I collect shattered dreams. I woke up in my room suddenly and without a single tear of drowsiness or stiffness pervading my body. I got up, opened the door to the bathroom, and turned on the facet. The water that came out was sparkling, and when I brushed my fingers over, a spring of coldness washed over my entire body. I splashed some water onto my face for no reason in particular, and then waited as it dried off instantly. I then went to my desk, where a single lamp, a teddy bear, and my notebook sat alongside two jars. The big jar at the back of the desk beside my teddy bear was where my storage jar sat. It could hold over a thousand dreams, and, when it got full, I would take another jar, and continue the bank of shattered dreams. Except, I never did get the chance to see it become full. It wasn’t that I was bad at my job, I think, but, rather, I sometimes didn’t collect as many shattered dreams as I would hope for. Though, there was no one to regulate me. Sometimes, I wondered, what it was I was doing. But, I couldn’t escape it. That much, I knew. I grabbed the smaller jar, attached it to my belt, and then walked over to the door that would lead me out of my room.
I twisted the knob, and then, stepped out, into a place I didn’t know anything about, but, it was undeniably the World of the Living.
Sometimes, on odd days, I would meet people on my job to collect shattered dreams. It wasn’t that I couldn’t be seen by other people, nor that I actively avoided people. I rather liked humans, and, I pegged myself to be a childish human myself. It was just that, only on odd days, would I find the gall to delve into the matters of those who have had their dreams shattered. But, I guess that’s only an excuse. I don’t really know why but, call it a hobby. I like meeting people.
It took me a few moments to readjust myself and find a general bearing to where I had gone this time. When I did, I suddenly noticed a barrage of noise fill the air around me, and my head began to spin in on itself for a few moments. This only happened when I visited urban areas. It wasn’t really a sickness or big enough of a phenomena to be called anything, but, it did do a good number to disorient me for a few moments. When it settled, the first thing I focused on was the cars, once I had gotten used to the cars and exhaust pipes exploding, I adjusted to the steps of people moving about. It seemed I had entered into the thick of day and had been situated between two buildings where the shade met.
Major cities were usually hot spots for shattered dreams. They would get swept up by the tides of cars and roll around in the dirt of the street, or they would congregate at traffic lights and coffee shops. It was places like these that allowed me to truly test out the extent of my presence, or the lack thereof. Even if the air of the streets would be filled with activity, with bustling dreams filled with youthful discretion tied together by the ideals of adults with inexhaustible expectations, no one would notice me. No one would give me the time of day, since, as it was with many of these kinds of cities all across the world, time was treated as a currency. That is to say, time is money.
Even if I was foreign to the idea of money, I could still understand the sentiment behind their ideals. To me, it seemed awfully choking.
But again, it was on such days that I could really get some work done. And, on this particular day, I was no stranger to that. By the time I was able to find the first coffee shop on the block, I had picked up ten different shattered dreams, all bearing dreams of increasingly high and low intensity. Their recipients, or, that is to say, their previous owners, were nowhere to be seen. Then, I entered the coffee shop. I always had trouble with doors. Doors to me were gateways to and out from my room, and so, I slipped in given the chance.
It was a rather empty coffee shop in the middle of the day, not too unusual, but, still something I’d peg as rare. Of course, the staff didn’t notice me, nor did any of the patrons. I didn’t get asked what I wanted, nor did anyone wonder why a strange woman was taking up the walkway. Instead, I kept an eye under all the tables, watching for particular sparks of dreams, shattered dreams.
And then, without warning, as if broken out of my trance of duty, I noticed someone staring. It wasn’t the oddest of things that could happen, no, it could have been a person behind me, some kind of ornament that beget staring, or, just, a reverie. And, cases like these, came often, it wasn’t such a strange proposition to be made that someone was staring around me but not at me. But, if that was the case, then I wouldn’t have felt so uneasy about his eyes as they bore holes within me.
Then, he got up. He walked towards the door, to which, I was standing near, and his eyes remained on me. Not a single other person seemed to care. He stopped a few feet away from me, seeming ready to open his mouth, but then thought against it and proceeded to leave. Odd things happen around me all the time. But, on his table, was a pendant. No one seemed to bat an eye at the pendant, and when I moved my way over to his table and brushed my fingers across the silver lining, I experienced a shattered dream. The pendant was in an odd shape. It at first seemed to be composed of two oddly shaped rings interlacing But, the more I held it in my hands, the more I realized that it was a never ending loop. The pendant began one way, and the more I traced that silver metal, the more it came back to its beginning. It wasn’t multiple tubes that created the pendant, but a singular tube that bent in on itself. I could stare at it all day but it was a shattered dream nonetheless. And, it most certainly belonged to the man who passed me by.
I waited until the door opened, and then left. It wasn’t that I had some kind of strange ability to trace the owner of a shattered dream, but, he hadn’t gone far at all. In fact, he held his coffee in his hands as he sat on the bench by the bus stop. But I knew he had no intention to go anywhere. His dream was odd after all. Though, yes, it was a shattered dream now.
He had stared at me in the coffee shop, I knew, with some certainty, that he probably saw me. It wasn’t that my outfit was odd or anything. It was just a shirt with jeans with my hair laced behind me, but, he was probably taken aback by the fact that no one else had noticed me. But, that was the extent of his curiosity anyway. He left after all. Color me strange, or call me curious, but I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to talk to Reed.
By the time I walked over to the bus stop, which, wasn’t far at all, Reed had decided to get up and began walking. He disposed of the coffee in a nearby garbage can, which, also had quite a few shattered dreams which I couldn’t resist. And so, after collecting a few more dreams, I hurried along to catch up with him. It may sound hypocritical, or call it nepotism, but, I only did have interest in those that interested me. Did that make sense? Call it a force of my childish curiosity, and also, the work of a strange dream.
Eventually, the cityscape began thinning. I guessed I hadn’t come to such a deep part of the city despite all the bustle. The buildings eventually opened up into a walkway filled with greenery. It was a park. A strange edition to any city, I thought, but, a welcome change of pace nonetheless. I noticed then, in the thick of the park walkway, filled with dirt and the shades of trees that our steps filled the air more than the ensuing city behind us. Reed stopped short from the clearing of the park’s entrance to where the main section existed. He ruffled around in his jacket pocket and pulled out a lighter. Then, with his other hand ruffled out a small white cylindrical object and placed it in his mouth. But, before lighting it, he turned and stared at me, the only other person, if I could humor the idea of me being a person.
“You’re not from around here, right?” He spoke first. He had gruff hair, it was messy, almost as if he hadn’t given it a care in a day. And, some of it, was thinning gray, but, I didn’t peg him to be an old man. He was quite youthful, for what it’s worth. He still had his whole life ahead of him, though, I only counted that in terms of years of life. It would have been imprudent of me to say that out loud. I could only guess. His build was quite staggering, as if he had worked out, but, not enough for it to sustain. Nevertheless, he wasn’t one to hold flowers to his name, I guessed. Was that the right expression?
“I’m not,” I replied. He nodded his head forward and then proceeded to light his cigarette. Once I was walking by his side, he continued along, until the shade of the trees disappeared, and the only thing that remained was the quiet shrill of the inbound nature.
“So, why you here then?” His voice was incredibly gruff, like it had been through dirt and sweat, it fit his image surprisingly well. And his gait was vindictive of his nature, a devil-may care attitude exuding his every pore. Was this really the kind of person who had that kind of dream? Could he even dream at all?
“I’m just on a walk.” It wasn’t that much of a lie.
“Just exploring the city,” I added.
“And, you explored your way all to me?” I guess he noticed me following him. Which, to its own, was an incredible feat. It meant he kept complete focus of me all the way from the coffee shop, but, of course, if I divided attention to that fact, it would have made me seem suspicious.
“Just, coincidence, is all.”
“Really now?” He took a great puff out of his cigarette and balanced it between his fingers. The park was lush, trees and flower beds and a circle of benches encroached onto a rock in the middle.
“If you were anyone else, I would have minded, but, with a young lady such as yourself following me… Well, maybe I shouldn’t account my life for that much. Still, it’s a welcome gift. Funny how these things go.” He sat by a bench, and returned his cigarette onto his mouth. He didn’t invite me to sit, but I sat anyway. He leaned backwards onto his bench, facing the cloudless sky. It seemed that at any moment, with the lightest touch, he would leave this world. He was just that relaxed. For someone who just had their dream shattered, I wondered if this was prompt behavior.
“So what’s your angle? I mean, come on, you’re not out here trying to walk the city. What’s there to see?”
“I don’t have an angle. I really am just here on a walk. Really.” He looked at me with his cigarette halfway out of his mouth, and then shrugged.
“Whatever. I’m not here to play detective. But, if you’re trying to sell me something or–”
“I just wanted to talk. How about that?”
“You just– You just wanted to talk?” He seemed surprised, which, didn’t surprise me.
“Yeah. I want to talk. Is that okay with you?”
“You want to talk to me?” His eyes were raised, then, he laughed.
“Alright then young lady. I’ll have to think that either I’m crazy or you are. But, even if you are going to kill me, stab me, rob me, if it’s from a lady such as yourself, maybe I won’t mind,” he laughed, then said, “funny how these things work.”
“I’m Summer.” He leaned forward, balancing his cigarette in his mouth, then looked over with one hand extended.
“Okay crazy. I’m Reed. Let’s talk.” I shook his hand, which, was unsurprisingly loose. His grip was nonexistent, and his hand was rough. His dream, was a dream I didn’t know whether to categorize as childish, wishful, or incredibly inane. Perhaps that’s too harsh. No, this is my job, my duty, to collect these dreams, I shouldn’t have an opinion. But, I do. His dream was to belong.