Re: Communication (PG-13)
As Solonn followed Jal’tai, he found the tall grass that had surrounded him thinning, eventually disappearing from his surroundings altogether. Conversely, the trees were becoming more plentiful as he continued westward, increasing in number and density until Solonn found himself led into a true forest—and a bit of inconvenience.
“Jal’tai! Wait!” Solonn shouted. Jal’tai’s speed had decreased even further due to the fact that the surrounding trees left him little room to fly, forcing him to walk. Solonn would have had no problem keeping up with him if it weren’t for the fact that the trees provided an even greater impediment to him than they did to the swellow. Solonn was forced to pick his way between those trees that grew far enough apart to admit his considerable girth.
Jal’tai halted and turned. There was a smile playing about his eyes that suggested that he was holding back an urge to laugh. “I apologize on the trees’ behalf,” he said, the tiniest of chuckles managing to break through.
Solonn gave Jal’tai a dull glare, then resumed making his rather difficult way amidst the trees. “I do hope that this ‘city’ of yours isn’t so—” He broke into a loud snarl as a branch on one of the trees between which he was squeezing swatted him just below his left eye. “—infested with trees…”
“Oh heavens, no. The forest had to be cleared in that area before the city could be built—a necessary evil, I’m afraid, but I daresay that’s it’s come to give more to the area than it’s taken. Anyway, you’ll not have to suffer the vegetation much longer. We’re nearly there.”
This came as a surprise to Solonn; from what he could see, the only thing that they were drawing closer to was another several acres of dense forest. Managing at last to follow closely behind Jal’tai once more after coming across a fair number of trees in his path that had all grown far enough apart to allow him to pass through with ease, Solonn began casting glances about for signs that they were indeed nearing Jal’tai’s city, but still saw nothing but trees surrounding him.
“Halt!” two voices suddenly shouted in unison. In nearly the same instant, the owners of those voices, a pair of stantler, jumped out before Solonn and Jal’tai from behind two of the trees, landing gracefully on dainty hooves. They glared at Solonn and Jal’tai for a moment, lowering their golden antlers menacingly—then, abruptly, the stantler both raised their heads and took a step back, wearing alarmed expressions.
“Oh! We… we didn’t realize it was you!” one of the stantler said.
“We’re so sorry… really, we are… very sorry…” the other one babbled.
“Well, that is why it’s wise to always look before you leap, now isn’t it?” Jal’tai said pleasantly.
The two stantler nodded rather neurotically. “Can… can you forgive us?” one of them asked.
Jal’tai gave a chuckle and a dismissive wave of his wing. “Oh, of course, of course,” he said. “No harm done at all. Now, why don’t you fellows let us in and then see about having someone else finish your shifts, all right? It doesn’t do to work too long; it’s absolutely murder on the nerves, as we’ve seen displayed here quite clearly.”
“Yes, yes, of course…” one of the stantler muttered, nodding vigorously once again. His eyes then traveled from Jal’tai to Solonn, and the other stantler’s gaze followed. It was as though they had actually not noticed the large glalie hovering there up to that point.
“Yes, he’s with me. You know I wouldn’t let just any of them in,” Jal’tai said.
Both stantler seemed to have one last moment’s hesitation. Then they both gave a quick nod and stepped aside.
“Thank you kindly,” Jal’tai said warmly, bowing his head as he passed between the two guards. “Right this way,” he said to Solonn, beckoning with his wing. “It’s right through here.”
“Where?” Solonn asked as he moved forward alongside Jal’tai. “I don’t see—”
The glalie was instantly stricken silent by the sight that had spontaneously appeared then. All at once, the endless forest before him was replaced by a view of a thoroughly modern city. There was no canopy of leaves to obstruct the sky above, for the trees’ presence was relegated to neat rows lining the streets and the occasional one growing in someone’s yard. A few of the inhabitants of the city, varying in species, could be seen strolling on the sidewalks or milling about in the lawns or on street corners. Every now and then, a vehicle cruised up or down one of the visible streets at a casual pace.
Still rather mesmerized by the city that had just appeared before him out of thin air, Solonn was a bit startled by the wing that clapped him heartily on the back then. His gaze shifted to the swellow beside him, who was smiling warmly in the fashion of his kind, the look in his eyes positively radiating pride.
“Welcome, my friend,” Jal’tai said with much grandeur, spreading his wings wide, “to Convergence, the city of a better future! Isn’t it magnificent?”
“Well…” Solonn began a bit awkwardly, furrowing his brow in an expression of uncertainty. The city of Convergence had certainly made an entrance that had impressed him, but beyond that… The fact of the matter was that the city might have come closer to being “magnificent” in his eyes if it hadn’t seemed so familiar. Solonn had gazed out the window upon a view of Lilycove on enough occasions to know a human-style city when he saw one. “It’s certainly… er, doing well for itself, and I guess that’s nice, but… Jal’tai, I thought you said this wasn’t a human city…”
The swellow chuckled. “Yes, I most certainly did. And on closer inspection, you might realize that indeed, just as I stated, this is not a human city. Or do you not see the abundance of pokémon about?”
“What of it? Pokémon live in human cities, too,” Solonn pointed out.
“True, true… but there remains a very significant difference between those cities and this one. Why, look over there,” Jal’tai said, gesturing with his wing toward a truck that had stopped at a traffic light some distance before them. Its driver was large and hairy—and an ursaring. The light turned green, and the truck went on the move again, heading their way. Solonn could hear country music issuing from the vehicle’s sound system; the bear was nodding her head and growling faintly along with the song.
“Now, there’s something you won’t see in a mere human city,” Jal’tai said.
The ursaring driver rounded a corner, pulled into a driveway, and exited her vehicle. As she did so, she turned and spotted Jal’tai and Solonn. Her eyes widened, and she waved vigorously. “Hi!” she half-roared cheerfully from across the street.
“Good day to you, madam!” Jal’tai returned, waving back at her. “I might also add that Ms. Olcarion actually owns that lovely house,” he then informed Solonn. “As a matter of fact, all of those homes are owned by pokémon,” he said, indicating the three houses to the right of the ursaring’s home. “Independent pokémon, Solonn. Do you realize the significance of that?”
Without waiting for Solonn to answer, he continued. “In human cities, pokémon are second-class citizens—if even that.” His features gave a brief flash of disgust. “But here, pokémon are afforded the same rights and opportunities as humans. They may own properties like those the humans own. They may learn to operate the vehicles invented by humans if they so wish. Our academy offers them the same education that humans receive and training for those who wish to enter occupations that elsewhere may only be held by humans.
“This is a community with no parallel in the world today, one in which pokémon and humans are truly able to live and work as equals. Do you see now what makes Convergence great?”
Solonn nodded vaguely, still absorbing the information Jal’tai had just imparted upon him. He had not realized that pokémon were such non-entities in human society. True, pokémon were taken from their homes and made to live in human custody, but judging by his experience with Morgan, he had not found himself or any of her other pokémon treated poorly… Solonn realized that if what Jal’tai said was true, then he had been quite fortunate indeed to have been taken in by Morgan and not by one of the apparent, inconsiderate majority of humans.
“Now, then,” Jal’tai said crisply. “I’m feeling rather in the mood for lunch of a sudden… How about you?”
Solonn made to answer Jal’tai, but his stomach beat him to it.
“Ah, right then,” Jal’tai said. “We’ll go to Whitley’s; it’s to die for…”
The swellow led Solonn deeper into Convergence, heading toward the center of town. Along the way, Solonn spotted more of the city’s residents out and about. They were mostly pokémon, some of which were in the possession of and process of using what he figured were devices made by humans, such as the very noisy leaf blower being operated by an electabuzz at the curb in front of one of the houses.
Solonn also spotted a couple of humans as he continued through the city after Jal’tai—literally a “couple”; he saw only two of them and they were together. It seemed that the pokémon outnumbered the humans here. From what he could glean at a glance, though, Solonn thought that the two humans both looked quite happy to be living here. They were neither goggling nor blatantly avoiding looking at the pokémon citizens; it seemed that they found nothing strange about the notion of pokémon living right alongside them, which Solonn found to be a relief in the wake of what Jal’tai had told him.
At last, Solonn and Jal’tai arrived at Whitley’s. The restaurant was a large, country-styled building situated at the end of a fairly sizable parking lot that presently had most of its spaces unoccupied. Above its entrance, a sign bore the image of an elderly, goateed man’s smiling face, along with the words “Whitley’s Family Restaurant” spelled out beside the portrait—twice. It was written once in what Solonn recognized from his time with Morgan to be human writing and once in a curious, unfamiliar script that seemed to be made up of eyes. Each character was formed by one of these large, round “eyes”, with the letters differentiated by bars that radiated from them in varying shapes and at varying angles.
Solonn had found himself able at once to read the other form of writing just as he had been whenever he’d seen human writing before then, so it didn’t surprise him much to find the second script instantly understandable, as well. However, there was more to his comprehension of the eyed letters than mere literacy, and he recognized this immediately. Puzzled, he brought the matter up with Jal’tai.
“That second kind of writing, there on that sign… there’s something about it… I don’t know how to explain it except that it just feels different to read… more natural, somehow.”
“Ah. I suppose you’ve never seen unown-script before.” Jal’tai smiled. “Well, Mr. Zgil-Al, there is reason why it feels natural to read. It is our written language, the script of pokémon. Allow me to explain. The unown are a race of pokémon who are credited as the ones responsible for eradicating many of the communication barriers between the peoples of the world. Many pokémon, myself included, believe that it was they who blessed the differing races of pokémon with the ability to understand both one another’s languages and the spoken languages of humans. But for some reason, their blessing failed to touch humans, leaving them unable to understand pokémon speech.
“The unown tried to solve the problem through the creation of a universal written language, a process so demanding that it apparently forced them to evolve to that specific end. They developed special written characters that they infused with a mystic quality meant to render them instantly comprehensible to both pokémon and humans alike. And it worked, too, at least under some circumstances; with it, pokémon have been able to convey messages to humans that they could otherwise never receive. Sadly, the script failed to catch on—perhaps the cultures that used it were conquered or decimated by humans who trained pokémon to fight for them rather than communicating and living in harmony with them,” the swellow added, bitterness seeping into his tone.
“Anyhow,” he finished, “though the script fell short of a perfect solution, it was successful enough for us to see fit to celebrate and honor the unown and their tremendous efforts toward interspecies understanding by using unown-script as a sort of official ‘language’ of our city. All citizens are required to memorize all of its symbols, humans and pokémon alike.”
Solonn took another look at the sign and its message in unown-script, intrigued and quite impressed. It was an incredible notion to him, that of an entire species literally transforming itself in the name of promoting universal communication. He wondered what it might be like to actually encounter one of them, what things that could be learned from such creatures—especially by one such as himself, who had his own relationship with the concept of universal communication…
His eyes widened. Wait…
“Tell me, Mr. Zgil-Al,” Jal’tai spoke up crisply then, interrupting Solonn’s reverie almost as soon as it had begun, “when you mentioned that unown-script felt ‘different to read’… did you mean as compared to human writing? I have always hoped to meet another who is human-literate just as I am.”
Solonn just barely managed to suppress an urge to let his jaw drop wide open. Stupid! he scolded himself silently. He fumbled internally for a means to repair any possible damage done. “Oh… no, I can’t read that,” he finally said, his words tumbling out a bit more quickly than he’d intended. “I just guessed that it said the same thing that it said below in the unown-script.”
“Hmm…” the swellow responded, sounding perhaps not quite as crestfallen as he felt. “Well, perhaps if you’re interested, I could teach you to read human-script sometime, hmm? In the meantime… I daresay we’ve tarried here outside for quite long enough,” he then said. “Why wait a moment longer when food’s right inside, right? Come on, then!”
Last edited by Sike Saner; 10-18-2011 at 08:51 PM.