Hollow

This is the prologue of a short story I am in the middle of writing. I originally wrote it at a camp two years ago, but I decided to bring it back to life and deepen the story and characters. It is about a girl who lives in a futuristic time with endless wars. She has been living alone for years, until she meets a little girl who makes her smile again. But on the way to the market, she disappears, and never again will she see that little girl's face.

When I awoke from my restless sleep, I was greeted with the sounds of sirens and screams. The room around me was cold and bare, with only the stiff mattress I slept on and a few piles of clothes that I wore alternately. I didn't waste time, so I changed into brown capris and a white shirt. My eyes lingered on the window on the wall opposite of door. I looked hollow and hungry, with sunken eyes and a pale complexion. It's been three years since my parents died, two since they took my sister away. I've been living in this empty house every since, selling our belongings and doing anything to earn money to keep myself alive.

    I pressed my fingers to the glass and peered down on the streets below. There was a handful of panicking people bolting to the doors of nearby homes, banging on them and begging for others to let them in. What were they so scared of? I glanced up at the dark, smoky sky. I remember when it was a bright blue and filled with puffy white clouds, but only in glimpses and distant memories.

    Soon, I left my room without closing the door, and headed towards the stairs. The walls around me used to be filled with colorful paintings. My father was an artist. But in order to buy food and clothes, and pay for water and other necessities, all those had to be sold. When he died, it was as if the paintings had lost their brilliance, and I couldn't stand to look at them anymore.

    As I reached the bottom floor shivers ran up my spine. The concrete felt like ice against my skin. I scrambled to the door where I kept my boots and snatched the rolled up socks out of them, pulling them over my feet, followed by the worn, leather boots that were my only pair of shoes. I laced them tight and walked to the colorless kitchen, opening the cupboard to find a loaf of bread and a bowl of cheese wrapped in plastic. I placed both onto the cracked countertop, and grabbed the knife out of the drawer below. After tugging off a piece of bread, I cut a thin slice of cheese and began to eat my breakfast.

    I tried to savor every bite, but it didn't last long and soon my hands were empty. I had to resist taking a second serving, because this had to last until the shops opened up again.

    My hands yanked the old windbreaker from the single chair at the table with chipped paint. I slid my arms through the sleeves and zipped it up, heading towards the door. I hated being in this house more than I had to. To hell with bombs and rockets, I didn't care if I died anymore.

    As I reached for the doorknob someone knocked on the door. I took a breath and pulled it open to see and terrified little girl shaking and stumbling over her words. She was covered in dirt and had a look of horror in her eyes. I shook away the sympathy on my face and slammed the door in front of her, stepping back inside the house. My breathing became loud. Should I leave her there? To stand in the middle of that horrible street? I knew what the people in the neighborhood thought of me. I was the girl who never cried. Not even when her parents died, or when her sister was stolen out of her life. The one who disgraced her family's memory by selling everything that reminded her of them.

    I could turn a cold shoulder to her, just as everyone else did to me. But I couldn't. In front of me, something so small and so fragile, so innocent, was asking for help. I haven't gotten much sympathy, but this little girl wasn't part of that. When I opened the door, I was surprised to see her still standing there, with looks of relief and teary eyes when I motioned her to come in. I set aside some food for her, asked her where her parents were. Her name was Lily. She had been separated from them, and so I promised I'd let her stay until we found them. It was comforting to have company in this sullen house. To talk to and be with. She reminded me of my sister.

    Before I knew it, five days had passed and we were both starving. It was market day, thankfully, so I told her to stay put while I went out for an hour or two. When I left, she wore a look of worry, afraid that once I left I wouldn't come back. I reassured her gently, and passed through the door. I didn't know that she was right.

The End

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