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Childhood Pet

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I was cleaning out the attic to my old house when I stumbled across a box of pictures from my childhood. I rummaged through the box, finding album upon album of photos of me and my family. I found a picture of me in a blue dress at the age of seven. The photo was labeled "Toni and her 'pet' Seth." Seth...? The name sounded familiar, but I remembered having an actual pet named Seth when I was seven, yet the picture was just of me. I continued to flip through the album, finding more and more photos of me and "Seth" until I got to the year my dad had gone missing. "Seth" had stopped being a part of the photo labels. Had I stopped believing in him then? Had he "run away?" I put down the album and picked up a diary I had written at that age. The first entry read this:

"Hi Diary, my name is Toni. My mommy and daddy gave me you to write in so I can tell you my secrets."
'Little me was adorable,' I thought to myself. I flipped the page and read on:
"Dear Diary, today I found a dog thing at the park close to my house. I asked him his name, but he didn't say anything at first then after a long time he told me his name was Seth. He looked kinda funny for a dog. He didn't have lots of fur like other dogs, but the fur he had was black like the sky at night. He had a tail, teeth, and eyes like a dog, but a face kinda like a person. He had hands and feet instead of paws. I told him to come home with me and he did. Mom and Dad say he's not real, but he is. I drew a picture of him."
I picked up the folded piece of paper and opened it, inspecting the illustration of "Seth". He looked like something out of a horror movie. His eyes were blood red and seemed to follow me when I moved the page. The tufts of fur on his back were pitch black and his face was as human as any person I had drawn at seven years old. I began to feel fear wash over me as I stared at the picture and I began to wish I had never seen it.
"Hey Diary, how much is a dog supposed to eat? Seth eats a lot. He ate the food I gave him for lunch and kept asking for more. My mommy said that he was imaginary and that he didn't really eat anything, so she stopped giving me food to feed him after awhile. He was crying when we were playing at the park because he was so hungry. He ran away when I was on the swing, but came back when I got off and said he wasn't hungry anymore because he found food someone left behind. When I got home, my mommy asked me if I had seen Jimmy, the boy from next door. I told her I saw him at the park, but only when I was waiting for him to go down the slide so I could go. She said he never went home and that his mom and dad were looking for him. I hope they find him. Seth said that maybe he ran away."
I remembered that day. My mom seemed pretty concerned when she asked, but I had brushed it off like it was nothing. I did remember seeing him when I was there, but I never saw him leave. In fact, I never even saw him after he went down the slide.
"Dear Diary, my mommy wouldn't let me go to the park today. I looked out my bedroom window to see if any of my friends were there, but it was empty. The only thing there was a police car and some police men. They had there yellow tape up to make sure kids couldn't play today. I bet it was because they wanted to play on it by themselves. I played games with Seth instead. He said that the police men were probably making sure the playground was safe, and that he kept hearing the swing set creak and seeing the slide wobble yesterday. I hope they fix it for tomorrow because I don't want to stay inside all the time. Seth keeps winning at Go Fish and Chutes and Ladders."
Police cars...? I remember my mom and dad talking about Jimmy that night. I found all this strange since our neighborhood was known for being the safest in our town.
"Dear Diary, I took Seth to school with me today. Everyone laughed at me and said that he was fake. It made me cry, but Seth said that it was okay because they were just being dumb. He told me that he was real and that only special people can see him, ones that are nice and need friends. He said that I could see him because I was innocent. I don't really know what that means, but it sounded like a good thing the way he said it. I played with him during recess today instead of the other kids. We played tag."
I remembered kids always talking about imaginary friends, so what was so strange about bringing one to school?
"Dear Diary, Seth came with me to school again. We read books and did puzzles and made a city with blocks. My teacher said that I should play with other kids, but I just played with Seth. We painted today in class. I painted Seth and kids cried and screamed because of it, then Teacher yelled at me. I don't know why, there was nothing wrong with my painting. I got sent home early because of it. After I went home, my daddy took me to see a special doctor. The doctor was a girl. She asked me about school and home and my friends. Then she asked about Seth. She asked what he looked like, how big he was, when I saw him for the first time, and if he ever left. I told her everything and she looked scared when I said what he looked like. I don't think people really like Seth. He said that it was why he was alone when I met him."
I wondered what kind of kid I was at seven years old. I can't believe I was so stuck on an imaginary friend that was so disturbing. Was I just a creepy kid? Did I go through some form of trauma that fucked up my imagination? Why didn't my parents ever talk about Seth anymore? Usually when a child had an imaginary friend, the parents would bring it up later in life while reminiscing about old memories. No one ever mentioned him though.
"Dear Diary, the park was still filled with police people. Mommy said they're staying for a long time because Jimmy is still gone. Seth said Jimmy will be gone forever. I asked him how he knew that and he said that he just did. I wonder where Jimmy went. Maybe he found a new family, or a somewhere better with a park not filled with police people."
I began to wonder what had actually happened to Jimmy and researched missing child's reports from around that year. Sure enough, I found the story with a headline that read: "Lost Child's Body Found". The story claimed that the body was half eaten, but that the bites seemed to be from a wolf. This was strange since this neighborhood is nowhere near any woods. "Maybe Seth got him," I thought as I laughed to myself uncomfortably.
"Help Diary! My mommy and daddy keep yelling and I'm scared! What if one of them gets hurt? What if they don't love each other anymore? What if I did something wrong? I heard Daddy leave and now Mommy is crying. I hope Daddy comes back soon so Mommy will stop crying. She said he was only going to a friend's for a little bit and would come back tomorrow. Seth said he could fix everything, though. I hope he's right."
I remembered that fight. It was the fight that finally made my dad leave. I used to think that he left to get a new family because we weren't good enough. Even to this day, no one knows what actually happened to my dad.
"Dear Diary, Daddy never comes home anymore. I think he hates me so he left to find a new kid. Maybe it's because of Seth. I told Seth that he needed to go away so my daddy will come back, but he said Daddy was gone forever. He said he had digested him last week. I don't know what that means, but it sounds bad. I hope he's lying and that Daddy comes home tonight. I watched Seth leave and he said he wouldn't come back. I'm happy Seth is gone."
Two thoughts crossed my mind. The first was where I had heard the word digested, and the second was why I had written that Seth had digested my dad. Seth wasn't real, so how could he have "digested" my dad? None of this made sense and there were no more diaries, so I decided to take the last boxes and leave. I threw the boxes in my trunk and headed home. As I passed the old park, I noticed a grotesque looking dog on the sidewalk. It looked diseased, yet oddly familiar. I swore that the face looked almost... human, but I waved it off as my imagination projecting an image of "Seth" onto the poor dog. As I turned the corner, I heard a little girl call the dog.

"Come on Seth!"

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