The first time I knocked on his door I had no idea what awaited me. My mother thought it was a sweet idea at first: visiting an elderly man to keep him company. She would bake us cookies and we ate them thankfully! He never told me his name (nor I, him come to think of it), but that didn’t matter to us; we were one spirit in our imagination. The more often we met the longer our imaginizing lasted.
We told each other stories of aliens and time travel and love (those were mostly his ideas) and conquerors and ancient underground kingdoms. It’s surprising to think of the great time we had from two uncomfortable, wooden armchairs in a room that smelled like old people–it wasn’t easy getting used to that. The strange thing is, when we would start telling the stories, it was as though time didn’t exist.
After the first successful imaginzation, my mother wondered why I came back so early. Then, when our sessions became more frequent and longer lasting my mother began to worry. Each weekend she would send me with some snacks. As far as she knew, I would come home very shortly with an empty plate (she was especially worried that we wasted the cookies by eating them too quickly). I assured her each time that I was spending A LOT of time over there. Sometimes it felt like a whole lifetime or longer. As for the cookies, well, we spaced them out as much as we could (many generations would pass between some cookie breaks).
Often times she even tried to keep me from going, but there was nothing that would stop me. I was on a mission. A mission to delve into the utter depths of a world more fantastical than any I had even seen or heard or read in books. One weekend she caught me sneaking out (I was supposed to be going to my friends house) and while she spanked me I tried to tell her that I hadn’t lied because I was going to my friends house. He was my closest friend and I doubted that anyone could ever had as good of a friendship as we had. Since spankings didn’t work she punished me by taking away the only thing I clung to.
How life dragged on! No, that couldn’t be called living. I endured those weeks existing in a of perpetual grayness. There was no fulfillment or excitement. I had school to keep me busy during the week, for the first few hours. The evenings and the weekends, however were miserable and dragged on longer than the dark reign of the tyrant Hiranthesal. I tried to make new friends, but it wasn’t the same. They didn’t understand how to imaginize and all of their “stories” were the same boring thing over and over with different characters. It wasn’t alive.
Then the joyful day! My mother, with noted hesitation (and a long, unnecessary lecture), baked some cookies and sent me down the street. I could hardly wait. I fell a couple times on the way and a few of the cookies got smashed, but for the hope I had of what came next, I endured. I walked up his steps and noticed the door was slightly open. A thousand thoughts ran through my mind in as I pushed through the front door, ten million as I slowly crept into his living room. There he lay. My best friend was gone forever.
I wanted to blame my mother. She kept me from him all these days. It must have been the lack of imaginizing that cost him his life. Perhaps he felt our bonds break more poignantly than I did. I was a little taken aback by what happened next. I didn’t cry (though I wanted to). I just stared and felt empty inside. There were no tears, no remorse. Instead I did what I always came there to do: I told him a story.
This was a story about two strangers who met and had wonderful adventures in imaginary worlds. They became best friends, but the whole world became jealous of their bonds and tried to separate them. Their friendship would eventually triumph, but it would cost one his life.
When the tale was over, I glanced across the room, grasping for closure. I would never be coming back here if my mother had anything to say about it. But something was missing. I looked again. It was gone. He was gone. Frantically I searched the house but he was not to be found. Then, on my way back to the living room there was a knock at the door. I opened it and there stood a boy with a plate of cookies. He said that his mom sent him to come give me company since I was an old man who lived by himself. He came in and we shared fantastic tales of journeys from the deep recesses of our imagination. And once again two strangers became the best of friends.