March 7, 2013
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She looked down from a well-worn perch, studied the streets below her. The intersection where Main Street met 1st had long been her home - very long indeed, since before the Morgan and Sons building had been built in 1908. It was a day like any other, really. The streets were noisy and crowded with 21st century cars and people, and the early spring air was crisp and filled with pollutants which blew right through her ghostly essence.

Tatiana had chosen to retain the form of a young girl for all those years. As a spirit, she had the ability to take almost any form she desired, due to the malleable and versatile quality of the milky white energy she was composed of. However, Tati was only 13 when she died, and never felt comfortable taking any other form. It was comforting to the other spirits she encountered as well. There were many wandering parents, eternally condemned to mourn the loss of their children, as well as brothers and sisters who watched the world with eyes full of sadness, missing the presence of siblings. Although these entities did not always appear to Tatiana as had been in life, she could feel their pain - and the fundamental causes of it, which they would carry with them in the limbo plane forever more. Perhaps it was because she retained the innocent perception and intuition of a child, even after death, that Tati was able to watch and learn, somehow unobstructed by terrible yearnings and tortuous desires left over from her time of solidity. She was a kind-of guardian of both the spirit and living worlds around her; well, at least the worlds which stretched as far as the 3 city blocks she was able to travel around.

3 blocks day in and day out, did Tati wander. On every inch of surface from the Morgan Building to Joe's Liquor Store, she drifted through the quiet, chilling spirit world - unacknowledged by the oblivious living, who went about their daily lives utterly consumed by their trivial wishes, dilemmas, successes, and failures. How the spirits longed to reach out to them, and tell them that their material obsessions were nothing. They longed to explain that when they passed on, it would be the people they missed - people, and home, but especially nature. For over 100 years, Tati had longed to feel the wind blow through her hair - not sting the hollow place where her flesh and blood once was. The apple trees and wildflowers which once grew around her family's humble white house were more precious to her than the taste of food, or the feeling of a warm bed on autumn nights. She often wondered she was denied such simple pleasures as the sensation of cool, soft grass, and damp earth under her body, beautifully punctuated by the scent of greenery which accompanies all flora. In an age where nature is secondary to man-made comforts, it is only in death that most of humanity is able to realize where the truly come from: the earth, water, and sky. This, Tati and every other ghost had come to realize, among many other melancholy truths which were not apparent before.

Above all else, what astounded the ghost girl the most was how she had seen the landscape around her change. It was 10 years after she had died of pneumonia, and her grief-stricken parents had moved away, that Klaus Morgan purchased the plot of land her family had lived on, and began to build the first of his many monstrous offices. The trend caught on quickly, and soon urban renewal was the most fashionable thing in town - literally. The city paid almost every homeowner in the area very reasonable sums of money to pack up everything they owned, and step aside to make room for industry. What was once a neighborhood which could have been the early model for a utopian suburban community, suddenly transformed into 5 miles of stores, restaurants, office spaces, apartment complexes, strip malls, and bars. Year by year, Tati watched the last green spaces disappear, until finally the only foliage left to behold was curbside shrubbery and a children's park wedged between an ice cream store and a trendy clothing store. Once, in the summer heat of some year stuck in the middle of the 70's, she'd heard a song come on the radio outside of Joe's - a woman with a silvery-clear voice sang,

"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till' it's gone? They paved paradise, put up a parking lot,"

Hearing those words had placed a sad smile on Tati's face for the first time in about 75 years. She was unable to feel anything close to the depth of emotion a human could, and was only able to fathom a few things at a time - most often whatever was in front of her. But up on this ledge, high above the things she had regarded for the past century, she contemplated everything with the softest, most ancient and melancholy filter possible.

"Do you ever wonder why you're still here?"

Tati gasped and turned her head sharply, startled by the voice behind her. But, when she turned, there was no one there.

"What? I'm-I'm sorry, who are you? Where are you?"

She thought, she must be imagining things. 100 years as a ghost, doing nothing every day, and she must finally be losing it.

Then, for the first time since the day she died, Tati felt warmth. She felt a presence against her shoulder, just there - pressing against her right ear.

"Don't you ever ask yourself, what's the point of waiting around?"

If Tati could've gotten goose bumps, she would have had them jumping off of her skin. She furrowed her brow deeply and stood up, ready to leave.

"This isn't funny, I really don't -"

And suddenly, a beautiful spirit materialized before her. It took the form of a young man who appeared to be carved from wood. His face was framed by a halo of leaves, and he was nude aside from apple blossoms which twined around his pristine, surreally intricate body and concealed that which should not grace the eyes of a young lady. The most startling features, though, were the glowing green eyes set into the gorgeous face. Tati was mesmerized, and frightened by this apparition. Never had she before encountered any spirit with a speck of color on them. She had seen all manner of outrageous shape and style, of course - when given the chance to experiment with their exteriors, even in death, humans will do the most outrageous things.

"What. are. you?" asked the wide-eyed spirit-girl. The words came from her lacy mouth like bricks tumbling from age-old ruins.

The tree-man smiled warmly at her, and his green eyes twinkled with secrets.

"Come, there are things to be discussed," he said, as he held out a silvery hand of applewood, and because she was standing in the same place she had been for years, the dead girl reached out to him without question.

As if the world had blinked without notice, Tati suddenly found herself in a certain shade she had once felt in what seemed like a dream. All around her was spritely grass, and the sky was a shade of blue which only existed before machinery had given birth to smog, a demonic child. Tati was smiling, as she turned towards her companion, who sat against the apple tree as the dappled light played across his face.

"I know who you are," she said to the peaceful spirit.

He smiled lazily and winked at her, "Now you understand. Every plant, like every human and animal, has a spirit as well. However, we do not hang uselessly in limbo or move on to some other place. No, nature is cyclical. The energy which exists in all flora must be recycled so that we may stay alive. I am able to aid the spirits in the living plants around me simply by sharing my energy with them. Otherwise, what am I good for?”

“But you are a tree spirit. I was human, and therefore have no such abilities. I am useless, forever stuck in the spirit world, doomed to watch humanity carry on as it always will,” Tati replied with a jealous tone.

Instantly, the spirit became livid, “Damn you humans – alike in life and in death, none of you ever tried to be useful, did you? No, you just accepted your lot and now you wander around bemoaning what you can no longer have. You have a purpose! You are not still privy to the life which exists around you simply to lust after what you once had! But none of you ever thought for a second that there was something to be done, oh no – you simply believed you were obsolete, lonely, forlorn specters and banshees and therefore that is all you have been for 100 years, Tatiana!” His eyes were glowing with rage. Tati was taken aback by the amount of emotion he was able to muster. She wondered if he was able to cry. Then, he took her hand and was calm. His eyes were the color of soft moss, and met Tati’s sad, translucent ones with purpose.

“You all – every single one of you human souls – have the same abilities as any of us nature spirits. But, it breaks our hearts to see you sit back and watch the world change and die, without ever trying to interfere. You do not interact with each other – you choose eternal sadness because you believe that is the only thing before you, never even supposing that there is some greater meaning that your presence on earth holds. Here, now, did you even know that you could travel back and forth in time? No, I suppose not, you never tried,”

Tati was shocked and ashamed, not only by how much time she had wasted by wandering aimlessly, but also by the fact that she had forgotten so much about being human, and being in tune with nature. It had been a century since she had spoken to anything or anyone, and why?

“Show me how.” She said to him.

In another blink, they were back in the present, on the sidewalk outside the Morgan Building.

“There,” said the apple tree spirit, pointing to a homeless woman sitting on a bus bench. “She is sad, sick, cold, hungry, and lonely. Go to her, comfort her with your presence, and perhaps you will remember what it means to be human,”

Tati drifted over to the dirty woman on the bench, huddled within plastic bags and ragged quilts. The ghost girl stood in front of her and studied her for a moment. She once might have been quite beautiful, but her faced had been ravaged by the elements and turned to a brown paper bag with two blue eyes like bits of sky poking through. The woman looked straight ahead as if there was no one there. Tati reached out her hand, and touched the woman’s face. She could not feel her skin, but to her surprise, was able to sense the current of energy the woman’s body possessed. Her energy was the saddest thing Tati had ever felt, and she wanted nothing more than to make this woman happy again. She let go of her girlish form and sank her essence into the body of the homeless woman, sending good energy and warmth (or what she hoped was warmth through her heartbeat and all of her veins. Suddenly, a deep complacency came to the old woman. Her pain subsided, and she closed her eyes peacefully, drifting off into a lovely sleep. Tati was back on the sidewalk, and the tree spirit was beside her. The young, yet ancient girl began to shake. She could hardly believe how much of her humanity she had lost. She was suddenly so furious with herself she couldn ‘t breathe, so sad there was no room for anger, so incredibly overjoyed to feel useful – to feel important again, and so overcome with human emotion that she began to cry. She was sobbing in her companion’s arms and nothing had ever felt so wonderful. Her ghostly tears spilled from her eyes, and down her cheeks and neck. Her tears were not wet as they were for the living, but they were still there. They still meant the same thing. Then, she began to laugh – softly, childishly, and then the robust, full sound of someone who has just discovered their life (or, their life in death). She pulled the tree spirit with her as she flew up the side of the Morgan Building, and when they reached the top she turned to him.

“Thank you, thank you so very much. I had forgotten – forgotten, it seems, so much which I barely learned while I was alive. But flesh and blood, it doesn’t matter all that much in the end, does it? It’s the spirit. It’s the things you can’t always touch, or see,” said Tati.

And, as the tree spirit beamed proudly down at her, Tatiana’s form began to change into that of a young woman with eyes glowing blue like sapphires.

“Why yes, I do believe you’re right,”

He kissed her on the forehead, and just like that – he was gone.

Tatiana stood alone, looking over the rushing city. It was a day like any other really – on the surface. But, the wind was filled with the hopes, love, feelings, triumphs, failures, and souls of every person on the 3 blocks from the Morgan Building to Joe’s Liquor Store, and it was blowing through Tati, beckoning her to help them grow.

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