I love The Dark and Hollow Places. This was just a little something I wrote on the fly, trying to emulate Ryan's beautiful style. This was my first shot, so please excuse the fact it's a little rough around the edges and plotless... and thank you kindly for reading!

Abigail sits across from me, tin mug cradled between her hands. She speaks lightly of trivial things, teasing the steam her tea admits with gentle breaths. No matter how I try I can't hear her words, but my eyes are fastened to her so she must think I am listening. The apartment's dirty walls contrast her brightness, I think. The pale light washes her out but she looks happy and beautiful anyway.

"Mary always found it funny." A smile opens her eyes. A laugh quavers her, her light hair brushes the faded wood of the table. I smile too so my distraction isn't apparent and I try to push a laugh from my chest. It's hoarse and I recoil, pulling my stained sweater tighter to my ribs in embarrassment. She doesn't even seem to notice, but her face exudes concern. "Annah, are you alright?"

I can't begin to formulate a reply. Everything about her is gentle, she's innocent and kind. Heat pushes through my throat to my cheeks. I remember her telling me she killed a man and I grapple with the thought, it seems so impossible. Tears begin to loom in my eyes, softening the edges of the wood and my reflected figure across the table. The reflection of who I wish to be, opposed to who I am. But I've been fighting those tears ever since I can remember and I can control them.


But I want to cry. Since we left the forest, I only remember crying in front of Elias on very select occasions. Once, as the cuts across my left side burned with pain and once when I saw the state they left my mangled body in. But I can't cry in front of Abigail. Underneath the table my left hand's fingers dig ruthlessly into my skin through the fabric of my trousers. I feel emotion drown me so that my forearms tense and my feet begin to cramp and I push against the back of the chair so it creaks.

"Annah what's going on?" my sister stands now, tea forgotten. She looks curiously at me with lucid blue eyes that remind me of the falling snow against a storm's sky. Her hands clasp together, then split. She tucks her neat hair behind her right ear and then approaches my side of the table.

Like an animal cornered my eyes saccade, trying to find a way out. It would be so easy to cry. So easy to reach up to her to be embraced, just to be held and pitied and comforted but I can't. Barriers hold me back, a careful fortress like the one we are trapped on. Finally I remember Catcher. Before my sister reaches me I speak. "How much longer do you think he'll be? I'm just worried—the plague rats and the Recruiters... he's out there all alone."

She buys it as my only affliction, and seems sympathetic in her quiet way. Her pale bottom lip pushes up to overlap a bit of her top and in support she lays her left hand over my right on the table. "Catcher is strong. He'll come back safely." I pray it to be true, looking away from her to think in peace.

"Ab-ah, I-I think I'm going to take a quick walk. I won't be long, okay?" I go to stand, pushing my chair out from the table but Abigail lays her other hand on my shoulder, looking down to me.

"Be careful. I'll be waiting for you to get back." She recedes, taking her warmth with her. I hurry to go, stopping only by the door to shrug on an extra sweater and my tattered coat. Tears already travel down cheeks, impartial to the difference in texture.