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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6. *chapter four*

I'm taking too long. It's apparent as soon as I'm half way up the side of the cathedral. The once silent voices inside the square have picked up into a subtle hum. The difference is barely noticeable, but even the smallest change would've alarmed me.

This isn't the kind of thing they train you for. No one ever told me I'd need to climb up the side of a church and not make a single noise while doing it. There's no protocol for this specific situation, which is surprising since we have a protocol for every situation. We don't have a protocol when you're all alone, or you're all alone with a useless idiot, terrorists are attacking the city, and you can't get a hold of anyone.

Right now I think I might be the only person in the world. The sounds of the square have died down again. Oliver is moving into position. Everyone else is hiding. I am as alone as I can be in a city packed full of people.

I press my hand to my ear, hoping to hear someone on the other end of my earpiece. There's not even static, just dead silence.

No one's coming to help me.

I climb faster, knowing the longer I wait the more lives I put at risk. But the slower I go the longer I get to live. That's enough to make me hesitate. I forget why I'm sacrificing my lives for these people's. What did they ever do for me? Nothing.

Yet, I still need to do this. I'm not sure why yet but I know. Maybe it's because I am one, and they are many. Maybe it's not because I want to help them but want to hurt the terrorists instead. I don't understand and I'm not sure I was meant to.

I finally pulls myself onto the cathedral roof. It's steep and worn, not the best for going it in two feet. I'll need to crawl, but as I look down at my hands I notice that they're already cut up and blistered. This is going to hurt.

I get on my hands and knees, wincing when gravel, twigs, and all the other things that end up on rooftops dig into my skin. One of the blisters on my hands pop, and I'm not sure if the feeling of pain or disgust is stronger. I shake my hand and continue climbing, though I can feel a small rocks dimpling my skin.

Shouting from the square erupts as I take my place behind the left spire. Out of the corner of my eye I can just see into the square. I can't see Oliver but I get an idea of what's happening. The terrorists, or at least the ones who are still alive, have gathered around someone, hopefully Oliver.

"Look," someone says, and I think I recognize Oliver's voice but I can't be sure. "I'm just trying to find my sister."

The people in the square are deadly still. The terrorists aren't focused on them anymore, and they know it. If they're going to act now is the time. But, most of them are regular people. They don't think tactically like Hollow People. If they let their fear take ahold of them now, then it's all over. It's a good thing I never planned on needing them.

A handful of the hollow guards are still alive. They're the ones who look like they're the most prepared to act. One of them tenses up and slowly reaches for something inside his jacket. It's Cade, I realize; he's still alive.

It's a relief not only to know he's not dead, but that he has my back as well. He may not know I'm here but he's reassured me of my decision to risk my life to save these people.

The terrorists don't see him. They're too busy patting Oliver down in search of weapons. There's also only four of them still alive, including the woman who almost killed me.

I pull my rifle off my back. Now's my chance. If I can take out at least take one of them out, then Oliver, and I guess Cade now too, have a greater chance of taking out the remaining three.

I press my eye to the scope and narrow in on a stalky man. He's got Oliver's arms pinned to his side. He's by far the largest of the terrorists and the easiest shot, but I risk hitting Oliver if I shoot him.

Moving the gun, I try to find another target. The spire is in my way, and while it does offer me protection, it also blocks my view of the other three terrorists. The man is my only reasonable shot. I have to take the chance.

Lining up the shot again, my finger wraps around the trigger and I exhale. The shot is the loudest I've ever heard. Pulling the trigger is quite different when you're not in the shooting range. There are no earplugs or goggles for protection. There is no one commanding me to aim here and shoot now. There's no plastic cutouts to fire at. There's a person.

And a scream.

How many things can happen in a second? A person can die. Another can become a killer. A third will find that they are the one soaked in blood. A fourth will disappear. And everyone else... they will descend into chaos.

People stumble to their feet at first, uncertain what's happening, but then they see the dead terrorist and they're gone. Everyone flees at once, adding to the surprise of the terrorists.

Oliver decks the woman in front of him and pulls the gun from the waistband of his pants. I wonder what he would have done if they'd found it.

I take aim again, but the targets are even harder to hit than the first time. There are too many people. I can barely pick the terrorists out, much less take aim. There's no other option. I can wait for a shot to open up, which won't happen, or I can go to the ground. If I go to the ground then I'll die. I don't have a close range weapon besides the baton on my waist. The idea of beating someone to death makes me feel sick. Not that I think I'd get that far. The most I can do is slow one of the terrorists down while everyone else gets away.

That'll have to do.

I think I'm going to stand, but my limbs freeze up. I just need one more second. If I can stay up here one more second then I can do it. Even I know that's a lie.

A cold wind sweeps across the rooftop, pulling at my hair and the thoughts in my head. My mind unravels until there is only me and the chaos on the ground. I am safe here but not for long.

Cade emerges from the crowd as I watch, firing at one of the terrorists before she tackles him to the ground.

Oliver stands over another terrorist. I can't see from here, but the look on his face tells me the man is dead.

Merryn, who's so sly I hadn't seen her until now, rips the woman off of Cade and starts beating her relentlessly.

All of this happens without me. The ground is a distant world that I can only watch.

Most of the people have cleared out of the square. Only Oliver, a handful of guards and two terrorists remain. The problem is the terrorists have all the weapons.

The terrorists stand back to back, each pointing a gun at the survivors of their massacre.

"Stand down," one of them commands. It's the woman who almost killed me. She looks at Oliver, "Put down that gun or we'll shoot."

He slowly lowers the weapon to the ground as I find the scope again. I might be able to make a shot now. If everyone stays out of my way then I can at least take out one of these bitches.

"You on the cathedral," she calls out, and I freeze up. "We know you're up there. Stand up, walk to the ledge, and throw your gun over. If you take a shot then so will we."

My mind runs through all of the possible scenarios. I could take the shot and hopefully kill one of the women, leaving the other one's back defenseless. Someone would likely be killed or injured if I did that, but it would save everyone else. My other option is to give up. That would keep the blood of an innocent off my hands, but we'd all die instead.

I'm still trying to find a way out when I notice Oliver's mouth moving. He's trying to mouth something to we.

"Take the shot."

I look down at him, trying to figure out why he wants me to do that. One of the women has her gun pointed directly at him. He's risking his life, and I can't understand it. He doesn't function on the same logic that I do. Why would he do this when he's the most likely to die?

'He feels things that you don't,' my mind tells. 'He's actually capable of caring about other people.'

"Give up your wea-"

I pull the trigger. The woman who had once tried to kill me is dead at my hands. The other one has just enough time to pull the trigger on her gun before Merryn tackles her to the ground and handcuffs her.

A warm, bubbly feeling rises in my chest. I did it. I completed my job without getting myself killed. New Orleans will not fall today.

Cade runs across the square. Something red catches my eye.

Oliver is on the ground in a pool of his own blood. The remaining guards are rushing around him, trying to keep him alive.

I may have saved New Orleans but I think I got Oliver killed.

I drop the gun and run the edge of the roof. I can't climb down fast enough. Blisters pop on my hands, and dirts clogs the wounds, but I don't notice. I keep climbing down until my feet hit the ground. It takes too long. Oliver is probably already dead. I won't get to apologize for getting him killed, and he'll never get to know if his sister made it out alive.

I barely know Oliver, but already the idea of him dying makes me sick.

As I run up Cade grabs my arm. "He'll be alright but he needs a doctor. Take him to Wolfgang."

I stare at him with my eyes and my mouth open. His words don't make sense to me. What? Why? How?

"Listen, Eleni. Your friend needs medical attention, and... you might be in danger too."

I shake my head, trying to focus. "I don't understand."

"You abandoned your post. It's your best interest to steer clear of the government until I figure out if they're going to prosecute you. Wolfgang will be able to help your friend and he'll hide you."

"Why are you helping me?"

He raises an eyebrow at me like it should be obvious. "You just saved all of us. I think you should be rewarded, not punished."

Merryn helps Oliver to his feet. He's still bleeding, but the guards have scraped together enough scraps of cloth from their uniforms to make a bandage.

I lower my shoulder so Oliver can throw his arm around me for support. "I'm going to get you to a doctor," I tell him.

Merryn nods her head, and I know she's in on Cade's plan too. Hollow People may not feel emotions, but we're not mindless robots. We still have a sense of morality and certainly don't just cave to the will of the government. Cade and Merryn will help me even if they don't care about me.

With Oliver leaning on me, I slowly make my way out of the square. Wolfgang isn't too far away, but it feels like we'll never make it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What did you guys think of this chapter? I tried to show how Eleni struggles with both her emotions and her logic.

Weekly song: Something to Believe In by You g the Giant

Q1: What do you think of Merryn and Cade?

Q2: How can morals exist independent of emotion?

If you enjoyed remember to vote and comment!

 
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