I know I haven't updated this story in a loooooooooooooooong time. Sorry about that. Life issues got in the way. Stuff like that happens sometimes I'm afraid. I'm not going to say it won't happen again...but I'll do my best not to let it.
Just in case you missed it in the earlier chapters...I do not own Pokemon. The negative amount in my bank account will testify to that fact if you don't believe me. *G*
He floated, surrounded, permeated by a black void. A formless emptiness that held him in its comforting grip even as it became part of him. This void, this black space between...heÕd floated in it for as long as he could recall. He held to it as strongly as it held to him. In the void there was nothing...no memory, no pain, no fear, no sight, no sound, no thought, no idea that such things could be. There was no him. There was only the emptiness, as it had always been.
Then suddenly there was something else in the void. For a moment he froze as the thing echoed around him. He didnÕt know what it was. He didnÕt know even that he didnÕt know. The not knowing created yet another thing in the void. He felt suddenly, for the first time...was it the first time?...that he was separate of the void. The void was still there...he could feel it..but there was a distinction now. A difference. There was something in the void outside of him. There was something in him that was not in the void.
Deep inside him a voice shouted in triumph. A piece of himself that had recoiled in horror at the void engulfing him and had fought it stubbornly. It had gone deep inside and had tenaciously held on despite the void. Had resisted the comforting, soul leeching sensation that tried to drain away every bit of him that was him. It took advantage of the moment and began to rise up.
It was a sound, he realized. There was a sound in the void and he was afraid. Afraid because of the sound. Relief replaced the fear quickly though as memories began slowly trickling back. The sound was a voice. A voice he almost recognized, if he could only get closer to it he would know for sure.
Suddenly, he was moving. He could not tell how or where...all he knew was that he was no longer floating in the void, but was traveling through it. Then there was something ahead of him. Once again, he felt fear, but this time there was no sense of relief as his slowly returning memory supplied him with an explanation. There was none. He had no idea what the strange thing...light...ahead was. Only that he was rushing toward it at frightening speeds.
He squeezed his eyes shut as he hit the thing, a small part of his terror stricken mind inanely pleased that heÕd remembered how. And so he was completely unprepared to land in a tumbling roll on solid ground.
He rose shakily to his feet looking around in confusion. He was no longer in the void. Instead he was standing in front of something...a house. Behind the house he could see....the ocean. That voice still echoed past his ears...known but unknown. It seemed to be coming from inside the little white house. He followed it in, trying to remember who it was, trying to understand what it said.
As he approached the door, it swung silently open, allowing him entrance. He stepped across the threshold hesitantly, unsure of what to expect. When nothing happened for a while, he relaxed and went deeper into the house. His eye was caught by a small picture hanging on the wall near the door. Going over to examine it, he felt that strange sensation of almost remembering. The figures in the photo were so very familiar...just like the voice...that the sensation was almost painful.
There was a tall boy with small squinty eyes and a kind smile, a younger looking girl with bright red hair, and an even younger looking boy with wild black hair and some sort of yellow creature sitting on his head. For some reason he felt his eyes water as he raised his hand to touch the silvery frame.
Taking a breath, the boy moved down the hall, sopping to look at all the pictures. There was one with the girl, the young boy and another, older boy wearing a headband. They were all laughing happily at the camera and once again he felt like crying for some reason. Knowledge of why and who...trembled just out of reach along with that bewitching voice that had pulled him so abruptly from the comforting embrace of the void.
The next picture was of the black haired boy and the yellow....Pikachu? They were posing for the picture with the same impudent grin...both of their hands raised in a victory sign. The next one was of the same boy, older now, holding up a large trophy...surrounded by a large variety of strange creatures, including the Pikachu from before. Then there was one that made him stop in his tracks.
The picture was of the same boy...only in this picture he was an adult. He wasnÕt wearing the cap he had on in the other pictures. He was, in fact, wearing nothing on his head and though obvious effort had been made to control his hair, it was still shooting off in crazy directions. Standing next to him and complimenting his tuxedo with her own finery was the girl from before...also all grown up. She smiled radiantly into the camera. For a moment a pain in his chest brought tears to his eyes. Strangely...his head and leg ached as well.
ÒThats how its supposed to be Ash...Ó The voice said from directly behind him...its words clear for the first time. What he saw when he whirled around brought a gasp to his lips and he knew. He knew. He knew who he was. He knew who the people in the pictures were. He knew whoÕs voice had brought him out of the emptiness. And he knew the reason why.
ÒMisty...Ó he whispered at the girl/woman standing before him, holding the hands of two little children. It was Misty, he knew, all grown up. She smiled sweetly at him and he couldnÕt help but smile back because behind her adult features, shining from her eyes, he saw his Misty. His loud-mouthed, obnoxious, thoroughly irritating, thoroughly wonderful Misty. He was filled with a strange longing as the realization came to him that he wanted this. Some deep instinct told him though, that it was all only a dream.
ÒNow WAKE UP! Do you hear me?! WAKE UP NOW!Ó Misty suddenly yelled at him, startling him. Once again, he felt that sharp pain in his chest, the dull throb in his head and leg, the strange sensation of choking even as he breathed. Instictivley, he pulled away from the sensations. He felt them fade..but he hesitated. A little voice in the back of his head...the same that heÕd followed to many a Pokemon battle victory and the same that often got him into trouble...told him to wait. HeÕd been hurt, the voice pointed out. So didnÕt it make sense that if he moved closer toward the pain he would get closer to waking up than if he pushed it away?
He paused, considering the idea and as he did so MistyÕs voice came to him again, though the words had once again faded into obscurity. The tone though...it was so sad. So very sad. He was certain that in the three years that theyÕd been friends, heÕd never heard her sound this sad. He looked at her...the dream her, his mind automatically corrected...and she even looked sad.
Without thinking he stepped toward Misty to try to comfort her and was stopped by the pain. Fear held him now...fear of the pain...and he began considering backing away completely. Returning to the void he knew was still there behind the dream...waiting to reclaim him as soon as heÕd given up the silly fantasy and realized that leaving the void for good meant he would be forced to deal with all that agony.
ÒIÕm sorry...about everything.Ó The adult dream-Misty said softly, tears dropping from her eyes as she began fading away. In fact, he realized with something like horror, everything was fading away. Misty, the little kids, the hall, the pictures, the house itself were all becoming insubstantial, like early morning mist being burned away by the sun.
He knew then that he would have to choose and choose quickly. The void was swallowing the dream and he would be next. He had to decide...Misty or the void. Life or death. And so gathering all his brash courage and all his stubborn strength, Ash Ketchum took a large firm step toward Misty.
And he fell roughly to the ground as the pain in his leg flared wildly. For a moment he sat there engulfed in the pain. The emptiness took advantage of his hesitation and the rest of his vision dimmed and faded to grey...an empty, black grey that was the last step before black oblivion.
ÒNo...no! Ash donÕt die! Please donÕt die!Ó Misty cried out and he looked up and saw her reach out her hand with a pleading look on her face. Ash gritted his teeth and balled up his fists as he rose to his feet. He ignored the pain as he moved slowly but steadily toward Misty, determined to take her hand.
Joyce stopped, frowning. The door to the boyÕs room was open....and it shouldnÕt have been. She distinctly remembered shutting it after she left with Giovanni. As soon as she entered the room, however, she forgot all about it. The boyÕs monitors were going crazy.
She rushed to his bedside and was amazed to discover that his vital signs were not slipping...but were in fact strengthening. The boy actually seemed to be on the verge of waking up.
ÒThats it hun! Wake up...you can do it.Ó She encouraged, taking the boyÕs hand. She continued to mummer as she felt his fingers twitch and watched his eyelids flicker. He was waking up. ÒOpen your eyes for me now ok? Just open them one time.Ó
The boyÕs eyelids continued to flicker uncertainly for a few breathless moments and then, they slowly began to open. When they winced from the bright light, Joyce hurried to lower the light level in the room. ÒIs that better?Ó she asked with a smile before checking his stats. The boy nodded just slightly. Then his eyeÕs began darting around, as if he were looking for someone. When he didnÕt find whoever it was, the boy tried to raise his head to get a better look.
Noticing her patientÕs increasing agitation, Joyce tried to sooth him. ÒShh...you have to lie still. You have a tube in you throat that is helping you breath. Now that you are awake, IÕm going to take it out....then you can sit up a bit. You have to be still though ok? YouÕve been very sick and you donÕt want to relapse.Ó She smiled at the trusting look the boy gave her as she settled down.
ÒBreath out really hard for me.Ó she instructed as she pulled the tube out. She waited until the boyÕs coughing settled and his breathing returned to normal before relaxing. ÒThere, thatÕs much better I bet.Ó
Joyce frowned slightly, not understanding the boyÕs whispered question. ÒDonÕt try to talk yet huh...its going to be a little while before...Ó She was cut off by the boy who grabbed her sleeve. She allowed him to tug her closer, realizing that whatever it was the boy wanted was very important to him...and that denying him the right to ask would probably cause more harm than good.
ÒNurse Joy...whereÕs Misty. SheÕs supposed to be here.Ó
Nurse Joy. No one had called her that in...years. She hadnÕt deserved to be called that in years. Not since sheÕd started working for Giovanni anyway. She wondered how the boy had recognized her...sheÕd gone to great pains to change her appearance when sheÕd given up her name...her profession. Oh, she still healed Pokemon...and people on occasion...but she was no Nurse Joy...not anymore.
She looked into the trusting, eyes of her patient and wondered. She thought about the poor little Pikachu battling at this very moment to try to keep his ÔPikapiÕ alive. She shook her head. ÒNo. No one is supposed to be here...and its past time I did something about it.Ó She straightened up, ignoring for the moment the confused frown on the boyÕs face. Maybe I havenÕt been Nurse Joy in years...but maybe I can be again, she thought as she began examining the boy to find out his condition and what precautions would be needed for travel. ÒJust relax hun...IÕm going to get you out of here.Ó
To Be Continued...