world - game
notes - written in the spur of the moment and due to a nagging inspiration that wouldn't leave me be.

Goodbye Stranger

You, why did you leave Mother?

It was never her fault. You were always the first one to start using your fists when disagreements sparked. It was cruel and ignorant for you to believe that a child wouldn't be able to understand what was happening when his father was taking advantage of his mother. It was even more heartless for you to leave her and I alone, when she had no job, and only weeks after I had gazed meaningfully at you, considering to title you my role model. You were a mysterious person, you hardly talked, and you used to carry me with cold arms that struggled to support my weight, as if I was a burden. Mother's caress was far more familiar to me.

But you emitted this aura of belief, and confidence, a sense of charisma (that turned out to be false), and I almost believed that you were a good man.

I can clearly remember your smug grin and your piercing blood-lit eyes. They were never truly loving, I recall. They seemed to hold fascination in other things outside our household, transfixed by trivial matters like money and power. Were riches really that important? Was Mother's love truly that blind? She stood in stark contrast with you, with her pallid expression and frail eyes, with callused hands and a worn apron. She never fought back; she was too kind and too gentle like that.

You will never imagine the relief that flooded her face and coloured her cheeks the day you stalked out of the house with nothing but your old, musky jacket draped on your back. Yet, at the same time, as I celebrated in my eight-year old mind, I could see the tears stream down her face and her mouth shape itself from a weak smile into a destitute frown. She was trying to conceal the reality of the situation from me, but it was a failed attempt. I discovered first-hand that you ran away from us, to hide yourself from all the debt collectors – had the professor not been around our neighbourhood, I don't think the house would've survived the rampage of the baseball bats and beer bottles.

You will always be a coward, and that's what makes us different.

Do you know that not one day goes by without Mother sighing into the pokégear and coercing an encouraging grin on her face? I've gathered up the shattered glass and fixed her up as much as I can over the past few years, but it isn't enough. It will never be enough, my voice chokes in my throat, and the ability to talk escapes me most of the time now. Because nothing I say can ever heal her perfectly.

Words articulate only so much and I have never been a verbose person (unlike you, shouting and yelling so loud that the house seemed to shake). She likes it better when I hold her hand and show her the case filled with the badges I have diligently earned. The knotted brow of worry and fear on her face ebbs, and warm pride, something like genuine joy, crosses her face in those moments. I allow a smile to touch the corners of my mouth, but that is all. To keep obedient nonchalance hanging on my countenance is the best solution – happiness would be a white lie to her, whereas sadness would cause her to only suffer regret.

You broke her, contorted her heart and murdered the meaning behind her once captivating smile. I can't stand to go back home and see her face until I can erase the wide line of blood-red ink that smears the scenery of her life. I've scrubbed until my hands are almost as rough as hers trying to wash the mark away, but the skin on her hands always remains the coarsest from all the laundry, dishes, cleaning and crying.

I've finally made it to the top of the world. And from this silent peak, I'm able to observe the map of the land and all its individuals, including you – and when I find you, you'll pay wholly for all the disasters you forced upon Mother and me. You can't escape from my eyes forever, you'll slip up one day, so be ready for a rather rude awakening and a hefty compensation. I'll use my fists instead of my pokémon, so it'll be a fair, even match (a concept that escapes you, I'm sure). Until then, I'll keep my perch here, train everyday to excel. I'll uphold my position as the Champion and drive your poisonous infamy into the pits of everyone's memories with the existence of my own legacy.

I hate you.

Old man, if you were here, would you teach me how to battle?

The Champion, the reigning trainer, is perched on the top of the mountain you used to point out to me during those camping trips we had when I was small. To a young boy like me, the summit of the mountain seemed too far away, too insignificant and too miniscule for me to pay mind about it then. It was a mere pinnacle on the canvas of the entire sky, overshadowed by scattered stars and misty clouds. I chose to offer it an absent look before skirting off to chase down the fluttering butterfree and volbeat.

Standing here, now, my knuckles are red and my hands are shaking from the freezing gales that frequent the mountain. No longer is it small and miniscule, the tower of grey rocks and high peaks looms overhead, the goal seems too far to reach as I trek through the wide, open caverns filling out the interior of the mountain. The pokémon are relentless – wild and eager for a battle, as if they have been conditioned by someone else to be alert and ready for combat.

I wonder how long it will take me to reach the top.

But this person, this boy – he is meant to be the best of the best. My strategies can only bring me up to a certain limit, and from there, how am I supposed to break through that barring wall? Old man, do you have any useful advice to impart to me? I hardly doubt it. I recall you teaching me to never display pity or sympathy, to fight with all my firepower (to hell with conserving power, give the enemy a taste of hell the moment you start the battle). After all I've scrapped through, fighting my own battles and escaping the past, your advice seems terribly warped and criminal.

Old man, do you know how I should accept a loss?

You never taught me how to do that, and I've never been given the opportunity to experience that sensation of defeat. Does that mean I can't afford to lose this titanic battle, or does it mean I should stop my ascent of the mountain here? You never gave me direction, nor support – … so I'll continue climbing up, I know if I claim the crown from the current king, you'll be sorry. You'll drown in the black waters of guilt and regret, because you can never smother the truth of ditching your only son. But don't mistake or accuse me, I'm not doing this to prove something to you – I'm doing this for myself.

But regardless of what I decide, you never will care; because you're never coming back.

I won't forgive you.

Father, how are things at the gym?

I see you at the table every morning, we eat a quiet breakfast together before you grab the newspaper off the couch and walk out the front door with a bright smile that almost erases the wrinkles developing on your wizened face. For a brief, excruciating moment, I hope with all my might that that smile is meant for me – but the stinging truth is that such a prospect and elation can only originate from a tough challenger and the thrill of giving out another routinely badge.

You hardly talk to me about anything other than your gym now, about the trainers, about the satisfaction that comes gift wrapped with your new position. Aren't fathers meant to keep promises? Where did our trip to the park go? When did we ever venture out of town to celebrate my becoming Champion? Nothing fills the void of your chair for the rest of the day and the majority of the night, lounging at the top of the Elite Four, I still feel empty inside without you there to acknowledge what I've achieved.

I remember vividly the moment Wallace's milotic collapsed on the tiles of the chamber, signaling my win. I remember finding it so, so odd – that Brendan and the Professor appeared to congratulate me and share the overwhelming emotions of victory. But you never appeared, and that brief euphoria waned away with each passing moment. Father, do you know what has been ironed and carved into the back of my skull?

It is only the image of Professor Birch chewing his lip and informing me that you were too busy in the gym to come down and watch my winning performance.

Father, I am allowed to be selfish sometimes too, so please don't blame me for the way my heart plummeted and my stomach twisted. The nostalgia of my childhood in Johto is suffocating, because I refuse to believe that the man who used to embrace me every morning and teach me all about pokémon battles and breeding strategies is the gym leader of Petalburg.

I don't know you.

Dad, is the weather cold over there too?

Mum says take precaution and care, because avalanches are so common in the mountainous areas of the region. I'm also praying for your safety, and I'm snuggled up beside the fireplace at home with my favourite storybook and the scarf you got me last year. It's still huge for me even now; I can still use it to wrap my legs tightly. You say I'll grow into it soon enough, and that you'd love to take a picture with me then – so I've been drinking a tall glass of fresh miltank milk since the day you left a fortnight ago. It's weird that you haven't returned home to Twinleaf yet, though – didn't you tell us that the excursion would last for only a week?

The television also reported minor landslides in the mountains too; I hope that won't deter you from penning a reply to me. I'm wondering if perhaps, I should start on my own trainer journey soon – if I collected a team of wondrous Pokémon like you, I could perhaps follow you on your hikes next time. You've never agreed with the idea, but let's start considering it once you get back, okay?

I hope nothing bad has happened to delay you, but you shouldn't immerse yourself so much in your work so often – mum feels neglected and confused sometimes. And I sort of feel lonesome too.

I can't wait to take a photo with you in the scarf, I'll frame it up and place it above the fire on the polished mantle, and we can spend the snowy days tucked together under blankets, and flip through the pages and pages of folklores, providing that Jun doesn't come round knocking down our front door. Sometimes, I wish that we could spend more time together – let's make a deal, I'll spend less time with Jun, and we take more afternoons off as a real family. That sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

I miss you.

Papa, what are the colours of your eyes?

I've never really noticed them, until I realized that mine are brown, whereas Mama has sea-coloured eyes. She's been spouting odd stuff recently, about how you aren't fit to be my real dad and that you will never be again. That's something queer, isn't it?

But, if our eye colours match, that instantly means we're father and daughter, right?

Mama's been weeping tears by the buckets since you went out for a stroll three days ago. Actually, now that I think about it, why would a stroll last so long? I can't wait for you to tell me how your walk went when you get back, though. Mama's eyes are red instead of blue, you have to get back here to calm her down – no matter how hard I try to tell her to stop the tears and wait for you to return and solve whatever's bugging her, she continues to shed them with more and more intention.

It's frightening.

So I hide my eyes under the brim of the hat you bought me at the flea market last month, and pretend not to see the things that I don't deserve. I caper out of the house to play with Ethan, and hope that Mama will be in a more tolerable mood by the end of the afternoon.

Papa, please return from your stroll soon, so that we can be a perfect, complete family again, alright? I'll try calling your pokégear again later, even though I think five voice messages should be enough to persuade you to return home soon enough.

I love you.