Chapter 16: Breakdown

The pincers, the claws, the wings—they pulsed in Zakana’s mind as reminders. Until this very moment, he hadn’t remembered. Only in dreams and nightmares that left him shaking uncontrollably and changed him into another person entirely did he remember. Now he couldn’t keep the memories down. His senses—they were stronger than his willpower. Any sight, smell, or sound that once destroyed him returned with an ever-destructive vengeance. Will it destroy me?Zakana wondered.

He ambled through this new city, the baby Eevee still cradled in his arms and stopped only to catch his breath or hide in the shadows until the night owls had passed by. Nothing made sense. Literally, what was anything?

Zakana’s brain was scrambled and fried. He knew it. His fatigue yanked at him and forced him to recognize it. But his brain fought against it. It was doing things—episodic things that he couldn’t slow down. This thought alone came through: it’s been over eight years since it happened.

Against his will, the questions spilled out, like boiling soup in an untended pot. There was no baker, no chef—there was literally no one in the kitchen. No one even in the house. And Zakana always stayed in the house.

He screamed. Whimpered. Sobbed.

The journey will not be without pain.

Who had said it to him? What did they know of pain?

It was easy to sit in a high-backed chair, legs crossed telling others how to live.

A quiet settled over Zakana. He found himself on the ground, his back pressed against the earth. Where was here? The baby in his arms mewed and nestled closer to Zakana for warmth. His heart pounded up and down, served as a bounce house for the baby Eevee. Light rain fell and another level of silence ensued. A silence within a silence. Inside Zakana could hear nothing. The rain, so soft and delicate numbed his senses. He could hear people on the outside but none of their words. How long he lay there, he had no idea.

Was it a few minutes? Hours? Days? Did it even matter? Time, a fickle beast that whips you anywhere it wants to, throw you down, tells you to listen and then says nothing at all. You are always its slave bound to its will. And Zakana realized this would never change. He had always been bound to time and its instruments. For eight years he had been a slave, wishing and waiting for a new beginning, or a hard fast end. Would it come—would there be any difference in Zakana’s pain if he were floating around in space as an astronaut, away from the Pokémon, away from the bugs? Or if he were standing, or lying on the ground trying to slow his thoughts to some semblance of normalcy—would there be any difference?

At one point, Zakana thought he knew. He thought he saw his path unfold before him, like a slowly rising curtain and that the answers were there. All actors laid out in different costumes wearing different facial expressions behind different masks. Though Zakana hadn’t chosen a mask at all. He wanted the helmet. The astronaut helmet that blocked out all sound and feeling and was far away from anything that might smell, feel or look like death.

He had chosen that path wholeheartedly and without question but the universe saw a different path.

Bambi’s sun-touched face swam into view and Zakana suddenly remembered leaving her. He had left her on the road with that boy Isaque.

Where was Yumin? And Kirish? Where were the family members that were supposed to deliver them from this evil?

Zakana found himself drudging along again as an orange sun split light into a valley. People watched him. They stared. They spoke about him as though he were a ghost, and honestly he felt like one.

He was in an abandoned warehouse. Cold metal slithered underneath his clothes, touched every bit of uncovered skin. Eevee crawled out of his jacket and instead nestled up to his chin for warmth. It could walk now and its eyes opened brightly. It grew fast. Nothing ever stayed the same. Soon, it would need food, but Zakana didn’t have any. His stomach growled. Soon, they would need water. Was Slowpoke’s water safe enough to drink?

The Eevee would be bigger tomorrow and bigger the day after that. Right before Zakana’s eyes, the thing seemed to grow. Everything around him grew: the intensity of the wind outside, the echoes of things inside that vast warehouse, abandoned and looking worse for wear, and the biting-cold of the metal underneath, touching his skin and the droplets of water on him as if to freeze them forever.

Voices stirred Zakana to consciousness. He tried to ignore them, but he could not. These voices were different. Penetrating. One voice spoke and all the others feel silent.

“Why did you come here?” It was a child’s voice.

Zakana looked for the speaker. He peeled himself off the ground. Shadows cast around him like streams of floodlights, though in black.

“You shouldn’t have come here. No one should come here.” The voice had power.

Slowly, Zakana rose. He noticed Eevee was gone.

“Who are you? Show yourself, coward!”

“I am no coward. I came here seeking the same thing as you. Does it make you a coward also?”

A silence fell upon them.

“I . . . I don’t know! I don’t care!”

“Tell me, then. What is it you care about?”

Suddenly, the scene changed. Walls crashed down silently, into the slick, cool earth. Wind did not bite, air did not howl. Now—only water.

“Where am I?”

A great waterway flowed underneath Zakana, but he did not fall. Immediately, his hands went to his belt, fumbled around for his Pokeball.

“You are in a place that has no beginning and no end.”

“Life, then.” And surprising to himself, Zakana said it calmly as though it was truth.1


Water stretched outward and forward and on the other end of it, there was a waterfall. It made great tumultuous splashing noises. At the peak of this precipice stood a girl.


It surely was Bambi, but when the girl turned Zakana saw a different face. It was distorted. Changed.

“What did you do to her?” Zakana found the full power of his voice again.

“It’s what you did to her.” The voice said it just as harshly, and suddenly it was not the voice of a child anymore.

Energy drained out of Zakana, out of all his pores as he looked at his baby cousin, her eyes downcast, the fire inside her eyes extinguished. Not so much as a flame remained. It sapped him, the voice, even when it didn’t speak. Zakana saw his color spill out, in oranges and blues, and dark red and purple lines.

“What . . . I did to her?”

There was a playfulness in the voice now and when Zakana looked up he saw it. Not only the voice but also the speaker of the voice. A boy. The boy wore a hat that covered his face. Tiny laughs escaped his mouth.

“You’re just a child!” Zakana spun around, saw that he was no longer in the warehouse or near the waterfall anymore. Now, there was only darkness around them, tiny specks of yellow peppering the sky above.

“Age is not important. Would you say not, Zakana?”

He nearly fell backward hearing his name. “How—how do you know? My name!”

At this the boy looked up, sharply, in a deadened way, as though he were the worst of all predators and Zakana was easy prey.

“NO!” Zakana saw the face but it couldn’t be true. He saw the Eevee in the boys’ arms. “You’re not real! You’re just part of my hallucinations!”

“If I’m not real, then neither are you.”

“You’re . . .” Zakana was dumfounded and in that moment he truly wanted to die. “You can’t be me!”

It was Zakana—or rather a younger version of himself. A ten-year-old version of the boy Zakana could have been. A ghost. A shell. A withering flower.1

What was this place!

The words, harsh and poignant spilled out of the boy’s mouth. Blood took its place. The boy’s eyes began to roll uncontrollably as the dark red blood turned black and tar-like. It filled the ground with its putrid smell, and mixed with the colors Zakana had left behind.1

Zakana realized he needed help. He would die in this place if he didn’t have help. His mind became clearer or perhaps more muddled and confused—he couldn’t tell which, but his fingers found his bag and he reached inside.

The boy continued to morph and change into things Zakana had seen before, but forgotten, hadn’t seen, but would see, and things he could never ever see again on this living earth.

“Stop!” He saw a glimpse of the young boy he once knew, and looked away. Tears bit his eyes as he shuffled through his bag.

“You couldn’t protect me, Zakana.” The boy said calmly.

“NO! It wasn’t my fault!”

“You could have saved me.”

“We had nothing. We had no Pokémon!”

“You watched it happen.”

“I didn’t mean for it to happen!” Zakana’s knees slammed into the ground. All his weight collapsed underneath him. His breath escaped him, his bag spilled out. He saw the crisp red of his Pokedex, Oodi, a blurred image hanging in the atmosphere.

Where was here?

The sensor lit up, blinked red. Zakana saw the blood beyond, saw the figure of the boy he had let down. Everything in that place was unforgivably red.

Oodi spoke. “Zorua. The Tricky Fox Pokémon.”

The boy seemed startled, slowly melted into something else.

“To protect themselves from danger, they hide their true identities by transforming into people and Pokémon.”

The boy was no longer a boy. The figure had grown silent.

Everything made sense at one moment and then quickly not at all. Zakana didn’t know where he was or how to get out. He saw stacked boxes. Swaying lights. Tiny Pokémon darting across floors. Not sure how or why, Zakana stood. He screamed and shouted until his head hurt. The crown of it felt like it would explode with red-hot blood. The things changed into something small. Everything swirled around. It was a maelstrom of energy, and Zakana at its center. He was the storm. He threw things at the black fox staring back at him. He hated it—hated it with all his might.

People came, people went. The fox ran. Illusions swam in dark, cold oceans. Zakana wanted to know: where was here?

He screamed until his voice was gone. Until he could cry no more tears. Until he could stay awake no longer. Under the ever-increasing darkness of that warehouse that in fact was real, Zakana slipped into chaos. In his brain, in this world that he no longer wanted a part in. Oozing into a fetal position, Eevee curled up next to him. He wondered if any of it had happened. Oodi still lay directly in front of him. Closed. Not speaking. Nothing spoke now. Not Zakana. Not the little boy that had once been there. Not even the demon fox that seemed to go silent and disappear.

An image of a boy materialized somewhere in Zakana’s consciousness. A boy, so battered and bloody, that you couldn’t tell his face from his knee. Sliced, cut up, eviscerated. Zakana knew what had done it. He had been reminded. He couldn’t forget as long as he lived. Like the boy in his arms, once sweet and very much alive, Zakana felt dead. The boy had changed. Zakana had changed. It was a simple, undeniable fact of life that every creature, human or Pokémon, adheres to with unbreakable loyalty. Nothing can ever stay the same.