The Middle Ground
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May 11th, 2011 (10:01 AM). Edited July 27th, 2011 by FlaafyFTW.
Researcher of Orange Lore
Chapter 23 - The Spark of Life
The creature charged directly towards me, there was nothing I could've possibly done to avoid it. I turned around and clutched the egg in my arms tightly, doing what little I could to protect it when I heard Swablu's chirp overhead, flying straight past me.
The heavy steps of the creature were getting closer and closer and I savoured every breath until it ran to the side of me and an all too familiar voice shouted out into the night: "Stop!"
The creature came to an abrupt halt, its claws digging into the hard concrete paving as if it were mud. It was a large yellow and blue pokemon that resembled a wolf with a pyramid-shaped mane atop its head; riding on top of it were two people and a Marill.
"Alex?!" A girl cried incredulously.
"April?!" I replied in complete shock, seeing her atop the large pokemon alongside a girl who was clutching and crying hysterically into its large neck.
April had a look of terror painted across her face but I could tell she was trying not to to let it show. She hastily looked behind her and then back towards me. "-Get on!"
I looked back in the same direction she had just turned to and saw the enormous cruise ship with several pillars of smoke rising up from it. "April, what did you..-"
"-Alex get on!!"
I didn't need telling a third time. Whatever was happening, April was endangering herself by stopping to speak to me, so I clambered up onto the pokemon and sat behind her, placing one arm around the egg and the other around my friend.
"Hold on - Go Manetric - Go!" She cried, tugging on a tuft of the pokemon's fur. It began running at an incredible speed that felt far faster than any speed I had been in a car; turning sharp corners around the warehouses with ease, into the streets, through the groups of people that had gathered to see what had happened to the SS Anne and eventually out of the city limits itself.
Manetric continued to run through the countryside for hours. Unlike Swablu, who I had to withdraw into her pokeball, Manetric showed no signs of being even the slightest bit tired. April's expression was stone; her gaze barely faltering from the road ahead, despite her having three large cuts across her back. The girl in front had since stopped her hysterical crying. Although her dark-skinned face was still damp from the tears, she wept no more; instead resting her head of the pokemon's neck and running her hands through his soft, golden fur.
Neither girl responded when I asked them a question. Every so often April would look behind her, but she wasn't looking at me - she thought she was being followed.
Eventually we slowed to a stop. April dismounted and unrolled her sleeping bag, placing her shoulder bag on the floor next to it. "We should get some sleep while it's dark."
That night, April had nightmares.
Whilst she tossed and turned, the girl lay against Manetric, cuddling her Marill for comfort. She slept rather peacefully, probably from exhausting herself from crying so much. Whatever had happened to her, she had a few hours of peace in a world where real life didn't matter.
For some reason, I was the one who couldn't sleep. The egg I’d been clutching all evening felt colder than usual and the light pulsating from inside the translucent shell was definitely a lot dimmer. I couldn't help but feel like something was wrong.
I scanned the horizon trying to take my mind off of matters. It was a clear night, the stars shone brightly above us but there was no sign of the moon. In the distance, something even darker than the night sky seemed to be engulfing the stars one by one - It was the pillar of smoke from the SS Anne, still flowing upwards and showing no sign of stopping. Just what had gone on in that ship?
It was then I saw it out of the corner of my eye. April's bag... it moved. I'd thought I had heard a noise earlier but I told myself it was just the night playing tricks.
The bag shuffled again.
Curious, I climbed out of my sleeping bag, placing the egg in the covers and slowly snuck over to it. The bag was motionless. Was I imagining it? Was the night playing tricks? There was only one way to find out.
As I carefully picked up the bag, several water droplets fell from the lining - it was completely soaked through. I undrew the drawstring and peered inside where I saw fragments of an egg, the same egg I had held in my hands just moments ago, of all different shapes and sizes piled on top of one and another.
The egg... it was broken. Astonished, I looked back to where I'd been lying - the egg on my sleeping bag was still there!
For a moment I was completely confused, and then it had hit me; I was in a dream - I must've fallen asleep looking at the stars. It was the only explanation I could think of, but for a dream it seemed very real. I could feel the dampness of April's bag as I held it, I could hear each drop as it connected with the ground below, I could see the chill in the air as I exhaled and I could still smell the salty sea air on my clothes.
The bag shuffled from side to side. Instinctively I held it at arm’s length before slowly bringing it back towards me as the movement calmed down. Carefully, I peered into the bag. It looked exactly the same as it had moments ago, pieces of shell piled on top of one another, but something... something had changed but I couldn't put my finger on it. Then I realised, there was a faint glow still emanating from the pieces of shell, but it was refracted - whatever was producing the light was underneath the shell pieces.
Curious, I reached in to manoeuvre the pieces of shell when I was jolted with a sudden burst of electricity. I dropped the bag and stumbled backwards, feeling slightly numb and fell to the floor. After a few seconds, the feeling seemed to have returned to my hands and I realised that I'd landed on my sleeping bag, only to become very much aware that my hands were now covered in a slimy pink goop - I'd fallen on the other egg!
A feeling of guilt and horror came over me. I didn't know what to do, how to react. I sat still, motionless as the goop continued to flow out from where I was sitting. When the supply of goop seemed to have been exhausted, it hardened slightly and began moving of its own accord to a spot slightly to my right. The goop on my hands peeled itself off and slid across the ground toward the bigger collection of goop which then after a few seconds fused together to make... Ditto.
"Ditto?!" I cried in disbelief. "I... I could kill you!" I continued, lunging for my pokemon and hugging him as tightly as I could. I couldn't decide whether I was furious or overjoyed at the fact he was masquerading as my egg but whatever the outcome he was still getting a bear hug from me.
"But that means..." I mumbled, quickly realising that the broken egg in the bag was the real one. I scrambled over to the orange shoulder bag that had spread most of its contents over the ground nearby, looking for any sign of life.
Nothing. Then the warm amber glow began emanating from under the last few remaining pieces of shell inside the bag. I opened the bag wider and uncovered a small antenna with an amber teardrop shaped tip. Then slowly the largest piece of shell began to rise and another antenna appeared, identical to the last, before a small blue face came into view. It was small and round, no bigger than a football, with a small fin either side of it and strange yellow eyes that had black crosses for pupils.
Ditto looked at the newly hatched pokemon curiously, as if deciding whether or not to eat it, whilst I was completely enamoured by the new life in from of me.
"Chou?" It cried cutely, looking at the new world around it from under the safety of the shell pieces.
Having never seen the species before, I reached over to my own bag to find the pokedex.
"It's a Chinchou."
I span around and saw April still in her sleeping bag, lying on her side and looking at the newly hatched pokemon. "A boy by the looks of it. They live in colonies further out to sea, it's rare to see one around here..."
"Oh... thanks." I said nervously, unsure what to say to her. "Sorry, did I wake you?"
"What, you falling over and spilling everything out of my bag? No, I slept right through." She said sarcastically - her sense of humour clearly still intact.
"She did." I smiled, nodding my head in the direction of the of the girl who was still curled up next to the Manetric.
April simply sighed deeply in response and looked to the ground for a few short seconds before changing the subject. "Anyway, you need to pick Chinchou up - let him know you're his parent before he settles on someone else."
Hesitantly I reached for the small pokemon. He quickly crouched down and hid underneath his former shell but with one scooping motion, I held him in my arms. He was slightly wet and felt as fragile as a water balloon - I was afraid of hurting him. At first he scrambled and tried to escape my grip but with some help from April I began to rock him from side to side and he quickly became much more relaxed and snuggled itself up against me.
It had all happened so fast it still really hadn't hit me that I had a brand new pokemon in my arms. Chinchou had settled into a gentle sleep and was warm up against my chest. I could feel his small heartbeat beating slowly and I really didn't want to ever let him go.
"Now he's accepted you, all I think you've got to do is capture him." April said gently.
"Capture him? But he was in my egg all along."
"Yeah. But he wasn't born in a pokeball, silly." She chuckled.
April was right, I'd completely forgotten that simple fact. I reached for a pokeball from my belt and tapped his small head carefully, as not to wake him, and the pokemon was transformed into a small cloud of soft, red energy that disappeared inside. A light flashed briefly from the central button on the ball before settling on its natural colour - a sign of a successful capture.
"There we go..." April winced as she adjusted her position in the sleeping bag.
Withdrawing Ditto and clipping the pokeballs back onto my belt I walked over to her.
"It's your back isn't it? ...I saw it earlier." I asked, concerned.
"It's nothing." She said stubbornly as she rolled onto her side away from me, revealing patches of blood on her sleeping bag.
"April you're bleeding! - That is not okay, you need to get this seen to!" I said kneeling down, to take a closer look.
"I'm fine!" She cried, pushing me away.
I lost my balance and fell back onto the floor. We stared at each other for a few seconds, me mostly out of shock but her wide watery eyes told me what I needed to know. She was upset; too upset for words right now.
"Just... let me help."
April closed her eyes in attempt to compose herself, giving me a small nod in the process. I burrowed through my bag looking for the small makeshift first aid kit I'd picked up when I visited home and then placed my sleeping bag next to April's to have something to kneel on.
I asked her to sit up straight and I looked at the cuts - they were deep, I didn't really have any idea how to treat wounds like this. I had bandaged a few Mareep on the farm but never anything this bad, but whatever I could do would be better than nothing.
"So... are you going to tell me what happened?
"He just... stood there. And I went... I went without him, leaving him to die. Naoko kept hitting me, telling me to go back but the Magnemite chased us off of the ship, and that's when I saw you."
I couldn't believe what April was telling me. I remained silent, carefully placing the finishing touches on her bandages.
"And that was all for what? A name... A stupid name. Poor Dillan... Why does it keep happening Alex?" She asked, turning to face me, her eyes filled to the brim with tears.
"Why does what keep happening?"
"Death. People keep dying around me; Mum, Dad, Sandshrew, Dillan - when will it stop? ...I want it to stop!"
April collapsed into my lap sobbing uncontrollably. I'd been a fool for not realising how much everything in her life had affected her. So I did the only thing I could do; held her tightly and whispered some comforting words to her. I reassured her that none of those deaths were her fault and that she couldn't have done anything to save them.
We sat together for a good quarter of an hour as she cried out all of the pain inside of her and eventually she fell asleep, nestled in my arms. After a while I laid back onto our adjoined sleeping bags and entered the dream world with a new pokemon on my belt and an old friend in my arms.
Catch 'em, catch 'em, gotta catch 'em all; gotta catch 'em all - Pokemon!
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