Sara Heathers had been abandoned. She was laid down on a makeshift bed in a musky old room. An old grey mattress – hardly anything more than a cover for the small number of feathers left inside – provided slight comfort over the wire frame it was lying on. Her withered form and faded dark skin made it that with only a single glance it was hard to notice her existence in the dim lit room, were it not for the bright cross she wore at her chest. What light there was came from a small flickering candle that had burnt through most of its wick. Even in what should have been bright daylight the room suffered from this perpetual midnight; this was the trade-off for protection from the radiation.
Her breath was slow, as was her heartbeat. The thick air hung around the room and provided a level of uncomfortable heat and humidity. The covers were strewn about the bed, matching the books and trinkets across the uneven floorboards. ‘This is a foul place’, her mind whispered. No-one would hear her. In fact, no one else was in the building. Sara Heathers was left all alone, crippled on the bed, ill, and somewhere between despair or apathy.
“If you think this is foul, you should see where the others are…” Came a deep voice with a chuckle from the doorway.
She had long decided to avoid talking to the hallucinations. However, in the isolation of the ruined and wrecked building Sara gave in to the false idol standing nearby. She glanced at the dim borders around the entrance of the room and saw a somewhat tall man, neither slim or muscular, but instead happily rotund with a gleam in his teeth. For a moment she questioned why he was dressed in the festival-wear of her youth, before she reminded herself that fake people didn’t need to make any sense to be there.
“It has been a long time since I last spoke to you, little Sara,” spoke the shadow of the man, patting his stomach with curtain-draped arms. “I’ve missed you dearly in the years they’ve been treating you.” He took a number of small, shuffling steps forward before sitting down on an old crate that had once upon a time been haphazardly stamped ‘tobacco’.
“I can’t say I’ve missed you, whoever you are.” Sara replied as she rolled over, now facing the man. She closed one eye, trying to discern the features on the wall behind him, and then traded for the other. Every time she opened them there was a moment he disappeared – but then, as if blurring into focus, he returned, sitting in front of a pile of old DVDs.
“Ah, but of course you could say such a thing,” he seemed to sigh, “it just wouldn’t be the truth in your current state.” He laughed to himself as if this was a reunion between long lost friends. He even leaned backwards, reclining into a state of relaxation, though nothing appeared to support his form.
“What do you want from me?” The old woman asked, eyeing up the spectre of her mind. She couldn’t look for long, though, before a harsh cough rattled through her lungs.
“The only thing I want from you is your company, Ms Heathers,” he said, beaming wide with thick lips. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to. Especially after all of my other friends seem to have gone… elsewhere.” He ended his sentence with a solemn note, looking down and twiddling his thumbs together.
“You mean the other hallucinations? I’m sure they’ll be along any moment now.” She sighed heavily before bringing a weak hand up to rub some sweat off her brow. What should have been an easy task took almost all of her strength as she felt her chest closing in and her muscles flare up with prickling sensations.
“This world has not been kind to you… I’m sorry for that,” said the man, in deep sorrow. His words and tone contrasted the brilliant reds and yellows that made up the patterns across the thin veils of his clothing – a Pierrot in masquerade. As he looked down Sara noticed that his head was smooth and bald; not even a drop of sweat in the sweltering temperatures of this attic room.
“Why should you be sorry? It’s not like it’s your fault these illnesses got to me. You’re just a by-product.” She curled up her legs to move away from the uncomfortable wiring of the bedframe but found no comfort elsewhere and instead ended up with a restless leg as she lay talking to the fake person in front of her.
“Oh, I’m not a by-product of you,” he said, matter-of-fact, “Much the reverse…” he trailed off into deep thought as he hunched himself forwards on the crate, scanning the ground for something to catch his gaze.
After a small, stifling silence, Sara asked, “What’s your name?”
“My name?” He looked up, confused. “…I don’t think I have a name… People usually just talk to me, there’s never been a need for names.” He kept looking at her, his vision tracing across her wrinkles.
“Hallucinations usually have names…” she looked into the distance, her eyes wandering to the propaganda poster but her mind in a place of memories. “Duke the dolphin from my childhood… Roxanne the ghost… Even the mute rabbit was called Tracy.”
The man looked up at her face again. “How does a mute rabbit tell you its name?” he questioned with a softly furrowed brow.
“She dug out the letters in the dirt.”
“Huh.” He sat quietly and waited.
A slow breeze came in through the doorway. Sara could feel it rush across her skin, somewhat relieving her from the sticky heat she felt. The man’s drapes moved in the breeze, ever so lightly.