While I try to work through some obstacles in the main story I'm working on (check my profile if you're interested), I figured I'd put this up. There's no real big story behind this. It's just a section for some short Pokémon-related stories I've written. They're all unrelated one-shots, not terribly long or intense. Most of them are first-person, a perspective I have less experience with, so they might read a little weird, but I tried my best to write them well. I won't be updating this consistently - mainly, it'll just be whenever inspiration strikes, which may be often or never.
This story was written a pretty long time ago. After Pokémon Black rekindled my attention to Pokémon, I took another look at it and improved the writing quality. It centers around a Charmeleon, my favorite Pokémon. Honestly, I think it's more badass than Charizard, but I know I'll get a lot of people disputing that.
It's funny what fear can do to a guy. I've seen it in action - heck, I've felt it in action myself. There's nothing quite as disconcerting as being stopped cold by sheer terror. But even more than that, it can completely change how people live their lives, how they see the world. It can even kill them. I've heard it said that the only thing to fear is fear itself...well, even if that's true, I say it's definitely warranted.
Maybe it's not true that that's the only thing we have to fear. But it sure seems like people can be afraid of a hell of a lot of things, things that might seem ridiculous to other people. Go ahead and laugh at them, but it's not like they can help it. They didn't ask to be terrified of something that wouldn't usually be frightening. And making light of it is just ignoring the real power that fear can have over someone.
I know from experience. Mine was water. Hydrophobia, they called it. I suppose it would make sense - I'm a Charmeleon, and water in one of the great enemies of our kind. And truth be told, I don't really know what brought it on. I mean, yeah, it was something we were constantly warned about right out of the egg - don't let your tail flame go out. Every Charmander "knows" that our lives rely on our tail flames. It's only when we get older and more experienced that we find out it's just a story they tell us, but it's a story they tell us because those things that risk putting out those flames also risk putting us in serious danger. Falling into a shallow pool might be nothing to worry about for most other Pokémon, but the shock could knock one of us right out, and that means drowning. Or we could get caught out on the cold rain, constantly pelted with what might as well be bullets from the sky, sapping our bodies of their heat and putting us into a dangerous state of hypothermia. So it's not like it was a made-up problem.
But it went a little too far for me.
Water may be a problem for us, but we still need it in our bodies. That put me in a bad bind more often than most, since I couldn't even take a drink most of the time without freaking out. At a few points in my life I had to be forcefully hydrated for my own good, because I would go for hours, even a day or more without drinking a thing just to stay away from water. If there was even a possible threat of rain I wouldn't even consider stepping out of whatever the nearest area of shelter was. And don't get me started on Water Pokémon.
It was probably a good thing that I was caught by a trainer, because I doubt I would ever have managed on my own; I'd have died of dehydration long ago. That's how bad it was. On some level I knew this was far beyond rational, but it never sank in.
So, yeah, I was scared to death of water. But here's the strange part.
At the same time, I was absolutely fascinated by it.
I know how weird that sounds. It wasn't immediate, it started after I'd been caught and trained for a while, and evolved into my current state. And after no small number of incidents with some of my Water-typed comrades and forced hydration sessions to keep me from committing unintentional suicide. My trainer was infinitely patient, and it frustrated me that I was being so difficult for him, he didn't deserve that. Neither did the other Pokémon, especially the Water types, who were perfectly decent guys who I couldn't coexist with for the life of me. So you can guess that I wasn't exactly into it before that time.
It was a thunderstorm that first mesmerized me. I'd never actually seen one before. Oh, sure, I knew they existed, but whenever they came around, I would be cowering in the darkest corner of a den or something so that I could perhaps try to ignore it. Usually it's the thunder that scares young Pokémon, but that never really bothered me - I'd been friends with a Pikachu in my early days and he'd desensitized me to that. After I was caught, I wasn't really exposed to a lot of storms, but one night a storm suddenly kicked up and my trainer had us stay in a hotel. A hotel with a very large window.
I remember standing at the window, claws and nose pressed against the glass, my heart racing and my breath coming in quick gasps. It was pure terror, watching those drops hammer against the glass, almost right on top of me, and the torrents laying sheets of the liquid along the pavement below. I wasn't even in danger of feeling a drop, yet somehow felt like I had the icy spectre of death trying to grip at my insides, holding me firm, refusing my incessant demands to run away and hide beneath the covers (this being a frequent stop for trainers, I had my own fireproof bed, so no risk of torching anything).
And yet...somehow, at the same time, there was this sense of unrestrained awe at the spectacle of it. I'd always been taught that fire was power - not an unlimited power, but surely the essence of power as those I knew saw it. But watching the storm in front of me, I couldn't help but feel like THIS was what power really was - an unrelenting cascade of energy, unstoppable by any force I could even dream of conjuring from my own body. It had me captivated; I felt like I had to know more.
At the time I didn't really have thoughts of overcoming my fear; I just felt this compelling need to know more. Being on the road most of the time, it wasn't an easy task, but I took the downtime in towns to read up in books and on computers. Week after week, month after month, I became more knowledgable. It was no simple task - images of water would do anything from send me jerking back to running off in a panic, and I did damage to whatever I was perusing more than once. I recall my trainer wondering what had gotten into me and why I was tormenting myself like this. I don't know if I could have explained it to him even if I could speak the same language as him.
I learned more about water than probably any Fire-Type Pokémon before me. Not the least of which was why it was so dangerous for us. Our internal temperatures hover around 1200°C - a hefty number compared to humans. The reason we're not always freezing our tail flames off is because our bodies are heated by kind of an internal furnace, and the air around us transmits very little heat so we end up not losing much. Water is a different story. It takes heat away a lot faster than the air, faster than our inner systems can compensate at their regular levels. And it's got something called a low specific heat capacity, meaning it can take away a lot of heat without warming up drastically, so it can just keep taking that heat away constantly.
Truth be told, those aspects aren't as dangerous to us as it might seem. Our bodies try to compensate by kicking our inner heating systems into high gear, so we could be submerged up to the neck for almost a half hour before our body temperatures would start to enter the danger zone. It's definitely not good for us, but not like sudden risk of death bad. The real danger comes from the initial shock. It's almost kind of funny to read about humans warning about the dangers of shock due to ending cold water quickly when they have temperatures in the double digits. To a Charmeleon, even boiling water would be frigid. That shock is what usually does us in, like I mentioned before - we lose consciousness and because of that we drown.
Learning more about it didn't really assuage my fears any - it probably made them worse in some respects. But what it did do was start to overwhelm the fear a bit - it kept my fascination growing, and it kept me exposing myself to it more despite my terror. At some point, I had made up my mind that I had to feel it. More than just a splash or something, I needed to really know what it was like to be IN water.
I got my chance about a year after that thunderstorm. We were staying in a little resort town, in a small, less accommodating hotel. But it was a hotel with an outdoor pool, and as soon as I saw it I knew what I was going to be doing. The thought scared the hell out of me, and simultaneously had me excited.
None of the others had any idea what I was thinking. Looking back, it was stupid of me not to have someone else out there - I was putting myself in serious danger, and I should have had someone keeping an eye on me. I didn't because, well, at the time I was afraid I was going to chicken out and feel humiliated, and didn't want the added stress of someone witnessing that.
It was late at night when I snuck out to the pool. Every part of my body was shaking, and I could feel my heart pounding faster as I approached the edge. As much as I knew about water, I was still pretty unfamiliar with pools, so I didn't realize there were steps I could have entered to make things easier. As it was, I was creeping to a ledge that was deeper than the shallowest end, shaking and shuddering, trying to keep from running off in terror.
Since no one was around, it was pretty dry on the ledge - a good thing, a slippery ledge might have made the situation that much worse. I managed to get into a kind of sitting position, my feet just at the edge of the pool. The water was still, calm, almost innocent, almost as if asking my shaking arms what the problem was. I didn't move forward for a good long while, not sure whether I was going to keep going or going to back off very quickly.
Eventually, I managed to get a little farther forward, to the point where my feet were close to being able to touch the surface. Breathing hard, I steeled myself and went for the final step. I braced my arms on the ground, pushed my body ever so gradually forward, and dipped a foot in.
I thought it was going okay until I got past my toe claws. Then I felt it - a sharp, stabbing pain, the temperature differential playing its card. I tried to keep it down, but it wasn't long before I decided to abort - it was too much, even that little bit.
My body wasn't in on the decision, though. My arms started shaking madly, and before I could pull myself out, they gave way. I just missed hitting my rear on the side of the pool, which would have been the better result; instead, it caught my tail, which propelled me forward rather than backward, and in all of a second I had gone from dipping a toe in to faceplanting the water.
All the battles I've ever fought, and I've fought my share, I've been hit with a lot of nasty attacks. But the pain I felt then completely trumped anything I'd ever felt from any of them. It was like a million toxic swords piercing into every single cell of my body. The terror spiked even harder, driving me to near madness. That may have been my lifesaver; I was flailing, and that kept me from sinking too deep in. Somehow, I managed to grab onto the edge of the pool, and instantly brought my other arm around to grab the edge as well. My claws dug in for dear life as I endured the brutal pain. The ordeal had left me without the strength to pull myself up, so I was forced to stay there, immersed in water up to my shoulders, eyes shut tight, heart racing to provide heat to my agonized body, listening to the hissing of steam as my body heat brought the water around me to a much higher temperature.
After a couple minutes, I opened my eyes and looked down, water splashing up to my nose as I did. It was less painful than the initial touch; maybe that was because of all the pain everywhere else. And I realized something else, as well: I was almost completely enveloped in water, looking right at it, but I didn't feel as scared as usual. In fact, I'd reached almost a kind of numb calm, like my brain had overloaded and couldn't create that reaction that it usually did.
Tentatively, I let go of the edge. Right away I sank in over my head again, and once again the panic started to well up. This time, though, the rational part of my brain kicked in and reminded me about the flailing. It was haphazard at first, but I pretty quickly figured out that moving around kept me up. It wasn't easy - my body was protesting against the stress with all its might, and moving in the water was an indescribably strange feeling, far different from air, almost like if a Psychic Pokémon had slowed my body down or something. I wouldn't be able to connect that experience to what I'd learned about water until well afterwards.
It was by trial and error that I figured out how to move in water where I couldn't stand. It could hardly be called swimming in any sense; it was more just me trying to push water in any haphazard way. It was the sensations, though, that really had me enthralled; what had first been blinding sharp pain, then dull throbbing pain, had receded, and replaced by this amazing kind of intense tingling in every scale, which would get a little stronger in whatever body part I moved. There was still pain, but it was a weird pain, a pain that actually felt kind of...well, good. Pleasant, even. It still seems weird to me even now, I'd never expected that I could actually enjoy being in water like that even if I hadn't been deathly scared of it. But it was true, the sensation was exhilarating, and it compelled me to stay in a while longer.
I don't know exactly how long I was in the pool. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes all told. As I doubt it would surprise you to learn, I had absolutely no natural swimming ability, so much of it was just trying to figure out how to get around. I eventually grasped the concept that steady movements were more effective than random flailing, which got me to the shallow end. At three feet, it was still plenty deep for me, but shallow enough that I could lay my feet on the tiles and be up to just under my jawline. It was here that I tested the concept of holding my breath and putting my head underwater. Difficult at first, the pain from my head made it a little tough to keep myself from exhaling, but after a few tries the shock was a lot lighter and I was able to stay under for about ten seconds. It was weird, having all that water rushing around my head; I had expected things to feel different, but more than that, they sounded different, too, the sound of my toe claws scraping on the tiles was way different from when they were on pavement above water. It was like I had discovered a completely alien world, where all the things that I had known and experienced for years were completely irrelevant.
I got out by means of the steps, which I had become aware of after realizing that the depth of the pool wasn't the same everywhere. I fel like a wreck when I got out, weary, woozy, and, most unfamiliar of all, cold. But when I finally sat up and looked at the pool again, I realized something.
I wanted to go back in.
I didn't, of course - I was far too exhausted to pull a stunt like that again so soon. But just the notion that I wanted to, that I wanted to experience that strange new world again, was uplifting. I wasn't scared anymore; I wouldn't be holding anyone else back because of my extreme aversion to water. In fact, I was tempted to say I loved it.
It took me a few minutes to realize my tail wasn't lit. I looked at it for a long time; I'd never actually seen what the end of my tail looked like when it wasn't shrouded in flame. I guess it didn't look especially foreign, it was a tail tip not unlike that of a lot of other Pokémon. But I noticed some small pores at the end which were emitting white smoke; it struck me that I was finally seeing where the flame came from. Kind of a weird existential moment, I mean, this isn't something a lot of my kind knows about. There's all sorts of legends about where the flames come from, but to actually see it as part of your body...well, it's hard to describe. I did learn a new trick from it, though. When I breathed a small flame on the smoke, it caught fire and jetted back down to my tail tip, setting it back alight. That was cool.
It was kind of a strange feeling as I went back to the hotel room. I hadn't gone all that far, but it felt like I had traversed worlds, that I'd left as one person and returned as someone completely different. I guess that was true, in a way. I wasn't the same person anymore; my trip into the water had changed me, a kind of rebirth I guess. Now instead of being scared of it, I couldn't get enough of it.
They call that hydrophilia. Coming from someone who knows both extremes, that one's a lot better.
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