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Thread: {shantih, shantih, shantih} {one-shot}

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    .______. Elysia's Avatar
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    May 2013
    All I do is work.

    Default {shantih, shantih, shantih} {one-shot}

    {shantih, shantih, shantih}

    “I’m sorry, Mr. Balkerton. The tests came out positive.”

    The room was icy cold.

    “What does that mean, doctor?”

    The doctor brushed an imaginary speck of lint off of the white lapels of a pristine lab coat before continuing. “I’m afraid your daughter can feel, Mr. Balkerton.”

    The not-so-proud father looked up, an expression of mild confusion crossing his face. “Feel?”

    The doctor pushed her wire-rimmed glasses a little further up the slope of her nose, sighing as she searched for the appropriate terminology to express herself. “During prenatal development, your daughter experienced some trauma in her prefrontal cortex—most specifically, the modules of her cingulate gyrus, where the basis of what we call ‘feelings’ is found. It seems that, unlike the rest of us, her damaged mind forces her to feel a class of psychological stimuli known in my department as emotions.” She could already see Mr. Balkerton’s eyes glazing over from the influx of medical terminology, but he was polite enough to nod at regular intervals, so she kept speaking.

    “Ah. I see.”

    Mr. Balkerton rocked back and forth on his feet for a moment before slipping a glance at the glass window of the neonatal unit, where a somewhat-bewildered nurse in blue scrubs was waving her fingers through the air in a vain attempt to calm a squalling, red-faced infant. He tore his gaze from his daughter to the doctor again. “How is my wife?”

    “Your wife is dead, sir. Complications during the cesarean killed her. I can get a full report to you within an hour, if you’d like.”

    His wife was dead. That was unfortunate. She’d always said her side of the family had weak hips.

    That really was quite unfortunate. Mr. Balkerton made a mental note to look into hiring a maid. He ran one hand through balding patches of brown hair and sighed, at a loss for what to say next. “What are those sounds she’s making?” he asked at last, looking across the frosted glass toward the cradle that held his daughter.

    The doctor frowned, momentarily confused, and slowly made the connection. “We believe your daughter is crying, Mr. Balkerton.”

    He stared blankly back. “What’s that?”

    “We… we aren’t quite sure,” the doctor said at last, torn between giving vague information or explaining that neither she nor her colleagues at Iccirus Women’s Hospital understood what was wrong with the young Natasha Balkerton. “Our current theory is that she is crying to generate attention.”

    “Why would she do that?”

    The doctor gritted her jaw and looked through the spotless glass window, not daring to meet Mr. Balkerton’s confused eyes. The infant Natasha, as if aware that she was the subject of attention, wailed even louder. Stiffening, the doctor resisted the urge to wince and cover her ears to stifle the unnatural sound. “I have some technicians analyzing the results of her PET scan and MRI, but there’s not much we can do at this stage. Because her brain is so small, interpreting the synaptic impulses is, understandably, quite difficult, and we don’t want to further any neurological damage with excessive testing. So far, our results are mostly inconclusive, but we have determined that your daughter’s limbic system is far more active than that of an average child her age.” Or, the doctor almost added, than any fully grown adult’s.

    Mr. Balkerton nodded calmly, although his brow furrowed as he tried to cobble together meaning from what the doctor had said. “Do you think she’ll grow out of it?”

    The answer was a resounding ‘no,’ and the doctor had no qualms in telling Mr. Balkerton that. “I’ve contacted some of my colleagues at the Mossdeep Medical Research Center, and we’ve managed to all-but-confirm that Natasha has a severe, early-onset condition that we call Pathos Syndrome.” She glanced back at her clipboard to do a quick re-reading of the notes she had scribbled down from her recent phone call with the technicians in Mossdeep. “Unfortunately, children with Pathos Syndrome don’t just ‘grow out of it.’ If anything, her emotional responses will become more complex as she ages, with a large peak between the ages of twelve and fourteen during the onset of puberty. It’s possible with intensive treatment that she could recover, but at this point, we simply don’t have enough information about her or Pathos Syndrome in general—you must understand, this is a very rare disorder, and treating it will be difficult. We will, however, do everything in our power to assist you.”

    “Oh. Okay.”

    The doctor glanced at the bottom of her hastily-scrawled notes. “My colleagues at Mossdeep have been researching psychological disorders for years, and I believe they’ll be better equipped to help you than the staff here or at IccGen.” Indeed, the doctors at Iccirus General Hospital had been just as perplexed as she was with this new case. “I can give you their contact information, but we’d like to keep Natasha under observation for at least a week to make sure that no other complications arise.”

    “I understand.” Mr. Balkerton nodded again. “Thank you, doctor.”

    “Of course.”

    There was a long pause.

    “Why is she actually crying, doctor?” Mr. Balkerton asked again. Against his will, he felt a small prickling of curiosity.

    The doctor’s response was quiet and immediate, although she didn’t quite believe in it. “Because she can feel, sir, and that hurts her greatly.”

    “Good morning. I’m Doctor Finlayson, head of the Neurological Research Department here at Iccirus MRC. Please, have a seat.”

    Mr. Balkerton, along with his—thankfully—silent infant daughter, Natasha, obediently sat down in the plush chair provided. “Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice, Doctor Finlayson,” Mr. Balkerton said. He looked a little tired.

    The woman nodded curtly, her face pinched but gentle as she brushed a few wisps of hair back into the tight bun on her head. “Of course,” she said absently, her gaze flickering from father to the child and back to father again. “When we heard that you had such a perplexing case, I couldn’t help but clear out my schedule for you.”

    There was a long silence between the two adults for a moment. Natasha began to cry softly, but stopped at a warning hiss from her father.

    This was going to be a long, and Dr. Finlayson didn’t look forward to it, no matter how many times she had to make this speech. “Where would you like to start?” she asked at last, interlacing her pale and thin fingers in front of her on her desk. “We’ve confirmed that Natasha is Pathos Positive, and I think you should know that up front, but the rest of the way is uncertain right now.”

    Mrs. Balkerton looked up politely. “I know that Iccirus MRC has the access to the best technology for treating neurological disorders, and I will spare no expense in rehabilitating our daughter. I understand that you have the best chance of treating her that anyone would.”

    “I understand.” Dr. Finlayson nodded. “I can’t imagine what it must be like for both of you, but I can direct you to several support groups and organizations for parents of children with neurological disorders. Since Pathos Positives—that’s the shortened term for children and adults who express visible signs of their Pathos Syndrome—are so rare, I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to meet up with a family that knows exactly what you’re going through, but I trust you’ll find the support groups helpful.”

    “Thank you,” said Mr. Balkerton.

    Dr. Finlayson shuffled through some of the many neat piles of paper on her desk before pulling out a manila folder. “As my colleagues must have told you, Pathos Syndrome is incredibly rare and has only recently begun manifesting itself in the population, so our knowledge about it is practically miniscule. Again, I feel safest telling you this up front.” She looked up through tortoiseshell-patterned glasses. “We have several proposed treatments for Pathos Syndrome—all of which are safe on humans, mind you—that we think we could use, but we've been drawn to a particular field. With your consent, of course.”

    “Of course.”

    “Excellent. There will be some official paperwork for you to complete before we finalize this, of course, but it is a pleasure to have your consent,” Dr. Finlayson said.

    “What exactly is the procedure?”

    “We’ll be using pokémon therapy, in a sense.” Dr. Finlayson looked up for any sign of recognition, and when Mr. Balkerton did not move his head or otherwise indicate that he understood, she continued, “For instance, when treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, we’ve found that using companion pokémon such as growlithe have given afflicted patients much solace. Applying this practice to other fields is still a process in its relatively early stages, but we’ve found that psychic-type pokémon have incredible prowess in this area. Their ability to sense and manipulate human emotions has proven incredibly effective in treating other neurological disorders, and I believe we can apply it to Pathos Syndrome with relatively high levels of success. It will be entirely non-invasive.”

    “And you are sure this will be the best option?” Mr. Balkerton asked.

    Dr. Finlayson nodded. “Indeed. I can discuss a few other options for you, if you’d like.”

    The official paperwork was signed within the hour.

    Natasha Balkerton knew from her first day of school that she was different. She’d known before that, actually, and she had that sinking feeling that children so often had (usually wrong, but always there) that this was the kind of trouble that was enormous and would last forever, and no one else understood how she felt. It was as if the entire world was out to get her, demons in the shadows beneath her bed reaching out to wrap their dark claws around her. She’d been told she was being foolish, but she, like children so often did, refused to listen.

    And for once, Natasha Balkerton was quite accurate in her childhood fears. For as long as she could remember, she’d been held to a different standard. The kids in her pre-school didn’t have a fantastic bird all the colors of the rainbow hovering around their shoulders wherever they went, didn’t try to punch each other, didn’t question the teacher or run around during recess and laugh and play like little girls were supposed to—didn’t they do that in the books, at least?

    But the real difference in Natasha was that she thought differently from everyone else, and she could sense it. She saw the world in color, touched everything like life was a stream and she was dipping her fingers in the consciousness of the world and letting its lifeblood pulse around her fingertips. But everyone else felt so flat to her, so bland, as if she spend her days threading through cardboard cutouts. She tried knocking them, sometimes, ran her fingers through the grey, but they just fell over until someone picked them up.

    No one ever said she had to think like a logical human being, of course (it was, however, expected of her. Quite often).

    There were stares. The other kids knew better than to laugh at her (or they knew worse, perhaps, because they knew nothing at all), but every eye on the classroom was drawn to her and the iridescent sphere above her, marking her as different, giving Natasha her rainbow in a world of cardboard.

    “My name is Natasha Balkerton,” she announced to the class, a protective surge of anger rising up in the center of her chest like a fire as she felt their eyes on her why were they doing that.

    Her rainbow psychic gently reached down and wrapped a yellow and blue candycane-striped tendril around her shoulder, and the flash of anger vanished in a touch of cool.

    “Hi, Natasha,” they all said, listlessly like a circle of alcoholics anonymous, aged five, and she sat down. The next boy stood up to introduce himself.

    “Hi, Robert.”

    They didn’t jeer; they didn’t know how.

    “Hi, Meghan.”

    But still they stared at the girl and her rainbow bird.

    Natasha found out what her rainbow bird with his beautiful feathers and scintillating touch was called the day it died, withered up one day and disappeared. She caught its grey and lifeless body in her hands, felt how light the feathers were, wondered how something that was so important could end up just as flat and dead as everything else.

    The creature’s body was cold.

    “What do you mean, it’s dead?” Mr. Balkerton asked, peering over the newspaper to look at his daughter.

    Natasha was holding back tears, feeling the quirks sneak their way up their throat into little warm hiccups. The tears threatened to slip out, though, and her rainbow bird couldn’t cage them in. She imagined its touch, feather-light, on her shoulders, the icy cool it brought, the gentle wisps wiping away the salty water from her cheeks before it poured into her mouth and threatened to drown her like rain, like the rain that was falling outside through the glass-pane window and—


    She looked up, and then she held the sunken body of her friend, which had shriveled so she could almost wrap her tiny, seven year-old arms around it, lip trembling, threatening to dissolve.

    He inspected the limp feathers in her hand and then returned to his newspaper. “So it is. We’ll have to ask Dr. Finlayson about it in the morning, then.”

    “But Daddy…”

    His face looked like he had carved it into stone, staring at the whimpering girl and the hair in her face with mild confusion, as if she had suddenly sprouted the wings of her rainbow friend.

    She tried again. “Daddy…”

    “We’ll get you a new sigilyph in the morning, Natasha. Please stop.”

    And she wanted to curl up and cry, and when that happened, her rainbow bird was supposed to be there, to suck the emotions away, to turn her as clear as a sheet of glass and as smooth as one too, where nothing could touch her and the world could see right through her, like she belonged. But her bird was dead in her arms, its single eye sightless, the vaporous wings without muscle, unable to sap her feelings away, and it hurt.

    The next day, she received a shiny new sigilyph that was just as vibrant as the first one, and her daddy patted her on the shoulder and gave her a smile that looked like it had been wrenched out of his teeth with a knife.

    “This is better, right?” he asked, as if she were a kettle that desperately needed a lid, and now that she had a lid it should all be better, even if her bird were still dead, lying on the carpet by her door, all lifeless and grey.

    Natasha opened her mouth to respond, felt the pain surging up in her like a wildfire, clawing out of her throat and in her eyes and—

    {There, there.}

    Icy tendrils wrapped around her shoulder, gently, and she felt something leaving her until she was swaying on her feet, blinking, feeling like she’d lost something important.

    The new sigilyph called herself April, and she had done something to the old sigilyph because he wasn’t there the next morning.

    Natasha felt like she was missing something important.

    “I’m afraid I don’t understand, Dr. Finlayson. How did she kill it?”

    “Emotions are a powerful thing, Mr. Balkerton.”

    “I understand, yes, but she—”

    “We think she overloaded her Masker. Don’t worry; the next one is more adequately prepared.”

    “Ah. Okay.”


    “Will it hurt her, Dr. Finlayson?”

    “Not at all.”

    His name was Jacob Westerfield, and he was an exchange student from Kanto, and he had absolutely no right to drop into her life like a tornado from the sky that almost blew April off of her shoulders and sent her flying straight into summer.

    But she found herself utterly fascinated, eyes drawn to the lonely star rolling around his shoulder, gem blinking in time with what she knew to be his heartbeat.

    He was a star-child too, she realized, eyes widening, heart racing, and April was reaching out for her already, feeling the pulse on their shared psychic connection and already sapping—

    {There, there.}

    She went in to see Dr. Finlayson frequently, but her visits came less and less often.

    She wanted to see the world in color again, but it was hard, hard when her new rainbow bird who was far more ruthless than the last would come in like a whisper on the wind that—

    {There, there.}

    She changed schools often. That bothered her at some point, but she couldn’t remember why.

    “My name is Natasha Balkerton,” she would say, standing by the blackboard and looking politely back at the stares.

    “Hi, Natasha.”

    And she would join her friends in greeting the new students blandly, faces plastered blank.

    Sometimes, though, when she least it expected it, Natasha felt the old anger surge through her, hot enough that April couldn’t hold it back in time.

    They were reading books in class, and Natsha was reading on of the old classics (Gone With the Wingull), and, at some point, she felt inexplicably sad. She frowned; it didn’t make sense, books weren’t supposed to make her feel anything at all, let alone hollow.

    She looked up, and the world was in color for a brief moment, the meaning unfolding from the paper pages and black ink into rainbows and starlight and—

    Across from her, Jacob Westerfield looked up, the sea star orbiting gentle circles like a comet flashing dangerously, rolling around his head, wheels of color flickering.

    “She’s my Masker. Her name is Serenity,” he said, gesturing to the golden star, whose red gem was screaming in protest. “You’re Tash, aren’t you?” His eyes, blue like the sky, studied her carefully, made her feel warm even though the room was cold, like Iccirus always was.

    “Natasha,” she began, about to correct him, and then she stopped. He had a Masker, too.

    {There, there,} April began, suddenly alarmed, rainbow wings reaching out and preparing to siphon it away.

    Tash pushed the sigilyph away, the rainbows flashing in her eyes, reaching. “This is April.”

    {There, there,} April repeated, and suddenly—

    Natasha Balkerton looked up at the boy in her class with polite eyes and then went back to reading her book.

    That evening, Natasha found herself wishing.

    {There, there.}

    She had an aching feeling, like her moments were measured, like she had to think of something and make the conclusion before everything went to hell, but why would she think that? She was happy here, she was calm, and she was—

    Still thinking too much for Finlayson, apparently. Natasha fingered the chair incessantly, wooden slats pressing into her back, grainy wood alive and dancing beneath her fingertips while being locked into place. She shivered.

    It was like living in a dream, waking up some moments and not remembering what was going on, what had happened before, what was to come. But there were those fleeting moments of clarity, those beautiful times when she felt alive, dancing and aflame while she ran her fingers through the sky and touched the clouds, smiling and laughing and—

    “Natasha, are you listening?”

    She looked up, guilty. Natasha hadn’t been listening, of course; she’d been thinking, and thinking was bad.

    April receded but remained alert.

    “As I was saying,” Dr. Finlayson continued, unfazed but unamused, “there is a high chance that your Pathos will cause more extreme reactions as you face the onset of puberty. Naturally, this is nothing to be afraid of; lots of children your age go through these phases, and rest assured, we will do our best to help you through them.”

    “You don’t look at me like other children, do you.” Natasha couldn’t quite keep the bitterness out of her voice, hunched as she was in her chair, knees pulled up to support her chin, eyes creased in a frown, prepared to push April away even as the sigilyph was rushing forward, trying to make her fit in, to be like the rest, to—

    Dr. Finlayson might’ve paled, but it wasn’t in her nature. She could see the flush spreading up Natasha’s cheeks, though. The anger stuck out like a sore thumb, radiating from the girl’s creased face.

    She looked so ugly when she was upset.

    “Children experience an influx of hormones during their pubescent years, and mood swings are not uncommon, Natasha. I assure you, there is nothing to be afraid of. We are working to—”

    Natasha decided to break the unbreakable taboo then, even though she saw the lines drawn hard and clear in the air, because why not.

    “What if I don’t want to?”

    She felt the temperature in the room screaming at her, the battle lines being drawn in hard black over the boundaries she had just crossed, April screaming in protest, voice shrill and cutting through the rainbows like daggers and—

    {There, there.}

    Jacob Westerfield was reading a comic book which half of Natasha thought was silly, because comic books were supposed a waste of time that didn’t have any use. They didn’t serve any sort of intellectual value, and they didn’t impart knowledge, and they were generally not useful.

    The other half of Natasha couldn’t help but feel like she was missing something.

    She peered over the edge of her science book, peeking at the boy with his pulsing stars. She felt like she knew him, somehow, like they’d made a connection at some point and yet—

    “It’s about a superhero,” he said, looking up as well. There was a secret hidden in his sky eyes, one that she wanted to grab on to, but she couldn’t quite place her finger on it.

    “A superhero?” Natasha tried not to sound dubious. Really, she did. But the other kids were watching, and she wanted nothing more than for them to accept her. And if that meant making fun of Jacob Westerfield and his golden star, she would do so, because her rainbow bird still marked her as an outcast. She wanted to belong, wanted to conform, wanted to feel like a part of them, because resisting the massive flow of the world, with its immaculate order chiseled out in a stone pyramid ten thousand feet tall, was too exhausting for a girl who hadn’t quite grown up yet. “Why would you waste time with that?”

    The other kids laughed, and Jacob Westerfield glowered.

    Natasha felt bad, but she suppressed the feeling before April could do anything about it.

    She wasn’t sure how she felt, returning to the world of cardboard, where everything was flat and simple.

    The next day, she tried again, because Jacob’s Masker had made him forget that he was angry with her.

    It wouldn’t do to hold a grudge, after all—that would be unproductive. And who were they to believe that their actions should influence someone else’s life? How could they be so selfish?

    “It’s about a superhero,” Jacob was saying, although he seemed to sense the déjà vu just like she did. Neither of them said anything.

    Natasha opened her mouth to laugh again, to gain the warm support of her friends, to be the first one to start pointing the fingers even as April took away the warm feeling of victory that she would feel, and then she held back. She wanted to see the rainbows.

    “A superhero?” Behind her, April tensed, so Natasha plunged right in, caution flying to the winds. “Which one?”

    “Crobatman,” the little boy who too was growing old with his star replied proudly.

    Both of their Maskers were working in full-force now, trying to change the smiling faces to stone, but Natasha was in a world beyond the stars and the rainbows, where she felt alive.

    “What does he do?”

    “He saves lives, Tash. He—”

    {There, there.}

    She felt like their conversations were taking place in pieces, like someone had taken their lives and cut them up, shredding them and scattering the pieces to the wind, and Natasha wondered how many men it would take to put her back together again.

    It wasn’t fair.

    She thought about this, muddling as she tried to struggle with the numbers of her math homework, which danced around on her page and in her mind and through the air, refusing to lie flat. She wanted them to obey her, wanted them to conform, and then she wondered how she could possibly approve of being different if she was so intent on making the things fit.

    At some point, Natasha realized, frowning a little, she’d started calling him Jake. She didn’t know when, she didn’t know why, she didn’t know how, but April refused to explain it.

    Did that mean they were close? She didn’t know how she felt about that, but it made her feel alive and existing and three-dimensional, moving through left and up and down and space and time, and—

    “I hate you!” Tash was screaming, backing away from her rainbow bird with its golden wings, which was gently reaching for her, eye blinking blue, preparing to siphon everything she ever had away.

    {There, there,} April was whispering, reaching—


    She pulled back like the sigilyph was on fire, screamed and cursed, wondered vaguely if Mr. Balkerton (he was her father, yes, but he word felt wasted on a man she hardly knew), downstairs, would look up from his newspaper and worry for her. But Tash always fought her demons, always struggled to understand, was always different. And she always did it alone, because she wanted to be like everyone else.

    What did it mean to be normal?

    “Don’t touch me!” Tash screamed, and she slapped the feathers away from her before they could freeze her back into the ground. She couldn’t do it again, couldn’t stand to lose it all. She was being scattered to the wind, piece by piece, and while her rainbow bird could fly away on the breeze through the grey skies like graphite, Natasha couldn’t.

    {Natasha, please,} the sigilyph was saying kindly, voice soft, gentle, controlled. As always. It was soothing, like a cold shower, enveloping her, wrapping around her and—

    “Why do you do this to me?” Her voice was almost hoarse, chafed raw and bloody from the shouting, but she had to know. It wasn’t fair.

    {You are being unreasonable,} April told her over their shared mental link, and there was a massive backwash of calm like a wave that was going to knock her head over heels and send her drowning, drowning in the sea of serenity.

    But who determined reasonable? Who said what was right and what was wrong? What did it mean to be normal, and who said so? Tash had looked for years for the rules, tried to understand where they were written down in stone to last forever, dictating her life, but they weren’t there.

    She was mad, maybe, but that was only because she broke their molds.

    Tash felt a little part of her resistance break away. It wasn’t fair.

    {There, there.}

    “Crobatman, you see, is a hero,” Jake was explaining to her when she finally burst out of her daze. “You know, he’s got this saying. That he’s not the hero people need, but he’s the one they deserve.”

    Tash paused. No one was watching. “I don’t follow,” she said at last.

    April hovered above her, and the golden star—a staryu, he called it; the word rolled off her tongue; was she a star or were you?—watched as well, wings flapping and gem pulsing in unison.

    They were the astral children, with their Maskers, everyone watching and waiting for them to slip up so that their Maskers could send then crashing back down to earth.

    “He’s afraid of crobat, actually, but he turned his fear into something productive. He let his fear define him.”

    Interesting. She’d been taught that letting her emotions do anything to her, let alone something as drastic as define her, was horribly wrong, but—

    “He let his fear make him into something better,” Jake was saying, pointing from one dark-lit panel to the next, where a man with membranous wings was rising from the night, watching from the stony spires, protecting the innocent. “They say men are forged in fire, but heroes are forged in fear. And Bruce Wayne was no more when Crobatman spread his wings.”

    Tash reflected for a moment, wondered what it would be like if she could wrap her hands around April’s wings and fly, fly above the cruel earth and its screaming gravity that tried to bring her back down. She smiled, understanding, and she looked up to see—

    Jake’s eyes were blank again, blue eyes flat like slate.

    She looked up accusingly, her own gaze catching onto his blinking staryu, Serenity, accusing. “Why did you—”

    By the time she thought to think about it again, Natasha couldn’t possibly comprehend why anyone would try to protect a city that didn’t want them, even if they were a hero that was deserved.

    “You aren’t doing very well on this program, Natasha,” Dr. Finlayson said, glancing through the notes. “I have records here for, oh my, six incidents in the past week. I thought you said you were doing better?”

    “I’m trying,” Natasha murmured, hanging her head in shame, and really, she was. It was just hard to focus all the time, and half of her wanted something else, which was dumb, because wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to be happy rather than right?

    “I know you are.” Dr. Finlayson didn’t sound sincere, but, then again, neither did Natasha. “It’s a hard time for you, but we’re here to help you through it.”


    Natasha looked up with dead and hopeless eyes, while half of her wished for rainbows.

    “I’m afraid it’s not working out for her, Mr. Balkerton.”

    “So I’ve heard. She was yelling at her Masker the other night. Did she tell you about that?”

    “No, surprisingly. What happened?”

    “The usual. It’s happened before, actually. She breaks out of control sometimes, and her Masker can’t quite keep it all calm. You said that that’s happened before, right?”

    “That’s how she broke her first one, yes. How did it turn out, Mr. Balkerton?”

    “She was smashing things, shouting a lot. It was quite difficult to get any work done, you know.”

    “I’m sorry about that.”

    “Leave him alone!” Tash was shouting, slamming a boy to the side. She had strength she didn’t know she had, when April wasn’t chaining her back, and it was hard to understand. She felt weird and awkward in her body, like her arms were too long and she was suddenly five inches taller, but it wasn’t the first time she’d been somewhere she didn’t belong; the shell that housed her was no different.

    They weren’t doing anything to Jake, of course, just like they’d never done anything to her. They just stared, looked with their dead eyes, whispered at the two people who dared to be tall in the world of gravity, even as the two pokémon tried to force them down. Serenity, with her icy cold, was there again, red gem blinking in haunting, hypnotic melody, sending them all staring, and Tash threw the star into the wall as well, where it slid weakly down, gem blinking no more.

    Still, the children stared.

    (They weren’t children any more.)

    (And she’d long since grown used to the stares, so what did it matter?)

    “Don’t any of you people care?” she was shouting, while Jake looked up in a daze, his eyes blank again, and her heart broke. But there would always be next time. There had to be.

    Tash tried again, surveying her captive audience. No doubt, someone was calling a teacher, so her time was running out, but Tash knew that her words would at least be remembered forever, until—

    They were running out of ways to stop her. What could they do, when they already had her mind?

    It was like she was a torch, lit on both ends and burning brightly, trying to spread her light to the world before the fire that had given her life consumed here completely and sent her spiraling into trails of ash among the dusty sky. She would fall back down, of course; everything fell back to earth back in the end.

    But she would have her handful of moments of desperate glory, and that was okay.

    Serenity came to her that night.

    {Leave him alone,} the star whispered in her mind, tendrils of its glittery thoughts strangely invasive compared to her sigilyph’s feather-light touch. {Can’t you see that you’re destroying him?}

    At first, Tash was paralyzed, unsure of what to say. She wasn’t destroying him; she was saving him. She was being a hero, fighting her faceless villains, trying to keep the world together.

    “I’m helping him,” she whispered.

    {That’s what you think.}

    “That’s what I know.”

    The conversation with the golden star was numbing, like it was already forcing her thoughts and feelings to their most basic levels, quashing her to think in flatland when she’d been born positive.

    {You are foolish, then.}

    Her anger gave her the strength to break free, but it was a short-lived glory that she had to spent quickly, before it flamed out. “Why do you help them, Serenity?”

    There was a pause, and the ruby gem throbbed like a heartbeat, asking questions in its crimson depths the color of blood. {I am his Masker. He hates me, but I love him, just as your sigilyph loves you.}

    Another flare of anger. “Bullshit.”

    {Do you think you’re doing him a service, teaching him to be different like you? Do you think it’s fair to him to give him hope when, in the end, he’ll only ever be shot down?}

    “Yes,” Tash growled.

    {You will be his undoing,} the staryu said at last, and floated away into the night sky, leaving her in pieces.

    She almost cried, almost, but she was stronger than that. Instead, she curled up in her bed again, pulled the covers over her ears to make a tent as she had for sixteen years, and thought.

    It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair at all, and her shoulders were just beginning to shake with the slightest tremor of—

    April came to her then. {There, there.}

    She understood what it meant to be Crobatman, to save a person who didn’t want to be saved, to try to be the hero that was deserved but not needed, and it all hurt.

    But she was already breaking, crumbling into clandestine pieces into oblivion, shredding herself and scattering away to the winds, so why did it matter if she did it in the name of another’s salvation?

    She was leaning into Jake, knowing it wasn’t allowed, that breeding pairs were set up by the state on factors such as genetic compatibility and intelligence quotient to create the most potent offspring, because it wouldn’t be possible just to love. And besides, she would never be allowed to reproduce, to spread her tainted genes into the population, because who would ever want a Pathos Positive for a child.

    But she loved him, and he loved her, even if they couldn’t remember why they’d fallen in love in the first place except in little snippets, and the hero always got the true love, right? So then—

    They hadn’t quite touched before both the rainbow bird and the golden star had pulled them away, siphoned out little bits of them again.

    One day, Tash imagined, there would be nothing left. April would pull all of her emotions out of her until she was just a shell, one that could be crushed between the pages of a book and preserved like dried flower petals—

    Oh. That was the point, wasn’t it?

    Let’s fly away together, you and me.

    The thought came to her in the night, like the golden star but filled with radiance.

    Crobatman let his world define him, let it shape him until he came out stronger, but this world was going to grind her down, not sharpen her into a deadly point, and she couldn’t afford to wait until she was too blunt to break the mold any more.

    So she did.

    It was easy enough.

    She’d held a sigilyph in her arms once before, cradled its weak body as it turned from rainbow to grey to dust, and she could do it again.

    And, when she finally put her mind to it, she tackled April to the ground, pinned the feathery light wings away even as they tried to freeze her, pinioned the bird until it couldn’t hurt her any more. "I hate you," she whispered to the bird, whose golden wings were still reaching out for her. "I hate you so much."

    She didn't have the heart to shout it, to scream it, to let it rip from her lips like a prayer, scathing a raw, or maybe she didn't have the heart for anything at all because that was April's price.

    {And I love you, Natasha Balkerton,} the downed sigilyph replied, splayed across the floor, pulsing in radiance even as she bloodied her fists knocking it unconscious.

    They were in a deserted building on the outskirts of Iccirus within half an hour, and she understood why she’d never tried to be a hero before. It hurt, and hurting hurt.

    “We could run away, Tash. You and me. They don’t need us, and we don’t need them.” Jake looked pleased with himself, pacing as he was, peering up at the deserted rafters. His blue eyes blazed like the color of the heart of a fire, distracted and flickering and constantly in motion, but they missed nothing. Invigorated as he was by brisk night air and dreams, he seemed so alive.

    And so did she, Tash realized. She was alive for the first time in forever, with no April in her mind, no summer thaw, just her own thoughts.

    Perhaps this was the life she deserved, if not the one she needed.

    “I thought you’d want to stay and fight,” Tash noted wryly, and she found herself looking toward the ceiling as well, where she could only see darkness. She’d been afraid of the dark, once, she remembered. Her father had chided her for it, repeatedly shown her that monsters didn’t live under the bed or in the closet and it was foolish to fear the dark, so why should she when there was nothing there to get her? (The monsters lived in her mind, he said, and she’d never believed him) “That’s the heroic thing to do, isn’t it?”

    Tash didn’t know why they even bothered pretending to be the good guys any more. There was no point being heroes in a world that doesn’t want to be saved, and the world they were so foolishly trying to save didn’t want their help, anyway. It was like that Crobatman thing Jake was always talking about. They weren’t wanted, or needed, and maybe they weren’t even deserved.

    Jake glanced at his nails for a moment, one hand slipping into his pocket while the other drummed a nervous, incessant beat on the fabric of his pants. “I’d marry you,” he said suddenly, as if he would run out of time to say it, and suddenly the weight of his words felt oppressive, like the air had turned to water and then glass, crystal clear but fracturing with each passing breath.

    (And Jake might’ve been right, because in that moment, the sirens started.)

    Tash, her mouth still open to reply (but how and with what, she hadn’t even begun to comprehend; she’d never considered that he’d) swore violently. She rushed to the window, fear starting to flood through her veins, and then the doubt began to creep in. What were they even doing here? Did they just expect to be left alone because they’d run away for a little?

    Foolish, her father would have called her.

    No. That was just dumb. She and Jake were the zits on the metaphorical face of their perfect society, and it would be too much to ask to be left alone, wouldn’t it?

    An instant of icy clarity hit Tash then and there as the police sirens rang in her ears and red and blue lights splashed across the walls. She and Jake had done nothing wrong, but they were different and for that, they would be ostracized. That was how it had to go—the world told them they were crazy, so they were crazy. How could they be anything else, when that was all they were allowed to have?

    If they had the time to talk, she was sure that Jake would give her the speech about heroism again. He’d tell her about Crobatman again, how he was the hero that his world deserved but didn’t need, how he’d be hated because he wasn’t understood, how he’d endure because he was a hero and that was what heroes did.

    Tash felt a flare of hatred, although she wasn’t sure for whom or what. But it wasn’t fair. Jake didn’t understand what was so clear to her now: Crobatman wasn’t real. He could afford to make stupid promises and be foolishly moral to the point of supreme idiocy because he lived in a world of comic books and lies where the villains had pointy hats and pitchforks. When Crobatman promised never to use guns, his promise made him a better person. That was all. His promise made him a hero.

    (What the comic books never discussed where the people who were neither heroes nor villains, those faceless extras on the side pages who weren’t the arch-nemesis or the love interest. The comic books never mentioned that the woman the Joker shot in his introductory chapter to prove how evil he was had a life and a family of her own, and that both of those could’ve been preserved if Crobatman had a gun instead of his fists.)

    Tash didn’t have a gun, but she knew that she certainly wasn’t the hero.

    The police would arrive any moment. They would bring April and Serenity and Finlayson and her father, and then they would overpower them and end Tash’s brief stint of freedom. They’d chain her down, suffocate her, drown her in icy water until she came out like them again, and they’d quash all of the anomaly out of her until nothing remained. And she’d remember this, maybe, or maybe not, but then what? What was it all for? They’d lock her up, study her like an animal, prick her to see if she bled like the rest of them.

    Outside, it started to snow.

    “Tash, we have to—”

    Whatever the two of them had to do, Tash never heard it. The doors to the warehouse shuddered and then slammed open, bringing a blast of cold air alongside a wave of police officers—or were they S.W.A.T.?—garbed in black and training laser-sighted, deadly-looking guns on the two teenagers inside. “Freeze!” one of them shouted. “Hands in the air!”

    Jacob Westerfield didn’t move for a moment, blazing with fury, and then he slowly raised his hands above his head. He took three steps to stand in front of Tash, his fists in the air as his gesture of defiance.

    Tash stood frozen for a moment, but her mind was racing at a million miles per hour.


    That’s what they wanted her to do, wasn’t it? They wanted her to stop moving, stop resisting, stop feeling. They needed her to lose herself in the icy numbness because she was different and they didn’t understand how or why, and that confused them, so they hated her for it. It didn’t actually confuse them, of course, but people didn’t like what they didn’t know, so why wouldn’t they hate her or Jake?

    Maybe Jake wasn’t the hero that these idiots needed, but Tash knew she wasn’t a hero at all. Not with these thoughts.

    “I said hands in the air!

    They weren’t shouting because they were angry. They were shouting simply to project the sound through the frigid air, and they were repeating their commands because they assumed that Tash couldn’t hear them. The idea that she might actually have to weigh her emotions against her rationality never occurred to them, because they never had to do the same.

    (And she really wanted to be like these people?)

    But she had no choice. She never did. She felt like she’d been balancing on top of a thin sheet of ice all of her life, treading with each foot so gently so she wouldn’t fall into the depths below, and only now had she seen the cracks spreading from each toe, from each ripple, threatening to submerge her and pull her under. And Jake was out there, drowning with her, and she didn’t know if they could ever make it to shore safely together.

    In a moment, she decided.

    “He forced me to come here. He said he’d shoot me if I didn’t. I don’t know where he put Apr—my Masker. I asked him to leave me alone, but he wouldn’t listen.” Natasha turned her face to stone and let her voice flatline into a dying heartbeat in monotone.

    She was glad that Jake wasn’t facing her, or else the expression of bewildered confusion that was slowly dawning across his face might’ve killed her.

    And then: “She’s right. She had nothing to do with this.”

    Jake unclenched his fist without lowering it and allowed a small, metallic object to fall out of his hands, where it hit the ground and clattered harmlessly against the tile floor. The men in the corner flinched, but nothing happened. “I dragged her along in my delusions of grandeur in the hope that maybe another Pathos Positive would understand what I did. When she refused, I threatened to kill her if she didn’t follow me. Logically, she did.”

    In a quieter voice, so quiet that Natasha herself wasn’t sure if she’d heard correctly, Jake whispered, “You’ll be okay.”

    He wasn’t. He wasn’t.

    But he was doing this, even if he wasn’t going to be okay, because he was enough of a hero that he would gladly sacrifice him for her—just her, or anyone? That’s what heroes did. Jake had been a martyr without a cause for so long now, and now he’d found something worth dying for, even if Natasha couldn’t bring herself to do the same.

    Jacob Westerfield, however, had stopped believing in heroes twenty-seven seconds ago after Tash had finished her cardboard lies, and he had calmly resigned himself to death.

    And Natasha didn’t think she would be okay. How could she, when the world was falling to pieces?

    Outside, the sky was cold and grey and unfeeling, stoic clouds splattered across the sky like prayers. Natasha wondered vaguely if maybe it should be storming something stronger than snow—meteors, perhaps, to reflect how her world was ending. But the sky didn’t seem to care, and it simply existed overhead, little flakes of fleecy snow drifting around aimlessly.

    “Please step away from the terrorist, Mrs. Balkerton.”

    He’s not a terrorist! Natasha wanted to shout, but that would be resistance against this unstoppable force. Instead, she stepped away, her fingers quivering like leaves in a gale. She couldn’t respond; Pathos Negatives wouldn’t be nervous or afraid or upset in this situation, would they?

    “This isn’t your fault,” Jake whispered as she stepped back. There was masked hatred on his voice though, in his hair, beneath his lips, burning in his eyes worst of all because—

    (Because it was.)

    It was always the hero’s job for it to be her fault, so maybe it wasn’t Natasha’s fault after all. But hadn’t she wanted to be the hero? Hadn’t she tried, in this cardboard world?

    Was it fair, really, for him to come like this, so much bigger than life or death or anything else, his rainbow of—

    {There, there,} April said, slipping out from behind the armed men and flitting across the abandoned warehouse faster than she had ever moved before, a rainbow of icy cold. Her wispy wings were outstretched, ready to wrap around Tash’s wrist and make her forget this, forget everything, and her single eye was already rippling with pale blue power.

    Involuntarily, Tash jerked away, and the tension in the room ratcheted noticeably. If she were Pathos Negative, she wouldn’t be responding to that, would she?

    Oh, Arceus. April froze, her wingtips almost on touching, borderline, like a leaf falling toward the ground and then fluttering around in erratic motion before succumbing to the inevitable. {Natasha?} There was a hint of—


    Jake spun around and took half a step toward the girl and her sigilyph before he jerked forward, and then collapsed into a marionette whose strings had been cut, arms and legs splayed out uncomfortably at impossible angles.

    The speed of light was approximately eight hundred and fifty-thousand times the speed of sound, so just as Tash was beginning to comprehend what she was seeing, she heard the sound of the bullets that punched through the air. They roared and smelled like sulfur, and then all was still.

    Natasha didn’t allow herself to move then, not with April watching her so closely, not even though she felt her world ending, crashing around her in pieces because it wasn’t fair. So she stood there, frozen, looking at the corpse on the floor with numb disbelief, and she continued to stand there as they took the body of the boy who was once Jacob Westerfield away to be burned.

    {There, there.}

    She convinced herself not to move for hours, not until the coast was clear. Her father was driving up now that his shift was over; now that she was safe, he’d called off the police. The rest of his day remained unchanged.

    Tash bent down, her shaking fingers scraping against the cool tile of the warehouse as she crouched down and picked up the tiny scrap of metal Jake had dropped. It was still warm.

    April appeared behind her, gentle, white wings reaching out but not quite touching once more. {What is it, Natasha?}

    Slowly, Natasha unclenched her fist.

    It was a ring.

    She’d promised him. She’d promised—

    Natasha didn’t allow herself to think about that. Heroes might always keep their promises, but villains always broke them. She might not’ve been the Joker, but she was pretty damn close to being the psychopathic embodiment of chaos and hatred. So what if she hated herself for it?

    Jake was so naïve, and she’d been just as foolish when she let him take her by the hand and lead her skipping merrily into oblivion. He’d assumed that they would succeed merely because they thought they were heroes. But now he was dead, and a hero wasn’t supposed to die until the end of the story, so he should come back, right?

    Or maybe this was the end of his story.

    It couldn’t be her story, never was, because she wasn’t any good at being a hero. She could never do the right thing, and she could never be brave enough to fight a world that would never understand her, and now she knew she could never continue existing like this. How could she, when Jake was—

    {There, there.}

    Tash was crying. Oh, Arceus, she was crying. She hadn’t done that since she was a child.

    But the alternative was leaving all of that emotion and hatred and sorrow bottled up inside, and she couldn’t do that without exploding, so—

    Another wave of serenity flowed from the sigilyph, and Natasha tried as hard as she could not to get swept out to sea. {There, there.}

    A ring.

    Was she willing to be the ostracized one, the freak, the loner, through sickness and through health, as long as they both should live—and beyond that? Did anyone want that?

    “I do,” she murmured but Natasha knew as soon as the words left her mouth that she was lying. Jake was a fool, and she was a bigger fool for believing in him.

    The interesting thing about Crobatman was that he wasn’t real. He lived in a fake world with fake friends and protected fake people from fake villains. The real world was cold and unfeeling, but Crobatman didn’t have to know that, did he? And how could he, how could he be the same with the knowledge that the world he ground himself to dust protecting didn’t exist?

    She wiped her eyes. It was time. Natasha didn’t want to be different. It hurt too much to be on the outside, to be the lonely one all the time. And it certainly hurt too much to feel like the lonely one all the time, and that was the real problem.

    Autumn, the season of change, was over. Winter was coming—brace yourself—and that was the season of stasis, when nature was kind and froze all of her children in layers of forgetful, unfeeling snow. The numbness was a blessing, Natasha knew, and she would run to it with open arms.

    She’d read a book once, or maybe a poem, that had told her all about April. Not the rainbow bird that haunted her nightmares and created the monsters beneath her bed and helped her through the day and (surely) loved her, but the month, the cruelest month. It came through with warm fingers and reminded the plants that they were alive, thawed the little tubers that had burrowed beneath the snow to survive the frost, told them to wake up and stretch their arms to the sky and spring forth from the dead land, into the blue sky that brought pain and fire because living life hurt.

    Maybe it was better, than, to be underground, in fear of the heat of the sun, perpetually doomed to live in serenity.

    She rolled the ring in her fingers, feeling the inescapable loop that the metal band created. Natasha realized, somewhat belatedly, that she had done it. No need to mince the words any longer; it wasn’t like she was going to be able to enjoy that privilege soon enough. Clearly, she didn’t have her Pathos Syndrome any more, or else this whole thing would hurt her immensely. And Natasha didn’t hurt, did she?

    Maybe she hurt a little—just a little, of course. But that didn’t mean anything. Her winter was here, as inescapable as time itself. There was no way to fight against them, not in the heroic manner Jake had envisioned, not without violence, not when the entirety of society hated her and everything she stood for.

    He’d died believing she’d escape and be okay.

    It just wasn’t fair.

    At least he’d died happy, even if he’d died wrong.

    “April?” she asked quietly, a small, sad smile forming on reflex and then vanishing. She let the ring fall out of her hand, and it clattered harmlessly by her feet. The clank of the metal rang out like a heartbeat in her ears. “Make it go away. Make it all go away.”

    {Are you sure you want this?}

    He’d made her feel alive in a world of cardboard, let her breathe when everyone else was so flat, like inky words pressed on to a page, smudging down into nothingness and falling away. But on those pages, she could live, live forever if she wanted to, while she would die if she left the confines of paper.

    It wasn’t fair. She would be able to live on, yes, but the price of living was so steep that living wasn’t worth it any more.

    Was it?

    {There, there.} The cold reached for her.

    Another look at the ring, at the promise, at the lies that were dripping from her lips into the icy ground.

    “I do.”

    “Hello, Natasha. How are you feeling today?”

    “Fine, thank you.”

    For once, although Natasha wasn’t sure why, Dr. Finlayson had left the television in her office on. Natasha couldn’t help but glance up at the news report.

    “Can I turn this off?” Natasha asked. “It’s distracting.”

    Dr. Finlayson nodded. “Let me just find the remote.”

    “—managed to apprehend the dangerous terrorist late last night in Mossdeep, bringing the recent twenty-four hours of terror to a close. Eyewitnesses identify the terrorist as Jake Westerfield, a psychologically unstable teenage boy suffering from an undisclosed neurological disorder that caused him to be extremely violent when provoked. Westerfield got out of control at approximately this time yesterday when he managed to thwart the efforts of the staryu charged with keeping him calm, at which point he went on an armed rampage downtown. Eyewitnesses have reported major property damage and vandalism, although there are no known casualties. Reportedly, he attempted to burn down Mossdeep MRC, but staff at Mossdeep MRC say that no extensive damage was done. The police reported that they tried to talk down Westerfield, but he refused to listen to reason and shot himself rather than go into custody when he was finally surrounded.”

    For some reason, Natasha was crying. Why was she crying?

    Because she can feel, sir, and that hurts—

    It was cold outside. Natasha absently blinked the tears away, picked up the remote Dr. Finlayson held out to her, and sent the images on the screen dissolving into snowy bursts of static, until there was nothing there for her to hold onto.

    Until there was nothing there for her

    Until there was nothing




  2. #2
    Queen Across The Water Marius's Avatar
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    Default Re: {shantih, shantih, shantih} {one-shot}

    This is amazing. I cried a little reading it. You rule.

    ...that's all I have to say.

    Have a kitty.
    When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die...

  3. #3
    Registered User Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: {shantih, shantih, shantih} {one-shot}

    Usually I'd wait a while before posting a review and let my thoughts settle, but for this I think I want to review while they're still fresh

    Technical Accuracy/Style
    As usual your technical accuracy is nearly spot on. I noticed one or two typos - you call Mr Balkerton Mrs Balkerton once, and Natasha the same (Shouldn't it be Ms Balkerton?). There were one or two moments where I thought "Is that a typo or artistic choice?" so perhaps it would be a good idea to give it a read-through for accuracy.

    As to style, it fits the story well. There's a fine line, dealing with emotions, between abstract language and word salad. For the most part I think you err on the side of abstract rather than salad. My other comments about style more or less tie into story as well, so see below

    An ambitious idea! Not badly executed either. It's as long as it needs to be, that's good. I had trouble not, well, nit-picking away at the concept. I thought things like "Babies don't just cry out of emotion" or "How do you write Gone with the Wind if you can't feel?" and I'm not sure whether they're genuine problems or just me being picky. In this sense it's good that it's a one-shot; I would certainly consider it a problem in a longer story.

    Regardless, the concept plays out quite well, even if at times it does feel a bit muddled. Muddle I can deal with - it's not like Tash is sane even by our standards - but one thing I didn't quite understand was her actions at the end. It seemed more likely for her to play the martyr. If Jake had to die, I think it should have been instigated by himself, not Tash .... this way it kind of seemed like an extra tragedy for Tash for the sake of it. Which leads me to -

    No major flaws here, really. Tash is the only really rounded character, which actually is fine because the rest need to be - ahaha - cardboard cut-outs. I think Tash's swaying between intellectual extremes works well, given that she's not only an insane child, but an insane teen. You raise an interesting point at the end, that ironically, emotionally healthy people can want to feel nothing sometimes.

    Final Thoughts
    You've taken a complex philosophical problem and explored it well. I can't say it's perfect, mainly because I think the idea that feeling nothing is normal goes far beyond the implications for one character who can feel. But I think that this piece is of sufficiently high quality that perhaps the idea doesn't have to be fully, completely explored and explained within the text
    The Long Walk
    For Joshua Cook, it's a long walk away from his dull life to the Pokémon League. But does he really want to be the very best? A coming-of-age story of adventure, friendship and growing up in the world of Pokémon.

    My new blog, Pavell's Scribbledegook (Week II)

  4. #4
    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: {shantih, shantih, shantih} {one-shot}

    I read this when it first came out but didn't say anything. Sorry...

    This is SOOO well done. I'm wondering where exactly you first spark of inspiration came from? Did you add in the Pokemon just because you felt like it, or was the idea of therapy Psychic-types part of the idea in the first place?

    For a one shot, this is paced incredibly well. Not too fast, not too slow. Plenty of meaning packed into a short space. My favorite thing about this was that, whether you meant it or not, there are a bajillion different interpretations. There's the obvious one, that emotions can pretty cool but they really just get in the way. But then there's others too. My own initial interpretation came about from the very end of the story. The police lied! Why would they lie unless trying to prevent people from feeling sorry for Jake. But sympathy is an emotion, which SUPPOSEDLY no one can feel. How many people have "Pathos Syndrome" but just lie about it? That says just as much about society as any other interpretation if you ask me. The fact that I'm not actually reviewing this story so much as analyzing it goes to show how great it is. Fanfiction is cool. 'Nuff said. I now have another story to direct people who disagree with that towards.

    Also, I think it's safe to say I caught at least a majority of your various literary/film/etc. references. They were appreciated :3

    Review Extravaganza 7/50

  5. #5
    Ice ice baby Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: {shantih, shantih, shantih} {one-shot}

    Well first of all I looked up the meaning of Shantih and I laughed at how well it fit with this story.

    Okay considering I'm speaking to the great Elysia :p I guess it was crazy of me to expect any clear mistakes but you did have some typos as it was pointed out earlier. I also agree with AetherX that there are many different ways in which one can consider the philosophy in this story. On one end emotions cause trouble and even in the real world we're constantly told to supress them and put up masks and such. On the other end without emotions we are not really human as they allow us to learn and grow and all that jazz. To me, I preferred the ladder, pain, hatred, anger, we all feel that and we all hate that when we feel it but eventually that is what allow us to grow as humans otherwise we're just well...carboard cut-outs I guess.

    So what's my point? well my point is that I got sidetracked. Anyways the story does leave a lot of food for thought but,and maybe this is just me, I did have a few moments were it was hard for me to really get what was happening, though thinking back on it that was probbaly the point considering even our protagonist didn't know what the hell was happening. I found the ending rather sad though, really sad actually I guess I'm too used to happy endings.

    I like the world you created for this story and the idea of the Maskers and why they would just blindly trap humans like that. I'm also curious as to how you got this idea.

  6. #6
    .______. Elysia's Avatar
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    Default Re: {shantih, shantih, shantih} {one-shot}

    oh you gaiz
    such flatter
    no but actually ilu all

    Quote Originally Posted by Pavell View Post
    UI noticed one or two typos - you call Mr Balkerton Mrs Balkerton once, and Natasha the same (Shouldn't it be Ms Balkerton?). There were one or two moments where I thought "Is that a typo or artistic choice?" so perhaps it would be a good idea to give it a read-through for accuracy.
    ...typos typos everywhere, and not a drop to drink
    95% sure that most of the errors you saw were my being derpface rather than my being artsy (except perhaps that horrible pun about being washed out to see). I thought I caught all of the little blighters at last; I'll give it another read-through when I can, though.

    I thought things like "Babies don't just cry out of emotion" or "How do you write Gone with the Wind if you can't feel?"
    My justification for the babies thing was that, to my knowledge, babies cry for attention (as younger infants, not for the "if I cry then mommy will drop things and care about me" that you tend to see in toddlers, but "if I cry, food"), and that craving attention kind of went back to craving affection/care/love, which I would justify as the basis of human interaction/emotion on a vaguely psychological level.
    I could probably make some comment about how writers are all heartless bastards anyway and clearly don't have emotions at all, if GRRM is anything to measure off of but frankly my dear, I don't give a damn but I think that actually might be something I overlooked but my idea there was that, in the same way that "sane" authors write through the lenses of "insane" characters in our world, a world in which the authors are what we would consider insane (but who, logically, consider themselves sane) would write through the lenses of characters they would consider insane for the same reasons, hence the creation of Gone With the Wind (which I may redact to Flygon With The Wingull hahahaha no) and figures of heroism such as Crobatman.
    ...that sentence is stupidly long.

    Quote Originally Posted by AetherX View Post
    I'm wondering where exactly you first spark of inspiration came from? Did you add in the Pokemon just because you felt like it, or was the idea of therapy Psychic-types part of the idea in the first place?
    Funny story there. I was stalking Farla's blog at some point which is a terrible habit and I need to stop, but I accidentally posted SRBS on ff.net during her month of reviewing, and through some chain of events she mentioned how it would be interesting to see a blind trainer with a Growlithe/seeing-eye-Pokemon and the troubles that he/she would face. I reflected on that for a while and considered that, while our dogs can only do a fairly basic set of commands (compared to, like, fire-breathing guard dogs), Pokemon would have absurdly more versatile uses, especially since they seem pretty well-integrated into normal life in the Pokemon world.
    ..and then, since I was the one writing this, terrible twisted world and everyone dies.

    he police lied! Why would they lie unless trying to prevent people from feeling sorry for Jake. But sympathy is an emotion, which SUPPOSEDLY no one can feel.
    ...well fuck, I didn't even consider that.
    death of the author is always the best way to go

    Quote Originally Posted by Flaze View Post
    Well first of all I looked up the meaning of Shantih and I laughed at how well it fit with this story.
    Don't mess with the peace that surpasseth understanding, man. ._.

  7. #7
    Ice ice baby Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: {shantih, shantih, shantih} {one-shot}

    So can I just say this is super ultra late? okay thank you.

    This oneshot is a bit different from Elysia’s other work some rise by sin. While some rise by sin is a journey story with a more serious (and at the same time comedic) edge to it shantih is more on the psychological and philosophical side of things. The story basically skips around events of the protagonist’s life during the moments she’s lucid.

    Now, the basic plot of the story is the most interesting thing here because it looks at things from an aspect that I think we’ve all thought about at some point. What if the world didn’t have emotion? What if we didn’t have to be bothered by the emotions that can throw us off every day, if we didn’t feel heartache when someone died or if we didn’t feel happy with ourselves only to then feel sad again when the happiness is gone. This story explores a world that is devoid of emotion (though there are hints saying that emotion isn’t exactly non existent) and focuses around a girl born with a disease that allows her to have emotion.

    Now, in the real world we tend to judge people as weird if they act emotionless, in this story is the other way around. Our characters are ostracized, given pokemon that have to suppress their emotion and most of all are treated as if they didn’t exist. This is what this story explores, how the world can be cruel sometimes and the things want has to do to fit in or to not fit in. It comes down to two questions. Do you want to live free with your emotions? Or do you want to be like everyone else and forget about them? And I think that’s something that crosses into real life a lot too.

    The only reason I don’t give this story a higher rating is cause I do feel like it drags at some points, and, much like it’s story it can be hard sometimes to get invested in things since it moves around events a lot. The other thing is that this is a Pokemon story but aside from certain things I don’t exactly see it as one and would’ve probably liked it more if it wasn’t one. Another reason is that there are some holes in the no emotion plotline since there are moments where people are mentioned to be laughing and the end of the story does something that leaves the idea of emotions being possible open (but this was an accident by elysia)

    like I said before this story takes place in a Pokemon story and is set…somewhere, I mean the location of where the story takes place is given but because the story focuses on the character’s shaky memories (it’s basically the things she can barely recall) we don’t get much of a description of the setting and the surrounding of our characters, something that makes it a bit hard to fully visualize where the character’s are in, especially during the quicker and moving second half of the story.

    The characters in this story as mentioned before have no emotion. Aside from our two clear protagonists everyone else speaks in a monotone voice. However, even without emotion there is a semblance of a personality, it actually feels like these characters have a personality that refuses to come out at times. So the attention falls on our two protagonist, our female lead is interesting in how her character changes throughout the story, she goes from being a cheerful girl to being someone that just wants to fit in.

    She knows that she’s a freak but she wants to not be one and at the same time she’s angry at the world she lives in. Our male lead is a bit different in that he doesn’t care about fitting in and just wants to live life how he wants to, which eventually gets our protagonist to give up on fitting in. However the bond between these characters is an interesting one. There’s a sense of friendship and bonding but at the same time it didn’t feel like they cared for each other out of love but just out of the fact that they were both in the sense situation and indeed this is something that plays a factor in how the story ends but it also sort of falls on the idea of love a bit. Do you care enough about someone to sacrifice your life for them? Or something like that.

    : It’s an interesting pov with an interesting and at the same time broken narrative. The story focuses on the spots our protagonist remembers so everything tends to come out in parts but at the same time it allows you to sort of understand the situation our character is in. I mean she has this broken completely out of sync memories and in turn we get a broken completely out of sync narrative which is a nice touch.

    There are a few mistakes here and there in regards to the grammar and thanks to the narrative of the story there isn’t enough description to properly grasp the setting, this isn’t too bad though as it is a story that focuses more on emotion (oddly enough) and what the characters feel than a concrete structure.

    Elysia does a nice job with this oneshot, something I haven’t seen in a story before, something I wish I could do just cause of how well she does it xD but either way I like the way the story is written and the aspects it looks at, I think it’s an interesting tale and I definitely recommend it. However, it’s not something everyone can like I’m sure since it does leave a lot of room for thought and the narrative might throw some people off.


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