I do not have any claims on the books The Dark and Hollow Places, The Dead-Tossed Waves, or The Forest Of Hands and Teeth. All of these are by Carrie Ryan.
I wasn't always broken. I wasn't always empty. I was a girl, caring and loving, but I only have shadows of emotions, especially those. I don't care for anyone, certainly not myself, and I definitely do not love anyone. I stopped when my brother died.
As children, we would disappear for days at a time. It would drive my mother and father insane—they knew so much about loss and pain. My brother and I called it extreme hide-and-go-seek. Well, at least I did. He called it a vanishing act. But we knew what really happened. We would sneak out of bed or school or in between chores, and slip down and out of the village, over to the broken city that lay before our mountain home. It was perfect and beautiful and reserved. There were almost no Unconsecrated there, only packs of breakers, who were to busy smashing themselves into pits filled with barbed wire around the village to chase us.
I grew into a new person—Dove wasn't me when I went into the hopeless city, she was a girl up in a mountain village, living a hard life. I soon discovered that who I was did not exist to anyone but my brother and I. That the girl in the village was just a mask—what I was underneath was so real, so alive, and so vivid! I was sharp and smart and clever and sly all at once. I was a person to be hated and longed after all at once, but only my brother knew. Actually, two people knew, including him, but it doesn't end happily.
Even now, I can remember Jonah's death so vividly—like it was happening all over again. I cursed myself for being so slow and weak, and my brother for possessing things I did not: love. He died out of love, and I know that I'm going to die out of hate—my death is inevitable. Why not end it soon?
This was everything that crossed my mind as I trudged to the river, preparing for the end. It would be a cruel and ghastly sight for whoever stumbled upon my body, but I would be long since dead. And it wouldn't matter to me then. I kneeled beside the river, and looked out through the wire fence that hovered above the water, rusting away from the water continually licking its edges. If the river weren't so strong and deep, I would be able to worm my way through the gap and out. But I would not succeed if I tried, and would only be washed further down stream.
I stare into the deep and cold water; the surface gurgling angrily as rocks and debris stands in the way of rushing water. I can see my distorted reflection: smooth red hair, tan skin, a heart-shaped face and forcibly up-beat look to my eyes that only I can pick out. I take a deep breath, tucking my hair behind my ears. This is it, I tell myself steadily in my mind. You're going to end it all. All the struggles, the pain you've felt and the love you lost, and all the things you haven't felt for, I stumble in my thoughts, shock and realization hitting me, because I just realized that I haven't felt anything for at least three years. A horrible and wonderful feeling runs over me, because I can finally let go of everything and just die. Just like that.
I take another breath, and lean backwards, preparing to hold my head underwater until my breath runs out, when I hear a scream. My head snaps to the right, and I can see a group of people running towards the fence: and old but strong man, a boy and girl roughly my age, and an even younger child, stumbling along, falling down and then being scooped up again. These people are very different from others that I've seen before—they have deep olive skin and beautiful dark eyes. I stand up and lean against the fence, twisting my head so I can see what they're running from: breakers. I recognize the pack—all men, the fastest addition wearing a green shirt, making the original five now six. I know deep in my mind that the running people won't make it in time.
The oldest girl falls to her knees, a look of defeat in her eyes. The boy tries to pull her to her feet, but she refuses and shoves him away. He screams at her and shouts, shaking her shoulders and looking up frantically. The breakers are almost on them, and if the boy doesn't start running, he'd be dying with the girl. I've seen that happen to someone else I know…
The strong old man grabs the boy by the scruff of his neck, and drags him over to the fence line, kicking and screaming. The old man looks to me with pleading eyes, and I point at the river. He immediately tosses the little girl in, who sinks deep underwater and underneath the fence. The screaming and ruckus the boy is making is drawing attention from the neighbors. I can hear someone shout, "Get Catcher!" But it's too late for my father to help now; I have to. I pull the little girl out, her dress sticking to her body as she wails into my legs, clutching at them. I watch, mesmerized, as a breaker leaps at the old man, tearing his throat out. The old man could have avoided it if he hadn't been wrestling the boy underwater, who I grab at and pull onto the banks. The little girl stops clutching me and crawls towards the boy, screaming now. I can see that the two are related—similar bone structure and hair color, as well as skin tone. The girl shakes the boy again, and he opens his eyes, an intensity burning so deep in them that I have to look away. I look through the fences, and lo and behold, the old man is on his feet, shuffling and moaning towards the fence. Farther behind is the girl, her body mangled from the mauling she had just received, except she is a breaker. I climb onto one of the turrets, pulling up a crossbow. I close one eye, let my breath out slowly, take aim and shoot. I catch the infected girl in the forehead, and she drops like a rock. Breathe. Aim. Shoot. The Unconsecrated man drops, moaning forever ceased. Breathe. Aim. Shoot. One by one, I take down the group of breakers. I'm just about to put down the crossbow when I feel prickling pain on the back of my head as someone drags me by my braid, backwards and out of the turret.
The fall isn't injuring, just sharp and bone jarring. The olive-skinned boy picks me up right and shoves me against the fence, my scalp bleeding. I can hear far off moans, and I know that Unconsecrated are coming, swarming for the scent of my blood. The boy shoves me against the fence, hatred and sadness and fear in his eyes. I can hear the forming crowd shout out at his rough treatment.
"You monster," He snarls. "You feel nothing if you can kill those people—the people that I love." I stare blankly at him. "You won't love them so much when they try to rip your face off with their teeth." I say emotionlessly. The boy takes out a machete and presses it against my throat. "You demon," He growls, his lips against my ear so I have to hear every word. "I saw you. I saw you. I've watched you before, killing these people in the streets just for the sake of your own amusement. I should kill you right now, but that won't repay those lives. They should kill you." The boy grabs my hand, pushing my fingers through the holes in the fence. Already I feel fingers and mouths pulling and trying to find a hold to bite. I close my eyes, feeling nothing. The boy, seeing how I don't care, drops my hand and wraps his own around my neck. I can feel wild panic coursing through my body, because I suddenly can't breathe—I scream and kick out, but nothing comes but gasps. I couldn't breathe—dark spots appeared in my vision, my throat and neck ached and I felt as though I was floating. Then the world dropped beneath me and I fell, until my mother caught me, pulling me away from the fathomless depths of unconsciousness.
"Dove!" My mother cried urgently, giving my shoulders a little shake. I lift my head and stare at my mother, the scars distinct white trails on the left side of her body. For a second, I forget my place in our village, that I'm Annah and Catcher's little Dove, their only surviving child so full of warmth and love. Instead, I can feel my lips draw back into a half formed snarl, before I realize that my mother is holding me, no one else. I force myself into tears, and burrow my face into her shoulder. My mother happily holds me tight, thinking that I was still her little girl. The strange thing was that I was never hers to begin with.
"Catcher!" My mother calls to my father. She brushes her rough fingertips along my neck, and I know that bruises have already started to form. "She's okay. I think." And she testily pulled me back. "Are you, Dove?" She asks carefully. I nod and give her a watery smile, saying, "It's not his fault. The boy," I indicate, glancing over and watching my father and half the village wrestle him into submission. The boy has his eyes trained on me, filled with such a surprising amount of hate that I shiver. "He didn't do anything on purpose. He just…reacted. I killed the pack of breakers that his friends just joined, and I guess he thought that they were still alive…still living." My mother gets a distant look in her eye, then her attention snaps back to me. "Dove, I think he meant to hurt you. Let's go home." And she hauled me to my feet, dragging me towards home. I didn't resist one step of the way.
My mother's twin sister, Gabry, created the village. Actually, she knew what the village would look like. No one lives on the ground—we have a network of houses up in the trees, connected by rope ladders. I ease my way up a great oak, where my own house lies. I ignore my mother and run to my room, closing the door and barring it. I fling myself onto my bed, pressing my face into the well-worn sheets. There's a cot across from mine in the small room, and I have to remind myself that my brother is not going to come back to sleep in it. Ever.