AN: Had to revamp a couple of things. I released this chapter months ago, just to write something different. Now that I'm finished with Hope, however, I can finally turn my full attention to this story.

So, please, enjoy.


Hollowed


~New York City, 2003~

His body trembled in the fur-lined coat. The air was so warm, warmer than he had ever known. He could almost smell the warmth that permeated the slight breeze. Looking around, this place, with its towering steel buildings and legions of people, frightened him. They were like cattle that were being herded, and nobody seemed to notice, or care, like it was a daily ritual.

However, they did notice him.

He dressed like a total foreigner. It was only autumn, and he dressed for an arctic expedition. The ushanka that dangled loosely on his head and the thick jacket that concealed his body drew the eyes of many people that passed by, and some even stopped to stare. It was extremely uncomfortable, and all their dirty looks only reminded him that he shouldn't be here; that he didn't belong here.

But, he decided to ignore it in the only way possible for him. Quickly, he darted through the crowd, carving a swath through the onlookers. After reaching a somewhat open area, he looked up toward the skyscrapers. The billboards and advertisements that littered almost every inch of the buildings enticed him with their bright, flashing colors and gimmicks that only fools would pay attention to. Yet, he remembered these products, albeit vaguely: Coca-Cola, Gillette razors, Nokia cell phones, McDonald's, and much, much, more. Slowly, he began to lose himself in the sights of the Big Apple, but before he could stray too far, he heard a loud, clamorous noise. Immediately dropping his eyes, he witnessed a car ease into him, pushing him back onto the crowded sidewalk. After several rude gestures, the angry man in his BMW sped off, and, again, he began to escape.

So, he began walking. To where, it was unknown, but his eyes were glued to the pavement and the occasional sign telling him it was okay to walk. He went where his heart told him too; this is how he got to New York in the first place. Something about this city made him happy; giddy, even. Lost memories that were strewn about had to be located here; he just needed to find them.

As he walked for what seemed like miles, he finally sat on a lone wooden bench next to a newsstand, across the street from an olive green building. This area of the city was much quieter. Instead of rows of expensive stores filled with designer clothing and tall glass high-rises, it was now nothing but small, family owned businesses, and not-so-big apartment buildings.

It was cozy.

The ambiance of the night air made it even better.

Denying another threatening thought from entering his mind, he declared to himself that this would be his place to rest for the night. He didn't need a motel, even though he had enough money to afford a decent one. After all, he had slept in much worse conditions before, and deserved to sleep without the fear of being mauled or eaten.

He looked to both sides, and then upwards. There were no stars, like he was used to. The city lights blocked the natural beauty of God's creations, and all that was left was the black void. Although he wouldn't be staring at the sky for long, it would have been nice to see the various constellations. With everything that's happened, he was glad to remember some of those, at least.

As he drooped his head downwards, his eye caught something. In the small building ahead, through the large glass window, sat a familiar setting; one that urged to him to recall why he could so easily recognize that orang. As his eyes shifted from the inside to the outside, he read the words emblazoned on the decal.

Central Perk.

It rolled off of his tongue. It was so close now, barely out of his grasp. So many cups of coffee. So many casual anecdotes over muffins and scones. But why? What was missing from this dream turned real? He could not answer that himself, that much was sure.

As his eyes closed to the missing link, he saw her. An angel, without wings, turn around from the counter to sit down on the couch. Her eyes were dull from a day of work, but became lustrous as she guzzled the creamy drink. She looked so beautiful, but he couldn't understand why. His brain kept telling him something, but his heart did not listen well enough.

A stray memory came forth, confessing, and his eyes widened while the hands of his subconscious pulled it closer. The spark of the forsaken love ignited a chain reaction, infinitely expanding his mind like the universe, engulfing everything in its confines. Soon, it reached his cold, steel heart, bringing figurative warm cookies and milk.

At that moment, his life changed forever.