Shattered Dreams, Chapter 5: Dream to Move On

I collect shattered dreams. It is without doubt that my duty in the World of the Living is to scour the many discarded dreams that humans produce. That is the reason for my creation. It is the one truth I have come to rely on. No work of semantics would dissuade that truth. No human could convince me otherwise. I wake up every morning to open the door in my room that leads to the World of the Living. But often on odd days, I find myself indulged in humans. That’s my hobby.

On one such day as the morning sun glared onto the streets in waves I tucked my head down in search of shattered dreams. They initially appear as marbles that glimmered in the shine of the sun. Upon  my touch, they turn into objects that befit the dream it held and a surge of memories flood into me. I am told of the dream that had been shattered, and of the person who dreamt.

The town I was in that day didn’t come off as one that I recognized. Most places I visited weren’t usually places I’d known. However, sometimes I do find myself surrounded in familiarity. The world for the most part was small. The streets were clean, not a single crack or piece of trash littered the ground. Trees often surrounded the sidewalk, providing occasional shade and the whistling of branches. The homes were in good shape, almost as if they had just been built.

As I continued to walk forward, I noticed that the walkway split to my left. The sounds of laughter and feet filled the air. A fence opened way to what seemed to be a park in the middle of the town. There were no cars on this lonely morning. I peered at the entrance, a crowd of children were kicking a ball. I would have made my way elsewhere, to continue my search for my shattered dreams. But on that day I saw a familiar face.

As I took a step into the park none of the kids turned to greet me. And as I walked past them in their game of kick ball not a single person was dissuaded by my intrusion. That was how it should have been. At the back leading to a street elsewhere, was a small bench with a cover over top. Sitting on that bench was an old compatriot. It wasn’t that it was impossible that I would eventually meet with someone I’d already met. However,  I was still surprised. I had found her shattered dream a time ago, and as it were I still remembered her and what she had lost.

I took a seat beside her. She didn’t bat an eye. I wondered if she would have remembered me. I wondered if I had afflicted her to that degree. My hobby to talk was one stained with poison. And I often tried my best to avoid the need to sting. Jordy had light cinnamon hair and hazelnut eyes. She had tanned smooth skin and soft cheeks, and her hands were small with subtle nails.

Jordy’s shattered dream dealt with that of her daughter. Her dream was to have a family. However, when I found her that day and picked up her dream, it seemed that her entire world had crumbled. Her dream that day was in the shape of a teddy bear and I gave it back to her. There weren’t any rules that prevented me from giving her objects that were linked to the World of the Divine. It was more than harmless that I gave her a shattered dream. It wasn’t that I felt bad for her or wanted her to move on, it was just that it felt appropriate at the time. I wanted to see what she would do with that revelation, with that link. Perhaps that’s why my room lead me back to her that day.

            As I was about to call out to Jordy, I felt an ominous presence wash over me. It was a divine. They were everywhere and nowhere. However, it was rare to find a divine revealing themselves on purpose. And even if they did they would often do so with a strange bravado. As much as humans hated the unknown, most divines couldn’t understand humans either. And even more so, most divines couldn’t stand each other. I was no exception.

“I haven’t caught wind of you lately,” the lady doused in white said to me as she appeared to my side. I had very few friends in either world.  The lady who had just greeted me, like many divines, went by a plethora of names. I called her Bird. She always appeared with her white gown.  It covered her entire body neck down as her black hair followed, straight as the words that left her mouth. It always made me feel like she was guiding me.

“It’s nice to see you too, Bird.” It was at times like this, where I really felt the brunt of my divinity. I spent so much time being with humans and learning from them, that I often forgot who I was.

“How long has it been since I last saw you Summer?” She smiled. Her face was gentle.

“Too long to remember. I hope you’ve been doing well.” I didn’t know whether I considered Bird to be a friend. I knew she wasn’t an enemy. Despite the history she was bred from, she was subtle and kept to herself.

“I have and it’s strange to see you out here just sitting around when you should be collecting shattered dreams.” I couldn’t dispute that fact.

“Just taking a break,” I lied, though I knew Bird saw right through me. It was in the wind. The wind of the park dragged my words through the dirt. And the chatter of the children around us filled in the empty spaces.

“Be careful not to take too long or divines might take that chance.” I smiled for her. I knew very well what she was referring to. I wasn’t planning on having that happen again.

“I know.” It wasn’t something I wanted to think or talk about. I wondered why Bird decided to peg me down.

“It must be wonderful having a place all to your own,” Bird’s voice lulled into the air, finding its way into the sunlight that tried to beam its way onto us.

“Can’t the same be said to you?” She laughed. Her laugh filled the park but Jordy didn’t budge. It was strange seeing her so absentminded. Her eyes wandered into the clouds. They moved with the winds, and dragged with it a new day.

“You know this isn’t really where I belong  after all our histories are quite twisted.” She chuckled.

“You can’t believe everything you hear.” Her eyes smiled. I was glad someone was having fun.

“You call me by Bird but I don’t have a home to go back to and instead I build my nests where the wind guides me.” Her dress fluttered in the slow winds. Her hair following suit. If I closed my eyes, and listened to her voice, I would have thought she was human.

“But it’s still a place where you can go back to. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?” She let out a breath before standing, and crossing between us.

“It lasts for too little for me to really be attached and I travel for too long for me to really know where I belong.” She smiled at me.

“Seeing you be so free makes me jealous and it makes me want to grab hold of that feeling from you.” She leaned in, her eyes scanning every section of my own. With a click of her tongue, she leaned back, her hand out stretched, touching onto my shoulder.

“However even if I wanted to grab hold of it from you I would not do so to a friend.” I couldn’t help but to smile and chuckle. She retracted her hand, and spun.

“Right. I’m glad you’re my friend too.” Those words spilled out of my mouth.

“And you’re not the type to fight others anyway. That just isn’t the kind of being you are.” She shrugged.

“Oh, but I am quite the dangerous woman when I want to be. Do you wish to give it try?” I was tempted but Jordy was still left somewhere in the clouds.

“No. Maybe another time. I’m sure you have your own duties as well.” She nodded and begun walking into the sunlight.

“I do as that’s the fate we get for being such horrendous beings.” I never did like that about Bird. She always called us horrendous.

“Oh,” before she left, as I felt her presence wane, a sudden thought happened upon me, “Does you being here have anything to do with her?” I pointed to my left where Jordy still sat unaware. Bird’s eyes widened, but then she shook.

“Her little one had been buried long ago and thus that’s none of my business.” Divines had a strange way in working with the humans. Much like humans we had our own semantics. Despite that Bird stuck very true to her purpose. She would not skirt on her duty. Unlike a certain divine that collected shattered dreams.

“So there’s another one in town?” She nodded.

“This place is to be seeped with dread and I will have to attend to the one I actually seek soon.”

“Of course.”

“Happy searching to you and may you find the shattered dreams you so desire.” She left in the blink of an eye, leaving a trail of wind in her wake. Just as I was about to turn towards Jordy, it seemed that she had began walking up the street.

Next Part

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 4: Dream to Paint

Most humans would want more than what they have. At least, that’s how I’ve come to understand the World of the Living. Those who dream, often exhibit such desires. Except I wasn’t human. And so I could hardly relate to what humans want. I could hardly understand what it all meant. Things such as art weren’t just pieces of a collection. They weren’t just constructed in a certain manner in a certain pattern. I could respect those who put so much of them in something that could mean so little in a world so crowded and in a place so broken as Earth.

Clara had brought me to a strange part of town. We walked through artificial trees and disproportioned statues. Their material consisted of discarded cans, old newspaper and an assortment of old clothes. The air that swirled around us carried with it the faint scent of sweat. In the distance, I saw a cat meowing to the moon while a dog sat playing with a reed.  Somewhere else, a tree of broken light bulbs, with the inside filament turned to human guts. Somewhere else, a fountain that sprouted sewage water gave way to a monstrous crowd, and even elsewhere, a bunny hopped over the sun.

“What is this place?”

“A garden of madness.” She smiled the entire way.

“Is this where you usually go?” Clara left her equipment at her apartment. She walked with both hands behind her back. Her hair was tied behind her, a trail of dark following her every step. Her voice trilled about despondently. Her eyes traced every monument that existed in this enclave of creation. They glistened. Though I couldn’t relate.

“Most of the time, yeah,” she answered, “I like this kind of strangeness. It’s what keeps me going.”

“Strangeness keeps you going?” She chuckled.

“Yeah. Don’t you find it that an ordinary life can be quite droll?” I understood her sentiment.

“But there are still merits to an ordinary and interesting life, if you give it the time of day.” And yet, I felt the need to refute her.

“An ordinary but interesting life?”

“Right. Things don’t have to be strange. You don’t have to live in such a twisted space to be interesting.” And at the same time, I could hardly call my life an actual experience. I simply existed. For that matter, I couldn’t quite know what was ordinary and what was interesting. I didn’t have that right. Not as a human.

“If I could live like that, I think I’d really be happy,” Clara said as her breath swirled with the air. Eventually, we found a bench overlooking a charred Christmas tree. Clara didn’t sit, but instead went up to the tree and brushed her hands over its branches.

“If I could have an ordinary life, a life that I can be happy just being like anyone else, I’d take it. I’d live that life.” Her fingers twitched on the hard material of the tree. She walked over to the flower that was planted at the base of the tree. It was charred as well, hanging on its last breath of existence. Her fingers traced the material.

“Why don’t you live an ordinary life?” She shook her head as she got up to look at me.

“Probably because I’ve gone way too far off the rail to be able to return to a life like that.” She walked towards me, melding between a couple passing by before stepping into view.

“Because it helps you paint?” She snickered, and planted her hand onto the material of the bench. It was solid wood.

“Yeah. The stranger I am, the more I can paint. But I don’t know if that’s what people want.”

“And what do people want?” Her hands stopped. She sat beside me, lifting her head into the sky. That was the only object between us that wasn’t manmade.

“I hardly know anymore,” she answered as the wind curled into the space between us.

“Is this what you want?” Another couple walked by. They stopped at the charred Christmas tree and admired its workmanship. As they continued, Clara lowered her head, closed her eyes, and then stood. Her trail of dark fluttered in the ensuing gust.

“I don’t know anymore,” she said as continued down the path. I followed suit.

“Do you want to know?” We found ourselves surrounded by pinned up bats and birds. The bats held mice in their fangs, grey blood dripping from its wound. The birds flew on a tattered wing.

“I don’t know.” Furthermore we found one-clawed wolves pouncing on faceless rabbits.

“What do you know?” She smiled as she traced her hand over the wolves claw.

“That I’ve already given up.” We walked till we found a bleeding moon. It’s blue material was cracked, and upon its wound was yellow patches reaching for the Earth.

“Maybe that’s what I’ll become in the end. Just another person on the street. Maybe that’s what I should have become in the first place.”

“You’re really giving up?”

“That’s right. I’m giving up. Starting today, I’ll just be plain old Clara. I’ll find myself something new to sleep on every night. Don’t worry about me.” Her smile waned. Her eyes avoided the moon. She shivered.

“You won’t paint? Not even for yourself?” She walked, her cadence unruly. But as the wind rushed up against her, she stopped.

“I’d like to say that, and I’d like to say I’m really going to quit. I’d like to say that I’ll never see a brush or a stroke again. I’d like to say it in words and really mean it in action. But If you give me a few days, I’d be all on it again.”

“And even if you do you’d still be stuck in a slump?” She nodded.

“Except, for me, it’s not so much a slump. At least I wouldn’t call it a slump.” We walked together, though her strides were a crawl.

“What would you call it then?”

“I don’t know,” she smiled, “But, a slump for me is having a dearth of ideas. It means that I can’t paint despite wanting to paint. But right now, I can’t paint and I don’t want to paint.”

“Even if you’ll go back to it eventually?” Her steps filled the offbeat of the wind.

“You really do sound like her,” she said as she brought her hands to support her head.

“Like who?” We found ourselves nearing the end of our strange journey. The town was all that existed beyond the park, a regular town filled with regular and irregular shattered dreams.

“An old friend of mine. She used to always harp on about me. She always told me things like that, you know. Always throwing it back on me, always trying to make me see how silly I was being.” To have her dream be shattered was anything but inane.

“I don’t know, I don’t know what I want, and I don’t know what to  do. I don’t want to paint for people. I don’t want to win awards. I just want to paint the things I want to paint. After all this time, I’ve come to realize that. When did I forget?”

“And that’s what you know?” I smiled for her.

“That’s what I know,” she returned the sentiment.

“You don’t care if other people see your work?” The town beyond us swirled in activity. Cars rushed by, crowds congregated, and laughter exuded the air. Clara was tethering with her feet, kicking it between the discolored area of the town, and back into our strange journey.

“I really don’t.” Her eyes wandered to that imaginary border.

“Isn’t that fine then?” Clara’s dream was one that existed through herself. The future she saw never included anyone, and so, I wondered why she felt the need to have that dream be shattered. I perhaps thought it was due to semantics.

“If you just want to paint for yourself, then you should. It isn’t a matter of money or fame, right?”

“It isn’t.” I smiled for her as the wind came to swirl the normalcy of the town with the strangeness behind us.

“Then you should do exactly that. You said you didn’t want to paint anymore, but the truth is you really do want to paint, right? You should paint. Not for anyone else, but for yourself.” The words that came out of my mouth spilled out of an urge within me. I always attributed my hobby of conversation to be just that, and yet I always found it irritating to hold in my own advice. I wanted humans to succeed, to have their dreams be shattered, but to dream again. Though, I didn’t want to openly admit that. That would be too human.

“That’s the dream alright, to be able to do the things you said. To be able to paint for yourself without worry.” She looked up at me, her eyes wide and glinting in the low light that stuck between us. Her trail of dark fluttered lightly in the gust and her breathing skipped.

“But that just isn’t how it works.”

“Why not? You said it yourself that–”

“It doesn’t matter what I say!” Her voice cut the air, finding its way to my ears in bangs. In her energy she stepped forward, her hands on my shoulders, and her breathing dangerously dancing.

“In a world like this,” she began, her voice quivering between breaths, “That’s all that matters! Being able to paint well and being able to paint for an audience! In the end, it doesn’t matter if I call myself a painter. I want to be a painter, but I want to paint for myself. I just want to be left alone.” I wondered if she had another dream to shatter, if at that moment, it would shatter.

“And why can’t you call yourself an artist without needing an audience?” I asked. The work of semantics would never stop plaguing the Earth. No matter how much humans sought out the truth, they only ever derived from the truth. I’ve come to learn from humans just how many ways they can all contrive a single truth.  Though I couldn’t fault them too much. Those muddled truths came to be the path of the divines.

“Even if I try to paint, to ignore the world around me and to live in this bubble,” her hands began to shake. The winds that wrapped around her fingers seemed to be console her abated breaths.

“I keep falling back into that nice section of the world that wants me to be a painter for a cause, and for a purpose. There’s nothing I can do. It’s the way I’ve always been painting. It’s how I’ve been able to get through my days. And yet–”

“It’s a lifestyle that contradicts with what you actually want.” She nodded. I felt her muscles ache. She wanted to cross that line, to find herself in a town of normalcy. Her dream had shattered, she no longer wanted to paint.

“Does that make any sense to you, Summer?” Her voice waned. It almost failed to reach my ears.

“Not at all,” I said, honestly. No matter how much I wrapped my head around the concept, to find my logic in her world, I was beaten. That much was only human. And so, I could only understand her by draining all logic. That was a trick I learned through many similar cases. No matter how brilliant, humans are bogged by their own minds.

“But that’s just how you are, Clara. Do you like who you are?” Feet began shuffling towards us. Their words sprang into the air, and as they walked past us, into the town, Clara smiled.

“Not at all.”

“And are you planning to change that part of you?”

“If I changed that part of me, I’d stop painting all together. I wouldn’t be able to handle myself. I’d just be a–”

“Normal person?” She let out a breath. It wandered into the town.

“Is that why you gave up today? Is that why you vowed never to paint again? Because you’d like to be a normal person?” Her eyes strained.

“Or perhaps, you’ve had a change of mind? You don’t have to be anyone to do anything,” I started. I was drawing on ends all the things I knew about the people I’ve met. I fabricated an answer as a divine to get closer to a human. I as a fake could never understand what the real felt. However, I knew better as a fake to understand exactly what the real needed. I wondered if that was what made my hobby so successful.

“You know that Clara. I don’t have to tell you this, and I won’t. But, you aren’t a painter because someone else said you are. You’re not human because someone said you were a human. It’s just who you are, right?” I smiled for her. I would never forget to smile. Sometimes even I would be affected by something as simple as a smile.

“I wish I could look at the same world you’re looking at Summer.”

“You really wouldn’t. I’m just speaking my mind.” She stared at me for a moment, but then smiled to herself.

“There are people in this world who can do anything they want. Maybe they were born with that strange knack for whatever it is they do. Maybe they got lucky. Or maybe, they’re strong. I’ve never been any of those things. And yet, I’ve always wanted it to work for me. And it almost did. If you looked into how I was doing, you’d think I made it.” She stepped forward, through that boundary, her dark trail following her into a strange light. She turned and smiled, her eyes glistening, and her words barely able to reach the ends of her mouth.

“But no matter what I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t handle any of it. I wasn’t have fun anymore. It wasn’t who I was.” She cleared her throat, her voice growing less and less audible. I smiled for her.

“So you decided to stop being who you were,” I continued for her, “But in doing so, you’ll never be able to find your own passion anymore. At least not in painting.” She wiped her tears, and turned to face the town. Another couple was walking by.

“I’m sure you don’t understand why I’m doing the things I do. But you’re not me. And I’m not you. I’m happy like this. I know I’ll be. I have to be.” She began to walk, without turning to wave, or to see who she had left. She walked without a proper farewell, and as she came onto the streets, her steps seemed to lighten. A feeling in me wanted to follow her, but another feeling told me that I had done everything I could. I didn’t know whether my hobby was successful that day. All I wanted to do was to talk. And so I did. That day, I turned back into that strange journey we had, and I paused at every display, wondering if each had been made of a shattered dream.

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 4: Dream to Paint

It had become second nature to me that I indulged in my hobby known as conversation. There was nothing better than getting to know the very people who dreamt up the divines. There was nothing better than coming to love those people as well. Though as a divine that concept isn’t one I should flaunt. We were after all two different beings living in the same conceptual existence. Of course it was only a one-sided feud, but if the moment arose that the World of the Living caught wind of us, they would wage war without wane. That was only human.

“Why do you paint?” I asked as Clara closed her eyes on the wall. Clara shifted in her seat before allowing her shoulders to drop and her body to slow. The floor of the building wasn’t level, but even so Clara allowed every orifice of her body to release. As she mulled my words, I listened as the vents circulating the room roared in thunderous booms.

“Why I paint?” She repeated. She looked up at the light fixture. It’s glow barely reached us, but from the distance it lay, it produced a warming beacon.

“That’s a nice question. Why I paint, huh? Can I ask you something as well?”

“Go ahead.” Her dark hair spilled onto the floor as she turned her head towards me. Her eyes seemed to struggle to open as she stared at me.

“Why do you do the things you do?” She asked, her voice simmering in the air, gently arriving to my ears. The vents were louder.

“Why I do the things I do?” She nodded, though her head barely moved.

“Right. Like your job or waking up. Why do you do those things?” It was my duty but just saying that wouldn’t have sufficed any kind of answer. I knew she wouldn’t accept that reasoning.

“If not for a sense of obligation then because I enjoy the things I do,” I answered. It was the only truth I could gather. I longed for every day to be interesting. And I was inclined to the interesting. Apart from collecting shattered dreams, meeting people and partaking in my duty was fun. Or at least, fun in terms of what a divine could consider as fun.

“You enjoy the things you do?” She hummed in the spot. Her eyes closed, and her hands were curled onto the floor.

“For the most part. I do things within my own enjoyment and curiosity. If I didn’t like what I was doing, I wouldn’t be doing them,” I added. However my answer was only layered in some truth. My duty is to collect shattered dreams. I can’t run from that fate.

“I see. That’s a common answer.” She smiled and let out a breath.

“It’s also a good answer,” she chuckled. She stretched forward with her hands, wiggling her toes, but unable to reach them.

“People should answer like that, all the time. If not, then this world would turn out to be a sad place, don’t you think?” She gave up halfway, then retracted her body.

“Is that also your answer? You enjoy painting?” She opened her hand to her face and begun peering through the gaps between her fingers, looking at the light fixture.

“Do I paint because I enjoy to paint? Yes. I very much like painting, it’s been my passion for quite some time. I’ve always loved art and I’ve always wanted to pursue this,” she said with a sigh.

“However, I don’t enjoy painting for galleries.” She let her hand rest. She got up, walked over to the edge of the light and watched the fixture as it grasped towards her.

“For galleries?” She turned, her back facing the light, her entire body shrouded in a quiet darkness. The vents stopped roaring.

“There’s a difference between painting for yourself, and painting for others.” Her voice didn’t waver as it travelled the air between us. It was sharp.

“For example, if I wanted to paint a tree, I would. No one would stop me or think twice about the tree I painted. It was my business, my own time.” She turned back towards the perimeter of the fixture. She dared not enter that light.

“But if I wanted to paint a tree for a man who would pay me money I would have to be stopped and I would have to think twice. It wasn’t my business, or my time. Selling a tree to myself I could draw anything. I could draw a boat and call it a tree and I’d be happy. But to someone else I’d be insane. What kind of boat was a tree?” She laughed.

“So if I wanted to paint for others, to sell my works, I’d have to play the market. I’d have to paint what others want to see even if that wasn’t what I wanted to do, even if they disagreed to what I had in mind. It doesn’t matter what I think. As long as I can get them what they want.” She raised her hands towards the light, her fingers breaching the fixture. Though, as she felt the tiny warmth of the beacon, she let her hands rest. She stood there, aloof, before moving her feet forward. Her entire body bathed in the light.

“I’m beginning to understand. You enjoy painting at its essence, the act of it, the freedom of it, right?” I could relate to her sentiment, though I wasn’t one for art. I continued.

“But that freedom is lost once it becomes a job. You have to sell what sells, and what sells may not be the things you want to paint. Therefore, even if you do like painting, you don’t like painting here, right?” She picked up her blank canvas, and propped it against the seat. It was brightened by the fixture. She  picked up her paintbrush, slowly caressing each hair and allowing it to simmer off her skin.

“That’s right,” she answered, “If I want to make it big and paint, I’d have to sell at galleries, and auctions, and every place where you can smell bread and wine. I’d have to play the market, I’d have to throw my name out there, become a brand. That’s where the money is.”

“There aren’t any other ways to go about it?” She planted her brush into the palms of her hands before shaking her head.

“Maybe. I could make my own store, sell my own pieces, and go independent. But do you know how many people have tried that?” The hairs began to split.

“Quite a bit?”

“That’s right. Quite a bit. Some make it, sure. Those that follow the flow of the people, the flow of culture can find their own wave.” She pushed harder and watched as the brush turned into a mop.

“The flow of culture?” She loosened her grip, then raised the brush to her face. It was left in disarray, though she began to straighten it through her hands.

“That’s right. Popular media. Things you’d see everyone gouging their eyes for. You follow the mainstream, and you’ll become the mainstream.” She chuckled as she set her brush aside. Her palette still had paint smeared across its edges. Splotches of red, blue, and green laid in wait.

“I’m not the kind of person that can follow that flow. I just can’t. There are people that chase the things they want, and it just so happens to be the things others want. Some people may call those that do that talented or lucky. What do you think I call them?” She picked up her brush, and lightly pricked the hairs over the red.  She then swiped the empty side of the palette, leaving a stroke of red on the brown of the wood.

“Lucky?”

“Lucky. They’re extremely lucky. Luck has nothing to do with art, but it’s everything to do with surviving in art. Do you know why?” She pressed the hairs to the blue, and made a stroke below the red.

“Creating starts from within, from my understanding. You take your own ideas, and you meld them together. Your ideas once melded start forming a basis for a whole, and your job is to oversee that whole, to give it meaning.” Clara laughed. She placed the brush and palette onto her seat and then left the boundaries of the fixture.

“That’s a good answer. That really is. You’re right, that’s exactly it. That’s my job, isn’t it? That’s what I do every day, right?” She smiled to herself as she spun on the spot.

“I paint to make something come together. I put colors, lines, strokes and hues together to mold an idea in my head, right?” Her smile waned for a moment. She pursed her mouth to the side and shrugged.

“But you can’t?”

“But I don’t want to.” She sighed and stretched behind her head to trace her hair.

“You don’t want to paint?” She shook her head and tapped the back of her foot onto the floor. A bang resounded as she closed her eyes.

“That’s right. I don’t want to paint anymore. That’s why I can’t.” She laughed.

“That’s right, maybe that’s it all along. Maybe I just don’t have it anymore.” That’s why her dream was shattered. She was sitting on her balcony, a canvas in tow, and the wind swirling around her. She had her tools in her hands, and she was smiling. She painted with ease and all around her were filled canvas’ of all her ideas. Her dream was just simply to paint and yet it was a dream she couldn’t accomplish despite her painting. I was interested.

“How long have you been painting?”

“Since I’ve always wanted to do this, I’ve been painting as much as I can. Since high school, I’d say.”

“And how old are you now?” She laughed when I asked.

“Old enough to be worrying about this.” She held onto her arms as she stretched them towards me.

“Did you like to paint in the beginning?”

“Of course I did, it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. It was the only thing I could do,” her voice stung the air between us. I closed my eyes to let her words permeate me.

“And you got good enough to turn that into a job?”

“That’s right. Eventually, I found a manager and I started selling. At first it was great but then I started doubting myself.” Her eyes lit up for a moment.

“It’s funny. I’m talking to you like this about my problems and it feels so easy. Why do you think that is?” I shrugged. Even I couldn’t quite understand why my hobby was as successful as it was. I wish I could give her an answer. I had grown a liking to her.

“Maybe it’s the fact you’ve never lost the will to paint in the first place.” She turned her head.

“If you didn’t want to paint, you’d stop altogether, right? You wouldn’t be dragging your feet like this. Have these thoughts always been with you?” She laughed again. I began to find her voice to be beautiful when she laughed. Her laugh wrapped around me before dissipating into the material of the room.

“You sound like an old friend I know.”

“An old friend?”

“But we’re going to be kicked out of here soon enough. Mind if we change venue?”

“Sure.” We got up and with her equipment in hand began to the hallway that I had arrived in. It had apparently linked to an outside parking lot. Before I knew it, Clara’s world began to entrance me.

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 3: Dream to Stay Up All Night

4

            “You want to be an adult?”

“That’s right, I want to be an adult.” Her voice was unwavering, and she stared at me without emotion. Her eyes told no lies. She took a cracker from her bag, and began to chew. I knew her feet her back couldn’t have been comfortable with the way she sat, though she didn’t seem to mind.

“You think staying up all night will help you become an adult?”

“If I can stay up all night, I’ll be that much more of an adult than any of the other kids. Besides, my parents always tell me to sleep early but I know that they’re staying up all night. If I can be like the, then I can do whatever I want, and no one will treat me like a kid.” She finished her snack, and got up. She nearly tipped as I got up to support her. I smiled as she was in my arms. Although the church didn’t have any particularly dangerous debris hanging about, her every step began to worry me. Though at the same time, I couldn’t quite figure out why I was worried.

“Why do you want to be an adult?” She didn’t answer, but I felt her flinch. She then escaped my arms and began to skip. Her every step sunk as the boards warped in her weight.

“You want to be an adult so you don’t have an excuse to play with other kids? So that you can go off and do your own things on your own time. Because you want to be alone?” She still didn’t answer. I found some validity in my inquiry as with how much humans I’ve encountered. And at the same time, I figured I at least had an inkling to Lottie’s character. The day wasn’t growing any older, and our conversations couldn’t have gotten any more inane. But, that was how humans were. That was what made them beautiful.

“Why do you want to be an adult?” I asked again. She smiled to herself as she skipped about, ringing the air around us with her indiscretion.

“I can always leave you know.” She stopped and shook her head.

“You want to get away from your parents?” My words seemed to linger in the air for stopping Lottie in her place.

“No matter what you do,” I continued, “You’ll always be a kid. You haven’t lived long enough to be able to call yourself an adult. I don’t think anything can change that. No matter who you are, as long as you’re like this, you’ll always be a kid.”  I could only garner what was appropriate, and what was not. Being an adult for me was all in the age. And in age, comes experience and wisdom. Was that not how it went?

“Even a child can stay up all night, right?” I wasn’t able to see what someone’s dream was through just looking at them or interacting with them. I didn’t think I’d ever get to that point. My hobby doesn’t dictate something as important as that. It was just conversation. Though if someone had shattered their dreams, I would glean something entirely different from that person. If someone had their dreams shattered, I would be able to know exactly what it was that availed them. I wanted that from Lottie. Though, I didn’t want to shatter her break of my own volition. That wasn’t my duty.

“It’s frustrating,” Lottie started, her hands curled into fists, “It’s frustrating, it’s frustrating… It’s frustrating– It’s frustrating,” then she stopped. She took a breath, before continuing, “Being treated like a kid all the time, it’s frustrating!” Her voice boomed back to her. She noticed this, and then simmered. She lowered herself and began picking at the wood with her finger.

“No one takes me seriously, everyone treats me like a child, like I can’t do anything, so that’s why–”

“That’s why you have to do things by yourself?” She chipped away at the floor and nodded.

“You think your parents don’t want you home because you’ll do something to make them look bad in front of their guests?” She nodded.

“Has it always been like that?”

“It has.” She was tracing her finger on the grain of the wood. Upon lifting her hand, a trickle of blood came down. It began to pool on the wood beneath her.

“And what about your friends?” She didn’t answer.

“They make fun of you for always playing alone?” She stared at the wound on her finger without moving an inch. I sighed and walked over to her, grabbing her hand, and pressing onto her wound.

“You don’t have any friends?” I asked as I looked at her averted eyes. As I brought my finger away, I watched as her blood evaporated from the surface of my skin in an instant. I was glad she wasn’t watching.

“So they told you to go out today and you want to stay up all night to prove you can handle yourself?” She shook my hand and then stood. She curled her finger to hold the wound and then nodded.

“And you’re not worried that you’ll make them panic once they realize you’re staying up all night in abandoned homes and churches?” I chuckled.

“How long have you been thinking of staying up all night?” Though she said it was her dream, I had to be wary of a child’s paradigm. Any single moment in her life could have caused her to dream. After all, it was only human to dream, and so I couldn’t blame her. The World of the Living  is always filled with such mysticism that erupted in the formation of dreams. I could only hope that they one day shattered.

“Just today,” she answered meekly. She paced about with light steps. I walked over to the altar and looked at the statue of the man that still somehow remained standing. A religious fanatic would have accustomed that to some kind of Christian miracle. I pegged it was due to the material. I turned and asked, “But you were thinking of other ways to show your parents that you’re capable, right? I mean, on other weekends.” She nodded.

I couldn’t help but to smile. Dreams are a human’s fickle emotional currency. There are dreams that last a lifetime, and there are dreams that have just been conceived. My hobby consisted of the latter, and my duty consists of a range of the two. It may have been inane to call Lottie’s want to be an adult a dream, but if she so wished it, then it was so. That was human inevitability. That was the pragmatic logic she implored. It didn’t surprise me at all though I wondered if that was really what she wanted. An important part of dreams after all was the reason for conception. That was what interested me most.

“So I guess this was one of the easier ways to show to your parents that you were capable?” She nodded with her steps.

“It was something that I could actually do without much help or attention,” she added.

“Right, but doing so out of the comfort of your own home already attracts attention.” She stopped and looked at me with a pout. I laughed. She sighed. I wondered if it was healthy for a child to sigh. Surely, they shouldn’t.

“That’s why I wanted to ask you.”

“I see. Is it something like even if your parents found you, you can say that there was nothing to worry about because you had an adult with you?” She nodded.

“It’s not like I can’t stay up all night,” it was just that my room would probably not take it kindly for me to spend the day out and about. The last time I did didn’t end very well. But I couldn’t tell her any of that. If the time came, it came.

“But  you should go home when you get the chance,” I continued, “It’s better to listen to your parents. They’re not doing this because they don’t trust you or that they hate you. They’re your parents, and they love you.” At least, that was my perception of the human relations. Parents love their children. They just often had horrible methods expressing that love.

“I won’t,” she declared. She held her hands to her hips, her wound pressing onto her sides.

“Look, Lottie–”

“I won’t, because they don’t want me there,” she stamped her feet on the ground. Her hands were shaking.

“What makes you say that?” She lowered her arms and looked towards the crumbling ceiling of the church.

“The guest that they’ve been bringing over is someone here to take me away.” I’d heard about it before. Only briefly, and never with my own eyes, but the world was an unlawful place. I perhaps thought she meant trafficking.

“Take you away?”

“This isn’t where I belong.” I had dug into a rabbit hole I wasn’t ready to discover. Though  despite what I may have been getting myself into, I was still daftly interested. It wasn’t that I could particularly feel joy or curiosity. But I was interested. I couldn’t quite say I was empathic to her cause, but, I wanted to know more about her situation. I wasn’t so sure if I could help.

“The parents I have now aren’t mine. They bought me.” Her voice distilled in the air that surrounded us. It shook the ground, and it stung the walls. It was incredibly clear, and her eyes were barren.

“You’re adopted?” I said out loud as I remembered the word.

“I don’t know who my real parents are, but before them I was in another town with a bunch of other kids. I never got along with them, but one day I came here. They didn’t want to talk about it, but I knew from the other kids that I was someone who was bought. I was with fake parents.” She began to scum off the dust from the floorboards with her foot. She didn’t falter once in her words, nor did she shake or show any signs of being afflicted with any hardships. Her life was just that.

“So you’ve been dealing with this for… How long?”

“A year now.” Her wound had stopped bleeding as she pressed it towards her top.

“You’ve been alone for so long, and here you are trying to be alone again.” She gave a light smile, the winds seeping in through the cracks between the walls, and her hair began to dance. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought the wind was trying to wisp her away.

“My parents don’t want to admit it but they’re trying to sell me back. I looked at the papers when I snuck into their rooms.”

“Do you know why?”

“They’re selling me for more than they bought me. So maybe they want the money.” It was possible. There were all kinds of people in the World of the Living. I didn’t know Lottie’s circumstances, nor did I know whether what she was seeing wasn’t something she’d misconstrued. No matter how mature, she’s still a child, a child with a dream to become an adult by staying up all night. To force a child into such conviction was something I found quite inhuman.

“So you think they wouldn’t sell you if you became an adult?” She nodded. I held my breath before  continuing.

“It almost makes sense,” I started, “But if their intention was to sell you for more later, being an adult would only increase your price, don’t you think?” I didn’t know how human trafficking worked, but I figured it was something to that effect.

“Instead of trying to do something as dangerous as going against your parents, shouldn’t you have called the police?” I understood how the human justice system worked, and although they couldn’t always be trusted, it was a great place to start.

“I did. But my parents said that I was agitated and scared. They believed them right away.” Considering her lineage, perhaps that would come off as believable. An orphan of her age, for so long, would especially be distrusting. I wondered why she opened up to me. Was it just because I had talked to her, or perhaps there was something more? I often thought that the success of my hobby was somehow related to my ability to seem harmless to other humans. Humans sense danger from other humans and animals after all But I was a strange being. From an evolutionary standpoint, I shouldn’t have set off a human’s danger receptors. Was that how it worked? Either way, I was glad I could have her open up to me.

“Have your current parents done anything particularly bad to you?” She shook her head. Her feet grew tired as she plopped onto the floor. She made a notion to hide her wound from the rot that surrounded the church.

“But your new parents might,” my words seem to hang in the air.

“What do you mean?”

“You were right about trying to stay up late,” something in me burst. It rarely ever happened but to put it simply it was when my hobby became personal. I didn’t know if I had a right to make things personal, but I couldn’t help myself. When my hobby became duty, it was all I could ever think of.  When dealing with the fickle emotional currency of dreams, I’ve always found it prudent to put my trust in people. They often trusted me as well. Someday, that’ll be my undoing. I knew it from the bottom of my non-existent heart, but I trusted Lottie with everything I had. And so, I sought to give her some kind of way out.

It’s been far too long since something this interesting presented itself to me. I wasn’t about to let that chance flutter.

“Staying up late led you to want to go to a place that allowed you to do that. A place that’s far from your parents, a place they wouldn’t think to go, right?” She nodded.

“That led you to find me. And, this is going to sound crazy but I want you to run away.”

“Runaway?”

“Do you have anyone in this town that might help you out in this situation?” I turned to see her shake her head.

“You’re about to be sold. Maybe to someone bad, maybe to someone good. But do you really want that? You might want to be an adult but they’ll never grant you that as long as you keep being exchanged through hands. Of course, I can’t say for sure what’ll happen but this offer only lasts now.” To be honest, I didn’t actually have much of a plan to begin with. I just wanted to run away with her, to have this odd scenario play out.  And, I also knew that my room would catch up with me if I meddled for too long. That’s why I usually only stuck with people for a day at most. I didn’t want to anger he who resided in my room, and those who would take advantage of my staying in the World of the Living. My life was a lot more complicated than I could ever hope it wouldn’t be. But this made it somewhat worth it.

“I don’t know,” she answered, “I don’t know what to do.” She flung herself onto the floorboards, her entire body splayed across the church like a sacrifice. She closed her eyes.

“Well, what we can do is think, maybe even think all night. But you have to do something. Either way, if you decided to run away you can stay up all night and be an adult. Or you can stay here, stay up all night, and go back to whatever will happen. Of course, by that time, I’ll be long gone.” She scrunched her face, her hands growing red from the pressure of maintaining a fist, though her body was relaxed all the same.

Next Part

One Day, Somewhere In The Future

I always found it hard not to think about the future. My mind just flutters about, wondering about what the next day could bring. However, deep down I know that there’s no point in doing so. Deep down I know that the best thing to do is to let the future play itself out. I should just wait and see where I could be and not worry about my uncertainties. But deep down, I get excited about that kind of stuff. How can I not? It’s my future after all.

When I get like that I get scared. It’s fine to be scared, right? We’re all scared sometimes. But when I get scared, I get really scared, and when that happens, I tend to go out.

It was a brisk morning, the break of dawn, when I opened the curtains. The orange sunlight bled into my room and washed over my eyes. When my vision finally adjusted, I peered my face over the glass, and noticed how dark the skies were. The clouds were just on their way.

That day I had a dream. My head was still spinning, and the air in my room was stifling. If I had stayed any longer, I thought I would have been dragged into another world, soulless. In reality, I had just woken up to a bad headache.

When I got up towards the bathroom, I couldn’t help but to stare at the papers on my desk. Each one had a different path for me. And I stayed up all till the late of night reading those papers. They made me sick.

I put on something light, tied my hair and quietly made my way to the door. Each step I took made a slight creak in the floorboards. I pretend to be a spy, and lifted my weight as much as possible. Somehow, my parents hadn’t noticed. I slowly turned the knob, opening the door just so that I could fit, and when I was out I slowly closed the door. Once out, a gust of morning air came rushing. I sighed, and then looked towards the sun. It’s morning glory was peeking through the running clouds. I began my walk.

Around where I lived the mornings were always peaceful. No one was up and about. The streets were silent and if I stood still I could imagine myself as the last person on Earth. The morning breeze would wrap itself around me, and I would feel my face flushing in the cool airs of fall. I would open my eyes to see the orange leaves bleed the pavement, and the orange breech of sunlight above, coloring the world in a strange blood. I eventually found myself in front of my old school. It’s bricks would be illuminated by the slight glow of the sun, and it’s name would shimmer in weak gold.

“You’re here awfully early, and for that matter, incorrectly as well.” I turned to see one of my old school teachers coming up beside me. He never did look like much of the part. He always dressed so sloppily that we first confused him for some kind of older student just messing around. But he was our teacher nonetheless.

“I can say the same for you. Teachers don’t have to come in this early, right?” He shook his head. His hair was incredibly messy, and his hands were attached to his pockets.

“We don’t but I live near here anyway. The mornings are nice around these parts, I’m sure you’ve noticed.” He smiled like a child.

“So why are you here, Eve?” We stared at the school,  the dawn of the sun glowing behind us, and the slow airs of fall swirling in our wake.

“You said you were going to take a year off, right?” I nodded.

“Did you ever tell me why?”

“I didn’t.” I smiled. I didn’t tell a single person why. I couldn’t even tell myself why.

“I suppose it’s something personal, huh?”

“Maybe.” He looked at me with a raised face and then shrugged.

“Whatever your reason, it’s still yours, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” he gave out a hearty sigh, and then continued, “If you wanted a year off to goof around or if you seriously just wanted the time to figure yourself out then both are valid reasons.” The morning birds sang.

“Whatever it is that you want to do is up to you. No one can tell you otherwise, okay, Eve?” I nodded.

“And that also means that if you got kicked out of your house that you shouldn’t feel too bad,” he said with a playful smile.

“I didn’t get kicked out! Not this early in the morning. I was just out on a walk.”

“Oh? You don’t look the type?” His teasing smile made him seem all the more young.

“Assuming you even knew me that well.” He gave off a pained look on his face, and then chuckled.

“Give me some credit here Eve, I respect all my students.”

“So you’ll remember a student five years ago?”

“Now you’re making me sound old. I’ve only been teaching three years.”

“Then three years?”

“Every single one of them.” His eyes were unwavering as he stood smiling over the buildings glow. Somehow I believed him.

“But going out on walks in the morning? At your age? You must be awfully mature  Eve.” I was just about done with his teasing. However, I appreciated his company. It stopped my mind from wandering.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“Did you always want to be a teacher?” A car went on beyond us, its engine whirring in and its smoke gathered in the air. The sun’s gentle glow began riding up the school’s building and I began losing sense of where the sun was. And where I was.

“From that question, I can guess why you’re out here, Eve.” He looked at me with a caring smile, the kind of smile I would have expected from my father.

“Your future huh? That’s a loaded thing to be up about in the morning.” It felt appropriate that he would pat my head now but of course, he didn’t. I felt a little lonely.

“Being a teacher wasn’t always my thing.”

“Really?” He laughed.

“No. It was never my intention to be a teacher, but it just sort of happened. I wanted to be a social worker.”

“A social worker?” I couldn’t imagine it, no matter how much I tried.

“That’s right. Someone out there, doing whatever it is they do. It’s a long story, and I won’t bore you with it Eve, but in the end this was my next option.”

“Does it really work like that?” Another car drove on by behind us.

“Things happen for a reason. You ever hear about that?”

“Isn’t that just an aphorism?”

“Just an aphorism?” He sighed with a lowered look on his face as he shook his head.

“That’s exactly the point of an aphorism Eve. Things happen for a reason, believe it?” I couldn’t answer.

“Whether or not you do, things really do happen for a reason. Whether that reason is good or bad, well… It doesn’t matter.” A few more cars came buzzing by behind us. He looked into the street with a tired expression.

“I became a teacher because that was the only other option I would stomach. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you have something you want to do, then do it, and if not, just keep living, and keep exploring. That’s the best thing you can do, Eve, to just keep moving forward.” He looked at me with a warm smile, and while lost in his words, I didn’t notice my phone buzzing in my pocket.

“That’s what you’re worried about, aren’t you?” I nodded.

“You’ve got the world ahead of you. Do with it what you will, but, don’t go on depressing walks in the morning. You’re still too young for that.” With that, he began walking  towards the plaza. I noticed the sun burning on my skin, and when I turned, it was above me, the clouds had escaped, and I was left in front of my school with only my mind for company. His words began tearing into me. I still couldn’t grasp what he fully meant, nor, did I really do so as I began thinking of the day after tomorrow. Even then, with the quiet of my mind left to its own devices, I was still left prisoner to the uncertain. As I got home, ignoring the text from my parents to tell them where I was, I smiled and laughed and wondered if one day, somewhere in the future, I could really find myself somewhere. I still had a long time to go, but for the first time that day I wondered what I would do for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 3: Dream to Stay Up All Night

3

Human life is a collection of things. Those things can be said and acted in an infinite number of ways despite leading to the same result. That much is the handiwork of semantics. From this, the line between what is and what isn’t becomes obsolete. As such the entire world could be fake. And yet for being so fake the world is beautiful and alive.

“What’s your name?” Lottie asked as she led me to the kitchen.

“Summer.” She paused.

“Summer? That’s–” Her hand ruffled through a few cupboards before pulling out a sandwich bag of crackers, “A really unique name.” She

“Oh yeah? What’s your name?” She opened the bag, plopped a cracker in her mouth, and then handed me one.

“Are you sure that’s safe?

“Lottie, and I’m the one that put them there.” I flinched. At the time, I found her name to be quite strange, though, it was adorable nonetheless. I took the cracker and plopped it into my mouth to show good faith.

“Lottie?” I repeated.

“You have a problem with my name?” She said with her hands to her hips. I chuckled.

“Not at all. It’s just a strange name is all.” She pouted and then pushed past me. I wondered how a child could contain so much energy.

“You make it sound like you’ve heard every name on the planet.”

“Clearly I haven’t.”

“It’s not a nickname or anything.” She turned and led me to the front door.  Before speaking, she planted her feet firmly onto the wood and pointed at me.

“My full name is Lottie. Not Charlotte. Not… Well, that’s the only other name that’s come up so far. But, it’s Lottie. Okay?”

“Sure thing, Lottie.” She nodded firmly and then turned to open the door. The sun enveloped her as she stepped out. The air of the town washed over us in strides, and I noticed that the abandoned home, unsurprisingly, was at the tail end of the town. We were surrounded by a dilapidated fence, with uncut grass and empty road. However, the distant sounds of movement found themselves to my ears which allowed me to simulate the geography of the town I found myself in.

“Where are we going?” I asked as she began to march out of the yard.

“We’re going on an adventure! At least until night,” she declared with a finger pointing forward.

“Until night?”  She turned with her hands to her hips.

“You’re an adult, so of course you can stay until night!” She and then continued without giving me room to answer. The cloud filled sky  seemed to move as slowly as the day as I followed her.

“So what kind of adventure do you have in mind?” I asked as she pounced onto the empty road.  She turned with the wind, her hair fluttering behind her like a cloak.

“It’s going to be an adventure filled with monsters!” Her entire face contorted.

“And dungeons!” She scrunched her face even harder, her eyes narrowing.

“And dragons!” She then puffed her cheeks in thought.

“I guess that’ll do for now!” She let out.

“Oh yeah? There are monsters, dungeons, and dragons here too?”  Lottie let out a laugh as she stared at me with hard eyes.

“But you’ve never seen the types of things that lurk here! It’s nothing compared to where you’ve been!” I wanted so much to tease her, but the better half of me knew not to. In fact, the better half of me was still questioning my decision to play with her. If I kept the charade, I knew for sure that my room would come to swallow me. Or worse yet, send a divine to hunt me. However, this was in a way future proofing for the chance that she might shatter a dream while we played. If only I could tell.

“So what kind of monsters do you have here?” I wondered why she was fine being so friendly with a stranger she has no recollection of.  She shook the bag of crackers and listened with a raised face as they clashed together.

“We have ghosts!” She said as she took another bite.

“Ghost hunting? Was that what kids do these days?” I couldn’t even think to laugh. I was just astonished, and also worried.

“I don’t think so,” she answered, “But that’s only because no one but me knows the best places to go ghost hunting!” She pointed across to a dense wooded area that seemed to connect into town. There was an inkling of worry that washed over me as I wondered if any divines had set up residence in this area. Lottie may have used the term Ghost to refer to the spirits of the afterlife, but she wasn’t so wrong. Ghosts are just another term for divines. Though, no divine would want to be generalized with a single term.

“This way!” She said as she led me to that dense wooded area that seemed to connect into town. She began to march, her every step booming in the air, and her hair bouncing with her body as she gave it her all.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” I asked. The entrance of the woods was packed with branches that threatened our faces and rocks that strutted to trip us. I made sure to follow closely behind and to lift any overgrown blades that may have pricked Lottie.

“I’ve never seen a ghost before, but there are all kinds of rumors about the ghosts that roam this town.” Her voice was clear and proud. The bag of crackers she had in her hands were ruffling about with every step as she swung her arms in tune with her steps. It seemed that not a single ounce of fear exuded her despite the subject matter. I wondered if that was the product of ignorance or arrogance

“Rumors?”

“Like the ghost of a lady who died in a car crash, or the ghost of a man who hanged himself in the middle of the road–” I questioned the validity of a man who hung himself in public. Though if that was true, he would surely turn into a divine given enough influence. Influence being the power given to divines through word of mouth. Most divines were born in such a fashion.

“Or even,” she paused for dramatic effect, “The ghost of the Wandering Child!” She let her voice hang in the air, but the leaves of the trees absorbed the brunt of her best attempt at a chilling voice. I held in my laughter.

“The ghost of the Wandering Child?” She nodded as she made a turn through the bushes.

“Yes, the ghost of the Wandering Child! Scared yet?” She raised her voice and puffed out her chest as she snickered.

“Not really.” She flinched, and then cleared her throat.

“In that case prepare to be scared Summer because today we are on the hunt for the ghost of the Wandering Child!” Lottie stuck out her finger and intensified her march. Her every step broke apart spare twigs and leaves and mixed with the howling trunks.

“What is this ghost anyway?” I didn’t need to see her smile to know she was grinning from one end of her face to the other.

“The ghost of the Wandering Child is the most dangerous ghost this town has ever seen!” I would have complained about how loud she was getting if not for the fact that the greater part of the woods seemed to be empty.

“And you’re sure you didn’t make it up?” She flinched, almost tripping on a rock.

“Of course not!” Her proud voice rang up through trees. I didn’t know how far or how long we were walking, but I was half certain we were lost. However, Lottie made a show to lead, and didn’t falter in her directions once.

“The Wandering Child was a little boy who accidently came here on a weekend. His parents let him off for the day when he said he was going out to play with his friends. But turns out–” Just as she was building up her voice, I interjected, “He actually didn’t have friends?”

“He had plenty of friends!” Lottie was quick on the defense. I laughed. She stopped to recollect herself. When she was done, she shook her head and continued.

“But turns out he didn’t go play with his friends. Instead, he came to the shrine found in this forest.” She wiggled her fingers like a puppet master.

“There’s a shrine here?”

“It was an old church. No one uses it anymore since we have one in town, they took away most of the furniture there, but the shrine is still there.”

“Do you go there often?” She nodded.

“So what happened to the boy?” She cleared her throat as the wind came to follow us.

“Rumor has it that he visited the shrine, and–” She paused and collected a gallop.

“And?” I repeated.

“And then the statue got him!” She jumped out at no one in particular.

“Got him?” I wondered if it was some kind of religious sect. It wasn’t that I wasn’t very religious. I wasn’t human after all, but the idea still interested me. The occult, the supernatural, any of which a religion might find heretic was unequivocal fact. It was fascinating to see them be ousted as some kind of malicious force. Though, they weren’t all wrong.

“Rumors have it that a monster came out of the statue and took the Wandering Child to a different dimension!” The theory was almost sound if she was talking about a divine. Except, it wasn’t likely that a monster would find its way into a statue. If Lottie’s story had any sense of credibility, it was probably a Gargoyle of some kind that ate the boy. I knew no talk of dimension shifting Gargoyles, but I could be wrong.

“Wait,” I started, “If the Wandering Child had been taken to a different dimension, how would his ghost be in this dimension?” Lottie stopped in her tracks. The wind blew around us in swirls and the whistling of a trunk filled the silence between us. She grabbed a cracker from her bag, and then stuffed her face before moving on in a hurry.

“It would have made more sense if the Wandering Child had been eaten alive by the statute, that way the ghost hunting part of this would make sense.” She then stopped again, turned towards me, her face lit with energy.

“You’re right! That would be cool!” Upon noticing her admittance, her face grew red. Her eyes were wide, and then, she swallowed  a cracker and pointed at me while avoiding my eyes, “That is an astute observation, Summer. I’ll keep that in mind.” She turned, and walked in long strides as if nothing had happened.

“So is there any other reason for you coming here?” I smiled smugly behind her, hoping she would turn, but she didn’t.

“It’s quiet,” she said in a whisper.

“It’s quiet?” I repeated much to her surprise.

“The church. The abandoned church is quiet, so I like it there, okay? You have a problem with that?” The trees cleared and before our eyes were the remains of  a church. All the forestry of the area began climbing back to its roots but the church itself was still recognizable. It wasn’t that I was afraid of Lottie being attacked a divine but I sped along to open the door first. I was surprised at how easily I got the door to open. Inside, the church smelled of old wood. She was right, it was barren save for the shrine at the altar. I hoped the building wouldn’t collapse outright on us.

Lottie took a seat on the ground, which had vines sprouting up for the sky.

“I thought you wanted to play?” She shook her head.

“No ghost hunting?” She shook her head more violently. She placed the bag of crackers beside her, and stared at the altar ahead. I sat beside her and watched as her eyes peered at the altar.

“So why are you out on a day like this by yourself?” She turned her head away from me. I couldn’t help but to laugh to myself.

“It’s either here,” she started, “Or the abandoned home. I like it here. This part of town is always so quiet,” I wanted to make a quip, but I refrained, “No one here can bother me, I can do whatever I want. So I go here whenever I can.” She moved herself near the church walls which had lost its color. Upon her leaning, the walls creaked. Her hair was picking up all sorts of dust as she rubbed her back into position. I sighed as I sat opposite her.

“And when do you go here?” She raised her legs and placed her head onto her knees.

“Every weekend when I don’t have school. I come here to play by myself.”

“You don’t get lonely?” She shook her head.

“I’m not lonely. I like being alone.” Although her voice simmered into a low tone, it still rung true within the church.

“I see. What about me? Am I bothering you?” She shook her head and smiled.

“You’re not like everyone else. You’re not like my parents. You’ll play with me and talk to me.” Her voice began to jump like a wisp.

“Your parents won’t do that with you?” She shook her head.

“They’re busy.” I wasn’t one to ignore oddities. I wouldn’t quite say I was empathic towards humans. I enjoyed talking to them, and I enjoyed my time with them as I collected shattered dreams. But as Lottie spoke of herself, I began to wonder about her living conditions. It struck me as odd, but most of all, I felt a dream to be shattered.

“Even now?”

“Even now. They told me to play outside because they have guests coming in for business.” Her voice was low, but she still spoke as clearly as she could. Her smile was light, and her hands were curled up against her legs.

“Is that why you want to stay up till night?” She didn’t answer.

“That’s dangerous, even for a ghost hunter like you,” I chuckled.

“Why does it have to be till night?” She hesitated to answer, but then let go of her legs and allowed them to stretch. She opened her mouth before aptly closing it. Her eyes squinted as she looked at the rotting floorboards. At the most I knew she trusted me now and at the least, I wasn’t doing my job to collect shattered dreams.

“I want to be an adult. That’s my dream.”

Next Part

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 3: Dream to Stay Up All Night

2

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to deal with children or that I had anything against children. In fact I would have pegged myself a child if I were to be a human. The endless ways that a child might grow makes for every encounter to be interesting. At least, that’s what I believe. And so, as the sunlight filtered into the room, exposing the dust in the air and landing somewhere behind the girl I would soon learn to be named Lottie, I engaged in my hobby of conversation.

“Well,” I started, trying to recover from her last berate of my interest in this abandoned home, “The very idea that this place is empty interests me.”

“The very idea that this place is empty?” She still had her arms to her hips, as if she was looking down on me. I didn’t quite take pleasure in debating a child. No matter what smile I gave her, she remained steadfast in her posture.

“Let’s put it this way, are there any things you like?” She scrunched her face and raised her brows towards the ceilings. She tapped once before answering.

“I like hopscotch.” Her voice simmered and raised.

“Hopscotch huh? Not that I’ve ever played.” She was taken aback, her stance completely shattered as she lowered her arms and looked up at me with wide eyes. And then, at a breath, she was back at it, standing strong as ever with her hands to her hips. She pretend to cough.

“You’ve never played hopscotch before?” Her mouth was wide open as she inquired.

“Not at all. Is that strange?” She was taken aback again. She closed her eyes and then pointed at me with conviction.

“That’s impossible!” Her voice rang throughout the home, and I wondered that if she exasperated louder if she could tumble the entire area. I could hardly contain my laughter.

“It’s true.” I was slowly breaking down her barrier. Though as I noticed this, I began to wonder why I was spending time talking to her. I wasn’t quite sure if my hobby of conversation allowed this to pass.

“How could you not!? Weren’t you a kid too?” Actually, I wasn’t. The idea of my conception was as strange as the idea of me being able to talk to Lottie. However, I couldn’t quite tell her that.

“You really are strange.” She pointed to the floor beneath her, to the playground constructed of chalk she had procured. She then went to the bottom of the playground, to the tile marked with the number one, and looked up while pointing at me, “Watch and learn!” On one foot,  she skipped onto the first tile. Upon landing she stuck up a peace sign and smiled with her teeth. She continued her strides until she landed on the last tile. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what hopscotch was, just that I’ve never had the chance to play.

“And that was hopscotch!” She crossed her arms and stuck her head up as she stood as tall as she could.

“Are you really an adult who hasn’t played hopscotch?” I nodded and smiled. Then, as if a switch, she raised her hand and pointed at me. Her other hand landed on her hip.

“So what did you mean before?” I was glad she remembered.

“Let’s say you never had the chalk to actually draw hopscotch, but you hear the other children talk about it all the time. What would you think?” She pouted and turned her head. Then, once her face started growing red, she took a puff out and while pointing at me as if she was the ruler of the world, replied, “I would be jealous!”

“Well, you’d be interested too, right? You’d want to know what it is that everyone’s talking about, you’d want to be there, right?” She placed her finger over her mouth tilted her head, and pouted. The longer she thought, the more her head lowered, until finally, she sprouted up, and said with confidence, “Yes!”

“So, do you see my point?”

“Yes!”

“So you get why I’d be interested in an abandoned home?” I felt my logic was still flawed, but hoped she didn’t catch on.

“Yes!” Every ‘yes’ grew more and more haughty. I felt she somehow grew taller with every confident breath.

“So that’s why you’re here,” She started as lowered herself to the tiles. “Well, I’m here to play hopscotch.” She began to deepen the chalk lines she made. Every stroke elicited another creak. I couldn’t help but to smile as she went about her way like nothing had happened.

“You could play hopscotch anywhere though, right?” I asked. She stopped, and then looked at me with a half frown. It seemed she was ready to pounce on me, but she opted instead to turn her attention to the remainder of the room and begun drawing on the wood tiles. I couldn’t tell what she was drawing, though it seemed to amuse her.

“I could. But it’s more fun here,” she said without peering her eyes over to me.

“It’s more fun here?”

“It’s quiet,” she began, her voice seemed to simmer down as the sound of her drawing filled the air.

“I don’t have to worry about other kids, or other adults watching,” she continued, “This place is my little home.” She stopped, her grip on the chalk tightened, and then she turned.

“But you’re here now and as the owner of this space, I ask that you leave!” She pointed her chalk towards me and almost fell over in the movement. She managed to catch herself just as she was about to tip over. She didn’t break a sweat.

“I would leave, but this is an abandoned home, I have every right to be here as much as you do.” I trilled my voice and smiled leaning forward. I saw her twitch for a moment before regaining her composure.

“I was here first!” Alas, she was a child.

“And children shouldn’t be playing in abandoned homes.” I waved my finger in jest to her experience. I had to contain my laughter as she got up and pouted.

“I’ve always been going here, not a single thing has happened to me,” she crossed her arms and gave a prideful smirk.

“You’ve never met a single person?” She shook her head.

“Nope.”

“Never been hurt?” She hesitated, but then shook her head.

“Nope.”

“Never talked to a single person wondering why you were by yourself going to such a dangerous place?”

“Nope.”

“But you did just admit this is a dangerous place,” she kissed her teeth in realization to our banter. I laughed at her chagrin and couldn’t believe how much fun I was having teasing a child. I really wasn’t human.

“Seriously, did you only come here to play hopscotch? On such a day?” I was trying to siphon information out of her. I figured I may as well. I began to wonder whether she had a dream or not. Though, It wasn’t a thought that lasted long. She was human after all.

“Today’s Saturday. I can do anything I want on the weekends,” she said with a prideful smile on her face, “So you can’t tell me what to do.” She crossed her arms and pouted. The sunlight filtering through the window shifted. The room grew into a dark afterglow.

“You’re not with my parents, are you?” Her voice raised as she peered into my eyes.

“Your parents? No, I came here because I was interested, remember? In fact, you probably wouldn’t know who I am even if you think really hard,” I laughed softly to myself. She sighed, and then let her arms down. She began to skip on her own on the hopscotch tiles, though she was nearly dragging her feet with every other step.

“I see. That’s good.” She finished another round of hopscotch, and then turned with her hands behind her back.

“Are you going to do anything today?” She asked with a somber tone. I turned my head to her question, but her eyes didn’t waver. I saw her hands tense as she waited for my reply.

“Probably not,” It wasn’t too much of a lie. The only other obligation I had was to collect shattered dreams. If it had been any ordinary girl just out and about, I would have ignored her. If it was any ordinary, girl just out and about, with a shattered dream, I would have been interested in her. However, neither case was true and yet there I was still talking to Lottie. I wondered what it was that made me want to stay, but before I could come to a conclusion, she continued.

“That’s good, that’s good,” she said as she twirled about in her spot.  Her eyes felt distant as she smiled to herself. She laughed and then ran  to the door behind me.

“Why do you ask?” My words stopped her.

“Why?” She repeated. She scrunched her mouth before answering.

“Well, since you came here interested in an abandoned home, I guess you’ve already seen everything that this place has to offer.” She didn’t peg it as a question, but her haughty attitude was all I needed.

“Right, I did. In fact, I didn’t hear you until I was about to leave.”

“You were about to leave?” Her energy lowered.

“About to, until I found you. I mean, I don’t have anything I need to do, but if you aren’t offering then–” She cleared her throat, her pride rising slowly again.

“In that case!” She declared, “You will accompany me!” She puffed out her chest, and held her head high.

“Accompany you?”

“Yes!” She stampeded off of the door and back into the hallway.

“Even though you wanted me to leave before?” She was stumped, only for a second, but proudly regained composure.

“Yes!” She marched forward.

“You mean to say, you’re lonely?” She stopped.

“That’s none of your business.” She said as she turned with a pout and crossed arms.

“None of my business?” She nodded as she puffed out her chest and marched towards the door that led to the main area.

“Exactly!”

“So, you won’t tell me?” She nodded.

“Not even if I ask nicely?” She reluctantly nodded again.

“So, if it’s none of my business–” I hung my words in the air until she looked me in the face, a pang of worry washing over her, and I tried hard not to laugh.

“Then,” I continued, “I’ll be on my way then, since you clearly won’t tell me what’s up.” I began walking in strides. Each of my steps equated a run from her, and as I came to stand in front of her, I smiled and attempted to pass.

“Wait!” She pushed her hands out and pressed with all her force. However, she tripped on a loose floor board and planted herself onto my stomach. I laughed, knelt down, and patted her head. Her eyes watered as they avoided my smile. A queen doesn’t fall flat on her face to her subjects.

“You want me to play with you?” She nodded without a moment’s question.

Next Part