Author’s note: It has been a while since I have posted any fiction here, it was mainly because I was having exams. Anyways, following is another relatively simple story, I hope the readers will like it.
Lucas hurried out of his suburban villa, nearly tripping over the cobbled pathway leading to the main road.
“Careful Luke! The bosses want to see you there in one piece” a voice called out.
“It’s okay Lily, but I’m hopelessly late. They’d rather see me broken and on time than healthy and late.”
Lucas was lucky enough to have got the bus to his workplace the moment he reached the bus stop. He had little time to enjoy the fifteen minute ride through the countryside; the stress of reaching in time was killing him and it didn’t help matters that Lily was pointing out his faults.
“I had told you the night before not to sleep late but you just wouldn’t listen. Do you really have to be so obsessed with anime that you should binge watch them?”
“Well they were showing my favourite episodes. And you enjoyed them yourselves once they began.”
“I was making most of the opportunity I was provided. And it’s not as if I have to go to office every day, show my face and toil…that’s your job.”
“Oh man! I should just download all the episodes and watch them on Sundays.”
“Excuse me sir, who are you talking to?” the bus conductor asked.
“No one. I was just mugging up dialogues for an act.”
The conductor left after Lucas paid for the ticket. He then continued in a whispering tone.
“See what you’ve done? Now he thinks I’m mentally ill.”
“He’s not wrong.”
“I don’t like the idea of publicizing my derangement Lily.”
“That is what you get for obsessing over girls, Luke. Given that neuroleptics failed to cure you, you should just reconcile yourself to your fate.”
The bus had reached where Lucas had to alight off by that time and he stumbled his way out onto the street. He sprinted his way to Mc. Lloyd house where the office of Aurora consultancy was present.
“Ah! You’ve made it just in time.”
Lucas was too busy in taking out his paraphernalia to give a counter to Katie’s sneering comment. He then rushed into the meeting room.
It was after twenty minutes that he came out, looking rather depleted.
“The corporate world is rather cruel,” said Lily.
“Thankfully they gave me time till the end working hours to modify the flaws in the project.”
“It must have felt terrible to be told by your juniors that they want another team leader. And for that blonde boy to question aloud how you became one.”
“Don’t rub it in.”
He spent the remainder of his time doing the modifications to the project draft. By the time he had given the draft, had it approved and sent it to his team to work on lunch break had already begun.
Hurriedly he sat at the only table with an empty chair, which happened to be next to Katie, who was also a team leader.
“You can’t manage it like this, you know?” Katie said through her bread-filled mouth.
“I know. I’ve heard that the supervisors are getting fed up of this. I’ll really have to pull up my socks.”
“This is what you always say. You need to manage your time.”
“Yes. I should watch TV only on weekends.”
“You really should.”
“Hmm. It is funny you advise me and miss no chance of having fun at my cost.”
“Hehe. Sorry but you end up in very amusing situations. And especially about how you come just in time; neither a minute late nor early. Some of us here actually time their watches using you!”
“I think I should go check on my subordinates.”
And Lucas left with a grin on face, while Katie kept smugly smiling.
“That Katie girl’s right about your situation though.” Lily said.
“It is remarkable that you manage to appear like a normal person despite your anime-obsession and schizophrenia.”
“What’s your point, Lily?” asked Lucas as he scanned the source code made by his subordinates for any errors.
“I mean you have so many problems…and yet here you are, employed at this firm for nothing but your sheer creativity and imaginative skills.”
“Yeah, I have gotten used to it. My anime watching and obsessing over girls never got in the way of my studies and it wouldn’t have been a problem here too if it weren’t for the stringent work hours. “
“I have asked you this often, but I wasn’t your first fantasy, was I?”
“It seems you enjoy it whenever I describe that phase of my life but I’m too preoccupied today to verbally tell you. In any case, since you are just an extension of something in my head, you know what I know. Be content with that.”
“Okay, okay. Say, what do you think about Katie?”
“As a prospective love interest.”
“She doesn’t even look like you. Her sharp facial features, long black hair and dressage are in stark contrast with the way you look…..it seems really awkward talking about this with you.”
“Oh come on! I’m nothing but your extension.”
“I still feel like it would mean being an infidel.”
“So you don’t feel anything for her?”
“You are all I imagined in a woman I wanted to be with. Although there are times I wish you weren’t as sarcastic as I am. I don’t see any reason to even look at another girl.”
A few weeks later, something very interesting happened. Lucas and Katie were eating at the canteen but then she suddenly was called over by her team. She left her mobile on the table in the hurry with the headphones still connected.
Lucas never missed moments like these. He may have given up stalking per se but nevertheless liked to know more about the people around him without talking to them.
Not much time had elapsed so the screen wasn’t locked. What he saw left him positively surprised. It was a paused video which was an animation featuring a pink-haired boy drawn in manga style!
Lucas locked the phone and resumed munching on his sandwich. He had thought he would wait for the right moment to rake this issue. However, when Katie returned he just blurted out.
“I didn’t know you watched cartoons.”
“It is anime.”
The reply was more like a reflex action. Lucas knew that kind of a reply can only be from someone who not just watches, but passionately enjoys Japanese animation.
A moment later Katie realized the implications of the statement.
“So you peeked at my phone?”
“The screen was still on when you left off.”
She tried to mentally retrace her steps, but couldn’t recall this detail.
“Hmm, perhaps I did.”
“So, how long have you been watching?”
“You’re into watching anime too?”
“I’ve been watching since I was a ten-year old.”
“Wow! That is way back. I began watching around the same time. Well it is nice to know that you have something nerdy about you.”
“Well I’ve liked them since I was a child and I don’t care if I still find them as good as ever. But it can be a real pain trying to defend yourself against others who think this is child’s stuff.”
“Which is why you had kept it a secret?”
“It’s really embarrassing to reveal it in front of people who don’t watch. So I just play along, always chipping in group discussions on ‘Game of Cards’ or whatever that is the latest in TV viewing. ….they don’t know I just say stuff out of fan pages.”
And this discussion continued on. So involved they were in their conversation that they couldn’t even complete their lunch when the break ended.
“Who would have known that Katie has the same TV viewing preferences as you?” Lily said as she and Lucas were on the bus home.
“Yes. Whenever she talked of watching TV I always thought it must be those soap operas that everyone talked about” Lucas said.
“Great for you. I must say, you really seized the moment by asking her out.”
“I wasn’t really sure but I was very happy about our chat and it just came out naturally.”
“What is more remarkable is that she agreed!”
“Yeah, she would be the second girl I am going out with and the first real one.”
“So now you don’t feel like an infidel?”
Lucas wanted to give a verbal counter, but then stopped suddenly.
“What’s the matter Luke? Cat got your tongue?”
“No. I just realized that if this goes beyond the first date, I’ll have to tell her about my condition, about you. Or should I? I mean I can hide it and let it pass as occasional bouts of eccentricity…she’ll understand…”
“Do whatever you like. I’m so disappointed in you, you cheat.” Lily said in a mock tone.
It looked far from a conversation between couples on a date when Lucas and Katie were talking; it sounded like a conversation a person who has never heard of anime would dismiss as utter nonsense. But at length, Lucas finally took the chat to another direction.
“Hey, I don’t want to touch a raw nerve but based on my personal experiences, I wonder if you had a lonely childhood too?”
“Yes…I wasn’t really into going out and playing in the streets. There were times my mom would forcibly leave me at the park and I’d come back crying. I just wasn’t into playing or socializing. The only things that gave me happiness were television and books.”
“I had it pretty much the same. And at the end of school I was used to it. It never ever bothered me.”
“You don’t miss a chance to sound pathetic, do you?” Lily sneered.
“Being a loner didn’t trouble me until I went to college, where I, despite myself ended up making many friends. For those who are extroverts this may mean nothing, but it meant the world to me. It was like I had watched a great show which I didn’t know existed until then.”
“You were lucky to have got friends. As for me, I guess I’m making friends this late into my life. Yes, it is nice but I don’t mind the hours I spend watching TV at all.”
“Neither do I.”
They got up to leave after a while. When Katie boarded the bus to her home she said, “I had a good time today. It would be nice if we, you know, see each other again.”
“Yes, of course.” Lucas said as he waved her goodbye.
“Your bus home is coming as well, “Lily said.
Lucas promptly boarded that bus…feeling very happy.
A week later, Lucas asked Katie to visit his place, to which she surprisingly agreed. Lily had explained this event on the basis that Luke had, “a baby face that made it difficult for even men to imagine him as a pervert.” Plus he had impressed Katie by telling her that he lived in a villa, which intrigued her to see the place.
And surely, Katie was impressed when she alighted off the bus with Lucas.
“That is a big house! Hey, do you have some other source of income because I can barely pay the EMIs of my apartment?”
“The thing is, I got it dirt cheap from the realtor.” Lucas said.
“What is faulty with this place?” Katie asked immediately.
“There were just rumours saying that the place is haunted. But I have never felt anything paranormal.”
“If you say so.” said Katie and they entered the villa.
Lucas made her sit on the sofa and then sat down himself and together they watched – as expected – lots of anime!
Three hours later. Lucas began to speak.
“Ever since we began dating I have felt very happy and I hope you have felt the same,” to which Katie smiled and nodded. He continued, “Which is why I want to be honest with you. I’m schizophrenic.”
“Schizophrenic? Since when?”
Lucas took a deep breath. He could see Lily nodding at him to go on with a confident air.
“It actually started in my teens, when my puberty set in. I was already watching anime and had my understanding of girls warped. Any girl talking nicely to me, any girl being helpful and I would start building castles in the air. I had even thought out how my dream partner would look and be like. All my spare time would be spent imagining moments with her.
It continued, for years and shortly after I started living here I could even see her. I never thought that my obsession would lend me mentally ill. I tried everything, every doctor, every drug but nothing could cure it. Over these years I have grown used to it.”
Katie was shocked.
“I…I don’t know what to say…I guess that’s too much for a day, isn’t it? I should be going now, it is late anyway…see you at work.”
“Katie, please, don’t go.” Lucas said but she had gone by then. He then turned to Lily.
“See what happened? It was foolish of me to try open up to someone. I was already happy with you…after all, you are my fantasy.”
“That is the point Luke. I am a fantasy. Something inside your head. Katie can never be like me; why, no girl can ever be like me because I am just an imagining. Real people aren’t like that. They are not always right, or nice, or kind. You just have to live with their weaknesses just as you expect them to live with yours.
And since I am but a figment of your imagination, deep down there, you too agree with what I’ve said.
Be afraid of the world, but don’t run away from it.”
At that moment, Lucas wanted to embrace Lily and thank her, but he knew he can’t do that to a hallucination.
“Thank you Lily…but what do I do now?”
“It will pass Luke, in any case it is normal for a person to have had more than one relationships; can’t say the same for marriages!”
Lucas was already feeling like crying but the poor joke burst the dam. He was crying and chuckling at the same time.
Suddenly the doorbell rang. Luke wiped his tears and opened the door. It was Katie.
“I am really sorry Lucas. When you told me about yourself I became afraid, I didn’t know what to do. I just ran off outside and had boarded a bus home. While I was inside, all my memories of you since the first day we met at the office flashed by. Then the memories of the past week. They made me happy and it occurred to me that if I’m happy with a schizophrenic and I feel like making that very schizophrenic happy, what’s wrong with that? I climbed off and boarded another bus here.
Can you give me another chance and forgive me?”
Lucas just came forward and hugged her. The motion was jerky, almost robotic. Tears once again began to flow from his eyes.
“This probably will sound very pathetic but thank you, thank you for giving me a chance.”
“Awww!” Lily said in a teary voice. “A happy ending.”
They remained like that for a while. Lucas then went off to the kitchen for a while.
“Hello Katie.” Lily said.
Katie looked to her right and saw a girl the same age as hers standing in front of her. She was dressed in a purple-tinted pastoral frock which looked rather worn out. Unlike her, she had a wheatish coloured baby face. Her forehead was covered with blunt bangs of her black hair beneath which were a pair of sedate black eyes.
“Who are you? When did you enter?”
“I was here all along. It’s just that I hadn’t made myself visible to you. The name’s Lily, I’m Luke’s hallucination.”
“How can that be? Schizophrenia isn’t contagious.”
Lily grinned. She found it amusing to see someone so composed otherwise to lose it so readily.
“You’re not schizophrenic. The funny thing is, neither is Luke.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m a ghost. The spirit of this haunted villa.”
Lily didn’t quite like the look of fascination on her face but continued on.
“You see, this villa was the home of my family but one day a lightning strike triggered a blaze and we were all burned to ashes. If course, fate has other ideas for me. Ever since I’m haunting this place. And it wasn’t always intentional but anyone who bought this place would leave it the moment they sensed me.
“So why’d you spared Lucas?”
“You should have seen him when he had come here. He was so clumsy and pathetic, I’d thought he was a threat to himself. Then one day I saw him drawing a picture of a girl which he looked at rather affectionately. I decided to take the appearance of that girl and see what he does.
That fool thought he had begun to hallucinate and I just played along. Over the years, I began to like him as a friend and with time I saw that although he really should do something about being pathetic, he’s not that bad to live with.
Now that you have come, I’m sure he’ll be okay, even if you two break up later on; because he has finally stepped completely outside his two-dimensional world into reality. He is definitely smart and strong enough to get used to it.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“Simply because it would be too painful for me to tell Lucas and you are nice enough a person to share my secret with.
Now that I think about it, I became a ghost because I wasn’t satisfied with myself. But seeing Lucas’s progress I’m content and I can feel my time to vanish is coming near. As I leave, my only request is that you never tell him the truth about me. Let him think he got cured!”
“Wait a minute! Since the appearance Lucas drew was only his imagination, it means this isn’t your real form. Who are you then?”
“Let’s just say, a kind soul.” Lily winked.
“Wait, were you even female?” but Lily had already faded away.
“Were you talking to someone?” Lucas asked as he returned with some refreshments.
“No. Not at all.”
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