I know how this sounds but please just hear me out. My name is Dalton, I am 29 years old and have been without a girlfriend for a little while now. Ok it’s been almost ten years actually. Ok fine, I’ve only ever had one girlfriend when I was 18, for two months, and she cheated on me. Needless to say, I’m not exactly David Hasselhoff with the ladies. In fact, I don’t even know if girls are into David Hasselhoff anymore.

  For the last couple years; which I guess is now also encompasses most of my twenties I’ve been focusing mainly on work. I’m a financial advisor for a certain rather large company. It pays well, but the hours are gruesome. I’ve been just sort of grinding away at it for the last few years. I have a few close friends, but I haven’t had a whole lot of time to develop close relationships with many women.

  I spend a lot of time alone, usually because my work involves crunching numbers in a cubicle for sometimes upwards of 14 hours a day. It gets lonely sometimes, I won’t lie. What time I don’t spend at work is usually spent at home, sifting through Netflix and YouTube, or bingeing Fortnite to the wee hours of the morning.

  I don’t remember exactly the first time I started talking to her. It was like she was just there one day, out of the blue. Joking and conversing away as I drove back home. It was like her and I had been old friends for our entire lives. We had our share of inside jokes and would regularly banter back and forth for hours on end. We talked about future plans, and dream vacations the two of us would one day take. She was kind, bubbly and just so full of life in every way. She even inspired me to get a membership at the local gym and get back in shape. Her name is Heather.   

  At night we hold each other tight, and drift tenderly to sleep together. In the morning when I wake, I am met by her beautiful smile. At first, she was just sort of a disembodied voice inside my head, a split aspect of my psyche I would nonchalantly converse with, but as time went on she began to take physical form. Well… ok not exactly physical, but… ethereal? Is that the right word? I guess a close approximation would be that of a tulpa, one which I conjured and talked to for years.

  What I mean is that I can now see her, or picture her maybe, just as clearly as I can see anyone else. She is rather petite, about 5’2 with long auburn hair and a cluster of freckles on both cheeks. She has the most spectacular green eyes, as if they reflect the serenity of the deep forest with her gaze. She’s almost never entirely serious, joking and giggling at things I say which she perceives as perverted in some way. She’s a dork, but a lovable dork no doubt. She has the kind of presence about her, which seems to just make all my troubles disappear. Oh, and she hates snakes.   

  So, let me sort of interject here for a moment. I am not insane. I know that’s exactly what an insane person would say and believe, but it’s true! I am well aware that Heather is nothing more than a figment of my imagination. Looking back on things, I suspect she was a sort of subconscious coping mechanism for me to deal with the loneliness. She completes me, and gives me someone to vent to and find comfort in.

  She’s incredibly complex, as are most people I suppose. At first my mind imagined her responses to what I would say, but as time went on she actually began replying of her own accord. Her voice became distinctively feminine, and not just a reflection of my own voice in my head. My mind doesn’t set her path anymore. She’ll make decisions of her own accord and respond in ways I myself could never have imagined. She was once a split personality of mine, but now she holds her own mantle and possesses free will. Heather is not a real person, but her complexity leads me to believe she could easily be one.

  I met someone recently. Didn’t really plan on it, but I didn’t really have a choice because she was new to the office. And as luck would have it, I was instructed by my boss to help her get settled and feel welcome. She was kind enough, and her and I sort of just clicked right away. Her name’s Lindsay, she’s maybe 5’5 with straight jet-black hair and alabaster skin. She has a very sarcastic personality and is a regular to rather risqué jokes which I appreciate.

  Her and I got on well pretty much right off the bat, joking and maybe even flirting as if we had been old friends for years. After a couple weeks, I finally grew a pair and decided to ask her out. I was initially petrified that it would make things awkward between us, but it didn’t. In fact, she seemed genuinely delighted that I had asked, and things are good with us. She routinely comes over to my apartment and binge watches X-Files as we cuddle through the night I wouldn’t say she’s my girlfriend yet, but we’re pretty close. I think I’ll ask her soon.

  During our time together though, I’ve begun to see less and less of Heather. I guess I should just move on, but I still would like to talk to her. She’s been with me for years now, and imagining life without her is strange. The other night I was in my apartment alone, and Heather appeared for the first time in weeks.

  I was just about to go to bed, but when I turned the lights off I noticed a figure at the end of the hall. Damn near gave me a heart attack, but when I flicked the lights on I realized it was Heather. She was in her pajamas, and had a desolate look on her face, and tears in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong, but she simply shook her head.

  She followed me into my room, and the two of us fell asleep without much said between us. Upon waking up the next morning, I found Heather sitting at the edge of the bed. I reached a hand out towards her and was met with an ice-cold sensation, like liquid nitrogen on my hand. Heather was quietly sobbing while looking away.

  “Heather what’s wrong?” Slowly she turned around to face me. I felt terrible, seeing her in that state. Tears staining her cheeks, and those dark rings under her eyes. I had no idea how much I had hurt her.

  “Do you love me?” She muttered quietly.

  “Of course I do…” I replied without hesitance. She sniffled and turned back away.

  “Heather…” I quietly begged while reaching for her. In a flash she turned and swiped me in the face with an open hand. I felt the scrape of a jagged nail sting my cheek before Heather quickly rushed from the room. Her face was… different. Less pronounced and more sickly. I only saw her for a second before she disappeared from the room, but it worried me.

  I rubbed my aching cheek, and just sort of laughed at the whole thing. After all Heather doesn’t exist. She is nothing but a manifested thought bubble of a person, concocted by my mind. I knew that to be true, but why then when I looked in the mirror did I see a small pencil thin scrape on my cheek?

  I was late for work so I got myself ready and departed soon after. Work was pretty standard, but I found myself with a sense of unease in my stomach for the entire day. I kept thinking I saw glimpses of Heather from the corner of my eye, and each time I saw her she looked worse. Her once voluptuous hair had begun to frizzle and fall out by the clumps. Her face was pale like that of a corpse, and skin appeared flaky and severely malnourished like someone suffering from leprosy.

  I saw her at least half a dozen times, but she never looked at me. Lindsay seemed to notice me being on edge. She kept asking me why I was uptight, but I just sort of shrugged it off.

  We finally ended the work day, and Lindsay wanted to come over and hang out. I knew it was a bad idea, but I couldn’t say no to her. This was the one real girl who had given me so much as a second glance since high school, I wasn’t about to mess that up just for the sake of my rapidly disintegrating psyche. I should’ve just told her to go, damnit Lindsay I’m so sorry.

  I finally left the office around 6, and texted Lindsay to stop by whenever. On my drive, I kept seeing something out of the corner of my eye. A familiar silhouette of a girl standing just out of sight. She was first behind a tree at the stop light, then in the bus window to the side of me, she even walked with a group of people coming out of the bar. Every time I would turn to look though, she wouldn’t be there.

  “This is fine, it’s ok, you’re just overreacting…just get back home.” I kept trying to reassure myself and for a while I thought it was working. That is until I heard a stifled weeping sound coming from the back seat of my car.

  My heart sunk in my chest, as my eyes fell upon Heather sitting there, hidden by her knotted and thin cluster of hair. My pulse jumped like I had just taken a shot of adrenaline, and hands began to quiver as I gripped the steering wheel.

  “You don’t love me anymore…” Her hushed raspy voice spoke. It wasn’t a sinister tone in her voice though, it was one of sheer sorrow, and it altogether broke me.

  “Heather… I’m sorry but… I have to move on… your… you’re not real.” Her weeping then stopped and she looked up to face me in the rearview mirror for the first time. Her face had turned gaunt and eyes turned black as tar. Her lips were frozen in a macabre display of cadaver like apathy. I expected her to pounce on me from the back, but instead she simply faded away into nothing. Like smoke dispersing in the air, she simply vanished.

  I thought for a moment I was okay, that I had finally vanquished my subconscious and moved beyond the need for her image.

  “I’M REAL BECAUSE YOU MADE ME REAL.” The voice, a twisted fusion of demonic, metallic and Heather all thundered in my brain like a jet engine. It was the loudest noise I had ever heard. Instinctively both my hands left the wheel and covered my ears in agony. When I withdrew them, I noticed spackles of blood covering my fingers.

  My car began to swerve, but quickly I regained control as the voice spoke again, this time in a whisper.

  “You will not abandon me.”

  I finally reached my apartment several minutes later and quickly cleaned the blood from my hands and ears. Lindsay was already waiting for me there, and silently I cursed the fact. Immediately she knew something was wrong with me. She questioned and I made the worse possible excuse.

  “I… just got a bit of a headache, I need to lie down for a bit.” Lindsay’s lip curled inward and her eyes shifted to reflect concern.

  “Aww… come on, I’ll take care of you.” She gave me a wink and before I could protest I founded myself being guided by the hand up into my apartment. Lindsay opened the door and turned on the lights.

  “You go lie down, I’ll make us some dinner.” She said while pecking me on the cheek. I wanted to resist and tell her to leave for her sake. Oh, how badly I wish I would’ve just done that, but I didn’t. Instead like a complete coward and moron, I sat on the couch and reclined in the chair as my heartrate began to return to normal levels.

  Things were quiet for a while, and Lindsay proceeded to cook some delicious chicken alfredo as I kept an eye out for my psychotic corporeal ex-girlfriend. After a while I began to relax, feeling as though Heather was finally gone.

  Lindsay and I ate dinner and snuggled up on the couch to continue our X-files saga. After the episode ended Lindsay got up off my chest and approached my balcony door. She pulled a cigarette from her pocket and shut the sliding glass door. I decided to relive the mounting pressure on my bladder.

  When I reentered the living room I froze in my tracks. Lindsay stood on the balcony, leaning over the railing as smoke spiraled around her, but she was not the only one out there. A second female figure stood behind her with a distinct auburn hair coloration. Heather turned back to me, and with a face withered like microwaved soap, her haggard lips curled into a diabolic grin.

  “Lindsay!” I shouted. Lindsay abruptly turned. Her eyes fell on Heather, and widened in a terrified expression. I wasn’t the only one who could see Heather anymore. Before Lindsay could move, Heather pounced and sent her hurdling over the railing and plummeting six stories to the ground below. Lindsay screamed in her final seconds as she fell, but was quickly silenced by a loud wet thud. I dropped to my knees, and tears began to stream down my cheeks.

  The balcony door slid open, and in stepped a monstrosity which no longer resembled the Heather I once knew. Her nails were long and jagged, and mouth hung open in a listless grin.

  “Now we can be together…” The same triple-decker voice spoke with infused tones, but the things mouth did not move in sync with the voice. I couldn’t tell if it was in my head or the thing had actually said it. Weakly I fumbled backwards as the wretch drew closer. With a panicked mind, I dashed back into the bathroom, locking the door and holding it shut with my back.

  I took my phone out and began typing out this last message. I know everyone is going to think I’m crazy, and maybe I am. I just wanted the truth of what I experienced to be out there. I heard sirens arrive a little while ago, and no doubt they will soon be knocking on my door, but I doubt they’ll get to me before she does.

  I can hear her out there rasping and wheezing in a psychotic lust. I don’t have much time. She could easily break down the door, but I know she doesn’t want to. She wants me to suffer, she wants me terrified.

  Lindsay, I am so sorry. I know you can’t hear me, but soon I’ll be able to tell you myself. Be it physically or metaphorically, my life is over. I might as well take things into my own hands for once and deny Heather the satisfaction of getting me. There’s a razorblade in the sink.

  Forgive me everyone.