82. Ticking Clock

Laura - At home

I find myself lying on a bed of black velvet inside an empty room with no windows or doors. The walls are lined floor-to-ceiling with bookshelves, each filled from top to bottom. The books are all different sizes and shapes, but they all have the same purpose: to fill the emptiness inside me.

“Because I’m hollow on the inside,” I whisper to myself.

Under the blanket next to me, there is a figure wrapped in the same black velvet. I reach out and remove the cover, revealing an old man. His skin is wrinkled and pale, and his hair is entirely white. He looks as if he is sleeping.

He slowly opens his eyes and looks at me. His hand comes up to touch my face but loses its vigor halfway through.

“Are you real?” I ask him.

He sighs, closing his eyes. Only a whisper of a breath escapes his lips. “Don’t be afraid, Laura. I’ll always love you.”

“No!” I scream. “This can’t be real. This man can’t be Paul.”

His strong features and soft gray eyes are the same. His voice is the sa
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