‘Oliver, please listen to me!!’
Alfie had been warned this time would come. It was part of the deal. When a kid no longer required an illusory it was time to disappear back into the realms of the occasional memory.
Five years earlier, Alfie had been assigned to Oliver. Oliver was then just coming on three, an only child living on an isolated hilltop farm with only his parents, cows and sheep for company. Now at eight Oliver was growing up fast. He was in his second year at Redtops and was making friends with kids his own age.
For five years Alfie had been a constant companion to the young boy. Now he was being pushed out. It could be days before Oliver would talk to him. The illusory council had set out the terms when Alfie asked to be the boy’s companion. Once a child had found his real-world friends an illusory must leave. Now the time had come – well, Alfie wasn’t about to just go without a fight.
So here he was sat beside Oliver in the school library. The boy was reading quietly, it was the perfect chance.
‘Oliver, please just listen to me.’
Oliver looked up. ‘Sssh!’
‘No, I won’t sssh! Just listen. I am your friend. I will always be your friend, but you must see me. If you don’t see me I won’t be able to be here anymore, I will have to go. I don’t want to go, Oliver. I came to you because you needed me. Now I need you, so I can exist.’
Oliver stared into the empty space where he could see Alfie. ‘I don’t need a pretend friend anymore, I have real friends.’
‘I don’t have to be pretend. I am real as long as you believe in me.’
‘How can you be real, Alfie? You can’t do things like real kids. You can’t climb a tree, I put you there. You can’t play football. You can’t play Xbox. If I give you a biscuit I eat it for you. I have grown up, Alfie.’
Alfie stared at his friend. ‘If I am not real how come hearing you say you don’t need me hurts?’
‘If you are real, prove it, do something. If not go away.’
Looking around Alfie tried to pull a book from the shelf. And another, and another. Oliver had told him to go, his energy was fading too fast. He ran to another shelf and just as he reached a book the figure appeared.
‘Come with me Alfie, someone else needs you now!’
Alfie looked back at Oliver. Then as he let the book go he walked silently into the corridor with the figure.
As a book hovered then crashed to the ground Oliver looked up. ‘Alfie?’ but the illusory child had gone.
Four-year-old Emily was sat on the lawn picking daisies. Her adults were arguing in the kitchen again. Tears stung at the little girl’s eyes. A little boy sat beside her and touched her hand. ‘Don’t worry, I’m here now.’
©JG Farmer 2018