Al woke up feeling like he had never felt before. The blanket underneath him was soft, the temperature toasty and the air cool. But despite all of the pleasant sensations, he felt an ingrained sense of panic. Where was his pack?
The room of the Pokécentre buzzed with a hum of working nurses as they seemed to glide from bed to bed. Al pushed himself further under the blanket and away from the glare of the lights. He felt like he had fallen through the window of Al’s Chicken Shack and landed slap bang in the middle of it all, except the cooks and smells of food had been replaced with a clinical odour. Alongside that was the smell of a wide range of different Pokémon.
Al grumbled to himself. He thought of Elvis and Scarface. He thought of the sound of their breathing and the smell of their home. He nibbled and sucked on part of the blanket as he imagined his mother finally returning to the nest and taking his brothers into her arms. In his imaginings, they mistook him for dead and ventured off as a family, leaving him alone.
Camille had to wait three days before the nurses would let her in to see the Charmander. He had been placed on the wild Pokémon ward, so it had taken a lot of persuading. She followed a nurse, watching the bow on the back of her pinny bounce as she walked. Next to her, a Chansey bounded holding a big pile of towels. It kept glancing back at Camille every couple of steps.
“We have good news and bad news”, said the nurse, “the Charmander has recovered from his injuries but , unfortunately, he isn’t stabilising. He won’t eat and his flame is staying low.”
Camille peered at the hospital cart and saw two eyes peeking out from under a blanket, huddled over a small wavering flame. She went to reach towards it, but Chansey tapped her hand.
“We’re going to try him on an IV, but its difficult with such a young Pokémon. He needs his mother, really. You said you didn’t see her around?”
The eyes under the blanket closed.
“No”, said Camille.
Al didn’t like the nurses. The tall human pricked him with a needle, which Al managed to carefully pull out with his teeth later, while the large, dumpy Pokémon kept watching him all the time. He tried moving his legs, but his muscles were stiff and sore. The blanket now felt itchy on his back.
He flipped between dosing and slowly flicking his tail. The methodical flicking soothed him. When he slept, he dreamt of rain, of nests and of mothers. He had vague memories of his egg; the moving shadows dancing on the outside of the shell. While he hadn’t yet had the capacity for thought, sometimes he remembered a guttural purring vibration as his mother cared for the eggs. Like a hum, like singing.
Somewhere in-between sleep and living, he felt his body being lifted and was only gasped back to full consciousness with a breath of fresh night-time air. He looked up with blurred eyes and scented with his nose. The oily smell of car engines and the harried breath of Camille filled his nostrils, yet it felt glorious to be outside.
Camille couldn’t leave the Charmander there to die. Sneaking him out was actually much easier than she thought it’d be, but she felt bad for locking Chansey in the supply cupboard. It was only a matter of time before the centre found out so she ran, Al clutched to her chest still wrapped in the hospital blanket, back towards the alley.
She’d just turned the corner by the restaurant when she heard the whine of a police bike. It may not have been coming for her, but her heart hammered anyway. She knelt down on the wet cobbles, not quite sure what to do. Charmander never wandered far from their nest, so there must be a mother around here somewhere.
She unwrapped Al, who still looked a little dozy from the medication. She rubbed his back gently to stir him, “Come on fella, make a sound for your mummy to hear”.
The Charmander looked up at her sadly, but made a noise anyway. Camille was shocked to hear a little chirrup in response, followed by a thick growl. She span towards the drainpipe, where a crash of lightening revealed the shining eyes of two more small Charmander, Scarface and Elvis – though, of course, she didn’t know their names.
Moving very slowly as to not startle the scared babies, Camille lowered the blanketed Al towards the disused drainpipe. Scarface and Elvis backed further in, allowing enough room for her to put him down out of the rain. Surrounded my familiar smells, Al seemed to perk up a bit and he murmured weakly to his brothers. Camille backed away and watched as Elvis and Scarface cuddled around him. Three babies on a rainy night, yet no mother in sight.
To be continued….