For a long time, I've wanted to write a story that captures the happiness and sadness of nostalgia since I myself am a long time fan and the beginning of the series means more to me than where it is right now. But it's not easy to write something like that, which is why it took me years to get this finished. It's not perfect, I know, but I hope it can engage those of you who have been with Pokémon since the beginning and interest everyone else. :)
The field was empty underneath the dreary, cloudy sky. He hadn’t remembered it being this empty the entire time he had lived in Pallet Town. Even on the coldest nights, aspiring trainers would tramp around the tall grass, making believe that their entire team of Pokémon had been whittled down by the worthy opponent and they were now down to their last resort, usually a Rattata captured with a lucky Poké Ball and labeled a “secret weapon.” Even the Pokémart representative, who had stood out in the beating sun for years, tirelessly peddling Potion after Potion, was gone. But to where? The old Viridian Pokémart had been closed down by a supermarket chain that had engulfed that section of the town at some point. Maybe the poor guy had moved. Maybe he had even died. It had been thirteen years, after all. All that endless sun couldn’t have been good for his skin. People just didn’t know any better back then.
The trainer swallowed, taking one last look at the spacious land, and began walking. It was mostly unfamiliar to him now, but some things were still recognizable from the past. The white picket fences, blocking the massive plains to the east and west, clearly showed their age by sagging and revealing the slightly rotted wood beneath the paint, but they still stood. The natural ledges, dropping the ground lower and lower until reaching the town, had yet to soften under the weight of time. He now stood over one, looking down at the surprisingly large drop. When he was a kid, it was nothing to ride his bike off the edge and stick the landing without even slowing down. Now, however, he wasn’t even sure he could climb down without slipping and hurting himself. He sighed and walked around until he found a shorter hop that he could manage.
As soon as his old tennis shoes hit the ground, a sharp rustling quivered in the thick grass to his right. His gloved hand instinctively fell to his waist, where he ran his fingers over the six dirty, dull Poké Balls clipped to his belt. He knew it wouldn’t be much of a challenge, but it was exciting to think that he was going to battle a Pokémon from the same cut as the ones he had chased with rocks and sticks many years ago. Seconds went by, and nothing happened. A full minute eventually passed and he grudgingly accepted that it had only been the wind.
The rest of the walk was uneventful, a fact that displeased him greatly. Where was everyone? He had pulled over many passing trainers in his childhood. The thought of hearing actual stories from the road beat out any appeal of pretending to be cornered by a herd of Tauros with nothing but a Zapdos (in reality, a Pidgey) and battling wits to save oneself. That wasn’t the case now. Even the pretend games seemed to have lost their appeal around this place, if the silence was any indication. Truth be told, he was a little disappointed that he didn’t get to share his experiences. It certainly wasn’t what made him leave, but knowing that someday the weathered young man and innocent little boy roles would be reversed crossed his mind more than once when he was just starting out.
He now stared at something he had seen hundreds, maybe thousands of times before.
“Pallet Town! The shades of your journey await!”
He knew that the sign had said that at one time, but it was difficult to read it now between the graffiti and the wear and tear of the elements. He touched it, dragging his hand over the coarse surface and scanning the left half. There it was. His name, written in messy handwriting with a permanent marker he had taken from his computer desk. He also spotted the names of a few of his buddies. In fact, he recognized almost all of the names. They were all kids around his age, some slightly older and maybe a few a couple years younger. But that was all, other than a few newer curse words. He looked at these with sadness. This was a trainer’s wall, not a place for obscenities to be scribbled down by children lacking dreams.
He walked away, finally entering his hometown through the same familiar footpath that had led to many of his summer adventures. At least, he thought with a small amount of relief, the town hadn’t been paved over and modernized. It was still, for the most part, a small town sleeping in the countryside. However, it was much quieter than ever before. He didn’t know why he was still surprised to see no kids running around with tennis balls, throwing them at each other while yelling commands to their imaginary Pokémon, but he was. And it hurt.
His first stop was his house. He hadn’t seen it since the one time he returned after conquering the Pokémon League. He was sure his mother would have left his room exactly the way it had been, including the dust. She was never one for cleaning.
Caroline Barnes, your local real estate agent.
“Let me help you start your own adventure… one with a fireplace!”
Painted directly to the left of her name, Ms. Barnes smiled from the plastic lawn sign as if nothing at all was wrong. As if the mere presence of her face wasn’t itself an atrocity. As if the centerpiece of his childhood wasn’t being handed off to some anonymous strangers. Not only that, the place was decaying. The grungy windows were cracked and one even had a hole in it, which gave a clear view into the dark, musky interior. The white paint, which he and his mother had put on together during one summer, was peeling at every edge and corner. It appeared that some citizens had taken it upon themselves to fill in the unpainted spots with graffiti, he thought bitterly. He couldn’t even read what was written. What he assumed were letters were just meaningless shapes through his eyes.
He grabbed the cracked doorknob and found it to be locked. He wondered what to do next until he remembered the key he had hidden away. His mother never knew about it – she just thought she had lost a key and used one of her spares – so he was confident that she wouldn’t have taken it when she left.
It was still there, lying inconspicuously on the top of the door’s outset wooden border. He pulled it down and quickly let himself in. Before he saw anything, he smelled a putrid odor. It was the scent of time, pressing down upon every surface within the house as it had been for many years. He suddenly realized just how long the house had been empty. His mother must have moved out shortly after he left and the place had been dying since then. The smell left him physically cringing but the sight of the single downstairs room left much more of an impact.
It was the first time he had seen it this bare in his entire life. Admittedly, there had never been much, but the few pieces made a whole home, one which had evidently dissolved when he had his back turned. The large, condensation ring-stained table, at which he and his mother had talked every morning before he left to play or go to school and every night after he returned, dirty and tired, was gone. The sink and cabinet, where he had been forced to wash his hands and gloves every evening, was also gone, ripped from the wall and leaving an unpleasant looking blank space. One thing in the room remained. The old television set, rabbit ears and all, sat on the wooden floor. Its screen was cracked and the knobs had fallen off but it was the most stable remaining piece of his past remaining within the house. Of course, it didn’t work anymore. It had seen the last of its train tracks days.
He left the building without going upstairs. He was desperately curious to see what his room was like now, but he thought it best that he only imagine the stark emptiness that would surely be its only remaining inhabitant. Besides, he wouldn’t be able to focus anyway. His vision was starting to blur.
He saw the empty space next door and vaguely recalled a house standing there once. A house much nicer than his own, with nice-looking people and a mean little boy. Where was that boy? Last he heard, that boy was doing great things. He must have changed from the snobby child he had been. The trainer didn’t articulate all of this in his mind. He just knew he’d give anything to get that bratty kid back to the way he remembered him.
He’d give anything.
He had one last stop. A place he had to visit. He had only been there once, maybe twice in his entire lifetime and those times coincided with the day he left Pallet Town. It was a large building, not far from his house, filled with very important people doing very important things who, of course, never allowed him inside.
So he walked, not seeing a soul, until he was standing at the door of the famous Oak Laboratory. He didn’t know how to react as he stared at the dirty, laminated piece of paper tacked onto the wood.
“Daisy Oak Pokémon Research Center relocated to Celadon City.”
It then gave an address.
Daisy. She wasn’t the one who had called him over. She wasn’t the one who had stopped him in the grass before he got hurt. She had helped him on his journey, he vaguely remembered, but in a very small way. No, she was the granddaughter, not the researcher. But where had her grandfather gone? He could have retired. He could have moved away. Maybe he even died. It had been thirteen years, after all. But he couldn’t have died. People like that didn’t die.
He sat on the ground and leaned against the door, placing his forehead on his knees. What had he been working for? Why had he traveled and made friends and trained fiercely to beat his enemies? What was the point of collecting those badges? Why had he helped every single person on the road who had needed his help? He had solved his own problems so why couldn’t they?
He thought about the warden of the Safari Zone who had lost his golden teeth. Of course, who had to find them?
The boy rolled his eyes and sniffed. Did he really touch those things? They were used dentures. He suddenly had the urge to wash his hands. He stood up, hitting the door with his fist, and strolled towards the ocean. He didn’t really plan on scrubbing the years-old germs off. He just wanted to see the water again.
When he arrived at the shore, he squinted and peered into the distance. Were there any swimmers out there? None could be seen, which didn’t surprise him. All that water made his tongue itch, though.
He then remembered the guard to Saffron City who refused him entry because he “sure was thirsty!”, like that affected his ability to do his job. Still, the boy had played along and bought the man a soda pop. It was the most expensive thing in the vending machine but he didn’t want to take a chance of that man refusing him entrance.
He grinned and thought to himself that that guy probably would have died from thirst since he’d never be willing to get his own drink.
The worst, though, was Bill. He was supposedly a genius but that didn’t stop him from switching bodies with a Pokémon. The guard’s death was questionable, but Bill would have undoubtedly died, or at least been captured by some overzealous kid showing off for his girlfriend, if someone hadn’t come along to help. When the trainer had walked through the door, he was still at a point in his career when he was surprised to be the only source of aid to some random individual. And, of course, a Clefairy suddenly talking to him in that nasally voice didn’t help to ease the shock.
The trainer laughed. He wasn’t sure it had been him at first but who else would be laughing in this barren place?
At least, he thought with a twinkle in his eye, Bill had been decent enough to reward him with a ticket to the S.S. Anne. That boat was probably his favorite memory from the journey. That was the first time he really saw just how big and diverse the world was. He was a little embarrassed as he remembered how rude he was, barging into literally every room without so much as a knock, but it was worth it. He had met a secret policeman, a bunch of rich families, and one really sick captain. The boy actually rubbed his back while the man leaned over the trash can, which by this point was filled to the brim. It made him sick to think about it.
He had been seriously mad when the ship set sail the moment he stepped onto the dock, but looking back, he was alright with the way things had turned out. It hadn’t been a perfect journey, and looking around he guessed that it was basically over, but he concluded that it had been worth whatever hardships he had to face.
He would never have believed it when he was battling that powerful creature within Cerulean Cave or tramping through the abandoned Power Plant because of his own curiosity, but, if Pallet Town could be used as a meter, Pokémon training had probably just been a fad. One hell of a fad, but a fad nonetheless. He knew that now. Fads die, and this was no exception. It could be back, though. Fads tend to circle. But for now, he was one of the last remaining trainers. But he had been there during the peak of the Pokémon era, battling alongside the greatest. And he supposed he could live with that.