Up Here, Down There

Up Here, Down There

Just being on Earth was enough for me. I remember seeing the sunrise one day when I was home in the country. The cool fall winds came in swirls as the leaves rustled in a twisted dance. Our wind chimes whistled with the tree trunks. A cold glass of apple juice came onto my lap. My father smiled and pointed towards the sky, his words lost in my memory. I held my head high, the clouds parting. I thought I was being swallowed up by the sun. It eroded every part of my face, blinding me the more I stared. When I squinted to ease the pain, it became like a flickering flame.

It was the last day of summer when I realized how little I had done. Coming into the city never fazed me. I thought I should have been a good citizen, tour a little and see what made the apartments so grey. I never did like the steps of the streets. Everyone was brushing past me, trying to find something I couldn’t quite understand. They were frantic, their eyes peering into a world I had no business in. Even if I had come into the city, they knew I didn’t belong. Why would I? I couldn’t stand in. Eventually I stopped trying. Except I knew that my parents wouldn’t be so forgiving if their thousand dollar expenditure turned into soot.

The streets were devoid of the usual roaring cars and stampeding feet. My steps lingered in the air. I couldn’t stop noticing them. The burning air wrapped around my arms and legs, wanting to send me to Earth. Taking off any more layers would have been dangerous. Though perhaps it would have made a great story.

The buildings that overlaid every corner were like sentries over the horizon. Large red signs and painted women splattered on every window. Even the street lights and telephone poles lost semblance of their purpose. I nodded to the closed pizza store beside the four way. I stopped to peer under its sign board. Mounds of gum was still stuck there. As I walked up to the edge of the sidewalk I heard the sound of a bell. The rotation of its wheels on the pavement muddled with my footsteps. That sound soothed me. A second more and I would have been sent flying.

“Ah damn it. You’re not hurt are you?” He said, his bike briskly on the hem of my shirt. His voice flew off the air. I laughed when I saw his dead eyes and half strewn hair.

“Really? I thought I was going to get yelled at by another old dude,” he said with a sigh.

“Sorry I couldn’t live up to your expectations,” I answered as he put his bike on stand. He walked towards me and looked over at the stoplights ahead. Not a single car came by. He stretched his hands up into the air, and then began reaching down for his toes.

“You doing some morning exercise too?” He asked as he got up to thrust his back. I turned away. His bike had chipped. The blue paint began to meld into a steel. He had a sticker of an exhaust pipe on the seat tube. I wondered why no one ever told him the price tag was still on the seat post.  My father would have died hearing that.

“Who do you think I am Joel?” I asked as I shrugged. I didn’t know why I was friends with Joel. I bet he couldn’t tell me why either. We just happened to like the same pizza store that ran the four way. I really did wish that someone would point out the price tag on his bike.

“I think you’re the type of guy who would almost get run over by a bike in the morning, Eli.” He brought his face to the glass window of the store. Its darkness pervaded him. He shrugged. I couldn’t help but join him.

“You think they carry their store home?” He asked as he side eyed me. The chairs and tables were set up in rows. The counter was guarded by glass, and the broken clock was still beside the menu.

“Like they bake pies for dinner,” Joel added, his eyes glued to a fly buzzing about. I never did peg the store to be anything but dingy. When I first ordered, it took thirty minutes. Something to do with the oven breaking down. Tasted like cardboard but the cashier gave me a bag of chips for free. They were stale. The water was warm. But I loved the place. Joel shrugged once and went over to take the stand off his bike.

“I better get going. The morning’s young but I’ve got a game to catch.” I almost forgot Joel put fifty on the game at lunch. He was too scared to put a tab on the night show. Said the anxiety would kill him. As he began to roll his bike, I stopped him. He was right. The day was young. Those words reminded me of the sunset I saw back home. I had yet to see one here. He looked at me with raised eyes.

“Mind doing me a quick favor?” He sighed. He had been here ever since he was born. I figured he would know a good spot or two for when I needed to be up there and not down here. He nodded to me.

“You know any good spots around here where you can see the sunrise?” I asked. He snickered. He rolled his bike down onto the streets. The stoplight flashing red. I followed.

“The sunrise?” He looked up towards the buildings that watched over us. His eyes loomed into that rising sky. As we finished crossing, he chuckled.

“The last thing I thought you’d ask me is seeing a sunrise. Actually, that was never on my mind.” He stretched his hand towards the sky, letting out a small groan.

“Come on, let’s go.” He began walking his bike, allowing me to meet his stride. The clouds seemed to mimic our steps as we moved away from the grey of the city. The buildings lowered as the sidewalk began growing vegetation. Wild flowers simmered with the wind. I felt my entire body lighten. I began to construct a narrative for my father. He would have believed anything his sweet little boy told him. Perhaps I had a girlfriend here. Perhaps I stopped my best friend from overdosing drugs. Or perhaps I was just barely getting by, scraping the ends of the street for some semblance of my life. He’d even like that. He never did bring me out to see sunrises after that day. I never got to ask why.

“It’s been so many years since I last saw a sun rise. You’d almost think you couldn’t. But you’d be surprised,” Joel said as he stopped his bike and kicked his stand down. We were standing in front of a construction site. Piles of steel garters, wood, and bags of cement were strewn about near the fence. I couldn’t quite tell what the construction was but before I had time to think, Joel started, “You see that crane there? That’s where we’re headed.” I looked towards the tower crane that stood overlooking the site. Its body ran for the sky, its arm out stretching the length of a two homes. Its steel wanted to glisten.

“There must be some law against sneaking into a construction site,” I said as I followed him up the fence.

“As long as we don’t get caught,” he answered as he plopped onto the dirt. Our feet bellowed a small sand storm.

“Why isn’t anyone here?” I asked as we strode towards the crane.

“That’s a good question. This has always been here ever since I could remember. They’ve never made progress. It’s not even on the news. People just don’t care about it. But it sits here watching,” his words fell into my ears like the soft spluttering of rain. I could hear my home’s chimes as his hands meshed into the steel of the crane. He kicked a line in the dirt before ascending the ladder.

“You know what this was supposed to be?” I asked.

“Who knows. I’ve tried asking. No bites.” The quiet sift of the air brought me back to my home. I forgot I was in the city as we climbed.

“You into sunrises?” He asked as we reached the top. He shifted into a crawl as he went up the lane of the arm. We weren’t high enough to touch the clouds, but as I stretched my arms towards the sky, I wondered if I could. My childhood was ecstatic.

“Not really. I saw one when I was a kid. But that was out in the country.”

“I see. It’d make a good memory seeing one in the city. Not many people can contest that they’ve ever seen the sun,” he said with a chuckle. He sat at the edge of the arm, his legs dangling in a pendulum. I crawled towards him, the steel sending shocks to my skin. I took a whiff of the material. It was rusting. The buildings that surrounded us barely made my eye line.

“Being up here is totally different than being jacked up on a blunt. You can’t really say you’ve been in the clouds until you’re this high. Literally,” he laughed. I couldn’t help but join him.

“Do you have anything like this back home?” Joel asked as he brought his hand towards the steel of the arm, allowing his fingers to trace its dust. Before I answered him, I took a whiff of the air. It was warm no matter where I was.

“There’s an old train station. Rundown place with vines. Cold as hell if you go in. No matter what season it is. There’s an abandoned tunnel in there. I think they wanted to connect the country and city with it,” I answered with a chuckle. My father loved going down there and exploring the tunnels that were never used. Broken glass and ruble lined the floor. The tracks were brown, touching them would have gave us as any number of strange disease.

“Sounds like a hell of a place. If I ever visit the country you should bring me there.”

“Except its nothing like seeing a sunrise. Country sunrises are so–Well, I haven’t seen a city one.” He laughed.

“But I’m sure that no matter where you are, being up here will always feel better than being down there.” He closed his eyes as he brought his hands out. His feet stopped, they hung like necks. The warm winds made me itch for a cold glass. I closed my eyes, and waited. The crane creaked in the ensuing gust. My entire body tightened as my skin wanted to melt itself. As I opened my eyes, I half expected my father’s hand on my head.

“And here it is.” He pointed towards a spot between two buildings where the sky began to bleed yellow. It was as if the world was slowly burning away. It blinded me, and as I squinted to ease the pain, it became like a flickering flame. Somewhere in that painted sky was the distant ocean of my home. But that all faded as the crane churned in our weight. My body shook as I looked down at the dirt. It would be splattered with red if I sneezed. I turned back towards the sunrise. The sky was alive, it made me want to stand, and so I did. Joel didn’t peep a word as he turned to see me with my arms out, fluttering in the wind. I imagined the entirety of that sky swallowing me whole. At least now I had a story to tell.

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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

Shattered Dreams, Chapter 2: Dream to Belong

3

I’d never had a dream myself. That is to say, I’ve never had a dream while sleeping, nor carried a dream ready to be shattered. Though, I figured it might have been nice to dream. It would have been nice to have my dreams be shattered. And it would have been nice to dream again. That was all part of being human.

The melody came into view as a crowd of bodies converged around a stage. Everybody was listening without a peep. Some had their eyes closed, while others lit up upon seeing the pianist dance across her instrument. She wore a dress, and had her hair tied up behind her. Her face was blushed and her fingers slender as they played each note like honey clockwork.

“This isn’t some big concert or anything,” Reed began, “But someone I know is playing today. For a charity concert, they’ve really outdone themselves.” It wasn’t that I could discern what good music sounded like to the ears of humans. Despite my having senses, and the ability to absorb information, I wasn’t exactly human. Instead, the sounds reminded me of the world. As the notes bled from the piano to my ears, I was reminded of the sky, and of the ocean. If I closed my eyes, I was sure that I would have fell to another world. Humans had a tact for mysticism. It surprised even the most edificial divines.

I looked over to see Reed’s eyes in quiet admiration. He tapped along with every note. His eyes seemed to glisten in the light that escaped the glass windows, and eventually, I saw them water.

“That’s my little sister. She wants to be a pianist. This is a big day for her.” Her sister looked nothing like the brother in front of me. However, as I peered over towards her, I noticed her eyes were relaxed. As her body moved to and fro to produce the waves of the oceans and the shuffling sands, her eyes were calm. They shared the same eyes.

“Has she been playing long?” I asked. The song she played changed as Reed came with his answer. The ocean tides had subsided and I was now gliding along in the cloud-filled sky.

“Five years now. She’s grown so fast in so little.” I wasn’t so sure if five years was so short. Though that was my own indulgence. Humans always had a strange way of passing time. Five years to a divine was just a prick on the finger.

“I was the one who started playing for her. It was so long ago when I left my parent’s home and started something that only ended in failure that I was surprised I even did play.” Her playing came to a stop as she addressed the audience. Her words rung true with the microphone on stage, and it blasted the glass panes and tiles that littered the area. The lull in play allowed us to find a better vantage point. We leaned onto a wall perpendicular to the stage. Reed’s sister was waving to all the eyes of the crowd, and her smile was glittering. Her eyes seemed to scan every person, but she failed to find us.

“I don’t think I’d ever forget the look on her face as I came home that day. She was ecstatic. The kind of person who’d make you never want to be alone.” I couldn’t relate. Though, I wasn’t one to judge.

“And when I played for her, she couldn’t contain herself. I remember laughing along with her as she fluttered around me. I could hardly get her to stop. And eventually, I told her in jest that she should play.” Reed’s eyes lowered. Her sister went back to playing, her sound emanating the twinkle of stars and the allure of a full moon.

“Who knew she had such an aptitude. It’s funny how these things go.” Reed shook his head, and looked up as she played. He was straining his eyes.

“Are you jealous?” I had no sense for tact. It wasn’t that I could be tactful, but I could be wary of what I said. In the situation Reed brought me, I figured that I didn’t need to be wary.

“And what if I was?” He answered. I smiled at him.

“Then that’s fine.” His eyes strained towards me as he brought his pack of cigarettes out. He then looked down at them, and turned them in his hands. To my knowledge, people liked to smoke to release a certain part of themselves. The puff of smoke that left their mouths was a catalyst for that.

“Is it really so fine to be jealous of your own family?” Her playing came to the sharp winds of winter.

“Why don’t you give me reasons for why you think it’s wrong? I mean, family or not, we’re all people aren’t we?” I lied a little. I wasn’t human, though I thought I could share in the sentiment.

“If you’re jealous of someone’s ability to play, or someone’s success, or even the attention they get–” I stopped, noticed Reed flinch for a moment, and then continued, “Then that only works for your own growth, doesn’t it?” The way I spoke, and the way I thought were things I often found human. I’ve worked with so many for so long that their philosophies and ideals had become engrained within me. If not, I wouldn’t have ever thought of engaging in my hobby. I wouldn’t be a great listener nor speaker.

“Jealously isn’t always a malicious thing, right?” I added, “You make it sound like that being jealous of your sister makes you want to harm her, but that isn’t true. She’s family after all.” Reed nodded, he brought his pack back in his pockets and sighed.

“People are often jealous of others. It happens all the time–” I started as I began to recall all the things I’ve come to garner from humans. In a way, it was fake, just a representation created by a divine. I had no right to give advice, to be able to console humans. But I was grateful I could.

“It’d be great if you wouldn’t. But, isn’t that just natural, to be envious and to strive to be even better than you were before? However, if you cut out the jealous part, then you’re just working hard. Instead of jealously, you can set that to be a goal instead. Don’t say you want to be someone else. But say that you want to get to that position, that you want to do certain things. In that case, jealously can be quite inspirational. But it won’t be jealously anymore. It’d just be a dream.”

“Just a dream?” Reed repeated. He closed his eyes as the waves of the ocean came crashing onto the shore of the hill she brought us to. Somewhere in the distance was the sound of a boat coming to pier. The waves shrilled again, and with it, the movement of fish. They swam freely in the ocean, and somewhere even further, life, humans. I heard Reed snicker.

“After all that and the way you want to console me is to tell me not to think.” He let go and laughed a little.

“Just don’t be jealous, is that right?” His eyes shimmered as he looked towards his sister. He smiled, and his hands tapped against his legs, following the waves.

“That’s the worst thing anyone’s ever told me. But it’s so outlandish that it might just work,” he titled his head and shrugged. He chuckled and then shook his head.

“Okay. I see what you mean. You might be right. I’m not jealous. Just inspired. If you put it like that. I’m not such a bad person.” There was another intermission as Reed’s sister got on stage to speak. Her voice filled the air once more, and Reed closed his eyes to listen.

“Can I ask you something personal?” He started as his sister began to play the final pieces of a dark night of rain.

“Why do you have to ask?” I answered with a mischievous smile.

“You said you would be fine if you were alone. Why?” The rain was relentless, covering the steps of the streets, and washing everyone’s wishes away. I’m a divine, part of the World of the Divine that existed apart from the World of the Living. For all my life, if my existence could be called a life, I’ve been alone. I’ve never thought against my being, and so when Reed brought it back up I wondered how I should have answered.

“Why wouldn’t you be fine with that?” I answered back with a question. Reed’s eyes widened before lowering with a sigh.

“That just isn’t fair, answering with a question. I know you said that it’s just the way you are, but, that can’t be true, can it? You just so happened to be a person who likes talking to others and yet, is fine with being alone? Where’s the sense in that?” Semantics would be my greatest weapon and worst enemy. I’ve come to learn that after talking with so many humans.

“It’s just how I’ve always been,” I answered, “It’s not something I give much thought to, but I’ve never felt lonely, just that I’ve always been a part of this world. I don’t have a desire to be with others, but I do wish to talk to others nonetheless.” Reed raised his eyes and shrugged. The rain began to settle as she played a song of fading clouds.

“And–” Reed began as her playing began to burst from the keys, “I’m not fine with being alone at all. But most of all, I’m not fine with being left alone. If I was alone, I can tolerate myself, my own ideas, and my own wallowing. But being left alone, to have been somewhere, with some people, and then have that stripped is something I don’t think I can handle. ”

“Your sister was like that to you? Someone who brought you out of a place you used to belong?”

“That’s right. That’s why I never wanted to even come.” He smiled as he looked ahead to his sister. His shattered dream was to belong. Though, as generalizing as that may seem, he had his own vision for that belonging. That’s what humans were best at, creating an infinite number of situations. His sister, as she played her final ballad, was an embodiment of Reed’s dream. I wondered if he would ever wish to have that dream again, or if he would simply let it fade.

“What made you change your mind?” I asked.

“I don’t think I’m much cut out for being a pianist. I’m alright, not as good as my sister of course. It’s funny how these things go. But, maybe I might try again. Though, I don’t think I’ll ever draw a crowd like this. I guess coming here is an acceptance all to my own.”

“And do you want to accept your failure? Do you want to try again?” He began to clap along with the crowd as she finished her last note. She stood and smiled while waving to the crowd. Her smile lasted from one end of her face to the other and she was glowing in a place she belonged.

“I’ll take a pass for now. I’ll just start back from the bottom. Play with as much naivety as I began.”

“And would that make a profession you’d be happy with?”

“I guess I’ll see. Though I might just end up doing the exact same thing.”

“That’s just only human.” He lowered his hands as she left the stage. The crowd began to thin with the promise of close greetings and signings. Reed didn’t move a step.

“How did you put it?” Reed asked, “Like a dream, right? A new dream? Maybe I’ll just find myself one of those.” He laughed as he brought a cigarette to his mouth. He placed his fingers over its body, and then let go, as if he was puffing a cloud of smoke into the air. He placed the cigarette back in his pocket and then brought his phone out. He used it as a mirror.

“In the state I am, my sister would cry. Though, she’d still be surprised.” His smile beamed.

“And hey, maybe tomorrow, I’d still be at that park, just sitting by my lonesome, waiting for something to happen. What would you think of me if I did that?” I couldn’t help but to shake my head.

“You’d be just fine.”

“I guess I would.” As he retracted from the wall, I added, “I changed your mind in the end didn’t I?” He stopped, turned, and tapped me on the shoulder before chuckling.

“That’s just human, isn’t it?” He said with a raised voice. Reed waved as he bled into the crowd that surrounded his sister. The sounds of the shopping center roared throughout and the melodies that were once in the air died with the feelings Reed once carried. Though he never developed a new dream in front of me, I had an inkling that it wouldn’t be too long till he found another passion to pour himself into. It might very well be the same shattered dream he showed in front of me, or it might be a new dream to shatter all of its own. I began to remember the shape of the pendant that consisted of his dream as I began to wander around looking for more loose dreams. It was a single metal piece that spun in on itself. The beginning was the end, and the end was the beginning. I could have gotten lost just churning my mind around its make. As I thought this, I was reminded of the distinct feature that made dreams so succinct to their owners. They materialized into the World of the Living in a similar manner, finding their way to embody the dream. I smiled at Reed’s endless cycle. It was incredibly human.

Next Chapter

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.”

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