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The Hollow: A Short Story

The fall did this to her every year. As soon as the air got a little bit crisper, the leaves began to change colors, and she started to smell a hint of maple on the air, she went right back to it; she went right back to her childhood, and right back to that horrible day.

When she had been a child, her grandmother's house had been more home than ... home. It was the safest, most secure place she had ever known in her life; a place she had never found the equal of, and doubted that she ever would again. Sometimes she would bake cookies, just to try to get some of the old feeling back, but it never was quite the same; because while there were smells that she associated with her grandmother's house, and activities she associated with her grandmother, there was something important missing from her life. It was the love, the unconditional acceptance that she couldn't get anymore that she was so desperate to replicate, but couldn't reach. And every time she tried to get the feeling back, tried to fool herself into thinking that this time it was real, it just made the ache seem a little more present.

Sometimes, she would return to the place where the ruins of her grandmother's house stood, but every time, she wanted to run away as soon as she to there. When she was younger, not long after it had happened, she had begged her father, begged anyone who would halfway listen, to help her maintain it, just so she could keep it as a time capsule of her grandmother's life; it was all she had left that her grandmother had ever existed. Instead, family members had raided the house, taking what they had wanted, and destroyed anything that was left. So, it was no more than a shell now, broken and torn bits inside, with the forest trying to reclaim that little place her grandmother had made her own.

It made her feel haunted, every time that she went by to see it, as though she were taking something away from the house itself. She could still see in her mind how it had looked, when she was a child, with little effort. It had been constant then, unchanging. And when the dreams came to her, she always dreamt of the house itself, of finding herself inside it, alone. She would wander around the insides of what it had been, looking for her grandmother, looking for anyone, but there was no one. She wasn't sure if anyone could really understand how disturbing it was to her, to dream about finding that house empty, save for herself. How could she make them understand that it wasn't the physical place she was mourning the loss of ... it was the loss of the most important person she knew.

She wished that she could go back, to before any of this had happened, just to be in that place as it should have been: with her grandmother welcoming her in. She longed for the love, for the security again, but knew that she would never have it again.

It still bothered her that she had been unable to say goodbye, at least properly anyway. The wolf had already been at the door, before she had ever been aware of it, before she could've done anything to stop it. Not that she probably could've stopped it, if she had been there, and had known what was happening; it was more than likely that she would've joined her grandmother in death. But it didn't make her feel any better, to know that there really wasn't anything that she could have done; all of the platitudes were empty, and didn't actually help to relieve grief ... they did the opposite more often than not. And she often wondered if there had been something more that could've been done to save her, to stop her death. No answer that she could think of, ever seemed to be quite enough, and thinking about it that way never helped, never deadened the pain or filled the hollow place inside her.

Sometimes, she was angry about what had happened, even though she knew it would accomplish nothing. She was angry at any number of people for not being there when it happened (including herself, and the woodsman); she was angry at the wolf for the deed that was done; she was angry at herself for not realizing what the wolf was after in the beginning; and she was angry at her grandmother for living alone, so far away from anyone who could have helped her. And then, she would always feel guilty for being angry with her grandmother, as though she were doing something wrong, something akin to sacrilege. But she was angry that it had happened, and she wasn't sure who to be angry at. There had to be someone that she could hold responsible. It didn’t matter that she had come to realize with age that nothing was ever as simple as it first appeared; the child inside of her still demanded to be appeased, still cried for a reason that would never come.

She had been told that with time, things would get easier, and she had found that there was some truth in that. Some days passed, and she was fine, distracted by life. But there were the days, too, where she could still feel it like it had just happened. These were the days that she dreaded, and could do without, but had still not figured out how to bypass.

So, she would go back to the ruins of the house, trying to bring up all of the happy memories, hoping that only they would remain with her. But it never worked that way. She only walked away from it with the ghosts that now lived there, feeling even more hollow and haunted than before.

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