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PHOTO BY GILBERT

Jack’s Back


By Leon Dunn

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in San Diego, sun’s up, birds singing and Mom’s downstairs making breakfast. Dad’s sitting reading the paper and my brother and I are upstairs playing and making a ruckus. Hello, I’m jack 6 and my brother Paul he’s 8. Mom shouts; come on boys down stairs now breakfast is ready. We come running and we all sit around the table as we do every morning and Dad talks about the crazy stories in the news. Today we’re going to drive to my Dad’s friend’s house for a BBQ. We all love going over there, it’s so much fun, he has woods all around and his son Martin, also 8, loves to show off how he knows all the ins and outs of it. Last time we were there we made a camp and I can’t wait to see if it’s still there. Dad gets up from the table and says he’s going to mow the grass and my brother and I have to help. We rake up the loose grass and put it in the compost heap and we check the vegetable garden together.

Dad goes inside and my brother and I jump on our bikes. Paul races off and I try and catch up as he laughs. I decide I can go faster on the road and catch him, so I jump off the sidewalk and onto the road, but don’t see the car and the driver doesn’t see me. I hear a screech but its too late - Boom - it hits me and I go flying across the street, hit the floor and all is still for a second, then Paul stops. Mom and Dad come running, the neighbors come out to see what’s going on. I lay still and the driver is saying, he came from nowhere, I didn’t see him, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, call 911, call 911.

The world is in slow motion as I see people starting to crowd around looking. The fire trucks show up first then the police. The driver is in shock, shaking and talking to the police. I feel bad for him it was not his fault. The ambulance shows up and I’m taken to the hospital. I lay still in a coma as my family stands around crying saying, Wake up wake up. It’s strange, it’s as if I can hear them and can’t respond, but it’s ok I feel so peaceful. This goes on for a while; doctors come in and out, talking about my brain activity, nurse’s change drip-lines while talking to my mom. I can hear the television playing cartoons and people talking in the hallway.

Then one day I couldn’t hear them anymore, but another boy was talking to me. It scared me at first ‘cos I didn’t recognize him and he kept saying - who are you? Then things got really scary – when the room came into view and so did he.

He said, where did you come from.
I don’t know, I replied, where am I?
In my bedroom, he said, how did you get here?
I had no idea and was scared stiff. His Dad said, Who you talking to in there? and

came in the room. I was right there and he didn’t see me. We both said nothing and his Dad left.

Did you see that? I said, Your dad walked right past me and didn’t see me at all.Yeah what’s up with that?
Then we both got scared and he ran out of the room.
I followed him and he sat down in the living room. I stood by the door and his

Mom walked past - again nothing. So I said Hey and she just kept walking. I sat down next to the boy and said, What’s your name?

Simon, what’s yours?
Jack I replied. Then we sat there for a bit, in silence.
Why can’t your mom and dad see me? I said,
don’t know, Simon replied, it’s strange, maybe you should go now.
I left and went back to his bedroom and sat on the bed thinking for hours - who

am I, where am I and why can’t anyone see me but this one boy. Simon came in to go to bed, but he was scared so he went to sleep in his parent’s room. His mom and dad came in saying, There’s no one in here, what’s wrong?

I was right there and that made Simon even more scared, he thought I was a ghost. And he may be right. He’s right there, Simon shouts to his parents, why can’t you see him? And runs out.

The next morning Simon came in the room and said, are you still here, what do you want?

I want nothing, I said, I have nowhere else to goI don’t know why I’m here or who I am. We sat and talked and that turned into a chat about his remote control cars.

You want to play with them? he said,
Yes please, I said, and we played for hours.
He was fun we played all sorts of things together. And what made it really fun

was that I could see and hear everything, and do anything I wanted to, and only Simon could see and hear me. I was Simon’s imaginary friend I guess, or I am a ghost, yet I felt so real it was strange.

I learned to live with that over time and it turned out to be a lot of fun. I could hear people talking about him and would tell him what they said, then Simon would go tell them and they would freak out wondering how he knew; that was fun. I’d also help with his schoolwork by looking at the teacher’s book and telling him the answers. We learned a lot that way, fast, and Simon and I became top of the class - well Simon did ha- ha.

As we got a little older the bullies would laugh and push Simon around because he would talk to me -talking to your imaginary friend again Simon? - so Simon would tell me to go away and leave him alone, and he’d cry. I had nowhere to go and didn’t know what to say or do. We finally got our heads around it and made it work, it was hard and we had to keep it quiet, but together we were unstoppable. Simon started playing guitar and got into the theater group. He got good enough to get in a band and was playing small local gigs, and was in all the school plays. Because of this over time Simon became very popular. I could tell him what girls liked him and who didn’t. I would a hear a girl say, I like him I wish he would come over here and ask me out, so he would do just that. The bullyboys didn’t like this about Simon and I overheard one of the boys say they were going to beat on him after school, but of course Simon was ready for it. The boy and his friends stopped Simon after school and Simon just punched him and that was that. No one picked on him again and they didn’t bully so much after Simon put them in their place. Everybody liked Simon he was always one step ahead of everybody and no

one new why. Things were great, we were having a blast. But all that was coming to an end. Time for the big change: from school to college, and boy to man.

When Simon left school, the summer before college (we) traveled across America looking at different places and collages he may go to. We went to New Orleans, wow so much fun and great music I loved it there, the smell of the food the look of the streets and the way the houses looked was just so pretty. It was old yet new and exciting, we would play games of voodoo and freak people out. Simon would say, Write something down on a piece of paper and fold it up, and then put it in a glass and turn it upside down. He then would touch the person on the head and say, Think of what you wrote, and then Simon would repeat it out loud. He’d get the paper out of the glass and have someone read it out loud. It became like our party trick people lapped it up.

I wanted to stay but it was not Simon’s cup of tea. We then went to St Louis, Florida, New York; it was a great trip, but Simon wanted to stay close to family in Los Angeles so he took a scholarship at UCLA. He studied theater, film and television following in his mom and dads footsteps. At school Simon was doing well and was in
with some really nice people. He would talk about me, his imaginary friend, and laugh. They all thought he was crazy and just laughed it off. I made his acting look even more real, as I would talk back to him and help him remember his lines. When he did a monologue people would say things like, it was like there was someone else talking to you, how you do that, he would laugh and say, 
there is. I would stand behind the
director at auditions, he would talk right at me and I would walk around the room, he would follow me with his eyes; it made for fun and realistic acting. He never forgot a line, I was always there with script in hand, ready, but Simon was great he didn’t really need my help with that. He also became a gifted musician and songwriter, but it was in the film editing room he shined. He could just make something out of nothing in there, cut and tell a story seamlessly. After putting together his first short a horror movie about a boy hunted by his own shadow, things really started to pick up. Simon played the main role and played the music with some other students, but it was the way he made the

shadow move that made it scary and got the notice of some hi-end Film makers. I was the shadow, lol, well it was a scary version of our lives after all.

One of the girls in the movie caught Simon’s eye and they spent more and more time together and slowly fell in love. Yeah, Yeah I know, I had to be gone from time to time, to give them their space ha-ha. It was fine; I needed mine too.

Before Simon left school he had already picked up a great editing gig at one of the local film studios and was acting in some great films, along with his girlfriend. Things were going really well, he graduated with honors and asked his girlfriend, Sally, to marry him. I was so happy for him and felt it was time for me to move on - to where I didn’t know. But most of all I couldn’t go anywhere anyway, Simon would have none of that, he said that we were one and always will be. That made me feel loved and wanted, a feeling I had once felt, but couldn’t remember from where.

Soon after, Simon and Sally got married. What a great day seeing your best friend so happy in so many ways. I was best man but had to play second fiddle to one of Simon’s real-life friends that day, but I was right there by his side as always. In part of Simons speech he said, I owe it all to my imaginary friend, he helps me make all the right decisions. Everybody laughs. Sally got pregnant a few months later; we were all over the moon.

When the baby came, it was strange for me because I could hear a baby crying in my head sometimes - I had no idea it was my real-life brother’s baby girl: he had brought her in to show me as I was lying in a coma. I did not know this at the time; I had no idea about them or what had happened to me. They had been coming to see me every day for the Past 15 years or so. It was only the baby that I could hear in my head and had no way to stop it. I would talk to Simon about it saying, Your baby is not crying, why do I hear a baby crying?

Over the next few years I would hear my brothers baby, Lilly, cry and laugh and eventually I would hear her talk, but it would only happen once a week for 30 minutes or so - very strange for me. Then it dawned on me that I had no idea what I looked like, I had no reflection, I’d never seen myself only Simon sees me. I asked Simon what I

looked like; he said you look like an older version of when I met you ha-ha. Well that didn’t help, but at least I know I am getting older.

Come on describe me! I demanded in laughter

OK, Simon said, you are slim always have short hair and not as good looing as me ha-ha.

Over the next few years we worked a lot, traveled some and had some fun at kid’s birthday parties. Simon and I were driving to work one day, there were road works ahead and a detour, something felt not quite right. I told Simon but he said things were fine. We pulled up into the parking lot but a parking spot is hard to find so we drive all the way up to the top, lock up the car and start walking to the elevator. We stood waiting and talking, the elevator door opened.

Simon goes to step in and I see there is nothing there - it’s too late - Simon looks at me and drops 10 floors down to his death.

I freeze then nothing, it all goes black and white at the same time and I’m floating and then peace comes over me, I just hang there for how long I don’t know. Then it all get very, very, loud - people shouting, screaming he’s waking up doctor he’s waking up! I just lay there, my head is blank and people are saying: Jack you’re back, can you hear me?

I just look and say nothing. Then I say, Where am I, what’s happening?Everybody’s jumping for joy and this voice says, My little boy is back, Jack is back.

I sit up and catch a glimpse of myself in a window reflection and I am a man. But who am I? I say. You’re jack?

The woman replies, I’m your Mom, good to have you back Jack.

I can’t remember anything at all. I just sit there looking around while everybody else seems so happy, making phone calls, laughing and saying: Jack’s back, Jack is back.Over the next few hours more people came in talking to me, my ‘Dad’, my ‘brother’ - I know no one. Then a lady comes in with a young child and I knew that voice at once.

I said to the child, I know youyou’re lily right?
The whole room stopped and lily said, Yes and you’re uncle Jack.

Everyone at once starts to cry as Lilly jumps on the bed and starts talking, I came to see you every week when you were sleeping.

I reply, I know I could hear you. Sorry I couldn’t talk back.

Lily is the only connection I have at this point. She is all I know, the only voice I remember.

The road to learning about life, all over again, isn’t so bad at first because I don’t know what I’ve missed and I have all these people here to help me. My brother sits with me for hours talking about his life, what school was like growing up, his job and of course his wife and Lilly. It’s strange, I have nothing to say, my memory is as long as I have been a wake and that’s not long. But I did have a nice nurse that came in 5 days a week - she gave me a feeling that made me blush. My brother Paul laughs and says it’s good to flirt, it shows you’re feeling something.

After about two month of tests and all sorts of therapy it’s time to go home. I go back to my parents’ house, in the same room I had when I was I child, they are hoping that will help start my memory again. There are photos of Paul and I as kids on the wall. My room is the same as it was when I was a boy. We have fun changing that, but before we finish I have a little glimmer of what I was like as a young boy. All I have is the stories they tell me. A teacher comes every day and I start learning stuff from the beginning, which is hard. Paul comes by and takes me out for lunch and we get to talk about everything I missed. I love listening to music and watching films, it’s relaxing and a way to escape into other worlds. I have no friends and starting to feel depressed. The doctors say that’s something they were afraid of. I have therapists, teachers and also a priest come by to talk to me - I feel helpless.

Lilly’s still my only joy. We have fun together, spending lot of time talking and playing. She tells me all about her life and it’s fun to learn from her. My parents are lovely people and I can tell they are happy to have me home, but it’s also a stain on them seeing me unwell. I try so hard to feel better for them, but for me it doesn’t matter. I’m in my twenties and have nothing, or so I thought. It’s only lily that makes me see what I have and could have. I watch her in her school plays and she will say, You can

do this too. She’s smart. So I join an acting class and start to meet people and find my own friends. It’s through that I start to feel better and learning becomes easier.

Three years pass and I’m on my way to a better life. I got a job working in a small restaurant as a server, as most of my acting friends do. I got my driver’s license and feel freedom for the first time in my life. I’m still living at home with my parents and they too look happy.

A girl friend of mine, Paula, tells me about a student film she loves, about a boy scared of his own shadow. She says we should make a film of our own, with the rest of the acting gang.

I am so into doing that, so we go back to her house and watch the movie – it’s so strange, its like I’d seen it before. I tell her the end of the movie before if finishes; it’s fine she’s seen it before. She says, Oh you’ve seen it too.

I say, No I haven’t but I feel I know all about it. We talk about other things I could remember about film. I seem to know a lot about it all of a sudden. Over the next few weeks, things just pop into my head and I have knowledge that seems to come from nowhere.

Then I had a dream about Simon, he was talking to me about our life together growing up. I woke up remembering the dream and told my Mom and Dad about it and how it felt so real to me. Dad said, You probably had many dreams over the years and they stuck in your subconscious and you are somehow recalling them.

Later that day I heard Simon again in my head he said, Now it’s my turn to be your imaginary friend. Yes I was scared all right, didn’t know what was going on. I went and talked to the doctor about it, he also seemed to think it was a side effect of coming out of a very long coma. He thought it would pass, but asked me to keep him informed if it persisted.

Later that evening, I was falling asleep and I heard Simon saying, Hay it’s me can you see me I know you can hear me.

I jumped up and there he was! I felt cold and had goose bumps all over me.What the hell, I said, who are you?

He said, It’s me Simon, you don’t remember me?

It was like we were little boys again, in reverse. We sat and talked for hours. I thought about what the doctor had said earlier and felt I was going mad.

I fell asleep and in the morning, when I woke up, he was still there. But at this point, I started to remember him and a few other things he’d mentioned the night before.

Hello old friend, he said
Nice to have you back, I replied
Over the next month or so, talking to Simon helped me recall things. I

remembered going to school and everything we’d learnt together. No one could believe it. Where’s all this coming from, they said, you must have dreamt it or heard it on TV or something. You don’t get this smart from nowhere.

My parents were happy, but frightened at the same time, they thought something was wrong, as did the doctors. After many tests and brain scans they found nothing wrong with me. I was getting smarter as I remembered more and more with Simons help.

Then one day I woke up and I recalled everything about Simon and our life together - the way the streets looked, his family and, most importantly, his wife and kid.

Simon said, Now it’s time to take a trip to see my family. Yes, he was overjoyed with my progress and he wanted to see them.

It was about a two-hour drive. When we got there, we sat outside his old house waiting to see his wife and kid. Simon said, Go knock on the door.

No, I said, not yet.

We sat for a while, then drove over to his parent’s house and did the same there. We got to see no one that day and drove home. I didn’t want to tell my parents about this, it would upset them, so I told them I was planning a trip to LA to look around for a week.

We got to LA and booked in to a cheap motel on Hollywood Blvd. It was hard to sleep, there people coming and going, cars pulling in and out of the parking lot, people

shouting and hanging out day and night. But we didn’t care, we were just happy to be there and we already knew our way around. We visited a few of old places we used to go to, but we didn’t see anybody we knew and that was fine ‘cos they wouldn’t have known me anyway, though it would have been nice to see some old faces. I felt they were my friends too in a strange way.

The day came to knock on the door of Simon’s parent’s house. I was shaking I knew they didn’t know me and would think I was crazy but - here goes.

Knock, knock - his Mom opens the door - its like time’s stood still, I just hang there, she says, Yes can I help you?

Wow yeah sorry, I’d just like to talk to you if I may, about your son Simon. Simon? She says, Are you a friend? Simon died a few years ago.
Yes, and yes I know he’s gone, but please can we talk sometime? If it’s a bad time

now... I could come back.
Simon’s dad comes to the door, 
What’s all this about?
I say, OK I know it sounds nuts, but you know your son had imaginary friend - well

that was me! If you please let me tell you my story you will understand.
Is this some kind of sick joke? the Dad says, get lost!
No ,no - please here’s my card, talk with me?
Wait
, the Mom says, what do you know about his imaginary friend? Were you

one of the kids that teased him about it, he was 8 for Christ sake!
No, and he had the so-called imaginary friend till he died.
Simon’s in my ear saying, Back off and calm down, make sure my mom sees you -

stomp your left foot once, scratch your left cheek twice and then half-turn, stomp your right foot once and walk away saying, Please sorry, I meant you no harm, please lets talk soon.

So I do that strange thing, then Simon says, Let’s go.
What was that all about Simon? 
I say.
Oh It’s just something my mom and me did when I was very young, hope she gets

it.

Me too. I reply

Next day Simon’s mom calls and we meet for coffee. The first words out of her mouth are - were you with him when he died?

Yes, I say, and I start to tell her my story, I tell her every thing about her and my coma family, the streets, friends, school, jobs, Christmases and Birthdays; the lot. After a few hours of talking Simon’s Mom stands to leave saying, Its all so hard to take in just can't be real. Her parting words are: Please don’t go to Simon’s wife with this, it's all been so hard on her. I will call you.

Simon says, Let’s go see an old friend, Tom, at the editing studio, its close by. Tell him you know me and my work - he may give you a job, you can do it.

What! I say, After all that with your Mom you say that. I don’t want a job here; I have the starting of a life, friends and family of my own to learn about back in San Diego.

Its not far, Simon says, come on man, it will be just like old times.

No man, I say, that was YOUR life, with me in it, Now it’s MY life, with you in it. Simon says, Hey come on, don’t you love my wife and kid too?

Yeah but come on, I just got a life of my own back. And I have Lilly, she’s as close to me as you are. She's all I have to connect to your life and my own. Man she's important to me.

I know, Simon says, it’s just hard to see them and not be able to talk to them, I want my life back too - I want to be with my wife and kid!

I know man, this whole thing has been very weird. When I knew nothing of my old life, it was easy – but now you have to let it go. It can never be like that again and, think about it; you have like a second chance to watch her grow up.

Yeah, yeah right, let’s go see Tom anyway, he’s cool right?

We go see Tom and he remembers Simon with great love and he does offer me a job - and I take it. What's more, the job’s in San Diego - he's moving down there and looking for an editor - so it’s perfect for me. I’m moving forward.

Simon’s pleased about the whole thing, but I can tell he’s angry about something too. I guess he’s always been in control and now feels like he’s just a voice in someone else’s head. I know, I’ve been there.

Simon’s Mom calls and wants to meet before we head home. When she arrives, we sit and chat about Sally, Simon's wife. Then Sally shows up!

Wow this is great, Simon says, but I’m not so sure. Sally sits down and saysPleased to meet you. She says she heard Simon talking to himself or thought he was talking to someone on the phone, but he was clearly talking with someone - You I guess, she says, sometimes he would talk in his sleep and I would think who is this jack? I remember Simon talking about his imaginary friend in college but just thought it was him acting out one of his crazy stories. I got used to it after a while and let it goThen when Simon’s Mom told me bout you, and that he had an imaginary friend as a kid called Jack, I thought maybe there is something here. So here I am. So hello, I feel I know you.

Sally asks me things like - how does it work between you two?

I reply, Well its like you have no control over the other person’s voice and they have no control over you – they’re in your head, but outside your body sort of thing.

Is he here now?

Yeah he's got so much to say, first is how much he loves you and how sorry he is he's not there to help you. We talked through me for a while but it was too weird.

As the tears fall down her face she says, how do you know all this stuff about me, it just can’t be real. Tell him he has to pass over. She stands and leaves. So we arrange with Simon’s Mom to try and meet up soon to talk.

On the drive back to San Diego we talked about him passing over but Simon would have none of it, so we don’t say much after that. I am excited about the new job and can’t wait to tell my family and friends.

A few months go by and the job is going well, Paula and I and the rest of the acting gang were writing our first short film. Paula and I are dating and thinking about moving in together. Things are great. We pull some friends together and money and

shoot our first film together. I‘m editing it and love my job. But it feels like Simon’s life that I’m mirroring somehow and Simon agrees. So even though it’s great for me, things feel strange knowing that I have kind of lived it before. Simon starts acting strange and, behind my back, he’s getting into Lilly’s head some how as an imaginary friend.

Lilly and I are driving to the mall to get her some shoes. There are road works so we pull into the parking lot, drive all the way to the top and park. We walk over to the elevator and Lilly says - Hurry up get in the elevator.

I say, Why do you say that?
She replies, It’s the voice in my head, it says hurry get in the elevator.
What voice? I say.
Simon’s, she says
WHAT! I say as the lift door opens. People come out, but I pick up Lilly and take

the stairs. I shout, Don’t listen to him!
We pick up the shoes and, over lunch, we talk about Simon and how she must

ignore him. Simon’s becoming scary now because he’s hassling me to go see his family all the time, but I am too busy to go right now, so he is using Lilly to get his way. Simon and I get into a big argument about all this and it does not go well. I tell Simon that I was alive and in a coma when I was his imaginary friend, but he’s dead and needs to pass over, like his wife told him to. He’s been lucky to have the chance to see his family again, but it’s all too upsetting for everybody to understand - he must pass on. Simon’s not having any of this; he gets angry and says he will get into Lilly’s head if I don’t go see his family. I agree to keep Simon away from Lilly.

On the drive to Los Angeles I speak to Simon about seeing his family: that it should be about saying goodbye then passing over - that it’s the right thing to do. We go back and fourth on it, but Simon agrees at last.

We see his family, we had a lovely lunch and sat in the park and watched his kid play and chatted non stop about all the good times. It’s been a lovely day, but now it’s time to say goodbye. Simon walks into the light, turns and waves. It’s very sad and we all cried together. I left saying we’ll speak soon.

On the drive back to San Diego I feel alone and it feels good. Its over the crazy part of my life is over, its like I have lived two lives. Now what, where will I end up on my own, what is my path in life, or am I living it. Time will tell. I get home and Paula makes me feel great and loved and its nice to have a fun friend to hang with. My family are always coming around see how were doing, life was great. Our short film was doing the rounds. I had lots of editing work but I had hopes of traveling the world with my camera some day. That I think is my calling. I am at Last truly happy in my life. My brother invites Paula and I over for a BBQ and I see Lilly in the garden talking to someone, so I say, Hey Lilly, who you talking to?

To my horror she replies, Simon, you know, I told you about him.

I turn cold. He’s no longer with me so I have no control over it - All I used to have to do is stay away from Lilly and he could not get into her head. Now he’s free to do as he pleases. I thought he had passed on, but he fooled us all. Now the horror begins.

CONTACT LEON HERE

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For More Information Regarding Leon and his writing please contact him here.