For many trainers, the first impression of the forest is a dark place crawling with bugs, many of which seem to be poisonous – not a place that tends to inspire fond memories. It’s not until later that they find the friendlier spaces that border the grassland. These parts are often left alone anyway; most of the Pokémon that live there are common, not very strong, and can be found almost everywhere.
This isn’t their story, though. This story calls the forest “home.” There is a life there, one that cares little for trainers or their dreams of glory. For the inhabitants of the forest, life is a simple, day-to-day process of finding food and water, keeping a few things in order, and taking the time to really experience the world. In areas frequented by trainers, very little can be seen, but as one travels deeper, vigilance fades to wariness– in this case, a lone Flareon pacing a well-traveled path in the hour before sunrise, ears twitching this way and that in the predawn stillness.
Following his path from above reveals a circle, at the center of which is a clearing where the spring shoots of grass grow tall in its oasis of sunlight. The patch of sun draws Pokémon close around, a fact attested to by numerous paths trampled through the clearing. As morning arrives, sunlight breaks through the treetops to reach the forest floor, beginning a new day.
Tyler came awake, blinking as sunlight slanted through the mouth of the den into his eyes. The Eevee yawned, lifting a paw to shield himself from the brightness, then rolled onto his back and stretched, paws reaching forward and back to the limits of his small body. It was another warm, late-spring day; the leaves had grown to block out most of the sun with only a few spots breaking through here and there, like the one in his eyes.
Tyler’s movement woke his brothers and sisters, and the den filled with small stirring noises as four other balls of brown-and-and cream fur uncurled for the new day. Mother lay near the entrance, already awake and watching them. She was stretched out in the sun, light playing across her green-tinted fur – she and Father both loved warm sunlight, and between them they were happier for spring than any other Pokémon in their part of the forest. His sister Sasha had asked once how Mother and Father got along, since Mother was grass type and the Father was a fire Pokémon, and she had smiled and told them that their element didn’t matter so much. “We take care of each other – and you,” Mother had added, tickling Sasha’s nose with a paw. “We don’t fight.”
Family was important to Eons. When Tyler and his siblings evolved, they could be a lot of different things – Father knew about eight kinds of Eons, and he said maybe there were more. They were lucky, Father had told them. Most species didn’t get that kind of a choice, but Eons could be anything. Mother and Father both taught them, though, that whatever they looked like, they would always be family. Father told them that being different would let them take care of each other and keep each other safe – especially from Catchers. Everyone was excited for the day they’d evolve, except for Tyler. Skylar, his littermate, had wanted to be a Jolteon for as long as Tyler could remember. He was already begging Father to help him find a thunderstone, but Father said they weren’t old enough yet. Carson and Kara were older. His oldest brother would probably be a Flareon, or maybe a Glaceon – but probably Flareon, like Father. He wasn’t sure about Kara; she was usually pretty quiet. Maybe that meant Umbreon or Espeon. Sasha seemed the most excited of anyone except Skylar, but when they asked her what she wanted to evolve into she always smiled, shook her head and told them they’d find out. Usually she couldn’t keep anything to herself, so they kept asking, but she hadn’t told anyone yet. Mother and Father probably knew.
Tyler still wasn’t sure about himself. There were a lot of choices, and he sometimes worried about picking the wrong one. He wasn’t fast like Skylar or strong like Carson; there wasn’t anything to tell him what to choose. Mother kept telling him not to worry, that it was still months before he’d be old enough to evolve and he could take his time.
A tail swished across Tyler’s face, distracting him. “I’m hungry!” Skylar announced. At his brother’s words, Tyler’s stomach rumbled, reminding him that he was too. Almost on cue, Father appeared in the entrance, blocking out the light for a moment. The Flareon had a spray of berries of different kinds in his mouth from Mother’s bushes, and the five young Eevee piled happily over to eat.
As usual, Skylar finished first. Tyler snickered a little as Mother stopped his brother to wash his face, and then guiltily wiped at his own fur, realizing he had gotten berry juice on himself too. Not as much as Skylar did, though.
After that, they all ran down to the stream to drink with Father trailing behind them. The trail was well-worn and led down to a sandbar that sloped into the water. Several Pidgey, Rattata, and a Furret were already there, so they had to find open spots along the stream’s edge to lap at the clear water. Tyler heard Father’s chuckle as they scampered around, wrestling to get at the first spaces they saw. He found an open spot next to a Rattata that was turning back to the trees. They quickly drank their fill and dashed back to the clearing to play, panting when they arrived. Father kept looking around, probably waiting for Mother to come back so they could start training. I don’t mind if she takes a while, Tyler thought.
Eventually, though, Mother did come back and it was time to start training. They all looked at Father; he always took charge of training – Mother didn’t like to fight much, but she agreed that Tyler and his siblings needed to learn to take care of themselves and each other. They trained every few days in a patch of grass in the clearing that was by now trampled flat; Father would have them practice tackles, rolls, and other moves, sometimes on their own or sometimes against him or Mother. Mother always insisted that they shouldn’t practice against each other.
Tyler knew he probably couldn’t ever get the better of either of his parents. He and his siblings weren’t strong enough, but Mother and Father never used their powers against them. The worst Father ever did was knock Tyler over and send him rolling over a few times across the grass, telling him afterward to keep his balance low when he got close. After almost a year of training, Tyler could tell that he was a lot better – he didn’t get hit nearly as much now.
Today, Father put them in pairs. Tyler was placed with Skylar; he shared a conspiratorial look with his brother, who was smiling too. Mother picked Sasha and Kara, and Father started explaining what they were supposed to do. “Right now, we’ll have you work together, trying to take us down. Remember what I taught you about balance. I’m bigger and stronger than you are, so you have to be smart. One of you has to get me off balance, or you’ll never be able to move me.”
“I can knock Mother over,” Skylar retorted impudently. Tyler shook his head. I’m not sure any of us could.
Echoing his thoughts, Father said, “No, you can’t. Not if she doesn’t want you to.” Tyler threw a glance at Mother and saw her smile. “Now come on.”
They all backed apart, getting ready. Tyler wanted to take a moment to watch Father’s movements, but Skylar went hurtling toward Father without so much as glancing at Tyler to see what he would do. Tyler leaped up and followed his brother, shaking his head a little. Sometimes it was almost like they could read each other’s minds. Other times… He ran after the faster Eevee, trying to judge where he would hit. Skylar plowed into Father’s shoulder a full speed, but the Flareon braced at the last moment, stopping his son as if he had hit a wall. A few steps behind, Tyler changed angles to try to hit Father’s hindquarters, but it was too late. Father spun to the side, reaching out and cuffing Tyler with a paw as he passed by. Already off-balance from trying to change direction, Tyler lost his footing and hit the ground, rolling over. By the time he managed to look back, Skylar was down too.
As the two brothers picked themselves up off the ground, Father remonstrated them, but Tyler could tell he was close to laughing. “You’ll have to work together better than that! Come on, try again.”
They retreated back to the other side of the patch of grass. Before they started, Tyler turned to look at his brother and got a nod in return. It was his turn to take the lead. Tyler waited a heartbeat longer, deciding what to do, then charged. Skylar followed close behind, but he didn’t try to pass his brother. Tyler aimed for Father’s shoulder like Skylar had, but when Father braced for the hit he dropped and switched targets, swerving under Father’s paw to knock his other forepaw out from under him. Skylar accelerated to a sprint, cannoning into Father at the same moment. The Flareon fell, nearly flattening Tyler, who had to drop flat to avoid a flailing paw. Father rolled away, eyes shining with pride. “That was much better. You know, one day everyone’s going to have to watch out for you two.” The brothers shared a triumphant grin.
He heard a scuffling noise behind him and turned to see Mother on the ground with Kara and Sasha. The Leafeon had playfully pinned her daughters to the ground, laying on top of them while they wailed for help. Tyler couldn’t help but giggle at the sight. Father padded over, smiling as well. “Well, this looks serious.” Mother let Tyler’s sisters get up, and they all started again.
Father switched what they were doing every once in a while; sometimes they would be alone, sometimes two or three together. Sometimes Tyler would be attacking Father or Mother, and other times they would all have to work together and dodge their parents’ attacks. When the sun started sliding back down, they all stopped and flopped down to rest in the shade, except for Mother, who lay in the sun with her leaves spread out to soak in the light. Now that they weren’t running around, conversation started up again.
“Father, did you see me?” Sasha asked. “Mother tried to get me, but I got away from her. I’m fast!”
“Not as fast as me,” said Skylar. “I’m gonna be a Jolteon!”
“One day, when you’re ready,” replied Father.
Carson broke into the conversation. “You always say ‘when we’re ready.’ How do we know when we’re ready?”
“For most young Eevee, it’s when you’re about two years old. That’s not too far away now,” Mother explained. “As for how you’ll know when that is, you’ll be able to feel it.”
“What does it feel like?” Now they all wanted to hear.
It was Father who responded. “It’s kind of hard to explain, but you can feel something building up inside of you. Eventually, you start to feel… almost like you’ll burst out of your skin. Yes, that’s it.” He looked rather pleased. “That’s when you’re ready to change.”
“That sounds like it hurts!” exclaimed Sasha apprehensively.
“Don’t worry,” replied Mother. “It can be kind of uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt.” That’s good, Tyler thought.
“What does it feel like when you evolve?”
“It’s an experience you’ll never forget, as long as you live,” said Father.
Mother added, “Everything you felt building up inside suddenly comes bursting out. It runs all through you, and when it stops, you’re different.” They were all silent for a few moments as Tyler and his siblings tried to imagine what it would feel like.
“What is it like, suddenly being different?” Carson asked after a minute.
“Well…” Mother began, “it’s strange at first, but it’s not like you aren’t you anymore. It seems more like…”
“Like part of you woke up that you never knew was there,” Father finished.
“Yes,” said Mother. “That’s it.”
They lay in silence for another minute, then Tyler asked, “How did you and Father know what you wanted to evolve into?”
Mother gave him a knowing look, but there was concern mixed into her green eyes. Then she turned her head to address everyone. “Well,” she began, “I always loved plants, even from a very young age. As soon as I felt the time coming, I knew where I needed to go – to one of the moss stones.”
“For me,” Father added, “it was a bit different. I wanted to be strong and be ready to protect my family and friends. I wanted to be able to keep enemies away.”
“And what will we do when we’re ready?” asked Kara.
“One of us will take you to find the right place. We’ll be there with you,” said Father.
“One of you? Won’t we all go?” asked Carson.
“No. It’s a special time in your life, and we go alone. Whichever of us, your mother or I, goes, the other will stay to protect the family.”
“A special trip? Just two of us?” exclaimed Sasha, eyes shining. “I want to go with Mother!”
“That’s how it usually works,” Mother replied with a smile. “Father will take your brothers, and I’ll be the one to take you and Kara.”
For once, Sasha had nothing to say, though her eyes shone with happiness. Maybe that won’t be so bad, Tyler thought to himself. Whatever might happen, he felt safe with Father around.
After they ate, Tyler and his siblings played among the trees near their den, hiding, chasing, running, and pouncing on one another. Father disappeared for a few minutes. He did that a lot whenever some sound seemed off. Occasionally it was Catchers; he always came back worried when that happened, and then he and Mother would herd them back into their den or a nearby bush. Tyler had seen the Catchers once or twice when they came into view of their hiding places. Sometimes there would be Pokémon walking alongside them – usually ones Tyler and his siblings didn’t recognize. None of the Catchers had ever seen them.
When Father came back, though, he looked normal, relaxed. They listened while he announced that it had just been a few Spearow getting in a fight over something. A moment later, Mother called Carson and Kara over. The five young Eevee shared a puzzled look, and Tyler’s older brother and sister went over to their parents, leaving the three younger Eevee to play alone. Tyler looked over a few times; all four were sitting up, talking seriously. “What do you think they’re talking about?” Tyler asked his brother and sister. None of them knew. After a moment, they shrugged it off and started chasing each other again until they got tired.
Carson and Kara came back by then, but they didn’t seem interested in playing. Sasha asked what they’d been talking about. “Getting ready to evolve,” Carson responded, but they refused to answer any other questions. Mother came over and reassured them that everything was all right, but Tyler still couldn’t help wondering what his brother meant, so he brought the question up a few more times.
Finally Kara responded. “You don’t have to worry. I think Mother and Father will tell you when you get a little older. We’re just going to be doing some more training, that’s all.” Tyler realized that was all he was going to get. About then, Sasha announced that she was hungry. Tyler left his questions alone and joined in, running over to Mother with Skylar and Sasha. Mother got up and they headed for the stream; Carson and Kara got up and followed them too.
Once they’d all eaten, they went back to playing. Mother watched them, moving occasionally to stay in the sun as it got lower in the afternoon sky. Carson and Kara seemed back to their normal selves and joined in again. As evening started to set in, Father padded over to Mother before leaving to patrol around their den like he did every night. Tyler felt his ears droop a little, knowing what was coming next. Sure enough, Mother called them a moment later. “They day’s almost over. It’s time to get ready to sleep.” They protested, begging to play a little longer, but it was no use, and they followed Mother back into the den.
Mother washed all of them like she did every night, starting with Sasha. When she got to him, Tyler tried to hold still while she pulled tangles out of his fur. The thick ruff of fur around his neck had gotten especially messy, like it always was on training days. Tyler fidgeted a little until she finally stopped and gave him a lick on the head, moving on to Kara. Tyler curled up next to Skylar and Sasha, but they didn’t go to sleep yet. He kept watching, waiting for Father to get back. After a few more minutes, the Flareon appeared. Mother was finished cleaning them by then; Tyler got up as Father came over and gave him an affectionate nuzzle before moving on to the others. “Everything’s safe tonight. See you in the morning.”
At this, it really was time to go to sleep. The sun was down and darkness was spreading across the sky. Tyler curled up with the rest of his siblings and looked over at his parents, who were laying together in front of the den. He could barely see them now, outlines in the darkness. Just when Tyler was about to go to sleep, Carson spoke up.
“You know, what we were talking about earlier today? About being ready?”
“Yes,” Kara murmured from his other side.
“I think I’m starting to feel something. Just a little.” That got Tyler’s attention, and he came to full alertness again, wanting to hear what it felt like.
Father’s voice came next. “When did it start?”
“It started a few days ago,” Carson said. “I didn’t know what it was.”
“Well, it sounds like we’ll be making a trip in a month or so,” Father responded. “Now, sleep well.” That was the end of the conversation. Tyler settled down to sleep again, curling his tail over his nose and letting out a small, sighing yawn. Their den was always warm at night; gentle heat rolled off of Father’s body. He could feel the shapes of his brothers and sisters, curled into balls of brown and cream fur like he was. Mother and Father lay by the entrance, keeping them safe. The Eevee finally drifted off to sleep, happy to be there with his family.