The Imaginary (LakeView Series, Book Two)

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Creature

"How'd you sleep last night?" I look up from my hands to my best friend who looks at me hopefully, she knows I've been struggling with sleeping so I'm sure she's concerned. Avery is the sweetest person I've met, always being kind and accepting to me. With her short lavender hair and wide blue eyes, she looks like a porcelain doll.

"Not bad," I fib, "you?" She smiles, happy I slept ok. I feel bad for telling a little white lie, but I feel worse about the fact that I've been worrying them.

"I slept pretty badly, but honestly that's my fault," Avery replies, wiggling her eyebrows. Oh, Mason must have been over last night. Mason, Avery's boyfriend, is one of the people I'd seen die while in my coma-state. I'm not sure what to call that experience, the doctors told me that there had been low-grade emission of brain waves; but each time it had happened they assumed it was because I was going to wake up soon. Not that I was dreaming.

I know it's because of the dream I'd had, even though doctors told me comatose people don't dream. They told me anything I felt hadn't been a dream and was far from being real. But I know what I felt, what I saw. The pain of watching people I grew to love to die and suffer.

"Speaking of...fun time..." Avery says, a silly curiosity milking her tone. I let out a dry laugh, 'fun time', I know where this conversation is going. "How are things between you and my brother?" There it is, the big question. I sigh. Avery's twin brother, Grayson, and I have grown close in the few months that I've been going to LakeView High.

In my coma-state, Grayson had been my rock, my person. I grew closer to him and Avery than anyone else, they were the first people to connect with me. After waking up, I had a bit of a hard time adjusting. It's hard knowing in my mind I'd grown to care for him so deeply, but I'd made it all up. It's hard, and I'm struggling to cope. Clearly, given my dreams.

"Oh, you know how I feel about Gray." Avery nods, not saying anything. As my best friend, she knows I like him a lot, but that I'm afraid to take the next step. They're being so understanding so far, I'm just hoping that their patience with me doesn't wear thin.

"Well you know we all love you right?" Now it's my turn to just nod. While in my coma-state I'd had a hard time coming to cope with people caring for me, being awake I've resorted back to that. She looks over my head, which is hard to do with her being at least three inches shorter than me, and grins widely. "Speaking of..."

I turn, there he is. Everything about him truly takes my breath away and brings heat to my cheeks. Grayson smiles at me, smile lines appearing on his freckled skin.

"Hey, you." He says to me, his voice low and husky, with a slightly mocking edge. Grayson has this way of talking, where everything he says sounds lighthearted and as if it's a joke. It's one of the things I like about him, how he's so 'go with the flow'. In my coma-state he had been one of the last people to panic, he'd been a breath of fresh air.

"Hey..." I say back, my tongue feeling heavy in my mouth. "Sorry about last night-" I'd bailed on him, unable to bring myself to go on the coffee date he'd invited me to.

"I'm gonna take my leave, I'll see you in chem," Avery says, she gives my elbow a small squeeze and a knowing gaze before walking away down the hall; the sound of the crystals on her wrists fading with her.

"Don't sweat it, seriously." Grayson insists, leaning against the lockers, his blue eyes warm as they stare at me intently. I feel as though I'm under a microscope, something that I feel commonly after being back.

Salem had made friends while I was in my coma, and when I started here they all gladly accepted me. Just like in my coma-state I have grown closer with Grayson and Avery, something about them just draws me in. They're my people. For some reason though, despite my closeness to them, I still feel this wall between all of us. Like they're all over there, and I'm over here watching them live their lives. Living the lives that they made for themselves, not the lives I'd made up for them in my head.

"Ready for class?" Grayson asks, the warmth never leaves his tone; despite how odd I'm acting. I've never opened up to any of them about my coma dream, even though it's the only thing I ever think about.

"Lead the way." He takes my hand, I want to shy away but I don't. It's fair that I give a little since he's so patient with me. Black tea, and mint. His scent comforts me, and I lean in close to his sweater as we take down the hall to class.

Through the waves of students that pour through the hall, I see it. My heart plummets, and I find myself tripping over my heavy feet. It stares at me, the creature. Its ashy gray back stretches as it claws its way up the lockers and onto the ceiling, using its spindly fingers to hold itself upside down. Despite being upside down, its head turns right side up, breaking its neck to stare me straight in the eyes with its dead black holes where its eyes should be.

My breath catches, I struggle to breathe, my feet become rooted to the spot and Grayson pulls lightly from my grasp. The creature lets out a cry, its mouth opening too wide to show me its blood-filled teeth. We need to run, I grab Grayson's arm and pull it to me to protect him.

"Sage?" Grayson asks, concerned. I look up at him with my fear-stricken eyes, but he gazes back with no fear. My heart still races, I look back and forth between the creature and Grayson; who isn't phased.

"I..." I start, my brain jumbled. He looks to the ceiling where I keep glancing, but he sees nothing. It clicks, it's not there. Grayson and the other students don't see it. I look back to the ceiling, it's empty. The creature isn't there and was never there. I'm crazy. I shake my head, what on earth is wrong with me?

"Hon?" Grayson says, his eyes growing concerned with my behavior. I let out a loud breath, my brow furrowing with my confusion. "What are we looking at?" I shake my head, trying to expel the feeling of panic that I feel.

"I...I think I forgot my chem homework at home. Sorry, let's go to class." I say, trying to force a smile that I hope reaches my eyes. Please, don't let him think I'm insane. Even though I probably am. He seems to believe me, the fear leaves his eyes and warmth returns to his face.

"You need to stop worrying about small things, you're going to drive yourself crazy." He says sarcastically, raising a mocking eyebrow. I force a laugh, and we finally make our way past the spot in the hall where I saw the creature.

The ceiling is empty, but it mocks me relentlessly. It hisses at me, reminding me of my own faltering mind. My imagination is getting away from me, I am crazy.
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