The Hollow People

Eleni Markova has never felt emotion before: no happiness, no sadness, no anger, and no fear. She is one of the Hollow People, a group that came about a hundred years ago when a virus swept over the world, decimating the population and leaving only a fraction of people uncontaminated. Most of the contaminated died, and the few that recovered from the plague were changed forever. Their genes were altered, and they lost their ability to feel emotion.

Now, a hundred years after the Hollow Virus, the only remaining human civilization thrives under the leadership of the Hollow People, and Eleni, a member of the City Guard, is a prime example of what a Hollow Person should be. But when terrorists attack the city, Eleni begins to experience what she never believed she could: fear. The foreign emotion runs rampant though her, causing her to flee for her life and abandon her post.

Eleni must either trust her newfound emotions and a con artist named Oliver or let her home be destroyed.

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10. *chapter eight*

I'm surrounded by people garbed in gray, the color of the City Guard. I run through numbers and calculations in my head even though I know it's useless. There are five of them. All of them strangers. All of them caring hand guns and batons. I have no weapons left. I have no friends left. Best to surrender.

Yet, the part of my brain that yearns for survival wants me to run. It can feel the end creeping up on it and it wants to break free of its fate. But my fate was sealed the moment I ran from the square. Not that I believe in fate, but I should've recognized the consequences of my actions sooner. Though, when I think about it I can't be certain that this wasn't meant to be and I can't be certain that this isn't my fault. Nothing would ease my heart more than to know that this was the way it was meant to be, and it was out of my control all along; though, logic dictates that every action has consequences, and this moment is nothing more than a consequence of my actions at the square.

"Eleni Markova, please come with us," a woman says and steps forward.

She doesn't have any handcuffs in her hands, but that doesn't mean anything. To be honest, the only thing about her that I can see are her hands. I don't notice her face. I don't notice her body. I just those hands that could be handcuffing me but aren't. Right now, to me, those hands are the only thing that stand out in this sea of gray. The rest of this woman is a part of a machine, some sort of collective mind that works and thinks as one. It is the machine that tracked me here, the machine that will probably arrest me and try me. Not the hands though. The hands are free of the machine. Those hands have revolted and chosen not to arrest me.

"Ms. Markova," she says, "I won't ask you again. Please come with us."

I'm shaken out of my stupor by the voice of the machine. So I am under arrest. The hands have not betrayed the machine. They deceived me. I deceived myself.

I nod my head and step out of the apartment, closing the door behind me. I can feel Wolfgang's presence but try to ignore it. I'm protecting him by hurting myself. It's stupid and illogical, but he had done the same for me. And it's not just him I'm protecting. It's Talia and Oliver, too. They both need Wolfgang. I am the expendable part.

The gray machine wraps around me and engulfs me. I was once a part of this machine but have since forgotten what it was like to be made of metal: cold, emotionless, deadly. I want to go back but now I'm made of flesh and bone. If I tried the machine would rip me apart.

Right now I'm as close to being my old self as I've been since yesterday morning when I was a part of the machine. I'm surrounded by my kind. I'm so close to belonging but not quite.

The emotions that have been stirring in my chest over the last day have dimmed until they're not much more than an ember just barely surviving a long, cold night. Still, it's not the same. I was once hollow, devoid of emotion. Now I am numb, full of emotions I can't feel.

No one else is in the hallways as we march through. No one opens the door to see what's happening. No one makes a sound. Even as we step out onto the street everything is vacant. Where there once vendors selling goods, people catching up with old friends, and children running and laughing, there is nothing.

The city is as hollow as the people who run it.

We're not heading where I think we're going. That much is clear when we turn away from the jail I was expecting to be held in until my trial. Instead we head towards the center of the city, the center of the machine.

The only thing housed in the center of the city is the government. Hollow People are dispersed throughout the city wherever they are needed, but if someone has even an ounce of governing power then they're in the middle.

The city whizzes past my eyes even though we're walking, a detail I hadn't noticed much until now. We are walking, not driving. There doesn't seem to be any inherent advantage in this. It takes longer, it's tiring, it gives me more of a chance to escape. Even the little bit of logic I have left can't make sense of this choice. Humans survived by weighing the pros and cons of their decisions and making the choice that most advantaged them. It is very unlike Hollow People to do something so disadvantageous.

We stop in front of the Town Hall, not exactly where I was expecting to be going, and march inside after the gates are opened.

And as if things couldn't get any stranger, the two guards standing in front of the illustrious doors of a time before ours are no other than my two friends Merryn and Cade. I stare at them as I walk past with my mouth open in questions I can't express. They don't even glance at me.

Something is happening that I can't comprehend, and I don't think I'll be getting an explanation any time soon. Secrecy is not found in the desire to hide information, it is found in the primal need to be in control.

I am not in control.

No one bothers to stop us as we move through the building. All of the normal security measures are waived. It's like they're trying to get me somewhere as fast as possible, but if that were true then they would've used a car. Nothing is adding up. It feels like I'm reading the world in a different language than everyone else. What is obvious to them makes no sense to me.

We come to the end of our long, confusing walk when we arrive at one of the many offices in the building. I'm hoping the answers to my questions are behind that door but have a sinking feeling that is not the case. It is not the end to my confusion I have reached, but the end to my time here in New Orleans.

If I'm lucky they'll imprison me for abandoning my post. If I'm not... well, if I'm not so lucky, then I'll be banished from New Orleans or kill me. Better to be killed than banished. If I'm dead at least I won't know I'm alone.

One of the guards opens the door and pushes me inside before closing it behind me. Now I am alone.

The room is as bland and uninteresting as the person who probably works in it. A wooden desk and chair. A bookshelf filled with only the most functional books: a dictionary, a thesaurus, a book of laws, etc. No artwork hangs on the walls unless you count the clock, which makes the only noise in the room. Tick. Tick. Tick. A room for a robot, for a Hollow Person. For me.

No one enters the room for some time. I'm starting to wonder if this is some sort of test or if they just put me in an unoccupied office until they could move me to jail. This is just a holding cell, it makes sense to me. With all of the terrorists they've probably arrested there was no room for me in the actual jail cells.

Yes, that's the most logical thing I've thought of today.

I'm certain I've solved the riddle until the door opens again and a bespectacled walks in.

He looks almost as surprised to see me as I am to see him. He jumps back, grabbing at the edge of the door before he gets a good look at my face. I can't help but stand stalk still, uncertain of who this stranger is.

"Oh," he says as he pushes his glasses up his nose. "You must be Eleni Markova. I wasn't expecting you until three."

One glance at the clock shows that it is, in fact, three o'clock. I don't tell him this. I don't tell him anything. Instead, I just stand there in uncertainty. I can't react on emotion like I'm tempted to. I have to access the situation before I act.

The man gives me a queer look as I stand in the center of the room, silent and unmoving. He sighs and sits in the chair behind the desk.

"Well, I guess we'll just have to get started then."

I knew I was here for something, but it suddenly hits me that these could be some of my last moments. What if this guy is my lawyer and we're preparing for the trial?

Oh god, that's it, isn't it? This ditzy man is my lawyer, and I'm going on trial.

The man furrows his brow. "Miss Markova, please sit down, you have some decisions to make."

I think I'm going to faint. Decisions? What kind of decisions will I have to make? What my last meal will be? How I want to be executed?

All logic goes flying out the window, and I start sobbing. The tears can't be kept in. They are a roaring river that has been dammed too long. There has been too much rain, and now the dam has broken. There's no stopping the river.

"Miss Markova," the man says, his voice laced with annoyance, "I know the events of the last day have been traumatic for you, but the city must know what you wish to do about your... condition."

The sobbing stops, but the tears keep coming. "My condition?"

"Yes, your condition. The city wishes to know if you want to keep these emotions or get rid of them."

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Thanks for reading!!! Sorry this chapter is so late. I got really sick this week and couldn't write a whole lot. I hope you like this chapter and remember to vote and comment if you did!

Weekly Song: Into the Ocean by Blue October

Q1: What should the bespectacled man's name be?

Q2: Will Eleni keep or get rid of her emotions? Why? What would you choose?

 

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