Mara Smith-Stevens

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6/1/2018 12:19pm

"Hi Mara!"

It was @Rich White, at the Summer Sunnytime Kick Off. Ooops. I guess we had an open date to meet up again, and the Kick Off was a likely place.

"Oh, hi Rich! How's it going?"

Rich droned on and on. I mean, he's nice and all, and I kept my professional face on, but I saw Gil out of the corner of my eye.

"Aw, that's great. Hey, it's really nice to see you, but, I'm sorry, I really have to go. I'll catch you later!"

"Uh, yeah. Ok. See ya!"

Imaginary Friends really aren't supposed to cut out like that. If your visit durations end up tracking below a certain number, it can mean a performance review. And a lot of questions, which I really don't need right now.

Because Gil.

It's always been taboo for Imaginary Friends to have Imaginary Friends. "Taboo" isn't even the right word--it just never comes up. We're taught that we're the highest level humanoid meta-conscious entities (short of the mytho-theological sort), and that there just isn't an abstraction beyond us.

But why not? And Gil is proof.

Still, it's not something I'm ready to bring up with any of my colleagues. Aside from it being unheard of, I'm sure there would be issues about OpSec (operational security), and who exactly Gil represents, and what are their motives, and should we be worried. Oh I'm sure they'd be worried.

But at this point I just don't care. Gil isn't interested in talking shop, and neither am I. Instead, we danced. And danced. We even won the $50 gift card to Shelly's Hollow Heart Craft & Hobby!

It was like a dream.

5/28/2018 2:42pm

I got a message from Gil. I'd been checking the regular dead drops we use for internal communication, hoping for some sign, and there it was!

But the code was funny--none of the one-time pads we use for that kind of thing worked. But it couldn't be uncrackable. Why give it to me? There must have been something I was overlooking.

So I stayed up all night in my dorm room and stared at the jumbled nonsense and played with the letters and symbols. What did I want it to say? "Meet me at midnight at the fountain, my love!" or something equally cheesy, to be honest.

And it turned out that's exactly what it said. It's exactly what I wanted it to say, and I watched the message rearrange itself into it.

What was going on? Who was Gil anyway? Something was weird. For the first time I began to be suspicious. Was this actually some new ploy by the Anti-Imaginarian League? Was I being turned as an asset? It didn't seem like their M.O., using imagination against us. Some faction we don't know about? Or if not the Anti-Imaginarians, then who?

Frankly, I've got such a huge crush on Gil right now I don't even care. I'll take precautions, but I'm definitely making the date.

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5/24/2018 8:59am

I met somenone. At the Imaginary Friends meetup. I’m still on cloud nine! That’s what we call the imaginary workspace, but I mean it figuratively.

There aren’t usually (or ever, really) new faces at the meetup. There isn’t much turnover in the Imaginary Friends biz, and you get to know everybody pretty well, or they’re friends from training, but I’d never met Gil before. They were like a dream. We just hit it off, and Gil was really into everything I had to say, and had the same interests and the same sense of humor. We hung out on the outskirts of the crowd the whole evening and it was heaven. You just so rarely connect with somedody like that, somebody new who’s just totally there for you. I didn’t realize how lonely I’d become, doing the same grind every day with the same people. It feels like I did all the talking and didn’t learn much at all about Gil, but they promised we’d see each other again.

I stayed after to clean up the platters from the imaginary finger sandwiches I brought and the bottles of imaginary fizzy water, and I asked my old friend Mr. Freedo what he knew about Gil. Where were they from? How long had they been in the biz?

“Gil? Never heard of them. They weren’t on the RSVP list. No idea.”

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5/21/2018 12:39pm

Being an Imaginary Friend can get a bit lonely. Sure, you make lots of friends, but it’s all business. You can’t compromise your professionalism by getting emotionally involved. We give our best to each one, but frankly we have so many clients all you can do is do your best and move on.

This is why getting together at our industry meet ups is so important. Every fourth Tuesday, no matter where we happen to be deployed, we gather for happy hour at the Imaginary Remote Workspace. This month it’s my turn to bring the Imaginary Snacks and Beverages.

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The Topiary Dance
5/15/2018 9:01am

The Topiary Dance was the ideal place to connect with the subject, @Rich White. Though he’d been connected in the past, it was so long ago that those connections were no longer viable, and this amounted to a First Contact. As an Imaginary Friend, you can’t just walk up to a subject in broad daylight for that kind of thing—the reality pressure just doesn’t allow it. But meeting in twilight with people milling all around, topiary creatures swaying to music gently in the background, it was textbook perfect.

“Hi! Rich?”

“Uh, hi. Do I know you? You look familiar.”

“I’m from the old country. I think you left something there.”

I recited the code phrase. It’s like a nursery rhyme, but the words are out of phase so it can’t be translated directly.

@Rich White’s face froze for a moment while the memory gates unlocked.

“Oh my god I thought it was all a dream. You’re really here. Wow.”

We spent the rest of the night dancing. He introduced me to friends as an old acquaintance visiting from another school. Which was more or less true.

“So, you’ll see me again?” he asked. “Soon?”

“As long as I’m in town,” I answered. “Till the wind changes.”

“I wish you could stay forever.”

We danced till the party was over.

The Topiary Dance
5/10/2018 10:08pm

When you're working "outside the box," all communication with potential assets is done in code. This is for two reasons. Naturally, if private communication with the asset were compromised, we'd have a quantum entanglement and lose control of the outcome. But the other reason is that it's the only way to communicate through the twisted hall of mirrors the subject finds themselves in.

"Cumbia in the Cumbria!"

That was the message left for me in the alabaster monkey head on @Rich White's windowsill. Cumbia being the famous Columbian rhythm and dance form, and Cumbria, in England, home to Leven's Hall, regarded as one of the most beautiful topiary gardens in the world.

It's obviously a reference to the Topiary Dance, being held this Friday in the Topiary Garden on lower campus. That will be our meet up.

5/7/2018 8:50am

Even though the Cold War on Imagination is over, it can still be difficult to make contact with a target. Defenses are built into the landscape, the dreamscape, and the language itself.

@Rich White is a psychic business student with top grades, a number of scholarship offers, and is a deep sleeper agent. Last contact was made at P. L. Travers Elementary, left with the mission to “go deep” and gather a full report on the Concrete.

The subject’s natural ports have atrophied, but imaginary muscle memory is still there, and the subject follows the unconscious rituals of our particular brand of spycraft. There are a number of small objects imbued with latent psychic resonance placed on a windowsill near the subject’s bed which will be appropriate for a dead drop. The window is on the third floor of Kissinger Dorm and unlatched. Been watching for a few days and it seems ready for approach. Wish me luck.

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5/2/2018 9:01am

I’ve got a lot of experience being followed, and know how to lose a tail. There was a long period where the all-out war on imaginary friends made life super difficult. We couldn’t trust that the contacts we had weren’t compromised, or actively hunting us. Anti-imagination Agents were wily, trained to both believe in us and track us down and remove us. We lost a lot of Friends during that time.

That’s all behind us, thank goodness. It’s possible some factions of the Anti-imagination League still exist, but I don’t get the feeling that @Quinn Arthur is working for them. Those guys were pros. So we’re enjoying a little cat and mouse. It’s only a matter of time till we meet up.

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4/30/2018 8:41am

It could just be my imagination, but I think @Quinn Arthur is following me. I’ve been going through the motions, dropping in on other students who are receptive, having conversations with them while they’re alone at lunch, being supportive. The number one trait an imaginary friend should have is being a good listener. Technically you should only ask questions, not suggest anything or try to lead them to any conclusions. I learned my lesson with that.

But lately, whenever I turn my head, there’s a little reflection there, on the wall, just for a minute. I was in the hall by the cafeteria and stopped in front of the trophy case to fix my bangs over my third eye and studied the reflection in the glass and there was @Quinn Arthur behind me! But when I turned around they were gone. Frankly it’s starting to freak me out.

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4/27/2018 8:55am

There are protocols, and handshakes, and open authorization standards, and all kinds of stuff an imaginary friend needs to connect to a host. If those aren’t in place then you can’t hook up, even if it’s on your duty report. That’s why @Quinn Arthur hasn’t seen me yet, even though I’ve been following them around, and knocking stuff off tables and slamming doors.

I’ve got these coordinates blocked off in my schedule so have no choice but to hang around. In cases like this we’re instructed to scan the network and look for other open hosts to connect to for pick-up work. At a place like Psyhigh there’s tons of traffic, and security tends to be surprisingly loose. You’d be surprised how many people still use 123456 as their password mantra.

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