Night Spirits--part of the Gym Leader Series (*note, as of this posting, I have this and Surge written for. If I ever do any more, I'll tell you. They're basically 'why they use the types they do'*)
"I wonder how long it's been," Morty thought to himself. "Sure seems like forever...But the doctors say that I need to stay in bed..."
He had been lying in bed for the past three days, with a fever of alarming intensity. On the rare occasions that he was awake, he was bored. His parents always hushed him back to sleep, so no use trying to talk with them. The only thing that kept him occupied those long days was listening to the sounds of the Pokémon outside. In a way, it helped Morty learn about people, too. There was a neighborhood lady who took her Mareep for a walk every afternoon, an old man who shooed Pidgey away with a hose, three children who talked about cute creatures like Jigglypuff and Hoppip...
Morty would have given anything to be outside, running around like a normal six-year-old, delighting in the cool breezes, feeling the warm sun...but all that was impossible if he couldn't even stand up. The fever had ravaged his body, leaving him frail and weak. So he could only hear of the world's excitements from his tiny bed.
The sun was setting when Morty's mother came in with a bowl of soup for him. She kissed his forehead and told him he'd been a good boy to stay in bed all day, and that he was bound to get better soon.
"Mom, when can I go outside?" he asked.
She fed him a spoonful before answering. "When you're better. Then we can all go on a picnic. Would you like that?"
He nodded, but remembered something he had heard earlier in the day. "But...what if I don't get better?"
She froze. "Morty...what...would give you that idea?"
"I heard you and Dad talking to the doctor this morning...he said you may have to make arrangements in case I don't get better."
Unable to say a word, she just held him tightly, stroking the back of his head. "Morty..." she finally whispered.
A loud screeching from outside startled the two, and Morty cluched his mother's hand. "Mom...what's that?"
She gently set him down and closed the window over his bed. "That was a Murkrow. They're horrible, vile things and I never want to see you near one." After taking a second to compose herself, she resumed feeding him.
There were six blankets on Morty's bed, and he could feel each one of them weighting down on him. He was sweating, which he knew was good for the fever, but it was very uncomfortable. Bracing himself against the wall, he pushed himself up to a sitting position next to the window, and slowly opened it. The wonderful night air drifted over him, and he felt slightly refreshed.
Laying down under the blankets again, he was almost asleep when a strange fluttering sound jolted his senses. He opened his eyes and looked around. "Mom? Dad?" he asked in a nearly inaudable voice.
He gasped. There was a Murkrow on his bed, standing near his feet. His eyes wide, he watched it walk the length of his body until it stood next to his pillows.
Morty shrank back. "Mom doesn't want me playing with you..."
The Murkrow looked at him, cocking its head quizzically. "Krow!" it crowed, almost a chirping sound. It fluffed its feathers as if it had been deeply insulted.
Morty smiled. "You...don't seem so bad...Are you here for me?"
"People say that Murkrow appear in the middle of the night to take souls away. Am...am I gonna die?" The smile had turned to a nervous grimace, and the boy's eyes shone with tears. "Because I'm kinda scared..."
The Murkrow nuzzled under his chin. Morty began to pet the bird's wings until it made a purring sound and rolled over onto its back, clutching at its beak with a claw.
The tears ran down his face, but Morty managed another weak smile. "This is helping...thank you...but I still wish I could have said goodbye to my parents..."
"Because you're going to take me with you now, aren't you?"
Rather than verbalize its reply, the bird let out a mournful sigh.
"I thought as much...but thank you for being gentle...I'm very scared right now..."
The Murkrow suddenly looked up nervously, then hopped toward the window.
"Murkrow...where are you going?" The dark bird didn't seem to hear him, as it spread its wings and took off outside.
The door to Morty's room opened and his parents came in. "Morty, how are you feeling?" his father asked.
"Mom...Dad..." the boy whispered shakily. "Can...can you hold me? I'm scared..."
Morty fell asleep in his mother's arms, and once again he was laid on the bed, the blankets over him. His father wiped the boy's forehead with a damp cloth. "My dear boy..."
Somewhere in his unconcious mind, Morty could feel himself growing weaker. The stories were right; the Murkrow had taken his soul, and now he was going to die...
Morty's entire body went limp, the last vestage of strength gone. His parents gasped. "...Morty?" his mother asked fearfully.
It was cold. Shivering, Morty opened his eyes. There was a strange purple fog surrounding him in an otherwise featureless, empty place.
Don't be afraid, a voice sounded. I'm not going to harm you.
Morty whirled around, searching for the source of the voice, but saw only the purple fog. Where are you? he shouted, and halted in amazement when he realized that his reply, like the mysterious statement, had not been said aloud. It had been echoed in his mind, as was the slight chuckle the other voice gave.
Same place you are, child. In a state between life and death.
"There's no heartbeat...oh my god...I think we're losing him..."
Am I dead?
No, not yet. Consider yourself lucky, not everyone can have a second chance
What do you mean? Morty was shaking, more from fear than the cold.
Humans call me and those like me 'Gastly', which I suppose is as good a name as any. But I am a spirit, and this is the world in which I dwell.
But it's so plain...
Which is why we go to your world. Most times, we are content to keep to ourselves, but sometimes, we use our powers to save someone.
"MORTY!!!" his mother shrieked. "Morty, come back to us!" She forced open his mouth and began to breathe air into his lungs.
You see, we spirits are closely aquainted with other creatures of darkness...
Like that Murkrow?
Yes. But very few people will tolerate us. So whenever someone is kind to a Dark Pokémon, there's a chance they'll be rewarded by us.
Morty thought about this for a moment. But...it was coming to take my soul...wasn't it?
That is the perception of humans. You see, Murkrow can sense death, and they appear to dying humans. But it is not to take their souls, it is to offer them comfort, and ease their passing.
So...I really was going to die, wasn't I, Gastly? And I still am...
"Morty...Don't leave!" His father pounded against the frail chest, trying madly to start the boy's heart.
Gastly chuckled again. Your body is still alive, but it is losing power fast. I am giving you this opportunity to return to your body for as long as it can last.
Morty's eyes widened. How long is that?
I can't predict the future...Could be an hour, could be a hundred years from now. But as long as your body can still hold you, you will live.
The boy closed his eyes. Will I remember this?
I do not know...Until we meet again, Morty. I wish you luck.
He began to fade from the strange world. Thank you, Gastly...
Morty's eyes shot open as he gasped for air. "Mom...Dad..."
Almost immediately, his mother took him into her arms and held him tight. "Oh, my precious baby! I was so sure we'd lost you..."
Morty smiled weakly. "But...you did...I was gone, but a Gastly helped me back...it was wonderful..."
His father wiped tears away. "Morty...it's so good to have you back with us..."
"Wait a minute...his fever's gone down! Oh, my sweet little baby!! You're going to be OK now!" his mother sobbed joyfully.
Morty wasn't sure, but he thought, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flutter of black wings out the window.