Authors: Ily Maguire
told you not to.” Dory’s voice trembles.
I didn’t see anything. I couldn’t.”
I need another look.
stops me, gripping me tight. Jagged nails dig into my real arm and I wince in
pain. She shakes her head.
wake them,” she shushes me. She releases my arm.
who?” I ask. I didn’t see anything, but I heard breathing.
The crows. They’re roosting,” she says, holding a hand up.
pushes me like a magnet back to my bedroom door. Prepared for the brightness, I
squint and then slowly open my eyes. I open the door partway. Pushing firm, I
try not to make a sound as not to disturb whatever’s inside. It’s still so
bright, but in an instant, a cloud passes overhead, shifting the blinding light
from my eyes. This isn’t my room. I step inside to get a better look. I slip on
something and my arms flail to regain my balance. My bed has been stripped of
any sheets and the down mattress has been ripped open. It almost looks like it
moves, and that’s when I notice dark feathers in and amongst the down.
I notice it now. My room. It’s filled with birds. Dozens and dozens of huge black
crows, unbothered by my presence. Light streaks through the clouds, casting
itself into the shadows. Their purple-black feathers look silky and shimmer.
Molted feathers on the floor, not one out of place on their bodies. Prehistoric
claws are gray and scaly. Sharp. Many are seated as they roost in my room,
among my things. Green and white waste is all over the floor.
avert my eyes. Birds are perched atop furniture and light fixtures. Plaster
from the walls is chipped and crumbling onto the floor. Foam insulation swirls
around the floor as air blows down from the open ceiling. The roof looks like
it was blown from the inside out. Dust along the furniture has accumulated
undisturbed, which I know would never have happened if people were still around
or if the self-cleaning system was working. Ancillary electronics are out of
commission. The crows’ breathing en-masse is loud. Like a living giant. A
glance back at Pike in the doorway and Dory still standing behind him. At least
I’m not alone. I turn back and step farther into my room, watching where I
place my feet. At least it doesn’t smell. The door tries to shut behind me, but
Pike puts out his hand and blocks it from closing with his body. I turn past my
bed to focus on the darker parts of the room.
did they get into my room?” I whisper, backing out. Pike moves out of my way
and Dory pulls the door shut with silent urgency.
you disturb a murder of crows from their roost it is very dangerous,” she tells
us. She knows. “They’re in my room, too.”
Pike and I ask simultaneously.
invading their space. They will attack to protect their young. I made that
mistake.” She lifts up her hair in the back and I see scratch marks, scars
along the back of her neck that I didn’t notice earlier. She takes my hands.
“You won’t know until it’s too late.”
about Evie’s room? Or Mom and Dad’s?” I ask, considering turning back down the
hall to check my little sister’s room.
same.” Dory drops my hands and heads down the back staircase.
look at Pike. He shakes his head and then we follow my sister. The crows were
everywhere. In my dresser drawers and on the curtain rods. On the floor and in
the bed. In my bed.
how come the windows weren’t broken? Why was there a giant hole over my room?”
did that,” she answers.
The crows?” My head starts to throb. “They didn’t blow off the roof. Someone
else must have been here. Who was here, Dory?”
are very smart. Very smart indeed.” She doesn’t answer my question.
must have been let in. Did you let them in?” My shoulders tense and my real arm
is getting hot.”
just the crows. The crows did it. The crows did it,” Dory mutters then laughs.
“The crows did it. The crows did it. The crows did it. The crows did it.”
room spins. “Shut up, Dory! Shut up!” My mouth is dry and I’m cold now. Ice.
Frost. Ahhh! I want to scream! What is she talking about? My head throbs and my
limbs are heavy. My real arm twitches and my fake arm tightens around my
shoulder. I gasp for my own breath. The cooler in the morgue. The Hollow. “Let
them out! They can’t breathe. Let me out!”
grabs my arms to steady my swaying body. I fall into him. “Breathe, Rose.
I said, Rose,” Dory continues, “They are very smart.”
push all thoughts of The Hollow out of my head. Air fills my lungs. Pike makes
me feel safe.
get to the bottom of the stairs. I feel queasy. Dory isn’t the same person I
left behind. She’s not the person I thought I knew at the hospital when I was
sick and scared. I don’t know if I’ve ever known her, or anyone for that matter.
this the underground rail?” Pike asks.
entrance to the Excellus is to the right,” Dory answers, robotic. “We have to
go down another flight and the door to the containment area will be on the left.
It leads to the quarantine cellar.”
follow Dory down only five more steps to a cast iron door that matches the iron
walls around us. With Dory’s hand shaking, she swipes an implanted chip in her
wrist across some invisible screen. The lock clicks and the door slides open.
realize she hasn’t told me where everyone else is. Just that they’ve gone.
where did they go? Where’s Evie?”
Dory repeats, like a parrot, mimicking.
Evie! Mom and Dad and Evie. Dory, snap out of it!” I yell and my voice bounces
off the walls. Dory blocks the doorway and while it’s open, I can’t really see
Pike puts his hand on my real arm. It stops shaking. I look at him. “No, don’t push
her, Rose. You can see. She’s not well.”
know,” I whisper back, head bowed. My fake arm twitches.
me about Evie, Dory. Is she with your parents?” Pike squeezes by me, getting my
they left her-” she answers as she moves through the open door and we follow into
a smaller space than the stairwell we were just in. The door closes behind us. It’s
a tight, airless space; a stainless-steel, sealed box. A containment area where
no more than three or four people could ever fit comfortably. My heart races
and I’m sweating again. It’s sweltering in here. I can’t see straight. My face
tingles and flushes. My mouth is dry. I can’t swallow. I can’t speak. I’m on a
gurney. I’m in The Hollow. I shake the thought away, moving my head from side
to side. My arm stops twitching and with it I robotically clutch Pike’s wrist.
fan whirrs on, ventilating the area. I release my grip on Pike. My heart slows
down closer to normal. Sweat on my skin dries and now I’m cold.
happened to her, Dory?” Pike continues his line of questioning.
she’s fine,” Dory tells him. She smiles and nods her head. Her eyes open and
Is. She?” My stomach lurches.
she down here?” Pike remains calm.
She turns to me and clutches my shoulders with enough strength to hurt. She
stares me straight in the eyes and I believe her. “She’s fine. I made sure of
it. Don’t you believe me, Rose?” Dory lets go and turns to another door
directly behind her. One camouflaged with this corrugated metal box we are in.
The door sucks open, like a vacuum-seal being broken.
don’t get to answer before we’re flooded with crisp, cool air. My constricted
throat opens and visions of The Hollow begin to dissipate. The long and narrow
endless corridors. The cold and wet tunnels. Cement cinderblocks, broken tiles,
confining, yet open spaces of an institution. The corrupt Dr. Flint. The dark.
The morgue. Death. I push it out of my mind. Jenny. Tithonus. Leland, Delia,
step out of the containment area and into the quarantine cellar.
Mustard-colored sandbags line cement walls to the left and right of the
doorway. The lights are on, sunlight-bright, and the ceiling above is blue and
looks like the sky. The floor under my feet is green and feels like grass. It
smells clean and fresh. Crisp. Fans filter in air and there is a breeze of warm
air around us. We walk into the cellar. There’s an entire house down here - right
in front of me!
through a doorway we are led into a living room where there’s a plaid couch, a
solid blue love seat and four plush chairs. Standing lamps that have a bowl on
top point the light to the ceiling and have H2O written on the base. They don’t
turn on automatically and Pike has to press a tiny button at the top to make it
light up. A coffee table on a large, fuzzy area rug is covered with stacks of
look around the room. I see a kitchen to the right of where I came in and a
short hallway ahead. Four doors are at the back of the space. Closed. Warm. There
are no windows, but it isn’t completely dark. There are flat screens mounted on
the walls. Four feet long by two feet tall, there are four screens on the wall
above the couch alone. At least ten screens that I can see in this living space
and the kitchen.
walks over and taps one of the screens. It reacts to his touch by forming some
sort of oil spot before dissolving. It takes a second, but it turns on. Or
actually, opens up, like the shutter of a camera. Within another second, we are
all looking at the same thing, on all of the screens, all around the room:
real grass of my front lawn. Trees in the distance, their leaves all but gone.
The weather is changing, or is it the climate? Whatever it is, it’s happening
fast. We’ve only been here a few hours.
we just rest a bit? I’m very tired.” Dory sits on the couch and closes her
eyes. Within seconds, there is motion beneath her lids, eyes darting around in
deep sleep. Her brow is furrowed and she doesn’t look peaceful. She looks
upset. Mad. I look at Pike.
locked in. It’s probably not a bad idea.” Pike sits across from Dory in one of
the chairs and folds his arms across his chest. I sit in an identical chair,
but my head is spinning. Maybe I’m overwhelmed or maybe it’s anxiety. I yawn.
Maybe it’s exhaustion.
guess we can figure it out after we take a break for a bit and you know, clear
our heads. Then we can look around in those rooms back there,” I say, though
Dory is asleep and Pike’s eyes are already closed. My eye lids are heavy. I
close them and then open them.
up and across the room. Dory’s still asleep on the couch. I must’ve fallen
asleep, too. My arm twinges. The artificial one. It’s contracting with the
temperature change. At least ten or fifteen degrees. It’s gotten colder and
it’s pinching my skin. My shoulder.
out there.” Pike points to the screen he tapped moments, or hours, before.
don’t see anything,” I say, moving closer. With his fingers closed, he puts
them up to the screen and widens them, making the view bigger at a certain spot
see it. “A shadow. On the left side.”
taps again and the view zooms out and the aspect changes. The shadow is gone.
The screen still projects my front lawn, but the trees are no longer visible.
The front door is.
must be installed all around the perimeter,” he says. He taps it again.
didn’t even think-” I say.
How could I be so clueless?
sits up now, looking at the screens with us. There is color in her cheeks and
she seems rested, but there is sharpness to her features, too. Her eyes squint
and her lips form a thin line.
good. Not good at all,” she repeats, staring straight ahead. “They’re watching.
look back up and Pike is making the view wider. A squirrel with thick, grey fur
bounds across the lawn. The sun shines on its plump body. It stops, look
around, forages among the debris of my house. A shadow passes overhead. It
looks up and then down. A cloud. The squirrel finds something, sits back on its
hind legs, brings whatever it is to its mouth, and goes back to searching the
a crow swoops down, snatching the squirrel up. A flutter of black and tufts of
fur fall to the ground. It all happens so quickly. We don’t hear anything.
There isn’t any sound.
if Evie isn’t here, where did she go? Where did you take her?” I ask, calmer
already told you, she’s fine.” Dory is testy. “She’s being looked after. I made
sure of it.”
where is she?” Pike adds. “You need to give us something.”
in the hospital room, of course. She’s safe there,” Dory answers.
take her face in my hands and try to gain her attention. Get her to focus so
that we can find something out. Something more useful than this constant
questioning and her non-answers.
did. To keep her safe.” Dory shakes her head from my grip and I loosen it. She
walks to the kitchen. A small, square space with glass cabinets above a gray,
granite countertop. White dishes are lined up and stacked in neat piles behind
the glass. Identically colored white canisters on the counter claim to contain
things like flour, sugar, coffee, and tea. The hardwood floors in here are
lighter in color than the dark wood floor beneath the area rug in the living
space. A deep sink, small stove, and a tall, white refrigerator are in a row
along one of the walls.
is she doing there?” I recall the room well. My mother’s room. With its
custom-made curtains and rug. It’s cold comfortability. I and can’t imagine my
five-year old sister being there at all.
two, three.” Dory has one of the cabinets open and counts porcelain plates out
loud. “She’s safe there,” Dory answers with a smile.
do you know if there is any way we can use these cameras to see Evie? Inside
the hospital?” Pike asks. His tone is gentle. “Do you know if the satellites
overhead could be used to gain access into your family’s hospital room?”
no, sorry. Can’t do that,” she answers, stepping in front of the screen. She
triple-taps it and they all turn off.
not? Why’d you do that?” I ask. The room darkens a bit. Pike turns on another
paces back and forth in the kitchen and then through the living room, down the
hall, and into one of the closed rooms. She comes back out a few minutes later.
There is a whooshing sound.
You have to manually flush the toilet,” she says and I’ve got no idea what
she’s talking about.
sure we can connect to the room in the hospital. Evie will have the screens on,
I’m sure of it.” I rush over to the wall.
follows me and puts her hand on my back.
don’t want them to know you’re here, do you?” Dory asks and I stop.
Hollow,” I say and the realization that I don’t know what we’re doing hits me
hard. “What are we doing? What do we do?” I back up and sit down. Pike puts his
hand on my shoulder.
know that the Imperial Bead knows everything and that The Hollow will need to get
you back.” Pike moves his hand to my head and rubs down my hair. It must be a
mess. “But we’ve just got to stay ahead of them and find out where the rest of
your family is and how we can keep you safe.”
must know I’m here already, so why haven’t they come in to get me?” I ask.
don’t know,” Pike answers. “I honestly don’t know.”
doesn’t answer, but instead paces back to the kitchen. Dory pulls the fridge
open to reveal glass jars on the shelves and an icebox within. She takes
something out and puts it on the counter. It’s a muddy, greenish liquid that
she shakes before unscrewing the top. It pops and she pours the contents into a
glass she pulls from a cabinet. She drinks it in one gulp, replaces the lid,
and returns it to the fridge. I don’t know what it is and I don’t ask. Dory
gently places the glass in the sink.
did Mom and Dad go?” I walk into the kitchen and while there isn’t enough space
for a formal table and chairs, there is more granite countertop on four wooden
legs in the middle of the space. One, two, three, four, five tall stools around
this center table and another in the corner. One for Jenny.
five, six,” she continues to count.
look at Pike.
happened to her?
should go back upstairs and look around,” Pike whispers to me. Dory has left
the kitchen and sits on the couch, which doesn’t conform to her shape, but
rather sags under her weight, which isn’t much.
I look over at my sister. She twists her hair around her finger. “She should
stay here,” I say to Pike.
long as she doesn’t lock us out.” He glances at her. He’s thinking she’s nuts.
I’m thinking she’s nuts and I’m guilty because I’m the reason for it.
won’t,” I say. “She’ll let us back in, won’t you, Dory?”
gasps like she was surprised and she looks at me to smile. She’s still in
get up and walk toward the door. Dory’s voice across the room stops me.
not leaving me, are you, Rose? You won’t leave me.” The panicked tone starts to
rise in her voice and her eyes widen. Her face has lost some of the color it
regained after she drank whatever that was from the fridge. She stands and
wrings her trembling hands.
Of course we’re not leaving you.” I rush back over and hug her. Tight. “But you
don’t want to come back up there with us, do you?”
shakes her head and I grab it with my hands.
will be back, I promise. We just want to go upstairs and look around. We won’t
leave you for long, okay?” I smooth back her hair. “We’ll just be upstairs.
When we come down, you let us back in. I don’t have the ability to get us in.”
I wave my bionic arm at her and she reaches out and touches the black pads that
are my fingertips and then she touches my wrist and rubs it. I can almost feel it
through the light grey plastic. The nerve endings are regenerating throughout
my shoulder and connecting to the wires of the arm. She smiles, but it’s a sad
smile. I smile for reassurance. Hers and mine.
She sits back down and puts something in her mouth she had tucked in the sleeve
of her shirt. She lies down on the couch in the fetal position. I cover her
with a soft, fuzzy blanket and kiss her cheek. The colors of the blanket turn
from bluish-purple to pink, reacting to her body heat. Dory closes her eyes.