by Sara Hurwitz
The Hole was hungry. But it did not seek its prey. They came to it, the way flies seek refuge in a Venus Fly Trap. It waited. It was tired of waiting.
But it wouldn’t have to wait much longer.
* * *
Celia sobbed as she made her way through the snow. There was a terrible blizzard that day, the worst she had seen since she was a teenager. Now, at age 23, she was as fearful of the snow as ever. So why was she running through the furious blizzard?
Rick had cheated on her. After all those sacrifices she had made for him, he had betrayed her. And when she first found out, Celia would rather face any weather then Rick’s pathetic excuses. She needed to blow off steam, to run away from her problems, somehow.
“I HATE you, Rick!” she screamed, as snowflakes darted around her face. They were like a thousand flying insects, blinding her. Celia pushed a strand of brown hair away from her dark eyes, and sat down in the snow, her eyes brimming with tears.
It would have been a strange sight, if anyone had ventured out into the blizzard to see it: a small woman, collapsed in the snow and crying. Her black jacket was the only thing clearly visible in the world of white. A bitter, cold wind swept past, making her shiver.
“Celia?” She heard a faint voice in the distance. “It’s not safe out here! Please, baby, we need to talk!”
Panting, Celia stood up. “No!” she murmured, continuing on her crazy walk. “Goddammit, I am not going to talk to that son of a bitch. Maybe I am acting childish, but I’m just so angry! I would rather die out here then go back and talk to that liar. And-”
Suddenly, she felt the ground give way beneath her. Letting out a shriek, she disappeared into the snow. Rick stumbled out in the direction where he last heard her voice. Nothing.
* * *
When Celia fell, she felt as if the snow was grabbing her feet, and pulling her down. Down, down, endlessly down! Her mind was completely blank, her body numb, her spirit fading. When she woke up, she didn’t know how much time had passed. She could feel her body, warm and heavy, resting in an upright position.
Celia had the same feeling she did in mornings, when she was so comfortable in her bed she couldn’t open her eyes or move her body. A content kind of numbness. The air smelled dry and dusty, but at the same time full of life, like in a garden. It was a comfortable place to be, wherever it was.
But soon the memories began to pour in. Rick. The snow. Her fall. Fearful of what she might see, Celia opened her eyes. In front of her was a wall of dirt. She twisted her head around, only to see walls of dirt on either sides.
“Where am I? What’s going on!” The panic she felt was in her voice. “HELP! Somebody! Somebody help me!” Twisting her body, she looked down. Her feet dangled in the abyss. It was a tunnel.... an endless hole leading down. It got narrower and narrower. This was the place she must have stuck. “Oh my god!” Tears in her eyes, she struggled to climb upward. It wasn’t too difficult, as the tunnel was only a few inches wider then she was.
“A dream... I’m fainted in the snow and this is a dream,” said Celia, slowly. “I just gotta wake up.” She kept on climbing, whispering feverishly to herself: “It’s a dream, I’m gonna wake up, I’m gonna wake up.”
She could see the light of the sky above and the falling snowflakes, growing closer and closer every step we took. “I feel like Alice in Wonderland,” said Celia. “I’m going to need a long vacation after this... I’m tired of snow. Tired of ice. And I’m tired of Rick. I thought I loved him...”
She sniffled, trying to hold back tears. “But that’s enough crying. After I wake up I’m going on a trip. I’m going to swim in the ocean, tan on the beach... anything is worth it after all I’ve been through.”
A Flash Of Darkness
Everything gone. Only her heart, beating faster and faster. Only her breaths, coming out short and deep.
“I have to get out of here!” cried Celia, racing to the top. “I have to...”
She was silent. Seagulls cawed above her head, and waves crashed upon the shore. Palm trees swayed in the breeze. It was exactly as she had imagined it. Then, Celia screamed.
“Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” She lay in the sand, pounding upon the ground, waiting for something, anything to happen so she’d go back home.
“But...” she said softly. “If this is only a dream, I might enjoy it. You know, I’m starting to think maybe this could be real after all. Maybe that's... a magic hole. I know a way I can go back.”
Eagerly, she turned around. The Hole was gone.
“Gone! No... no, it can’t be,” she said, breathlessly, sifting through the sand with her hands, digging like a dog. “I must get back home. I have to get back to my job. My life.”
But it simply wasn’t there anymore. Nothing but white beaches and palm trees. After hours of searching and desperate crying, Celia sat on the edge of the beach, where the water lapped the shore. She stared out into the endless ocean, her dark eyes empty and silent. The last few hours had been one nightmare after another. There was no way out.
* * *
Rick ran as fast as he could through the snow. He knew something was wrong, something more vital then his cheating was. Celia fell- he heard her. He needed to find her, needed to make everything all right.
“Celia? Can you hear me?” Only the wind answered his call. “Celia! I know you’re mad at me! I was a jerk. You should be mad at me.” He paused, looking for her in the blizzard. “I’m worried, I heard you scream. You have to answer me!” he yelled. “CELIA!”
It was no use. But he thought he saw something move in the darkness. He hobbled towards it. Until the snow grabbed him, too.
Now he was in the hole.
He panted, looking up above him. “Shouldn’t there be snow in this thing?” Grunting, he hoisted himself up. He could see the end of the tunnel. He could see the sky and the falling snowflakes. “Why the heck is there a hole out here? Someone could fall...” He gasped. “Celia, are you down here?! CELIA! CELIA!”
* * *
The island breeze whispered the name into her ears, a gentle reminder of the world she had left behind her. Celia frowned a bit, and tilted her head to hear the voice.Celia... why does that sound so familiar? she thought. I think it’s a name... oh well. It was probably just the wind.
“I must be going crazy, hearing voices in the wind.” She laughed and sighed to herself, sipping her coconut milk and taking a bite of her banana. She closed her eyes and felt the warm sun upon her back. “I’ll have a good tan in no time.”
* * *
“CELIA! CELIA!” Rick tried to lower himself farther into the hole, but it was too narrow. “She would’ve gotten caught just a few feet down,” he said, relieved.
He sighed, sadly. “She probably just ran off somewhere. Why did I cheat on her?” A few tears came to his blue eyes. Everything just gets so complicated, he thought. Where this sudden nostalgia came from he did not know. It was as if someone was whispering the memories into his ears.
“When I was a kid, everything was simple. I sure do miss Boston... I miss my old house. I miss my old dog. I miss the way my mom would make eggs and bacon for breakfast each morning... I need to take a break from all this,” he muttered. “Just some time to figure things out.”
A Flash of Darkness
Light. Quickly, Rick crawled to the top of the tunnel. He felt lighter, more agile somehow... when he crawled out of the end of the tunnel...
Boston, 15 Years Before
“Hello, Rick.” His father smiled, looking up from his morning paper. “I heard you got an A in math this semester. I’m very proud of you.”
“What?” said Rick, looking around his childhood kitchen. He felt faint and queasy. “What the-”
“Rick!” His mother exhaled sharply. “What did I tell you about cursing in this house?” she said, turning to his father. “He’s usually so good about that, you know he never cusses.”
“Just watch it Rick, or you’ll get punished,” said his father. “Eat some breakfast.”
Breakfast was always Rick’s favorite meal.
* * *
The next day...
Michael Andrews, Celia’s next door neighbor, marched out into the snow to shovel the sidewalk. He had heard a lot of noise the night before, but even though he didn’t get a good night’s sleep, he wanted to get an early start on digging his family out. Inside, Michael’s wife watched proudly, a smile on her face.
“Mommy, can we go sledding?”
“Of course, as long as you don’t leave sight of the house.”
“Yay!” Their two daughters bundled up in coats, scarves and boots, and ran out to play.
“Julie! Katie! Going sledding?”
Michael sighed happily. He had everything he wanted in his life- a loving family. It was worth the aches and pains he got from shoveling the walk. Slowly, he made his way down the sidewalk. There were other men and women outside, now, and he suspected the plow would be coming soon.
Suddenly, he felt a cold blast of wind gather out of the previously still air. It hit him in the face, nearly knocking him over. And his woolen hat was blown away.
“Darn it!” Michael ran after the red hat, which was being carried farther and farther away. At last, the wind disappeared as quickly as it had startled him a minute before. Panting, he picked the hat off a pile of snow, and was about to get back to his shoveling.
But he stopped.
He didn’t know why he stopped.
He felt a strange attraction, as if he was a moth flying into the lamp, or a paperclip to a magnet. Cautiously, he looked around. Michael didn’t see anything unusual. Then, he felt a curious warmth on his feet, and peered down at the snow.
Except he felt like something was there. An empty space, another world, perhaps. But he could see only more snow. He stepped forward, hesitantly. As he stood, for some reason, he had the feeling of being in an abyss, a great emptiness. For just a moment, he felt he was in the presence of something great--something eternal.
Down, Michael. You need to go down. Do you want to see what’s at the end? Come down. You don’t have to shovel snow anymore. A vague notion echoed pleasantly through his mind. Michael began to feel excited, almost in a trance.
Everything you want.
“Wait.” Michael stopped, frantically turning around to try and find something, anything. Down... how could he do that? He sat down in the snow, beginning to feel foolish. “What’s going on?” he whispered.
“Daddy! What’re you doing? Come sledding with us! Mommy’s making hot chocolate!” His little girl’s voice made him shake his head and draw away from the strange place.
Why won’t you stay? Why won’t you go DOWN?
But Michael didn’t hear. The only thing he heard was his children playing in the snow.
* * *
One day later, Celia and Rick were reported missing.
Five days later, the snow melted. Rick and Celia’s bodies were found, sprawled across the ground. They were dead.
But there were smiles on both of their faces-- chilling smiles, and eyes bright like childrens’.
There was no hole, only a small impression in the earth. Not an enormous hole, but big enough to make someone trip in the dark. Could it have been a mere invention of their minds, as they lay in the freezing cold? Maybe their subconscious had at last lead them to a place of rest after all the drama they had experienced.
Michael was sitting above the place where the bodies lay, that day after the storm. He could not see the hole. He could not fall. For, if such a fantastic place would exist, it would have nothing to offer him. Every man and woman must ask themselves: would I have fallen?
* * *
The Hole is still waiting. And it is always hungry.
Copyright © 2006 by Sara Hurwitz