For the first time in a long time, I feel as if I actually have the power to choose which path my life will take. Staying alone may mean that I die, but at least it will be my own decision. I've seen what waits for me in the forest, the horrible creatures that stick to the shadows and strike when their prey grows tired. I've managed to survive so far, but my wings are hurt and my feathers are too thin to help me escape from those that would harm me. Taking the step to follow these strange people may mean that I survive, but I will be under their control.
I wasn't alive when the first outbreak took place. My mother and father carried our entire nest away from what they claimed was a beautiful meadow where the air always smelled sweet and the prey was always plentiful. Whole nests are not meant to be taken such distances, and it proved too heavy and unwieldy for them to bring us to their safer birthplace just south of here.
They put us down in a tall evergreen, far from the mysterious hoard of Bidoof that kept to the forest floor and attacked anything that strayed too close. I was born to the silence of death, the world around me devoid of any feeling besides pure, ravenous hunger. My parents hated passing such an empty world on to their children, but had no other choice. They were strong in the face of our weakness and confusion, bringing us whatever food they could deem safe to eat. The lack of reasonable nutrition stunted my growth, keeping me less than half the size of a normal Starly.
My siblings didn't fare much better, and two of them died within the first few days of their life. I hardly knew them, and beyond a strange sense of loss I hardly felt anything when I came to realize they were gone. All I can remember was the way my parents continued on without slowing, determined to get us ready to survive on our own. They brought us food the same as always, and my remaining siblings and I were happy with our larger shares.
We began fledging soon after that. The first day we were pushed from our nests was the first time I felt genuinely scared. I plummeted toward the earth, toward starving red eyes and dark yellow fangs staring at me, barking for my flesh. They grew larger and larger, their matted fur coming into clear focus. Something grasped me from above, and I craned my neck to see my father's stern, closed beak. He brought me back up to the nest and pushed me to the edge to being the process all over again.
The fear came to fade. With each fall I learned to fly, my father or mother dropping down to catch me whenever I came too close to the ground. Over the next few days my wings became stronger and my feathers grew in thicker. My body was abnormally small, but my wings were abnormally large. Gliding came easy, and it wasn't long before I was strong enough to pull myself up from a dive. My siblings and I could move from tree to tree with ease, malnutrition doing nothing to deter our bodies from getting us into the sky.
It was all too good to last. The other Pokémon in the forest eventually noticed how very easy we Starly are to kill, and when the first swarm came they were quick to take advantage of my family. That morning began with small droplets of rain from the great grey expanse above us, and large, bulging storm clouds rolling in from the horizon. The air was thick with static, the pressure keeping us in the little hollow we'd made our home.
My parents stood at the entrance, watching carefully for predators. I shivered, my wings pulled in tight against my body in a vain effort to keep me warm. We could hear the rain worsening, falling faster and harder. But behind the noise of the storm was a sound both familiar and alien to us. My heart began racing instinctively, my siblings and I moving closer together in uncertain fear. Thunder burst through the air, briefly masking the threatening sound.
My father struck first, making a loud cry as lightning lit up his body. I saw a glimpse of glowing red eyes between my parents' heads, and watched in stunned silence as my father slammed a massive, bleeding Starly against the tree. A second made its way for my mother, who slashed at its face and sent it plummeting to the ground. They spread out their wings to make themselves seem more threatening, but to the undead they were only larger targets. The mass that came for us only became greater, lit up by sudden bright flashes of light. A tree not far from us caught fire, the rain doing little to douse the flames.
Soon my parents had no choice but to step further out on to the branch that led to our hollow. They kept close, but couldn't get a good enough range of motion when they stood in front of us. Thunder tore through the noise of the hoard, the rain coming down in a torrent. The Starly continued to attack my parents, who were struggling now to keep them at bay. The rain made their feathers heavy and the branch wet. I saw my father's talons begin to slip as a group of undead converged on him. He fought against them clumsily, crying out as one bit deep into his right wing. My mother screeched, but was too busy with her own assailants to come to his aid. His claws slid off the branch, and he fell. Lightning once again filled the air, red eyes piercing the darkness, diving for us.
My mother moved back to shield us, her wings spreading out so wide and far that we could see nothing of the world beyond her body. Her screams mingled with the rolling thunder, undead Starly tearing through her outstretched wings. We could see their beaks poking through, screeching as they continued to fly toward us. She vanished suddenly, and the hoard with her. We watched in horror as she took off, flying upward into the storm. The wave followed her, grabbing on to her wings and body as she pushed upward. A jagged stream of light lit up the forest, passing through her body and setting the tree aflame. We started squawking loudly, running out onto the branch to avoid the fire travelling downward through the tree.
We saw our mother's body falling through the air, heading straight for the relentless layer of Bidoof waiting below on the forest floor. Her predators followed her blindly, some paralyzed, some not. The wave turned its attention to us, diving through the air for my siblings and I.
But a sudden, incredible light filled the air; a greater beam than any bolt of lightning, tearing upward through the sky from the lake just a few miles away. The hoard turned around without warning, clumsily flying back to wherever they'd come from. A great rumble broke the sound of the rain, and a massive burst of pressure sent my siblings and I falling off the branch.
I was too light to fall straight down, and the blast pushed me into a tree a number of meters away. I landed on a thin branch before blacking out instantly, never to see any member of my family again.
I awoke some unknown amount of time later to a bright and shining sun. It offered no heat, nor did it lift the enormous weight of loss I felt. The next few days were spent gliding from branch to branch, my wings still too hurt to truly fly anywhere. I searched desperately for my family, hoping to see them in every shadow, around every tree. But they were gone.
The forest had become safer. The Starly hoard had long left, and the ever-present Bidoof were nowhere to be found. The loneliness was thick and crushing, but at least I was alive. I began to head toward where I had seen the great beam of light that saved my life, making the short journey to Lake Verity a multi-week process. There was another hollow there, much smaller and less comfortable than the one I once called home. It would have to do.
I tried to make myself comfortable, spending every night with one eye open. I could hardly feel anything, choosing to swallow my hurt rather than display it. A young girl came to visit me one day, and I decided to follow her. She smelled of blood and infection, but I hardly cared. Her coat was warm like my mother's feathers, and I deluded myself into thinking that stormy morning had never happened. I would bury my head into her chest, and pray for better days.
And now: come with us or risk dying on your own.
I see honesty in his eyes, and a certain hardness typical of those who've chosen to stand up rather than lie down. He reaches his hand for me, and for a long while I just stare at it and breathe in the scent of blood. He destroyed the hoard that destroyed my family. These people can protect me, and by allowing him to control me I am allowing him to keep me alive. I know, with a sudden, intense confidence that I don't want to have responsibility with own life. I want to trust someone, to have companions and protectors.
I peck at him and he doesn't pull away. With a deep breath, I gather up all my courage and step into his hand.