Hello! This is the full version of my winning entry for the Pokémon POV contest, which I hope lots of people will be able to enjoy reading.
I've edited some of the issues the judges pointed out (while regrettably leaving certain others as they are because they'd have taken too long to fix and I wanted this up fairly soon). The first scene was tweaked the most, so if you read the excerpt in the results post, this new version is hopefully somewhat better.
Anyway - here it is. Enjoy!
Three Heads Are Better Than One
I slowly came around in the darkness, lifting my head up with an aching neck and blinking dust and grit out of my eyes. Our body felt battered and bruised all over, and my mind was in a haze. I tasted blood.
The first thought that properly lodged anywhere was that it was so dark that I couldn’t actually see the rest of us. “Are we okay?” I asked into the blackness, trying to keep the nervousness out of my voice. “Right? Left?”
Another head shifted beside me. “Fine at this end,” Right muttered. With a stiff jerk of his neck, he began preening irritably at our feathers on his side. He added his input to our legs and the two of us managed to find our feet and stand up shakily, the ground feeling rough and rocky beneath our talons.
“Left?” I asked again, more worriedly. Two were just about enough to control our limbs, but with the third unconscious, getting around would be difficult. Besides, if anything had happened to him…
Thankfully, I felt him stir on my other side. “I’m… I’m okay,” he mumbled, barely making an effort to raise his head. “What happened? Where are we?”
Relieved that we were all okay, I let our body sag a little. “Still in Victory Road,” I told us. “At least, I think so. But…”
I broke off, not wanting to voice the thing that was on all our minds.
“…Where’s Marina?” asked Left, filling the gap.
“Obviously not here,” said Right, his preening ceasing for the moment. “It might be impossible to see anything in here, but she’d still have heard us by now.” He turned back to our feathers and resumed so fervently that our side stung.
“Okay,” I said quickly, before we all thought too hard about the idea of losing our trainer. “So she’s not here. We’ll find her. She can’t be far.”
“But what if she’s hurt, or unconscious?” came Left’s wavering voice. “Or what if she’s d—”
“Don’t say that word!” snapped Right, leaning across me to glare at Left as I reflexively shifted out of his way. “I’m with Middle on this. Marina’s fine; she must be. Our only problem is getting to her.”
I tapped our foot hard on the ground to get our full attention. Right slunk back to his own side. “Okay, look,” I said, trying to sound as reassuring as I could. Despite the darkness, I did my best to look them both in the eye; they could still tell where my head was turned, at least. “First of all, we need to work out where we are, and if Marina is here. If she’s not, we just need to figure out how to get to her.”
“You make it sound so simple,” Right muttered under his breath. On my other side I felt Left shake his head despairingly. I screwed my eyes up and tried to smother my frustration. We needed to stay positive.
“How are we going to work out where we are, then?” Right asked. “We can’t even see.”
I opened my beak, then realised I didn’t know what to say and closed it.
“Marina,” Left said sadly. “If she were here, she’d know what to do. She’d think of something.”
“Yes, but she’s not here, is she?” Right muttered.
“Wait, no, we’ve got it!” I said, flaring out our feathers in excitement. “Marina’s been teaching us to use our attacks creatively, hasn’t she? So if we can think of one of our attacks that creates light…”
We thought for a moment. “What about fire?” said Right.
“Or lightning,” I agreed.
“And ice?” added Left, sounding slightly more positive. “I suppose we’re talking about Tri Attack…”
I nodded. “Tri Attack.” Each of us opened our beaks and began charging, Right a flickering fireball, me a sparkling cluster of electricity, Left a shining orb of ice. As the three elements lit up the space in three glowing colours, we turned to look in three different directions, taking everything in.
After only a moment, I closed my beak, dissipating the sparks, and Left and Right followed suit. “No sign of Marina,” I said. The other two mumbled their agreement. “But remember, that’s a good thing. It means she hasn’t been hurt.”
“Probably hasn’t,” Left put in dejectedly.
I pretended I hadn’t heard him. “And I saw that this cavern we’re in goes up really high. There was a sort of ledge at the top that leads off out of sight. I think we might have fallen down from up there.”
“I think I remember falling now,” Right said thoughtfully. I felt Left nod as well. The vague memory was coming back to all of us.
“It’s too high to jump back up, and obviously we can’t climb it, so…” I left my words hanging deliberately.
“There’s another way out of here,” Left piped up, and we turned to face a specific direction in the darkness. “But do we really think it’ll lead us to…” He trailed off.
“There isn’t a third way out of here, is there?” I asked. None of us answered. “No – so we’ll go that way. It’s better than standing here doing nothing.”
“I suppose so,” Left said, and we began to pick our way carefully across the rocky floor as he directed us towards the exit he’d seen.
“Okay, then,” I said to us as we walked, wishing I felt as confident as I was trying to make myself sound, “all we have to do is find Marina. We can do this. She’ll be looking for us too. She won’t leave this place without us.”
“She might, actually,” Right put in. “The League’s in two days, remember?”
“Yes, but—” I began almost automatically, then broke off. Of course. The Pokémon League.
We stumbled on the uneven floor and almost fell. Left should have been the one concentrating on the terrain only he’d got a look at, but I didn’t blame him for getting distracted. It was only just occurring to us that the League was going to make this whole thing much less simple than it could have been.
“Marina can’t stay in here looking for us forever,” said Right evenly. “Not if she wants to take part.”
“She’d hate to have to wait another year,” Left said in a small voice as we started moving again. “She’s been really looking forward to it.”
I knew all of that. We’d been looking forward to it just as much; I didn’t want to think that Marina could be there without us. The battles, the excitement, showing the world how strong we were and how much winning for Marina meant to us – we’d got so used to the thought of it. It couldn’t just suddenly not happen. Marina wouldn’t let it.
“No,” I said firmly, drawing myself up to my full height. “She won’t enter without us. She can’t.”
“She can,” Right pointed out. “She’s got more than six Pokémon. Losing us won’t make it impossible for her to take part.”
I knew that, too, but it didn’t change things. “She wouldn’t just leave us,” I insisted. “She always talked about the Pokémon League being a shared experience between a trainer and all of the Pokémon they’d been with on their travels. And we’re one of them. She wouldn’t leave us out of that, would she?”
I could tell Right wasn’t meeting my eye. “I don’t know.”
Left was tapping one of our feet to get our attention. I realised we hadn’t been moving for the past few moments. “I think this is the end of what I remember seeing,” he said. “I don’t want to go any further, in case…”
“All right,” I said. “We’ll just have to use another Tri Attack and look at the next part. We can do this in bits. There’s no need to worry; it’s not going to take us two days.”
Left mumbled his agreement. Right wasn’t saying anything. Regardless, we opened our beaks as one and began charging the same elements as before. I found myself fleetingly wondering why each of us always used the same one – we each knew how to produce all three different elements, after all – but the thought went nowhere as I looked in my direction and saw that one of the rocks further down the tunnel seemed to be moving towards us.
I froze, beak still open and crackling with sparks, unsure what to do. The other two sensed my unease and turned my way to look. We each realised at the same time that the moving rock was a Pokémon – a Graveler, heading straight for us and looking furious.
Our body tensed, all three of our hearts beating faster. I tried to think quickly; fleeing would just take us back and away from Marina, and we couldn’t let that happen. Without another thought, I fired my part of the Tri Attack, Left and Right reflexively following suit a split-second later. The three elements shot forwards, twisting together, and the tunnel turned dark again as they slammed into our foe.
The Graveler’s frustrated roar seemed all the louder in the blackness. “Run,” I told us. I felt our body try to turn back and forced it not to. “No, this way,” I hissed, taking us further up the tunnel in the hope that we could pass the rock Pokémon in the dark. It wasn’t fun, hurtling through pitch blackness with the ever-present possibility of crashing headlong into an unseen wall, but we couldn’t just stay still. We had to keep going towards Marina.
“Attack me, will you?” came the Graveler’s growl from behind us. We could hear the sound of rock grinding speedily together in what had to be the beginnings of a retaliation. Despite the darkness, we ran faster, our body scraping and bumping into rocky walls on either side.
“We didn’t mean to attack you!” Left said desperately. “We just wanted to look around! It was Middle, he…”
“This was not my fault!” I yelled, while simultaneously trying to concentrate on not tripping us up or crashing us into anything as we ran. “That thing looked hostile before I fired the—”
Something round and heavy slammed into our back, squashing the breath out of us and sending us sprawling across the rough ground. We pulled ourself back to our feet as quickly as we could. All three of us were gasping from the pain of the attack; we could all hear the sound of the Graveler rolling ahead of us, turning around for another strike.
I tried to think of this as if it were just another battle with Marina commanding us, to think what she’d want us to do. “Drill Peck!” was the first move that came into my head, and I summoned swirling energy around my beak, thrusting it forwards, trying to run towards our advancing enemy.
Our legs weren’t listening to me. “It’s a Rock-type, you idiot!” Right snapped, knocking my head so that my beak lost its spinning momentum. The sound of the Graveler’s rolling was getting faster and closer.
“We should really run…” Left added in a small voice.
It was too late for that. The huge, spinning weight of the Graveler smashed right into us twice as fast and hard as it had done before. My head spun as we crashed breathlessly onto our back, and suddenly my mind flew into a panic. This thing had every advantage over us. We didn’t have Marina. We didn’t have a chance.
Behind us, we could all hear the sound of the Graveler coming back for a third strike.
“Okay, yes, run!” I managed to yell, and we haphazardly scrambled to our feet, trying to ignore how much we were hurting as we set off on a lopsided, frantic run through the darkness. The Graveler seemed to be speeding up even more – it must have been rolling faster than we could run by now – it was going to hit us –
“Left!” shrieked Left, and suddenly our body was making a wild, sharp turn into what turned out to be an empty space on his side. Right squawked in pain as his head swung around and banged into a wall. We almost tripped and fell in the confusion of our legs wanting to do three different things, but we managed to pull ourselves together and keep running on through the new tunnel. A crash echoed from behind us, and the Graveler growled in frustration.
We kept running, noticing soon enough that this tunnel wasn’t pitch black; a dim light had found its way into it from somewhere. Without needing to speak, I could tell we were all thinking the same thing: the way out; Marina. Navigating the uneven floor was so much easier now that we could see where we were putting our feet. Even the sound of the Graveler lumbering towards us from behind couldn’t put us off.
“It’s not a way out,” Right suddenly said, and we skidded to a halt in a particularly light part of the tunnel. He was looking directly upwards. Left and I followed his gaze; high above, in the roof, was a small crack where a shaft of sunlight had found its way in.
Our body sagged wearily. There was no way we could get out through there. We were still lost in this place, far away from Marina –
– and, we realised, turning around as the Graveler stomped into view, a perfectly visible target.
The Pokémon held two of its hands together, a rock forming between them out of absolutely nothing. Before we could react, the rock had shot towards us faster than we could blink and slammed into Left’s face. He let out a squawk of alarm before going limp. Our left leg threatened to buckle underneath us, but I held it firm, albeit trembling, while frantically nudging Left with my beak. No response.
“Please,” Right begged the Graveler, sounding so unlike himself. “Don’t do this. We just want to find our trainer.” In the light from above, I took my first proper look at him since we’d been separated from Marina. He looked afraid – something I’d never seen him show before.
The Graveler was already creating another rock in its hands, its other pair of arms shrugging. “Wild Pokémon fight trained Pokémon,” it said. “Isn’t that how it works?” Still as frighteningly quickly, it fired the second rock towards Right, who screeched in pain as it cannoned into him, and then sagged.
This time our legs really did buckle underneath us. I collapsed to the floor, seeing Left and Right unconscious on either side of me, barely able to take it in. I was alone.
Fury bubbled up inside me without warning. This Graveler had no right to do that to two thirds of us. In a moment of sudden clarity I knew exactly which attack Marina would have us use in this situation: Endeavour. I screeched and pecked and snapped, flailing furiously around with my head, desperate to reach the Graveler and hurt it just as much as it had hurt us.
But without Left or Right, I couldn’t get our legs to work. I was stuck where we were, raging uselessly at the Graveler who remained infuriatingly just out of reach. Despite how useless I knew it was, I wouldn’t stop. I don’t even know if I could have stopped. The third and fourth rocks missed thanks to my head’s wild, frantic movements, but the fifth struck true, plunging the last of us into blackness.
I came to again sometime later. Left and Right were also awake, but we didn’t get up and start moving straight away. We needed to rest a while; our body was hurting far too badly for us to do anything with it.
We lay there in silence. Right wasn’t providing any of his usual snappy comments. Left, too, seemed quiet and thoughtful. I just stared up at the crack in the roof. The light from outside had an orange tinge to it now; a lot of time must have passed.
“It would help,” I muttered eventually, “if, being a Flying-type, we could actually fly.”
“You’d better wish we could harmlessly squash ourself flat while you’re at it,” Right said ruefully, lifting his head a little. “That crack is not our way out.”
“Then what is?” I retorted.
He lowered his head again. “You tell me.”
I almost snapped something back at him, but then I realised that I didn’t know what to say, so I stayed quiet. I wondered if I should have stood us up and got us moving again, but there was no point until our body had had more rest. I looked back up at the crack and tried to remember exactly how we’d become separated from Marina in the first place. The memory of us falling seemed to have become a little clearer since we’d been knocked out again.
“It was your fault, you know, Middle,” Right said out of nowhere. He must have been starting to remember it, too. The events flashed through my mind: our legs flailing and finding nothing but empty air beneath us; myself clinging onto Marina’s hand with my beak; Left and Right screaming desperately at me to hold on; Marina’s tear-stained, panic-stricken face. Then falling.
“You let go,” said Right.
“Well, of course I did, otherwise we wouldn’t be here,” I said. “That doesn’t mean it was my fault.” I shook my head sharply. “I couldn’t hold on any longer. It’s that simple.”
“It isn’t.” Right’s head stayed low; there was none of his usual confrontational manner, even as he accused me like this. “You let go deliberately.”
“What? Why would I do that?”
“Right…” Left raised his head to look worriedly at him. “Do you really think that?”
“It’s what I remember seeing,” Right said flatly, still not moving.
I looked between the two of them in exasperation. “Look, it doesn’t matter whose fault it was.” With a great effort, I stood us up, reawakening fresh aches in our body. “We’re going to get out of here and find Marina, and then this’ll become a tiny thing in the past that we won’t care about.”
“But…” Left said. “Are you sure we should move yet? We’re still hurting…”
“What of it?” I snapped irritably, causing Left to flinch away from me. “We need to get going. We don’t know how long we were out.” I jabbed my beak at the orange light coming from above us. “That is either sunset or sunrise, and if it’s sunrise, then we’ve only got one more day. Now come on.” With me insistently urging our legs to move, we started marching further down the tunnel, our talons clacking loudly against the stony ground.
I caught a glimpse of something in Right’s eyes as he looked at me just before we moved out of the light and it became impossible to read his face. Was he appalled at me? I don’t know.
On my other side, Left felt different, like he was somehow growing taller. “It wasn’t your fault, Middle,” he said, his voice gaining more confidence. “I… I know you wouldn’t do something like that.”
“Glad someone agrees,” I muttered.
Right shook his head wearily. I felt Left lean across me to him. “It’ll be okay, Right,” he said quietly, although I wasn’t sure whether he was trying to convince Right or himself. “We’ll get out of this. You’ll see.”
Right just sighed.
I leaned my head forward to nudge Left back to his own side. It was becoming difficult to see again; the light was a long way behind us by now. We stopped walking. “So,” I said.
“I… I don’t think we should use Tri Attack to look around again,” Left put in before I could say anything more. “At least, not unless we absolutely have to.”
I tapped one of our feet impatiently on the floor. “Why not?”
Left shrunk slightly but still answered. “We don’t want to risk making any more wild Pokémon angry. Do we?”
“Wouldn’t have been such a problem with the Graveler if Middle hadn’t messed up,” Right muttered under his breath, as if he didn’t expect me to hear him.
“What?” I snapped, rounding on him. “First us being separated from Marina is my fault, now us being attacked by the Graveler is also my fault?”
“You did fire the Tri Attack at it,” Right said glumly. “That’s what made it mad. And then you wanted to use Drill Peck of all things…”
“Which failed because of you two,” I pointed out. “If you could have just been a little bit more optimistic about it and gone along with it, it might have worked. That’s the problem with you two. You’re never optimistic enough.”
Right shook his head. “It still wouldn’t have worked. You shouldn’t have fired the Tri Attack in the first place.”
“Look!” Left said, surprisingly loudly. It seemed like he’d been trying to make himself heard for a while now. “It’s none of our faults. The Graveler looked angry before we fired, didn’t it? So it probably thought we were about to attack it anyway.” His voice became a little quieter. “Okay? That’s why I don’t think we should use Tri Attack to look around unless we really have to.”
I let out an irritated sigh. “So what do you propose we do instead?”
“Uh…” I felt Left glance around nervously even though we couldn’t see anything. “I suppose we just feel our way along? Me and Right feeling the walls, you making sure we don’t bump into anything head-on?”
I jerked my head indifferently. “Okay, then. Just so long as we do it quickly.”
We set off again through the darkness, our feet carefully picking their way across the unseen rocky floor. Apparently the tunnel was just narrow enough for Left and Right to be able to feel both walls at once; the sound of beaks knocking against rock came from either side of me. I kept my own head leaning forward, hoping that I’d realise there was something in front of me before I ended up smacking into it. There was a difference between wanting to move quickly and wanting a huge headache.
“I really don’t like this,” Right said in a pained voice after some time. I didn’t exactly blame him; I could tell how much his and Left’s beaks were stinging, albeit indirectly, like it wasn’t happening to me. “Middle should have to take a turn at the walls, too.”
“Yes, but I’m the one in the middle,” I pointed out. “And if we suddenly run into something in front of us, I’m going to be feeling it a lot more than you’re feeling that beak.”
“There’s no point complaining, Right,” Left said, an odd stuttering quality to his voice as his beak clacked against stone after stone. “We’ve all got to do our own part. I’m sure Middle would take a turn if he—” He broke off, and our legs stopped walking. “Wait!” he said excitedly. “There’s no wall on my side here. It’s probably another tunnel leading off this way.”
I stretched my head forward as far as it would go, but my beak met only empty space in front of us. “Still a tunnel in this direction, too,” I told us.
“Okay.” Left took a deep breath. “Let’s think about this. When we started, we were moving away from where we… last saw Marina, right?”
“Yes, but only because it was the only way out of that cavern we were in,” I said.
“I know it was,” he said patiently. “Then we turned left earlier when the Graveler was attacking us. And we’ve been going straight ever since?”
“Pretty much,” Right said.
“So if we turn left again, we’ll be headed back towards where Marina is, won’t we?” Left said. He almost sounded like he was asking one of us for approval.
I ruffled our feathers impatiently. “Sounds good enough to me.”
“If Marina’s even still there,” said Right quietly. I ignored him; I don’t think Left heard.
We headed down the left tunnel, Left and Right keeping up the practice of feeling either side with their beaks. As it grew too wide for us to reach both sides at once, Left volunteered for us to stay on his side, much to Right’s relief. I still had the role of being the one at risk of banging my head into a wall at any moment, but I suppose there wasn’t much that could have been done to change that.
“Do you really think Marina will still be here looking for us?” Right asked after a while, this time loud enough that he clearly meant for all of us to hear him.
“Of course she will,” Left said immediately, turning to face Right. “She’d never leave us here.” He moved his head back to his wall. “She wouldn’t.”
“But,” Right protested, “the Pokémon League…”
“Marina wouldn’t leave us out of that,” I said flatly. “We’re a valued member of her team. She doesn’t have another Flying-type.”
“It’s not about types,” Right said, sighing. “She doesn’t need a Flying-type to do well in the League. It’s about whether she wants every single one of her Pokémon to take part, enough that she’d risk missing it to stay and look for us, or whether she’d be okay with just most of her Pokémon taking part.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “Of course she wants all of her Pokémon to take part. We know how much she cares about us. She’s not leaving us.”
“Isn’t she?” Right said simply. “Because we’ve been lost in here a long time, and she’s better in caves than we are. Why hasn’t she found us yet?”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to admit it, but Right might have had a point.
Left had been staying quiet through this, his beak knocking loudly against the wall. I wondered if this strategy of his was actually going to work, or if we’d just been wasting our time – time we didn’t have. “This isn’t getting us anywhere, you know, Left,” I said. “Isn’t it about time we tried a Tri Attack, for once?”
“No!” Left said insistently. “We don’t want to risk getting attacked by a wild Pokémon! We can’t afford to get knocked out again, can we?”
“No, but it’s not exactly very likely, is it?” I said.
“It might be,” Right muttered. “I can hear something up ahead. Some kind of flapping.”
“See?” Left said, nodding fervently. “We shouldn’t use Tri Attack. We don’t want to anger… whatever it is.”
“Okay, fine. We won’t use it,” I said. “It really would help to actually see where we are, though.”
“No,” Left insisted. “We only use Tri Attack if we absolutely need to. And we don’t.” Stubbornly, he put his head back to the wall and started knocking his beak against it again.
Only a few more steps later, I had to lean wildly backwards to stop us overbalancing as our feet hit some kind of large rock in our path, almost tripping us over. Once we were stable again, I gingerly craned my neck forwards, feeling my beak touch something solid right at the limits of my reach. “There’s a wall here, I think.”
We edged to the right, and Right did the same on his side. “Still one here, too,” he said dully. “That makes this a dead end, then.”
The flapping noise we’d heard earlier was a lot louder now. It seemed to be coming from directly overhead.
Left’s head was jerking around nervously. “But… it can’t be a dead end,” he insisted. “I thought this was the way that would lead us back to Marina. It can’t just stop.”
“Well, let’s get a proper look at it, shall we?” I said, mustering up some energy for a Tri Attack.
“No!” Left knocked my head before I could gather the concentration and then looked up worriedly at the darkness above us. The flapping had stopped for the moment, but that didn’t mean the creature that had made it wasn’t still there.
“We’ve got no choice,” I told him. “It’s either that or decide that this is a dead end, and then go back to try that other tunnel.”
“We really should give it a go,” Right put in.
“Okay, fine!” Left said, and before I could begin he’d already summoned sparks in his beak. I opened mine and produced fire instead, seeing Right forming ice out of the corner of my eye. Since there wasn’t much choice of directions to look, we all looked forwards and saw that this wasn’t a dead end at all – it was just a really steep slope that led up to somewhere higher.
We also saw that the maker of the flapping noise was a Golbat, who began fluttering erratically in our faces, screeching in a piercing voice. “Light! Bright! Too bright!”
I almost fired the Tri Attack on pure instinct, but Left shut his beak in a panic before I could, and it was reflex for the rest of us to follow suit. We edged slowly backwards; in the ensuing darkness, we could still hear the Golbat fluttering around above us, its screeching cries replaced with a wheezy sort of giggling.
I wished I’d been able to fire the attack before Left had stopped it.
“Tee hee,” the Golbat cackled. “What’s the point of having six eyes if all of them are blind? You creatures who depend on light are so funny.”
It flapped in a circle around our heads a few times, apparently highly amused.
The tension ebbed away from us a little. “So you’re not going to attack us, then?” I asked.
The Golbat giggled again. “Why would I do that? You can see nothing; I can hear everything. It wouldn’t be fair to attack such a poor blind thing.”
“Can you help us?” Left blurted out before I could say anything else. “We’re lost, and we need to find our trainer. Can you lead us out of here? Please!”
“Out?” The Golbat sounded incredulous. “I can’t go out! Far too bright out there! No.” It hovered for a while, the flapping almost sounding like it was moving away, before it was suddenly back in our faces. “I can help you up this slope, though, if you’d like.” It laughed to itself again. “Funny. I can sense you are a creature of the air like me, even though your shape sounds so different to mine. But you don’t have wings! How useless a creature you must be!”
“We do have wings,” I protested. “They’re just… too small to do anything.”
“Useless!” the Golbat declared gleefully. I felt gusts of air ruffling my feathers as it hovered right in front of my face. “Hold on to my legs with those long pointy things you have that make so much noise,” it ordered. “Why you need three of them for one creature makes no sense to me.”
“It does to us,” I muttered, feeling around with my beak until it found something which felt vaguely like a leg. Clamping down as hard as I could to give my beak’s rough edges the best possible grip, I realised that this wouldn’t be the most pleasant experience for the Golbat – but then, it had got itself into this by agreeing to help.
“Thank you,” Left said, grabbing hold of the Golbat’s other leg.
Right was left without anything to hold on to. “Don’t let go this time, Middle,” he whispered so that Left wouldn’t hear.
Indignant, I nearly shot back some kind of retort but couldn’t due to my beakful of Golbat leg. The Golbat began flapping its wings furiously, straining to pull us up by our beaks as our talons grappled with the steep rocky slope, trying to get some purchase below us.
“Shouldn’t have… offered to do this,” the Golbat was muttering to itself in between grunts of exertion. “I always take pity… on poor blind things… don’t I?”
Hanging there in the darkness, my neck stretched out painfully as I clung onto someone else for help, the memory of us falling away from Marina came back to me more clearly than ever. I found myself remembering not just what I’d seen and heard, but what I’d been thinking, my beak clamped down as tightly as I could on Marina’s fragile human hand, tasting her blood in my mouth.
I’m hurting her…
Our legs had flailed frantically, finding nothing but thin air, but what if they’d been just a little bit longer?
The ground can’t be that far below us… surely…
Here and now, our talons were managing to dig into the rock and find some purchase to hold us up. If only that had been the case before.
It can’t be that bad if we fall… Everything always works out in the end…
“It’s going to pull my legs off at this rate,” the Golbat was muttering to itself, still complaining – but then, it had every right to, didn’t it?
Instead of the darkness, I could see Marina, her eyes frantic and filled with pain.
I don’t want to hurt Marina any more…
I’d let go on purpose. It had been all my fault.
The shock of the realisation slackened my beak’s grip, and before I knew it I’d lost my hold on the Golbat, too. Left let out a muffled shriek of panic as without warning he was the only one holding us up. Our whole weight suddenly all on him – he couldn’t hold on, either. Our legs scrabbled wildly at the rock, but to no avail. Left’s beak slipped, and we fell, tumbling painfully down the rocky slope, Left screaming in fury at me the whole time.
Then we hit the ground, and everything mercifully stopped.
This time, I came around before Left or Right did. I was glad of it, in a way – I couldn’t face the others yet. I didn’t want to hear them blaming me for what I’d done not once, but twice now.
I raised my head a little and tried to listen for the sound of flapping wings, but it seemed the Golbat had left while we’d been unconscious. I couldn’t really blame it.
I felt Left beginning to stir beside me. “Middle…” he was muttering. “Middle!”
“I’m sorry, Left,” I said, before he could say anything else.
I really meant it, but that didn’t calm him down. “Middle!” he screeched, raising himself up to bear down on me. “You let go! You deliberately let go!”
“I know,” I said, my voice tired. “Right was right. It was my fault.”
“Why?” Left demanded. “You put us in this mess! Why did you do that to us?”
“I didn’t want to keep hurting Marina,” I said. “And I didn’t think it would be this bad if we fell.” I shook my head pathetically. “I know that sounds like some kind of excuse, but thinking back, I honestly believed that things would be okay.”
“What?” Left sounded betrayed.
“He means it, you know,” came Right’s voice as he rose up next to me, facing Left. “He’s the optimistic one. He’s meant to think like that.”
“Yeah, and look where my optimism landed us,” I muttered miserably.
Left stared between the two of us. “So what are we meant to do now?” he asked frantically. “We can’t just lie here and rot while Marina goes to the Pokémon League without us!”
I said nothing.
“Middle!” Left jabbed me hard with his beak. “If you’re meant to be the optimistic one, you have to lead us out of here!”
“I can’t,” I said simply. I felt his incredulous stare even through the darkness. “Let’s face it, Left, just a while ago you were making a better Middle than I was.”
“No! I wasn’t!” Left screeched. “I can’t do this, Middle! I can’t be you! You don’t know how scared I was even when I was doing all that leader stuff back there!”
“We’re all scared,” said Right simply. “The only difference is how we deal with it.”
Left and I turned towards him in surprise. “Sorry, Middle – looks like it’s my turn to be you,” he said. With a heave of effort, our bruised and aching body dragged itself up off the ground. “Come on now,” said Right. “Let’s go and find Marina.”
It seemed that Right made a better Middle than I did, too. Even with the Golbat gone, he managed to get us up that slope, silencing Left’s panicky thoughts and ignoring my feeble protests that we were never going to manage it. We heaved ourself up slowly and painfully, clinging to the slope with our feet and digging our beaks into the rock as best we could to give us an extra three holds.
By the time we’d reached the top, my neck felt like it had been stretched twice as long and my beak felt bent out of shape. I wanted nothing more than to collapse and rest right there – I’m sure all of us did – but Right kept us going, urging us on. Even through my despair I found myself marvelling at him. Was that really what I was capable of normally?
We’d found our way back into the main part of the cave, it seemed, judging by the dim light that pervaded everywhere, making it not easy but at least not impossible to see. There were more open caverns here and less long, thin tunnels; of course, this also meant there were a lot more wild Pokémon lurking. Right assured us that we’d be fine so long as we kept out of their way and told any who still approached us that we were lost and weakened and wouldn’t put up a decent fight. It seemed to work.
Left had joined the dots and figured out that this was the part of the cave that Marina had been travelling through, and he’d started calling out for her, more loudly and desperately each time there was no reply. I couldn’t see why he was even bothering; clearly Marina had given up looking for us, or she would have found us by now, especially since we were in the main part of the cave again. I tried telling him this.
“What do you know?” he snapped back at me frantically. “It’s your fault we’re in this mess in the first place! You’ve been no help since you attacked that Graveler! And now you want me to believe you when you say that Marina – Marina – has just given up on us?” He shook his head insistently. “No. She’s here. She must be.”
“Left,” Right said quietly, pacifyingly, “Middle’s right. Marina would have found us by now if she were still in here.”
“I said so,” I muttered dully.
“What?” Left protested. “Right, you can’t just—”
“I’m not finished,” Right went on. “Left’s also right – Marina would not have given up on us. So the most likely thing is that she’s found her way out of here and she’s waiting outside for us to get out, too. It’d be easier than her trying to look for us in here.”
Left gave a grudging sigh. “I really hope you’re right about that,” he said.
We walked on across the wide cavern we were in, skirting around a couple of rocks that looked suspiciously like Geodude. Our body was in such battered shape that even a weaker Rock-type would have caused us trouble.
“You know, that’s not what you were saying before, Right,” I said.
“About Marina not giving up on us. Before, you seemed to think she’d happily be entering the League without us.”
“And you seemed convinced that you really hadn’t let go of her hand deliberately,” Right said evenly. “Things change.”
I sagged under Left’s betrayed glare and wished Right hadn’t brought that up again. “But do you really believe Marina’s going to be waiting for us outside?”
Right didn’t quite meet my eye. “I have to.” He turned to a nearby tunnel leading off from the cavern and dragged our exhausted body into it. “Come on. Let’s try this one.”
There had been several identical looking tunnels leading off from each cavern we’d found ourselves in for a while, but every time Right always managed to make it seem like he knew exactly where he was going. Left and I both knew that he didn’t have any more of a clue than either of us, but the pretending helped. I wondered if that was what I would have done.
The tunnel in question grew darker as we headed down it. It wasn’t long before we realised why – it was a dead end.
Left banged his beak against the wall in frustration. “We’re never going to find our way out of here, are we?”
“Okay, maybe not this one,” Right admitted.
I hung my head wearily, my beak almost scraping the ground. “Face it, Right,” I said, “even if we do get out of here, the League will have started by then. It might even have started already.”
“Or it might not have done,” Right said, looking thoughtful. We took a few more steps towards the dead end in the gloom, and he reached forward to poke it with his beak.
Our feathers flared excitedly. “This isn’t rock,” Right told us. “It’s earth. This must have been an exit that caved in. If we can just break through it…”
“We can get out?” Left exclaimed, looking fervently at the wall of soil.
Right nodded. “Come on, all of us. One last Tri Attack.” He mustered up energy I didn’t even know we had and opened his beak to charge a ball of sparks. Left eagerly followed suit with fire.
I kept my head low and formed the orb of ice. I still wasn’t convinced that Marina would be out there waiting for us.
Our attack shot forwards, blasting into the wall. Earth flew in every direction, showering us in it. The sheer exertion of the move was almost enough to make us collapse once it was over, but Right kept us upright, dragging us forward and shoving his head into the loosened soil. We pushed our way through in what was a horrible feeling of being covered in earth, dirt getting everywhere between our feathers. I’ll never understand why Ground Pokémon like burrowing.
Then we were outside. Fresh air. Starlight.
Right caught my look. “She’s not going to have been standing right here, is she?” he said. “This wasn’t even a proper exit until just now.”
“He’s right,” Left said. “Marina must be here somewhere. Marina!” he began calling. “Marina!”
His voice was so weak by now that the open air just seemed to swallow it up. After a few more goes, he trailed off.
“Come on,” Right said. “We’ll just have to find her.”
Exhausted and covered in dirt, we could barely walk, but walk we did. We could hear some kind of loud, human-sounding noise in the distance, so we pointed ourselves in that direction. The outside wall of the cave obscured our view of whatever was making the noise, until eventually we rounded a corner and saw, across an open expanse of grass, one of those red-roofed buildings that humans called Pokémon Centres. Marina was nowhere to be seen.
Behind it, the sky was lit up a thousand different colours as the squeals and bangs of noise heralded sparkling explosions of light. They seemed to have been fired from the immense building behind the Pokémon Centre – the stadium, I realised. A large bowl filled with a huge, flickering flame stood atop it. And suddenly I remembered Marina telling us about this. The opening ceremony, she’d called it.
We were too late. The League had already begun.
“Damn it!” snarled Right.
Left just drooped.
Something stirred inside me. Despite my despair back in the caves that this had all been my fault, somehow I just couldn’t believe that it would end like this now. I raised my head above the others.
“No,” I said quietly but surely. “Marina wouldn’t have entered without us.”
And I forced us to walk across that last stretch of grass towards the building with the red roof. Left and Right had all but given up, leaving me using the last of my strength to drag us along perfectly flat, open ground that we’d have raced across in a flash on any other day.
The doors to the building pulled themselves open through the power of human invention when we reached them – which was a good thing for us, because we wouldn’t have had the energy to open them ourselves. I took two teetering steps inside, and then our body simply collapsed onto the floor, unable to take us any further.
I saw a blurry shape in the corner of my vision. “Marina,” I mumbled. It looked like Marina. I was sure it was Marina.
“She’s not here, Middle,” Left groaned, lying beside me with his eyes closed out of sheer exhaustion.
Right wasn’t even facing me. “You’re too… damn… optimistic…”
As blackness overcame us, I couldn’t help but wonder if they were right.
We woke up lying on something soft, white and square. Above us, I could see the ceiling: hard, white and square. We were still in the Pokémon Centre, then. Our body felt fresher than it had in a long time, and our feathers had been cleaned of all their dirt.
I recognised the voice without having to look. We all did. I believe I might have felt a little smug.
“Okay, Middle, no need to rub it in,” Right muttered, sounding amused. “You were right.”
“Sorry, Middle,” Left said in a voice that was unusually perky for him. “I shouldn’t have blamed you back there.”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry,” I said. “It was my fault, after all.”
Making a huge mess of the soft white surface with our talons as we fumbled to get our legs beneath us, we sat up as one and turned to face Marina.
There were tears in her eyes, but from the huge smile on her face I imagined they must have been the good kind of tears. “You have no idea how glad I am that you’re okay,” she said, her voice wavering slightly. “I thought… I thought you’d…” She broke off and looked away from us. “Well, I thought you’d died.”
Marina fidgeted in her seat, shifting so that she was facing across the room, with us beside her. I noticed that her right hand had a bandage around it and felt a pang of guilt. “When you fell down that hole, I couldn’t see how deep it was. Even with my torch, I couldn’t see the bottom. The Pokéball beam didn’t reach. So I… I just had to assume that that kind of fall must have killed you. I tried to hope; I stayed looking for you. I even begged a guy with a Venusaur to have it lower me down to where you’d fallen, if only to retrieve your…” She broke off. “But you weren’t there. I knew that meant I should have kept looking! But the Venusaur guy, he said there was barely any chance you’d survive down there long enough for me to find you, being injured, and… well… the League was about to start, so…” She swallowed. “So I gave up. I told myself I was being too optimistic, that I couldn’t afford to miss the League for that.”
I caught Right eyeing me cheekily. Yes, we knew what it was like to have a part of us that couldn’t help being too optimistic.
Marina looked up at all three of us guiltily. “I should have believed you could make it. I should have kept looking, never mind what that guy said, never mind the League. I just…” She lowered her eyes and sighed “I’m sorry I gave up on you.”
I shook my head reassuringly. None of it mattered now that Marina was talking to us right now. She was here; we’d found her after all. Each of us had given up on the thought of ever seeing her again at one point during our ordeal. We could hardly blame her for doing the same.
I saw her smile again. “Thanks, Dodrio.”
“But what about the League?” Left asked worriedly.
Marina couldn’t have understood him, but she seemed to get what he meant all the same. “I didn’t enter the League in the end,” she said. “I tried – I went right up to the registration desk and everything. But it just felt wrong, entering all of my Pokémon except you. I couldn’t do it.” She gave us an apologetic smile. “So no League battles for a while, I’m afraid.”
She suddenly threw her hands up in frustration. “I’ve really messed up, haven’t I? If I’d just kept looking for longer, I might have found you, and then I could still have got here and registered on time.”
Left rested his head comfortingly on her shoulder, and she sighed. “No, you’re right,” she said. “There’s always next year. And you’re still here, which…” Marina smiled at Left, her eyes lighting up with that same joy from before. “I still can’t believe you’re alive.”
She lifted her bandaged hand to ruffle Left’s feathers. “Oh, Dodrio,” she said, smiling sadly. “I’m so sorry I didn’t try harder to find you. You must have been all alone in there.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Left shared an amused glance with Right and me. For all her qualities as a trainer, sometimes Marina didn’t understand us at all.