Disclaimer: Come on, people, you've seen this one before. How many times do I have to tell you that I don't own pokémon?
Rating: G, as it will hopefully make you think but is otherwise not dangerous.
Added Note: There is a brief glossary of musical terms at the end of the piece.
The paper was grubby and well worn, tattered and so faded that it was only barely possible to make out the music printed on it. Only a keen eye, or one that had read the piece over a thousand times already, could make out "Pokémon March" printed at its top.
A droplet of water landed on the sheet, the words beneath it appearing bulging and distorted. A small, grubby claw reached out to gently wipe away the bead of water and revealing "Allegro Moderato." The now somewhat readable notation sat comfortably just above the staff, wherein lurked a flurry of notes, crawling cheerfully up and down its measured lines.
The clefable picked the sheet up as another droplet splattered across the key signature, gently shaking it away and sliding slightly to her left so as to avoid the weeping cooling unit overhead. Every movement seemed slow and reluctant, the pink fairy pokémon shuffling slowly a foot or so before leaning against the brick wall of the building once more, sliding down it until she rested on the ground again. She set the march back down in front of her, weary eyes looking it over once more, though she could almost recite it from memory for all the times she had read it over.
She was a sorry sight to behold, her normally luxuriously fluffy pink fur matted and gritty with mud and sorrow. Her tattered pink wings drooped despondently, and though her eyes were as bright and keen as ever, they seemed tired and resigned as they swept over the dancing notes once more. With an air of pre-determined defeat, she raised her hands before her face, twitching the stubby claws that sprouted from them contemplatively. She began to wave them back and forth rhythmically, with a mathematical precision that a master conductor would envy.Tick…tock…tick…tock…
Sixty beats a minute. A beat a second. Tiny silver sparks appeared around her claws, tracking their movement in the air. A far cry from the short, manicured digits that most of her species sported, the clefable's claws were unnaturally long and ragged. She ignored the display, concentrating intensely on the claws themselves. Allegro moderato…one hundred twenty beats…come on…
She forced all of her power into her fingers, and slowly, inexorably, they began to sway faster, slipping from one tempo into another. As they did so, however, they stumbled out of sync, the clefable scrambling desperately to realign them. The effort proved futile, however, as the faster she went, the less control she seemed to have over her fingers' movement. Finally, they were moving at a counterpoint to one another, jerking back and forth in an unruly fashion. The last of the tiny silver lights sizzled and went out, any power left in the attack fading away.
The clefable felt another dull surge of despair as she slowly lowered her paws once more, stilling her claws. It was only to be expected, after all; hadn't it happened every time before? Why should it be any different today?
Reaching resignedly under the dumpster that sat to her left, her paw fell upon a small stack of paper, and she pulled it out into view, laying the march carefully on top before slowly leafing through the rest of the music. What little she had was a hodgepodge of refuse, the crumpled sheets left carelessly on a music stand after a grand performance, the miscopied sheet thrown into the wastebasket. She had a torn copy of the tuba part to "Lugia Triumphant," half of the solo clarinet's part for "Dark Serenade," and the fourth page of the French horn's "Hoenn Suite," among others. Still, to her they were more than treasures, dreams made real in smudged dynamics and graceful, sweeping melody.
And yet, every look at the ragged, dog-eared pages brought the dispirited clefable a fresh wave of regret and sorrow. They were both poison and antidote, a reminder of what she yearned for, a reminder that, despite all of her yearning, it could never be. It was too late for her now, if she had ever really had a chance in the beginning.
In a sudden fit of anguished rage, she shoved the stack roughly back beneath the dumpster, paper crumpling under the force of the shove. Almost instantly she regretted it, hurriedly drawing the music forth again and carefully smoothing out the new wrinkles as best she could, stacking the pages neatly once more. Pushing them gently back into hiding, she gathered the dim glimmer of hope that her tired spirit still harbored and began the metronome again.Tick…tock…tick…tock…
Sixty beats a minute. One beat a second. The clefable watched the steady movement of her hands and the miniature starbursts that danced around them in thoughtful melancholy. A beat for each second of her life. Which second was it, which casual tick of the metronome, that had turned her onto this path, brought her into this gray future?
She had been born a battler, or as much of a battler as it is possible for any creature to be right out of the egg. Her trainer had been there as she struggled free of her safe, comfortable haven, shattering all that she knew in pursuit of the great, wonderful world beyond. Yes, she had had a trainer ever since she was born, never known any freedom but that of the small radius around her human, traveling from the comforting confines of the egg to the cold, artificial confines of a pokéball in a matter of seconds.
Her trainer had seemed so overjoyed to see her. She had stretched her small, clawless arms up towards the huge, abstracted face in the sky that smiled down at her. "Hello, Cleffa," the boy had said. The clefable had never bothered to learn his name--the boy was simply her human, or her trainer. "Cleffa, I want you to be part of my team on my journey," the boy continued. It was a speech of which many a wild pokémon was extremely skeptical, but the tiny, innocent cleffa soaked it up. Tales of greatness, of power beyond her wildest dreams, of companionship and love spun out from the mouth of her trainer, the first being that she had ever seen. Of course she had agreed, had almost begged the human to take her with him, to accept her into the team. And her trainer had wasted no time.
That first battle so long ago…what had it been? Some two hours after she had hatched, perhaps. It was difficult to remember, to set it in the confines of time, for when you have been alive for less than a day, every minute, every second, is a new eternity. In any event, it had been over all too quickly, that brief respite in which she basked in the boy's affection before she found herself shoved into battle with naught but a berry and an encouraging word in her ear for comfort.
The rattata had been coarse and feral, its narrowed eyes gleaming with a cynicism and cunning that she had yet to learn. It understood what was going on, or at least to a better extent than its young opponent. It eyed her with a sort of pity, one that had puzzled her as she stood there staring at it, berry held tightly between her stubby paws. When her trainer gave the first order she blindly rushed forward to execute the pound attack, the rattata sliding out of her way and knocking her into the dirt with a quick tackle.
Pain was a new experience to her then, as was most everything else. The battle was close, only the restorative properties of the berry preventing her from losing altogether. When at last the rat gave in and collapsed to the earth, it left her battered to within an inch of unconsciousness, panting with exertion and trembling with the after-effects of the experience. None of that had mattered, though, when her trainer scooped her up into his vast arms, cuddling her and praising her. A brief trip to the pokémon center was made, and then it was back out into the wilds to find her next opponent.
It did not take her long to master that peculiar dance of battle, the precise timing and exact interplay of melody and countermelody that twined through the combatant's moves. She could soon tell by the pattern of an ariados' stacatissimo scurryings whether it meant to attack or defend, discern from the dignified pesante rhythm of a rhyhorn's lolloping stride just how it meant to turn its head in order to execute an attack, in which direction it would send a barrage of rocks. She learned to sway in time to the rhythm of each foe's actions, feeling the surge as their energy crescendoed up to a powerful attack, knowing instinctively that last moment before the tension's resolution when she could spin out of their path and launch an attack of her own. The way that she fought was graceful, confident. She learned quickly and she grew quickly, and before long, she evolved.
Being a clefairy was not much different than as a cleffa. Her human lavished even more affection upon her, now one of the most powerful pokémon on his team. She had soaked it all up eagerly, the satisfaction of a battle well fought, a dance well executed, and the reward that came after, her only fulfillment. She existed to battle, and reveled in her existence.
Soon, she mastered the power of a new technique, one that was known as "metronome," and with it found an even greater affinity for the dance.
Metronome was an attack that plucked at the strings that held the world together, running across time in their endless array. If played fast, vibrating in tandem with just such a thread, it would produce a graceful fountain of fire or a quick burst of electrical energy. Slower, a muted andante, and it was as likely to call into being a shower of water as it was a shower of boulders. There was no way to control its tempo, which was in constant flux, unique to each conflict and each moment of battle. She learned to feel those slight changes in energy, the subtle beats underlying each action, and began to be able to predict, if not control, the results of that fickle metronome.
Perhaps it could have continued that way forever, with her contented in her prowess at the dance and her trainer ever present just behind her shoulder, smiling as opponents complimented him on his clefairy's excellent training and grinning down at his pokémon after each win. It might have stayed that way, unchanged, were it not for the fact that the boy had wanted her to evolve again.
She had been incredibly excited by the idea herself, of course. Maybe at her final stage of evolution she would at last be able to completely master the dance, be able to put herself so perfectly in sync that no attack would touch her, that she would land every hit against any foe. And so her trainer had taken her to Mount Moon, the sole habitat of her wilder kin, for he had heard that on certain special nights the clefairy would perform a dance and leave behind a moon stone, that mysterious rock which granted those of her kind the power of evolution.
She and her trainer had hidden in the bushes one unnaturally chill summer's evening, watching and waiting for the clefairy to appear. And appear they did, seven tiny creatures emerging from the sparse vegetation of the aged mountain's rounded peak. Perfectly silent, they formed a ring around the strange boulder in the clearing's center and began to dance.
It was a dance unlike any that she had ever seen before. The fairy creatures leapt and pirouetted, fluttering into the air on their tiny wings and performing graceful midair maneuvers. They danced to the music of the moon and the stars, a faraway melody that managed to carry equal parts joy and wonder. The clefairy danced a silent, graceful waltz to give praise to the moon.One-two-three, One-two-three, One-two-three…
When the celestial music at last fell silent, the seven ceased their twirling and departed as mysteriously as they had come, leaving behind the gift given them by the moon in return for their devotion. A glassy, jet-black stone had somehow appeared on top of the boulder, reflecting the starscape in its mirrored surface.
The boy had been quick to dart out of the bushes and snatch it from its altar, but for once she had not been there at his side. She yet lingered in the brush, immobilized by wonder and torn by regret. Her human hadn't been able to hear the music of the dance, the waltz losing its meaning as a result, becoming merely a pretty ritual enacted by seven solemn balls of fluff atop a humble mountain. How could the boy have been expected to understand, he who had never been able to feel the music that played itself out in every breath of air, in the rain and snow and hail?
One-two-three, One-two-three, One-two-three…
She had accepted the moon stone, of course, and been a clefable from then on. Not long after she had evolved, however, she had begged her human to let her go, so that she might be able to live free like the clefairy of this mountain and learn to dance as they did. She could not take her mind off the scene that she had witnessed that fateful summer's night, her battling suffering as a result. The dance of the clefairy, the dance of the moon, constantly played through her head, distracting her from the more pressing matter of the battle at hand.
Though it took a long time for the boy to understand what his pokémon was saying to him, when he at last figured it out he reluctantly agreed and let her go free. He was not a cruel person, or not by intention, and had seen that if he continued to hold his clefable captive she would be useless in battle anyway, as he knew from experience that malcontent pokémon rarely lived up to their full potential in battle when distracted by thoughts of freedom.
It is an odd thing that many of those newly freed do not know what to do with their freedom. So it had been with her, and as she had wandered back to Mount Moon and haunted it for the better part of a week. Even here, the ancestral home of the clefairy, she was more lost than she had ever been in her life. Each night she waited for the moon to rise to its highest point and listened for its haunting melody, trying to waltz to the music of its far-off voice.One-two-three, One-two-three, One-two-three…
But she had failed, her steps clumsy and unsure, the music of the tune so alien and faint that she could not properly feel its rhythm or its beat. Undeterred, she at last set out for a human city, for she thought that, if she could learn to dance to human music, perhaps she would finally find herself worthy of the song of the moon.
That was how she had first come to this dingy little back alley, the grimy space between the Cerulean Opera House and a now-empty warehouse. She had listened to the music drifting tantalizingly from the stage door, orchestras from across the various regions coming here to practice and to perform, bringing with them more kinds of music than she found it possible to imagine. They played marches and chorales, overtures and jazz tunes and exotic pieces too diverse to name. She had stood and listened and danced to their music, trying to slip into the dance that accompanied each piece.
And at this too she failed. She could fall easily enough into the familiar rhythm patterns of the dances, but each caesura was the deep inhalation of a charizard preparing to unleash a torrent of fire, each trill the buildup of electric charge in a jolteon's spiky fur. Her dances were ones of dodges and parries, sliding and rolling and lunging. They were as different from the dance of the moon as it was possible to be, and as she tried to force herself to forget those gut reactions that she had strived so long to perfect, to force herself to confine her dances to proper steps and forms, the dance slowly deserted her. She stumbled and grew dizzy as she lost touch with the rhythm and fell out of the dance time and time again.One-two-three, One-two-three, One-two-three…
Her control over the metronome decreased as did her perception of the nature of the dance, her range of attacks slowly narrowing and narrowing until she could summon but one beat pattern to her fingers, a steady sixty beats a minute.
Tick…tock…tick…tock…One-two-three, One-two-three, One-two-three…
Still she had stayed here in this alley forsaken even by other street pokémon, one whose dumpsters were rarely graced with leavings of food and which offered little shelter from the elements. She scrounged for music in the rusting metal bins, trying to force her metronome to conform to their time signatures, trying to feel the beats lurking beneath the simply printed dots. It had taken a long time to figure those mysterious markings out; but after a long time of listening to various bands practice the same pieces over and over again and following along with her own copy she had gained a rough understanding of note value and the different style markings. She clutched desperately at her fading art, striving to find the rhythm of the dance once more, trying to make herself worthy to dance the dance of the moon.
Her fingers danced yet before her eyes, surrounded by familiar scintillating sparks. How long before even this capacity deserted her, the final reminder of her failure and her last hope of salvation?
One-two-three, One-two-three, One-two-three…
Far too late she had realized that the dance of the moon was indeed the battle dance's opposite. It was a dance of carefree joy and wonder, innocence and love. The dance of battle was one of pain and suffering, the pattern of violence running against violence until one at last crumbled before the might of the other. She who had been raised as an instrument of battle could never hope to embrace its opposite, the song of peace and contentment. As she longed to leave behind her former life, to forget what she once was and become something new, her sense of the battle dance had obligingly deserted her, but she had never been able to graduate to the next level, and never would she be able to. She had thrown away everything in the hopes of gaining something that she now recognized as unattainable.
There was nothing left to her now but this, however. She could not return to battling; she had forsaken the dance, and power rarely returns to one who throws it away. She could not achieve the dance of the moon; it was impossible for her to travel back in time and change the course of her life. And so she sat here day upon day, listening mournfully to the concerts put on in the opera house and ticking away her life, second by second. Still images of those clefairy whirling in the moonlight flitted through her brain. Still she strived for the realization of a tarnished dream.
Sixty beats per minute. Weak silver lights danced back in forth in time with her fingers, flickering uncertainly. One final attack remaining to her before her power over the dance vanished altogether. The one attack that emerged every time she played at exactly sixty beats…
Tick…tock…tick…tock…One-two-three, One-two-three, One-two-three…
allegro moderato: moderately fast, standard march tempo
stacatissimo: very short and delicate
pesante: heavy, accented
crescendo: an increase in volume or intensity
caesura: a cutoff or break in the music, similar to a grand pause