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Atmospheric Pressure

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It was early the next morning when Melody quietly made her way down to Shamouti’s harbour, where an express ferry to Pinkan Island was waiting. She’d picked out her favourite and most comfortable clothes; capri-cut jeans, the new red trainers that she’d rediscovered last night in the back of her closet, and a short red and white striped hooded top over a white t-shirt. Her hair was pulled up into tight twin buns rather than hanging loose in its usual two long tails. She felt like a Pokémon trainer, and she hoped that’s what people thought when they looked at her.

Essentials were packed into a small holdall that she now adjusted to wear as a backpack. Chikorita climbed out of her arms and sat on the flat top of this bag, enjoying her view.

She boarded the ferry with a smiling exchange with the gates-person. She elected to stand at the back of the boat, looking at the island she called home, that she’d be leaving for a little while. Well, some would call it a little while. This would possibly be the longest she’d ever left.

Melody gave a short gasp as she saw Cisco and Liran waving to her from the top of the shrine, and at the same time, Slowking had wandered out to the cave mouth to wave her farewell too. She waved back in their general direction, not wanting to draw specific attention to either of them.

Turning around, she could just see Pinkan Island in the distance. It was a slow ferry, as it often contained a couple of motor vehicles including second-class electric mail trucks that would make their way slowly between the islands via ferries and short road trips. She’d probably be on the ferry for a couple of hours at least; that’s why it didn’t make sense for most people to take just a day-trip to Pinkan Island from the surrounding area.

“So off we go on our little adventure,” Melody said excitedly, turning her head so that she could see Chikorita out of the corner of her eye, “Are you excited too, Chika? We can go and do all sorts of fun things together. I haven’t really had any close friends since I started college; I was too involved in my research. This might let me chill out a little bit.”

Chikorita wasn’t really sure what Melody was talking about, but she made some chirpy noises in response and nuzzled her left ear. The two settled with Melody leaning on the back barriers of the deck, watching Shamouti Island get slowly further away, metre by metre.

“We’d best get to the duty-free, don’t you think? I budgeted another ₶10,000 for this, and I don’t want to miss out on anything useful.”

The duty-free shop was a tiny market-style stall in the café area of the ferry, sandwiched between a hot food counter and a coffee kiosk. She put together a small essential kit of potions, ethers and an escape rope, then thanked the seller and returned to the outside deck.

Despite the wonderful weather, there were very few people on the ferry with her. There was a minimal amount of staff, enough to run the boat and serve customers on the inside. Some popular music was playing over the loudspeaker outside, and she bobbed up and down to it as she returned to her place on the handrails.

The sun began to rise higher in the sky, and Chikorita settled contentedly on the sun-flooded deck as Melody sat down against the cabin to join her in the glorious sunshine.

The day went on, and the two of them did little more than sit quietly together on the deck. Melody looked up the arrival time at Pinkan Island on her Pokégear, beginning to get a serious itch for adventure. It would be under an hour now. She decided to attach the Pokégear to a lanyard around her neck, ensuring that the solar panel was facing outward to take full advantage of its solar charging abilities. The battery would probably stay up for two days with minimal usage, but she didn’t want to risk being off the network because of a low battery.

Chikorita brought to her attention that they could now start to see Pinkan Island more and more clearly. If she squinted, she could see the pink fruit decorating all the trees on the island within sight, and a small amount of movement from some small wild Pokémon on the coastline. All of them, of course, pink.

“I wonder what we’ll catch to join us on our journey, Chikorita?” Melody wondered aloud, “I hope it’s something cute like you. I wonder what a pink Chikorita would look like. I guess you can try some of the Pinkan Berries and find out!”

Melody wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to communicate with Chikorita as freely as some of the trainers she’d seen; Ash Ketchum and his Pikachu, for example. She figured that she’d learn how to communicate with her as their journey went on and they became closer and closer. Besides, it was only Chikorita’s second day out of her egg, and she couldn’t expect too much to begin with. She assumed that simply keeping up conversation would help Chikorita understand her.

The island was drawing closer, and the ferryman announced that they would soon be disembarking. Melody scooped Chikorita up and returned her to her perch on her shoulder, excitedly running to the back of the boat where they’d boarded and would be alighting.

The boat pulled in to the dock closest to the entrance gate to the reserve. It was decorated, of course, with pink and white lettering, and there were plenty of signs up advertising overnight stays in the reserve, as well as stern warnings about catching protected Pokémon.

Melody’s ₶5,000 bought her an overnight stay in the reserve, as well as permission to catch one Pokémon not featured on their protected species list. The officers at the gate inspected her bags, and asked her to leave behind all but one of her empty Poké Balls, “The Pokémon in the park are trusting of humans and don’t often resist capture, so we can’t let anyone take more than one empty ball in. By the way, would you like to hire a tent for an extra ₶500?”

Melody sighed and paid up with a wry smile, and was then handed a single-person pop-up tent. She wasn’t sure how she’d get it back into the bag tomorrow morning, and so she stared at it with uncertainty for a moment.

“It’s okay,” the officer laughed, “We send our staff round to collect the tents. They’re specially trained tent-wranglers. Just make sure you camp in one of these designated pitches, okay?” and he pointed to some circled areas on the map that were a slightly lighter shade of green than the rest of the wooded areas, “these are marked clearings and there are some basic amenities there.”

Melody studied the map and discussed the most desirable place to camp up for the night, and then she thanked the man that had helped her and went on her way, through the sliding glass doors and into the nature reserve.

Pinkan Island was perhaps a degree hotter than Shamouti; it was a little further south after all. It was full of life and noise that she hadn’t really been aware of before. She could hear bugs and birds and all kinds of rodent noises, though she could see none of them right now. The Pokémon might not be camouflaged among the greenery, but they certainly blended in to the abundance of Pinkan Berries that seemed to sprout from every tree, bush and shrub on the island. She read on the borders of her map that decomposing fruit could turn flowers pink, as well as anything else sensitive to dyes.

Melody suddenly became aware of Chikorita fidgeting on her shoulder, and so she apologised hastily, “I’m sorry Chikorita, would you like to come down and have a run around with the other Pokémon? Maybe you can try some Pinkan Berries if you’re well-behaved.”

Chikorita jumped from her arm well before Melody had intended for her to, and she landed a little shakily on her feet. From there, she lifted her leaf and sensed the humid air. This seemed to give her all the incentive she needed, and she ran ahead a little on her tiny legs.

Some Pidgey, aware of a new presence in the area, jumped down from the trees and flew across the path above Melody’s head, alarming her slightly. She smiled, laughing with exhilaration. Here she was in one of the most unique places on Earth! She carefully considered whether she’d like a Pidgey in her team, but decided she shouldn’t just waste her one catch on the first thing she saw. She had until midday tomorrow, after all.

During the hours they spent strolling throughout the island, the pair came across many different Pokémon, none of them seemingly wanting to harm Chikorita or her trainer. As the officers on the reserve gate had said, the Pokémon here were fairly tame and unafraid of her presence. They regarded Chikorita with some interest, as she certainly wasn’t pink, but other than that, tended to leave them alone.

“I’m still not sure, Chikorita,” Melody sighed as they stopped for a break near a small spring. Some fish-like Pokémon, most likely pink Magikarp, could be heard bubbling behind her. “I just haven’t seen any one Pokémon that I think we could take with us to be our friend. It just feels like there’s something missing around here.”

Chikorita made a noise that might have been agreement, though she seemed anxious to get back out into some sunnier areas. She stopped for a small drink in the pool, amused by the Magikarp swimming away from the rings she caused by lapping water; then she started bounding away up one of the paths they hadn’t taken yet.

“Chikorita, wait for me!” Melody laughed, leaping up to follow her. However, Melody wasn’t really sure where Chikorita had gone. She searched for a few moments in some sunny patches of undergrowth before she started to panic, “Chikorita, where are you? Please come back!”

With a cry of amusement, Chikorita re-emerged from some bushes a little way further down the path, her necklace of vines and the tip of her leaf now tinted a rosy pink.

Melody stood up and ran to join her, laughing at the scene, “Oh dear, let me take a photograph of you,” she said, snapping open her Pokégear and launching the camera application. Chikorita, who likely had no idea what a camera was at her age, instinctively posed for the shot.

Smiling, she decided to message it to Cisco and Liran, as it would amuse them. In the meantime, Chikorita had located another low-hanging Pinkan Berry and started eating it.

“Make sure you don’t eat too many of those,” Melody advised, “Someone might think you’re a native Pokémon and try to catch you.”

Chikorita looked alarmed, and immediately stopped eating. There was nothing worse in her mind than getting separated from Melody, that was for sure.

A brief and surreal moment of silence passed, during which time a cool breeze blew through the trees, and a small group of very pink Aipom, accompanied by a very large magenta Ambipom, swung through the branches above her head. The last Aipom sat on the branch and seemed to be beckoning her with its tail, so she decided to follow, Chikorita in tow. She’d learned a lot of rather more subtle Aipom mannerisms from Cisco’s little one, but nothing could be clearer than this.

It seemed to be a long way to wherever the Aipom wanted her to go, and she started to curse the fact that she hadn’t done a lot of exercising recently as her leg muscles started to ache. However, she persevered, and soon came to a clearing where a lot of noise seemed to be happening.

Something was in the middle of a crowd of Pokémon, sparking. The crowd seemed to contain some rather aggressive Pokémon; Mankey, Primeape, maybe some Spearow and some Nidorino and Nidorina to name a few. All breeds that you would probably not want to meet in a dark alley.

“Hey, what’s going on here?” Melody shouted without thinking. The crowd seemed to stop and look at her, while the fluffy quivering mass in the middle continued its sparking, “Go and pick on something else, you bullies.”

Chikorita wasn’t really sure about any of this, but she leapt up onto Melody’s shoulder and fired a good Razor Leaf into the crowd, dispersing them quickly. From her perch on a human’s shoulders, she had correctly assumed that nothing would question her.

The Pokémon left behind appeared to be pink - no surprise there - and covered in white fluff. It was clutching some berries that were distinctly not pink, and Melody imagined that it was probably what the other Pokémon were trying to take or get a look at. The berries seemed to be covered in pock-marks and scratches now, where the other Pokémon had tried to taste them.

“Hey,” said Melody calmly, trying not to get too close in case any of the static electricity hit her, “Hey there, are you okay? The others are gone now. Looks like you have some treasure.”

The Pokémon opened its eyes in surprised and stopped shaking. The sparks seemed to stop flying too. It looked up at Melody and then down at its armful of fruit, disappointed.

“Do you want to come with us?” Melody offered, holding out her hand in what she hoped was a welcoming and non-invasive gesture. The Pokémon regarded her with some suspicion, so Melody smiled some more and added, “You can come sleep in our tent where the other Pokémon won’t bother you, and we can work out what to do so it doesn’t happen again. How about that?”

The pink Pokémon looked at her still, and then at Chikorita, who was putting on her best and most welcoming face, despite the jealousy already setting in regarding Melody showing interest in other Pokémon. It decided that the two of them certainly didn’t look too malicious, so it made a sort of “baaa”ing noise in response and stepped a little closer.

“Umm,” said Melody, “So should we go set up camp or something, then?”

The Pokémon nodded in agreement, shifting its haul of berries in its arms. Melody stood and turned, checking her map briefly and heading off in the direction of a camp about a twenty minute walk from where they were. She explained the distance to both of her companions as they went.

Their new friend seemed to be anxious, checking around for other Pokémon as it tottered along behind them. The shiny sphere at the end of its tail made a pleasant jingling noise in conjunction with the sweet aroma that Chikorita gave off in bright sunlight. Chikorita turned and pulled a face, letting their companion know that it wasn’t quite as welcome to her trainer as first suggested. It simply responded by pulling a face back; it realised that Chikorita was a baby and wasn’t taking it very seriously.

“This looks good,” Melody announced, stopping so abruptly that the Pokémon bumped into the back of her knees. “Oh gosh, I’m sorry! Are you okay?”

It scrabbled to pick up its fruit again and then nodded, knowing that being in a clearing full of humans, it would be safe.

She noticed a well-trimmed grassy patch and decided to throw the tent down there. She pushed the provided tent-pegs into the ground around it to hold it in place, and admired her handiwork. The ground around them was soft, and probably contained a lot of tropical moss. They’d be comfortable sleeping just on the groundsheet; besides, Melody hadn’t had the foresight to bring anything more than a few compact blankets for camping out.

As the sun started setting in the sky, Chikorita and the new Pokémon settled into separate corners of the tent, apparently unwilling to be friends. Melody was invited to go sit around a small controlled campfire with a few other people - some of them lone trainers, some travelling with companions, some sightseers without the slightest interest in catching anything there.

Melody became the centre of attention, being such a local girl, telling her stories of the Legend Festival and that one year that it had been all over the news coverage across the world. They recognised her somehow from blurry television cameras and obscure newspaper articles, and were held captive by her now expansive knowledge of meteorology and oceanography, and how she was trying to piece it all together. As a last favour to them, she pulled the plastic ocarina from her pockets and played the guardian’s song, something that seemed to please and calm all of them for a good night’s sleep.

She was also the last at the campfire, leaning back into the soft ground and watching the stars. She had vaguely remembered Chikorita coming out to find her, and curling up next to her. There was no sign of the other Pokémon for those hours she was sat outside; realising this, she got up and slowly nudged Chikorita awake, then carried her back to their tent.

There was a small pile of rejected parts of the berries, such as cores, stones and seeds, sat outside the tent. Moving inside and using her Pokégear camera’s flash as a light, she noticed something rummaging in her bag.

“Excuse me,” Melody said, “what are you doing?”

The Pokémon looked up, sheepish. Slowly it stopped what it was doing, piling things back into the bag and facing the corner, ashamed.

“I don’t understand,” Melody explained, “You live here, there’s a mass of Pinkan Berries around, why don’t you just eat those instead of...somehow finding other fruit and trying to take things from visitors?”

It did something similar to a human shrug, and sat down in the corner, more relaxed. It realised that Melody wasn’t going to punish it for doing this.

Melody considered her next words carefully, “and maybe if you would like to live a little better than this, you could come with us?”

Chikorita was tired, but gave Melody and incredulous look. This Pokémon? This one that had stolen from them and generally gotten more attention than her today? Melody smiled apologetically, hoping that Chikorita realised she was giving this new friend a chance to redeem itself.

The Pokémon ignored Chikorita and cocked its head. A trainer would mean a constant supply of food, and none of the shame of being a scavenger...and no hassle from other Pokémon on the island.

Melody produced the one Friend Ball from her pocket that she had chosen to bring with her. She maximised the ball using the button on the front, and set it on the floor, “Chikorita and I are going to go take a last walk along the lake here. You can decide what to do while we’re gone. Either way, you’re free to stay the night with us, of course.”

With that, she emerged from the tent, Chikorita at her side. She headed for a sparkling lake down a short path at the other side of the clearing, smiling at the snores she could hear from the tents around her. The lake surface was lit up with stars, giving it an almost ethereal feel. Melody liked being near fresh water when the opportunity arose; being around the coast and sea all her life meant that she never got to be near it. She leaned down to the surface and cupped her hands, taking a drink from the pristine waters.

Something seemed to be murmuring as she got near the water. Pulling her hair away from the water, she lowered her ear closer to the surface. Was she imagining things, or was that the song she’d been playing every summer for the past eight years?

Suddenly something caught her eye, and she leaped up to look at the surface of the lake. A shining outline of a familiar shape in a distant memory - she looked up and saw nothing, but on the lake surface could clearly make out the silhouette of Lugia, the guardian of the waters.

“What’s going on, Chikorita?” Melody cried as the water flashed the same brilliant green as the day it had poured from Shamouti Island's shrine to cleanse the ocean.

There was a brief gust of powerful wind that seemed to ruffle everything around them but her hair and clothing, and then everything returned to normal.

Chikorita looked confused. Melody realised that Chikorita hadn’t seen anything, and there were no people running from the tents to see what was going on. So was it a vision? Because she’d played the song? Because something was going to happen? Was it telling her that she was meant to be back on Shamouti Island? No, that couldn’t be right. That was a supernatural superstition. But then, so were those events all those years ago...and she’d witnessed them all with her own two eyes.

With a dull thud, Melody fell to her knees again, clutching at her head. What on earth was going on?

Disorientated, she crawled into her tent without a second thought for the Pokémon she’d picked up yesterday; it had been nowhere to be seen. Chikorita cuddled up to her with concern and they slept through past sunrise and almost into the afternoon, in deep and dreamless sleeps.

“Miss?” called one of the reserve’s rangers, peering through the partially zipped door of the tent, “Miss, you’ll have to leave the island in an hour, I have to ask you to get up soon.”

Melody jolted awake at the girl’s words. Had she really slept that long? That could have been time spent searching for a Pokémon to catch and taking in more of the sights.

“I see you’ve caught something there miss, may I scan the Poké Ball to make sure you haven’t caught anything listed as protected status under reserve authority guidelines?” she asked politely, pointing to a small pink and cream ball with a button that flashed red.

Melody’s eyes widened, “I had no idea. Certainly, you can take a look. I didn’t see it on the board when I came in,” and handed it to the ranger, who produced a strange scanning device from her belt.

“Everything seems to be fine,” she said with an amused smile on her face that Melody wasn’t really sure was appropriate, “Please, get up in your own time and I will collect your tent in half an hour.”

She sat up and stretched, and then looked with wonder at the Friend Ball that now contained something. Could it have been the Pokémon from the night before? There probably wasn’t time to wonder. She was clear with the rangers and that was good enough for her. Now she had just an hour to find her way to the other port that would take her to Valencia Island.

Carefully she deposited the ball in her bag and studied the map. Meanwhile, Chikorita clambered up on to her shoulder. Melody worked out from the location of the lake in the clearing which way she should start walking, and so she took off at a reasonable pace. She wanted to stop for water, but she didn’t want to walk past that lake again.

She had to get those visions out of her mind. They would only trouble her, while this was a journey intended to take her mind off all those worries. It was probably just a bad dream; Chikorita certainly wasn't still dwelling on it, as far as she could tell.

There were people up ahead that she recognised from the night before. Assuming that they were also making their way to the south-western ferry terminal, she slowed to their pace and kept her distance. She didn’t want to speak to anyone today; she’d only end up talking about last night, and they’d probably lose all respect for her or think she was trying to impress them with made-up stories.

She fished around in her bag for a snack. She found a blue berry - an Oran berry? - before she put her hands on the cereal bars that she’d put in there the morning before. Strange; had the Pokémon from last night tried to make up for rummaging through her bag by giving her a gift?

“Chikorita, would you like to try this?” Melody asked, holding it up to her shoulder. Chikorita gave it a cursory look-over before she accepted it and ate it in tiny bites from Melody’s hand. She wasn’t going to risk eating the Pinkan berries again after Melody’s warning yesterday.

Melody wolfed back her cereal bar with her free hand, and then wiped Chikorita’s remaining berry juices on her jeans. That’s what jeans were made for, after all.

Thankfully she passed the same small spring from the day before, and stopped to take a long drink and wash her face. She smiled down at the Magikarp below the surface as Chikorita started pawing at the water. Catching a glance of herself reflected in the spring, Melody pulled a brush from her bag and worked to make her hair look a little more presentable to the people she’d no doubt be accompanied by on the ferry.

She must have been closer to the port than she’d expected at the time yesterday, because it was just another ten-minute walk from there. She was fairly eager and seemed to be one of the first people there, but she chose to duck out of the line that was forming and sat on the shore, admiring the ferry that had just pulled in.