Although your mother enjoys telling the neighbors otherwise, you know you are nothing but absolutely plain. Your physical features are nothing to write home about, you’ve never been a star athlete or student, and your only clear achievement, if you can call it one, is being the undeniable world champion of the “quiet game” since the age of three.
You are not surprised, then, that the world treats you like you are invisible. You’re accustomed to being forgotten by classmates when they choose partners for projects, and you don’t bat an eye when no one asks you to the school dance.
But you don’t really want to go to the dance anyway. It’s nothing more than a pageant for popular girls to show off their designer dresses and designer boyfriends, and besides, you hate dancing—it makes you feel self-conscious. Despite your resistance, your best friend, Ellie, begs you to go.
“It’ll be fun,” she says, although you’re not convinced. “Besides, you need to get out more.” She bribes you by agreeing to see the newest Stars Wars movie the following weekend, even though she fell asleep when you forced her to watch the last one. Finally, you relent.
The dance is a barrage of stimulus—music that shakes the marrow in your bones, lights that make you see in colorful flashes long after they are gone. Everyone is packed close to the speakers, moving in a fluid rhythm, but you have no desire to be squashed in like sardines with the other high schoolers. You prefer instead to hover on the outskirts.
To hide your aversion you do your best to act like Ellie, dancing half-heartedly to a remixed Drake song. You try to focus on the way your mint-colored dress swirls around your legs, the way the throbbing in your bones has become like a second heartbeat. Just when you become reconciled to the idea of enjoying yourself, a slick-handed boy appears and pulls Ellie into the fray, choosing her practiced dance moves over your timid bouncing. Ellie’s wide smile appears and she blows you a kiss before leaving you to fend for yourself.
Now your nerves have set in. You’re not sure what’s worse, to be noticed or not noticed. You decide on the former, and so you hover by the snack table with a glass of punch and your phone, pretending you have very important messages to send. If anyone asks, you’ll act nonchalant and say you’re texting your college boyfriend (Who doesn’t exist, of course).
A friend from your AP Biology class walks past, and you smile, hoping she might save you. She returns the smile but only teases, “Don’t be such a wallflower, Riley!” before bouncing away with a dark-haired boy.
What’s wrong with being a wallflower? you think to yourself. It’s safer that way—easier. Plus, you notice things that other people don’t, like that boy surreptitiously tipping a silver flask into the punch bowl—you make a mental note to pour your glass down the drain.
You watch Ellie and that boy dance together. He holds her hand and spins her, and she laughs her emanating laugh, her head thrown back. Why does all this come so easily to her? Is there some class in social interaction you forgot to take? You slump into a chair at an empty table in the corner of the room. The flowers on the faded wallpaper of the school rec room—a mottled collection of sunflowers and daises—seem to mock you.
You look down at your phone again. And realize it’s disappeared. Not only that, but your hand holding your phone has disappeared. For a moment your breath cinches in your throat, and you blink hard. You look down to the terrible realization that your entire body is gone. All you can see is the chair beneath you, the patch of table where your arm should be resting. You leap to your feet, and you can feel the fabric of your dress hit your legs and your hair fall across your shoulders, but neither are visible. You blink hard again, forcing yourself to breathe. It’s just my contacts being weird, you tell yourself. I’m not invisible, really. It’s just a trick of the light. You pinch yourself on the arm to prove it, and the prickle of pain assures you that you still exist. But you can no longer see your arm, no matter how many times you rub your eyes.
You run to the bathroom, and the mirror confirms it. The only thing it reflects is the toilet stall behind you. You wave your hand in front of the mirror, but nothing happens. You try to turn on the faucet, just to prove that your hand is still functioning, but your skin passes through the metal as if it’s made of air. You grasp nothing but your empty palm.
You charge back to the dance floor, no longer caring who notices you. Your breath comes in ragged gasps, and you nearly fall several times—it’s surprisingly difficult to run when you can’t see your feet. Ellie is still dancing with the boy, and you reach out to her, grabbing her arm, but again your hand slides through as if nothing is there. You try to yell to her over the beat of the music. “Ellie! Help me! Please, something’s wrong with me!”
But nothing comes out of your mouth. And Ellie gives no indication that she has seen or heard you. Suddenly another girl appears behind her and taps her on the shoulder, and Ellie turns with that wide grin. She hugs her tightly. You frown. You’ve never seen this girl before.
Ellie shouts to the boy over the music. “This is my best friend, Courtney!” She points to the girl whose arm is now linked through her own.
Your stomach twists with a horrible confirmation. Ellie has just said that Courtney—a girl you have never even heard of—is her best friend. Which means that you aren’t, which obviously means that you no longer exist. There is no world in which you and Ellie can exist together and not be best friends.
You begin to back away, suddenly hating the rhythm of the music that pounds in your blood, hating the smiles that adorn the faces of the dancing students.
You have always told yourself that you don’t mind being overlooked—it makes life so much easier. The mean girl can’t bully you if she doesn’t notice you; the boys can’t break your heart if they don’t know your name. You’ve always slid under the radar like an undercover spy, and you liked it that way. Until now. Now you’ve realized what it means to be really, truly invisible.
You slump against the wall. Your mouth feels dry with anxiety, your limbs heavy despite their invisible appearance. You pinch yourself again: perhaps this is an oddly twisted nightmare, one you’ll wake up from at any moment. Or perhaps I’m so boring that the world just wiped me away, you think bitterly to yourself. After wallowing in self-pity for a few moments you resolve to go to the bathroom again, check in the mirror one more time—but you realize you can’t pull away from the wall. You jerk, twist, pull. Nothing happens. You are stuck like a giant fly to a trap.
You look down at your body again and see nothing but the sickly flower wallpaper of the paneling behind you, a wilting sunflower covering the patch where your body should be. And that is when everything begins to fade.
Edited By: Rebecca Fox