I spent most of my afternoon concentrating, or trying to concentrate, on my math. I was working ahead so I would get part of my mind off the fact that there was a marble I had tried to get rid of sitting innocently on my desk.
Thanks, ma. The one time you take genuine interest in stuff in my room, it blows up in my face.
I seriously considered throwing it away, but I was afraid that Mom would find it, or worse, suddenly develop a sixth sense about these things.
She already has too many senses, she doesn’t need another one.
I bent my head back over my book, and started work on some function problems. I couldn’t really concentrate and just wrote something down, knowing it wasn’t the right answer.
I tapped my pencil against the book a couple of times, then threw it down.
This was stupid! I am afraid of a little marble! It’s an inanimate piece of glass, it can’t hurt me.
“Math being a pain in the arse?” A very familiar voice asked. I turned my head slowly.
It was back.
I immediately grabbed my pillow and hurled it in his direction.
“Hey! Chill, will ya? I’m not going to hurt you!” It ducked under the flying pillow. It hit the wall above the dresser and flopped to the floor.
“What are you?! I swear if you come any closer I’ll scream!” I said a little hysterically.
“Don’t scream. You hurt my ears last time.” It got up from its sitting position and stretched, taking the time to smooth out its coat. “I am everything you believe made ‘real’.”
“What?” I grabbed my math book and held it up in case it decided to come closer.
“Look, can you put down the book and we can talk like civil people?”
“I like the math book.”
“Un hunh…” He(I could tell it was male from the way it moved and talked.) rose an eyebrow, which was strange, because I didn’t think cats had eyebrows to speak of. “Fine, let’s attack it from this angle. Are you familiar with the theory that when enough people believe in something, their joined powers of belief actually cause that thing to be?”
“Yeah…I don’t remember where that came from, but I know what you’re talking about.” I lowered my book a little.
“Well, what you’re experiencing this very second is a sort of…extreme version of that.”
“This isn’t a hallucination?”
“Would you believe me if I said no?”
“No. That’s what all hallucinations say.”
“You need to cut down on whatever it is you’ve been eating, it’s making you crazy.”
“A hallucination is telling me I’m crazy, great, thanks.” I said sarcastically, finally dropping the book to the bed.
“Glad to see we’re not about to injure each other. Anyway, back to my explanation…where was I?”
“Extreme version of crazy belief system.”
“Thank you. Anyway, I and my people, we are the extreme products of this belief. As such, we can latch ourselves onto people with great intellectual, imaginative, whatever mental strength, and we can become real, as we are not beforehand. By way of molding ourselves to their beliefs, whether religious, fantasy, or elsewise. You follow me?”
“That’s alright, I didn’t expect you to right away. But the major thing right now is that I’m a true living being, bound to you, as I am using you to acquire a physical form. I am not a hallucination.”
“My head hurts. This doesn’t make sense.”
“It’s not supposed to. You made me that way.”
“What? I didn’t make you.”
“True. But I was trying to make myself in an image you wouldn’t fear, and this is how I came out.”
“This is crazy. You are not supposed to exist.”
He looked distinctly uneasy at this. I couldn’t figure out why.
“Well, I am, for now. In any case, I think we should have our introductions, hmm?” He jumped off the dresser and walked over to me, standing in the sun beam from the window. His fur was gold with black points on his ears, muzzle, paws, and his tail. His eyes were a strange dark green. On his left ear, there was a jet black earring, the same color as the marble, a hanging black jewel. The waistcoat was a dark black with gold embroidery on the cuffs, with a black vest and white shirt. His lower body was entirely fur, but the waistcoat itself was brushing his ankles as he walked on two feet.
“You look different. And you’re talking different.” I realized aloud.
“Yeah, I had to after the reception I got last time. After spending a small bit of time in your mother’s company, I realized something.”
“I sounded like a freak. And your mother has some pretty sordid fantasies.”
“Don’t ask me to repeat it, it was creepy enough seeing it, though I’m sure whoever Roderick is must be pleased.”
“Shut up! Don’t say those things about my mom!” I said in protest. He shrugged.
“I only relate what I saw. Now, names?”
“Oh…I’m Helena Harrick.”
“Ouch. How many times were you beaten up in school over that one?”
“I’m not sure I like you very much.”
“I grow on you.”
“Like a malignant fungus?”
“Exactly. Now, Helen…may I call you Helen?”
“Sure. I don’t see why you can’t stick on that extra ‘a’ though.”
“I’m a cat, and therefore inherently lazy. Now, I have to ask you something.”
“Aren’t you going to give me your name?” I asked, looking down at him. He was almost a foot and a half tall, which made him, what, a third my size?
“That’s what I have to ask you about. I don’t have a name.”
“Why not?” I asked, halfway expecting some sob story.
“I don’t remember it. You’ll have to give me one, since I’ll be hanging out with you from now on.”
Well, it was a sob story to the point, I guess.
“How am I supposed to name someone I just met? Shall I call you Mr. Hallucination?”
“I thought we got passed this whole hallucination business.”
“Oh no. It’s still open for discussion.” I got off my bed and sat on the incredibly cold floor so I could look at him at a semi-eye level.
He gazed back at me, unblinkingly. We stared at each other for a moment, then I reached out my hand to touch him, then drew back. I wasn’t sure I wanted to touch him. If I touched him, that would mean I would have to admit that he might honestly be there, and I wasn’t ready to admit that yet.
He looked a little pained, but steeled himself and stepped forward closing the gap between us. He stopped when he was standing with his nose an inch from my face, and still not actually touching me.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” He said calmly. “You don’t need to be afraid.”
“I’m not afraid.” I said unflinchingly. I reached my hand up again, and brought it lightly down on his head, flattening his ears.
His fur was soft, almost fluffy. He was warm under my hand, but his ears were a little cold from the temperature in the room. Worst of all, I could feel a pulse beating when I moved my hand down to the base of his neck.
No way a hallucination could be this real.
“I can’t believe this, you are actually real. You are real!” I said in total amazement. He actually broke out into a grin.
“I knew you’d figure it out. Now, about that name.” He sobered up. “I still need one.”
“Why can’t you pick out your own?”
“A name is something other people give you. If I gave one to myself, it would be empty and without purpose.”
“Wow, that’s deep.”
“Yeah, I siphoned it from your memories when I was creating myself.”
“We are going to have a talk about that.” I said severely. No one is supposed to be poking around in there.
He shrugged and sat down beside me, stretching out his legs. “So whatcha gonna call me?”
“Um…” I quickly thought. He needed a name, and I was certain he probably knew all of the ones I knew. “Boston?′
“But I’m not black.” He pointed out. “Boston blackies are black cats.”
“Right…well, beggars can’t be choosers, all of my other cat names are something like Mr. Whiskers and Cheshire Cat, and you don’t seem to fit any of that.”
“Yes, and Boston does have a sophisticated ring to it.” He said tweaking his nose. “Okay! Boston it is!”
“Helena! Come down for supper!” Mom called from way downstairs.
“Is it that late?” I asked looking at the door, then turned back to Boston, to figure out what to do with him.
He wasn’t there.
“Boston? Where’d you go?” I got up and looked around, then looked at the marble. It seemed to gleam a little. I picked it up. “You’re in there, aren’t you?”
Travel size for your convenience.
My eyes slightly widened. His voice echoed in my head.
Better go eat before Mother dearest has a fit. I’ll see you later.
I almost let a smile go as I laid the marble choker down on the dresser, then left my room for dinner.
I walked up the stairs slowly. Dinner had been a less than cheery affair, no matter how much Mom tried to cover it. She always was unhappy when Dad left her alone for long times. He left today at lunch for an overseas project, and would be back for maybe one day next week. So now she was stuck being totally alone, unable to speak of her ‘troubles’ to me, and not knowing anyone in the neighborhood to talk with.
I really did feel sorry for her. But sometimes, just sometimes, I think she won’t be happy unless she has something to worry about.
Ah well. We were in the same boat, really. I didn’t have any friends to talk to, and I certainly wasn’t going to talk to her about the living creature in my room.
Living creature. That’s what it was, wasn’t it? Part of me, I think, always knew it was at least partly real. And now that I had touched it, and accepted it, it wasn’t going to go away.
He. Must remember that it is he.
Which brings up another little problem. I’ll be damned if he stays on the dresser while I get ready for bed, I snorted mentally, while also letting part of that snort pass my lips.
“Helena! Did you just say something you weren’t supposed to?” Mom yelled threateningly.
How the heck does she do that?!
“I didn’t say anything Mom!” Out loud, I added quietly. “Must have been the staircase creaking.”
Man, was that an outrageous lie.
She answered with something I couldn’t really hear, but I wasn’t meant to. I hurried up the staircase, even as it creaked loudly.
“Don’t run up those stairs, you’ll break your neck!”
“Yes ma’am!” I said as I found the door to my attic and pulled it open and slipped inside. I quickly retreated into it, hoping that it had some magical barrier against the mental prowess of mum.
“The woman is psychic, isn’t she?” Boston was sitting on the edge of my bed, with my math book propped up in front of him.
“No, it’s just a mother’s intuition…I think.” I sat down on the edge of the bed that was farther away from the cat, and we stared at each other for a moment. “What are you doing?” I asked after a moment.
“Because I’ll be better, if I learn.”
“That’s borderline obsessive, I think.”
“No, that’s an attempt to make myself better through optimism.”
“That’s optimism in itself.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He sniffed, shutting my book and leaping off the book to put it into my bag. “You’re finished, right?”
“Yeah, I was just working ahead, anyway.” I said, watching him quietly. I was still really weirded out by it, even though I was now dealing with it a little more rationally than Trabwick. If that was possible.
“What exactly am I going to do with you?” I said suddenly. He looked up at me.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what am I going to do with you? You can’t exactly be seen by anyone, it’s going to cause trouble.”
“Let me deal with that. You can trust me.”
“I can’t believe I’m going along with this.”
“Face it shorty—you’re stuck with me!” He said with a happy grin. I seriously considered tossing his kitty butt out the window into the snow. That would teach him to be happy in potentially emotionally scarring situations.
“So, did you bring me any chow?”
“Probably just as well. I’ve seen what that woman does in the kitchen and it’s absolutely horrid. How can you eat it?”
“You get used to it. It’s not really that bad. She just needs a little practice.”
“Darling,” He jumped up onto my bed and elbowed me in the ribs, “Her bread can be used as a doorstop.”
I laughed out loud, finally breaking the ice between us. It was very much like talking to a friend I hadn’t seen in forever.
Or a friend I didn’t know I had.