Epilogue – Happy Birthday

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The sky was a deep gray and the clouds started to release a thin mist across the air. Two people, a older teen girl and a slightly younger teen boy ran across a field leading to a fence with a gate. The boy opened the gate for the girl to run through.

They ran through the graveyard until they arrived at a specific marker. The two stood there and looked at the marker as they confirmed that they had the right spot. The girl wiped a few tears from her eyes as the boy placed a pile of flowers along with a small envelope. The two stood there for a while before getting the courage to quietly leave the same way they entered.

The gravestone belonged to a young man named Elias Aiden Conner. A boy who lived a quiet life until he met a group of friends who changed his world in the last few months leading up to his tragic demise in July 2014. Even though he was part of this group for only a small fraction of his life, the group made it a pact to never forget him. This day was important, as it would be the day poor Elias would have celebrated the completion of his second decade of life.

While his friends (along with his brother) wanted to get together and celebrate this boy's life in person, a terrible plague held mankind hostage during the year of 2020. Instead, the group decided to write letters to be mailed to his first girlfriend to be placed upon his grave in Oregon.

The first letter was from the group's defacto "leader", who always went out of his way to extend friendship and warmth to Elias.

Elias,

I can't believe it's been six years since you left. Man, where does the time go? Did you see what happened at our high-school graduation a couple years ago? My mom pulled some strings and they had a memorial for you. Cameron said that almost everybody was in tears. I know that I had a hard time seeing through mine.

I've been taking care of Mia, Cameron, and I've even been doing my best to keep an eye on Lucas. Things have been a whirlwind for me since graduation. It's amazing how life can change just like that. I have a wife and a kid now, and I really wish you could meet them. I'm still plugging away at college courses, and for a while I was a restaurant manager. With this pandemic, and all of the other stuff going on, Mom decided to close the restaurant in Portland. I feel bad for our employees, but I agree with her on the importance of our safety over making money.

I'm not going to lie, man, I'm scared as hell right now. But I'm going to be strong, because I have my friends and family to keep me going. I just hope that this will all be over soon enough and my son will be too young to remember this nightmare.

I'm still holding out hope that there is something out there after life, and that we'll meet again someday. But until then I'm going to keep thinking about you and missing you every day. Happy Birthday, Elias.

Love,
Kenton

The next letter was from the boy's first girlfriend's next boyfriend, who just happened to view the boy as the older brother he never had.

Bro,

I'm glad that you're away from all of this bullshit going on in the world right now. I am so sick of this. Masks, keeping away from people, living in fear that I'm either going to get this crap or get the crap beaten out of me because I wear a mask. Oh, I did have one racist douchebag try to start a fight with me because I was wearing a BLM shirt. I told him that both my best friend and my godson are black, and that any haters could fu… well, you get the point.

I didn't get to "graduate" like normal people do, thanks to COVID. I'm freaking sad about this, but I'm gonna be starting community college soon. Oh, guess what? I'm in an online class with both Mia and Kenton! Not gonna lie, I'm kinda nervous as I'm afraid I'm going to bring them down.

This quarantine stuff sucks, but I do admit that it's not so bad with my cousin. His best friend was killed in an accident back in 2019, and so he decided to come back to Oregon to get some college credits by interning at Kenton's mom's restaurant. I am so glad that he's here where there aren't as many cases as there are in California.

Mia told me about that dream she had about you when she was in the hospital a few years ago. I know that it's probably got something to do with the drugs (and believe me, she was on a LOT), but I also want to believe that you had something to do with it nonetheless. So, thank you for taking care of her.

Happy birthday, Elias. Love you, bro.

Cameron

P.S.: If you see my brother, tell him that I miss him and that I can't wait to see him again.

The third letter was from his half-brother, Lucas. Their father, the notorious drug manufacturer named Butch Conner, fathered two children on opposite ends of the country. Through clever manipulation, Lucas grew up not knowing and unfortunately never meeting his brother.

Dear Elias,

I don't know how time works wherever you are, but in our world, you would have been twenty today. I knew that today was going to be rough, so I made sure to drink plenty of water so that I wouldn't get dehydrated from crying so much. Turns out, you can still run out of tears if you cry really hard.

I am not going to lie. I need you right now, more than ever. The world is going to hell fast, and every day it's getting harder and harder to put on a smile. I guess that's the one good thing about wearing a mask: nobody can see you frown. Part of me just wants to… give up. But I know that I can't do that! I need to keep on a good path in life, because this will get over sometime, and if I cheat my way out, I won't get my "good ending": being able to finally meet you.

Plus, my friends need me just as much as I need you! Thank goodness for the internet, because we are all able to be together without being... together. It's too bad that we can't get a connection to wherever you are.

Cameron is being strong, and that's great. Mia and Kenton are holding on as well. Toby is doing well for himself. Oh, he's engaged to his best friend! I'm so happy for them. You know, I was the first person that Toby came out to! It took a little coaxing, but Toby and Calvin's families both know about them and are supportive (I will admit that I was a little nervous on how Toby's dad was going to react, but I think he was the most accepting of them all!). They've got a year or so left of high school, so hopefully this virus will be history and we can all get together for the wedding.

Cameron said that Mia had a weird hallucination when she was in the hospital and I guess you were there, and you told her that you knew about me. Again, I am not going to lie: I was upset. If this was true, I wish that you would have made an effort to find me. To contact me. To tell me that you exist.

I'm sorry, I'm crying again, so I'm going to wrap this up. I miss you more than anything in this world, and I would give ANYTHING to spend any amount of time just so I can see you and hug you once. Regardless, you will always be my brother and I love you so much. Happy birthday, big brother.

Your brother, your best friend, and your biggest fan
Lucas

Finally, the last letter was written by the boy's first girlfriend and the person who arguably had the biggest influence on the boy's life.

Guess what? They're making a remake of "Babes Riding Dragons"! I don't know why I opened this letter with that, but it's the first thing that pops into my head when I think of us. Crazy, right?

Things are nuts for us retail workers. Can you believe that people were going bonkers over TOILET PAPER?! I mean, come on! All jokes aside, things are pretty scary right now. There have been three people who have gotten sick from this crap in my store alone! Of course, one of them just had to be someone that I was assigned to work with the night they started to show symptoms! My dad has heart problems, so you better believe that I didn't sleep well that night. Luckily, I was able to self-iso at Cameron's until I got tested. While getting a swab rammed up your honker isn't fun, it not quite as bad as having a crap-load of broken ribs and relearning how to walk again! Why yes, it was negative, thanks for asking.

Anyhoo, I made it through one year of college without causing any trouble. I'm halfway to a degree, so by this time next year I'll have a piece of paper that makes people think that I know what I'm talking about! Speaking of which, Olivia is doing well at the art school she's attending in Boston. Orson's still going to Illinois for school, so who knows how that relationship is going.

Cameron is wonderful to me, and while I know that we're still young, I wouldn't say "No." if he were to pop the question to me. We did agree that if I were to ever end up pregnant, we would name the baby Elias if it were a boy and Elisa if it were a girl. Hah. Look at me rambling on like I did when we were 13. You know, I still think about the "what ifs" and where we would be if you were still alive. Either way, I'm happy with Cameron, so you don't have to worry about that.

But that doesn't mean that I don't miss you and that I don't love you. I am super-grateful for the time that we were together, and I do not regret a single moment of it.

~ MIA

The two teenagers got into a car and drove off down the road. The flowers and the envelope flapped softly in the breeze as the gray mist started to burn away as another day took hold.

The End

Hey, Elias.

This letter is going to be weird, and that's okay. I guess I should introduce myself. I am the author. When I, well, created you back in February 2014, I was going through a very turbulent time in my life.

I will admit that you were created as a character in passing, with no intentions of following up on. Somehow, you came to life and became the centerpiece of this world that I created. As a matter of fact, I remember the day that you became a true character of the story. I was coming home from my college geometry class, and we were studying trigonometry. The city bus I was on was pulling up to the station, and it popped into my head: I wanted there to be a nerdy "battle" between two characters somehow. I then remembered that I name-dropped a character named Elias, and you were born from that (the "battle" ended up evolving into the talent show idea).

As I went through 2014, things changed so rapidly, but I knew one thing that didn't: being able to come home and write. It didn't matter how bad of a day that I was having, for a little while the world belonged to you, Kenton, Mia, Olivia, and everybody else. The night I wrote your death scene, I admit that I cried. For a bit, I wanted to undo what I did and bring you back somehow. But, would that be fair to those who have lost their loved ones here in our world? I guess that's not for me to decide.

As 2014 progressed to 2017, things changed and 21 chapters became 59. Even though I added new characters, your influence remained that centerpiece. And then 2020 came, and with it came the closest to a living hell that I, and well, everybody else on this planet has ever seen. I made the decision to finally publish this story for free and now hundreds of people have come to this world to escape that living hell for a little while.

Even though you are a fictional character, your influence transcends those boundaries to bring enlightenment and comfort to many. As strange as this sounds, I am forever grateful to you and every other character that I've written over the years. Thank you and happy birthday, Elias.

Sincerely,
D.F.C.