Shattered Dreams, Chapter 1: Dream to Fly

3

Spending any more time in the World of the Living would be dangerous for me. My room would come to swallow me whole if I ever neglected my duties. It’s already done so once. It wasn’t that my room had any ill will for humans. Nor did it hate me. But if I found myself too attached to the humans I served, I could harm them. Divines and humans are never meant to be together. My room, who in of itself is a divine, knew that very well.

            “What do you usually do?”Lily asked as she walked with me to the festival. She told her sister that she would be exploring the festival with me and so I met her where the festivities congregated. After we came back to town, she went on her own way. Her eyes were steadfast, and her gait lulled in the slight winds. I got her to talk about her shattered dream. She wanted to meet her parents again, that was her dream to fly. But as it was, she knew that she could never meet them. One of them was already gone. Dreams could shatter at the drop of a hat. Some may not even realize that their dreams had shattered. Thinking of it like that made me want to protect them.  And so I talked to humans, to make sure that they knew, and that they were going to be fine. It was my hobby.

“I usually just talk to people,” I answered. Lily was wearing a white summer dress for the festival. Her hair was tied, and her steps were fluttering. Her voice rang clear in the air.

“You talk to people?” I nodded.

“It’s nothing special, but that’s what I usually do. Probably nothing like a day in your life.” Her smile beamed in the dark of night. The town was filled with artificial lights that breeched outer space. Bodies of other children and parents scuffled by us. Some wore masks. Sounds of sales and laughter cried with the sharp winds that came against our faces.

“In the mornings I go to school. Except today! Today is a special day. We never go to schools on the spring-time festival.” She was spinning in circles, her dress and hair following her in a ring.  Fried food wafted through the slow winds that brushed against us.

“And what about on days that aren’t today?” She held her hands behind her back, as she lightly skipped with her steps.

“After school, I would go home and wait for my sister. We play together until I get tired. But sometimes my sister can’t play with me. Then I have to play by myself.” Although the lights were gleaning in from all around us, I couldn’t help but keep my eyes on Lily. As she jittered between the glow of the festival and the shadow of the town, she hummed. The song she hummed was sweet and fell onto the noise of the town in a blanket.

“I think it’d be more fun if you were out here. Children shouldn’t be cooped up. They should frolicking in the sun.” I smiled for her. She smiled back.

“But I love my sister. I have to be with her or else she’ll fly.” Like a switch, her attention shifted to a stand selling candy apples. She ruffled in her dress and produced coins to buy two. The man smiled as he handed them to her. She ran up to give me one.

“For being my friend!” I smiled and let out a breath.

“I’m not sure we’re quite friends, but thank you.” However, I couldn’t taste. And so I ate in respect to being human.  The crowd began to congregate as chatter combed together into a cacophony.  I made sure that my eyes were locked onto Lily as we pushed through shoulders and watched our feet.

“It’s here!” The crowd dispersed into two lines on either side of the road. Coming from the slope was a parade of platform bearers. They were an assortment of men and women who chanted in march. The wood that was laced together by red string didn’t falter once. They held a statue of a woman leaning down with her hands clasped in prayer. Her hair was intricately laced together. Her dress flowed with life and her face was in solemn focus. The streets boomed for the arrival of the Valley Maiden. I looked down at Lily. Her mouth couldn’t close and her eyes glinted in the short bursts of light that peeked through shoulders.

“It’s quite amazing. I can’t believe the level of detail on her. This town must really love the Valley Maiden.” I meant that honestly.

“My sister said they reuse the same statue every year. But they polish it down to make it look new. If anything is chipped or worn, they spend hours just making sure that it doesn’t seem old to the Valley Maiden.” Shoulders bumped occasionally, though Lily shifted out of the way in succession.

“I’m sure that wherever she is, she’s happy.” I smiled for her.

“I’m sure mother and father is thinking about the Valley Maiden as well. I know they are.” Her eyes wandered from the Valley Maiden and back to the stalls lining the streets. She took the last bite of her candy apply, and smiled from one end of her face to the other.

As the statue bearers came by us Lily couldn’t help but to wave and jump for the stars. Her noise bled into outer space. We soon begun back to the festival. The night seemed like it would last forever. Though eventually I noticed Lily’s eyes struggling to keep their light.

“This festival was really fun Lily. I never expected to see so much energy after this morning. Though I guess that’s just how the law of the world worked.” I smiled for her though she only tilted her head in response.

“Just my own rambling,” I added with a breath.

“Either way, this has been a fun day.” We walked to a point where the crowds thinned. The lights behind us washed over our backs, and the noise simmered into a light whisper of the wind.

“You have to go meet other people now?” I smiled. I was surprised my room didn’t come to get me. Though even if I had found some interest in Lily I had no intention of staying with her.

“Right. If I don’t go to many places, I’ll never meet many people. It’s just like flying.” Her eyes lowered.

“Even though flying is scary?” Her voice was light.

“It’s not as scary once you’re in the air. As long as you remember to land,” I shrugged and smiled for her.

“I had fun too.” She smiled with all she had as she leaned on me. The night’s draft came rushing onto our faces. Her hair ruffled on my sides. Her breathing slowed.

“Where are you going next?” She asked as she looked up towards me.

“Wherever my wings take me.” Lily led me back to her home where the lights no longer followed us. The crowds of people died, and the darkness became our closest comfort.

“What do you think you want to do when you grow up?” I asked. The words came out of my mouth before I could realize I had said anything. She scrounged her face to think. It wasn’t that I was trying to help them cope or understand their tribulations, but that was how it usually ended. And with that, I accept their company and knowledge as my reward. That was all I could ever hope for.

“If you asked me, I’d think I’d just want to sit around and watch the world around me move. ” It was the first thing that came to mind. Though I smiled thinking of a world that allowed me to just drift in nonchalance.

“I’d be able to not worry about a single thing as everything else raced by me. Even if I’d be left in the past, I’d be happy.”

“Isn’t that really sad?” She skipped on the street and landed in front of her door. A single bulb protruding, alighting the silver handle.

“Sad or not, that’s just how I feel. It’s just like you with flying. If you feel it’s scary, then it’s scary, but that’s fine.” She nodded, her eyes lighting up.

“But it’s really good to have something like that anyway. That’s what my sister told me. I remember now.” She turned as she entered the light of her door. I walked towards her, mimicking her skip. I almost fell.

“Now I really want to see how you fly Summer!” I ruffled her hair. I began to wonder as I held onto Lily what it would have been like if I was human. I would lose my knowledge of the divine and of the shattered dreams. I would be like everyone else, living their lives unknowing of the power that I held. As I stopped, Lilly looked up, a yawn emerging.

“Summer,” she said under her breath. Her pulse softened.

“Summer,” she repeated again.

“Summer–” Like a switch she beamed and opened her eyes.

“What is it?” I said with a laugh.

“If I had a list of all the things I liked. I would put Summer on it!”

“Where did this come from?” I said with a chuckle. She broke free from my grasp and  ran behind me, back into the dark.

“The season of summer. And Summer. And my mother, and my father, and my sister.”

“Even though I just met you?”

“You don’t want to be on my list?” She pouted, and crossed her arms. I laughed genuinely.

“It seems I don’t have a choice.” She smiled with her teeth as she glided back to her door. She brought her hand into her dress and produced a key. She struggled for a moment before dropping the key and laughing. As she opened the door she turned and waved.

“When I grow up I’ll go and meet my parents with my sister. I know I can’t go now. I know it’ll be hard if I force my sister to bring me. I don’t want to cause them any trouble. So I’ll wait, and I’ll see them when I can fly properly.” I nodded and smiled.

Just as her door closed, I could hear her feet tapping away. I made sure that no one was watching though I knew I didn’t need to, and then opened the door to Lily’s home.  I then stepped forward into my room. I adjusted my eyes to the white that threatened to blind me. I stepped over to my desk, where I emptied the jar I had into my bank of shattered dreams. Upon touching all the other dreams, the marbles began to twinkle. Even if I tried hard to remember her dream and the things she told me I was sure that the next day and the coming week would bring me even more. And so I silently gave her my earliest condolences. That was all that I could ever do for the humans that kept me company as I collected shattered dreams. I hoped they would never remember me.

Next Chapter

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 1: Dream to Fly

2

I followed Lily down onto the slope before finally stopping at the end of the long-winded sidewalk. The town opened to a dearth of life despite the festive decoration on the homes.

“Seems like something’s up.” I asked Lily. She had gotten tired of skipping and was now briskly walking as she scanned her eyes over each home.

“You don’t know?”

“I’m not from around here. I got into town recently, haven’t learned much.”All the homes were draped with lights. Coils of wire wrapped around the streetlights, encasing it in silver. Scraps of wood and nails littered lawns. Some doors were strewn open, with an occasion peek from those carrying hardwood and hammers. It was as if they were heralding the arrival of some kind of mythical beast. Though it wasn’t that there were any known humans that did worship divines. And even if they did, I wouldn’t interfere in the affairs of the humans. I was only here to collect shattered dreams.

“The spring-time festival is happening this year again!” Lily splayed her arms out. Her energy bled into her smile. Her eyes still avoided mine, though she tried her best. The winds helped keep her chin up.

“Doesn’t sound like any holiday I know.” Lily nodded and hummed slightly with her steps. Distant chatter began to fill the air between us.

“It’s a tradition in our town.” She smiled with her eyes as she tethered. The clouds had all ran, leaving the sun to bathe us in a slow warmth.

“Everyone looks forward to it every year. It’s our own little Christmas.” I smiled. She responded with her own. As her steps grew, she began fluttering around me. Her hair twirled around her body, wrapping around her waist. When she stopped, her hair uncurled, blowing in the short of the gust that followed. The sound of crashing wood resounded in the air.

“This part of town is where we hold the Valley Maiden. She’s going to sit on a stage and we’ll carry her down into the main part of town.”

“Valley Maiden?” Other children ran about in their lawns with ornate red and blue dresses half on. Their parents ran after them.

“My mother used to tell me all about it! It was–” Lily scrunched her mouth and her eyes narrowed in focus. She stopped dead with a blank stare. Her arms crossed gradually. Just as I was about to speak, her face lit up and she looked up at me with a glint in her eyes.

“The spring-time festival is when we hold the Valley Maiden and bring her across town.” She started in a recital. “The Valley Maiden is supposed to bring us a great year of rain. She’s like a god to us, and we celebrate by giving her a front row seat to our town! We try our best to please the Valley Maiden with the spring-time festival.” As she finished her mechanical speech, she let out a smile. The town grew full as we continued to the ends of the sidewalk. People were rushing on by with heavy hands. Their heavy steps rung in the air. Wafts of sweat twirled around us. A man smoked at his porch, a cold yellow beverage lowering into his mouth. Though none had stopped to peer at us. Some even glared away.

“The Valley Maiden is sometimes played by one of the girls in the town, but we didn’t have any candidates this year, so we’re bringing out the statue again. At least, that’s what my sister said. I haven’t seen anything other than the statue.” Her steps were elastic. I couldn’t count her rhythm.

“What a forgiving maiden she is if she’s that lax on rules.”

“I’m sure she’ll love the statue! It’s really nice this year too!” Cheers ran in the air as a group of people hoisted up a sign onto a booth.

“Must be lucky having such a benevolent maiden on your side.” I smiled for her.

“But she wasn’t always on our side.” Her voice rung in the air. She stopped to watch a man hanging lights over his roof.

“My mother said that this town used to be quieter. She said that this place was full of trees, a forest.”

“That’s how most places used to be before we came around.” I knew only so much of human history, though it seemed to be enough.

“We used to live in a valley! Or at least, the people before us.” Her expression gloomed for a moment. Her eyes wandered to the man’s yard. The grass danced for us. It’s dew glistening from a morning’s shower.

“One day in the valley, all life was beginning to dry. So everyone had to move out. But the Valley Maiden came down one day and brought rain. It took her three days and three nights before everyone came back to the valley.”

“Sounds like an old legend. Maybe a folktale.” We were drenched in shadow for a moment as we passed by a sidewalk filled with trees.

“My mother said that her mother told her the same story. My teachers always tell it to me around this time too. But no one can tell it like my mother!” She brought her arms out and began gliding in the soft winds.

“And is your family doing anything for this festival? From the sounds of it you guys should be ripe in the middle of this.” My words glided in the wind. And I knew they caught up to her. Though the only thing she did was smile.

“Our family isn’t doing anything this year,” she settled as she skipped alternating feet. I knew what her shattered dream consisted of. Though I at least had enough tact to try and get her to open up first. And if it came to be that I caused her more pain, then I would leave. I hadn’t the slightest interest in harming humans. I just wanted to talk.

“Family trouble?” I smiled lightly for her. In the end, how I talked to humans was something beyond what I understood.

“No trouble here!” Her voice chirped in a laugh.

“But we can’t do anything because we aren’t all here. It won’t be fun if the two of us are preparing for the festival.” The sidewalk eventually led to a crossroads. The path to our sides looped back onto the main path the Valley-Maiden would take. Lily stopped here. Rows of homes void of decorations laid on the looped-paths. If we continued to walk forward, we would be heading elsewhere all together. Lily took in a breath, found the nearest rock and launched it into the air. It landed all the way forward.

“I know a park nearby we can go to!” She zipped on by without looking at her crossing. I followed her through a thicket. Loose branches reached for our faces. Leveled down dirt eroded in our steps, and squirrels skittered in our stampeding. The sun could barely find us. We broke through without much query. A small clearing opened up within the thickets. A bench, and a swing set sat with the sun’s  watch. She ran towards the slides.

“You know your way around this place. You like this town?”

“I grew up here. I can’t help but to love the town I grew up in.” Her voice only made it to me through the winds.

“And what about the festival? Don’t you want to celebrate?” She slid down the silver slope and planted onto the dirt below.

“I really wish I could, but I have to wait for my mother and father.” She kicked the tips of her shoes into the dirt, denting the earth. Her hair sat mellow on her back.

“You make it sound as if they aren’t here.”

“They flew.” The winds drafted up beneath our feet. The grass beneath us plucked their way towards the sky. A flock of birds cut through the tops of trees, and Lily smiled. She smiled as her eyes began to water. Her feet stopped digging.

“At first it was only my mother but then my father had to fly as well. He said he needed to see mother. But they were gone for so long that I got worried. I asked my sister but she said that it would be too expensive to go there all at once.” I had nothing I could add.

Her dream was to fly. She sat upon an airplane, looking out into the orange afterglow of the sky. She was smiling, a photo of her family in hand. The clouds moved slowly in her dream. Though she never did make it to where she wanted to go. Her dream ended abruptly, with her in the sky, allowing her wings to glide forever.

“How long were they gone?” She sat on the edge of the slide, her feet kicking in pendulums.

“For over a year now.” The wind picked her voice up into my ears as they softly fell out of her mouth. Her hair was splayed onto the silver, blocking the glint of the sun.

“This must have been an awfully lonely year for you then. You must want to meet them again.”

“Of course!” She beamed, her voice rushing up against me.

“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 have dinner again. We’d sit in our living room at our round table. We’d all laugh about our day, talk about what we want to do tomorrow, and even think about the things we didn’t get to do together.” She smiled from one end of her face to the other, her eyes glittering in the sun.  Without realizing it, she shifted her feet, fell onto the slide behind her. She held her head towards me, her eyes streaming. Her face contorted as she held in her words. I got up. I needed to. I wrapped my arms around her as she stilted her voice. I felt her hair on my face. It was smooth.

“But I know it won’t happen,” she finally said as her voice nestled in the wind. I had to strain to understand.

“Lily–”

“My sister got a letter from father this morning. She said that he would be able to bring us to see mother. But mother won’t be there. He said that she won’t be able to see or hear me. He said that she won’t come back home.” I let my warmth wrap around her. She snuggled beneath my chest, her breathing pounded against me. I rubbed the back of her head in gentle strides. I didn’t want to tell her the truth. I wanted her to tell me.

“Your mother, is she still here?” She cleared her throat, her entire body shivering.

“She’s not. My father told me so. My sister won’t admit it. But I know what they mean. They think I won’t understand. It’s what happens when you fly. You become tired like mother, and you fall.” I let go of her. She rubbed her eyes and smiled.

“Do you want to fly, Summer?”

“If I could I would. I’d give anything to be that free. What about you?” She smiled and began back into town.

“I’d be too scared.”

Next Part

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 1: Dream to Fly

I collect shattered dreams. In my room, I hold a jar where every shattered dream I find is stored. I find these dreams in the world outside my room. It is my duty to go into the world beyond my door and collect the shattered dreams of those I come across. If they are left for the world they may become forgotten. It wasn’t that I knew when shattered dreams were abandoned, but I had a duty to uphold. If I were to find these dreams, they may even end up back to their owner. It isn’t that a shattered dream is absolute, but just a complication. Though, it wasn’t that everyone took to these complications in strides.

Dreams take many forms. But they’re usually an amalgamation of those who shattered them. It is without doubt that dreams are personalized by that matter. They hide in the unseen depths that people hold within them. I can never miss one when I see a dream. It’s the gift I was made with. Once inside my jar, they turn into glittering marbles.

On odd days, I can interact with those in the world of the living. It’s not as if they can’t normally see me, but it’s that they choose not to. My presence as a divine is a gust in the wind. It’s a privilege all divines share. But if I were to interact with humans or if they so happened to give enough attention, they’d be able to talk to me.  I’m glad for that flaw in our divinity. I reveled in talking to humans.

It was an arid day when the door I opened lead me to a wave of fresh air. I looked around to make sure that no one had noticed the door of the house I came through. The door to my room would guide me into the World of the Living.  I trusted its instinct to bring me to where I needed to be. I noticed as my senses came to me the vacuum of sound. I’d usually expect the roar of cars to brandish the air, and the scuffling feet of crowds to send me in a disarray.

I began walking up the streets, listening as my steps filled the air. All around me were houses lined together in watch. The blooming yards of the homes sprouted towards the sky. The brown tiles of the roofs peered towards me. Few streetlights existed. Every so often, I would try to peek through the curtains that laced the homes. Though I didn’t gather much. I watched the crevices between garbage cans  and at the small of the telephone poles and bus stops in search for shattered dreams. Eventually, as I came to a cross in the road, I saw a tiny girl skipping her away across the street. I wondered if the girl’s stampeding feet had felt louder due to the absence of sound.

Her bright golden hair fluttered in swirls as the sun sat on top of her. I moved past her as she hummed in happy trills. But as I did so, I saw a shine glimmer beneath her feet.

From the hem of the white summer dress she wore an object begun spinning onto the ground. It clasped its way onto the pavement beneath her. The girl was still skipping along, not a single twitch towards the noise. That was a sure sign that what I witnessed was the shattering of a dream.

It wasn’t in my jurisdiction to stop her. I was only created to collect shattered dreams. However, nothing could stop me from doing what I wanted. I had a hobby. I went over to pick up her shattered dream. It was in the shape of an airplane. The moment my fingers pressed onto its silver wings, her dream came flooding into me. Lily was a young child. She had untapped imagination and potential. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her when I received her dream. Even before I had made it my hobby, I had always been glued to the humans I saw.

I opened the lid of the jar tied to my waist. I let the airplane slowly descend into the jar, and as it got closer to the entrance it took the shape of a marble. As the shattered dream fell, I held my jar to the sun and watched as it glittered. The clouds soon came to block me.

I ran up after Lily. She was still skipping along and humming to herself. Her hair fluttered in the short winds that came. She outstretched her arms and spun with every other step. As she got close to the edge of the sidewalk, she winded herself back, and leaped forward. Her feet shook upon impact. She laughed as she flailed in balance.

“Are you usually prancing around in the morning?” I said, waving my hand in front of her. Her golden hair was just a few moments from flying off as she stopped.  Her eyes widened for a moment, but then they lowered, and she looked at me frozen.

“I saw you having so much fun that I couldn’t help but flag you. I’m summer.” I made sure I spoke with small trills and allowed my words to sit in the air. Her eyes beamed and her face grew. I smiled for her.

“That’s an amazing name!” She said as she jumped towards me. I couldn’t help but to chuckle along with her energy. Throughout all my time in the World of the Living, I always found myself attached to children. I wished I could see the world through their eyes, and be like them. That way I could always talk to humans.

“Summer!” She repeated as her eyes lit up. She began running figure eights on the spot. Her arms flailed to her side as if she was gliding. The clouds rolled over us as she was laughing into the air. The shade consumed her, and she continued to turn into another street. I followed suit, seeing her trace her hands on the overgrowth attached to the fences of the homes.

“My name is Lily!” She said as she turned. She smiled from one end of her face to the other.

“A Lily in Summer. Now that’s a nice combination. You like summer?” I asked in jest. She turned and nodded. Her fingers were delicate as she moved. Soon the fences would disperse, and she turned into another road. She didn’t look as we crossed.

“It’s my favorite season!” Her steps bounced with every word she spoke. However not a single other person was there to receive her voice.

“What’s your favorite season?” She began to race up the street, gliding along. I picked up a shattered dream in passing.

“Maybe winter.” She stopped, her mouth agape. Her eyes were wide and her hands shook. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Winter!? That’ can’t be! Your name is Summer!” I wondered if she could turn a switch to lower her voice. It seemed that a few curtains were fluttering in response to her energy.

“The summer heat isn’t exactly my style.” I lied. My body wasn’t designed to be affected by heat or cold. I could understand when a temperature change is made, but I couldn’t understand the pain it caused. Though I honestly did like winter.

“Summer is so great though!” She opened her arms. I laughed. She jumped up, as if all her energy had burst and came crashing towards me.

“You even smell like summer!” Before I could respond, she started skipping up the sidewalk.

“I don’t know what that means but thanks.” She began shifting her weight, and stepped onto the cracks between the pavement. Before making another step, she jumped onto the crack in-front of her. Her humming buzzed in the air, following the shrill cries of cries of whistling leaves. I wondered how I would try to probe the topic of her shattered dream. Another glinted at me from the edge of a man-hole.

“Watching you be out and about makes me want to cry.” She laughed as she jumped onto another crack.

“It also makes me want to fly.” As she came to another land, she stopped and turned towards me. Her eyes simmered down, and her breathing came to a slow. She let me catch up to her. And as I walked in front of her, she held her arms out and glided slowly to follow.

“Do you know how to fly?” Her voice rung slowly in my ears. Her words were soft. We came to another intersection. Both ways led to a plethora of homes. In the air was the sweet scent of garden flowers and wood chippings. I let her pick a direction before continuing.

“I wish I did. It would be quite fun being able to fly. You’d be able to go anywhere, and see anyone. You’d be able to be close your eyes and listen to the wind. I’d like to try it one day.” I answered honestly. I never really understood why or how I talked the way I did. I’ve lost time collecting shattered dreams. I’ve lost memories. I’ve forgotten people. But I always felt close to humans. No matter what. They warmed me. If I told a divine that I’d be ousted.

“You can even sing with the birds,” Lily added as her steps grew. I saw her smile to herself. Her hair lowered as the clouds came again. Though some of the sun still peeked through. That sunlight would bounce off of the streets, shimmer in window panes, and find itself on the roof of trees. The grass danced around us as we turned another street. I noticed eyes peering at us. Lily didn’t look up from the ground.

“And if you fly, you won’t get tired of walking. You won’t get tired of skipping, or running. Or even being out in a morning like this,” I added in jest.

“Even if I can fly, I’m afraid to fly,” Lily said as she leaned down to pick up a stone.

“What’s there to be afraid of?” She churned the stone in her palms. Another shattered dream found its way behind a pole.

“I could fall. Or maybe if I forget how to fly one day, I won’t be able to.” Lily dropped the stone before continuing.

“But you’d be ecstatic. If I could fly it’d be the only thing I think of, and I’d want to be the best at it.” I rebutted. Lily smiled lightly before walking with a light lull in her steps.

“Things that fly often crash. Like planes.” Her voice stung the air. She brought her arms behind her back. The draft that came with her followed her steps.

“I hear it all the time on the news, and my sister always talks about how sad that must be. I must be really lucky then–” She started as she ran ahead of me.

“My parent’s flew and they’re just fine,” Her smile was brimming with teeth, but her eyes avoided my gaze.

The streets opened up. We were at the top of a hill now. Looking down to where the sidewalk led made me wonder about the safety of the town. However, Lily burst down the sidewalk, running down the slope without trouble. She turned halfway down her sprint and waved me over. I could hear the ringing of wind chimes blowing in the distance. I began to follow her down the slope.

Next Part

The Mark of Insanity

When I first saw him at my grandmother’s funeral staring into the distance with a wistful disposition, I wondered if he was really human. The crowd had begun to subside and my parents were busy talking to the undertaker. It wasn’t that I was uninterested in my grandmother’s death, no, that would be quite inaccurate, and quite imprudent if I was. Rather, the stilt of the air in the cemetery, the orthodox grey clouds hanging over us, and the cry of the rain someplace beyond us made me want to get away from it all. That was all it was, I convinced myself, just the atmosphere, that foreboding, suffocating, atmosphere. I wanted nothing of it, and yet there was nothing but that strange boy in the distance, staring off into the cemetery with nothing but a white gown. He, in the midst of all the dark tones that surrounded the area, was a strange light, and yet, no one took notice of him.

“Are you here alone?” I asked as I walked towards him, breaking from all my relations. And yet, even they did not seem to notice or care that I had walked away, talking to some strange boy in the middle of a strange place where strange things happened. Truly, a strange world.

“…” I garnered no response, in fact, he hadn’t even looked up from his… Quandary. Yeah, that might have been how I would describe the situation. He wore a white gown, similar to that of hospital wear, and, his hair had been cut short. His eyes were black, unbelievably so, as if there existed nothing but a strange abyss in his gaze. I began to wonder if I really was losing my mind.

“What about you?” He suddenly asked, his voice seeming to lag behind his character. It was as if, the words reached my ears long after the movement of his mouth was made. His voice, that, of a young child, though, somber, and not elastic, not energetic. Well, he wasn’t that young, no, probably around fourteen? Not young at all.

“I’m with them,” I said as I pointed, “my grandmother just passed.” His eyes were unwavering, looking into the distance, somewhere I couldn’t hope to see.

“So you left?” I laughed at his inquiry, though, perhaps, that laughter was directed at myself.

“It wasn’t that I left. No, not at all. I’m just taking a break,” I answered.

“Taking a break?”

“Don’t you find that sometimes? That you just need a little break?”He seemed to honestly wonder my question, though, I couldn’t tell if it came off as such from the way he stared into space.

“…”

“What are you looking at?” I asked to the chagrin of his silence. Then, he turned, seeming to have just acknowledged I was there, a glimmer of what I thought to be surprise washed over him.

“Nothing in particular,” he answered, then, he began to walk off.

“Where are you going now?” I asked. It was strange, I didn’t know why I wanted to pursue him, but, the words came out of my mouth before I could think of it.

“Back to the hospital. Even you can tell, can’t you?” His voice rose near the end, an almost condescending tone. And, as he turned to leave the cemetery, my parents called. Though I was still interested in who he was, and, why he had been staring into space, I couldn’t let myself be too consumed into the abyss. I later asked my parents if they saw the boy I was talking to, but, they simply pegged me to be a jester. I wondered, if I really was going insane.

At least, I didn’t need to stay in that suffocating air for any longer. I was fine going insane if that was what I could avoid.

The next time I saw that strange boy was at the hospital. I had gone to visit my grandfather, who, at the cusp of his time, was about to join my grandmother. It had only been a week since her passing, and, although my family was still somewhere in the fourth stage of grief, they couldn’t let life pass them by for too long. And, even yet, when they were just about ready to see the light of day, something else had happened. So is life, I guess.

“Remember me?” I asked as I walked towards him. He was idling by, sitting on a bench beside a closed door. It wasn’t that I particularly remembered him, but, it was hard to forget. This time, he did look at me, acknowledged me, and then, turned back to looking into the wall opposite. He was a strange person, I concluded, the perfect semblance to my insanity, if I ever saw one. I almost laughed out loud.

“Well, even if you won’t talk, I will,” I continued. After all, I was still seeking someplace else than the stifling air of that hospital room. I wanted nothing of it, nothing of that depressing atmosphere. Not a single bit, no, it wasn’t that I was uninterested in my grandfather’s health. No. Surely not.

“I came here to visit my grandfather. You know, isn’t it strange that these things happen so close together? At least, I think it’s strange.” I chuckled. Maybe, I really was… No, if I keep mentioning it, it’d only get old.

“You’re not much of a talker huh? Not that I don’t respect that. Everyone needs a little bit of themselves every once in a while. Though I guess since I’m here you won’t even get that much, hah!” No comment.

“Seriously, I’m throwing you a bone here. What’s so interesting about the wall anyway?” It really did seem like he would form a hole in the wall if he continued to stare for any longer. His face was completely fixated towards whatever it was he was interested in, and, it didn’t seem like I was looking at a boy at all. He was like a doll. After a while, I felt bored, and so, just as I was about to up and leave, he talked.

“My friend,” he started, “she’s there.” He nudged his head to the closed door. Room twenty four, it was pitch black in there, and I began to reckon why he was sitting solemnly as he did.

“It’s not like I’m trying to ignore you, but, I really don’t feel like talking, okay?” He was still wearing his white gown. He wasn’t just visiting the hospital, he was a patient himself.

“Fair enough,” I answered.

“Besides, why me?”

“Why you?”

“Why did you decide to talk to me? Back then, and even now, what’s your angle?” I laughed, I couldn’t help but to laugh. In the distance, I could hear the sounds of footsteps, trolleys, and beeps. The hospital was lively, ironically.

“No angle,” I started, “no angle at all. Would you believe me?”

“Would I believe you?” There really was nothing to it, and, I made sure to have that show on my face, a relaxed expression, one of no contempt, since, I truly had none. I just wanted to get away from it all, and, if that meant having to indulge in a stranger’s wistful disposition, then so be it.

“You really are strange, miss.”

“September.”

“The month?”

“My name. It’s rude to just say ‘miss’ right?”

“What a strange name.”

“And it’s even ruder to say that.” I laughed, and, in the corner of his face, a smile began to form. It made him seem oddly human.

“What about you?” I asked. I didn’t bother to feel sensitive towards the subject. Maybe I should have.

“Me?”

“You know, why you’re here. Clearly, it’s for a whole different reason than I am.” But, in the end, I learned something from our exchange.

“I see. Well, you are right, I’m not here just to visit,” he started, “that much is obvious.” I smiled.

“In a few days, I’m going to try and save her.” His voice wisped about in the quiet hallway we sat. The noise of the lively hospital from a ways away from where we were began to dim, and, in the air around us, was another stifling atmosphere.

“Try?” I repeated.

“Well, even with the advent of medical technology,” he began to sound haughty, “things don’t always go your way. With one life, goes another.” Without needing him to get into any details, I begun to understand what he was getting at. Perhaps it was the tacit of the living, or the anathema in his face that gave it away.

“She your friend?” He looked, somewhere in the distance again, and, I wondered, if he was going to lose himself in his thoughts, but, he came back, looked me in the eyes, and with a strange conviction said, “Not at all.” A smile formed on his face, and he repeated himself, “She’s not a friend at all.” And, somewhere in his eyes, his dark eyes that seemed to expand upon the infinite abyss, I saw tears well up.

“And yet, you’d still save her?” He seemed bothered by that question, his face scrunching up, and a deep seeded concentration flushed his eyes. I began to understand him a little more, about the way he stared into the distance seeming to lose himself in the world around him. And, somewhere inside of me, some place I didn’t want to visit, knew exactly why he was there at the cemetery.

“Regrets?” I asked shrugging. His face didn’t contort, his will iron, and then everything was washed away when the door beside us opened, and, a girl clad in the same white gown he had stepped out. Her hair was unbelievably gold. She let the door hang behind her, and, it seemed like she was entering this world from another, from a world much too dark, much too empty for any human being. Her skin was fair, unbelievably so, and her expression was gentle. When she spoke, her voice was quiet, and, it seemed like it took everything out of her to even mutter a single word.

“How are you today, Ebb?” Her words, as they came out of her mouth, were like a trickle from a waterfall. The boy beside me, Ebb, nodded his head and smiled, a bright smile seemingly from the depths of his heart and replied, “I’m fine. How are you, Lot?”

“I’m feeling fine, better than ever, in fact.” It pained me to listen to her speak. It seemed as if she wanted to say the world to Ebb, and yet, everything about her prevented her from doing so.

“Who’s this?” She said, as if she had just noticed me.

“I’m September,” I said as I got up to shake her hand. She looked, for a few seconds, wondering what it was my hand was doing in front of her, or at least, that’s what I pegged her state of mind to have been. But, she eventually brought her hand up. I saw how much it struggled her to even do that much, and so, half way up, I simply extended further, shaking her hand, feeling its cold wrap around me and then retract. I couldn’t go any longer watching her push herself to simply lift her hands. That coldness in her palms, permeated to every crevice of my body, insuring that I would never forget how cold her hands were, and how weak her grip was.

“Are you a friend of Ebb?” She said, a faint and yet eloquent smile forming on her face. I looked over to make eye contact. I had no reason to lie to a stranger, nevertheless, someone as bed-ridden as her, and within Ebb’s eyes, was a certain confirmation I was hoping for.

“I am,” I lied.

“I see,” her voice trailed, “well, I’m glad that you’re here then. You must know about me, and… Our operation.” I hadn’t the slightest clue, but, I figured it would have been too mean to pry it out of her, and so, I said, “Right, but, should you really be up now?” She seemed to want to laugh, but, held it in, and instead, smiled.

“I’m fine, thank you,” she answered, “I really am. I feel like I can run a marathon.” She really did seem to want to laugh. And so, I laughed in her place.

“But, maybe I shouldn’t be this fine,” she continued, “after all, I’m still…Waiting.” She looked over to Ebb, who could only respond with a despondent expression of his own.

“You really should be resting,” Ebb suddenly said.

“I’m–”

“Please.” She yielded, a smile on her face, waved with as much strength as she could, and then, entered back into that world of dark. When the door closed, I could feel the energy from Ebb dissipate into the area. Not a single sound was emitted from our walk of the hospital, and, soon enough, the echoes of life came swirling in like a lion in march.

“Not friends, huh?” I poked fun at him.

“Hardly seems that way,” I added. He sighed, to which I responded with a playful smile. Though, the playful disposition only lasted till me, after all, I wanted nothing of that tense atmosphere. It wasn’t that I was uninterested in the matter… Yeah, you understand.

“We met when it was decided that I carry the operation,” he said, “that was, a month ago.”

“And let me guess, you’ve been visiting her every day since?” He looked at me, as if he wanted to dispute that, but then gave in and slouched, even more so somehow.

“What else could I do?”

“Live your life?” He turned his head, almost too quickly.

“Sorry, too soon,” I tried to play it off with a playful smile. Didn’t work, I think.

“You asked me about regrets,” he started, “If I had any.”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“I don’t think I do. Is that weird?” At his age? Was it weird?

“If you lived a good life,” I started, “then, I think that’s perfectly fine. How about you? You live a good life?” He was what, the start of high school?

“I don’t know. I can’t say, but… I had fun.” No. I couldn’t criticize him. High school. That’s as old as they make you. Then, from there, you’re on your own.

“You had fun?”

“Yeah. I had a lot of fun, with a lot of people.” His voice seemed to waver, a strange cadence, though, for his situation, perhaps, it was well suited.

“Then that’s fine. No regrets. That’s good, right?” I didn’t know what would compel such a person to give their life for another. That thought, that notion, was so alien to me that I really did wonder if my insanity, had all along, been passed onto this fated child. Though, that’s far too arrogant. After all, his insanity, no… His fate, would be what I would consider the fate of the world.        He held onto his world, and now, it sought to crumble, all to save a stranger. It was truly insane.

“But,” he suddenly started, “I wish, I could–”

“Live a little longer? To see them? To hang out with them?” He nodded, seeming to want to go back to his state of interminable reverie. The atmosphere had long forsaken me. I wanted to retire from that, and, my curiosity had been satiated. I got up, walked over to where the hallways converged, and then turned.

“When’s your operation?”

“A week.”

“You think you can do it?”

“I already–”

“No. I mean, everything you ever wanted to do, the things you see. A week, right? Think you can do it?” His eyes were wrought with confusion, and then, a swirling conviction. There was no way that he lived a life with no regrets. Even a child had regrets.

“And if I can’t?” This time I sighed.

“If you can’t. You’ll have regrets. You’ll hate yourself, maybe, your fate. Then, perhaps, if you’re feeling up to it, you’ll hate the girl, Lot, was it?”

“Charlotte.”

“You’ll hate Charlotte. Then, you’ll hate the hospital, the city, the country, and soon enough, you’ll be an adult. You’ll hate the world.”

“There’s no way that I can–”

“Get rid of all your regrets in a week?” I wasn’t planning on doing it either, but, no one could truly say they lived a life without regrets. What I wanted to tell Ebb wasn’t to do absolutely everything, no, instead, without needing to churn my head, I gave him the same advice I was given to me by my grandmother, and, without a stroke of coincidence, my grandfather.

“Then don’t. Don’t get rid of all your regrets.”

“But–”

“Instead, get rid of your best regrets.”

“My best regrets?”

“That’s right. If you have a hundred problems, just get rid of the top three.”

“Isn’t that just being lazy?”

“You said it yourself, right? One week? Most people can barely get out of their beds for a day. You came here every day? I’m sure you can shave off a few regrets in a week. Just the best ones. That’s all it takes.”

“But I’ll still have regrets, doesn’t that go against everything you just said?” Then, just like how my grandmother and my grandfather both answered my inquiry, I laughed, then, with as much swagger I could muster to break the mold in the air along with a smug smile, I said, “You can sit there regretting your entire life, and you’ll never get anything done. You’ll end up hating all the things I said. But, if you get a move on, you’ll take away some of that regret. Not all of it, but, if you get rid of the best regrets, I’m sure you’ll see that the world is just that much better.” Then, I walked away. That was all she said, and all he said. My grandparents left me to ponder upon what they meant. And, I think they’re right. After all, I live in a country that has a hospital, I live in a country that provides me with food upon walking into a huge storage container. I live in a country where I don’t fear bullets or bombs, or tyranny. I live in a country where I can be a person. And, all this country asks for, is a little bit of sense to try and be a decent person to be around. I live in an age where I can talk to a person across the world, where I can move faster than anybody in the past would have ever imagined. I can fly, I can see in the dark, I can capture the world with a finger. All that’s left, is myself, and, well, it’s me and seven billion others, but, not even all of those seven billion has the niceties that I’m provided by simply being born. And, the catch is, those living in poor conditions, are still human. Better yet, I’m still human. We’re the same race, and, inherently, by the pull of a string, by the roll of a die, my life, sad to say, is inherently better than some across the world, even some in my neighborhood. Now that’s the mark of insanity.

 

 

 

 

The Cafe In The Sky

One day without warning there existed a cafe in the sky. It wasn’t as if it had appeared over night, as if an entire cafe had just sprouted into existence between the stars and the moon. It wasn’t anything as spectacular as that, unfortunately. Rather one day without warning it drifted into town, parted the clouds and sat on a piece of pavement. A cafe, just floating on by.

Everyone was up in arms about the cafe in the sky. People screamed heresy, that the aliens had finally come to take their due. Some prayed to the cafe, saying it was some kind of religious symbol. Perhaps God was ascending to the moral realm to– No, it wasn’t any of that. It was run by an old couple, Randal and Marie. Apparently, it was their dream to run a cafe in the sky. They had been operating for over fifty years. Apparently, they hadn’t a single customer until they ran into our town.

The first few days were an uproar for them, they had customers building ladders, a hot air balloon service was made to rocket people up onto their platform, and some even sky dived into the cafe. But business simmered. No one cared anymore. The cafe in the sky still loomed about in our town and its customers were drenched in ennui.

I visited the cafe in the sky on its backend. All the services had long closed shop, and the profits had already been collected and so I contacted the owners to see if they could spring me a ladder from above. Apparently, the old couple lived on the platform, and also managed all their stock from the sky. They didn’t import much goods, but rather had an expansive backyard for all of their ingredients. I never did get the chance to see much of the land though it was something I wasn’t particularly interested in either.

The owners of the cafe happily accepted my request, and on the date we agreed on, sure enough, by the front of my house a ladder was dangling about leading into the cafe in the sky. When I got onto the platform, I was surprised at the lack of any real change in how I perceived the world. I wasn’t light headed from the high altitude, I didn’t feel any sway from the fact that I was essentially standing on a floating rock.

The cafe wasn’t anything special. It would have fared quite well on Earth, where the ground wasn’t floating and business was more stable. It’s bricks were nothing I haven’t seen, it’s windows were of glass, and its door was wood. Nothing of the cafe spoke of its notoriety as the cafe in the sky. A part of me was disappointed in seeing such a plain looking cafe.

Upon opening the door, a chime resounded and while I perked up on the suddenness of the chimes, I neglected the smells that wafted into me. It wasn’t until I had the door closed and a good look inside that I realized I had entered a cafe. It was spaced out in rows with empty tables and chairs. As I took a seat, Marie had come out of a door fixed onto the connecting wall to the kitchen and taken my order. There was no menu. The walls were all too barren, with only the view of the outside sky to accompany the place. If I sat for too long, the smells of coffee and toast would have driven me insane.

In the end, I ordered a coffee. A few moments later, Randal had come out of the door holding a plate with a steaming cup of coffee. He placed it onto my table slowly, then trudged to the window, where his eyes focused onto something in the distance. I took a sip of my coffee. It was unbelievably bitter, and nowhere in sight were any sweeteners. I wondered to ask them. But, I swallowed my request. Instead, I took another sip and as Randal turned with a stale expression over his face, I asked, “How has your day been?” He looked at me with a blank expression. But soon his face was washed over with a smile and he turned back towards the window.

“The same as its been for the past fifty years.” His voice was rough and slow. He spoke each word fully, not missing a single letter. He took a seat near the window, his eyes never leaving the sight of the outside.

“Has it always been this empty?”

“Yes. Yes it has. Though, just a week ago we were brimming with life. Can you imagine that? This place was lively, so full of it.” His voice wrapped around him in a wistful blanket. The way he sat, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was really a statue.

“Would you want more customers?” The words came out of my mouth before I could realize I had spoken.

“What do you think?” He asked in response. I was left dumbfounded, and he laughed.

“Do you have a dream?” He asked.

“A dream?”

“Something you want to do? Something you want to achieve?” In all honesty, that was the first time I’d ever had the chance to wonder. I couldn’t answer him.

“Whatever it is, I’m sure you want to get there someday. And when you do, what do you think will happen?” I couldn’t answer him.

“You’ll be happy, maybe?” He continued without regard to my silence, “That’d be nice, right? To be able to do something that you dreamed for and be happy. That’s what everyone wants to do of course. Who doesn’t.” But, maybe it was because of my silence that he was able to talk.

“This was my dream.” He got up from the window and began to trace his hands over the empty tables and chairs. His rough skin looked like it would scrap itself off at any second.

“I’ve done it. I’ve made a cafe in the sky. That was my dream. I never asked that anyone else be here, so why should I worry? Do you think I’m happy then?” He smiled at me. His smile was unbelievably filled with youth. I couldn’t speak.

“But let me ask you a better question,” he continued, “Do you think it’s okay to be happy?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” That one, I could answer. He began to walk towards the front door. His eyes rested on the chimes that stood atop.

“I’ve been up here for the past fifty years, but I can guess that life down there hasn’t changed for a single moment.” He then shook his head and turned back towards the kitchen door, his eyes never glancing towards me.

“So why did you come up here today when no one else will?” Without warning, he looked directly into my eyes. The words in my mind ceased to exist. As if his eyes shattered my every being.

“So even after all that you still can’t answer me?” He laughed, “Just like everyone else that comes here.” He then pointed to his head, “The air here might have gotten to you.” He aptly left, leaving me to my own devices, my mind swirling on. I left the cafe in the sky after finishing my coffee. After climbing back down, I took another good look at the platform that floated in the sky with the cafe abound. It had begun moving, and the ladder was now closer to my front door. I figured it was leaving soon, finding its way to another town. I went back to my ordinary life soon after.

 

Starlight

We thought we were immortal. The air surrounded us, winter creeping into our arms. Our steps echoed in the low light of the stairs. Her pulse grew the closer we got. I turned once to see her eyes in a brilliant glean. The air’s ballad mixed with our steps as we stood in front of the rusted door.  Winter slept in the steel platform draining itself into the soles of our feet as our bodies converged in irregular panting. I tightened my grip. She winced, and her pulse lowered. The cracks of the doors exhaled ash and fuel. Everything came together in the sky. I remember how we first met. We were both trying to fly. We thought we were immortal.

Her dress fluttered in the wind. A thousand frills accompanied a thousand sirens as we came to the edge of the roof. It was barren save for our naive steps. Her hair fluttered with the winds that rose through the building. I wasn’t quite sure how we both failed to fly that day. But when I opened my eyes, I was greeted by a world of white and the soft pulse of her hands over mine. The beeping of that world filled my mind as I closed my eyes. In the distance, was the roaring of an airplane.

“Did you really have to wear something like that, June?” I asked as she twirled on the ledge, her foot nearly slipping. She laughed.

“You’re not complaining now are you, July?”  Her voice rasped into my ears with the gusts of the city. They merged like the lull of a crowd of wheels.

“I’m not. But it’s cold out here. I can’t help but be worried.” She smiled back as she paced on the ledge.

“I appreciate your worry. But I’m not the one who should be taking it.” She stopped in front of me, wrapping her arms around my neck. I felt her weight follow her back. We once thought of having a child name August. We were dumb back then. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done this.” Her smell was intoxicating. “But it really doesn’t change no matter how much I’m here. ” She turned her head back, peering into the streets. I shifted my feet in balance. I readied my arms. I stilled my breathing. The pulses that shot into my hands reminded me of the beating of her heart as she laid her head onto my chest. She wouldn’t let go, even after the doctors came. “This is where we belong.” She looked at me with a smile that paid the night. “Do you think they can see us?”

“Would you want them to see us?”

“I’d want them all to see us.”

“I always thought you were the embarrassed type.”  She laughed, her entire body forcing her way off the ledge. I braced harder onto the roof.

“I’d given that all away the first time we tried. Now I’m as free as a bird.”

“If only we could fly.”

“We will. We’re immortal. No matter how long it takes. We’ll fly.”

“No matter how long it takes you’ll still stay with me?” She pressed forward, lifting from the ledge into my embrace. Her warmth held me together until she pulled me towards the ledge. She came under my arm, pressing me forward towards the filled streets. The lights of the city all raced to find my mind.  In another motion she brought me back, the rush of the city all dispersed with the stars. They blinked like hospital screens.

“I’m here with you now, aren’t I?” Her breath barely reached the sky. “If we could only be stars, we’d already have everything we wanted.”

“If we were stars we wouldn’t be together like this.”

“And that’s fine too.” Beyond the stars were the moon that glittered like a watchful clock. Once filled it would espouse a new month. That’s what we did to pass the time. She would flutter my curtains when the doctors leave. Big dipper to Polaris. Polaris to Little Dipper. She would rave on about all the darkened sea. We would do so until the moon became full.

“If we were stars,” she continued, “we’d be able to die together, without fail.” Her voice lulled into my mind. Her arms brought me back to the ledge. We stood arms in tow, letting the brunt of the city remember our every crevice. “Are we the rulers of the world yet?”

“Not yet. Not even close.” I felt her pulse ring softly. My heart began to follow.

“We’re immortal and yet we can’t even rule the world. What more than to plant our mark when we can.” She laughed.

“It’ll take a little more than just that to make our marks.”

“What do you have in mind for two immortals to be remembered?” I shook my head and let the city swallow me for a moment.

“The stars?” She asked with her hand facing the building opposite.

“That’s right. We have to reach the stars. And once we land, we’ll be the rulers of the world.” She let out a breath that lingered in the air until our next words.

“How long would that take?”

“With just the two of us? It’ll take us a million years.”

“Then I’ll wait a million years for us to touch the stars.”

“You won’t get bored?” She shook her head.

“Do you think we’ll always be together like this?” She asked. Her pulse shifted. That happened once in hospital. The monitor jumped when her warmth left me.

“We’re immortal. Of course we’ll be together.” She pressed her foot forward, hanging it on the collected airs of the city.

“They all seem so small. Everything about the city doesn’t seem so scary anymore. It’s like we’ve become the stars. We can die together like this, even if that is the only time we’ll be together.”

“We’re lightless stars.”

“If we’re lightless stars, then no one will ever know we exist.” I shook my head.

“It just means that we’d have died a long time ago. Eventually, even our lights would have reached the Earth. And eventually, even our stories will be told.” Her eyes glistened in empty flashes.

“In that case, we can’t leave each other. Those hundred years will be so lonely otherwise. It’s good that we’re immortal.” Her grip tightened. Her dress fluttered with the city. I closed my eyes and let the air of the roof swirl into my mind.  We thought we were immortal.

Starbound

When you look up into the night sky you think about seeing stars, when I look up into the night sky I see everything that I’ve become. My childhood was filled with nauseating amounts of candy and chocolate, endless birthday cakes and even a few black eyes. My childhood was filled with innocent disposition, a love for life, an alacrity for living. My childhood was simple, a dreamful childhood, a folly of what was to come. But despite all this, my childhood was filled with stars. No matter where you are in the world, if you look up into the night sky, you’ll see small shining dots beckoning you into a world far beyond anyone’s imagination. You begin to lose grasp of your ties to what is, and begin drifting off into a space of what was. Then before you know it, you’re stuck in a space of magnificence, you become a part of the ether. As a child, I was daftly interested in the shining light bulbs that dotted the sky above. I used to think that if I had a long enough ladder that I would be able to grab one for myself, that when I reached my hands into the night sky that I had some chance of taking a piece of this outer universe to see. Now that I’m older, I laugh at that, but now that I’m older, that notion has become grounded in reality.

Being a child meant days of innocence and ignorance. It meant being able to not know anything about the world and not get a diatribe with every idiotic decision you make. It meant having an excuse for when you touched the stove. It was still stupid, but you’re a “kid.” It’s always fine if you’re a “kid.” And when I looked up into the night sky as a kid I always saw the stars. No matter where I was or what time in the night it was, I could always rely on seeing those stars shining brightly as the cold winds grazed my face and ruffled the fields around me. I grew up as a farmer’s child, being raised in a barn and always climbing up onto the roof to watch the small wheel in front of my home spin and count the endless amount of stars that littered the night sky. At some point, I began associating the night sky with a strange smell of grass and manure, that meant that whenever the topic arose in class I always used to scrunch in my seat. I’m grateful for that association now, because now whenever I look up into the night sky, I see a canvas of nothing. I see a black sheet staring back at me, and if I stare too long, I begin to think that it really does stare back at me. It begins to envelope my mind, cause it to turn in on itself, and cause me to want to drift off into a space far beyond my current living. It takes me back to my childhood.

“What are those lights?” Was the first question I asked my father when I climbed up onto the roof and did my first session of star watching. He looked at me with the kind of smile you get when you’re able to teach someone something. The kind of smile that made you feel smart.

“They’re stars,” he said as he ruffled my hair. I looked at him in even more curiosity, “What are stars?” He used both his hands for effect and made a large motion to indicate size, “Huge bodies in space kind of like Earth that emit light. Our Sun is a star too.”

“And the moon?”

“Not the moon. The moon isn’t a star.”

“Why is that?” I remember my dad pausing for this question. Perhaps he was trying to explain it as scientifically accurate as possible, or perhaps he figured that that would only lead to more questions. But he settled on an answer that had little to do with the science of it anyway.

“Think of it this way. The stars, like our sun are very bright, right?” I nodded.

“Now, when you see the moon, what do you see?” I looked up towards the sky and traced my eyes until I saw the lightly glowing blue giant that pervaded the night sky like a sentry.

“It looks like a plate with dirt.” That inane image of the moon that I had created when I was a child was still something I held true even when I was growing up. To me the moon was nothing more than a plate on a dinner table, whilst all the stars were small particles of milk that splayed the area. Sometimes, the stars became bits of candy, and sometimes it became pieces of bread. I acculturated everything of the night sky to be like a dinner table, and because of that association, looking up at the vast horizon of the night sky wasn’t scary. But that imagery was frail, and soon enough I understood that the night sky wasn’t a dinner table, that it brought nothing but more questions. Eventually that all spilled into a sheet filled with black.

“But it doesn’t look as bright as the sun or stars right?” My dad asked. I nodded.

“The moon is just as important as the sun, and they may seem like the same thing, but the moon is more like a silent knight, watching over his people in the dark, and the sun is the king, giving his presence known to his people in the day. The stars, are smaller kings, all governing smaller kingdoms far away, but still making their presence known to us, telling us that one day we may be able to reach them, that we may be able to use them. And the knight, the moon, is with the other far away kings because the knight will one day bring us to them. That’s why even though he’s silently watching over us, he still glows, to make sure we know he’s there.” Looking back on that now, his analogy made sense. It made too much sense, and back then, when he told me all of that, I placed every bit of it within the fairy tales I knew. That much made me stop asking questions, but I knew that my father was just using euphemism to make me quiet.  It was probably what made me think I could someday reach up and grab them, reach up into the night sky, into the country and grab a king, take it for my own, and tell him to bring me to a faraway kingdom. Though, growing up, that suddenly became a grounded reality.

I left the country side to move into the city. That was for university. The biggest transition for me wasn’t the fact that I now had to live away from my parents, that I had to sustain a life all for myself. The biggest transition for me was not being able to see the stars anymore. When I had moved into my room in the university, the very first thing I did was walk off onto my roof and look up into the sky. Below me were people walking to and fro from the dorms, some had large bags, and others were just enjoying a quiet night smoke. But when I looked up into the night sky, I couldn’t see the stars. They were missing, and the night sky was empty. It was almost as if someone had reached their hands up and took each star away from the country known as the night sky. It was almost as if they had never existed in the first place, like the stars were just painted on as a fabrication of an expansive universe. I looked for as long as I could, trying to find a star, any star. It wasn’t until I got off campus and found a relatively remote area near the university filled with trees and moss that I was finally able to see the stars. The city was too much for me, too different from what I was used to. For the entirety of that part of my life, I always cursed the city for hiding the stars. In my mind, they were still kingdoms, still kings waiting for us to find them and to reach up to them. In my mind, I chose to refuse everything of this world, and I wanted to reject the world for what it was. I wanted everything to be just as it was in my fairy tales, just as it was in a society devoid of capitalism and misanthropy. But, after living the latter half of my life in the city, I began to realize that apathy became a drug that the people were buying. The night sky then became a blank canvas that threatened to send me into an egregious craze. And what brought me back, was thinking back to my days of being a child.

But I never returned to the country. I kept pushing forward, trying to exact some kind of pseudo sense of pride and justice that a person like myself had. I wanted to be more than what anyone would think I could become. I wanted a ladder large enough to reach out and grab a part of the universe with. I wanted to take a piece of the world for myself, and in doing so, I became like the blank night sky. My father used to tell me that those who bit off more than they could chew would inevitably choke. I thought it was an absurd didactic expression. But now, I’ve come to know what he really meant. And even so, it’s already too late for me to go back on chewing too much than I could handle. I’ve already watched as all my attempts of trying to reach for the stars, of reaching for things millions of miles and much too large for me to handle fail. Now that I’m here, watching the night sky somewhere in the city, living in my decrepit apartment as I handle a pint of liquor and a smoke in my left, I can see that the night sky is empty. I can see with great certainty that the path I decided to choose led me to a sky filled with nothingness. I can never reach for things out of my grasp, and no matter how long I build my ladder, if it doesn’t have any meaning, any passion or any base, I won’t be able to grab anything. No matter how hard I try to be ostentatious to a group of uncaring people, it will only just be that, a sad display. And so I say with great certainty, that the night sky now is a perfect replication of who I have become. Nothing.