“You burned his bones?” asked the old man.
“Yes,” I answered, taking my seat on the cold ground while the old man continued selling his wares. “I haven’t seen him since.”
I took out my cup and held it out in front of passerby’s. Like this, I waited for someone kind to drop a coin, even the smallest, cheapest piece will keep me away from stealing.
“…You won’t get silver or copper waiting this time around,” he said. In the next few hours, people came and went. Few stopped to buy whatever the old man was selling, fewer still slowed to even offer a coin or two. It went on like this until sun-down, and the people had become less common. Lanterns kept the streets visible, and would soon go out letting everyone know to go back to their houses.
“I only got one bronze coin,” I said, looking into the cup. “Is it going to be like until Spring?”
“Yes,” said the old man. “You should stock up on food to pass the winter.”
“No one is offering work,” I said, “and I really want to avoid stealing.” Just thinking about getting caught would make me feel sick, and there is a chance I wouldn’t be welcome in town anymore.
“Then you won’t make past the first week of snow,” he said. The old man began storing away all the things that had been laid out on the table. I got up and felt my back ached from sitting all day. I then gave the coin I had to the old man in exchange for a loaf of bread. “That’s all I can give you.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “Thank you.”
* * *
That night I had a dream about Daiko fishing near the river, calmly waiting for something to take his bait. I had sat next to him and saw all the fish swimming in circles of colors, red, blue, yellow, and many others. We sat for hours and never spoke. I blinked once, and Daiko was gone. A second, and all the fish in the river did the same. I tried keeping myself away from a third for as long as I could, then I felt a quick and sudden pain hit my head waking me. I sat up-right on my bed and felt a cold wind forcing itself inside the house. Beside me was a piece of wood that I realized had fallen from the roof. My little house was creaking by the wind pushing it violently back and forth. Rain was crashing down on a roof that wouldn’t last much longer. I placed whatever was nearby on top of the bed sheet, tied it together and hurried out of the house.
Just moments later and the roof started crumbling. The raging winds added to it by blowing down the walls and making sure what was now in front of me was no longer home. Then lightning struck somewhere far away that made me jolt in surprise. The cold water falling down had me tremble, and the only warmth I felt were streaks of water falling down my cheeks.
* * *
Rain fell around me for the first time since I had become a spirit. I was at the beginning of the path where I had always found myself walking to the house at the end. The clouds thick and gray made sure the sun couldn’t penetrate through to shed its light on all the living things in this place. That same sun was also the thing that would confirm a new day started for me, but it has never gotten this bad in all the years I’ve lived here. And ugly as the weather was, I couldn’t feel the wind or even the cold rain that had left no impression on me. However, I no longer felt compelled to walk or move as this body of mines instructed me to do a day ago.
And though I was free to move about as I pleased, there were just two problem. I reached inches away from me and felt for an invisible wall that would keep me from going into town. I had been waiting in this spot for as long as I would be allowed to , just so that I could see her again. I also didn’t think I would see her again under such intense rain. I saw her. She stood still, rain falling and drenching her.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She didn’t respond, and began walking through me and in the direction of my house. I followed as she started quickening her pace until the point we found ourselves running from the rain. We got inside the house with only one of us arriving soaking wet. Water fell on the floor and mixed in with the many layers of dust to make it seem like mud. She headed straight for my room on the right, placed her things on a corner, and began undressing herself.
“S-sorry!” I said, blushing while exiting out to the hallway.
I sat there with back against the wall, though half of it went right through. I only saw her for an instant, the image of her undressing began etching in my mind in the form of smooth curves and pale white skin. I shook my head and tried thinking of other things. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t see me, or even hear me speak. I know it was the same girl from a few days ago, the one that burned my bones and let me free.
That’s when it happened. I heard crying. She was doing so on the other side of the wall and there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to know what made her sad. Then I heard cloth on skin as I believed she began dressing herself. She got out to the hallway and made her way to the kitchen.
“Stop!” I yelled. “It’s going to come soon!”
She bent down towards the fire-place. There was no wood to create a warmth to dry herself with. Then I felt my stomach pained, turned, and twisted. I fell to my knees and looked back. It appeared again. That dark spirit looked to the girl all the while a sharp object began forming on its hand. The girl looked in our direction, and shivering from what she likely felt freezing temperatures. This spirit was angry, inching closer to us and I did the only thing I could do. I ran towards the dark spirit and tackled him to the sink. My body felt like it burned from immense cold I felt from coming in contact.
* * *
“Daiko?” I said. There was no one in front of me, though I heard a faint bump from where the sink was. I got up and moved with every step getting colder. A moment later and the coldness went away.
The rain stopped a few hours later, showing past the clouds that the sun was high up. I headed towards the market place, leaving all my stuff behind at Daiko’s place. Then I found the old man selling things on his stall. I sat in my usual spot.
“You’re here late than usual,” he said.
“Something came up,” I held out my cup, and like always, hoped that someone would leave a coin for me. I sat there wondering about what happened in the morning.
“There was a poor person’s house that was destroyed sometime in the morning,” he said. “That wouldn’t happen to have been your house?”
“It was,” I said, and he sighed upon hearing that.
“Don’t get yourself into trouble then. The last thing I need in my life is worrying over a homeless girl.”
“Sorry,” I said, holding my knees to my chest and one arm inside my clothing to keep me the slightest bit warm.
“Well,” he said, “where are you living now? Can’t be that you stayed out during the storm?”
“I went to Daiko’s house,” I explained. “No one lives there anymore, so it should be fine..”
“Hmph… and you’re sure Daiko isn’t there anymore?”
I remained silent. I didn’t know what happened in the kitchen, but there was no way I could consider the freezing temperature in the room to be normal.
“No,” I said. “I didn’t see anything, but I did feel very cold.”
“It isn’t so easy to put a spirit to rest that any normal person can do it,” he said, and I felt his eyes looking at me as he continued talking. “But if you aren’t going to listen to me, be sure to run as fast as you can the moment you feel something dark is near you.”
“But I didn’t see anyone at the house!” I yelled, startling a person in front of me that had a coin in hand, ready to drop it into my cup. The person took the coin back and walked away. “Ah—no, wait!” I got up and yelled, holding my cup at them. Though all that did was earned me stares from all directions, I must have looked like a crazy person to them. I sat back in the corner, yet I had the strong urge to cry, maybe even curse. “You know what I can see, and saw no one in Daiko’s house.”
“…Find the town priest,” I heard the old man say. “He’ll help get rid of Daiko.”
“I already said that I didn’t see him.”
“To get rid of whatever is in there,” he said, correcting himself. “Then you won’t have trouble living there.”
“If I do,” I said, “will you stop bothering me about it?”
I got up and headed for the direction the old man pointed to. People filled the streets as usual during the busiest hours of the day despite most of the road beginning to get muddy. Then I stopped. I saw that little ghost girl from before standing in the middle of the street and not moving, not even to look at the people passing by. I got closed to her.
“Hello?” I greeted her. Those little dark brown eyes she had moved to look at me.
“Can you see me?” she asked. I nodded. “Can you really see me?”
“Yes,” I said, smiling. “Where were you headed?”
The little girl’s eyes changed right then. They no longer looked at me and she continued walking. This reminded me of what happened to Daiko when he wasn’t responsive. Is she going to die soon and repeat the day tomorrow? I followed the little girl. We continued walking to one side of the town for about ten minutes, passing block after block. Blacksmiths were pounding at the anvil, people were cutting large piece of wood and forming them into doors, tables, and chairs. Then we reached a destination. It was a house that seemed occupied with people as I heard their voices speaking from inside. The little girl entered, passing through the solid door while I remained outside looking through the window. Near the fireplace I saw a painting that looked just like the little girl. Beside it where two lit candles with wax melting off the sides, bits of it dripped on the floor.
The little ghost girl stood there for a moment and continued upstairs. She never came down. Then door opened, and when it turned to look at who it was, what came into view was a large piece of bred that felt as hard as rock when it hit my fore-head.
“Take the bread and leave!” yelled a young man no older than I. “We don’t have time for you!” I glared at him and without a second thought he went back into the house. I picked up the bread and returned to where I first found the little girl. If the old man saw what I had just done, he would probably have told me to mind my own business. I stood there with a throbbing pain on my forehead and continued to what I was doing before.
* * *
“Excuse me,” I said, letting myself into the house where people pray to spirits.
“Come in, come in,” said a dry and mature voice. There were rows of chairs that were all facing small shrines of animals. If I recall, these were known as guardian spirits. Then I saw man’s head had popped up from one of the chairs to look at me. “We only pray on Sundays.”
“I need help with something.”
“I can help you on Sunday,” he said, moving his head out sight.
“Then why did you let me in?” I asked, he popped his head out again.
“Oh,” he said. “I thought you needed to pray to a spirit. Sorry, I can’t help until Sunday.”
“So you are the priest of this place?”
“Of course,” he said. I made my way past the rows of chairs until I saw him laying down with his eyes gazing up at the ceiling. When I looked up, I saw dozens of fish, some red, yellow, brown, even one that was colored green. Ghost fish? “Can you see them?”
“I sometimes see fish swimming around on the ceiling,” he said. “They would come into view for a brief second before they disappear.”
I looked at the fish again. All of them were in view, nor would they vanish. I remember the old man telling to keep it a secret that I can see spirits, but this guy blurted it out not long after we first met.
“I don’t see anything,” I lied.
“That’s okay,” he said. “Well, I’m willing to listen to what you need help with.”
“Before that,” I said, “there is something I want to know.” He waved his hand as if telling me to go ahead. “What do you pray for?”
“… We pray for the well-being of others,” he said, sitting up-right. “We pray because we are grateful to live day after day… We pray for many, many reasons.” He paused for a second and looked me straight in the eyes. I couldn’t help but stare, seeing his two eyes. One brown, one gray. “And what do you pray for?”
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“… I don’t pray,” I answered.
Chapter End.ns 18.104.22.168da2