A/N: I'm using the centigrade/Celsius scale here. Thirty-two degrees is like summer weather, and school is sometimes in progress for those sorts of degrees. Twenty-four is generally perfect. I don't know how the weather would be like in Fahrenheit.

This reads like a oneshot, but I figured I might as well split it up, considering there are scene splits and all and the dividers are still giving me grief nine times out of ten. And that way you can slowly enjoy. :)

The Girl in the Red Dress

Part 1

The cars whizzed past him on the road, each one shining in the harsh daylight and pumping a little more poison into the air. He stayed far away from them; if he tried to put any more distance between himself and the asphalt being continuously worn as wheels hurriedly passed over without a care of what lay underneath, he'd pass through the fences separating the little teardrops from the dense ocean that was the world. As it was, he could feel the coldness of the brick rubbing into his bared elbow; he was going to have a scrape there by the time he made it to school. Admittedly, the footpath was rather crowded and as a result it would be somewhat difficult to move away from the impeding barrier…if he had any intention of doing so. But he didn't. He was perfectly fine with the rough ceramic constantly rubbing against his skin with each step. Not that he enjoyed it; he would have worn his blazer if the forecast hadn't declared the weather to be at thirty-two degrees. Instead, it was just the short-sleeved white button-up shirt and the grey slacks of his school uniform.

It was somewhat strange, he mused. The surrounding always served as a hanger for his thoughts, more so when there was something at the corner of his eyes that stood out like a mesh of grey plaster upon a beautifully smooth sheet of white….or black. Perhaps black was a better colour, he thought to himself, before reconsidering. No, white was good. He didn't like black at all. Amongst all else, it was a mourning colour. He only ever wore as much of it as was necessary; when it came to school uniforms, that was the shoes. He even used a brown canvas bag, regardless of the snide comments he received in return.

It would figure that his hair was naturally black.

His hand unconsciously moved to the sawed off strands that littered his skull. It had been bleached – that much was obvious to any outsider – but not recently. While the tips were a pale blonde, stripped of keratin, the roots had started clawing into the black foundation he was trying to reject. He'd have to bleach again soon; those roots were going to be quite a problem.

Others passed by him; some brushed slightly against the outcropping sleeve while others passed through the cracks between. Flecks of colour surrounded them, blurring as they hurried off to their destinations in contrast to his own languid pace. His entire body appeared to be sinking into the ground: a subtle wavering, just enough so that he had to strain a little harder and more consciously against gravity but not so much so that a stranger halted him on the pavement and inquired as to his wellbeing.

God, he hated that. And as soon as the thought flittered across his sharp yet currently jagged mind, his teeth involuntarily clenched.

He hated a lot of things, he reflected as the rough ceramic grating his elbow turned into splinters of firm wood decaying under weather's hand. The change in sensation made him spare the skin a glance; it had turned a tender pink from the abuse. At the edge of his other eye, cars whizzed past: white, green, blue…red. He determinedly turned away, blocking the view. If there was a colour he hated now more than black, it was red.

He'd never liked black, but there had been some who were shocked at the turn-coat abhorrence because red had once been his favourite colour…until the last month. Some had questioned it when they had called in on him; he typically hadn't answer the door but his mother had been more polite, ushering his so-called friends in to, as she put it, "cheer him up". He snorted out loud at the thought. He wasn't the one crying over the various clothes and magazines and comics they were giving to charity. He wasn't the one who could no longer make a cup of tea for herself before spilling some of it. He wasn't the one whose eyes had become lined in almost the same shade of that accursed red before it faded into the slightly more tolerable black. He wasn't the one who'd covered up his mirror for the first week and cut himself shaving as he prepared for his return to work. He was handing things perfectly "fine", even if people looked at him as if he was a ticking time bomb set to explode.

Okay.., he amended to himself as he stopped well before an intersection. That was a bit of an exaggeration. He could just spy the white rectangles between two people conversing before him; he was thankful for their presence, for all he could see was the strips being routinely covered and then unveiled by the passing of dark grey tires and the persisting smell of burnt rubber. He knew that smell very well; it still persevered in their kitchen back home.

His sister had always been hopeless at cooking. She always somehow managed to turn noodles into black bits of rubber. Noodles. Anyone could cook noodles… except Abby apparently. Abby in her red summer dress and lush brown hair; he'd tried dyeing his hair that colour and it had turned out horrible. He simply hand the wrong shade of skin; Abby was somewhat tanned. He was, in her words, "a fish that hides beneath the rocks with his calculator". Abby, with her grinning green eyes which sparkled no matter what hit it, always laughing and teasing and being like any other annoying little sibling…even if she was only a year younger. Or had been rather. Abby no longer had green eyes. They had turned red from the hemorrhage…or so he had been told. He hadn't been able to bring himself to pull the bloodied sheet back. The doctor who'd stood beside him had simply given him an empathic look and taken the corner back. His mother had staggered, tears overflowing from their dam. His, a boring brown, had burnt for lack of moisture; not a single tear had fallen from those lashes, standing up straight with the rest of him, outwardly an act of bravery, inside a feud that was torn between guilt, hatred and the prospect of moving on.

Abby's black sketchbook sat in his bag, weighing stones. In it were countless pictures: cartoons mostly. Images of adventure, of fantasy…dragons and such: sketches of heroes bleeding over their swords as they slew vicious monsters over desolate cities. They were pictures with both battle and hope with them, that could have one day become a comic book…and now they were going to the school's library because no-one else wanted them. His mother burst into tears without even opening the book. His father had taken one long look at it before his coat shoved it aside into the recedes of memory. He himself had opened it to the front page…and then slammed it shut in a as the sprawled form of a teenage girl lay crushed under the centaur's hoof.

So now it was in his bag, so they could get rid of it once and for all. Because his parents couldn't throw it away. He had tried, but his father had pulled the book back out amidst scrunched newspapers and emotionless "sympathy" cards and carefully fixed the binding that had come loose. He'd looked at it for another long moment, and then his mother had come in.

Somehow – he wasn't exactly sure how the conversation had managed to go as they'd all been skiving around the topic – the book wound up in his bag. And it was the weight of a mass of stones in his bag. Or heavier. It felt like the book itself was dragging him down.

The burning rubber smell persisted as the bag slumped from his shoulder and hit the ground with a thump. Absentmindedly, he reached up to rub the joint as his eyes flickered to the traffic light. Green. It was still green. The pedestrian glared at him with all its red glory.

Red again. He cursed the image as he turned away. If only it hadn't been red. If only it wasn't red.

The two women parted, one waving an arm and for a moment he saw another do the same: a stronger arm, a firmer push through the air, as if flicking off an irksome fly. Or something else. And then stench fully clogged his nose as he gagged, a screeching sound buzzing in his ears and his eyes captured the now perfectly visible pedestrian crossing where a red car was speeding past, the edge of the tires smoking from burns.

He put a hand to his heart to ease the thumping, reaching down with the other to sling the brown canvas back over his shoulder…before wincing as a sliver of pain shot through his fully extended elbow. He gave it another look, seeing that the constant grazing had shred off a layer of skin. A droplet of blood had now begun to form and he determining forced his gaze away. People had lined up in front and behind him, making a wall. They were all waiting for the lights to change too. The other side of the road was empty, save a white picket fence. It was much like the one back home; the old fashioned sort. He'd sit with his back to it in nice weather, fiddling around with his molecular kit as he tried to copy all the shapes shown in the instructions, including the mind-blowing variations that were designed to scramble intellect. Abby had never had any patience for that; she'd be reading magazines or comic strips…and the occasional adventure novel…as long as it didn't mince words. She'd lose interest after the first chapter elsewise. And she'd somehow balance atop that picket fence, uncaring that it could easily collapse on his weight…but it never had. It had held her up, and she'd swung her black-laced boots against it with soft thunks. When he glared at the boots, she'd grin and claim: "that's why I wear them bro."

The light turned green and the people crossed in a wave. Bag still dangling in one hand, he joined them, buffered by strangers, greyed with unrecognition, on both sides. They forked off, going either left or right and continuing on to their destination…but he was walking slower than them, and thus by the time his feet hit the pavement on the other side, he was alone, staring at the white of newly planted cement glaring at him with the toes of black lace-up boots.

They were right at the tip of his vision; he could have easily turned his head away if they had looked any different. But they weren't. They were black. A black which merged effortlessly with the night sky. Abby loved that colour for some reason. She loved the sky and its little dots of silver amongst the great expanse of black.

"How can you possibly love black?" he'd ask sourly.

"How can you hate your own hair?" his sister would ask mischievously back, yanking out a single strand before showcasing the dark tip.

"It's black," he would say shortly.

"It's brown," she would protest. He disagreed though; he'd never seen it brown, even if Abby had constantly claimed it was a very dark brown, but brown nonetheless.

Till she turned three, she would latch onto those locks and pull…rather painfully too, shrilling: "chocolate" at the top of her lungs. Suffice to say, his parents weren't the only ones to lose hair over Abby growing up. It was about that time she'd started wearing boots too; she'd been climbing a good deal more than him in her toddlerhood.

Those boots at the edge of his vision soon became his entire focus. The canvas coated lightly with dust, varying the rich black with a slightly softer shade. The brown laces tied into two generous bows that slunk down from above the ankle to just hovering over the tip of the upper surface of the foot. The sole was laced with mud; it was obvious even as the pair pressed upon the concrete slab.

Except there was something…off about them. Something slack, as if the material had been deemed incapable of holding itself upright and had slumped in on itself. Unconsciously, the brown eyes strayed upwards –

– and then he was reeling back in horror, foot catching at the edge of the footpath; stumbling back as his balance was lost.

The blonde hair whipped across his eyes, washing out the image like a translucent shower screen, but it failed to dim the effect. Red eyes glared at him, glistening with crusted blood with the edges already drying into blood. The brown hair was as heavily matted, hanging bedraggled across a skeletal back clothed with a ragged red dress torn and halfway soaked before stiffening into a garment that even a potato sack reeking of rot would have put to shame. The skin still held their flesh, but it was only a contrast of white and ugly splotches of black that caused bile to reach his throat. A waft of an utterly new stench hit his nostrils, mixed in with fresh roses and grass covered with dew. Little black dots swarmed around, and it was only when the creature was in his face that he could make out the little insect with its gross enlarged eyes and twitchy appendages and knife-like mandibles glistening with some sort of fluid.

The wind blasted in his face, forcing the smell into his brain and he staggered, half curling forward instinctively as if to empty the contents of his breakfast at his feet. His suddenly heavy hair plastered across his forehead, across his eyes; it took the image before him as well as the light.

All he could make out then was a scream that wasn't his own and the shrill cry of a skidding car and a blaring horn.