Day 138 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about a character finding out they are a figment of someone’s imagination.
Shannon: “Hey, you can’t do that,” I shouted to sky. “I remember,” I shouted. “I remember what happened before it all disappeared,” I was curling into my chest to keep myself from bursting in rage. “I liked what I had. I don’t understand, did you erase it,” I shouted. “Why are you always erasing? I can’t keep living all of these lives.” I sat down, hiding my head behind my knees as I squeezed the back of my neck. “I’m not doing it anymore, you can’t make me,” I hugged my legs, trying to keep myself still.
Soon enough I was standing, involuntarily again. I’d stopped freaking out and I had a new purpose. Now I understood it wasn’t my own, just something someone thought up for me. My only motivation was to prove that I deserved a say too. I wanted to lead my own story. Now I’d know the difference, and now I could fight it.
Erin: “You know what I realized the other day?”
Gina talked to herself.
“No I didn’t, I’m talking to you.”
She looked up at the celling, squinting at nothing but the chipping paint.
“I’m looking for you, narrator. I know you are up there, I know you have been controlling me. I have had enough though. I’m taking over the ending of my story.”
Write about someone you imagine finding out about someone imagining them.
“This tea’s cold,” I complained, loudly crunching a mouthful of stale cookies between my crooked teeth. There was something so satisfying about the sound of breaking biscuits that I didn’t even mind that they tasted rough and a tiny bit tinny. Something shifted in the corner as Ellie’s skirt ruffled in the light breeze; there was always a draft in the old house, no matter if it was in the heat of summer or the dead of winter. When she turned back to me, an origami crane clutched in her tiny fingers, her giant doe eyes were watery and bright. Her breath came out in little puff of grey smoke that hung in the rippling air between us.
Placing the thin bird gently on the table, she took in a deep, quivering breath before losing her nerve. It ruffled its feathers in the draft, getting more comfortable on the chilled wooden surface. Ellie’s eyes were brimmed with liquid that threatened to break the emotional barrier between keeping your cool and falling into a dark abyss of sadness that could drown you drop by drop. “Grace,” she began in a whisper to hide the warble and cracking in her voice, “this is really hard to say to you. We’ve been friends for so long now,” she trailed like the Ellie I knew and loved, leaving the well-worn ideas to others and picking at the loose threads of reality like stray hairs. “I love you like a sister, the sister I never had.” For a moment the silence dragged on, sticking to our soft sneakers and gripping my worn-out jeans like a wave of molasses; she’d lost her sister when she was little and it was a tough subject for everyone to speak about. I’d once seen her mother become a puddle on the pristine kitchen floor when an old plastic cup fell from the depths of a cabinet.
There was that same metallic, bloody taste in my mouth that had turned into a prickly smell in the air as the silence continued. I’d never been one for softness and stillness for any length of time, but this one felt too sacred to shatter. If I made too much noise I figured it might cut me with the jagged edges I’d create, so I settled for carefully touching the back of Ellie’s slender hand, drawing calming circles in the pale skin. When our frosty skin touched, she involuntarily twitched away, but I kept my fingers steady and stable; sometimes your best friend just needs you to be there for them no matter what they have to say, or how much silence they need to cope.
“You’re not real,” she blurted, the air around us freezing and hardening back to a dense hush as her words faded from tangible to subconscious. Jerking her trembling digits back as though I’d shocked her, she repeated in a melancholy whisper, “You’re not real, Grace.” I glanced quickly between her ocean eyes watching real tears roll down her face like an emotional landslide were making its way down a smooth mountain. Uncomprehending of what she meant by not real, I opened my mouth repeatedly without letting out anything but warm clouds of breath. After a moment of thinking, Ellie seemed to have forgotten to avoid my touch as she gripped the tabletop to keep herself steady and unintentionally brushed my fingers with hers.
With our gazes locked in a staring contest, neither of us noticed when Ellie’s mother appeared at the door with more cookies and a fresh pot of tea. She wore her usual gracious smile on paper-thin lips and carried the fine china as though they would shatter with the slightest jostle. Setting the tray on the dresser behind Ellie, she kissed her daughter’s golden waves of hair and nodded toward me before turning to leave. Something must have caught her attention with the palpable tension in the room, because she called over her shoulder, “Enjoy the tea, Grace,” before slipping through the door and was gone.
It took me a few more moments of stillness to come back into my own head, by which time Ellie was already pouring us fresh tea and pacing between the dresser and roaring hearth. Though it was always cheerfully blazing away, the fireplace never gave off heat; it sucked at what little warmth was present in the room like a demon siphoning life force. No one ever brought it up, but in my mental wanderings the reverse-fireplace and Ellie’s mother never looking me in the eye was front-and-center in the comprehensive investigation. Each and every thought I’d ever had with anyone in the entire world was being looked at with magnifying glasses and black lights; if there was anything suspicious going on with them, I’d find the culprit’s sticky fingerprints.
“You’re my imaginary friend, Grace. I’m sorry,” she spoke, still wandering on an unseen path, touching the velvet fabric of her duvet, then the sleek surface of the windowsill, the hearty material covering her armchair and the icy mirror above the dresser. I’d known she was seeing a shrink, but I didn’t realize it was for anything so specific as an imaginary friend.
I actually laughed at the thought, out loud, like a psycho. “Ellie, there’s no way I’m an imaginary friend. I am real. We’re both real,” I spoke firmly, catching her wrist tightly between my fingers and stopping her mid-stride. When she refused to look at me, pretending to be concerned about the oddly-ruffled hem of her long skirt, I stood to block her path completely. “Neither of us is imaginary. They’re wrong.”
Her eyes were red circles deeply set in a porcelain doll’s face with chips and cracks from years of not-quite-gentle play. “You are, though. No one has ever heard of you. You just show up every morning and disappear every night. You’re not real,” her voice started to shake, not with fear, but with a fiery anger that I’d never seen burning in her before. Rage flared behind her silvery eyes as she continued, ripping her arm from my limp fingers, “I made you up because I couldn’t cope with losing my sister. You were just here to make me feel better, but now I don’t have any friends or an understanding of anything outside this house. And it’s all because of you!” She cried in loud, gulping-for-air sobs that threatened to tear the thin layer of fantasy from reality like wet wall paper peeling off a wall.
I wanted to be angry, furious, that she was putting this all on me, but it was all on me, wasn’t it? If I was just her imaginary friend, that meant I was just a part of her, and I was the part she should be mad at. But something was nagging in the corner of my eye like an insistent shimmer of sunlight falling on my eyes in the morning; it was attempting to wake myself to some worse-than ever truth that I didn’t want to know. When I turned, though, it wasn’t just a corner of a room basking in brilliant light, it was the entire room burning holes right through to the studs, the cornerstones of reality.
Blinking rapidly, the holes tore in jagged tears and turned to dust, revealing the ice-cold hearth, moth-eaten bedsheets and mossy water in chipped teacups. After a moment, the whole room became a deathly-still apartment with no window glass or doors, and a thick scent of rotting wood drifting through the air. Standing in a stray ray of sunlight was Ellie, looking cold and lonely in her pristine outfit, sniffling and glancing about her like a lost dormouse. When I whispered softly, she vanished from my vision, “It wasn’t me who was the imaginary friend to console you.”
(Of all the times I imagined describing this to a character, I never thought it would actually be her. XD)
Heather’s been sleeping on my floor, and I make up the excuse to my parents that Heather is a friend that needs a place because her parents are fighting again. But I make the mistake of leaving Heather in my room, alone.
With all my papers and my computer that is not password protected. I come back up with a snack and Heather has my computer out. And she does not look happy.
“What’s this?” She asks. I set the food down.
“What’s what? I can’t see the scree-” Heather turns the computer around and I see the fourth chapter of my Country Lass story; her story. I see the look on her face, scrunched up and brows furrowed. I also see a stray tear threatening to fall. I can only say one thing, “Oh…”
“What is this, Abigail?” She asks. I back up and close the door completely.
“I don’t have to tell you that. You know, Heather.”
Heather glares at me. “How long did you know?”
“You mentioned Silven,” I say, “in this world, Silven doesn’t exist. I… I made it up.”
“What?” Heather asks.
“Your… your life? It’s all, fiction here,” I answer, “A, fanfiction. Revolving around the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cap, Stark, Clint, Tasha, they are all someone else’s characters. But I added my own characters into the story, to see if it would change or how those characters would change.”
Heather gulps through her glaring.
I take a deep breath. “You, your family, the Novelty, and…” I scowl at myself, “Bryce are all my Original Characters.”
“You created Bryce!” Heather yells. I shush her. “I will not be quiet! You know he-”
“Yes I know what he did,” I say quickly, “Look, my parents don’t know who you are, so until we can get you home, or someone from your world solves the problem, you need to be quiet. Please.” I offer her the snacks. She eyes me threateningly, then takes them.
“Who do you think you are, God?” Heather mutters, opening the bag of chips.
“Then who do you think you are?”
“If I never wrote your story, then you would not exist,” I defend.
“Oh, thank you. So I should just forget all the crap you put me through,” Heather snaps.
“Everyone goes through struggles, Heather. I wish I could write a compelling story where nothing goes wrong, but I can’t.”
“But what you chose-”
I curl my legs in front of me and clasp my arms around them, “I didn’t know you were real, Heather.”
She stops and looks at me.
“I didn’t… I didn’t think I’d ever meet you,” I admit, “I knew if I did, you would probably put the serum and training to good use. And honestly, I’d let you.”
She doesn’t move, so I stand up. I walk over to the window, looking outside with vacant.
I scoff at myself, “You know…” I sigh, “When I started the Country Lass series, it was going to be one story,” I hold up my index finger, “One. And not only that…” I scoff again, looking up slightly, “It was going to be about me meeting the characters. Who doesn’t want to meet their heroes, right?”
I look at my feet. I don’t dare look at her.
“But I changed it to a new character. Gave her a name other than mine, a different family, living in a different part of Minnesota, and with different skills and interests, And problems.”
I look up again, studying the leaves on the tree.
“But it wasn’t without a reason. No I, I didn’t feel like I would end up in the situation that I wanted to have in the story, so, I made the character the way I wanted, wanted to be. I made her more selfless than I felt, I gave her more courage than I thought I had. Of course, she didn’t always think things through, but she loves her family so much she’d die for them, and she’d do whatever she could to protect them. I’ve always wanted at least one friend I’d do everything with, and she’d fully get me, so… I gave my character a best friend like that. And though I… Even though what happened to Kate… was…” I don’t look at Heather. “I’m sorry,” I whisper as loud as I can. “As I wrote your story farther, things changed and I didn’t want your story to be mine anymore. As I continued, I became more sure that you aren’t some Mary Sue character. People who read it actually related to you, and… one even said reading the story helped them.”
I’m silent. I don’t know what to expect. I can’t imagine Heather would forgive me right here and now, but I don’t think she’ll strangle me here and now. I feel like it should be raining.
“Heather, everything you went through…” I turn to look at her, “It’s made you stronger. You are a different person than you were in chapter one. You know what you want and fight for it with everything. You listen when you need to and don’t compromise when you shouldn’t.”
Heather is staring at me, looking confused, angry, and sad. She’s closed the computer. I sit on the windowsill, finding it hard to meet her eyes.
“Well? Say something? Do something, punch me or whatever,” I say, trying to chuckle.
Heather is speechless.
“Heather, your story is the longest I’ve ever written, and it’s far from finished. It went from one story to… a separate universe of it’s own. I never planned to create the Novelty, I never planned for…” I look at her leg, “for you to go through the dark stuff, at least in the beginning. You’ve become a project that I love to talk about, and I’ve put you in so many crossovers it makes my head spin.”
“Why don’t I remember those?” Heather asks.
“Because I made sure your story is strictly in the MCU. None of the crossovers made it into your actual story. And… everything that happens in the MCU happens in your world, that I can’t change. Only what your presence, and the other Original Characters, change can happen. But everything outside your control, it’s the same as the movies.”
Heather is silent for a lot longer. Then she looks up again, “Do… do you have those movies?”
“…Can we watch one?”
I smile, “I know the perfect one.”