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Living Breathing Beings

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Alice was in the kitchen baking a cake when Sirina arrived, walking in through the door that Alice had left unlocked yet again.

“That’s how people get killed, you know,” Sirina said as she made her way into the kitchen, following the wafting smell of chocolate cake. “Leaving the door unlocked. Chocolate cake entices intruders.”
Alice smirked, emerging from the kitchen for a moment with batter-stained hands. “They would have warned me,” she said, jerking her head back slightly to indicate the small group of forms clustered around her dining room table, eagerly awaiting the cake.
Sirina smiled and took her place among them. Technically, Sirina was one of Alice’s only “real” friends. The forms around the table were, as befitting fictional characters, slightly transparent, though otherwise they looked just as normal as any other living, breathing being. They were licking their lips hungrily, although M’Liss took time to wave to Sirina as she passed them.
Whenever the characters moved, small wisps of colorful energy streamed off them, changing based on their emotions. This was a relatively new group; Alice must have just started writing a new novel, Sirina figured. M’liss was slightly familiar, having popped up at the end of her last book, so Sirina guessed it was a sequel of some sort.
Alice was luckier than most teenage novelists, Sirina thought for the millionth time as she seated herself among them. She didn’t have to think most of her stuff up once her characters showed up; they guided her along and told her what should happen. Of course, there were one or two belligerent characters every so often--Gual the drunken bounty hunter, Mia the angry fairy, and a few others here and there--who didn’t like what she did on her own or the endings that she gave them, but they always left once their stories were told, so they never troubled her much.
At first Sirina had not believed what Alice told her about her stories, how the characters were real--well, as real as it was possible for figments of somebody’s imagination to be--, but once she had come over Alice’s house and found that there were indeed people floating around her bedroom, where she did most of her writing, Sirina had been forced to conclude that it was either characters or ghosts, and Sirina preferred the first.

Sirina was the only one, besides Alice, who could see the figures. It made for some awkward moments, such as when Alice’s mother walked unannounced into Alice’s room with some cookies and lemonade and found them talking to somebody who, to her, was not there, but as a whole Sirina enjoyed the privilege. It was their own special secret.

“Here’s your CD back, Alice,” Sirina said, laying it down on the table. “I burned the songs I wanted.”

“That’s great, Sirina,” Alice said, but as she turned away she seemed distracted and upset. Sirina sat bolt upright and wondered what was going on. Sometimes Alice had to hurt or kill favorite characters, and this always left her depressed for weeks--was this one of those times?

“What’s wrong, Alice?” Sirina demanded, standing.

Alice turned away from Sirina, for a moment busying herself with the cake, finishing the frosting and carrying the plate out to the table. Her hand gripped the silver server and she said as the first tears trickled down her face, “Sirina, I have to kill you.”

“What?” Sirina skittered backwards, hoping that this was a joke and feeling that it was the worst one ever pulled by mankind if it was.

More tears slid down Alice’s face and she threw the cake server down to the floor. The heavy metallic clang stung Sirina’s ears and she wanted to scream. The other characters had all scattered, like dogs before the storm.
“It’s the end of your story, Sirina,” Alice choked out, her entire petite body shaking. “I’m sorry. I tried to drag it out, because I really like being with you and having a friend for once. But I can’t even say you’re a real friend, because you’re not. I made you up, too.”

All right, Alice had cracked. Sirina backed up further, afraid of what her friend might do in her desperate state.

“I’m real,” she protested, trying to get through to Alice. “Look at me. I’m real.”

Alice shook her head. “I made you up, Sirina,” she continued, seeming to grab a tighter hold on herself. “I was sick and tired of not having any real friends, so I made up a character who didn’t know she was in a story. I’m sorry. But your story...Well, it’s over. I wrote the final pages this morning.”

Sirina wanted to protest, to knock some sense back into Alice. But as she reached out to grab her, to shake her, to wake her friend back up to reality, she saw thin, wispy tendrils float up from her hands with each movement.

Sirina screamed.



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