Andrew wrapped his arms around his chest, afraid his heart would fall out if he let go. His ribs shook against the groaning of his empty stomach. He had neglected to eat. He was worried that satiating the needs of his hunger pangs would make him forget the pain of loss.
He sat in silent protest while his therapist took notes. After the fourth time he failed to respond to invitations for dialogue, she transitioned from note-taking to doodling. She stopped briefly to accept an envelope from an assistant who quickly entered and left the room, but resumed shortly after. He was sorry for wasting her time, but he felt worse for losing his Johnny.
Layla, his therapist, shared his species. She was able to shift in and out from human to translucent shadows at the drop of a hat. She was a Silhouette, an imaginary friend. The familiarity eased his tension slightly. Being a Silhouette, though, she was unfamiliar with the human condition. She couldn’t comprehend why Andrew cared so much about the human race.
Layla said, “Would it be easier, Mr. Lathon, for us to find you a new human to follow? I could possibly suggest someone much younger—someone more susceptible to your friendship.” She flipped through her notes, “Yes. There is a six year old boy in need of a friend in…Australia. He comes highly recommended. Your relationship with Johnny is—unhealthy.”
The mere suggestion of abandoning the search for Johnny filled Andrew with enough rage to blow the entire office into smithereens. A spark of inspiration needled his brain, propelling him out of his chair.
“I’ve lost my believer.” He spoke in a cold, calculating voice. “I understand that the very concept may boggle your mind, so I will speak slowly and clearly so you don’t miss a single word.” He knocked the notepad, covered in Hello Kitty doodles, out of her hands. “We do not exist without our believers. As we continue to assist humans, we are cultivating generations upon generations of believers. For those of us with a true beating heart, we might grow attached to our believers. So, when I say that no stone will be left unturned until I find my Johnny, I mean I will strip your body piece by piece until it is nothing more than a slice of Swiss cheese smothered in pollution and corruption.”
Andrew hovered behind Layla. He snapped his fingers. A filmy substance creeped and crawled out of his fingertips and fell in her lap. It stretched out, holding her in place. Layla managed to say, “Mr. Lathon, I don’t know Johnny’s location,” before it covered her mouth, eliminating her speech.
A drawer of silverware appeared out of thin air. It floated above Layla’s eyes. Andrew chuckled, “It would be quite wrong to lie about the location of my Johnny, wouldn’t you say? The choice of punishment would have to be quite severe to fit the crime.” Two forks slid out of the drawer. “So, Layla, would you say you are a three prong girl or a four? I’ve always been partial to the four prong myself.”
The four pronged dinner fork glided to within an inch of Layla’s throat. “I understand that the original Silhouettes do not bleed.” The fork punctured Layla’s throat. Her skin popped open like a sheet of bubble wrap. Layla’s face was shrouded in terror, but the filmy substance on her mouth muffled her screams. Andrew relaxed like an addict getting his fix, “I also understand they are not immune to pain.”
Andrew moved to Layla’s notepad. It had landed next to the office door. He growled when he got another look at her doodles. It was two Hello Kitties, one wearing an Andrew shirt and the other in a shirt labeled Johnny, locked in sexual ecstasy. A bubble next to the Andrew kitty said “Come quickly while I’m still pathetic.”
Andrew scooped up the notebook, set it on fire with a flick of the wrist, and sent it flying into Layla’s lap. He laughed, “I bet you are praying for death. Lucky for me, death for Silhouettes takes much longer. You can just burn forever and it never ends. It’s just like the search for my friend.”
Johnny peered over his copy of Order of the Phoenix, “This is what you think about all day while I’m at work? What is wrong with you?”
Andrew sighed, “I get lonely.”
Thomas William Shaw is an author and stage actor from Birmingham, AL. He lives with his wife, Lauren, their children, and their cats in a quiet place. Occasionally he will post about it.