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Vivid

I’ve always had a vivid imagination.

I could conjure up strange creatures and vivid stories as soon as I could fluently speak. I’d be the one who scribbled stories of princesses and pirates and wizards when other kids my age were practicing their penmanship. At that time, my quirkiness was something to be laughed at, but it was a thing of taboo now.

Today, I am seventeen and going into my senior year of high school. I have a few friends, but most of the students just gawk and stare and whisper to themselves. Okay, here’s the story. When I was ten, I kept talking about a creature named “Segu.” Segu was a dragon-like creature, with long horns, bat-like wings, and bright blue scales. I insisted that Segu was real, that he only communicated with me because he was beaten by a human in a former life and was wary of most humans. When Naya and Quatana came along, my parents had finally built up the courage to take me to a physiatrist.

The doctor diagnosed me with a severe case of schizophrenia, and gave me a lot of prescriptions. Today, I take over five different medications, but nothing works. I still see the creatures of my imagination, and there is no way of making them go away. So yes, I have been branded the school weirdo by my fellow classmates.

“Hey, Hailey, what’s up?” a voice asked behind me during AP English. From the deep masculine voice, I knew it was Segu.

“Go away Segu,” I hissed under my breath. “I’m taking notes.”

Segu glanced down at my battered notebook. “I’m not so sure of that.” Shoot. He was on to me. Instead of copying down the notes in a meticulous way, I’d paraphrased most of the lesson and was currently doodling Pluto screaming “I AM A PLANET!!” Oh, Pluto, will you ever get over the fact that you’re not a planet?

“Hey, do you want to work with me?” a different voice asked.

I glanced up. Bright green eyes met my guarded grey ones. It was Tyler, the hunky new student that all the girls were drooling over. “Oh, uh, hey, Tyler.”

“So, which sonnet do you want to examine?” Tyler asked, sitting down in the desk in front of me. We were going over Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, and the darker ones, the ones about strife and pain and death, were my favorites.

“Ummm . . .” I paused, flipping through the old book that held all the sonnets. “How about . . . number 107?”

Tyler shrugged. “Sure.” He glanced up at me. “You can read it.”

I cleared my throat. “Here goes nothing.” I smoothed down the page and read.

“Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time,
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes:
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.”

“Well . . . now we have to dissect the sonnet line by line,” Tyler said. “So, what do you think about the first line?”

I didn’t hesitate to reply. “He’s first talking about his personal fears and the all-knowing conscious soul of the world. It makes sense as you go on to the next few lines.”

Tyler nodded to himself as he wrote something on his paper. “Interesting . . .” We continued on with the cross-examination of the sonnet, noting how some lines mention kings and others mention the Moon. When we were finally done and Tyler returned to his seat, I finally realized that Segu had been sitting behind me the whole entire time.

“He’s very handsome,” Segu commented. “And I have to give him credit for asking the school weirdo to help him.”

“Don’t make me angry,” I growled. “Or it’s the dungeons for you.” For some odd reason, the creatures that haunted me day and night were under my control, and I could force them to do anything I wanted them to.

Segu, obviously irritated at my control over him, disappeared with a swish of his wings. A sudden breeze was created when he left, and it made my ebony black hair do its own little thing. After that, the bell rang and we were released from the class. I grabbed my things and headed towards my next class. I couldn’t help but notice that Tyler was staring at me with a very odd expression.

***

“Who’s the stud muffin that keeps staring at you?”

I sighed. “Naya, his name is Tyler.” I glanced at Naya, whose lion eyes glittered excitedly. Naya looked like a lioness, but with neon pink fur and a snake’s tail in the same garish color. She had been a good friend when I was younger, but now she was just plain annoying.

“Well, he’s still a stud muffin,” she said dreamily. I groaned internally as Naya went on with her description of Tyler. I was in study hall, and it was a crowded classroom full of bored students.

After another five minutes, I was done with Naya’s outrageous fantasies about Tyler. “Naya,” I growled. “Go away.”

“C’mon, Hailey, don’t do this to me,” she complained, her lips curling down in her way of pouting.

“Go! Before I make you!” I pointed to the door, and a few people stared at me. Great. Being the weirdo once again.

“Whatever,” Naya growled, disappearing into thin air. Finally, I was away from the creatures that dictated most of my life. But that was short lived. A black shadow appeared in the corner of my vision, and I was tempted to make him go away.

“Go away,” I muttered.

“No,” the shadow replied, its voice like velvet. “I won’t.”

I sighed, rubbing my forehead. When I usually saw more than one creature in a few hours, I got a horrible migraine. And I could feel one coming. “What now, Anubis?”

Anubis glided to the front of my desk and put two paw-like hands on my desk. I glanced up and met Anubis’ wolf eyes. Anubis had wolf-like green eyes, a narrow snout, and large pointy ears. But the thing about Anubis was that he was always semi-transparent, like fog. Actually, he was made of the shades of the dead, if you want to get technical.

“I was thinking about how you always say that you want to go away forever,” he said. Anubis was the only creature who actually noticed that his presence was dragging me down.

“And?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

“And I found out that there is a way for us to disappear.”

My mood brightened. I wanted to be normal for once, and I always thought that I could achieve that if they went away. “How? How can I make you go away?”

“Fall in love,” Anubis replied.

The smile fell off my face. “That’s probably going to be harder than it looks. I’m the schizophrenic weirdo, remember?”

Anubis sighed. “I know. But I think I know someone who might gladly take us away from you.” Out of all the creatures, Anubis was the most human and down-to-earth. He was the most normal. Well, as normal as a seven-foot jackal man made out of old dead people could be.

“Okay, yeah. Thanks for the info.” I was skeptical of Anubis’ plan. How could someone love me? Could they take all the baggage that I have? “But can you go, please? I don’t want to have another migraine.”

“Very well. Good luck, Hailey.” Anubis dragged a shadowy paw-hand across my cheek and disappeared.

When I realize he was finally gone, I put my hands in my face. The waking nightmare I lived was a hard one, but did I really want them to go away? They had been with me for over eight years, and were some of my best friends. Of course I had a few human friends, but most of them were distant. Only people on low on the totem pole would ever dare to talk to me, let alone befriend me. For the rest of the day, I mulled the idea of letting go of the creatures, and the idea left me empty on the inside for some odd reason.

“Hey, you okay, Hailey?” my friend Dean asked in Drawing. Drawing was my last class of the day, and I was glad. I liked to let some creative juices out before I went home.

I shrugged. “I guess.” I erased a line on my paper and tried to redraw it. We were working on a graphic novel, and all my characters were the creatures I see every day.

“Yeah,” Dean muttered, suddenly more interested in his drawing than looking me in the eye. Dean was an awkward boy, more comfortable onstage than in real life. I’d always joke that he’d be on the Tony Awards someday, and I’m not sure if he believed me. He had told me a few years ago that he had once been bullied horribly, and he’d left the school because it was so bad. I knew what he had gone through, and let me tell you, you never recover after it happens.

“So, what’s happening?” I asked, indicating the drawing Dean was so focused on. I glanced at it and saw his main character, Ryko, was shaking another character by the shoulders. The unknown character had a haughty smile and raised eyebrow. From the amused look in those eyes, I assumed that the mystery character was the bad guy.

“Ryko finally cornered Uganzi, who is actually Ryko’s twin brother,” Dean replied.

I shook my head and chuckled. “Dang, that’s twisted.”

Dean smiled. “I can make it even more twisted if you want.”

“No, no, it’s twisted enough already.” The graphic novel was about a Chinese-inspired empire where a selected few could communicate with dragons and other mythical beasts like unicorns and phoenixes. Ryko is one of those selected few, and is hunted for that power.

When the bell finally rang, I grabbed my things and wished Dean goodbye. I left the school that day with a hopeful rose blooming in my heart, whispering of finally being accepted as a normal human.

***

Getting a boy to fall for me was easier than it sounded, actually.

Tyler was in five of my eight classes, so we had a lot of time to talk to each other. As the days wore on, we found out that we had a lot in common. For example, we both loved the books Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. We also liked the same music and movies. Even though Tyler was a bit of a jock (he was on both the varsity football team and varsity baseball team) he was a nerd to the core. We'd have long discussions about books or games, and it was a relief that someone could look past my condition and talk to the real human underneath the shell.

“So, how is it going?”

I shrugged. “Pretty good, I guess. He hasn’t asked me out yet, but I’ve seen him look at me when I’m not looking.”

The figure next to me sighed. “I don’t understand the courting rituals today.”

“Of course you don’t,” I said, chuckling. “Phantomess, you’re from the 1840’s.” Phantomess was one of the creatures that I’d conjured up out of pure nothingness. After watching “The Phantom of the Opera” five million times when our class went on a school retreat, I’d wondered what it would be like if the gender roles were switched, and the Phantom was a woman. The next time I glanced at the open seat next to me, and saw that it wasn’t open anymore. Phantomess was sitting there, a tentative smile on her face. Phantomess was wearing an old-fashioned black dress and, like the male Phantom, had half of a masquerade mask covering the right side of her face.

Phantomess nodded. “Oh, right, I forgot.” I chuckled and returned to my book. I had read fifteen pages, Phantomess started to talk again.

“Hailey, I’ve seen how he looks at you,” Phantomess started. Her tone was serious, and I listened with rapt attention. “He’s falling for you, and I don’t think he has the guts to tell you.”

I blinked. How could she see that? “How . . . how is that possible?”

Phantomess sighed. “Men are confusing things. They want to show affection but don’t know how to express it. You have to learn how to bring them out of their shell and teach them how to feel.”

“Whatever you say,” I muttered. Phantomess went quiet again, and when the bell rang, she stood and smiled at me.

“Good luck, Hailey,” she said encouragingly. “And think about what I said.”

I nodded, hoisting my messenger bag on my shoulder. “Okay. Thanks, Phantomess.” I wanted to hug her, but since she was invisible to everyone else, I decided against it.

“You’re welcome.” She grinned even wider and then disappeared. I started to walk to my next class, and a familiar figure appeared at my shoulder. Gladly, this person was human.

“Hey, Tyler,” I said cheerily.

He nodded. “Good to see you, Hailey.” Tyler then ran a hand through his thick mane of brown hair. “Uh, I was thinking . . .” His sentence faded off into nothing.

“Go on.”

Tyler took a deep breath. “Do you want to do something this weekend? You know, see a movie or something?”

I blinked. Was he . . . was he asking me out? “Um . . .” I couldn’t find the words.

“Well, it’s fine if you don’t want to,” Tyler said, assuming my hesitation was because I wasn’t interested. Well, he was wrong. Very wrong.

I shook my head. “No, I’d love to go out with you. So, what do you want to do?” During AP Phycology, while we were supposed to be working on a project, we planned out our date. It was odd to think that I was finally going on a date. I’d never had a boyfriend, never kissed a boy, and the possibilities were so very tantalizing.

“So, movie then?” I asked.

Tyler nodded. “That sounds good. So, what do you want to see . . .?” For the rest of the class, we planned out everything, from timing to transportation.

“So, I’ll see you on Saturday, then,” Tyler said with a smile on his face in seventh hour. It was Thursday, and I had a feeling that the two days before our date would be an antagonizing wait.

And my guess was correct. Friday seemed unnaturally long, and when the dreaded Saturday arrived, I was a ball of worry. I stressed over every little thing, and my mother began to worry. When the time came for Tyler to pick me up, I was a very nervous wreck. But when the doorbell rang and Tyler was waiting on the threshold, all my fears disappeared.

“Hey, Hailey,” Tyler said, an easy smile on his face.

“Uh, hi, Tyler.” In a dark blue t-shirt and dark jeans, he looked very handsome.

“You look nice,” he commented. I had gone for a cream and gray cardigan, skinny jeans, and gray ankle boots. I usually didn’t dress this nice; the last time I had dressed up like this was for my brother’s high school graduation, and that was three years ago.

“Thanks,” I replied. “Hey, let’s go. We don’t want to miss the movie.”

We were going to see Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. I had loved the first movie, so I had high hopes for this movie, and it wasn’t to disappoint. It was even better that Tyler was there with me. He was sitting next to me, and it was comforting. He was close to me, but not so close that it was suffocating. At one point, his hand grasped mine when I was reaching for my drink, and I didn’t pull back. For the rest of the movie, we sat there, our hands intertwined. When the credits started to play, I pulled out of Tyler’s grasp and stood.

“That was good, huh?” Tyler commented as we got into his battered truck.

I nodded. “Better than I expected. They rushed it a bit, and you know what happens when they rush a movie sequel.”

Tyler nodded. “Yup, I know. It’s called Eclipse.” I laughed. For some reason, Tyler could bring me out of my worst moods, even when Segu was breathing down my neck. And he was doing that a lot lately. Maybe he got wind of what Anubis had told me.

We rode back to my house in silence. When Tyler finally cut the engine, I couldn’t help but stare at Tyler. His eyes were deep in thought, turning browner in the dark light. I was suddenly aware that I couldn’t seem to breathe properly.

“Um, I think my mom is staring out the window,” I said, breaking the silence. And if reacting to my comment, the blinds snapped back into place.

“Oh . . . right . . .” Tyler seemed dazed as he helped me out of the car.

“Uh, I just want to say thank you for the amazing night,” I said. I leaned against the truck and Tyler stood in front of me.

Tyler nodded. “You’re welcome.”

I wanted to say something else, but I couldn’t find the right words to say. A few seconds passed, and Tyler opened his mouth to speak.

“I don’t know how to say this . . . but you’re really beautiful, Hailey.”

Now this took me off guard. No one had ever said this to me. With silky black hair and guarded gray eyes, I had always thought that I was average-looking. “Wow . . .” I murmured.

“From the first moment I saw you, I knew I had to have you,” Tyler continued.

I chuckled under my breath. “I have to admit a lot of girls would murder each other just to get to you. If you go out with the school weirdo, you’d lose a lot of popularity.”

“I don’t care about popularity. I care about you, Hailey.”

I stared up into Tyler’s honest green eyes. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw all the creatures of my mind standing behind Tyler. Segu and Naya, Phantomess and Anubis; they were all there. I looked at Anubis, and he mouthed two words—let go.

“I care about you too,” I said, wrapping my arms around Tyler’s neck. We slowly came closer and closer, and our lips touched in a hesitant kiss. Tyler was letting me chose how far to go, and after a few moments, I pulled away.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I sighed. “Yes, I’m fine.”

“They why did you pull away?”

I took a deep breath. “I need to tell you something.”

“Go on. I won’t judge.”

“You’ve probably heard all the rumors about me,” I began. “The schizophrenic lunatic.”

Tyler nodded. “Yes, I heard horrible things about you. But I never believed them.”

“Thanks for that,” I muttered to myself. I then looked up into Tyler’s eyes. “But . . .” It was harder to tell him the truth than I thought it would be. We had something, I couldn’t deny that, but would this secret tear us apart? Would he see the true freak underneath?

“I see things,” I said in a rush.

Tyler blinked. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I see odd creatures that can’t possibly exist. It seems like only I can see them, and no cure can make them go away. They’re my best friends, but I want them to go away so badly.” Sudden tears burned in my eyes, and I turned my face away from Tyler.

“Oh, Hailey,” Tyler murmured. “I never knew.”

“No one does. Not even my parents.” I always lied to them, saying the creatures had gone away when I had first started taking the medicine. It made me sick to my stomach, and I knew I couldn’t do it forever.

“I’m so sorry.” Tyler’s hand suddenly fingered my jaw, and he forced me to look in his eyes. “And I have to say something as well.” He took a deep breath. “I see them too.”

I blinked. This is not what I expected. “Wait, what?”

“I’ve seen them since I was three. Even though I don’t see them as much anymore, I know they’re still there, watching me.” He seemed so honest, and I just had to believe him.

“You know . . . Anubis told me something interesting,” I said after a heartbeat of silence.

“What did he say?” he asked, tilting his head to the side.

“Anubis said that there’s a way for them to go away,” I whispered.

“How?”

I had to answer honestly. There were too many lies in my life already. “To make them go away . . . you have to fall in love.” I looked into Tyler’s eyes. They were confused for a moment but the confusion was replaced by a warm look.

“Well, we won’t have a problem with that,” Tyler murmured, bringing me close to him.

“Just say you love me,” I whispered in his ear. “And make the monsters go away.”



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