Imaginary Friends

Molly enters the interrogation room. She’s impassive, yet the bulging skin under her eyes evidences she’s been crying again. Stan holds the door for her. She gives him a dull thanks with a tight jaw and her eyes fixed on the spots on the floor. Inside, Cristina is already waiting with a stale yellow Pendaflex folder in her hands. She had entered just a few seconds before the crumbling mother’s figure stepped inside and was about to take a seat in one of the small uncomfortable gray chairs that were neatly put under the equally boring rectangular table.

“Just like in the movies,” Molly thinks, not being able to contain a wry smirk at the thought that it was actually happening to her. Cristina smiles, “Miss Whyte, good to see you again”.

“Yeah, hopefully I can say the same.”

“Take a seat,” the suited woman points out, while setting the file on the old wooden surface.

“What am I doing here? What am I doing in this room?” she snaps, throwing her weakened body on the chair.

Cristina gives her a warm smile once more before explaining, “We just need to ask you a few more questions… For investigative purposes. It’ll only take us a while”.

“Do you have any more information? Any evidence? Anything at all?”
“I’m afraid not,” she starts cautiously, “but that’s what we’re working on.”

Molly’s exasperated. She rests her forehead on her right hand’s knuckles and stares silently up at the outdated blinds that don’t seem to have any purpose on the closed window behind Cristina. “How can these idiots not have found anything yet?!” she mulls inside her head. “It’s already been two weeks!” She closes her eyes and holds back her tears. Cristina interrupts her thoughts, “Miss Whyte, could you tell me what happened on the night of November 18th?”

Molly flares her eyes open; she stares bewildered at the official’s pinkish white face. “I’ve already answered this.”

“Yes, but could you please answer again? We’re trying to pick up the small details that could have maybe been missed or overlooked before.”

“Details? I’ve given you all the details. I’ve already told you what happened! What you… You just think I’d forget that night? You seriously think I’d forget details?!”

“Miss Whyte, please… We’re just trying to do our job.”

He’s sitting on the little patch of grass that grows next to the seesaw in the playground. It’s rusty and old, and most of the times weird bugs and animals crawl on its surface. It’s been there since before any of the kids can remember. Nobody uses that contraption anymore. The school’s teachers have been planning on taking it down, but they just haven’t come around to it. “Well, better for me,” he always thinks to himself, glad to still have his special place. He always sits there, it’s nice. It’s the most quiet spot on the playground so there he reads or draws, or lies back and looks at the clouds floating by without anyone disturbing. “What? Hey, wait, repeat that; I didn’t hear you.”

Alyssa comes over cheerfully. “Hi, Noah”.

He gets startled and tries to hide his hands. “Oh,” he sighs, “Hi, Aly. I didn’t see you coming.”

“Oh, sorry… Is he… Mmm… Is he here?”

“I told you, it’s not ‘he’ or ‘she’. ‘It’, Aly,” he opens his eyes wide so she understands that it’s crucial she gets the detail right.

“Right. Sorry,” she’s whispering now. “Have you, mmm… Have you told your mom?”

“Mhm,” he’s whispering now, too, “but she doesn’t believe me.”

Aly looks at him surprised. Noah shrugs his shoulders and opens his hand. They both look down and start giggling instantly. This is surely the most wonderful thing anyone could ever come across. It’s magic. It’s magic. It’s magic! They both would chant excited with their discovery.

“Listen, I told you, it was a rock… A pebble. O.K? That’s it.” Since when was the tape recorder on the table?

“And did he ever show any unusual behavior that could have been maybe linked to this object?”

Molly packs her lungs with a new breath of air, exhaling ever so slowly, visualizing behind her eyelids oxygen leaving her body and spreading around the room’s atmosphere. “He used to tell me the rock would talk to him.” Her eyes are now open. “That it was his friend. He’d say that, umm… It wasn’t from this planet. That it came from the sky one night like, I don’t know, like a shooting star or a comet or a bird, I don’t know, and that… That it talked to him.”

“What did you tell him about his new ‘friend’?”

“I– I don’t really recall. Of course, I didn’t believe him. And, honestly, I didn’t pay attention to the thing. I mean, come on. It was just a damn rock, and every kid comes up with imaginary friends all the time.”

Noah wakes up annoyed and very tired. He focuses his eyes under the dim bluish light the reflects upon his room and outlines the figure’s left side of the body. It’s there, waiting patiently, staring with its piercing eyes that reminded Noah of the profundities of the oceans where another world, a very strange one, lives without ever feeling the sun’s warmth. Its voice is everywhere around now, crawling on Noah’s skin, holding on tight.

“No, we can’t go play now.”

“I can’t.”

“No! What are you doing? Leave me alone!”

“Stop! Mom! Mom! Mommy!”

“No! You promised! You said you were my friend!”

Cristina waits outside. She has news today and wants to deliver them personally. Molly opens the door; she’s been crying today, despair is noticeable all over her body.

“Hi, Mo–”

“Have you found anything?”, she interrupts meekly.

Cristina tilts her head to one side examining sadly the woman that stands in front of her. Oh, how she wishes she could save this withering human being. “May I come in?”

Molly’s hollow eyes look to the floor as she turns to walk to the living room. Cristina follows in, closing the door as she passes. Molly already waits seated on the couch. The once superb loft apartment is now a suffocating space that presses tight against every organ, leaving bodies breathless and desperate to get out.

She sits silently down on the red armchair. “How are y–.”

“Have you found anything?” Molly’s eyes don’t stray away from the cracks on the glass coffee table. She knows they haven’t. There hasn’t been anything to find in any of the rooms, on any of the doors; not on the tables, or the chairs, or the ceiling; not the windows, not the floor. Nothing. Not in the beginning, not now. There’s nothing. It’s like he vanished… Like he vanished from thin air. “Insolents! You can’t do anything right!” she shouts at Cristina without moving a single muscle on her face.

“Look, Miss Whyte, working with the possibility that maybe this ‘friend’ that Noah meant by the rock may have actually been a real person, a real live person that… Could’ve kidnapped your son.”

Molly’s eyes glare at Cristina, rage seeping through her empty pupils as tears fill up her eyes’ lower lash line, before spilling along her cheeks with her rapid tiny blinks.

What are you doing here? You should be trying to find my son! My boy! My Noah! What the fuck are you doing here telling me this?! Do something!

“Moll–”

“Shut up! Shut up!” she nods her head furiously, her eyes shut. The world is too painful too watch. It’s too painful to exist now. Her hands go to her face. She breathes. When she takes her hands off her face, her eyes are still closed.

“He’s out there. I know. I really…” she holds back a sudden urge to scream and die right there in that instant. “Just please…” her voice bearly audible. “Please find him. He’s out there. I feel it. Please…”

“Hi, Alyssa”, a raspy voice whispers. The wind carries the sound around her room swirling its waves above her head and stroking her body lightly with them. Perplexed, she looks around, squinting her dark green eyes at the ceiling positive it came from up there. “Aly…”. There it is again! The whisper! She turns to see who is calling; it came from her bed this time, but there’s no one there aside from the plush bear with a big red heart on its belly, the one that always sleeps along with her at night. “Teddy?” she breathes shakily, taking a few steps closer. Her heart beats rapidly now and her breath becomes shorter and jagged; a quick shiver slashes through her little spine. “Aly…” From the dresser! She turns startled, skipping a few inches back, closer to the bed, away from the small white vanity. Inspecting the furniture, the familiar rock draws her attention. She walks forward to greet it nervously, “H– hello… Mmm… How did you get here?”

“Hi, Aly”, the sound slithers up her left arm to her neck.

“W– where’s Noah?” she mutters fearfully as the creature envelops her trembling body, embracing her neck, her face, feeling blood rush everywhere inside its new friend’s panicked veins.

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