Recently I started cranking out flash fiction, just for fun. This kind of thing is how writers sometimes relax; pulling together a short piece, usually around 1,400-1,500 words. Mine are all going up on Reddit, because Reddit’s a major thing for me when it comes to the internet. Also, there’s a fairly vibrant sub for Writing Prompts that is a pretty steady flow of ideas to run with. Find something that sparks my fingers to start typing, and about half an hour later, poof; finished flash fiction piece. I call them flash fiction because, to me, even a “short story” is going to be at least three or four thousand words. Your mileage may vary. Anyway, enjoy.
This one is called Rachel’s Imaginary Friend. The prompt was “one day, you get an email from your childhood imaginary friend.”
I scanned the shop as I entered. After a moment, I felt myself frowning and took a longer, more careful look. It shouldn’t have been hard to spot a seven foot purple dragon. Actually, I have no idea why I expected to see a seven foot purple dragon seated among the tables and couches filled with people sipping mocha lattes and cinnamon swirl hot chocolate. But no one except me and Boo knew our secret word.
And the email had signed off with it.
“Hey, do you mind?”
“Sorry,” I muttered, belatedly stepping away from the door. Which I was blocking. The guy who’d spoken ushered his girlfriend past me, then followed her. I ignored them and looked across the room again. This had to be a prank. I couldn’t figure out how, but it had to. Even with the secret word — wait.
In the corner was a guy with purple streaks in his hair. And he looked pretty big. Not just tall, but broad shouldered too. Actually, he was kind of cute; what I could see of him. My eyes dropped down from his shoulders to the back of the leather jacket he was wearing. I felt my stomach flip over inside me. The jacket had leathery wings stenciled on it, chalky white lines scribing not angel wings but something more robust.
”Fuck it,” I muttered, stepping forward. Threading through the tables, I approached him and reached out cautiously. “Uh, excuse me—”
He looked up, and his face immediately broke into a smile. In an instant he was on his feet, and had engulfed me in a hug. “Rachel, I’m so glad you came. Thank you.”
“Right,” I said, unsure whether I should make a scene or not. He was much taller than I’d guessed, and a lot stronger than I’d expected too. But despite the mass and power I felt as his arms hugged me, he was being gentle. Careful. Almost tender. Awkwardly I patted him on the back. His shirt was roughly textured, so was the jacket. Both felt thicker than they looked, thick and heavy.
“Here, sit,” he said, finally releasing me. Reaching across the table, he pulled the other chair out for me.
“How do you know me?” I asked, not sitting down. His features were roughhewn, but cheerful. Moreso when he smiled at me.
“I know everything about you.”
“Who are you?”
I shook my head. “Boo isn’t real.”
My mouth dropped open. “Where did you hear that?”
“That was our secret word.”
“You cannot possibly be Boo.”
“Because he wasn’t real!” I exclaimed. Heads came up around us, up and around to look at me and the not-Boo. I shrugged apologetically at them, forcing a smile to try and encourage everyone to forgive my raised voice. As they returned to their drinks and laptops and phones, though one guy was weird enough to actually be reading a book, I lowered my voice and speared not-Boo with a sharp look. “Boo is not real. I don’t know what the scam is here, but—”
He raised his hand up, holding it next to his face. The nails on the hand began lengthening, and his eyes glowed red. Glowed, and changed; glossing over like shiny onyx beneath the red gleam emitting from the vertical slits of his shifting pupils. “Rachel it’s me. If you want, we can go outside and I can change all the way—”
My legs started to buckle. Sitting down in the chair, I reached out and dragged on his jacket to pull him down into the other chair. “Cut that out. Just sit.”
Boo sat. His hand, his eyes, went back to not-strange looking. He watched me watching him, still cheerful. Boo had always been my best friend, always ready with a joke, with a story, with something supportive. And now he had a human face. And I wasn’t eight anymore.
“How can you possibly be Boo?” I asked.
“Usually we go away when our kid, our person, doesn’t need us anymore. When you didn’t, I went back to Makanhulm.”
“But I cried so much when you left,” I said, unable to help myself. “I looked everywhere.”
He shrugged, but his face was kind. His eyes looked like eyes again, not fiery black coals; and they were full of love. “You’d grown up. Not all the way, but enough. If I’d stayed, you wouldn’t be who you are now.”
“If you’re Boo, what did we do … before we moved when I was five?”
He smiled. “We, well me since I had the claws and you weren’t allowed to play with sharp things, carved our initials on the tree in the back yard. It was the last thing we did, while mom and dad were putting the last stuff in the truck out front.”
I shook my head in wonderment. Either I had a stalker that had been sitting on secret information for nearly twenty years, or he was Boo. “This is not how I imagined my evening was going to go.”
“I know. I’m sorry, but if I didn’t get in touch with you, and if you don’t help me, then there won’t be any more nights. Or days. Or much of anything except pain and blood. This is important Rachel.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means we need some help. From humans. Makanhulm is under attack. We’re the first line of defense for hope and joy, but we can’t hold out much longer.”
“The Friends,” Boo said.
“Who are the Friends?”
“Everyone, every person, who needs a Friend creates one. Who loves them, and helps them, and comforts them. But we’re only as strong, we can only do, as what you need from us. Now, we need you to help us. Like we helped all of you. Like I helped you.”
“How am I supposed to help you?” I asked, glancing around. No one seemed to be paying us any attention. Which I was grateful for; this conversation was easily enough to get me tossed on a 5150. For sure. “I mean, if you’re Boo … and I guess you pretty much have to be, you’re a dragon. What can I possible do that you can’t?”
“We only have the abilities, the power, you give us. We need your inspiration, your drive, or all is lost.”
Boo nodded. “Yes, people. There’s not much time. Some of us managed to get away, to come looking for some help. From you. Will you?”
“Help you with what?” I asked, then I frowned. “Wait, you said Makanhulm is under attack?”
“Yes,” He said. And, for the first time, his face lost the good cheer. Shadows appeared in his expression, shadows and pain. He leaned forward, staring into my eyes, and his voice dropped to a fearful whisper. “They’re coming. And this time, we can’t stop them without you.”