The Hollow Man

By TheLostMaximoff

Disclaimer: Don't own Spider-Man 2 or any of the characters. I also don't own T.S. Elliot (I wouldn't want to anyway), The Hollow Men, or anything else mentioned in this fic. R/R if you like.

T.S. Elliot. Damn him, damn him to hell! I growl in frustration as I throw the book away. There is no time for flights of fancy. The arms assure me there is work to be done, a dream to rebuild. Work. It's all I ever do anymore. There's nothing to keep me from it, to distract me.

"Work then," I tell the arms. They hear and do as I say. The arms extend to their full length in four different directions and begin assembling my machine. I barely give their work, our work, much thought. No, the arms will finish the work for me. I have full confidence in them. Instead, I turn my thoughts to other things. I turn my thoughts to her and feel the emptiness inside me.

Rose. She was as beautiful a person as her name. That which we call a Rose by any other name would love me just as much. We met in college as most married couples do these days. I was on the road to brilliance, to unending success. All my professors told me so. Except for one, though. My English professor sang a different tune. I was failing her course miserably and it irritated me fiercely. I was Otto Octavius, brilliant physicist and scientist. How could I do anything but succeed? And what did it matter anyway? Literature, bah. 20th century poetry? I had no time for such trivialities. I had my work, my research, to think about. Then I met her.

Rose had this way, this thing about her. She understood things, comprehended them in ways I never could. It wasn't just words on paper to her. It was passion, anguish, love, and sorrow. It was so much more to her than it could ever be to me. At first I took this as a challenge. Finally, there was something new to learn and master. I was relieved on some level to find out there were things out there I did not know. A scientist is always in search of knowledge. If I had mastered the world of physics then what other great challenge could I conquer next? The answer was anything, anything as long as I had her with me.

Our tutoring sessions were more frequent as were our long talks over tea and coffee. I was surprised to find out that as knowledgeable about science and as clueless about literature as I was she was almost the exact opposite. This also thrilled me. Knowledge is a gift but it is a gift to be shared with all. If I could give my gift to others then part of my overall goal in life would've been achieved. I proceeded to explain to her simple physics principles that seemed almost elementary to me. As I enhanced her knowledge of science, she showed me the depth of literature. Although we never came to appreciate the other's passion as much as our own we did come to both love one thing. We loved each other.

I sigh a little. I motion to my top left arm. It reaches across the room and retrieves the book. T.S. Elliot. The one thing I never could understand. She taught me about all the others but I just couldn't get Elliot. I graze the cover fondly. Where have you gone, Rosey? Science does not know, cannot answer the question. Maybe there are some things in life I will never understand.

"Back to work," I tell the lingering arm. It joins its brothers in accomplishing the assigned tasks. My arms, my wonderful creations. They are much like my children now. Rosey and I never talked of having children. I had decided in my own mind that it would be better to finish my work before starting a family. Still, I would've liked to have had a son to inherit my legacy, although I suppose now my legacy is as dead as my soul.

"But I have you now instead," I tell my arms. They nod in agreement. They're good to me, the arms. They listen to me and I listen to them. That's the one thing I loved about Rosey. She listened. I could go on and on for hours and hours about my work and even though she probably didn't comprehend it as fully as I did she still listened to me. Her eyes would brighten too when I had made a breakthrough or new discovery. She knew how much my work, my vision, meant to me.

"How odd," I say to myself, "I have been robbed of a loving, beautiful wife and find four mechanical arms attached to my back here to take her place."

I stare at the book again and turn to a page, a poem, I have come to know very well since Rosey's death. The words in big, bold print stare back at me. The Hollow Men. Yes, I fancy that's what I have become now. There is nothing for me anymore, no dreams or hopes. There is only emptiness now and a cold numbness that reminds me of what once was. It's quite funny actually. It is a satire worthy of Aldous Huxley or Oscar Wilde. Rosey spent a lot of her time trying to make me understand T.S. Elliot. Now that she's gone I think I finally know what it's like to be one of the hollow men.