So I tried something a little different this time around, mainly because my long fic was getting really long, and I've had this idea floating around in my notes for a while. I'm still not really sure what to think about it. It's not exactly action-y. I think it probably could use more polishing, but I'm not sure where at the moment.
Thanks in advance to anyone who reads/grades.
The forest was bright and loud, just as Claudia liked it. Sunshine filtered down through leaves stained multicolor from the fall weather, and a light breeze ruffled the ribbons decorating her lavender dress. She laughed without really knowing the source of her joy, and she skipped along the worn path she knew so well.
A chorus of songbirds rose up from beyond the trees, and a mimicking call from her left shoulder cooed in response. Claudia reached up to scratch the brightly colored Chatot on the head.
“Isn't it wonderful, Forte?” she asked as she ran her fingers down the soft yellow and green feathers on his breast. In response, another melodious call came from his pink beak, and he fluttered his blue-lined wings as if answering her.
She felt like she was in a dream she couldn’t wake from – but a wonderful one. She traveled as if in a daze or half asleep, and every step was like walking through clouds. It was much like the time she spent the night listening to her father and his friends' music despite having to wake early. She had to be exhausted if she couldn't even remember what she had done the day before.
The birds started another tune that seemed to filter through the trees and weave around her like a blanket, much like how Forte always sang her to sleep when she asked. She let those notes surround her and took comfort in the safety they offered.
“Won't you sing me a song, Forte?” she asked while closing her eyes to listen.
The bird complied. He swayed his note-like head back and forth as a soft sound came from his beak. It was slow and melancholic, but she liked it. She felt it fit for some reason she couldn't name.
Forte flicked his tail back and forth like a metronome, and it twitched her dull brown hair from side to side as he moved. She hummed along with the tune as she swung the basket in her hand back and forth with the rhythm, earning a sleepy meow muffled by the wicker bands.
“You too, Lissa,” she said to the small, pink cat that stirred from her nap to peer over the edge of the basket. The Skitty complied and soon her low rumble joined the other two as they rocked in unison, their unique song wafting through the air on the path to town.
Claudia loved to sing.
The bustle of the village was something she always took joy in. People running to and fro on the cobblestones added a special kind of harmony beat that danced with the wind and resonated with the powerful flow of the fountain in the center of town. The sunshine highlighted all the wonderful things her hometown had to offer, and Claudia loved how happy people were.
She laughed as she rocked the basket like she would a swing, matching the pleased calls of the Skitty with her face in the breeze. Claudia pulled the container up with her right hand so she could rub the smooth pink fur on top of the cat's head. Lissa purred with happy, upturned eyes and rubbed her head into the girl's fingers.
“Was that fun, little girl?” she asked as she rubbed the kitty's cream-colored chin. A pleased meow answered her as Lissa's three-pronged tail flicked happily.
Forte continued to shrill his tune, and when Claudia looked up, she saw an older couple looking strangely at her. They were sitting on a bench in front of the Kricketune-shaped fountain holding hands. The white statue's long antennae hung long shadows over them from the noonday sun. For some reason they looked gloomy. Had something bad happened to them?
Claudia wanted to cheer them up, putting to work the only tool she knew how to use. What was music for if not raising spirits?
“Why so sad?” she asked her feathered friend. “Let's sing something happy, Forte, and help brighten their day.”
There was a lull in the Chatot's song as it stopped trailing out of his pink beak, and a lone cloud moved across the sun, darkening the square for a moment. Then, Forte took a deep breath and a beautiful, upbeat melody played as the cloud passed and let the sun shine again. Claudia smiled and took up the words, catching on to the popular theme. She sang into the sun and continued across the cobblestones with a skip in her step, hoping the song would help the two she saw.
She wouldn't let anything sour the day. She needed to get to the grocer for tonight's supper. It was a special occasion and she wanted to make her favorite dish. It was her birthday.
She could almost hear the violin-like sound of a Kricketune add background to their song as they left. Claudia sang with her Pokemon and waved to the older couple as she danced around the fountain.
The market was full of its usual shoppers, and Claudia had wide, happy eyes as she scanned the many rows of fruits and vegetables. In her opinion, her town had the best selection of produce, and that was just what she needed to make her favorite vegetable stew.
She had loved the smell of the place ever since she was a little girl. The plants had an odor of fresh dirt and something earthen that was just right. She paused to go up on her toes and take a deep breath of the scent – and she abruptly started to cough.
She came down on the soles of her feet hard and hacked as she brought her left arm up to cover her mouth. She held her right arm out wide so she didn't cough on Lissa, though the basket shook with her body. She could hear Forte's feathers ruffling next to her ear as she rocked. Her lungs burned, and when the fit was through, it hurt slightly to take in breath.
She looked around, thinking that someone maybe had a cigarette. She thought she could faintly smell that smokey scent even though she didn't see anyone. It probably wasn't a cold.
She shook it off as Forte started to sing again, this time a soothing melody like the ones he sang when she slept. She let the sound soak in as she closed her eyes, and soon it became easier to breathe again. When she next looked, she was able to finish her shopping.
The grocer, Mr. Gunner, was waiting at the counter next to his old-style cash register with a roll of receipt tape on the top. She smiled at him as she put her bag of vegetables on the table for him to ring up, humming to herself again. Forte chirped hello, and Lissa tried to paw one of the carrot greens from where it was hanging off the counter.
Claudia chided the cat playfully and apologized to the man, but he didn't comment. He just nodded his head, making his bushy white mustache bob with his head as he mechanically typed up the vegetable prices and put them into a brown paper bag. His dirt-stained apron made him blend in with his venue.
When he was finished, she reached around Lissa in the basket for her coin purse. She leafed around in the handkerchiefs and other knickknacks she had collected and had a mild flash of panic when she couldn't find the rainbow-striped bag.
“Oh no,” she said. “I must've left my purse at home.”
“That's alright, darlin',” the man told her. She looked up, surprised. The look on his face was unreadable to her, but he was giving her soft eyes. “This one'll be on me.”
Claudia instantly broke out into a smile. “Oh, thank you so much. We'll be sure to save you some stew, won't we, Lissa?”
The girl happily gathered up her groceries in her left arm and made her way out of the market tent, awkwardly waving to the man in farewell. A couple of other people looked her way, but she paid them no mind as she struggled to juggle both paper bag and wicker basket. Good mood returned, she whistled along with her bird.
“Wasn't that nice of Mr. Gunner?” she asked her Pokemon. At first she thought her birthday stew would have to be postponed, and although it wouldn't have ruined the day, she wanted to have her favorites. She would make sure she repaid the man first thing in the morning.
She was so lost in thought that a stinging on her right arm caused her to hiss in pain and stop. Claudia looked down to see that Lissa was playfully crouched down in the basket like she was going to pounce, with large, focused eyes. Her back legs wobbled and her tail flapped back and forth the way that cats do. A thin, red line was drawn down her forearm.
“Ow, that really hurt, Lissa,” she scolded as she stopped to set her groceries down. She pulled out one of her yellow handkerchiefs and wrapped it around the scratch. She didn't want it to drip onto her lavender dress. If it didn't come out, the stain would be brown.
It stung. The girl frowned at the pink Skitty, and a meek meow answered her. Lissa looked sorry at least, and Claudia couldn't stay mad at her. She patted the cat's head and said, “It's okay, just don't do it again.”
A murmuring caught her attention when she finished tying the bandage around her arm. She put the paper bag back into the crook of her left arm as she rose and picked up her basket, doing a little jump to make sure everything settled right. The voices were easier to hear now that she was standing, and she looked over to see two middle-aged ladies conversing.
She didn't know who they were for sure, but she thought they looked somewhat familiar. She probably saw them around town all the time, or perhaps they sang in the choir with she and her parents. Their colorful blouses matched the skirts they wore.
She could only catch bits and fragments of speech on the breeze because they weren't looking in her direction. “Is she still in shock?” one of them said, and the girl wrinkled her brow in puzzlement. Who were they talking about? “The poor dear,” the other replied, and then Claudia remembered.
Recently, a family from their town had a house fire. The fire squad at put out the flames, but it was too late. Only the young daughter had survived. She had lost everything – both her parents and her Pokemon. It must have been awful.
“How sad. I feel so bad for that girl,” Claudia said to her companions. The girl had only been around her fourteen years of age. “I can't imagine losing mother or father or either of you like that. I bet she wishes she could just forget it all.”
It was quiet as Claudia closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to chase away the thoughts of what that girl must be going through. She must feel so alone. She couldn't remember the girl's name, and she felt a little bad about it. Surely they knew each other.
“That's it,” she said positively, nodding her head and breaking the silence. “After supper we'll go visit her. She must still be in the hospital. We'll bring her some stew.” If it was her, she wouldn't want to be alone, especially if both her parents and Pokemon were gone. Even if Claudia wasn't the greatest cook, it had to be better than hospital food.
“Let's practice a song to sing to her, Forte.”
The sky had started to cloud over on her way home. The sun no longer sparkled off the cobblestones, and the main courtyard was empty. Hopefully the old couple had felt better when they departed. Now, the lone Kricketune stood alone in the center of the dull water, the gray stone blending in with the shade that had been cast over the village. The drone of the water was the only melody coming from that bare place.
The weather had to be affecting everyone, Claudia thought, since someone had ran into her earlier without apologizing, even though she had almost dropped the basket with Lissa, causing the cat to yowl.
“That was definitely strange,” she told the Skitty.
Then, she heard someone yell her name, and she turned to see another familiar face. A middle-aged man with brown hair like hers came rushing up, holding a hat to his head so it wouldn't fall off. His brown coat suit flapped as he moved.
“Hello, Mr. Carlson,” she greeted with a smile. Lissa started with a purr that ended in a meow to do the same.
“Claudia,” he started, looking over her curiously. Was there something in her hair? “Should you really be out? Sophia was looking for you.”
The girl was confused at first, not knowing what he meant. Sophia was a nurse in the town's hospital. Why would she be looking for her?
Forte stopped singing to coo a hello too, and then Claudia remembered. Her father had arranged for Sophia to start teaching her how to play piano, and she was really looking forward to it. The woman must've been wondering when they were going to start lessons. Since she was going to the hospital after dinner anyway, she would talk to Sophia then.
“Oh, that's okay, I'm going to talk to her later,” she replied. “I just had to come get some groceries for supper tonight. I'm making my favorite vegetable stew for everyone.”
Mr. Carlson gave her another strange look, but Claudia just attributed it to the weather. Her mother always said that people were more gloomy when the sun didn't shine, and Claudia believed her. Forte started to sing again, softly, and she reached up to move her hair out of the way of his metronome tail so it wouldn't keep twitching.
“Well, if you say so,” he finally said after a moment's pause. “Remember if you ever need anything, Samantha and I would love to have you. You just let us know, alright?”
Claudia nodded. “Thank you very much. I'll definitely ask Mother when I get home. We better be going soon,” she added, smoothing out the ruffles on her lavender dress and heaving her grocery bag higher up on her hip. “I'll have to start supper soon. Goodbye, Mr. Carlson!”
She hummed as she skipped away, not waiting for an answer.
The forest path was quiet this time. The birds had stopped their singing, and not even the breeze whistled through the trees to greet them. They had all gone silent under the blanket of gray that coated the sky. At least she had Forte to sing for her, she thought. Otherwise this trip would have been even lonelier.
She was slightly worried about the clouds, though. If it started to rain, her mother would probably make her stay home tonight, and she wanted to go see that girl. She didn't want her to be alone.
The Chatot had come back to his mournful song once again, and even though many would find it depressing, Claudia thought it was beautiful. She swayed from side to side and even did a twirl as she neared her house, imagining she was on a ballroom in one of those poofy dresses like in the stories.
Soon, she arrived back home, and she gave a happy sigh as she took in the soft yellow paint of the house and the clothes drying on the line. She could smell the wood smoke coming from the chimney and knew her father was probably out in back, working on his music even with the threat of rain.
“Oh,” she said, looking again at the house. “I must've left the door open. Silly me. I hope the flies didn't get in.”
She hurried to the front door that was hanging open, half hoping that it was her mother or father that had forgotten it and not her. She carefully toed it closed behind her as she entered the low-lit kitchen. Music came floating through the room, confirming her father was in the backyard. He must've opened up the windows too, for the sound to be coming in so clearly.
Claudia took in another lungful of air as she caught her mother's baking. A tickle in the back of her throat caused her to cough again, and she frowned as she set down the Skitty's basket under the coat rack. Was she getting sick? Then, she caught the dusty smell and decided it was probably just the dirt.
“We really need to clean,” she said. Then, louder, she called, “Mother, Father, I'm home!”
Nobody answered her, but she paid it no mind. If they were busy, they would come when supper was done. Wanting to start right away, she went over to the oak table to set down her grocery bag so she could wash up. She wanted to put something on that scratch so it didn't get infected.
Forte was her radio as she slid the paper bag onto the table with her hip and then turned to head toward the sink. A plop and multiple tumble noises made her stop. “Lissa, did you knock the bag over again?” she asked, only to go quiet as she turned.
The brown bag had spilled onto the floor, but it wasn't because of the Skitty. The table wasn't a table at all. In fact, there wasn't anything there. A black slab of something on the floor was all that stood in its place. “That's strange...” she said as she turned back to the door.
A wave of dizziness came over her, and she grabbed her forehead as her vision swam. She looked for Lissa, but the Skitty was nowhere to be found. The basket she had set by the door wasn't there, and the doorway was open to the front yard. Had the door not clicked shut? She looked to her shoulder as she turned back to the kitchen and saw that Forte had flown off as well, only he had to be close by. She could still hear him singing.
What had happened to the table? Now that she noticed, everything seemed darker than it usually was too. She could've sworn the kitchen light was turned on, which meant her vision was impaired. Maybe she was coming down with something after all, she thought. That definitely meant washing up and maybe heading to bed.
A short jolt of pain went through her right arm to remind her of the wound she needed to clean. She reached down to untie the yellow handkerchief only to find her arm bare. A closer look revealed that she didn't have a scratch on her arm at all – it was a burn.
“What...?” she asked herself as she noticed she wasn't in her favorite lavender dress. It was one of her ivory sleeping gowns, only it was dirty. There were black and gray smudges on it, like soot from the fireplace hadn't come clean in the wash.
Had she worn it to town? She really hoped not. Surely she hadn't been too tired this morning to put on her dirty laundry. Another garment caught her eye on the kitchen floor too, where one of the green peppers had rolled.
She was pretty sure it was one of her father's gray sweaters. He had a bad habit of leaving them scattered around the house, especially if he was working on something. Claudia went to go pick it up and return it to the wash when she stopped.
Her head pulsed as if she had a headache, and she was dizzy for a second as she had to close her eyes. Forte's song was loud static in her ears. She almost told him to stop, but she couldn't form the words.
Claudia took a deep breath and opened her eyes again, determined to at least do this one task. If she had to, she could take a short nap before starting supper and hopefully beat whatever she was coming down with. When she looked, there was something white sticking out of the sweater.
She reached for it, only to snap her hand back. When she looked closer, the gray took shape. The smooth, white piece was a bone, and combined with the charcoal mass, they formed the shape of a cat. There was a charred bird next to it.
That was when the singing stopped and Claudia started screaming.
Target Pokemon: Chatot and Skitty
Pokemon Ranks: Medium and Simple
Recommended Characters: 15-30k
Character Count: Around 18,556
This fic was based on the idea of people hearing singing before they go to sleep. One of the variants said it was the dead trying to speak to you, so I based this idea off that.
Also for WWC, because there aren't that many stories yet ._.