VI.

What do you say to someone who's about to die?

Nothing. There's nothing I can do, nothing I can say. And yet I can't stop the words from coming out of my mouth.

"What are you making?"

He glances up. Does he recognize me? I can't tell.

"A crown of leaves?"

What a stupid question. Of course he doesn't answer.

"I used to do that when I was a kid."

He just looks at me. Like he knows. Like he sees right through me. So I just shut up. There's nothing I can do, nothing I can say. I'm just a part of the scenery. Useless.

Above me, the oak tree. I look up at it. The biggest tree I've ever seen.

It's not my fault.

Silence.

It was supposed to be easy. To pick the right side and stay there. But I messed up somewhere along the way.

It stands there like it'll be there forever.

How could I know? That it was all a lie. Those beautiful words, those hollow, empty words. It all changes when death stares you in the face.

Silence. It stands there, immovable. I turn away.

Don't judge me.

In the sky, I see one last star.

I hate you. For making me a symbol. For giving me a choice, for making me realize what I really am.

But, isn't it better? The leaves rustle softly. Better to know. Better to know than to keep lying to yourself.

I just stand there. There's nothing more to do, nothing more to say. I don't want to go back and join the others. They're right, I don't belong here. I try to hide it.

But having a heart, it just drags you down.

Birds singing, and those two guys, still arguing. This is a nice garden, even if it's a little run down. Somebody must have cared a lot about it.

I don't know how long I stand there. All of a sudden it's time.

One of the others calls me over.

"You sure you're going to be okay?"

I nod. He looks at me doubtfully.

"Just don't drop it."

He hands me the flag. It's heavy.

I look over at the rest of them, as they all surround him.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry we couldn't save you.

It's funny. Because even after everything's he's been through, he still looks like a king.