I wrote this a loooong time ago when I was really, really young. AND IT SHOWS. Still, I have some affection for this piece.
The Hollow Men
Mind-eaters and soul-stealers, drug-dealers and drop-outs, minor miracles for small-time sinners, endless cycles and mean gray walls: It squatted gray and lifeless against the moon-lit horizon, behind a chain link fence designed to contain giants, to repel behemoths, soaring up beyond reason. It squatted three stories high, speckled in graffiti, grinning lopsidedly with teeth made up of windows which didn’t open. We stared at it long enough, surprised, I guess, by how strange it looked at night. I sucked on a cigarette, waiting for someone to move, feeling the wind stick its fingers into me, testing the surface tension.
The fence was easy. There had been talk, back when I’d been a freshman, of putting wire up on top of the fence. But it had never materialized, and the fence remained toothless. It was easy. Get a good running start, jump, grab hold, get set. pull up, hand over hand. Flip your legs over, brace yourself, and drop down. Less than a minute, and we stood panting in the courtyard.
There were four of us. Me. Gail, in black jeans, boots, and leather jacket. Henry, in front as always, blue eyes and little else. Kevin hulking in the rear. Our breath steamed in front of us nervously. We were surrounded by broken rules, swimming in the thick grease of guilt, and all we could do was smile at each other. It lay shattered at our feet and we grinned at our reflections in the shards and reveled that we had the power to cause it. Then Henry took off and we followed.
The side boiler-room door out back was still propped just so slightly open. Bill the mumbling old man who cleaned the place on good days hadn’t bothered to check it, as usual. Old bill could be counted on for two things: to be asleep by two every day, and to steal dirty magazines from our lockers. With that he was clockwork.
We slipped in and shut it behind us, making our way out of the works and into the lockers, dark and damp, foreign all of a sudden. We didn’t take our time. Working on fear and determination, we cut through the halls by memory and broke into the printing office with Henry’s screwdriver -push, pull, watch for falling wood chips.
I grabbed the paper, three packs of five hundred, from the side closet. Gail prepped the copier and set it up. The whine of its warm-up was ear-shattering. Kevin searched for the copy codes, popping open desk drawers with hard snaps of his own screwdriver, finally digging them up. Henry just watched, smoothing out the original.
Gail stepped back, Kev punched in the pass code, programmed fifteen hundred, and I loaded up the paper trays. We turned to Henry, and he was just grinning, watching us, looking crazy, his flashlight pointed up at his face and all the wrong shadows around his eyes. Then he slapped the page down and pressed start. The room filled with snapshot lightning, and we waited, getting nervous. nothing happened. Minor miracles for small-time sinners.
Done, we split up. We papered the place. We had to wade through papers to get out. Outside the gate, we checked time. Twenty minutes, exactly. henry joked that it took him longer to take a shit. It was his way of complimenting us. Then we each went home and forgot we’d seen each other.