The Traveler and the Ghost

Somewhere in the world lies a small town. It is old and worn down. Termites have eaten through the wood, and dust covers the walls. The stores are empty, no food or clothes, and the houses are barren of all relics of life.

In this town, on a bench, there sits a ghost. They may or may not be physically dead, but they're as good as such.

No one has come to the town in years, not until today.

In walks a traveler, their boots worn from the miles they've walked, and all their possessions in a bag on their back. They look around, seemingly stunned at the lack of anything the town holds. Slowly, they make their way through.

"Hello!" The traveler calls out. They hope for someone to talk to, maybe share a drink, story and laugh with. A new friend in every town they walked into, even if they travelled alone, they never were.

There is only an echo in response to the traveler's call, and they continue on their way.

The ghost did not notice the traveler's call. The ghost did not notice much, and they were content with that.

The traveler did a double take when they spotted the ghost, sitting on that decaying bench. It is in front of a house that might be the ghost's, but the house does not matter, it is just one of many replicas dotting the town. In a way, every house in the town is the ghost's.

"Hey," the traveler approaches and sits on the bench beside the ghost.

"Hello," the ghost replies, and turns to look at them.

The traveler does not fit in with the town. Yes, both are worn down from years of living, but the traveler does not carry the stagnant air in the town.

"What happened to the town?" The traveler asks, gazing out at the deserted town.

"It got old," the ghost responds. It got old, and so did everyone in it.

"Why are you still here?" The traveler continues.

"Where else would I be?" The ghost asks. There was no other place the ghost wanted to be, so why wouldn't they be here?

"I don't know, somewhere with life?" The traveler does not know how to respond.

The ghost shakes their head. "This is home."

"But it's empty," the traveler points out, gesturing at everything, from the streets so old and unused that they've fallen into disrepair, to the stores devoid of anything to sell.

"I am still here, and it is still home." The ghost can still see the way it used to be, and the ghost can see how it is now, and it is always home. Even now that the grass has wilted and the people have left and the sun now shines through a haze of dust, it is home.

"This is my home, it has always been my home, and I do not want to leave, I am scared to go," the ghost explains.

"Are you happy here?" The traveler cannot imagine being happy here, but the traveler can't imagine being happy staying anywhere.

"I am content," the ghost answers after a pause. "And that is good enough."

The traveler stands up and takes one last glance at the dead town. "I'll come visit you again at some point, if you'd like." The traveler wouldn't stay.

"That would be nice," the ghost smiles. The ghost wouldn't leave.

Neither of them understood the other, and that was fine. The traveler made their way out of town, and the ghost stayed at the old bench, and they are happy, because they are friends.