It's hidden in plain sight, of course if you've been Shown or found your way there it's where you go. When you can. When you need to. -- Knitnan
Just about everybody in the school despised Weird Ellie. She was too weird, too quiet, too strange. She'd come out with knowledge that nobody else should ever know about as if it were something everyone should know - once you could actually get her to talk. For the most part, she was silent. In class, she did the work and rarely spoke to anyone, not even the teachers. Nobody knew where she spent her lunchtimes.
Gangs of other kids would roam the campus, trying to find her hiding spot. Somewhere a weirdo nerd like her would conceal themselves to escape the mob justice of the playground. She was never in detention. She wasn't in the shady spots or nooks where the older kids went to conceal more grown activities - smoking, nudie magazines, cussing, and so forth - she wasn't even in the library. It was as if she vanished when everyone else thundered out of the classroom, and reappeared when class came back in.
What's weirder than that is... that's exactly what she was doing.
Mrs Anderson held me in during recess to finish a task before the next class. Of course I treated it like the worst punishment ever. There were only the three of us in the room. Mrs Anderson, Weird Ellie, and me. I was mumbling to myself as I put in only the barest amount of effort into getting it done without getting a failing grade, and Mrs Anderson was watching me.
Weird Ellie, sitting calmly at her desk in the front row, furthest from the door, took a sandwich out of her bag with one hand, and a big, thick book out of her desk with the other. I watched in amazement as Weird Ellie took a bite of the sandwich, opened the book, and... faded away.
It could not have been weirder if she'd opened the sandwich and taken a bite out of the book.
Mrs Anderson hadn't noticed. In fact, Mrs Anderson usually conducted class as if Weird Ellie wasn't there. The few of us who were entertained by Weird Ellie's actual activity in classtimes got no joy out of Mrs Anderson's classes. She was one of the few teachers who'd learned never to call on Weird Ellie.
"Mister Jones? Eyes on your work, please."
"But Ellie just--"
"Don't mind her, get on with your work."
It only took me a few seconds to figure out that Mrs Anderson was not going to believe me even if I did tell her what had just happened. Even with the evidence of the open book - pages idly turning themselves as if someone was still there and reading it - she would say that Weird Ellie had just stepped out to the bathroom. You know she's a quiet girl, Mr Jones.
So I got on with my work and dawdled at the last sentence so I could see what happened with the recess bell rang again.
When it did, Weird Ellie faded back into reality, her sandwich gone. She wiped her face with a handkerchief, put the book away, and dusted off her hands, quietly creeping off to the next classroom.
I hastily wrote the last word and dumped the essay off on Mrs Anderson's desk, chasing after her. "Hey! Hey, wait."
She hovered with her hand on the doorknob of her next class. "I don't like being late," she said. "And you can't hit me in here."
Had anyone been able to hit her? Nevermind. "I saw what you did," I said. "How do you just... go away like that?" I was already thinking of a million things I could do if I could be invisible or vanish on command like she did. I could have all the fun in the world! I could eat my weight in candy at Joe's and never get caught! I could... I could do anything.
"It's too complicated to explain," said Weird Ellie, champion of complicated explanations. "Come by the library after school and I could show you. If you want."
Fantasies of being the Incredible Invisible Boy dancing in my head, I was eager to agree.
Three o'clock came, and I almost bolted for my bike, but I remembered. Weird Ellie was going to teach me how to be invisible. That was something worth missing out on afternoon catchball for. I made some lame excuse and snuck off to the library. Where Weird Ellie was holding a book. This was not the inch-thick thing she'd been reading during recess, but a thinner creation. "This is the easiest reading I could find without pictures," she said. "It's easier without pictures."
"The imagining," she rolled her eyes. "You read the words and imagine what's there as if you're there. I can Show you the way to get into them, but you have to work at it, too."
Ugh. Work. What was the point of being invisible if it was hard? Then I remembered that she'd made it look easy and decided to knuckle down. "Fine," I grumbled, deciding that I didn't have to like it. "Show me, then."
We sat together on a couch and she opened up the book. Black letters on yellowing paper just... sat there. "Imagine," she said, and started to read. "All children, except one, grow up..."
She took my hand and made me picture the things in the book and then... I was flying with Peter towards Neverland. Fighting off pirates and rescuing Wendy from mermaids and believing in Tinkerbell. It was very different from the movies. This was... this was being there.
And then the story was over and I was back on the couch with Ellie and looking at the world as if I'd never seen it before.
I wasn't invisible. I had gone into the story.
Somehow... that was even better.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / kevron2001]
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