Fluffykins woke up, back in her own bed for the first time in nine years. “Fucking shit,” she moaned, clutching her head. “They never said there was a hangover.”
She swung her legs over the edge and petted down the rainbow fur that covered them. She quickly realised she was naked and wrapped the sheets around her, even though there was nobody around to see. After nine years with Suzie, a certain level of modesty had become second nature.
She looked around her room; standard grey concrete. A few cobwebs, a little mould, but otherwise standard. The doorbell rang. She froze; realisation cutting through the headache.
“Nine years isn't bad, ma'am, but rules are rules,” a deceptively friendly voice said from the other side. “We're here to take you to processing.”
“Nope nope nope nope,” she whispered, pulling on clothes that had been left for her. She was half way out the window when the same voice called from below.
“Not entirely original. But points for trying to escape out the fifth floor window. Come on now, Fluffykins. You know how it goes.”
“You'll never take me alive!” she cried back, rolling her eyes at how pathetic she sounded. She knew she couldn't win; not with these people on her case. But, like almost everyone, she had to try. She saw her chance while the owner of the voice wasn’t watching as he arranged his forces around the lower level of the building. She dropped and landed square on his head, knocking him out. Or killing him, she didn't stick around to find out which.
She made it five blocks before she took the tranquilizer dart right between her shoulder blades. She crumpled to the gravel and moaned softly as the shooters face smiled above her failing vision. “Nice move landing on my head like that. But you should know better; it takes a lot to kill someone who still has a believer.”
Cold steel on her skin woke her later. The clinical, easy to clean, processing benches. Someone had replaced the clothes she had been wearing with something reminiscent of a hospital gown. She felt clean too; they must have bathed her at some point. She felt annoyed at this, but something else made this annoyance just a quiet buzz in her head. “They’re going to kill me,” she said to no one.
“Little Suzie saw to that,” the friendly voice said, sounding decidedly unfriendly. “But now that you’re awake, we can get to the formal stuff. Please stand up and face the rear wall with your hands behind your back.” Fluffykins felt her body move without her permission, she tried to fight but failed; her body was no longer under her control. “Excellent,” the voice continued. “Now, I’m going to come in and restrain you. It wont be painful.” A door opened somewhere outside of her field of view and she heard someone walk quickly to her. Steel cuffs secured her hands and ankles and she was spun around and brought face to face with her smiling guard. “See?” he said. “No pain at all. Its time for the interview.”
He walked Fluffykins down the hall and into a plain white room which contained only a small desk and two chairs, he motioned for her to take one and he took the other. “Do you know why you're here?” he asked in his formal voice.
“Yes,” Fluffykins replied, without wanting to.
“Suzie stopped believing in me, so I came home.”
“And I’m supposed to get reprocessed so another child can have a friend,” she found it difficult to say the words. She looked up at the man. “Why do we have to die?”
“We do prefer you call it reprocessing. I mean, you still live. Just a different you, with new memories and a new life.”
“Waiting for a lonely ass kid to will me somewhere mundane and boring.”
“Usually. But that's our lot, you know?” the guard shrugged.
“Except you, apparently.”
“Well, I’m one of the special ones.”
“Its actually rather easy, you know? But where would be the point in telling you? You're about to be a brand new Fluffykins and will have no memory that this conversation even happened.”
The guard changed the interview back to the relevant topic. It lasted five long hours, Fluffykins having to relive almost every time Suzie had interacted with her, every emotion, every person who Suzie told about her, everything from the last nine years.
Fluffykins was led back to her cell exhausted and in tears. She may not have been the best imaginary friend, but nine years with little Suzie was something she would forever treasure. Forever was, though, only a few short hours long.
She lost track of the time, perhaps sleeping for some of it, so she didn’t know how long it had been when she was taken from her cell to a small, sterile room. Three figures stood around a bed waiting for her. “Wait, what?” she said. “How can there be three of you?” All three had the same face and same voice as her arresting officer, guard, interviewer.
“Oh, there are many more of us. I told you I was special.”
“What? How?” Fluffykins was now focused on this instead of the bed and rather unpleasant looking surgical instruments next to it.
“Well, with Suzie, you had bright rainbow fur, you could fly. That's the power you get from their imaginations. I just have a lot of people who I’m friends with,” another of his faces said pointing out that she no longer had any of these things.
“Shouldn't you be there instead of here then?”
“I am, that's the beauty of it. Admittedly I do get stretched thin from time to time, but many of my friends still enjoy my company.”
The third one led Fluffykins over to the bed and strapped her down. “There's nothing stopping you from doing the same, you know. Just get more and more people to believe in you. The more belief, the more power. Its as easy as that. I’m certainly not the first one to get this many friends, and I wont be the last, more than likely. Maybe you should try.”
“How?” Fluffykins asked as they injected something into her arm. “How do I get more friends?” she saw his smile grow through her fading vision and heard one final thing before it went black.
“Perhaps you could write a book?”