• My ears twitched at the sound of footsteps on the tile outside the room. I recognized the pattern and grabbed a couple video games off the table before dashing behind the door and muffling a laugh. Kuru stepped into the large doorway and paused to flick the switch. Light flooded the room and at that moment I tackled him, throwing my arms around him just below his shoulders and squeezing tight.

    “Glomp!” I laughed, smiling at him.

    “Hey Bun,” he responded with a half smile. No laugh, no return hug. He stood as still as a statue where he was, like I wasn’t even there, much less hugging him. I let go of him and tried again.

    “Wanna play a game?” I chirped, holding up copies of our favorite video games. Kuru shifted his weight to his other foot and looked at me with dull eyes. It was as if the light had left his eyes; they were blank and emotionless.

    “Later,” he replied in a near monotone. “I’m going to my room.”

    “You’re always in your room!”

    “Yeah,” he glanced away from me.

    A few seconds ticked by that could’ve been years. The passage of time was made audible by the large wooden clock seated at the far corner of the room, opposite the stairs. Its steady tick-tock filled the room. Kuru glanced at its pale face for a moment without looking like he really saw it, then he turned back to me.

    “See ya later Bun,” his voice never wavered.

    “Yeah…” I let my hair fall over my eyes to hide the hurt expression I knew would be plainly apparent. “See you later…”

    I turned and walked out the door he’d just come in and leaned against the wall as Kuru’s footsteps faded up the stairs. I sighed.

    He hadn’t always acted this way. Kuru and I had been close in the past. We liked the same games, the same music, and the same movies. We even joked about sharing a mind after the way we constantly completed each others’ sentences and said the same things at the same time. He was my best friend. I could tell him anything and the reverse was true for him. Or… so it had been before.

    Recently it’d become apparent that he was hiding something from me -- from everyone, really -- and whatever it was, was troubling him. A lot. He refused to participate in anything the clan did, instead preferring to sit alone in his room. Our conversations had gone from endless chatter to a few short sentences uttered in the halls of the clan base as we passed each other. Anything more was superficial and meaningless. It was as if a large gap separated both him and me, like he was drifting away.

    I sighed and straitened up, then walked over to the steps leading to the upper floors of the base. These thoughts were scaring me and I wanted a distraction. My mind wandered as I ascended the stairs and my body walked on autopilot down the familiar path to my room. My reverie was broken when I passed Kuru’s door. I paused and raised my hand to knock, then thought the better of it and continued on my original path.

    A slight creak of door hinges and a low whisper brought me to a halt. The words were thick with sadness, but I heard a distinct “I’m sorry…” I whirled around; the empty hallway loomed ahead of me, gaping into darkness around the stairs I’d walked up only minutes before.

    “…I need s’more sleep. I’m starting to hear things,” I spoke out loud, trying to reassure myself.

    I turned back around and walked quickly to my room, shutting the door behind me as I stepped inside. Falling back onto the cool blue sheets of my bed, I glanced out of my windows; the wall beside my bed was almost entirely made of large windows. They offered a breathtaking view of the dense woods surrounding the base. At six stories up, the windows were much higher than most of the treetops, allowing one the ability to see the sun’s golden kisses along the tips of the leaves. The woods extended several miles outward from the base before fading into a jungle of concrete. The high buildings met the sun as it began to dip towards the horizon, and several rays floated through my windows and down onto me. I closed my eyes and let my mind wander again.


    The slight squeak of my door’s hinges woke me. I squinted at the new light and glanced at the windows. The sunlight streaming into my room had been replaced by darkness and gray clouds blocked out any stars. My eyes adjusted to the dim light and I turned my attention to my door. A figure appeared in the doorway, silhouetted by the light in the hall. The ears and tail made it easy to recognize the person as Kuru. I closed my eyes quickly and pretended to be asleep. Kuru’s footsteps were muffled by the soft carpet, but I could still easily hear where he was. There was a soft rustling of paper, then a quiet voice floated down from above me.

    “Goodbye Bunny…”

    I sat up quickly.

    “What do you mean ‘goodbye’?!” I demanded. “Where’re you going?!”

    Kuru growled and dashed over to my window, threw it open, then jumped to the ground.

    “Dammit Kuru!” I sprang up from my bed and grabbed for his arm an instant too late; my hand only caught empty air. I slammed my hands down on the sill and looked out after him in time to catch a glimpse of his wolf form disappearing into the shadows of the forest.

    There was no time to think. I hopped over the window sill and jumped down; the realization hit me too late that I was six stories up and that I wasn’t an agile wolf that could make such a jump. In a panic, I slashed across the air with one hand and a thin, crescent shaped well of water appeared a few feet below me. It didn’t stop my fall however; I crashed through the water and into a tree. Tree limbs tore at my clothes and flesh as I fell, and I yelped as a large branch ripped a long gash in my right arm. I slammed into the ground; the wind was knocked out of me and I was unable to move.

    A moment passed, then a burst of adrenaline shot through my veins, allowing me to pick myself up. There were only a few paths through the forest, and I had seen Kuru take the one he knew best. I whirled around and dashed down my own favorite path, ignoring the protests from my back and legs after the fall. Both forest paths led to the same place: our favorite meadow.

    The meadow was a spot only Kuru and I knew. We’d stumbled upon it one day while exploring the woods. It rested several miles behind the clan base, where the forest appeared to be too dense to pass through. The large space was full of soft grass and wild flowers. Trees surrounded it on all sides, blocking out all but the sky. Even the noise of the city was blocked by the dense wall of trees.

    A menacing grumble of thunder drowned out the memories that flowed into my mind regarding the meadow. I glanced up and noticed that the light cloud cover had become a thick mass of dark, ugly storm clouds. I doubled my pace as a small flash of lightning illuminated the tree tops.

    My throat was getting tight and my chest was burning. Running had never been easy for me, especially not running long distances at fast paces as I was doing now. Still, I pushed myself onward. My legs felt like they would give out at any minute and blood oozed down my wounded arm and dropped onto the trail. A light rain began to fall as my breath became quick and wheezing. A chill swept through the air on a breath of wind and my hair whipped around my face. I pushed some hair behind my ear so I could see. The dusk around me was foreboding, but still I ran. I had to catch him, no matter what.


    I caught my foot on a fallen log in the path and almost fell into the meadow. I regained my balance and glanced over the huge space of land. Kuru was standing in the center of the field, looking up at the churning night sky.

    “Kuru!” I panted as a huge bolt of lightning tore through the clouds.

    He turned towards me, his eyes shut tightly even after the flash had gone. He was shaking.

    I ran up to him and threw my arms around his shoulders; blood fell onto his shirt and arms from my cuts. Kuru pushed me away. The thunder grumbled ominously.

    “What’re you doing?!” I shouted over the storm. The wind had started to pick up, causing our hair to fly around erratically. “Answer me!!”

    “I’m leaving,” he replied in the same monotone from before.

    "But why?!” I shrieked.

    “I have to go Bunny. I can’t stay.”

    “Why not?! We need you!!”

    “I’m hurting everyone.”

    Kuru opened his eyes and I nearly stepped back from shock. His red eyes were filled with anguish, guilt, and something akin to fear. This was the first time I’d seen him register any emotion in weeks.

    “Kuru, you can’t leave…” I murmured.

    “Don’t you get it?!” he suddenly shouted.

    Another loud clap of thunder resounded through the meadow and the rain fell in large cold drops upon us, as though Kuru’s emotions were fueling the storm.

    “Everything bad that’s happened…it’s all my fault!!” he continued.

    “It is not! Why would you even think that?!”

    “Anti’s after me!! Every battle, every injury, it’s all because of me!!”

    “You’re wrong!!” I screamed over another clap thunder. “You’re no more at fault than anyone else in the clan!”

    “Shut up!” Kuru snarled. “You’re trying to make me feel better, but you’re lying, just to make me stay! You know it’s my fault, more than anyone else!!”

    “What’re you talking about?! I’m telling the truth! Why won’t you believe me?!”

    “We all know what happened to Fizz, Eric, and Cam was my fault! You know it, Stephen knows it, everyone knows it! Anti used Fizz to get to me!! Had it not been for me, they’d all still be alive!!”

    I cringed. The deaths of our three good friends had been a hard blow to all of us. Fizzy had been the guardian of Darkness, and sometimes the very Darkness he controlled was able to overpower him. It was at times like these that he would do wild and unpredictable things, such as destroy buildings, attack innocent people, or even go after members of the clan. Anti had taken advantage of that fact and forced Fizzy to attack and mortally wound Cam, Fizzy’s cousin and the guardian of Earth. When none of our efforts could calm Fizzy or stop his rampage, Eric, Fizzy’s brother and the guardian of Light, had sacrificed himself in a last-ditch effort to stop Fizzy once and for all.

    Hot tears welled up in my eyes and fell down my cheeks, mixing with the water falling from the sky. Thunder crashed around us and rain fell in sheets; the lightning tore jagged holes through the clouds. My hair was plastered against my head and my soaked clothes clung to my body, providing no shield against the sting of the freezing rain. I winced as the pain from my arm steadily grew worse and clutched at the bleeding skin. The contact only worsened the pain, however.

    “You’re wrong!” I screamed after a moment.

    “Who’re you kidding?! If I never came into the picture, they would still be here today! Without me all three of them would be here, right now, with you, with Stephen, with everyone!!”

    The thunder roared even louder than before, almost shaking the ground we were standing on. I tried to think of something, anything to say, but I could come up with nothing. Kuru hardly noticed my hesitation; he continued to shout over the storm.

    “Anti used Fizzy just to get to me!! Anti’s not gonna spare any of you just because you’re my friends! In fact, he’ll kill you all just to get what he wants!!”

    “But we won’t let him get to you Kuru!!”

    “Don’t you get it?! I’m trying to save you!!”

    “By leaving without so much as a goodbye?! How is that better for us!?”

    At that moment, there was a huge crash of thunder, the loudest one yet. It resonated around the meadow and made me recoil from the sheer volume of the sound. After it faded away, everything seemed to stand still except for the rain beating down upon us. The world seemed like it was holding its breath as Kuru and I stared each other down.

    “…I’m sorry…” Kuru murmured softly after an agonizing few moments.

    I had no time to react as he grabbed my arm and pulled me close to him. My slight yelp of pain was quickly smothered by Kuru’s lips pressing against mine.

    I inhaled sharply from the unexpected sensation, my cheeks catching fire with a deep blush. More tears fell down my cheeks, and my body shook a bit from the cold and the loss of blood. His lips, warm and soft, pressed against mine in a way that was both gentle and frantic. My eyes fluttered shut and I kissed him back, out of instinct or desire I couldn’t tell. I felt my mind spiral in twelve directions at once, then stagger to a halt. The tense muscles in my body relaxed after a bit and I moved closer to him. Our wet clothes stuck together and our breathing, ragged from shouting, changed to long, drawn out breaths that got shorter with each passing second. An impossible to describe sensation spread from my lips to the ends of each of my limbs, overpowering me with emotions that tossed my thoughts around like a sailboat in a hurricane. The feeling washed away the pain in my aching limbs, dulled the sting of rain against my skin, and warmed my freezing body.

    I couldn’t tell if Kuru shared the same sentiments, but I could feel the slight shudder that slid through his body and the way his breathing changed, like mine. His lips moved to match mine, and his grip on my arm loosened as we kissed.

    Some length of time passed, and Kuru eventually pulled his lips from mine, his gaze trained on my eyes. Looking into the crimson depths of his eyes, I could easily see the pain and regret that filled them. The all-too-familiar ache in my chest that signaled a friend’s sadness returned, and I inadvertently pressed the heel of my hand against my heart.

    “This is goodbye…” Kuru whispered.

    He lifted his hand from my arm and placed it gently on my cheek. I thought for a moment that he might kiss me again, but he sighed and placed his palm on my forehead instead. There was a small flash of light, then my vision began to blur.

    “Kuru…” I mumbled thickly.

    My legs buckled and Kuru caught me by the arms as I fell. He gently laid me down on the ground. I tried to reach up to him, but my arms had ceased to respond to my mind’s commands. Another bright flash of lightning illuminated the sky as my vision went milky and the image of him blurred even further. I managed to catch one last glimpse of his anguished expression before the world around me went black.


    I gasped and shot up in the my bed, panting. My bruised muscles protested loudly from the sudden motion, while the various scrapes and cuts stung and the gash on my arm throbbed painfully. I cringed and shut my eyes tightly, sitting still for a moment to let the pain subside. Then, I glanced out the window at the grayish-black morning sky and sighed.

    The previous night felt like a horrible dream, but the blood caked into my clothes and the aching of my body reminded me otherwise. I fell back on the sheets, then stretched to try to regain feeling in my limbs. Something crinkled in my left hand and I lifted a small piece of paper to my face. My eyes stung with leftover salt, a result of crying for a long time, and I blinked away the bleariness it caused.

    I gently unfolded the crinkled note and smoothed it against my palm, then read the scribbled, crunched handwriting I knew all too well.

    “Goodbye Bun. I love you.”

    I read the note again in shock, then the last three words, over and over as if I expected them to change. Tears filled my eyes yet again, but I continued reading and rereading the note until my tears made the words illegible. Then I clutched the note to my chest, rolled over, and sobbed into my pillow.

    Kuru… where did you go…