Looking Back on Predictions

Those who have followed this blog for a long time know that I like to do speculative posts at times. These tend to be video game related posts, usually delving just as much into theorycrafting as they do anything else. That said, I like writing them and typically have a lot of fun in the process of creating them.

One thing I don’t do a good job of, however, is looking back at those posts when it comes time to see what I got right and got wrong. I’m not alone in this. Nearly every sports writer or pundit suffers from the same problem. There’s an entire Twitter account dedicated to calling these freezing cold takes out. If you’re a sports fan, give it a read. It’s great entertainment.

With one of the final posts of 2019, I wanted to take a moment and go back and look at my theorycrafting posts, speculative posts, and just general guessing-type posts I’ve written. What did I get wrong? For that matter, what did I get right? I sure as hell don’t remember. Come and discover right along with me.

10 Pokemon Go Community Day Ideas Based on Shinies

The most recent purely speculative post I’ve written is also one of the least successful, if not inconclusive results-wise, posts that I’ve written. Pokemon Go players have received zero of the Pokemon I listed in this post as Community Day events in the time since this post was written in April 2019. Two of the Pokemon listed in this post, Shuckle and Electrike, have had their shinies released, albeit in very different ways. Shuckle got its shiny released as part of an event and featured boosted spawns as a result. While this isn’t Community Day, I’ll still take this as a win. Electrike, on the other hand, didn’t even receive a formal announcement.

What I Got Right – Shuckle (kind of).
What I Got Wrong – Electrike.
Inconclusive – Everything else.

How Smeargle (Almost) Made Me Quit Pokemon Go

In this post, I mentioned how the implementation of Smeargle was the worst thing to happen in Pokemon Go ever, including the original gym system. While I did mention it in the post, I failed to call out that the biggest mistake Niantic had made to that point was actually the failure to re-implement the footstep tracker that allowed you to locate Pokemon in the early days of the game. This is a grievous oversight on my part. On the plus side, my post no longer matters, because Niantic has since introduced the paid Regigigas event, which is actually the worst thing to happen in the game’s history.

What I Got Right – How frustrating Smeargle was until more info about its mechanics were released.
What I Got Wrong – Pretty much everything else.
Inconclusive – How Niantic will alienate its player base next.

Why Your Super Smash Bros Ultimate Main Sucks

This post was a work of art except for one crucial mistake.

What I Got Right – That it’s super inconsistent for mature characters to be banned from Smash, yet for Bayonetta to somehow be on the roster.
What I Got Wrong – Captain Falcon does not shout his own name during sex. The Wii Fit Trainer does that.
Inconclusive – How much rage I’ll have to hear from the Smash fan base when Edelgard is inevitably added to Smash as DLC.

10 New Mega Evolutions I Want to See on Pokemon Switch

For the second generation in a row, we did not get new Mega Evolutions in a new Pokemon game. While Gen VII brought us Z-moves, Sword and Shield brought us Dynamax and Gigantamax evolutions. The latter is…kind of?…like Mega Evolution. Except not. And it’s not as good. But it’s the closest thing we’re getting. So how did the list do?

Of the 23 Pokemon capable of Gigantamaxing, 22 are from either Sword and Shield or from Generation I. The lone exception? Garbodor. Seriously. This list was doomed to fail as a result. But at least there was one exact hit.

What I Got Right – Lapras! I mean, kind of. But I’m counting it.
What I Got Wrong – Everything else, both literally and by my technicality.
Inconclusive – Why Generation VIII isn’t called Pokemon The Ocho.

10 New Dual Type Pokemon for Switch

At last count, there were 25 dual typings left that hadn’t existed in any Pokemon game to this point. Surely one of the ten Stephanie and I picked to theorycraft will show up on Sword and Shield. Right?

What We Got Right – Zen mode Galarian Darmanitan, at least in terms of that specific typing existing.
What I Got Wrong – Literally every other guess.
Inconclusive – There’s bound to be a part two to Sword and Shield. Just like there was Emerald to Ruby and Sapphire and Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon to Sun/Moon. So this list isn’t quite dead yet.

2019 Charity Drive

Happy surprise, second Monday blog post everyone!

For the last three years, I’ve been using my book and other work to raise money for charity. Because this is something I care about a lot, I wanted to make sure to do it again this year. And like last year, there’s a whole group of us that’ll be using our creative work(s) to raise money for charity. We’ve been doing this because not only does this matter to each of us involved, but also because it’s a nice reminder that the impact your work can make spreads far beyond you. Hell, if the bulk of my book sales each year come during this drive, I’m okay with that.

I’ll keep my leadup short, as I want anyone reading this to scroll down and support one of the creators below to help us raise money. That said, here are the pertinent things you need to know.

  • When is it happening: December 8th-14th
  • What charity are you supporting: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • How can I help: There are a few things you can do —
  • How much are you donating: Each creator will be making their own donation. We’ll be totaling as a group and I’ll announce final results at the end of the event.

The Creators

If you want to support this drive and get some cool stuff, take a look at one of the creators below.

Eve Jacob

One half of the duo Jacob Crawford will be donating all proceeds from her first book, The Shadows, during the charity period, as well as all pledges from her Patreon for the month of December.

Haus of Clover

Pin shop Haus of Clover will be donating $2 per purchase of every pin of a new design that’ll be launched on December 8th. The Keep Going design is live now on the Haus of Clover Etsy page. For a close of view of the pin…well, here’s a picture.

Rebecca MacCeile

Author Rebecca MacCeile will be donating $1 per each copy of any of her books sold from her website, RebeccasBookshop. Additionally, each person to download a copy of her newest book, Eleanor’s Library, on Booksprout will generate a $5 donation.

Me! (Tim Baughman)

Like previous years, I’ll be donating all proceeds from my book, An Epilogue to Innocence, during the charity drive. Additionally, all proceeds from my Patreon for the month of December will also be donated. As a bonus, all new and existing patrons who make a paid pledge in December1Note that you won’t be charged until January, but you must either be an existing patron, or be a new/renewal pledge during the charity period to receive the reward. will receive a special reward — a character preview post for a character in my coming book — sometime in January 2020.

My Pokemon Gym: Flying

Welcome to the tenth iteration of the My Pokemon Gym series. If you’re new to this series, I take a Pokemon type then build out my team of six Pokemon of that type as if I were the gym leader. Here are the rules:

  1. I can’t use legendary/mythical Pokemon
  2. I can’t reuse Pokemon I’ve used in previous gyms in this series.
  3. Forms of the same Pokémon can be reused, provided they have different typing. For example, if I used Rattata in a Normal gym team, I could use Alolan Rattata in a Dark gym team.

Want to read my other My Pokemon Gym posts? Go read the Fighting, Ice, Psychic, Grass, Dragon, Fairy, Electric, Bug, and Fire type posts when you’re done here. All images courtesy pokemondb.net unless otherwise stated.

Swellow

Swellow is one of the few Pokemon that Pokemon Go caused me to like significantly more than I liked it from the original games. Maybe it’s because of Emily Dickinson, but the Taillow/Swellow line was become arguably my favorite first route bird at this stage…with the possible exception of the next Pokemon on this team. Popping a Toxic Orb/Flame Orb on Swellow with the Guts ability makes it a great scout, particularly with the combination of Protect to setup the status condition and U-Turn to change momentum. Brave Bird and Return fill out the last two slots for STAB1Same Type Attack Bonus, but that’s not the primary purpose for Swellow anyway.

Ability: Guts
Item: Toxic Orb
Moves: Protect, U-Turn, Brave Bird, Return

Fearow

Fearow was my original Gen I Fly bot, so it makes this team for nostalgia purposes. I didn’t realize Fearow got Throat Chop until making this team, so I’m throwing that on Fearow because it’s hilarious. My current favorite use of Fearow is Z-Mirror Move shenanigans, so it’ll be the only special move this otherwise physical type attacker will pack.

Ability: Sniper
Item: Flyinium-Z
Moves: Mirror Move, Steel Wing, Drill Run, Throat Chop

Delibird

Delibird is trash. But it’s my trash. And it’s adorable. I’d love to tell you it’s here to do some damage, but frankly it’s only around to have a high speed stat, live on a Focus Sash hit, then take someone down with Destiny Bond.

Ability: Vital Spirit
Item: Focus Sash
Moves: Freeze-Dry, Water Pulse, Destiny Bond, Hidden Power Psychic

Sigilyph

Sigilyph carried much of my first run of Pokemon Black because it’s a shockingly competent Pokemon. My hope is to have it come in on something that likes throwing around status and stalling — think Blissey types — then Psycho Shift the ailment off. Cosmic Power helps with survivability, while Air Slash and Shadow Ball are here for flinches and coverage, respectively.

Ability: Magic Guard
Item: Sitrus Berry
Moves: Psycho Shift, Cosmic Power, Air Slash, Shadow Ball

Crobat

Cave Herpes grew up and got…good? Crobat has always been a Pokemon that interested me, but never one I regularly used. The Inflitrator ability allows Pokemon with the ability to pass through Substitute, which is very situational, but very useful. That said, the primary purpose to this set is using up the Normal Gem with a Quick Attack to start off Crobat’s time in battle. This will allow a double base power Acrobatics, which can hit like a truck coming from Crobat. If only it had the Unburden ability like another Pokemon that just missed the cut for this list2But only because it’s going to be on a different list.

Ability: Infiltrator
Item: Normal Gem
Moves: Leech Life, Acrobatics, Cross Poison, Quick Attack

Honchkrow

WHY CAN’T I FIND A SHINY MURKROW IN POKEMON GO? WHY? IT’S BEEN NEARLY 1500 MURKROW NOW3When I wrote this post in September, I was in the high 1400s of Murkrow seen without a shiny. It is now December 2. I’m at 1675 without a shiny.!

Honchkrow is here to deal out critical hits. All night, all day, crits all the way. Combine the critical rate boosting Scope Lens with a critical rate boosting Super Luck, then add the increased critical rate of Night Slash and fun happens.

Ability: Super Luck
Item: Scope Lens
Moves: Night Slash, Superpower, Torment, Drill Peck

5 Quality of Life Improvements I’d Like to See in Pokemon Go

While I’ve been one to talk about Pokemon extremely frequently on this blog — I have a monthly post dedicated to the game at this point, after all — I’m not one to heavily talk about Pokemon Go. While I’ve played since its launch day in the US, I’m not one to do a lot of theorycrafting about the game. After all, you’re much more limited as to what you can do in Pokemon Go in comparison to other games in the series. There’s just not as much to possibly talk about. Combine that with the fact that there are bloggers like PokeTraveller Lola who do a fantastic job with this already and I feel like there’s not a ton for me to say on the matter.

That said, I did want to take a swing at suggesting some quality of life improvements I’d like to see in Pokemon Go and how they could be implemented. My ultimate goal with this post is not to get Niantic to change the game. Let’s face it, my 150 Twitter followers are barely enough to get me the occasional double digit liked tweet. What I would like to see come out of this though is discussion. While my ideas are just things I’d like to see, I’m sure they could be built off of and turned into great ideas.

I’ve decided to limit myself to five total ideas for this post, as well as to spread those ideas out so that no more than one idea is present per major game mechanic. I could have written a whole post based on improvements I’d like to see to the current raid system or friend-related activities, however I feel like that would come off as bashing those two aspects of the game1While the friendship system is flawed in many ways, it’s better than how a lot of mobile games handle friends. That said, raids are bad right now. I’ll get into why below.. That certainly isn’t my intent with this post. I do generally enjoy Pokemon Go even though I’m currently sitting at 1550 Murkrow wild/hatched encounters without a shiny2Technically, I’m at 1650, but I know that I was in the high double digits before shiny Murkrow was released. For ease of math, I just make it an even hundred.. I’m not bitter at all.

Friendship – Allow Remote Trading

The Idea: Allow trading between friends who aren’t in the same room.

How to Implement it: Ideally, this is a system where the better friends you are with someone, the further distance you can trade with them from. Good and Great friends might have very short distance limits like the current structure. However, Ultra friends could have a 1,000km trade distance limit, while Best friends could trade from anywhere on the globe. If there needs to be some sort of limitation for Ultra and Best friends, maybe there could be a one trade per day limit for trades where the friends are located more than a certain distance apart.

Why This Should Happen: I currently have six lucky friends on my friend list. Of those six friends, four of them are people who aren’t local to me in Northeast Ohio. One is in North Carolina, one is in Canada, one is in Spain, and one is in Australia. Many Go players have sought out friends online from other countries in an effort to get 7km eggs from far away places, only to end up with lucky friends they’ll never be able to trade with. This remedies that.

Why It Won’t Happen: Of all the items on this list, I feel like this is the most likely to happen in some capacity, even if it isn’t the exact why I’ve described it.

Gyms – Give Defense Bonuses to Themed Gyms

The Idea: The first trainer to place a Pokemon in a newly defeated gym sets a theme. If that theme is followed, the stats of the Pokemon defending it are buffed.

How to Implement it: Upon defeating a gym and dropping their Pokemon in, the first trainer to place a Pokemon in a gym gets to choose from one of three themes generated based on the Pokemon they pick. These would essentially be themes of escalating difficulty. Let’s say our first trainer puts Squirtle in the gym. A one-star theme would be simple to follow (Water types). If followed, this theme would give a small bonus (say 5%) to one stat (say Defense) of all Pokemon in the gym. A two-star theme would be a little more complex (Water- type starters), and would give a bigger bonus to a single stat (say 10% to Defense), with a smaller stat boost for other stats of the defenders. A three-star theme would have the most complex difficulty (blue Water type Kanto Pokemon), but would provide the biggest boosts.

Why This Should Happen: Let me tell you how boring it is fighting a gym with Chansey, Blissey, Slakoth, Snorlax, Metagross, and Dragonite for the ten thousandth time. I love seeing gyms with good variety. Did a group of people manage to create a gym with only first-stage Flying types? Awesome. You can bet that I’m not attacking that beautiful thing unless I have to.

Why It Won’t Happen: Considering how little attention has been given to this feature since the rework in 2017, I feel like Niantic might have forgotten gym battles exist.

Battling – Merge the Team Go Rocket and Team Leader Battle Concepts

The Idea: Take the Pokemon battle variety and strategy that the Go Rocket battles provide and move it out of the Pokestop setting — making Go Rocket a fourth team leader battle option.

How to Implement it: I like the Go Rocket battles. They’re one of the harder non-PvP battle options in the game without requiring the massive people investment of a big raid. But players in Pokestop-poor areas may have limited chances to battle team Go Rocket. So, at least for three battles a day3The reward acquisition limit for team leader battles., move the Rocket grunts into the team leader screen and let players battle them from there. Keep the random type and Pokemon choices. Keep the shadow Pokemon reward concept the same. Just give those who don’t have access to Pokestops a chance to play this mode more frequently.

Why This Should Happen: After you’ve done ten or twenty Go Rocket battles, they become boring and tedious. Just like the team leader battles. At least make them like the team leader battles and allow me to do them from my couch rather than having to leave in the winter.

Why It Won’t Happen: Niantic is leaning HARD into the Go Rocket battles in game right now. They clearly think they’ve struck gold here. If anything, I could see team leaders getting moved out of their current implementation and out to gyms or Pokestops, making things even worse for rural players.

Raids – Introduce a Scaled Difficulty Raid System

The Idea: Make every raid beatable regardless of group size…just scale the difficulty based on the Pokemon you’re fighting.

How to Implement it: The current raid system has a suggested number of trainers that should fight each raid boss. Most tier 1 raids are easily soloable, while tier 5 raids range from 4-6 high level players to typically beat4Attack form Deoxys can be soloed despite being a tier 5 raid. I’ve done it. It is not worth the effort for such a bad Pokemon.. This requires coordinating with medium to large groups — which isn’t always practical aside from Community Day for people who can’t afford to spend their entire day playing Pokemon Go. Instead of this, make all raids where the stats of the Pokemon you’re battling are determined by the number of trainers in the raid lobby. From there, tier 1 raids would remain the easiest (and can be beaten with limited, underleveled Pokemon) all the way to tier 5, which will be difficulty to beat within the timer unless you have a fully optimized team.

Why This Should Happen: People have lives. I’ve done one tier 5 raid outside of Community Day in the last 3 months. It’s not worth the effort, especially for Pokemon that are largely just Pokedex fillers. Unless it’s a tier 1 to tier 3 raid, I straight up ignore raids at this point. For a feature that has such awesome potential, it might be the worst feature in the whole game.

Why It Won’t Happen: You know how Niantic does the weekly legendary raid hour? And how an significant percentage of the raid hatch pool is 5* raids? And how Darkrai is effectively the first 6* raid? If anything, Niantic is already going as far away from this suggestion as they possibly can.

Acquiring Pokemon – Thin the Current Spawn Pool

The Idea: Create a limited, rotating set of Pokemon that spawn at a given time in the wild.

How to Implement it: With the start of Generation 5 rolling out in Pokemon Go, there are 500+ Pokemon available in Pokemon Go. While some of these Pokemon can only be acquired through raids, there’s still several hundred possible Pokemon that can appear in the wild. My thought is to thin the pool out — similar to how current type-specific events have boosted spawn rates — and then remove all non-pool Pokemon from the spawns. You could keep a pool active for a month or so, then rotate to the next set of Pokemon. This could even be built within the current event structure5You know, if any of the events had a consistent length with one another.

Why This Should Happen: Gen V’s Pokemon release REALLY made the problem we have currently with a diluted spawn pool hit home for me. I live in a VERY Grass/Rock/Poison/Rock heavy biome (think Mt. Moon in Gen I). In the just over 1 month since Gen V was released in Pokemon Go and when I wrote this6I finished the post on October 25., I’ve seen 6 Drilbur, 10 Foongus, and 2 Ferroseed. TWO. When half of the spawns I see on a daily basis are Bellsprout/Hoppip/Diglett/Cherrim. I get that some Pokemon are more common than others, but if you’re actively advertising that new Pokemon have been released, at least make them spawn frequently. That is to say nothing of the problems with the current egg pools…Gible….

Why It Won’t Happen: There nearly always seems to be an event running in Pokemon Go messing with the spawns. If we could get two weeks straight without an event, this might happen. That said, the last time that happened was….2016? I wish I could give an accurate timeline of this, but it certainly feels like there’s constantly been an event of some sort going on for at least two years straight now.

Illusion

This short story is a response to one of Poke Traveller Lola’s November writing challenge prompts. The prompt I’ve chosen is “I’m no illusion”. Just as a warning, this story does get a bit dark at a couple of different points. Just a warning in case you need that.


“It’s not coming clean,” I mumbled.

“What’s not?” yelled Sara from back inside the house.

I continued scrubbing, trying my hardest to get the dust and grime off of my car, hoping to get it even remotely close to the shine it once had.

“Whatever I got on my car,” I shouted, my voice echoing through the cavernous garage.

“How did it get on there?” she asked, walking out the side door and making her way towards me.

I felt the palm of her hand touch the back of my arm. It was cold; a pleasant reprieve from the summer’s oppressive heat and stickiness. She ran her fingers up my forearm towards my shoulder, her fingertips catching ever so slightly on the sleeve of my black t-shirt. Sara caressed the back of my neck with a soft, fluttering motion that never failed to get my attention.

“I don’t know,” I replied, tossing my soapy rag against the car’s quarter panel. Someone had to have hit one of the puddles by work and splashed it onto the car.

“We could take it to a detailer, you know?”

“I’m not spending a couple of hundred bucks just to get shit off my car.”

“But is it worth your time?”

“Yes!” I yelled incredulously.

“And your frustration?” Sara retorted, her eyes drilling holes in me.

I sighed and picked up the rag.

“Sorry, hun,” I said. “I just want it off.”

“I know. Try again after you’ve calmed down?”

“Yeah.”

Sara took the towel from my hand, tossing it into the bucket of water placed by the car’s wheel.

“Shower or lunch first? And before you answer, I’m joining you for both. Choose wisely.”

—–

I stared at the clock on the wall through the darkened room. A quarter after one. I think. Could be just after three. I can’t tell. It’s not backlit and I’m not turning a light on. Fuck that noise.

I hate this night. I mean, I hate every night. The thoughts going through my head that keep me from getting to sleep. Sure, they start innocent enough. There’s a girl. We’ve got a date coming up. Thursday night. We’ll get dinner. Maybe go to a movie, to a bar, or bowling. It all depends on the girl. The dates all start mostly the same. They all end the same way. Either I drop her off at her place or we drive to our own homes separately. She does whatever she does. I go home and try to sleep. I try to think about how I can stop this cycle.

It doesn’t stop.

It’s after midnight though. That I know for sure without knowing exactly what the clock says. Through the blinds, a car slowly makes its way past my yard and down the street. It’ll turn at the intersection. Statistically speaking, it’s one of the local cops, scouting the neighborhood to make sure there’s no crime. They come by a couple of times a night on their patrols. No one else comes by this late.

I lean my head back, leaning the back of my chair until it touches the wall behind me. If I close my eyes for just a second, maybe sleep will come like it does in the movies.

—-

“This is…”

“It’s not good, is it?” I asked, cutting Sara off.

She set her fork down on the edge of the plate.

“No,” she said. “It’s honestly disgusting.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I was afraid of that.”

“But hey! You didn’t burn it tonight. That’s progress.”

“Right. Yeah.”

“Hey.”

Sara grabbed my hand, holding onto it with both of hers.

“You’ll get this,” she said. “I know you’re trying.”

“I am,” I answered. I followed my half-hearted response with a deep sigh.

Sara walked to the pantry and dug around for a few moments before poking her head out and shrugging.

“How much money do you have on you?” she asked.

I reached in my back pocket and grabbed my wallet, thumbing through the bills to get a rough count.

“Two fifty,” I replied. “But I’ve got to get gas and pay the internet bill. I don’t get paid until next Tuesday.”

Sara stared at the calendar over the counter. If it were me, I’d be doing the math in my head. Eight days. $250 to live off of. One, maybe two tanks of gas needed to get me to and from work. She’d likely need tank as well. Though I didn’t know what was in her purse, there was a good chance she’d come ask me for that gas money when the time came. Being a student didn’t pay well. At least that’d be over soon.

“How’s pizza sound?” Sara asked.

“Sounds like money,” I answered.

“Please? It’s a night away from our house.”

“It’s not our house,” I insisted. “We’re just renting it.”

“I know,” Sara answered. “But one day we will have a house that’s our house.”

She walked over to me, wrapping her arms around my neck. From my seated position, I rested my head against her side, only for her to pull me in closer, practically trying to drive me through her ribcage and literally into her embrace.

“We’ll go to the all-you-can-eat place and bring home enough for meals for a few days. I’ll even ask for a mac and cheese pizza. Please?”

—–

My eyes are dry. Whenever my eyes get dry, Ben Stein’s voice comes into my head. That reference hasn’t been relevant in decades. It still happens though. Some things just have an association with them though, whether I want that link to be there or not.

Songs are the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I love music. But I hate how I can hear a song and immediately snap back to a feeling or a moment or a person that I’d tried my hardest to forget comes charging back. Sure, there are positive musical associations my mind makes. “The Entertainer” by Joplin was my first piano recital piece that people did more than clap for me on. I’m transported back to my first night with Sara whenever “Aero Zeppelin” by Nirvana comes on. Even the theme to “The Exorcist” is calming, as I associate it with high school bonfires and hot cocoa.

When Sara and I split, the first song I heard after we went our separate ways was “Through Glass” by Stone Sour. No matter when I hear it, I’m taken back to that moment. The complete and total silence echoing through my head before my car’s engine started and the song came blaring through my speakers was deafening. While I yearned for something, anything, to break it, the song did me no favors. I didn’t have to look in my rear-view mirror to know that my face was a disaster. My hysterical sobs assured that would be true.

My house is dead silent. Not even the airy breath of the furnace pushing heat through the vents is present right now. Just that song, repeating through my head on loop. I want to cry. My eyes are too dry.

—–

“Are you excited for your first day, Dr. Carrier?” I asked, wrapping my arms around Sara’s waist as she fiddled with the clasp of a necklace.

“I’m nervous,” she replied, leaning back into my arms. “I don’t get ready for something 90 minutes before I need to be there if I’m excited.”

“You’ll be fine.”

Sara latched the necklace, tucking it under her shirt. I leaned my chin over her shoulder, placing soft, patient kisses along the side of her neck.

“This isn’t the day for that,” Sara replied between giggles. “When I get home, alright?”

“I’m just trying to calm your nerves,” I said.

“I know.”

She turned around and embraced me, resting her head against mine.

“You’ve got this,” I said.

“I know. You do too.”

—–

It’s after four now. I can’t quite see the minute hand because of the way the shadows are hitting the face of the clock. But it’s some time just before the half-hour. Part of me wants to know the exact time. Part of me doesn’t care. Most of me though just…is.

This was always the cycle when things were good. Sara would have these days where she’d work overnight shifts at the hospital. I’d stay up so that she could have dinner — more commonly known as breakfast to those not working at night — when she got home. We’d share eggs, bacon, and bagels, take a quick, usually uneventful shower together, then curl up in bed and sleep until three or four in the afternoon. We’d occasionally get awoken by a delivery driver knocking at our door or the garbage truck’s chimes that sounded out as it reversed during turnaround. But most days, as the world pressed on around us, we slept. Our fluffy comforter was our armor against the noise of the outside world.

My body hadn’t corrected to living in the daytime. Not yet. You’d think a year and a half would be enough. Apparently not.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

—–

I woke up to the afternoon sunlight skirting past the edge of the blinds and into my eyes. I blocked it out with my arm, annoyed that nature dares exist, then rolled over and faced away from the window. Sara was still asleep, her raven hair obscuring her face from the trickles of sun that tried to reach her. I resisted the urge to wake her. I knew she needed sleep. We were both exhausted, though not for the same reasons.

Sara’s least favorite part of her job — or at least the part of it she complained to me about the most frequently — was the days where she was the on-call doctor. From what I could gather, it was a hard gig for most doctors. But for a pediatrician like Sara, being on-call combined the uncertainty of her normal job, the potential exhaustion from a night of sleep interrupted, and the fear of losing a patient too young to tie their shoes in the middle of the night, and suddenly being on-call was its own special hell.

For me, this was month six of unemployment. The company that had employed me as a security guard had gone under, leaving 130 employees out of work. Though I’d tried my best to find a job, there just weren’t a ton of companies looking for an ex-security guard with an English degree, three year-plus gaps in employment due to health issues, and a preference to not work nights.

Sara said it was fine. Repeatedly. She said I’d find something, especially if I looked beyond security work. At first, I believed her. But at this point I was losing faith.

—–

The sun is going to come up soon. I think. I’m not sure what time the sun rises in November. Fucking time change.

My head is being held up by the bookshelf to my right, though my eyelids don’t have similar support. I want to walk to bed or to crawl myself to the couch. If I do that though, I’ll wake myself up. If I wake myself up, I’m going to go through this all again. Another hour or two or three or four or more of not being able to sleep. Only this time, somewhere along the way, the sun is going to come up. And for as easy as it can be to sleep with the sun out — thank god for the inventor of the blackout curtain — falling asleep in daylight is a whole other matter.

My neck is going to hurt after this. It’ll be ten or eleven in the morning when I inevitably slump forward, my head will crash into the floor, and I’ll wake up in a daze. I’ll be confused for a few seconds, then I’ll get up, take a lukewarm shower, and move on about my day with three to four hours of sleep. My head will hurt from the combination of the neck stiffness and lack of rest, but at least I will have slept.

As I feel my eyelids come together, I hear a squeak coming from the front of the house. The front door is just out of sight, but I recognize that sound. The sound of a key turning and a creak follows. My eyes stay closed as the sound of the door shutting and light footsteps echo throughout the home’s main floor.

“You’re not actually here,” I grumbled. “You’re the just the bitters and the brandy playing tricks on me.”

“Cole, get up,” Sara said, her voice exhausted.

I heard her set a plastic bag filled with something down on the counter. Or at least that’s the sound I thought I heard. I rubbed my eyes. Hard.

“Why is my head fucking with me like this?”

“I’m no illusion, Cole.”

I leaned back against the bookshelf, trying to get comfortable again. I felt Sara sit down beside me, the palm of her hand covering my own, intertwining her fingers with mine.

“It’s another bad night isn’t it?” she asked.

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t.

“Where has the rabbit hole gone tonight? Is it somewhere I can pull you out of?”

I felt tears run down my cheeks, but I wasn’t crying. My body was releasing them for me, completely against my will.

“Cole.”

I shook my head, the right side lightly knocking against the wood of the bookcase.

“Cole. You can’t keep doing this by yourself. You can’t keep doing this to yourself.”

“It’s going to all go away,” I whispered.

“What is?” Sara replied calmly.

“You. This house. Everything.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“It’s been eighteen months since I worked.”

“I know.”

“I can’t keep letting you down like this.”

“You’re not letting me down.”

I squeezed Sara’s hand. She was there. I was sure of that. I didn’t want to open my eyes. Not because I feared she’d be gone if I did. It just hurt too much between the tears and the fatigue to do so.

“You were gone tonight,” I said. “All because I can’t control this. There was a story to it and everything.”

Sara pulled my head into her shoulder, stroking my hair repeatedly kissing me on the head.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she answered.

“I’m broken, Sara.”

“You’re not. But you can’t do this alone.”

We sat there for some amount of time I couldn’t begin to estimate. I didn’t even notice that Sara had stood until she was grabbing my hands and trying to pull me up.

“Come on,” she said. “Not sleeping only makes it worse.”

“I know. But I don’t think I can.”

“Then come hold me until I fall asleep. You’re always good at helping me.”

“Yeah.”

I walked up the stairs trailing Sara, my hand still in hers. We stripped off our clothes and crawled into bed, though her arms wrapped around me instead of the opposite as we’d discussed.

“This is a trap,” I joked.

“Just lay against me,” she replied, her hands running through my hair. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I don’t remember falling asleep. The last thing I recall feeling was the light touch of Sara’s fingers in my hair. Sure enough, the sun was out when I woke up, but instead of the beams falling on Sara’s hair, they landed on the sheet beside me.

Was she gone? Had I actually dreamed her like I initially thought?

I climbed out of bed, grabbing a pair of pajama pants out of the drawer, and making my way downstairs. Before I’d even made it fully down, I came to a piece of notebook paper taped to the wall with a bright pink sticky note on top of it.

Ran to IHOP for day off breakfast. Back soon. Love you.

I peeled the sticky note off of the notebook paper. I knew what the paper said. It was the same paper that Sara left me every day. I’d read it so many times that I could recite the instructions at the top of the paper from memory, even without re-reading it.

Hey. Here’s some options when you’re ready to talk to someone. If you want me to call, I’ll be there and help you. If you want to do this yourself, here you go. Whenever you’re ready, I’m here for you. However you need me. -Sara

Beneath Sara’s instructions was a list of phone numbers for five therapists Sara had suggested I see. I knew I clearly didn’t need to see all five. These were just options. The list has been the same for the past six months. Just pick one of the numbers and call. That’s all I had to do.

Pick one.

Call.

Pick.

Call.

“Good morning, handsome,” Sara said.

“I didn’t notice you come in,” I replied, putting the paper down to my side.

“I know. You busy or you ready for breakfast? Or lunch? Or whatever this technically is?”

I mashed my lips together and stared at Sara. She didn’t deserve to deal with this. She held herself and me together on a daily basis. I couldn’t put her through this. Not anymore.

“Can yo…can..” I fumbled over my words. “Can we eat? Then will you help me? Please?”

“Of course.”

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