((More stories from Snapdragon, yes. This one's a little different from Thierry, though. This is another POV experiment, this time switching viewpoints between the four main characters.)) Chapter 1 Aonyx There's a wolf in my stomach. He's always there nowadays. I knew him when I was young, and I know him now. His name is Hunger, and he thrives in places like these. The dust is thick and heavy in the air, my clumsy feet stumble on the cracked asphalt and the rubble that used to be buildings. Long ago, this place had food. The buildings were whole and proud, and their insides were cool. The floor was smooth tile. There were fountains. Now everything was dry and broken, and anything that was useful had been taken ages ago. I feel strange when I think of how it used to be. I had friends around always, and my human took care of everything I could want. Things were so different now. Those memories may as well have belonged to a different Vaporeon. If it hadn't been for Amaryll, I never would have believed it had happened to me at all. Amaryll. Just thinking about him made the hunger-wolf turn to lead. The comfort of having a twin is feeling like you'll never be alone. The curse of having a twin is that it's a thousand times worse when you are. I sometimes think that loneliness is a wolf, too, and it tears up your insides even worse than Hunger does. Still, these feet keep going. What else is there to do? I shift through the rubble, hoping against hope that I'll find something to sustain me longer. Aonyx Trickshot isn't a quitter. Even if I have to scavenge and crawl, I'll survive. It was the same story today. I had found another ruined building to dig through. There were pieces of red shingle everywhere--buildings with red tops were Pokemon Centers, I remembered that. There had been an unpleasant, sterile smell in the air, but the Chansies were friendly and Pokemon Centers stopped the hurting. I remembered the computers that swallowed pokeballs into oblivion, then spat them out again whenever my human needed them. What had happened to the Pokemon that the computers ate? There weren't any machines to spit them back out again anymore. My paws shifted chunks of rubble automatically, not even sure there would be anything worthwhile underneath. Then I saw it. A glimpse of a grey release button, peeking out from beneath the debris. I doubled my efforts, frantically scraping away the ruined pieces burying it. I could hardly believe it. A pokeball, whole and undamaged. There was no way it was empty--whoever was inside could never have come free when it was underneath all that stuff, and I knew it wasn't a spare because it was covered in chipped, peeling paint. Splotches of red peeked out from beneath the flakes of black and neon green, and I could make out lettering, too. S... Sileo. My excitement had made me clumsy; I clamped my teeth around the pokeball to pull it out, but I dropped it as I was backing away. A burst of red light spilled out of it, then took the shape of an Umbreon. It had been so long since I had seen an Umbreon, I had almost forgotten what they were supposed to look like. His fur was dark, sleek and glossy; rings of bright green glowed faintly against the dusty haze in the air. His eyes were blue, and they looked angry and puzzled all at once. "H-hey--" My voice sounded strange, raspy and too quiet from lack of use. I cleared my throat and tried again. "Hey! You're lucky that I found you, or you probably would have spent forever stuck in stasis." My tail was wagging a mile a minute, and my tongue was trying to go just as fast. Finally, somebody to talk to! And he was like me, too. "You must have a whole lot of questions, huh? My name's Aonyx Trickshot. What's yours?" The Umbreon didn't say anything. He looked at me, then looked around. At the remains of the Pokemon Center, at the shattered city around him, at the sky that had been dyed red by a choking layer of dust. I repeated my question again, in case if he was in shock and hadn't heard me. This time, he just stared, still quiet as ever. I was too happy to have company to be bothered by that. "Not feeling too talkative, huh? Fine, I'll talk enough for the both of us. Your Pokeball... it said Sileo, didn't it? I betcha that's your name." The Umbreon nodded. "There, that wasn't so hard, was it?" I grinned, then flicked my tail fins at the mess all around us. "You're probably wondering what caused this, huh? To be honest... I don't really know, myself. One minute my human was taking our team into town to challenge a gym, and the next thing I knew, my brother Amaryll had opened my pokeball and we were all alone in this... this wreck. I, um... I don't know how to say this really, but... the humans are gone. All of them. I... don't know who your human is, but..." I scratched at the frill around my neck awkwardly, trying to break the news gently. I had spent ages searching for my human, and I didn't want Sileo to go through that too. "It's hard to believe, I know, but this is definitely for real. I've been living in this place for three years now. I used to have Amaryll with me, but... Ryll's not here anymore." Sileo cocked his head, still not saying anything. It was hard to tell what was going on in that head of his; this guy had a better poker face than Amaryll had ever shown. "Amaryll's my twin brother. We used to be identical, but now he's a Leafeon and I'm a Vaporeon. We..." I cleared my throat, settling down into a sitting position. "Back when this first happened, there were more Pokemon around. Some of them broke outta their pokeballs on their own, some of them were found by the escaped Pokemon and opened. We all lived in the city for a bit, but then it got harder to find food. Some of the others started whispering about a place that hadn't been ruined, a place where there was still trees and grass and flowers, and clear water and blue sky, and... and maybe even humans." I could tell Sileo was curious. Even so, I hesitated. Talking about Amaryll wasn't so easy, and my throat was dry and my voice still raspy. It had been a long time since I spoke this much. "A bunch of Pokemon decided they were gonna go find this place. Amaryll wanted to go with them, said there wasn't anything here for us anymore. I still wanted to find our human. If there were still Pokemon waiting under the rubble, why couldn't our human be too, huh? Amaryll... he left without me. I stayed behind, and more and more Pokemon left the city. I never saw Amaryll again, and now... now I think I'm the only one left." Even my laughter sounded weird, kind of half-hearted and high-strung. "But... but now you're here! I'm not the only one anymore! Oh, you have no idea how many times I regretted staying behind. Maybe Amaryll did find the green place, and meanwhile I'm... Sileo... where are you going?" As I had been talking, Sileo had stood up and started walking away. At my urgent question, he paused and glanced over his shoulder, as if to ask if I was coming too. I bounded to his side. Sileo may not have been one for small talk, but he staved off one of the wolves, so I was going to stick with him wherever he went. He started walking again, so I did too. "...Sileo... there's noplace worth going to. Everywhere's as dead as the city." Sileo looked at me again, one eyeridge raised slightly. "Sileo... are you going to the green place?" A nod. "...Sileo?" Another look. "I'm coming with you, okay?" The corners of Sileo's mouth lifted into a tiny smile. I smiled back, then looked to the road ahead. Goodbye, arthritic ruins, we were going someplace alive. Side by side, the two of us started walking.