There was nothing, just darkness and silence.
Hollow Smith tried to open his eyes, but found no difference between that and keeping them shut. Either way he got met by the same dark blank canvas.
His first thoughts were that he had gone blind or maybe crazy, eventually the young man figured that as a worst case scenario, it could be a little of both.
Hollow forced himself to breathe in the calmly focused way he’d been trained to. After a rough minute or so he fell into a relaxing pattern. Any impulses to panic withered against the cold steel trap of logic his mind was shaping itself into. That’s not to say this process arrived easily, it didn’t. But Hollow had done it before, and he would do it again.
Hollow had to do it again. On blind faith, he reached out a careful hand…
It hit a solid wall. Further inspection proved these walls were strictly closed in all around him.
Without realizing he began to speak to the silence.
“They’ve done it. Eden has won. Fuckers.”
Hollow’s voice was hoarse from disuse.
And with those words the buried warrior realised three things…
‘This is one of their coffins. Those crazy cult brain bastards have won…and we’ve lost.’
Hollow the dark-eyed soldier was locked in a metallic coffin deep underground. Not an ideal situation.
The coffin’s interior proved stern and sterile, only if you pressed a hand to it long enough would the silence fade, and you’d feel the impatient hum of circuitry, the warmth of artificial life. A heartbeat.
As that heartbeat continued its rhythm, Hollow Smith’s eyes began to adjust in the dark. Pale outlines of his hands became clear, slash marks and stab wounds made themselves known on the surface of the combat jacket he wore. Wrapped tight around the jacket, a bandolier remained. Half of the pockets were empty, a sign of focused violence.
The other half remained full of shotgun shells and rifle ammunition. A sign of unfinished work.
Meanwhile beyond his tattered jeans, Hollow felt numbness eating away at his legs and feet. Tough laced-up boots felt like stone shells more than anything else.
‘My feet feel like stone, need to sort out the shoe situation when I get out of here.’
That prompted him to think about the beginning.
‘Forget getting out, how I got in here…’
Memories echoed like gunshots.
Bleeding out in a muddy field…
Watching the world collapse with her, the blonde liar made of secrets. Grace Crown…
Scrawled on a fallen archway, Beware Of Murmurs…
There the warrior had been ready. Or he thought he was.
Hollow and Grace, ready to face down Eden and all its mad disciples.
But they had lost, he had fallen. A fall birthed by tragedy and lies.
The solider who should by all rights be dead, ran a hand across the bandolier. It had been hers once, Hollow had taken it. From the trust of a doomed friend.
But as for right now, thing stood true without question. Eden’s coffins, all of them, stunk of sterilization. But the heartbeat had stopped the silence.
Two options presented themselves to Hollow. Give up or keep going.
“Die like they want you to.” He murmured into the dark.
“Or get out. And complete the mission.” The mission to take back the world, whatever was left of it.
Hollow made his decision, and either by coincidence or divine intervention, the path cleared.
A synthetic voice broke out, zapping from hidden speakers and overtaking the coffin’s heartbeat. Though Hollow still heard it faintly in the background.
“Alert. Occupant Awake. Retrieval Activated.”
It repeated itself for five or so minutes. To the point that Hollow treated it as background noise. A too good to be true malfunction. A crazy AI with a speech Impediment. He still wondered if the surface world could hear it, whoever was left over.
Then the words changed. Shifting from words to numbers.
“Ten, Nine, Eight…”
A skittering noise interrupted the sequence. The numbers became jumbled.
“Seven – SKKRT – Four -SkR- Six.”
For a cold moment Hollow shivered. Hope for survival became dashed on the rocks.
A start to freedom.
Think along the lines of getting in an elevator. You feel as you’re being pulled up, now times that feeling by a thousand. A cybernetic coffin dragging itself up from six feet of mean dirt.
The digital heartbeat of Eden’s coffin practically screamed. Hollow felt both his ears go from aching to bleeding. Between them the lad’s brain burned.
The further the coffin rose up, Hollow got more and more light headed. Like his soul was being dragged up by the nose to the spirit realms which govern reality.
Hollow cracked his knuckles. The mental framework had been firmly put back in place in his mind. Readiness drowned any other emotions left to swirl within him.
Readiness to kill, mostly. It went without saying that Hollow’s destiny was a suicide mission at worst, and a blaze of gory at best.
He pushed that thought off a mental cliff, it would not serve him well or bring luck.
Hollow’s hand ran along the bandolier, memories in each scratch mark, misery in every shotgun shell and bullet casing.
Eden’s coffin broke ground. Great light filled Hollow’s vision as the coffin opened.
A new hell on earth greeted him.
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