A blurry world greeted my eyes as I opened them slowly, groggily. Everything looked faded and far away. Unable to think properly yet, I licked my paw absentmindedly. It tasted all wrong. It wasn't my own flavor, or dirt, or the orange thing. It was sharp and unnatural. Wait. The orange thing.
I jerked my head up in alarm as the memories came rushing back. Running with Skert, enjoying the cold flavor, everyone scrambling over my back end, running, running... The human! I cast about for a sign of him, my eyes twitching from side to side, nostrils flaring, but he wasn't around. He had been, I could smell him, but he must've left. I tried to breathe normally. I could never get home without thinking properly. I closed my eyes or a moment.
When I opened them again, I took in everything I could of my surroundings. I was laying in a clear, open space with a tree nearby, and with patches of grass sprouting up randomly amidst all the dirt. The grass was soft, and I had been resting my head on a patch of it. The ground looked slightly damp further from the tree, but where I was laying seemed dry enough. I heard birds singing somewhere above me, I saw a caterpie on the tree, and the leaves rustled softly in a gentle breeze.
Things could be a lot worse, I decided. I stood up - or at least, I thought I did. My legs hadn't moved. I tried again, focusing on it this time. My legs pushed under me slowly, not responding well at all. When I began raising myself up, they shook badly, so I carefully sat back on my haunches. Nothing hurt when I moved it, and I couldn't understand what had happened to me. I tried again, slowly lifting my rear until I was standing, though it took entirely too much effort. My tail dragged across the ground as I limped slowly over to the tree. In this condition, if the human came back, there'd be no way I could outrun him. But walking seemed to help, and by the time I reached the massive roots I was almost walking normally, abeit very slowly.
A weed sprouted between two large extensions of the roots, and I shuffled behind it, turning my back to the tree, and lay down somewhat more quickly than I had intended to. I would keep an eye out for the human, I decided, and in the meantime I could rest a bit more before attempting to find my way home.
I wondered where my sister that he had captured was. Had my other siblings managed to escape? Did he find Mother? The last thought scared me, and I turned my mind away from it. Mother was too clever to be caught. I remembered being in the yellow. I wondered how I'd gotten out of it, and why the human hadn't found me yet. I must be unusually lucky to have escaped.
I noticed something just then. There was ground in the air. A little patch of ground, and it was just floating there. When I moved my head, it moved slightly, too. It reminded me of water showing the sky. A reflection. There was a reflection of the ground in the air. But what was reflecting it? I moved forward slowly, watching the ground move toward the tree. It could go right up against it.
As I stared at it in wonderment, I heard someone calling in an unusual voice.
"Hello? Hey you, Rattata!"
I looked about quickly, but could not identify the source of the voice.
I looked up toward the tree again. It was the Caterpie calling to me.
"Yes? Hello?" My voice seemed weak like my legs had, and it warbled slightly.
"How did you get in there?" he asked me.
"In... where, sorry?"
"In there! In that glass thing, how did you get in there?"
Perplexed, I asked him, "What's glass?"
He crawled steadily down the tree, and to my surprise, he crawled right out into the air horizontally. It was like magic.
"Y'see this?" he asked. "What I'm standing on? It's glass. Well, you can see right through it, actually. I didn't know someone as big as you could get in it, though."
I had never been referred to as big in my life. I had also never heard of a tree growing 'glass' before. "I don't know how I got in here, I just woke up." I replied. "I didn't even know I was in anywhere until just now."
"Ah, well there's your problem, isn't it?" he said, crawling headfirst down towards the grass. "I bet the professor put you in there then, eh?"
"Um... what's a professor?" I asked, feeling rather stupid at this point.
"The human. The one who lives around here. Everyone calls him 'Professor'."
Now I was more confused than ever. I cautiously reached out to the glass, touching it gently with one paw. It was slightly warm from the sun, and very hard. The caterpie had reached the ground, and I saw that he was much bigger than me.
"Is he the big one? The one that took me and put me in the yellow? He put me here?" I was starting to feel unsettled. The glass was very solid, and I wasn't a good digger.
"Probably. He studies us, you know. I've never been put in anything myself, but he does like watching me." He seemed casual and relaxed, and I hoped that meant that the human wouldn't hurt me.
"Do you.. do you know how I can get out?" I inquired, putting both paws on the glass and leaning. It didn't budge.
"Not like that, I'm sure. You could probably dig out, though, it's not very hard dirt-" he stopped. "How old are you, anyway?"
"Not very," I replied. "And I'm not a good digger." The numb feeling had worn off with my alarm, and I scratched unsuccessfully at the ground.
"Hey, calm down. You'll be fine, and he'll probably let you go soon, so just stay calm, okay?"
If he meant to be reassuring, he'd failed. I scurried back to the roots, looking for any sort of hole I could squeeze into. I found nothing promising. It seemed there really wasn't any way out. Examining the glass, I noticed a thin crack in the ceiling in the shape of a square. A grey part jutted out of the glass on one end of the square, right next to the tree trunk. I scrambled up the bark and scratched at the crack, but again to no avail. I clung to the tree and looked around at the clearing from my new vantage point.
"That's where he puts you in," the caterpie commented. I'd forgotten about him for a moment.
The Professor didn't seem to be coming, and I couldn't get the glass to open, which meant that I was really, truly stuck. I dropped back to the ground, sniffing around the weed. Nobody else had been around it recently. Nobody except me and the Professor.
"Does it grow from the tree?" I asked.
No, of course not. The professor built that box," he chuckled. It sounded weird and garbled.
"Box?" I went back to the caterpie, putting my front paws on the glass again so that I was eye level with him.
"That's what the thing you're in is called. A box. It holds things, and there's only one way out." He turned his head slightly to one side so his eye was better lined up with my head. "Only the professor can open boxes like that. Not even other humans can open it."
"Oh." I didn't know what to make of that. "What's your name?" I'd never talked to someone for so long without knowing their name before.
"Name? I don't have a name."
"What do you mean?" I demanded. "Everyone has a name!"
"I have no name," he clarified, "because no one named me. I assume your mother named you?"
I don't know my mother, and she never named me."
I was shocked. He laughed at the look of surprise on my face, again in that odd way.
"Rattata are born in bunches, with many siblings, and grow up with their mothers. Caterpie aren't like that. I raised myself, I fed myself, I grew up without a mother, and I was not named by anyone." He wiggled his antenna. "It's really not that hard," he added dispassionately. "I've always thought it was pointless to need someone to do things for you at first, instead of just learning to do thing on your own as you will for the rest of your life."
Again, I was at a loss for words. I could not imagine life without Mother. I missed her more now that I was thinking about her, yet I couldn't help but feel that the caterpie was wrong about growing up. Better to have siblings and a mother than to live a lonely, hard life. I slid off the glass and sat down again.
"Of course, things are different for you. Life must have been so much easier and so much more fun for you than what I'm describing, am I right?" He stared at me, not unkindly. I nodded.
His antenna moved again. "Since you're so young, why don't I keep an eye out for you?" he offered. "I know how things work around here, so I might be able to help you out a bit." He was crawling up the side of the box, back towards the tree.
"Do you know what usually happens to anyone in here?" I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.
"Oh, he usually just keeps them in there for a while, feeds them, watches them, and lets them go after a while."
"That depends on you. Want to get out of there as fast as possible? I recommend being as boring as possible. Eat, sleep, pace around the inside of the box, try digging out, and don't do anything interesting. He'll get bored of you eventually, and he'll let you out."
That sounded like it could take a long time. I wanted to see Mother again. I wanted to see Skert. And where was my sister that had been taken?
He sat on top of the box near the square, peering down at me. "Or, next time he shows up, he'll probably feed you. He has to open the box for that. If you're a good climber, I think I might know how to get you out of there."
I perked my ears in interest.