It was a Christmas present--quite the best present he'd ever had. He'd opened it with shaking hands, and for the first time in two years was able to tune out his stepdad's berating voice.
Merv Wilkins thought the camera was a stupid idea. Cameras used film, which cost money. Stupid to give a kid gifts that needed "refueling". Stupider still to give a kid a gift that needed developing before it was any use.
And now Merv and his mom were yelling again. When the boy came reluctantly downstairs his first sight was something he would carry with him always--a look of abhorrence, almost of horror, in his mother's eyes. He'd never thought she could look at him that way, and for a moment the unshakable structure of his kid's world crumbled.
It was surprising that the thing that gave it back was the harshness of his stepfather's voice. "No more than I expected," he was saying grimly.
Meeting Wilkins' dire expectations was something Shawn seemed to do regularly. Whatever he'd done this time couldn't be any worse than usual.
He was wrong.
Merv tossed a photograph onto the table, then another and another.
In front of Shawn's face. Where he couldn't avoid looking.
Where he couldn't avoid seeing...
Gooseflesh tightened on his arms and legs then danced down his back. "They're not mine," he said.
But they were. This room. This house
These were pictures of The Hollowing--the same thing he felt at nights, when he awakened anchorless from screaming dreams.
And in a moment of near-adult wisdom Shawn suddenly understood his stepfather's revulsion. No wonder he hates me
The Hollowing was a bleak and empty hole, a crater that threatened to suck him in. It was that moment of wakefulness when his nightmares were still real and his world was filled with despair.
His eyes focused on the nearest photo and he swallowed convulsively. This Hollowing wasn't empty. He'd filled it somehow.
The woman was dead. She was lying there in the center of their empty lounge, a shadow with far too much substance--a 3D image imposed on a 2D medium. Her position, like the furnishings, changed with the camera angle, marking the photographer's slow traversal of the room.
Merv picked up the photos and threw them and the negatives into the fire. Shawn tore up the stairs and grabbed his camera. Then, before he could think about it, he tossed the camera into the flames too.
It was the first time he and Merv had agreed on anything.