“Dusk Man! Use Shadow Punch!” My father bellowed, his deep voice echoing in the arena, as he looked at his foe with a pair of firm eyes. The sun’s heat scorched my pale skin, but it couldn’t burn the firmness and spirit in my father. He couldn’t be stopped once he stepped into a pokemon battle.
My father’s pokemon was a burly black creature known as ‘Dusknoir’, nicknamed Dusk Man. He has a single red eye at the middle of its face. His torso had a horizontal zigzag line, and I saw it opening like a mouth before. The ‘mouth’ in Dusk Man’s belly looked like it was cackling as he drifted towards the opponent, a mismagius. I said ‘drift’, for Dusk Man had no visible legs. Soon as he drew close enough, it raised its fist. Energy concentrated on its fist. The foe attempted to dodge, but it was too late, for at the next moment Dusk Man delivered its fist, now black as the void inside the ‘mouth’ in its belly, knocking the opponent unconscious.
I could hear several women screaming in excitement as dad was declared the winner of today’s Hearthome City Pokemon Tournament, not even the city’s gym leader can beat him.
Dad withdrew Dusk Man back into his Pokeball, and descended from the stage, bathing himself in cheers of the crowd. He thread his way through the crowd, as if he didn’t hear the cheers, nor did he seemed to see the air kisses several of the ladies were giving him.
He walked straight towards the back of the crowd, towards me.
“Daddy, it’s totally awesome!” I peered up at dad and exclaimed. Despite my excitement, I didn’t jump up and down in my seat like ordinary boys would. My father was taller than average men, but in my eyes he was even taller, a tall figure that I wished I could become one day.
He dug into his pocket for a handkerchief, squatted down and wiped a drop of sweat off my forehead. “It must be hard for you to wait here, son.”
I simply smiled towards his remark. From his palm, I felt warmth, unlike the scorching heat of the sun. His arms were what I had been clinging to since my earliest memory.
Dad picked me up with his arms, and put me into another seat – a wheel chair. He pushed me forwards, leaving the arena and the crowd behind.
“Daddy.” I mumbled, as several murkrows flied overhead, cawing. Dad didn’t like dark-type pokemons; perhaps it was a family tradition.
“Yes?” He replied as he pushed my wheelchair. He voice was gentle, like the rustling of the trees nearby as a breeze fondled the two of us.
“I...” I muttered. “I want to become a strong trainer like you.” I raised my fist at the air, imitating the motion of Dusk Man earlier.
“Of course you will, son.” He whispered. My back was at him, but I thought he was smiling. Around us was a field, the scent of grass embraced us, as four boys were playing with their pokemons nearby. A ponyta, a combee, a carnivine and a chimchar, were what they had.
I heard their laughter as the boys and their pokemons jumped and ran around. Their every step was filled with youthful energy of boyhood. I tried to move my legs, but I couldn’t. In fact, from my earliest memory I couldn’t feel anything in my lower body. I threw them a glance of envy as my static legs reminded me of this fact.
“Don’t worry, son.” Dad said, seemingly caught the glint in my eyes. He patted me on the shoulder. “You’ll be great. You’ll be.”
I peered up at the sky, heaving a sigh, remembering that it was the one hundred and sixth time dad said this.
Our house was not large, but it was still decently kept, its wall gleamed with a pale cream color and the windows sparkled, thanks to our family heritage. Dad’s key took us inside. His steps hadn’t met the pine wood floor tile; Dusk Man had already freed himself from the pokeball. He drifted towards me, and picked me up from my wheelchair.
As Dusk Man put me onto the sofa and drifted into the kitchen, Dad squatted down in front of me. “Son, today is your birthday.” He whispered in my ears. “I have something to show you.” He then went back to his study room, and after a while, came back with a pokeball in his grip.
He strode towards me and squatted down. “Happy birthday.” He mumbled and kissed me gently on the forehead.
He released the pokemon inside. It had a round, purple body with stringy arms, along with a yellow ‘X’ on its face.
“A drifloon!” I grinned and marveled. I knew this all along: all children of our family received a ghost-type pokemon on their 8th birthday, as our family was once renowned for producing formidable trainers that specialized in ghost-type. Despite this, I still could not hide my excitement. Drifloon circled over me, its black beady eyes fixed at me, as if it was the first time it saw any people other than dad.
“Yes, this is a drifloon.” Dad muttered, and patted me on the head. “You have studied your books well. I know you read about pokemons everyday.”
Drifloon stopped circling. It drifted down in front of me, resting its stringy arms on my motionless legs, gazing into my eyes.
“I’ll call you Drifty.” I said to him as I fondled its purple body with my hands. Drifty seemed a bit reluctant at first, but it accepted my caress. It inflated slightly and gently. According to what I have read, this was how drifloons expressed happiness.
“I have memorized everything about drifloons.” I mumbled as Drifty snuggled with me. “Legends said that they abducted children and took them to the underworld.”
“It’s just legend.” Dad patted my head and said. “Plus, it can’t possibly lift a fat boy like you.” He chortled at my fatty arms and torso.
We laughed, as Dusk Man emerged from the kitchen with a birthday cake in his hands; soon joining us in our laughter.
The coming week was one of the happiest days of my life. I played with Drifty every day. I read to him, I watched TV with him, I slept with him. The only regret was that I couldn’t go out and run around with him like the other boys did. I could simply peer out of the window, at the fields and the hills and the sky, as if by doing so my spirit could break free from my body, free from this frail shell. Drifty sat by my side, silently as I gazed out of the window.
“Dusknoir…” I read aloud in my own room under a reading lamp (which I was sure not a lampent). The book laid opened on my desk I sat by. On it was a picture of Dusk Man. Drifty hovered over the book, glancing at the picture with a pair of curious eyes.
I turned to the next page, seeing a sequence of three pokemons. The first one was a duskull, then a dusklops, the evolved form of the first one, and finally a picture of a dusknoir.
“Dad said he received Dusk Man as a duskull when he was eight.” I said to Drifty. “Since then the two trained together to become the formidable pair they are now. Their strengths kept violent pokemons in check, the city remained safe.” My voice echoed in the room, as if I was telling a horror story, perhaps the eerie dim light the lamp emitted contributed.
Drifty looked at the picture of Dusknoir with envy, like what I did when I saw healthy boys.
I caught the envy in Drifty’s eyes. “Nah, this is not what you will become.” I muttered to Drifty, and started flipping through pages.
Gengar… Chandelure… Spiritomb… Banette… Golurk... and finally, we saw a page with Drifblim. Drifblim had round, purple body and a large yellow ‘X’ on its face like Drifty, but it was not exactly like him.“This is what you will evolve into.” I muttered, laying the book wide open, letting Drifty saw it.
A loud crack of the door being slammed open startled Drifty, but not me. It was the sound of the main door being opened, not the door of my room. We went to the door, peeking out at the living room from the slit.
We saw dad, seemingly unconscious, carried by Dusk Man into the living room. Dusk Man shook its head and put
dad down on the sofa. Its large, red eye was an orb of gloom, and the ‘mouth’ on its belly looked like a sad face. It then got itself a wet towel and wiped dad’s forehead. Dad mumbled in his drunkenness. From his mumble I heard a female name that I had only heard from his mouth.
I peered up at Drifty, who was hovering above my head, and saw the glint of bewilderment in its eyes.
I closed the door gently. “Dad drinks heavily sometimes.” I sighed and said to Drifty. “He must have been stressed out taking care of a crippled son and supporting the family on his own, and he is the last healthy descendent of our family…” I let out a cough, and couldn’t continue speaking. As I stressed the part ‘a crippled son’ I felt a warm, wet sensation at the corners of my eyes. Drifty seemed to know what I meant, and remained silent as I dragged my wheelchair back to my desk.
That night, I didn’t speak, not even when I dragged myself onto the bed and changed clothes with Drifty’s help. He didn’t snuggle with me in my bed like usual. Instead, he just rested on the desk, watching me like a guardian before he fell asleep. Perhaps it was right that people said ghost-type pokemons were particularly good at reading people.
That night, I dreamt of playing baseball with dad like ordinary father and son would do. It was not the first time I dreamt of being able to walk and jump as if my spine wasn’t broken. It was a sweet dream, so sweet that I thought I may refuse to wake up, so sweet that I hoped it would last forever, a wish that was never granted.
The next day, I went back to school as the summer vacation ended. Dad didn’t speak as he drove me to school, probably out of exhaustion. His eyes were surrounded by black circles. I remained silent, for I didn’t want to add to his burden, a favor that Dusk Man and Drifty seemed to comprehend, and thus remained quiet in their own pokeballs.
School soon appeared in our sight. Dad stopped the car by the road, and picked me up from my seat to put me into my wheelchair. His arms were still big and warm, but a hint of frailty lingered in his clutch, as if it was hallow.
“See you, Randy.” He whispered as he got back into the car and saw Drifty and I took off.
“See you, dad.” I replied, with the same exhausted voice. Next the car squealed away in a wake of dust.
I looked at where the car disappeared from my sight, silent. “Morning, Randy.” A voice took my gaze away.
I turned around, and saw a middle-aged woman with blonde hair and a pair of blue eyes. She was tall for a woman, just as tall as dad. “Morning, Miss Anderson.” I greeted coldly, cold as a glalie’s touch.
“Is that your pokemon?” She asked, sizing up Drifty, who was also sizing up the woman with curious eyes.
“Yes.” I said with the same coldness. I pushed my wheelchair forwards. “Come, Drifty.” Drifty was a little unwilling to tore his gaze from Miss Anderson, but he did so as I threw him a glare.
“Randy, you don’t need to…” She said. There were care and sympathy in her voice, like she always did with her students.
But I hated sympathy.
“I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do!” I broke in, starling several of the other students. “Come! Drifty!” I could see tears at the corner of Drifty’s eyes, as if he was a child who got scolded. He didn’t resist, and just followed me, with his gazes dropped to the ground. I didn’t look back at Anderson, but I guessed she had the same sad face she wore every time she tried to talk to me.
“Okay, children. Now let’s begin with the basic…” Mister Axel announced, as twenty fellow students and I sat on the middle of the arena, ready for our lesson in pokemon. Axel’s mothim circled around him like a butterfly did to a flower, as the old man continued his lecture about pokemons. He knew a good deal about theories, but little when it came to practice.
Next to me, a boy sat on the floor, staring at Drifty with wishful eyes. I didn’t like that, I looked down at him from my wheelchair.
His legs were fully functional.
I glared at him in anger. Knowing what I may do in my fury, he tore his gaze away. I could smell the curiosity about Drifty. I could tell that in their constant peeks, but none of them were bold enough to talk to me.
“So… let’s start practicing…” Axel finished his lecture, and turned to his box of rental pokemons. He hadn’t finished yet, a roar along with a loud crash sound
drew everyone’s eyes to the other side of the arena.
The wall there was turned into rubbles. The roar came from a blue pokemon. It had a pair of blood-reddish wings, and was larger than even Dusk Man. I knew it. It was a salamence, an aggressive dragon pokemon. It roared. Its roar echoed in the arena, as if it was trying to remind us of its dominance. Its wings had a few scratches, apparently hit by pokemon attack earlier.
Axel’s eyes widened. “Run!” He shouted at the children.
The fellow students screamed and evacuated. Some of them cried out for their parents, some of them wept, yet some of them was rather calm, but was apparently trying hard to suppress their feeling. Everyone ran away quickly – except for me, Drifty, Axel and his mothim. Drifty tried to drag my wheelchair away, but he was too small to do it by himself.
The salamence turned its eyes to us. In its eyes lied anger and fury. I knew these emotions too well, such that I could tell it at first sight. It roared and charged towards us.
“Mothy! Use Bug Buzz!” Axel commanded his mothim. Next his mothim shot out a sound wave, hitting the salamence directly, but it wasn’t of much use. The attack seemed to have done little other than making the salamence angrier, as it seemed to ‘confirmed’ that we are its enemies. Its roar became louder, and the momentum in its charge became deadlier.
Axel turned away as he tried to grab me in his arms and fled with me, but there was a moment of hesitation – I hated being held by people other than dad, and the glare in my eyes I instinctively gave him caused a minor delay in his responses. It was just a minor delay.
Drifty was screeching, still trying to drag me away. The mothim was panicking, his red eyes now glinting with uncertainty. Axel was darting towards me. It was the last moment, before the salamence’s head met my chest, knocking me over. The next thing I knew was that it bit my arms and trampled on my chest. I could hear cracking sound of my ribs and smell my blood, hear the salamence’s roar and smell its breath, before the dragon seemed to have delivered a flamethrower right at my face. I heard Drifty screeching.
“Dad…” I mumbled faintly as my sight faded into blackness.
“Randy…” I heard a voice. It was a gentle, somewhat squeaky voice that I had never heard of. “Wake up…” It said. Although I had never heard of it, it sounded familiar.
I opened my eyes, and propped myself up on an elbow. I saw the pokemon in front of me. “Drifty…?” I rubbed my eyes and mumbled.
“Drifty, you are… talking…?” I swung my head about as Drifty circled over me.
“Look down.” Drifty said, circling around me.
I hadn’t viewed the surrounding until now. I looked down as he said, and saw myself. ‘I’ was bandaged, lying on a bed, inside a hospital. Beside my bed sat dad and Dusk Man, both weeping.
“Randy…” Dad sobbed. “I should’ve…”
“Mister Torres, you don’t have to blame yourself. It is an accident.” Anderson stood behind dad. She said with the same gentle voice as she spoke to me.
“It is my fault!” Dad snarled. “If I wasn’t so drunk, I would’ve captured that rampaging salamence…” He couldn’t finish the sentence, for tears began swelling from his eyes like flood.
“I am an idiot…” He croaked, as if tears had clogged his throat. “How could I not remain conscious, knowing that I am a security officer…” He clutched at ‘my’ hand and kissed it. “Please, in the name of Arceus, please…” He sobbed.
“What is… this?” I asked, noticing that I am floating in mid air. I reached out my hands for dad, but I noted that my body was transparent.
“You’re dying.” Drifty said. “Dying, not dead.”
“I… how…” I muttered. I let out a sigh. “I remember it. I was savaged by that salamence…”
“You can go back.” Drifty whispered in my ear. “I can help you if you want, I am a ghost, mind you.”
I stayed silent for a while. I took a look at dad, and then Miss Anderson. She wasn’t married, and seemed to be caring enough.
“No.” I answered. “I have given dad enough trouble already. If I die, he will be able to get a new wife, and perhaps a child capable of carrying on our family name.” I took a deep breath, strange enough for a ghost.
Drifty smiled. He didn’t have a mouth, but his eyes had a glint of delight. “You are mature for an 8-year-old.” He said. “And you do love your father a lot…Come on, let’s go.” Drifty put his stringy arms on my shoulder. He beckoned me to look upward, and I saw a path of light, whose end I couldn’t see.
“Drifty… you…” I asked, as I gradually move towards the other end of the path Drifty let out a sigh.
“Some said Drifloons stole children away.” Drifty muttered, as he drifted along with me, shoulder to shoulder. “We don’t. All we do is to lead dying children to the land of eternal rest.”
Suddenly, Drifty’s body started glowing. In the glitter, he enlarged, grew two limbs other than its two stringy arms. His black beady eyes became red. As the glow faded away, I saw him – now as a Drifblim.
“Drifty, you… evolved?” I marveled.
“Drifloons could evolve from battling, but we could do so by partnering with a child.” Drifty said, and turned his gaze to me. “A drifloon grows with the child it accompanies. You've grown, so do I.”
“I... grown...?” I asked.
“Look at your feet.”
I peered down, seeing my steps. I was stepping. My feet were flapping like a normal boy’s would. “I… am… walking?” I looked at my feet and marveled. It was the first time I moved around without a wheelchair. “I am walking!” I marveled.
“Ghosts don’t need nerve signals to move.” Drifty said, putting one of his four limbs on my hands.
I looked back, as dad, Dusk Man and my bandaged body gradually faded from my sight. As I drifted towards the light, the pounding of my heart became fainter and fainter. I saw dad and Dusk Man panicking as they called the doctor. I took a final glance at dad before I turned my head towards the light.
“Dad… perhaps both of us will be happier this way…” I muttered, as if hoping that dad would somehow hear it. “Dad, I love you...” Next I took a step up the path of light, towards the unknown world of afterlife.