When I was little, I had not one, nor even a handful of imaginary friends. I had a world of them. I would walk down a street certain in my conviction that a crowd of beings accompanied me, swimming the air at my shoulder, or flying overhead, or galloping behind me. Centaurs, eagle-owls, that sort of thing. Some had names.
Some were so specific as to have entire identities, whole and complete--exiled or orphaned royal heirs disguised in the imaginary-friend realm to evade murderous step-parents. Explorers and warrior-monks sojourning in my company, hoping to convince me to accompany them on their latest impending expeditions. Last survivors of their tribes, nations, or species, painstakingly entrusting their culture's half-lost secrets to me before they died.
Some were so vague as to be merely the edges of shadows caught in the corner of the eye; you couldn't look at them, you couldn't see them directly, but they made their presence felt.
They trusted me with the secret of their collective existence. I trusted them for protection, foresight, advice. It was a neat arrangement.
Many, or perhaps even most of them survive in my books. They are now, as they always have been, at once both a venerable and a deeply disreputable population of talkative, jealous, plaintive, unapproachable, effusive and altogether astonishingly wise souls. My relationship with them has also matured; some can speak more insistently to me know, and others have commensurately lost their influence (those latter sulk in the corners, wailing from time to time, yet still, as often as not, their view will prevail just as before).
But I miss the innocent certainty I used to have about them. When I walk down the street, their brilliant, bristling company is now no more than a metaphor. I miss the truthfulness of their existence, something I earnestly believed in, and earnestly still want to believe in today. I miss their company a lot.