Status: One-shot.


Maybe he's just all in your head.


The voice comes from right next to me, though I could swear I was completely alone just a moment ago. It’s Vic, as always, sneaking up on me. He likes to do that, it seems.

"Hey," I reply, smiling widely. I’m sitting out on the wooden swing on the front porch of my house, and he’s sitting beside me.

"Kellin, I want to know something," he says thoughtfully, staring off into the distance as the sun sets in front of us.

I shrug. “Uh, okay. What?”

He bites his lip, frowning slightly. “I want to know why you keep me a secret from other people. You didn’t used to, y’know, when we were younger. But now…you act like I don’t exist when you’re not alone.” He turns to look at me, and I think he sounds a bit hurt.

I sigh. “I know, Vic. I’m sorry. But nobody else can see you or hear you or feel you. Not like I can. They think I’m crazy whenever I talk about you. I had to stop being so open, or else I’d probably be locked up in the nuthouse by now.”

Vic nods slowly, reaching forward and lightly running his fingers across my arm. I don’t understand how people can tell me he isn’t real. He is. His touch is real, his words are real, he is real. He has to be.

"Kellin!" my mother calls. "Dinner!"

I glance over my shoulder at the door. “Okay!” When I turn my head back around, I find that Vic is gone, just like that. I still don’t know how he disappears so quickly.

Once I’m inside, my parents both give me weird looks, and it’s only after dinner has begun that they tell me why.

My father clears his throat. “Kellin,” he says slowly, “your mother and I heard you outside just now. You were talking to Vic again.” He says Vic’s name almost mockingly, the way everyone does.

Shit. “Uh,” I stutter. “No, I wasn’t.”

"Kellin, we heard you say his name," Mom says. "Don’t lie to us. Were you talking with him?"

I look down at my plate, letting my hair fall into my face. “Yeah.”

"Kellin," Dad says disapprovingly. "You told us that he’d gone away."

"Well, I lied," I snap, suddenly wanting to defend Vic. "He never went away. He’s the only one who never went away."

After a short moment of silence, Mom calmly says, “Honey, he’s not real.”

That sets me off.

I stand up from my chair. “Yes, he is!” I yell, balling my hands up into fists. I want to say something else, but I bite my tongue, figuring that a full-on rampage wouldn’t be such a great idea. Taking a deep breath, I storm out of the dining room and upstairs to my bedroom, where I slam the door and lock it behind me.

"You okay?"

Vic is sitting on the edge of my bed, looking over at me in concern. I shake my head and sit down next to him.

"They don’t take me seriously, Vic," I say. "I don’t understand. Why am I the only one who can see you?"

Vic kisses me on the cheek. “Because you’re special.”

Special,” I repeat. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Vic leans against the back of the bed and pulls me closer to him, letting me rest my head on his chest. “It means you can see things other people can’t,” he says, running his fingers through my hair.

If my parents were to walk in right now, would they just see me lying on my bed alone? It seems impossible. How can I be imagining the feeling of his chest rising up and down beneath my head? How can I be imagining someone who’s been with me for most of my life?

I met Vic about ten years ago, when we were little kids. I didn’t realize at first that nobody else knew he was there, but in the beginning, they treated him like an imaginary friend. As I got older, I think my parents started to worry more, as most kids would’ve grown out of it at that point. I’m seventeen now, and Vic is still here, also seventeen. He’s not going anywhere.

I don’t really like anyone else besides him. I don’t know why, but I prefer to be either alone or with him. Besides, everyone else went away at some point. Vic is the only one who stayed by me.

The morning after the argument with my parents, Mom tells me, “Kellin, your father and I have set up an appointment with a doctor for you. It’s next Monday.”

I think I’ve heard her wrong. “You what?”

She sighs. “Kellin, this isn’t normal. We just want to figure things out and get you help.”

"I don’t need help," I tell her. "I’m not crazy."

Before she can respond, I rush out the door and jump into my car. I have school today anyways, and it’s the perfect excuse to get away from her for a while.

I can’t believe they did that. Actually, no, I can. Of course they would. Of course they’d trust some doctor they’ve never met before over their own son. That’s how it always works.

At some point during the day, I decide that I’m going to lie. When the doctor asks me questions, I’ll make myself seem normal. I am normal. Vic is the only thing in my life that seems unnatural to most people. I mean, it seems natural to me, but apparently, I don’t know anything.

I tell Vic about the appointment, and he reassures me that I have nothing to worry about. “You’ll be fine,” he says. “We’ll be fine.”

When Monday rolls around, I walk into the doctor’s office with one thought in my head: It’s okay. Just lie, and you’ll be out of here in no time.

But that doesn’t work. For one thing, the doctor talks with me and my parents at the same time first, and they spill everything. For another, she calls me out whenever I try to lie and make myself look good, even when it’s just the two of us. It’s like she’s got some built-in lie detector in her mind.

She asks me a bunch of questions, not only about Vic, but about other random things, too. I don’t know what they have to do with why I’m here, but I don’t question her. I just reluctantly tell the truth, hating every bit of it.

After that’s all said and done, we wait, and then the doctor tells us that I’ve been diagnosed with some form of a disorder with a long name that I can’t be bothered to remember. Before I know it, she’s prescribing meds for me. Damn, that was fast.

"I don’t need any meds," I protest, but nobody listens to me.

"I know you don’t," Vic says, popping up in the empty seat next to me. He reaches out and softly touches my cheek. "I’m sorry I was wrong."

Automatically, I smile, feeling a lot better now that he’s here. “It’s okay,” I reply, not caring that everyone is watching me. “We’ll be okay.”

The pills look like poison. The doctor told me that they’ll make Vic go away and that I’ll be a lot happier once I start taking them, but that doesn’t make sense. I won’t be happy if they take Vic away from me. He’s the only thing I have.

My parents monitor me to make sure that I take them, but I’ve got a plan. Every time, I’ll stick them in my mouth and pretend to swallow them, but as soon as they’re not looking, I’ll spit them back out. It’s simple, and it works.

If Vic is real—and I’m pretty certain that he is—then the pills shouldn’t make him go away, because these pills assume that he’s all in my mind. I don’t like the thought of taking them, though, and besides, they’ll just give me side effects.

So I stick with the routine, and for a while, everything is good. My parents think I’m getting better, and I’m extremely careful to make sure they don’t hear me talking to Vic.

Then one day after school, I come home to find Mom standing in the living room with her arms crossed and a disapproving look on her face that I know all too well. As soon as I’m within earshot, she says, “Kellin, did you take your pills this morning?”

Oh, shit. “What do you mean?” I say. “Of course I did. You saw me take them.”

"Yes, but did you swallow them?" Before I can respond to that, she adds, "Come with me."

She heads upstairs to my room, and I follow her, knowing exactly what’s coming. “Care to explain this?” she asks, pointing at the trash can.

I glance into the trash can. Sure enough, there are the pills I supposedly took this morning, along with others from the past few days. I normally spit them out and then wrap them into a tissue before tossing them into my trash can. She’s been digging through it.

"I noticed that you’d do something a bit funny with your mouth after you’d taken your pills," she continues. "Almost as if you hadn’t swallowed them, though it looked like you had. So I did a little investigating."

I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say.

"You will take your pills, Kellin,” Mom says. “Whether you like it or not. It’s for your own good.”

I end up starting to actually take my meds. Now, after I swallow them (for real), my parents check to make sure I’m not hiding them somewhere—in the back of my mouth, underneath my tongue…I can’t get away with it. So I do as I’m told. I know that Vic won’t go away anyways, so even though the side effects will probably suck, I’ll still have him. That’s the most important part.

But then something strange happens: About a week after I start taking the pills, Vic stops showing up. Just like that.

He used to appear and talk to me once a day at the very least, but now, it’s like he’s just gone. I never realized before how alone I am without him. I’m used to having him right by my side, and even when he wasn’t actually there, it felt like a part of him still was. Now, though, I just feel abandoned.

Maybe it’s the pills, a voice in my head says. Maybe everyone was right and you’ve been hallucinating this whole time.

That thought scares the hell out of me. I refuse to accept it. He can’t be imaginary. He can’t be. He’s the only thing I really care about. He’s my escape.

It’s two in the morning, and I’m walking around beneath the city lights, alone.

I don’t know why I’m doing this. I guess I just felt like I needed to. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to just take a night walk around the city. It’s kind of dangerous, but I’m not too worried about it. I’m more worried about Vic.

What if he’s not real after all?

The question repeats itself over and over in my mind. I don’t want to believe it. I just want Vic to come back.

The moment I think that, a figure appears a few feet in front of me. I recognize him immediately.

"Kellin!" Vic yells, rushing forward and hugging me.

"Vic," I whisper, breathing him in. All my problems instantly seem to disappear.

Vic pulls away but still stands close to me. “I’m sorry I left without telling you,” he says. “Really. I wish I could’ve let you know, but it wasn’t exactly my choice to leave.”

"Where did you go?" I ask. "Why’d you leave?"

"I was taken away and forbidden to see you," he says, reaching up and cupping my cheek with his hand. "But I’m back now, and I’m going to make it work. Okay? I’m going to make us work.”

I don’t know exactly what he means by that, but I don’t really care. All I care about is that he’s back.

"I thought that…that you weren’t real, and the pills were working," I say, my voice cracking a little. "I thought I’d lost you."

"Don’t ever say that," Vic replies. "I’m real, and I’m here, and I’ll never abandon you. Ever." Then he pulls me in and kisses me.

I knew it. I’ve been taking all my pills, but he’s still here, just as existent as ever. He is real. He has to be.