Chapter 7 – One on One
Esaax stared at the creature who had just stepped out into the corridor. The newcomer stood on two legs and had chin-length, reddish-brown hair. He wore human clothing, which in and of itself wasn’t terribly remarkable; Esaax had seen the occasional pokémon wear human-style clothing before, both prior to and after the Extinction. What had taken such a strong hold of Esaax’s attention was the fact that it really looked as though this wasn’t just another instance of a pokémon dressing like a human…
Esaax shook his head, dismissing that possibility as well as he could. There’s no way,
he told himself silently. It has to be a trick of some kind. Like a disguise or something…
“Sir… don’t you have an assembly to address?” Solonn asked of the newcomer.
“Nope, not this time. I’ve decided to put my new office to work and devote tonight to one on one sessions,” the newcomer replied perkily. There was something strange about his voice; it sounded slightly unnatural somehow, as though he were performing a less-than-perfect impression of another person. “Don’t worry, though. Cain’ll cover for me. He can run the show this time instead of just playing second fiddle. The experience oughtta do him some good.”
It was then that he noticed Esaax. His eyes widened, and he smiled, but there was an odd, masklike quality to his face that made the expression seem a little off. “Hey, there! Haven’t seen you around here before!” He offered his hand to the wobbuffet; Esaax took it after a moment’s hesitation, and was given a vigorous handshake with a surprisingly strong grip. “The name’s Sylvester DeLeo, and I’m the president and founder of this fine establishment. And you are…?”
“…Esaax” the wobbuffet replied.
“Glad to make your acquaintance, Esaax,” DeLeo said, still smiling. “Say… do you mind if I ask you a quick question?”
“Uh… No, I guess not,” Esaax responded.
“Okay, then. Tell me, what clan are you from?” DeLeo asked.
“Evergray,” Esaax answered, vaguely wondering why DeLeo wanted to know such a thing.
“Ah.” DeLeo straightened his posture. “All right, Esaax, if you’ll just follow me, I’ll take you to my private counseling office,” he said, gesturing toward the room off to the side from whence he’d come.
Esaax stared at the doors in uncertainty for a moment. He looked toward where Solonn had been hovering and found that the glalie had excused himself, taking his knowledge of how to get to the adult assembly with him. “Could I still go to the assembly?” he asked of DeLeo.
“Well, you could,” DeLeo said, “but you’ve already missed a good chunk of it. If you come with me we can take it from the top. Not only that, but your concerns—what you
need—could be addressed more directly this way. Seeing as how you’re a first-timer here, I think you’d definitely benefit more from that than from walking in on a meeting that’s not only half-over but is also really geared more toward helping people out with more generalized problems.”
That seemed to make enough sense, at least as far as Esaax was concerned. The idea of going to a meeting and possibly not being able to understand what in the world the people there were talking about didn’t appeal to him at all; he was dealing with enough confusion as it was. “Okay,” Esaax said, allowing DeLeo to lead him into the private counseling office.
DeLeo took a seat behind a desk at the far end of the rather small room, then gestured toward a trio of chairs in differing styles and sizes that were lined up against the wall to Esaax’s right. Esaax regarded them for a couple of moments but then shook his head, indicating that he’d rather just stand.
Esaax had now fully emerged from the tranquilizing haze that had enveloped him, but his amnesia still remained. He was so preoccupied in his search for his missing memories that it was quite difficult to pay unbroken attention to anything going on externally; as such, he didn’t notice right away when the office became significantly darker. He cast a glance up at the now quite dim lights above him, then turned his sights back toward DeLeo.
“Thought you’d be a bit more comfortable this way,” DeLeo explained. “I know wobbuffet aren’t too keen on bright light.” He folded his hands on the desk before him. “So. Before we begin, I’m curious: how’d you discover us, Esaax?” he asked. “Did a friend tell you about us?”
A friend? Esaax didn’t exactly know
Jen, per se, but he nonetheless responded with, “Yeah.”
“Well, I’m glad you took your friend’s advice. You did the right thing coming here, Esaax. I promise you: we’re gonna help you out, no matter what it takes, okay? Now, the first thing you’ve gotta do, though, is you need to tell me exactly what’s wrong.”
I wanna know!
Esaax thought desperately, still struggling to regain his memory and perhaps thereby also gain some clue as to what he was even doing in this strange place. He remained silent, staring at DeLeo with a very troubled look.
“It’s okay, Esaax,” DeLeo assured him. “You can trust me. Anything you tell me will remain strictly confidential. So you can just go right on ahead and let me know what’s troubling you.”
Esaax would have gladly let it all out if only he’d known what “it” was. Once again, he strained his mind for the answer, doubting that his efforts would yield any success.
But then DeLeo provided the answer for him: “You’ve lost someone who meant a lot to you, haven’t you?”
Esaax felt his heart seem to stop for a moment, his breath catching halfway up his throat, as the last mind-blocking remnants of his trance shattered into nothingness. His full memory returned with a brutal suddenness, the sorrows that it carried revealed anew. Such stark lucidity following such a thick mental fog was painful for him, and he couldn’t help crying out.
“That’s right,” DeLeo said soothingly. “Just let it all out.” He noticed that Esaax was beginning to pitch and sway on the spot as if his spine were turning to rubber. DeLeo stood and managed to pull up a chair for Esaax just in time for the wobbuffet to collapse into it.
DeLeo then returned to his seat. “You’ve got something in common with just about everyone who’s come here, you know. Just like you, they’re also mourning people they loved—particularly their lost human friends. I know you’re gonna have no problem finding people here who can relate to your suffering.”
“No one can do that,” Esaax croaked, his eyes suddenly overflowing with tears. “They can’t possibly understand how I let her—how I let both
of them down. How I failed them.” He turned away in shame. “They died because of me,” he whispered.
“Oh, Esaax, no. You know better than that,” DeLeo said consolingly. “It wasn’t your fault
“But maybe it was!” Esaax interrupted. “I… I don’t know. Look, there’s something you don’t know about me. I know it’s gonna sound crazy, but… there’s something strange inside me. I don’t know what it is, but… it can heal people. I just know
it can. It could even stop them from dying
, but I just don’t understand it enough to know how…”
As Esaax spoke, he stared into the “eyes” of his own tail, gazing into their reddish-black blankness as if he could find the long-sought understanding of his own internal mysteries there. He finally closed both his eyes and his oculons in despair.
“Both times, I didn’t really think very much about doing it, if at all,” Esaax said in a low, cracking voice. “I just tried, and I failed
. First Jessie, all those years ago. And then Faurur, just today! If I’m still not good enough to save the people I care about after all this time, then I never will be…”
Esaax fell silent then, but DeLeo gave no immediate response to what he’d said. DeLeo’s face had taken on what was as close to a somber expression as it seemed capable of, and his gaze was cast downward.
“You know,” DeLeo said quietly after a couple of moments, meeting Esaax’s gaze once more, “you really shouldn’t give up on your talents just yet. And that’s not the only thing you shouldn’t give up on, either. You probably believe, like most people do, that humans are totally extinct. Just gone from the world forever. But what if I were to tell you—” He leaned over the desk toward Esaax for effect. “—that we’re not?”
“…‘We’?” The voice of one of the Evergray elders, reciting one of her favorite sayings, rang out in his memory: “A fool fears he is wrong—a wise man fears he is
Esaax had been regarding what his eyes had been telling him about DeLeo with skepticism, but now all those doubts were stepping aside, for DeLeo’s last three words had been spoken in a human language
Pointing a shaking hand at DeLeo and sounding much more accusatory than he’d intended, he blurted, “You’re—”
“Human,” DeLeo finished, continuing to use that human language. “Yep, that’s right. But I’ll bet you suspected it right from the start, though, didn’t you?”
Esaax was almost completely overwhelmed by what the situation was giving him. There had to be some flaw about this creature, Esaax’s mind insisted, something to prove that he was not
human, because he couldn’t
be—especially, he felt, not when certain other humans had not been allowed to continue existing…
When Esaax managed to come up with potential evidence that DeLeo was not what he claimed, he pursued it right away. “You can understand me,” he said. “And the glalie. Humans can’t do that.” Something else dawned on him, as well. “And you’ve been speaking our languages
!” He wondered how in the world he had not realized it sooner. “How? You can’t…” he spluttered.
“It’s true,” DeLeo said. “All my life, I’ve been able to talk to pokémon just like they do amongst themselves. Now I’m using that gift to help pokémon deal with their loss.” Even now, speaking in the language of his own kind, there was a definite, unplaceable wrongness about DeLeo’s voice. “I think that might just be the reason why I was spared,” he said solemnly, “though I still don’t have any idea as to how
I was spared. Still… the fact that I was spared gives me hope—hope that I’m not the only one and that maybe… well, maybe those who were lost don’t have to stay
DeLeo opened a drawer in his desk then, and he began rummaging through its contents. “That’s the real reason why I founded the Hope Institute,” he said. “Not just for the pokémon who were left behind by the plague but for the humans
, too. We’re trying to find other survivors so we can help protect both them and any future generations of humanity… and we’re also trying to find ways to bring back
the ones who didn’t survive.
“And that’s why I’m offering you this.” DeLeo pulled a small, white box out from the drawer. From within it, he brought out a syringe, which he proceeded to fill with a pale blue fluid.
Esaax swallowed against the anxiety that built up in his throat at the sight of the needle. “What is that?” he asked nervously.
“It’s a serum we’ve developed for pokémon who have abilities or powers that have been compromised or are just plain missing altogether due to birth defects, illness, elemental disruption, or any of a whole bunch of other causes. It restores those abilities and powers.”
Esaax’s eyes widened. “Then… you mean, it could strengthen me… and strengthen my power… so that it’s not too weak anymore? So that it could be there for me when I need it, and… and I could finally, really
help people? And never let anyone down again?”
“Maybe,” DeLeo responded. “I’ve gotta warn you, though: the serum is untested…”
“Then you can test it on me,” Esaax said hoarsely but firmly.
DeLeo nodded and took Esaax’s arm. Seconds later, the serum was coursing through Esaax’s veins, while a single, silent vow repeated again and again behind the wobbuffet’s eyes: Never let anyone down again…
Next time: Esaax faces a new challenge. Meanwhile, the long quest of another finally approaches its end. See you then!
- Sike Saner