Chapter 24: Grass

When the water dried up in the warehouse, zapped away like magic, Zakana thought that the attacks were over. The fire burned, and the water surged and when the heat and the cold dissipated and everyone had caught their breath, life seemed to emerge. Things grew in that space. Flowers. And plants. And grass. There wasn’t enough time for Zakana to realize that something else had merely taken the place of the other murderous Pokémon.

It was a snake. A green, grassy one made of thick vines and fauna, with leaves hanging back off its neck like a popped collar. Like it was already peeling off its body for its next phase of shedding. Zakana flipped open Oodi to get some information.

“Serperior. The Regal Pokémon. It can stop its opponents’ movements with just a glare. It takes in solar energy to boost its power internally.”

All at once, Zakana saw the glow. How the sun came in through the windows and filled it, yes it was regal Zakana had to admit, with power. Its red eyes scanned the warehouse hungrily.

“Don’t look at it directly!” Yumin ordered.

But Zakana found himself mesmerized. The way it moved around effortlessly captivated him to an end he could not fathom. Why were they there? First the fire chicken and then the metal penguin—why had they come? To obliterate them from existence? It certainly seemed that way and Zakana began to fear, not just for his own life, but something else. Memories rushed back. He felt dark, invisible hands close around his neck.

“I’ve only got one more Pokémon!” Yumin announced it and Zakana could sense the fear.

They were running out of Pokémon. No Pokémon meant no protection. Zakana fought back memories of that day.

“Go, Shuckle!” Farore cried. “Yumin! I’m on my last one too!”

Bambi released her Houndour. Makua sent out his Fennekin.

“Zakana! You’ll have to use Slowpoke again!”

They were all, it seemed, on their very last Pokémon. All the others had fainted, which meant that the Pokémon physically could not fight anymore. They had been drained of their will. The four Eevee were still just infants and had finally been withdrawn to Pokeballs once the floods came.

Fire burned grass. The flames went up. Makua’s Fennekin and Bambi’s Houndour fought side-by-side blasting swirls of red and orange fire. But the snake was too fast. It slithered in spurts, from one end of the warehouse to the other, searching for something it seemed, crawling not just on the ground, but clinging to the walls too, as if gravity was just a figment of its imagination. It seemed to grow with time as rays of sun beat down on it.

“Tygo is down!” Yumin announced.

Zakana saw how desperate his cousin looked. He collapsed to his knees, not because he was tired but probably because of how helpless he felt. Not only had he lost over 90 Pokémon in his reserve, he had lost all his usable Pokémon in the span of a few weeks.

Zakana moved to Yumin and tried to pull him up. “Yumin! Use my Slowpoke!”

Yumin bounced up on the balls of his feet, only momentarily stunned and looked to Farore, a desperate longing behind his eyes.

This Pokémon wasn’t deadly like the other two in the same way. It merely encroached. Where the fire-chicken raged onward and upward with punches and kicks and blazes of fire, and where the metal-penguin filled the space with heavy floods, this green snake grew things. Something pricked Zakana’s arm and he bled.

“Yumin, what do we do?”

Yumin searched. His eyes were marbles rolling around in a pinball machine. He seemed possessed himself. “We have to escape.”

Farore returned her final Pokémon to her. Makua did the same. Only Bambi’s Houndour and Zakana’s Slowpoke remained.

“Slowpoke! Use confusion!”

From behind a jumbled up herd of boxes, Serperior emerged. It had grown significantly. It was a long trail of green, vines and plants hanging from it like vegetables in a patch of garden, going with it wherever it went. Instinctively, Zakana avoided its gaze, but Slowpoke did not.

From behind, Houndour breathed its fire. “Bambi, look out!”

Serperior swiped its massive tail at Bambi and Houndour. Somehow, Bambi managed to make it over. Just barely. The powerful swing caught her at the heels and brought her to her backside. She fell with a thud. Houndour was cleared away, through boxes until he smacked against the warehouse wall.

“Houndour!” Bambi scrambled to her feet and went to her Pokémon. She returned it.

“We need to get out. Go for the doors and run!” Yumin pointed and waved, but the snake blocked the path. When Zakana looked around him, he saw the way the plants had grown. There was no more gray to see, no more metal. Now there was only green, sharp, incessant green that could make you bleed if you so much as touched it. Grass wasn’t always nice. It was suffocating.

Slowpoke slowed, even though it was impervious to Serperior’s gaze, and finally after nearly being strangled by stray vines was returned to its ball as well. Now, there was only Serperior and trainers.

Yumin called from the door. “It won’t open! The vines have completely sealed it shut!”

“This was their plan all along,” Farore said. “Burn it, rinse it, and trap us inside.” She searched her bag for her Pokeballs, sighed dramatically. “I have nothing. We’ve used it all up. All the berries. All the medicines. Yumin! If anything has even a little will to fight, we need to just cut the vines!”

“I’VE GOT NOTHING!” Yumin shouted.

Serperior turned its blood-red gaze skyward and soaked in the sun’s rays.

Makua shrugged. His sockets were swollen from lack of sleep. He was all out of Pokémon too.

“We can’t risk using the Eevee!” Yumin said. “They’ll die!”

Everything, everyone mounted to hysteria. In the loudness, Bambi’s voice emerged.

“Who’s Pokeball is this?” She held it high into the air.

Farore and Yumin both rushed to it, studied it like it was a diamond.1

“It isn’t one of mine,” Yumin said.

“Its at full health,” Bambi said, weighing it in her hand.

“Isaque’s or Lyres’?”

“No way,” Yumin said. “Zakana. It looks like one of yours.”2

Though how could it be? Slowpoke was done, and so was Happiny. And the Eevee he was keeping in a third ball was in his bag somewhere. So then . . .

Zakana released it, and confusion consumed him. He remembered it from a dream. It wasn’t real. That didn’t happen. The black fox with the cranberry red breast stared back at the group, it eyes devilish. It formed a human smile and morphed.

“Zakana! You have a Zorua?” Yumin questioned.3

The escape from Cycling Road. The bugs Zakana had seen. The visions. The hallucinations. The long journey through Fuchsia and then into the abandoned warehouse—it all rushed back to Zakana with painful clarity. He had seen things. He had seen his brother. He had seen a younger version of himself. In a fever of daze and bewilderment Zakana had lashed out and thrown things. He had rampaged, and in his breakdown, it seemed he had thrown a Pokeball too. That Pokeball had connected. This fox, this Zorua thing—it had the ability to create illusions, and that’s what it was doing now.1

There were no walls. Serperior looked at the group and focused its gaze on the new member wearing a long white coat. Zakana could not see the man’s face.

Words were spoken, but Zakana could not hear them. He hated this fox. He hated it more than being captured. He went to return it to its ball, but something stopped him. Where was Yumin? Where was Bambi? Where was Farore? The boy named Makua? Only he, the snake and the man remained.

Zakana screamed. People rushed inside, into the space that was a warehouse again. They wore masks and threw heavy balls. Yumin screamed and seemed to be fighting against men and Pokémon himself. What was real?

Where is here?

Zakana felt himself being sucked down a drain.

Women arrived from above.

“Zakana!” Bambi called. She was in danger, again.

Glass shattered. Someone was breaking in. They didn’t care about destroying their precious warehouse anymore. The Viterals would stop at nothing. Bambi screamed again. Someone scooped her up and put her on top of a large orange dragon. In fact, there were many of them.

“Zakana! Watch out!”

Words came at him from all angles. Glass cut him. Makua fell down next to him. It was war. Humans against humans. Pokémon against Pokémon. Humans against Pokémon. Yumin swung heavy arms at a human-shaped Pokémon and missed. Or was it a human? Zakana didn’t know. This was death. The Viterals brought death. That was their new solution to the world. What could a measly piece of paper do, and why was Zakana still protecting it?

Had his father already met this end? Where was mother? Tears burned Zakana’s eyes.

“Zakana!” called a voice he did not recognize.

“Zakana!” called another.

They called for him to get on, to wake up, but the sounds came out muted, as though he lay asleep on the bottom of a swimming pool.

Yumin’s hands lifted him, shoved him onto one of the orange dragons. It was dangerously hot. Farore pulled him up. He scrambled. Things flew at him. Ice. And water. The dragon swung its tail and erased the threat.

“Zakana, hang on!”

Zakana clutched the rubbery skin of the dragon he now sat atop. Still he didn’t know. Where was here?

Suddenly, the vision ended. He held a Pokeball in his hand.

Men screamed from below. Zakana and the others were being lifted. They were flying.

“Charizard, let’s get out of here!”

Zakana recognized the voice.

There were many orange dragons now. Girls rode on top of them. They were being rescued. And Zakana wondered how? In their darkest hour, when the Viterals finally made their move, salvation came. Not from father. Not from mother, wherever she was.

It came from red-hot-fire-tailed orange dragons from the Orange Islands, raised since pups by a girl with orange hair. Now that hair was short, damaged, and severed and so, it seemed to be, was she. As much as Zakana liked to believe it, Kirish Hayline did not abandon family in times of need. How she had known about their location, Zakana had no idea.