The next few days – weeks, even – were too unpleasant to recount in any detail. Suffice to say, it hurt. About the only pleasant experience amongst the list was having a hot, hot bath. Even if I had to be carried by Ampharos and placed into the water. If nothing else, it seemed that Loki, self proclaimed god and master of fire, was able to provide hot water. Afterwards, Eva presented me with a long t-shirt and a bathrobe. The t-shirt had to be one of Loki’s, but thankfully seemed to have been cleaned, and the bathrobe looked like it had been nicked from a high-end hotel, even down to the “TT” embroidered in the corner.
It was a pity, however, that Loki was unable to manage particularly tasty produce. Mostly we ate potatoes, carrots and mushrooms, the vegetables that, Eva informed me, apparently were the best since the Genesis. All vegetables that grew underground, as you might have noticed. I speak about food, because I’m avoiding the mention of other things. About how my body no longer felt like my own. Due to the lack of muscle-tone, my bones no longer had much in the way of padding and I felt, overall, more fragile. Also, there was the added problem of Loki.
“Papa sleeps a lot,” Eva explained. “Not as long as you, of course, but he can sleep for days and days.”
Now, I must confess, had I been slightly more mobile, I might well have entertained the notion of killing him in his sleep. But, even though I didn’t really know her, and I hated him, I wouldn’t, couldn’t, do such a thing in front of a child. His child. My child. Aargh, I still struggled to get my head around that concept.
He slept, I ate potatoes and far too many mushrooms (I mean, I like mushrooms as much as the next vegetarian, but for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Yeh, you can understand my reservations). Luckily, I also grew stronger, and by the second day, finally managed to stand, with the aid of one of those wheeled carts. Ick, I felt like an old lady, but I managed a few shaky steps.
“You’re doing great,” Eva urged. I pulled a face. “Really, you are,” she insisted. “Would you like to come into my playroom? It has television and a bookcase and everything.”
How could I refuse? Not only did she seem eager to show me, but it would be nice to be in more comfortable surroundings. Plus I’d really like to watch television – I had ten years of news to catch up with for a start. And I really, really, wanted to find out what manner of chaos Loki had wrought in the past decade. I could only hope that Kameron, the Mews, and my other friends had thwarted the worst of his endeavours.
The playroom was rather pleasant, for a cave. With the aid of Ampharos, I comfortably seated myself on a two-seater couch, designed to resemble a snorlax and adorned with jigglypuff cushions. The walls – rough hewn like my ward – were surrounded with bookcases and decorated with an array of posters. Some featuring Pokemon – including one of the “world-famous” Ash and his pikachu, others exotic landscapes or characters from television shows that were popular when I was a child. Although the floor was as rough hewn as the walls, it was covered in an array of rugs and fleeces, a patchwork of colour and styles. Soft toys jostled for space along the tops of the bookcases, which held not only books but a large amount of boardgames.
“Ampharos plays with me,” Eva informed me. “But he totally sucks at chess.”
“Amph-aros,” her electric sheep commented. “Amp, ampharos.”
“Oh shush,” Eva replied. “I’m not that good. I know you like to let me win.”
I frowned. I hadn’t understood Ampharos at all. Before my long sleep, I had acquired several talents, including the ability to more-or-less understand Pokemon speech (which was more about intonation and posture, rather than the actual words) and proclaimed myself a “Pokemon Friend” rather than a Pokemon Trainer. Maybe it was just because I didn’t have a bond with Ampharos – and Eva had practically been raised by him, after all. That must be it.
“Are you all right?” Eva wondered, sensing my discomposure.
I shrugged. “Yes. I’m fine. Just… well, it’s been a pretty rough day.”
Eva shot me a dazzling smile. “I understand,” she said. “Would you like to watch television? I find that makes me feel better when I’m a bit sad.” The television was a flat screen, bolted to the wall above one of the bookcases. It was, to put things lightly, massive. Almost like a private movie screen. Loki might be many things, none of them good, but it appeared he was an indulgent father, who had not skimped on providing his daughter with as many creature comforts as he could provided, of course, that she remain within this… compound?
Eva tumbled beside me on the couch. “Are you hungry?” she asked.
I was, despite the poor quality of the food, my appetite had returned with wicked vengeance. “Please,” I said.
“Amph-ampharos.” The electric sheep nodded his head, agreeing to the unspoken request, and departed. Eva fumbled around behind the cushions and produced a remote.
“What would you like to watch? We’ve got a ton of DVDs.”
“Do you have the news?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Just DVDs.”
Not only was Loki showering her with gifts, he appeared to be sheltering her from the world as well.
“How about you choose one of your favourites?”
She nodded and fussed around, and soon I found myself watching one of Ash’s innumerable adventures. One that I remembered, the one with Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres.
I’d also met the legendary birds, helped to restore them to the world after Loki had attempted to manipulate them to doing his bidding. But you didn’t see them making movies about me, did you just? Me, Kameron and Maki, saving the world and defeating our evil Team Rocket duo: Loki and Freyja, time and time again.
What had happened to Maki? My little lemur Pokemon? Was he still alive? I hoped he and Kameron were still together. Still thwarting Team Rocket. Still thinking of me occasionally.
“Why do you want to leave, Eva?” I asked the question again, now that we were comfortably seated, watching Ash, Brock and Misty set out on yet another of their legendary adventures. I had a sneaking suspicion I knew the answer.
“I want to go on a Pokemon journey,” she said. “And be a Pokemon Trainer like Ash, and,” she looked up into my eyes, “like you, mama.”
She was sweet, and compassionate, but every time I looked into those big blue eyes it made me think of him: everything he’d done to me and Kameron in the past, and what he must’ve done, while I’d been at his mercy. I had to draw my gaze away, focussing instead on one of the fluffy pink carpets. “People still go on Pokemon journeys?” I wondered aloud.
“Oh yes,” Eva exclaimed. “See.” She pointed at the television screen. “I’d love to be able to choose my own starter Pokemon. What was yours?”
“A makimur,” I replied, feeling a pang of sadness at my missing friend. “They’re not a traditional starter. What would you choose?”
She shrugged. “I dunno. There’s so many to choose from! I think a fire type. Papa says fire types are the strongest. Maybe litten?”
Of course Loki would favour fire types. But litten? “I’ve not heard of that one,” I replied.
“Really? You’ve never been to Alola?”
I shook my head. “Where is it?”
“A bunch of islands,” she replied, jumped from the couch and came back carrying several books, one of which was an updated Pokemon encyclopaedia. It was missing a lot of the Pokemon I was familiar with: dragosi, orka and about a billion eevee evolutions, but contained a remarkably large amount of ones unfamiliar to me. Litten was cute – a little like a black and red meowth. A fire and dark type, I was informed. That seemed an unusual sort of starter, but who knew? I had been asleep a long time. The world had probably changed.
Eva was just showing me Alola’s location on a map, when Ampharos returned, bearing a tray of potatoes stuffed with mushrooms and plastic cheese. I ate like the starving invalid that I was. My taste buds might be planning to revolt, but my stomach and body clearly sensed what was needed. We were partway through when I heard footsteps, heavy boot falls, on the rock outside the curtained doorway.
Ampharos was here, Eva was here, to the best of my knowledge they were otherwise alone, that meant…
…Loki entered the chamber.