The Imaginary Child

The worst tenant in the building was the imaginary child.

Richard refused to think of it as a poltergeist. It legitimized it too much, and he’d be damned if he’d let that thing get the satisfaction.

New tenants spooked easily, but the old guard had really taken a sheen to the boy who wasn’t there. He’d had several fifth birthday parties thrown in his honor over the years, and while most of the gifts sat unused or disappeared, the tricycle had been an instant favorite.

The boy, as unsupervised as he was incorporeal, rode the tricycle at the most inconsiderate hours of the night, but as soon as you put your eye to the peephole, all motion ceased.

Richard had invested in a very expensive camera system, but was still unable to capture any evidence. The boy seemed to live only in anecdotes, though he was apparently rambunctious enough to escape those while you were trying to sleep.

It was shortly after Ms. Bachlescu had fallen down the stairs that Richard realized there may be a solution. He wasn’t a very religious man, but could imagine heaven just fine. From there, it was an easy jump to imagine someone getting denied entrance unless they performed a task. His brain made a short leap to that task being of a babysitting variety. And soon the tricycle rides stopped.

Richard could sleep again. He dismantled his camera system and enticed friends to move into empty units in the building. For almost a year his life had become one of normalcy, though the owner asked him why nobody ever stayed in Ms. Bachlescu’s old haunt, and if they should renovate it. He shrugged the idea off, and said it just wasn’t a renting market.

Awoken by the sound of the birthday song, he imagined a cold hand on his shoulder, and an old voice that may have whispered in his ear, angry at being denied heaven. He kept his eyes shut tight, and ignored his imagination, now so vivid. Something bumped his bed, and he slowly opened one eye to see a small, plastic tricycle.

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