I know the creatures aren’t real. I know they’re all in my head. I’ve learned that they’re in my imagination and nothing more. You’ve taught me that. I just ignore them.
What happened that day? I had an aggressive outbreak brought on by delusions and hallucinations. At the time, I thought it was the creatures, that they were attacking that poor man in the mall, but it was me. I know that now, and I’m willing to admit it, own up to it. I was the one who took offense to his styled brown hair, his crisp uniform and shiny belt, his haughty expression. I was the one who assaulted him; I only thought it was the creatures.
Sheila was with me that day. It was supposed to be a date. She liked the mall. I mostly like the mall too, but I’ve always thought there’s too many people, too enclosed. Too many hiding places.
Sheila knew about them. About my hallucinations, the creatures that aren’t real. She called them my little monkeys. She didn’t think they were real either. When one would pinch her, I would pretend I’d been the one to do it, and she would lightly scold me. “We’re in public,” she would say, covering her face with her dark hair to hide her smile.
I don’t know why I started seeing them. I’ve seen them as long as I can remember. They’ve always been there, always been doing things that got me in trouble. In primary school, one pushed my friend off the playground set, breaking his arm in the fall. I had tried to stop it, but I couldn’t run across the platform fast enough and reached him just as he fell. A teacher looked over just in time to see me at the top and my friend screaming on the ground. She didn’t see the creature. The creature wasn’t there. Just me.
The man in the mall upset me, I’ll admit. I think he saw me glancing around, thought I was a thief. He kept staring at me and staring at me, and I noticed. I was noticing everything. There were so many creatures in that department store. They were peeking out of clothes racks, holding onto people’s pants legs, always darting out of my view. They were freaking me out. I had never seen so many of them in one place before. The guard kept staring at me.
Sheila was trying to calm me down, reminding me to ignore them. She knew me well enough to know what was happening, but she couldn’t do anything to help me. They weren’t real. Aren’t real. She couldn’t see them. But I could. I was afraid of what they were going to do, and I didn’t know how I’d stop them, if I could stop them. Of course I couldn’t, and I know that now. I need to stop myself, not the creatures. But at the time I thought I needed to stop the creatures.
The guard kept staring at me, and I tried to get out of his line of sight. I pulled Sheila with me to a different part of the store, and we started to look at shoes. Sheila didn’t complain. Looking at shoes was one of her favorite pastimes. It wasn’t one of mine, but it was better than being stared at suspiciously. I don’t like that. At all.
There were more creatures among the shoes. Or maybe they were the same ones. They all looked similar, just blurs of bright-colored fur at the corners of my vision. I tried to ignore them and their shuffling and hissing.
And then I saw the guard again. He had followed us. Now he was leaning on a wall, watching me and Sheila over the racks of shoes. I looked away quickly, tried to pull Sheila again, but a pair of red spiked heels had caught her fancy. The guard pushed off the wall and started approaching us. A few creatures followed along behind him, no longer hiding from view.
Normally I only saw the little things one at a time, here or there. They’d knock a hat off of someone in a gust of wind. They’d knock a glass off the table. They’d open a drawer and shake the silverware to make a racket. Normally they were solitary, so it was all the weirder to see so many of them at once. At the time I wondered if the man had done something to upset them. The creatures tend to be fickle, take offense to things easily. My childhood friend had done nothing more than gloat after beating me to the top of the playground.
“Sir, is there a problem?” the guard asked me. Sheila looked up in surprise.
“Come on, Sheila,” I said. “Let’s get out of here.” I took the red shoes out of her hands and placed them back on the rack.
“What’s going on?” she said, turning to the guard and back. I started pulling her, trying to get away from the guard and the creatures surrounding him. They were scowling and pulling their own eyelids back with long thin fingers and shaking in place. I was scared.
But the guard followed us. “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to show me inside your purse.”
“No I will not show you my purse. It’s my purse.”
“Leave us alone, man,” I said. I tugged Sheila further along down the aisle. The guard grabbed her other arm to stop us. The creatures started jumping around, over each other and from rack to rack around the man.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Store policy.”
“Get your hands off me!” Sheila yelled and threw his arm away. He reached back towards her and she slapped him. Then he grew angry and rushed her and the creatures rushed him and I shoved my way into the middle of all of it to stop everything and it was chaos.
No, I don’t really know what happened. I did my best to get the man off my girlfriend, and then I tried to get the creatures off the man.
Yes, I know the creatures weren’t actually attacking him. But I thought they were.
I was the one attacking the man. I know that. I was trying to tell you what happened. What I had thought had happened.
After that, the creatures all left and went back to wherever they’re from. No one else saw them. What other customers saw, what the police saw, what everyone saw was me standing over a bloody, moaning mess.
Sheila hasn’t spoken to me since. I thought I’d saved her, saved both of them. I thought I’d done a good deed, helped him even after he attacked my girlfriend. I suppose that could be easily construed as a reason I attacked him.
That’s why I attacked him.
I was crazy. But I’m a lot better now. You’ve helped me a lot. This whole place has helped me get better and recover.
No, I don’t see them. I haven’t seen them in a very long time. Even if I did, I know they’re not real. I know to ignore them.
I’m not lying.
No, I’m not. I haven’t seen any since I was put in this place.
Because I have wandering eyes. I know there’s no one but you and me in here.
I don’t like staring in one place for too long, or making eye contact. Eye contact creeps me out.
No I do not think I need to stay longer. I’m cured.
What can I do to convince you?
All right. Fine. I’m lying.
I still see them. I see them now. Not one, not two, but a lot of them. A rainbow of them, and they’re all around you.
I’m not threatening you. You know just as well as I do that they’re not real. They mean nothing. I won’t try to stop them.
I’m going to follow your advice and ignore them, no matter what.
No matter what.