Rain fell ever so gently in a small graveyard, it seemed the droplets hit the recently cut-grass with grace as it fell from the stock into the soil. A soft breeze whipped around the headstones, big and small. A fence, which bordered the graveyard had a squirrel climb on top of it, looking over the field. It's beady brown eyes glazed over the area looking for anything to eat as well as to store it for the upcoming winter.
Suddenly it jumped down and headed towards the trees when it was startled by the sound of cars coming ever closer. Soon, one by one, various types of cars pulled into the graveyard and parked. People, young and old started to head towards a medium to large size tent that would fit over two dozen people, to help shield from the rain. There under that tent laid an open grave, ready for the casket to be laid in.
The tent was filling up quickly with people. The crowd was mostly filled with teenagers and their parents. Fathers would put an arm around their daughters or a firm hand on their son's shoulders. Mothers would just simply hold their grieving child. Some would break away from their parents and hug a friend, while crying silently into their shoulders. Even the boys would hug each other in sadness. Soon, everyone started to notice the vehicle they dreaded to see, came closer.
The black hearse pulled to a stop a few yards away from the open grave. In sync, four people stepped out of the car and went to the back, sadness was clear in their eyes. All the while, a woman in her mid forties stepped out of the car and as she did, she made the mistake and witnessed the four best friends of her now deceased son; pulling out a long casket, the casket she hoped she never had to bury in her life time. A white-hot, searing pain in her heart just about knocked her over but thankfully the car gave her its support. Fresh hot tears streamed down her face as she choked on a sob. Her husband, in his late forties, was there in a second and took the car's place to support her. He tried his best to keep a strong face but even he shed a few tears. Behind them, two children, Michael, a ten year old boy with deep brown hair, his green eyes were swollen and his cheeks puffy from the tears he also shed and there to hold his hand was his fourteen year old sister, Serena, her light brown curly hair didn't have its normal lively bounce, instead it just drooped to the sides of her face and like her little brother, her blue eyes burned with hot tears.
With a tight squeeze, she led her little brother to follow both their parents, who in turn followed the casket that held their late elder brother. Serena looked up at the casket, hoping and praying her brother was playing one of his tricks and just jump out of wooden box that held him, but when he didn't, Serena's chest suffered from a painful sob as it escaped her mouth. Michael looked up at his sister and squeezed her hand even more and got close to her.
The memorial was long to Serena and Michael and the burial was just as long and heart breaking. At least, that's what it seemed. Serena looked up at the priest who was reading his passage to the group, than her head trailed to the many people that knew her brother. She recognized a lot of them, maybe it was because of the many photographs her brother took. Serena's brother was a photographer and showed her all the pictures he took when he was at school events, from Football to Dance Meets. Serena almost gasped as an object almost fell out of her free hand. Serena brought up the photo and examined it. It was a photograph she wanted to bury with her brother, they were told by the priest it would be nice to bury something with their brother, something that he could enjoy in the afterlife. The photo was taken a day before her brother's death, she wanted to surprise him for no reason, in the photo Serena, herself was very close to the camera, she was a little blurry but still recognizable, Michael was playing on one of his game consoles concentrated on a game but his head was arched in a weird way, almost like he was trying to play his game while getting his picture taken. Their father was on the floor playing along side him, he was smiling but he wasn't looking at the camera, as he too was absorbed in the game. Their mother was trying to hide but was caught anyway with a heartfelt chuckle on her face. Serena wanted to go back to that moment and just start over again, not only because she and her family miss him but because her brother came in that day with an acceptance letter from a college he really wanted to get into, he wanted to be a journalist and this school was going to help him get there.
As Serena's chest started to hurt again, she jumped slightly when Michael let go of her hand so he could put the object he wanted to bury his brother with. Serena's heart ached even more, as did everyone else who was at the grave site. It was one of the controllers to his game console, Michael stepped back and looked up at the priest and to everyone else, trying to speak through his sobs.
"So…h-h-he can p-p-play." Michael's throat started to hurt as he fought down the tears, his father came to the rescue and picked him up and held him close. It was than Serena's turn. As she walked up, she looked at the photograph one last time, it was in a nice wooden frame, there was no stand in the back but it was still a nice frame with a nice photo inside. She got up to the casket and noticed what her mother and father put on top. Her mother put a book on top of the grave, it was one of his favorite title, "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee and their father put a football on top of the casket as well, Serena's brother didn't play sports in high-school, but that didn't stop him from liking the sport, he was a die hard Seattle Seahawks fan, their father even laid his favorite jersey on top. Serena had to fight the tears back as well as she put the photograph on top of the casket. She wanted to say something her mouthed moved to say something but all that came out was a little sob and than.
"He would..." She had to sniff her nose but continued. "...want this, he l-l-loved ph-ph-photos, he w-w-w-would want one with him...es-especially of his f-f-family." But before she turned back to sit down, Serena put her hand gently on the casket. "I love you Stink-butt." It was one of the many nicknames she gave her brother and she has many nicknames herself that he came up with whenever he teased her. But even so, they where just names that told them how much they loved each other. Serena turned away and dragged her feet back to her seat.
After that Serena watched her brother's best friends help lower the casket in the grave, she wanted to to scream at them, to stop them from burying her brother, that this was a sick joke from the Lord. But she knew in her heart, that it wasn't. Serena clutched her heart as the truth hit her like a ton of bricks.
Her brother was dead, and he wasn't coming back.
That night, Serena peeked in on her parents through their door. Their mother was in their father's arms, she had tears dripping down off her nose as she held on to him tightly and her father of course was just gently petting her hair trying to keep her calm. Serena than turned and walked to Michael's room to check in on him, again. She looked through his door quietly but, he wasn't in there. Panic started to rise in Serena's chest, her heart raced and she didn't know why. She turned to head to her parents room but than she noticed the light was on in her big brother's room. She walked down the hallway and it left longer to walk down it than it usually did. But she soon got to the door and peered inside, the lamp on the side table was on and Serena saw Michael looking at one of the many albums their brother made. Michael laughed at a picture.
"Hey…" Serena's voice was tired from crying but Michael looked up with a small smile as he looked a little embarrassed.
"Hey…" His voice cracked as well.
"Which one are you looking at?" Serena asked as she made her way over to him and crawled in bed with him too look at the photo album.
"The one where he kept record of his findings of the Tooth Fairy and others."
Serena actually didn't think she could ever giggle, chuckle, or even laugh for that matter ever again but the picture she saw just made a little laugh come out instead of a cry.
It was a photo of her brother setting up another trap for the Tooth Fairy for Michael when he lost his third tooth but he never caught her but what he did find was a few small feathers, green, pink and purple. There was a caption before the photo.
"She must be some kind of small bird, I have looked up these types of feathers in many Ornithology books and the only thing that came close was a Hummingbird."
Serena shook her head slightly but than memories of the same thing to her happened. How her brother stood up way late to catch Santa and the Toothfairy. He even set traps for the Easter Bunny but all his traps would ever get was eggs, he even set up cameras to get The Sandman doing his job on the roof top but that camera was broken in a storm, their father was not happy about that. Serena shook her head again before speaking softly.
"He still believed in them you know…" Michael looked at his sister as she spoke. "The Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, even Santa. She looked down at Michael as she did a short giggle.
"Do you still believe?" Michael asked with questioned eyes and Serena didn't know how to answer but she nodded wanting to keep his hopes, wonder and dreams alive.
"I do…in a way…" Serena got closer to her brother as they kept staring at the photos. "I like the Sandman and the Easter Bunny." She stated with a small giggle, Michael smiled as well as they went back to the pictures and they looked at it, pointing at each one, at each contraption he made to get something of legends.
"I miss him…" Michael stated bluntly after an hour. A tear rolled down his face as Serena put down the album and hugged him close to her, kind of like how their dad did for their mom.
"I do too…"
After a few minutes Serena noticed Michael fell asleep in her arms. She smiled and pulled his hair back slightly, she was going to get up to go back to her room but she didn't want to disturb Michael so she stayed there and looked at the walls of their brother's room. It was littered with dozens of photographs, from football games to family photos. She smiled at each one of them but soon enough, Serena felt her eyes getting heavy till exhaustion over took her.
Outside the two floor building, where Serena and Michael live, a man who looked to be around 3 to 4 foot in height and chubby in weight. With short golden hair and eyes that seem to shimmer in the moonlight, matter of fact; his entire body was shimmering in the moonlight. The Sandman, or Sandy as the other Guardians call him, had a sad expression on his face. He and the others have sensed the turmoil of when a child loses a love one or it's the children themselves that lose their life. Worse, is when it's both, Serena and Michael had lost a brother who still believed with his whole heart that the Guardian's existed. It would have seemed silly to some people that an eighteen year old to still believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny but, it made Sandy and the others happy to know there're adults who still believe in them.
Sandy looked through the window again. This home isn't the only one Sandy went and visited that has lost a loved one. In fact, he went to three other homes that a child had lost someone close. It was heartbreaking for him and the others to see a child so sad in their short lives.
Sandy entered in the bedroom and looked around the room. All the photos that were taken amazed him, but what really got his attention was the photo album the two siblings were looking at. He smiled gently when he saw a photo where the young man that passed away was fast asleep by a chimney, to the young man's left was a tree with many presents and a empty plate with cookie crumbs on it.
It must have been a photo during Christmas and he was trying to capture a photo of North, but of course, North doing this every year for over a few centuries was used to tricks and traps.
After another minute of looking at the album, Sandy slightly jumped when the siblings moved. Serena went and hugged Michael close to her. Sandy frowned again when he saw a tear rolled down Serena's cheek. At that, Sandy floated to the foot of the bed.
With slow hand movements, golden sand started to form and swirl around his hands and body till it formed into thin strands of sand. They separated and started to move through out the house. Strands of sand traveled toward Serena and Michael and swirled above their heads making a small golden puff cloud. And like the kids; their parents had small puffs above their heads as well.
That was when Sandy really started to concentrate. When someone has lost a love one, Sandy always made it his business to help with the healing process, by showing happy memories with that person. Sandy wanted to make sure that every adult and child has good dreams even during hard times. But it was a battle he has faced before and a battle he has won many times but as well as lost. Soon enough, the sand started to shift and make shape.
For Michael, it was he and his elder brother playing video games, than suddenly football and it went on to other fun activities they shared. Michael groaned in his sleep but a smile took shape on his lips as a few happy tears fell down his cheeks. Sandy knew the parents where having the same wonderful dream where they were holding their son for the last time when their own healing begins.
Than Sandy turned to Serena, her dream, made his heart especially ache. Her brother was just staring at her and she was staring back at him and without saying anything, Serena's brother smiled at her, he just smiled and Serena gasped in her sleep as tears started to flow, but, she had a smile on her face. It was than that Sandy noticed a soft glow illuminating by the window.
It was the Man in the Moon. Sandy looked up at "Manny" as North liked to all him, he was little confused when Manny showed up suddenly, but than in the moonlight, that illuminated inside the house, a figure took shape. The young man who recently passed away took form in front of Sandy's eyes. Sandy gasped, covering his mouth with his tiny hands. The late teen was transparent, with a blue hue encasing his body but his natural color was still there. He had short brown hair with green eyes like his little brother; he had his father's strong chin but gentle hands like his mother.
Raphael smiled at Sandy and waved gently, Sandy smiled and waved back a small tear of his own escaping his eyes. Raph, as his family and friends would call him time to time turned to his siblings. He didn't say anything; he just stared at them for a moment. Raph bit his lip slightly trying to keep composure. Sandy took that moment to turn to give him privacy however Raph stopped him by an out stretched hand to the shoulder. Sandy looked up at the teenager, who pleaded him not to go just yet.
Sandy nodded gently and stood by the foot of the bed as he watch Raph lean over his little brother and gave his hair a slight tussle. Michael of course didn't feel it but the golden sand cloud above the little boy's head shifted to make it seemed like it did, Sandy was surprised by this. Than Raph went to his parent's bedroom. Sandy followed after him with confusion for he passed Serena. In their parent's room, Raph gave his mother and father a tight hug and just like Michael, the dream sand shifted to make it come true in their dreams.
Than Raph's father softly whispered. "I am so proud of you Raph." And his mother just hugged her husband and cuddled with him more as she nodded in her sleep.
Raph smiled as tears softly fell down his transparent cheeks. Raph quickly wipping them away he than turned and saw Sandy in the doorway, Raph smiled as he wipes a few more tears away and than he went back towards his room where Serena and Michael were. Once in his room, he made his way over to Serena.
Sandy once again followed and went back to the foot of the bed as he watched Raph gently gave his sister a kiss on the forehead making the sand shift in response. Serena had more tears trailing down her face than ever before. Raph gasped out a sob as he watched his sister.
Than Raphael finally broke the silence, his deep voice cracking. "I pass everything down to you now…" He whispered. "You have to protect Michael and look after mom and dad…" He laughed a little. "Don't get into too much trouble…I think I already wore them out…and I am sure Michael will just tear them apart when he becomes thirteen...I remember you were no picnic."
Sandman smiled as he continued to witness this little miracle, than Sandy felt moonlight on his shoulder making him look up at the moon. Sandy than found out something that he never knew from Manny, even after all these centuries Sandy found out that Manny took it upon himself to bring the spirits of the recently deceased to see their loved ones one last time before their next journey in the after life. Sandy smiled up at Manny, however his gaze was broken when he felt a hand on his tiny shoulder.
Sandy was face to face with Raph, his green eyes sparkling in the moonlight and with a big ass grin on his face he spoke with a chuckle.
"I knew you guys were real."
Morning sun came out of hiding, like it will until the end of it's time, the rays blinding Serena until she woke up. The girl slowly rose up from Raph's bed and looked around, suddenly remembering that she slept in her brother's bed. She looked to her side and noticed that Michael was gone.
"Must be down stairs eating breakfast…"
Than suddenly, last night came back to her, well her dreams did. The warmth of Raph's kiss still burned her forehead like he was actually there and the words he spoke to her were fuzzy but Serena knew what she had to do now, she wanted to cry but it seemed like she was running on empty at the moment but she didn't care, she actually felt happy, she had a small smile on her face.
Serena turned and looked out the window, the birds were chirping in the morning sun. Serena yawned gently before climbing out of bed. But something grainy met her feet, she jumped from the foreign sensation on her feet and looked down.
"What the…" She bent over and ran her hand on the floor and brought it up to look at what she found. "Sand?" She blinked and than it hit her. "Did…"
Serena jumped as her mother called up to her out of nowhere.
"It's time for breakfast! Hurry or Michael will eat everything!"
Serena turned to the open door. "Coming!"
As Serena came down the stairs and headed towards the kitchen, she noticed something felt different as she entered the kitchen. But she couldn't put her finger on it that it until she saw the look on her parents and brother's faces. It was…happiness.
Serena looked at her little brother, her mother and than at her father. All three didn't seem quite as upset as they were yesterday at the funeral, moreover, she didn't feel as horrible herself.
"How did you sleep?" Serena's mother asked gently.
Serena smiled and nodded gently. "Pretty well, I had a pretty nice dream of Raph."
Serena's mother smiled. "I guess the Sandman was very kind to us last night."
Soon after the family got together and discussed how Raphael met with them in their dreams, bringing themselves closer together than before, despite the pain they had suffered.
Sandy stood out in front of the window as he watched the family getting closer than ever. He smiled and soon disappeared in one of his many sand transportations. He wanted to check on the other families to see how they were doing before night fall, hoping they experienced the same thing like Serena and her family did.
But unknown to him, Serena caught a glimpse of him before he left. Leaving an even wider grin on her face.