They should have known.
They should have learned.
They should have thought back to 1989, to the scarecrow that had fallen into a coma before coming down from the cross. Of course, there had been that one little aberration that year; namely, the meteor shower that had forever changed the town and the lives of everyone in it.
Especially the lives of the two people standing in front of the coffin.
"Do you want to make a wish?"
A three-year-old girl in a fairy princess costume had managed to succeed where God, modern medicine, and the government had failed--to grant one simple wish.
She can still feel him in her arms, wrapped in a soft blue blanket, as they stared in wonder at the charred black pod half-buried in the crater.
"We didn't find him. He found us."
We didn't find him
She'll never forget those last few days full of harsh words and heartache, fear and relief and more fear crashing over all of them like waves on a breaker. She'll wish forever that they could have just waited one more week before turning his life upside-down and sideways, before changing all of their lives so thoroughly that soon they would be unable to remember a simpler time, a happier time. Shell wish forever that those last few days could have been filled with hugs and laughter and warm apple pie instead of space pods and suspicion.
Those last few days will be the rest of her life.
She leans into the strong embrace and knows that he has his own regrets eating away at his soul. If only he had signed that permission slip. If only he had let him keep the truck. If only he had kept his mouth shut about the tablet and the storm cellar. If only he could have known that those days would be his son's last, everything would have been different. He could have been happy. He could have gotten his only wish--"to go through high school without being a total loser." Of course, he never would have gotten through high school, but at least he could have been happy contemplating what would have been. That he could have won the big game and gotten the girl.
He deserved that much.
He deserved so much more than that, though. So much more. And he should have gotten it. He was meant for great things. They had been convinced of that since the day in the field so long ago. He was meant for greatness.
Not for this.
Not for a mahogany box and trite, lifeless words on a stone.
Not for a rough, wooden cross and an agonizingly painful death by a stone.
He glares at that stone, dangling so innocently from the slender neck of the dark-haired girl who, long ago, had granted them their life-altering wish. She had done so much for them. And, though she never knew it, she had meant so much to him. As far as he was concerned, it was for her and only her that the sun rose in the morning and set at night. It was for her that birds sang and flowers blossomed. It was for her he longed, and for her he was prepared to wait forever.
It was for her that he had died.
At the hands of another kid just like him, he had died for daring to care for her.
It didn't make sense.
Nothing made sense anymore. He could see that in the faces of each and every person gathered near him, like living, breathing mirrors. Mirrors that he couldn't escape. They all had their own reasons for feeling the way they did, but they all felt variations of the same sentiments--anger, guilt, sorrow, loss, grief
Even those, he thought, who didn't deserve to feel anything. Who he didn't think could feel anything.
They were all so strongly connected, yet so distant that they might as well have been on separate worlds.
Had others grieved for him before, on another world? Had others once gathered together to bid farewell to this sweet soul? Was it worse for him, having lost two lives instead of just one? How many people had this boy touched in his short life?
And were there more he could touch now?
Did yet another life await?
Was he still meant for great things?
"Yes," he whispered, laying the white rose gently atop the coffin. "You are meant for great things."
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