He was tired.
That much was true. That much always seemed to be true. Harsh wind chilled past the human's chest and up to his ears. Though he stood on flat sheets of ice, they did little to stem the windchill, nor did the tall, grey structures reflected in the distance. Moonlight shone down the frozen harbor, illuminating a narrow path of ice leading from his platform to the concrete beach of his origins.
What was he doing here?
Every single footstep seemed to bring up the question. Steps dug deeper into the layer of frost over the lake. It was late into the night, and the obligations of sunrise grew ever closer. He reached into his pocket, pulling out a rectangular sheet of steel with a glass front. He didn't even want to count the red number plastered on the top right corner of the letter-shaped icon.
"Some other day," he whispered to himself. "I can push that boulder to the top of a hill some other day."
There were many boulders to push. Places to drive, people to meet, reports to file. All for a purpose, all to maintain what he had, to press on in hope that the future's boulders would be moderately less heavy.
He reached into his pocket again, providing a brief respite for his hand against the nipping wind. Out came a slip of paper, neatly folded than crumpled into a disheveled pile. The language was flowery in spite of its cut and paste nature, though he didn't even need to read it to know what it meant.
He chuckled to no one in particular.
"Well...at least I won't have to worry about making coffee in the morning."
A smile ever so slowly took form on his face, accompanied by crazed laughter. His hands raised, and he spun around in a circle, gazing towards phantoms that surrounded him on the harbor.
"Thank you, thank you very much," he said, bowing and holding a hand to his heart, "it wasn't easy getting to this point, but with hard work and dedication, I can assure you that you'll always find yourself where I am now! Afterall, who could forget the name—"
He stopped. Just what was his name? He knew well enough, but it seemed that the only others who knew, who would keep remembering well after time had caught up to him were with him on the ice.
"My...my name is…"
It wasn't right. It was the name people knew him as, his family name, but nonetheless entirely inaccurate. His first name, his real one was less trivial, though until now equally difficult to decipher meaning from. He'd lived his entire life wondering what it meant, what grandiose statement it would make about him, and now he knew. Everything he had worked for, everything he had clung to, everything he desired-it all fit his name to a tee.
The stars shined brightly that night. One caught his attention, despite its shine being somewhat dull in comparison to those that surrounded it. It stared back at him, gazing with a mix of orange that coalesced with bright blue and yellow. So close, and yet so far out of reach.
The only thing left for the human, it seemed, was dry ice in every direction. Cold as it may have been, it would soon turn to spring, and the cracks around his tiny platform were ever increasing. If he stayed were he was, more chunks of frost would drift away into the endless harbor until there would be nowhere left to stand. A single path lay behind him, one he had known well, and one that he had lost. The only way forward, it seemed, was the frigid water beyond.
"Damn them," he muttered, silence following before his mouth tilted open. "Damn myself too."
He kicked a layer of frost into the water. It wasn't his fault. It couldn't have been. So what if people called him bitter? Resentful? He had done everything right. Every decision he made, the product of every hour of time and soul he had sacrificed for his destiny lay before him.
For the last time, he dug into his pockets. Out came a blue DS, with two screens that, while not nearly as powerful as the metallic rectangle, told a story far brighter. Light enveloped both screens with a click. Chiptune music blared, and the title screen appeared, bolded letters above a tranquil forest nearly letting the moisture around his eyes escape.
How long had it been? Years? Over a decade? There was still dust around the cover, conveying what had become of a much simpler time. A few more clicks, and the visages of a bulbasaur and torchic appeared, waking up on the straw beds of a familiar location. What was the name again? Sharpedo Rock...Sharpedo Cave? It didn't matter now.
Ooh, yes! The weather's great today, again. Let's do good again today…
"It sure is," he said, chuckling bitterly to himself.
He took another step toward the water, holding the device in his dominant hand.
"Well...you always seemed like you wanted to fly, old friend. I guess now is your chance."
He chucked it. The device twirled in a steady arc before landing in the water with a satisfying 'plop'. The sprites on the screen seemed to give him one last look, before fading away.
The bulbasaur had it better in many ways, though worse in others. The chance for adventure, opulence, variety, all those had been given to the sprite through happenstance. God knows how much currency had been amassed in its account through conservation via soft resets. And yet...what the torchic had said, he had heard it many times before, verbatim. Perhaps the bulbasaur wasn't so different than himself? Left with opportunity, but stuck in a time loop of drudgery and uniformity.
"God, listen to me," he said, "I...I wasn't always like this, was I?"
He wasn't. His gaze drew back to the skyscrapers in the distance. They had seemed so small before, like a mountain that he could climb with enough effort and labor. It was easy enough at the start, walking in with a suit and tie thinking the world was his oyster. But, no matter what the human tried, he always found himself falling back to the bottom. He was young, in body and mind. He had his whole life ahead of him, and…
That was the problem.
An entire life of this. Of waking up everyday to walk through a crowd of people just as unremarkable as himself. Of waiting for his bones to grow weak and the wrinkles below his eyes to become somehow larger than they already were. In spite of everything he had clung to, he was stuck.
On reflex, he reached for his coat, pulling out a thin, metallic flask. It was much lighter than he had hoped, though heavier than he had wished it would be in his early youth. It would have to do. Body and mind were cold, and what coursed down his throat gave the impression of alleviating it. His own warped reflection peered back at him through the container, making his disdainful frown mutual.
"Ya like what you see, buddy?" he asked. "Well, I didn't want it to be this way either. If anything, this is long overdue. Getting away from the fools, the detractors. If I can't be on the winning side of the cycle, then what else is there?"
The only answer came in the form of the water before him. He grabbed a chunk of ice, angling it toward the spot were the DS had sunk. It soared through the air before landing three meters past. Shot wide.
"Damn…frickin' useless aim."
This couldn't be his destiny, could it? He looked up, spotting several blinking dots of light in the night sky. There was a certain envy in the way he looked toward the planes soaring through the air. Tropics, mountains, cities far and foreign, as much as it made him carsick, everyone on those aircraft were going somewhere. It didn't matter where, just that they could wake up with assurances that the next day wouldn't be the same as the one before. His gaze drew downwards, locked onto the sheet of ice that constituted his entire future. He couldn't go back, for his own sanity's sake. There was only one way forward.
For the first time the human could remember in years, he genuinely smiled.
"A little too cold to go skinny dipping, but I think it'll get the point across well enough."
The icy sheet behind him still existed, but he did not dare look. In spite of his moping, perhaps he could put this all behind him? Turn back, return the way he came to push the boulder one more day. It would be a humorous story for sure, if his boss would concede to him groveling on the floor for his old position back. He could go back to his old co-workers, to her, and enlighten them all of how in this brief swim he chose to give his own world a second chance.
Maybe...maybe it wasn't as bad as he thought?
"D-Dammit, get a hold of yourself, you're better than this."
He sat in silence, wind howling against the flat ground as he looked between divulging pathways. A sigh condensed through the air accompanied by inner lamentations that he would have to make do with what he had. Like it or not, this world was his, and a second chance wasn't going to pop out of thin air. Ever so slowly, he turned, gazing back towards were he had walked.
At least, he would have, if the decision still belonged to him. The ice cracked.
He fell forward. Water shattered his fatigue, soaking through his clothes and no doubt bricking the phone in his pocket. If he had taken the time to learn to swim, he could have pulled himself above the waterline easily. That hadn't happened, however. He clawed, flailed, screamed towards the heavens to let him life and try to make some sense of a life wasted. His cries fell on deaf ears. The ice formed a barrier as impenetrable as it was slippery, and It wasn't long before his limbs grew even more numb then they already were.
Darkness surrounded his vision, and he found that any ability to move his own limbs had been lost. He sunk deeper into the abyss, water filled his mouth and cut off his breaths, helpless to resist.
I...I guess this is it, things won't ever be the same after today.
History would prove him right. Just as the human blacked out, a peculiar sensation surrounded his entire body, accompanied by a change he had long thought impossible.
The water was warm.
She was a world away.
The night was young, and she was not tired in the least. The sun had completed its evening descent, cutting off any orange light refracting towards the shallow shoal were a Raichu sat. Her eyes were blue, accompanying orange fur and a tail that nearly matched herself in length. For most other of her species it acted as platform, but she put it to better use as a makeshift umbrella, deflecting the scattered rains that perpetuated her tropical surroundings.
The water was cold, at least for her. Ever so slightly under the realm of comfortable as it enveloped her two legs dug into the sand. It did little to bother, however, for she knew why she was there.
She knew all too well. More so, she knew where she had been, and where she had left. Her eyes closed, letting the sudden visages of an entourage of pokemon appear around her in the sandbar. Their paths crossed with hers daily, and yet they still seemed like complete strangers.
This has been a long time coming, wouldn't you say you deserve it?
It is...a big responsibility, I'll admit, but it's simply part of the natural progression of life.
There are pokemon who would kill for an offer like this. You don't want to seem ungrateful.
"I...I don't," she said to no one in particular, "but it had to be done."
Cobalt-blue eyes drew downward. On reflex, she reached for a canvas pouch at her side, pulling out two items. She unfolded the first: a slip of paper barely legible after being neatly folded then crumpled. With it came the second, having to be angled so its metallic shine was not a hindrance.
A silver badge.
A sigh fell into the sand. With it came one of her paws, reaching to her bag for another badge that matched its design and dimensions. The only difference between the two, was that the one donned on her was dressed in a rusted bronze, dented from years of use. She uncrumpled the paper, whispering its words to herself in a tone that mocked the figure staring back at her in the calm water.
"For exemplary service and devotion, you have been awarded with a title few pokemon achieve. You path ahead may become perilous, but there is no doubt that affluence and idolization will follow as you rise to the occasion."
"I-I wish that was true," she mumbled, recrumpling the paper and placing it back into the bag. She stood up, eyes narrowing as rain soaked through her fur and onto the silver badge.
It was only a dagger of the mind, but her familiar surroundings seemed to blend together when she stared off into the water. Balloons, streamers, tacky signs proclaiming catch-all platitudes appeared against non-existent walls. In the middle of all of it, of all the pokemon staring towards her expectantly, was a small box, wrapped in a bow and open to reveal the two objects on her person.
"T-They ambushed me," she growled, "t-they didn't ask, they didn't consider that I would say no, they...they…"
They meant well, that much was true in her mind. She may have conjured up other pokemon around the water, but her irate gaze looked only toward the reflection. And why would any pokemon say no? It was a chance, an opportunity to advance in an organization that would help her leave a legacy, that would explore places far and foreign, that would lead her to ending up like—
She stared toward her own legs, happy to feel the lukewarm water surrounding them. In spite of all its glory, and all its danger, she had made a promise to herself. The sand under feet, the cliff behind her back, the sky over her head, she had known it well. She lived knowing it well, and if everything went according to plan, she would likely die knowing it well. Away from hardships, away from pain...and away from pokemon. If she had to run away for it to be so, that was a price she was willing to pay.
The Raichu stepped forward, carefully retying the straps that held her oversized tail against her back. Once she had found a far enough point, she eyed the badge still in her hand. Her look grew dark, weight of the object seemingly becoming heavier by the minute. Light again refracted against the stars, lifting her face up to gaze upon a singular dot in the night sky that seemed to catch her attention.
It shined bright blue, placed in the sky as if ever reaching to be among its higher kin. It was a world away, and yet she couldn't help but feel a sense of pity towards the dot, emanating a radiance that would forever be dwarfed by the few surrounding it. Her head shook. Tomorrow would come, similar as it was to the days before, and she couldn't spend every day moping about something so inconsequential. Instead, she returned her gaze towards the badge. It shined brightly, but only fate could keep her from undoing the decision she made today.
She chucked it. Her face wasn't the only one that frowned back at her through its reflection, but it sunk into the water nonetheless. Howling wind drowned out the resulting 'plop'. It nearly pushed her forward, and she had to re-adjust her feet to keep her balance, but she remained planted into the sand nonetheless.
It turned cold. Bitter windchill brushed against her fur, and the Raichu figured that she would have to return soon if she were to get enough sleep for tomorrow. Either way, it didn't matter. Arceus knew that she had enough free time to nap the whole day away, even after returning from the daily grind.
She turned to leave, but one last pokemon seemed to poof into existence before she could. A shudder ran up her spine, one she knew wasn't from the wind brushing against her tail. Before her in mind was another Raichu. Her tail was much smaller and sharper, and the fur around its body interspersed with singular silver hairs was a much lighter shade of orange. She looked away, unable to avoid the black eyes piercing into her soul.
"I-I...I know that you always said we should do everything to help other pokemon, b-but I don't want to end up like...like he did, I'm too weak."
Not in body, but perhaps in spirit. Regardless, the choice was no longer hers. Gurgled cries forced her attention back to the water. It was difficult to tell in the dark conditions, but silhouetted against starlight, was an outline. One hand seemed to be flailing through the air, other holding on for dear life to an old life vest thrown into the water for reasons unknown. Arceus knew what pokemon would be hard-headed enough to battle waves at such a time of day. Her eyes narrowed, able to judge three colors that lined the unknown being's scales as she dove in to provide assistance.
Blue, grey, and yellow.