Human life is a collection of things. Those things can be said and acted in an infinite number of ways despite leading to the same result. That much is the handiwork of semantics. From this, the line between what is and what isn’t becomes obsolete. As such the entire world could be fake. And yet for being so fake the world is beautiful and alive.
“What’s your name?” Lottie asked as she led me to the kitchen.
“Summer.” She paused.
“Summer? That’s–” Her hand ruffled through a few cupboards before pulling out a sandwich bag of crackers, “A really unique name.” She
“Oh yeah? What’s your name?” She opened the bag, plopped a cracker in her mouth, and then handed me one.
“Are you sure that’s safe?
“Lottie, and I’m the one that put them there.” I flinched. At the time, I found her name to be quite strange, though, it was adorable nonetheless. I took the cracker and plopped it into my mouth to show good faith.
“Lottie?” I repeated.
“You have a problem with my name?” She said with her hands to her hips. I chuckled.
“Not at all. It’s just a strange name is all.” She pouted and then pushed past me. I wondered how a child could contain so much energy.
“You make it sound like you’ve heard every name on the planet.”
“Clearly I haven’t.”
“It’s not a nickname or anything.” She turned and led me to the front door. Before speaking, she planted her feet firmly onto the wood and pointed at me.
“My full name is Lottie. Not Charlotte. Not… Well, that’s the only other name that’s come up so far. But, it’s Lottie. Okay?”
“Sure thing, Lottie.” She nodded firmly and then turned to open the door. The sun enveloped her as she stepped out. The air of the town washed over us in strides, and I noticed that the abandoned home, unsurprisingly, was at the tail end of the town. We were surrounded by a dilapidated fence, with uncut grass and empty road. However, the distant sounds of movement found themselves to my ears which allowed me to simulate the geography of the town I found myself in.
“Where are we going?” I asked as she began to march out of the yard.
“We’re going on an adventure! At least until night,” she declared with a finger pointing forward.
“Until night?” She turned with her hands to her hips.
“You’re an adult, so of course you can stay until night!” She and then continued without giving me room to answer. The cloud filled sky seemed to move as slowly as the day as I followed her.
“So what kind of adventure do you have in mind?” I asked as she pounced onto the empty road. She turned with the wind, her hair fluttering behind her like a cloak.
“It’s going to be an adventure filled with monsters!” Her entire face contorted.
“And dungeons!” She scrunched her face even harder, her eyes narrowing.
“And dragons!” She then puffed her cheeks in thought.
“I guess that’ll do for now!” She let out.
“Oh yeah? There are monsters, dungeons, and dragons here too?” Lottie let out a laugh as she stared at me with hard eyes.
“But you’ve never seen the types of things that lurk here! It’s nothing compared to where you’ve been!” I wanted so much to tease her, but the better half of me knew not to. In fact, the better half of me was still questioning my decision to play with her. If I kept the charade, I knew for sure that my room would come to swallow me. Or worse yet, send a divine to hunt me. However, this was in a way future proofing for the chance that she might shatter a dream while we played. If only I could tell.
“So what kind of monsters do you have here?” I wondered why she was fine being so friendly with a stranger she has no recollection of. She shook the bag of crackers and listened with a raised face as they clashed together.
“We have ghosts!” She said as she took another bite.
“Ghost hunting? Was that what kids do these days?” I couldn’t even think to laugh. I was just astonished, and also worried.
“I don’t think so,” she answered, “But that’s only because no one but me knows the best places to go ghost hunting!” She pointed across to a dense wooded area that seemed to connect into town. There was an inkling of worry that washed over me as I wondered if any divines had set up residence in this area. Lottie may have used the term Ghost to refer to the spirits of the afterlife, but she wasn’t so wrong. Ghosts are just another term for divines. Though, no divine would want to be generalized with a single term.
“This way!” She said as she led me to that dense wooded area that seemed to connect into town. She began to march, her every step booming in the air, and her hair bouncing with her body as she gave it her all.
“Do you believe in ghosts?” I asked. The entrance of the woods was packed with branches that threatened our faces and rocks that strutted to trip us. I made sure to follow closely behind and to lift any overgrown blades that may have pricked Lottie.
“I’ve never seen a ghost before, but there are all kinds of rumors about the ghosts that roam this town.” Her voice was clear and proud. The bag of crackers she had in her hands were ruffling about with every step as she swung her arms in tune with her steps. It seemed that not a single ounce of fear exuded her despite the subject matter. I wondered if that was the product of ignorance or arrogance
“Like the ghost of a lady who died in a car crash, or the ghost of a man who hanged himself in the middle of the road–” I questioned the validity of a man who hung himself in public. Though if that was true, he would surely turn into a divine given enough influence. Influence being the power given to divines through word of mouth. Most divines were born in such a fashion.
“Or even,” she paused for dramatic effect, “The ghost of the Wandering Child!” She let her voice hang in the air, but the leaves of the trees absorbed the brunt of her best attempt at a chilling voice. I held in my laughter.
“The ghost of the Wandering Child?” She nodded as she made a turn through the bushes.
“Yes, the ghost of the Wandering Child! Scared yet?” She raised her voice and puffed out her chest as she snickered.
“Not really.” She flinched, and then cleared her throat.
“In that case prepare to be scared Summer because today we are on the hunt for the ghost of the Wandering Child!” Lottie stuck out her finger and intensified her march. Her every step broke apart spare twigs and leaves and mixed with the howling trunks.
“What is this ghost anyway?” I didn’t need to see her smile to know she was grinning from one end of her face to the other.
“The ghost of the Wandering Child is the most dangerous ghost this town has ever seen!” I would have complained about how loud she was getting if not for the fact that the greater part of the woods seemed to be empty.
“And you’re sure you didn’t make it up?” She flinched, almost tripping on a rock.
“Of course not!” Her proud voice rang up through trees. I didn’t know how far or how long we were walking, but I was half certain we were lost. However, Lottie made a show to lead, and didn’t falter in her directions once.
“The Wandering Child was a little boy who accidently came here on a weekend. His parents let him off for the day when he said he was going out to play with his friends. But turns out–” Just as she was building up her voice, I interjected, “He actually didn’t have friends?”
“He had plenty of friends!” Lottie was quick on the defense. I laughed. She stopped to recollect herself. When she was done, she shook her head and continued.
“But turns out he didn’t go play with his friends. Instead, he came to the shrine found in this forest.” She wiggled her fingers like a puppet master.
“There’s a shrine here?”
“It was an old church. No one uses it anymore since we have one in town, they took away most of the furniture there, but the shrine is still there.”
“Do you go there often?” She nodded.
“So what happened to the boy?” She cleared her throat as the wind came to follow us.
“Rumor has it that he visited the shrine, and–” She paused and collected a gallop.
“And?” I repeated.
“And then the statue got him!” She jumped out at no one in particular.
“Got him?” I wondered if it was some kind of religious sect. It wasn’t that I wasn’t very religious. I wasn’t human after all, but the idea still interested me. The occult, the supernatural, any of which a religion might find heretic was unequivocal fact. It was fascinating to see them be ousted as some kind of malicious force. Though, they weren’t all wrong.
“Rumors have it that a monster came out of the statue and took the Wandering Child to a different dimension!” The theory was almost sound if she was talking about a divine. Except, it wasn’t likely that a monster would find its way into a statue. If Lottie’s story had any sense of credibility, it was probably a Gargoyle of some kind that ate the boy. I knew no talk of dimension shifting Gargoyles, but I could be wrong.
“Wait,” I started, “If the Wandering Child had been taken to a different dimension, how would his ghost be in this dimension?” Lottie stopped in her tracks. The wind blew around us in swirls and the whistling of a trunk filled the silence between us. She grabbed a cracker from her bag, and then stuffed her face before moving on in a hurry.
“It would have made more sense if the Wandering Child had been eaten alive by the statute, that way the ghost hunting part of this would make sense.” She then stopped again, turned towards me, her face lit with energy.
“You’re right! That would be cool!” Upon noticing her admittance, her face grew red. Her eyes were wide, and then, she swallowed a cracker and pointed at me while avoiding my eyes, “That is an astute observation, Summer. I’ll keep that in mind.” She turned, and walked in long strides as if nothing had happened.
“So is there any other reason for you coming here?” I smiled smugly behind her, hoping she would turn, but she didn’t.
“It’s quiet,” she said in a whisper.
“It’s quiet?” I repeated much to her surprise.
“The church. The abandoned church is quiet, so I like it there, okay? You have a problem with that?” The trees cleared and before our eyes were the remains of a church. All the forestry of the area began climbing back to its roots but the church itself was still recognizable. It wasn’t that I was afraid of Lottie being attacked a divine but I sped along to open the door first. I was surprised at how easily I got the door to open. Inside, the church smelled of old wood. She was right, it was barren save for the shrine at the altar. I hoped the building wouldn’t collapse outright on us.
Lottie took a seat on the ground, which had vines sprouting up for the sky.
“I thought you wanted to play?” She shook her head.
“No ghost hunting?” She shook her head more violently. She placed the bag of crackers beside her, and stared at the altar ahead. I sat beside her and watched as her eyes peered at the altar.
“So why are you out on a day like this by yourself?” She turned her head away from me. I couldn’t help but to laugh to myself.
“It’s either here,” she started, “Or the abandoned home. I like it here. This part of town is always so quiet,” I wanted to make a quip, but I refrained, “No one here can bother me, I can do whatever I want. So I go here whenever I can.” She moved herself near the church walls which had lost its color. Upon her leaning, the walls creaked. Her hair was picking up all sorts of dust as she rubbed her back into position. I sighed as I sat opposite her.
“And when do you go here?” She raised her legs and placed her head onto her knees.
“Every weekend when I don’t have school. I come here to play by myself.”
“You don’t get lonely?” She shook her head.
“I’m not lonely. I like being alone.” Although her voice simmered into a low tone, it still rung true within the church.
“I see. What about me? Am I bothering you?” She shook her head and smiled.
“You’re not like everyone else. You’re not like my parents. You’ll play with me and talk to me.” Her voice began to jump like a wisp.
“Your parents won’t do that with you?” She shook her head.
“They’re busy.” I wasn’t one to ignore oddities. I wouldn’t quite say I was empathic towards humans. I enjoyed talking to them, and I enjoyed my time with them as I collected shattered dreams. But as Lottie spoke of herself, I began to wonder about her living conditions. It struck me as odd, but most of all, I felt a dream to be shattered.
“Even now. They told me to play outside because they have guests coming in for business.” Her voice was low, but she still spoke as clearly as she could. Her smile was light, and her hands were curled up against her legs.
“Is that why you want to stay up till night?” She didn’t answer.
“That’s dangerous, even for a ghost hunter like you,” I chuckled.
“Why does it have to be till night?” She hesitated to answer, but then let go of her legs and allowed them to stretch. She opened her mouth before aptly closing it. Her eyes squinted as she looked at the rotting floorboards. At the most I knew she trusted me now and at the least, I wasn’t doing my job to collect shattered dreams.
“I want to be an adult. That’s my dream.”