Pallet Town hospital had never had a coma case before. Most of the time the nurses and doctors were dealing with the sick and injured, often from household accidents and wild Pokémon attacks; but, in a small room at the very back of the hospital, lies their only case of a Pokémon battle induced coma.
That's not to say that it never happened before. It has on a few occasions elsewhere, but usually in freak accidents with very experienced trainers and very strong Pokémon. However, it'd never happened to a ten year old on his first day of adventuring, with a Pokémon barely able to stand up.
They didn't know which had caused it, the electric shock from his Pikachu's attack or the skull fracture from falling off the bike that was found next to him.
He had been found by a girl called Misty, another ten year old who had been fishing nearby. According to her he had surfaced in the lake she was fishing in with the Pikachu and had stolen her bike, racing away from a huge cloud of Spearows.
She tried chasing after him to get her bike back but had lost him. A few minutes later there was a huge explosion and when she finally caught up about half an hour later, she found both the boy, his Pikachu and the flock of spearows all out cold in the mud. She got on her bike and raced back to Pallet Town. By the time she, Officer Jenny and the paramedics had returned, most of the spearows had gone, probably to shelter from the pelting rain. They had been rushed to hospital and he was identified as Ash, barely a day into his Pokémon training. It soon was apparent that he was in a deep coma, as was his Pikachu.
That had been two years ago.
Ash lay in his sleep, his eyes darting about under his eyelids. His Pikachu lay on his lap; the Pokémon had woken about two months into his coma and hadn't left his side since, hugging Ash's charred baseball cap as it slept, as if hoping that it would bring him back. Wires came off Ash's arms and chest, attached to the forever beeping life support machine. He held his only pokeball, Pikachu's pokeball, in his hand as if it were an anchor to this world.
Ash had been undergoing medication, some had worked, but most hadn't. He had experience unwaking night terrors, sometimes screaming commands in his sleep. From what the nurses and his visiting families had pieced together from his yells, he seemed to be battling Pokémon in his sleep. It made perfect sense in his mother's eyes; "He has been wanting to be a Pokémon master since he was little" she's say whenever the subject was brought up, but then a distant look would come into her eyes and she'd say no more.
She lay there now, on the camp bed at the edge of the room, fast asleep but her dreams always about Ash. She didn't always come to stay, but she would whenever she could, staying by his side and telling him stories about everyday life, the current news and about her and her father's own Pokémon adventures. Sometimes he responded to these stories with some murmuring, often about some people called Misty and Brock. After a while Misty became Dawn; Dawn became Iris and Brock became Cilan. They soon realised that Ash was dreaming almost constantly, his eyes barely settling or a moment.
Ash strode up the gyms hallway, his brain buzzing with excitement. He had made it! He was battling the elite four! He had already beaten three of them and now he was pumped to battle the final leader. Pikachu sat on his shoulder; he hadn't battled yet and his static electricity was crackling with anticipation.
Ash entered the hall, the bright sunshine shining through the glass ceiling high above. The clouds were floating slowly on the light summer breeze, a few bird Pokémon flew overhead.
"Ah" A voice said suddenly, the voice echoing round the hall "I see you finally arrived."
"Yeah!" Ash cried "And I'm ready to be a pokemon master!"
"I've been waiting a long time for you to arrive Ash." The voice told him. "A very long time."
There was a movement in the shadows and a woman emerged, dressed in a long white dress that seemed to float around her.
"I am Serenity. The final pokemon challenger."
"I am Ash, the new pokemon master!"
"…we shall see…" Serenity said simply. Suddenly, with a flash, a pokeball appeared in her hand, white as her dress. "Let the challenge begin."
She threw the ball, a bright white light spilled out of it and the pokeball vanished. In its place sat a large pokemon. It was the size of a horse and was pure white, a web of gold spiralling round its middle. Its mane rippled in a non-existent breeze and its golden hooves chinked on the hard gym floor.
Ash gasped and stumbled backwards. "An Arceus!"
"THE Arceus." Serenity told him "I caught it out of pure chance and have been training it up to be unstoppable."
"But not for me!" Ash said enthusiastically "Staraptor! I choose you!"
He threw his pokeball and Staraptor emerged, its red head feathers bright in the morning sunshine.
"Staraptor!" It cried, flapping its wings powerfully, creating a breeze which rippled Ash's hair
"Staraptor! Use Whirlwind!" Ash commanded
Staraptor squawked in acknowledgment and took off, flapping its wings strongly until the wind raged in a fast tornado.
"Arceus!" Serenity yelled over the wind "Use Dragon Claws!"
Arceus responded, leaping high into the air, through the raging wind torrents, its golden hooves forming into long purple spikes that glowed ominously. It cried with rage, striking the Staraptor with both sets of claws across its front. Staraptor cried and stopped flapping, falling to the ground with a loud thud. The wind dropped and everything fell silent.
"Staraptor!" Ash yelled, racing over to his pokemon. Staraptor was out cold.
"Looks like Staraptor are out of the battle." Serenity said, no joy in her voice, yet no sorrow either.
"Staraptor, return." Ash said, the Pokémon vanishing back inside its ball.
"Who will be next?" Serenity asked
The battle raged. Soon Snivy, Monferno, Gliscore and Taurus also fell, without a single one making a scratch on Arceus. Ash stood, emotionally drained at one end of the gym, his face red with effort. Serenity stood at the other, Arceus standing beside her, both unmoving and unemotional.
"Well Ash, looks like you have only one pokemon left to battle." Serenity said, motioning to the final pokeball latched to his belt.
"Yeah, and it will beat you in one move!" Ash yelled, reaching for the ball. He threw it and it opened. No light emerged from it and it bounced, hollow and empty to the floor.
Ash went over and picked it up, looking at it. It wasn't one he recognised. Suddenly he realised what it was.
"It's my first pokeball…" He whispered. He looked back at Pikachu who was sat by his bag, looking hopefully up at its master.
"You want to battle?"
"Pika!" Pikachu nodded.
"Ok then!" Ash said "Pikachu! I chose you!"
In his coma, Ash's grip tightened on the pokeball.
"Pikachu! Use volt tackle!"
"Pikapi!" Pikachu cried, his body sparking over with electricity, racing towards Arceus
"Arceus! Dodge it!" Serenity told it, but Arceus wasn't fast enough. As it leapt to one side, Pikachu hit its back leg, tipping it over onto its side, sending electricity racing through it. Arceus leapt to its feet, shaking off the electricity.
"Arceus! Use Giga Impact!" Serenity said, flushing with anger at the fact that her precious pokemon had been hit.
Arceus charged at Pikachu, hitting it full on with its move. Pikachu flew backwards at the impact, colliding to the floor."Pikachu!" Ash cried. Pikachu was still for a moment, but then stood up shakily and shook itself off.
"Pika!" It said. Ash narrowed his eyes at serenity
"Pikachu! Use thunderbolt!"
Pikachu closed its eyes, letting the electricity flow over it in a ball of light. "PIKA…..CHUUUUUUUUUUUUU!" It cried, letting the electricity free, slamming a large bolt of electricity into Arceus. Archeus flew backwards, skidding to a halt on its hooves, the gold grinding grooves into the floor.
"Let's finish this…" Serenity said. "Arceus, use Draco Meteor!"
Arceus glowed for a second, as if its insides were on fire, then it threw its head back, rising up onto its rear legs and shot a ball of fire and energy high into the air, soaring inches below the glass ceiling. Ash could do nothing but stand and watch as, before he could utter a single syllable to Pikachu to dodge it, it slammed into the poor pokemon and it was lost in a ball of light.
As the light faded and the dust cleared, Pikachu lay on its side, its eyes closed.
"PIKACHU!" Ash yelled, running to its side. It was out cold, but it was still breathing.
"T-that was the most powerful Draco Meteor I've ever seen…"
"I have trained it well, have I not?"
"I-I've failed…" Ash said, sinking even lower to the floor beside his fallen pokemon.
Suddenly, Serenity was stood by his side. He jumped, he hadn't even seen her take a step towards him.
"No… You haven't failed.""But- but you beat me… all this time and training to fall at the final hurdle…"
Serenity shook her head "This was never about being a pokemon master."
"No. As I said, I have been waiting for a long time for you to arrive. Far too long… You see Ash, I have been waiting to give you an ultimate truth. A truth that you haven't seen all this time."
"Where are your friends Ash? Iris? Cilan? How about Dawn? Brock? Misty? Where are they?"
"I- I don't know…"
"Iris and Cilan vanished the moment you entered the gym. Brock and Dawn and Misty vanished from your world for a long time now. I want to tell you why."
She took a step back and suddenly she was in the centre of the hall. Arceus had vanished and so had Pikachu. The sky, while the sun was still shining, had vanished from above the window.
"All this was never real, Ash. While battling pokemon, team rocket and striving for your ambition to be a pokemon master, you have in fact been battling something even bigger."
Suddenly something flashed in Ash's mind, an image of a flock of Spearows all flying towards him, he shook his head.
"You have been battling yourself all this time. This is all in your head Ash."
Another image, this time of his Pikachu jumping ahead of him.
"Let it go Ash. Return home."
This time there was a bright flash of light inside his memory. His brain hurt.
"Only you know that." Serenity said "What do you know? What do you want to be?"
"I-" Ash said, more images flashing behind his eyes, light, rain, thunder, a bike lying in the mud, Misty fishing by the river. "I- I want to be…." Ash said, forcing the words out "…the very best…."
"And you always have been Ash Ketchum. You always have…"
Serenity was by his side again and placed her palm on his head. It occurred to him that his hat was gone. He closed his eyes as the world around him evaporated, the only sound now being a slow, ominous beeping that rung in his ears.
Trying to latch back onto reality, he kept repeating those words to himself.
"I want to be… the very best…." Ash whispered, his eyes settling under his eyes. "Like no one ever was…."
The rate of the heart monitor increased a little as his eyes began to flicker. His Pikachu looked up at him.
"Pika?" It whispered sleepily, wondering if it was imagining the small smile on Ash's face.
Ash opened his eyes slowly, trying to focus his eyes on the blurred yellow blob sat in front of him. As his vision began to sharpen, the familiar, wide eyes of his Pikachu became visible, looking hopefully up into his. It was clutching his hat.
"Pikachu…" Ash whispered, lifting a shaky hand to pet it softly on the head.
"Pika…" Pikachu nuzzled his hand.
"Ash?" A voice came from the corner. Ash turned his head slowly to see a woman sitting up sleepily on a camping bed, rubbing her eyes. His brain clicked for a few seconds, then he recognised her.
"Mum…" He said, smiling.
"Oh goodness! Ash!" His mother jumped up from the bed, embracing her son. After a minute of hugging, she released and picked up the emergency tannoy speaker.
"Doctor Richards, get down here quickly! Ash has woken up!"
"What?" A crackly voice asked down the line
"I'm not kidding! Ash has woken up! It's a miracle!"
"What- What happened?" Ash asked, holding his head. "There were Spearows… and a bike…"
"You've been in a coma Ash." His mother told him, holding his hand "Your Pikachu save you from a flock of Spearow…"
"H-how longs it been?"
Ash's mother hesitated for a second, as if unsure whether to tell him. "It's been… three years sweetheart."
"Oh my goodness!" Misty cried from the doorway, her eyes slightly burry. "He's really awake!"
"Yeah…" Ash said. "Hi Misty…"
Misty paused for a second "How to you know my name?"
"….lucky guess" Ash said awkwardly. Luckily, they weren't in the position to delve into the strangeness of his dream and how accurate his dream had been. That moment the Doctors burst in, swarming round him; clefairies at their side. They unplugged some of the wires, switched off some of the stabilisers and artificial organs that helped him eat and digest while he was in his coma.
He rubbed his eyes. This was so strange. Moments ago he had been standing in the presence of the head of the elite four, and then he was back home in pallet town. He tried to get his head round the fact that none of it had happened. All the pokemon he had caught and trained, all the gym badges he had earned and all that distance he'd travelled had all been in his imagination. He spotted his badge case lying beside him in bed and reached over and opened it. Nothing was in there. He groaned and, his brain hurting from the shock, drifted back into sleep.
When he woke again, the room was empty, except for Pikachu who was lying patiently by his side. When it saw him wake it sat up hopefully.
"Pikapi!" It squeaked happily.
"Hey Pikachu. I'm glad you waited for me all this time."
"He never left your side once." A voice came from the door. Ash looked up to see Nurse Joy walk in, her clefairie following behind her. "We tried to take him away for hygiene reasons but he wouldn't leave, and you condition seemed to deteriorate when he wasn't with you, so we let him stay in here for you.
"Thanks." Ash said, smiling. Nurse Joy went back out the room and spoke some unheard words to someone outside.
A second later, his mother and Misty came back into the room
"Hi." Ash said
"Good morning Ash." His mother said "Sleep well?"
Ash nodded "mm hmm."
"The Doctor says you can go home in a few days. He says your recovery in such a small time is remarkable."
"That's great!" Ash said. Then paused "Does this all mean that I can go on my adventure now?"
His mother paused for a second. "We'll see how it goes." She said.
Three months later and Ash was up and around, back to his normal self. He mostly had pushed the dream memories to the back of his mind, but still sometimes found himself there when he slept. Sometimes he was fishing with Misty, sometimes adventuring with Brock and Dawn or battling intensely with Team Rocket or Team Galactic. He soon shook off the shock of suddenly being dumped back in reality and soon found that he was forgetting them. As time went by he forgot his pokemon and his battles, though he still strove to attempt to battle the gym leaders one day, so he kept those particular memories. He never forgot his friends either, and he hoped that, like Misty, they were out there somewhere for him to meet again and to battle and to become friends. Dawn and her Piplup, Brock and his undying love for Nurse Joy and his long suffering Crogunk. He sort of half hoped he'd run into Team Rocket again and finally bring them to justice, and, judging by their love of trying to catch Pikachus, he thought he probably will.
About a year passed and his mother became more confident in her sons ability, so much so that as spring broke the next year she agreed that Ash could start on his adventure. Misty offered to help him on his way, promising his mother that she wouldn't leave his side.
A week later and the goodbyes said, Professor Oak giving him an updated Pokedex and his blessing for the road ahead, Ash, with Pikachu on his shoulder, and Misty set off in the light of the morning sun, waving a fond farewell to their parents and promising to call them as soon as they reached the next town.
A flock of pokemon flew overhead, squawking to one another. Ash sighed happily, wondering whether the pokemon in his dream were going to be different to the ones he was going to meet. He was going to have fun finding out. In mid thought, Misty, an evil glint in her eye, suddenly shoved him, knocking him sideways into a puddle, throwing Pikachu off his shoulder.
"Tag!" She cried, sprinting down the road "Your it!"
"We'll see about that!" Ash yelled after her, running to catch her up, Pikachu running beside him. The three of them vanished in the forest surrounding the town, their laughter echoing round the trees and dispersing into the wind.