(this is the fifth part of Claire's story. It is not an end. The rest may be found under this tag)
"You have the most fascinating eyes, little sprout. I think I'll take them with me."
Claire wakes with a start into an emptiness more profound than any darkness she has ever known, a void utterly unlike her bedroom's greyscale night.
For a moment she thinks that she's tangled her blankets around her head—that the silver-eyed darkness has forced its way into her parents' house—that she's fallen under the bed. But she feels nothing against her cheeks, nothing but clean air on her face and blankets on her body.
She blinks, and blinks again. Nothing. One trepidatiously curious hand begins its long climb up to her face, a stray bundle of senses drifting through dangerously open air ...
Her hand is warm, sweating anxiously. Her skin feels wrong against her skin. Her fingertips reach up—
With her eyelids closed everything feels normal. She can almost pretend that those little squishy orbs still wait beneath that thin protective layer.
She's not quite good enough at pretending to make that lie real. Not yet.
When her eyelids open all her probing fingers find are two endless pits.
There's nothing inside, nothing that she can feel no matter how deep she stretches her fingers; no walls, no bottom, no trace of skull or brain. It's as if she's nothing but skin stretched over void.
Claire screams loud enough to rattle every window in her parents' house, loud enough to break the dead and drown the living, loud enough that her voice cracks and breaks and fades to a litany of painful sobs: she screams as loud as she possibly can.
No one answers.