A gentle breeze blew past. Finn pulled his coat closer to his thin frame. Beside him, Larry stood still, cradling an urn in his hands. It had been handmade by a local potter and had an Indian Gate mural etched on its body. That was all they had left of their comrades. The battle ground had been so decimated there hadn't been any bodies or mementoes of others to collect.
“Cold?” He asked, glancing in the boy’s direction.
“Na, I’m good.” He replied. His eyes fell on the urn. “So, are you gonna do it?”
“Not yet," Larry said.
He nodded, turning his gaze to the water. It stretched out far into the horizon, where it met with the full grey sky. Leaves floated close to the shore as the Northern Red Oak trees shed their dying leaves like bloody tear drops. He noticed a strange hazel colored leaf in the water, and as he watched it float away his shoulders dropped.
“This sucks.” He said.
“I know. At least it was worth it. All-Knoweth is gone.”
“I failed.” His lip quivered. “Again.”
Larry said nothing. He stared off into the horizon, his mouth a thin line.
“I couldn’t do anything when it mattered…”
“Well, we don’t have control over-”
“Easy for you to say.” Finn snapped. He could feel heat rising in his abdomen. “You’ve literally had this entire world in your hands.” The heat seared through his body, up to his finger tips. Smoke curled up from his coat pockets.
The wind blew Larry’s collar, revealing a jagged scar running from beneath his jaw towards his neck.
“Everything comes at a cost.”
The flames died down immediately. He stared at his friend, unable to speak.
“what price are you willing to pay for control over your own destiny?”
All-Knoweth smirked at him. He’d pulled his sleeves up, revealing scarred, burnt flesh, etched with designs and murals.
“Only those with courage to face consequences can truly make their own choices.”
This whole time he’d been too busy thinking about the consequences to actually make any choices.
“I’m leaving.” He announced.
"Yeah." He looked down at his feet. His once bright red sneakers had faded, the fabric had peeled and it was caked with mud. He sighed.
Silence hung in the air, save for the gentle rustling of leaves. "If this is about Rick, don't blamed yourself." Larry said. He was staring at the water.
"Finn, get outta there!"
He'd turned, frozen in shock. All-Knoweth had just smashed Toby to bits and was headed for him. The others lay in heaps of blood, bones broken and hearts weakened. He remembered Rick's battered face, hair matted with blood, eye bloodshot. He'd smiled, revealing a set of missing teeth. Then he'd stretched out his hand and repelled him with a magnetic force, right before-
He inhaled sharply. Larry was looking at him, a worried expression on his face.
"I haven't been in control of my own destiny for a while now." He said, looking at the sky. "I just went along with everyone, letting others carry me."
"But you defeated All-Knoweth."
"I wouldn't have activated Incinerate if you hadn't told me to. I was indecisive and he paid the price." He stared at his palm, then clenched his fist. "I just feel this… Is a decision I finally made on my own.” He kept a plain face, but his voice betrayed his true emotions.
The deafening silence returned. Occasionally Larry would crunch dead leaves beneath his feet; the sound made Finn nostalgic of a time when things were simple and could be decided by nods and frowns. The wind had returned, rousing the dead leaves from their grassy graves and leading them in spirals like a choreographed dance. As he watched the leaves like mini-hurricanes, he realised his life wasn't something he had control over. Perhaps not in this place, where everything depended on the whims of an unknown being and they were all just pawns in a sick game.
He glanced at Larry. The Brit always seemed to know what to do, and always seemed to be in control. Something he'd envied. However, All-Knoweth’s words made him wonder. Just what price had he paid for the choices he’d made?
He briefly caught sight of another jagged line of scarred flesh stretching towards his wrist, contrasting his caramel colored skin, but he wriggled his sleeve and it was hidden from view.
“So what are you gonna do now?”
“Well, Kara’s left to England with Shadow"-Finn's expression soured-"and Kevin is still missing, but I know he’s coming for me.” He narrowed his eyes, staring off into the sky. Something Finn always found confusing. “I’ll probably just wait in Quiet Place for the end to come.”
“Oh, okay.” Finn said. A tiny flame danced around lazily on his palm, before sputtering and dying out. “I’d go home, but..”
“No home to go back to.”
Finn shook his head. Larry was right. They were Outsiders; there was no where for them in the normal world now.
“I’ll just get my katana and go wherever the wind takes me, I guess.”
Larry snorted. “That’s so cliché.”
He smiled, in spite of himself. Most of the leaves had fallen into the river, and soon the contents of the urn followed, the ashes spreading out in the shape of a flower before disappearing beneath the surface, leaving the water clear as before. As he watched, a bouquet of flowers fell from the urn as well. Names seemed to enter his head as he watched them float away: Dahilas, their radiant orange petals spreading warmth over the water; the intense red Gladiolus casting a reddish tint around them; the distinctive lustre of Protea petals causing sparkles on the water surface, and finally, the subtle amber glow of Daffodils. The flowers combined to form an array of beautiful colours all around them. He stared, dumbfounded, struggling to fight back tears. He couldn’t see Larry’s face but the urn dropping confirmed the Brit was shocked as well.
He raised his fist and punched the sky. He didn’t know where he was headed, neither did he know what he would face, but he was filled with a sudden sense of determination. He'd taken the first step towards his own path.
Everything would be fine.
Thank you, Rick.
The flowers floated away, the colours growing duller till they faded into the horizon.