing his arms. "I'm always scared."

Chris nodded along, thinly hiding a growing smirk behind empathetic worry. "So, nothing's really changed, then?" After Vince's befuddled look, Chris shrugged. "Sounds like all the same stuff you used to tell me about."

It seemed ridiculous. So ridiculous that Vince couldn't help a chuckle. Still, he had to worry just a bit more. "D-do you think we can fix it?" He looked up with wide, hopeful eyes.

The question didn't seem to phase Chris at all; he just shrugged. "Well, now that we know that orb caused it, I think we at least have a chance." He leaned back, resting on his hands. "In fact, I think I've got an idea."

"Really?!" Vince leapt up, eyes at least doubling in size. Before he could get too excited, though, that growing emptiness in his belly made its voice heard with a scandalous grumble. As if on cue, he heard a knock on the doorframe. He dashed over to meet the source. "Mom!"

She bent down to hold him, rub his cheeks, his head-fur, pet him. "Hey! It's getting late, so I'm gonna make supper. Any requests?"

Vince didn't hesitate to throw his arms up and shout, "Apples!"

"I've been going it alone
A broken heart is just the
Start of what it is that could go wrong."​

Ampaw forced himself forward, step by step, desperation ablaze. He needed to keep going, needed to push on, but he was exhausted. The sweet, fruity scent of berries assaulted his nostrils after an involuntary sniff. Dead ahead, too. Despite his exhaustion, he broke into a sprint for them. Within moments, he saw the red-berried bush, its tangy sweet scent enveloping him. The scent overwhelmed him; he couldn't smell anything else.

The very instant he could, he started yanking the berries off the branches pawfuls at a time. So sweet. So juicy. Delicious. He ate, ate, and ate some more. Even when he'd filled his stomach, he kept eating. Sweet, tangy, juicy, so good. Finally, he slowed down, eventually stopping to lay down, holding one last berry in his hand. He examined its red, seed covered, rubbery skin. It had a green sprout on a thicker end and tapered as it went to the other.

He did not recognize it at all. It almost looked like a rawst berry, but it wasn't the right size or color, and tasted sweet and tangy instead of bitter. Whatever it was, he loved it. He popped the last one into his mouth and let his paws rest on his (now a touch bloated) belly. Content, his eyes drooped just a little. The deep orange sky signified it had gotten quite late. He sighed. What a long day. Had it really been just one?

He wouldn't sleep on the ground, that'd be dangerous, but he could rest here for a little before finding a tree to climb up and rest in. For just a moment, he let his eyelids meet. Not sleeping, just resting with his eyes closed.

A bolt of fire blasted out of the berry bush and straight into his side. While the flame burned his side and flung him across the grass, another flurry burst into him, singeing his flesh. He clamored, trying to recover his footing as he rolled along the ground, barely managing to jump away from the pouncing predator.

Before the dog could attack again, Ampaw launched a blast of electricity right between the dog's eyes. It flinched and froze, lowering its head to bare its teeth and growl. It had black fur and gray horns, odd protrusions on its neck, ankles, and along its back made of the same material.

Ampaw had never fought a pokémon like this. He had no idea what to expect. At least his burnt skin told him the type: fire. They both stood still, sizing each other up. Ampaw thought of escape just long enough to decide it wasn't practical; those berries and the day's exhaustion weighing him down, he couldn't trust his speed. Of course, it would slow his fighting, too.

He kept his eyes trained on the dog's, trying to gauge its ability. The dog did the same. Its gaze held the same analytical air for a moment before darkening, cutting into Ampaw's focus. That quick disruption was all the dog needed to leap forward, swiping one paw to Ampaw's right while its jaw glowed black. Ampaw flinched away from the feint, realizing his mistake when fangs clenched around his stomach.

"Ka—" he cried from the pain, quickly following with a blast of electricity and a, "Chu!" The shock forced open the dog's jaws; Ampaw spun around to slam his tail into the dog's face. The dog staggered back, tossing out a harmless sputter of fire. Fresh wounds still burning, Ampaw forced his breath steady.

When the dog lunged forward, he jumped back, pulling in as much electric charge as he could. The dog lunged at him again, again, and again, but he just kept dodging back to build his charge. He didn't want to take another attack or deal with staying up any later; he needed to finish this. He channeled the electricity into his paw just as the dog lunged, and he sprung forward this time to go under, slamming his fist and blasting electricity into the dog's chest; a crack from the sternum, a boom from the blast, and several pops of residual static.

Ampaw dashed out from under her, turning back to check if she'd follow. She didn't. She stood, frozen. A few more spasms as the shocks coursed through her and she finally crumpled to the ground.

A breath of relief whistled out of Ampaw. Still, he kept one eye on the dog to be safe. After a few more jitters, he took some tentative steps north before breaking into a short sprint. He couldn't run for long—too winded—so he stopped once he knew the dog wasn't following.

He shifted back to his hind paws to check his wounds. The bite mark had just barely stopped bleeding, but the burn continued to smolder all along his side. It hurt enough to keep him from noticing the end of the treeline until he passed it.

The forest gave way to a field; the field, to a fence that blocked the rest of his view. He reached for the nearest tree to climb but cringed the moment his paws met bark. It seemed he'd overdone that last attack. When he looked his paw over, he realized the opening fire had scorched it a bit as well. Still, he needed to get up the tree for more than just the view; he needed to sleep.

He clawed his way up the tree. His paw seared with pain every time it touched the bark, but he forced himself up and collapsed into the first branch that held his weight. Relief only lasted until the bite mark met the bark. In a flash, he reoriented himself to sit back on the branch. Such a short climb, yet he was already gasping. It all hurt. It all hurt so much. Then he saw the towering sea of stone and steel.

It was massive. Endless. Tears wet his eyes, and he crumpled up into cold, restless sleep.
 
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Adamhuarts

Junior Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
Took the time to look at your second chapter today. Can't say I'm not slightly disappointed it didn't turn out to be a pmd fic as I'd originally gotten the impression it'd be, but that's my mismatched expectations and not a fault on your part.

One thing I liked in this chapter was how realistically you portrayed the whole experience of suddenly being a pokemon, a pichu specifically in this case. From Vincent seeing the world in greyscale to him having a lot of difficulty writing letters, it was all done nicely. I don't really have a lot of criticisms for this chapter, so I look forward to what happens next and or where this story is going

He did not like being this high.
He should lay off on the weed then 😏

"A rat—a big yellow rat!" she shouted,
OH SHIT! A RAT! IT'S A FUCKING RAT!


Ahem. Now that my meme replies are out of the way. I'll end my review here and bid you good luck on your writing. 😊
 
Chapter Five: Barefoot in Baltimore

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
it didn't turn out to be a pmd fic
A looooooot of people got this impression, and I'm not sure why. I don't know if I said a joke or something, but it's a pretty prolific misconception. At least you're not alone in that?
One thing I liked in this chapter was how realistically you portrayed the whole experience of suddenly being a pokemon, a pichu
I'm glad you liked it! I spent a lot of too much time on researching mice, pikachu, and the like to try and make it feel real, so I'm glad it came through.
Chapters:
One: Tonic Dissonance
Two: Born Under a Bad Sign
Three: Can You Hear Me?
Four: Tell Me
Five: Barefoot in Baltimore
Six: Strawberries Mean Love

Chapter Five: Barefoot in Baltimore
“Summer turns the stove on
And fun begins to cook
Barefoot walks in Baltimore
With empty pocketbook”
-“Barefoot in Baltimore” from Incense & Peppermints by Strawberry Alarm Clock​

Just as the sun breached the horizon, Vince began to rouse from his slumber. Despite staying up late, he already had too much energy to go back to sleep. He rolled onto his back and looked down at his hands, half-heartedly hoping to find his memories of yesterday were a dream all along. They weren't. He had paws. And fur. And a tail. As his eyes drifted to the ceiling, his mind drifted to the orb. That white, featureless, merciless orb. It intrigued him as much as it terrified him. Just being in the same room as it made his skin crawl. That and a rumbling in his stomach gave him more than enough reason to evacuate his room.

As for food, the memory alone of last night's meal brought him enough excitement to bolt over to the slightly ajar door. The hope for another taste of those divine fried apples bringing his scurry to a sprint across the hall to his brother's room. After dashing through his brother's partially opened door, he effortlessly hopped onto his bed, landing inches from Peter's face, excitedly shouting, "Peter!"

A scream and a clumsy tripping over his own blankets left Peter laying on the floor next to his bed, clutching his head, while Vince cradled his ears that had flattened themselves against his head. "Vince! What the hell? Why?" Peter shouted, groggily pushing himself off the ground. Once he saw Vince's watery eyes, however, his anger dulled to pitied frustration.

Loud, hurried footsteps dashed down the hallway, leading to their mom bursting into the room, asking "What happened? Are you okay?" between gasps. Her eyes darted from Vince to Peter, waiting for an answer from one of them. Once she noticed Vince's hurt expression, she immediately knelt down, began patting his head and cooing, "It's okay, I'm here. What happened? Did you hurt something?"

While Vince leaned into his mother's comforting hand, Peter began to explain. "He woke me up by jumping right next to my face and screaming."

After a final scratch, she pulled her hand to her eyes and chuckled. "And you screamed right back." After giving her temples a good rub, she looked down to Vince and asked, "Why'd you scare your brother? For fun?"

"He didn't scare me," Peter grumbled.

"I didn't mean to! I was just hungry and got… excited," Vince tried to explain, his mother's blank expression reminding him he couldn't be understood. After a moment of thought, he pointed at his stomach and repeated "Hungry."

"Hungry?" she asked, Vincent nodded in response. "I can fix that," she said, turning around and walking out of the room. "I'll go see what I can do for breakfast, then."

"I have an idea!" Vince exclaimed, dashing after his mother who didn't even look down to acknowledge him once he was right next to her. Realizing again he'd have to be more direct and obvious with his communications, he went ahead of her to the fridge and stood in front of it, pointing at it once she rounded the corner.

She slanted her brow. "Looks like you already know what you want." She opened the fridge as Vincent gleefully nodded. Soon as he could, he hopped onto it's second shelf, ignoring the cold and grabbing the plastic container that held his tasty treat. Before he could turn around and present it, however, he felt his mother grab him by the scruff and heard her scold, "No, Vince stop! Get out of there!" Panicked, he held the box as tight as he could as his mother dragged him out of the fridge. Once they were eye to eye, she saw what he held. She placed both him and his treat on the counter next to each other. "Apples again? Have you had anything else since yesterday?"

Rolling back onto his feet, he shook his head and tilted it in confusion. Why would that matter?

"Just because you can't eat meat doesn't mean you don't need to have a balanced diet," she explained as Peter rounded the corner. Vince deflated: all the morning's struggles had been for naught. "Don't pout," she laughed, "You can have some apples, but you need to eat something else with it."

"Really?!" he beamed, eyes wide with excitement. She laughed again, walking over to the pantry to find a better main course.

After looking for a moment, she knelt down. "Here, what do you think of this?" Vince hopped off the counter and looked for what she was talking about, Peter following behind to do the same. Before him stood a bright bag with "Pi-Chew!" branded across the top, alongside several happy pichu playing, eating, and sleeping. He could skim a few words like health, tasty, and play, but couldn't read words more complicated than that at a glance. He couldn't help but grimace at the idea of eating food so clearly for pets.

"Seems like a good idea, wanna taste it?" Peter asked.

"Not… really," he replied, scratching the back of his head as bashful sparks bounced off his cheeks.

Reading his body language, his mom offered some comfort. "I'm sure it tastes fine to you, don't worry."

Frustrated that he couldn't tell him his concern wasn't the food's flavor, he shrugged and nodded, hoping Chris could explain for him later. Peter opened the bag, pulled out a piece and placed it in Vince's waiting paws. It looked just like dog or cat food, smelled vaguely of nothing specific, and felt like powdery pumice. Putting his pride aside, he closed his eyes and popped it into his mouth.

His ears perked up and his eyes popped open as its flavor turned out rather pleasant. "You like it?" his mom asked. He embarrassedly nodded, cursing himself as sparks bounced off his cheeks once again. "No need to be ashamed," she consoled, "It's just food." Not quite content, he just shrugged. "You don't have to eat it if you don't want to, we can find something else." Any other food sounded more appealing except for one aspect: preparation time. The Pi-Chew came ready to eat, tasted fine enough and would admittedly be the healthiest option. In the interest of eating those apples as soon as he could, he finally pointed to the bag. She pat his head and began examining the bag before pulling out a scoop. "Go get a bowl, Peter."

He mumbled drowsily in compliance, grabbing one from the cabinet and handing it to her. She pulled a scoop out of the bag and used it to pour a nice helping of Pi-Chew into the bowl. Vince sat down in front of it and began scooping handfuls into his mouth. Once there were only a few pieces left, he heard a plate clink down next to him, with a familiar, intoxicating aroma emanating from it. He instantly abandoned what was left in the bowl and gorged himself on the divine desert he so desired.

Despite being cold, the flavor remained just as divine. After he'd finished, he looked up to see both Peter and his mother looking down at him with amusement. Watching him. With his self-awareness returned, he realized he'd caked his paws and mouth in sticky syrup. He tried wiping his hands off on his bandages, but then noticed how dirty they already were.

"I… think you need a bath," his mother noted. Vince nodded his head, sniffing himself to confirm the worst, which prompted a chuckle from his brother. "Peter, give him a bath."

"What? Why?" the two brothers said in unison. "He can bathe himself," Peter said, followed shortly by an affirmative and insulted, "Chu!"

"At least help him get there, I don't want him tracking syrup along the floor." To prove a point, Vince tried taking a step forward on his hind-legs. Befitting of his luck the past two days, he tripped over the bowl, spilling what was left of its contents and leaving two sticky paw-prints on the ground. As much as he wanted to, he no longer had any argument against being carried as he felt Peter lift him by the scruff of his neck. His morale only worsened when his brother put him in the sink instead of the bathtub. At least he'd be bathing himself.

The process was rather simple, hardest part being manipulating the massive (to him) shampoo bottle without making a mess, and then trying to stop the bandages that fell off from clogging the drain. He'd have to ask Peter to re-wrap his wounds.

That weren't there. Every cut had completely healed. Even the deepest gash hadn't left so much as a scar. It looked like he'd never been hurt at all. Double, triple, even quadruple checking showed nothing but unblemished fur covering undamaged skin. He set the cloth to the side of the sink next to the shampoo and began lathering his sudsy form. How could all of that healed in just a day? All of that pain just vanished? After rinsing off the suds, he turned off the faucet of his sink-made-shower, got out and shook of as much water as he could. He'd pocket—well, he didn't have pockets, but—consider the fast healing later. Still dripping, he hopped to the floor and scampered out to the living room.

Seeing the sopping wet Vince and the trail of water behind him, his mom couldn't help but let out an exasperated, "Vince…," as she turned around and went into the kitchen. Towel in hand, she walked over to him, knelt down and began drying her son. "I know there are towels in the bathroom." He just avoided eye contact, glancing back at the trail of water behind him. "At least you smell better now," she said, putting him back down and moving on to the floor behind him.

As she knelt down to start cleaning, four knocks came from the door. Vince dashed over to the door, remembering that Chris said he would come over early in the morning last night. He excitedly pawed at the door until his mother opened it for him. "Chris!" he shouted, running out the moment the door had cracked open just enough.

"Hey, Vince!" Chris already sat on his haunches to greet his friend. After giving Vince's head a few rubs, he looked up. "Hello, Ms. Vandergrift. Mind if I come in?"

"Of course, always!" She left the door ajar and went back to cleaning. "Don't mind Vince's mess."

"Mom!" Vince whined, embarrassed sparks bouncing off his cheeks. Chris simply laughed and stepped inside, closing the door after Vince scuttled inside. "I thought I was dry enough, sorry," he mumbled, still more sparks falling.

"Evidently not," Chris chuckled, walking over to Vince's room. "Come on." Vince followed close behind, cheeks still burning from embarrassment. Once they were inside, Chris closed the door, walked over to the orb, and began to explain. "I have an idea."

“A silence tailored for talking
And a love with so much to say
Barefoot in Baltimore
Heel and toe with you”​

Even despite the freezing weather and less than smooth ride of Chris’s hood, Vince found himself in a deep sleep. Falling asleep had become quite easy as of late. Staying asleep as well. In fact, he’d become near immune to rousing once he’d curled up into a ball and closed his eyes. Unfortunately, this newfound talent came with the curse of painfully frequent drowsiness. At the very least, he always woke up refreshed.

Speaking of, a voice began to pierce his waning slumber. He couldn’t make out the words, just the light tone, pitch, and subdued volume. It was a higher voice, than Chris’s at least, much closer to Vince’s own, which must have meant it was a girl (luckily, Vince was still too deep in the throes of sleep to take offense to his own deduction).

A girl? He perked an ear up to hear better, but only managed to determine he didn’t recognize the voice at all. Great. Chris had made a friend. How fun. Vince decided he’d rather try going back to sleep. “Awww, his little ear went up.”

Cursing his luck, he immediately flopped it back down, hoping they would just leave him be. “Yeah, he’s been rustling around back there for a while, he must be waking up.” Vince decided Chris desperately wanted a shock; that seemed the only logical conclusion. Feeling the hood shift, he opened his eyes too late to dodge the incoming hand that drug him out of safety. Still half-drowsy, he didn’t quite manage the attack he wanted, but he shot enough sparks to get the point across. Chris’s scolding face and finger proof enough of such. “No! Bad Vince! No shocking!”

The tone, simple sentences, patronizing, had his barely half-open eyes squint even more in anger. Vince clenched his teeth. “Well, you should’ve let me sleep.” Yet, Chris’s face and grip remained firm, leaving Vince no choice but to acquiesce. “Fine.” That he spat the word while rolling his eyes made it clearly far from heartfelt, yet Chris didn’t seem to mind.

Chris’s face softened into a smile. “Good.” He faced the girl apologetically. “He’s grumpy when he wakes up.” Shifting back to Vince, his eyes grew sickeningly sweet, as did his voice. “I’ve got a new friend I’d like you to meet!” As Chris knelt, Vince’s expression went from angry to pleading, but Chris placed him on the floor facing her regardless. “Her name is Amber!”

A quick head swivel and Vince realized they were in a store. The toy section, it seemed. He decided not to speculate on the why of that. Amber had dropped to one knee, beaming a smile and waving. “Hey, buddy!”

Despite her nauseatingly friendliness—as if Vince were some kind of infant—a familiar nervousness burnt in his gut and he scrambled behind Chris’s leg. His cover didn’t last. The leg moved and even him forward, “Come on, she’s nice! I promise.” Vince turned his head to glare back at Chris only to see his friend wasn’t even looking at him. “He’s a little shy.”

“That’s all right.” He reluctantly looked back at her to see that same exaggeration of a smile. “Don’t worry little guy,” she cautiously reached a hand forward to pet him, but he dodged back, eyes flaring with rage. Little guy? He wasn’t—well, okay, he was, but that was besides the point entirely. Her hand flew back, and its twin followed up in surrender.

“Vince! Be nice!” That same scolding tone. Vince had already had far more than enough of it. He wasn’t a child! A deft hand scratching the base of his neck, however, made quick work of his frustration. “He doesn’t like being called little.”

Amber chuckled while her eyes gleamed with understanding. She looked back down at Vince with that same bemused expression, a gentle hand approaching in a quest for chin scritches. Already suffering an attack from behind, the boy had nowhere to escape, forced to bask in the euphoria. “I’m sorry. You’re not little. You’re a big boy!”

Hardly in a position to respond, Vince could only lean into her hand more, managing only to coo, “Yeeeeah, I’m a big boy.” Chris’s hand disappeared and Vince turned to see it had retreated to suppress a chuckle. “What?” Vince pushed up onto his hindpaws, crossing his arms and pursing his lips in a mighty pout. “I am a big boy!”

Unable to stifle it any longer, Chris burst out laughing. “What’s so funny?” Amber asked, looking somewhere between amused and worried for her life.

Chris froze. Vince was just about ready to blast him, but the blatant fear on his friend’s face had him intrigued. “It’s just, uh, seeing him try and be all serious like that, it always makes me laugh.” Always? When had he ever done this? “C-Come on. Chin up, Vince.” Looking down to pet him, Chris’s eyes were pleading. “Sorry, I must have looked insane, just randomly laughing like that.”

Then it clicked. It should’ve made sense sooner, but only now did Vince put all the pieces together. Amber couldn’t know Chris was psychic, or that he could understand Vince. Chris just wanted him to act like a normal pichu and was treating him as such. Vince sighed. So much for being treated like a human. “Fine, but you owe me,” he grumbled, turning back to Amber.

A quick pat to the head was the start of Chris’s response. “Would a present cheer you up?” The deal was simply too good to refuse, Vince couldn’t deny that.

Purely to play the part, Vince leapt at Chris’s knee spouting gibberish that nearly approximated, “Yes, please.” His ears flared up while his eyes rivaled his own head in size, tail wagging excitedly. For Chris’s sake, of course. It was all part of the act. Vince was sure of that.

So sure, he hardly noticed Chris’s hand once more stifling a laugh. “Okay!” Chris matched his performance in enthusiasm. Vince would’ve felt patronized if he hadn’t his own assurance it was all part of an act. “Close your eyes, okay?” Chris reached a hand back towards a backpack Vince hadn’t seen before. Vince nodded aggressively and threw his paws over his eyes (in pseudo enthusiasm, of course). His ears strained to hear the rustling of Chris taking the item out of the bag and the clicking as he placed it on the floor. “Okay, you can open them.”

Vince didn’t even need to, already dashing towards the item before he could see it. He only did once he was on top of it. A cacophony of dissonant tones blared when he fell over the tiny keyboard. Pushing himself up brought it down to a mere four notes before it became none when he finally stood up.

A keyboard! His eyes scanned it with a clinical gaze. Not large in range at all, only two and a half octaves, but that didn’t matter. He likely couldn’t have made use of much more, given his size. Gently, he pressed a note down, its tone tinny, soft, and artificial. Pressing it harder made the note louder, and Vince nearly jumped in surprise. Weighted keys? For a children’s toy? How much did Chris pay for this?

He pressed a few other keys, experimenting with the range at his disposal. The higher he went, the tinnier the tone; the lower, the darker. The very lowest notes sounded more like some horn than a piano, but they were in tune at least. Amber and Chris were talking to each other, but that wasn’t important. What could he play? Moonlight Sonata? No, with only his two paws, he couldn’t even do the opening melody.

His paw rubbed his chin. It’d have to be simple, then, and no pedals, so he could only sustain a note by holding it down. Out of habit, his left paw went to C. The Black Keys could be fun, but sticking in C would be easier, at least to start.

After holding C, he let the notes fall in a simple rhythm before returning to the original C. Repeating this was pleasant, sure, but boring. This was the lower register, so he needed it to bounce at least a little. Not really low enough to be a bassline, but it’d have to do. Keeping the same rhythm, he alternated between skipping down, up, down, up, falling one note short of C, descending one more until finally returning to the start.

He repeated this a few times until it was solid enough in his memory that he could even play around with the rhythm a bit. A shorter note here, a pickup there, just keeping it fresh. For fun, he played it with his eyes closed without any trouble.

Once that was no trouble at all, he started with his right paw. Again, he started simple with just a scale up and then down, but with the rhythm as it was, it took two cycles of the bassline to complete even that. Boring. The very highest note on the board was a G, he could use that. Instead of starting on the higher C, he started at the highest G. It was tinny, sure, but he couldn’t fix that.

He dropped down the octave and climbed to the tonic just in time to fall one note down, waiting for the bassline to return to tonic so he could return to the dominant. Again, he cycled through the pattern of his own making until he could play it with his eyes closed. Experimented with rhythm. Even slid up and down the scale instead of jumping over intervals here and there, but the keyboard didn’t make that easy.

This was fun! He could do it for days! Even the tiniest alteration in the melody revived his interest. Although, there was only so much he could think of on the fly. He stopped playing, letting his right hand rest on his left arm to hold up his chin. Applause from behind had his cheeks sputtering sparks in surprise and embarrassment. He’d completely forgotten they were there.

“That was incredible!” Amber had completely lost that stevia sweetness, replaced by pure cane bewilderment. Vince turned around, scratching the back of his neck embarrassedly to see she wasn’t even talking to him. “You knew he could do that? How? Did you teach him?”

Chris’s face matched her own surprise, with a splash of intrigue, eyes lingering on Vince even when he faced Amber. “I’m just as surprised as you are. I just got that on a whim, didn’t think he’d just go off with it like that.” His voice was just as baffled as hers. Why? He knew Vince could play the piano, and Vince didn’t think what he’d played was that complex. Any child probably could’ve done the same.

Amber was right in front of him now. “That was so cool!” She was patting his head before he could fight back (not that he would have). “I didn’t think a pokémon could play like that! Good job! You’re a really talented litt-er-pichu!” Right, the pokémon thing. He would’ve blushed if he wasn’t busy leaning into her pets. They were just so nice. Her hands were soft, warm—reminding him how cold the store was—he could hardly conceive of any sensation being better. He loved it.

“Thank you,” he purred. Unfortunately, the pets didn’t last forever, and her hand disappeared. He almost frowned at the loss, but he was too happy at the moment to let it get him down. How else could he play with the melody? A key change? No, that’d probably be more trouble than it was worth. Oh, but alternating to the relative minor would be no trouble. He could even keep the bassline the same to add to the feel, maybe play with a secondary dominant.

Chris was rubbing his head. This felt nice, but it was distracting. Vince reluctantly pushed the hand away, looking up with a bright smile. Chris’s left hand retreated, revealing his right was behind his back. “Still cold?” Vince tilted his head but nodded. He could at least bear the store’s temperature, but he much preferred Chris’s hood. “Well, the keyboard isn’t all I got for you.”

Before Vince could even ask what it was, Chris held out a hoodie. Vince yanked it out of his hand, “Thank you!” and tried to put it on. He got the base over his head, poked his hands into the sleeves, but couldn’t get more than his ears through the neck. After some struggling, an extra tug to the front pulled it over his head and toppled him forward into the hand that helped. “Er, thanks.”

He pushed himself back up, the hand helping him a touch, scratching him beneath the chin and then retreating. “Sorry about that,” Amber said. Vince just tilted his head down to acknowledge her, looking the hoodie over. Despite the neck being a struggle, it fit him near perfectly. The arms were only a little too long, a flap of extra material covering his paws. “You two are so cute! It’s blue like yours. You match.”

Vince glanced between their hoodies, a little perplexed. Chris responded, but he didn’t hear. Chris’s hoodie was much darker, how were they the same—right, color. Vince shrugged, chuckling despite himself. That he’d nearly so quickly forgotten what colors were was definitely alarming, but he didn’t feel particularly worried.

Playing the piano, he’d felt more like himself than he had in days. Even a bit better, admittedly. Losing himself in music, it felt so far from being an animal that a lapse in memory barely bothered him. Plus, he had clothes now! No more shameful nudity (even though he hadn’t been ashamed of it much at all after the initial shock). The hoodie felt like a symbol of his humanity, a reminder he wasn’t just some feral. He was still human. He was still himself.

His hood found its way over his head, pulled up and down over his eyes while a hand at his chest held him up. He didn’t need to look to know it was Chris, about to toss a playful shock his way when the hands retreated just in time. He tossed his head back, trying to get the hood off to no avail. He pulled at it, but it only tugged back at his ears. They’d found their way into earholes, it seemed.

“That should help keep you warm,” Chris explained. “There’s still some stuff she needs to pick up, so we’re heading out.”

“We’re leaving?” Vince looked mournfully back at the keyboard Chris was already picking up.

Chris pet at his head. “Don’t worry, you can play more when we get home.” Without any real choice, it’d have to be good enough, so Vince nodded. He looked around to find the exit, but Chris hoisted him up. “You can’t walk out of the store. It’s too dangerous. You’ll have to ride, okay?” He laid Vince on his head and pulled his own hoodie just over him.

Again, Vince had no real choice, so he just went with it. At least it was warm. The dangerous comment, though, had him curious. The very beginning of his question was answered within a few steps by a car smashed halfway through the storefront window.

His breath hitched. Was the driver okay? What happened? He at least didn’t see anyone in it. Chris scratched at his fur. “Don’t worry, it’s okay.” Vince nodded, but shrunk into Chris’s hood a bit.

Amber had already crawled over the hood of the car and watched them. “He all right? What’s wrong?”

One hand holding Vince in place, Chris followed after her. “He’s really empathetic.” Vince couldn’t take his eyes off the scene. As much as he wanted to curl into Chris’s hood and shut out the world, he couldn’t. Several other buildings had cars embedded in them, the smaller stores crumpling on top of them. It took Chris’s steady hand for Vince to realize he was shaking. “It’s okay. It’s not your fault.”

Amber had gone ahead to pull a struggling geodude out of a pile of rubble. To express its thanks, it darted away from her the second it was free. She hardly seemed bothered. Despite the destroyed landscape around them, quite a few pokémon were strolling about the town. An oddish poked at a broken-down car’s tires, an aipom looked aghast at a towering building: nearby wildlife taking a peek at the deserted city.

They all watched Chris and Amber carefully, the smaller fleeing on sight. Vince sighed in relief they all avoided them. Many were harmless, but a hungry looking meowstic made him more than a bit nervous. Luckily, the two humans deterred it from going for the easy meal.

Vince didn’t like thinking of himself like that.

Despite the wreckage, the scene was peaceful. The lightly overcast sky brought a subtle grey to the various pokémon meandering around the city, making them all seem cohesive despite their drastically different shapes, color, and sizes. The muted tones made the immense carnage placid, each pokémon’s unique chirp, chip, and bark bringing a relaxing soundscape.

A storm of rocks blasted against a store’s stone wall. Vince had to clutch onto Chris as he spun around to watch a bloodied and bruised lizard with a violently burning tail fleeing and wincing at all the rocks pelting him in the back of the head. Close on the charmander’s heels flew an aerodactyl several times its size. It spewed rocks to the charmander’s left and right, the threat of another attack landing forcing him up against a wall.

The aerodactyl swooped down, trapping him with its wings. His tail’s flame had shrunk down to barely an ember. He stared up in horror at the beast and shivered. The aerodactyl didn’t even react to his pitiful excuse of sputtering out a flame. He whimpered and cowered away as the aerodactyl’s jaws bore down.

A rock smacked against its face and its gaze shot to Amber. Vince and Chris both stared at her wide eyed while she stood firm. “Leave him alone!” She held up a ball Vince immediately recognized as a pokéball. “Unless you were looking for a fight!” It snarled at her, but the pokéball held its gaze. It eyed her, and she matched his gaze. Not faltering for a second. Even the wind had grown silent as they stared each other down.

Finally, it spat a rock towards her before turning away and flying off, being sure to toss the charmander to the ground in its take off. “What is wrong with you?” Vince and Chris shouted in unison.

She just sighed in relief. “I can’t believe it fell for that bluff.” Vince screamed his disbelief that she’d risked their lives on a bluff, but she was already walking over to the wounded charmander. Vince was perfectly content staying as far away from that reptile as possible, but Chris decided to follow Amber.

The charmander tried to stand but putting weight on its right leg had it toppling over. Even still, the moment it saw Chris and Amber’s approach, it started frantically clawing away. They both stopped, Chris sudden enough that Vince shifted forward a bit. Good, Vince wouldn’t have to get an inch closer to that predator.

He let out a sigh of relief, idly watching Amber digging through her bag. Her eyes lit up and she held a spray bottle up to him. “Here, go give this to him. Tell him we’re safe.”

“What? No!” He pulled back into Chris’s hood, only to find his cover disappear. Before he could even ask why, Chris lowered him to the ground. The bottle was already in front of him. He turned to face both of their expectant gazes. “It’ll eat me!” He looked up to Chris, hoping for an ounce of sympathy but got nothing.

“You’ll be fine,” Amber cooed, scratching beneath his chin. It felt nice. Too nice. He had to resist, couldn’t give in. His life was on the line! “He’s so hurt. We can’t just leave him like that.” Vince wanted to argue that they very much could do exactly that but found himself unable to give any input besides cooing at the scritches.

“Put yourself in his shoes.” Oh great, now Chris was in on it, too. “Show some humanity.” If it weren’t for Amber’s relaxing hold, he would have sneered at Chris. Of course he’d go there. Sure, a human probably wouldn’t be afraid of the charmander, but a human wasn’t at serious risk of being eaten by it.

Amber’s touch finally left him, replaced by her pleading face. “Please? I promise if he tries to hurt you, we’ll scare him off, all right?” This was stupid. He’d just met her against his own will, and now here she was asking him to go talk to a fire-breathing lizard that was probably desperate for a bite to eat.

The charmander was crying. Vince watched as he huddled against a wall, wincing sporadically at whichever wound decided to burst in pain. He knew it was a predator. He’d even been chased by one before, at least in a dream. Yet, the potion made its way into his paws.

His heart raced. One step forward and he’d just run a marathon. Every little shuffle forward horrified him. The charmander looked at him. He was so desperate, hurt, and hopeless, but Vince could only imagine those teeth tearing into his throat. Don’t think about it. Forward. Forward. His breath was a mix of gasps and wheezes. So close to a fire type, it probably affected the oxygen levels. He just had to not pay attention to the fact that he was close enough at this point that the charmander didn’t need its legs to grab him.

The charmander let out a few low, comforting churs. Vince could almost make out their meanings, but just barely. It almost sounded like, “Safe,” but it was both a statement and a question. No, he’d said it twice? Vince noticed he was staring at the bottle.

“Y-yes.” Vince nodded his head putting the bottle down to point at it. “It’s safe. It will heal you.” The charmander tilted his head, letting out several churs that were some semblance of confusion and disbelief. Mostly guessing, he held up the bottle. “Here, can I show you?” After some deliberation, he nodded.

Talking like this, even though he could barely understand the charmander, put Vince a little bit at ease. The image of it tearing him limb from limb for easy consumption felt that much further away.

Now, Vince just had to figure out how to manipulate this bottle the size of his torso properly. He put it on the ground facing the charmander’s leg and wrapped his arms around it, squeezing what he could out. The spray sputtered out and a moment later, the charmander sighed in relief.

His scaly paw rubbed Vince’s head, making him squeak in surprise, and he pulled the bottle out of Vince’s grip. Briefly reminded of his threatened mortality, it took Vince a moment to realize that a wild pokémon had just pet him. He could feel Chris laughing at him, even if he couldn’t hear it.

The charmander turned the bottle over in his paws a few times before finding the right grip (one paw holding it, the other on the trigger) and spraying it all over himself. All but the worst wounds and bruises closed up, fading completely. He stood up cautiously, carefully putting weight on his paw to make sure it could hold him. Once it could, he smiled at Vince with a happy chur. “Thanks!”

Vince was about to respond before he sprayed him in the face with the very last bit of the bottle. Falling back in surprise, Vince tried to rub the substance away on instinct while the charmander chortled in amusement. It said something in its laughter that Vince could very easily make out, as much as he didn’t want to. A compliment. “Cute.” And, of course, it came with a rub to his head.

“Th-thanks.” Vince stood up, trying to shake off the paw so he could turn towards Chris and Amber. He pointed at them. “They’re not gonna hurt you. She gave me the-erm-that to help you. Okay?” The charmander nodded, keeping his smile and waving at them.

Amber quickly came over, enough to make Vince nervous, but the charmander stood his ground, unphased. She had a bag in her hand and pulled a strip of meat out of it. Vince grimaced, but the charmander tittered eagerly and took a few steps towards her. By the time she’d knelt down, he’d already hopped up to grab it with his claws, gnawing on it contentedly. “Like jerky, little guy?”

He paused his gnawing for a moment, mouth twisting down and snarling, “Not little.” Nevertheless, he continued chewing on the dried meat.

“Looks like he and Vince share a sore spot,” Chris chuckled. Vince didn’t spare a moment before scurrying up his friend. Sure, the charmander was nice, and he knew he wasn’t at risk of becoming food, but he was even less at risk of that on Chris’s shoulder.

“The ‘little’ thing again?” Amber mumbled with one hand scratching beneath the charmander’s chin. “You really have a knack for understanding pokémon.” She looked up at Chris. “What’s that about?”

Chris just shrugged, making Vince decide to move to his head. “Honestly, I’m just guessing.”

Amber raised a brow but turned her attention back to petting the charmander. He’d just swallowed the last bit of jerky and started eyeing the bag. Vince glanced at it, too, trying to read what he could. “Spicy,” something, something else, “tamato flavored jerky.” He blinked at it a few times, trying to figure out which was more likely: that they’d misspelled tomato or products from the pokémon world had made their way over as well.

She pulled out another two strips and handed them over to his eagerly awaiting paws. He seemed slower this time, as if savoring the flavor. Vince looked away to keep from gagging. “Good boy,” Amber cooed, offering him more pets as he ate. Once he finished those off, she stood up and glanced around the town. “Thanks for the help, but didn’t you say someone was waiting for you?” She smiled down at the charmander. “I think I’ll be safe enough with Owen here to protect me. Isn’t that right, big guy?” The charmander nodded, baring his chest proudly.

Chris chuckled a bit. “If you’re sure, but ‘Owen’? Seems like a weird name for a charmander.”

Amber raised her brow amusedly, glancing up at Vince a few times in a wordless retort, and shrugged. “It’s what I named my charmander since it was my first pokémon.” Seeing Chris’s confused expression, she blushed. “One, oh-one, Owen. C’mon, I was a kid and I thought it was clever.”

“Owen” proudly bellowed in her defense. Chris smirked, but left it at that. “If you’re sure, yeah. We’ve been out a bit longer than we promised.” He brought his hood back over Vince. “That sound all right, buddy?” Vince nodded a bit too eagerly. Owen might be nice, but a predator was a predator, and it made his fur stand on end.

Seeing this, Owen deflated a bit, but waved at Vince with a smile. Great. Now, Vince felt guilty and terrified. Forcing himself to smile, he reciprocated the wave. “Nice meeting you!” It wasn’t entirely a lie. Before all this, he probably would’ve given his life to meet a charmander.

“You, too!” Owen churred, walking off with Amber.

Chris turned around, heading presumably back home. Once they’d walked a good distance, he glanced back. “Man, what a looker, right?” Vince tilted his head, looking down to do his best to look at Chris’s face from atop his head. Chris looked up at him, equally confused apparently. “Amber.” Vince’s eyes stayed blank. “Vince,” he shook his head in disbelief, “she was hot, right?”

For a moment, Vince wondered if he’d confused Amber with Owen (the latter much more likely to be considered hot) before it hit him, and his cheeks erupted in embarrassment. “I, uh,” surprisingly, he didn’t feel any pain from the shocks, and Chris didn’t react either. “I didn’t notice.” He thought back to how she looked, what she was wearing, but really, she just looked like a human. Tall, imposing, at least she was nice?

“Right, right, of course,” Chris chuckled, “I’m sure you’d prefer her a bit more yellow.”

His cheeks spewed sparks again, and he tried to bury them in his paws. Again, somehow, he didn’t shock himself or Chris at all, but he was much too engrossed in his own embarrassment to notice. If the transformation had changed what he liked to eat, what else had it changed? On one paw, he would certainly like another chu to run around and play with. On the other…

He really didn’t want to think about it.

Thankfully, Chris obliged. “So, you could understand Owen?”

Vince sighed in relief. “Sort of. I could get the, er, I mostly knew what he meant, but it was vague.” He thought back, remembering the various chars, churs, and manders. “It got easier towards the end, but still not that great.”

Chris hummed thoughtfully. “He seemed to understand you, though. And us, with how he reacted to Amber.”

“Maybe pokémon can just do that?” Vince was curious himself. “I guess I’m just not used to it, though.” He twisted his mouth into a bit of a frown. Stuck as a pokémon and he barely gets to understand them.

“I have a bit of a theory.” Chris poked a finger into Vince’s hood to scratch at the nape of his neck. “Remember when you were playing the keyboard?” Being less than a few minutes ago, of course he did, so rather than nod, Vince just stared down in confusion. “Well, before that,” Chris dropped his hand to scratch his own neck, “your thoughts were a bit different.”

That didn’t sound good. “I couldn’t quite place how or why when I first picked you up, or even on the walk over. They were a bit faster, more energetic, but they still sounded like you. After you fell asleep and woke up, though,” Chris hesitated, worrying Vince enough to shrink back into his hood. “Some of it wasn’t even English.”

The words hit like bricks. Barely a day and he’d already degraded that much? How long until he was just— “Hey,” Chris squeezed his hand, “let me finish before you go assuming the worst.” Vince whined, but didn’t have it in him to argue further. “Once you started playing,” Chris snapped, “you sounded more like yourself than when I woke up yesterday.”

Vince took a minute to process the news. When it came to bad news, he could take it and run, but good? That took some effort to itemize. “And now?”

“About the same.” Chris tousled Vince’s headfur. “That’s what I wanted to say about understanding Owen. It might’ve been so hard because your thoughts are just too human.”

Too human. It should’ve been a relief to hear, but he just couldn’t believe it. It was too convenient. It didn’t make any sense. Playing music flipping the human switch in his head? The human-turned-pichu via rock connected to a wall outlet deemed that simply impossible.

He shook his head and took a deep breath, doing his best to process the information. With the breath came… a scent. Ever since his transformation, he’d been barraged by scents, too many to even begin to process, but this one he recognized immediately. He had no idea what it was but knew what it was in an instant.

His fur bristled, and his nose sniffed at the air, shrugging off Chris’s hood. A few more sniffs and he determined the direction. Chris shouted something after him as he scurried off, but he didn’t care.

Excitement not his own shot his paws across the pavement. The scent grew stronger with a gust of wind, and he ran even faster. Then, he heard a voice as unrecognizable and familiar as the scent. Pavement gave way to grass and the sight of a pikachu gave his unconscious emotions a voice. “Daddy!” His father was—he leapt into the pikachu’s arms, “Daddy! I missed you!”

“Short Circuit! I found you!” In all these years, he’d barely managed a synonym of father. Broaching even the topic put him on edge. He couldn’t talk about it. And now, his voice was shouting it at some pikachu.

Said pikachu broke the embrace, putting Vince behind him. “Stay back.” Vince peeked around to see Chris running towards them. Static filled the air with a low, growling, “Piii,” to stop Chris in his tracks.

Vince needed to tell the pikachu Chris was safe, that they were friends, but he couldn’t move. A burning coal weighed down his gut. He couldn’t speak. He could only shiver.

Chris held up his arms, speaking softly to try and calm down the pikachu. It almost worked, but the moment he took a step forward, a resounding, “Ka-chu!” preceded a blast of electricity between them. Chris didn’t flinch but stood absolutely still.

He only had one hand forward. His left. He kept his right behind him. An ear-ringing silence filled air thick enough a knife could cut it. The Earth itself seemed to stand still. Chris took one step back, bringing the slightest relief to the tension.

The pikachu eyed him for an eternity, judging even the slightest tremor. Turning halfway around, he looked at Vince. “Are you oka—” a ball bounced off the back of his head before a beam of light ripped him away.

“Dad!” Vince heard himself scream. He ran to the ball, catching it before it even hit the ground. It wobbled once. Twice. Three times, and it clicked with a jingle. He could only stare at the two vertical lines connected by one horizontal on top of the sphere.

For just a few moments, he’d felt the embrace of his—it wasn’t his dad. But that hug was the closest he’d come in years. Now, its warmth was a burning coal in his stomach. He cradled the ball softly, as if the slightest touch could shatter it. He felt a hand on his back. “Vince, what’s wrong?”

The question barely registered. He couldn’t think. “My dad,” tears welled up in his vacant eyes. “Where’s my dad?” Sobs wracked his body as he held the ball tight, shaking violently with each new torrent of tears. Years of grief locked away burst forth and he could only curl up and let the waves drown him.

He had no idea how long he’d cried. Every agonizing second melded into the next, searing loss burning just as hot no matter how many tears he drenched it in. He didn’t even notice Chris had begun to cradle him until his eyes ran out of tears and he was left shaking with empty weeps. It hurt. It hurt more than any wound ever could. It hurt more than he could bear, and there was nothing he could do.

At some point, his vision returned, and he could see Chris looking down on him with a comforting, worried gaze. Chris spoke, but it took Vince a while to hear him. “What’s wrong?” Vince just stared back down at the ball. Even in greyscale, he could recognize the ultraball. “You said that was your dad?”

A knife in his heart. He shook his head. “Not, I,” he clenched his teeth at another slurry of sobs. Chris held him tighter as the wave washed over him. Vince sobbed until his eyes were a vacant stare. “Not mine.” The storm of emotions and memories raged, but he could gradually decipher them. “Did I ever tell you about Short Circuit?” His voice was a whisper.

Chris gave another comforting squeeze. “I don’t think you did. Who’s that?”

Vince’s breath shook. Every inhale, exhale, he struggled to keep steady. “He’s a pichu. Sometimes when I sleep, I can hear him. He talks like my instincts.”

Chris pulled back Vince’s hood, the cloth tugging at his ears ever so slightly, and ran a hand along the boy’s head. “What d’you mean by that? Talks like your instincts?”

Vince leaned into the touch. He didn’t have energy to resist the petting. “Well, I have impulses, feelings, wants and stuff that aren’t,” he curled up a bit, squeezing the words out of himself, “aren’t human thoughts. One time, when I was sleeping, he talked about those like he was saying them.” His eyes fell on the ultraball. “He called me Short Circuit. I—when I was,” light sobs speckled his speech again, “I couldn’t control myself. I wasn’t me, I—”

“Vince,” Chris said, lightly shaking him. “You’re still you.” Vince blinked, a light gasp before silence as the words sunk in. It felt too easy to accept. Yet, while his friend lightly rocked him, while he felt the ball in his paws, the thought comforted him too much to deny. Despite everything else, he was still human.
 
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canisaries

everyday is halloween
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
After an unexpectedly long time, I'm back for the second chapter. Here are my thoughts, first for some quotes:

Yeah, I'm human Vincent started, but before he could continue,
I think a comma or dash (since it's interrupted) after "human" would be good to more clearly transition between thought and narration.

He had two tasks to complete: tell his family, then hopefully they could help him change back.
This kind of reads as just one task? The latter one is done by the family anyway, so it's technically not his task unless he says "get them to help him change back". Nitpick, I know, sorry. I'm just very good at those.

He took a deep breath in, out, and cautiously slid his paw over the edge, positioning his arms to grab onto the desk.
Just as his other hindpaw neared the edge,
So there were a couple spots like these in the prose where a blank line should go but the row was changed only once. It makes reading somewhat awkward, so whether it was actually an intentional choice or just a typo, I recommend the blank line.

He felt a hint of dread. Thinking harder didn't help at all. He knew exactly what sounds he needed to put on the paper, but he couldn't remember how. Dread turned to panic. He couldn't write! How far had he already regressed if he couldn't even write? No matter how hard he wracked his brain, he couldn't even remember the first letter of his first name. Any hint of an idea dissipated like a wisp of smoke if he tried to grab onto it. Desperate to write anything, he gave up on his message for the time being, hoping he could remember any letters in general. At least he could prove he was more than feral.
identity croombling......CROOMBLING.....

He was gonna do it! He was gonna tell Peter! He—

A violent banging on the door preceded the pleasant ring of the doorbell, another series of bangs followed.
It does feel a bit forced as conflict to have the same task be interrupted twice by a similar reason?

He collapsed at school I have to go help."
Some punctuation missing?

Peter stopped in his tracks, then came back to give her another tight embrace, before walking to the door, Vincent close behind doing his best to keep up with Peter. His brother didn't even notice until they got to the door and Alex frantically pointed at Vincent. "Careful!" he whispered, urgently quiet, "One of those things is following you."
Those things, interesting. So there's some kind of pichu infestation going on. Whether they're natural born pichu or more people turned by O R B remains to be discovered.

Not only did he want to go see his friend, but instinct told him spending any more time with that loud predator would be life threatening.
"Predator" confused me for a bit, though I got the intention soon - small animal views big animal as a predator.

but he payed attention to instinct
*paid (though through this I did learn that payed is the correct past form for "pay" in the context of "seal (the deck or seams of a wooden ship) with pitch or tar to prevent leakage")

Peter came back and dropped the food in front of him. A single slice of ham. The moment the scent reached his nostrils, he violently crinkled his nose, covering it with one paw and turning away. It smelled like ham always had, but that scent utterly revolted him now; it was a rotting corpse, not at all the honey-smoked promise on the package. But he couldn't rudely refuse the food, nor did he want to comply with instinct.
I was going to mention that rats and mice definitely eat meat if they get it since they're omnivorous and such, but then I figured this is a pichu which is a fantastical monster and likely inspired by many kinds of creatures anyway.

as much as he did his sight was greyscale.
Sort of a similar thing here (rats and mice are not unable to perceive color completely but only lack the ability to differentiate between red and green, much like dogs), though I have to give the warning that always pops up in my mind when mentioning colorblindness in a character - there's a large risk of forgetting this later on and ending up with the character doing something that contradicts it. With a viewpoint character, description is a bit of a gray area HAHA GRAY as narration doesn't necessarily only cover things the character can perceive and consciously acknowledge

(also I only later noticed that this grayscale vision thing was already mentioned in the first chapter, my bad for not catching it there)


In response, Peter cradled him. Like a baby.
hold pichu gentle like burger

---

Alright, so the start of the chapter has more story intrigue in the form of that strange dream. This pichu seems to be a natural born pichu, probably from the other world that, uhh, that's in the title, I guess.

After that, we have Vincent try to figure out his pichu body again and arduously climb to the desk for a pen, and unfortunately I have to say that I think this part really goes on for too long for its own good. It seems to be nearly 1k words long, and what happens in that time is basically only Vincent climbing to the desk, smashing into his computer monitor, seeing there are no pens and jumping down. And being in pain and crying. The thing with this is that the starting situation is almost identical to the end situation which makes the whole thing seem kind of pointless. It does make sense (or, well, a little more on that in a bit), but narratively it has no effect other than giving Vincent wounds, which Peter does notice and mend, but it doesn't seem like things would have been very different between them if Vincent hadn't been hurt. It does give them a scene of nice and genuine interaction where Peter treats Vincent's wounds (which wins the guy points after having Bad Mental Health Opinions before), but they do still have all the other scenes that follow. In any case, I think the desk quest could really do with some condensation. As a small note, it's also odd that his paw getting stuck is made out to be a big setback, but then he anticlimactically just yanks it out moments later and continues the climb.

Plot-wise, I don't really have much to critique about the rest of the chapter, but there were a couple of details that confused me. One is about the aforementioned computer screen and how a creature that seems to essentially be a mouse can break a computer monitor by just jumping into it from a still sit. I also think monitors are all laminated in a way that makes glass not spread around and become a hazard when it breaks? Either way, it's hard to accept a small animal jumping with that much destructive force. However, as said before, this is a magical monster, so I could believe it using a move, but the description doesn't really seem to hint at this - heck, it mentions he wasn't even at his full potential due to his pain.

The second source of confusion was the role of Pokémon in this world. The first chapter makes it pretty clear that Pokémon is fictional in-universe and is the same franchise we know in real life, but Peter's reaction to a Pichu doesn't seem to fit - or more accurately, lack of a reaction. I was expecting him to be a lot more confused of what's happening and acknowledging of the surreality of the situation, but he really seems to treat the Pichu like any normal animal rather than going "what the hell is that an actual real pokemon, did someone drug me". (Although normal animals you wouldn't expect to share non-verbal human language such as nodding, shaking your head and crying.)

Then what's also weird is how their mother reacts to Vincent. If a pichu really looked like a rat, then I'd get it, but the first chapter makes it sound like this is definitely a creature with its original cartoon proportions. I think a more logical reaction to seeing that would be to wonder what the hell that thing is and maybe think it's some kind of plush toy with cockroaches inside making it move around like that. It sounds like a stupid idea to someone who knows better, but if you just see a cartoon monster walking around, that's about the most realistic an assumption you can have at the moment. That or you're being pranked. Or you're trippin' balls. Point is, I struggle imagining seeing a pichu on the floor and going directly to "rat" when it really doesn't resemble a rat in shape or color at all.

Sorry this turned out pretty complain-y like the last one, I'm just kind of bad at spotting the good things in stuff and talking about those. If you don't want me to review further because of this, let me know. I'm fine with either dropping or continuing, so it's really your choice. Just, uh, don't expect me to be super quick, I'm not good at that as you've already seen : D
 

The Walrein

Junior Trainer
Partner
gulpin
Hello Tanuki! I read the first four chapters of this a while ago and enjoyed them. I had initially been planning on reviewing the most recent chapter, but I ended up just reviewing chapter four while I re-read it to refresh my memory, whoops. Anyways, here are my thoughts:

The forest engulfed him. Trees, grass, everything towered over him as he dashed away, too terrified of the flame-tailed lizard chasing him even to breathe. Gasping, he struggled to keep his distance from the predator, flames and fear bearing down on him. Just as he passed the last tree before a clearing, a root ripped his paw out from under him, sending him tumbling into the ground. He screamed, shooting out every shock he could manage, horrified tears streaming from his eyes while a hand jerked him up.
Strong language in this opening passage - liked the phrase "flames and fear bearing down on him" in particular.

He was done for. He knew it. The predator caught him. He'd be dead within a moment. But when he peaked his eyes open, he saw the charmander scurrying away below him.
I think this should be "peeked", but "peeked his eyes open" still sounds really odd to me - I'd suggest changing it to something like "when he dared to take a peek".

Also, interesting that the creature he's afraid of in the dream is a charmander - not really a species typically thought of as a scary predator! It seems to suggest that Vincent might have inherited instinctual memories of a specific pichu along with the body, one that had been chased by a charmander before.

Not just cold, freezing, and while the texture might have seemed a touch rough to a human foot, each uneven pock and pebble poked agonizingly into his little paws. Each new step stabbed further into his pads, wearing away his stamina until he started looking for some relief. He immediately headed towards the grass, hurrying as much as the agonizing asphalt would let him, gasping in relief the moment his paws met the grass.
This feels a little exaggerated - I can see asphalt being uncomfortable, but agonizing seems a bit much, given that pichu would have to deal with stepping on small rocks in the forest occasionally.

Silence. It told Vince all he needed. Chris knew. He knew what Vince had done. He'd probably tell everyone else. The rest of the world would know soon. Vince had to wonder, when would they decide to execute him? No, that'd be too humane, they'd probably torture him for at least eternity. It only made sense.
I found Vincent's childish sense of exaggerated guilt pretty cute here.

The deep orange sky signified it had gotten quite late. He sighed. What a long day. Had it really been just one?
Some synchronicity here with Vincent's remark earlier...

He shifted back to his hind paws to check his wounds. The bite mark had just barely stopped bleeding, but the burn continued to smolder all along his side. It hurt enough to keep him from noticing the end of the treeline until he passed it.
Oof, hopefully this isn't a setting where houndoom's dex entry applies!

Then he saw the towering sea of stone and steel.

It was massive. Endless. Tears wet his eyes, and he crumpled up into cold, restless sleep.
So it seems Ampaw's made his way to whatever city Vincent's in (I'm not sure if we ever learned the name of it, exactly).

I thought the scenes where Vincent reconciles with his mother and the one where Chris reassures him he's not really responsible for the world-wrecking orb shockwave were well-done and touching. I also liked all the detail paid to the difficulties and realities of navigating the world in a Pichu body, although I feel like Vincent felt a little too feeble at times. Other than that, my only real complaint is that Vincent's constant extremes of emotion can get a little tiring, especially when he's being afraid of things the reader knows he shouldn't be.

Thanks for sharing, and I'll be keeping up with new updates!
 
Chapter Six: Strawberries Mean Love

Tanuki

Pikachu Enthusiast
Location
Rhyme City
Pronouns
He/him/his
Sorry this turned out pretty complain-y like the last one, I'm just kind of bad at spotting the good things in stuff and talking about those. If you don't want me to review further because of this, let me know. I'm fine with either dropping or continuing, so it's really your choice. Just, uh, don't expect me to be super quick, I'm not good at that as you've already seen : D
Don't worry about that at all! I appreciated everything you said. It was all helpful one way or another. Even nitpicks are far from unnecessary.

As for the computer screen, I don't really do anything like a good job of portraying this, but it's really old. The kind that existed in the world before flatscreens.

The narrative is absolutely slow at the start here. He does a lot of effort for what amounts to nothing towards his goal. What's hard, though, is that's intentional. This chapter is essentially about him struggling to accomplish what he wants on his own. I want the reader to empathize with his frustration, and I guess I don't really know how to do that without also frustrating the reader.

I really do appreciate your review! Even just your reactions are an immense joy to read, and you catch a lot of stuff that I honestly just missed. I'm happy to hear more from you so long as you're interested in reading more.
This feels a little exaggerated - I can see asphalt being uncomfortable, but agonizing seems a bit much, given that pichu would have to deal with stepping on small rocks in the forest occasionally.
I might've gotten carried away with it, but the idea was highlighting his discomfort with man-made stuff and comfort in nature. That's the closest I can really come to disagreeing with any of your points here, though. In fact, you noticed a lot that I'm perpetually worried readers aren't picking up on, so thanks for that! I really appreciate the feedback, thanks.

Chapters:
One: Tonic Dissonance
Two: Born Under a Bad Sign
Three: Can You Hear Me?
Four: Tell Me
Five: Barefoot in Baltimore
Six: Strawberries Mean Love

Strawberries mean love
What's it made of?
Think you need love
You can feel love

"Strawberries Mean Love"-Strawberry Alarm Clock​





For the rest of the walk home, Vince rode on his friend's shoulder, rolling the black, white, and grey ball around in his hands. No matter how much he examined its details and relived the memory, he struggled to convince himself that it was real. That it held a living creature. A pikachu. One he'd called his father.

"Daddy." The very thought of the word still sent a chill down his spine, and he'd spoken it to a pikachu. Not only had his voice betrayed him, but even his feelings were for a pikachu that hadn't existed to him half an hour ago. He replayed the meeting over and over, a strange warmth undercut by a familiar, cold detachment.

His footing jerked up, forcing him to drop the ball so he could grab hold of Chris's jacket. A spike of fear filled him as he watched it fall, relief taking over when it fell into Chris's waiting hand. "You okay?" Chris asked. Vince nodded, looking up to see the stairs of his porch. They were at his house. He hadn't even noticed. Chris went the rest of the way up the stairs, Vince clutching his shoulder a little tighter.

An ear-piercing scream tensed every muscle in his and Chris' bodies. They both immediately recognized the voice. Chris dashed to the door, slamming into it when the knob wouldn't turn. The impact nearly knocked Vince to the ground. A faint glow appeared around the knob until Vince heard a click and Chris threw the door open.

Vince jumped down to the ground and dashed into the house, hoping he could get to his mother in time. The living room was barren. He sprinted to the kitchen, paws skittering in the transition from carpet to tile. His mother and brother stood panicked around the kitchen table, surrounded by boxes. Only a few steps behind him, Chris ran in and skidded to a halt. "What happened? Is everyone okay?"

The air held tension; self-sufficient, deafening silence muted any attempts at speech. After it hung for a moment too long, Peter broke it with a chuckle that slowly evolved into laughter. Vince tilted his head as confusion replaced concern and Peter struggled to contain himself. "We're just playing board games," he managed between chuckles. "She screamed because she rolled well." His mother then joined in on the laughter, while Vince and Chris shared a sigh of relief.

The laughter gradually died down, the commotion wore off, and Vince got a better look at the room. The boxes surrounding the table were all about the same shape and size, a few outliers here and there, and, despite having bold fonts, proved a bit difficult for Vince to read. Actually, the varying fonts made it a bit harder, with some letters nigh unrecognizable. After some mental effort, he managed to read a few names. From "Trainers of Cataan" to "Let's Fish for Magikarp" to the currently open "Poké-opoly," they were all cheesy, pokéfied versions of board games he recognized. His attention shifted back to the group when Peter asked, "What's Vince wearing?"

Vince rolled back onto his hind-legs, fiddling with the excess fabric on his sleeves. "A hoodie, found it in a pet store. I thought it would help with the cold, and the box said it helps keep pichu from shocking themselves." The realization that he hadn't done so since he put the hoodie on replaced his resentment that the jacket came from a pet store. He didn't even remember telling Chris about his electric incontinence. Another wave of gratitude pulled his mouth into a smile. "What have you two been up to?" Vince made a mental note to thank Chris again later, but a pat to his head let him know the message had already been received.

This time, Vince's mother answered. "We found a bunch of board games in the closet that all seem to be… different versions of ones we know." Her eyes drifted to the window that let in orange light and gained a hint of worry. "It's pretty late, are you boys hungry?" Before they could answer, she was already on her way to the fridge. "Here, you three start playing, and I'll make some supper." Robbed of an alternative, the two made it over to the table and sat down, Chris in a chair, Vince hopping up to the table itself; feet off the table wouldn't apply since he was barely one tall.

Deciding to continue playing "Poké-opoly," Peter started dealing the cash around the table, but a sliver of uncertainty slipped into Vince as he struggled to keep track of the numbers in his head. He counted the pile of tens, which seemed easy enough, but finding their combined value, remembering that number and then repeating the process for the pile of fifties put him at his limit. Failing to count the fifties pile for the third time, he looked up meekly at Chris (who was already perceiving his struggle) for some kind of help.

Chris forced a smile, twinge of concern all but hidden from Vince, and pat his head. "Here, let's play on a team together. That cash can be for your mom when she joins." With a sigh, Vince gave a dejected nod and shuffled over to Chris's side of the board. A pencil and paper greeted him when he got there. Confused, Vince looked up for an explanation. "You'll help me keep track of how much money I have." He fidgeted with his sleeves and looked down at the pencil, face contorted in uncertainty.

His mom interrupted, placing two plates holding a sandwich and chips in front of Peter and Chris, leaving and then soon returning with her plate and a bowl for Vince. Expecting a bowl of kibble, the mix of leaves, greens (at least, they would be if he could see color), nuts, and apple slices pleasantly surprised him. The three boys thanked her for the meal and they all started playing.

Eating ate most of Vince's attention at the start, but as his bowl emptied, and a few successful calculations bolstered his confidence, he became more and more invested in playing. Adding or subtracting took effort and some thinking every time, and maneuvering the pencil proved equally as difficult, but his ability to eventually do it at all put a smile on his face. A few turns in, at Chris's suggestion, he started rolling one of the die when the turn was theirs, pulling him even more into the game. He even cheered and cringed at a few particularly dicey rolls.

Had he stopped to think about it, getting so worked up over a simple board game would’ve embarrassed him, but the smiles and fun of his friend and family kept his mind from wandering towards disparaging thoughts. His grin stretched from ear to ear.

However, his excitement along with the hectic day's events gradually began to take their toll, piling first onto his paws, so he threw the die with less and less vigor until he didn't throw it at all; his mind, so he calculated slower and slower until he didn't calculate at all; his eyes, so they drooped lower and lower until they weren't open at all and he drifted off into a pleasant slumber.

A familiar, squeaky voice interrupted the soundless sea of sleep. "Vince? Vince, Vince!" Sleep and he had become fast friends the past two days, so he'd had plenty of time to get used to talking to Short Circuit in his dreams.

"Hey!" he said, "Yeah, it's me." An uncertain, worried silence brought an air of unease in the expanse of nothing.

Short Circuit's tone carried a careful and worried feeling. "Where's my dad? What happened to him?" The words cut Vince deep. "Is he in that ball? Can you get him out? I want to see him! I miss him!"

"I…" He paused, trying to compose himself. "Your dad is fine, Chris captured him in that pokéball. I—"

"So, I can see him?" the chu interrupted, voice brimming with excitement. Vince wanted to say yes. He wanted to tell the boy that seeing his father was easy as pressing a button. In a sense, it was. Push the button on the front of the pokéball and a beam of energy later, the boy's father would be standing right there.

But the heartwarming reunion would destroy Vince. "I can't." His voice shook, barely able to stay together for even two words. The idea of hugging somebody, calling them "daddy," tore him apart. Short Circuit's next words did so even more.

"But he's my dad!" Years of wanting to see his father again all happened at once. He didn't need to empathize with Short Circuit's pain; he felt it himself: that desperate desire for reunion. He couldn't put someone else through that.

"I… I'll try…" he felt his slumber fading. "I'll try my best." Sorrow and uncertainty melded together as he slowly rejoined consciousness, putting his head in a murky confusion as he heard someone speaking.

A familiar voice called his name, tone as delicate and sweet as it was loud and low. He covered his ears and closed his eyes tighter, groggily hoping for a few more moments of sweet, sweet sleep. A hand poking and petting his back and more calls refused to let him, forcing him to roll over and push himself up to a slouched sitting position. Trying (and failing) to rub the sleep out of his eyes, he looked up to see Chris kneeling over him. Too drowsy to formulate a sentence asking why Chris woke him up, he just tilted his head and waited for an explanation (probably would have squinted to drive the point home if his eyes weren't already half-shut). "Ready?" Chris asked, answering nothing.

Breaking eye contact with Chris, he rubbed both paws with his eyes and mumbled, "For what?" under his breath.

"To do what we got the supplies for yesterday," Chris started, a touch of confusion in his tone. "We'll take the orb back to where you found it and hope we can figure out how it works." Vince nodded, memory steadily coming back to him after he could finally keep his eyes open unassisted.

"Why so early, though?" he asked, looking up with droopy eyes.

Chris chuckled, humor replaced by confusion when he realized Vince wasn't kidding. "Vince, it's almost mid-day." Surprise popped Vince’s eyes open, then shifted to sheepish shame, embarrassment bouncing off his cheeks. A tightness in his stomach accompanied by a loud growl sent even more sparks launching, shame becoming humiliation from having the audacity to be hungry.

After another fit of chuckles, Chris suggested, "So, we'll head out after you grab some breakfast?" Vince nodded and the two headed towards the kitchen. After a few steps, his empty stomach pushed his paws to move faster and faster and run ahead of his friend, disregarding his family in the living room as he dashed by, and realizing too late that he needed help getting food as he stood helpless in front of the fridge. Luckily, Chris followed only a few steps behind. "What do you want to eat?"

"He's going to say 'apple,'" his brother interrupted. Vince wanted to deny the claim, but the sparks bouncing down his cheeks, and the fact he was standing in front of the fridge made his intentions clear. "There's food for him in the pantry," Peter explained, stepping around the other two boys and opening the pantry.

As he reached down to the bag of kibble, Vince shouted, "No!" tone and volume reaching Peter despite the language barrier. The two stared down at him, waiting for an explanation, their gaze deflating his righteous fury and replacing it with insecurity. "It's… it's not…" he stammered, "human food." He began to fiddle with his sleeves while Chris translated for Peter.

"Well, you aren't…" Peter started, stopping when he realized the harm in telling his little brother he wasn't human. "You can't eat the same things people do." Vince continued turning the excess fabric around in his paws, trying to think up a counterargument. "What you eat isn't what makes you human." His brother knelt down, putting a compassionate hand on his head. "The pi-chew gives you all the nutrients your body needs. That's important because we don't really know what you need to eat right now." Vince racked his brain for an argument, but his inability to make one and the ever-growing hunger in his stomach made him give in and nod his head.

While Peter grabbed a bowl and started filling it with the kibble, Chris pat Vince’s head, leaning down to whisper, "I'll grab you an apple or two for the road." It was a minor consolation (or two), but helped nonetheless. Peter placed the bowl in front of him and he started eating. He started at a steady pace, but his ravenous hunger soon had him filling his stomach and emptying the bowl at a breakneck pace. He reached the bottom and rolled back and sat with a full, content feeling in his belly. "Ready to go, now?" Chris asked.

Vince's mom, silent observer up to this point, made her presence known. "Go where?" Vince hopped to his feet and scampered over to greet her. She knelt and pat his head, not breaking eye contact with Chris, still waiting for an answer.

"We just want to look around some more and see all the changes." Not entirely untrue, but definitely far from honest.

"Is it safe out there?" she asked, voice laden with worry.

"Yeah," Chris replied suspiciously speedily. "There's hardly any people at all, and I picked up some stuff to deal with wild pokémon yesterday just in case." The mention of wild pokémon reminded Vince of his promise to Short Circuit.

He held his right arm in his left as his mom said, "Well, that's good to hear," her voice still shaky. She picked up Vince and pulled him into a hug he returned as best he could, being so small. After a moment, she pulled him away just a little so they could make eye contact. "Be safe, okay?"

Vince nodded his head and gave an affirmative, "Pi!" in response with a smile. Another quick hug and she let him down.

With his feet on the ground, the threat of his promise loomed over his head once again. "Ready, Vince?" Chris asked. Vince nodded and headed towards him, getting a pat goodbye from his brother as he passed. The two headed out the front door and across the yard. Vince, so lost in his thoughts, didn't notice Chris stop and kneel until he called out, "Vince!" Finally noticing Chris wasn't right next to him anymore, he turned around and tilted his head. "What's wrong? Your thoughts are down."

Vince rolled back on his hind-legs and started rolling the sleeves around in his paws. "I made a promise with Short Circuit," he mumbled. Chris remained silent, and a glance up let Vince know he was waiting for more. "I… told him I'd let him see his dad," he answered, eyes intently examining the ground.

The tense silence that followed told Vince Chris knew how difficult the promise would be to keep. After a time, Chris broke the silence. "You won't have to do it alone." A supportive hand pat his head, and Vince looked up at his friend. "I'll be with you. I'll do whatever I can to help make this easier for you." That managed to give Vince a shallow smile. "It'll be all right," Chris said as he stood. "Let's have the meeting once we make it to the woods, all right?" Vince nodded, and the two headed off. Vince took the lead by a hair to show the way.

Even though he'd walked the same path several times, a few warped landmarks and his drastically different point of view brought an air of doubt as he went along the path. But experience won out in the end, and he managed to find the break in the fencing that he'd always go through to enter the woods. Vince nimbly hopped through and didn't even think to stop and wait for Chris until he heard a crash, thud, and torrent of swears. Though he had the best intentions at heart when he turned around, seeing the crumpled mess of his friend flail on the ground with his foot stuck in the fence threw him into a fit of laughter.

He tried to hold back, but it wasn't very long until he laughed so hard he couldn't stand. "All right, all right," Chris grumbled, "Laugh it up." A few crunches of grass underfoot, and Vince could tell Chris was standing over him, but it still took him several giggles before he could compose himself. Finally able to sit up, he looked up to Chris's frustrated (yet amused) expression, unable to help a few more giggles. "Are you done?" He nodded his head, one last fit of chuckles making him a liar.

His humor turned to confusion when Chris sat down next to him. He tilted his head to the side, then his eyes popped open with realization once he saw the pokéball in Chris's hand. A fresh, familiar uncertainty clouded the last bit of laughter that lingered in his eyes. "Ready?" Nodding, he scooted closer to Chris, taking what little comfort he could in the warmth coming off his friend's leg.

One click, a flash of light, and there he stood. Unfortunately for Chris, the pokéball had reassembled the pikachu exactly as he was when it had captured him: tensed and ready for battle. Before either Chris or Vince could respond, a painful bolt of electricity engulfed Chris and the pikachu grabbed Vince and started dashing into the woods. Just as they passed the first few trees, Vince managed to regain enough composure to wriggle free and shout, "Wait!"

The pikachu growled something confused while Vince fumbled into a standing position, heartbeat racing. When he got a look at the pikachu, head tilted in confusion, the same torrent of emotions from yesterday flooded his mind. Grief, love, loss, relief, fear, he had to shake his head to get some form of stillness in his mind.

He's not your father. He's Short Circuit's. He made eye contact with the pikachu once more, face as worried and uncertain as ever. "He's my friend!" he shouted, pointing aggressively at Chris who had just recovered enough to stand.

The pikachu remained thoroughly unconvinced, eyes squinted in confusion. "He's predator! Big! Captured me!" For the first time, Vince heard the simple syntax he'd been making use of without his English thoughts filling in the gaps to smooth it out. Jarring as it was, he didn't have time to dwell on it.

"He's been keeping me safe," he tried to explain. For a moment, the pikachu's expression softened. In an instant, it hardened once again and he shoved Vince behind him, letting out a low growl towards Chris who had made the mistake of taking a cautious step in their direction.

Feeling electricity build up in the air and predicting what he was preparing, Vince shouted, "Stop!" as he rushed to regain his footing and throw himself directly in front of the pikachu. Barely dodging another bat to the side, he managed to keep his position. "He's my friend!" he repeated, "He doesn't want to hurt us! Please listen!" The chaos caught up with him. Tears flooded his eyes.

The pikachu softened his expression from anger to concern. His son in tears must have been just enough to convince him. He wrapped his arms around Vince and sat back, cradling the teary-eyed pichu. Vince didn't even attempt to fight it, he didn't want to. While he'd gotten used to human contact, the touch of another chu held an innate comfort far greater than any he'd felt in the past few days.

Father or not, the touch alone calmed him immensely. Steadily, a damp stream worked its way onto his head, and the sparing harsh breaths he felt in the pikachu's chest let him know he was crying, too. For what felt like an eternity, the two held each other in a warm embrace with a steady, damp stream evidence of the shared sorrow. He could actually hug someone, wrap his arms around them as they did the same, and the soft, warm fur rubbed against his own so nicely. A flood of relief fell from his eyes, dampening fur and fabric more and more.

Very slowly, very steadily, the tears began to slow, and the sobs became whimpers, and the two released in unison, an unspoken synchronization. "So happy to see you, son." The warm, low (for a chu) voice cut a hole through his heart.

He had to do it. "I'm…" he searched for the right words but couldn't find them. "I'm not," he whispered. He couldn't bear to look when the pikachu tilted his head. "I'm not Short Circuit." A light, nervous chuckle told him he had to keep explaining. "I look like him, but I'm somebody else. Something happened, and I changed into him."

The warmth of a paw on his head felt bittersweet. "Pichu. Not ditto." He looked up to see an amused expression, and it broke his heart. Of course he wouldn't believe. What Vince had said was ridiculous, it probably sounded like a kid's ramblings about the imaginative adventures in the land of pretend.

With all the determination he could muster he hardened his expression and tried to be as serious as possible and say, "I mean it." The amused expression wavered. "I'm Vince."

A fit of confused giggles pulled away all the determination Vince had been able to muster. "Right. Short Circuit." It was Vince's turn to be confused.

"No, I said I'm Vince, not Short—" a realization struck him like a ton of bricks. He said his name and Short Circuit repeatedly one after the other and found himself making the same sounds with both names. Rather, when he tried to say, "Vince," he would instead say, "Short Circuit," while thinking, "Vince." When he thought about it, the substitution made a lot more sense than the pichu language having a word for a human name, but it still shocked him he hadn't noticed it until now.

"Hey!" A concerned voice accompanied by paw gripping his shoulder pulled him out of his introspection. He looked up to see an expression of concerned bemusement. "All right?" He tried hard once again to steel himself, but the pikachu suddenly pulling him in close and growling at some creature behind him interrupted his train of thought.

An exasperated sigh preceded Chris’s tired plea, "Can you please convince him I can come over there?" Vince pushed against the grip, only a very little bit of pressure needed before he broke free. To his surprise, before he could urge the pikachu to calm down, the pikachu was already walking towards Chris, taking an aggressive stance a few feet away. He let the silence hang in the air.

Not sure what to do, Chris hesitantly introduced himself. "I'm Chris." He knelt down very slowly and started extending his hand, quickly pulling it back when the pikachu growled. Another tense silence had Chris glancing back and forth between the two chu. After a few moments too long, he focused on Vince and asked, "What should I call him?"

Vince panicked for a moment, realizing he couldn't think of a name to call him. Relief washed over him when the pikachu answered, "Ampaw." An expectant gaze from Chris confused Vince. He shrugged his shoulders and pointed at Ampaw.

Chris brought his hand to his face. "Vince, I can't understand him. But I can understand you," he sighed. Embarrassed, Vince quickly translated. Chris looked back at Ampaw, trying to keep a relaxed, inoffensive smile. He started reaching for his backpack, but a growl from Ampaw let him know that was a bad idea. Slowly, he put his hands back in front of him. "Vince," he started, "Grab the snack from my backpack. It's in the side pocket."

Vince nodded and scampered behind him, hopped up to the side pocket and fiddled with the zipper until he had just enough of an opening to stick his head in, grabbed the stem with his teeth and pulled the apple out. He considered taking a few bites, but a harsh, "Vince!" stopped him. He begrudgingly brought the apple to Chris, a wave of disappointment filling him when Chris pulled the apple out of his paws. Slowly, carefully, Chris presented the apple to Ampaw who sniffed, poked, and cautiously took it.

After a few nibbles, Ampaw waved Vince over. Ecstatic, Vince dashed over and the two shared the apple. Ampaw, just barely more ravenous than Vince, managed to secure a slight majority of the portion over Vince. He even ate the core. The few berry bushes he'd found along the way hadn't quite been enough to substitute what he would usually get at the colony.

"See?” Vince cheered. “I told you he's a friend!" Some mixture of being full of apple and seeing his son's grin put him at ease, letting a small smile crease his lips. He leaned over and touched his red patch to Vince's, causing an exchange of electricity with bouncing sparks. Vince leaned into the gesture, its meaning implanted into his subconscious.

He didn't reciprocate Ampaw suddenly pulling off his hoodie, trying in vain to grab hold as it was wrested from his grasp. "Hey! Stop!" he protested as Ampaw tossed it to the ground behind him. He tried to go pick it up, but Ampaw held him back.

"Bad. Blocks electricity," he explained. Vince wanted to argue that was the point of it, but Ampaw wouldn't change his mind. "Okay, time go home." He walked a few steps towards the forest before turning back and beckoning Vince.

No more fabric to fidget, Vince simply held his right wrist while he tried to deliberate over how to respond. "I can't." As anticipated, Ampaw tilted his head to the side, awaiting an explanation. "I have to stay with Chris for now." Ampaw's expression hardened. "I… broke something, and I have to fix it." He broke eye contact when he saw Ampaw prepare an angry response.

"He'll be able to go back soon," Chris interrupted, "Don't worry. It won't be too long." Chris took a few steps forward and knelt down, somehow not showing any apprehension approaching a pikachu so prone to shocking him. The risk paid off; while Ampaw remained visibly frustrated, he begrudgingly returned to Vince's side. Vince nuzzled up to him, guilt deepening at the sight of further suffering. Ampaw wrapped an arm around him with a shallow smile.

No father wants his will denied, but for now, just being with (who he thought was) his son made him happy. Leaning his head on top of Vince's, he asked, "Play?" When it came to pichu, asking was a formality, and the excitement immediately apparent on Vince's face proved the standard true. Yet, Vince just barely managed to keep control and resist answering by looking up at Chris, waiting for permission. The few seconds it took for Chris to translate his scattered and frantic thoughts felt like an eternity.

Chris finally, after two more torturous seconds, answered, "Sure, we've got time. Just stay close and don't get lost."

Before Chris had finished the first word, Vince had already unloaded a reserved shock into Ampaw, shouting, "Tag!" before scampering off as fast as his legs would take him, the pikachu not hesitating a heartbeat to give chase.
 
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