Eri opened her eyes slowly to see her ceiling staring back at her. Outside, a couple of birds were hopping around on her windowsill, gently pecking at the glass. Eri squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, and reopened them suddenly.
She quickly sat up in bed, and realized where she was. Eri sighed and looked over at her clock, which told her it was eight o' clock in the morning.
"Eri, wake up or you're going to be late!" Ken called from the kitchen.
Eri came down the stairs to smell bacon cooking on the stove. She entered the kitchen and pulled back a chair at the table, sitting down with a heavy thump. She groaned, resting her face in her arms sleepily.
"Did you have a rough night?" Ken asked, setting down a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs in front of his daughter. He walked back to the stove and began to another bowl of eggs as he kept a close watch on the frying bacon.
"I guess you could say that," Eri replied.
Ken leaned over the stove, turned off the burner, and placed the pan of bacon on a back element. "Those fires last night really did a number on the downtown area. Noah said you went out. I'm so glad you're safe."
"Fires?" Eri asked. She didn't expect anyone to remember what had happened - she thought the town would repair itself and everyone's memories would be wiped, like what usually happened after an encounter with a Monster.
"Where did you go, anyway? Noah said you ran out of here like a bat out of Hell."
"Err - Timoshi needed me to go over and help him. For some reason the washing machine overflowed and his basement began to flood. Timoshi and his parents just needed a hand getting the water out," Eri found herself lying. She felt horrible for doing it, but was there any choice? She couldn't come out and say she was out saving the world - that would sound ridiculous. "I guess I was really tired from helping, because I don't remember at all coming home..." Not remembering the arrival home was probably the only truth in what she said.
"Well, when I came to check in on you, you were fast asleep in your bed. I had to close your window, because your room was so cold," Ken replied.
Eri lifted her head. "My window was open? I don't remember - " She cut herself short, realizing who did open the window. It had been the same person who carried her all the way from Grover's Mill to her house, flew up onto the garage roof, and helped her put on a pair of pyjamas, before tucking her into bed.
Eri smiled softly, and rested her head against her crossed elbows.
"Nobody knows how those fires started. A lot of houses were damaged severely, and some were even burned down!" Ken said. He paused for a moment to put some of the bacon onto a plate. "Some kid burned to death in his own house."
Eri closed her eyes despairingly. What her father had just said reminded her of poor Evan. She would never be able to erase the last horrific moments of his life from her memory.
Eri slowly stood up from where she was sitting alongside the rest of the graduating eighth-graders, and walked down the middle aisle of chairs, towards the front of the gym where Mrs. Murphy was behind a podium. Once at the front, she turned to face the people in the audience, and waited silently as the large principal began reading from a written speech. This was tradition for all students who were graduating.
"Miss Seruma has been a dedicated student, and for the eight years that I've known her, I've never once seen her in my office," she read. " - Unlike some other students I know, who just love to visit me on a regular basis."
The audience, which was made up of staff, friends, and family, laughed.
"Anyway," Mrs. Murphy continued. "I first noticed Eri doing the one thing she does the best, which was running the track. I would watch her from my window as she practised every single day, as if she were running towards a finish line inside of her heart. She has successfully mowed it down, but let me tell you all that Eri still goes for bigger goals - whether it is finishing homework, or participating in a school event, or even staying after class to help out the staff. Whatever it may be, she gives it her all to make sure her every goal is completed without fail."
With that, Mrs. Murphy picked up a gold medallion that had the school's logo on it, and looked directly at the audience. "This graduation medallion goes to Miss Eriya Seruma, titling her what we all here at the school know her as - Achiever."
The audience began to clap, and Eri's family began taking photos as she accepted her medallion. The principal leaned down slightly to Eri's height and made eye-contact with her. "Good work, Miss Seruma. You earned it, and I know in my heart that Evan is clapping for you," she said, handing Eri her diploma.
"Thank you," Eri smiled, and shook Mrs. Murphy's hand. She then walked back to where the rest of the graduates were assembled, took her seat, and looked down into her lap at the rolled up parchment that recognized her as a high school student.
"Hey!" somebody whispered to her. Eri looked up, and smiled weakly to see Mackenzie give her two thumbs up. She was wearing that white dress from the weird old man's clothing store, and just as Eri had suggested, Mackenzie's hair was curled and put up.
Eri looked over at Timoshi, and her smile immediately faded away. He was staring down into his own lap, not even paying attention to the ceremony that was happening around him, and his diploma and medallion rested underneath his chair in a neglected fashion.
It slowly dawned on Eri that Timoshi didn't have any family to congratulate him, or take his picture when he was up there at the podium receiving his medallion and diploma. How could two people be so selfish as to neglect their child this much and just literally forget about him and go do what they wanted?
Eri thought about it for a moment. In retrospect, Evan had been Timoshi's only family; he made sure Timoshi's homework was delivered to him on sick days, he hung out with him as much as he could - heck they even did all of their school projects together, even though neither of the two could agree on anything. Now that Evan was gone, Timoshi really had nobody else besides Eri. What he was going through right now - whatever negative emotion he was hiding - ripped Eri up inside.
Suddenly Timoshi lifted his head to see the girl looking at him. He didn't frown, or look away immediately. Instead, he smiled, as if assuring Eri through his own emotions that he wasn't as alone as she thought - for he had her company.
Eri was a little surprised by this, and in that instant, she made a vow - a vow to care for Timoshi, as he had cared for her. It was up to her to make sure she didn't screw up this new relationship with him - he meant way too much to her, and she was sure he felt the exact same.
Once the ceremony had ended, pictures were taken, and a dance seemed to break out. Eri really didn't understand why the eighth-graders needed a prom. It wasn't like they were being thrown into the real world just yet - their school careers were going to last four more years! Didn't it make sense to have a prom then? It happened that Eri's parents, Noah, and Heather had the same notion in their minds, and very eagerly wanted to get going. Eri turned her head as she was leaving the gym, and saw Mackenzie slow dancing with that Josh Hamilton kid. A smile spread across Eri's lips, and she headed out the doors with her family.
She was surprised to see Timoshi leaning up against a wall of the outside entrance, and halted.
"Hey," Eri smiled.
"You staying for the dance?"
Timoshi shook his head no. "I don't like the music," he said dryly.
"Me either," Eri said timidly. She then grew serious. "How are you?"
"Do you want a lift?"
"It's all right."
"Are you sure? My parents won't mind."
"I'll be fine. Besides, it would be suspicious if your parents took me home when mine are still wandering around inside the building."
Eri nodded. "good point…" She hugged him tightly. "I'll see you at the funeral then."
Timoshi nodded and kissed Eri on the forehead. "Yeah…"
Evan's funeral was the next day. Eri's parents didn't really know him, but they came anyway for moral support. Mrs. Thompson came too, but didn't stay. She dropped her daughter off at the church, and made plans with Eri's parents for them to take Mackenzie over to the graveyard, and then drop her off at home afterward.
Eri couldn't take her eyes off of the medium-sized casket, which rested at the front of the middle aisle. She just couldn't wrap her head around the fact that someone she actually hung out with and talked to on a regular basis was now gone forever. It didn't seem right to her. How could God just sit back and allow this to happen?
She looked over at Timoshi. His half-closed eyes were locked on the casket as well, and even though he bottled his emotions flawlessly, Eri knew he wanted to explode into undying waves of tears. She had witnessed this already a few days before at the wake, when Timoshi hung onto Evan's body, sobbing uncontrollably when no one else was around.
"Why him?" she remembered Timoshi demanding through heavy, choked up breathing. "Why him, and not me? He had so much to live for, Eri. He had parents who loved him, and – and he had so much talent. You know what he was going to be?"
Eri closed her eyes as she massaged Timoshi's back slowly. "No, what?"
"H-he was going to be a stand up comedian. He was going to go to school for it."
Timoshi then let go of his dead friend's body and slid onto his knees with Eri, sobbing hard against her chest. "Why didn't Sufocus take me instead?" His words muffled by Eri's clothes. "Evan had so much left to do!"
Eri held Timoshi against her body, and gently raked her fingers through his hair. There was nothing she could say or do to make things right. She felt it was her fault this happened. She should have known that the Mon-Orbs wouldn't have worked against Sufocus. If only she was using her brain and went after him with the Fire Hammer right away – Evan would be here now.
Eri returned to the future and averted from Timoshi. She couldn't look at him, knowing she was related to Evan's murderer.
The drive to the graveyard was long, and the ceremony was silent.
The priest who performed the mass came up and said a few mourning words of sorrow about how Evan had been too young to pass through God's Gates, but was now looking down on his family and friends, protecting them. He then walked over to Mr. And Mrs. Hess to give them a large, gold crucifix.
People slowly began to drift away after the service. Few of them at first, but then more, and finally large groups left the grave. The only people who remained, ironically, were Eri, Timoshi, and Mackenzie.
No words were exchanged.
No gestures were made.
There was only silence, and the clinging remains of shock.
Five minutes passed until Timoshi was first to break the silence.
"He died bravely - He was an idiot for doing what he did, but he was brave nonetheless."
Eri and Mackenzie nodded slowly.
Another moment of silence arose among the three friends. Mackenzie took this time to bid farewell to Evan. She slowly made her way to the casket, and placed a hand upon the lid, before saying her final goodbyes.
Eri watched silently.
"He's not dead," Timoshi said so only she could hear.
Eri kept staring forward. "I know."
"Once his power is regained, he'll come looking for you."
"I'll be ready."
Mackenzie backed up slowly to let the gravedigger lower the casket into the six foot gash in the earth. Eri took hold of her coat, and pulled it against the back of her neck. Timoshi slowly began to button up his own.
Eri watched the casket lower deeper and deeper into the ground. She knew the Monsters would keep coming, and she knew there was no way lies could keep her family away from the truth forever. There would be that day when the memory charms Timoshi had told her about would start to wear off, and people would begin to recall the Monsters and events - just as she and her friends did.