Taming Your Inner Child By Devon Tavern

Mikey struggles to keep control over the voice in his head; by Devon Tavern.

His endless staring bores into my soul. I can't seem to get away from his glare. I run into my house and lock the door, but there he is. I run to a public space, the mall. There he is, staring at me. I can't get away from him. I can't tell anyone about him because they can't see him.

Only I can see him.

My skin crawls as he follows me. He isn't dangerous or evil. He's just really annoying.

"Hey, can we get a Cinnabon, Mikey?" he asks. His voice sounds like an out of tune ukulele.

"I want to cut down on carbs, Billy," I say as I touch the bluetooth headset on my ear, modern technology has made it easier to be crazy in our world. The hope is the people around us will think I'm just rude instead of talking to my imaginary friend. Still, we get a number of strange looks.

"What? I can't hear you." Billy cups his ears. I hate it when he does this. How can he not hear me? He lives in my head.

"I don't think I'll have a Cinnabon today. I don't need the carbs," I say.

"I want a Cinn-a-bon!" he yells right into my ear. I feel the force of his breath; I feel the wet of his spittle. "I want a Cinn-a-bon!"

I give up and walk over to the kiosk. There is no stopping him when he gets this way. I don't need another incident like the break down in front of Forever 21 earlier. He spent twenty minutes ranting about how easy it would be to burn this mall to the ground. After that, I decided this would be an appeasement day.

I order a large Cinnabon and a coke. I turn around to find Billy gone. Billy's disappearance could only mean one thing, he was now in charge. My body walks over to the seating area and sits at the first clean table that Billy finds.

Billy guides my body through the act of eating the warm, sticky, sweet pastry. I hate sweets and cinnamon, making this experience painful for me. Billy reappears in the chair next to me after the last bite.

"That hit the spot!" Billy burps to punctuate his point. "What's next, Mikey? Do you want to see a movie?"

I cringe. Yes, I want to see a movie, but I want to see that foreign film that won all the awards. He wants to see the stupid film about the guys who hit themselves in the crotch repeatedly. I just couldn't sit through two and a half hours of that.

"Maybe we should just go home, Billy?" I say, hoping he goes along.

"Come on, don't be a killjoy," Billy cajoles me. "Besides, you know I can just make you go."

In that statement, he sums up why I hate him. It's not the lack of peace and quiet. It's not the irritating voice or the strange body odors. No, it's the total lack of control over my life.

"Do we have to see Ass Hats 4?" I cringe.

"Yes, but I'll tell you what, right after Ass Hats is over, I'll sneak us into that gay, sub-titled, French movie you want to see." Billy leans in, reaching out his hand in a gesture of friendship.

"What are you going to do during L'Année Terrible?" I reach out my hand, and we shake on it. The strange sensation of physically interacting with him disturbs me. His hand feels stiff and smooth like plastic, and it's missing the normal warmth of human contact.

"Probably sleep," Billy smiles.

"Don't get us kicked out with your snoring." I gather our garbage and rise from my seat. Billy sits paralyzed in fear, looking around the food court. He motions with his head. I turn to look.

"Oh crap! This is the last thing I need." Across the food court stands my father. He walks slowly over to our table, looking between me and Billy's chair.

"Hello, Dad," I say, but he doesn't even look me in the eye. We've been fighting for years. I can't even remember the last time he's called me by name, like I'd legally changed it to 'you worthless idiot'.

"Is your friend here?" my father asks.

I roll my eyes. This means that Doctor Colton told him about my condition. Great, I miss one appointment, and he goes overboard. "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Can I sit here? Can we talk for a minute?" My father gestures to the empty seat across from Billy, strange choice but whatever makes this easier.

"Sure, Dad." I sit back down and look over at Billy. The look of terror on his face makes me sick. He has always been afraid of my father. He clams right up when Dad is around.

"Look, son, your mother and I are worried about you. You quit your job. You dropped out of college. Twenty three is too old to be hanging around the mall all day," Dad says. Something is up with him; he still won't make eye contact.

"Dad, I failed out of college, and I got fired from my job. I'm here at the mall looking for a new one," I say. Even that was a bust; half the places wouldn't even give me an application. They all blamed the economy, but I blamed it on Billy acting up.

Dad shakes his head in disappointment. "Your doctor tells me you are off your meds, and you've missed the last three appointments."

"I have not missed three. I missed one. As for the drugs, they don't help. They just make me feel sick. None of my symptoms..." I look over at Billy, "...go away."

"Son, you have to listen to me. This is beyond me and your mother. This is beyond Doctor Colton. The police are here, and they are going to take you in." Dad looks terrified. "They said you were talking about burning the mall down."

My heart skips a beat as I look around the food court. Cops cover each of the exits to this area. They glare at our table and talk guardedly among themselves. Damn it, sometimes when Billy goes off on one of his rants, if I don't focus hard, I repeat some of the things he says. Once again, I'm apologizing for his bad behavior.

"Dad, this is a bit excessive, don't you think? It was just a joke. I was angry that no one was hiring..." Assaulted by the smell of ammonia, I look over to see a dark stain expanding around Billy's groin.

"Son, you need to work with me. These men say they will use force if you don't cooperate," my father pleads. "Damn it, Billy. Say something."

"Look, Dad! I think you're all overreacting to... Wait, what did you say?" In shock, I finally realize why my father wasn't making eye contact. He's staring at Billy's seat, not mine.

"Damn it, Dad. I can't lose him. He is my only friend," Billy blurts out. I sit stunned. What the hell is going on?

"You can see him?" I ask my dad, but he ignores me.

"Billy, Doctor Colton gave me this." My dad places a little white pill in front of Billy. "It's a sedative. It will calm you down. Take it, and the police will go easy on you."

Billy looks at the pill and then at me. His eyes fill with tears as he says, "I can't lose you Mikey. I just can't."

"What the hell are you talking about, Billy?" All the blood rushes out of my head, and the world spins. All the sounds of the mall around me disappear. I scan the food court to see mall patrons quietly slip away from their tables.

"You, Mikey, I can't live without you. Before you came along, I was lost. I had no friends, no one understood me. You're my best friend! You're my only friend!" Billy slams his fist on the table. Cops all around us jolt to attention.

Finally, it hit me, I'm not real. I'm the construct of Billy's mind. The evidence was there, but I refused to see it. How Billy's bad behavior effects so much around us. Why the manager at Best Buy refused to take our resumé. He said if we couldn't get our name right on the application, he wasn't bothering to process it. He said it right after he checked our ID. One said, Michael Miller and the other said Bill Davis.

"I think you can, Billy. I think it is for the best," I said, sobbing.

The officers move slowly and deliberately toward our table.

"NO! I WON'T DO IT!" Billy yells. His arms wrap tightly around his chest, and his body heaves along with his heavy breaths.

Trying to wrap my head around this turns my stomach seven hundred and twenty degrees. This isn't fair. I don't want to go.

One of the officers loosens his holster.

If I don't do something, neither of us is getting out of here alive.

"I think you have to take the pill, for both of us." The words force their way out of my mouth between sobs.

All of Billy's muscles tense. His urge to flee is almost overwhelming. With all my will, I hold him in the chair. I mimic the gesture of picking up the pill and placing it in my mouth. Billy struggles against me, but he follows suit. We wash it down with the last of the Coke.

"I'll miss you," Billy cries as he reaches out to hug me. I lean in to complete the embrace and for a change, I feel his arms around me. I feel the warmth of his body.

We are close. We are one. Like we should be.


  1. A thoughtful and original exploration of alienation and distress. You communicated the overriding sense of disorientation very well, thank you,

  2. a truly excellent story with an unexpected twist.moving and convincing
    great read
    well done

    Mike McC

  3. An interesting story with an unexpected twist.

  4. This is a strongly written piece. Very emotive and compelling. The plot is well handled, given the complexity of its character shift.

  5. I love the idea of the "imaginary friend" of a mentally disturbed guy actually being a friend. It's kind of different to think about the heartache of losing that friend.

  6. Love the twist at the end of the story. Rings true, says my imagionary friend Roberta. Stop it, Roberta, I'm talking now.

  7. Thanks for all the great comments.