“John!” I call, walking through the house. “Where are you?”
“This isn’t funny! I know you took it, give them back!”
Sometimes, I really hate his gift. He can change any part of him, and figured out that means he can camouflage to match his surroundings.
Ever since the government made the rule about people with gifts being illegal, we’ve been on the run. But we found this place, which John is calling the Hollow.
The inside of the house is huge. The first room is a living room, the room I’m in, and in the middle of it, there’s a giant tree. It’s branches reach up and out, forming a second and third story you can see from down here. The house supplies us with everything we need, and keeps itself clean so we don’t have to.
John and I have been friends since we were kids. He stuck by me when I was bullied in school, and when I told him I didn’t think I was a girl, or when my parents kicked me out when I told them I’m trans.
We both know I have a gift, but we aren’t exactly sure what it is. I think it might have to do with this house.
I walk into the kitchen, which isn’t huge since it’s just us. “John, where are you?”
“Right here, Mikey.” He says, stepping away from the wall, his camouflage dropping away. He has frizzy black hair, and light brown skin. He’s taller than me, and stronger, too.
I have black hair that I make sure looks perfect, and paleish skin. I always need everything to be neat, and John respects that, though he teases me.
He grins at me, pulling the box of labels from behind his back. “What do you need these for?”
I snatch them from his hands, opening the small container to make sure they’re all there. “None of your business.”
“Okay. Are you done cleaning yet? You said you’d play chess with me.”
I roll my eyes. “You always lose at chess. Then you get mad and ignore me till I make you food.”
“Please? Pretty please? With a cherry on top?”
I sigh. “Fine. Just let me finish cleaning.”
“You’re always cleaning.” He says. “Can I help?”
“No,” I say. “You’re too chaotic.”
“Am I? But I promise I won’t touch anything. I’ll sit in a chair, and tell you helpful information.”
I start walking back to the room, and he follows. “What helpful information do you have?”
“Like, I’ll tell you your hair is messed up.”
My hand flies up. “What? Is it? Where?”
“I’m kidding,” He laughs.
I scowl at him. “Not funny.”
“I know, I know.” He says as we walk in the room. “Can I help?”
I point to a chair in the middle of the room. “Sit there.”
This room is basically a library. There are books and papers everywhere, and I’ve spent weeks organizing it all. John knows how upset I get when things aren’t neat, so he mostly stays out of here, and lets me do what I need to.
There are tall bookshelves circling the huge desk in the middle of the room. The room isn’t as messy as it was the first time we came in here.
So far, I’ve put all the loose papers together in binders or notebooks so they aren’t just laying around. The books are categorized and alphabeticalized, and stacked in the order I’ll put them up in. The labels are for the books, so I can reorganize them if I have to.
“Wow,” John says. “It’s looking really good in here.”
“Thank you,” I say as he sits down. I start putting books on the shelves, using a tall ladder to reach the top. John watches, and I’m grateful that he doesn't touch anything. He leaves at one point, but comes back with a radio, the chess board, his sketchbook, and a plate of cookies. Music fills the room, as we work quietly.
Finally, I sit down across from him at the table. “Ready to play?”
He closes his book, pushing the cookies across to me. “Yep.”
Most people would get mad at how long it takes me to pick a move, but John is surprisingly patient. He sketches something while I study the board.
I win, like always. He pouts, but brightens when I say I’ll make a cake later.
I love our life here. No one will ever bother us, and we can stay here together forever.
“John!” I shout, grinning. “I’m finished!”
He jogs to the door. “Really?”
It took about three months, but the library is finally neat and organized. I cleaned the room up, so it’s spotless. John grins, and turns to me.
“It looks great, Mikey.” He says. “Nice job. I finished something, too.”
“What is it?”
He leads me to the big tree, and one of the thick branches moves down, and we step on it.
Slowly, it brings us up to the second floor. John leads me to a room I haven’t been in, and opens the door.
There are canvases and easels with paintings and sketches. There’s a desk against the wall with all kinds of art supplies on it, and a thick book with a leather cover on the top. It says, The Hollow, in fancy cursive.
“You wrote a book?” I ask.
He shakes his head, smiling. “It’s not really a book, just-here, look.”
He opens it to the first page. There’s a picture of what the house looks like from the outside-a small cabin with a garden.
I flip through the pages, and it shows more drawings of things we’ve found in the house, and the tree, and notes about different magic and things.
“I thought, maybe, this place could be a safe haven for people with gifts.” He says. “If someone happens to find us.”
I nod, looking up at him. “Yeah. Good idea.”
“Thanks,” He smiles.
I walk through the trees to the cabin. I went out for a walk while John took a nap.
But when I get to the start of the dirt path leading up to the house, I freeze.
The windows are broken, and the front door is gone. The garden has been stomped on, and it’s a mess.
I go through the doorway, looking inside. The couches are upturned, and things have been thrown around and broken. It’s so messy, and everything’s disorganized, and I’ll have to clean it all up, and-
I search the entire house for him. I almost stop looking when I see my library-books ripped and thrown on the ground, and dirt and mud on the ground. But I keep looking.
When I find him, he’s in his room, on his bed. His eyes are closed, and he’s not breathing.
John’s gone, the house is a mess, everything’s ruined, we can’t stay here, we need to leave.
I grip my head as everything starts spiraling. When it stops, I see John, and nothing else.
There’s a bright light behind him, and he holds out a hand, grinning.
“Come on, Mikey!” He says. “We can stay here.”
He points to the light. “Over there. Everything’s neat and organized.”
“Organized?” I say, taking his hand.
He nods, leading me forward. “We’ll stay together forever.”
“Forever,” I repeat as we walk into the light.
No one's POV:
Mikey never knew, but he made the Hollow. His gift led him somewhere safe, where he could stay with John. His gift only appeared when things were in disarray, and disorganized. It always led him to where ever him and John could be together and safe.
Yes, they both died. John was killed by people looking for others with gifts, and Mikey's gift took him to be with John in the afterlife.