The Other One

"Did you see what happened," the man asked me, his voice so soft and gentle that I actually wanted to answer. "Yes," I replied quietly, meekly. "Do you know who he is?" "Yes." "Who shot Ryan Davidson?" And I looked the detective in the eye and said the one thing I should never have admitted. "The Other One." The creature smiled at me, a razor-sharp finger cutting across its throat, and I shivered. Because I know, and the thing knows, and now you know. Next time it will be my throat.

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1. One Week Ago

One Week Ago

Jasper smiled at me over the rim of his Styrofoam coffee cup, his eyes sparkling with laughter. "What about that one?" he asked me, gesturing to the left, at a woman with the ugliest dog I'd ever seen, sitting not a dozen feet from us. That dog snarled at me, as if it could understand our conversation.

"Nah, too obvious. Him." Jasper barely glanced at the elderly man shambling by, a little girl in his wake, being pulled unwillingly by the tail of her backpack. The boy snorted a laugh, almost spraying me with his latte.

Instead of responding, he leaned close to me - just a little too close for comfort - and I drew back sharply. Our relationship always went this way, with him trying to take just a little more than I was willing to give, but I didn't mind. Jasper was Jasper, after all.

People gave me weird looks, as if they could not understand how I would resist such a specimen of masculinity, and I had to agree with them at least a little. My life would certainly have been a lot simpler if I gave in to Jasper's charm, a natural charisma stemming from a compelling personality coupled with the inborn knowledge that he was - and likely always would be - beautiful. But I would give in, because surrender was not in my nature, especially when I wanted something so badly.

"You are staring again," Jasper laughed and leaned back. "Keep that up and people might get the wrong idea about us." The fact that he was right only made me more angry.

"That guy, over there." I derailed the conversation abruptly, returning to our previous topic because that was a lot safer than the alternative. After all, it was less risky to take bets on which of the random passers-by had been in possession of imaginary friends as children. "The one who looks like he's perpetually high."

Jasper sniffed daintily and I wanted to stair again. He really did have the longest eyelashes I'd ever seen, perfectly framing his over-large blue eyes. "Please. That is an insult to imaginary friends everywhere."

"Fine then. You."

He took a sip of coffee and I did the same, enjoying the feel of the hot, sugary liquid sliding over my tongue. It was a long time before he answered. "You know I cannot have imaginary friends. They require creativity, belief. Faith, if you will." He put the cup down hard, splashing hot liquid from the top. "And you know I don't believe in any god."

"Your loss then." The ugly dog barked at me again and I considered throwing my almost empty cup at it, but that would have required too much effort and I am at heart a very lazy person. "Besides, religion isn't necessary for imagination."

"Yes, but faith is. Faith in yourself, in the power of your mind, in your own sanity. Faith in whatever it is you create. Without that, you cannot make it real." Jasper sighed wearily and rolled his neck as if it hurt him. "Though you already know all of that."

"Yes." It was true. I knew everything there was to know about imaginary friends. I'd had several over the years, several companions to keep me company in the dark, to scare the monsters from under my bed. I'd also made several monsters, just to keep myself entertained, to keep the other friends busy. Because I've always been more terrified of the nice ones than the ones who wore their evil plain on their faces.

I leaned my head against Jasper's shoulder wearily and closed my eyes, wishing for a moment that I could recapture that childlike innocence, knowing that I never could. But at least I had people who understood and accepted me, and that was all I needed.

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