Well, this is depressing. I must warn you, if you cry easily, you should definitely read this fic. Er, yup. I just wrote this this evening - I was reading Ray Bradbury's short stories, and this just flowed out of me and wouldn't stop. It's sad, and hopefully a little beautiful. Does it strike a chord with you? Feedback on this is appreciated greatly.

Crushed

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up, come on now, step right up, this is for sure something you haven't seen before, what is it, it's fantastic that's what it is, go on, you know you're curious, it's a beast unlike any you've seen before, and you know you're gonna love it, come on, step right up, just tuppence for a peek, six if you want in for a nosey, come on, come on, she ain't gonna be here all week, you know, we're off to Saffron in a day or two, don't let it go by without taking a look, you'll never see her again and you'll spend your whole life wondering what she was, tuppence a peek, you don't use tuppence here, well that's just too bad, I wonder where we've ended up, Lucy, huh?


The words blur together impossibly, sinking and twisting, tormenting her by tumbling around her skull like a pair of unskilled clowns, beating a tattoo on the inside of her head. They're not even words anymore, although she knows what they mean. She's just given up on listening to them, because they never cease to repeat themselves. All so similar, no matter where she goes. It's a horrible world, and one that doesn't take kindly to freaks. Perhaps some day the words will change, but she doesn't think so. All she can do is lie in the filthy, stinking hay she's been supplied with and watch with fevered eyes as eyes watch back. Someday, it might change, but she knows exactly what that change will be. One day, she will slip away from life, leaving behind only her empty, bruised, battered body, emaciated and tormented as it surely will still be, and speed away from the world on wings made of her soul.

Ooh, yes, she's a Pokemon all right, but what kind of freak, what kind of accident gave birth to this monstrosity, she's nothing like you'll ever see, sirrah, I beg you, step inside and take a peek, I can guarantee it will repel you, step right up, step right up, just a copper peso a look, no, no pesos, well, maybe you've got rupees, I don't know, but one, just one coin in the basket gives you a look, she's a strange one, this.

It never gets any easier. Every day, every night, disintegrating into a fractured jigsaw puzzle of beautiful agony and disgusting ignorance. It's been like this for . . . how long? Too long to say. Months and years mean as little as day or night, less. Her mind refuses to bend to her will, her will refusing to submit to her body, her body ignoring the impulses that shock through her from time to time. Hope comes rarely, stealing in on the backs of fevered delusions to turn somersaults about her head before jackknifing away just as suddenly, leaving behind only a shaking, tentative peak of the mood as it goes.

Now, it beats me, for sure, as to what exactly she is, but personally, I think she's a witch's familiar, well, a failed one, perhaps an experiment in black magic that went wrong, no sir, don't worry, she's not going to magic you, no no no, just step right up and take a peek, one coin gets a look through the flap, four buys you a step inside for a closer look, doesn't that sound neat, your kids will love to see this, especially the boys, I mean, have you ever seen a Pokemon like this, didn't think so, what do you mean, you haven't seen her yet, well, put a coin in the basket and see for yourself!

Trying to see, trying to hear, all are devoid of reward, for she knows that all she will see is the red fabric, as torn and tattered around the edges as she is, all she will hear is the words of the man, the man who holds her and refuses to give her freedom back. For once she was free . . . ah, listen to her. She's fantasising again, poor thing, remembering the days when she was able to do as she wished. Those days are long gone now, and it only hurts to revisit them, yet she cannot help herself. They are upstanding in her mind as reminders that there is a world beyond her walls, her iron prison of faded red satin. The agony is almost physical when she casts her mind back to those times, for such is the power of her longing, her lust for the sunlight. Even though when she was free, the sun was an antagonistic force, something to generally be avoided, she now misses it with a depth of suffering that is unfathomable even to her. If she allows herself to step into that abyss, she will lose herself. Yet at the same time, a morbid, abject fascination with that bottomless chasm pervades her being, causing her to continually peer over the edge, seeking answers to questions she cannot even begin to ask.

Come on, come on, she's a rare wonder, this, no beauty for sure, but none of us are, are we, oh, except you, ma'am, a more radiant example of shining pulchritude I never did see, I am blessed by your very presence, say, wouldn't you like to take a look, to everybody else she's hideous, I can only imagine how abhorrent she must be to one with a visage as pristine as yours, yes, yes, step right up, just a penny in the basket, an obol, a rupee, it doesn't matter, we're travellers, it's all worth something, we go everywhere.

She shifts in the hay, feeling the rough, scratchy texture scrape along her limbs like a thousand rotting needles. The smell is abhorrent, although she doesn't even know what it is. Despite the stench, it is almost pleasant to have some form of sentience for a few minutes. She doesn't know how long she's drifted in her addled, half-dreaming state. It's rare that she manages to summon the strength to cast her eyes around where she is, not that there's ever anything new to see. Blood, she smells blood. Is it hers? She tries to find out, craning her neck as far as she can, but the effort causes her to once again fall across the border between consciousness and oblivion. The smell pounds in her nostrils as she falls, attacking her viciously with the side effects of her own waste, over which she has no control. Once, her shame would have prevented this, but now, all she can do is struggle to keep her head above water – a struggle she is losing.

Once more, ladies and gentlemen, I know you want to see, she's a monster, an aberration, a Pokemon that doesn't even look like it should exist, I want to know, boys and girls, have you ever seen a monster that looked even remotely like this, I bet you haven't, well of course she's asleep, she's a vicious one, if I let her out she'd have all our throats out in seconds, she's a real witch's companion, this one, the product of a forbidden experiment in forgotten magics for sure, you know you want to see, just a coin in the basket, a coin in the basket.

Her entire body is aflame. She realises this now, and her frame contorts as she thrashes and writhes in the hay, trying to snuff it out . . . but she doesn't, really. All she can do is tense and relax her screaming muscles, clenching and unclenching her long-unused jaws as they try to emit sounds. She knows she mustn't, though. Somehow, something within her realises that she is now closer than ever to the sun. Somehow, she knows she will break free. Cautiously, she twitches, not prepared for the pain it brings. A yelp escapes from between her teeth, forcing its way through unbidden. It's over. A flash of sunlight, blinding and agonisingly beautiful, smashes its way into her world, but she has no time to appreciate it. It is just as quickly blocked out by the louring shadow that swamps her world. A great pain amongst lesser pains, and all returns to the quiescence of sleep once more.

Come on, kids, take a look, she won't bite, she's well asleep, don't worry, just step right up, step right up, you've never seen something like this, on my honour-

Hey!

What sir, what is it, what could it be?

You're a liar, that's what you are!

Why sir, no sir, what could ever possess you to say that, this is a genuine article, I assure you, most definitely, sir, I am insulted by your lack of trust!

Hah! Trust? Don't talk to me of trust, you failed excuse for a showman! If you're going to show folks a monster, don't show them one you could pick up in any patch of long grass!

Ahum, aherr, sir, I have no idea what you're talking about, this is a rare and frightening creature which-

Cut the trash, fake! I'm a sailor on that ship right there! You see, the one with the three masts, flying the red pennants? I've been to Hoenn, and I know a common Poochyena when I see one!

It's not a monster? Just a normal Pokemon? But that man in the red jacket said it was a witch's familiar! It certainly looks wild enough!

Of course, ladies and gentlemen, don't believe this man's lies, he's just trying to spoil your fun, why I believe he's trying to take my monster all for himself, yes, that's it, he wants to convince you it's not real and then steal it and make money for himself off it, the blackguard!

Shut up!

She feels a thud which rattles her body, jarring her into wakefulness with a tearing pain that crashes through her skull like a rampaging beast, almost causing her to lose consciousness instantly from sheer agony.

Damned troublemakers, making everything difficult, how did he see through me, the bastard, he'll get it if I ever come back, oh yes, but for now, we'll go somewhere else, we'll leave him behind and go far, far away, somewhere where no pesky sailors will come to bother us, Lord Ako's got a castle village inland, I hear, haven't been there yet, oh ho, yes, that'll do well, maybe we can yesssssss . . . drive all day, all night, hi-yah! stupid beasts, hurry the hell up, we'll get there in a week, sleep, who needs sleep, just keep driving-

Once her body settles back into the rhythm of movement, she begins to claw her way back towards full consciousness. Her body is weak, caked in filth and grime, and it is hard to move, but move she must. She realises now, having almost forgotten who she is with the years of torment and abuse, what she really is.

She is proud. She has that, and it cannot be taken from her. She will rise, as her ilk always rise, no matter the adversity, and claim back her freedom. She is lucid for the first time in . . . what? Days, months? Centuries? Aeons? It's almost like she has been in this accursed wagon since the dawn of time, yet at the same time, there is the remembrance of the sun, always hovering painfully at the edge of her mind. But now, it comes back, it returns in full force, the glowing warmth suffusing her aching body and soothing her addled mind. She knows it is imaginary, a poor substitute for the real thing, but there is nothing she can do about it now.

No, there is something. Pride will go on. Pride must live out its time, or there is no sense in having pride at all. Pride is what will save her. It must.

Halfway there, no sleep, hehehe, gonna make a killing, got some saved, ladies and gentlemen, yes we do, ahahaha! Wahahahahaha!

She moves. For the first time in how long, she moves, lifting a neglected paw matted with scum and pressing it down into the crackly, sharp bed of hay. It hurts. Moving hurts, it hurts worse than she ever could have imagined, but it is a pain she bears with vindictive happiness. She tries to stand, but fails. She does not even know when the last time was that she was fed. Food? What is food? Something must give, but it will not be her. Growling silently to give herself strength, she pushes again and succeeds in shoving herself forward half an inch. Towards the edge. Everything is a dull red. The edge, she must reach it. Again, she's peering over the edge of that bottomless pit, its sussurous beckoning imploring her to tip over the side and surrender herself to its wonderful horrors. Only this time, she will. She just has to reach that edge.

Hoo, hoo, look at me, I'm almost there, I didn't sleep, no sirrah, not me, true entertainment never sleeps, and I bring the truest there is, oh . . . there's no-one there, how sad, just the trees and the road, hehehe, well, maybe a Pokemon or two, helloooo, little Pokemon, hahaha, whee . . .

Lucidity. She pulls herself forward, watching the edge draw nearer by miniscule increments. Pride. She pulls again, her body by now screaming in protest. Freedom. She pulls again, standing up now out of the question. Sun. She pulls again.

Wahahaha, wheheoo, I'm the big man, yes I am, see me come, I'm going to be rich, and you're going to make me that way, say, I wonder how you're doing there, you've been awfully quiet, good girl, good girl, goody-googy, goody-girl you, wahooooo, good-good-good, goooooood . . .

The sun, the sun. The edge is right there. Her nose pushes its way under the red canvas, and a little light floods in, pure as the drops of dew on a rose in the morning. Almost, almost. A few more pulls, her body now shaking with effort and misery, but also that most elusive of vehicles: hope. The sun, she can almost see the sun.

There is nothing. She tries to back up, but her back legs cannot move properly and she can only watch, as if she is a helpless outsider, as her tiny body tips over the edge and off, down, out. The sun, the sun! It's there, but it's not. It's something else, something bright and round and white. It is cooler than the sun, and it sits in a field of indigo, surrounded by its incandescent children, calmly watching as the last of her balance goes and she drops like a filthy, hopeless stone. She wonders briefly if she will fall forever, but that thought is quickly quashed as the ground hits her like a mallet, shattering her utterly.

As she floats her way skyward on wings made from her soul, she watches the moonlight wash over the world below, cleaning what is unclean and righting what is wrong. It kisses the top of the rough red drapes over what had been her prison. It brushes its fingertips across the sleeping eyelids of the sailor who tried to free her. It gently folds itself downwards, settling itself in silken ribbons upon the body of a tiny Pokemon who, in life, did no wrong, and embraces it like a long-lost child.

In life, she lived, albeit a half-life, a life where death eternally waited just beyond the red curtain. In life, she was used and abused within a hair of her life, but that life remained strong somehow. It is as if it waited for the right moment to soothe long-wounded pride and reclaim its own. For life, if nothing else, is a taker, not a giver. The moonlight shines on and on, full and strong, as a soul weaves its way into its own special place among the stars.