01 Feb My Imaginary Friend Is Keeping Secrets From Me
It’s not uncommon for children around ages 3 and 5 to have imaginary friends. Given that I was an only child growing up, it made even more sense to my parents that I had one. His name was Michael.
To me, Michael looked like one of those blank articulated wooden mannequins you’d see in art classes. He stood about 8 feet tall, and always accompanied me on my fantasy adventures in the woods behind my parents house in Westbrook, Virginia. We’d hide from the monstrous Jabberwock as it invaded our tree house, we’d defeat the horses of orcs from across the creek to save our fantasy kingdom, and we’d always make it back home in time for supper.
I guess you could say one of the big differences between Michael and other imaginary friends, is that he never really went away when I got older. Instead, he actually became much more real to me.
There was one more thing though, one thing that is crucial in understanding what I am about to tell you.. Michael seemed to be able to know everything about everyone we met.
The first time I came to realize this was on the first day of 1st grade when I was in Mrs. Hortons home room. I had just put my bookbag in my cubby and was sitting at my desk while she introduced herself.
“Welcome everyone!” She said with a bright welcoming smile. “My name is Mrs. Horton, and I’ll be your homeroom teacher this year.”
“She’s pretending to be happy. It’s all an act. She just discovered her husband was having an affair, but she’s too afraid to leave him. She doesn’t think anyone will ever love her.”
I looked over to Michael, a little confused by what he meant. As a young boy at just 7 years old I didn’t know what he meant by affair or anything like that. He sat cross legged beside me on the floor, looking right at me with his blank wooden face. He seemed to understand that I was confused by what he said, so he turned back to face her as I did the same.
As I began to move up grades I started to keep Michael more of a secret from my friends and parents. It didn’t take much for someone to realize that once you stopped believing in Santa, imaginary friends didn’t seem normal to hang around as well. Upon coming to this realization one day while in the 5th grade, I looked at Michael and asked him, “Are you real? Like really real? Or are you just made up?”
He looked at me in that blank expressionless wooden face and said, “I’m as real to you as anything, my friend. All imaginary friends are real to their masters. Children’s minds are powerful things capable of the most marvelous imaginations. You just so happen to be stronger than most.”
“So that’s why I can still see you, and play with you?”
He placed his mannequin hand on my shoulder. “Yes.”
“But how do you know everything?” I asked. “You seem to know a whole lot about the people around me. How do you do that?”
“Ah ah ah.” He said to me, waving a single finger. “That would be telling. And a magician never reveals his secrets. All you need to know is that I am your friend, and I always will be.”
Those years growing up with him were the best of my life. We had so much fun messing around with the other kids in school. I was able to make a lot of them think I had super powers and could read their minds. That’s actually how I met my two best friends Ron and Patricia.
“How do you do it?” Patricia whispered to me at my 14th birthday party. “Bit by a radioactive spider?” Ron nesrly spit out his coke laughing at that one.
“No, but seriously dude,” he asked, whipping his mouth off. “What’s the trick?”
So far, no one had ever been able to see Michael. He had always been mine and mine alone. He never really asked me to keep his existence a secret as I grew older, I just never wanted people to think I was some kind of weirdo who still had an imaginary friend. But I knew that Ron and Patricia were my real friends and wouldn’t judge me. I knew, well I hoped that they would believe me.
“Okay,” I said after taking them up into my room. “You have to promise me not to tell anyone or think I’m crazy. I know it sounds like I am, but I promise you I’m not.”
“Hand on my heart,” Ron said following the motion, “I do solemnly swear not to see you as crazier as you already are.” We all laughed at that.
“All right guys,” I said standing up, “I’ll tell you.”
They seemed to come to terms with the truth about Michael rather well. Ron more so than Patricia. I think part of this was the fact that they had seen just how unusual my ability to seemingly read people first hand was.
“So you’re saying that your friend is able to see and read people’s minds? And only you can see him?” She asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“So is he really imaginary? I mean if he can actually do things then he has to be real somehow.”
“I don’t really know how the rules work,” I admitted. “He says that I’m the one who created him out of my imagination. So I guess calling him an imaginary friend is the best current description for him.”
“Is he here right now?” Patricia asked.
“Yes,” I replied looking past her, towards where Michael was standing over us.
“Alright, tell him to follow me in the closet, and then tell you how many fingers I’m holding up.”
“Okay,” I laughed, “I thought you were going to come up with a harder test.”
“Just do it, dork.” She said, stepping in my closet.
As she closed the door, Michael nodded his head and walked through the closet. He then reappeared holding up three wooden fingers.
“Three,” I said.
“No! Freaking! Way!” Ron shouted, jumping to his feet. “Dude you know what this means?! You’ve got a freaking invisible sidekick that can read people’s minds! That’s awesome! What does he look like to you?”
I then pulled out the miniature wooden mannequin model from my desk drawer and showed it to him, as Patricia came out of the closed equally excited.
“This is what he looks like.”
“Then how does he talk to you if he doesn’t have a mouth?” Patricia asked.
“He just kind of talks in my head.” I replied. “But listen guys, please don’t go around and talk about this. I don’t want any attention. I just wanna hang out and be normal, well as normal as you can with a giant wooden imaginary friend. No offense,” I said looking towards Michael.
“None taken,” He replied with a thumb up. “I just want you to grow up and have a good time.”
And for the most part I did. Middle school went by like a breeze as Ron, Patricia, and I all grew closer as friends.
High school however, is when things started to take a turn for the worst. While sitting at the lunch table with them, this run-of-the-mill senior asshole by the name of Connor Bowman decided today was a good day to screw around with the freshmen.
“Hey dumbasses” he said walking up to us with his friends. “You’re at our table.”
“There’s one right across from here. Just go sit there.” Ron said, trying to hold his ground while not starting a fight in the process.
“What’d you say?” Connor said as he leaned closer to Ron. “Because I swear I just heard some shit come out of your mouth.” He then swatted Ron’s water bottle out of his hand as it spilled onto the floor. “Oops, sorry about that pal, I can get pretty clumsy when I’m pissed.”
“His mother is in the hospital,” Michael said to me as he stood behind Connor and his friends. “She was drunk behind the wheel when she veered off the road. She turned to alcohol because of her abusive husband.”
I really don’t know what in God’s name put the fire in my belly to say what I said next, but to be honest I wasn’t planning on starting the year off being screwed around with by a couple of dickheads who thought they were on top of the food chain.
“Why don’t you go and eat with your mom.” I said while taking a bite of my hotdog. “I’m sure she could use the company in the hospital. That is unless your dad decides to pay her a visit.”
They say sticks and stones may break your bones while words will never hurt you. But those words seemed to jab into his ego like a flaming knife through butter. His face turned a blood read while his eyes seemed to go completely black.
“You mother fu-” he started to shout as he raised a fist to me. I quickly braced myself for the oncoming blow, but it never came. Instead there was just a quick series of wheezing coughs as Connor fell to his knees with his hands around his throat.
Suddenly I clenched my hands to my head as a shot of pain ran through it. Quickly being replaced with a thudding beat, growing faster and faster with each thunderous pulse.
“Connor, you okay?? What’s wrong?” One of his friends shouted as they knelt down beside him.
His eyes were bloodshot and his face was full of panic as he tried to breathe. Suddenly he collapsed onto the floor, writhing like fish out of water. Every single muscle in his body seemed to contort as he began to seize.
I could barely understand the situation as I backed away, trying to concentrate as that pulsing beat grew faster and faster in my head.
His friend leaned down to try to keep him still until Connor started spewing out thick black sprays of blood all over him, causing him to fall backwards.
That’s when everyone started to gather around the scene, just as he started to shake more and more violently. With a choking series of gargles, blood began to pour out of his eyes and ears.
The beating in my head began to slow to a steady pace, before eventually crawling down to complete silence. As it quieted itself from my mind, a teacher rushed over to try and perform CPR on him, but it was too late. All the while, Michael continued to stare down at the bloody body with his blank expressionless face. When he returned my gaze, that’s when I knew what had just happened. And the realization dragged my heart down to my chest.
Without saying anything, I quickly made my way out of the cafeteria down to the bathroom.
After making sure it was empty, I rushed over to the nearest stall and locked myself inside, taking just a moment to wipe the sweat off my forehead.
“Carson?” Michael asked as I saw his wooden feet standing just outside the stall. “Are you Alright?”
“Did… Did you do that?” I whispered, rocking myself back and forth.”
“Yes.” I knew he was telling the truth, he always did. But just this once I wanted him to lie to me.
“Why… why did you do that?”
“He was going to hurt you, and your friends.” He said in my mind. “His mother is going to die tomorrow. Then it would have just been him and his father until he turned 19. Then he would have turned to drugs at the age of 23. He would father two children and neglect them as his own father did to him. His depression would then grow to such an uncontrollable amount, that after taking their lives, he would take to the streets and kill 37 others. He then would turn the gun on himself. Now, none of that will ever happen. None of those lives will be lost by his hand.”
“But how do you know that?! I know you can read minds but how do you know their future!? He couldn’t have been older than 18 and you just… You just killed him!”
“I just want you to be safe, and happy.”
“Do I sound happy?!” For the first time, Michael didn’t reply. He just stood there silently.
“Just go away,” I finally said. “I don’t want to see you right now.”
“Go away!” I yelled back, banging my fist against the stall door. When I looked back at the floor, he wasn’t there. It was just me.
Once the school called out to the parents, most of the students, including me, got early dismissals. After my dad picked me up, the ride home was silent. I think Mr. Blankenship, the 9th grade guidance counselor called my dad and told him some of the more sensitive details, given that I was in direct contact with Connor when he… when he died.
Ron and Patricia seemed to be understanding as well when I told them I just wanted to be by myself for a little while.
I stayed in my room the rest of the day, staring at the small model of Michael laying on my dresser. Maybe he had good intentions of protecting me. But everything that I had seen, the pain that was endured. I mean don’t get me wrong the guy was an asshole but he didn’t deserve that. He didn’t deserve to die.
Eventually I seemed to drift off to sleep and was met with the most surreal and vivid experience I have ever had.
I was standing in the middle of a vast starile rocky wasteland. Razor sharp serrated mountains towered up into a sky that was crinkled as if it was made of paper. Across the horizon before me was the ruins of a vast silver city. A storm seemed to be brewing over it, as thunder rolled over the dark clouds overhead, echoing throughout the landscape towards me. Without knowing where I was or what to do, I began walking towards it.
Along the way I passed by craters the size of small communities. Thick black smoke was still billowing out from them.
The closer I came to the city the more I could start to make out the sounds coming from it. At first I thought it had been thunder from a storm, but more and more it began to sound like the anguished roars of some great beast. I was starting to get worried, but had this feeling that I was safe, that nothing could hurt me. So I did what felt like the only logical thing to do, I continued on.
After what seemed to be several hours, I came to the ruins of a great marble wall at least 600 feet high that seemed to surround the entire city. It looked as if a combination of some great battle along with the unforgiving degradation of time had worn it down to a shadow of its former self. Slowly, I began to make my way around the broken marble, in search for a crack or break in the towering structure large enough to drag myself through.
Eventually I found a rupture about 3 feet wide at the base of the wall, and slowly began to crawl through it. The ground underneath was hard and sharp, as if made of a combination of rock and glass. The hardest part of the entire ordeal was maneuvering myself along so as not to shred every inch of my body.
As I came through the opposite end of the marble, I was met with a scene I still have trouble fully comprehending to this day.
The city was composed of thousands of tall ruins of silver towers that stretched up as far as the eye could see. They looked as if they had been melted away by some unimaginable overwhelming inferno that seemed to have engulfed the entire city at once. Charred remains of millions of people lined the streets, preserved in motions as if they had been running and hiding from something terrible.
Up above, was a dark swirling maelstrom of storm clouds that resembled a black hurricane. The eye of the storm was still much further up ahead, but from what I could see, it seemed to be holding some kind of brilliant light that appeared to be this world’s only source of illumination.
As I continued to make my way through the city, I was suddenly knocked down by another thunderous eruption of roars. They seemed to be coming from the sky, from the storm up ahead. But its sheer ferocity shook the ground around me like an earthquake, causing me to stumble and fall on the ground. With a hard slice, I cut open my hand on one of the jagged pieces of glass protruding from the seared ground below me.
Picking myself up and examining my hand, I saw that while in fact there was a massive burning slice in my hand, no blood seemed to pour out from it.
“There’s no need to worry, Carson.” Michael’s voice nearly caused me to fall down once again. Altho when I turned around to face him, I wasn’t greeted by the wooden mannequin imaginary friend I’ve had my entire life. Instead, I was met by a tall man in a tattered white robe.
“What is this?” I asked him.
“This is… or was my home.” He said looking around the ruins of the city.
“I don’t understand,” I said, following his gaze. “I thought my home was your home.”
“For the past seventeen years, it has been.” He said with a smile that quickly faded. “But this was my home long before.”
“But why am I here?” I asked.
“Because… Because there are things that I haven’t told you. Things I’ve been… keeping from you. And given the recent circumstances, I believe you deserve the truth.”
“What truth? What is going on here??”
I could see him struggling either trying to find the right words, or figure out where to start.
“I’ve been your imaginary friend for your entire life. But that’s not what I have always been.”
“What do you mean?”
“Before you were born, I was the imaginary friend of a Ross Bailey in Atlanta Georgia, before that there was Rachael Black in Glenrothes, Scotland. I have been the friend of millions of children throughout their childhoods. But before that, before all of that, I was something else. I was what you would call an angel.”
“An angel?” I asked.
“But why did I never see you like this? Why did I always see you as some kind of wooden mannequin?”
“When the angels abandoned this place, we lost our true form. The only way we can regain any seemingly form of physical appearance is by utilizing the mind of a child. Their imaginations are the most pure forms of power.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, trying to comprehend everything at once. “This isn’t making any sense.”
“I know it’s hard to understand,” he said, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder. “I knew that just telling you wouldn’t do any good. That’s why I brought you here in spirit, to show you.”
“But what is this place?” I asked my oldest friend.
“This?” He said with a sense of euphoria as he looked around at the ruins of the silver city. “This was paradise. This was heaven.”
“Heaven?” I asked, expecting much more from the glorious afterlife that I had always heard so much about in Sunday school. “But what happened here?”
“It was abandoned by the saints and his servants after the ethereal judgment.” He then began to look up towards the burning glow at the center of the storm. “The Creator tried to scorch the whole of reality in its infinite inferno, burning everything that it had ever created away into nothingness.”
“God…” I said. “You’re telling me that… God tried to destroy the universe? Why?!”
“The Creator… God, became insane. I don’t know why or how, but it did. One day, without warning, God began to scream and howl throughout all of paradise. Exclaiming that it had found it’s true origin, that it had discovered the truth to it all, and proclaimed its grand design an abomination. It set forth its dvine fire to smite the heavens and the earth. But the disciples of the light along with the saints of old rose up against it, winning the war in heaven, imprisoning the creator in chains forged from its light of creation.”
He then stepped away from me, walking towards one of the charred figures who was petrified in the moment of cradling their head against the ground.
“It became clear then that paradise was no longer safe. In the end, the last of the seraphim evacuated the angels out of this domain to the mortal world. Except without being in the presence of the creator, we had no corporeal form.”
He was about to continue until suddenly the sky cracked as a thunderous insane voice boomed from the sky bellowing “IT!… IS!… DONE!”
Then a series of burning chains with links the size of skyscrapers began to fall through the clouds as the eye of the thundering maelstrom began to expand, revealing a howling stellar inferno of light that seemed to be the source of all this madness.
“I!…WILL!…BE!…FREEEED!” The light roared with the sound of thunder that shook the silver towers to their core.
The ground began to buckle and quake as the silver spires around us started to crack and collapse. Michael grabbed my shoulders and gave me a look of complete terror as the sky tore apart into fire above him.
“Listen to me, I have to do something. But I promise everything is going to be alright.”
“What are you talking about?” I cried out as the air seemed to erupt all around us.
“I only wanted to keep you safe, Carson. I only wanted you to grow up into the amazing person I know you’ll become.”
I knew what he was doing. He was saying goodbye to me. But I didn’t want him to. Despite everything that had happened earlier, despite the universe seemingly collapsing around us, I didn’t want him to go. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the one true friend that had been there my entire life.
“No, please,” I pleaded to him. “Let’s just go home!”
“There won’t be a home to go to if I don’t stop this!
Behind him, I could see hoards of flying creatures hurtling themselves towards the ferocious inferno that was the creator and destined destroyer of all things. They quickly seemed to morph and shape themselves into molds of hard light, then materializing into what looked to be another set of chains.
Michael looked into my eyes, tears starting to flow down his own. “I love you.”
Without being able to utter a single word to him, he showed me to the ground.
As my back impacted the glass, I suddenly shot back up in my bed, panting with sweat caked on my clothes. Thunder exploded outside as rain poured down on my bedroom window causing me to nearly scream with terror.
Looking down at my alarm clock by my bed, I saw that it was just 2:35am.
As I reached up to wipe the sweat away from my forehead, my hand suddenly began to sting and burn. After looking down, I saw the scarring remains of a massive cut that had not been there the day before. It was… it was the same cut I had gotten while in that place.
“Michael?” I asked, frantically looking around my room. “Michael, where are you?” For the first time, he never appeared. For the first time in my entire life, it seemed that I was completely alone.
I’ve tried my best to carry on with myself since then. After graduating I slowly started to lose touch with Ron and Patricia. Not that they did anything wrong, but because I wasn’t myself any more.
All those years ago I lost a major part of my life. I lost the best friend I’ve ever had, and have never been able to fully recover from it. But I’m trying my best, because I know that’s what he would have wanted.
But whoever you are reading this, I want to tell you something. Whatever you do, don’t let the child inside die, don’t let go of your imagination.
Because somewhere out there, there may be someone that needs it.