Gather the Stars
They say that when its time for a member of the Topaz Hills Colony to pass on from this life to the joys of the next and leave their work and worries aside, they should do it alone and in meditation. They give you a big bed of comfortable leaves from the various trees in the surrounding area, decorate it with a few flowers, if they’re around at the time, and they leave you in quiet solitude, a time when you should be contemplating how to prepare yourself spiritually for the journey ahead.
Ha, not me. For years, they considered me to be the wisest Raichu in the colony. “Listen to old Nyral” they’d say, “he’s a walking treasure trove of good advice for the young.” Or “if you’re feeling down, talk to Nyral. He’ll work things out.” And then they’d say something silly about me not sticking with traditions. I always loved to oppose that tradition of when two Pikachus decide to mate, it should be the parents that decide who it should be with. Whoever thought of that one probably came up with it as a suggestion after downing too many drinks of Bulk Berries, and somehow it became trendy when parents went giddy with the thought of the kind of control they'd have over their “reckless” children. That’s the way all traditions were invented. Silly suggestions made trendy. Because of it, we now had perfectly sane, young folks dressing up in ridiculous costumes during silly charades like the Flower Festival, as if the flowers really concerned themselves with how we thought of them.
I chose my mate, and I refused to have it any other way. Jycile… her name is like sweet Oran Berry juice on my tongue every time I say it. Jycile, I think I could say it a thousand times and I wouldn’t get tired. We fought tooth and nail to be together, and my parents, of course, didn’t like it one bit. They wanted me to mate with the most over-emotional Pikachu in the colony, one with the name of Hengei. All because our parents knew each other and were friends. I then asked my dad if he knew of any good cliffs in the area to jump off of. It all ended with a heck of a fight, a scolding from the elders, a few beatings, but I never gave in.
And when it was official after a lot of grumbling from the old cronies and our over-zealous parents, we broke customs and become one. And then, we had three-
“Papa…” A timid but wonderfully familiar voice spoke from the trees, slowly coming forward, “I know you said you wanted us to come, but the elders were highly against it. I hate breaking the rules like this, but-“
Ah, Niven, my youngest son. Unfortunately, he still allowed the rules get to him, probably got scolded one too many times, and was told to fall into place, no matter how many times I told him it was okay not to follow that example. He was a good Pikachu with a lot of heart and soul, but the elders always took away the key to unlock the bars that kept them both caged up. I looked into his eyes, and he seemed ready to cry, but gave him a small, gentle pat on the side to prove to him it was okay. He was grown up now, and I had seen many changes in him throughout my life. It seemed like only a few weeks ago, he was still a young, angelic Pichu that could never hurt a soul.
“Ah, tell ‘em to go hang themselves on a tree by their tail.” I told him, expecting this kind of nonsense, “I want to be by my family, you know that. Where’s everyone else?”
And slowly, they emerged. Avril, my only daughter, was the first to come out, having had to leave her mate back at the other end of the colony, because there was no way the elders would stand for him coming too. Still, I looked into those eyes, and I always saw her passion in them, even the day she was born. “She’s going to be an artist” I told Jycile when we both looked into her adorable, newborn eyes. And somehow, some kind of magical miracle happened, and she was exactly that. She could not stop dipping her fingers into paint to draw whatever she liked. Because of her, Topaz Hills had some of the most beautiful murals, capturing history and memories with a seemingly lifelike quality, as if those moments were forever frozen in time for all to behold. Like Niven, she was older now, teaching younger children of the colony to learn how to paint and carve things like she could.
Following her was Davin, the oldest child in the family. Now he was the rebel I admired. Like me, he chose his mate, laughing at the face in the elders, and told them one day we were going to break that tradition, along with a lot of the other stupid ones that had come to pass over the years. I was perfectly fine with him bringing his mate Carlisa along, but she didn’t feel right about it. Regardless, Davin always closely followed my advice, always kept me company, and really tried his hardest to be a leader to those around him. Even when he was young, he was a rascal, but a good one, never out to truly hurt anyone, but did like a good teasing every now and then.
And shortly after that, my true love emerged, the one I fought with constant elders to have, the one I took, putting endless tears in Hengei’s eyes, causing no end of frustration to my parents, but creating an everlasting bond with for eternity. Jycile never, ever lost her beauty, her smile, and the shine in her eyes ever after all these years, even when we both became Raichu. I still saw that wild, free spirit in those eyes, the same spirit I saw when I first met her. She always wore a gentle smile, and her smile became my smile. And the few rare times it did happen, her anger became mine, knowing if anyone hurt her, it would be me they’d have to deal with too. And her tears became mine as well, because we lived together, and we endured together. And the best of times was when her laugh became mine as well. I will never, ever forget those moments, and if the life after this is supposed to be better, then they’d better have a lot of that up there.
“How are you feeling, star?” Jycile asked me, using that special name we created the first day we met, “Everything seems so… peaceful here.”
“It was missing you, though.” I told her, still not able to move too much from this overly decorated bed, “It just… sucks when its missing you.”
“Oh dad…” Avril whimpered with tears in her eyes, “They told me how you collapsed, suddenly had heavy breathing… they said you only had…”
“Ah, forget about that.” I told her, figuring they must have fed her some pretty morbid, depressing stuff about health conditions and all that other stuff, “Glad you guys made it, because if those elders stopped you again, I would have haunted them for quite some time.” I told her, just before giving her a whisper they all could hear, “Pst, don’t tell them I told you, but they’re very superstitious about that kind of stuff!”
They laughed about it a bit, and then everything fell into silence. After a few seconds, it was Davin that asked me that question I won’t ever forget.
“Dad, I know you’ve been holding it for a long time, but I’ve always wanted to know.” Davin said to me, breaking the silence, “You always said that you’d tell us about the day you and mom met each other when we got older. I know I haven’t asked in a long time, but… I’ve always wanted to know.”
Yes, it was that time. It’s sometimes strange how the littlest things for someone else demand so much attention, but then it’s the really big important stuff for ourselves and our loved ones that gets put off to the side for another day, which turns into never. No, I could not let that happen to my kids. They were going to hear this story, this wonderful memory that will always stick to my soul, even if I had to possess one of the bodies of the elders in case I passed away before I got to finish.
“Niven, you have no idea how glad I am you asked about that.” I told him, knowing I almost passed on thinking I told him all this already, “You see, the day Jycile and I met was seriously, the happiest day of my life. Yes, by far, it even beats the day we found that abandoned apple pie that someone dropped by accident and just decided to leave behind.”
I closed my eyes, mentally wiping away the dust and covers of memories that had long passed to make that beautiful moment become like it was just yesterday. It was almost a dream-like state, but it felt so real all over again.
“It was an amazing autumn day in the countryside.” I told them all, giving my children a memory they’d never forget, and giving my mate a fresh, revitalizing breath of recollection, “Most Pikachu that have been paired will tell you how beautiful their mating ceremonies were in spring. We found each other in autumn, when the air was crisp, the leaves of the trees were lit with fiery colors, and the first round of apples were emerging from the orchards. I was there, originally alone to bring back some apples with me back to the colony, as a request from those ever-so-demanding elders. But I never told them I ate to my heart’s content before making it back.”
“I climbed up one of the biggest apple trees, and when I got on the branch, I saw the most amazing apple of all time. It was huge…practically almost a watermelon, no joke, and redder than a Pikachu’s cheeks. I reached up to get it, but it was out of my reach by quite a few feet. I tried again and again to jump up to get it, but no luck. I was about an inch off every time I jumped, and I nearly lost my footing on the branch on the way down. But then… somehow, the branch magically lowered itself, and soon though, that apple was right next to me. I knew that couldn’t have happened on its own, so I looked to see what caused that on the base of the branch itself, and there she was smiling at me, looking at me with eyes that spoke with so much cheer and energy. Her fur was a beautiful golden yellow, and I could swear it shimmered in the sun. But never… I could never forget her smile and the way she looked at me the first time.”
Jycile couldn’t help but smile and blush a bit just from hearing the story. I could tell, she had never forgotten it either. If I could, I would have loved to reenact it all over again for the kids, but these old bones would never have managed it.
“You should have seen the way he was jumping for that apple.” Jycile laughed, “It looked so cute and funny!”
And silly. I doubt I would have done that if I knew someone was right there, watching me. Meanwhile, I could see the smiles on Niven, Avril, and Davin, just picturing the whole scene with their imagination.
“Ha ha!” I laughed, picturing how I must have looked doing that, “I wanted that apple so badly. Anyway, your mom helped lower the branch by standing on it, and I was able to pick that apple off of the branch. After thanking her, we broke it in half, introduced ourselves, and we shared our life stories as we ate it. As it turns out, mom came from a different colony, one that has way less rules than ours does. I told her how Topaz Hills has all kinds of crazy rules, silly traditions, and had some stupid thing where parents picked who you mated with. We talked about friends, family, and we had some fun that day, chasing each other playfully around the old fence, in the trees, and after we were exhausted, we waited for the sun to set. I was already way past my curfew, so what did it matter, I was getting in trouble anyway. Might as well have fun doing it.”
“We sat on the fence and just spent the entire sundown just looking at the amazing colors in the sky.” Jycile remembered, painting the picture for Niven, Avril, and Davin, “You should have seen it. The clouds turned pink as the sky around them became yellow and orange, fading to purple and then dark blue. And it was then that the stars began to come out.”
Yes, I remembered that clearly. That, singled-handedly, was the best moment of my life. I knew that Jycile and I could never be separated after that. Hengei could have dumped a million gifts in front of me, it never would have mattered. And those old elders with no real idea of what love is could have moaned and complained, and my laughs of defiance never would have run dry. I was willing to risk exile from the colony for her. They were not going to stop me.
“We talked about the stars.” I told the kids, “Jycile told me that she believed stars were the dreams of humans and Pokémon that haven’t been fulfilled yet. And I told her that I had to disagree, and that stars were dreams that have been fulfilled, and I told her that I could distinctly see a new one being born in the sky right at that moment.”
“Oh, I could never forget that.” Jycile said, her face flushing with a cheerful smile of memories.
“And it was there that we kissed.” I told the kids, knowing there was no way to describe how wonderful that truly felt, “And I asked her, what would you do if you could gather the stars in your hands like glowing stones? Would you make a necklace out of them? Or would you toss one up and see if it flew back into the sky like a shooting star?”
“I told your dad I would spell out his name with them.” She told them with a smile.
There were times when I wish I could live those moments again, but I knew it would never feel as magical as it did the first time. Not to mention, I never would have been able to do the mating ceremony with her, we never would have had children together, and we would never know what it was like to have a family. And I knew, it was that moment that gave way for all these other special things to come in our lives. It was that which made this moment so good.
“So what happened after that?” Niven asked, interested to hear more.
“Well, we couldn’t gather the stars exactly, so we got a few pebbles instead.” I told him, remembering how we did that, “We put the pile in a dirt patch by the fence, and I spelled out Jycile, and she spelled out Nyral, and we put them both next to each other. It was dark, and we couldn’t see them that well. So, I decided we could use a little thundershock to make them glow like stars.”
“It actually worked quite well.” Jycile told them, “So, after that, calling each other ‘star’ caught on and we never forgot it.”
“That’s beautiful…” Avril said in awe, “I could just imagine it…”
“So that’s…” Niven stated, a little awestruck, “…that’s how it all happened…”
They were quiet for a moment, and then everything seemed to slow down. A silence, strange but innocent, had come over us.
I found it harder to breathe at that point, but the last thing I wanted to do was ruin that moment by gagging or whatnot. I knew, it was time, and we had been prepared for this. I focused on breathing slower, and when I felt I could no longer inhale, I closed my eyes, and let it out very slowly. At that point, I knew, I could my feel my mate and children surround me, giving me the comfort of presence that so many foolhardy elders toss away for the sake of tradition. All those memories, beautiful, sad, amazing, and comical, came to me at those final moments, and told me how incredibly lucky I was, and how remarkable my life had truly been. Their pictures, their feelings, and their sounds were things that would be forever imbued upon my soul, something I would take with me, wherever we were meant to go in the skies.
I knew that my children, Niven, Avril, and Davin would have children of their own one day, and would have their own memories to share. For a moment, I felt I could almost see them in visions of what would possibly be parts of the future lives they would have in this beautiful world. And even though I had lived my life and it was about to close, I knew that many amazing things that had not come to pass were in store for them. My last request, my last prayer, was for them to enjoy life, not because life was always passing, but because I knew, whoever created us wanted us to do it this way.
This was exactly the way I wanted to spend my last meditation…