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Hollow

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A blank buzz settles over your brain. It's like static, or white fuzz. And it's clouding your mind, clogging your mouth like dry cotton. Your phone rattles on your desk a couple times. Friends checking in, you suppose. You don't have the energy to answer. The static in your head is too loud for you to even think. Which is fine.

It's fine, you reason, because it keeps out the other things that could creep into your head. It keeps out the needles and the gunshots and the squealing of train wheels on tracks. It keeps out her cries of pain.

No, you shake your head forcibly, trying to knock those sounds out of your head. Invite the buzzing emptiness back in. It's better. It's better than hearing the sounds of her dying over and over again. The sound of her. Dying. For the final time.

A knock sounds at your door a few minutes later. Hours, maybe? You don't care. The static has captured your mind and you're fine with it. It soothes you. Settles you. It's the closest to happy you've been in awhile. And you're not even that happy. Not really.

“Max?” A voice. Kate. Right. Someone you had managed to save. Not that it mattered. You would trade that girl any day for-

No, you shake her head forcibly, trying to knock some sense into your head. You love Kate. Kate is your friend. You wouldn't ever wish her dead. Not ever. Not even if it meant saving her.

“Max, we know you're in there.”

We. No, no no. No. There was no “we”. Not anymore.

“You have to let us in.”

No. No you don't. The static is the only thing you have to let in, the only thing you have to feel. You don't need them. Or anyone else. They can't help you. But the static. The static helps you.

“We have a key. We're going to open this door.”

A key? Where would they get a key? The only person who had a full set of keys to Blackwell was-

“Max, I'm going to unlock-”

“Hello,” you say, pulling the door open in front of their stunned faces, Kate with the key dangling in hand in midair. Dana and Brooke are standing behind her. Dana looks nervous. Brooke looks like she's trying hard not to be scared. But you can see right through her. She's terrified, and she's clinging to Kate's arm like Kate is her only lifeline. You take the sight in. Interesting development. You wonder when it happened. Why it happened. Realize that you don't care. And turn your attention back to Kate. “Someone tell you to check on me,” you ask, but your voice is flat. There's no inflection to indicate a question.

“Well, not really.. no,” Kate starts, but Dana picks up the thread, noticing how Kate's begun to shake like a leaf. You wonder briefly if it's your face. You've caught sight of yourself once or twice in the mirror ever since that night in the junkyard, and it was enough to frighten even your own demons.

“We're checking on you because no one's seen you in weeks Max,” she supplies, and you shrug. Start to turn away and close the door on their faces. Like it matters if anyone has seen you. You don't care about you. There's no point to caring about yourself anymore. Since you already lost yourself the day she was shot. For real. For good. Forever.

It's Brooke's voice that keeps you from retreating again. “It's actually been more like close to two months,” she correctly quietly, but there's that hint of nerdiness that makes a smile crack your lips. Actually cracks them. You feel the twisted movement of your lips tear old sores open as you smile.

“Leave it to you to try to be accurate about everything Brooke,” you explain when Kate lets out a worried noise over your expression. Or maybe over the blood that's now streaming past your chin. The blood that only serves as a reminder of time and power, now lost. Now gone. For good. Forever.

“I'm only saying that-” she starts to protest, but you wave an airy hand in her direction, and use your other to swipe across your mouth and chin. Your hand pulls away red.

“Yeah, okay, whatever. You're all worried about me. But I'm fine. Obviously, just look at me,” you point out, and you know you don't look fine. And you know that they know that you don't look fine. But your face settles into a challenge, and you dare them to try you. They don't.

“Okay Max. My door's always open if you need anything,” Dana nods quietly, and starts to drag herself away. Brooke follows.

Kate is the last to leave. She looks at you one last time, her eyes sweeping over your form, head to toe to head again, before settling on your eyes. Her gaze is piercing. It's uncomfortable. She's looking through your soul or something. You wonder if it's because of her religion. Or, whatever. Then, in an impossibly quiet voice, even more quiet than Kate's usual soft-spoken tone, she says, “I know you loved her, Max.” Then she turns and shuts the door behind her.

You stand staring after Kate's form for a long time, gazing at the unremarkable wood like you can see through it. See through it the way that Kate saw through you. For the first time since you realized you were unable to rewind time far enough to save Chloe, emotions start tugging at you. They start in your gut first, and it makes you want to vomit. You do, dropping to your hands and knees right there in the threshold of your dorm as anger and fear and despair rise like acid up your throat. Paint a gruesome picture on the carpet between your white and red hands.

Your eyes go next, burning and itching and stinging. And you want it all to stop. Just STOP.

The door to your room flies open again, and a pair of arms are suddenly around you. Holding you. “Sh Max... it's okay,” she soothes, her lips next to your ear. You close your eyes, hating yourself. But you close your eyes and pretend that she is whispering in your ear, that she is telling you that it'll be alright. You fold yourself into her arms as the emotions reach your lungs now. Your chest starts heaving uncontrollably. You feel like you're shaking yourself apart, like a space shuttle entering the Earth's atmosphere. She had always wanted to go to space.

Other voices break the spell, and she isn't holding you anymore. “Is everything alright?”

“I heard shouting-”

“Is that... oh, gross!”

“Someone get some paper towels or something!”

“Was that Max shouting?”

You didn't realize you had yelled. You were just trying to get your head and your mind and your body back together, you didn't want to feel out of control again. Yet here you are again, vomit on the floor and crying in some other girl's arms. Some other girl who isn't her.

“It's okay Max,” Kate whispers again, “I've got you. I'm not letting you go. Please stay here with us this time. With me. Please... I've got you, okay? I've got you.”

The words don't help. Not really. Not at all, if you are being honest with yourself. Which is something you haven't done in awhile. But you open your eyes in Kate's embrace and you see her hands, both of them, cupping your bloodied one. And you think you should be thinking things about redemption. Or grace. Or forgiveness. Or whatever else Kate's religion stands for. But instead, all you can think about is the last time you saw your hand looking so mangled. It was the last time you had tried to rewind far enough to save her.

One last chance, you had decided to give yourself, If it doesn't work this time. I'm going to give up. I can't keep doing this. She wouldn't want me to keep doing this. She would want me to move on. So you had rewound. And you were back again at the junkyard, freed from Jefferson's clutches once more, as you had been countless times before. Willed yourself to push further, to stretch your limits one last time. Only succeeded in a splitting headache tearing your brain open.

You had cried for her , blood pouring from your nose into your hand as you instinctively hid your face from her sightless eyes. You had cried for yourself at the thought of being without her as you dropp ed to your knees in front of her, pressing your bloodstained hand to her cheek, her chin. Drew your fingers across her gaping eyelids, shutting them with two bloody tears.

Words had been on your tongue then, but your head was on fire and your nose was still dripping with the scent of copper. But now, as Kate holds you, and as Kate rocks you, you think about saying them. You couldn't have imagined how she had felt when she had found Rachel, but you understand now. You couldn't imagine then what it was like to be in so much pain to the point of vomiting, but you know it now. “Chloe..,” you finally gasp, “I loved her so much... how can she be dead?!”

“I'm sorry Max... I'm so sorry...”

“What kind of world does this? Who.. who does this?!” you sob. There's tears and snot running down your face and blood streaking down your chin from your cracked lips. You can feel people staring at you, one, two, maybe the whole dorm. But Kate's holding you still and you can feel her forehead on your shoulder.

It's not fine. It's not soothing. It's not settling. And it's the furthest from happy that you've been in awhile. But, you reason as Kate uses some toilet paper that someone handed her to clean your face of snot and tears and blood, you realize that you're finally existing. And you realize that that's what she would've wanted you to do all along.