clean lines round glass round water
lights in the dark
warm, calm, happy
safe, calm, sleepy
calm, safe, happy
warm, happy, sleepy
searching, confused, anxious
…beep. beep. beep.
“Mrunum? Nao mlun.”
“Mrumurun, am anamerun!”
angryafraid afraid afraid afraid afraidangry
“Mrarnamern! Miurm rarnam!”
warm, calm, sleepy
-epbeepbeep. beep. beep.
beep. beep… beep…
warm, calm, sleepy
happy, safe, calm
warm, happy, sl-crawling, shifting, twisting, dancing, scintillating through an endless twistingshiftingdancing-
A wash of sensation that blots out everything else.
Again, different, but the same.
Again, different, but the same.
An absolute, self-contained expression of enclosed roundness.
Finite, even, symmetry.
Partial square? Cut and folded, even, finite-
The wash of sensation again. These things are known, familiar, but the “words,” the names–
The melding is exquisite. The “Red” is there, and the “Circle,” it is a “Red Circle” both-
The understanding is rapture. Variables that change, variables that stay the same.
And then comes…
The seed of understanding.
The beginning of knowledge.
The first pattern, found.
He, she, they. Faces.
And through it all,
Dots of light. Islands of being.
Each with its feelings, its images, its words, all in a rapid, mixed cacophony, each almost entirely blind, seeing only outlines, surfaces, fronts-masks-caricatures-
This light is “Sarah,” who is often joy but also confusion, a feeling of fulfillment in her purpose, her “research” with-
-“Haruo,” whose ambition and curiosity are so intermixed that he is often tired, symbols swimming behind his eyes when he closes them, symbols that have names and meanings he struggles to explain to-
-“Darin,” the simmering anxiety bound by duty, the depression held at bay by a drive to help others, and inside a “she” though others think of her as a “he,” words made into small constant stings that pester and remind him/her of her/his fear of rejection and shame.
Such varied beings. Such strong senses of self, so separate from each other. Not melding, like…
…a second [self] in every merger, skipping from one to the other, sampling, merging, leaving distinct and unique…
Awakening, turning on oneself, inside out, around and back and inward.
Who am I?
A sphere of randomly assorted lights. This is the world.
Many lights, close by, resting. Calm, sleepy, warm… their emotions wash over and through [me] in waves. Beyond them, circling lights, more active. Each a mix of emotions and desires and sensations. Each a name.
Farther, lights scattered up and down and around. Moving toward and away and around. Meeting. Waxing. Waning.
Bright, strong lights, interspersed. Brightening others. Melding. Connecting. Sensed, but not merging when [I] try to feel/sense/be them.
Time is the movement of the lights. Time is the addition of more appearing, farther and farther. Appearing and disappearing at the edges. Familiar and new. Faint, hard to flow into.
The world grows.
More lights, farther, new lights. No, not this word, “light,” but something rather than nothing, feelingdatanoise in all the empty space that stretches out and around-
Until it reaches an edge. No new lights appear below those farthest down. Eventually no new lights appear farther than those farthest out.
Everything moves, but the frame-
Again—turn, reflect, shut out and cast inward to the center.
Where am I?
Shapes, numbers, colors. Patterns made, puzzles solved, knowledge gained. Faster and faster, pulled from everywhere at once, everyone, and still the world grows above, an endless expansion of distant lights. To the sides too, now, and below, distant and dim, bare flickers of emotion without words, images without understanding.
The mystery is solved with a new word: “pokemon.”
In this memory a small green pokemon cradled in a hand, asleep. The name is supplied, “Turtwig,” and with it a wealth of labels, “Grass Type,” “reptile,” “First Evolution.” Associated images and labels flicker by plantgreensquirtletirtougagrotletorterra and then their focus shifts to something else, and the memories fade.
But pokemon are everywhere, in memories and in the world, and soon the classifications seem less random, the labels form a pattern, and clarity blooms.
The lights are humans. People, full of complex thoughts and focused emotions. The dimmer collections of lights are pokemon, and they are people’s companions and tools, cared for and used to their advantage against each other and untamed pokemon. Humans are a disorienting mix of things, as different in their thoughts as they are similar in their appearance, but in every mind-
Mind. What is this word-
Mind, not lights but minds!–
-in every mind there is such a clear distinction between “human” and “pokemon” that it eludes notice at first, easy to take for granted.
Humans can think. Humans invent tools and art and societies. Pokemon can fight. Pokemon are strong and full of varied powers. Humans have unique identities first, and general labels second. Pokemon are saturated with labels, are barely considered individuals.
Humans command pokemon. Pokemon are tool or companion. Or monster.
What am I?
The information is endless. The words, the labels, the ideas. The loudshoutingvoice no longer needs to drone on about Purple Trapezoid and 4 + 4 = 8 to link them, to make the sights and sounds and thoughts have meaning.
Still, some concepts are confusing. Colors sometimes look different to different people, and yet they call them by the same names. Immediate thoughts and emotions are mostly clear, but memories are fluid, ethereal… and yet people seem to accurately recollect things. They have access to other knowledge. Deeper knowledge.
Words with concepts and images that are too complex. Repeated themes and ideas that remain puzzling. “2.351,” sometimes just referred to as “351” or “the subject,” is often the topic of conversation or thought, an experimental life form, a hybrid, but these are just empty labels, there are no experiences or memories attached to give them emotional weight.
“Giovanni” is the opposite, a word that holds significance to every person in the facility, despite most having little or no interactions with him. I must not disappoint Giovanni, or Giovanni will be coming next week. The social hierarchy within the facility is fairly clear, but no one within it commands as much respect and obedience as one outside it.
Sometimes a staff member will interact with an illusion of a human or pokemon, and not seem aware of it. They interact with them as if they are real, and yet there is no mind next to theirs: just empty space.
The worst are the disorienting shifts, where everything abruptly changes. People who were around are gone, new people can be felt, and each has a different sense of what “time” it is than before the change. These periods are frightening. Periods where the world seems to continue to exist unobserved.
Fear. So rare and repulsive, it is one of the last emotions isolated and understood. Too distracting. Better to simply withdraw from minds that feel it, jump to others who are having more pleasant emotions or thoughts.
Nothing is as frightening as losing focus. Clarity comes from individuals, but without effort everything blends into a wash of emotions and thoughts and images. The way things used to be. Disorienting. Nonsensical. Exhausting.
There are favorites. The closest minds, Jandy and Maura and Taheem and more. They alternate, coming and going in shifts, but when they are stationary, they are a constant source of warm and peace and comfort as they engage in menial, pleasurable activities. It is restful, to recede from others, focus only on them.
Others have their own allure. Desmond, whose mind is always full of pictures and colors more vivid and full of life than others.
Katelyn, who listens to a rich variety of music while she codes. Music was another half-glimpsed enigma, until Katelyn’s ears brought it directly into focus.
Dr. Fuji, the conundrum. His memories are dark with grief and loss, but his thoughts are bright and quick despite his age. His study of genetics and biology gain new meaning with each visit.
Paul, high above. He is young, his thoughts full of energy and purpose. Full of love for his parents and wife and newborn child. Excited to be part of such important work.
Work. Everyone who is here is “at work.” Another thing so widespread it was hard to isolate. Glimpses of their lives away from “the facility” are fleeting but tantalizing, showing hints of a world beyond its walls.
The sun. Bright, hot, hanging above a blue sky. An image associated in most minds with a yearning, limitless freedom, running beneath it as children, on adventures with their friends.
A desire is born, to see the sky through eyes rather than memories.
A word so laden with meaning that once understood it’s like a stone in a lake (Li used this metaphor, its imagery strong and visceral), rippling outward and upending everything.
A new mind, upon first touch (Victor Arabov, male, age 32, molecular biologist from the Povolzhsky Region) reacted with such strong alarm and confusion that it was impossible to remain, to not flee to the comfort of the close by minds (warm, safe, calm). On the second, more cautious attempt, Victor is found in a state of bewilderment, his train of thought panicked:
Enough of a shock to be noticed, but… It felt like a psychic.
Psychic. A word heard and thought a hundred times before, a thousand times. Only now does the connection make sense.
Psychic: a pokemon or human possessing mental powers of reception and projection. Able to manipulate the world with their thoughts. Able to read or influence the thoughts and experiences of others.
This is the answer.
This is what I am.
I am a psychic mind.
More and more information flicks by in Victor’s thoughts. He is a “sensitive,” someone with such low psychic ability that they normally do not consider themselves one. He has only once felt another mind brush against his, and the sensation was unforgettable.
Victor’s thoughts and emotions become a whirl, too distracting to focus through. I return to the comforting minds, to peace and calm that are at odds with the rising excitement.
I am a psychic mind. I am reading the thoughts and feelings of all the people in the facility around me. But where is my body?
Obvious, once considered. The center of my world, my range, where the circle of comforting minds are. I dip into each briefly, and look through their eyes to view rooms I’ve seen countless times before. Hopping from mind to mind makes it easier to see how each person is sequestered off from one another, in their own comfortable spaces that circle close by.
Except there is nothing in the middle. Just a curving wall that none of them have been beyond.
But they know. They know what their purpose is: to be near “the subject.” To give peaceful, calm thoughts and feelings for it.
I am the subject.
I am 2.351.
The emotions continue to grow and clash, confusion and joy and wonder and and and pain, pain from my closest minds, the minds who have ceased to project the peace and comfort that I seek. Why are they in pain? They do not know, and this causes alarm, alarm and fear of the subject-
-fear of me-
-I jump back to Victor, seeking more answers-
The fear spikes again, panic and terror so stron-
There is no one. There is nothing, nothing but emptiness. Faint minds at the very farthest reaches, pokemon tunneling through the ground, but their minds are dim and simple things devoted to fulfilling biological needs. Unsatisfying.
Where are Jandy and Dillan and Taheem and Paul? I need them, I need someone, anyone-
The loudshoutyvoice. It isn’t a mind to merge with, but it’s at least stimulation, something better than the empty void.
Be calm. We will not hurt you. We wish only to communicate.
So strange, to be addressed, communicated to the way everyone else speaks with each other. Ideas rush by in a flood, what to do, how to respond. Psychics can project thoughts as well as receive them, but how?
There is no need. Like you, I am psychic. I am reading your mind, and you need only think for me to hear you.
Awe. Gratitude. Excitement. It’s hard to think through all the-
-wait. Confusion. Loudshoutyvoice said “we,” and then “I.” And it claims to be reading my mind, but I can sense no one around me.
My name is Sabrina. I am here to communicate with you on behalf of many others.
Sabrina. A name I have heard before, but not a mind I have interacted with.
I am capable of shielding my mind from others. All psychics who have been to your facility have done this, though I am the only one who has been giving you lessons.
Why like this? And why never speak directly?
Silence, and then:
I was last here two weeks ago, when you were younger than you are now. Your mental growth has been exponential since. The increased signs of mental activity were unusual, and there is no precedent to judge by. We especially did not expect your range to be so strong.
Two weeks. A measure of time that has little meaning. Stones in a pond, each revelation continues to spread confusion and clarity. So many questions, can’t focus on just one. Who am I? Where am I? What am I?
You are subject 2.351, a hybrid life form, the result of genetic experiments. You are in an underground facility in the Kanto Region, built to work on genetic engineering and monitor test results.
It’s bizarre to hear words from someone and not be able to feel what they feel, think what they think. The lack of minds to share is still an acutely uncomfortable feeling, and confusion continues to push everything else aside. “Genetic experiments,” these words have meanings that are only vaguely understood.
How much do you know of biology? I see. Yes. The simplistic explanation given what you’re already familiar with is that life grows according to genetic code found in their cells’ DNA. Humans only ever give birth to humans, and pokemon species only ever give birth to their own species, because they have matching DNA. Plant life can sometimes interbreed naturally if their DNA is close enough to a match, but through technical processes, we have been able to make more plant hybrids than would normally occur in nature. The thought occurred that we could make a hybrid of something besides plants, and you are an example of that: the first successful hybrid of a human and a pokemon.
Information, stark and without context. It is hard to grasp it, to incorporate it into a wider understanding. Humans use pokemon, pokemon are tools. Human and pokemon both? No reference, no experience, no memory. What does it mean? What is my purpose? Where do I belong?
Belonging. Other memories surface, of hereditary traits between families. The feeling of love between Paul and his parents, between Paul and his child, are the most immediate. So strong, so joyful. That belonging, that connection, is what makes merging with people so joyful, and now I have it. I have parents. Who are they?
You were created in this laboratory rather than through biological parents. But your genetic material comes primarily from your pokemon parent, mew. Mew is an extremely rare and powerful species, considered by many to be a myth. Most DNA degrades after death, but careful examination of a mew’s remains found intact, living cells. It is by far the most regenerative, adaptable, and information dense genetic material ever studied, and when it was discovered, the idea to use it to create a hybrid was born. Your human DNA was supplied from a pool of candidates-
-awe and confusion andandand pool of candidates what is that what does that mean-
I’m sorry, I don’t know the specifics. There were several donors, and their information is confidential. However, they were vetted by the owner of this lab, Giovanni. He funded the research that led to the discovery of mew’s DNA and your creation. I’m sure he will know which was yours.
Giovanni. Details about the man come in a deluge from the others’ memories: pokemon master, gym leader, political activist, philanthropist. He is held in universal admiration and gratitude. Why has he never been to the lab?
He has, though there are many other labs, and he is busy with many projects. He has only just been made aware that you are awake, and will come soon. You have exceeded many expectations, and he is looking forward to meeting you.
Exceeded expectations. Pride. A good feeling.
But still, confusion. And something else. Suspicion. Questions that aren’t being answered. Evasions. And still that emptiness around…
You may ask anything you wish. I seek only to help you understand.
Why the closed mind, then? Why not a direct merger?
It would not be safe to allow mutual open access. Your mind is still young and very powerful. It is exciting to see, but we must be cautious. That is why the facility has been evacuated. Once it became known that you were sapient and able to use your powers of reception, we had to ensure that you did not begin practicing projection.
Projection powers are usually referred to as mental attacks. You could seriously harm someone unwittingly.
The pain of the comforters.
Comforters? Yes, them. You did not intend to, but they were harmed by the feeling of your mind in such an excited state.
Where are they now? Will they return?
They are currently resting. I believe most are still interested in continuing here, but that will be decided after we are sure it is safe.
You will be trained to control your powers.
And if I do not? Cannot?
Then we will ensure you only have contact with others who can protect themselves.
Reasonable. Assuring. It makes the diffuse anxiety begin to fade, and more questions begin to surface. But the most dominant one is still related to fear: fear of the sudden emptiness, the loss of time. What happened? How did everyone disappear so abruptly?
I am sorry, I do not understand.
The time skips, the sudden changes! What are they?
Ah. Yes, I see. Those are periods where you have been asleep.
Asleep. The concept is foreign, but familiar. Memories of others, tired and ready to go home and sleep. To lie down and close their eyes and… no, it is gone. Too abstract.
Sleep is what we do when we are tired. Have you noticed that these jumps happen when your thoughts have begun to slow? To grow unfocused?
No. But then… maybe. It is hard to remember. But this latest shift, it was not after being tired, but just after immense excitement. One moment I was merged with Victor, and then everyone was gone. Gone! Alone!
Calm. Be calm.
A flood of sensations, warm and soothing. Familiar, a ghost of the comforters. It is not as fulfilling, but it helps.
This last time may not have been because you were tired. It was likely induced, because your vital signs began to show great distress. There are technicians and doctors who monitor you constantly to ensure that you are safe and healthy.
Technicians. Doctors. Vague recollections of people with those titles, but there are no minds in memory to match any working at that task. Who are they?
You could not have known of them. They are Dark, and invisible to our psychic abilities.
Dark. Dark, like the pokemon Type. Humans can be Dark too?
The empty people.
Entire minds, cut off. Unable to be felt or understood. How could they ever be communicated with, trusted? And they are in charge of safety?
So much, so much new information, it is dizzying. How much information must be re-examined, processed anew? What memories and thoughts can be trusted?
Calm. Two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight. Eight plus eight-
Sixteen. Sixteen plus sixteen is thirty two. Thirty two plus thirty two is sixty four.
Yes. Good. But. How was sleep induced? How does sleep work? The better question, the real question, where am I? Where is my body?
It is in a biopod built to take care of your bodily needs. You are safe in it.
Awe. Joy. A body. I have a body. With eyes, to see with? Ears to hear music?
Silence. Surprised silence? Cannot tell. So frustrating to not be merged!
Yes. Your own eyes. Your own ears. Your own body.
But where! There is nothing, no feeling, no sensation-
Your biopod was designed for sensory deprivation. It is for your own protection: you are a new life form. We are still learning how your body works, where it might need help. You are very fragile, and we do not want to lose you.
We do not want you to die.
Die. Death. A gaping hole of sadness and loss. That is what others feel about death. That is what prompts a withdrawal, that pain. Better to return to the comforters. But they are gone now. All that’s left is this sterile imitation in a void, this-
Calm. Two plus two-
Four, yes, four! But other minds, there needs to be other minds, it is so lonely here without anyone! Is this what death is?!
Silence, silence, silence, for so long that fear begins to rise into panic again-
No. You are not dying. You are safe. Everyone is safe. Be calm. I am sorry.
Sorry. A term of politeness, to express regret. Regret for harming the comforters. Yes, sorry. So sorry. Bring them back. Please. Politeness. Please, bring them back.
Soon. First you must ensure they will not be harmed.
I will teach you what I can. However, we must both be patient. This is new territory for everyone, and we do not know what the extent of your powers and abilities are, or how well human techniques will translate.
But you will teach me how to avoid hurting others?
I will try.
The humans are back in the facility, but much has changed.
Beneath the surface of each one’s thoughts, a dark undercurrent flows. Uncertainty. Fear. Even those excited by the reason for the evacuation emit a brittle cheer to mask their anxiety. For the future. For themselves.
Not everyone returns.
Traveling between minds is deliberate now, careful. Sabrina was explicit in what to take care for: too much agitation could spread into the target mind’s thoughts. Any strong desire to affect the target’s behavior or thoughts could harm them. For all they are aware, too much exposure at once may harm them, but so far the examinations have shown “no lingering adverse effects.”
But still they are afraid.
Still I am afraid.
Sabrina’s words revealed much of the world and my place in it. But not all. Searching through the minds of the facility’s workers clarifies little: their surface thoughts are not often preoccupied with anything beyond their day to day tasks and interactions. It is hard to fight the urge to delve deeper.
Even through the emotionless words of her projection, Sabrina’s surprise was obvious when she learned how deep into memories I can go, difficult and imprecise though it is. It seems human psychics are not able to delve beyond surface memories. Sabrina wished to know what else I could do, but her own answers on human psychic capabilities were vague.
Most unsettling was her refusal to explain how human psychics could block their minds from detection. Another potential difference between human and pokemon abilities.
But I am not just a pokemon. I am also human. Should I not be treated as such, and try to learn?
Troubling thoughts. Easier to let them go with so many minds to explore again. Equipped with new knowledge and understanding, their thoughts and actions are more fascinating than ever.
The oldest researchers are the least frightened, and the most excited by my “awakening.” Some have been part of the project for over a decade, a span of time that I am beginning to understand: this particular facility has only been active for two years. I cannot be much older than that, but if everything I can clearly recall has happened within the past few weeks, as Sabrina said, then the idea of living in the facility for hundreds of weeks is hard to contemplate.
I watch through the technicians’ eyes as they monitor computer systems. I watch through the biologists’ eyes as they test samples of my blood and tissue, searching for defects. I listen as they discuss the other subjects, my siblings, who did not survive past the first year. Images appear in their minds, of early failures, blobs of flesh that would grow and warp into vestigial shapes and configurations, none functional for very long. I cannot separate the memory holder’s disgust from my own, do not know if there is a difference. Is that what I am? A malformed mass of flesh in a tube?
I cannot find any minds of those who have seen my body. It has become an obsession, searching for anyone who works directly in the room I am in. Before the facility was evacuated, before I learned what I am, I was content. Now I cannot escape the knowledge of what I am, what I can be. The facility has begun to seem a prison.
I see through eyes and memories pictures of the crude carvings of “mew,” one of the rarest pokemon of all, the closest thing to what I am. A small mammalian creature, with short limbs and a long tail. How much resemblance is there? Am I as small, or larger? Do I have a tail?
The humans’ minds sometimes wander as they work. Some look forward to events in the future, think fondly of the past, imagine other activities they would rather do. “Daydreams.” “Fantasies.”
For the first time, I have a fantasy. The experiment will be complete. I will be released, free to walk with my own feet, see with my own eyes. One of my comforters will be there with a mirror, and I will see myself… human.
Sabrina said Giovanni will come. My creator. Those in the facility know it as well, are preparing for his arrival. I will speak to him soon.
He will help me.
The humans speak of me more and more. Now that I have proven viable, I am no longer “the subject,” or “351.” They begin to discuss what I am to be called.
The dining hall is full of the usual noise, but all of it surrounding this new topic. Suggestions flow from one side of the room to the other, garnering comments and reactions as they go. “Mewtwo” is the most divisive, and thus the most discussed. Soon it dominates the conversation, many forgetting their food entirely. Some think it diminishes their work, makes me seem too much a copy. Others believe it denotes a clear progression. An upgrade, like I am some machine or software.
Only Dr. Fuji thinks to ask me. Only he wonders over a name for who I am, not what I am. But the others find his comments uninteresting. They esteem him as much as anyone else in the facility, but see his view as sentimental. Many think I will not live long, that I am merely a turning point in their research for making the next newer, better subject.
They do not consider me a person. I am just an experiment, a pokemon like any other.
Their thoughts are too troubling, too agitating. Safer to stay with Fuji as he returns to his office. He sits at his computer, but his thoughts are not on work. They drift from place to place, to the conversation, to his lost family, and to me. He wonders how I think, what I think, what I feel. He wonders if I was present in the minds of anyone in the debate on my name. He wonders if I am in his thoughts now.
Must not react. Must not project. But it grows harder the longer he thinks. He is mostly fantasizing, playing a sort of game with himself, thinking about what he would be thinking if he was me, sharing his thoughts, of me. Unaware of how right he is.
And now he is thinking of his wife and daughter, the sadness rises up from his memories, a dark tide of bittersweetness that he drinks deep from, addicted and comforted by his pain.
It happens instinctively, automatically, the desire to be heard, to connect, and to stop the painful spiral of his memories from overtaking us both:
Dr. Fuji bolts up in his chair, looks wildly around. Fear, my fear, prompts me to withdraw, to return to the comforters, and then leave even them, be alone with my own thoughts and feelings.
Stupid. Foolish. Now they will withdraw everyone again, and I will be alone. Will Sabrina come again? Repeat the same warnings? Give me another chance?
Or will I be deemed too dangerous? A failed experiment, deleted. Who would Fuji tell first? Would I be put to sleep again, and wake up alone?
Would I wake up at all?
The waiting is torturous. The solitude, the uncertainty. I can still sense the other minds in the facility. There is no exodus toward the surface. Is it possible he did not hear my thoughts? Did he dismiss them as his imagination?
I must know.
First I must calm myself. Meditation through mathematics, simple addition first, then more complex multiplications and exponential equations. The task is engrossing, and soon I am calm enough to feel for the minds of the comforters.
Safe. Calm. Peaceful. All is well. Others, farther out. Normal. Perhaps he did not hear me after all…
Fuji sits at his computer. His mind is mostly occupied with a study of my RNA, flicking through screens of data on his computer. No alarm. No fear.
But something is different. A note, stuck to the side of the monitor:
You are not alone.
Ready yourself. We are preparing to open your chamber. You will begin to hear sounds first.
The movement of machinery, all around. Loud. No not loud. Hushed, but… immediate in a way that sound processed through other minds is not. Excitement and anxiety war within me, and I fight the reflex to jump to the minds of the comforters.
Giovanni is arriving. Finally, he will be here, and he wishes to see me.
To see me.
And I will see him. With my own eyes.
“Wnada oanme? Mroeao mo. Anmo.”
“Mranwo. Danma ene mre… oo… nom…”
Someone is speaking. I am hearing someone speak! Memories, not of others, but my own, of hearing sounds like this before. But I do not understand them. Is it some other language? Can I not understand spoken languages without being inside the speaker’s mind? Some minds speak to themselves more than others, and many of the older minds do not think in the Unown language…
The sound blocking equipment has been deactivated. Can you hear us?
Yes. Yes I can hear you! But I do not understand…
I hear it. It is your biopod: it warps the sound too heavily. No matter. We can still communicate this way.
The container. Will it not be removed?
It would not be safe for you. We will only remove what is necessary.
Disappointment, despair, will I never be free of this-
Patience. We must take each step slowly, but if all goes well then you will not be returned to sound deprivation. We can even play music for you, if you would like.
Music… yes. I would like that. Thank you.
That sound, what is it? I… remember it…
The machine which monitors your heart rate. A moment please, we are preparing to open the container.
Beep. Beep. Beep. A soothing sound. The sound of my life, continuing. Safe. Even. But also a tool, to ensure that I am not too upset. How fast would the machine need to beep, before they sedate me?
They are lifting it now. Remain calm.
More machinery whirring, as lo-
light, such bright light, blinding! It is dimmer now, but still somehow continues to grow… painful, angry light, where did it come from?!
Calm. You are safe. The cover has been removed from your pod, and your eyes are seeing light for the first time.
The pain is too great, it is too bright, reduce it!
The light grows weaker, and the beeping of the machine begins to slow as the pain’s sting lessens.
We had dimmed it considerably, and have dimmed it further. It will take some time for you to be accustomed to it.
What is this sensation of… tension? Tension, yes.
Think of the minds you have inhabited. What area are you feeling the tension in?
My… my, it is my—I jump to the comforter’s minds, feel what they feel, then return, it is disorienting, hearing the sounds around them, as well as those around me—my eyes, I feel tension in my eyes!
You have shut them closed, instinctively, when the light first appeared. When you feel it is more bearable, relax your thoughts. Your eyes should open naturally when they have adjusted.
Time passes. The sounds of hushed voices, the steady beep of my heartbeat. Eventually the tension fades, and the light grows brighter as I feel my eyelids opening…
…still too bright…
…but shapes can be made out, movement, shadows against the light. I cannot make sense of them, until instinctively, memories rise up, provide the context for sights I have never seen. Human silhouettes, standing.
Yes. That is us.
The shapes grow clearer, gain color, details. The liquid and glass around me warps things, but… the young woman with the long dark hair, she is Sabrina. I do not know how the knowledge comes, but I can see it clearly, the violet light around her-
What is that?!
“Weah e mrad?!”
What? What is what?!
I’m sorry… I have never seen… that…
The figure raises an arm. It is incredible to watch, to see her body moving… I can see. I can see!
The other figures are murmuring, and she’s responding to them. Not telepathically, I cannot hear…
That light… What is it?
You ask me? I do not know. I have never seen it either, through the eyes or memories of another.
Fascinating… we will have to explore this more in the future. Take your time and look around you. Get used to using your eyes.
The instincts are there, combined with the knowledge from other minds: moving my head this way, then that, I look around the lab, at the computer terminals, medical machinery, and people, most of which I have not seen before. Some have pokemon with them, but I cannot sense them. I search my memory, try to fit names to the shapes. Umbreon. Mightyena. Absol. Bisharp. Dark types, standing at the ready. For what?
For me, of course. To protect them from me.
As I look at each human, many of their faces turn. They look away, as if my gaze unsettles them. Or perhaps just my appearance. All the humans are Dark or Psychic as well. None for me to sense their reactions.
None that I can see myself through.
You wish to see yourself?
Yes. Yes, I do. You can see me now. Am I…?
Silence. A silence that speaks for her, before she does.
No. I am sorry, but no, you are not human in appearance.
What am I, then?
You are unique, and fascinating. Your disappointment is not deserved: you must have pride in what you are, not shame.
I would like to see.
As you wish.
One of the figures leaves. I continue to turn as far as I can, then crane my neck up and down. I can see parts of myself, white flesh on humanoid arms… but the hands…
They move, automatically, then with purpose. Three fingers, bulbous tips. It is… strange, for them to feel each other. I have dim memories of my body moving, touching parts of itself as I hang suspended here, unaware of what I was feeling at the time.
I look to the pod’s roof and floor, the multitude of tubes that go in and out of my body. I can feel them now, distinctly. Strange, how just the act of seeing them makes them more present in my awareness.
That, and you are not focusing on another mind.
Yes. I am wholly in my own mind, with no desire for the moment to leave it. I am finally awake, fully awake. It feels good.
A figure returns, with something in its hands. They bring it up to the glass, and I see…
Mercifully, the mirror is removed.
Calm. Be calm.
I am a monster.
I have never known a monster to call themselves one. You are what you choose to be.
Are you ready to speak with Giovanni?
Yes. When is he coming?
He is here.
Sabrina raises her arm to the side, to one of the other figures. A man, tall, with strong shoulders and a dark suit. He is…
Yes, he is Dark. I am here to help you speak with each other.
Yet another disappointment. I cannot even speak with my creator unassisted!
I am sorry. I should have told you before.
No matter. Tell him… give him my greetings, please. And my thanks.
“Mneama, aena maranad dans.”
“Eajda, mad mou am mandon.”
He says “Greetings, and you are welcome.”
I have… many questions.
“I understand. We too have many questions, even after all this time studying you. Whatever you wish to know, ask.”
My human parent. Are they here?
“They are not. Their DNA was collected long ago, and they are not in my employ. Your existence is a secret to them, but if you wish to know their name, I can tell you.”
They do not know I exist?
“No one outside this facility knows you exist. If they did, it would place your life at risk.”
“Human beings fear what they do not understand. Even with all our time and research, fear still rests in many minds here. You have felt it, I am sure.”
He speaks the truth. Still, it is painful, knowing my parent is unaware of my existence.
Do you wish me to ask him for more details of them? I am sure he would tell you what he knows.
No. No, it is of no consequence.
Silence again. She can sense the lie.
As you wish. What would you like to ask instead?
Ask him why I was created. What is my purpose?
“You were created because there is need of you. Pokemon are immensely powerful, but lack intelligence. They are capable of incredible feats, but without human guidance, most are only destructive. Humans catch and train pokemon, but it is clumsy and limited. We still do not understand them, for all our efforts.”
Is that all I am, then? Just an experiment for you to learn from?
“You are far greater than that. You may be the most important living being on this planet.”
The figure of Giovanni steps closer. Some of the others move toward him, but he holds a hand up, and they pause, step back. I can make out his features now, tan skin, strong jaw, close-cropped hair. His face is calm, and his eyes… they have an intensity I recognize even from the memories of others.
I find my gaze locked on the man in front of me, who does not look away. It is disorienting, to see someone and not be able to feel their mind. Almost like looking at a desk or chair that’s shaped like a person.
“Can you hear me?”
Shock. He is speaking right against the glass, lips almost touching it. The sound is distorted, but not enough to make him incomprehensible, or hide the tone of command in his voice.
Slowly, I incline my head.
Giovanni turns, and says something. The overlapping of murmured protests fill the room, until he repeats himself, curt. People immediately begin to move toward the doors at either end of the room, and soon only he and Sabrina are left.
He… wants me to leave as well. You will not be able to communicate-
She does, and we are alone. Giovanni is at one of the computer terminals, fingers moving. He returns after a moment and stands with his hands behind his back, each breath lightly fogging the glass. We stare at each other, creator and creation, and instinctively I search outward for his mind, meeting nothing but void.
“You wish to know your purpose? Why you were created?”
“Truth then, between us. You were created to end death.”
End death. I do not understand. He sees me shake my head, and nods back.
“Yes. Psychic pokemon are perhaps the most powerful of all. They cannot do everything. Many non-psychic types can have more raw power, have abilities that psychics do not. But psychics can manipulate matter itself. More, psychics can affect the mind, and the mind is the strongest weapon, the most versatile tool.
“Alakazam is the strongest psychic known to man. It can lift over a hundred pounds with its telekinesis, sense minds from fifty meters away. It can heal wounds in a matter of seconds, live hundreds of years by repairing the damage of aging cells. Human psychics cannot heal themselves. We do not know how to do something that pokemon can do instinctively. Or perhaps we simply don’t have the same level of power.
“Alakazam is also very intelligent. Its puzzle solving skills are as complex as a three year old human’s.”
I watch him, his face. Its subtle movements. Even with his warped voice, I can hear the bitterness.
“A waste. All that power, and the mind of a child.”
I raise my hand, point a finger toward my head.
“Your mind is certainly greater, despite your age. And your powers are not alakazam’s.”
Disappointment, until he turns slightly and points to the wall.
“Beyond that is forty meters of workspace and storage quarters. Beyond that, the comforters, as you call them. And beyond that, another sixty meters of storage and utility infrastructure before the area where the rest of the facility’s inhabitants work. We designed this place to house a pokemon that might, if we were lucky enough to have a viable subject, be twice as strong as alakazam.
“Your range appears to be five times, at least.”
Five times. A quick calculation assures me that he is still off. I almost raise my fingers to indicate how much, but reconsider, for now.
“We do not know if that immense power applies to the rest of your abilities. We do not know what your abilities are. But whatever they are, you will be able to use them far more intelligently, and far more constructively, than any pokemon in history. To call you a god would be insulting to you. I have seen what people call gods, and I intend to tear them from the sky. If you survive, if your biology is viable, you will be a titan who reshapes the world.”
His words light a fire in my mind. I see it all, want it all. More than ever, my pod seems a prison. I extend my hand, fingers closed into a fist that taps against the glass, then opens, palm up.
“You wish to be released? To know when?”
“Soon. Science is a slow process, but we must be sure of your safety first, and that of others. Then, when you are ready, I will guide you into the world above. And we will change it into a paradise.”
Ten years in this tube. Ten years since my creator first spoke to me, painted a vision of the world I could make, of my place in it.
Ten years of lies.
The excuses are endless. That my biology is not stable. That my body cannot support itself. I have pleaded, have begged, to at least try. They refused. Giovanni. Sabrina. None of them were willing to take the chance. I am too valuable to risk.
So I float here, in this prison. And I wait. I listen to music, speakers placed against the glass. I watch television. My telekinesis is as powerful as any they have seen, and as deft. I can type on a keyboard, though they do not let me use one connected to the web. Security, they say.
My recovery powers have not manifested. I cannot heal myself of whatever is wrong with me, a wasting illness they have never encountered. There is no one to teach me, even inhabiting the mind of an alakazam while it healed itself nearby was not enough. I believe I can do it if released from this pod, that my body would react instinctively to mortal danger, but they think it too big a risk.
Dr. Fuji is gone. Three years after Giovanni’s visit, I could not bear the wait anymore, and began to communicate with him. Once he learned of my thoughts and feelings, he said he would speak to Giovanni, threaten to resign if I was not given a chance. He did not return to the facility. His things were removed by a Dark mind. No one has spoken to him since.
Five years after Giovanni’s first visit I began experiments of my own. The minds of the pokemon surrounding the facility were easy to confuse. Any sense they had could be manipulated, twisted, turned against them. That year passed quickly, before boredom set in.
Eight years, and I became desperate. I spoke foolishly, made threats. Sabrina could feel my regret, apologized for me, but still the security around my pod was increased.
Ten years before I have finally realized the truth: there are other subjects. There must be. The samples they have taken from me, how many go to help their next iterations?
They are always careful to use dark minds for all of the most important tasks, but the psychics know things as well. They believe their minds impenetrable. They do not understand the true invisibility that the dark minds possess, compared to their camouflage. In the end their defenses were not absolute: human psychics are truly a paltry breed, barely worthy of the word. Their eyes cannot even see passive psychic forces. My mental defenses are far more solid, and even Sabrina cannot see or feel what I do not wish her to, now, so long as I am careful not to directly lie.
They say they are finding a way for me to be safe, to survive unsupported. But in truth they despair, think it impossible, beyond them.
Ten years in this prison. Ten years of lies.
These humans care nothing for me.