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His voice was pretty funny, like a frog’s. Green eyes. A kooky smile. Tapped his foot, like, a lot.
These are the things I remember most fondly of my dear old imaginary friend Geoffrey. I’ll never forget the good times we had playing in the shade of great oak trees and enjoying childhood as it should be: mirthful and without care. Of course, such things never last for long. I grew up, made new actual friends, and Geoffrey left along with some good times. Funny thing is, it’s like he never left.
Let me explain.
I’m seventeen now. Young enough that jumping over closed-off fences still seems pretty fun. Especially to my best friend, Alan. We hang out in the old woods behind my house, telling ghost stories about people who were murdered horrendously upon the trees we climbed on.
He always tells me about how this forest used to be the site of gruesome satanic worship. I never was a religious person, nor somebody who believed in the supernatural. But I digress.
One day, we came back from school. In this particularly rural area, the bus can’t make trips around our neighborhood cul-de-sac, which just so happens to be at the end of a small path leading through the woods to a large clearing where my grandfather built a group of timber houses with his bare hands. It’s always quiet, real nice.
So I turn to Alan. “Hey man,” he says, “race ya’ to the edge. I bet you won’t lose this time!”
I snort out loud. “I know you’ll just ditch me in the middle of the race and make me think you got eaten by a polar bear or some shit, like back at Camp Bantown.”
He raises his hand solemnly. “Swear man. Promise I won’t ditch you… even if that old imaginary friend of yours comes back to chill with you.” His face breaks out into a smug grin and he makes his voice crickity, like Geoffrey’s. “Jaaaaake, play with mmyyyeeee...!” I punch his arm as hard as I can, making him reel with laughter. “Fuck off dude, you know I haven’t imagined him in like, nine years now.”
He sobers up, and says, “Yeah, well, don’t go crying to him when I kick your ass again in this race.”
We took off into the shimmering woods, under the glittering canopies of leaf and crackling branches. Now, I’ve always been a fast runner but Alan’s always had me beat when it comes to stamina. “See you at the end!” he calls to me in Geoffrey’s mock-voice, pulling ahead and disappearing into the partially covered trail. “F...fuck you, man!” I gasp. Alan’s cackle is all that greets me as I start to walk alone under the trees.
About halfway home, I’m still walking; considerably fast for someone who just ungraciously forfeited a race. I take in the surroundings: I’m not normally hippy-ish, but nothing beats walking through the woods at 3:30 in the ‘noon. My thoughts of peace are suddenly interrupted by a faint creaking noise, about 100 meters behind me, just barely audible. Frogs? I think. This far from the cul-de-sac pond..? Whatever. ‘S not the first time I came across some animal that wasn’t where it should be. Frogs get around.
It’s getting quieter around 3:45 pm. I’m trying to take in the scenery, but I keep thinking about home. Mom. What’s for dinner. Alan. My childhood.
Suddenly behind me, I hear it. My ears strain to make out the string of words, light as the wind floating in my direction.
Jaaaaaaaaaay-cuuuuuuuub.... that croaking voice of Geoffrey hits my now very numb brain.
Alan. That bastard. He must’ve slowed down to fuck with me for being slow. “Shut up Alan,” I yell casually over my shoulder. Laughter is the response. I pick up the pace. I’m gonna’ win this damn race.
It gets yellow and orange fast. I can still see a plume of smoke through the trees above, in the sky.
My heart skips a little with joy. I never realized how much I’ve actually trekked from the bus stop to my house, which makes me feel a little accomplished-
My joy is sliced in half like an ice dagger. Alan again, calling in that creaking damn frog voice. I’m starting to get impatient. I walk a little faster.
It’s getting dark out now. A lot darker than on previous nights, so quick, so silent. Silent night, sneaking up on you.
Where the hell is Alan?? And why the hell am I running from that dumbass? Chill!
But I can’t. Off to my side, some bushes start shaking and rustling.
"Fuck off dude!” I’ve almost reached the house clearing and the silver pond! I’m running around the water and the entire time something is following me, hidden by the untrimmed, devilish brush. Halfway to the door, a figure jumps out at me, and I run headfirst, shrieking, into-
-Alan, grinning like a maniac.
My heart won’t stop palpitating. “H-holy... balls...! You scared the crap outta’ me, you dickweed...!”
He won’t stop smiling though. And he keeps using that stupid Geoffrey voice. “I’m sorry I scared you Jake. I just wanted to play.” Pissed, I shove him to the ground. I’ve had enough of his stupid Geoffrey bullshit. I’ve had enough of his constant teasing and jokes. “But Jacob, I thought we were friends?” He gets up. There’s something wrong. His clothes, they’re all... matted down and his smile seems a bit plastic. Alan sways on his feet like he’s ready to fall over, kinda like a puppet. “Dude, are you high? Becau-“
My question falls short as my eyes move to the pond behind him. In the dying rays of the sun, I can just make out the entirety of Alan’s back. I want to vomit.
His entire back had been ripped out, exposing vile organs furiously pumping their eternal labor. The bile is coming up in my throat and I try to call for help but the world is getting hazy.
“Do you like the changes I made, Jaaaay-cuub?” Alan, who is not Alan but Geoffrey, in that stupid piece of shit voice of his. Stupid, stupid frog voice.
“I-I don’t-What, where is-“
“Alan’s here Jake. Now we can all hang out togetherrr-“. At this, a stream of spittle and blood spurt from between my dead friend’s lips. He laughs, and the last thing I see is his now fluorescent green eyes shining at me like two headlights on a pitch-black mountain.
I was told that the cops couldn’t find any evidence my friend had been murdered. When my mother came running to see me lying in my own stew, there had been no other body there: the only scrap being Alan’s ripped shirt floating in the pond. The locals collectively agreed it had been the escaped zoo bear who ran off with his body. And that was the end.
But I know better.
The doctors say the incident traumatize me, that’s why I keep imagining Geoffrey. I had only conjured up his image when the bear attacked so I could cope with Alan’s death. But no amount of drugs or psychobabble or telling me it was all in my head is enough to make me stop believing in him.
It was he who killed my friend. He who took over his body and wore it like a sick party outfit. He who waits outside my ward’s door, every fucking day, tapping his foot patiently, like he’s waiting for me to come out of the hospital.
So we can play outside in the forest.