"Sumi...wake up...you don't want to miss the trip do you?"
Sumire woke up –well more like jolted—out of her sleep. She quickly sat up and held her head in her hands as she took a moment to try and regain her ragged breathing.
'That was Gramps voice for sure. I would know that voice anywhere' she thought to herself as she slowly lifted her head out of her hand and glanced over at her clock. Her ruby red eyes immediately turned wide as she saw the time on the clock.
'Shoot, I'm gonna be late for my shift' She thought as she jumped out of her bed and rushed to get herself together. After brushing her teeth, barely doing her hair neatly, and throwing on her clothes, Sumire rushed out of her house with her shoes close to falling off of her feet.
On the trip to work, Sumire's thoughts went back to the dream she had the night before. Her grandfather was calling out to her but before she could even begin to question why, she had already woken up. Why now of all times, was one of the main things she thought. It had been almost 20 years since he died and of course she missed him dearly but she also wanted to know the reasons behind the dream.
'Maybe it was nothing…' Sumire thought as she clocked in for her shift at the museum. Today, there was going to be a new exhibit on display which had everyone on their toes and the reason why she could absolutely not be late. She made it in time with five minutes to spare which she was somewhat proud of.
"Let's work hard today, Sumire-chan" Sumire turned to see her co-worker, Naoto, clocking in next to her and she gave him a polite smile.
"Will do" She said before going off to her place. The exhibit was definitely off to a great start. Throughout the day she answered many questions and was even a tour guide to a couple of groups and she was more than delighted to help everyone.
At the end of the day, it was near time for closing and her manager had asked Sumire and Naoto to lock up which she had kindly agreed to even though she wanted nothing more than to call her best friend and go for drinks after an exciting day of work.
"Hey, Sumire. Have you heard about that old shrine in the forest? Apparently some rich family is going to tear it down and reconstruct it into a house for themselves" Naoto said while putting some books on a shelf. Sumire stopped what she was doing and looked at him in surprise.
"They're going to tear it down? They can't do that, shrine's are the holy grounds for our ancestors. Why would they ever do something so horrid?" Sumire said and Naoto shrugged his shoulders.
"No one really goes to pray there anymore, not even for New Years. In fact, I'm pretty sure not even the monks and nuns take care of it anymore because it's haunted" Naoto said and a noticeable shiver ran down his spine. Sumire frowned and rolled her eyes at the ridiculous statement.
"Haunted? Don't be silly, Naoto. I think I'm going to go check it out" Sumire said and Naoto looked at her as if she had lost all of her marbles.
"Check it out? Sumire, it's not some tourist attraction and it's late in the evening. Just leave it alone" Naoto said frowning and Sumire shook her head.
"Sorry, Naoto-kun. It just doesn't sit right with me to let such an artifact be destroyed without good reason" She said and grabbed her bag before clocking out.
"Well, will you please call me when you get home? I don't want anything to happen to you…" Naoto said and Sumire smiled with a nod before leaving the museum.
Sumire shivered as the breezy autumn air hit her bare skin. It was pretty warm this morning and she was in a rush so she didn't necessarily have a sweater or anything of the sort to keep her warm.
Sumire was vaguely familiar with the directions on how to get to the shrine since she had been there once or twice when she was a child. Her grandfather would take her to all the different historical places in the city and she loved it so much that she never forgot a single place.
The sound of the fallen leaves crunching under Sumire's feet was the only sound in the forest and Sumire let out a white sigh. She felt like she had been walking for hours, was she really lost? The fog in the air also wasn't helping as she could barely see anything.
"Ahh!" Sumire yelped as she tripped over something and fell face first into the ground. Thankfully it was just a bunch of leaves on the ground. Sumire looked back over to her feet to see what she had tripped on and she frowned when she saw nothing there.
"What in the world…" she muttered before standing up and brushing the dirt off of her clothes. Sumire continued on and soon enough she began to faintly see the silhouette of most likely the shrine so she sped up her walking.
Her eyes widened at how huge the shrine was and suddenly, her grandfather's voice flowed into memory again.
"Sumi, don't stray too far from your brothers alright? And be careful, this shrine is thousands of years old we don't want to break anything now do we?"
"No grandpa! I'll be super careful!"
She remembered the time she had first came to the shrine and that same feeling of excitement and curiosity from her childhood filled her heart.
"Beautiful…" Sumire whispered as she walked into the shrine. The red and gold colors that filled the shrine shone magnificently under the bright moonlight and sort of illuminated Sumire's way as she walked further into the shrine.
The sound of soft footsteps made Sumire turn in the direction of the sound but once again, there was nothing there. She frowned and then thought back to her and Naoto's conversation. There was no way this shrine was actually haunted, in fact, she didn't even believe in that stuff.
"I'm just hearing things" she muttered and turned back around but then gasped loudly as there was a small child right in front of her. The child was just staring at her with an innocent look on his face and Sumire assumed that the child had wandered into the shrine.
"Uh, hi. Are you lost?" Sumire asked bending down to the child's height. The child's eyes widened and a smile blossomed on his face.
"Y-You can see me?!" He asked excitedly and Sumire's smile dropped. What did he mean 'could she see him'? Of course she could see him, he was right in front of her.
"W-What do you mean?" Sumire asked. The boy pouted.
"You're the only person in years who has actually bothered to come here...and on top of that you can see me" he said. Sumire frowned.
"Where are your parents?" Sumire asked and all of a sudden, the boy's eyes teared up. Sumire cursed in her head as she realized that his parents must have been a sensitive topic.
"You have to help me! Please!" He immediately yelled running into Sumire's arms and to her surprise she hugged him back. If he was a ghost, wouldn't that mean he shouldn't be able to touch her? Sumire shook her head at the ridiculous thoughts.
Sumire gulped before opening her mouth.
"What do you need help with?" She asked shakily. The boy pulled away from the hug and peered his watery blue eyes into her own eyes.
"I don't know…" he said and Sumire sighed. She couldn't believe what she was hearing or seeing for that fact.
"If you don't know how am I supposed to help…?" Sumire muttered and then suddenly, she decided that maybe Naoto was right. Maybe this shrine was haunted and this child was a hallucination.
"I know that look...you're going to leave and never come back, aren't you?" he muttered. Sumire was surprised at the boy. He had backed away from her completely and seemed to be ready to leave himself, as if he had given up on the help he had asked her for. Sumire's heart clenched at the face the child was making.
She remembered that he had mentioned that she was the first person in years to come visit the shrine, so how long has he been at this shrine? Why hasn't anybody come for him? It just didn't make sense. Who would leave a child here all by himself?
"I won't" Sumire said and the boy looked at her with wide eyes.
"I promise that I'll come back tomorrow. If you're still here that is…" she muttered the last part to herself and the boy's face lit up like the fourth of July.
"Thank you so much, miss!" he said happily and Sumire just nodded, while wondering what she had really just gotten herself into.