Chapter 10: Hollow

A long stream of mahogany brown swaying from side to side, a physique so slender it roused one’s protective instincts.

A body that has yet to mature, but, in a way, so elegant with a perfect poise. Flawless milky complexion similar to that of a porcelain doll. Calm, curious eyes of red thinly veiled with indifference; an adorable face that betrayed no emotions. Lightly pursed lips that ever so rarely would curve into the faintest smile. Like an ink wash painting, hers was the finest beauty.

She had her back to him, oblivious to his approach. As his body ached with desire, he reached out and took her into his arms with utmost tenderness, careful lest he hurt her small frame. The little girl tensed for a moment, but quickly relaxed into his embrace. Running a hand down her arm, he buried his face into her scented mass, breathing in deeply. His other hand on her stomach, splayed fingers spanned an area from her hipbone to the indent of her developing chests. The notion shot a surge of heat to his groin. He wanted to…

Garry bolted upright in his bed; his heart hammering painfully within. Looking into the mirror on the wall before him, he saw his reflection staring back with the same appalled expression. His eyes fell onto the pile of unfinished assignments lay scattered on his messy blanket as his mind slowly adjusted. He had dozed off while working… right? He couldn’t seem to recall clearly. He gazed out the large window wall, registering the pitch black garden outside, wondering for how long he had been sleeping. Something was off, but he couldn’t quite wrap his head around it. He propped an arm behind him for support and combed his matte mauve hair away from his eyes. Something was entirely off. He wiped his face and exhaled, grimacing at the pressure inside his chest.

It was hot… hard.

He clicked his tongue. In a quick motion, he pushed the wrinkled papers aside and kicked off the heavy blanket.

.

His mussed head soaked with the freezing water cascading down his naked body, he sucked in a shaky breath and placed his hands against the wall in front of him, hanging his head. In the dead of the night, the sound of the shower was disturbingly loud; it was all that he could hear apart from his quickening heartbeats. He clenched his teeth, barely keeping himself from shivering, but he didn’t care. He had to cool down.

The extreme coldness was mind-numbing, distracting him from the now meaningless thoughts swirling in his head. The skin on his back was beginning to hurt; his breath came as short gasps and his lungs contracted. Unable to take it anymore, he slammed at the tab and turned the shower off. He slit open his eyes and looked down at his feet, at the glazed dark tiles, as water trickled from his nose and chin. Staring at his vague reflection on the burnished marble below with hooded lids, he tried to organize his mind only to find it was empty, disturbingly so. He couldn’t seem to think, everything somehow felt surreal.

He shook his head and grabbed the large towel hung on the wall behind him, quickly drying his thin body as the cold air seemed to prickle all the way down to his bones. Slowly getting used to the frigid temperature, he pushed the transparent glass door open and he stepped out of the shower. His eyes were trained on the clothing left in a heap on beside the sink as he took long, hurried strides towards it. Garry tossed the towel onto the ceramic basin and started to get dressed. He thrust his arms through the long sleeves of his black turtleneck and hastily moved on to the baggy trousers.

Properly clothed, he picked up the towel and continued to dry his damp hair. His whole torso was shuddering now, but he ignored it. Pausing for a mere moment, Garry finally acknowledged himself in the lavatory mirror. An empty gaze behind his roofing locks, a foreign dour expression distorting his face; uncharacteristic grimness pervaded the air around him. Just what had happened? He brought out his hand and reached to touch the cold surface, almost cautiously. As he outlined the stranger’s chin, an inexplicable weight roiled within him. He retracted his hand and let it drop by his side, quickly moving his gaze away from the unsightly reflection.

Watching him leave, the reflection smirked.


Garry entered the dark, spacious living room, immediately switching on the light to shoo away the unsettling shadows. It was so quiet. Everything was so still that he could have believed time had stopped in its track. At the thought, his eyes unwittingly searched for the hourglass that resided in the room. The ornament was quickly located still standing atop the television where he’d left it. A sudden sense of ire shot past his mind, and he strode up to the sandglass to…

.

His pace faltered and his eyes went wide as they saw what was before him. The cobalt sand was… wasn’t flowing, despite most being collected in the upper bulb. He blinked a few times, expecting to see the usual blue string threading through the glass neck, but it never did. Before he could understand what was going on, he saw movement out of the corner of his vision and turned his head. The towel slipped from his hand as his grip had gone loose. His eyes became even wider; his mouth fell open in an attempt to speak, yet couldn’t utter a sound.

The figure nonchalantly walked up to the hourglass before the disbelieving gaze of its owner and picked it up with the tips of his fingers. Steely blue hues regarded the shocked inhabitant as the man carelessly dangled the ornament in his grasp.

Garry could hear his heartbeat growing vivid.

“Hey,” a startlingly familiar voice hummed in its deep yet effeminate tone, sending chills down his spine, “are you really fine with just this?”


The loud honking sound of a car as it swooshed past him brought the world back into focus. He blinked laconically and glanced around him. The cold morning street was as busy as usual, teeming with people, buzzing with noises. He stood at the corner of the intersection, waiting for the red light to turn amongst a crowd of people. Somehow, there was a hazy feeling that he didn’t belong, that he was the odd one out. Shifting his stance, he adjusted the strap of his bag so that it rested more comfortably across his chest as he let out a short yawn in the form of a sigh. He pulled at the tattered collar of his worn coat, clicking his tongue at how he’d forgotten his scarf in this chilly weather. Out of boredom, his fingers started picking at a strand of lint inside the left pocket of his jeans. Everywhere he looked seemed like a dirt clogged background, dull and insipid. He blamed his lethargy; he blamed the nightmares that had brought on his lethargy. Garry rubbed his nose and sniffed once; his eyes drifting. Last night was especially unnerving; every single detail was still ingrained in his mind. Someone told him dreams were just mere conjuration of the mind, but after that, he was inclined to believe otherwise.

Just what was that?

Suddenly prodded by the shoulder, Garry turned his head to see middle-aged man pushing past him without so much as a glance in his direction. He realized that everyone was moving forward. Without bothering to check the traffic lights, he promptly followed the crowd to the other side of the street.

No matter how much he tried to act normal, Garry knew that his life right now was messed up, because she wasn’t here. But… by her side, it was also messed up.

Thinking of the intoxicating dreams… nightmares, his jaw hardened. The kind of guy that looked at her with such indecent eyes was not fit to stay beside her. He told himself it was fine, that he had simply returned to the life before that fateful day at the gallery… but it wasn’t. Now that he’d come to know her, had experienced her kindness, there was no way he could go on pretending she didn’t exist.

Aren’t you just sick?” lips twisted sideways into a grin as they susurrated. “In the mind? Just accept it.”

Garry stopped in his track. He was not a pedoph-

His train of thoughts was broken as he felt something slammed into his leg. He immediately turned to face the subject in question to find a pair of frightened dark eyes looking up at him. It was a little girl, hugging a rather large paper bag. The moment their eyes met, the bag slipped from her arms and spilled its content onto the pavement.

“I-I’m sorry,” the little girl whimpered as she hastily stooped down to gather the grocery.

“No… it’s okay,” the reply came after a moment of delay as he tried to fix his glare. Holding back a groan, he bent down to help her, “lem…me… help with that.”

Garry discreetly glanced up to observe the dark-haired girl through his shaggy bang. She looked to be of Ib’s age, possibly even younger. The thought made his stomach churn, and he fixated his gaze onto the strewn items. He’d thought after being around Ib so often had fixed his problem, but apparently, it hadn’t. Two years ago, there was another reason why he had freaked out upon seeing her. Because she was a child. To say he was bad with children would be an understatement. He was extremely uncomfortable around them, afraid of them even. Ib had become a special exception, and he thanked the heaven for that.

Grabbing the last piece of the scattered grocery, a bottle of milk, Garry straightened up and offered it to the girl, whose demeanour was full of reluctance. He strained a reassuring smile at her, wanting nothing but to leave the scene as soon as possible. There was just no way he was-

“You pedophile,” the milk bottle was suddenly snatched from his grip. A young boy, with similar features to the little girl, got between them; his demeanour glaring, “what are you trying with my sister?”

.

Garry’s smile was frozen as he watched the boy turn to his sibling to take the grocery bag from her.

“T-that was rude of you,” the young girl exclaimed softly, “he was only helping me…”

“Yeah right,” the boy snorted, shifting the bag onto one arm, and grabbed her hand with his free one, “let’s go.”

Led away by her brother, the little girl craned to look over her shoulder and gave Garry an apologetic nod before disappearing into the morning crowd.

.

He closed his eyes for a moment, still reeling from the impact of the brat’s words. Where had the kid even learnt that word? His heart picking up a faster pace from a swift rush of ire, he breathed deeply. Kids these days…

Garry resumed his trek, swiftly glancing at the watch on his wrist. He frowned. He was late for his first class. It wasn’t entirely a big problem since the class was outside of his major; however, being late still bothered him. After leaving home, or getting kicked out of it, he’d always strived to be as diligent as possible to keep a good record. Yet… everything seemed meaningless right now. He didn’t feel like rushing to the university, didn’t feel like going there at all.

He strolled along the street; his eyes searching – for what, he didn’t know. But actually, he did. Ib. She wasn’t here. Garry slowed, looking down at his right hand.

Empty…

He clenched the hand and brought his gaze about. Right on this street, at this very spot, was the place where they had reunited. She had found him. Her little hand had encased his; he still remembered how warm it was against his cold fingers. Teeth grinding, he lowered his head. Keep it up, he was doing great. These memories, these feelings… seal them up. Cast them away.

Forget everything.

 

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Trivia:

  • the siblings’ appearance was…really convenient plot device
  • the smaller a child is, the more nervous Garry will get
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