This all happened about 8 years ago. At the time, I was a freshman in high school, living with both parents and my younger siblings. My brother was 10 and my sister was 4. We had recently moved into a new, much bigger house. It was a relatively new community and it was a pretty nice neighborhood, all my friends used to joke about how I’m living in “rich people houses.” Everything seemed to be going well, until something strange started to happen.
One night, we were about to watch movie as a family. I went to go sit on the couch next to my little sister, all of a sudden she started screaming at me. She said, “No! That’s where Ariel is sitting!” I was pretty confused so I asked who Ariel was. My mom looks over and tells me Ariel is my sister’s imaginary friend. I play along and apologize to my sister for sitting on Ariel because I didn’t see her. My sister got mad and said, “Ariel’s a boy, don’t call him a girl, he gets mad!” Now, I know imaginary friends are pretty common but I still found it a bit weird. Especially how she just started screaming at me out of nowhere. Being a pretty superstitious, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of my little sister talking to something no one else can see.
Growing up in a Mexican family, we have a lot of cousins, so I guess I never really had the need to make up an imaginary friend. I just kind of tried to make sense of it though because we had moved a bit farther away from our extended family so we didn’t really see our cousins as often.
Things started getting a bit weird with her imaginary friend. We would be setting the table for dinner and my sister would point out that we forgot to set a spot for Ariel. She would even demand that my mom would serve a plate for him. My mom would play along and pretend to serve a plate, but before she had even brought it to the table, my sister would say, “He said he wants real food, you’re just pretending to serve food.” I found that very strange because my sister was sitting with her back turned to my mom so she hadn’t even looked at the plate.
After a while I grew curious about what Ariel exactly was. Sure, my mom said it was my sister’s imaginary friend, but to my sister, he was very real. My sister would feel the need to announce whenever Ariel was present, and her attitude would change. She’d go from being polite and calm to all of a sudden having this sassy, sometimes mischievous behavior, which for a four year old I find kind of funny, but at the same time I’d be thrown off at the drastic change in character. She would also start to blame things on Ariel. For example, she’d leave her toys out, or spill soda and say that it was Ariel that did it.
It began to affect us as a family too. On one occasion, my mom was dropping my sister off with my grandma who babysat for her. They drove past a cemetery, and almost instantly as they drove by it, my sister was cracking up. My mom asked what she was laughing at. My sister explained that she was laughing because Ariel had just told her a joke. My mom asked what the joke was, but my sister just said she couldn’t repeat it because Ariel told her not to tell her. My mom was a bit thrown off because my sister is usually the type to speak her mind and not keep any secrets. My mom just kept driving in an uncomfortable silence as my sister asked, “Hey are you eating a donut?” To which my mom replied, “Yes do you want a bite?” My sister just said, “No, but Ariel does.” My mom just held the donut by the back seats, expecting for my sister to take a bite, but nothing. She ended up just holding it in the air until my sister said, “Ariel says thanks, chocolate donuts are his favorite.” Even though my mom felt uncomfortable, she just smiled at her.
One night, as my dad was helping my brother with his homework, I go upstairs to check on my little sister, who was alone in my parents’ room. As I was going up the stairs, I could hear her arguing, but there was no one else upstairs but her. As I get closer, I peek over the corner to see who she’s talking to. I look and I see her standing in front of a mirror saying “No! You better not! Stop! My mom’s gonna get mad!” I rush over and ask what’s going on. My sister, looking shocked to see me, just goes “Uh, nothing..” and walks out of the room.
Things started changing. My sister no longer seemed excited to announce whenever Ariel was present. As soon as she’d announce it all of us just started feeling tense, even my sister. It was only when we’d be out of the house that she seemed more calm and normal again. One day, we were waiting at the doctor’s office for my brother’s physical, and being bored and curious at the same time, I decided to ask my sister what Ariel looked like. She never really mentioned before what he looked like, and now I know why. At this point, I knew having Ariel as an imaginary friend was not good for her. Part of me, however, wanted to believe that she was just making this up, and that if I asked her again, she would forget and mix up the details and say something different.
About a week later, I decided to try asking her again. I told my mom about it and told her that she should ask her and maybe she’ll say something different. So my mom calls my sister to her room to brush her hair and starts talking to her. Just casual questions at first, until she asked her what Ariel looks like. She said the exact same thing. This is how the conversation went:
Mom: “So what does Ariel look like?”
Sister: “Well he’s kind of like Chris.” (One of our cousins that’s a year older than her.) “But he kind of has white hair and skin.”
Mom: “You mean blonde hair?”
Sister: “I guess. But it’s really white, like almost grey.”
Mom: “Oh. I see. What about his eyes? What color are his eyes?”
Sister: “Stop! That’s not funny!”
Mom: “What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
Sister: “It’s cause you can’t see his eyes! All you can see is blood where his eyes should be!”
Mom: “Oh.. I’m sorry, I didn’t know..”
Sister: “Yeah, he gets mad when you talk about it.”
My mom, feeling scared, just decided to change the subject at that point.
A couple days later, my sister fell down the stairs. I know she’s only 4 years old but she had been walking up and down the stair for a long time now so for her to fall came out of nowhere. We asked her how she fell, I mean there was nothing by there for her to trip on. She wouldn’t respond. She just wasn’t saying anything. Finally, we decide to take her to the hospital to see if she suffered any serious damage from falling down the stairs because she just wouldn’t talk. On our way, she admits that she was pushed. No one was near her by the stairs so we already knew where this was going. While part of me wanted to believe that she was using Ariel as an excuse for falling down the stairs, the other part got mad. At this point, whatever Ariel was, my sister firmly believed he was real, and it made me mad that it attacked my little sister. The next day I was home alone and decided to speak out against it. I screamed out loud calling it a coward for pushing a little girl down the stairs and that if it wanted to mess with someone, then to mess with me, but to leave my sister alone.
And, while I am happy to say that after that incident, my sister never mentioned Ariel again, this is where my part of the story begins.
Credit: J Milla