by A.K. Summers
As a child, I always knew I was different. I could see things others couldn’t. Some call them ghosts, others call them lost souls, but I once called them friends. I thought seeing them was a gift, but the older I got, I realized it was a burden. “You have one wild imagination, Emma.” I heard this my whole life. Over and over again my ability was dismissed by so many. I tried to make myself believe that it was just my imagination. I so desperately wanted it to be just that. It was just my imagination. My wild, crazy imagination. My so very real imagination; but, seeing was believing, and this was never my imagination.
It started in the woods. The woods that were home to me. They were my jungle, battlegrounds, fairyland, and any other place I could dream. The trees stretched out far and wide. Some were beautiful, like out of a fairytale, and others were gloomy and had the marks of many years attached to them. My mom and I had moved here after my parents divorced. She had taken a job that required us to move to a house swallowed up by trees and woodland creatures. I had no friends, except for the ones I found in those woods. “Emma, you’re never going to meet anyone new if you keep making up imaginary friends.” My mom used to tell me that all the time, but I was perfectly content with my friends that she couldn’t see. With her being an adult, she never believed that my friends were anything other than imaginary. They were always there, climbing the trees with me, laughing and giggling. I remember the little boy who wore funny looking clothes, tugging on my raven braids telling me to follow him. I can still recall the blue lady, who always brought the cold with her, swimming back and forth in the dirt filled pond. I liked talking to the man in the cape at night. He would enter my room and pace back and forth across the hard wood floors. He never spoke, yet I continued to ask night after night what he was doing in my room. I had always hoped that one night he would finally respond, but my mom always interrupted my conversations. “Your imagination is still working at this time of night? Emma, it’s time to put it to bed.” Those were the good old days when the ghosts were known as friends. I didn’t realize how quickly that was going to change.
New York was supposed to be the perfect opportunity for my mom and me to make it big. She had her own store front now and just enough money to afford a neat little apartment in the Bronx. After living at our house in the woods for 8 years, we had moved to an apartment in the city. The plumbing was bad, but the view from the balcony was perfection. I was getting older and I didn’t want to be labeled as a freak. After all, I was the new kid around town and that was bad enough. Being stared at for talking to myself wasn’t something I wanted to live with for the rest of my life; so, I decided to let go of my friends. It was like the spirit world knew that I didn’t want to communicate with them anymore. They knew I was the only one who could see and hear them so they continued to try and reach out to me. They would come from near and far and try to ask me questions; but, I pretended I couldn’t see them and when I ignored them, they tried harder.
On my 16th birthday, they decided to invite themselves over for the celebration. My cake had flown across the room and my presents were completely destroyed. They did it to get my attention, but I wanted nothing to do with them. I tried to pretend they weren’t there, but when my mom saw the disaster she blamed me, I had to tell her. “It’s time to grow up, Emma! Stop blaming your imagination and start taking responsibility for your actions!” My mom was furious with me. She couldn’t take it anymore. She wanted a normal daughter and I couldn’t give her that. She blamed me for everything that was wrong in her life. Between my mother’s constant judgement and the voices that broke my sanity, I couldn’t do it. With my talking to people that weren’t there, the screaming in my sleep because my ghosts and I were no longer friends, my mom decided she couldn’t handle it either. She turned to drinking to mute my jabbering and her drinking turned me out of the apartment. I was on my own with no place to go but on the road with a backpack and my thumb pointed towards the horizons. There was the occasional glance behind me to see if they would follow, but I only saw an empty road stretching for miles. I was sure this time they had left me. I was wrong.
The makeshift hotel along my path loomed over me. The sign that was probably once bright and vivid was now old and faded. It read, “Stargaze Hotel” which was ironic because I wouldn’t be caught dead stargazing out here at night. It was definitely no Hampton, but it was the only hotel who would take what measly cash I had. Walking through the doors I stepped back in time, not the good times. The furniture looked like it had been around since the 60s and the carpet, I was sure, had been there just as long. I didn’t know if I was more afraid of ghosts finding me here or a serial killer lurking behind the corners. My room was not a welcoming sight, the chipping paint and television that just played black and white fuzz was nowhere near inviting. I wanted to turn around and just say, “Keep the money,” but I had no place else to go. As my head hit the pillow and my eyes finally shut, the night became more restless then I thought it would be. My long-lost friends had finally arrived and woke me with knocking on doors, tickling my feet, and turning the faucet off and on. Their shadows played on the walls, mocking my fear. My bed rocked back and forth as my old friends began to whisper to me. My fate was handed to me at that moment. I couldn’t escape them. I would simply have to live with it.
I got married young, around 20, and I was excited for the new adventure ahead of me. Adam, my husband, and I had bought a home with the picture perfect picket white fence. We planned on starting a family. The first year marriage is supposed to be bliss, but ours was a nightmare. The ghosts no longer focused on me, but Adam. They didn’t want Adam anywhere near me and they would do anything to keep him away. He would wake up with scratches, missing items, and then one day our picture perfect home was burned to the ground. When I told Adam about my burden, he thought I was crazy. “It’s all in your head, Emma. I know you’re scared about everything that has happened, but now is not the time to start imagining things,” Adam said. We moved ourselves into a nice little apartment on the top floor of the complex. We fought every day and nothing seemed to get better. It was during the second week of living there that Adam was mysteriously pushed down the stairs and broke his neck. I knew that they did it, but the authorities thought they knew otherwise. When I tried to explain that I could see what others couldn’t, they put me in handcuffs. The last words I remember hearing before I was placed inside the back of the car was, “This woman sure has let her imagination get the best of her.”
At almost thirty, I have yet to go crazy. For those of you who would like to differ, I would simply say you, in fact, are the crazy ones. My imagination didn’t put me here, though some days I wish it did. You’ve all become naïve to what exists and instead of opening up your minds, you’ve turned your back on it completely. Those out there like you should be locked up, having people pick at your brain to help you see what is real, instead of having people pick your brain to suppress the reality of the darkness that surrounds us. The pills, which they think numb my mind, simply make it easier for the unknown to become known. They think they are dulling my senses, but I can see them all around me. They are here right now. They are always here. They are standing by my bed, watching me with their unfathomable gaze.
About the Author
A.K. Summers has been writing scary short stories since she was a freshman in high school. She knew she had a knack for writing when her teacher said her worked resembled the earlier works of Stephen King. In most of her stories, one can always find the ghosts, vampires, or witches. However, what you won’t find are spiders, for she is deathly afraid of them. While she can’t pass up the opportunity to write a good fiction story, her true passion resides in film and theatre which is why she is a Creative Writing major, with a concentration in screenwriting, at Southern New Hampshire University. When A.K. has free time, you can probably find her on stage in some community theatre production, or sitting in a corner reading a good book.
You can read more about A.K. Summers in the Author Spotlight Interview here.