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Bump in the Night

By AJ Trandicosta All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy


What if imaginary friends aren't what we think they are? What if everything that we know about the world is just our way of rationalizing things that are simply beyond our comprehension? What if, as we grow older, we drift further and further away from the truth of existence? Thanks to his very own childhood imaginary friend, young James McArthur is about to find the answers these questions and more, and they just may shatter his entire perception of reality

0: Knowledge & Truth

Age is a peculiar thing; a concept both abstract and definitive, which blurs the line between knowledge and truth. As humans grow older, they live, they learn, and they develop an understanding of the world. However, that understanding is molded into shape by those who have come before them: men and women who have become disillusioned, disenchanted, and disenthralled by the very same ideas that they then pass on. When people are young, they are open to all things, they have not yet been told what not to believe. Then, they reach a certain age, and they are taught that magic isn’t real. They are told that the rules of the universe are dictated by science, math, and facts—by knowledge.

Just because you know something though, does not necessarily make it true. The world is not as cut-and-dry as most adults would have their young believe. The real fact of the matter is that children are closer to the truth than most adults will ever be again. Take, for instance, young Jimmy McArthur and his imaginary friend.

Jimmy was a bright boy with loving parents, but he had always had trouble fitting in with other children his age. For as long as he could recall, he had always felt more at home in a picture book than on a playground. The world of fantasy simply spoke to him in ways that the real world could not. As a result, he was often very lonely. His parents would set up play dates and enroll him in activities, but try as they might it was no easy feat to find another four-year-old who would rather read a book than climb a jungle gym.

Even when Jimmy started preschool, he had difficulty communicating with the other students. In fact, rather than making friends the opposite seemed to be true. The boys and girls in the class would call him names, and snicker at him behind his back. This led to Jimmy becoming increasingly isolated from the children around him. The universe though, for those who are still in tune with it, has a way of compensating for such things.

One night, as Jimmy lay in his bed drifting off to sleep, he heard a noise. Now, Jimmy was a brave child. Having spent his short life wrapped up in stories and fairy tales, he knew several tales of fearless knights, and mighty heroes who had looked evil in the eye and laughed. If his heroes could be brave then so could he, so he ignored the noise. This particular noise though, did not want to be ignored…so it repeated itself.

Bump, went the noise. Jimmy laid stock still. He would not give it the satisfaction of letting it see him sweat.

Bump, bump, this time louder. Jimmy continued to ignore it, and for a moment the noise subsided.

And then, even louder and faster than before, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump!

Jimmy shot into a sitting position, and scanned across his messy room, lit only by a dim nightlight. “Who’s there?” the young boy called. “I’m not a’scared a you!”

But there was no reply. As such, Jimmy was convinced that he had scared the noise off. Quite proud of himself, he laid back down and rolled over to make himself comfortable. When he did so, however, it was not his wall that he saw, as he normally would. Instead, less than an inch away from his face was the face of another young boy. At first, Jimmy thought that he was just seeing things, so he closed his eyes tight and counted aloud to three.


When he opened his eyes once more, he was relieved to find that the other boy was no longer there. Still, he was no longer quite so fond of this position, so he rolled over yet again. His relief would turn out to be short-lived. There, sitting at the edge of his bed, was the same little boy who had been uncomfortably close to his face only a few seconds before. Jimmy stared at the boy, dumbfounded.

“Hi,” said the boy with a large grin set on his freckled face.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Jimmy screamed. He may have been brave, but he was not stupid. It was not normal for another person to appear in a closed room out of nowhere.

Jimmy, though short on friends, had the best parents that any child could possibly ever ask for. Upon hearing their child scream such a chilling scream, Christian and Penelope McArthur immediately threw themselves up from their bed and dashed to his room.

“What happened, Baby?” asked Jimmy’s mother, Penelope. “Is everything alright?” Although her wavy blonde hair was in a disheveled state, she was no less beautiful than always. Her soft, green eyes and gentle demeanor always managed to put Jimmy at ease.

“There was a person here,” Jimmy informed her through a stifled sniffle. He had to do his best to maintain a brave face. “It was another kid.”

His parents exchanged soft, concerned glances, and then his father set about the room. He looked in all of the usual places of interest. He checked in the closet, and under the bed, and even through the window. No matter where he searched though, there was no trace of anybody in the room except for him, his wife, and Jimmy. When he was thoroughly convinced that they were all alone, he sat down next to his son and placed a broad hand on the child’s shoulder.

“There’s no one else here, Champ. It’s just me, you, and your mom,” He promised Jimmy as he ran his free hand through his sandy brown hair. Christian McArthur had the kindest blue eyes that anybody could possibly have. They were almost always happy, but tonight they were downcast. “You probably just had a bad dream.”

“But it wasn’t a dream!” Jimmy pleaded.

Kind and gentle as they were though, Christian and Penelope were still adults. As such, this meant that they were too set in their reality to know what was truly real. As far as they were concerned, the window had been latched and the door had been closed. There was no way that there was anybody in this room except for their son.

“I promise, Baby,” said Penelope, “there’s no one else here. You’re safe, okay?”

“…Kay,” Jimmy agreed hesitantly. He wasn’t entirely so certain, but if his parents thought he was safe then he would believe them. He trusted them, and his trust was well-placed.

Christian and Penelope had never lied to their son. He was the most important thing in the world to them. They did, however, worry about him. And ever since he had started preschool, they had been worrying more than ever. His teacher had informed them of how withdrawn Jimmy was from the rest of the class, and of how difficult it had been for him to make friends. They had always known that Jimmy was different than other children his age, and they loved him all the more for it. But they did not want their son to walk through his childhood alone.

Penelope walked over to her only child, placed a gentle hand on each of his cheeks, and planted a soft kiss on his forehead. “You know that your father and I love you, right Jimmy?”

Her son nodded.

“And you know that we’ll always be here for you, no matter what?” Christian asked.

Jimmy nodded again.

“Good,” Penelope smiled. “I promise you, Jimmy, we’re never, ever going to let anything bad happen to you. Okay?”

“Kay,” Jimmy agreed. And he knew that they were telling the truth, because that was the only thing that they had ever told him.

“I love you, kid,” said Christian, tousling his son’s hair as he stood back up.

“I love you too,” said Jimmy.

With that, his parents gave him a big, warm hug, kissed him goodnight once more, and were on their way. They made sure to close the door behind them to assure Jimmy that nobody else could get in without opening it.

At ease once more, Jimmy pulled his blanket up to his chin, and smiled. Regardless of anything else that had happened, there was solace in the fact that he had the best parents in the whole world.

“Wow,” said a small voice from the corner of his bed. “You know, you’re really lucky to have parents who love you so much.”

Jimmy shot into a sitting position once again, but this time he did not scream. “You’re not real,” he said bluntly. “Mommy and Daddy said so.”

“’Course I’m real,” said the red-headed little boy. His grin was even wider than it had been before. “Don’t worry, your parents didn’t lie to you. They just can’t see me is all. But if I wasn’t real, then how would I be talking to you right now?”

Jimmy thought about it for a second, but could not think of an answer to that question. Instead, he just asked, “Who are you?”

“I’m your friend, Jimmy,” the little boy told him. “Or, at least I want to be. Will you let me?”

Jimmy stared hard at the other boy. He knew that it wasn’t possible for someone to just appear into an empty room, yet there he was. And it didn’t seem like he meant him any harm. He was just sitting there, smiling his wide, toothy smile. Jimmy leaned in closer to examine him. The other boy did not so much as flinch. Instead, he simply smiled and allowed himself to be examined.

He certainly sounded real, and he definitely looked real. He poked him, and pulled at his freckled cheeks. He felt real too. Then, he smelled him. He smelled like…

“You smell like strawberries,” said Jimmy. Strawberries were his favorite snack.

“I do?” the other boy asked, sniffing his own shirt. “Hey, I guess I do. You must really like strawberries, huh?”

“Yeah…” Jimmy said carefully.

“You see, Jimmy, I am totally and completely yours. I can be whatever you want me to be. Watch, close your eyes and try.”

“Hmmm,” Jimmy hummed. He closed his eyes tight, and dug deep into his imagination. When he opened them again, he could not help but gasp in sheer awe. There, standing before him, was a little boy wearing the same kind of armor as one of the knights in his stories. It was just as he had imagined. He closed his eyes tight again, and when he opened them there stood the red-headed little boy once more, twiddling the plume from the armor’s helmet between his fingers.

“Do you believe me yet?” the boy asked, tossing the voluminous feather aside.

“…What’s your name?” Jimmy asked him. This seemed to please the other boy.

“It’s whatever you want it to be,” he replied.

Jimmy thought for a moment. When he did, the first thing that came to mind was the noise he had heard earlier; the one that the strange boy had made when he had first appeared.

Bump, bump, bump…

“You’re Bump,” Jimmy decided.

“Bump…” The little boy repeated, rolling it over on his tongue. “Bump…I like it!”

Both boys grinned at each other. For some reason, Jimmy was sure that he could trust Bump. He gave the other boy a warm embrace. He had never had a friend before. Though Bump was caught off guard, eventually, he hugged his new friend back.

“It’s time to go to sleep now, Jimmy,” said Bump.

Jimmy released his grip on the boy, and looked him straight in his big, brown eyes. “Will you be here tomorrow?” he asked.

“I will,” said Bump. “You have my word. And knights never break their word, do they?”

“No,” Jimmy agreed. “They don’t.”

“Exactly,” said Bump. “Now go to bed. I’ll still be here when you wake up. I promise.”

And Jimmy believed him. So he laid down and finally drifted off to sleep, with a smile on his face that was almost as big as the one on Bump’s.

When Jimmy woke up the next morning, he was pleased to find that Bump had been true to his word. The other boy was there, just as he had said he would be. Even though nobody could see him but Jimmy, Jimmy still knew that he was at his side. That was all that mattered.

From that day forward, the two friends were inseparable. Wherever Jimmy went, Bump followed. Whenever Jimmy was scared, or nervous, or felt out of place, Bump reassured him. Jimmy was more confident, more at ease, and less detached than ever before. Even his classmates took notice. For the first time, Jimmy was making friends. It was all thanks to Bump. It was the happiest time in young Jimmy’s life, not to mention a colossal weight off the backs of his loving parents. For more than a year, Bump was Jimmy’s unwavering wing man. They learned together, grew together, even went on adventures together.

As Jimmy became more confident, he grew to the point where he and Bump could spend periods of time apart without him worrying about whether or not his friend would come back. He knew that whenever he needed him, Bump would be there. Bump was always there…until the day that he wasn’t.

One day, when he got out of school, Jimmy waited for his parents to pick him up, as they always did. He waited, and waited for them…but they were late. This was odd, because they were never late. They were both writers, so they worked from home. This meant that they were free to spend as much time with their son as they wanted, and that they always picked him up on time. Jimmy thought nothing of it though. He was sure that there was a good reason. They would be there. In the meantime, he would just play with Bump. However, for the first time, his friend did not appear when he called out for him.

“Bump!” he called out. There was no answer though. “Bump?” Still nothing…he must be busy. So, Jimmy continued waiting…and waiting…and waiting, until he was the last child left on the campus.

After waiting a little longer, the principal eventually came out. Normally, Principal Biel was a strict, staunch woman. But today, she had a soft smile on her face. What was even stranger was that the smile seemed almost…sad. “Can you come with me, Jimmy?” she asked.

“I gotta wait for my parents,” Jimmy told her.

“Jimmy…please?” the principal asked.

“But they’ll be here soon,” said Jimmy. “They’re just late.”

“Jimmy…please come with me?” the principal asked again.

As she said this, a tear trailed down her wrinkled cheek. Jimmy had never seen the principal cry before. Maybe she was sad, and she just needed a friend; like he had before he had met Bump. So he followed her. He was sure that his parents would understand. They had always taught him to be friendly to others when they needed it.

When they got to the principal’s office, they both sat in the waiting room. Principal Biel did not say anything. “Are you okay, Miss Biel?” Jimmy asked.

The white-haired old woman looked down at him softly. “I’m…I’m okay, Jimmy,” she said.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

Principal Biel attempted to answer once more, but this time she broke into tears. Jimmy didn’t know what was wrong, but he knew that she needed a hug. Whenever he was sad, his parents always gave him hugs. So, he hugged her, and she hugged him back. And for an indeterminable amount of time they just sat there, hugging. After a while, the door to the office opened, and Jimmy turned to see who it was, expecting for his parents to be there. Instead though, he saw his Aunt Clarice, and his Uncle Bobby. They looked a mess. Bobby was wearing two different shoes, as though he had dressed in a hurry, and Clarice’s makeup was cutting a line from her eyes down each of her cheeks.

“Hey, Buddy,” said Bobby. Bobby was Jimmy’s favorite uncle. He was always smiling, and laughing, and telling silly jokes. There wasn’t a mean bone in his entire body. Today though, he seemed different. Today, he was quiet, somber, serious. “ Can…can I talk to you for a sec?” he asked Jimmy. As he asked this, his shoulders shook, and his voice cracked, but he did not cry.

“Are you okay, Uncle Bobby?” Jimmy asked. Everyone seemed to be sad today, and he was not sure why. As he asked his question, his Aunt Clarice broke into a sob, and ran from the room.

“Buddy, we…we need to talk,” Bobby told him, his eyes now glossy.

Jimmy nodded…but first, there was another question he needed to ask. “Uncle Bobby…where are Mommy and Daddy?”

The question was too much for his uncle to bear, and the normally strong man collapsed against the wall behind him, sliding down into a sitting position. Jimmy got out of his seat, and took a tentative step towards his uncle.

“…Uncle Bobby?” he addressed him.

“Oh God,” Bobby sobbed. “I…I don’t even know how to say this. I don’t…I don’t…”

“Mister McArthur…” Principal Biel cut in. “I know it’s hard…but the boy needs to know…you need to tell him.”

Bobby looked up from the floor. There were tears in his eyes, but still he nodded. “Jimmy…Buddy, can you come sit by me for a second?”

Jimmy did as he was asked. “Why are you sad, Uncle Bobby?” he asked. “Why did Aunt Clarice run away?”

“Jim…” said Uncle Bobby, “Jimmy, there was an accident. And…and Christian and Penelope, your parent, they…they didn’t make it.”

“What’s that mean?” Jimmy asked. “Are they not home?”

“They’re…they’re…” Bobby broke into a heaving sob and locked his nephew into a tight embrace.

“Uncle Bobby…?” Jimmy asked. “Where are Mommy and Daddy?”

Bobby looked up, looked down again, and then looked his nephew in the eyes. His cheeks were wet with tears, and his voice was shaking, and cracking, and wavering…But Jimmy needed to know. So he spoke the three words that would forever change the young boy’s life.

“They’re gone, Jimmy.”

At first Jimmy did not understand. Where had they gone? They never went anywhere without him. And when they did, they were always sure to be back in time to pick him up from school. And then, he did understand.

“No,” he said. “You’re lying to me, Uncle Bobby. Why are you lying to me?”

“Jimmy…” his uncle pleaded.

No!” Jimmy shouted. He pushed himself out of Bobby’s arms and ran out of the office, expecting to find his parents just outside the doorway. They weren’t gone. They had promised that they would always protect him. They never broke their promises.

“Mommy?” he called. “Daddy?” But only his Aunt Clarice was there, sitting just outside the door with her arms wrapped around her knees.

“Jimmy,” his aunt said, reaching out for him.

But Jimmy ran, and he ran. He ran through the halls of his school as fast as his legs would carry him. He searched the building up and down. His parents were there. They had to be. But they weren’t. So he ran some more. He ran until he reached the playground, and then he shouted. He shouted at the top of his lungs.

Bump!” he called. “Bump! I need you! Where are you Bump?” He called, and he called…but Bump did not answer.

Eventually, his aunt and uncle found him sitting in the middle of the playground, sobbing. They took him home with them, and from there, a slew of horrible ordeals occurred. Bump was not at any of them. He was not at the hospital. He was not at the wake. He was not even at the funeral. Bump was gone.

After the funeral, Jimmy stopped believing in magic. He stopped reading fairy tales. They were all just lies; falsehoods that had promised to always be there for him, but had disappeared when he had needed them most. So he had decided that he would simply not need them anymore.

What Jimmy did not realize was that magic is everywhere. Just because it is present though, does not always guarantee a happy ending. But as always, the ending of one story is just the beginning of another. Although Bump was gone for now, Jimmy had not seen the last of him.

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