The date was set to tomorrow, and there was a chill in the air that was unmistakable. Every winter in the valley, mist swirled down into the otherwise unremarkable chasm that was Gretchen's Valley. Mark Latham had arrived there early, before any of the other onlookers, and had pitched his tent at the very front. It was a annual journey for Mark, one that he had performed since he was six years old. Now, aged thirty four and showing signs of age more and more, he understood the importance of it.
The valley was named for Gretchen Sinclair, a singer. Every day she sang in a little club on the edge of town, and every day no one came to listen to her. The club remained as empty as it began, and so it was until closing night. Every night Gretchen sang, and every night nobody came. It was three months before the owner finally decided that enough was enough. He had hoped Gretchen would have become popular, but it was too late. He had too much faith, and it had not paid off. The door was shuttered, and the building did not change. It was a little basement club in Paris, and nobody noticed. The rest of the building's inhabitants continued about their lives, not noticing the shutter open every night at 7, and close at 3 AM. It did not make a difference. Even as Gretchen continued to sing, nobody came. Nobody listened. She was still anonymous, in her now abandoned club in the middle of the night. She died of circumstances unknown. One morning, a policeman passed by to find the shutter open, only to walk in on Gretchen's corpse. She had died singing, it seemed, and that was a tragedy.
Indeed, the media snapped it up like it was a celebrity death. Everyone who was anyone was expressing their remorse at the little girl in the abandoned club, who had died aged seventeen of circumstances unknown. Catchy headlines appeared on newspapers everywhere, statues were built, novels were written and, in a small valley, a flower bloomed on a misty day. Once a year, on a night that could only be predicted by the appearance of mist, a flower bloomed in Gretchen's Valley. Nobody really knows if it is true, but eye witness accounts claim it first bloomed on the day she died. It became a symbol - a flower in a foreign country that stood for Gretchen's unfulfilled dreams.
This is what Mark finally understood. Nobody seriously believed that it was put there by the force of Gretchen's will. People simply wanted security - proof that they could leave a lasting impression on the world.
That explained the smiles he always saw. They had always made him nervous, and now that he knew properly, it was even worse.
But that was irrelevant. People were happy, even if it was at the death of someone else.
That was always all that mattered.
((I'm still rather new to Protagonize, so I will use my branch to 'tag' anyone - whoever feels like it may follow on from here. EDIT: And on a rather nice suggestion, a few more for any takers.))