Writing With A Community

Writing can very much be an act filled with solidarity. I’d reckon that most people think this way and I wouldn’t blame them. Writing is often associated after all, with a person slouched over a keyboard or with a pen in their hands in some dark corner of the world and staving away.  And although that is still true for the most part, writing nowadays, with the advent of social media shouldn’t be such a lonely act. People often go into the creative arts expecting some kind of loneliness, that their works will never see the light of day, or that they live as an entity among others. But, that just isn’t true. It can’t be true, there’s no way writing and the arts is a lonely thing. After all, everyone loves a good story.

That ‘everyone’ may even include a quaint group of individuals who came together on Twitter after a Reddit post. Thus, I and many others came together under the banner of Reddit Writers where we use twitter as a means to connect. It’s our own little community started from the dredges of the writing subreddit. And from there, an even more focused, and smaller branch of us have decided to go back to our roots here and are playing this weird multilayered game of social media. It kind of feels like we’re all misfits, or even a gang, coming together through the wood-works to join up in arms to do the things we love, which, is writing.

It’s a small community sure, but, to us, to the people who’ve never had a chance to connect like this, to the people who’ve only known their own little writing world, this is the largest, best, welcoming, community that’s around. It’s been a slice seeing this thing “blow” up in the way it has and hopefully this only continues to be a snowball of amazing people coming together to join arms in what we do best, storytelling.

At least, that’s what I’ve been up to in between updating Shattered Dreams and making adjustments to my 2017 Archives and making excerpts to each one of my short stories so that it’s easier to pick out the one’s you’d want to read. So, if you haven’t been reading my web-series or if you want to pick up a short story, maybe give those a try.

And for new readers, hello. Thank you for reading. This was just a small little update/ intermission between the writings that I would normally post. So, have a nice day, and, hopefully, I’ll be seeing you later.

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 5: Dream to Move On

3

“Oh. It’s you. I remember you,” Jordy said as she noticed me. I was still standing in the middle of an aisle of pens. The air around us began thawing, a human warmth filled the void that was left by the atmosphere. Jordy was surprised to see me, but even so, she exerted not a single ounce more effort to seem that way nor to speak that way as she held her head in her hands and eyed me.

“You’re–” She paused, seeming to wrack her head around the conception of me as a human, or perhaps, around the conception of me as a being unlike the World of the Living.

“That woman. From before, you had that jar,” and, she was also one of the humans that I had once mingled with in a strange manner. Call it my hobby but, I gave her a taste of the other world in what meager way I could. She knew of what I did, at least, in whatever way she chose to understand what I did. It wasn’t that she necessarily knew about the fact that I wasn’t human and that I was off every day collecting shattered dreams in the manner I did. There was no way that she could have completely grasped who I was or what I did. In fact, it was probably more prudent for her to believe that our exchange was all but a fickle dream in of its own, a simple delusion. The truth of the matter was much more than the lie I hoped she had.

“Right. I’m the one who collects shattered dreams. I’m surprised you remember.”

“Wait, she knows about that?” Lottie said sprouting back up from wherever it was she went.

“I see. So you’re back,” Jordy started, her expression still tired and her voice sounded as if it was a bother even attempting to speak. It wasn’t that she was showing contempt or that she was especially bothered to see me, but, it was more like she couldn’t really afford to care in the end.

“Does that mean you’re here to collect another dream of mine? Like a Grim Reaper, you’ll come to those who’re ready to let their lives go. Is it something like that?” But, in the end, she was more sad and crestfallen than anything. Losing your family has to have that kind of effect, right? I couldn’t tell how long it was since I last saw Jordy. I didn’t know whether a month, a year, or ten years had passed, but, no matter the time, it would have still swallowed Jordy whole. I told myself that.

“I’m afraid what I am is nothing like that,” I answered, though, it wasn’t that there didn’t exist the Grim Reaper.

“I don’t even know if there is another dream to collect here. That is entirely up to you.”

“If she can handle knowing about you, then she must be pretty special,” Lottie said, of course, Jordy couldn’t hear a word she said, nor did I bother answering her yet as I didn’t want to appear too insane in front of her.

“Right, you collect things that are– What did you call them? An amalgamation, was it? The last one you got from me was–” Jordy stopped, and closed her eyes, seeming to lose herself in a place I couldn’t hope to enter. The air around us was sharp. The sun from behind me began to recede, the light that showered me left me in the shade. I didn’t budge from my spot. I didn’t think I could. Jordy then lifted herself, put both of her hands on the counter, and then looked up. Her eyes locked onto mine.

“Why are you here?” She didn’t continue her last thought.

“If you aren’t some kind of reaper here to take me away, then why?” She added. I thought to lie to her, to say something like I was passing by on my duties and so happened to spot her. But somehow, it seemed that she would see right through me, that despite being so inhuman, she would know exactly how the abyss lied.

“I figured something interesting might happen in following you,” I told her. It was, entirely, what I wanted. That was it, I just wanted something interesting to happen. There was no grand revelation for me, it’s who I am,  I’m a being who wanted interesting things to happen. That’s why I have such a hobby. Isn’t that the right answer? Wasn’t that the answer I came to that day? I wanted interesting things to happen to my life filled with so much of the same that when the opportunity arose of the potential to meet a past patron, it filled me with joy. Was it really just an interesting situation for me?

“Something interesting?” She asked.

“And here we go,” Lottie added.

“I see, so that’s how it is to you,” Jordy continued without giving me room to breathe. Her expression didn’t change. She sighed, and then got up from the counter. She walked over to the aisle of notebooks beside mine, and began checking the stock of items in her shop. Her movements were sluggish, and yet, still somehow able to hold a certain eloquence in having owned the shop for as long as she did. As she spoke, it seemed her voice cut into the air between the shelves. I turned my body towards her, watching through the small cracks between shelves as she moved down the aisle.

“I guess you really aren’t human,” Jordy continued, “or, if you are, you’re playing one dangerous game of house.” It didn’t really matter what Jordy thought of me, but, if she were to delve into the World of the Divine earnestly, she could be in danger. Those who stood to trifle with information that were made of a different plane of existence were special indeed.

“But, you probably aren’t a bad person. No, even I can tell that much.” Jordy finished checking her aisle and then moved on to another. Not a single person came through her doors. Perhaps, it was just the time.

“I’m sorry to say, there really isn’t anything interesting about me. I’m not so much an interesting person that I would satisfy whatever crazy notions you had. I’m just Jordy. I just own this little store here, and, I just live day by day like this. That’s all you’re getting.”

“I’m Summer.”

“And I’m Lottie!” Though, Jordy still couldn’t hear her.

“And,” I continued, “I didn’t come here expecting something extravagant,” it was the truth, “I just wanted to talk.”

“You wanted to talk?”

“Right. That’s what I do. I talk, and, sometimes, I collect shattered dreams. But, I don’t know if you even have a dream right now, let alone one to be shattered. Dreams are–” But, I decided to lie a little, “Precious and strong things that we have, right?”

“Depends on what you mean as a dream.”

“Well,” I began to humor the lie, “A dream is a goal to be met, right? It can be something big, or something small. But, it’s something you want to do. You hold onto that goal in your life in hopes of achieving it one day. It’s something you hold strong and dear to your heart.” I couldn’t ever come to really say that about the fickle emotional currency of humans.

“That might be one way to define a dream, but dreams are scary things as well.”

“Scary?”  Suddenly, Jordy stopped and laughed.

“I see. I guess this is what you mean by wanting to talk.”

“I’m beginning to like this Jordy. She deals with you like cards,” Lottie laughed and pranced about.

“Yeah,” Jordy started, “dreams are scary. I tell you, there’s nothing more scary than having a dream.” I’d never come to think of a dream to be scary. Going by my mantra, it was the fickle emotional currency, and, how could currency ever be scary? Was that a human sentiment?

“What’s so scary about them?”

“Absolutely everything. Have you ever had a dream?” I hadn’t. I couldn’t. But, sometimes, in all honesty, I wondered what it was like to dream. I asked Lottie about it once, but, she didn’t take kindly to the fact that I stripped her away from ever being able to have those kinds of feelings. But, she told me anyway. To her, to Lottie, who used to be human, a dream was like a carousel. You’d see where you want to be with bright lights and a glow of hope, but, you’d only be riding in a circle, forever and ever. I asked her how she would ever be able to reach a dream like that. She told me, that you couldn’t.

“I didn’t,” I ended up answering honestly.

“You’ve never had a dream before?”

“That’s right.” I heard Jordy laugh.

“And yet, you seem so adamant on collecting others. It’s a mystery how you’re able to know what is and what isn’t a dream then. ” Jordy came over to the aisle I was still standing in. It was then that I moved out of her way such that she could check the inventory of the shelves I was blocking. I then moved to the counter where I watched her from the front. The streets were still quiet, and, if I focused long enough I could hear the soft ticking of the clock in the room behind me.

“It’s my own interpretation for sure, but, dreams are scary. You wake up every day in hopes of being able to move closer to your dream. Even if that progress is only a small fraction. Even if in that day you’re only 0.001% closer to your dream, it still helps you up in the morning. And you know what?” Jordy turned towards me holding a pen in her hand that seemed to be out of ink. She twirled the pen in her fingers, putting all of her concentration into allowing the pen in her hands to spin freely. But, her fingers bumped, and the pen went flying towards the ground. Her face didn’t flinch at needing to pick the pen back up and to resume her spinning.

“Making that 0.001% become a day where you’re 0.002% closer to your dream is absolutely dreadful,” Jordy continued, “You wonder when it’ll come, but, it’s very hard to make that leap.”

“Leap?”

“Oh yeah. That tiny change in progress, to someone with a dream, is monumental. It’s extraordinary. You live in that moment. You wish to always be in that moment. It’s amazing. I wish I could share that feeling with you in words.” She dropped her pen again. Not a single flinch. She went down, picked it back up and resumed spinning.

“But no matter how amazing that feeling is, no matter how thrilling it is to see yourself be closer to your dream, it eats at you.  It consumes you. It becomes your life.”

“And you can’t escape?”

“Exactly.” The pen fell to the floor, but, instead of picking it up, Jordy kicked the inkless pen towards the counter. I went down to pick it up. It’s body was cold despite only having been on the ground for a few moments.

“Your dream becomes your life. Whatever it is, small, or big, it stops just being something to help you wake up. It is who you are. And, what do you think happens when you realize that your life is lived 0.001% at a time?”

“You’ll feel small, insignificant.”

“Right. And, that’s when the doubt starts to seep. That’s when everything about your dream starts becoming like a pipe dream. That’s when you become impatient. You’ll think that there isn’t a point in doing it anymore as you can never breach that 0.002% and you delve into a state of fear.”

“Not despair?”

“Despair, or fear. Some may say despair, but I say fear. After all, it’s scary to see yourself never being able to move forward no matter how hard you try.”

“It’s still progress though, right? Even if you can only move an inch a day, you’ll still reach a meter given enough time.” Jordy laughed. She came behind the counter, and began rummaging around. I placed the pen down.

“If people could honestly say that to themselves, Summer, everyone would be pursuing their dreams. But the truth of the matter is, there are people who can’t. There are people who know about how hard it is before even trying, and are afraid that they’ll waste their time. And there are people already in pursuit of their dream, see how much they’ve scarified for no gain, and be afraid.”

“Even if that dream was right in front of them?”

“Even if they had a dream right in front of them. It’s still scary. You know what my dream was?” Before I could answer, she chuckled.

“Of course you do. You picked it up last time, right?” I couldn’t help but to smile.

“You wanted a family.”

“Right. If someone heard that, they’d laugh.”

“It’s not something to laugh at. It’s your dream,” in the end, no matter how much I would say that the dream was a human’s fickle emotional currency, I still held those who had them in high regards. It wasn’t that I was obsessed with the idea of collecting shattered dreams. It was just that I had respect to those who produced a dream in the first place. Sometimes, I was even jealous.

“In the end, even while I had my dream right in my hands, I was still afraid. And when it finally happened, the pain of losing that dream wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Isn’t that terrible?”

“There was nothing you could do if it was out of your control.  Even if you may have your dreams in front of you, there are a plethora of things that could happen,” I said this not out of any sort of pity or empathy. No, rather, I was speaking pragmatically. The World of the Living was a flawed place not only in due to the flawed humans but due to the divines who worked against them. I serviced humans only so far. I couldn’t stop another being who existed to disservice them.

“There are things out of your reach as well, Jordy. Isn’t that what they call–”

“Fate?” Though, the Weaver of Fate, Lydia, wasn’t that bad a person. She almost never interfered anyway.

“You’re right Summer. There is fate. And, to add in fate to your dreams, is another thing to be afraid of. There are just too many damn things to be afraid of in this world. And to have your own dream be one of them is really messed up.”

“But, even so, you dreamed, right?” Jordy stopped rummaging. I looked over to see her smile. She then sat back at her seat behind the counter, and placed a notebook beside the register. She flipped the cover over, and on the page, were scribbles and writing.

“I did,” Jordy started, “I did dream. Despite all that. Despite all the things I just said. I dreamed. You know what, Summer? Even if every person in the world was born with that knowledge. We’d still dream. It’s because we’re human that we dream.” Jordy smiled again, she smiled and hung onto the words and scribbles on the page in front of her. Her face, for the first time since I saw her, was gentle. She wasn’t absentminded when she traced the page with her eyes, and, it seemed that she was focused on whatever it was she had in front of her. She was right. Humans dream because they’re human.

Shattered Dream, Chapter 5: Dream to Move On

2

As I was following Jordy up the streets, I began to wonder why I didn’t speak up to her. I had my eyes glued to the crevices between buildings, to the underside of garbage bins and to the sweet spot beneath trees all in hope to find shattered dreams. I managed to stumble upon a few dreams upon my walk, they were all dreams that had been shattered so many years ago and had then found themselves to me. It wasn’t that shattered dreams lingered in the World of the Living for long, it was just that they were much harder to find for other beings. Even they needed a certain concentration to be able to see them, while all it was for me was second nature. With such a distinction, there was bound to be strife, but, I tried my best to stay out of most of that. I didn’t want trouble, nor did I find trouble to be interesting. To me, all of that pride carried with being someone of the World of the Divine was just troublesome. I just wanted to live my life. Of course, I could never do that. I wasn’t allowed to live a life. I wasn’t human after all.

“So why aren’t you talking to her?” That voice didn’t surprise me. Not at all. It came from nowhere in particular, rather, it was a voice that boomed in the area around me. Though, it’s probably more prudent to say that it was directed at me. It was a voice that I became familiar to, and, in some regards, I found it to be a nice voice. It wasn’t particularly mellow, nor was it soft. It was just a voice, somewhat filled with confidence, but, a little tired, almost bored. I guess, that’s what happens when you become my disciple.

“I’d like to know that myself,” I answered. Lottie became my disciple after I had helped her with her shattered dream. I found her one day in an abandoned home, and it appeared that she herself had also had a run in with all kinds of abandonment herself. It was a long day and a long night, and it was probably more than crazy of me to have come up with that plan, but, I eventually settled on my hobby. I wanted a more interesting life, or a more interesting outcome to my life, and so, I convinced Lottie to join me and to strip away her humanity. But, as it were, even I didn’t really know what that entailed.

It wasn’t that I got yelled at or broke any rules. In fact, the people who should have cared didn’t really care either way. I did my duty, most of the time, and they didn’t see me as a threat. But, taking someone in to the other side wasn’t as simple as I thought. As it were, Lottie lingers around me. That’s the simple answer to what happened after that day. It wasn’t that she was a part of my body or merged with me or anything. She just simply exists because I do. Much like the fact that Bird exists because of the myths and legends around her, Lottie now exists due to my existence. That also means that I can call her out and drag her into the World of the Living or into the World of the Divine whenever I want. She can also mask her presence really well. That’s about it for her. But, it at least sounds like she’s not filled with ennui as I continue my days. I think she’s having fun, at least.

“It seems like you know her or something. It’s not like you to be shy.” Though, despite being my disciple, it wasn’t that Lottie changed much either. I could still imagine her putting her hands on her hips and looking down on me. I guess she was still a kid after all.

“I know, but, I don’t know, just watching her like this is… It still counts for something.”

“You sure? All she’s been doing is walking, kind of dangerously actually. She’s not really paying much attention. Don’t tell me you really like her or anything.”

“It’s nothing like that. She’s an old acquaintance by association of shattered dream. Seeing her like this shouldn’t be a surprise to me, but, I guess I’m just glad she looks fine.”

“You’re glad?” I really didn’t know myself. I just found myself unable to talk to her. Even though I was more than ready to talk to her while she was still at the park, I didn’t know why I couldn’t go up and flag her down. I was still collecting my shattered dreams on the way, which was fine, but, the satisfaction of my hobby was still missing. Sure I talked to Bird, and, I was talking with Lottie, but, something strange gnawed at me. I wondered if this was what it felt like to be human, to be so disconnected to what you actually feel.

“You sure your doing all right Summer? It’s not like you to be so wishy-washy.”

“Wishy-washy?”

“You know, like you don’t really know what’s going on.” I wish I knew what was going on as well.

“What was her shattered dream?” I recounted to Lottie what I had learned about Jordy.

“Oh so that’s why you asked Bird that. Makes sense.” Most of the time, Lottie was studying up about the other beings in the World of the Divine, so she knew a fair bit of the beings I knew.

“So what? You have a soft spot for people like that?” I shook my head. I could feel Lottie looking at me with an annoyed expression.

“Look, I’m not complaining. As long as you do your job, then, I can do my job and–” She stopped. I could feel her cheeks puff up as she thought, and then, they puffed out when her face got red.

“Well I don’t really have a job right now,” she continued, “but the point is, if you’re still here, then I’m still here. And if I have to be like this, then it’s better if you’re not so… Sad.”

“I don’t think I’m sad either.”

“Right. You’re not human, right? Can’t feel emotion?” She was incredibly haughty.

“Or so you claim, right?” I could feel her sigh.

“Maybe,” I began to think out loud, “it was because I already talked to her.”

“You mean Jordy? I guess you did at some point. But weren’t you ready to talk to her at the park? Before Bird showed up, it seemed like you were going to make your classic small talk conversation. What happened to that?”

“I don’t know.” I could feel Lottie give me a questioning stare.

“You sure don’t know a lot of things today. Today’s an–”

“Odd day?” The wind came and blew against my face. A car rushed on by, and, Jordy continued to walk. Was that really the extent of my hobby? I didn’t know. I didn’t know if I wanted to know.

“You found out her shattered dream, talked to her about it, and then you went on with your day,” Lottie started, “now, in the future, she’s here, still walking about, and, you’re not sure if you want to follow up. If I was you, I’d still talk to her.” I could feel Lottie prancing about around me. I could see her light brown hair flowing in circles, her childlike expression happy in how free she was moving.

“Isn’t that who you are in the end? A being who talks?” Lottie’s description of me was surprising. I’d never thought of myself like that.  It made me laugh.

“That may be so,” I answered in jest, “maybe that’s why I took to such a taxing hobby.” I could feel Lottie smile. Suddenly, Jordy stopped. I wasn’t paying attention as to where we had been walking, and so I simply let the scenery of the town swallow me whole. Eventually, I noticed that we were standing in front of a cemetery. The fence watched over me like edificial buildings, and, the gate was open for the public. Jordy stepped in, and, I followed closely thereafter. I had an inkling to where she was visiting.

“Her daughter?” Lottie suddenly said.

“Yeah. Probably.”

“Do you think she’s found a new dream?”

“That’s how it usually goes. Dreams are the fickle emotional currency.”

Jordy didn’t search any of the tombstones that she walked by. Instead, she had her head facing forward as she weaved through the rows of tombstones. She didn’t stop for a single stone. Her expression was unchanging, and, once she had finished going through each row, simply turned and walked back. As she did so, she walked by me without giving me a single shred of attention. Her mind was elsewhere, it seemed.

“That was it?” Lottie suddenly started, “Usually you’d expect something more from these kinds of visits. I guess that’s just how things are, right?”

“Yeah.”

“You going to talk to her after all?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I will, maybe I’ll just follow her until the end of the day and go back to my room. What do you think I should do?”

“Beats me. I’m just here for the ride. You can do whatever you want to do, but, again, it’s not cool seeing you like this. That’s all.” I felt Lottie’s presence wane. In the end it really was up to me to figure out why I acted the way I did. Was there something wrong with me? Or, was that day just a strange day altogether for me? I didn’t know what was going on with me, but, I continued to shadow Jordy. The answer to me was so unclear in the moment, that looking back on it now, it should have been incredibly obvious as to why I was doing what I was doing. It still had to do with my hobby, and, it was still something that made sense with who I was. But, that just isn’t how those things work. If I told this story to the Weaver of Fate, she’d laugh at me. In the end, it all came converging to a single point, the single thing that still kept me going no matter how mundane collecting shattered dreams may have been.

Jordy eventually stopped short in front of a store that had its shutters covering the glass windows. The door had a sign saying closed. Jordy rummaged through her pockets, and then produced a key, to which the key then unlocked the door, signing a chime to ring. Just before Jordy could close the door, I ran in after her. Once the door was closed, Jordy flipped a switch to turn on the lights, and pulled open the shutters. Her store was split into sections of shelves, all of which held stationery. It was a small store, but, somehow, I found it quaint. It had a nice atmosphere ringing about the air. The walls were decorated in all kinds of landscapes. Jordy opened another door leading to the back. She came out with her hair tied behind her. She then went over to the door, flipped the sign, and sat behind the counter.

We didn’t exchange a single word, she never noticed me, but, as I stood there by myself in the middle of an aisle of pens, I felt the air around us freeze. It wasn’t like there was some kind of awkwardness or stillness to the situation we were in. No, it was a nice and calming place that Jordy had. She sat at the counter staring out the window absentmindedly as she were, and, I stared at her, thinking about the shattered dream she once had, and, about who she had become. The light from the sun began to filter through the glass of the store, illuminating the dust in the air, and showering me in a brisk array of sunshine. I stood there, and she sat there, and it seemed like the world stood still, waiting for something to happen.

I cleared my throat.

Next part

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 5: Dream to Move On

I collect shattered dreams. It is without a doubt that my duty in the World of the Living is to scour the many discarded dreams that humans produce. I am tasked with nothing more than this simple duty, and I believe that I am given life, or at least, a semblance of life to do so. I was created as not a human, but a being that humans cannot hope to fathom without losing themselves to the truth of where they live. Though, that isn’t to say that I very much delve into that world either. No, it’s more prudent of me to say that I live in my own little congealed world, in my own room. I wake up every morning to open the door to my room that leads to the World of the Living, and I collect shattered dreams. But, often, on odd days, I find myself indulging in not only the fickle emotional currency of dreams, but in people. Color me crazy, but, it’s my hobby.

On one such day, as the morning sun glared onto the streets in waves, I tucked my head down in search of shattered dreams. They initially appear as marbles, as tiny spheres that glimmered in the shine of the sun. But, upon my touch, they turn into objects that befit the dream it holds, and, once touched, a surge of memories flood into me. I am told of the dream that had been shattered, and of the person who had it.

The town I was in that day didn’t come off as one that I recognized. Most places I visited weren’t usually places I’d already been in, but, sometimes, I do find myself surrounded in familiarity. The streets were clean, not a single crack or piece of trash littered the ground. Trees often surrounded the sidewalk, providing occasional shade and the whistling of branches. The homes were in good shape, almost as if they had just been built.

As I continued to walk forward, I noticed that the walkway split to my left. As I got closer, I heard the sounds of laughter and feet running about. A fence opened way to what seemed to be a park in the middle of the town. There were no cars on this lonely morning, but, as I turned to peer into the park, a crowd of children were kicking a ball. I would have made my way elsewhere, continue my search for the shattered dreams that I so sought, but, on that day, in that park, I saw a familiar face.

As I took a step into the park, none of the kids turned to greet me. And, as I walked past them in their game of kick ball, not a single person was dissuaded by my intrusion. That was how it should have been. But, at the back of the park, leading to a street elsewhere, was a small bench with a cover over top. Sitting on that bench, was someone I didn’t expect to find. It wasn’t that it was impossible that I would eventually meet with someone I’d already met, but, I was still surprised. I had found her shattered dream a time ago, and, as it were, I still remembered her, and what she had lost.

I took a seat beside her, and, as it were, she didn’t bat an eye. I wondered if she would have remembered me. I knew not of what kind of effect I really had on people. I simply talked to them and wondered about their shattered dreams and about their reasons for having them. I simply liked talking, but, could that amount to anything? Could my mere words really affect anyone? I wondered that as I looked over at Jordy. She had light cinnamon hair, and hazelnut eyes. She had tanned smooth skin and soft cheeks, and her hands were small with subtle nails.

Jordy’s shattered dream dealt with that of her daughter. She had a simple dream to want to have a family, and, her daughter was a major proponent to that dream. However, when I found her that day and picked up her dream, it seemed that her entire world had crumbled. If her dream was to have a family, and that dream was to be shattered, then there could only be one answer to why that opportunity had been crushed for her. Her dream that day was in the shape of a teddy bear, a child’s toy, and, I gave it back to her. There weren’t any rules that prevented me from giving her objects that were linked to the World of the Divine. It was more than harmless that I gave her a shattered dream. It wasn’t that I felt bad for her or wanted her to move on, it was just that I felt it appropriate at the time. I wanted to see what she would do with that revelation, with that link. Perhaps it was my own cry for an interesting life, for something to happen. Perhaps that’s why my room lead me back to her that day. The teddy bear was of course nowhere in sight.

Just as I was about to open my mouth and call out to Jordy, I felt an ominous presence wash over me. It wasn’t that I had some kind of ability to sense the presence of the people around me. No, I couldn’t do that with humans unless I’d heard there footsteps or felt the weight of the floorboards change. It was just that those of the World of the Divine always made themselves known with the strangest bravado. It was probably some kind of twisted sense of pride or negligence from the fact that humans wouldn’t normally see them. It wasn’t entirely far from the truth. Humans, given enough concentration, and enough information, would see any ghastly being they wanted. The question then, being, would Jordy have enough concentration to see me and my visitor?

“I haven’t caught wind of you lately,” the lady dressed all in white said to me as she took a seat to my right. It wasn’t that I was overtly familiar or even somewhat familiar to what happened in the World of the Divine, but, I did meet with the occasional patron from that world so distant from humans. The lady who had just greeted me, much like many of the beings of that plane, went by many names, but, I called her Bird. She always appeared with her white gown that covered her entire body neck down, and her black hair was as straight as the words that left her mouth. She never slurred or paused but spoke in a single line as if she had recited her words to me years in advance. It always made me feel like she was guiding me, or that she was trying to give me concise advice. She didn’t want her voice to be drowned, I thought.

“It’s nice to see you too, Bird.” It was at times like these, where I met with those of another plane that I really began to wonder how different and how inane my existence really was from humans. I wasn’t human after all, I could only hope for a semblance of normal.

“How long has it been since I last saw you, Summer?”

“Too long to remember. I hope you’ve been doing well.” It wasn’t that I was particularly fond of any sort of being, human or not. It was just that I didn’t find problems with them either. From all of the presumptions that Bird would get due to her history, she was surprisingly a gentle being, and, a gentle mother.

“I have. It’s strange to see you out here just sitting around. Shouldn’t you be collecting shattered dreams?” I couldn’t dispute that fact.

“Just taking a break,” I lied, though I knew Bird saw right through me.

“Be careful not to take too long. There are people out here that will abuse that chance.”

“I know,” though, it wasn’t something I wanted to think or talk about. I wondered why Bird decided to peg me down.

“It must be wonderful having a place all to your own,” Bird’s voice was wistful as she said that.

“Can’t the same be said to you?” She laughed. Her laugh filled the park, but, Jordy didn’t budge. It was strange seeing her so absentminded. Her eyes wandered into the clouds. If any being was nearby, they would have heard Bird’s laugh. Though, not many would find joy in joining us. That’s just how it was.

“You know this isn’t really where I belong. Our histories and who we actually are, are quite twisted. You can’t believe everything you hear Summer,” she giggled lightly to herself. It seemed she was having fun, I was glad. It wasn’t very often that I saw Bird having fun. Her creation was much too sad for that. At least, to me.

“You call me by Bird, right? I don’t have a home to go back to. Instead, I build my nests where the wind guides me.”

“But it’s still a place where you can go back to. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“It lasts for too little for me to really be attached, and, I travel for too long for me to really know where I belong.” She smiled at me. It was a wonderful smile despite the longing in her voice.

“Seeing you be so free, Summer, makes me jealous. It makes me want to grab hold of that feeling from you. But, I will do nothing to harm you. We are friends, after all, right?” This time, I smiled.

“Right.”

“And,” I continued, “besides. You’re not the type to fight others anyway. That just isn’t the kind of being you are.” She shrugged.

“Oh, but I am quite the dangerous mother when I want to be. Do you wish to give it try?” I was tempted, but, Jordy was still left somewhere in the clouds. I unfortunately had other matters to attend to.

“No. Thanks. Maybe another time, Bird. I’m sure you have your own duties as well.”

“That I do. That’s the fate we get for being such horrendous beings, right?” I never did like that about Bird. She always called us horrendous.

“Oh,” before she left, as I felt her presence wane, a sudden thought happened upon me. I wanted to ask, “Bird, does you being here have anything to do with her?” I pointed to my left where Jordy still sat unaware. Bird seemed surprised, her eyes were wide, but then, she shook.

“No. Her little one had been buried long ago. That’s none of my business.”

“So there’s another one in town?”

“Yes. This place seems to be seeped with dread. I will have to attend to the one I actually seek soon. That’s just how it goes.”

“I see.”

“Happy searching to you, Summer. May you find the shattered dreams you so desire.” With that, she left in the blink of an eye. Bird, in the end, was still a helpful being, a being who serviced humans, no matter how twisted those humans may be. That was just the fate we belonged to. Just as I was about to turn towards Jordy, it seemed that she had gotten up and began walking up the street. I got up and began to follow suit.

Next Part

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 4: Dream to Paint

3

To the humans who live in the World of the Living, it may seem imprudent to simply cast off their wiles of wanting something more than what they have as arrogance. Most if not every person in the world desires something much more than what they can see. At least, that’s how I’ve come to understand the World of the Living. With working so deeply into the territory of the fragile currency of emotion known as dreams, that is one truth that I will solely stand by. Though, it isn’t that I could care any less if someone wasn’t to believe if I said so.  It wasn’t that I could feel anything vain. After all, I wasn’t human. And so, I could hardly relate to what humans want. Be it art, or not, I could hardly understand what it all meant. Though, things such as art weren’t just pieces of a collection to me either. I could respect those who put so much of them in something that could mean so little in a world so crowded and in a place so broken as the World of the Living.

Clara had brought me to a strange part of town. Was it wrong of me to assume that this part of town was strange? I didn’t know, but, as we began walking through artificial trees and disproportioned statues, that thought only grew stronger. The airs of the city that paraded us grew to be strange as well, and, no matter how far we seemed to walk, all sorts of strange concoctions of what I could only seem to distinguish as art surrounded us.  In the distance, I saw a cat meowing to the moon while a dog sat playing with a reed. Somewhere else, a tree of broken light bulbs existed, with the inside filament turned to human guts. Somewhere else, a fountain that sprouted sewage water gave way to a monstrous crowd, and even elsewhere, a bunny hopped over the sun.

If not for the strangeness in scenery, it was that so many others also crowded around this area. I asked Clara, “What is this place?” To which she replied, “A garden of madness.” To which I thought, what a maddening place to be.

“Is this where you usually go?” I asked. Clara had left her equipment at her apartment not too far from this strange park. Her hair was still tied behind her, and her complexion was still that of a person who hadn’t seen a day in a month. Her voice still trilled about despondently. She was still a tundra in the middle of summer, but occasionally, I knew, that she was much more than the lonely Clara I saw before me. I had an inkling. Her dream was just to paint. Nothing more, nothing less. But maybe it wasn’t right of me to just assume I knew the people I serviced. I could hardly do that, and yet, I always did that.

“Most of the time, yeah,” she answered, “it’s a quiet place, and, it’s strange, isn’t it? I like that kind of strangeness. It’s what keeps me going most of the time.”

“Strangeness keeps you going?”

“Yeah. Don’t you find it that an ordinary life can be quite droll?” I could respect and understand that sentiment. In fact, I resonated with it.

“But,” but, an interesting life and a boring life doesn’t have to constitute to a strange life and an ordinary life. It doesn’t have to mean that at all, “there are still merits to an ordinary and interesting life, if you give it the time of day.”

“An ordinary but interesting life?”

“Right. Things don’t have to be strange. You don’t have to live in such a twisted space to be interesting,” no, not at all. But, I didn’t know whether I could make that kind of judgment call. Wasn’t the life that I led the most interesting and strange of them all? And for that matter, could I really call what I had, a life?

“If I could live like that, I think I’d really be happy,” Clara said as her breath swirled in the strangeness around us. Eventually, we found a bench overlooking a charred Christmas tree. Clara didn’t sit, but instead went up to the tree and brushed her hands over its branches.

“If I could think that even if my life was ordinary, that even if I didn’t need to be so different to be happy, I’d take that life anytime.”

“Why don’t you?” She smiled and chuckled.

“Probably because I’ve gone way too far off the rail to be able to return to a life like that.”

“Because it helps you paint?”

“Yeah. The stranger I am, the more I can paint, but, I don’t know if that’s what people want.”

“And what do people want?” She stopped in her tracks, her hands smoothing out a rotting leaf, and then, she turned.

“I hardly know anymore,” she answered as the wind blew into the air between us.

“To be fair, you hardly seem like you belong here.” There was a human aphorism that appearances weren’t everything, that no one person could truly find the value of another just by looking at them. I didn’t know whether I could believe in such a sentiment. Though I knew it worked for me almost all the time. There was proof in my hobby.

Clara laughed.

“Yeah. I get that a lot. I look like just about any other person on the street, right?” And when she smiled, it was a beautiful smile, a smile filled with the passion Clara possessed in her painting.

“Maybe that’s what I’ll become in the end. Just another person on the street. Just someone who no one would really pay much attention to. An ordinary life? Maybe that won’t be so bad after all.” Her dream, after all, was shattered.

“You’re really giving up?”

“That’s right. I’m giving up. Starting today, I’ll just be plain old Clara. I’ll find myself something new to sleep on every night. Don’t worry about me.”

“You won’t paint? Not even for yourself?” Clara laughed.

“I’d like to say that, and I’d like to say I’m really going to quit. I’d like to say that I’ll never see a brush or a stroke again. I’d like to say it in words and really mean it in action. But If you give me a few days, I’d be all on it again.”

“But you’d still be stuck in a slump?” That’s what they called it, right? An inability to create is a slump.

“A slump? That’s a cute way of putting it. I don’t think I’m in a slump at all.”

“Oh really?”

“No. A slump for me is having a dearth of ideas. It means that I can’t paint despite wanting to paint. But right now, I can’t paint and I don’t want to paint.”

“Even if you’ll go back to it eventually?”

“You really do sound like her.”

“Like who?” Eventually, like our words, we found ourselves at the end of the strange park. The city was all that existed beyond the park, a regular city filled with regular people and irregular and shattered dreams. That’s how I’d always think of cities. A den of swirling self anathema.

“An old friend of mine. She used to always harp on about–Me. She always told me things like that, you know. Always throwing it back on me, always trying to make me see how silly I was being.” To have her dream be shattered was anything but inane.

“I don’t know,” Clara started, “I don’t know what I want, and I don’t know what to  do. I don’t want to paint for people, for others to buy and to please a market. I don’t want to win awards only to have it be a false representation of who I am. I just want to paint the things I want to paint.”

“You don’t care if other people see?”

“To be honest? I really don’t.” We didn’t walk towards the city that bred modernity. Rather, it was more accurate to say that Clara didn’t. She stood at the precipice of the regular and the irregular, trying not to fall from the poorly laced rope.

“Isn’t that what artists usually want?” I asked. Though, it wasn’t that strange to see. After all, Clara’s dream was all by herself. It was her with a slew of her own paintings, with not another set of eyes needing to see what she had made. It was Clara and Clara herself.

“That’s a naive way to put it, Summer. It’s not that we seek attention. Not at all. If I had to say, most artists do it for themselves.”

“For themselves?”

“Yeah. Unless you were somehow born with the gift to sing, draw, write, dance, to do all of those things, to be an artist. If you were born like that, then maybe it doesn’t have any self redeeming qualities. If such a person were to exist, they wouldn’t be a savant, but a miscreant.”

“A miscreant?”

“At least, that’s just my own take on it,” she laughed and shrugged meekly. Her hair threatened her eyes, but, she wasn’t bothered the slightest by that notion.

“Maybe I don’t have the right to say anything,” she continued, “but, if such a person were to ever exist, I’d think I’d hate them.”

“Even if what they made was good art?”

“Most of the time, it’d be the most inane art. The most outlandish of all things to ever become a piece of creation. And, sometimes, it would be passable as something to swallow.” I wasn’t very well versed in the world that Clara was speaking of. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of world she described where innate ability was something to scoff at. If that was the case, my duty would have to be set to null. Though, with my hobby, I guessed it already was. At least the day didn’t grow too young. If it did, I would have to meet with Guest, or maybe, my room would have another trick in store for me.

“But,” Clara continued, “none of that really does matter anyway. Whether someone has the talent to or not. In the world we live in, all that matters is approval. If people like your work, then you’ll make it. If not, then you’ll never make it. You learn to write for others from an early age. That’s what school is all about.” I understood the concept of school. It was a place where others took instruction from those that already have the prerequisite knowledge. It was a place where most people went for a good portion of the first quarter of their lives. And, sometimes, they went for even more. What I didn’t understand, was the need for so much schooling, and the want from so many to go back to a place that ate away at the time someone had to be human.

“By going against that,” I started, “you become someone unique, a strange person?” Clara smiled. She was still tethering between the strange park behind us, and the city in front of her.

“You paint for yourself, so you can set your own values to your work. You don’t need to follow anyone, you don’t need approval. No one sees your works but you, and thus no one can say that your work isn’t of quality. If you yourself is the only person you paint for, and you always say that your work is of quality, then you’d have made it as an artist?” Clara seemed to want to laugh at my explanation of her psyche. Did I get it wrong?

“Are you some kind of psychologist?” Clara asked.

“Not at all. I’m just Summer. Much like you’re just Clara.”

“I see. Well, maybe I do paint for all the reasons you just said. But, maybe not. In the end, I’m not that much of a complicated person–” she laughed to herself, “when I say I paint for myself, it’s probably something more simple than that. Yeah, it’s that alright.” She sighed.

“If I had to, I’ll always come back to this answer. Boil everything down, and it’s the same. I paint because I like to paint. I paint for myself because I like to paint. I do. Not anyone else. Not the people I sell my paintings to. No. It’s me. It’s a selfish wish in the end. I paint because I like to paint. Nothing more–”

“Nothing less.” She smiled.

“You’re content with not showing that to anyone else? You’re fine with being a painter for yourself?” I asked.

“I guess I am.”  She realized it then.

“In that case,” I continued, “if you like to paint for yourself. Why don’t you? There’s no reason to stop, right?”

“I guess not. ”

“It doesn’t matter if no one sees it? It doesn’t matter that you paint for yourself?”

“I guess not. This doesn’t have to be my job. It would be great if it was, but I paint for myself. I just said it, didn’t I? I wonder when I’d forgotten.”

“You wanted to quit painting?”

“I guess not.” It wasn’t that a dream had formed. It wasn’t that she had suddenly gained a new dream, just that, she was looking a little better than when her dream had shattered not too long ago. She had come to terms with herself. That was the peak of my hobby. But, her shattered dream, her want to paint, her dream to paint, would still remain with me, for as long as it were. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the same desire to paint before, but, it was just that she didn’t categorize it as a dream anymore. Clara stepped over towards the city, where the air grew clean, and the noise was normal. There were tears in her eyes, and, then, she cried. For as long as she did, she cried, and, I watched over her as she did.  I watched over Clara until she could cry no more.

“I never did ask, did I? How did you find me in the studio?” I laughed. Her voice, Clara’s voice after she had cried had simmered down. Her expression was much more lively than anything I had seen before. Sure enough, it had barely been a day, but, for those that have had their dreams shattered, time didn’t matter. In fact, might I be so brazen to say that time is arbitrary to the fickle currency known as dreams. Or perhaps, my perception of time lessened the more I grew to be less human. It wasn’t that I was jealous of the passing of time, just that I could hardly understand it.

“Clearly, you don’t work there. I can see that now,” Clara added.

“Would it satisfy you if I said I just walked in?” She chuckled and smiled.

“It wouldn’t. It wouldn’t at all.”

“But,” she added, “I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’m glad you found me anyway.”

“Right.” I wonder what became of her. I wonder if Clara is still painting. It wasn’t that I particularly found interest in her more than the other humans I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. No, it wasn’t that at all. It was just… A passing curiosity, for myself. That’s right, this hobby of mine, is purely for myself. Not a person, human or divine, can stop me from partaking in something as harmless as conversation.

Next Chapter

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 4: Dream to Paint

2

It had become second nature to me that I indulged in my hobby known as conversation. Was there anything really wrong with my wanting to understand the very people I service by collecting their shattered dreams? There was nothing better than getting to know the very people who dreamt up the beings found in the World of the Divine. There was nothing better than coming to love those people as well. It wasn’t that I wanted to brag, but, I knew very well that what I was doing was extremely heinous. Though, how many cared, that was another question. Even that much, I couldn’t come to understand or know. Rather, I lived, or, imitated the act of living without much regards to that portion of my conception.

“Why do you paint?” I asked to start. Clara shifted in her seat. The floor of the building we sat on surely wasn’t comfortable, but it wasn’t that I could be bothered by it. If we sat in complete silence, the vents circulating the room would roar in thunderous booms, and, we would be filled with that in the air. Instead, we talked, as I always did, as they always did.

“Why I paint?” She repeated. She leaned back, her body pressed against the back of the room, and she spoke looking up at the light fixture.

“That’s a nice question. Why I paint, huh? Can I ask you something as well?”

“Go ahead.” She leaned forward, and turned towards me. Her voice remained the same, the same chime of summer that rung for no one. She then untied the hood covering her hair. Her dark hair was bundled in a ponytail behind her. My suit was beginning to feel out of place. Though, It wasn’t like I had a choice in the matter.

“Why do you do the things you do?” She asked.

“The things I do?”

“Right. Like, your own job, or, waking up. Why do you do those things?” It was my duty, but, just saying that wouldn’t have sufficed any kind of answer. I knew that much.

“If not for a sense of obligation, then, because I enjoy the things I do.” It was the truth, for most of the matter. If anything, I longed for every day to be interesting. And I very much was inclined to the interesting.

“You enjoy the things you do?”

“For the most part. I do things within interest to my own enjoyment and curiosity. If I didn’t like what I was doing, I wouldn’t be doing them,” that only extended to my hobby. I had to collect shattered dreams. I was made to do that, that was my unequivocal fate. There was no levity in that.

“I see. That’s a common answer,” was it?

“It’s also a good answer,” she chuckled. She leaned back onto the wall of the room.

“People should answer like that, all the time,” she continued, “if not, then this world would turn out to be a sad place, don’t you think?”

“Is that also your answer?”

“Do I paint because I enjoy to paint? Yes. I very much like painting, it’s been my passion for quite some time. I’ve always loved art, and, I’ve always wanted to pursue this.”

“So it is?” I asked only because I sensed a hedge of hesitation within her.

“However,” however, “I don’t enjoy painting for galleries.”

“For galleries?” I understood the concept, but not the problem.

“There’s a difference between painting for yourself, and painting for others.” Her voice didn’t waver, but, somehow, somewhere, within her, there was a seething anathema that she held in. It was as if she held the key to the floodgates.

“For example,” she started, her voice beginning to ring throughout the room now, “if I wanted to paint a tree, I would. No one would stop me or think twice about the tree I painted. It was my own business, and my own time.”

“Right.”

“But, if I wanted to paint a tree for a man who would pay me money, I would have to be stopped, and I would have to think twice. It wasn’t my business, or my time. Selling a tree to myself, I could draw anything. I could draw a boat and call it a tree and I’d be happy. But to someone else, I’d be insane. What kind of boat was a tree?” I slowly began to understand her pleas, though, the idealism and subjectivity was lost to me. A job was a job, I didn’t skirt on collecting shattered dreams even if I cursed my fate. I did so due to my fate. But, I wasn’t chained to my fate entirely. I still indulged. Couldn’t anyone do that?

“So, if I wanted to paint for others, to sell my works, I’d have to play the market. I’d have to paint what others want to see, even if that wasn’t what I wanted to do, even if they disagreed to what I had in mind. It didn’t matter, what mattered, was that I was selling them work. You see what I mean?”

“I’m beginning to understand. You enjoy painting, at its essence, the act of it, the freedom of it, right?” That was art, that was what I came to believe in art, the freedom of it.

“But,” I continued, “that freedom is lost once it becomes a job. You have to sell what sells, and what sells may not be the things you want to paint.”

“That’s right,” she answered, “if I want to make it big and paint, I’d have to sell at galleries, and auctions, and every place where you can smell bread and wine. That’s where the money is. The big wigs. They can sit on their edificial towers all they want, but, they don’t have an eye for art.”

“There are no other ways to go about it?”

“There are, sure. I could make my own store, sell my own pieces, and go independent. But do you know how many people have tried that?”

“Quite a bit?”

“That’s right. Quite a bit,” her voice was a lone summer, “some make it, sure. Those that follow the flow of the people, the flow of culture.”

“The flow of culture?”

“That’s right. Popular media, things you’d see everyone gouging their eyes for. Surely you’ve seen it, right?” I didn’t, I hadn’t the slightest clue. But I answered ‘yes’ to save face. It wasn’t that I was purely uninterested in the cultural aspect of the World of the Living, just that I couldn’t possibly keep up.

“I’m not the kind of person that can follow that flow. No, I just can’t. You know, there are people that chase the things they want, and it just so happens to be the things others want. Some people may call those that do that, talented, or lucky. What do you think I call them?”

“Lucky?”

“Lucky. They’re extremely lucky. Luck has nothing to do with art, but, it’s everything to do with surviving in art. Do you know why?” Maybe I did, and so I answered.

“Creating starts from within, from my understanding. You take your own ideas, and you meld them–” it was almost like creating a dream, and so, I could understand the sentiment, “Together. Your ideas, once melded, start forming a basis for a whole, and your job is to oversee that whole, to make it full and meaningful.” Once I was done with my explanation, Clara seemed to be in awe. She then laughed, her voice although an empty summer, was brightened by her laugh. At least she could.

“That’s a good answer. That really is. You’re right, that’s exactly it. That’s my job, isn’t it?” She was uncertain.

“That’s what I do, every day, right?” She was questioning not me, but herself.

“I paint to make something come together. I put colors and lines and strokes and hues, I put that all together to mold this idea in my head, right?”

“But you can’t?”

“But I don’t want to.”

“You don’t want to paint?”

“That’s right. Perhaps, I don’t want to paint anymore. That’s why I can’t.” I felt like sighing. She laughed to herself.

“That’s right,” she repeated, “maybe that’s it all along. Maybe I just don’t have it anymore.” That’s why her dream was shattered. Her dream to paint, it was a dream of her with a canvas flowing with the wind on a balcony. I presumed, it was hers. She had her tools in her hands, and she was smiling. She painted with ease, and, all around her, were filled canvas’ of all her ideas. Her dream, was just, simply, to paint, and yet, it was a dream she couldn’t accomplish despite her painting. There was something I didn’t know. Of course, it was always like that.

“How long have you been painting?”

“Since I’ve always wanted to do this, I’ve been painting as much as I can. Since high school, I’d say.” Was it imprudent of me to ask her age? I swallowed my pride.

“And, how old are you now?” She laughed when I asked.

“Old enough to be worrying about this.” Damn, I hated cryptic answers.

“Did you like to paint in the beginning?”

“Of course I did, it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. It was the only thing I could do.” Her voice was a lonely summer breeze that never got better. It stung onto you, and didn’t give room to bite back.

“And, you got good enough to turn that into a job?” Into a duty.

“That’s right. Eventually, I found a manager, and, I started selling. At first, it was great, but then, I started doubting myself.” Before she spoke, she suddenly stopped. Her eyes lit up again, she realized something, she was having a battle within herself. She then suddenly laughed.

“It’s funny. I’m talking to you like this, about my problems, about my issues. It feels so easy. Why is that Summer?” I couldn’t answer her, but instead, said, “maybe it’s because you still have it in you.”

“I still have it?”

“If you didn’t want to paint, you’d stop altogether, right? Have these thoughts always been with you?” She laughed again. Clara loved to laugh. It was a dying shame that she seemed so filled with maudlin. Her voice was beautiful when she laughed. Then, when she was done, it became a lonely summer. That’s right, when she laughed, it was a cold summer, a warm cold summer. It made me want to wrap myself up and be surrounded by that warmth. It was warmer and colder than my own room.

“You sound like an old friend I know.”

“An old friend?”

“And, you’re easy to talk to. But, we’re going to be kicked out of here soon enough. Mind if we change venue?”

“Sure.” We got up, and, with her equipment in hand, began to the hallway that I had arrived in. It had apparently linked to an outside parking lot. Before I knew it, I wanted to know more about Clara. She had interested me.

Next Part

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 4: Dream to Paint

It wasn’t that I was inclined to indulge in the things that consisted of culture in the world of the living. It wasn’t that at all. My room lay barren for a reason, only walls of white, a bed, and a desk to hold my two jars decorated what consisted of my room. But one day, unequivocally as it were the moral of many of my stories, my hobby took the better of me, and I found myself interested. Was that so wrong of me?

When I had opened the door to my room and left into the world of the living, it took me a few moments to adjust to the new environment, but when I did, the first thing I noticed was the distinct smell of paint. It was an intoxicating smell, that of which, if lingered, would have singed my senses. It seemed that I wandered into the back hallways of a building. There was only the door behind me that had ‘exit’ attached to the top of the frame in large red letters, and an illuminated doorway at the end of the hallway. When I took my first step, my feet rung in the air, reverberating against the material of the building. I stopped, wondered if anyone would have heard my coming, but then shook my head. If anyone would be inclined to notice my presence, it would have been a daft interest.

I began making my way to the doorway, which, was also the source of the paint. The room that housed the doorway was bright white, but, not in the way that my room had been constructed as white. Layers of white backdrops filled the floor. The room itself was particularly large for only having a single occupant. The layers of white paper only extended to a certain point, bleeding itself to the natural grey of the building. A single light hanging above the painter in the middle of the room gave way to a soft glow as I entered the room. I didn’t bother to try and speak to the woman who had her brush and palette situated towards the canvas in front of her. I didn’t see a reason yet to speak to her, but, the closer I got, I noticed that her canvas hadn’t been touched, and yet, her brush was spilling red onto the white backdrop beneath her. Her hair was tied up and hidden behind a white hood, and her brown apron was devoid of color.

There was another closed door at the other end of the room. That seemed to be another way out. It wasn’t that I only wanted to collect shattered dreams from the streets of the World of the Living. There was merit in finding dreams in places devoid of people. Those dreams found within the confines of buildings and stores were usually the most interesting and wondrous of dreams. At least, to my knowledge, they were. It wasn’t that I had some kind of phenomena to explain why I usually found that to be the case. But, if I had to, I would say those kinds of confined spaces are where people go to think. And when people think, in hard times, they may think  that their dreams would never come true. If so, those thoughts would manifest a shattered dream.

As I walked past the woman staring at the canvas in front of her, and began making my way to the door leading somewhere else in the building, I heard a sniffle. The room was as quiet as the hallway, and reverberated just as much. It wasn’t that I was hoping that she would produce a shattered dream that I turned upon hearing her cry. No, that wasn’t the only reason. That may have been one of the reasons, but, it wasn’t just that. I found the idea of a painter crying to herself in a studio room while having not painted a single stroke to be interesting. That is to say, I wanted to see why she was the way she was. Was that so wrong of me?

It had only been a sniffle, and she wasn’t crying hard, but, it seemed that she was trying her best to hold in tears. With the hem of the shirt she wore, she began wiping her face. She then moved her arm forward, her hand visibly shaking, but, before it could get onto the canvas, she stopped. She retracted her arm, shook her head and took in a breath. Previously, her body had seemed to be frozen in place as she faced the canvas, but then, her legs began in a pendulum. She was kicking back and forth. Her fingers were tapping onto the palette in her right and she was tapping the brush in her left. Her breathing became more irritated.

Then, as if her entire world had been shifted, she stopped. Every muscle in her body seemed to rupture at once, and, she stared at that canvas as if it was a being in another world. In a blink, I saw a frame drop from her body. It was a frame the size of her hands, and it slapped onto the floor beneath her. She didn’t twitch or pay heed to the sudden noise, and, so, I knew it was a shattered dream. I came up to her. Her hair was a bundle of darkness, and her skin was pale. She sat tall and stern, and yet, the slightest touch would have broken her. I knelt to pick up her shattered dream.

Clara’s dream was a dream that I had experienced many times. It wasn’t that it was such a common dream that I was getting sick of the idea of it, but, it was just that it was perhaps one of the hardest dreams for most people to have. I didn’t know whether it was that many people sought after the same things that Clara did, or that due to many people, the repetition of dreams were more common. And yet, despite the repetition of this dream, it was still something that I could only hold Clara’s name to. It was, without a glimmer of doubt, Clara’s shattered dream. No one else in the world, no one else among the many other dreams like this dream could hold a candle to her feelings. Clara just wanted to paint.

But, before I could speak, Clara had noticed me. Her mind had drifted so far from reality that she found focus in where I was. She didn’t seem surprised that I was standing beside her, watching her blank canvas. She didn’t seem embarrassed, or angry, or really made an effort to seem anything but nonchalant.  There weren’t any mirrors and so I couldn’t tell what kind of clothes my room gave me when I had stepped out into the world. It was usually something fitting the places I would visit, and so I wondered if her nonchalance was directed towards that.

“I’m sorry,” she started, “I know I’m using this space and you guys have work to do. I’ll just clean up and you guys can do your thing.” I wondered what kind of job I looked like I held in this building. When I looked down to check, I saw that I was wearing a suit. I wondered how my hair was made.

“Must have been a waste,” she continued. Her face remained stoic as she spoke. Her voice was a dip of melancholy alongside a phlegmatic base, “getting someone like me on board, someone who can’t even produce anything.” I wasn’t very much accustomed to all the possible  occupations found in the World of the Living, but if I had to guess, I was some kind of art appraiser. If I had to fabricate a story to play along, I would be someone who hired Clara to the studio to paint, and thus, that painting would be put on auction.

“You’re not going to paint?” I asked. In the end, I couldn’t really find a lie to match my character description. I still didn’t really grasp where I was, and so, I asked tactlessly.

“I don’t recognize you,” she answered. She gave me a thorough investigation before shrugging, “Guess it doesn’t matter. You came here to kick me out anyway, right?”

“Did I give off that impression?” She didn’t respond, nor make a face. I couldn’t help but to smile to myself.

“I’m just here to watch,” at that point I knew it didn’t matter what kind of lie I made.

“Well, there’s nothing more to watch than this,” she chuckled to herself.

“I can’t do anything,” she said under her breath.

“Why do you say that?” I asked. She shifted in her seat. Her arms remained in the air. I wondered if she even noticed that her arms were raised.

“You wouldn’t understand,” she said as she lowered her arms. She got up from the seat, placed her brush and palette down, and begun unhinging the canvas. It wasn’t that I particularly wanted to pry into the lives of humans, that I would want them to tell me their stories without them wanting to, but, I was interested nonetheless. I had no right to know the things I did about the people I met, but I had a searing flame within me as my hobby became passion. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, if anything.

“Try me,” I said as she got her canvas off of the stand. She looked at me with a blank stare. It was as if she wanted nothing to do with anything in the world anymore. The more I saw that despondent look on her face, the more adorable I found her to be.

“Why don’t we talk?” I added. She picked up her brush, set it atop her palette with her left hand, and grabbed onto her canvas with her right. Despite how I saw her, she managed quite well with both loads.

“Is there really any point to that now?” She said under her breath, but, as she began to walk, I saw something within her eyes change. Her eyes that were so empty before, suddenly flickered a strange semblance of life.

“I guess, the real question is,” she started, “do I really have a choice?” I chuckled.

“If you don’t want to, I’ll leave.” Something within her changed. It was always like that. It wasn’t that I had some kind of strange power to make people want to talk to me. No, rather, it was more strange that people did end up talking to me out of their own volition. Though, I guess that was how it was with beings of my kind.

“You’re not from here, right?” She asked.

“If you mean I’m not someone that belongs here, then you’re right,” it wasn’t that much of a lie.

“I see. Then, that means you don’t know who I am.”

“Not at all.”

“I’m Clara.”

“I’m Summer.”

“I don’t know why you’re here, or how you got here, but, if all you want to do is talk, then, I could lend myself to that.”

“I thought you said there was no point in talking.”

“There is no point in talking, but,” she looked at the watch on her wrist, “if you aren’t here to kick me out, then I still have this studio all to myself. I’ve already given up, but just leaving this space after they’ve given it to me just seems a little wasteful.” She put down her canvas and tools, and walked to the end of the room, where the white backdrop on the floor began to bleed into the grey of the building.

“And besides,” she continued, “having someone to talk to is a lot better than leaving me to myself. If that ever happened, I’d probably kill myself.”

“Glad I can help.” I walked over and sat beside her, the cold of the floor permeated my body, though, I wasn’t bothered by it.

“Where should I start?” She said as she sighed. Her voice, somehow, as it lay on the back of that room, sounded nice. It was like the distant chime of summer, though, it was still paraded by a close malaise.

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