Dead leaves swirled about Izaak’s muddy shoes as he stood outside the gate, unable to cross the threshold into the prison he used to call a home. Paint peeled off the face of the walls, the once proud wooden door was worn beyond repair from the years of neglect and the windows were so grimy that the sun could never hope to pierce the thick layer of dirt, even on the brightest of days.
The heavens opened up with rain as he pushed the cold steel gate open and stepped inside the garden. His school uniform matched the grey colour of the rainclouds which loomed overhead and the overgrown lawn stirred in the strengthening wind as he walked along the path towards his home.
Once he reached the door he shoved it with his shoulder, but it was locked. He licked his chapped lips which were the same pale blue as his eyes, they must have gotten tired of waiting for me, he thought. He fished the key out from his pocket and, after some forcing, unlocked the latch. Stepping inside he closed it behind him, trying his best not to make any noise.
The hallway was empty, only the hollow sound of ticking coming from a white plastic clock disturbed the stone-cold silence. The smell of dust clung to the air in dense pockets and the floorboards were exposed in the dim light that managed to get through a single, small window. Even the staircase, which took up half the length of the hallway, was bear of any covering or decorations.
He took off his shoes, placing them in the corner of the room and made his way towards the stairs but stopped when he caught a glimpse of the kitchen door, further down the hall.
Before he could react, the kitchen door began to open. In a blind panic Izaak bolted for the stairs but didn’t make it past the second step before he lost his balance and came crashing down.
His mother was by his side by the time he had turned round. Wrapped about her was a yellow dressing gown and on her feet she wore SpongeBob socks, which Izaak had got for her last Christmas.
When she smiled at him, he couldn’t help but smile back. There was something about his mother which always brought light, even into the darkest of rooms. Maybe it had something to do with the strong scent of her tropical shampoo, or maybe it was more to do with her shoulder length auburn hair and how it would reflect the smallest amount of light, amplifying it. Whatever it was, he was happy to see her.
His knees had turned a tender red from their collision with the stairs and he sat rubbing them, trying to ease the pain. In silence, his mother knelt down in front of him and planted two kisses on both his knees.
“Better?” She asked.
The seconds ticked away and Izaak found himself looking past his mother’s smile, into her tired, bloodshot eyes, a side effect of too many late nights. His stomach churned painfully at the thought of his mother, lying awake, her ability to sleep blocked by fear. He had to turn away when he noticed the dark shadows under her eyes, which had become considerably blacker since this morning when he last saw her.
“You’re late, what took you so long to come home today?”
He tried not to make eye contact, keeping his view of the floor beneath his feet, but his eyes flicked over towards his shoes, still coated in mud and his mother followed his gaze.
“You came home the forest way? I asked you not to go that way.” She said, more concerned than angry. “You know it’s too dangerous. What would your father say if he found out?”
“He’s not my father!” shouted Izaak, but instantly regretted his outburst when his mother turned away from him. “Sorry,” he said quickly. “I didn’t mean to shout.”
“Maybe you should just go to your room, before you end up waking him.”
“Can we just run away?” He asked, keeping his voice low. “We could go somewhere we don’t have to worry about, him.”
“Not now dear.”
“Why not, why can’t we just go? I know you don’t like it here. What if we just-“
“Izaak please! Not now.”
A figure stepped into the gap of the kitchen door and the hall seemed to grow colder as the outline of the man, that Izaak use to call his father lingered in the doorway, blocking the grubby lamplight that shined behind him like a moon in a solar eclipse.
Icy sweat ran down Izaak’s back as the man stood there, watching him with no expression and heavy eyes.
Izaak’s mother took hold of his arm and stood up. Once they were both standing she began to lead him upstairs and away from the man. When he and his mother reached the top of the stairs she released her grip.
“I’ll bring your food later” she said, gesturing towards his bedroom.
Izaak ran to his room and slammed the door behind him, fighting back tears as he leaned against the door. He hated that man, his hands would clench into fists at the very thought of him. He wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve and pulled himself away from the door.
His bedroom was a small room with one window on the furthest wall, a single bed on one side and a chest of draws on the other. He rushed over to his favourite toy, which sat on top of the draws, and embraced it. The toy was a small plush doll of the fox Pokémon Vulpix. It smiled at Izaak with its wide grin and its eyes glistened with joy at the sight of his return. He smiled at the touch of its soft, orange fur against his cheek, but his smile was not to last.
He turned to his bed and pulled back the plain white blanket, then climbed onto the mattress and dragged the blanket back over him, making sure it covered him completely before hugging Vulpix close.
Izaak hated this part of the day, the waiting drove him mad. He would curl up into a ball and squeeze his legs tight against his chest as he waited for the war to start between his mother and the man he used to call his father, a war which he had to endure every day of his life. A war filled of vile words and angry shouts in place of bullets and soldiers and guns, a war which was responsible for ripping his small family apart.
It raged on for what seemed like hours, it was low at first, muffled voices that were hard to understand, but it wasn’t long before his parents became louder and their words harsher.
He listened to the rhythmic attack of the rain as it rang against his rusting window and a crack of lightning scared the sky with light, followed closely by the low roar of thunder.
He tried to sleep, but the noise from downstairs and outside made it impossible. So, with a sigh, he pushed his blanket off and sat up. The sun had slipped away under the horizon unnoticed and without its presence the room was left in darkness, making it impossible to see or make out anything in the jungle of shadows and silver outlines that tangled and twisted inside his room.
Izaak reached under the bed and began to pad around, feeling for a torch which he had for just such an occasion. Once he found it, he flicked the switch and the blaze of light that followed blinded him for a few seconds while his eyes tried to adjust. Able to see again, he reached under his pillow and pulled out a shiny, original red, Pokémon Pokédex.
This Pokédex had everything a boy needed to take his mind off the harsh reality of the world around him. All one hundred and fifty one of first generation Pokémon waited to be found with just a click of a button. His eyes lit up like crystals as he opened the Pokédex and the eight-bit screen came alive with its dim white glow. It had games, it had sounds and it even had colour, but most importantly, it had his favourite Pokémon.
He typed zero, three, seven into the keypad and a picture of a bouncing Vulpix popped on screen with a few words of small back text under the Pokémon’s feet. Izaak read the text in his head, putting on the same voice as the Pokédex in the cartoons.
Vulpix, the fox type Pokémon. When it is born, it has just one snow-white tail. The tail splits from its tip as it grows older.
Like his toy, the Vulpix on screen had the same orange coloured fur as well as six tails that curled at the tips. He picked up the toy and held it close to his face. Its eyes were so full of life he could have sworn that it were real.
“Are you alive?” He asked, brushing its soft fur with his fingers. “I could really use a friend right now.”
He smirked when he was met with silence from the toy. It was a long shot, but worth a try.
Defeated and tired Izaak rested his head on the pillow, but as soon as his skin touched the cold fabric, the voices from downstairs invaded his silence.
“All I’m asking for is that you be more involved with him” said the voice of his mother. “Take him to the park, play football with him. Just picking him up from school would be something. Be a father for once.”
Izaak’s fingers dug into the quilt as he listened. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Did she even consider asking him if he wanted to be forced to spend quality time with that man, what was she thinking?
“We’re at the end of our rope” said mother again. “The only reason we haven’t split up yet is because of Izaak. He needs a father, so if you can’t step up to the role, it’s over.”
The deep chuckle that followed vibrated off every wall in the house and sent chills down Izaak’s spine.
“You want to play that game then fine” said the male voice as his heavy footsteps paced about the kitchen. “First off, drop the act. The only reason you haven’t left yet is because of the money in my name. You know as well as I do this has nothing to do with the boy and secondly, where're you going to go? You have no money and no job. You can’t look after yourself let alone the boy and don’t expect any help of me either, because I know, you’ll come crawling back, begging me to take you in.”
Izaak listened for his mother response but, nothing came, and the house once again had fallen silent.
He rubbed at his eyes as tears flowed freely down his cheek. The man’s words rang in his head like a wasp stuck in a glass jar and the longer they were in there the more he believe they were true. As much as Izaak hated to admit it, he could see no other reason why his mother hadn’t left yet.
In a blind rage he snatched up the helpless Pokédex and held it up over his head. He wanted to throw it as hard as he could, he wanted so badly to smash it into pieces just to get rid of his anger, but deep down he knew it wouldn’t help so, he let it slip out of his hand and fall harmlessly into the bed.
When his gaze wondered over to the Pokédex he noticed that the picture on the eight-bit screen had been replaced. The image of the Vulpix had changed into a luxurious golden-white fox that was surrounded by a ring of ghostly fire and had nine gold tipped tails. He looked down at the text underneath and read.
Ninetales, the evolve form of Vulpix. Very smart and very vengeful. Grabbing one of its many tails could result in a thousand year curse. It is said that the curse will turn you into a Pokémon.
His heart started to pound and his mind set ablaze as a plan formed in his head. It was simple, all he had to do was find a Ninetales and he could live the rest of his life as a Pokémon. A smile appeared on his lips from the thought, all the fun he could have with not a care in the world. No school, no homework, and best of all, no being forced to spend time with a fake father. That was all the drive he needed.
He jumped off his bed, no longer tired, and moved towards the window to get a look outside. Everything in the front garden was concealed in thick shadows and the only source of light came from the streetlights that lined the road, casting all that stood beneath them in a honey glow.
Izaak also noticed that rain had reduced to a steady drizzle. If he was going to run away this would be the perfect time, while the storm had eased up.
It didn’t take him long to grab some clothes as well as the Pokédex and Vulpix. Everything in hand, he placed them into an army patterned rucksack that was under his bed and zipped it up.
He slung the rucksack over his shoulder and, torch in hand, he crept out of his bedroom. Like before, the house was silent, except for the lonely clock that ticked away on the wall. He checked over the landing banister before heading downstairs and into the empty hallway. Tiptoeing his way to the corner where his shoes were waiting and after putting them on, he unlocked the front door and gently opened it.
The instant chill washed over him like the breath of a giant. Then he slipped into the cold open air and closed the door behind him.