In my world, when we die we get two choices, either we move onto the afterlife or we get a second go at things. A second go means that you get assigned to your child self in the form of an imaginary friend. They can see you and interact with you, but no one else can. I got assigned to little Rhi around 3 years ago now. She’s awesome. I’m awesome, I guess? It’s odd. I don’t think of her as a past version of myself, I think of her as her own self.
“Hey. Get up monkey,”. I gently rock her shoulders in an attempt to wake her.
“Hmm. GO away”. Rude. She’s always like this first thing in the morning. I try to wake her up before her alarm because she always snoozes the fucking thing.
“Get up or you won’t get your presents”. It’s her 9th birthday today.
“‘It is?” She mumbles.
“Yes. Now get up”
She rubs the sleep from her eyes as she adjusts her position, sitting up in her overly large bed. She was so small for her age, naturally getting picked on in school for it. Kids are cruel. I’m not looking forward to when she gets older.
She raises her arms out and clinches her hands. She wants a hug. I go to her and wrap my arms around her.
“Go on Monkey, open it”
She leans forward and grabs the box, carefully slipping the paper and unraveling the gift. She pulls out a small cardboard box and lifts the lid.
“Wha-what is it Rhi?”
“It’s a dreamcatcher from my world. It’s very powerful. It will catch bad dreams and ensnare them, letting you have good ones instead”. I lift the dreamcatcher up, the one that I was buried with and let the moonlight glisten it. It was 3 am.
“But … I don’t get bad dreams?” She said.
“Not yet, monkey. But you are about to experience the worst parts of your life.”
BANG. BANG. BANG a knock at the door. I grip her tighter. It’s her 9th birthday, and there’s nothing I can do. I can’t interact with the adults. I can’t interact with anyone who’s not a child. All I can do is watch as the beasts bust into her bedroom, angry. The smell of alcohol fills the room, coming off the man.
“Dad? What’s wrong?” She asks as her voice hitch slightly in fear.
I shut my eyes. I can’t watch this. It was bad enough the first time. She deserves better. I can’t stop it. Why can’t I fucking stop it?
She lets out a blood-curdling scream as my spirit fades away.