I am small, just an abra. My eyes, which have yet to fully open, flinch from the intense artificial light of the room. The minds around me are disordered and loud, so I cup my paws over my ears in a gesture I now can understand as useless. The noise is in my mind.
I feel the faintest shift in the air around me as I am approached by a human child, whose name is Fern. Her mind is quiet and calm; her touch tentative. When she asks me for my name, I show her who I am, and her mind lights up in the idiosyncratic glow I can now recognize as a smile.
It is three weeks since Fern became my trainer. I am in her lap and I feel her trembling. I sense the racing of her heart.
A voice is explaining that she is too weak to undertake a pokemon journey. She has been diagnosed with Gorling's disease. That means –
"I know what it means," she says. Her voice is small and tight, even though in her mind she is screaming. "I looked it up."
It means that her bones are weak. If not exercised, they will crumble. If put under stress, they will snap.
I internalize this, re-living each time that Fern has lifted me from the ground.
I am also weak. My brain and my body are locked into opposition. As the one expands, the other must weaken under its weight. I am lucky to be a strong psychic.
Fern is not lucky.
It is five weeks since Fern and I left her home village. For the first time, my eyes are open.
I look at Fern, slowly and methodically updating my mental image of her. Her limbs are skinny and askew. She has dark hair, with streaks of deep purple. I consider this aberration for some time, before deciding that the color is intentional, and not a manifestation of her disease. This is reassuring, and I grow to love the color.
Her face is very agile, and it takes me some time to connect the expressions on it to the mental flashes I know as her emotions.
The first one I learn is joy: this is when her dark irises widen, her mouth expands, and her face fills with lines like the creases in her clothing.
I learn what pain looks like soon afterward. She has packed too many books, and when she stands with her bag on her back, I see smaller and sharper creases, a downward look, and the twitch of her lips. Her mind flinches, and I receive the sensation of weight and burning.
I lift the pack from her back, easing her arms from the straps with the newly enlargened reach of my mind. When she looks at me, I nearly stumble at the deluge of her emotions. I can identify them now: gratitude, grief, and shame.
That is also the day I understand crying as more than jagged noises and wetness on her face. Crying resembles a convulsion more than anything else. She screws up her face as if wishing for the water to consume her.
"I can't even carry my own pack. Pathetic."
My eyes may have opened, but I am still young. I do not know how to shape my comfort into words, so I can only watch, my spoon held helplessly aloft, wondering whether the tears would erode away her face like a rock and smooth into nothingness the smiles that I had grown to love.
In my young and fragile years, Fern lifted me when I faltered. Now I stand on my own and can return the favor.
My sense of my power grows. I am able to hurl a rampaging tauros into the air with only the mildest exertion – still, this is nothing next to the bone-deep pleasure I feel when she stands supported by the coils of my psychic energy and does not grimace in pain.
We win battles together, though these are less important than the battles we win when we are alone, when steep mountain passes taunt us, and small obstacles are suddenly insurmountable.
The sun is out and her forehead is wet with sweat. She wants to pick me a berry that is out of her reach. She jumps for it, falls, jumps again. I angle my spoon and the fruit slides gently into her hand.
It takes me three nights of contemplation to understand the tangled anger that flashed through her eyes just then.
I remember how it feels to be weak. I remember exactly everything that has happened to me.
When I form my second spoon, many of the universes' mysteries are illuminated.
I trace out my first word to her ever so hesitantly. Fern?
She looks up at me in wonder, reaching out to me, confused and exhilarated, and I am making her a song of love and you and all this time, a song of me and you and wanting to help wanting to love wanting to be – no longer silent, no longer muted and perpetually refraining.
We spend the night glorying in the words we no longer need to speak.
We are both expanding too fast for our bodies. My neck begins to ache. First the sensation is a mild annoyance. Fern messages my skin with her shaking hands. The weeks pass, and I am afraid the bone is going to break.
Fern requires a chair to move now.
Each night, I transport her onto her bed, where she lies on her back and does her exercises. One leg reaches for the sky, and then the next. Her breathing is labored. She counts out the numbers, either under her breath or only in her mind – I have stopped noticing the difference.
Fifty, she rasps, lowering her limbs. For three seconds she is motionless, at least in body. I can feel her simmering, a discontent so hot and roiling that I find myself twitching. She hates her body and dreams of conquering it.
Suddenly her legs shoot up again, an abrupt movement that makes her wince – FIFTY ONE she shouts in my mind, each syllable ringing with triumph.
"It hurts," she says, but she did not need to. I am hurting with her the whole time.
She is no longer able to leave her bed, but her mind is uncontainable. She reads everything they bring her, the knowledge sucked up into a cyclone, hurled at the intractable confines of her psi-null mind.
We play games with numbers, staring at each other in silence for so long that the orderlies get nervous and check to see if she has fallen asleep.
She rarely sleeps. When she does, I find her dreams and join them. In those dreams she is always running and jumping. I speak audibly in the language of humans, and a table of her friends laugh as I dryly wisecrack.
Once, I catch her holding up the spoon they gave her to eat her porridge, her brow twisted in concentration. I do not enter the room, then, but instead wander the long hallways of the hospital, knowing I could upend the building with the power of my mind, and also knowing that there is nothing more I can do for her.
They say that Fern's blood is polluted by her own bones. Her parents hold her hands, and say things to her that she cannot hear. Only I can still find her, sitting in the dip of a meadow somewhere in her mind. She uproots handfuls of grass until she is surrounded by nothing but dirt and thin green stalks that lie like ruptured ligaments.
"Go away," she says, not looking at me. The sky has turned deep plum red, the color of her hatred. I try to understand the feeling, which is hot and sticky and slightly sour. "It's not fair," she says. "I get weaker and you just get stronger." She finally looks at me, her body wispy and cloudlike. "It's not fair."
They say that alakazam die when we no longer have the strength to hold up our heads. Only a moment's lapse in concentration and our necks snap.
We are standing on the lip of a white lake. She cradles my head with both of her hands, and I give her its weight, entirely and fully.
I have always been weak, I tell her.
This is earlier. She has carried me to the top of a hill. I cling to her back, which is slick and damp with sweat. "There's so much out there," she tells me.
I see it. I see my mind, which is an endless and untraveled vista, and her mind, singing to mine.
Now I lift my head from her hands and watch, as she walks away to a place I cannot follow. The fog fills in behind her, and the world goes white.
I say, you made me strong.