Chapter 6: Old Life, New Self
"What IS that thing? Some sort of monster?!"
"Get away! Don't let it hurt me!"
"Someone, help! There's a freak monster on the loose!"
Voices. Echoing though the blackness. Valon had heard them before, and could do nothing to stop their torment. This time was no different, it seems.
Or was it? Unlike before, Valon was in the form of a Latios in this nightmare, mirroring the reality he knew. He swirled around, desperately trying to block out those horrible voices of the abyss. His short, stubby claws could not reach his tufts for ears on his head, no matter how hard he tried to bend or shuffle about. Now he really was a monster, or that is what the shouting would have him believe.
"No," Valon pleaded, "I'm not... I'm still Valon. Please..."
They would not listen.
Just as before, he heard the engine of planes, and witnessed their silhouette in the dark sky above, approaching ever so slowly toward their target. They maneuvered gracefully into formation, carrying a payload that would certainly eliminate their threat. Valon's ruby eyes could not budge from the sight, anticipating the obvious ending. Then his eyes widened, for in those last moments, he turned to hear a voice that made his fur stand on end with shock.
"Don't worry people, head to safety! Let's move in!"
A rifle amerged from the black, aimed straight onto Valon, covered by the noise of jet fighter engines drawing closer, and the marching of a hundred men to his location, despite only one in view. It was a soldier, as made apparent by the uniform he wore, and a well prepared one at that. The darkness slid off the soldier more and more, making clear the combat knife on his side, ready to be unsheathed, and the United States Army logo on his being. All that mattered little, when Valon froze at the sight of his face.
There were only two sounds left to be heard. The mechanical clanging of doors on a jet, unleashing the missile right onto Valon's position, and the bang of a gunshot, fired from his own father.
Thump. Valon stirred awake from his sleep, to spot his muzzle getting reacquainted with the floor. He sighed internally, before tapping into his mind, and began to slowly hover off the dirty ground. He shook himself off, as he stared at his dragonic self, studying over everything as to assure him it was indeed real. At this point in time, he could safely conclude that any possibility of him jumping awake in his bed, a normal human being startled by a nightmare, was never going to happen.
'So this is what it feels like,' he pondered quietly and solemnly to himself, 'When they say to face reality...'
He didn't continue that thought. He didn't want to. It was too late, however.
For it was already sinking into his mind, his psyche. Had the 'reality' finally set in? That his former life was hypothetically no more? That his humanity was gone, trapped in the body of a once-believed fictional creature?
His humanity. The sense of self. Gone.
You couldn't blame Valon, could you? No ordinary human being could conceive such a thing, let alone face its consequences. But even the strongest of doubts can not hide the truth of his situations, regardless of how deep it went. Now, as minutes of silence rolled by, Valon's mind could only take it all in.
The truth raised one question to him.
"...Am I even Valon anymore?"
Despite the common belief, Sunday mornings were not easy at all, especially for a lone mother with three children. Ms. Hendric was used to the stress, thankfully, and had managed to work up a sizable breakfast for her family. Her infant and youngest, Isabelle, was already prepped up at the table in her chair, giggling happily at a picture book that kept her occupied. Fran, the eldest, sat quietly with a small cup of coffee, browsing through a pile of papers she had printed out during the night. Most of them were various readings about the histories of magic and fables, which any person would likely assume that Fran must be a big fan of fantasy novels and fiction. Ms. Hendric knew the real reason for them, though, and as she placed the meals down to their respective seats, she confronted her older daughter on the subject.
"What are you up to, honey?" She inquired Fran, as she sat down herself.
"Oh, it's just more researching and whatnot," Fran replied, eyes peeking upward from her notes. "Still trying to figure out how Valon became this way."
"I see," Ms. Hendric answered back, a bit saddened at the reminder of her son's 'problem.' "I wish I could do something for him, but this is... Well, it's just baffling." Her vision shifted to the hallway of the house, looking onto the area of Valon's door to his room. "I grew up and lived my life never believing superstitions, assumed fables were actually so," She sighed heavily, "But I'm at a complete loss. I don't even know what to think anymore."
Fran dropped her stash of papers onto the table, her coffee shaking a bit at the sudden movement. This way she could have full attention to her parent. "I know Mom, I feel the same way."
"If only your father were here..."
"I don't think even Dad could help, honestly. He probably would've freaked out and called his station, ha ha."
They both laughed a bit, but further thought on that hypothetical made them realize that it was probably a good thing Mr. Hendric was not here. The smiles subsided, continuing their conversation, while the infant in her booster chair blissfully ignored her family, entranced in her book. Fran altered the subject a sight amount, picking back up some of her research.
"At the very least, we have some positives," Fran began to point out and number, "One, Valon is still 'okay.' He doesn't seem mentally different, can communicate with us, and the creature he is lets him even fly, which is really crazy."
"Thank God," Ms. Hendric counted her few blessings in this situation.
"Two," Fran went on, "No one else knows about any of this."
Her mother's face became stern as she heard this. "Lets keep it that way. Who knows what people would do to him." Fran nodded in agreement.
"And I guess three, is that I'm putting whatever time I haven't already sold to my part-time jobs, into this. If I can find anything about this, it might lead the way to turning him back to normal."
With that, Ms. Hendric smiled warmly to her young-adult daughter. "You know Fran, after seeing you mess with Valon time and again, I'd have thought you didn't seem to care about him so much."
Fran blushed slightly at this statement, feeling overly awkward. "I-I mean, I love teasing him and watching him throw tantrums over nothing, but it's not like I don't care about him..."
"Oh Fran," She chuckled at Fran's moment of weakness, "You are a good sister."
"Mom!" Fran's embarrassment increased ten-fold, her face a tomato-color.
Suddenly, a sound of a door clicking open, and the two women hushed themselves to witness the source. A dragon flew out, with wings large enough to make maneuvering the hallways a difficult trial. Its blue coloring matched the mood it was giving off, an image of depression on its muzzle. It was tough to decipher, however, if the look was more than just a simple sign of morning fatigue. Was it... Emptiness?
Regardless, as the Latios approached the table, it hid its inner feelings, putting on a weak smile to its human kin, and hovered over to its reserved spot, and gently dropped onto the seat.
"Good morning Valon," his mother greeted, a warmth in her words, "Are you feeling okay?"
Valon delayed a moment or two before nodding an affirmative yes to her. His mind was elsewhere, distracted. Distracted by what? Who can say.
"Well, I was feeling better from yesterday, so I managed to make pancakes for everyone. I hope you enjoy."
"They're pretty good bro," Fran intervened, her famous grin reappearing, "So I hope those stubby claws can still hold a fork." She giggled with her teasing.
Rather than Valon shooting back wiht a remark of his own, and beginning their usual sibling bickering, the Pokemon merely sighed. Following with a short eye roll, Valon stretched his right arm to grab the utensil. The two women noticed this peculiar action from him, and for a moment simply watched the Latios struggle keeping a fork still, actually cutting a piece of his breakfast off two-handing the said fork, and swirling his long neck around so he could place it in his mouth without bumping into anyone. His mother and sister felt quite awkward seeing such a thing, as minutes went by, and Valon had barely ate a quarter of his meal when the rest had finished ages ago.
"Um, honey, do you want some help?" Ms. Hendric was worried about her dragonic son, and reached her hand out open, wanting to receive the fork. Valon immediately shook his head sideways in a negative response. The last thing he possibly needed was someone to feed him.
Fran used this moment to change the subject, and clear the air. "Hey Valon, I'm still looking into everything, by the way. Maybe you have other powers we haven't found out yet, or maybe I can find a cause for all this." She attempted to cheer up the demeanor of her brother, who looked at Fran with a odd mixture of curiosity and gloominess. "I've still got to head to work in a bit, but I'll be back home later."
Ms. Hendric backed up her daughter's aspirations. "Don't worry honey, I promise everything will turn out alright. I swear it."
Valon glanced downward to avoid eye contact, but found himself staring at the barely touched plate of pancakes he had spent a long time trying to eat. It filled him with disgust with himself. Then he looked onto his family, and saw the sympathetic expression on Fran and his mother. At any other time before this, he would have thrown a fit. He would've demanded to be left alone, that he was fine, and didn't need the babying of his parents, nor the opinions of his older sister. Now...
"...Okay." Valon softly spoke in his Pokemon tongue, but the message was clear. He begrudgingly handed over the fork to his mother, who slowly ripped off a bite of his meal, and offered it back to him. He accepted it, cursing himself, the world, and Arceus most of all, for being in this situation.
Fran left after breakfast for her job at a cafe. She usually returns in the afternoon, but that was still hours from now. Ms. Hendric usually dedicates this time period to taking care of the infant Isabelle, alongside cleaning up the house. This left Valon normally off at his school, but this was no normal day, after all. His mother had forbid him from leaving the house in this state, meaning school was now on the back burner until she could figure out a adequate replacement. 'At least I don't have to do any homework or studying,' Valon admitted to himself, laying on his bed.
Of course, they were setbacks from this. There wasn't much to keep himself occupied anyway. The gaming console he enjoyed was now a test of endurance, because holding a controller that was designed for human hands, when he no longer had thumbs, was a task that discouraged him from attempting. Valon had gave his TV a try, but as expected, nothing remotely interesting was on, or at least something that would take his mind off things. He still had a laptop computer hidden away somewhere in the room, but he couldn't think of anything worthwhile to actually do on it, other than research, which Fran was probably miles ahead of him on that topic.
So now, the Latios could only ponder in his bed. It didn't stop his restlessness though.
'I can't take being coped up in here. I need to find something to do, anything!"
Then his eyes moved over to the window, that nested to the side of his television. He locked sights with the big, open sky, and felt an urging. A sense of calling, like a siren luring sailors out to sea. His sight darted to the closed door of his room, then back to the deep blue.
'I know I shouldn't... But...'
Before he realized it himself, he was already opening the latches to the window, and lifting the glass open. He squeezed outward, cautiously twisting his wings so he would not alert anyone inside or out with a noise. A moment later, he popped out cleanly, and closed the window behind him. Once he assured himself it was safe, Valon hesitated no longer, and bolted up into the sky, not caring where he ventured.