Monday, November 05, 2012

Hollow

I wrote this a while ago and submitted it somewhere, but I guess it didn't work out because I never heard back. I figured I'd post it here since I haven't written anything in a while. 


“I feel empty,” she said out loud midst the pitch black darkness. She stared into oblivion, and wondered if anything out there stared back. She continued to blink, trying hard to see that which is hidden.

She fell asleep daring the abyss inside her to respond.

The morning shone, allowing flittering rays to enter through the flimsy curtain that hung by the window. The rays fluttered through the room until they landed on her face, urging her to rise. She felt their warmth on her face. Drowsily, she rose from her place of rest and sat by the side of the bed.

She felt different. For the first time in a long while, the hunger that she always woke up with was missing. She shrugged it off and proceeded with her morning routine. It was not until she started to change her clothes that she noticed a change.

As she pulled off her t-shirt, standing only in her bra, she fleetingly took a look at a side mirror and realized what was different. She would have screamed and fainted, but sadly she was not that kind of girl. She couldn’t scream, and to her horror, her body refused to faint.
She stepped closer to the mirror, staring at the back of the room, through her stomach, which ceased to exist.

She slapped herself.

It was still there, the gaping hole that somehow devoured all of her abdomen. Instead of her jiggly, fat-filled stomach, there was a square hole beginning just under her chest and ending at her belly button, which was no longer there.

She checked if any other part of her body was missing; only her abdomen.

She got a pair of scissors and cut through the tip of her thumb. It bled red blood. She was still alive as she still could sense pain. She wondered if maybe that was hell; some kind of manifestation of Sartre’s No Exit with a twist.

She tried the door of her room; it fell wide open at the jiggle of the handle. She stepped outside of her room and she could clearly hear the noise of her household. Her sisters discussing politics loudly, her mother giving directions to the cook, the crackling of newspapers, the clang of utensils, the doorbell…

“Life has not stopped. This cannot be hell,” she thought.

She put on her t-shirt and went downstairs. Her mother was the first to greet her.

“You are not dressed? You will be late for work. Would you like to have some breakfast?” she asked before she kissed her daughter on the cheek.

“Umm, no, thank you,” she replied hesitantly, “dad, may I speak to you for a few minutes?” she asked her father, who was hidden behind the newspaper he was reading.
“Of course,” he replied, “is something the matter?” he asked as he walked towards her.
“No I just need to show you something, in the study,” she responded as she gestured towards the study.
They went inside.
“I need you to stay calm and not panic. Ok?” she warned.
“OK,” he said nervously.
She lifted her t-shirt just a tiny bit to reveal the vacuum underneath it.
“Is that a new computer trick or something?” he asked suspiciously.
“No, my stomach is missing.”
“I don’t understand,” he responded.
“I woke up and found this hole. I think I need to go to the hospital,” she explained.
Her father still stared at the vacuum, unflinching, trying to understand.
“How is that even possible?” he asked the air around them rather than his daughter, “OK, just do not tell your mother. Get dressed,” he ordered.

The trip to the hospital was a silent one. Other than her father’s erratic driving and a few curse words here and there, no one said anything.
She was not worried, but rather amazed. It was something you read in fictional novels, not experience. Involving people in it made it materialize even more; it was more real and pronounced. She saw the dumbfounded look on the usually calm and collected doctor. He scratched his head, looked more intently at “it”, all while clutching the clipboard to his chest as if it was his childhood teddy bear. He excused himself, and when he returned there was a plethora of doctors with him. Medical professionals from every specialization, all looking dumbfoundedly at “it”.

The prognosis: they have never seen anything like it.

It was official; she was a freak, a hollow freak. She was also a case study: emails were sent, videos were shot and tests were done. In a week, everyone knew; someone leaked the video on the internet titling it “Hollow Girl” and the whole world was suddenly witness to her transformation. The public demanded confirmation that “it” was real. Some considered it a sign; however each person had a different explanation: it was the end of the world; she was the chosen one; she is the devil’s child; she must have sinned…

No one knew anything, but for a brief time, the world seemed to stand still as they all stared at “it” just like her father, the doctors and herself. “It” was hypnotic. Just like the Monalisa’s eyes, “it” drew you in and would never let you go. She often found it hard to stop staring at “it” in the mirror. Her mother was not fond of “it”, and she would often instruct her daughter not to lift her shirt and stare.

“It will all be over soon, dear. They will find a solution,” she would reassure herself more than her daughter as she straightened out the house. It was all she seemed to do ever since it happened; she would clean everything and anything, all the time. At one time, when the whole house was spotless, her mother got a bucket filled with water and started cleaning all the cars outside their apartment building. The neighbors were pleasantly surprised.

By the end of the month, there was a published medical study by the same group of doctors who first examined her and were now carefully monitoring her. An excerpt read: “the case subject has no stomach or intestines. The body seemed to have rerouted its whole circulation, bypassing the digestion process entirely. The subject is no longer capable of feeling hungry, and also no longer capable of eating due to the inability to process food. She is kept alive through glucose IVs and other intravenous drugs.”

The one positive, if one could called it that, result of “it” was weight loss. She had always been chubby, something she has struggled with her whole life. However, in less than a month, she withered down to a normal looking person. By the end of the second month, she was skinny, and by the end of the third, she was stringy. She did not look like her former self. No one was capable of recognizing her, but they still wanted to stare at “it”. No one could resist. Children poked through the space, adults tried to tell them not to, but it was too much fun for them to refrain themselves.

One unexpected twist was the branding. After a few weeks, she officially became “Hollow Girl”. No one seemed to remember her name, and she wondered whether she remembered it herself. Her former life seemed like a distant memory. Companies approached her to sponsor their products, and magazines wanted to take her photos, especially after all that weight loss. She was the dream of every fashion designer: no fear of a bulging stomach. She had an elegant spread of her modeling all sorts of midriff-baring outfits. In between shots, her nurse, who accompanied her everywhere, would hook her IV, so that she would not collapse.
It took a lot of liquid to keep her alive, and any extra effort would result in her collapse. The doctors warned her of slipping into a coma if she was not careful. So, she had to save calories by keeping as still as possible. At one time, she spent hours looking out of the window at a fly, whizzing around a piece of rotten fruit. She was mesmerized by the motion. She identified with the half-eaten, rotten fruit, withering away at the fly’s tentacles. Life was the fly.

She tried to milk the situation as best she could. She took any job that was offered despite her parents’ objection. They even made an action figure and a comic book based on her. Her weapons were safely tucked away in her hollow abdomen. Another rendition of the comic book figure allowed a life-sucking storm to emanate from her hollowness. A special compartment built by a brainy scientist made her capable of controlling it. “It” became a source of threat for the world as the storm could suck the whole universe in: she was a human-made black hole. This rendition was not very famous with the children, who would cry and scream every time they saw her, so it got cancelled.

By the end of the year, she was famous and rich. They wanted her to publish a book about her “ordeal”, but she did not have anything to say. She knew nothing about her transformation. She did not know why or how it happened, and despite everything that happened, she did not feel any different. The emptiness within her was even more pronounced now than ever. She saw it every day and “it” stared at her, reminding her of her dare.

After all, the abyss did respond. She became the abyss. She would forever be defined by the abyss, which happened to be the one thing she hated. She had nothing to say about it, and she did not want to explain it. She preferred that each person would make their own assumptions about “it”. She preferred them to think and wonder what “it” meant, rather than defining “it” for them.

Meanwhile, she was withering away more and more each day. A blog that an amateur writer kept about her let people know how she was doing. She had millions of followers on social media sites, and she received emails from everyone; some hated her and others loved her, but everyone knew that her end was near. Some posted teary videos about their sadness, while others rejoiced that the “abomination” would soon perish: a sign of the triumph of good.

She was confined to her bed most of the time, slipping in and out of consciousness as her body finally registered the loss. She often dreamed of strange fantasies while out of consciousness. When she opened her eyes, someone sat beside her. As the world came into focus, she realized it was him.

“Hi,” he said with a warm voice, stifled with oodles of pity.
“Have you come to watch the freak die?” she asked in a frail voice.
“You can’t give me a break, can you?”
“I don’t think you deserve one,” she answered with a smile, “why are you here?”
“I came to see you,” he answered.
“Why? To pity me?”
“I thought we were friends,” he said faintly.
She managed to utter a squeaky laugh, which made her instantly dizzy, “we were never friends,” she retorted.
“Did I cause this?” he asked with earnest concern.
“You always had a great ego.”
“This isn’t an answer,” he snapped.
“It wasn’t much of a question, either” she said, feeling dizzier than before and then she slipped out of consciousness again.

Her dreams that time was about him. She felt herself curse in her dreams.
When she woke up, it was morning and he was gone. She found herself hoping he would be there, but she knew that if he was good at something, it was departing. So, he departed.

When the nurse came, she asked for a bath. She could no longer move, but she was light enough for a normal weighted woman to carry her. She would not let any of her family do anything for her, but depended entirely on her nurse; she was also very compassionate and understanding.

She liked the feeling of water going through her. Although it reminded her of her emptiness, it was amusing to see the bubbles of water emerging from “it” as she began to sink to the bottom of the tub. It was also the only thing she could do without anyone bothering her. She missed diving in a great expanse of water, and sitting in the tub was the best she could do. She was able to dive in the sea only once since the beginning of her hollowness, and it was one of the most difficult and yet invigorating things she had ever done.
She could only sit in the tub for a short while so as not to upset her body’s temperature.

The doctors said it was only a few days away, the end, that is. She wondered what it would feel like, and although it would be very easy to end her life any time now, she refused. She did not want to make it easy for the universe. If she was to be consumed by her emptiness, then the universe was the one to do it. After all, it was its job.

He came again, this time during the morning.
“You left,” she said as soon as she saw him.
“Only after you fainted. I stayed for a few hours hoping you’d come around, but you didn’t,” he answered, limply.
“Excuses, excuses,” she said, smiling.
“You’re in a good mood.”
“I just had a bath.”
“You always loved the water,” he added, touching her hand.
“And you always hated it,” she said as she retracted her hand.
“Only when I can’t breathe,” he explained, an expression of annoyance on his face.
“Read to me,” she implored.
“I’d rather talk.”
“There is nothing to be said. Just read to me. Take the blue book and start from where the bookmark is.”
He unwillingly complied. The book was Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and the bookmark opened to The Daisy.
She closed his eyes as he read to her; she always loved his voice. His reading was flawless; he paused at every full stop, animated the text with tonalities and most of all, he made it seem alive. She could picture every word he uttered in her mind’s eye. It was as if she was reading the tale herself.

After he read the last sentence, he looked up to find her eyes closed. He panicked for a moment, thinking that she had passed, but when he touched her cheek, she woke up. His face was close to her own as he knelt beside her. His hand still rested on her pale face, and she was staring directly in his honey-colored eyes.
“You know it’s illegal to molest sick people, right?” she said.
He laughed, but said nothing. He just brushed her hair off her face, and continued to look at her.
“You are not the cause,” she uttered after several minutes of silence, “I don’t think there is a cause.”
He became teary eyed as he looked at her, and then he buried his face in his hands.
“Do you think I am the daisy or the bird? They both perish at the end, but I think I am the bird,” she said, trying to dissipate the situation. She was always good at comforting him.

“You are neither. You are you,” he said after rubbing his eyes.
“Now, you are just quoting Dr. Seuss,” she smiled, “the bird and I share the same emptiness, I guess.”
“You were never empty to me,” he replied.
“Just remember me like I used to be, whatever that was. OK?” she implored.
“Always,” he replied as he clutched her hand.

She passed away with him clutching her hand, with the emptiness within her, with the world watching and pitying, and with her never knowing why or what happened. She perished like the bird, neglected when whole, discarded when empty.

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