I've read stories that are based on the theme of "It's a Wonderful Life". I've never seen that movie and I know precious little about it, but I may borrow the basic theme, I think. It's set around Pallet Party Panic; the League thing has been sorted out, with ranks and celebrations and all, but Ash and company have not left for Orange Archipelago.
I stuffed up some tenses later on. GRRRRRRRR I'm so annoyed. EVERY TIME I write a story in the present tense, I always forget after a time, I'm used to automatically writing in past tense. I tried to fix them all but I dunno if I did.
What role does one, seemingly meaningless person, play in the world? What difference can anyone make?
The Value of an Individual
I brush back blue hair and relax my pose, letting my pompoms fall limp in my hands. I watch with a typically calm expression, although the atmosphere around me is charged with hostility.
"Why don't you just give up and go home now, Ash?"
I sigh inwardly. Gary's bad side seems to come out whenever he is around that other trainer from his hometown.
"Hey, I ranked better than you in Pokemon League!"
"Obviously, your opponents weren't up to the proper standard of League competition!"
"Obviously you weren't either!"
The two boys glare at each other and take a step towards each other. Ash's friend, the girl with orange hair, tugs on his arm.
"Ash, cool it," she warns.
"No, Misty," snaps Ash, "you and Brock always say that. I wanna teach this jerk a lesson!"
"Oooh, real tough," says Gary. Brock and Misty are both shooting Ash warning looks, but nobody ever stops Gary when he acts like a jerk. Maybe someone should. Maybe I should.
But it's really none of my business...?
"Ash," warns Brock, "remember what you learned about getting involved in catfights."
"Ash," says Misty, "it's not worth it!"
Gary smirks. "You're not AFRAID to battle me, are you?"
He's good at finding people's weaknesses. That's what makes him a great trainer... and so insufferably obnoxious at times. Ash stiffens, and predictably snaps, "I'm not afraid of anything!"
They're both such... children. I have been supporting Gary so I can learn more about Pokemon, to earn some money and have a place to belong, to be with my friends and to help him along his way. He doesn't say much about it, but I think he needs us, so he can push himself to live up to our cheers. But have I really been supporting him?
Like a friend?
"Well, come on loser," taunts Gary, "let's hurry up and prove my superiority, if you're not afraid!"
Sara, my best friend, nudges me with a pompom. This means we are supposed to jump into a cheer, because Gary is about to battle.
"Oh look, your mindless puppets are gonna perform," teases Ash. He's talking about us! I stay calm, as always, but I can feel everyone else fuming.
"Don't call them that," snaps Gary.
"Well, I've never heard them say anything apart from how great you are. They can't have much of a brain if they think YOU'RE great!"
"Ash," scolds Brock, fixing us with that look that makes me a bit nervous, "don't talk about such lovely young ladies like that."
I'm not sure which is worse; being drooled over by some weirdo young boy, or being insulted by another.
Gary plucks a Pokeball from his belt and holds it in Ash's face.
My friends clutch their pompoms, but I lose my grip on mine and drop them. I think it was sorta deliberate.
"I'm ready," says Ash.
The two rivals are going to fight. I am not sure why this bothers me, but it does. Ash's friends have the same idea.
"Ash, you're crazy," scolds Misty, "this isn't a well motivated battle!"
"Yeah," says Brock, "Pokemon don't respond well to battles inspired by rivalry and anger."
Ash looks torn. I guess he wants what is best for his Pokemon. He probably would not have accepted Gary's challenge if not for his rival's constant baiting.
Gary presses the button on his Pokeball, to enlarge it. Of one accord, my fellow cheerleaders kick up their legs and start chanting.
"Gary's gonna triumph, Gary's gonna win, Gary's gonna kick your butt and do it all again!"
Then everyone turns and stares at me because I didn't cheer.
"Bad timing?" ventures Gary, assuming I must have just gone out of sync to not cheer. This subtle arrogance annoys me enough to spur me on.
"No," I say calmly, "I just think you're acting like a jerk."
Not a brilliant or weighty sentence, but it is more than I have said before. And it is enough. I'm not sure who looks most shocked.
"I - I'm acting like a jerk?" sputters Gary, finally, "what about loser boy here?"
"Actually, you provoked the fight, just like you provoked all the other fights," I say.
"Hey, you're supposed to be on my side," he says, helplessly. He is losing face in front of Ash. I do not mind. But I am a little worried about what everyone will say afterwards.
"I would be on your side if I thought it was the right side," I continue, thinking that if I don't fully speak my mind now, I won't ever, "but you see, Misty and Brock, who are both on Ash's side, are advising him not to get roped into foolish fights, and not to act stupidly. But nobody is telling you off or giving you such advice, and maybe someone should. If we're supposed to be friends, I should act like one. You're becoming a spoilt brat."
I resist the urge to run away after this speech. I feel like I've broken some taboo, but I'm glad I said it.
Ash smiles a bit. Gary just sputters, staring at me in disbelief, but finally snaps out of it.
"Real trainers can handle themselves," he snaps at me, but the fight is averted. He absentmindedly clips the Pokeball back to his belt, and stamps off. Excepting Sara, all my friends run after him.
Sara smiles at me. "If I were you, I think I might have reacted the same way."
I'm not sure about that 'if I were you' comment. Sara is more hot tempered, more bold than I am. She would have less trouble telling someone what she thought of them.
"What do you mean?"
"Think about it."
She pats me on the shoulder and runs off with the others. I stare at Ash and his friends for a moment, and they stare back.
Brock breaks the silence, predictably. "You're obviously... the smartest one of the lot... hur hur hur... would you go out with me, miss?"
"Ash," I say, nervously, "does Brock act like this around other girls?"
"Yes," he says, and sighs slightly.
Misty begins counting off names on her fingers.
"There are all the Nurse Joys and Officer Jennies we encounter, then there was my sisters, then there was Melanie, and Lara Laramie, Susie, Aya, Rebecca, Erika, Giselle, umm..."
Ash picked up where she left off.
"That magician's assistant, that Gastly, all of Erika's gym, Cassandra, Cassidy, umm, that woman teacher, Stella, Florinda, Katrina, Eve, Janette, and Gary's entire fanclub."
"You forgot Tyra," said Brock, sheepishly.
I feel kind of sorry for him. He must be desperate.
"Uh, Brock," I say helpfully, "a word of advice. Girls rarely respond well to such subtle pick-up lines as "would you go out with me, hur hur hur, you're real purty". In fact, that would more likely turn someone off. Try getting to know someone first."
"You think so?"
Brock looks as though I have just told him the meaning of life. If this is a revelation to him, no wonder he is being shot down so often.
I remember my situation. "I think I should go," I say quietly, "the others will be wanting me, I guess..."
Ash gives me a thumbs-up, and I turn to leave. I walk slowly back to Gary's house, where we are all staying. He lives there alone. He said he never found out what happened to his parents.
I am a little worried. Gary's like a younger brother. And I feel like I have to be careful what I say to him, so as not to upset him. That doesn't seem right. But, he doesn't have a family, and secretly, he worries that he might not be able to make it big in Pokemon training - and if not training, then in what? I thought saying nice things all the time to build up his confidence would help. Now, I am not sure.
I am thinking about what Sara said. If she were me... what makes me the one who had to tell Gary that? How am I different? I am the most calm, perhaps the most thoughtful, although I can't tell what is in other people's heads, obviously. And maybe I understand Gary a little more. Do I? He's a couple of years younger than me, which isn't a lot, but sometimes it seems like more, because he acts that way.
And at other times, he acts... well, like a future Pokemon Master. He's not a bad kid, really. He has a sense of direction, a sense of humour, and when he laughs properly - not that taunting one he directs at opponents - you gotta laugh too.
Just as I think this, I look up and realise I am at Gary's house. I had come to it without realising. But the door is locked. I bend down and pick up a piece of paper shoved halfway under the door.
I'm really sorry. I didn't wanna have to leave. But Gary went weird, and I couldn't get him to change his mind. Don't tell him I told you, but I think he said we are heading to Celadon City. If you can, try to meet us up there, maybe you can talk some sense into him. You're better at that than us. But I gotta go right now, so suddenly, he's being hurried.
I actually didn't expect this. But now I am on my own. That rotten kid! What am I supposed to do now? I have hardly any money, I don't know my way around all that well, my friends, and the only place I fit in, are somewhere on the road without me, without even telling me.
Like Gary, I don't have any family to call. Maybe that's why we get along so easily. We both know what it's like to have no roots. So we stuck together. But now he's left me in the lurch because I tried to help him. Uggh! That does annoy me!
And I don't get annoyed often.
I stomp around, frustrated, for a few minutes, before fumbling in my pockets. A few coins of low value, a bus ticket, ID card, handkerchief... and a Pokeball.
I send out my sole Pokemon.
"Lapras," she says, looking around her. No battle. No water. She wonders why she has been called out. She is young and restless, but she still respects me as her friend.
"We're alone again," I say. She sees my sad expression and immediately mirrors it, which makes me smile, which makes her smile. I put my arms around her neck and hop on her back.
"I know you're a Pokemon who can fight on land," I say, "although you prefer the water."
She understands what I mean, and moves off, propelling us along the ground with her flippers. It is no Rapidash ride, but it is faster than I could walk.
I am not sure why I am riding on Lapras. I am not sure where I am riding on Lapras. After we go past Ash and his friends, I think I know. Misty calls out to us to stop.
I nod to Lapras, and she jerks to an abrupt halt. Abrupt is an apt word, as she slams the brakes on effectively enough to send me flying off onto the ground.
"Ow," I mutter, and she bows its head in apology.
"You have a Lapras?" says Misty, running up. I would have thought that pretty obvious.
"Yeah," I said, "it's my only Pokemon though."
"Oh, it's beautiful," gushes Misty, stroking her neck, "I just love Lapras! Water Pokemon are terrific, aren't they! This one is really cool, how long have you had it?"
"Well, just a couple of years," I say, "it's still fairly young, in Lapras terms."
"I've always wanted a Lapras," she said, and scratched under Lapras' chin. Lapras is enjoying this.
"Hey, what are you doing back here so soon?" asks Ash, interrupting.
"Well, I dunno, I guess I just felt like going for a walk."
This is so obviously a lie that all three of them stare at me with identical sceptical expressions.
"Okay," I sigh, "when I got to Gary's house, everyone else had already left."
"That jerk," mutters Ash.
"Oh, he's not so bad," I say, automatically defending him, "I don't know why they did that, though."
"Where are you staying, um... you know, I don't even know your name...?" says Misty.
"I am Krysta," I admit, "and I was staying at Gary's house, until he locked it. I don't really have any place to go."
"Come back to my house," Ash offers, immediately.
I was secretly hoping someone would say that. But his immediate generousity, to someone who he hardly knows, and hardly likes, amazes me. He and Gary are different.
"I would appreciate that," I whisper.
Brock smiles and goes a bit red. "Heheh... Ash's house isn't all that big... you could share a room with me, Krysta - by the way, that's a real pretty name."
"Why thank you," I tease, "Brock's a real pretty name too."
I take back Lapras, and follow Ash as we head to his home. Any person, even me, can survive some things. I am happy to have a place to stay.
Ash's home is a lot different to how mine was - when I had one, anyway. His mother works hard to make a lot of good food for him and his friends - oh, and me too, I guess. Welcome thought. She asks Ash how his day was, and shares a few pieces of gossip with us on her way through to the kitchen as she takes ingredients and various bits and pieces back and forth.
Ash is sprawled comfortably on the couch, wearing nothing but boxer shorts with a Snorlax print on them. Pikachu lies on his stomach. Misty scolded him in hissed tones about looking decent when company was over. I don't mind. I feel like I'm seeing a whole other world here. He feels totally relaxed and safe in his own home. He's lucky, I think.
A Mr Mime is also present in the house, occasionally moving past us to dust shelves, but at the moment, it is doing the ironing. I should teach Lapras how to do housework. I smile to myself as I imagine what it would think of that.
This house is small compared to what I am used to. But I like it better.
Brock, Misty and Ash all talk to each other teasingly, carelessly, thoughtfully, seriously, flippantly. They interact easily and occasionally try to include me in the conversation. But I am more interested in watching. Is this how friends act?
That night, I lie on the couch/makeshift bed in the Ketchums' living room. It is still and silent, well, if you ignore Mr Mime snoring in the next room.
I'm reminded that I am alone again. I think of what Ash said, a lot earlier that day, about how I was a meaningless puppet. He didn't mean it after he met me, but I guess a lot of people would see me that way. Meaningless.
Come to think of it, what is the point of me? What am I... I'm a Pokemon trainer but I don't have any badges or merits won. I'm a daughter but I don't have parents. I'm a friend but I don't have friends. I'm a cheerleader but I can't cheer any more...
What use is cheerleading anyway? What real value, I mean? And what use was hanging out with Gary if he would just forget about me so easily?
What use am I? I'm a face in a crowd, a "fan" of an aspiring trainer. But nothing I have done has ever been of any consequence. There was no reason for me to be born.
I go to sleep. I do not want to have to think any more. But in the strange way that sleep has, its shaky hold breaks, and I am awake again, although I feel odd. Did I manage to get caught in that tenuous grip of the point between sleep and awake?
Whatever it is, I wonder if I am dreaming. Lapras stands in front of me, but she can speak like a human. The conscious part of my brain wonders how a large Pokemon like Lapras can fit in the Ketchums' lounge without crushing most of the furniture. The dreaming part of my brain tells the conscious part to shut up and listen.
Lapras looks at me. "You shouldn't think there was no reason for you to be born, Krysta. Everyone who is alive can affect other lives. As you have done."
"I haven't done anything," I say quietly.
"Let me show you what life would have been like if you had not been born."
"Everyone would be happy, I bet."
"Oh, be quiet. Do you want to see this or not?"
"I would, actually."
Lapras glows, and fades out, and in her place, I can see things, as if on a movie screen. I take a tentative step forwards and touch the screen. My hand goes through it, but I can see it in the scene behind the screen. Following from this, I step through the screen and find myself in a place I do not want to be.
I see my father, and a woman who I do not know, but she is familiar, I am sure of that. My father looks younger, but it is him. I shudder. Neither of them can see me, something for which I am grateful.
"This is your real mother," I hear Lapras' voice say.
As I watch, the two raised their voices to each other, saying things I couldn't make out. Finally, as I knew he would, father lost his temper and hit out at the woman... uh, my mother.
"At this point in your life," whispers Lapras, "you had just been born. Did you know that your father was jealous of you for taking his wife's attention? Did you know he wanted her to choose between you?"
I turn away from the horrible scene, my mother was crying, my father would not stop.
"Look again," whispers Lapras, "look again."
I don't want to, but I turn back to the scene. It is identical in every way, except that both look older. My mother looked horribly more worn. And my father hadn't changed. He was the age I knew him at when he left. Years older.
"If you had not been born," says Lapras quietly, "your mother would not have been killed over this jealousy. But she would have had to stay with your father. If you had not been born, nobody would have told the police. If you had not been born, he would still be the way he was when you knew him."
"Don't show me that," I say.
The figures before me disappear, and I am glad. New ones take shape.
This time, I see myself talking to Gary. It was a year or two ago.
"This... fanclub idea... seems a little weird," said Gary to me, smiling sheepishly. "Are you sure about it?"
"Come on, bro," the image me teased, "who deserves a cheerleading squad more than the masterful GARY OAK?"
He laughed, and I tousled his hair. I remember that.
A series of quick scenes flash past in place of that one. Scenes of Gary challenging gym leaders. Scenes of Gary defeating opponents. Scenes of us cheering. Scenes of Gary smiling.
"Would you like to see how things turn out had you not been born?"
I nod, uncertain. The pictures before me twist into Gary, his current age. He was in his house alone, as he had been before, and looking at two badges as though they brought him bad memories. He threw the badges onto the floor, as if hoping they would break.
"I knew I could never be a Pokemon Master," he said quietly. I instinctively reach forward to put a hand on his shoulder; he looks so... pathetic. Sad, I mean. But you cannot touch something that is not there. If I am there to see the scene, then I cannot be where I do not exist.
"I knew I could never be anything at all."
He sits for a long time, staring at the wall, saying nothing. I do not want to see this either. My anger at Gary immediately fades.
"And more, Krysta. There is more. Imagine the club had somehow started up without you, which it would not have done."
The next scene is one that had happened only a couple of months ago. Ami, one of my fellow cheerleaders, had just received a private phone call and was now sitting on the stone steps to the Pokemon Center, looking stunned.
"Hey Am, what's up?" I asked quietly, sitting down beside her.
"Ken's sick," she whispered, "like, pretty bad."
I sucked my breath in. Ken was Ami's twin brother. You don't get much closer than twinship. Ami idolised her "big brother", as she jokingly called him - he who came less than an hour prior to her. I saw a photo of him, he had smiling eyes and a nice face. Ami had kidded around, suggesting she set the two of us up. She said I'd like him. She said everyone would like him.
And now he was sick.
"Krys, what should I do?"
Everyone comes to me with these sorts of questions. I don't know why. I don't think I know more than anyone else. But she needs advice.
"What do you think?" I said seriously, "you have to go and see him. You can't stay around here wondering what's happening to him."
"I can feel what's happening to him," she said miserably, "I feel it here."
She gestured to her heart. I am not sure if she meant it made her sad, or if she could actually feel it through some bond to her brother. Neither of which I would have doubted. But I stood up.
"Do you want to see him?"
"I have to see him."
"But Gary's going to challenge the gym leaders here later this week."
"For once, you have to squash responsibility," I said, "use common sense, and gut feelings. And hey, you haven't seen him in a while. You gotta show him my photo so you can hook us up after he gets better, right?"
She smiled a little at that, and stood up also. "I will tell Gary," she said.
I follow her for a little way, and listen outside the door to the room where we are staying. Gary has raised his voice and is telling her that she can't leave at such a crucial time, and to not be so thoughtless. As she leaves, suppressing sobs, I storm in.
"GARY OAK," I shout, "if you can't let a poor girl go for one week to visit her OWN TWIN BROTHER who is maybe going to die, just because six cheerleaders look better than five, then YOU ARE AN OBNOXIOUS PIG!"
He stared at me, mouth opening a little. "Is that why she wanted to go? She didn't tell me that. I wouldn't have said what I did if I'd known."
"Maybe you didn't let her explain," I said, "go and apologise."
He did so. He is a stubborn person, that was the only time I ever saw him apologise for anything. I knew what happened after that. Ami went to see her brother, and her presence helped him to want to recover. She had some time off with her family and was a lot happier when she came back.
But now Lapras was showing me something different. Ami agonising about what to do, finally deciding she ought to go but being told off by Gary. With nobody to intercede, Ami stayed, growing more and more miserable. Ken died, having missed the bond with his twin, and when they heard this, the entire fanclub became angry at Gary, and left.
I see Gary walking on by himself, fingering his latest badge. He bumped into a figure who looked up. It was Ash.
"Hey, Gary," teased Ash, "where's your little fanclub go? Finally realise what a lost cause it was?"
"Shut up," said Gary, almost inaudibly, and kept walking.
Lapras turns to me. "Are you convinced yet? I am going to show you what is perhaps the most surprising." I am not sure I want to see it, but I do, and I remember after we left Viridian Gym.
"I can't just leave it like that," fretted Gary, pacing, "I can't let a loss hang. I have to fight back. I have to get that Earthbadge."
"Gary," I warned him, "it's too dangerous. You do not have to prove yourself against everyone. That Pokemon knocked all of us out with no effort."
This is a simple scene, but I am now in an amazing scenario; the me spectating, I mean, I don't exist in this world. The streets are dark, people sit in the gutters, people steal from each other and fight. There are no Pokemon. I see the red letter "R" on a lot of buildings. It must be Vermilion City, as I notice Surge walk past, alone. The Pokeballs are gone from his belt. Vermilion City was a pleasant, sunny place, but in this it is full of dark, tall buildings and crime. The gym has a red R on the door. The scene suddenly changes to a family I don't know, I guess it could be any family. A young girl, probably about 10, is crying.
"But I wanted to start my Pokemon journey," she sniffled.
"You can't," said her mother, "it's too dangerous! Team Rocket would target you, as they have targeted everyone. None of us can have Pokemon any more. I thought we settled this. I'm so sorry, dear..."
"You see," interrupts Lapras, "had Gary gone on to challenge the gym leader again... did you know that he is the leader of Team Rocket? The gym leader would have used his powerful Pokemon to kill Gary, and take all his Pokemon."
"How did that lead to... this?"
"This final victory of that Pokemon caused the Rocket leader to take more care with it, respecting now how powerful it was. Few Pokemon can kill humans, let alone so easily. Because he developed this respect for the Pokemon, managing it well, it stayed with him for a longer time than it would have if not, giving him sufficient power to defeat any opponent, enforce his own agenda, and thus take many places in the world for Team Rocket."
What I am watching shifts again, changing to row after row of Pokemon in small, dark cages. They all stare miserably out, wanting to be free, but they have been there for a long time.
"Because of me..." I say, in disbelief.
"The normal things a person may say and do can have no significance for them, but it affects things. You have made a difference to people in merely existing. Can you see that?"
The scene before me continues, some unseen camera panning along the rows of cages. I see a Lapras in a large cage at the end. It is battered, tired, and defeated-looking. It is my Lapras.
"I understand," I say, "but it's hard to believe that all THAT could happen just because I didn't exist."
"You never caught me," she says, smiling, "some Rocket member did instead. They used me to help steal other Pokemon, making trainers miserable..."
Scenes show a pigtailed girl shouting out as her Ditto was taken away. A young lady running along a shore after a faceless Rocket on a Lapras, who held her Pokeballs. A young boy, named Ash Ketchum sobbed over his Pikachu.
"Do you have to have visual aids for everyone? You're depressing me."
She laughs. "Go back to sleep, but don't forget this."
I nod a little, smiling for the first time. I am beginning to feel a twinge of value. One does, after seeing one's absence result in a ruined world. I step out of the weird frame that shows me other places, and curl up on the sofa. I am soon asleep again.
And now it is morning, and I wake to a cry of horror. I force one eye open, and see Ash in the doorway to this room, staring in disbelief. I wonder what he could be looking at. I open both eyes and look around. Furniture is broken. Pieces of table leg lie shattered on the ground. The ruins are in the general shape of a Lapras. I realise it must have been there after all.
"What HAPPENED?" chokes Ash, seeing his destroyed room.
"I really underestimated the power one could access if they managed to fully exist in that state between sleepfulness and wakefulness."
Misty groans and tries to smooth her tangled hair. "You're way too philosophical for this early in the morning."
"Krysta, what happened to this lounge room?"
I shrug. "Good question. I was asleep."
It is not long after that that I leave. Everyone was very nice to me. It is strange. But I can see now why that boy Ash has gotten to be so good. He gets along with his Pikachu very well.
I do not have any money, and I am not about to ask for any. Instead, I consult a direction sign and head off vaguely towards where Celadon City is. I know it will be a long walk.
I travel a path worn through grass, and look at everything around me. Trees, shrubs, stones, a river. The sky, with a few small wisps of cloud, but mostly clear. It is beautiful. This morning is beautiful. Perhaps I just feel it more than usual, but I am glad to be alive.
As I think this, a car comes careening along the path, causing me to go diving out of the way to narrowly avoid being run over. I lie painfully on the grass before propping myself up. The car has stopped. I recognise that terrible driving. It is Anita, our chaffeur.
Gary jumps out of the car and runs over to me. I stand myself up and face him cautiously.
"Krysta," he ventures, and seems as if he doesn't know what to say next. But I know what he means. He came back to find me.
"You were right," he says finally, "I'm really sorry I didn't listen like that."
I almost faint. Gary is apologising! He never apologises... the words don't sound right on him. Kind of stilted, kind of forced. But I know him well enough to know how much he means them.
I grin and tousle his hair. "C'mon, Pokemon Master," I tease, "shouldn't you be out winning battles?"
Gary smiles back, knowing this means apology accepted, and I follow him into the car. My friends greet me, and I think that none of them wanted to leave me behind to begin with. Maybe they agreed with me too, but none of them had said so. Sara gives me a thumbs-up.
It's kinda weird, the influence or power this kid holds over all of us. It used to bother me, but now I understand. He needs us to help him properly, because of his incredible charisma, I think he will become a figure of real importance to everyone. But we gotta help him first.
So if I hear him being bossy, I'll scold him. If I hear him being in charge of us, I'll smile. We are not weak people, as we seem.
I know now, it is because he, like every other person, has an impact on other people. And we, in what little we do, are still significant.