The Hollow Men
by Trent Walters
This is the first in a series inspired by science, sound, T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men,” and armchair philosophers.
All the hollow men were walking, walking up the gently sloping grassy spire. We followed them, the hollow men, climbing, climbing higher up the wildflower slopes. We elbowed one another and winked. They knew but one of three cardinal points and saw not the purple poppy and watery-blue cornflower, knee-high grasses stirring in the breeze. We observed, we knew, we were aware.
At the top the spire ended in a cliff, and there the hollow men would topple, legs scissoring the air as if they still moved up. They hit with a crescendo of resonant clangs like bells struck at a dark lord’s portentous wedding. We stopped, patting ourselves on the back for averting the danger. But then, weeks or months passed, the same men returned, pointlessly climbing, climbing. Again they fell and hit with the clangs of a clock striking midnight.
Half of us–the bravest and the strong–volunteered to follow, for we the aware should learn more in the fall than these fools. The strong and the brave landed with a shower, a heavenly choir of tiny bells.
A year later one volunteer returned–perhaps the least insightful of the lot we sent forth–his form mangled almost beyond recognition. The others, he said, shattered while he alone remained. We, he suggested, were also hollow, just of different stuffing and stuff.
This we could not swallow: We were the aware, we the observant, we the knowing.