A lone leaf fluttered by his window, as he turned to gaze outside. The broken window. The window that had been shattered for almost as long as he could remember. But suddenly, the incident seemed like it was only yesterday. His heart clenched as the memory came upon him. As he remembered his friend.
It all started and ended over a single autumn. An autumn so long ago. He put a hand beyond the glass, reaching toward the sky. Searching the empty air for the next one to fall. A lone tear came to his eye, matching the lone leaf that flew past. The lone leaf that fell further and further away from him.
“Next time you catch one that falls, we’ll meet at the base.” His friend had said.
“It’s a promise!” He had answered, pounding his friend’s outstretched knuckle with his own. Their secret handshake.
The wind blew past, forcing the leaf out of his sight. He gasped, abruptly standing. Just as quickly, he sank back into his wooden chair, as he came to his senses. Eyes watering, his shoulders sagged under an invisible the weight. It would’ve flew away eventually. Reality was harsh, but he had to face it eventually.
He squeezed his fingers together into a fist. Closing his eyes, he sucked in a breath. His breath stuttered in an uneven inhale as memories flooded his mind. The impermanence of the world suddenly stark. A black and white. An unquestioned reality. Every beautiful memory, every joyful moment, seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye. Nothing was meant to last forever, huh?
“Nothing’s meant to last forever.” He remembered his friend saying all those years ago.
Ayvin, how are you now? Was there really a world beyond, like the religions seemed to believe? He felt a sting on the back of his arm. Looking down, he realized that his arm had come into contact with the cracked glass, drawn to it by the pull of gravity, and the tiredness that he failed to detect. Streaks of red stained the remaining glass and the frame beneath it. His heart clenched at the sight.
The color grew and spread until nothing but a splash of red illuminated his vision. A red that stained the ground in the darkness of night. Reds that stained the remnant of his friend. A body that was no longer a body. Reds that spotted every scrap of what was once a piece of clothing. His friend’s favorite garment. Tears spilled from his stinging eyes, onto his face, ignoring his efforts to hold them in.
He closed his eyes again, trying to contain the memories. Trying to contain the pain rippling through him. Trying to seal it all away, into the past where it belonged. Still, tears that spilled through his feeble defenses. Ayvin, I’m sorry. If only I’d gotten there sooner. If only I’d gotten there even just a moment sooner.
The glass dug further into his flesh, but at that moment, it didn’t bother him. The pain in his chest far exceeded whatever he felt in his arm. Or perhaps, he was just decieving himself. Pain present or not, he knew that he couldn’t be bothered to lift his arm off of it. In a way, it felt as if keeping his arm there, frozen at the over the sharp glass, was something he deserved. A penalty he was meant to serve. He didn’t deserve to free his hand from its lonely wait. Ayvin. What would you be doing right now, had I gotten there just a second sooner?
His unbounded sleeve stuck to his arm; its length flailing in the passing wind. Memories of their final meeting found its way into his mind. His friend dressed in the fresh reds and oranges of the season, his billowing sleeves and loose jacket flying behind him. Ayvin turning and brushing his wind abused hair out of his face. A smile forming on his lips.
“Autumn’s a fine season for highlighting the transience of things.” His friend had said, picking up a fallen leaf. “A fine reminder of all the time and memories that have passed us. A perfect time for an annual reunion.”
A promise that would never and could never be fulfilled. They hadn’t even had the chance to share the autumn that came the year right after.
“Autumn. A fine season for parting. Wouldn’t you say?” His friend had asked. “Everything seems to plan their departure at this time, whether it’s the leaves or the animals.”
He stared outside the window, wondering why it took him so long to realize. Memories of his friend’s body on the ground, with days of rot visible, came to his mind. Blood on the freshly shattered window. They say he jumped on his own. Broke the glass and jumped. But he had been so sure that his friend had been pushed. Shoved against his will.
His arm stung. No, more than stung. Searing pain ran down its length. He couldn’t imagine anyone enduring that pain on their entire body willingly. He moved to draw his arm back inside, when a cold feeling that overwhelmed everything else… overwhelmed the pain… kissed his skin. He turned to look, to see a golden leaf in his palm.
A golden leaf despite the absence of trees nearby. A golden leaf like the tree that used to stand before the window. A golden leaf like the rare one that fell from the sky moments ago. A golden leaf in his hand. One that he caught. No. One that came to him on its own.
He looked up to the sky, and as if hearing his thoughts, an image of his friend appeared before him. Face smiling. A hand waving farewell. Suddenly, he understood that if his friend was out there, he didn’t blame him. Suddenly, he realized that perhaps his friend was in a happier place than the man had had been in their last autumn together. A smile came to his face joining his tears, as he stood to bandage his arm. Farewell, Avyin.
This story was inspired by a combination of a “The Beginning” writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication, and the character Kazuha from the Genshin Impact RPG game.
Start your story with this line
A single leaf fluttered past the broken window