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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9. *chapter seven*

There is an urban legend I heard somewhere--though I don't know where, they aren't popular amongst Hollow People-- that says a baby born bald is destined to be lonely. Even in my... new state, I don't believe this. It's something people made up to believe the things they could not explain, to explain why some children are orphaned and others are not. But now, looking at this small child, I'm tempted to believe.

Not a single hair grows on her head. Bald, probably since she was born. Perhaps it will grow in after a few weeks or perhaps it's genetic. Either way she is alone. She was born alone just as she was born bald.

But, in the end aren't we all alone? I have a full head of hair on my head and I know I am alone. I was born alone and will die alone. After all, nobody else is me. Nobody else can think like me, act like me, talk like me, be like me. Nobody else has seen the things I have seen, heard the things I have heard, felt the things I have felt, experienced the things I have experienced. Yes, I am alone. My world exists outside of everybody else's. We all live in our own time and place, all running parallel to each other but never intersecting.

There are so many thoughts running through my head tonight, so many things I must do. There is no end to my world right now. It is ever expanding in the worst way imaginable. It will expand and expand and expand until it runs out of energy and collapses in on itself.

But before that happens, before my world comes to an end just as it was beginning, I will sleep. In sleep I will be the most alone that I have ever been, and maybe that's for the better. Maybe it's for the better that Talia was born without a hair on her head. That way she will never have to rely on another person. Still, these are thoughts for a different day, a different situation, and a different person all together. I am not yet the person who can tackle these ideas. My world is too small to encompass such thoughts.

Is any world large enough to encompass such thoughts?

It doesn't matter. Any world that large would've collapsed in on itself long ago. People aren't the ones that take up too much space. It's their thoughts.

Now I need to sleep. Perhaps when I wake up my mind will be prepared to handle the onslaught of ideas that pound my head. Or better yet, I'll have forgotten them all together.

Wolfgang let's me sleep in his room while he watches over Oliver. Someone needs to make sure his vital signs don't dip, and I'm in no state to do so.

I slip beneath the covers and lay my weary head on the pillow. Sleep begins to settle over my like another blanket, but my mind still churns. Tonight my dreams will run rampant with the thoughts that cursed my head today. I may sleep but I will not sleep well.

***

For the first night in my life I am plagued with nightmares. Guns against my head. Blood pouring from wounds. Babies lying in old cardboard boxes. I wake up soaked in my own sweat.

I clamber out of the bed, eager to escape the damp sheets and stand on my own wobbly legs. I lean against the wall and wipe the sweat from my brow. Wolfgang can't know what has become of his little sister; he can't know how weak I am.

When my legs stop shaking and my hands are no longer clammy, I make my way into the living room, where Wolfgang hovers about Oliver like some sort of guardian angel. If only he were,  I could use one right now.

"Morning," I say as I walk in, trying to keep the horror that still lights up the back of my mind from showing on my face.

He doesn't look up from his vigil. "It's noon."

I nod my head and gaze outside, noting the sun high in the sky. "Of course."

"He's going to make it."

A small weight is taken off my chest, but it is one rock of many. Taking off one doesn't stop me from being crushed. It's doesn't save my chest from caving in. It doesn't keep my heart from being exposed. The weight is too much, and I am too weak, too weak to push it off, too weak to even try.

"Eleni, I'm worried about you."

"You don't know how to worry."

"You don't understand."

"Don't understand what?" I snap. "That you're hollow. That you were born an empty shell of a person."

"You're angry."

I can feel my face turning red and know he's right.

"You don't get angry."

"I guess you don't understand either."

"I think I do."

He stands up and walks towards me. His face is relaxed, no clear emotion written on it, but I think I can see something underneath. It's like when you see a friend in the distance but can't quite make out their face. You know who it is but can't be sure. That's what I see beneath Wolfgang's face, in his eyes. Something familiar that I can just make out.

"Don't tell me it happened to you, too," he says as he places his hand on my shoulder.

I tense up, either from his touch or his words. I can't be sure. "Wolfgang, what on earth are you talking about?"

He looks behind him like someone might be listening to our conversation. He turns back to me and says, "Do you know why I saved Talia?"

I shake my head in confusion more than anything. "You're confusing me. Stop changing topics."

"I'm not changing topics. I just asked you a question. Do you know why I saved Talia?"

I throw my hands down. "No, okay. No, I don't. Why did you save Talia?"

"Because I felt bad for her. She was just lying in a dumpster in an alley. Somebody had left her there knowing she would die. How could I turn my back on someone so helpless? How could I abandon  someone who needed me? There was such a strong ache in my chest when I saw her. It was like dying and being reborn all at once. The law didn't matter anymore; I knew that this was my responsibility. "

If I could become anymore rigid, I do. My fragile mind cannot process his words. I can't understand anything happening outside of myself. No sympathy. No empathy. Just chaos.

"Wolfgang, I-"

He waves his hand to keep from continuing. "It complicated, I know, but it happened. I can feel emotions and I think you can too."

I'm not sure how to react. Wolfgang's words feel like an accusation. He's assuming something of me that I already know, but still it feels like a slur. Emotions. It is something I'm starting to come to terms with, though I deny it, but it hurts even more when somebody else says it.

"How would you even know?" My words feel like acid coming out of my mouth. I can't imagine what they feel like when I spit them in his face.

"Last night," he starts, trying to ignore my anger or just ignoring it, "I've never seen someone look so disturbed."

Last night I was disturbed. Nothing made sense anymore. I was scared for the first time in my life. I was experiencing things I should never have been able to. A kid I barely know was dying. My city, my heart and home, was deserted. Yes, I was very disturbed. It was like some sort of drug trip that never ended.

I feel trapped. There's no words that can save me from the truth, the one that is finally being shoved in my face. I am not the same person as I was yesterday and I doubt I'll ever be the same again. It makes me want to cry.

I'm about to speak, to force the words out of my mouth, when a sharp knock fills the room.

"Private Eleni Markova, this is the City Guard. We need to speak to you."

Wolfgang's eyes widen. He glances from me to the door and back to me. "Don't run, Eleni. Don't do it."

My first thought is to ignore my brother's advice and bolt, but then I saw Oliver out of the corner of my eye. If I run, then he'll be interrogated. I don't fear that they'll hurt him but I do fear the interrogation would be too much on him.

I shake my head. I shouldn't worry about him. Wolfgang already saved him. I need to focus on myself now. I need to save myself. 

"Wolfgang Markov, we know you're harboring your sister. Open the door or we'll be forced to break it down."

Wolfgang grabs me by my shoulder's and forces me to look into his green eyes, but it's not him that I'm seeing. My reflection looks back at me from his pupils. Blonde hair sticks up at every angle. My uniform is bloodied beyond recognition. Blue eyes focus stare intently at themselves. In Wolfgang's eyes I look like a mad woman.

"Please, Eleni, don't run. If you run, then they'll search the apartment." He lowers his voice. "They'll find Talia."

With that I finally look at Wolfgang instead of myself. I can't run. I can't do it. Not when this is my fault. Not when other people are on the line.

I open the door.

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Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this chapter, then it would mean so much to me if you voted and commented.

Weekly Song: Sleep Like a Baby Tonight by U2

Q1: Who's your favorite character so far?

Q2: Is Eleni right? Are all humans inherently alone?

 

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