Haunted ~watching, day by day~

dragging my feet through the sand, I
can think only of you
consumed by all the world’s pain
as I search for our gravestones now swallowed by the sea,
we cried
wanting our love to make a difference
trying to save all the world’s children and our own
now condemned
I walk into the sea without feeling the chill
the swirling pull about my legs, meaningless
the same way our lives were meaningless
you cannot drown a living spirit, after all
and the spirit of humanity is still nothing but alive, I tried
to find you but even now I’m lost
and haunted, I resume my eternal wanderings without a thought
without a word to describe the thought
forever searching, watching, losing,
to this world in which I live.

Tariq

through these burning skies I see
the starless sky you gave to me
the place I left my souls behind
the wandering demons in my mind

hurting just to feel alive
mere seconds tear apart my drive
you thought I was just going to sleep
sometime, someday again we’ll meet

I’ve fallen through the cracks, I know
mistaken gifts, my life to show
now searching for a place to die
just waiting for the right time

in the mirror, the ghost you see
the physical faces of all but me
the living spirit floating through the air
surviving now on a single dare

the shadows drifting through the night
challenging the edge of light
embrace me just like falling sand
knowing those without homelands

I’ve fallen through the cracks, I know
mistaken gifts, my life to show
now searching for a place to die
just waiting for the right time

now searching for a place to die
just waiting for the right time

guardian spirit ~close your eyes~

responsible, I’m always responsible
for our life, don’t you know?
awake beneath a waning moon, the seconds ticking by
I yawn and smile over you

close your eyes, love
just take it easy now
let your fears melt into the darkness
‘cause I’m watching over you tonight

take my hand if you’re scared
let’s fight your demons now!
it’s nothing but an illusion
so break free, just look at me

looking over your shoulder, I
I’ll see you to tomorrow
it’s us that’s on the line, can’t you see?
it’s not just “you and me”

you’re afraid, I know
you think you can’t bear it
but I’ll show you, let me show you
what you can really do, let’s go!

so close your eyes, love
just take it easy now
let your fears melt into the darkness
‘cause I’m watching over you tonight

daydreams and nightmares, spirits and gods
don’t try to fool me, come on!
I know what you’re really afraid of
you think you could lie to me?

there’s nothing you can hide
‘cause I understand you more than anyone
so let me take a guess right now
humanity and life, how close am I to right?

answer me with silence
that’s fine, I’ll still be here
I’ll tear your ghosts apart every night
we’ll never be alone

so close your eyes, love
take it easy now
let your fears melt into the darkness
‘cause I’m watching over you tonight

I’m watching over you…

To Not Forget Each Other…

I stood at the entrance of the cemetery, reluctant to go in. Something in my mind was pulling me back, something… I couldn’t put a finger in it. I just lingered at the gate for a few minutes, staring inside at the neat rows of gravestones lined by shade-giving trees, and all the while wondering what I was doing there in the first place.

After some time a dark blue car pulled up to the curb behind me, startling me. I glanced over as a woman slightly older than me got out of the passenger’s seat. She wore a plain light gray shirt and black shorts that looked strangely exactly like the ones I’d wear while working out. Her straight black hair came down to her shoulders, and she didn’t have on accessories of any kind. She closed the door behind her and gave a little wave to the driver, and then the car sped off.

The woman turned toward the cemetery gate and saw me standing there looking at her. I blushed, embarrassed, and quickly looked away. After a moment’s hesitation she walked up to me and I turned to face her again as she spoke.

“Hello,” she said politely.

“Good afternoon,” I replied. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare…”

She shook her head. “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. I’m Aiko, and you are…?”

“Haku.”

“Nice to meet you, Haku.”

I nodded uncertainly. “You too.”

“If I may ask, why are you just standing here? Is there something wrong with the gate? Is the cemetery closed today?”

“No, there’s nothing wrong with the gate, and it’s open, so you can go in. I’m just standing here because… well… I don’t really want to go in, you see.”

I blushed again as I tried to explain myself. I thought she would laugh at me, but she just nodded with understanding.

“That’s fair,” she said, giving me a little smile. “People generally don’t want to go into cemeteries.”

“Why are you here?” I asked, hoping the question wasn’t too rude.

“Because I can see spirits,” she answered simply. “I can see them and talk to them. So, every weekend, I’ll come here and talk to spirits whose friends and families haven’t visited them in a long time. Death can be quite lonely, you know. I think it’s sad. So I’ll just come here and chat with some of them and try to help them feel better.”

I thought about that for a moment. “Death is lonely,” I declared in agreement. “I’m glad you can see and talk to lonely spirits and help them out.”

She nodded. “It’s bad when people forget about the dead, don’t you think? I’ve been able to see spirits since I was really young, so I try not to forget all the spirits I’ve met since then… it’s hard sometimes, but for the spirits themselves it must be worse!”

“I imagine so,” I said. “You’re right.”

The woman smiled at me. “Take my hand, Haku. Let’s go in together, and we’ll do our best not to forget about each other afterwards. How’s that?”

For the first time all day I allowed myself to smile back at her. “Sounds good.”

I took her hand, and we entered the cemetery side-by-side.

Spirit Dreams at Midnight: A Short Story

It was a humid summer night. A young woman sat at the edge of a small wooden dock, dangling her long legs into the lake. The deep blue water around her shimmered beautifully in the light of the waning moon, but several large, spontaneous ripples on its surface gave it more of a threatening image, as if dangerous beasts were lurking below. Gazing into the watery depths, the young woman was calm and still.

There were two minutes to midnight.

Her name was Chinami, and she was an orphan. From the beginning of her life, she had been completely and utterly alone. Nobody cared about her, nobody wanted her, nobody loved her. Yet, somehow, she loved herself. She was one of those people who were perfectly content in their solitude, and despite the tragedy of her background, she was happy.

She was happy – but she didn’t know why she was here.

Existential questions had plagued her all her life. Sitting in the darkness, isolated in her own little world, she had spent years wondering why she was even alive, and what for. But tonight her question was not philosophical or conceptual at all – it was a very real, very solid sense of tangible unawareness. She had no idea what she was doing, sitting here at the edge of a wooden dock, staring into a dark blue lake. She didn’t know how she had gotten here, or what she had been doing before. In fact, she had no memory of the past six hours. But Chinami didn’t let this bother her. She simply sat there, gazing at the surface of the lake, waiting in silence for midnight to arrive, because it seemed like the right thing to do.

It was the time of night when everything takes on a slightly hazy appearance. The area around the lake was lit only by the moon and stars above, and this gave the forested shore opposite Chinami a haunted, foreboding look. The trees reached their branches out of the darkness, stabbing towards the suspicious ripples on the lake surface. Chinami, unperturbed, studied the water and thought of nothing.

The heavy gray calmness of the scene around her suddenly made her yawn. She hadn’t seemed tired before, but now she looked as if she’d fall asleep right there if given the chance. Hovering on the edge of consciousness, Chinami blinked slowly and sighed.

Midnight came and went, and soon another young woman joined her. Appearing seemingly out of nowhere, the newcomer looked around for a moment and then walked slowly down the dock towards Chinami. She was limping slightly, as if her right leg was giving her pain, but she didn’t seem to be conscious of it. She walked right to the edge of the dock, stood to Chinami’s left, and peered into the water below.

“Hello,” Chinami said sleepily.

“Hello,” said the newcomer. “Excuse me, but could you tell me where I am? I think I’m lost…”

Chinami shook her head. “You aren’t lost,” she said with tired certainty. It was an unexplainable feeling, but she knew somehow that this young woman was exactly where she was supposed to be.

The newcomer blinked. “Okay…”

Chinami yawned again and then invited the woman to sit down. “What’s your name?”

“Akira.”

“That’s a nice name,” Chinami said politely.

“Thanks.”

Mimicking her neighbor, Akira sat at the edge of the dock, took off her socks and shoes, and swung her legs over and into the water. The lake water was sharp and cold, and she flinched slightly at first contact, but soon acclimated.

“So what is this place?” Akira asked after a minute.

“I don’t know,” Chinami replied. “It’s a lake.”

“A lake, huh… in the middle of nowhere?”

Akira furrowed her brow slightly. She seemed to be trying to remember something, but whatever it is lurked just beyond her grasp. She groaned in frustration.

“It’s not in the middle of nowhere,” Chinami objected. Her voice was the slow, syrupy voice of a person struggling to stay awake. “That’s impossible… Everything has to be in the middle of somewhere. Nothing exists in a vacuum.”

Despite her apparent amnesia, Akira’s mind was still sharp. She followed her companion’s logic with ease and countered it with her own. “Right, but you don’t know where that somewhere is, and neither do I, so it might as well be nowhere to us.”

Chinami nodded sleepily. “I guess.”

“I don’t remember how I got here,” Akira admitted. “Do you?”

“No,” Chinami said. “What’s the last thing that you remember?”

Akira stared out at the surface of the lake. “Some fool ran a red light and crashed into my car.”

She looked at Chinami and laughed. “The world is full of idiots. Humans are remarkably stupid. I can’t get over it.”

Chinami was alarmed. “Somebody crashed into your car?”

“Yeah. What a jerk! He was speeding, too, and then he goes and runs a red light and crashes into another person’s car. You can’t do that! People die from crashes like that, it’s terrible. What if there’s a baby in the other car, or a dog, or even if it’s just a completely ordinary person, you can’t just go around speeding and ignoring traffic laws and crashing into people…”

Akira went on and on, railing at the stupidity of the driver who crashed into her car. Chinami drowned her out, staring towards the trees on the opposite shore, struggling to think. Something wasn’t right.

A minute later it came to her: Akira was dead.

Chinami sleepily worked this around in her mind. How interesting, she thought. I’m talking to a spirit!

“… that’s not okay,” Akira was saying adamantly. “You can’t go risking other people’s lives like that. I mean, if you’ve got a death wish, fine, go toy with your own already fragile existence. But you can’t drag other people down with you. That’s not right.”

Chinami suppressed another yawn. “That’s not right,” she agreed. “So what happened after she crashed into you?”

“I don’t really remember, but I know one thing for sure: tomorrow, I’m going to hunt her down and give her a stern talking-to. If she’s still alive, that is. I’m not sure if she is, but hey, at least it’s definitely not my fault. Her relatives can’t sue me or anything, right? But man, I have to get a new car, and that’s going to be expensive.”

“Yeah, expensive…”

So she doesn’t know that she’s dead?

Chinami let this thought linger in her mind. She wondered if it was her place to tell Akira that she was dead, or if she should just let Akira go on believing she was still alive. It was very strange. She had never talked with a spirit before, much less a spirit who wasn’t self-aware.

Akira was staring at the strange, spontaneous ripples that kept appearing on the lake surface. “Hey, do you think there’s demons in the water?”

“Demons?” Chinami shook her head. “Lake spirits, maybe. Water dragons.”

“Water dragons? I thought such spirits can’t be seen in the world of the living…”

She was trying hard to think. A minute later and her mind would connect the dots. Suddenly inspired by an urge to protect Akira’s innocence, Chinami lied, “Some can.”

Akira seemed to relax. “Really? That’s neat.”

“Yeah.”

“The moon is pretty…”

Chinami smiled a little, looking up at the night sky. “So it is. It’s waning.”

“How do you know?”

“It looks like a letter C. When it’s like that, you can tell that it’s waning.”

Akira squinted at the waning moon. “Oh… that’s cool, I didn’t know that.”

“People don’t pay enough attention,” Chinami murmured sleepily. “We see the moon wax and wane every month, but we don’t really look at it closely enough to notice patterns like this.”

For a moment Akira was quiet. Then she announced, “I have a question.”

Chinami fought to keep from nodding off. “Okay. What’s your question?”

“It’s not related to the waning moon,” Akira said.

“Okay.”

“Do you think dead people dream?”

Chinami looked at her with surprise. “What makes you ask that?”

“Nothing, the question just popped into my head for some reason…” Akira sighed. She looked very confused.

Chinami thought about it for a minute. “Hmm, I don’t know. I guess spirits can have dreams. Why not?”

“Why not,” Akira agreed. “When I’m dead, I want to be able to still have dreams. Otherwise it would be so boring… what’s life without a good dream now and then?”

“Well, when you’re dead, you don’t have life anymore…”

“Fine, but death would be boring without dreams too, don’t you think?” Akira seemed very adamant about this, determined to make her point.

Chinami scratched her head. “Sorry, I think I’m too sleepy to follow…”

Akira laughed. “Well, it’s past midnight. It’s about time to go to bed.”

“There aren’t any beds,” Chinami said. “I might just fall asleep right here.”

“Be my guest,” replied Akira. “Maybe I’ll join you.”

“Join me in my dream?”

Akira laughed again. “Why not?”

Chinami lay back on the dock and spent a minute trying to get into a comfortable position. After a while Akira lay down next to her. The two women gazed up at the moon, enchanted by its yellow-white light.

Akira murmured, “It’s so pretty here…”

Together, they slowly drifted off to sleep, and the night wore on without them.

Letters for the Living, Words for the Dead

I lay on the floor in the darkness, breathing quietly. Up above, the white ceiling of my bedroom stares back at me. It’s almost midnight, and I’m alone. Like always.

I close my eyes for a moment, listening to the silence of the night. Something is wrong, but I can’t tell what. Maybe it’s just in my head. I smile to myself, thinking, here we go again.

It might seem strange, but I really like turning off all the lights and just laying on the floor sometimes. I can see and hear pretty well at night, and I love how peaceful the world feels when most humans have gone to sleep. I know that it’s just an illusion, of course – people are still dying, people are still killing each other, the earth is still on fire. But at night it’s easier to pretend that things aren’t so bad.

It’s also easier to talk to the dead.

Sometimes when I’m on my back gazing up at the ceiling, old friends will visit me. They’ll say, what are you doing, Haku? And I’ll say, looking at the ceiling. Then they’ll go, oh, okay, and they’ll lie down next to me and look at the ceiling, too.

What’s that? You think it’s strange to look at your ceiling? Well, I don’t think it’s that strange. Have you ever actually looked at your ceiling? If you haven’t, who are you to tell me it’s a strange thing to do? Ceilings and roofs are so important, really. You should look at your ceiling more, and learn to appreciate it. For instance, when it’s raining, look up and say thank you for once. Don’t take these things for granted.

Hey, who are you, anyway? And why am I talking to you?

Oh… you must be another spirit, come to visit me. Well, thank you for visiting me. It gets lonely otherwise.

What’s that? You just died recently? I’m sorry to hear it. I hope you didn’t suffer too much. More than that, I hope you were ready to die. So many people these days just aren’t ready to die when their time comes… it’s sad. Don’t you think people should talk about death more often? Things like, when I die, I want you to take care of my children for me. Or, when I die, I want you to remember to be happy.

Did you think about these things, before you died? Did you think about your loved ones and what you were leaving behind for them?

I did.

I wrote secret letters for my loved ones and hid them away. I told a friend about them, and when I died, she went and found them and delivered them for me. In the letters I wrote about all of our good and bad memories together, and then I said things like I want you to remember to be happy and don’t you dare follow me. And then I wrote about how much I loved them.

What’s that? You think writing these letters was a silly thing to do? Well, listen. Don’t you think the words we leave behind are important? Words are like magic. All by themselves, they can save lives, or end them. There’s so much power behind that… it’s kind of scary. I’m sorry that you don’t feel the same way.

Well, it’s okay. Everybody is different, I guess. Anyway, as long as you’re happy where you are, I’m happy for you.

What’s that?

You’re not happy?

Hmm… why not?

Because you’re dead?

I see. That’s unfortunate. Most humans don’t live with their death in mind, so they end up unhappy when they die. Personally, I think you should live in such a way that you’ll definitely be happy when you die. But I guess it’s too late for that…

Or is it?

Tree Spirit at Midnight

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Pexels.com

It’s late at night, and the station is mostly empty. Quietly I busy myself sweeping up the trash commuters have left on the platform. It always irritates me how much stuff people leave behind – seriously, haven’t they learned how to clean up after themselves? It’s not like they’re children… but a lot of them sure act like it. Slightly annoyed as always, I put my headphones in, turn up some classical music, and quickly sweep my way through the train station.

By the time I’ve finished, most of the commuters have left. Actually, all but one. There’s a young woman standing by the wall. She’s carrying a backpack, and she has braided extensions in her hair, just like me. She looks a little lost, so I head towards her wondering if she needs help.

“Hello,” I call out politely as I turn my music off. “Are you okay?”

The woman looks at me. She doesn’t smile, but she seems a little relieved. “Hello,” she says. “I’m looking for something…”

“Did you lose something on the train?” I ask.

“No, nothing like that. I’m looking for a tree…”

I’m taken aback. “Sorry, you’re looking for a tree? Um… you’ll have to exit the station to do that, miss.”

She shakes her head. “No, no, I’m looking for this tree specifically.”

She extends her right hand to me, and I see that she’s carrying a small photograph. I take it, trying hard to keep a straight face. Out of all the interactions I’ve had with commuters, this one is definitely the strangest.

I look down at the picture, banking on the 1% chance that I might actually recognize this one specific tree, but of course I don’t. The photo is rather faded anyway, and I can’t tell anything from the background. I hand it back to the woman.

“Sorry,” I say. “I don’t recognize it.”

She seems disappointed. “This is the sixth station on the green line, right?”

“That’s right.”

“Somebody in the city said they thought it might be near the sixth station on the green line…”

For a second I wonder if she’s drunk or on drugs or something, but she seems perfectly in control of herself.

I scratch my head. “Um… okay… well, maybe it’s in a park near here and I just don’t remember seeing it.”

This cheers her up a little. “There’s a park near here? Do you have a map?”

“Sure. Give me one sec.”

I go over to the help desk on the other end of the platform. My colleague there is snoring away in his chair. Trying not to laugh, I bang my fist on the glass.

“MASA! Wake up.”

He jolts awake and looks at me, confused. “What?”

“Get this, there’s this woman who came here in the dead of night looking for a tree. And not just any tree, it’s this one specific tree that for some reason she has a picture of! Funny, right? Anyway, I don’t recognize it obviously, but I told her there’s a park nearby and she wants me to show it to her on a map, so gimme.”

He’s still too sleepy to really find anything amusing about this. He hands me a map, says in a small voice, “Don’t scare me like that, Haku,” and closes his eyes again.

I go back to the young woman, who’s waiting for me expectantly. “Here,” I say, opening the map for her. “This is the train station… and these are some parks, all these green patches.”

She takes the map from me. “Thank you for your help,” she says.

“No problem…”

The woman shoulders her backpack and starts to head for the exit, map and picture in hand. Suddenly curious, I call out after her.

“Hey, miss? Can I ask you something?”

She looks back at me. “Yeah?”

“What’s so special about that tree?”

She glances down at the faded photo. “My mother planted it. She’s dead now, but I heard the tree is still alive, so…”

I clamp my mouth shut. Oh…

“Thanks for your help,” she says again.

Then she leaves – quickly, before I can ask any more questions. I’m left alone in the otherwise empty station. I close my eyes for a moment, drinking in the silence, before I slowly make my way back to the help desk.

“Hey Masa, wake up, I have something to tell you…”