Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Real Imagination ... a short story




She stirred.


A gentle tap on her foot roused her from a deep sleep.

“What? Who?”

“It’s me, Olivia.”

Her eyes sprung open as her dream state clashed with reality. Her body froze as fear gripped her.  She could feel her heart crashing against her chest as she scanned the room. The sound of her heartbeats grew louder until they were almost deafening and then her eyes rested on a young lady at the foot of her bed.

“Good you’re awake.”

There was an assumption of familiarity in the statement, yet Ava was clueless.

“Sorry I had to wake you, but we’ve been having a hard time getting your attention.”

We? Ava could swear she was only seeing one person. Shouldn’t swear; suddenly several others appeared next to Olivia. She battled the fight or flight urges and calmed her mind.

“Okay, you have my attention now.”


Olivia made her way to the side of the bed and sat on the edge.  She reached over and turned on the table lamp and settled back in her spot. Ava couldn’t help but stare as she tried to make a connection.  Olivia just gazed back. Her gentle brown eyes were partly masked by her long black hair that fell loosely over her face.

“Haven’t figured it out yet eh?”


“Well no wonder.  It’s been awhile.”

Ava wished she knew exactly what that ‘awhile ago’ meant.

“Still nothing?”

She nodded with embarrassment. Ava prided herself in remembering names and faces.  Then again, this was an odd place to be reacquainting herself with Olivia and …

Olivia gestured to the young man on the other side of the bed, “That’s David.” She then pointed and continued with the rest of the group, “That’s Joshua, Ella, Grace, Bradley and Lily.”

Ava acknowledged them politely as if they were all milling about at a dinner party. Then a strange feeling washed over her when she realized that somehow this person was able to anticipate what she was thinking or going to say.

“I can.”

Ava bit on her lip nervously, “Can what?”

“I can read your thoughts.”

“Oh.”   She suddenly felt exposed and the urgency to guard her thoughts.

“Don’t worry. I can’t really do anything about it.” Olivia offered a friendly smile.

“Anyway, we’ve been waiting around for a very long time and noticed you’ve forgotten about us.”

“Waiting for what?”

“For you to finish.”

Ava was at a complete loss.

“I’m drawing at straws here.”

“It’s simple. See David here has no idea what his career is. Joshua is confused about whether he lives in the city or suburbs.  Ella and Grace are not sure if they go to the same grad school. Bradley’s not sure if he has a crush on Lily or Ella. Lily’s wondering if she is married and that’s just scraping the surface.”

The look of confusion was evident. Ava couldn’t understand why these people were looking to her for answers. What had her even more concerned was how they got in her bedroom.

David, Joshua, Ella, Grace, Bradley, Lily and Olivia waited anxiously for her to answer.

“Can’t read thoughts that haven’t formed.” Olivia chuckled.  The rest of the group chimed in.

“I wish I knew what to tell you.”

Their smiles faded.

“Maybe I need to help you a little. Give you a refresher, no?”

Ava nodded agreement.

“A few years back you started to write a story.” Olivia paused.

“Keep going.”

“You were tossing around a few titles, Sand Castles, Imaginary Lines and oh yeah, Crumbling Walls.”

“Oh” slipped through her lips as thoughts started to flood in.  Before she could say anything more, Olivia jumped in.

“I can see you are remembering.”

“I do.”

“Great! Time’s a wasting; we have a lot of questions for you.” The group moved closer and each took a spot on the bed.

Ava slowly sat up and looked at them closer. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“Well, you began writing a story. Although you hadn’t decided on a title, you started to develop the characters, and …” Olivia looked intently expecting Ava to finish the thought.

“Sorry, I don’t read thoughts.”

The group laughed.

“You stopped. Writing that is.”


“We can’t function with so many missing parts.”

“But you’re all figments of my imagination.”

“That’s what you think.”

 Ava ran her hands through her hair then pressed her palm against her forehead.  “I’m not sure I’m following.”

Olivia looked at Ava sympathetically. “Think back to all the stories you have written.  What you and every writer on this planet don’t know is that every character created comes to life … literally.  Because of this, we have quite an assortment of people, animals and things we haven’t quite been able to identify. Many are wandering about missing key elements, in some cases, body parts.  Our numbers are growing and it’s getting crowded. It wouldn’t be so bad if everyone was fully developed. ”

“So let me get this straight. I develop a character and that character goes on to live a life; that is if it, I mean, he or she doesn’t die in the story?”

“You got it.”

“I’m not sure I do, seems impossible to me.”

“It’s plausible though. After all you created us.”

“Well, when you put it that way, I guess so.”

Olivia sat up proudly and grinned “I got my brains from you!”

Ava couldn’t help but smile back. “So what do I; I mean where do we begin?”

“From the beginning of course!”

“It’s been awhile since...”

“We know.”

Olivia anxiously shifted on the bed.

“It’s just; every time we tried to find a free spot in your mind, your other thoughts muscled their way in and we just got pushed aside.”

A feeling of remorse crept through Ava’s body.

“But we’re sure you aren’t going to let it happen now that you know.”

Ava didn’t want to let the group down. She frantically searched through her mind, but the more she searched the more the thoughts became unintelligible.”

“Whoa! You really need to slow down in there.  You’re raising the anxiety level in the room.”

“Sorry about that. Maybe you should come back in a few days. Give me a chance to regroup and collect what I need to finish the characters...er...you all.”

“No can do.”

Ava looked at Olivia quizzically.

“See here’s the deal. Coming out like we have has never been done before and can’t be done again. But we all discussed it and decided that this was a risk worth taking.”

“What kind of risk?”

Olivia looked around at the others and then her gaze fell on Ava “We could all die.”

“Come again?”

“There’s a delicate balance between our world and yours.  Crossing over just doesn’t happen without some consequence. “

“But I created you all, so doesn’t that count for something?”

“Let’s just say that it becomes bigger than all of us.”

“So what you’re telling me is that I need to tie all these loose ends now.”

“That sums it up nicely.”

Ava glanced at the alarm clock. It read 1:11 a.m.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do this all tonight.  I have to collect all my notes…”

The sullen faces were too much to bear. “So I guess I better get cracking eh?”

Ava slipped out of bed and started making her way to the office.  Olivia followed and one by one so did the others.  Ava stared at the neatly piled boxes and began searching through each one. The anticipation in the room was growing.  “Hey, why don’t I get you all something to eat while I look for my notes?”

The group answered, “No thanks, we’ll just hang out here with you.”

She smiled and returned to her search. Minutes seemed like hours. Each box led to another, then another, until finally.


The group inched closer.

“Looks like we’re in business.”

She took out a stack of papers and fell to her knees.  Laying the papers out on the floor she poured over her notes and reacquainted herself with the story.

The silence was remarkable. So many people in one room yet not a sound. 

When she was done, she collected the papers and took in a deep breath. The others did the same. The look on her face was discouraging.

“I know why I stopped writing the story.”

No one dared interrupt.

“When I had started this story, I received a rejection letter; one of many. There was something about the rejection that felt as though someone had ripped my heart out of my chest. I cried for weeks and I just couldn’t shake it. When I tried to get back to writing I felt empty, like I had nothing left to give.  It was then I decided I just didn’t have what it takes. So I packed everything away and haven’t looked back, until now.”

Tears welled in her eyes. Ava sensed they wanted more but she knew in her heart that she couldn’t give anymore.

She wished someone would say something. Release her from this momentous task. But all she got was silence.

She rose to her feet and placed the papers back in the box and piled them back neatly. Turning to the group she wiped her tears and said, “Sorry.”

Making her way back to her room the group ensued. She climbed back into bed and pulled her blankets close. She could feel their stares penetrating. Their silence was agonizing. Frustrated, she shot up and cried out, “What do you want from me?”

Olivia cleared her throat. Although her voice was trembling it was unyielding, “To finish it.”

There it was, lingering in the air like pea soup fog. 

The desperation in all their eyes told Ava that they had no intention of leaving without what they came for; closure.

She wrestled with all the feelings that she worked so hard to bury.  How could she write a story when she couldn’t get past all the feelings of inadequacy and resentment? Couldn’t she just destroy the papers and make the story disappear for good? No, that wouldn’t work. These were living beings that she created. They were in a state of unrest and it was her fault.  She had to do the right thing; finish the story.

“I need sleep. I’m no good without sleep.” 

There was a collective sigh of relief and hope.


Ava lay down and was asleep almost instantly.

Morning arrived quickly.  Ava awoke to the sound of the alarm clock. As she reached over to turn it off, she remembered the events of the night.  She jumped out of bed and looked around the room.  Her sudden movement jolted her husband out of his sleep. “Is everything okay?” She took a closer look around and when she realized that last night was just a dream, she replied, “Yeah, everything’s okay.”

As she slipped on her housecoat her husband asked, “What were you doing in the office last night?”  Ava hesitated. How did he know she was in the office last night?  Maybe what happened was real. “I couldn’t sleep so I decided to get up and do some reading.”  She waited for a response. He yawned and turned on his side, “Love you.”  “Love you too.” She hurried out of the room and down the hall. There was no one in the office. Maybe she had been sleepwalking that would explain…sounds in the kitchen caught her attention. She raced down the stairs to discover that it wasn’t a dream. Olivia, David, Joshua, Ella, Bradley, Lily and Grace were all sitting around her kitchen table.

“Good Morning!”

She looked over her shoulder expecting to see her husband coming down the stairs. Clearly he hadn’t heard them.

“Good Morning. So you’re not …”

“A dream? No we’re real,” Olivia said flashing a smile.

“Can anyone else see or hear you?”

“Of course... not!  That would be too weird.”


Olivia pointed to the empty seat and said, “Shall we get to work?”

Ava nodded and joined the group at the table.

The days fell into months. Ava was living in dual realities. Her husband was oblivious and the group was respectful.  As each day passed she watched her characters evolve. It was as though she was watching a child grow, but in fast forward.  The story came together almost effortlessly.  Then it happened.

She was finished.

Feelings of elation were mixed with apprehension.  With the completion of the story, a great achievement meant the departure of her characters…friends.




She stirred.


A gentle tap on her foot roused her from a deep sleep.

Ava sat up slowly and gazed at the group standing at the end of her bed.

“It’s time to go.”

She knew it was coming and had been preparing for it for days. There was going to be no painful goodbyes.

She slipped out of bed and approached them. One by one she hugged them. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Olivia moved closer to Ava and said, “We all pitched in and got you something.”

Ava wiped away the tears, “I can’t accept …”

“Sure you can.”

Olivia handed her an unwrapped box. Ava lifted the lid and there it was; a towel.

“Next time you’re thinking of giving up, just toss this across the room.”

Ava was speechless. There was so much she wanted to share with them; all of which they already knew.

“You really should be getting some sleep now.”

Ava smiled as tears flowed freely.

She turned to make her way back to the bed. When she looked back they were gone.

What a fitting ending to our journey, she thought.

She placed the box on a chair and climbed into bed.  As sleep took over she knew that tomorrow would be different. It was going to be another chapter in her life.

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