Skyscraper

My father convinced me to grow a tree when I was young. It fit into my palms as if I was holding the world. I watched it every day as if it was my child. I wanted to race it in height. We never stayed in that house for long. I wonder if that tree still remembers me.

My feet hung over the edge of the roof in a pendulum. The breeze of the city ran up my legs. My eyes had yet to adjust to the darkness. I wished it never did. The city roared in its business.  Green. White. Blue. All of it came together in a pool of mud. Someone had left a wallet at the corner of the roof.  I chuckled and closed my eyes. My pulse softened. I heard breathing behind me. “What brings you here? To end a life? A dream? A day?” My ears grasped at his words that hung in the air. I wanted to turn, but my body refused.

“Would it be fine if all of it was true?” I heard the man jump onto the ledge, making quiet strides. He hummed a quiet tune.

“In any case, If you are here to end your life, then I advise you not to do it here. I wouldn’t want to be bothered if they come.”  He hopped over my legs. His jeans brushed against my face, the smell of rotting wood followed.

“Sounds awfully demanding for what I’m trying to do here.”

“It isn’t so much demanding as it is common courtesy. Your death inconveniences those you love, and those around you. Which is me by the way.” He turned at the edge and continued, ignoring the wallet.

“I’ve never heard of anyone taking residence atop a skyscraper,” I said as my mind fixated on the wallet. I rubbed my eyes to clear my head. Without a light to grasp, I held onto his words as if they were the stars.

“We all have our homes. And we all want common courtesy in our homes.” He hopped over my legs. The stench of rotting wood grew. The streets lived in its bright lights. An airplane in flight erupted the atmosphere. The bladed winds danced on my cheeks.

“Then are you going to kick me out?” He laughed.

“This is my home and I do have my rights. But so do you. I’m not annoyed, just wondering if it had to be this skyscraper. You know, value would drop if you die here.” He landed back onto the roof and circled behind me.

“And would that really concern me?”

“It wouldn’t. But if you do a good deed now maybe you won’t be left in eternal hell.” He began to pace, the soles of his shoes emitting a soft scratch with every step. Eventually, he stopped.  I heard him ruffle through his pockets. Coins bounced about. My father always did that when we were walking to the store. He would play with the coins, flicking it between his fingers. I once asked him why. He told me it was comforting.  “Are you religious?”

“If I’m up here I don’t think I am.”  His laughter replaced the city’s air.

“Have you ever considered living?” My entire body faced him. His shirt was filled with dirt. His jeans littered with cuts. His hair seemed to be modelled by the results of a paper shredder. He held a picture. I stood and made my way towards him. It was a picture of a family. One father. One mother. One daughter. One son. All smiles. “It isn’t so bad you know, living.”

“That’s debatable — Is that your family?” He nodded, turning the picture with a slight smile.

“At least, what’s left of my family.” His words cut the air. The words in my mouth scrambled like shattered glass. “I don’t think you can tell me how hard it is to live if you haven’t lost your entire family. Have you lost your entire family?” I shook.  He stuffed the picture into his pocket and turned. He began toward the other side of the roof that was blocked by the entrance. I was left alone.

My body’s pulse slowed. The light that surrounded me melded into my fingers. The city called for me. I inched back to the ledge. My hair fluttered in the ensuing winds, calling me deeper into the city. I rolled in my mind all the people in my life. They found their way onto both my hands. My face churned. My pulse matched the city. I remember a waking night when I had forgotten to close my curtains. The stars peeked through my window, exposing the slight dust that began to settle over me. I thought that if I stretched enough, that I would be able to find the source of that light in my palms. It would sit there with my sapling. The two things I could hold in my life. My body froze on instinct when he appeared giving me a raised face and a wave.

His sleeping bag seemed as if it had just been torn from the store. A duffel bag filled with bottled water and non-perishables sat with a box of odds and ends. A candle illuminated his way. He rummaged in the box, the flame of his candle nearly licking the hem of his shirt.

“You smoke any?” He asked with a box of cigarettes in tow. I shook. “At least take a seat. Unless you’re in a hurry.” He laughed as he plopped a smoke in his lips and produced a lighter. He leaned against the walls of the entrance and puffed out a cloud towards the darkened sky. It was brighter than any of the lights from the city. I took a seat opposite his candle, watching as it danced in the low winds and merged with the clouds. “Now I know what you’re thinking. I’m homeless. How do I get off spending money on cigarettes? But listen here. One man throws away a box of smokes because of a bad brand, and another man picks it up. That’s the cycle of life.” He dangled the smoke over his fingers and tapped the ashes towards his candle, letting it rest on the edges of the stick.

“Where’d you get the lighter?” He laughed. His eyes mellowed as he produced a picture from the box. He handed it to me over the flame. It was a shot of a landscape painting. Green pastures for miles with a light blue sky and tired clouds in the distance. There was a single tree planted in the middle of the painting, its bark seemed to be tearing off. The leaves were already dead.

“That’s what I used to do,” he said with a puff.  He  plucked the picture and laughed, the frame almost singed. “What an old painting. Must have been a few thousand?” He stuffed the picture into his pockets and drowned his hand into the box.  “I got all kinds of toys here. You like toys? Even the homeless do.” The questions in my mind that escaped through my mouth fell flat with the rushing air of the city. It paraded my skin in short brushes. My hair fell into my eyes. He produced another photo. I took it through the flames. “That one’s alright. Not much going for it but it was worth a few Christmas presents. My daughter wanted the most ridiculous doll house. You wouldn’t believe it.” His smile cut the darkness.

“And even with this you made your way up here?” He laughed. With a flick and a stomp, the smoke died in a low cry. He pulled another. The clouds began to converge. He closed his eyes, and laid onto the bed roll.  The candle fluttered out of existence.

“The reason why I’m up here might be the same reason why you’re up here.” He nearly swallowed his smoke. “I mean, let’s be real. Falling from a building is the first thing that popped in your mind? Ever heard of carbon monoxide? Have your car running and just sleep your life away. Or even cyanide.” As I opened my mouth, the only thing I could comment on was the candle.

“Your candle’s out.” He snickered and braced himself up.

“Thing lasted longer than I thought.” I handed him the candle and watched as he traced his fingers over its plastic body. Another plane roared in the sky, thrusting the stars out of view. The lights from another building began to cascade into darkness.

“I shouldn’t be intruding anymore.” I stood with my words.

“Hold on. I’m not going to stop you or anything. Couldn’t care less.” He rummaged through his box and produced a notebook with a pen. “But put your name down.”

“This for the cops?” He chuckled.

“If they do book me up here, I can just tell them some info about a woman who threw herself off the edge. But that isn’t it. You got a family, right?” I nodded. “They know about this?”

“I’d be locked in my home if they did.” He snuffed the smoke in his fingers and produced a palette and a brush.

“I’ll give them something to remember you by. Say I’m a street painter or something and caught you in my eye.”

“Sounds like a waste of your time.”

“You don’t have the right to lecture me on wasted time.” His eyes didn’t meet mine as he brought out water bottles filled with paint.  My body couldn’t move. I told every muscle to edge off the roof, but I stood watching as he set up his station. His landscape picture was displaced onto the bed sheet in the commotion of his searching. He found a lighter and the candle came ablaze, swaying with the short winds of the night. He stretched, cracked his neck, and launched another smoke into his mouth.  “So you going to write your name and jump?” My body was planted onto the roof. No means of my mind would work.

“I’ll wait for the candle to go out.” I sat and watched his brush on the paper, closing my eyes and listening to the waking city below. The image of his tree paraded me.  I remember my father telling me I should visit the old house. To see if that tree was still there. Maybe it would remember me.

Older draft of Skyscraper

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 2: Dream to Belong

I collect shattered dreams. I woke up in my room without a single tear of  sleep pervading my body. I opened the door to the bathroom, and turned on the faucet. The water that came out was sparkling, and when I brushed my fingers over a spring of coldness washed over my entire being. I splashed some water onto my face and then waited as it dried off instantly. I went to my desk, where a single lamp, a teddy bear, and my notebook sat alongside two jars. The larger jar could hold over a thousand dreams. Though, I’ve never filled it once. Sometimes, I wondered what it was  I was exactly doing. But I couldn’t escape my duty. I grabbed the smaller jar, attached it to my waist, and walked over to the door that would lead me out of my room.

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. It’s more of a hobby. I like talking to people.

It took me a few moments to adjust myself to the World of the Living. When I did I suddenly noticed a barrage of noise fill the air around me, and my head began to spin in on itself. When it settled, the first thing I focused on was the cars. Once I had gotten used to the cars, 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 thick of the pavement. Or they would congregate at traffic lights and coffee shops. Wherever there was people, there was bound to be dreams that were shattered. 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, it was just the law of life.

It was on such days that I could really get work done.  By the time I was able to find the first coffee shop of the street, I had picked up ten different shattered dreams. They were all beautiful dreams of days past. I entered the coffee shop as soon as the door opened for me. Doors were always tricky for me. The moment I touched a knob, the door would connect back to my room.

It was a rather empty coffee shop in the middle of the day. 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 that particularly glitter that only dreams gave.

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. Cases like these came often. But, if that was the case then I wouldn’t have felt so uneasy about his eyes as they bore holes within me.

He walked towards the door. Not a single person seemed to care. He stopped a few feet away from me, seeming ready to open his mouth, but then decided to leave. Odd things happened around me all the time. I traced my way to where he sat, and noticed a pendant on his table. I walked over, and placed my finger over its silver lining. It was a shattered dream. The pendant was in an odd shape. It seemed to be composed of two oddly shaped rings interlacing  However, 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 felt as if it would entrance me into another world.

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 as it shattered, would have prevented him from so.

By the time I walked over to the bus stop, Reed had decided to get up and walked up the street. He disposed of the coffee in a nearby garbage can, which also had quite a few shattered dreams for my picking. Though, I had to hurry 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. Or perhaps, it was just my childish curiosity.

Eventually the cityscape began thinning.  It seemed I hadn’t come to such a deep part of the city despite all the bustle. The buildings 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. Using his other hand, he ruffled out a small white cylindrical object and placed it in his mouth. Before lighting it, he turned and stared at me.

“You’re not from around here, right?” He spoke first. He had gruff, messy hair almost as if he hadn’t realized he had hair. Some of it was even graying but I didn’t peg him to be an old man. He was quite youthful, for what he was worth. He still had his whole life ahead of him, though I only counted that in terms of biological years. It would have been imprudent of me to tell him that. His build was quite staggering, as if he had worked out but not enough for it to sustain. Nevertheless, I didn’t peg him to be one to hold flowers to his name.

“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. The park was quite large, a boulder laid in the center surrounded by benches and an assortment of flowers in bloom. There wasn’t a single other person around, but the sun that painted the park made it feel alive. The wind as it came around us swayed the grass into a dance and whistled through the trunks of trees.

“So, why you here then?” Upon closer hearing, his voice sounded like it had been cut through sand. And his gait was relaxed. He kept himself slightly slouched as his legs almost dragged through the path. I wondered at all how he managed to walk.

“I was just out in the city,” I answered with as natural a voice I could muster. Fortunately for me, I was of the rare breed of divines that could actively mimic humans.

“Just enjoying my time,” I added with a smile. The power of a human smile was breathtaking.

“And you explored your way all to me?” He turned his head with raised eyes. He shrugged before turning back towards the path. He seemed to be going towards the benches near the fountain.

“Just coincidence is all.”

“Really now?” He took a puff out of his cigarette and balanced it between his fingers. He let it sit in his hand before placing it back into his mouth. He then sat on one of the benches, and lifted one of his legs to rest on his lap.

“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. It’s funny how these things go.” He took another puff before turning towards me and pointed to the seat beside him. As I sat he leaned back towards the cloudless sky. The sun was burning his face. It seemed that at any moment, with the lightest touch, he would leave this world.

“Be real with me, what’s your angle? I mean, come on you’re not out here trying to walk the city. What’s there to see?” He took out his lighter and begun fidgeting with the trigger. The flame would alight only to be met with a strong wind. He would let go of the trigger just as the wind was about to snuff out his flame.

“I don’t have an angle. I really am just here on a walk. ” He looked at me with his cigarette halfway out of his mouth, and then shrugged. He put his lighter onto the space between us, and then leaned forward.

“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?” His eyes widened. Somehow, the cigarette in his mouth hadn’t fallen.

“You just– You just wanted to talk?” His expression remained until a bird perched on the bench opposite us. His eyes wandered.

“Yeah. I want to talk. Is that okay with you?” He sighed as the bird left, and then got up, stretching his arms towards the sky.

“You want to talk to me?” He shook his head lightly. I smiled as he gave me an unwavering stare. He picked his cigarette and stamped it underneath his feet before lighting another in his mouth.

“Alright then young lady. I’ll have to think that either I’m crazy or you are. But maybe that isn’t so bad a thing,” he laughed, then added, “Funny how these things work.”

“I’m Summer.” He leaned forward, balancing his cigarette in his mouth, then extended his hand.

“Okay crazy. I’m Reed. Let’s talk.” I shook his hand. His grip was nonexistent, and his skin 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. But that was my hobby. I talked to those who have had their dreams shattered. It wasn’t that I wanted to criticize him, but, I was interested. His dream was to belong.

Next Part

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

Under The Tree That Gave Us Shade

I can’t help but think about the past. I instinctively raised my hand in response to the sun as I turned towards the clouds. The slow breeze of summer washed over my face, and I could feel its soft embrace as it curled over my exposed neck. Once the breeze died, I walked back into the shade and leaned onto the trunk of the tree, watching as leaves began falling out of season.  The day grew short as my mind began wandering into an old time. I smiled as I began seeing images of her and of the tree that was much younger than it was now. I reveled in being able to see her again. And so I did.

“You’re only here for one more day right?” She said as we began walking up the hill that overlooked the town.  I remembered her as having vibrant hair, almost the color of leaves, but somehow just different enough that I wouldn’t get the two confused. She had a white dress on that swayed in the summer breeze, and her skin was pale against the light of the sky.

“Yeah. Unless something comes up and my sister’s condition gets worse again, I’ll be leaving soon.” I remembered her voice as a light trill in the summer breeze. Her words carried itself in the wind, and danced around my ears. My voice was nothing of her kind.

“Do you think you’ll ever come back? To this town?” As we got to the top of the hill, I saw a tree racing for the sky. It’s shade covered half of the area atop the hill.

“My parents already had a hard time getting us here in the first place.”

“Then the answer is no.” I turned to look at her with a small smile. She smiled back, and in her dark eyes I could see the dying clouds drifting by. We walked over to the shade, and I peered over to see the town.

“This is a really a great place. I understand why my sister decided to move here–” I began to tell her, “My parents were so worried at first. But in reality, they had nothing to worry about. My sister made a place for herself here. A place beyond our parents, a place beyond our own expectations of her. It’s not in my power to intrude on that place.”

“I know,” she said in the dying wind. I had only visited this town in lieu of my sister, but upon my stay I explored to mend my boredom. Meeting her was a consequence of my boredom. However, I don’t regret meeting her. We were too young with too much time, and so we found each other. We both had our problems, but as we talked, out words mended into a sparkling waterfall.

“It’s going to get lonely,” she said as she rolled onto the grass and peered through the branches in the tree.

“I know. I’ll be lonely going back. Staying here for two months, getting to know the people, and then having to leave will be sad. It’ll be lonely without all the company. It’ll be lonely not being able to wake up to the bakery’s kids. It’ll be lonely not being bombarded by the middle-schoolers whenever I walk past the beach. It’ll be lonely without this small town.” My time in that town grew short and fast. But it wasn’t all that bad. Everything happened in an instance of the wind. I was fine with that, but I couldn’t keep her out of my head.

“It’s funny. No one here has ever been able to interest me like you have,” her smiles threatened to send me into another world, but I was far from falling into them.

“Probably because I’m not like anyone here. No offense.” She laughed.

“Right. But don’t you find that strange?”

“What’s strange about it? New things catch your eyes, and you’re interested in new things. So what?” She laughed again.

“Usually new things scare people. And they are only interested in new things so that they can find out how to deal with them.”

“Is that right?”

“I’m sure of it.” The wind blew her hair onto her face. She hesitated, but lifted her hand to block the wind. The shade began expanding. The clouds were racing away from the town, and I knew that things were going to be over.

“Nothing good ever came of this,” she said as she lifted herself from the grass.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, being so–” She tripped on her words, “I mean–” She was having a hard time and began curling into her knees.

“Nothing good ever came of meeting you, is what I mean.” I smiled at her as she lifted her head up and jumped into the sky. She stretched her arms into the town and I felt like if she tried hard enough she would be able to grab it all in her palms.

“Do you really believe that?” She nodded.

“It’ll be better like that,” she said without a smile on her face.

“I guess it would be,” I agreed.  Those were the last words I told her. I never saw her again. My sister told me sometime after her recovery that the girl I met never got better.

The tree now was much larger, its shade still warm. And the view of the town never changed from atop that hill. When I was done reliving that memory, I would smile into the town and listen to the wind. Sometimes in the whistle of the breeze, I would hear her voice again. I would hear her voice dance around my ears, and then I would remember her for just a little more.

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.