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.


8. *chapter six*

The fall of the old world did not come with a bang or a crash. It came with a cough as the first victim began showing the symptoms of the Hollow Virus: fever, fluid in the chest, insomnia, bloodshot eyes, and vomiting. And so will Eleni Markova fall. And so will I die.

It happened once before. When I was a kid. I was so sick. So so sick. The blood splattered bathroom floor as I vomited up everything in my stomach and so I began throwing up my stomach. It felt like I had never slept a day in my life, though it had only been a few days. That's when my parents took me to the hospital. With my brother. Wolfgang. We were both so sick. We were both going to die.

The cursed family.

That's what we were. First Talia went missing, and then Wolfgang and I fell ill. Three kids born. Three kids dead. That's what the doctors thought, but who wouldn't think that? Who wouldn't see the blood shot eyes and the sweat soaked skin and think these kids are going to die? Who wouldn't smell the vomit on our clothes and mucus on our skin and scream Hollow Virus?

Ten kids died of the Hollow Virus that year. Wolfgang and I weren't among them. It was the worst and only resurgence of the Hollow Virus since the founding. All of the technology, all the medicine couldn't keep out that devil.

But New Orleans did not fall. It would take more than a few dead children to fell the remnants of humanity.

Now, sitting in Wolfgang's apartment with the scent of blood in the air, I'm taken back to that time. I wasn't afraid of dying then. How things have changed for me. Yet, Wolfgang remains the same. He's still here. My only remaining sibling hasn't left me.

Before today I had always taken Wolfgang for granted. His loyalty to me and my parents was a social obligation. He did it because it benefited society. But how can I feel that way now when he's saved a stranger from certain death? When he's harboring a criminal in his home? Not that he knows that yet.

My brother stayed with me in the hospital even when he got better. He stayed with me even when the doctors told him to say his goodbyes because they were certain I was going to die. No, he never cried for me or felt sorry for me, but he stayed. He stays with me still. Even when I will inevitably fall.

"Eleni, can you tell me what happened?" Wolfgang asks, putting a hand on my knee.

The touch startled me at first, but soon I relax, remembering that I'm safe now. I should've slept when I got the chance, but how could I sleep when danger was so close? I need to protect myself first.

Before I can start, though, I need to make sure we're truly alone, that no one is listening. "Where's Mark?"

"He's working a late shift at the hospital."

That's one thing taken off my chest. It's not that I don't trust my brother's husband, but he's not quite as patient as Wolfgang and much more loyal to the state than to me. Though Wolfgang and Mark are both emotionless, they both understand where their priorities need to lie. Wolfgang will always be more likely to support me, his family, the epicenter of society, than Mark will.

Now comes the hard part. The part where I have to confess what I did and, worst of all, what I didn't do.

"There was an attack," I start, my own words sending tremors through my body. "I was in the square during the speech, and a man pulled out a gun."

I pause to take a breath. No matter how much I command my mouth to form the words I want, it can't. They settle on my tongue, and I can't spit them out. It's like acid in my mouth, if I leave it in it will burn a hole through my tongue but if I spit it out then who knows who it'll hurt. I spit it out.

"A lot of people died."

There's no other way to put it. No words can make it sound good. No collection of sounds can make it better. It is what it is, and I need to say it's name. I have to say it the way it is.

"And I ran."

Wolfgang didn't react when I mentioned the man with the gun or said people died, but as soon as I brought up my flight he froze up. I'm not sure if he's looking through me or at me. The expression on his face is so hard to read. It's like he's been cut from marble and the artist didn't know what he wanted. Or perhaps it was Medusa who captured him in this moment, a moment that borders on emotion but doesn't quite cross that impenetrable line. When it comes down to it, only logic and instinct lie on his face. He knows I messed up when I ran and he messed up when he took me in. No matter how hard he tries to hide it, I can see the truth in his eyes. I ruined everything: for myself, for Oliver, and now for Wolfgang.

"And your friend?" The words are slow like molasses as if he is trying to taste them as they come out of his mouth. Not too bitter, not too sweet.


"Yeah, Oliver. Who is he and what happened to him?"

I sigh and gaze towards where Oliver lies on the kitchen table wrapped in a blanket. Wolfgang is asking me an impossible question because I don't know who Oliver is. He's just a person who had the misfortune of meeting me. And the stupidity to go to the square. Yeah, he had a lot of that too. I suppose I could call it bravery because he went to save his sister, but I know if it wasn't my societal duty, then I would never have gone back. Throwing your life away is a stupid thing to do. Yet, that's what I had done as well.

Wolfgang stares at me, waiting for my answer, and I realize I've gotten caught in the web of my own thoughts again. I can't sort our right from wrong anymore. I can't figure out who I'm supposed to be or what I'm supposed to do. It was such a simple question, but sometimes the simplest questions have the most complex answers.

"Oliver is someone I met after I ran. He wanted to save his sister and got shot because of it." That's a gross oversimplification, but I can't bring myself to explain in more detail, not without bringing my own internal wounds to the surface.

Wolfgang shakes his head. "Eleni, he didn't get shot because he tried to do the right thing. He got shot because there are bad people in the world. You have to know the difference."

I nod my head and look back at Oliver. So maybe this isn't his fault, but I still feel like it's partially my fault. I'm the one who pulled the trigger when the terrorist's warned me not to. Perhaps that was the more logical decision, but that doesn't stop me from hating myself for it.

I let Wolfgang think over what I've told him. I've just turned his world upside down and I owe him some time and space. When the government gets everything under control again they will come looking for me and won't be pleased to find me hiding in my brother's apartment. Actually, I'm surprised they haven't come for me yet. I know that we couldn't get a hold of emergency services or backup earlier, but that had to have been an isolated incident, right?

I watch Wolfgang carefully before I speak up. The logical part of my brain is screaming for answers, and I can't ignore that now.

"Wolfgang," I say, and he looks up at me, "how did you know to go into lock down?"

"They sent a broadcast out saying that there was a public threat, but it cut out before I could get all of the details. I-I didn't know that someone was attacking the square."

"It cut out?"

"Yeah," he says, his eyebrows furrowed, "a power outage or something."

I shake my head. "No, that can't be right. Our earpieces weren't working either."

His eyebrows unfurrow, and his eyes widen. "You don't actually think...."

"I hope not, but it would make sense. If the terrorists hit multiple places at once, it would explain why there was no backup. If they hit the power plants, it would explain why the broadcast cut out."

"No. No, that can't be right," Wolfgang says and gets to his feet. "Do you know how many people it would take to do that?"

He starts pacing around the room, deep in thought, but I remain seated. My mind has already been made up. There is only one logical explanation. Wolfgang can try to think around it all he wants, he'll eventually come to the same conclusion as me.

"I'm sure  it would take dozens, maybe even hundreds of people, but it's still possible. We don't know who's behind it or how long they've been planning this."

Wolfgang opens his mouth to say something, but a cry interrupts him. It's high-pitched and wobbly like that of a baby. But... Wolfgang doesn't have any kids. Hollow People don't have kids until they're at least thirty and have a stable career. Wolfgang is only twenty-one and still in training.

I look up at him, unable to process what I'm hearing and hoping for an explanation. There are so many things happening, and my life is collapsing before my eyes. I don't think I can handle anything else.

"What the hell is that, Wolfgang?"

He stares down the hallway but doesn't answer. The crying picks up with a fever, and I run down the hall, unwilling to wait for my brother to find out what the hell is happening.

I fling open the door to the only bedroom in the apartment and step into the dark room. By now the only remaining natural light is the silvery glow of the moon that slips through the blinds. I can't make out much besides the simple bed and night stand that are standard for Hollow People's homes. Then, in the corner of the room, I spot a cardboard box overflowing with blankets.

The light is just strong enough to illuminate the subtle pink flowers of one blanket and the small kittens and puppies on another. They seem so out of place against the dingy, cardboard box with its crumpled edges and dirt-stained bottom.

Slowly, I approach the box. I know what I'll find, but it won't make sense until I see it for myself. I peer into the mass of blankets and see the tiniest human I have ever seen. Her cheeks are still rosy, and no hair grows on her smooth head. She seems so frail but howls like a monster.

"Her name is Talia," Wolfgang says as he walks into the room.

I step away from the makeshift crib and take a deep breath. "It's perfect."


Thanks for reading! It means so much to me that you guys take the time to read my little story. I love this story and am so glad that you guys do too.

Please remember to vote and comment if you enjoy this story. I want to share this story with as many people as possible, so it would mean so much to me if you added this story to your reading list as well.

Weekly song: Sippy Cup by Melanie Martinez

Q1: What do you think of Wolfgang? He's one of my favorite characters, so I hope you guys like him too.

Q2: I tried to show how Eleni's way of thinking has changed during the story, even if it's just a little. How has it changed? Does she recognize this change?


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