Suddenly the ground explored in front of us. I shielded my eyes from raining bits of dirt and grass and rocks. When I looked up again, there was a giant drilling meachine sticking halfway out of the ground.
I gapped at it, and so did Muse and Dude, and even the Rattat stopped stuggling.
For a long, drawn out, and tense, moment we watch the steaming monstrosity in a frozen state. Pieces of dirt dropped from the giant drill as it slowly spun to a stop. A door opened on the side, bellowing black smoke, and a short figure hoped out.
As he coughed and waved the smoke away, taking some stumbling steps forward, the figure came into clearer view.
He was short, shorter than his gray beard that dragged at his feet, and when he hopped down onto the ground, only his head was visible above the grass. His thick, wire-rimmed glasses were covered in soot. And as he rubbed it away, he blinked his round, magnified eyes.
“O-oh! H-hello there!” The little man rubbed his eyes under his glasses, his bushy eyebrows wiggling up and down, and looked at us again, then back at his machine, then us.
“Terribly sorry about this,” he said, wringing his hands together.
“What IS that?!” I pointed and stared at the steaming, monstrous machine.
“Oh t-that’s my, uh, h-house.”
“Your house??” Dude shouted as he climbed to his feet, Rattata still held tightly in his arms.
“That is so cool!!!” I squealed.
“Yes, yes… my house, b-b-but I’m h-have a bit of a problem with it at the moment, I t-think it blew a fuse…. but there’s too m-much smoke to really see…”
“Muse?” I raised an eyebrow at the cat, “Think you can do something about that?”
Muse rolled his eyes, but at the same time stretched out his wings. “Your wish is my command, Mistress,” he said as he flew over to the open, smoky door and began using his wings to fan the black clouds away.
“Oh… Oh! Thank you!” The little old man gave us a grin full on uneven teeth.
“Yes yes of course, that’s what we’re here for,” I strode past the man and up to the door. The smoke was just about cleared. I stood on tip toe, trying to see what was inside.
“Ah, yes, thank you, I can handle it now,” The little man ran a hand through his frazzled hair, and climbed the few steps to the doorway.
He stopped halfway in the door. I bounced on my toes, impatiently waiting. “Did you find the problem yet?” I asked.
“Ah ha!” The head of the short man popped out again, holding a tube in his hand. From a hole in the tube the black smoke still spilled, “Just as I thought, the coal pip got puncture.”
He tried to get a closer look at it, but coughed and waved his hand as the tube puff a big black cloud into his face.
“Muse, oblige,” I commanded, trying to get a better look at the tube.
Muse obediently, (for once) beat his wings and sent the smoke away from us.
The little man started muttering to himself, “Yes, of course… I see.”
I was standing next to him, hands folded behind my back, peering down at the little thing, when the man suddenly turned to me.
“W-would you mind holding this for me? I need to get something from the hatch.” He held the tube out to me and I eagerly accepted it.
The little man disappeared inside the open compartment, and I entertained myself by sitting on the ground, waving the tub around and making patterns in the air with the smoke.
He came back with tape and a stick, “Right-o! Thank you Miss, n-now if you would just hold it like this…”
I set about helping the funny little man repair his tube, Muse was kept occupied (and annoyed) fanning the smoke away from us, and dude was happy sitting in the grass playing with his Rattata.
“I’m April by the way,” I introduced myself, “writer of this story.”
“James Charles Jenkins,” He said taking a moment to glance up at me.
“So…. where were you headed to?” I asked, watching him prod the stick inside the tube.
“W-well I was on my way to the annual Hermits met up. I missed last decade’s meeting, so… I was trying to make sure I made i-it, but I haven’t actually gone anywhere for…. ah…. q-quiet a while. I-I’m afraid I’m a bit rusty.”
“Ooooh” I said, “Neat!”
“Uh, Mistress?” Muse interrupted, “I think we have company.”
I looked up. And indeed, the grass was moving again.
“Oh no,” I said, starting to get to my feet.
“N-n-no!” “James Jenkins cried, “don’t move! This is the most delicate part!”
I froze, looking around in panic. The movement in the grass was getting closer, and faster. But there was nothing I could do, and Muse was caught up helping us this time.
I looked for Dude, but didn’t see him, so I just shouted at the top of my lungs, “Dude! Look out! A big Pokémon is heading straight for us!!”
“Wha?” I saw his head pop out of the grass.
“Behind you!!!” I cried, just as a dark, snake shaped shadow rose up.
“It’s an Ekans!!” I called to Dude, “Quick! Tell your Rattata to use Agility!”
Dude was on his feet but his knees were shaking so bad they threatened to buckle. The Rattata strung from Dude’s arms and stood protectively before him, clicking his teeth in an aggressive way at the snake.
“R-R-R-R-Raphael, a-attract!!” Dude shouted, his voice cracking and teeth chattering.
The Rattata turned into a blur as he shot at the snake. He jumped on the Ekans back and bit him. The Ekans hissed and twisted its long body around, trying to catch the Rattata in its coils.
Dude looked horrified as he watched his little buddy struggle. But then he took a big breath, straightened his knees, and called out, “Rahphael! Use Agility!”
The Rattata went into action. He jumped and scurried and bit at Dude’s command, dodging the fangs and coils of the snake and taking to upper hand.
“Whooo! Go Dude and Raphael!” I took all my strength and will-power not to move. I wanted to get up so I could see better, or at least cheer, but I had to hold the tube that was spitting and bucking in my hands.
But even the funny little man paused in his delicate work to glance at the battle as it became more aggressive.
“C’mon… get’em, get’em….” I muttered under my breath.
On Dude’s instruction the Rattata jumped and latched on behind the Ekans’ head. The snake fell and writhed, the grass around it shaking and waving in it’s furry. Then the wiggling line of grass moved away from us, the hissing grew distant, and it was gone.
“We… we did it,” Dude said breathlessly, as if he didn’t believe it, “We did it!!” he scooped up the little rat and held it high in the air, “Oh you marvelously little creature! You beauty!”
Dude continued praising his exhausted little buddy. Meanwhile the James Jenkins had his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth as he held up a long strip of tape. Very carefully, and with repeated reminders to keep the tub still, he lowered the tape and sealed the hole.
“There!” he clapped his hands, “Thank you dear, I-I’ll take that now.”
As soon as I the little old man took it, I rushed over the my friend.
“Dude! That was awesome!” I clapped him on the back, “A regular Pokémon trainer you are.”
He was wiping sweat from his forehead and looked at me with big eyes, “Pokémon trainer?”
“Yeah, they go adventuring, catching Pokémon and training them and battling,” I reached over and scratched the little Rattata, “you’ve even got a Pokémon bounded to you.”
“Oh… yes, I suppose he is,” Dude said as I lead him back her to where Muse and the giant drilling machine was.
James Jenkins had put the tub back in its right place, and stood waiting for us with his hands folded and a lopsided smile – that was only so because it’d been so long since he’d done a big, proper smile, and he didn’t remember how to do it so well.
“I j-just wanted to thank you,” he said as we approached, “for helping me to repair my house. A-and you,” he nodded to Dude, “for f-fighting of that ugly creature.”
Dude ducked his head shyly, and I put a broad smile on my face, “It was nothing, happy to help!”
“Ahem,” Muse cleared his throat, expecting his recognition.
“Oh yeah, and Muse was happy to help too,” I said cheerfully. Muse gave me a pointed glare.
The little old man was rubbing his hands together and fidgeted, his big eyes blinking at us from behind his think glasses, “Y-you are welcome to came with me. If… if there is anywhere we need to g-get to, I’d gladly repay the help you’ve given me…”
“Sounds adventurous!” I said, thoroughly excited about traveling in such a beast of a machine, plus he said it was his house, I just had to see this!
“C’mon,” I waved to my companions without even looking at them as I followed James Jenkins up the little steps.
Dude cleared his throat, “Uh, actually April….”
I turned around and stopped. Dude hadn’t moved, he was standing with his head bowed, hands in his pockets, Raphael sitting at his side.
The smile dropped from my face. “What is it?” There was obviously something wrong, but I had no idea what it could be. My stomach twisted with sudden nerves.
“It’s just that…”
He was avoiding looking at me, this wasn’t good.
“I don’t know if I want to go.”
I tilted my head to one side, studying him carefully “What do you mean?”
‘Well…. I…” he was stuttering, “I want to be a Pokémon trainer.”
“You wanna be the very best?” I asked.
“Huh?” Dude looked up.
“Like no one ever was?”
“Wha…?” Dude looked very confused and I laughed.
I patted him on the shoulder, “Don’t worry, I didn’t expect you to get the reference.”
Dude just blinked at me, befuddled, “So… you’re not mad?”
“Why would I be mad?” I put my hand on my cocked hip, “I happen to think being a Pokémon trainer is a great dream to follow!”
A smile began to grow on Dude’s face, but then it stopped, and he looked down again, “I’m just sorry I dragged you off on this escapade. I was just bored really, wanted something to do….”
“No no, don’t apologize. I needed a good adventure, I really did. I was in a very low state, having lost so much of my work and not knowing what to do….. I would have been so lost if you hadn’t shown up,” I smiled at him, and he smiled back.
“Even though he is a figment of your imagination that you created to entertain yourself while you got over your mistake of not saving your word documents properly!” Muse shouted from the drilling machine.
“Shut up Muse, I’m trying to have a character developing moment here!” I shouted back.
I turned back to Dude, smiling again, “Sorry, you know how he is.”
Dude nodded, and winked “That darn cat.”
“Oh! your reference game is not as weak as I thought!” I laughed, and then sighed.
Holding out my arms I gave him a big hug, that Dude tightly returned.
“I’ll miss you, you take care of yourself, okay?” told him, then squatted down and scratched the Rattata behind the ears, “and you too, mind your daddy now.” Raphael clicked his teeth in agreement.
Straightening, I called for my cat, “Muse! Come out here and say goodbye!”
“Do I have to?”
I rolled my eyes, “Yes!”
Muse flew out and landed on my shoulder, a scowl on his face, “See ya, kid.”
“Oh come now,” I folded my arms and looked at the frowning feline, “let some of your humanity show.”
Muse sighed and jumped over to Dude’s shoulder. Dude was surprised, but when Muse nuzzled his face and neck, purring ever so slightly, he looked very happy.
“Just don’t get yourself eaten,” Muse instructed him.
Dude smiled, and scratched the little cat’s head, “I’ll try.”
Muse landed back on my shoulder and cleared his throat, “James Jenkins is waiting for us Mistress.”
“Oh yeah,” I looked back at the giant drilling machine, incongruous with the lush, green land around it, then back at Dude, “I guess we better leave now… farewell!”
I gave him another quick hug and hurried back to the old man, while Dude waved behind us. I skidded to a stop before the funny little old man, who was standing in the doorway and wringing his hands.
He looked up at us with wide, blinking eyes, “S-so, where do you want to go?”