The trees bowed their heads in the soft wind. The villagers gathered around the river for the passing of Alley Paine. Some were quietly sobbing; others bowed their heads in sorrow with their hands folded by their abdomens.
"We are gathered here this day to mourn the passing of our human villager, Alley Paine." Mayor Tortimer's tired voice broke at the end, and he removed his glasses to wipe away a tear. "I know many of us here in Isle were very fond of her. She had a wonderful soul and was ever kindhearted. She will be greatly missed. May Alley never be forgotten."
Maple whimpered. "She died alone," she whispered to Chrissy, "with no one beside her."
"She died happy," Chrissy whispered back, "if it weren't for us, she'd have died in that hospital room."
Each villager placed a white rose on Alley's casket.
"Would anyone like to say a few words?" Tortimer croaked. It sounded like he would break down and cry any second.
"I would." Bones's voice was dejected and shaky. He walked up to the podium shyly, his head down the whole time. His words weren't fancy, but they didn't have to be. His simple speech changed Isle forever.
"Now, many of you may not know this," he began, contemplating each of the faces in the crowd. "But Alley was sick. Very sick, in fact, with a disease called leukemia." Murmurs traveled amongst the crowd. "And she was told she would die." Silence. Go on, they urged Bones, go on. "That's why she came here, you see. The physical and emotional pain was too much for Alley to bear back on Earth, so she ran away to escape her life and start a new one here." He spoke very softly and slowly, deeply thinking of each word before it was said. "We thought-" his voice cracked and he blinked to stop tears, "we thought she was cured here. B-but...she wasn't. I-it just numbed her because...because this isn't her own dimension. She didn't feel sick, though deep inside she was getting worse and worse." Bones turned his head, focusing on something in the distance. "See that pear tree over there?" His voice grew more steady. "We met each other...at that pear tree...almost every day. That's our tree. And the one day...," his voice quiets, "the one day...that one day, when she was there and...I wasn't. ...I'll never forgive myself for that." He was silent for a minute. "Isle, please don't forget Alley Paine. Now you know her story. Carry it with you wherever you go because...because she was so strong. She was so strong. And I'll miss her so much...thank you." He awkwardly walked down to the back of the crowd while some dabbed at their eyes.
"Hello everyone," the next speaker said, her usual cheery voice filled with sadness. "My brother and I, as you know, run the museum here. And..." Celeste spoke clearly. "And long ago, we found something strange in the stars. It was...it was some foreign constellation we've never seen before. S-so I looked it up and...the certain locations of those stars indicated that one day...one day we'd receive a visitor who'd give us great happiness and joy. After many long years of waiting, we now believe that person to be Alley. Not only has she and Bones donated great amounts of content to the museum; they brought kindness and good deeds throughout the village. She'll always rest in our hearts."
Maple and Chrissy said a few words as well. Maple talked about how she and Alley planted flowers the first day they met and how they shared coffee and decorated Alley's house. Chrissy spoke about the Marquee and the K.K. Slider concert and GracieGrace. I don't think they made it halfway through their speeches without sobbing a little.
"She'll return to Raleigh in a day or two if the water continues to flow," Tortimer said. He gave the casket a little push and it floated gently across the river, down to the sea. None of them left until it was completely out of sight.
"But I loved her," Bones whispered to no one.
I feel terrible for Alley's parents. Their daughter had been missing for fifteen days and when she finally returned to Earth, on that hospital bed, they discovered she was not breathing. They didn't know where Alley had been or what happened to her. She lay motionless, frail, and malnourished on the hospital bed that took the shape of her small body. Doctors said the leukemia had totally eaten up her body; it was a miracle she lived as long as she did. Alley's hair was gone once again.
Cheryl, Alley's mother, broke down when she heard the news. I won't go into it. However, when Alley was discovered in the hospital room she used to call home, Animal Crossing was buzzing softly in the background, its title theme strumming almost halfheartedly in the small speakers.
"No," her mother mumbled, shaking her head and laughing in spite, "that can't be. Impossible. Cheryl, you're losing your mind..."
But Cheryl, you're not alone. Meanwhile, in a whole other world, animals were grieving, too.
"Bones," Chrissy whined, tugging at his paw, "don't go. Please don't go. Come over to the dinner Town Hall is having."
"No, Bones, please. Come over to my house, then."
"No. I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
"I'm okay, really."
"No, you're not! Bones, you can't be alone! I don't want you to be." Then softer, "Alley wouldn't want you to be..."
"I'll be okay." He drooped his head and stared at the ground, walking sluggishly back to the pear tree.
"Is it always this beautiful here?"
"Yup, always. The bugs are starting to come out now, and so are fish. Bugs are my favorite. They're so fun to catch. Do you want to catch some together?"
"I'd love to. Thank you."
Bones passed Alley's small house. He peered through the window. He saw the Gracie low table he bought for her resting in the middle of the room. It made his heart thump and his mind flood with memories.
"Um, this is for you. Kind of like...a 'welcome to town' present. A housewarming gift."
"Bones, you didn't have to."
"I did. I really did."
Minutes passed. Bones sat beneath the pear tree. He leaned his head against the trunk and sighed.
"Oh, two daaays aaagoo..."
"Two days ago, Alley," Bones whispered. "Just two days ago I was talking to you."
"Meet me at the pear tree."
"What would you do if I told you I was running away from home...to live here forever?"
I would confess my love for you.
"And what if...what if I died?"
What if I died?
What if I died?
Alley's voice echoed in his mind.
What if I died?
"You promised me you wouldn't die, Alley," he whispered to the air.
It was nighttime now. Bones looked up and found Alley's constellation hanging above his head, almost touching the tree's leaves.
"You're a legend, Alley!"
He could just make out that the stars Celeste had claimed would change Isle forever formed the figure of a girl.
Once, long ago, there lived a girl by the name of Alley Paine. Friends, readers, listeners, believers, this is where her story ends.