Imaginary Friends

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Name: Corey Donovan

Age: 15

Affliction: Projected synesthesia

It looks like a regular hospital waiting room. The floor is white, and the walls are white, and the desk sitting in front of us is white. But the room is surprisingly bare. There is nothing on the walls, or the desk.

We sit in the chairs at the back of the room. There are twelve of us, and not one dares to speak. One boy has his face in his hands and is rocking back and forth. A young girl is chewing on her sleeve, staring up at the ceiling. At the end of the row, there's a boy who can't seem to sit still—his hands keep twitching and his eyes dart around the room.

Then the door to our left slides open, and a woman enters. She is tall and thin, her brown hair cropped into a neat pixie cut. I estimate her age to be around forty-five.

The woman sits at the desk, looking at a sheet of paper in her right hand, and then up at us.

"Welcome to the Hospital," she says with a small smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes. "As you know, you have been brought here because you display some worrying mental or physical traits that could put you in the category of an Abnormal."

The girl stops chewing her sleeve at that, instead starting to pull at a loose thread on her jacket: an action that hopefully the woman at the front won't notice.

I stare ahead, not really looking anything in particular. I'm not meant to be here. I don't have a "worrying mental trait". I just see colors everywhere. Songs have colors. So do words, numbers, foods, and sometimes people. It's called synesthesia. It's not a disorder.

But to the Psychiatrists, it doesn't matter. Every mental trait that deviates from the norm is labeled a disorder, and we Abnormals are shipped off to the Hospital in an attempt to cure us.

"Corey Donovan."

I blink, pulling out of my reverie. The woman stares at me hard.

"Uh... here?"

"Synesthete," she responds, more to herself than to me. Then she's on to the next person. "Leif Cordell."

There is no answer. I look at the boy to my right. He has light blonde hair, and is looking up at the woman.

"Leif," she says, more forcefully.

"Are you talking to me?" Leif replies slowly.

"Cotard's Syndrome," the woman mutters. I haven't heard of it before, so I'm a little curious. I look back at Leif. He looks like a perfectly typical twelve-year-old boy... except for a slightly vacant look in his eyes.

The woman finishes her roll call, and stands. "Follow me."

We file out of the room. Some of us, like the girl who now has her sleeve in her mouth again, whisper quietly to others.

"Leif," I breathe.

He doesn't respond until a full five seconds later. "Me? Oh. You're Corey, right?"

"Yep. And you're Leif."

"Not really," he whispers back.

"What do you mean?"

But Leif doesn't have time to answer, because the twelve of us are now in a small, white room with two tables in it. Each table has a plate, a knife, and a fork. Each plate has a small, unappetizing potato on it, accompanied by heap of soggy broccoli and beans. I grimace slightly—broccoli tastes brownish-yellow, one of my least favorite colors.

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