I followed Lily down onto the slope before finally stopping at the end of the long-winded sidewalk. Whenever I opened my door to visit the World of the Living, I never know where I might end up. And so, one particular problem to my job is the issue of geography and spatial awareness. Though, my job is only limited to collecting the shattered dreams I came across. To miss a few on the way was only natural. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t understand, or have some kind of understanding towards what the world entailed. And as such, I wasn’t as shocked to see that the sidewalk bled into a festive part of town.
I mean that quite literally.
“What’s going on?” I asked Lily. Apparently, she had gotten tired of skipping now.
“You don’t know, Summer?”
“I’m not from around here. Seems like something big is going on.” All the homes were decorated from porch to roof with lights. Coming from a spring time season, it wasn’t any holiday I was aware of, or at least, very much versed in. The streetlights were sparkling in decoration, wrapped in all sorts of ornaments. There weren’t any booths or refreshments or displays, but, the street was well dressed all together. It was as if they were heralding the arrival of some kind of mythical beast. Hopefully not. The door to my room wasn’t supposed to be sending me to different time lines. No, my job was to collect contemporary shattered dreams.
“It’s the spring-time festival!” Never heard of it.
“The spring-time festival?”
“You really don’t know?” Her eyes were beaming with glee. Perhaps, among other things, like the season of summer, this spring-time festival was her mantra.
“I don’t. Why don’t you tell me about it, Lily.” I smiled, in a show of kindness, but also, because I really was curious. She nodded her head and gave me another beaming smile. Then, she begun fluttering around me, her feet stampeding away in the quiet of the morning of spring, I tried to follow her with my eyes but could only keep up with the glimmering streaks of gold. She stopped short a few feet away from me.
“The spring-time festival is a big festival we hold here every year! This part of town is where we hold the Valley Maiden on a stage and carry her down into the main part of town!”
“My mommy used to tell me all about it! It was… Uh…” Lily scrunched her mouth together and her eyes narrowed in focus. She stopped dead in her tracks to think, and, when the epiphany came, her entire face lit up. She took a deep breath, her face turning red, and then spouted.
“The spring-time festival is when we hold the Valley Maiden for all to see down the town where all the people get together in celebration of the coming years of rain!” Then, she let all the air out of her system, and gave me another beaming smile. She then began walking up towards the streets, her eyes glued to all the empty lights that rung themselves around the town.
“The Valley Maiden,” she continued. I made sure to lag behind her a few steps as her pace was irregular, “is the girl who will bring up great rains this year! That’s what my mommy always said.”
“They’ll bring great rains?”
“I think my mommy said that this town used to be a lot quieter,” I could hardly imagine, “all the homes were gone, and, she said that this place was full of trees,” when she mentioned it, I noticed that the part of town we were in was devoid of much wildlife. There were a few trees planted on the yards of most homes, but, otherwise, it was like any other town of the era. Though, the inclusion of a festival for rain was off-putting.
“We used to live in a valley! But, I don’t know, I can’t really see that…” Her expression gloomed for a moment, and when it did, her steps softened. Eventually, the town we were in began bleeding into a road to elsewhere. That’s where Lily stopped, her feet planted into the ground, and luckily for us, in this wake of morning, not a single soul was out.
“She said,” Lily continued, “that the valley where all life was in one day began drying up. She said that all the life there began moving out, and that the valley, was empty. But, one day, the Valley Maiden came down and down with her, was rain, allowing the life to stay there and prosper.” Lily sounded like she was reciting from a textbook. But, the story she told me wasn’t one that was too farfetched. In fact, it was far too common a tale, from my experiences. But, the question of her flight, of her shattered dream still gnawed at me.
“So every year you guys celebrate the coming of the Valley Maiden that made your town prosper?”
“And it’s a lot of fun!” Lily turned back towards the town, and begun running up the road now. However, this time, she had her arms out, and was running in a swirl, almost as if she was flying.
“Does it match summer?” I said as I began catching up.
“You?” I couldn’t help but laugh, genuinely.
“No, not me. I mean, the season. Does this spring-time festival rank up there with your favorite season?”
“Hmm…” Her running stopped into a walk, but she still had her arms out, gliding along.
“Spring-time festival, and summer?” She asked herself, tilting her head in wonder.
“How about, your favorite things of all time? Where would the spring-time festival be in that list?” She beamed again. Her arms lowered behind her, and she seemed to be avoiding rocks on the sidewalk.
“My favorite things of all time?” She was really giddy about that. I took the time to look around when she was thinking. The town was eerily quiet. It wasn’t that I had arrived at the wake of morning. The break of dawn had long past, and, it shouldn’t have been so quiet, no matter how docile the town was. It was almost as if we were the only two people left in town. Not a single person peered through their windows, and, if I didn’t know better, I would have wanted to run along with Lily and scream to my heart’s content. Would that have been too human?
“I don’t think that would be on my list,” Lily suddenly said, stopping in her tracks.
“No, the spring-time festival wouldn’t be on my list at all!” She then continued, her arms still out, and she, ever so gallantly, gliding along.
“The first thing on my list of favorite things of all time, would be…” She stopped, then, with her still cheery voice, asked, “Can I say things that aren’t here right now?”
“Things that aren’t here right now?”
“Like my mommy or daddy?” Her voice rang true in the air around the quiet of the town. It filled my ears, and it wrapped itself around the ornaments that paraded every inch of every home.
“Your mommy and daddy aren’t here?”
“Uh huh,” she shook her head. The notion of it all, was all so eerie for me.
“But they told you about the spring-time festival, right?” Her arms were zipping around, without a care for the world, nor for what she said. Her shattered dream was that of flight, the dream to fly. When I picked up the airplane replica, her dream had shattered then, finding its way into my jar, and soon, after, to the jar in my room, where the bank of all dreams held them until the time came. But when I did, I saw everything. I saw her, out there, flying on a one seater airplane like an old inventor. And yet, her plane, the dream she had shattered, produced a modern airplane. How peculiar.
“That was before my mommy and daddy went away. Now, it’s just me and my sister in our house.” Her arms began slowly extending down, either from her own exhaustion, or the realization to where I was trying to lead the conversation. Could she have figured that out?
“Where did they go?”
“One day, they took a trip, up there.” She pointed and looked up and her eyes beamed with wonder. The clouds that day were drifting off, and, we had eventually made it back to the slope up to the other side of town. Not a single noise but the sound of us talking and our brisk steps. She stopped at the base of the slope.
“At first, it was only my mommy, but, then, my daddy had to fly away too. He said he needed to see mommy, but, they’ve been gone for so long. I asked my sister about it, but she said that it would be too expensive to go there all at once right now. So, my mommy and daddy is somewhere else, but, my daddy sends me letters all the time! I’m still waiting for a letter from my mommy.”
“Did he ever say where he went? Or where your mom went?” Lily shook her head. Her tone had become somber. Her dream to fly was amazing. She was sifting through all the clouds in the sky, saying hello to all the birds she met, and, she flew into the dusk of day, bleeding into the orange afterglow of the world. That was all her dream really came to, actually. Most dreams that I had encountered were more complete, they had a clear ending, or some kind of ending. But, Lily’s dream just ended where she flew off into the horizon. But, if I had to put an ending, I’d guess she was trying to go to where her mother and father were. After all, she was smiling in her dream. Maybe she had an inkling of the truth. I could only guess at that point.
“How long were they gone?” I asked. I needed to know. The pieces were fitting in my head. Perhaps, I didn’t need her to say anymore after that. I couldn’t handle torturing a girl like that, to have her recall things she didn’t want to. After all, even I could understand how hard that must have been. Except, she was still a child. Was that so wrong of me to think?
“For over a year now.”
“For over a year? Have you ever felt like you wanted to meet them again?”
“Of course!” She beamed again, then started collecting her way up the slope.
“We’d have so much fun! We’d be able to go to the spring-time festival, eat all the candy apples, see all the stars, and…We can all eat together again, with sister, at our big table at our home. It’s really big! Bigger than you, Summer!” She smiled from one end of her face to the other, a wide grin, an incredibly joyous occasion of dreaming. There it was. Forming again, a dream, before my very eyes I saw the glimmer in her, an unreal glimmer, and then, with the blink of my eye, a hairclip, a tiny hairclip appeared on her golden hair. The conception of a dream was strange. But, to the eyes of one who can see them, they always manifested like that, as some part of their body. I wished on that day with all my heart, that I would not in the future come to pick up that hairclip from her. Dreams can be formed at the whim of one’s discretion, but only dreams with which one puts their passion and their own firm belief can manifest into anything, little less than a shattered dream. And so, even if it does become shattered, even if she does lose another dream, at least she had dreamed again. I told myself that.
“But,” Lily suddenly started, “I know that it won’t happen. My sister got a letter from daddy this morning. She said that he would be able to bring us to see mommy. But, that mommy won’t be there. It was really confusing! She said that I can see mommy, but mommy can’t see me, that she can’t speak to me, that she won’t come back home. I don’t really get it. That’s why I was out walking, Summer! You asked me that, right?” I couldn’t help but to laugh. I also noticed myself smiling, uncontrollably.
“Yeah. I did, Lily. Say, can you tell me a little more about the spring-time festival? Like, what other things do you guys do there?”
“You want to know more about the spring-time festival!?” She was beaming again. As always, as she does. Another thing about dreams, well, they can manifest without one’s knowing. And, at the same time, shatter without one’s knowing. I figured, it just so happened, that her childish demeanor, her frightful wish of fancy, just so happened to take on such a large aspect of her, an aspect you could only call a dream.