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The boy has yellow hair, fluffy as a newly-hatched Pidgey, and he’s
staring at the sky. “Hey kid,” Zenna says, “you need to get
inside. Storm’s a-coming.”
He doesn’t turn his head; he says, “I’ve lost my baby,” while
still scanning the low-hanging sky. The corners of his mouth quaver.
Fuck. Zenna’s terrible with children; she never knows how to stop
them from crying. Pokemon are so much easier.
“Your starter?” Zenna says: the boy looks about ten. Maybe. It’s
hard to say. Locktown is a city built on crumbling industry, gouged
by poverty, crouched in the shadows of the Zapdos Mountains – which
jag up from the earth like the spine of a starved beast. It’s a hard
land, and it’s inhabitants are hungry more often than not. This
little one has sharp collarbones and pointed cheeks. Zenna pulls a
chocolate bar from her pocket, unwraps it slowly.
At the crinkle, the boy’s head snaps around. His eyes are huge. “My
baby,” he says again, “my Fearow.”
“Your –” his what.
Fearows are savage bastards at the best of times, too much for all
but the most hardy of trainers – more trouble than they’re worth
half the time. “Your Fearow,” she says. The boy nods. He’s
staring at the chocolate bar. Zenna throws it over. He fumbles the
catch, snatches it up from the ground, doesn’t bother to brush the
dirt off before cramming it in his mouth.
“Baby,” he says, “'cos Mama
didn’t have any but me and she used to call me her Baby but she’s
gone now so I’m the grown-up and he’s the Baby, see? He’s mine, he’s
flown off, it’s the storm, you know?”
“You should get inside,” Zenna
says, as the wind starts up. It’s bitter and spangled with ice.
“Where do you live?”
“Uh – “ the boy says, “uh,
see, there was Mama’s house only last week our landlord finally
realised that we weren’t paying rent anymore and kicked us out –
Baby would have stuck up for me but it isn’t worth it to fight them,
no one can fight them, Giovanni would –” and his voice cuts off.
He wipes a patina of snot on the back of his hand. “Mama always
said to trust in my instincts so I did, I ran and I took Baby and ran
and now I’m – I’m sleeping here,” and with one waved hand he
encompasses their surroundings: wind-blasted fields, tumbledown
factors, the wreckage of a once-prosporous town.
“You’re sleeping rough?”
“Yeah. Mama says – said –
trust my instincts and they’re saying not to go back to Locktown.”
“It’s a dangerous place. Here, why
don’t I help you find Baby?”
“Would you?” The kid’s face
lights up. “Thanks miss!”
“Call me Zenna,” says Zenna,
“Zenna Embers. Here,” and she throws a Pokeball. Her Charizard,
Candela (named for her baby sister; they have the same irascible, demanding temperament; it seems only right), emerges in a flare of white light: the boy coos in
admiration, and Zenna resists the temptation to preen. “Right
Inferno! We’re looking for a Fearow –”
It all happens very quickly after
that. A mighty roar of thunder shakes the earth. Lightning rends the
sky apart with greedy, crooked fingers. Thunder answers the
lightning, lightning answers the thunder, and in a heartbeat Zenna is
in the middle of the worst storm she has ever known. Rain pounds down
like the fists of a vengeful god, cold and punishing. Candela lifts
his wings, intending to shelter her; but all this rain is worse for
him, so she recalls him and screams, “Kid!” over the howl of the
wind. “We’ve got to get to shelter! We’ve – “
Words snatched from her throat. The
boy stands in a corona of light so bright it hurts to look at. There
is a Zapdos on his shoulders. Its wings are arced over his head,
shielding him from the downpour; the rain fizzles into steam against
the lightning of its feathers.
And just like that the storm clears.
Heavy grey clouds peel back to reveal the brilliance of a blue sky.
And the kid says, “Baby! You worried me.”
The Zapdos – the Zapdos, god
of lightning and god of the mountains and and and – nuzzles
his head. He laughs in delight. “This is my friend,” he says,
“Zenna,” and Zenna can barely breathe as the – god of
thunder and bird of light and power and – regards
her with two ferocious eyes. She resists the temptation to knee; it’s
a primal, absurdist notion; but she’s faced with a myth,
an actual honest-to-gods myth.
“That’s not a Fearow – it’s a
Zapdos “ she says.
“Of course it’s a Fearow,” the boy
chirrups, “got the pointy feathers and everything. Thought you were a trainer, you should know that sort of thing.”
“Uh,” says Zenna.
“Oh, where are my manners?” the
boy continues, grinning and petting the Zapdos’s chest. “My name’s
Spark. Nice to meet you!”