A month passed with silence; the morale of the whole camp had dropped since Joseph lost Mary; her grave was put just outside the camp, hard against the wall, close enough to visit but out of sight of everyone. Joseph would spend his days inside the camp, walking the walls with a spear, waiting to hear her voice come across the wall once again, still not giving up the hope she would return again.
“When do you think he will accept that he lost her?” Maxwell asked Greg.
“Maybe never, but we need to sort him out because he is bringing the whole camp down.”
James interjected, “I think instead of sorting him out, we need to find out how she got out; it has not happened since we have had guards walk around each night.”
The leaders all broke into an argument over what needed to be done; tensions started to rise as the argument got heated, and sides started to form. The leaders from each of the groups, builders, gatherers, laborers, and gardeners, all took one side as Greg and Maxwell stood against what they all said.
“Seems a little redundant getting a leader from each group if you just listen to yourselves; if you ask me, I would say you did it to seem like you gave a shit about us and not just yourself.”
The others agreed with Thomas, the now mad builder with his sizable arm raised towards Greg and Maxwell. While this was going on, all the others in the camp started to group around, listening to what was happening; with all the eyes locked on the leaders, no one noticed the small orphan girl approaching the group, no one except Margret, the leader of the gardeners.
Margret knelt down next to the small child. Not that she was much taller; she listened through choked-back tears and a hand that was constantly hiding her face. She gave her a big hug and told her to wait right there while she got the other’s attention. Margret simply walked into the middle of the scream contest of the other leaders and tugged on Greg’s shirt until she gave her attention; she then said calmly,
“Penrose knows where Mary went.”
All shouting stopped; those standing around the outside could not hear Margret but were informed when Greg shouted, it allowed in disbelief.
“If this Penrose knows how Mary got out, why has she waited so long?”
“Because Penrose is six, she was afraid that she would be blamed.”
The leaders all turned to look at the terrified little girl shaking, squeezing a teddy bear with eyes redder than the sun. She went on to explain what had happened that night, how the noise left, and then came back into her little shack.
Everyone walked over to the little shack pulling beds from it. They padded down the ground, looking for any sign of a hole; it did not take long before they deemed the two instances to be a mere correlation. Although they were unable to find the cause of the disappearance, the distraction was enough to calm everyone down, and they started to talk once again instead of mindless shouting.
Everyone in the camp had heard little Penrose and her story of the scraping noise causing minds to run wild with childish thoughts of bogeymen under beds from when they were once children themselves.
Another month went by, and everyone was housed in every little shack facing inwards in a circle while the walls now had catwalks to peer over the tall walls. All seemed to be going amazingly; even Joseph had loosened up, coming to grips with what happened.
One morning while everyone was resting, ash started to pour over the walls, forming streams that all met in the center of the shacks swirling in a vortex that eventually brought forth the image of Anodyne.
“What are you all doing? I had you ripped from your homes, from your lives; I even ripped your loved ones from you, not to mention the seed of dread the small girl sparked; how are you all so calm? Why aren’t you suffering?”
The people all gathered around Anodyne while Greg took the lead step forward.
“We are surviving like you said; we did what you want. What else could you want from us?”
“I want you to suffer; I want more nightmares to spawn like the one that took Mary. This little girl was the only one to spawn a nightmare. Have I not made this world horrible enough for you, or do I have to make it worse?”
Joseph was the next to step forward, stepping one step closer than Greg, “I could not imagine a world worse than this. I have lost everything, my home, my horses, the love of my life, but I refuse to allow the one who caused all this pain to affect me anymore; you have already taken all you can.” Joseph raised a spear towards Anodyne. “What more can you take from us? We have nothing?”
A grin stretched across Anodyne’s face as his eyes lit up, “True, I can’t take any more from you, but I can give back, for the only thing that can hurt more than taking away is giving something back.” Anodyne disappeared into the ash from whence he came, cackling until he vanished from sight. No one was sure what he meant, but his words clung to the air as everyone went on with their day; every second of the day filled everyone with his words till night, leaving first-shift guards uneasy walking in groups.
Nothing happened to any of the guards that night, but Joseph awoke with a grin after a dream of holding Mary in his arms once again; he was elated during the whole day and then excited that night as he went to sleep.
“Mary, are you here? I miss you; we only got one hug last night.”
Mary emerged from beyond his vision in her wedding dress, slowly walking up to Joseph at the same pace as their wedding day. Grasping hands, they stared tenderly into each other’s eyes before slowly leaning in for a kiss; the longer the kiss lasted, the more sexual Mary became. Joseph did not know how to react, “Mary, this is not you; we were never this forward. We don’t have to do this; I just want you.”
Mary recoiled where her once sweet face was. She now had a face of disgust, “That is your problem, Joseph. I was never hot enough for you; I know you wanted more than you gave, always acting so nice; I know what you were doing with the woman next door; why wasn’t I good enough for you?” Mary ran away crying; Joseph tried to follow but rolled off his bed, awakening himself from his sleep. Churning despair settled into Joseph’s stomach as he wondered where this had come from; he knew he had been nothing but faithful to Mary but could not help but feel guilty for actions never done.
Night came once again; Joseph was determined to see Mary tonight, holding her image in his mind as he fell asleep. Swirling darkness filled his mind as he fell into the realm of sleep, he searched his inner self for Mary jumping from memory to memory, first kiss, wedding day, and all other joyous occasions they shared but in each location he was incapable of finding her. He searched for what seemed hours. No matter what memory he visited, he could not see her.
Collapsing to his knees, Joseph cried out into the echoing hall of his dreams, “Why, where are you? I have searched all of the earth for you, and still, you elude me.” Suddenly it dawned upon Joseph. “I have searched all of Earth, but I have not searched Hollow. I know where to find you.”
Joseph rocketed up, and by the time he was standing, he was back in the camp. This time the feel of his dream changed. All seemed grey and empty. Joseph began to run to the grave where he had tenderly laid Mary when he was stopped by the sound of hushed voices; he slowed to a walk as he walked carefully towards the sound, passing by the circle of small shacks heading towards the protective wall.
The noises got louder as he drew closer; he rounded the last hut on his way to see Jonathan entwined in ecstasy with Mary in the tall grass beneath the catwalk. He was immobilized; his whole body froze as he stared, unable to make a sound or even blink as his precious wife was ravaged by a savage. His heart sank lower the longer he was there. He knew he was incapable of satisfying Mary the way Jonathan was; her body shook with rapture at every move Johnathon made, further humiliating Joseph. Using all his might, Joseph slowly closed his eyes, bringing him back to Hollow. He laid eyes widened, staring at the ceiling; he had to know. He had to see the spot with his own eyes to make sure that it was not real. He slowly crawled from his bed and began a slow walk towards the spot; the sun had just risen, providing a calming glow of light that made the dew drops glisten upon the long grass, passing the last hut that was obscuring his view he was once again standing in utter disbelief frozen to the spot.
Before Joseph laid Jonathan’s corpse, mangled and broken. His face was frozen in pure horror while a great many of his bones were smashed into powder, leaving an almost fluid-looking puddle of a man lying in the grass. Joseph discretely told everyone, trying to avoid letting the children see or know; they carefully moved the corpse to the outside of the camp, where they buried it next to Mary, Joseph was opposed to putting him next to Mary, but he could not say anything without having to explain his dream so he stayed quiet.
Anodyne was taking a moment to sit when his heart started to pound in his chest. He could feel fierce vibrations covering his whole body; he had felt this once before when Mary was killed, and he knew this meant that someone had died. Anodyne flew around for a while till he got to Greg’s encampment, where an argument had arisen; as he came within earshot, he could hear them arguing over what a guard had seen the night before. Unaware of what had happened, he soaked in all the new information that a guard had seen Jonathan with a woman dressed in a wedding gown walk to the far side of camp, so he avoided that side of the camp for a while. Anodyne broke out into laughter, realizing what had happened in the camp; while collecting himself, Anodyne spied something outside the encampment.
“Oh, here comes some trouble; let’s see how this plays out.”