We left the hospital as soon as we patched Connie’s leg. Lottie managed to find an old medic kit that was untouched by the rubble of the hospital. She was on my shoulder as we walked out of the hospital. I asked her to take a read of Connie’s dream. I wanted her to know. It’d only be appropriate as she was my partner. All Connie wanted to do was to find the ghost of her parents. Except what she found was a being who collected shattered dreams, and a human turned into her disciple. I couldn’t understand why her dream had to be so specific, but at the same time, so was being human.
“I really appreciate you guys doing this,” Connie said as we walked up the street. There was nothing more in this town. Perhaps if Lottie took a read of the area she could find some mementos hiding in the rubble. But Connie wasn’t here for heirlooms.
“No need to thank us. It’s probably our fault you were so giddy in the first place.” She laughed. I could hardly imagine her without laughing. But she was also a Ghost Hunter. Divines saw humans like her as an easy source of influence or an afternoon meal. Maybe even both.
“I never asked,” Connie began, her eyes beaming with fire. She was walking with a limp, her hand slightly reaching down towards the cut. Her face strained with each step, though she still smiled.
“How did you guys come here anyway?” Lottie was tapping against my back with her legs, and without needing to see her I knew her face was raised as well.
“Coincidence?” I said, hoping she’d take that for some kind of answer. Lottie almost tipped over. She was snickering.
“Coincidence?” Connie stopped and tapped her foot.
“Right, we were just passing the area.” She gave me a hard stare, then continued walking. I sighed.
“You said you collect shattered dreams, right?” Our voices seemed to hang in the air before being muddled by the distant ocean. Our steps bled into the ground, and the grasp of rot lingered on my nose.
“I guess a place as dead as this would house plenty.” She shrugged and brought her hands behind her head. I was glad she understood.
“So now what are you going to do? Your buddies must be worried about you. And you didn’t come here to get what you need done. If you still want to ghost hunt, its best to do it while you’re safe.” A part of me hoped that she would just go back to being a human, to being blissfully ignorant about the world she saw. And a part of me knew that she would never forget. Lottie was leaning further back than usual.
“I must really be lucky to have a bunch of– For that matter, what are you guys? If not ghosts, then some kind of phantom?” I wondered that myself.
“We’re not human, that much is sure. But you shouldn’t worry yourself over us.” I somehow felt Lottie’s weight press down on me. She was lightly humming to herself.
“Well, whatever you guys are, you’re worrying over me. That’s well–That’s something you don’t need to do. After all–” She stopped, and put up a peace sign, “I’m a bonafide Ghost Hunter!” Her smile was bright, and I found it alluring. I couldn’t help but to smile along.
“And,” Her voice took a dip, “If you guys are here, and if there really were ghosts of those who once lived here, we probably would have saw them by now, right?” She was right to an extent. I could feel them, and I’m sure Lottie could as well. They were everywhere and nowhere. There was a golden rule that all divines know by nature, those afflicted by the divine will never be the same. They’ll be tainted. Despite my hobby to talk to humans, I have to make sure that I never appear more than what I am, lest I curse them forever.
“A place like this is perfect for a ghost hunt. But not a single one has made a peep, except for you guys! But you aren’t ghosts– Unless, I can’t see them, like with Lottie!” She took Lottie off of my shoulder. We were both wide eyed as she was spun from above. Connie didn’t move from her spot though her leg jittered in want to console her energy. I was glad she didn’t force herself.
“So, does that mean that the ghosts are hiding themselves from me?” I smiled as gently as I could and shrugged. Lottie held her mouth together, her eyes wide, and blinking at me in miles.
“If you really want to know, you could always come back–” It wasn’t that the divines couldn’t be tracked through human technology, it surprised us so much that we once thought of hunting down the humans, “But, all I can tell you is that it’ll be dangerous.”
“And,” Lottie added, stopping Connie from spinning her, “If any ghost really did want to talk to you, they would have already made themselves known. No matter what attachment you have to a place like this, you have to understand that there might be reasons why they’d want you to stay away.” Connie lowered Lottie. She was holding her by the shoulders and I could see her eyes glitter beyond the world around us. Connie’s dream was never destined to be made. No divine who had an attachment to a human would ever wish to bring them to this side. Except for inane divines who collected shattered dreams.
“I see. I guess I should call off the hunt then. If it’s that dangerous, then we really shouldn’t be hanging around here.” Connie let off Lottie onto the dirt road. She seemed to swirl on the spot but then flew back onto my shoulder. Her face was scrunched, but then relaxed.
We managed to find our way to the entrance of the port town. Looking back, I could imagine how bustling the place must have been. I could imagine all the noise, of the people, of the ships, and of the ocean. The ocean without a town was hollow. When it rang through us, I felt Lottie tighten her grip on me. Connie didn’t flinch.
“Though–” I started. I felt bad for dissuading Connie’s simple dream in the way I did. It wasn’t that I could fault myself for a mere coincidence but I wasn’t completely heartless. I felt a human urge to say something to Connie, “You know, I’m sure that your parents are happy.” Connie turned to look at me, her eyes were wide, and so was Lottie’s. No divines had allowed their presence to be known. And although I couldn’t tell the exact name of the divines that could have wandered here, it wasn’t too far off to assume that her parents may have been watching.
“Call it my ghastly intuition,” I started with a chuckle, “But they’re probably happy to see you, and you shouldn’t worry about them.” Connie looked up at me, her eyes strong, unwavering.
“You came back, that’s what matters, right?” She nodded, and I looked over to see Lottie smiling.
“Though if I really wanted to I could always check the bunkers,” Connie said in jest. Lottie let out a breath. She felt weightless again.
“But if they died in that bunker, they’d be mixed in with a bunch of other corpses, I wouldn’t want to see that,” she finished with a chuckle.
“I appreciate your coming to me like this. But maybe I will come back. I don’t really know why but I feel like I have to. Despite all of your warnings, I still have to.” Her eyes peered into mine. I couldn’t do anything but to shrug and nod.
“You’re still human,” I said.
“Maybe I’ll even find my old home. It’ll just be wreckage but we used to have old photos. The only ones in the family. It’d be great to have them.” Connie smiled as she peered back into the town.
“Yeah, I’ll be back. Not as a Ghost Hunter. But as me, Connie.” Lottie flew up and smiled.
“I really do wish I could talk with you guys more, to learn more about– Well, you’ve been keeping quiet about a lot of things, right?” She was surprisingly sharp.
“It’s probably to protect me,” she continued, clutching onto her camera, “But, I’m fine now. And when I come back I’ll try not to stir up any trouble. It’s a shame, we probably can’t meet again, that’s usually how these ghost encounters work.” She laughed and stuck her hand out.
“Is that so?” I asked as I shook her hand.
“Yeah. As a Ghost Hunter I have a duty to always be on the hunt,” she let go of my hand and then saluted on the spot.
“And besides, you probably have work to do too, right? Shattered dreams–I’ll remember that.” She smiled, and nodded, “Sounds like a great topic for research. I wonder if any ghosts deal in dreams. I’ve never heard about anything remotely similar to what you guys are. Must be what they mean when they say times change. Even our legends change.” She laughed lightly to herself.
“I really am no good with farewells. I should be going now. Thank you for your time.” She began up the road, to where she came from.
” Another job well done?” Lottie asked with her mouth pursed to the side.
“That one ended rather quickly, don’t you think?” She asked again. She flew in front of me with her hands to her hips.
“To the great duo of Summer and Lottie!” She began with a booming voice, as booming as she could make it with her size, “They have now accomplished–” Then she lowered her voice to a sweet trill, “Helping another human with their shattered dream. You really are like an angel, you know that?”
“Not you too. Don’t even joke about that.”
“And it’s that kind of modesty–” She pointed at me, “That goes unappreciated.”
“I’m not doing any of this to be appreciated. I just–”
“Want to do something interesting?” Lottie shrugged.
“Well, want to head back now? We can follow Connie back and see if we hit another trove of shattered dreams. But I’m sure you wouldn’t want to afflict her anymore than you have.”
“Right. When it comes to these things, you’re surprisingly sharp.”
“Surprisingly!?” And, just as it were, as I turned back towards the town, I noticed something. To be more prudent, I noticed a divine. Lottie was floating about beside me, and I was sure she noticed as well.
“How long has it been following us?” She asked.
“Probably since Connie cut her leg.” They’re everywhere, and nowhere. But with a human gone, they can shed off their skin for a moment’s respite. That’s when they’re the most vulnerable.
“Should we be worried?” Lottie asked. I recognized the divine. He was heading to a part of the port town that we didn’t visit. It was probably the source of the rotting bodies in the air.
“She’ll be back, even if she’s coming with no intention of tracing the divine, we marked her. It won’t hurt to see what’s roaming here.”
“Just like an angel.” I didn’t bother to retort.