Sweat dripped down Hoppyfred’s forehead. Anxiously, his eyes darted around the forest, from tree to tree. Hoppyfred had never trusted trees. He couldn’t remember why he was so terrified of trees; the fear had always been there. Hoppyfred was always very careful to steer wide clear of any gathering of trees – and yet, here he found himself in a forest. Surrounded by trees. He didn’t even remember walking into this forest. One minute it was a clearing, the next minute he was being suffocated by trunks and branches.
Perhaps this was why he was so scared of forests: every single tree looked identical. There were no defining features, no landmarks. Even if he had a map of any kind, Hoppyfred wasn’t sure that he would be any less lost or terrified. He took a deep breath, and almost swallowed his tongue. Hoppyfred coughed hoarsely. Things weren’t going his way today.
He reached gingerly into his pocket, fumbling about for his sandwich. The smell of toasted cheese and ham drifted slowly towards his nose, temptingly. He had originally been planning to eat it, but alas, this desperate situation called for desperate matters. He tore off a bit of crust, and dropped it behind him, ala Hansel and Gretel. He looked around him, wondering which way he should go. In the end, he decided that the least terrifying trees lay due right of him, so he set off, dropping crumbs all the way behind him.
Ten minutes later...or was it fifteen minutes? It could just as easily be ten hours for all Hoppyfred knew. He wasn’t sure – he didn’t have a watch. He cursed himself: his Dad had always been saying that a watch would save his life someday. But anyway, ten increments of time that were of indeterminable length later, Hoppyfred found himself staring at the biggest tree he’d ever seen in his life. Though, to be fair, Hoppyfred hadn’t seen many trees: he’d tried to see as few trees as possible in his life. However, this was one big mother of a tree – it was easily as broad as a Snorlax and it appeared to stretch into oblivion: far beyond the heavens. Was it possible for a tree to go on forever? Probably not, but trees were very scary things. Who knew what they were possible of?
Hoppyfred recoiled at the sight of the tree. Somebody, no doubt a teenager who thought he was being ‘l337’, had carved two eyes and a mouth into the tree, presumably with the aid of a ladder or tall Pokemon: this ‘face’ of the tree was at least 10 feet high up, but still only a fraction of the tree’s mighty height.
Hoppyfred sighed. Well, this looked like a dead end. He was reminded of the crude ‘Yo Mamma’ jokes from his ‘mates’ at school: “Yo Mamma’s so fat that I ran around her and missed a year of school”. They weren’t very funny, but it took on a poignant meaning here. Or did it? Hoppyfred didn’t really know what poignant meant, but he enjoyed using big words to make himself sound smart. But I digress. It really was not worth Hoppyfred’s effort going around this tree. At least it served as a landmark for a ’Dead End’ now.
Hoppyfred screamed. He wasn’t one to scream, but this was an exceptional case: a talking tree.
The tree seemed not to hear Hoppyfred. This made sense in a way: no ears had been carved onto the tree. “I AM THE POKÉMON PROFESSOR,” it boomed. “WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF POKÉMON. NOW, LET ME ASK YOU...ARE YOU A BOY OR A GIRL?”
Hoppyfred whimpered like a lost puppy. “A boy...” he whispered barely audibly.
“BUT YOU’RE ACTING LIKE A GIRL! AHAHAHAHA.”
This was going over the top. Hoppyfred was often teased in school and he had always been scared of trees, but now getting teased by a tree?
“Shut up!” he shouted angrily. “I’m a boy! A boy a boy a boya boyaboy aboyaboyaboyaboyaboyaboy!”
The carved smile on the tree turned into a frown. “YOU HAVE DISPLEASED ME. NOW, SUFFER MY ATTACK!” The tree launched itself forward, onto Hoppyfred. “TIMBERRRR...”
Hoppyfred sat bolt upright in bed. He was soaking wet with sweat. Exhausted, he flopped back down onto his comforting pillow. Nightmare? Little kids got nightmares. Not fourteen year olds about to start their Pokémon adventure. Heck, even ten year olds starting their Pokémon adventure didn’t have nightmares. Hoppyfred was starting his quest tomorrow: four years late. He sighed, and as he shut his eyes he prayed to God to protect him from the trees.
The next morning, as Hoppyfred trudged downstairs, he was greeted by his mother. “Good luck honey! Hurry up though, you’re running a bit late!”
“Then why didn’t you wake me up?” Hoppyfred mumbled to himself. His mother didn’t have much common sense. Perhaps it was her genes that gave him that phobia of trees. He grabbed his backpack and headed outside into his town. He was meeting a Pokémon Professor today. The only one who wasn’t named after a tree (or so it seemed), Professor Bush. Hoppyfred had smirked when he heard the name – it was so funny in so many ways. But he actually was terrified of meeting the other Professors: Professor Oak, Professor Rowan, Professor Birch, etc...maybe that was why he had had that nightmare of that tree who claimed he was a Pokémon Professor.
He headed to the lab eagerly. It was a bit of a run-down lab: nothing compared to Oak’s. But, well, beggars can’t be choosers. He would sooner die than go to somebody named after a tree. Hoppyfred’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at the door. A note was taped to it: “Gone fishing, back later”.
Hoppyfred swore, then quickly covered his mouth, and looked around. Most the kids (for the aforementioned reasons) around here were only ten, and due to their sheltered lives, the filthiest phrase they knew was “Oh, shhhhhh...ugar!”
“Well, I don’t need him,” Hoppyfred fumed. “I’ll get my own Pokémon! After all, I’ve got Polihop!” Polihop was Hoppyfred’s Poliwag. They had been inseparable since Polihop’s hatching and the two had formed a strong bond.
Hoppyfred was glad his mom had packed five Pokéballs in his backpack, and wondered if he had been too harsh by pronouncing her to have no common sense. Feeling a bit guilty, he headed off towards the local pond in the hope of finding this doof of a Professor.
He sighed impatiently as he arrived at the pond – there was nobody there. Just an abandoned Old Rod. Hoppyfred sighed. You would have to be seriously careless to leave behind your fishing rod – even if it was an Old Rod, or basically, just a branch with a line attached. He picked it up and shuddered: branches came from trees, and trees were bad news. Almost as if responding to his thought, he felt a tug on the rod. Hoppyfred cursed inwardly. “Get off the line!” he yelled, and shook the rod. Another tug came. What should he do? If he let go of the rod, then the rod would get dragged into the pool. That was somebody’s rod! He couldn’t do that! If he just ignored the tug...he could be standing here forever. But he couldn’t do that, he had to find the Professor! The only other alternative...
He reached into his pocket with his right hand, and pulled out Polihop’s Pokéball – marked with a smiley face! “Come on out, Polihop!” he yelled, as Polihop jumped out of the ball. The tugs persisted on the Old Rod.
“Polihop, get ready with a Mud Shot!” Hoppyfred shouted. He pulled upwards on the rod, preparing himself for an almighty battle with a Seaking or something of similar power. He just hoped all that training with Polihop would be enough.
There was a loud splash as a fish exited the pool. Hoppyfred didn’t get a chance to glimpse it as it was hit straight away by a strong jet of mud. The fish landed on the ground with a pathetic thud, plastered in brown mud. “Go, Pokéball!” Hoppyfred yelled as he threw the red and white ball at the fallen fish. A bright beam shot out of the ball and the fish disappeared into the ball with a flash of light.
The Pokéball started to wobble slightly. Hoppyfred had learnt the art of catching Pokémon from a slightly senile old man who had insisted that a cup of coffee increased your catching prowess ten-fold. He hadn't had a cup of coffee this morning - would that hurt his chances of success?
He bit his lip as the trembling continued. With no sign of stopping, Hoppyfred closed his eyes, crossed his fingers, and counted to three.
One... two... three...