• Chapter 1

    I know they’re real. But everyone keeps telling me they’re not. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t make it imaginary, does it? I don’t know anything anymore. They won’t say it directly but I know it’s what they mean. My brain is showing me things that aren’t there. They say too. But, I think, maybe it’s their brains that aren’t letting them see. They, these things that are real, talk to me and, after they got to know me, showed themselves to me. But not in words or as a physical presence. In pictures and feelings. In a way much easier to understand than all the things the doctors and therapists and my parents say and do. They don’t think I’m crazy. You know who does think I’m crazy? Everyone at my school. At first they thought I was just some Goth chick who talked to herself. And I did fit the Goth description. I wore black, always. But not as a fashion statement. Black is the color of the night, and night time brings comfort, you can’t be found in the dark of the night. Which is also why I was pale enough to fulfill the title of Goth. I don’t go in the sunlight if I don’t have to. Still, I was not the biggest weirdo at school by far. And then I made a friend. Ally. She liked to sneak out at night and visit me at the clinic. Eventually she asked the big question. Why was I living in a psych ward? I trusted her. I thought maybe she heard them, saw them, too and was just smart enough to not have been found out. So I told her. That’s when I learned that others don’t hear them. She thought I was joking, and then she got angry. She thought I was trying to make her look stupid. Then she put two and two together and figured out I was “a total wack job”. Her words, not mine. Ally told everyone and then some. Word goes around fast in junior high. Faster in high school. I learned that freshman year when, by third period, the teachers gave me funny looks and the students called me all manner of names. No one called me Victoria, that’s my real name.
    So, as you can imagine, I don’t talk to people anymore. I don’t talk at all. The things that are real, I named them Lucids, still communicate with me but now I ignore them too. My parents haven’t taken notice of my muteness, but they rejected me as their daughter a long time ago. When I was little and had friends they thought I just had an over active imagination. But I know the Lucids are real. I told my parents about them and ever since I’ve been shuffled between research centers and psych wards across the continent. I’ve been poked with needles and strapped into chairs with connecting head pieces. But none of the terrors of the world ever got to me as long as I had the Lucids to keep me safe. What are they keeping me safe from? All I know is that it is strong enough to scare my unshakeable “imaginary” friends, as one of my doctors called them.
    So why am I telling you all this? How do I know anyone ever even find this? Because they tell me some one will. And everyone needs to know about the events that began on my first day of my junior year of high school.

    It was a bright day so I wore more black than usual. Skinny jeans with rips showing my pale white thighs, hoodie zipped down just enough to show off my chest which was practically bare as the shirt I was wearing was a bit too low for my taste, converse, bracelets to hide needle marks, nails painted, heavy eyeliner. For all the effort to blend in with the shadows I couldn’t hide my shockingly pale skin and almost-white hair. Oh well. The hair, at least, could be hidden by a stylish black baseball cap. Ok, I know you really don’t care about how I looked. I’m just trying to set the scene. Any ways. The familiar halls were steeped with groans. No one was excited to be back at school, back to waking up at six am. I saw new faces and old faces alike. Nothing special. I ducked into a stall in the girl’s restroom to wait for the warning bell. It went off with a loud and shrill “brrrrrrring!” a few minutes later. Shouts of “save me a seat at lunch” and “move it freshmeat” dominated the school. I slipped into my new homeroom with a gaggle of giggling girls trying in vain to hide their cell phones. I scanned the back of the room for an empty seat. The only one left was next to a girl who looked remarkably like me. Pale skin, glass-bottle-green eyes, and seriously Goth clothing. The biggest difference was her fiery red hair, uncorrupted by even a hint of brown or blonde. I’d be willing to bet she had an Irish heritage. Probably just trying out the dark look to get attention or rebel against her parents. But then again, the way she fiddled with her assortment of bracelets told a more in depth story. I don’t know why this girl caught my attention when none of the other new girls did. And since the only back row seat left was next to her I took it. She shot a calculating glace at me then looked down. A minute later I caught her examining me the same way I must have been observing her. The rest of the day went on much like this. She was in all of my classes and we ended up walking together silently to and fro. The tension almost became too much to bear and I nearly broke my mute streak. It went on like this for at least a week.
    Then absolutely everything changed. She talked. I hadn’t realized until then that she was playing mute, like me. It was the end of the day and I was waiting for the special clinic bus to come and pick me up from school when she popped up behind me. I was immediately alerted to her presence by the nervous energy rolling off her in waves. I turned slowly, drawing up my guard. She opened her mouth and closed it several times before she got the words out. In a rather raspy, underused voice I might add. “Follow me.” was all she said.
    I talked to the Lucids for the first time in a long time then. What does she want? I “listened” for their reply. Ulterior motives. That’s what they told me. Bad ones? I winced as the girl gave me a skeptical look and I realized I didn’t want her to think I was crazy. Interesting ones. Follow her. I don’t know why but I listened and took the girls out stretched hand. It was mostly smooth, with a few scars that I could guess how she got. She cracked a small smiled and pulled me into a run. I didn’t even pay attention to where she was taking me. I was distracted by the overload of human contact that didn’t involve medicines and latex gloves. And then I was distracted by the fact that I didn’t even know this girl’s name. How pathetic am I?
    When she stopped I nearly tripped into her. I waited for her to speak but she just looked forward. I looked up from her face to see what she saw. We were somewhere in the woods behind the school. Far enough away that all I could see were trees. I looked around seeing nothing more at first. A second look though revealed to me a fort made cleverly of tree branches, moss, large stones, and… Was that animal bones I saw? She motioned me in and I hesitantly followed. Maybe she was what the doctors meant when they said “crazy”.
    She sat on an animal pelt of some kind and offered me a seat on a log. For a fort in the woods it was pretty roomy and well furnished. She launched into a story about her childhood, being taken from her parents, given to doctors who asked her questions she didn’t understand. She was vague about the details but it was a familiar tale. I move to make a comforting gesture, to hold her perhaps, but she flinched when I moved. Then she asked a crucial question.
    “Do you see them too?” My heart soared. Either she was delusional or I wasn’t alone. Hell, maybe I’m delusional! But at that moment I was sure she was the real deal. Then she said, in a disappointed tone, “Oh wait, I forgot. You don’t talk. Can you even hear? I knew this was a bad idea,”
    My heart broke to hear her say that. That is what caused me to break my vow of silence. “That depends, what do you see?”
    Her plump red lips formed a small ’O’ shape when she heard my voice. “So you do talk! I knew it! I knew you were like me! I could feel it from the moment I met you.” Once she got her voice she used it like it was the only thing keeping her alive. I couldn’t help but grin. “So you see them? And hear them? Is that why you ride the psych bus? I knew we were the same!” And as her enthusiasm grew I knew she had been looking for the same thing I was. Understanding without judgment. I let myself tell her everything. My trust in her was immediate and absolute. I could understand why she talked so fast and so much. Once I felt the familiar vibrations of speech in my throat I couldn’t stop talking. And then I was yelling and laughing and crying and doing everything I could to make this moment in the woods last.
    Finally, someone else can see them. Can hear them. Now I know. I’m not the one whose brain doesn’t work. Once we had both gotten our life stories out we started just asking random questions about each other. Anything to know more about the only other person like me. And I learned so much about her. Her favorite color is black; she says it reminds her of sleeping, the only place she could find peace, and she prefers autumn to all the other seasons because it’s cold but not freezing yet, and she wants to be an author when she “grows up”. I couldn’t help laughing at this. We might as well be the two most grown up people in the universe. She says she’s been running from the police and using various fake names to enter high schools and find more kids like us. No luck so far. At the mention of her aliases I gave a chuckle and admitted to not knowing her name. She shook her head and gave a most peculiar reply.
    “If I told you it would be cheating,” I asked her what the game was and she just fell over laughing. It wasn’t even five seconds before I joined her on the soft, mossy ground. Laughing like I never had before. I still don’t know what was so funny. “So how ‘bout you? Got a name?” We had just barely managed to stifle out guffaws.
    “I lost mine a long time ago,” Somehow this was true.
    “Ok Lost, how would you like to help me with a little plan I have?” I liked the sound that. And Lost seemed a perfect title for me.
    “Tell me about it Secret,” She smiled like she liked her new name too and proceeded to explain her plan. Secret had this theory. She says that most everyone can hear the Lucids, as we were now both calling them, but not everyone could see them like we do. And they’re not as loud to other people. Most people refer to them as intuition. It seemed so simple once she said it. But some things still didn’t add up.
    “Ok, so why can we see and hear them? And what’s their purpose, their use for us?”
    “I don’t know! That’s what I need you to help me with. I think if we can find more people like us we can find out how to help the Lucids fulfill their purpose. I have a few theories but… Never mind. I shouldn’t have said anything.” That cryptic remark is a strong reason why I agreed to help Secret. That and I could sense the Lucids wanted to know these things just as much as we did.
    “So, what do we know about the Lucids already? What’s the background info here?” I know a thing or two about science so I knew that pooling our knowledge was the first thing to do.
    “They seem to have a lifetime’s worth of knowledge; they can tap into anyone’s mind but generally seem to choose a host to stay with. Have you had the same Lucids your whole life? I have.” I nod. “They also seem to have only as much knowledge about themselves as we do. They don’t use words; they seem to use our subconscious to deliver messages to us. Oh! Idea! Or, theory, or hypothesis, or whatever! Dreams!” In that single word I understood what she meant.
    “I keep a dream journal, maybe if we study that we can learn more about them.” As I said this I realized a fatal flaw in that plan. “Oh s**t! It’s at the clinic and there is no way I can go back there after missing the bus. They probably already have the cops after me! Oh s**t, oh s**t, oh s**t!”
    “Well if the cops are already after you then a little B and E shouldn’t be a big deal, should it?” Secret gave a sly smirk and winked at me. My heart did a tiny flip-flop that I didn’t understand. I blinked a few times to clear my head. “B and E?” I asked, probably sounding like a complete moron.
    Secret giggled “Breaking and Entering. Were gonna steal you dream journal back Lost!” Though I was sure to have some sort of criminal record already, this sounded risky. The clinic was very well guarded. I told Secret as much.
    “Oh, I have my ways. Don’t worry. I would say I could go alone but I need you to show me where your room is,” I sighed and agreed to the plan. But we couldn’t exactly do it that night. They would be on full alert. Waiting for me to stumble in, mumbling to myself. And if they saw me they would never let me leave again. If it weren’t for the Lucids giving me advice on how to act “normal” I wouldn’t be allowed to go to public school. So that night I slept in Secret’s makeshift home. But I denied myself the luxury of sleeping near her. Though it was tempting. I made sure to lie all the way on the other side of the “room“. The feelings she stirred up inside of me were unsettling to say the least.
    “G’night Lost,” she called out with a yawn as she extinguished the candles I hadn’t noticed.
    “Sweet dreams,” I called back, letting sarcasm steep my tone. I heard her muffle a crazed a laugh and realized, were both entitled to be a little crazy. And when the dawn broke the next morning I prepared to test the limits of my sanity.