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Pokémon The Inalienable Dreamless

The Inalienable Dreamless

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
Author's Note: Wow, I've really been pumping out quite a few one-shots in the past two months. Since I've rediscovered my love for writing, I've been cycling through different ideas for short stories, and with this one, I wanted to write something a bit more experimental in nature. I can't give too much commentary on what went into this since I don't want to spoil anything, but it was a lot of fun to explore a different method of storytelling from what I usually do. Special thanks to @Cresselia92 and Malady (offsite) for beta-reading this one-shot!

Content Warning: Contains elements of surreal horror with occasional bits of disturbing imagery.

Summary: A confused Banette wakes up in a fiery room with no escape, seeing visions of a girl with black hair, an enigmatic Hypno, and piles of burned toys. It's a hopeless situation with no way out for her... but she has to try.

--

The Inalienable Dreamless

“I want to feel like I feel when I’m asleep.”
Giles Corey

The Banette was trapped in that awful, infernal room again. Smoke cloaked the ceiling, obscuring everything in clouded darkness except from the rising flames. A voice shouted from beyond the door — she couldn’t understand it, but she knew by the tone that they were calling for her.

She desperately thrashed her cotton-filled body forward, hoping she would get through the haze and reach the door to safety, but to no avail. Flames blocked the exit, cutting off her only chance of escape. Everything was caving in on her. Rubble cascaded from the ceiling like snow. A falling beam nearly crushed her to death. Eventually, she was forced to take refuge in the corner of the room, where all she could do was close her eyes and await her doom.

Help came when a paw touched her face. It was a Hypno, who looked down at her with inky black eyes. He spoke, though no sound came out. She spoke too, though no sound came out either. But she wanted to get rid of this mess, these visions that haunted her, and this room she kept finding herself in over and over again.

He nodded and granted her wish. Instead of subduing the fire though, his whole body flashed white and exploded as the flames engulfed him. He screamed a silent shout. Fire spewed from his mouth, his eye sockets, from every orifice. Flames spread to the helpless doll too, enveloping her. Hot, white heat. Hot. Burning. Excruciating. Silent screaming. Mouth zipped up. All senses fading…

Fading…

Argh, I’ve… failed. P-please, I need a few minutes to recuperate from this. I’m sorry.

* * *​

Stitch woke up to a tiny fire burning in the corner of the tent. She didn’t mind it that much — she liked that pine needle smell, and it was comforting to know that Brown was nearby and awake. It was high time to start his training today. Before she left to join him, Stitch put her hand over the flame. It was cold.

She got dressed and headed out to find that Charmeleon blowing blue plumes of fire into the morning air. He had learned that trick recently and would spend a lot of time by himself watching all the different colours his flames would make. Red. A darker red. A slightly reddish shade of orange… Not exactly a wide range, but no matter what colour it was, it looked pretty regardless.

Stitch threw two apples in his direction, which rolled to his feet.

“Ah, Rags.” He smiled at Stitch’s presence. “You’re up early.”

“Look who’s talking,” she said.

“You know we don’t have the same biology-clock-things as you do.” Brown blew a stream of fire at both the pieces of fruit, which cooked as it burned. “Either I’m a fast sleeper or you’re just lazy.”

“Hardy har. I think our breakfast should be done by now.”

Brown hurriedly blew the flames out, leaving behind two baked apples with shrivelled-up skin and golden-brown flesh. The first time Stitch met Brown as a Charmander, he was munching on one of those things, and when they both agreed to be sparring buddies, the name stuck with her. He still retained his original name: Hotfoot, but Brown struck him as a more dignified nickname.

The two sat beside each other as they enjoyed their meal. They talked about a lot of things, none of which Stitch remembered, but enjoyed all the same. She couldn’t really tell what Brown said when he talked with his mouth full, but who could blame him? The juicy insides. The smoky taste. The crispy texture of the skin. These were all to die for.

Now it was time for them to train. The two gathered up a bunch of twigs in a basket, then snapped them all into little pieces until they made a pile. Perfect for projectile-based exercises. Stitch stood far away from Brown as he entered a battle stance.

“I’m throwing the first batch,” Stitch said, plunging her hand into the pile. “Ready?”

“Char!” Brown chirped.

She threw the twigs at him and, in the blink of an eye, he spat little flames at each of them, one by one. They fell to the dirt, which singed and burned holes into the mud.

“Next one…”

“Meeeeleon!”

Stitch threw the next batch, and then the next one, and another one after that. Brown certainly made short work of this. It was over before it began, and all that was left of it was a scattered pile of ash and smoke. That was impressive. She’d have to find a new method of training Brown, but for now, she was satisfied.

“Nice one!” She ran over to her beloved Pokemon and hugged him as he trilled into her chest. His breath was hot, but she didn’t mind. She didn’t know what she’d do without Brown by her side. He was the only friend she ever had. The only other Pokemon, er, person she knew that didn’t talk down to her, tell her what to wear, what to play with, what to say, when to speak, what to cook…

A shriek pierced through the forest, driving away all sorts of bird flocks from their nests to fly away from that awful sound. Brown shook, clutching his tail for comfort.

“Hey, hey,” Stitch said, stroking the back of his head. “You just nailed that training session a moment ago. You could take anything on with those flames of yours. What harm’s another Pokemon gonna do to you?”

“Char…” He was unsure.

“Well, we need to head to Lumiose anyway, so we’ll follow the path to safety. Pokemon aren’t supposed to attack us there, right?”

Brown slowly broke away from Stitch’s embrace and nodded.

“So will you keep me company for a bit in case something does happen? We’ll be back in the city before you know it, kicking ass and taking names.”

“Leon!” He pumped his fist in the air and puffed his chest out.

“You know, you seem to understand me just fine, but you can’t speak for whatever reason.”

“Hold on, we need to pack the tent,” Brown said, taking the pegs out from the ground. “Stitch, can you help me?”

“Yeah, sure,” she said, suppressing a huff. Why did she need to help him? It was his tent. Nevertheless, they packed everything up before heading off. Of course, Stitch had to carry it all, because she was Brown’s pack Numel for whatever reason.

They rejoined the path and walked for a while, then walked, walked, and walked some more, but they didn’t seem to make any progress at all. There were no landmarks signifying they were anywhere near Courmaline, and Brown kept complaining that the tree formations looked the same. Clever lizard.

“We’re going in circles,” Stitch moaned, slowing down. “Ughhhh, my back is killing me. You know what, you Pokemon are supposed to be stronger than us. Why don’t you carry it?”

“That’s hardly dignified to make a Pokemon carry your crap. And you of all mon should know, right?”

“Last time I checked, I still had freckles and blackheads while you still have scale—”

Stitch took one look at her hand — it was no longer fleshy and warm, but grey and leathery. She blinked, and it turned into a normal human hand again.

“Wait, you’re just playing with me, aren’t you… Brown?”

Brown lay motionless on the gravel. Stitch gasped, unsure of what to make of this situation, but she made haste.

“Brown? Brown! Please, answer me—”

All that was left of him was a Charmeleon doll, button eyes and all. He never learned Substitute, right? Then what was this thing doing here? Why did it take his place?

More screams. Louder this time. Stitch couldn’t leave Brown behind. So she went looking. She ran through brambles, bushes, and through thick mud, but found no sign of him anywhere. No, he couldn’t have…

Stitch stopped dead in her tracks when realisation dawned on her. He must’ve escaped without her. What did she do to deserve this? She loved her Pokemon. Her Pokemon loved her. Why did Brown leave her? Why did he have to split them apart?

He? Who was he? Brown? Or someone else?

Those inhuman wails stopped her train of thought, shaking her to the core. As much as Stitch tried to block the noise out, it didn’t stop the ringing in her ears, like static after an explosion. She couldn’t do anything except zero in on what the screams actually said.

It was no use, for they were all gibberish.

Brown appeared in front of her again. Whew, what a relief, finally, he came back—

A burning Charmeleon doll lay on the ground as the flames ate away at his cotton-filled face. She tried to put out the fire, but her hands caught ablaze as well. She stopped, dropped and rolled, she beat her hands against the dirt to put them out, but no matter what she did, they engulfed her body again.

A pair of yellow feet sprinted towards her. A pair of pink eyes flashed. It was...

It didn’t matter. Everything went pure black.

You can hear me, right? This doesn’t seem to be working. Don’t worry, I’ll try to help you out of this mess. I promise.

* * *​

The dolls crushed Patchy. One barely weighed anything on its own, but with hundreds, possibly thousands on top of her at once, the collective weight gradually sucked all the air out of her body. She had to swim. She grabbed a Charmeleon plushie, only for it to crumble into ashes. She then grabbed a Smeargle, then a Torchic, then a Phanpy, and then a Pikachu, which disintegrated upon contact as well. As a last resort, she grabbed a Shuppet, which still held its form under her grasp, allowing her to pull herself up. She was able to grab onto many more plushies — they gave her the strength to paddle through the fabric sea.

Even though the dolls filtered all the light out, she still recognised their buttoned features. The further she rose, the lighter her surroundings became until she swam above the surface. The sea of plushies became a beach as Patchy stood on the shore of scalps.

The cotton dune stretched out endlessly to the grey horizon. No matter where she walked, there were no landmarks nearby to give her any sense of direction. At least the ground was soft underneath her feet. She walked further and furth—

“Hee hee ha ha! Hee hee ha ha!

Patchy flinched at the noise. A buried toy twitched as it emitted an awful, monotonous laugh. Patchy tried to see if there was anything she could use as a weapon when the toy rose from the ground and hopped in place, revealing itself to be a Gengar on a spring.

“Hee ha! Hee ha!” he laughed out without shifting his catlike grin. “Are you lost? Lost?

Patchy shivered at the sight of the ghostly presence before her. She wanted to run away but there was nowhere to run to. And yet, an invisible force drew her to the Gengar, one that didn’t express malevolence. There were no more options other than to play along for now.

“Y-yes,” she admitted.

“Well, you’re in luck! Luck!” The Gengar bounced around her with a spring in his step. “I’m the only one still around here, here, so I know the way outta this place! Place!

“Where are we anyway?”

“Well, this, this…” The Gengar’s spring twisted to turn his smile upside down. “This is where all dolls like us go to rest, rest. A graveyard, if you wanna call it that, that.

“Why am I here, then?” She held her hands out. They were grey and featureless at first, but then they formed fingers and a coating of warm skin. “I-I’m a human, or at least, I think I am. I shouldn’t be here.”

“Where else do you think you oughta be?”

“Home.” She sank to her knees, barely holding back tears. “I wanna go home…”

The Gengar pulled himself up and spun in place. Suddenly, he disappeared in a puff of smoke and regained form as a real Gengar: made of fur and ectoplasm rather than plastic and metal. “I can help ya out, that is, if ya trust a ghost like me.” He flashed a wide, toothy grin, which Patchy blanched at. Gengar promptly closed his mouth, still retaining a smirk. “Better?”

“Mmm, maybe…” Patchy put on a wan smile for his sake. “Somehow I feel like I’m safe with you. Well, safer.”

“I’ll take safer over pants-wettingly scared. Now, let’s vamoose.”

Gengar led the way. Even though he was supposed to guide her somewhere, it seemed like they were just going in circles. He wasn’t too bothered by this predicament since he hopped and skipped his way forward and whistled a tune.

Too-tee-woo-ta tee tee woo…

Patchy recognised that melody. She couldn’t quite place where she heard it, but it was on the tip of her tongue. It was somewhat of a comfort to her, finally, something familiar to her in this situation.

“Hey, how’d you know that song?” she asked.

“Just makin’ it up as I go. I need something to not make me go coo coo bananas. You should try it too.”

So she did, which soothed her even as they walked amidst the crumbling bodies of all those other toys. As she whistled, she lost track of the time until a figure emerged from the shadows. Patchy stopped, recognising who it was.

“Oh,” she said with a sigh. “Oh dear, Agar.”

It was a Goodra, except something was wrong with him. Agar looked normal and life-sized as he towered over the two, but his dripping goo formed a hissing puddle on the floor that slowly melted his lower half away.

“Ma...ma? Play… play with me.” He held two liquified stumps out to Patchy, and she recoiled along with the Gengar. “Oh, sorry… how rude…”

“No, it’s alright, it’s alright. Jeez.”

“Is… is there any way we can play? Maybe catch, like we used to— oh…” Agar looked at his own melting paws. “Never mind. Maybe I Spy?”

“I want to, but…”

“Are you busy? Too old to play with me anymore?”

Patchy didn’t answer.

“But, you’re my owner, right? So, will you do it?”

She stopped for a moment, considering what words she’d use next. She tried to change the subject in her head. Maybe if she kept on topic, she could soften the blow. But there was no way of sugarcoating this.

“I’m sorry, Agar. I don’t need you anymore.”

Agar didn’t know how to take it. He stared at Patchy, wide eyed, as if she had just told him Arceus wasn’t real.

“N-no…” His face scrunched up and he started blubbering, acidic tears eating away holes in the felt-filled ground. Patchy turned away, Gengar joining her.

“Don’t look,” she said. But despite her own instructions, as they turned tail to a different path, Patchy glanced behind her.

“Ma...”

The tears ate away at Agar’s skin, leaving a fluffy skeleton of charred cotton stuffing. He stopped crying.

Too-tee-woo-ta tee tee woo…

Patchy tried to press on despite the stone in her stomach. Her knees wobbled. Her breaths were raspy. Her bladder was on fire. The ground felt like quicksand, sucking her in with hundreds of phantom limbs. She powerwalked to try and avoid the vacuum, but they pulled her further in.

“H-help!” She screamed. Gengar rushed to her side and tried to grab her, but his arm was no match for hundreds more of them on the opposition. And so, she slipped from his grasp and drowned in the sea of claws.

They tore her piece by piece, limb from limb, muscle from muscle, sinew from sinew, vein from vein, bone from bone, atom from atom, until there was nothing left of her. None of it hurt. She was a jumbled puzzle board, scrambled by hundreds of blindfolded players who tried to fit her parts together with many foreign pieces from different sets. They reassembled her brain into the body of a doll, and they launched her back to the surface where she reunited with Gengar.

“You… you’re a Banette again.”

“Mmm?” She tried to speak but her mouth was zipped up. She looked at her hands, or paws, or whatever they were. Her arms were grey again. “What... what am I?”

“You’re Patch, of course. Always have been.”

“Yeah, but…” This time, she couldn’t stop the waterworks. “I’m a mess!”

“C’mon, that’s just crazy talk.”

“No, but… I’m not me… It feels like I’m full of other people’s pieces… full of their memories… I don’t have any of my own. I’m nothing…”

A ship appeared in the distance where an ocean suddenly gained form. A bunch of Gurdurr picked out the rubble from a shipwreck. A human instructed them from behind the scenes. They all seemed happy picking it apart, for it gave them the chance to build their strength.

They broke it to pieces, only to start putting it back together with newly-varnished planks. The wood looked sturdier this time and blended in with the rest of the galleon. In no time at all, the ship was as good as new.

The human christened it with a bottle of whiskey and sent it out to go on a new voyage. It sailed into the distance where the sunrise beckoned its arrival to uncharted waters. From up close, the ship would’ve looked like a patchwork affair. But from far away, Patch couldn’t tell the difference between the old and new boat.

She smiled. Such an unexpected delight. Patch turned to Gengar.

“Hey, what do you—”

Gengar turned back into a toy.

The doll Gurdurr all turned to Patch. They ran towards her and tied her up, then held her down as they rebuilt the ship before her very eyes. They deconstructed and reconstructed it all over again, except in a different form. It was an effigy built in her image: a Banette, which they took her inside of.

She could only watch in horror from up on high, observing from the head of the trojan ghost, as the Gurdurr kindled a fire at the bottom. The wood crackled — it started burning. Then the flames rose, rose, and rose.

Patch ran in circles, trying to find a way out until she found a door. She leapt towards it, only for an explosion of heat to burst forth from the frame, cornering Patchy in a circle of fire.

She coughed out every breath. Her lungs were burning. All senses… fading...

A familiar set of paws entered the room.

Everything turned pink, then black again.

I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you sooner. I don’t know how to pull you out of this. Can you… oh, you’re slipping away again.

* * *​

Patch couldn’t move, but it was a blissful kind of paralysis. She was in the arms of her one and only, her best friend, her owner, Brown. They were at a carnival of some sorts. Brown was halfway through a mint-chocolate ice cream, there were people playing the big band, and there was an assortment of Pokemon dancing to the silent orchestra: Medicham, Primarina, Oricorio, and much more. They all took part in the circus routine as the Primarina shot big bubbles into the air for the other performers to swim-dance in.

Patch wanted to see what else the circus had to offer. There were a few other Pokemon in the corner she wanted to watch, but she was stuck with Brown. That was fine. The red string was there to tether them together, to keep them safe, forever and always.

After the performance ended, Brown took Patch with her to the arcades there and sat her down on a nearby stool while Brown played. It seemed to be a rhythm game of sorts. Even though Patch couldn’t hear the music, she kept a watchful eye on her friend as she tapped the colourful buttons. The notes came down fast, yet Brown seemed to read them all just fine. Patch could’ve watched her play that game for ages. It was one of the only times a smile seemed to cross her face, which was a good look on her.

She must’ve gotten tired of it at some point since she bashed her hand on one of the buttons and turned around in a huff. Though she was laughing as well for some reason. Strange how games had that power to evoke both joy and anger in her.

Brown took Patch to one of the rides this time. Good thing Patch couldn’t get motion sickness, unlike her friend. Though it wasn’t one of those kinds of fast rides, it was a ferris wheel, which was more her speed anyway.

The ride started, and soon enough, they were high up in the air! Nothing could touch them from up there. Brown stared off into the distance; unfortunately, Patch wasn’t tall enough to see what the view was beyond the metal gate. Brown’s mouth twisted. She faced Patch again — her black bangs obscured her gaze, not allowing her friend to peek into them.

Brown noiselessly spoke. Then she parted her hair to reveal her damp eyes. Patch didn’t know why Brown cried, but if she cried, Patch wanted to cry too. But she couldn’t. She had as much of a chance catching the sun with her paws as she did crying with button eyes. But Brown took her by surprise by pulling her in for a hug, burying Patch’s face in her own. Her tears caught on those buttons. So, she was crying after all. She experienced her friend’s pain as her own.

By the time they got off of the ride, Brown had dried her eyes. It had turned night and the two watched a fireworks display together. They both expected it to be a grand display of flashing colours, but it was anything but. The rockets fizzled out as soon as they launched. The Braixen performers looked on in confusion as the other humans tried to sort out the fireworks fracas. Then the fiery troupe improvised and put on a flame dance, sticks spinning in arrays of different colours. Red. Darker reds. Slightly reddish shades of orange... There wasn’t much variety there, but the talent on display was undeniable.

Brown seemed to enjoy this more than the previous display since she tapped her feet to the pounding of the band’s drums. Even if Patch couldn’t hear the rhythm at all, she was happy that Brown was happy.

Patch saw a Hypno in the crowd. He wore a set of red-rimmed glasses that balanced at the top of his head, a white coat that dragged on the floor like an overly-long superhero cape, and a kaleidoscopic propeller hat. Somehow, Patch sensed this wasn’t their first meeting. The Hypno was about to order some cotton candy. He drooled as he reached his paw out to the vendor’s tempting hand, but he refused it at the last minute and walked away with nothing. Except he didn’t walk away, rather, he was walking towards Brown. Then, he said:

“I’m trying my best not to eat this all up. You deserve to have these nice memories.”

He left without fanfare, leaving the two to enjoy the rest of the carnival for as long as the night lasted.

* * *​

Rags was both a resident of the house and the house itself. Everything she saw and felt as she walked through those twisting five-and-a-half minute hallways, the house saw and felt as well, and vice versa. Rags felt it all. The creaking foundations. The fibreglass in the walls. The Pidove roosting atop the rafters.

Each step she took on those rickety floorboards sent small stabs of pain through her body. She didn’t know houses could feel pain. So she tiptoed through those hallways, which dulled the ache to just a lingering sense of unease. Shft, shft. She continued to shuffle her way through the room. Shft, shft. The end of the hallway showed itself after what must’ve been an hour. A door awaited her, which opened of its own accord.

Rags entered the living room, which hummed with the currents of the electrical outlets. A man, a woman, and a girl with black hair stared at the TV, entranced by a cartoon featuring a Scrafty. The girl enjoyed it, and her parents seemed to enjoy it too, until the woman disappeared, and the man changed the channel to the local news station. The girl tried to reach for the remote, only for him to tap her wrist with a scolding expression.

White light consumed everything in the room. The family, the couch and the TV all disappeared. There was nothing but dust left. Another door opened where the monitor used to be.

Rags traipsed her way into the next hallway. Unlike the last one, it only took half a minute for her to enter the kitchen. Its interior was immaculate: white marble counters glistened under the shining ceiling lights; black marble cupboards gave way to perfectly arranged shelves of spices, snacks and condiments; sets of iridescent knives were neatly arranged on the walls like trophies.

Then the girl with black hair appeared out of thin air, making a floury mess as she tried to cook pancakes. Her heavy-looking purse was on the counter, along with a paper bag filled with ingredients. She whistled a tune that bounced in the marbled echochamber.

Too-tee-woo-ta tee tee woo…

Rags saw herself. A Charmeleon plushie rested on another counter behind the girl, positioned so it watched over her. Even though it only saw her back, the change in posture and the girl’s expression was different. It was one of the only times a smile seemed to cross her face, which was a good look on her.

The woman from before entered the room and smiled as she watched over her. She kept some distance from the girl’s cooking and only intervened when asked to. The end result was a rather uneven stack of vaguely Pancham-shaped pancakes, but they enjoyed it all the same, smiling through syrup-stained teeth.

Rags watched from afar, lost in this reverie, but as soon as she blinked, the kitchen transformed. That woman was nowhere to be seen, and the counters and stove-tops were no longer messy. All that was left was the girl, who slowly whisked the mixing bowl with a downtrodden expression.

The man took the woman’s place and entered the room, peering over the girl’s shoulder to watch her progress. He stepped in whenever the girl messed up, even when she didn’t ask for help, and whenever she started cooking the batter in the pan, he kept throwing away the batches that didn’t look exactly like the Pokemon in mind. Dozens of attempts later, the girl finally cooked one perfectly-shaped Pancham pancake, but neither of them smiled as they ate it.

Everything else disappeared in the kitchen just like the lounge from before. Specks of black mold grew in the corners of the room. The cupboard doors had almost broken off of their hinges, housing empty shelves. A musty smell came from the once-pristine sink where many unwashed dishes lay. The only constant was the gas cooker, burning forevermore as flames rose up into the air. Another door opened, and Rags ran out just as the stove exploded.

Rags rushed through those five-and-a-half minute hallways, hallways which grew bigger the further she progressed. Before, the ceiling was only double her height. Now, she couldn’t see the ceiling at all.

She had walked for quite some time, and the pain channelled through the house was starting to become excruciating. It was like someone was pressing on her stomach with a stiletto heel. Each hurried step Rags took made her gut churn even more. Yet she couldn’t find a way out. The only thing at the end of this five-and-a-half minute hallway was another door which emanated red from the gaps in the frame. She opened this door, only for it to reveal nothing but flames. There were no walls, no corners, just an endless crimson abyss. Rags slammed the door shut, then the glow disappeared. She opened it again once she took a breather, only for it to reveal a staircase.

Rags looked behind her. More inky blackness. She turned back again. The staircase in front of her was the opposite of the ceiling; it descended endlessly downwards, so either way, she would be throwing herself into the unknown. But there was no turning back this time. With a gulp, she took the first step downstairs.

She walked and walked and tiptoed and ran and walked, but there was no end in sight. After a while, the staircase started twisting in front of her until she was circling a downward spiral. The uneven, hollow-sounding wood turned into steps of stone. Rags’ feet turned to ice as they touched those cold, unwelcoming stairs.

She eventually reached the end of this staircase and bumped into a wall. From left to right, numerous hallways both led to dead ends and branching forks in the paths. She tested this out by navigating one path, only to find another path with just as many walls and exits. She was trapped in a maze. Not only that, the walls were too high to climb up, leaving her with no choice but to navigate the labyrinth.

But she didn’t want to.

Rags slumped to the floor and cried.

She was so sick of this. She was partly aware of what she was going through, but at the same time, she wasn’t lucid enough to make any sense of it. She was trapped. This wasn’t even the first time she came across this labyrinth; she encountered it numerous times before, only to hit more and more dead ends. Just when it seemed like she reached the centre of the maze, she was suddenly stopped by something. A figure with pink, glowing eyes always appeared, and then, nothing.

What was the point of struggling if her progress would’ve been halted anyway? So she sobbed as she waited for the inevitable. It felt like forever.

That’s when a familiar set of paws shuffled across the stone floors. Rags’ heart lurched. A cold sweat trickled down her body. She knew what was coming. She only hoped she’d remember her tormentor in this maze.

A set of yellow ears popped out from behind the wall. Then four eyes, then the rest of the Hypno.

Rags didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Of course, it was a Hypno. Those damn things always preyed on other people in their most vulnerable state. Instead of submitting to it, though, Rags ran, claws out, fiery tail at the ready. She wasn’t going to take it any more.

She scratched at the Hypno. Her flames licked at his feet. She sunk her teeth into his face — she was gonna rearrange that stupid thing! But her attacks didn’t affect the Hypno at all, not even those big glasses of his. She ran out of breath. She was trapped again. And that Hypno was coming towards her.

Whatever, fate was going to close in on her no matter what she did. Just do it! Do it!

Nothing happened. Rags opened her eyes to the sight of the Hypno embracing her. It was strangely comforting. This didn’t make any sense. She was supposed to fight back. But she didn’t. She couldn’t. All of her fears dissipated around her, along with everything else. The labyrinth, the winding staircase, the house, all of it was gone. Everything disappeared except for herself and the Hypno.

“I’m not your enemy,” he said, gently shaking her shoulders. “I’ve been trying to help you all this time, don’t you realise that?”

It took her a moment to piece everything together. Of the vague memories obscured in the cloud of unknowing, there were a few that soared through the cumulonimbus. The dolls. The girl with black hair. The Charmeleon. This house. And finally, the Hypno. She stepped back and faced him, no longer afraid to be in his presence.

“Am I… dreaming?”

His eyes flashed pink, and everything turned white this time.

“Well done. I’ll see you in the next one.”

* * *​

Patch knew she was in a dream. Why else would she be in this smoke-filled club, sitting in some sticky leather booth, with this Hypno facing her? Never in a million years would she find herself in this place, especially not where the only other patrons were humans.

“Do you remember me, Patch?”

“I do— wait, who are you, and how do you know my name?”

“Ah, of course.” He bowed his head. “My name is Jung, renowned Hypno and hypnotherapist.” Jung chuckled as he pulled out a business card with a heart-shaped pattern. “That’s my shameless plug out of the way, but anyway, you’re my patient. I’ve been trying to get through to you through these dreams, but, well, there seems to be a lot to unpack.”

“And why am I remembering this now?”

Jung sipped on a strawberry milkshake that materialised out of nowhere. “You’re lucid at the moment. You know you’re in a dream. This is the only way I can talk to you directly in this state.”

Patch nursed her leathery head. “This is nuts.”

He blew bubbles through his straw — the effervescence rose up from the milkshake and burst in the foggy air. “If only you could see the dreams I have to watch daily.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Patch zipped-up lips creased. “Sorry I scratched you earlier.”

“Ah, don’t worry, I don’t really feel it anyway, but I understand. I guess the things you’ve heard about other Hypno haven’t been so flattering.”

“Well, yes… I mean, no.” She rubbed her head. “It’s awful to say, but even though I haven’t heard a lot about your kind, a lot of people tell stories about you still. I heard that once, a Hypno snatched a kid away to feast on him and his dreams.”

He grumbled, then downed the rest of the milkshake. “Yes, I’m oh-so familiar with that one. Whether or not it truly happened, I can’t say, but the rumour was enough to make a lot of people wary of Hypno. After a while, though, you learn to ignore all of the weird looks thrown your way.”

“Must be horrible.” She sighed. “I know us ghosts get a bad rap.”

“They’re still finding out how to properly deal with your kind. And, well, unfortunately, that’s what I’m trying to figure out as well.”

“Wait, what’ve I done?”

Jung crossed his arms and pierced through her defenses with his stern gaze. “You’re trapped in a deep sleep state. When you evolved, it dredged up all of your memories at once and your body shut itself down to protect your mind. Your trainer didn’t know what to do with you, so she took you here.”

“Wait, my trainer—” If ghosts could sweat, then Patch broke out into one as cold as the tundras in Snowbelle. The cold started eating away at her heart. How long had she spent without her trainer by her side? How long was she going to stay in this coma?

It all hit her at once. Patch curled into a fetal position and started tearing up. She tried to speak, to express how much she hated this, but no words came out. Everything was cold and unfamiliar and scary to her. She just wanted this to end.

Then it struck her. Hypno had the ability to eat dreams as well as observe them. What if he ate all of hers up? Would that make all the nightmares go away? Would she wake up?

“Sadly, I’ve already tried that.”

Patch unfurled herself and opened her eyes. Jung was shivering. His eyes grew wide, magnified by those glasses, and his lips trembled. “I’ve… t-tried that. You were in that burning room again. I saw you, and you asked me to take them away. So I did, and…” He closed his eyes and sighed. “That set me on fire. Well, in the dream, not literally.”

Patch could only let out a simple groan as those hopes were dashed. Jung recovered from his experience and adjusted his glasses.

“Don’t lose hope, though. There is a way out.”

“But—” Patch rose, bashing her fists on the table—“but I don’t get it! Why am I here?! Why did—” She stopped. Everything fell into place. The dolls. The girl with black hair. The Charmeleon. That house. Finally, she understood. Again. None of this made her feel any better though. “So, am I just doomed to see everything I went through before I became a Shuppet?”

“Not exactly.” Jung smiled. “Do you know what a lucid dream is?”

“You just told me — it’s when I know I’m dreaming.”

“Ah, there is that. And it’s the state where your consciousness wakes up, but not your body, similar to sleep paralysis. But in these lucid dreams, you also have some influence over your own actions.”

“So, it’s just like real life, then…”

“Kind of, though here, the only limits are your imagination.”

She took a moment to process this. She gripped the glass —containing a mint-chocolate milkshake— in her hand. This wasn’t real. None of this was real. And yet everything felt real.

“What’s the point, then?”

“Excuse me?”

“Just... I don’t wanna wake up.” Patch shielded her eyes from everything else, trying to shut off the world. “I don’t wanna go back, I don’t wanna remember this — I just wanna go to sleep again and not feel anything.”

Jung tapped his fingers on the counter. Patch could still see through closed eyes.

“I’m not leaving you behind. And this isn’t about not wanting to wake up, this is about not wanting to relive your memories. I’ve seen them myself.”

“My memories—” Patch’s eyes snapped open and she pounced onto the counter, grabbing Jung by the collar of his lab coat. “Stop! Get out of my head, you creepy Hypno! Just go away!”

She shook his shoulders, then changed form, growing a pair of human hands fit for squeezing someone else’s neck. She reached for Jung’s throat when a psychic barrier stopped her. Jung kept that unflappable, placid face while Patch tried to free herself.

“I won’t dig your past back up if you don’t want to. I’m just an observer of your dreams. In the end, only you have the power to wake up. And all you need to do is to think back to that night.”

“Why?!” Patch backed away, shedding those human arms. “My pain isn’t even my own, I have to live carrying Brown’s ghost with me, and, and I don’t have any good memories of my own! It’s all her! I-I-I hate her! I wish I never met her at all! I...”

The lights flickered above her, electricity pulsing through the club like a swarm of Combee buzzing in a pipe. The patrons took no notice, but it jolted Patch out of her rage. All she had left was tears.

“Patch,” Jung said, lending a sympathetic hand to her, “don’t you remember anything about your new trainer now? All the nice moments you two have shared?”

She sniffled. “N-no.”

“Well, I do. I only know a little bit about your past before you came here, from what your trainer told me and what I saw in your dreams. But I saw you as a Shuppet. Your new trainer shared her stories with you, which you couldn’t understand at first, but you liked the tone of.”

Patch mumbled a reply. She didn’t have the energy to shut Jung up at that point.

“Then you got to know all of her other Pokemon. She has a more experienced ghost on her team: a Gengar called Blake.”

Her eyes lit up at the mention of his name.

“He relayed what your trainer told him. That you seemed so alone and the trainer felt sorry for you. And that you roamed the graveyard in search of a trainer to confide in, even if you didn’t know the exact reason why you felt that way.”

Patch nodded.

“That Gengar would also stand on his head and make those funny faces to amuse you.”

She started to piece more of it together. There was that one dream where she got close to a Gengar and didn’t feel so alone.

“What am I supposed to do now?”

“Wake up. But you must go back to that house and that fireplace first. Whatever you see after that, you must make peace with it.” Jung took his necklace off and revealed a rusty pendulum. “When you decide you want to go back there, I will try to use my powers here to guide you into the next dream. But only with your permission.” He pointed to the club’s double doors. “If you want to keep dreaming, walk through that exit. I won’t stop you if you choose to do so.”

This was so strange. Patch usually didn’t think about her own actions in the middle of a dream since everything just made sense in the moment. Of course, upon waking, none of them made much sense at all. But here, she had one foot in a fantasy and another in reality, dreaming of a waking life.

Beyond the windows to those double doors, there was nothing. Just the same inky blackness she always knew. It was somewhat of an odd comfort. It was where ghosts like her roamed, where everyone ended up when they first died, and where she could take refuge in her sleep. But that same nothingness also sent chills through her baggy body. In there, she didn’t have to think about the bad stuff, but it was also impossible to think of the good stuff as well. Doing nothing was infinitely worse than struggling through something.

Patch didn’t want to wake up yet. But she didn’t want to be stuck in this neverending sleep cycle: the dreaming and the inalienable dreamless. No matter what happened, no matter how painful those memories were, she had to face them. But while she was here, she might as well have made the most of it.

“Sorry, you said I can come up with anything I want here?”

“Yes. You can eat what you want to eat and drink what you want to drink. You can also hear what you want to hear and see what you want to see. But remember, it’s all an illusion.”

Patch didn’t even have to think before something popped up. But unlike the rest, this one wasn't crisp and spontaneous. The fog thickened and the lights shone on a smoke-filled stage where a band faded in, playing a slow, synth-heavy piece with a deep, earthy bass. The patrons snapped their fingers in time with the jazzy rhythm, and then the vocals came in, led by a woman in a red dress who sang in such a soothing tone that Patch’s worries washed away with her voice.

“Why is this popping up in my dreams?” she asked Jung. “I mean, I’m not complaining, but...”

“I take it either you, or the human you inherited your memories from, watched a certain show. I haven’t watched it myself, but it seems a little left-field.”

“It was definitely weird. There were cops in it, but also this tiny dancing man and red rooms and, well, nice songs. I mostly remember the songs.”

“Well, I can definitely see why.”

Patch looked forlornly at the dance floor where phantoms flickered and twirled. “Jung, this might sound a bit weird.”

He scratched his neck fluff. “I’m no stranger to the, well, strange.”

“Okay then. Can you dance with me? I want to know what that feels like.”

Jung took one look at the stage and adjusted his glasses. “I can’t say I’ve tried my hand at it, but if you wish.”

He shuffled off his seat and Patch followed him to the stage, picking a spot where the two had the most freedom to move. Jung took off his coat, leaving him as naked as, well, a regular Hypno would’ve been, and outstretched his arms for Patch to reach. Despite her size, he managed to grab onto her.

The two swayed both in tune with the music and tunelessly, neither of them really knowing how to dance. Patch just tried not to get trampled by his big feet. But even though this kind of music wasn’t something to jam to, it was perfect for their slow pace, so they picked it up in time.

“Why dancing in particular?” Jung asked.

“I don’t know. It just popped into my head. But I don’t remember Brown dancing before.”

“Well then. That’s something unique to you, isn’t it?”

Never mind the fact she couldn’t really dance as a Banette. But at least it was a desire Patch possessed and she possessed alone. Gradually, she let her subconscious guide her along with the music.

The singer’s words were unintelligible, but at the same time, her vocals spoke louder volumes than someone else’s lyrics ever could. It was like she sang in an alien tongue.

“Jung,” Patch murmured.

“Hmm?”

“Thanks, y’know. I never thought I’d be able to trust a Hypno, but this…”

“Yes…”

“Sorry, I’m getting all judgemental again. But you said you got used to it, didn’t you?”

“Eventually. Well, I had to struggle for it. People didn’t seem to like me poking my big nose into other Pokemon’s dreams. Again, those rumours didn’t do us many favours. But I also knew a lot of Pokemon appreciated what I did, so since someone noticed that, I get to do it full time now. I haven’t really looked back that much since I got my job.”

“So, you like it?”

Jung’s movements slowed and Patch adjusted herself to his speed. He didn’t respond at first, but Patch sensed it was a complicated matter for him. She wasn’t sure she liked airing out other people’s dirty laundry, especially thinking back to her own dreams. If she had to dance all day, every day, she’d get sick of it eventually even if she liked it.

“Well, if it’s of any comfort, sometimes, I don’t like it. But sometimes, I do. And when I don’t like it, I try to think of what it was like before and why it felt so rewarding. I think I’ll always go back and forth between those two extremes, so I’m always dancing in a way.”

“You are? Not literally, right?”

“Of course. It’s just a way of coping with life’s big paradoxes. And when it gets too much for me, I don’t fight it. To quote something else I watched, I go salsa dancing with my confusion.”

Eventually, the two moved at a faster pace than before. Patch swayed back and forth, almost fighting against Jung’s steady dancing, and Jung tried to match her tempo. Then Patch jumped and Jung spun her around. At that moment, she felt weightless, like she was flying. If only. But her dreams came true as she levitated in the smoke-filled air, staring at Jung from above. He only waved, letting her indulge in this dream on her own terms.

The audience clapped at this, though when Patch got a better look at her surroundings, the human figures had all disappeared. Gravity pulled Patch back down and she stopped dancing. She caught her breath as she observed the ruins of this dream world. The drinks had all been left behind. The bar stools sat solemnly still. The thick air in the room disappeared. Jung was gone too.

The music didn’t seem to stop, though. Patch glanced at the stage where the band was. The members still played their instruments and the singer still crooned, but everything was out of sync. Then the band became transparent and gradually disappeared into the fog along with the rest of the club’s patrons. The only person left was the singer who stopped moving her lips and stood back. The music, however, still played. Was she lip-syncing the whole time? Was none of it real? Did it even matter?

Patch knew what was coming, and she was ready. The singer stepped up to the mic once more.

“Silencio.”

The music cut off, the lights surged out, and everything went black.

You’re almost there. Go. Go!

* * *​

Patch phased through the labyrinth walls. The immense structures no longer opposed her, no, she opposed them, or rather, defied them. She spat in the face of reality and warped it to her own whims. Armed with the knowledge that Patch was dreaming, she was unstoppable.

The further she advanced through the invisible maze, the hotter it got. The opposing force might’ve been hot, but Patch was hotter. She was on fire, literally, as her flames tailed her and her blood coursed with lava.

The labyrinth became a straight path which led to a raging fire that filled the air with smoke. Patch didn’t cough when she came near it. She didn’t flinch when the flames kissed her face or grimace when the blaze fully enveloped her, wrapping her in its loving, adoring tendrils. Patch walked calmly into the centre of the fire to discover a long hole which descended into inky darkness. She turned back. There was nowhere else to go but down.

Patch threw herself into the chimney.

* * *​

Rags became dust. Her whole body had been incinerated in the fireplace, but somehow, she was staring back at her own charred body as she floated above the room. Brown’s dad was the culprit, staring along with Rags at the mess he made. Little remained of the Charmeleon doll, save for the button eyes that withstood the heat. The felt had crumbled into ash and the cotton stuffing had disintegrated in the flames.

The rest joined her. The Smeargle, the Torchic, the Phanpy, the Pikachu, the Goodra, and the Gurdurr. They all turned to dust as the flames hissed around them.

Dad stared at the remains of the dolls. His face was blank at first, then all the colour drained from it. He drew his hand towards the fire, only to draw it back when he realised what he had done. It was silly. All of this over a few lousy dolls. Rags didn’t know if these were her own thoughts or Dad’s.

It didn’t matter anyway. Brown came into the lounge room and observed the wreckage; she saw what happened. Dad noticed.

“Please, Brown, I can explain.”

“I’ve seen enough,” she choked out, trying not to choke up herself. She barely managed to get to her room before she started crying. Brown buried her face in her pillow, staining it with her tears for a few good minutes or so. Rags was trapped there, forced to witness the girl she grew attached to pour her heart out.

A knock on the door signalled Dad’s attempts to reach out to her.

“Go away!” she screamed.

“I’m sorry, I just—”

“Why did you do it?!” She ran to the end of the room and bashed her fists against the walls. “I don’t get it! You knew how much they meant to me!”

No answer came at first. Then Dad whispered through the keyhole.

“I was... I was just worried. You talked to those dolls so much, I was afraid you weren’t going to move past that phase. You shouldn’t be doing it anyway since you’re not that age anymore.”

“S-s-so you burned them?” She laughed. “Do you think she would’ve liked that?”

Dad sighed. “I walked right into that one.”

The two were at a stalemate. Brown almost regretted what she said. Almost. Silence filled the other side of the door for a moment.

“I admit,” he said at last, “I wanted you to focus on your studies. Your future was important to her as well. And it’s best not to become complacent.”

“So you pretended that everything was fine? Nothing about this is fine, though. It’s… it’s like getting hit by a truck.”

“Yeah, I know how you feel as well.”

“Then show me!” Brown tightened her fists. “I’ve never seen you cry over her!”

“You know we’re not supposed to cry.”

“What a load of shit!”

“Languag—”

“I don’t care! I...” Brown took a deep breath, and a moment to process her thoughts.

“Dear?”

“I don’t understand. You say you’re an adult and all that, but what does that even mean anymore? Do you stop caring when you start growing a beard? Do you stop liking the things that feel close to you?”

“No. I...”

“When I had my dolls, at least I had someone to help me get this off of my chest. I knew it was silly, but I needed something. You haven’t even talked to me at all about what happened. Do you hate me that much?”

Dad didn’t respond. Tears welled up from Brown again and turned into sobs.

“Don’t cry...”

She defied him. She was going to shed all the tears it took to get herself through this mess. If this was all it was going to be, she didn’t want to stay here any longer. Maybe a part of growing up meant leaving the nest. But it didn’t mean she had to abandon what was near and dear to her heart, with or without Dad.

Brown snatched her bag off the floor and started packing her things. She shoved whatever she could find: her purse, her clothes, her camping equipment, everything she needed to start her trainer journey. She took a deep breath and stormed down the stairs, making a beeline for the front door. Dad didn’t stop her from going out this time.

Rags couldn’t follow Brown outside. She was tethered to the house. She had to watch everything that went on in there, and felt everything the house went through: the creaking of the floorboards, the crackling of the fire, the sizzling of skin.

Dad drew his hand into the furnace, grabbing onto a pair of buttons. He screamed as the fire enveloped him and tore through layers of his palm, then drew his hand back out. That eye was the sole survivor of the blaze.

Rags became no more. At last, the red string tying her to that place severed. All the negative energy in the building, all the unspoken baggage, all the tears shed, all the shouting matches, coalesced into a coal-like lump that emerged from the chimney along with the smoke. A shape pulsed from the amorphous substance, wriggling and stretching, until it took form as a Pokemon.

A Shuppet named Patch.

Time to wake up.

* * *​

Patch woke up in a floral room with everyone at her side. Hypno Jung sighed with relief, Patch’s trainer, Cecelia, hugged her, and Gengar Blake was within arms reach. If Banette could cry, then Patch would’ve gushed out a waterfall’s worth of tears. Cecelia did all the crying for her. But these were happy tears. And she was happy to be back here for the first time in a while.

Finally, she was awake.

* * *​

A week had passed since Patch woke up from her deep sleep. In that time, Patch slowly came to realise what she used to be and what she was now. She gathered more of an understanding about her own powers and the world around her. She no longer moved on instinct, but with a purpose. She talked to other Pokemon just like her, with some who had it easier than her, like the Froakie who had a phobia of water, and some who had it much much worse, like the abandoned Eevee with scars that stretched all over his body. Patch discovered new, fun things to participate in such as drawing, as well as playing with the therapy Furfrou who had lots of good fashion advice.

Sometimes, she had those dreams again. Those fiery visions still came back to haunt her at times, but she also dreamt of more pleasant things, like exploring the ginormous, fluffy coat of that Furfrou. Jung recorded all of these to help Patch remember them.

And speaking of Jung, Patch came back to his office at the end of the week to discuss her diagnosis as well as her plans. The fact Jung was a Hypno still put her on edge, even though she already knew him from her dreams. He was just how he looked in them, aside from the propeller hat he wore in one instance. Maybe that would’ve made him look less scary. Yeah, ghosts had a right to be scared too!

But Jung dropped the professional facade for a moment as he put on some music. It sounded jazzy, with the light, tapping drums and the breezy saxophone that floated over the percussion. He swayed as he approached Patch, outstretching his arms as an invitation for her to dance. She accepted his offer. Just like last time, the two didn’t know how to properly shimmy or shake, but it wasn’t a performance — it was just them riding the momentum as they got lost in the music. They went at it for a few seconds until...

“Join Applin Music today and get 50% off your first three months! Listen to all the latest hits from—”

Jung muted his computer. “Stupid ads. Sorry about that.”

“No, it’s alright,” Patch said. Thanks to that, Jung seemed a lot less intimidating now. “I enjoyed it.”

“I’m glad you did.” He adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. “Well, this should be our last meeting together. I’ve discussed this more with your team, but I’ll talk you through my findings, if you’d like to take a seat.”

Patch nodded and sat on the bed.

“The problem with diagnosing other Pokemon is how complex it is. It’s already taxing enough for humans to diagnose each other, but when Pokemon arguably have a lot more needs than they do, that’s where it starts to get troublesome.”

“So…” Patch played with her mouth-zip. “Couldn’t you find anything out about me?”

“Yes, yes I have.” Jung sighed. “I’m only venting since there is no simple solution for this. Unlike humans, you can’t simply feed Pokemon drugs since their biology is incompatible with most medication.”

“You’re starting to lose me a bit.”

“Right, right, sorry.” Jung brought out a clipboard. “The issues in particular with you are complex because you’ve basically inherited Brown’s trauma. There are elements of persistent complex grief disorder, depression, separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and reactive attachment disorder.”

Patch winced. “Sounds, um… sounds like a lot.” She clutched her head. “So I’m damaged goods then?”

“No no, not at all, and honestly, that’s not a very healthy way to look at things.” Jung sighed. “A lot of these fly over the heads of Pokemon. Most of them have never heard of this before, and if they are affected by it, they haven’t had the resources available to help them understand it or cope with them. I should know.”

For a moment, Jung looked terrified, as his wide-eyed expression said it all. As soon as that moment of vulnerability appeared, it vanished, and Jung’s poker face re-emerged. “So, the Pokemon that do experience these thoughts are either shamed for—” he gesticulated air quotes—”’showing weakness’ and or internalise those feelings of alienation into self-hatred.”

“That sounds horrible.”

“Yes. Which is why I take my position with pride — we’ve only just started assembling the tools to help others.”

“So where does that leave me?”

“Well, you may still experience these flashes of unpleasant memories or feelings of self-doubt about, ironically enough, your own feelings. But the best advice I have is to talk to other Pokemon with shared experiences. And depending on whether or not you can communicate with humans, them as well. And my number will be there in case you need your trainer to call me again.”

That sounded vague, but for now, Patch was pleased to get any advice at all. During her cooldown week here, she found it helpful to talk to other Pokemon too, so perhaps Jung’s advice wasn’t so abstract.

“I wish I knew what happened to Brown,” Patch said. “I never got her last name.”

“If you must know, well, her name is Brown Bisset. From what I’ve heard, she’s doing fine. But, if you’re curious, I could give her a call.”

“No thanks.” It hurt to say this, but Patch took a deep breath, prepared to get past it. “After all this time, she never really knew me. I don’t see why it would matter if I met her. It’s just a relief to know that she’s okay.”

“Naturally. But, we’ve discussed this.” Jung almost looked desperate. “You still harbour that separation anxiety, don’t you?”

“Yeah.” It felt like a pit formed in her stomach, even though she had no organs to speak of. “I think I can handle it, though. I have the rest to look after me.”

“Well, I’m glad you said that. In a way, that means your recovery is going faster than we expected.” He coughed. “I know this is beyond my reach, but I went back to that house.”

“You did?” she whispered. “What… what did you find there?”

“Pretty much nothing.” He shook his head. “The whole place was abandoned. It’s set for demolition to make way for a new park for Pokemon. But, well, I was curious to check it out. I wanted to see if anything still remained of Brown’s stay up there.”

“And?”

“And…” Jung presented a Charmeleon doll. No, it couldn’t have been Rags, right? Something was wrong. She lacked the patch on her forehead and the splotches of orange where her felt claws should’ve been. But she recognised the buttoned eyes, which were slightly mis-shapen.

He found a part of Rags! Patch went up to hug her, burying her face in her leathery scales.

“I know this isn’t anywhere near what Rags used to be — the toymaker I spoke to was basically working from scratch. But I observed your dream a while ago. It’s possible Brown came across the Ship of Meridian paradox some time ago. But to put it simply, if a damaged object gets—”

“I don’t care about that,” Patch said, laughing. “Even if she is made up of old stuff, we’ll make up for lost time with new memories together.”

“Right.” Jung beamed — it was a rather cute smile for a Hypno. “So she’s fine, then?”

Patch ran her claw over the doll’s eyes.

“She’s perfect.”
 
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DeliriousAbsol

*Crazy Absol Noises*
Staff
Location
Behind a laptop, most likely with tea
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. mawile
I have to say, you've done a fantastic job with this. It's a great exploration into the lore behind banette that doesn't harbour the creepy 'vengeful, evil doll' image that the pokedex portrays. (I try to move away from that myself when I write Enigma in The End - hence why he's very much an animal XD )

You got across the confusion well, as I had to re-read the following a few times until I realised it was a dream sequence:

“Leon!” He pumped his fist in the air and puffed his chest out.

“You know, you seem to understand me just fine, but you can’t speak for whatever reason.”

“Hold on, we need to pack the tent,” Brown said, taking the pegs out from the ground. “Stitch, can you help me?”

“Yeah, sure,” she said, suppressing a huff. Why did she need to help him? It was his tent.

I wasn't quite sure what was going on here, but dreams don't make sense anyway! So it really works in aiding the confusion.

It was also quite confusing how 'Stitch' or 'Brown', whoever it was set from, kept changing. And I was quite surprised the speaker was set from a stuffed doll's perspective in the theme park, given prior to that it was a human and her charmander. It was a real rollercoaster until we finally got to who the actual dreamer was in the club.

Some more thoughts before I continue on:

Patchy tried to see if there was anything she could use as a weapon when the toy rose from the ground and hopped in place, revealing itself to be a Gengar on a spring.

This was creepy yet adorable, and you made me like Gengar through this whole dream-sequence. Well done XD

Red. Darker reds. Slightly reddish shades of orange... There wasn’t much variety there, but the talent on display was undeniable.

This was a fantastic echo to the charmander scene. I liked the odd echo throughout the story (I think there were two? I failed to quote the second one.) It really helped to tie the scenes together.

Except he didn’t walk away, rather, he was walking towards Brown. Then, he said:

“I’m trying my best not to eat this all up. You deserve to have these nice memories.”

This really made me think he was inadvertently causing the fiery nightmares by losing control and eating her dreams. When he confessed later that he'd tried when she'd asked, and went up in flames by doing so... Wow, I sympathised. Poor hypno.

Jung crossed his arms and pierced through her defenses with his stern gaze.

I really liked this wording. Really descriptive and you can kind of picture it.

The club scene was probably one of my favourites (next to the sea of dolls with springy gengar!) The amount of insight into Patch, and her getting some control over her dreams, was really character building. It was also nice to meet Jung outside of the random hypno she kept seeing. I really liked him, and the dance scene was just adorable XD Having two pokemon both breaking away from Pokedex stigma, and one somewhat dealing with it due to rumours, really builds sympathy with the reader.

I was absolutely stunned (and mildly mortified!) that Patch has turned out to be one of Brown's burned dolls (or more than one? She had several names throughout the dream.) If it's one, I can't work out which? Either way, this showed a horrible side to Brown's father. A total disrespect to his daughters feelings... We don't know who bought her the dolls at this stage, but I get the feeling they were given by her mother? Whatever the case, it was pretty sad. As someone who talks to her stuffies, they have personalities and feelings! They can't just be replaced! XD (I know they're just toys, but still!)

“And…” Jung presented a Charmeleon doll. No, it couldn’t have been Rags, right? Something was wrong. She lacked the patch on her forehead and the splotches of orange where her felt claws should’ve been. But she recognised the buttoned eyes, which were slightly mis-shapen.

He found a part of Rags! Patch went up to hug her, burying her face in her leathery scales.

Oh man this made me tear up! I really want to know which one Rags is. Was she Patch, or one of her friends? It was a sweet ending.

Fantastic work, and very well done! I enjoyed this a lot! Well worth the wait =D
 

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
Hey! So glad to see you posted this! Ever since you mentioned a therapeutic Hypno, I've been itching to see where you'd go with this :) I point out a few things I noticed with the meat of my thoughts at the end.

Not exactly a wide range, but no matter what colour it was, it looked pretty regardless.
I think you might want to either get rid of "regardless" or put a comma after "pretty."

A shriek pierced through the forest, driving away all sorts of bird flocks from their nests to fly away from that awful sound.
I think you can do without the first "away," as it makes the sentence feel redundant.

All that was left of him was a Charmeleon doll, button eyes and all.
Not sure if you've heard of the book/movie Coraline, but this image reminds me of the dolls from those o_o

Really nice comment from the Hypno trying to not eat up Patchy's dreams and showing it with him almost grabbing the cotton candy. I liked the parallel. And his comment about her deserving to have nice memories was really sweet of him--it also emphasizes the pain we've seen Patch go through and how he wants her to be able to enjoy something.

Specks of black mold grew in the corners of the room.
Currently dealing with a mold problem myself, this comment made me cringe X(

But she didn’t want to.

Rags slumped to the floor and cried.
I like this jump to just stopping and emoting. After the hectic confusion up until now, this felt like it was coming. It feels very real.

Then it struck her. Hypno had the ability to eat dreams as well as observe them. What if he ate all of hers up? Would that make all the nightmares go away? Would she wake up?

“Sadly, I’ve already tried that.”
I like that you explored this idea--getting rid of the bad dreams doesn't fix the problem itself.

And it’s the state where your consciousness wakes up, but not your body, similar to sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis is terrifying--I've never had lucid dreams, though!

She gripped the glass —containing a mint-chocolate milkshake— in her hand.
I love this call-back in such a little detail.

Yeah, ghosts had a right to be scared too!
Haha!

He swayed as he approached Patch, outstretching his arms as an invitation for her to dance. She accepted his offer. Just like last time, the two didn’t know how to properly shimmy or shake, but it wasn’t a performance — it was just them riding the momentum as they got lost in the music. They went at it for a few seconds until...

“Join Applin Music today and get 50% off your first three months! Listen to all the latest hits from—”
This part is really cute, and I love the comedic cut XD

I really enjoyed this one-shot! Like DeliriousAbsol said, the dream sequences added to the confused, disoriented feel of the first half of this piece--and I think that worked really well. I had to go back and reread a few times with Stitch talking to Brown the Charmeleon. The scene with the ocean of plushies and where they started disintegrating--especially that Goodra--was unsettling.

In general, I think you do a good job of all this imagery with unsettling features--particularly being trapped in that fire, the neverending staircase, and the winding halls. The transition between all the different scenes is also well done, and I think it quite clearly captures the desperation that Patch feels in the beginning.

The scene in the club was really sweet. When Patch started to cry, I started to tear up, too. At first, I had the impression that Brown was dead (though the prospect of eternal separation is also immensely painful). I also started to tear up when Brown started yelling at her dad for throwing her plushies in the fire--I got the impression that her mom gave them to her and that her mom had since passed and that she held on to those plushies as a remnant/reminder of her. Talking to them would definitely be a way to cope with that pain--and it would certainly be painful for the dad to see his daughter go through that, not only because of his concern for the effects of her mental health, but also because of his pain in dealing with the loss of his wife and not having the same sort of outlet that his daughter has. And seeing his daughter walk out on him, losing the two people he cared about the most--it definitely makes sense that he would reach back into the fire and salvage what he could, regardless of the bodily harm it would do to him.

And now I am crying.

That might have been overanalysing things, heh. And looking back, perhaps his wife left him and his daughter? Either way, they certainly have quite the emotional baggage to deal with. And Patch receiving all the emotions from Brown would be quite a toll. No wonder all this came up.

I know I've told you before, but I think this was a really interesting, well-done concept and I like where you took it. Hypno and Banette are so often seen as creepy, but here, they are so gentle and oh-so sympathetic. This was a truly enjoyable piece for me to read, and I'm so glad I got around to reviewing this! Well done!
 

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
Okay... first thing to say is that I really like how this is written. The unreal qualities that dreams tend to have came across really well. I only realised looking back, for example, the significance of:
Before she left to join him, Stitch put her hand over the flame. It was cold.
And even:
They talked about a lot of things, none of which Stitch remembered, but enjoyed all the same.
My thoughts went, 'how can they talk about things and Stitch immediately not recall any of it?? Oh, because it's a dream, duh.'

I think Patch's general horror regarding these nightmares came across really well. And another thing I noticed was how 'Red. Darker reds. Slightly reddish shades of orange...' appeared more than once. Is that the memories of that fire sneaking back in on a subconscious level? Very clever.

The biggest problem I have with this story is that, well, I had read it twice to figure out what had actually happened. Let's see if I've got it right. Patch originally formed from the memories of the charmeleon doll that was burned by that girl's father. When Patch tried to evolve into a Banette, those memories burst out and consumed her, forcing her into this deep sleep. The nightmares she's experiencing are then twisted versions of the memories the doll had. Only when Patch is able to confront the moment of the doll's burning again can she be released from the nightmares and wake up. Right? :quag:

Anyway, I wasn't aware of any of the lore surrounding Shuppet or Banette, and only after looking them up, in conjunction with skimming through the text again, did I start to piece things together. A little more exposition from Jung about how Patch had originally formed, for example, might have been beneficial there. The changing names of Patch/the doll, also. I get that it's supposed to be disorientating, being a sequence of nightmares, but I didn't feel like Jung's explanations in the bar were quite enough.

Stitch threw the next batch, and then the next one, and another one after that. Brown certainly made short work of this. It was over before it began, and all that was left of it was a scattered pile of ash and smoke. That was impressive. She’d have to find a new method of training Brown, but for now, she was satisfied.
Really like this idea of training a fire-type 😄
We’ll be back in the city before you know it, kicking ass and taking names.”
Is this a phrase? I've never heard the 'taking names' part before.
The sea of plushies became a beach as Patchy stood on the shore of scalps.
Loooove 'shore of scalps' as a phrase. Poetry.
Rags’ feet turned to ice as they touched those cold, unwelcoming stairs.
It being the dream-world, I wasn't sure if you meant this figuratively or if Rags' (Stitch in Charmeleon doll form?) legs actually turned to ice blocks :P
But she didn’t want to be stuck in this neverending sleep cycle: the dreaming and the inalienable dreamless.
I'm struggling to figure out what 'inalienable dreamless' actually means? It sounds good, but the words just don't make sense to me...
But even though this kind of music wasn’t something to jam to
“I’m only venting since there is no simple solution for this.
'Jam to' and 'venting' both felt too informal with the tone of this piece. Particularly Jung saying the latter.
“Eventually. Well, I had to struggle for it. People didn’t seem to like me poking my big nose into other Pokemon’s dreams. Again, those rumours didn’t do us many favours. But I also knew a lot of Pokemon appreciated what I did, so since someone noticed that, I get to do it full time now. I haven’t really looked back that much since I got my job.”
The preceding conversation to this was really short and snappy, and this dialogue felt out of place as a result. I think it could be compressed significantly and make the whole passage flow better. Idk 🤷‍♂️
“Join Applin Music today and get 50% off your first three months! Listen to all the latest hits from—”

Jung muted his computer. “Stupid ads. Sorry about that.”
Hahaha! For what was maybe the only bit of humour in the whole piece, this felt surprisingly perfect. Jung needs Applin Premium!

In summary: I liked the writing a lot, the plot was difficult to follow at parts, but I think I pieced it together eventually. Oh, and the dancing scenes were adorable. Good stuff, and keep up the grind, friend :quag:
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. custom/purrloin-salem
  2. custom/sneasel-dusk
This review written to fulfill a BLEC prize for Blacklight.

Hey, Neb! This was certainly a good read. This fic is a good example of what I'm starting to identify as Nebbycore: pokémon as people, the needs and abilities of nonhuman people living in a human society, highly introspective, the occasional joke riffing on daily mundanities, changes in identity and in perception of the identity of others, that sort of thing. I really enjoy all of it. It feels like a lived-in world, and contends with themes that hold my interest. Good shit.

As I pointed out on voicechat the other day, you really nailed the 'dreamlike style' of the narrative. The dose of surreality at each stage was appropriate to the needs of the narrative, rather than being either only superficially a dream or indulgently unreal. You were asking in the cord some weeks ago about whether the inconsistency of the dream features moment-to-moment was an effective flag that the events taking place were those of dreams, and I think you achieved that very well. I particularly liked how the same core elements had their relationship to each other continually reshuffled.

I like that this story presents a different take on both banette and hypno. A banette who's inherited human mental health conditions and whose origin was not in their owner's negligence but in trauma is interesting, as is a kindly hypno-therapist. I did think the stress on Jung's defence of his species was a little much, since he's charismatic enough on his own to get the reader in his corner, but all the same I really liked both characters. Patch as a character makes for a good protagonist. She's got clear motivations, obstacles to overcome, a conflict between wanting to avoid the difficulties at hand and wanting to confront them, and is easy to root for considering the stress of her situation and the fondness she expresses towards the dream-construct of Brown. Meanwhile, Jung absolutely radiates harmlessness and anxious good intent, and I found myself warming to him very fast indeed. In particular, I liked that Patch potentially had split loyalties between her old owner and new trainer, but that the tropey agonising was defied in short order. It's a pleasure to see such substantial agency and decisiveness in a sapient pokémon character.

The burning of Patch's original body was a striking concept as a 'heart' to the dream labyrinth, and it ties in wonderuflly to the nature of the previous dreams, but the dialogue of Brown and her father was a weak point in the story as far as I'm concerned. It didn't quite ring true for me, the way the dialogue between Patch and Jung felt effortless and authentic. It didn't seem dreamlike, so I think perhaps the characterisation just doesn't land with me. More than anything else, I expected the father to have more conviction about his actions, but he seems a sad and pathetic figure uncomitted to his task of destroying his daughter's sentimental belongings, which felt an inherent contradiction.

My favourite scene was the moment where Patch dances with Jung, which I found absolutely entrancing. It really hit several of my buttons, especially my hankering for things that manage to be wholesome, intimate and super weird all at once, but it was also some of the strongest prose and characterisation in the story, in my opinion. Plus it was just really lovely imagery. Nice work there.

My take-away from this fic is that I'd love to see more of these characters, and in lieu of more stories featuring either of them, I ought to take a look at your other pokécentric oneshots to get more of what I enjoyed about The Inalienable Dreamless. Good stuff, mate. Well done.
 

Rainfall

minVP ADC atomic step action potential
Location
blue-green spinning rock
Pronouns
he/they
Hey Neb!

Here for incredibly late Catnip. Sorry that it's so late and ended up being really short and simple, still. Thank you for your patience.

More notes. Nothing to vindicate myself, unfortunately.
(oh, obviously this doesn't count toward Review Blitz, given it should have been done by.)
Actually, I still have my quite incomplete draft, which *including quotes* was up to 1800 words, but I decided to scrap it for this submission and rewrite a simple response. I have no promise at all to come back and write longer, though I would like to. As the response is, it's really not enough. I probably shouldn't say all this. Argh.

Thank you again for your patience, and I'm sorry I didn't have something substantial here to show for it.

I'm including this version 3 (shortest) of the map of sections of this one-shot.

1- Fire
2- adventure
3- dollspace, ship
4- carnival
5- house
6- club
7- chimney
8- first fire
9- wake
10- debrief

Overall, as I've noted before, this piece really did bring out some feelings and make some things spark in my brain. I'm just sad to say that I don't know how to pin down, capture, and enunciate properly on those thoughts.
____________________
1- fire
Fire again. Nameless Banette must endure the inferno yet another time.
Love the imagery here and the mystery open, with understanding and motifs returning later.

2- adventure
This was a really cool transition from hellfire to small, cold flame. Looks like some of these are memories. It certainly gets surreal in the transition, which adds to the mood. I have some name confusion which I believe is part of the piece, but I need to revisit this in the future.

3- dollspace, ship
I really, really enjoyed dollspace and the dream ship of Theseus. I was also initially quite suspicious of Blake, but he turned out to be quite the good person. For now, I'll say that it's interesting that they christen or celebrate the ship's completion and send it off on a voyage, which I suppose is normal; and then turn and tear our Bannette down.

4- carnival
It's so sweet that they're enjoying the games and rides together. I really enjoyed "Patch could’ve watched her play that game for ages. It was one of the only times a smile seemed to cross her face, which was a good look on her."

5- house
Okay. I really need to revisit. Sorry. But I love metonyms and analogies that go too far. This didn't go too far. This was epic. She is the inhabitant and the house. The environment is literally a part of you. The memories are contrasted. Different places hold different meanings.

6- club
I love this scene. The dancing is so eerie and quite lovely. Lots of potential metaphors or non-metaphors going on?

7- chimney
Making the choice to confront your origin and fear and hurt.

8- first fire
This is the one thing that started it all. To try to help, but instead, it hurt.

9- wake
She's back! And Blake is there, too. And her trainer.

10- debrief
Whatever trials and pain remain in the future, she's in reality and she has love around here.
I love Jung. He's quite heartful.
____________________
 
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Equitial

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. espurr
  2. inkay
You mentioned you wanted to try something more experimental in nature for this fic, and I really liked the resulting vibe. The standout aspect of this story was its entire concept and execution: a Banette struggling through her dreams. From the start, the atmosphere was spellbinding. I definitely had a great experience reading this.

I found this a creative and memorable way to explore the lore of a Pokémon which has been explored plenty before, but never in this way. I like how you use a Banette’s backstory to create a mood of horror, but in a way that sympathizes with the Banette. I found Patch a compelling character (once I figured out who she exactly was), but even better than her is the story of a broken family that is portrayed through her lens. This story isn’t just a character study of Patch, but of Brown's family as well. I was spellbound during the backstory reveal of this fic, seeing Brown confront her father for the last time. Again, stories like this have been done before, but this was unique. I loved this framing.

Rags was both a resident of the house and the house itself.

This being a mysterious exploration of a Pokemon and a dysfunctional family’s backstory, I really appreciate all the details that lead up to the reveal. One of the moments I liked most is this:

Dad drew his hand into the furnace, grabbing onto a pair of buttons. He screamed as the fire enveloped him and tore through layers of his palm, then drew his hand back out. That eye was the sole survivor of the blaze.

Not only does this desperate action humanize Brown's father, but I could also in hindsight appreciate some references (???) to this moment. Of course, fire is a major motif throughout, but there is some concentration on the hands. In particular, I like this momen -- actually this whole bit:

Stitch stopped dead in her tracks when realisation dawned on her. He must’ve escaped without her. What did she do to deserve this? She loved her Pokemon. Her Pokemon loved her. Why did Brown leave her? Why did he have to split them apart?

He? Who was he? Brown? Or someone else?

Those inhuman wails stopped her train of thought, shaking her to the core. As much as Stitch tried to block the noise out, it didn’t stop the ringing in her ears, like static after an explosion. She couldn’t do anything except zero in on what the screams actually said.

It was no use, for they were all gibberish.

Brown appeared in front of her again. Whew, what a relief, finally, he came back—

A burning Charmeleon doll lay on the ground as the flames ate away at his cotton-filled face. She tried to put out the fire, but her hands caught ablaze as well. She stopped, dropped and rolled, she beat her hands against the dirt to put them out, but no matter what she did, they engulfed her body again.

After learning the truth, I find this bit absolutely fascinating. It’s deep and complex, and I could spend a lot of time analyzing this.

Why did Brown leave her? Why did he have to split them apart?

Who’s POV is this trying to be from? Is this Stitch thinking through Brown, about how her father betrayed her? Or is this connecting through the dad, maybe angry at his daughter? Or maybe himself? The hands do catch fire. This reflects Brown's father's last regretful action to bring his daughter back, before he realizes he can't change what he's done?

Again, I really like the concept of exploring this backstory through dreams, and I think you used this concept very well. Re-reading the story gives a lot of details I didn’t recognize the significance of before and much to think about. Though I do think the beginning part (before Jung reached Patch) could have been compressed somewhat. I feel like you had a lot of concepts in mind when writing this. No particular one of them feels explicitly out-of-place or like they drag out, but maybe some merging could have made the first part feel more focused?

Anyway, I still like a lot of the imagery; I could pick out bits I like for a while. In fact, here are a few:


“Don’t look,” she said. But despite her own instructions, as they turned tail to a different path, Patchy glanced behind her.

“Ma...”

The tears ate away at Agar’s skin, leaving a fluffy skeleton of charred cotton stuffing. He stopped crying.

Too-tee-woo-ta tee tee woo…
The dolls crushed Patchy. One barely weighed anything on its own, but with hundreds, possibly thousands on top of her at once, the collective weight gradually sucked all the air out of her body. She had to swim. She grabbed a Charmeleon plushie, only for it to crumble into ashes. She then grabbed a Smeargle, then a Torchic, then a Phanpy, and then a Pikachu, which disintegrated upon contact as well. As a last resort, she grabbed a Shuppet, which still held its form under her grasp, allowing her to pull herself up. She was able to grab onto many more plushies — they gave her the strength to paddle through the fabric sea.
Jung sipped on a strawberry milkshake that materialised out of nowhere. “You’re lucid at the moment. You know you’re in a dream. This is the only way I can talk to you directly in this state.”

Patch nursed her leathery head. “This is nuts.”

He blew bubbles through his straw — the effervescence rose up from the milkshake and burst in the foggy air. “If only you could see the dreams I have to watch daily.”

Oh right, Jung! His whole vibe is just really nice. 👀 He feels really deep and complex, bigger than the story around him though not overriding it (which makes sense, since I've seen you talking about him on the Discord). There are a lot of intricacies to his character that really lent a layer of detail to this story. One of the first details I really enjoyed about him -- leading to a self-conflict within himself -- is how he initially dressed in an unintimidating manner to attempt to protect against preconceptions concerning his species:

Patch saw a Hypno in the crowd. He wore a set of red-rimmed glasses that balanced at the top of his head, a white coat that dragged on the floor like an overly-long superhero cape, and a kaleidoscopic propeller hat.

His whole deal where he seems to kind of accept the speciesism against him, very interesting character point without really stating it. I know in your other fics you deal with stereotypes against Pokemon; even with the small bit in this story, I'm interested to see how you would deal with other Pokemon prejudices. Also, his portrayal matches Banette in that they're both "creepy-pasta" Pokemon who are reimagined in this fic.

And Jung is just a cool dude, really. One bit I really liked from him is when he makes it clear Patch has a choice --

Jung took his necklace off and revealed a rusty pendulum. “When you decide you want to go back there, I will try to use my powers here to guide you into the next dream. But only with your permission.” He pointed to the club’s double doors. “If you want to keep dreaming, walk through that exit. I won’t stop you if you choose to do so.”

-- which makes it really clear how much much he values her agency, and just -- A nice guy and all-around decent person.

OH WAIT I FORGOT THE DANCE BIT THERE SO ARE MANY THINGS I LIKE IN HERE I KEEP FORGETTING

Patch looked forlornly at the dance floor where phantoms flickered and twirled. “Jung, this might sound a bit weird.”

He scratched his neck fluff. “I’m no stranger to the, well, strange.”

“Okay then. Can you dance with me? I want to know what that feels like.”

Anyway, ahem, I liked this fic. It was an enjoyable, interesting read. Good job ;)
 

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
Thanks a lot for reviewing, @Equitial! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Again, I really like the concept of exploring this backstory through dreams, and I think you used this concept very well. Re-reading the story gives a lot of details I didn’t recognize the significance of before and much to think about. Though I do think the beginning part (before Jung reached Patch) could have been compressed somewhat. I feel like you had a lot of concepts in mind when writing this. No particular one of them feels explicitly out-of-place or like they drag out, but maybe some merging could have made the first part feel more focused?

I'm also glad that this fic opens up a lot on the reread. I'm not sure if many of my other stories have that quality, but since this is a relatively short fic, I think it lends itself well to multiple readings. With the dreams, I was concerned about some of them coming across as a bit too long winded before the initial reveal, though a lot of the dreams were written in a stream of consciousness sort of style, so I'm not sure how much of it could've been cut out without sacrificing the surreal atmosphere of those dreams. I do think this one-shot ended up being longer than I initially hoped though, and I thought about splitting each section and dream sequence into separate chapters, but oh well.

Oh right, Jung! His whole vibe is just really nice. 👀 He feels really deep and complex, bigger than the story around him though not overriding it (which makes sense, since I've seen you talking about him on the Discord). There are a lot of intricacies to his character that really lent a layer of detail to this story. One of the first details I really enjoyed about him -- leading to a self-conflict within himself -- is how he initially dressed in an unintimidating manner to attempt to protect against preconceptions concerning his species:
His whole deal where he seems to kind of accept the speciesism against him, very interesting character point without really stating it. I know in your other fics you deal with stereotypes against Pokemon; even with the small bit in this story, I'm interested to see how you would deal with other Pokemon prejudices. Also, his portrayal matches Banette in that they're both "creepy-pasta" Pokemon who are reimagined in this fic.

It would be nice to write more about Jung, especially since he was originally meant to be the viewpoint character here. Exploring it from his perspective would've expanded on his character and added more backstory, but it robbed the story of its mystery, and it's more memorable for the change IMO. One gripe uA had was that the focus on Jung's speciesism was a bit outside of the scope of this story, and that's something I would like to bank on if I choose to write more of his character.

About playing with Pokemon stereotypes, in general, I don't like the idea that an entire species has to act a specific way, like goblins being all evil in D&D settings and such. With Hypno in particular, a lot of focus is put on their hypnosis powers and the creepier implications of that, and in this world, there probably were Hypno who used their powers with harmful intent, but my takeaway from it is that dreams are just another food source for them, and they need to feed off of that to satiate their urges, but are otherwise harmless. So they come across to me as misunderstood, and I thought that would be a good thing to twist around. Though people would still be wary of a person that can potentially control them, while other psychics like seers and empaths are more accepted by humans and other Pokemon.

As far as how I explore it in other stories, I'm currently writing about a Machamp character who grapples with her own urges to fight and whether or not that defines her as a person, since she wants to be capable of being more than just a battling machine. So her species is seen as aggressively macho and thick-skulled when she (along with other Pokemon in that evolution line) is more complex and level-headed than that.
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
I came here for Jung, I stayed for the healing. When I first heard about Jung, I thought "what a cool concept!" A psychic type pokemon who is a professional psychologist. The concept on its own is quite fascinating, but within the context of your version of the poke-world, it truly shines. There isn't a divison between pokemon and humans; Jung works with anyone who comes to him for help. There's also something special about the way you write such a closely intertwined life between humans and pokemon. They don't exist in separate worlds with separate problems and separate traumas. It's a shared experience in probably the closest version of it I've seen in pokefic (in all your works). And this is no exception.

The slow build up to the reveal after cloudiness and confusion is such a sweet, sweet payoff for this fic. I did have to stop myself at the beginning from going "wait, the names changed, things aren't making sense, who is talking or not talking or ???" and said to myself "JUST KEEP READING" and I'm so glad I did. The confusion during the dream sequences was real, there were times when I wasn't sure what was going on (mostly who the POV character was or what form they were), and as deliberate as that was, it did make it hard to imagine the character as they were meant to be in that particular moment. I think the reason this stands out to me is because sometimes the form shifts were rapid and multiple, but there was context to let me know a change had occurred. (Hands becoming a new shape or color, etc.) But then sometimes it seemed all there was was a pronoun which left me going "hmm, who or what could they be at this instant?" It didn't impact the flow of the story as much as just my mental picture of what was unfolding.

That aside, the set pieces of the individual dream sequences were wonderfully laid out. The recurring themes, repeat visuals and phrasing, as well as being able to pick out the incarnations of the same individual in different ways are all great ways to tie the story together but also show that yes, these are all coming from the subconscious of one person. The lore behind Shuppet/Banette is wonderfully woven through this story, both symbolically and by dex-definition (with your own take on it, as it should be.) Even the various names are charming and fit the theme. And of course the reveal of the tragic events that lead up to Patch's trauma was just a gut punch; the human conflict felt real and believable and that in turn grounds and makes the pokemon's conflict inseparable.

Jung himself is charming, but not a perfect "miracle" cure-all, which he could have easily been given the his role in the story's theme of overcoming and healing. I like that he's as imperfect as the people and pokemon he helps. He struggles with his job and his role in society (and even species, as it turns out). But he does his job and he does it as well as he can which makes him feel very true to himself and not put on a pedestal in any way. A little part of me wishes we got to see more of him (and I think you mentioned as much in a reply somewhere), because he is an intriguing and well-thought-out character.

Overall this is another wonderful dive into the poke-world of your creation, filled with the gripping, gritty, and viscerally real intermingled with charm, wit, and most of all: hope. Thanks so much for writing and sharing.
 
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