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Old 09-17-2011, 02:02 AM
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Devon (Offline)
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Default Imaginary - Lurking Darkness

Imaginary
By: J. R. Liske

“Who you talking to in here?”

“My friend, Aaron.”


She walked into Nick’s room and sat on his bed. Nick sat on the ground, a Monopoly board laid out in front of him. Green, red, blue, and yellow money lay scattered in front of him. She brushed his hair with her hand.


“Who’s Aaron?” she asked.


“A friend.”


“Can I talk to Aaron?”


“No. He only talks to me.” Nick sorted his Monopoly money into neat stacks, “He doesn’t like talking to anyone else. He’s kinda shy.” He smiled up at his mother.


“How long have you two been friends?”


“Not too long. I met him one day when I was playing in the woods out back.”


Sharon pointed to an empty spot of carpet.


“Is he sitting there?”


Nick glanced at where his mother was pointing and shook his head.


“He’s hiding right now,” Nick said. “He’s shy, ‘member?”


“Of course he is.” She said.


She brushed his hair again and looked around the room. It was brightly lit by the afternoon sun. Toys lay scattered and clothes sat bunched in the far corner. Drawings new and old hung from the light blue walls. The bed was covered with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and the sheet underneath revealed a bloodthirsty Tasmanian Devil.


All of this will be gone soon, she thought to herself.


Nick was ten years old, and most ten year olds had already lost interest in toys and drawings and imaginary friends. Nick, however, still seemed to be quite intrigued by these things. And Sharon was glad. It’s hard seeing your child grow out of the things he loves.


It’s hard seeing them grow up.


“Mom?”


Sharon jumped at his voice. He was looking up at her.


“Can you make me some lunch?” he asked.


She raised an eyebrow and stared at him.


“Please?” he added.


She smiled and kissed his head.


“Sure bud. I just need to check on your sister first. Did you hear her crying at all?”


“No,” he said, still sorting his money.


“Okay, I’ll call you when it’s ready.”


She ruffled his short brown hair and left. Sharon stood outside the door, listening.


Nothing. Not even a whisper. She sighed and started down the hallway.


Nick waited until her footfalls sounded down the hallway.


“You can come out now.”



She fixed up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and poured a glass of milk. She set them on the dining table in the adjacent room and went back to the kitchen. The sun reflected off the metallic appliances, striking. While cleaning, she thought about Nick. He seemed to be getting better but it appeared to her that his condition was hiding. Concealed beneath the surface, slowly making itself known.


“Nick, lunch!”


That’s over now.
The doctor said there is nothing to worry about. There will be no
problems. Everything is just fine.
She shivered.

“Nick, come and eat!”


Nothing.


“Nick?” she called.


Her voice echoed off the walls, and the silence that followed was one that truly haunted her. She stood at the counter, cold and scared. But why was she scared? What was she to be afraid of? It’s her
son. She loved him to death but beneath that love lingered a terror that only a mother could feel. The kind of fear that keeps women up in the night, holding back screams. The fear of knowing the child they bear inside of them is sick. Knowing at any minute something horrible can happen. They can feel it. A sick nausea creeps through their body, leaving them fear-stricken and vulnerable.

Vulnerable?


Was that the right word? Sharon thought about it and decided it was.


She rounded the counter, sat in a chair, and wept. She wept not just because of Nick, but because she knew she couldn’t put up with it anymore. Not by herself. Before Gregg died, everything was better. Nick was
happy. There were no night terrors, no sleepwalks, no imaginary friends. They were a family. But that all changed when Gregg was killed in a car accident two months before Bella was born. Gregg wasn’t much of a drinking man but the man who hit him sure was. Gregg was found thirty feet away from his car, his face shredded by the jagged asphalt. Sharon was alone. And Nick got worse.

“Nick, what’re you doing?”


She tried to make her voice smooth but failed. She sat at the counter, waiting for an answer and getting none. Sharon stood, walked to the stairs, and listened. She couldn’t hear much of anything. The grandfather clock in the living room to her right ticked and tocked steadily, but the silence between drove her mad. Her ears rang with the spaced silence, her fear growing like the sick beginning of a virus. She took a deep breath, and climbed the first step.


As she reached the top steps, she noticed Nick’s door was wide open and the spot where he sat, thoughtfully counting his Monopoly money, was vacant. She looked in room, noticing the money had been shuffled into a random pile. She checked her own room first, searching through the closet and bathroom.


She found nothing.


Sharon went back into the hallway. Where in the hell could he be hiding?
Why was he hiding? The nauseating fear lingered into her stomach, pinching and clawing, making her cringe. And then, through the silence, she heard what sounded like a giggle.

Sharon froze, the fear that was set in her stomach released, seeming to poison her. She drew in a harsh breath and held it. Her flesh broke into prickly bumps and the bones in her legs turned to Jell-O. Her heart thundered in her chest, like the fast, irregular beat of a hollow drum.


“N-Nick?” her voice broke. Her legs found their will to move and she walked into his bedroom. Nothing was different but it felt
lighter. Everything was exactly the same, yet the room had an easier feel to it. A feeling of comfort that lifted some of the fear from her heart. But there also lingered a sense of heaviness. Not there anymore, but did indeed linger, like the smell of a cigarette which had been smoked a few minutes prior. It was gone, but its ghost crept.

And through the silence sounded another giggle, louder than before. Sharon gasped and if she hadn’t grabbed onto Nick’s bed, she would’ve tumbled backwards. Her eyes snapped to the closed closet door, knowing whatever sat behind it was listening and grinning. Sweat perspired on her forehead in heavy beads and her breath became quick. Her eyes, green and wide, studied the door.


“Nick, c-come out right now.”


Nothing.


“Nick, please come out here!” she yelled, begging and near tears.


Seconds passed without movement or sound. A scream sat in her throat, ready and on-edge. Something was in that closet.
Something that fed off the fear of grown men and women, like their own personal Boogeyman. Monsters do exist and they’re different than rapists and killers and terrorists. Monsters, begin to come in the form of things people love. Be it their spouse, their family, their children.

The doorknob began turning, creaking in protest.


Sharon’s blood boiled and iced, sending terrifying chills through her body. The scream trapped in her throat was ready to burst out, and it took everything in her to keep it in.


The door creaked open, and through the darkness out walked Nick.


“Nick!” she cried, “Jesus Christ, you scared me half to death!”


“Sorry Mom.” Nick looked at his shoes.


Sharon found the courage to let go of the bed-spread and walked to her son.


“Why were you in the closet?”


“Me and Aaron were playing hide and seek.” He smiled, “He’s not very good at it.”


Sharon smiled at him, masking her terror.


“I was calling you. Your lunch is ready.”


“Thanks Mom.” He said, and hugged her.


She hugged him back.


Sharon watched him leave, the terror still flowing in her blood. She shut his closet door and left. She was halfway down the stairs when she felt a draft. She stopped and felt the wind glide over her skin. She went back up the stairs, stopping at the top step. The bathroom and master bedroom doors were shut, but the last door on the left stood wide open, exposing a bright pink room.


She walked into the room and studied it closely. Everything was in its place but the window above Bella’s crib was standing wide open. The curtains blew inward then outward, inward then outward. Sharon didn’t remember opening her window, but she must have.


“Oh, are you a little chilly Be—”


In the crib lay Bella, on her back with her little head turned slightly to the side. Something was different. No one but Sharon would’ve spotted the flaw, but for some odd reason, it
terrified her. Bella never slept on her back.

“B-Bella,” Sharon picked up her daughter, and when she did, Bella’s head lolled loosely.


“Come ‘on baby, don’t scare Momma.”


She held her daughter in front of her and shook her a little. Bella’s head jerked forward and fell back into that loose, rubbery loll.


“Bella, hon-honey?”


Bella’s head rolled to the side and cold, bloody drool dripped from her mouth. Dark purple bruises were visible on Bella’s neck, in the shape of hands.


Small hands.


Sharon’s breath stopped in her throat, and the terror that immersed her left her in a state of catatonic shock. She stared at the corpse of her daughter, literally feeling her sanity slip away.


Another chill crept through the window, bringing with it the echoes of the woods. It carried a sound which would make any other person smile, but to Sharon, it was truly horrifying.


A child’s laughter.


Sharon began to scream.
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