Mournful cries crawled the walls, and sharp screeching bounced off the ceiling. That was all the thousands of Dwellers had ever lived to know – an oblong room with nothing but four red walls, a dirt-caked ceiling, and a grimy floor.
These days, they could barely see an inch of anything but themselves. In the confined space, they lived body against body. Feelers tickled against limbs that were too short to be useful anyway. Thousands of bare eyes brushed against bristles, which pricked some blind.
Cramped right in the middle was the oddest creature one could ever imagine. Half its body balanced on the tip of its own external spine. It almost looked like a child’s toy meant to be spun. No matter their shapes or sizes, every Dweller found themselves immobile, jammed tight into every nook and cranny.
It hadn’t always been this way.
On the day Eli was born, the room had been as bare as a new coffin that still smelt of fresh pine. Then came the two hours of daytime cartoons, picture books, and his mother’s bedtime stories. His growing imagination invited the first Dweller in. It was a simple ink blot with eyes, soon joined by a house with feet.
No one knew what happened to either of them. In fact, they were somewhat of a long-lost legend in this place. In one version of an ending, the pair had been pressed so hard against the wall, that they simply softened and became part of it one day.
Eli forgot about most of them. As he acquainted with more of his strange friends in his head, the crowd became a blur in his imperfect memory. Such was the inadequacy of humans. The Dwellers did not blame him.
But they became concerned when Eli grew older and met new friends in school. One of them was Eve, a mischievous child and a regular raconteur. She had a taste for trouble, and a love for the macabre. Each day, Eve let her wild stories run free, and cross into Eli’s mind.
From that day on, the old Dwellers lived in fear of what Eli might imagine. The population in his head became massive, with more violent company thrown in the mix. Some had their faces split open, eyes popped out of their sockets, and bodies melted into a blob.
The gruesome assortments only had one thing in common with the old Dwellers – a single piece of knowledge they were born with. Throughout their lives, they somehow knew that their deaths were inevitable, soon as the boy was ready for adulthood.
They could feel it coming. At college, Eli had already started to shut his mind’s eye. Creation was a thing of the past, and The Dwellers stopped growing in numbers.
None of them protested, even though it seemed a tad unreasonable. They were sure that they had done nothing wrong, only what Eli imagined them to do. Still, they stayed silent and docile, because they were only as real as Eli wanted them to be.
Today feels different for them all. Every Dweller in the room has stopped breathing. Some are crying. Others are simply listening. As the birthday song echoes through the oblong room, the first of the lot starts to fade away…
Daily Prompt: Imaginary