The night was frigid and clear, only the city lights obscuring the stars above. Vincent, crumpled into a fetal position up against a wall. Not against the frigid night, but in fear. Tonight, his piano teacher had organized a recital for all his students to show off to their parents that he actually was doing his job. As an unfortunate byproduct, this meant Vincent would have to play in front of several strangers. Just the thought made him shiver.
Reaching into his rented tux's breast pocket, he pulled out an orange bottle to read the label. He already knew its contents, but he read it anyway. "James Brown, Xanax, take one tablet by mouth as needed." It was supposed to be plan B when he got it a few weeks ago, but as the night drew closer, the idea of going on stage without "help" seemed impossibility. So, plan B became A, and even with thirty minutes left until his performance, he needed it now.
He pulled off the cap and took out a capsule, turning it over in his hands. One last time, he tried to convince himself he didn't need it, that he could manage on his own, but a burning weight in his stomach said otherwise. Just as he resolved to take it, he heard the rhythmic crunch of grass underfoot approaching. In a panic, he tossed the pill back, closed the lid, and hopped up, tossing the bottle back into his jacket's inside pocket just in time to see his brother Peter facing him with arms crossed.
With his hand still in his jacket, he quickly came up for an excuse as non-suspicious as possible. "M-man," he stuttered with a (now fake) shiver, "Sure is cold out here, right?" Peter, unconvinced, remained unmoving, towering over him. With an expectant gaze, he stuck out his hand.
Vincent spent another moment trying to keep up the lie before letting himself deflate, cradling his right arm and leaning up against the wall. Glancing up revealed not a hint of sympathy on Peter's face. "Give them to me."
His eyes were glued to the ground, heat swelling in his cheeks as his throat tightened. "I can't," he whimpered, tears forcing themselves out.
Vincent winced at the hand Peter placed on his shoulder. "Yes you can, you don't need those to perform."
Shoving his hand off, Vincent took a step away, forcing himself to face Peter. "No! No, I can't! You don't know what I have to deal with!" His anger ebbed out, a few seconds of silence hanging between them. "You're not broken."
Dense, silent air floated between them for an eternity, Vincent waiting for Peter to yell back. "You're right." Vincent blinked. "I don't have what you have, I don't get panic attacks, go through what you do, have to deal with what you do." He took a step forward, once again placing a hand on Vincent's shoulder. "But I've seen you deal with it before, I know you can." Vincent wanted to argue further, wanted a point to prove, but the resolution in his brother's eyes told him it would be pointless. "Come on, if you don't make me take them by force, I'll buy you a booster pack."
Even despite his building anxiety, Vincent chuckled. Wiping the tears off his face, he pulled out the bottle and handed it to his brother, mumbling, "Thanks."
Peter took it, tussling his brother's hair with the other hand. "I could get you to do anything for Pokémon cards," he jibed. Before Vincent could make a retort, Peter yanked on his arm, pulling him along behind him. "Come on, they'll be needing you backstage soon."
While Peter led him to the hall, Vince tried to occupy his mind, keeping a tight hold on his thoughts to stave off panic. To keep busy, he thought about the piece he had to perform, the first movement from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. A rather ambitious first piece, but it had significant sentimental value to him as it had been one of his father's favorites to play.
His teacher had laughed at him when he said he wanted it to be his first piece (the jerk), but once Vince showed what he'd managed to learn on his own, his teacher agreed to help.
Help Vincent definitely needed; even though his starting point showed promise, he'd still had a long way to go. At the start, he could barely even read the bass clef, and moving both hands independently seemed like a pipe dream. But, through many frustrating nights of tedious practice, he had finally been able to perform the piece from beginning to end without stopping. Not devoid of mistakes, just not enough of them to warrant starting over.
The two brothers finally made it to the backstage entrance, Peter patting him on the back muttering, "Break a leg," before heading off. Alone with his thoughts once more, Vincent took inventory of his mental state: scrutinized every thought, making sure not to dwell on any that were disturbing; accepting anxiety for what it was, nothing more than an emotion; keeping his breath at a steady rhythm, making sure he wouldn't hyperventilate.
Gingerly opening the door, he stepped lightly as he could to respect the pianist currently playing. He kept his mind focused on his piece, leaving no room for panic to creep in, eventually managing to lose awareness of his surroundings until his teacher tapped him on the shoulder. "You're on next, ready?"
Vincent's gaze snapped up to meet his teacher's, time's fast passage surprising him. While his teacher's expression and tone were eager, Vincent could hardly share in the excitement. With a weak smile, he nodded, standing to approach the stage.
Entering the stage, he didn't let himself focus on the crowd to his right, his teacher's introduction of him, the soft shuffle of the previous and next acts back stage, only looking at the piano. Each step brought him closer until he slid around the bench and sat, allowing his fingers just barely rest on the keys.
He kept his full attention shifting from the piano, to his hands, to the music, rotating between the three in no particular order. With a deep breath in and out, he began to play the triplets that began the piece, his mind intensely focused in the beginning on every note, beat, and rhythm. Yet, as time went on, thoughts of panic began to seep through his defenses, slowly welling up more and more as time went on. He tried desperately to shake these thoughts out of his mind, to hold tight to the feeling of calm that he associated with music, but the harder he tried, the worse his anxiety became. He tried harder and harder to stop the anxiety, the fear, the panic, but this proved to be his mistake. Putting so much energy into his thoughts, his mind hadn't had enough to focus on the sonata, and his hands had ceased movement. For a moment he was so lost in thought that he didn't even notice he'd stopped playing. The instant he did, though, his mind went into full on panic.
Time slowed down, sped up, his mind racing to try and get back to where he had been in the piece, to try and start playing again, to do anything but sit there and have a panic attack. Unfortunately, this only resulted in him playing the same wrong note three times in no particular rhythm. Frustration began to mingle with fear, self-doubt becoming self-hatred, anxiety becoming panic, until he decided to just play the tonic chord and walk off the stage, no bowing, only running backstage once more, through the door he had entered, through the hall he had walked with his brother only minutes before, eventually leaving the building itself.
He ran to the corner where he had held the Xanax, hands now empty. He crumpled up into a fetal position, clutching his legs close to his chest in an attempt to become as small as he felt. Rocking back and forth, panic wracked his system. His mind raced with hardly coherent thoughts, devoid of rationality but filled with horror. He moved his hands up to his head, gripping his hair, tears pouring from his eyes. Within his thoughts, a common thread began to connect them, subtle at first, but it grew and grew until eventually the thought was screaming at him from his mind. "You failed."
Vincent listened intently to the noises of the forest (birds singing, bugs buzzing, the wind rattling the branches of trees, even the occasional skittering of an animal) while walking a path he'd worn very well. He walked in an attempt to forget last night, trying to edge the memory of his failure and panic from his psyche with very little success. Anxiety, however, wasn't the emotion at his throat anymore: his panic attack had tortured most of the anxiety out of him, the serene forest drowning out what little remained.
No, he retreated to the forest to deal with contempt he held for himself. When it came to failure of any kind—be it his fault or not—he always went into a state of self-flagellation that lasted until he had thoroughly destroyed any and all self-worth in his system—a most effective and healthy coping mechanism.
He didn't even try to blame his brother for not letting him take the meds that weren't his; he knew it was wrong. His brother wasn't the problem. He was. It was his fault he'd bought the pills in the first place. He'd tried to give himself support through the wrong channels. He'd succumb to his own anxiety. His thoughts brought him panic. This train of thought continued until he had fully convinced himself that his anxiety, his failure, even all the world's problems in general were his fault. He just wanted to forget last night had ever happened.
Sufficiently worn into his emotional rut, he looked to the forest around him for a better subject to focus on. He always felt at home in the forest. Never knew why. Even as a kid, the lush green, huge trees, multitude of little creatures that inhabited it, all brought him some kind of peace.
Even still, he could remember the first time he'd retreated to the forest: the day he'd come home from the hospital and his father hadn't. His mother didn't even notice his frequent trips, too busy with her own grief.
But that was all very long ago, and he hardly even gave heed to those memories as he lost himself in the forest's beauty. He'd memorized every step of this path, but awe still filled his mind as he surveyed the flora and fauna. Eventually, he came to a circular clearing somewhere in the area of ten yards in diameter that he knew better than the back of his hand. Because of this familiarity, he immediately noticed a white, round, blemishless stone that lay in the exact center of the clearing. As if waiting for him.
He approached the stone, kneeling down to pick it up and examine it. The more he looked at it, the less it made sense: despite being partially buried in the ground, not a speck of dirt remained when he lifted it up; it fit comfortably in his hand; seemed to shimmer when he held it up to the sun, yet didn't even remotely reflect the color of his shirt, almost seeming to produce its own. He rolled it around in his hand to find some mark or blemish but found none.
He examined the stone, completely perplexed to what it was, where it came from, why it was there, all memories of last night long erased from his consciousness. He didn't know of anyone else that frequented this area, yet the stone had no natural qualities. Mind engrossed in the object, he couldn't stay in the comfort of the forest, so he forced himself to go back home where he had at least some equipment.
Leaving on the same path he'd entered, he returned home. Luckily, he wouldn't have to explain the odd object to his brother or mother since they were at school and work respectively. Of course, he should have been at school as well, but he didn't care. One day wouldn't really have an effect on his grades.
Vincent had no idea what this material was. It had the density of hydrogen yet didn't need to be hundreds of degrees below zero to retain a solid form or burn his hand to touch, so it obviously couldn't be hydrogen. Chipping off a piece to look at under a microscope he'd (permanently) borrowed from school proved impossible as it wouldn't even yield the tiniest fragment, instead breaking the screwdriver he'd used as a chisel.
Now, he was on his way to his computer to see if the internet could yield any info about this strange material. When he walked into his unlit room, he noticed the stone really did emanate light. A very dull, barely visible glow inside ebbed in a manner similar to a heartbeat. His heartbeat. He placed it on his desk, and the pulse stopped the moment it lost contact with his hand, light changing from yellow to stark white.
Touching the stone once more, he felt a very faint energy, so faint he wondered if it was even really there. Some light, tingle through his veins. Out of ideas, he decided to experiment with the energy hypothesis: if it produced energy, perhaps it would even accept it. He pulled out a box from under his desk that held frayed wires, power cords, dongles, pulling out what once was a lamp's power cord. It was split down to the plug, with just an inch of exposed wire at the end. Once he taped the exposed ends to the sphere, he placed it on a plate (putting it on his wood desk could be a fire-hazard) and put the plug in the outlet.
This was a bad decision. Immediately, the light became so bright that it filled the room, nearly blinding him if he hadn't managed to shield his eyes just in time; a slight hum became a loud screech and the orb burst into two pieces, launching to opposite ends of his room. After the moment of terror passed, he checked to see if he'd sustained any damage.
After counting his fingers, he yanked out the power cord so it wouldn't start a fire before going to turn on the lights. After seven flips of the light switch, he determined that some strange force had knocked out the power. Even without the lights on, he could see the room well enough, as well as both orb halves: one embedded in the dry-wall and the other lying beneath a sizable dent in the wall. "It's a shame that didn't kill me, 'cause now Mom definitely will," he mumbled to himself while he retrieved the orb halves.
Both were the same size, and the break points were smooth as silk. Holding both in his hands, he had another bad idea. He knew it was a bad idea. Didn't know how, but he knew that putting them back together could only make the situation worse. Felt it in his jellies. But, be it the reckless nature of a teenager, the absurd curiosity that had him pick up the stone to begin with, or some other third thing, he decided to put the orb back together.
Nothing happened. At least, not at first. He tried to pull apart the fragments again but found that it had once again become one stone. Holding it in his right hand, he brought it up to his face to get a closer look. Then, a sudden shock shot out of the orb, down his arm, and throughout his body, pain bringing him to his knees. He dropped the orb to cradle his right arm, eyes clenched shut, grimacing as the pain flowed to the beat of his heart, as if it had joined with his blood's flow. The pain hit its climax, quickly dissipating, though he could still feel the energy flow through him.
He cracked his eyes open, only for the somehow floating orb to assault him with piercing light. Bringing up his left hand to shield his eyes, he saw his bed was gone. No evidence it had ever been there, even. No impression in the carpet, faded wallpaper, nothing.
Too shocked by his bed's disappearance, he didn't even notice the orb's light diminish as it slowly floated to the ground. He looked around his room that more than just his bed had disappeared. His desk that once held his computer, cluttered with schoolwork, gadgets and knick-knacks he'd managed to get for cheap at pawn shops had been replaced by a significantly nicer computer, a printer, and a stack of printer paper. All of his stuff had been replaced by office materials or emptiness.
He tried to stand up, but the energy that once had coursed through his veins burst through him again, making him feel as if he'd been filled with magma. His thought that the pain couldn't get any worse was demolished by burning needles pushing themselves out of every inch of his arm. Fighting against the pain, he forced his eyes open to see what was happening. Once he did, he wished he hadn't. Pale yellow fur covered his arm and rushed rapidly up his shoulder. He tried to throw the fur off with his left hand to no avail as it continued spreading, carrying with it the intense pain.
His grimace grew tighter and tighter as knives forced their way out of his skin, climbing across his chest, up his neck, down his back, until fur covered every inch of him. Terror tormented him as he tried to comprehend every impossible event that had led to this one, all of them swirling into his mind until he fell into a state of complete panic. His heart beat faster, which just seemed to increase the heat's spread.
Tears poured out of his eyes as the heat engulfed his body, melting his bones and shifting them into shapes entirely unfamiliar. He felt his body shrink, hands deform and lose the dexterity that made them human, devolving into paws, arms losing what little definition they had as they became little more than nubs that bent in the middle, shoulders shifting forward to better equip themselves for walking on all fours, his chest compressed and rearranged his torso into what vaguely resembled a trapezoid, hips shifting as his legs contract and disappear into nearly nothing, his feet rounding off into ovals, his toes melting from five to three, some obtrusion crunching its way out of his spine.
His head hurt the most as his jaw rounded off, all his teeth but the front two on top turning into molars, the front two flattening and becoming almost like squares, his head molding into an oval. The crunch of his bones mashing into these unnatural shapes drove him mad, the crunching and reshaping of the cartilage in his ears into diamonds brought him further over the edge, further than he could ever comprehend.
While he'd slowly been shrinking throughout this, it kicked into high gear as some invisible force squeezed him like a stress ball. He tried to scramble out of his shirt to no avail as it engulfed his shrinking form, his new limbs far too strange for him to move properly.
Finally, the heat and pressure subsided, leaving the entirety of his form breathless, sweating, and squirming underneath the cloth that had once fit comfortably around his torso. The last few hour-long minutes exhausted him so much, he hardly felt energy fill and stretch his cheeks to even more bizarre proportions. He squirmed, wriggled, and flailed towards the neck of what once was his shirt. By some stroke of luck, he managed to flop himself out of his shirt and onto his back, heart pounding out of his chest.
The perversion of his room in grayscale assaulted his vision. Every bone, muscle, tendon, fiber of his being cried out in pain, dispelling even the thought that any of this was a dream. He uncoordinatedly flopped onto his stomach and forced himself to stand. Just as he was about to fall to the side, an obtrusion on his back shot to the other side to correct his balance. He carefully turned to look behind himself to see a tail. His tail. He had a tail.
He buried his eyes into what once were his hands and tried to mumble, "This can't be real," but his mouth wouldn't respond properly. Instead, his mind searched for how to say what he wanted to, a string of repeated syllables of varying pitch and order floating into his thoughts. He tested out these new "words" and found them uncannily easy to produce. "Chu pi pichu pi." Despair overcame him.
He loved Pokémon. It was probably (definitely) his favorite game series and, because of this, he had developed an almost anthological knowledge of it. So, without a moment's thought, he knew exactly what he was: a pichu.
He shook his head, trying to bury it even further into his paws, spouting the syllables he had just learned over and over again, hoping desperately that verbally rejecting reality enough would change it. It didn't. Despite the obvious evidence, he couldn't believe what had happened. How could he? He was trapped in a fictional creature's body! Not just a fictional creature, but a baby! That couldn't be true! Sure, he was only on the early side of fourteen, but he wasn't a child! He was a teenager!
After what felt like hours, it sank in that wishing this away wasn't accomplishing anything. He pulled his head out of his paws and looked in front of him at the orb. That was it! If the orb changed him, it could change him back! He hobbled over to it as fast as he could, falling almost every step, but he didn't' care. He had to get to the orb, had to touch it! Had to change back!
He fell once more, now only a few inches away. Being so close, he felt… odd. Sensed some sort of energy inside the orb. Not emanating from it, simply resting inside it. As he focused on it, he felt the same coursing through his body, a large pool of it in his cheeks. Before he could even ask himself what the feeling was, electricity floated through his mind. Shaking the curiosity out of his head, he stood up one last time to reach out to the orb.
Much like every other decision of the past hour, this proved a horrible mistake. The instant he made contact with it, electricity poured into his body, filling him beyond what he could bare, beyond what his body could handle. He tried to pull away, but the electricity shooting into his body locked his muscles in place. His cheeks tried to rid himself of the electricity by launching it out, but it just arced back and shocked him, bringing even more pain. The onslaught of energy forced his body to expand in every area that held and carried electricity.
Just before he thought his life would end, a final spurt of energy flung him a few feet onto his back. He couldn't even form a coherent thought, pain overriding any that floated through his mind.
He didn't even fight against the darkness as it overtook his mind, bringing him the relief of unconsciousness.
A/N: Well, that's the first chapter of the rewrite, hope y'all like it. I'd love to hear your opinions on this chapter, let me know with a review. If you can't, thanks at least for reading.
I'm gonna be editing these earlier chapters pretty significantly between updates. I'll try to keep it so nothing too plot significant changes, that way old readers don't have to come back and read the new stuff. There may be an inconsistency or two until I've updated everything, but I'll try my best to avoid that.