I first met Charles on a bright, sunny day. It seemed strange that the horror that followed started on such a lovely afternoon. The birds outside were singing and butterflies were flittering around as I walked into our kitchen after school, my best friend Jake following me. She was going to spend the night.
I spotted my little brother, Zach, sitting at the kitchen table, talking to himself.
My mom said that all kids go through a stage in their life when they need a special friend. She even said that I went through it. Right!! I mean, how could I have gone running through the house, talking to somebody no one else can see? I figured, hey Zach must just be a weird kid. It wasn't until later that I found out how wrong I was.
"Hi, Cheryl," said Zach, his mouth full of cookie. "Guess what?"
He went on before I could open my mouth.
"Charles said that his mommy and daddy had to go to Hawaii, so he has to stay with us!"
"Uh . . . " I didn't know what to say. What was I supposed to do, say, "Great, is he sleeping in your room or mine?" After my mom gave me a harsh glance from the table, I knew I had to say something.
Zach shook his head in disgust at my question. "My room, of course. Why'd he want to sleep in a girl's room?" Zach was at the stage in life where girls are the enemy.
Jake cleared her throat noisily. She doesn't have any siblings and feels uncomfortable around little kids. "I think I might have missed something here. Who's Charles?"
Darn. Now Zach was sure to go into hysterics, like he had done every other time that someone hinted that Charles wasn't real. This time he surprised me, though. He just stared coldly at her, his eyes peering right through her to her soul. The look on his face sent chills galloping up my spine. Jake shivered. She looked about as scared as I felt.
Zach opened his mouth. I knew this was coming, I thought. I prepared to cover my ears, but only four words left his mouth: "Charles doesn't like you."
Later that night, in my room, Jake and I discussed our day.
"Isn't Mr. Schneider the weirdest?" Jake asked. "I bet his wife is, like, a monster. No, a vampire. Every night she comes into his room and sucks his blood!!!" Her fake accent sent me into a fit of giggles.
"Yeah, but don't you agree that Ryan Drake is the cutest boy alive?"
"No. Actually I prefer Bob Nikko."
"Good. Then I can have Ryan for myself." That sent us into another fit of giggles. I yawned. It was almost 1 a.m. I noticed Jake was looking a little bedraggled herself.
"Do you think we should go to sleep now?" I yawned.
"Yeah, I guess."
I snuggled into my bed. Jake curled up in her sleeping bag amid the books, papers and magazines that littered the floor. I don't why I couldn't sleep. I think I had a premonition of what was about to happen. I didn't think I was ever going to fall asleep, until I closed my eyes, and. . . .
I awoke to a horrifying sight. Clothes were everywhere, blood was everywhere and Jake was . . . a mess. Consider it a act of mercy that I don't describe her to you. I felt something squishy on my leg and looked down. I was horrified to see a finger laying on my leg. Attached to it was . . . I screamed for Mom.
After getting home from the hospital, I was surprised to see Zach sitting at the kitchen table with a boy I had never seen before. They seemed to be talking. I guess they didn't see me.
"What are you guys doing?" I asked, stepping inside. I addressed the strange kid. "Who are you?"
"He's Charles," replied Zach.
"No way," I whispered, horrified. "Charles doesn't exist, remember?"
The boy whispered something to Zach, who looked up at me with a weird look on his face.
"Charles doesn't like you, either."
* Sara, 12, is a student at Aliso Viejo Middle School in Aliso Viejo. She lives in Laguna Niguel.