The hole wasn’t large, perhaps a foot across at the most. Not so big as to be particularly worthy of scrutiny, but big enough to notice and walk around.
Someone had gone to the trouble of surrounding the hole with caution tape, and several signs boldly stating ‘Danger’ in both English and Spanish.
Three children ignored this warning though, ducking under the tape to look at the hole behind it.
“You’re sure you saw it roll over here?” Brian asked, annoyance clear in his tone.
“Positive,” said Lucas, “it fell into the pothole.” Brian and Phil looked over to the hole. It was wide enough to fit a soccer ball in theory, but it couldn’t be deep enough to hide the ball inside. Brian went over to the edge of the hole and looked in.
“It’s…deep,” Brian said surprised. Where he had expected to see broken asphalt and gravel, he saw nothing but blackness. Phil joined him at the edge.
“Must be a sinkhole, not a pothole,” he mused.
“What’s the difference?” asked Lucas.
“Sinkholes are deeper,” Phil replied with certainty. Brian kept looking into the small dark pit opened in the pavement. He wondered how far down the bottom was.
“Get me a stick,” he told Lucas. Lucas handed him a fallen branch from nearby, roughly four feet long. Brian took the stick and poked the tip into the blackness. It made contact with nothing. Rather, it looked more like the stick was poking into a pool of black water without ripples, as if it was being absorbed by the black.
“I guess it must be pretty deep,” Phil said as Brian pushed nearly the whole stick into the hole.
“Maybe it-” Brian stopped midsentence when he pulled the stick back out. After the six inches that Brian had been holding onto above the hole, the stick simply ended.
“Holy crap!” Lucas burst out.
“Hold up, hold up,” Phil said, holding up his hand in a gesture to slow down, “It probably just broke against the bottom of the hole,” he said calmly.
“I didn’t feel it break,” Brian mumbled as he examined the shortened end. It was smooth and clean, not rough and jagged like a break should be. “I didn’t hear it hit the bottom either.”
“We should leave it alone guys,” Lucas said quietly. Clearly unnerved by what had just happened.
“But…my soccer ball?” Brian complained. He too was freaked out, but there was a compelling instinct to recover what belonged to him.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Phil. He ran off across the street, over to his house, and disappeared into his family’s garage. A minute later, he emerged carrying a heavy looking bag. “My brother’s climbing gear,” he explained.
Phil began pulling out the long climbing rope, while Lucas reluctantly found a rock to tie to the end. Brian was still looking at the hole. He squinted into the blackness, but he couldn’t see anything beyond the foot and a half wide mouth.
“Wait,” Brian tilted his head, “is it bigger than when we got over here?”
Lucas looked at the hole, his eyes wide, trying to remember if the hole was smaller, and debating whether his reputation could survive running away from here. Phil however, shook his head and smiled.
“You’re imagining things. It’s got a weird trick of the light that makes it look bottomless, that’s it,” he said.
“I’m not sure guys. I think we should just leave,” Lucas’ voice trembled despite himself.
“We’ll see how deep it is and get the ball back if we can,” Phil offered, “If not, we’ll go play some videogames.”
This seemed agreeable to everyone. So, ducking under the caution tape once more, the three boys stood around the small pit. Phil dangled the rock on a rope over the hole, holding the other end of the rope tightly. He dropped the rock, and it disappeared into the nothingness, the rope quickly uncoiling behind it. More and more of the rope followed the rock, vanishing into the hole.
“Look!” shouted Lucas, pointing to the far edge. near the edge of the hole was a small chunk of gravel. At first glance, it might seem that the rock was slowly sliding along the pavement towards the hole, but actually, the edge of the hole was growing outward. After only a few seconds, the gravel fell into the pit. The rope was still uncoiling.
“Grab it!” shouted Brian. Whatever was going on, he decided it was probably a bad idea to put anymore stuff in the hole. He and Phil both grabbed at the rope and pulled. Both boys expected different things to happen. Phil still expected the rope to be pulled up and out of the hole. Brian expected to pull back a severed rope, the rest of it consumed by whatever was in the hole.
Instead, when the two boys pulled back on the rope, the line went taut. The boys pulled harder, but it would not budge. Brian loosened his grip.
“Phil, forget it!” he shouted, “Let’s just go!”
“I can’t. My brother will kill me if I lose-” but Phil was interrupted. The line jerked forward suddenly, causing both boys to stumble. Brian let go of the rope, but Phil did not. He managed to stabilize himself at the edge of the hole for just a moment before another sharp tug of the rope caused him to fall forward. His arms, still holding the rope, entered the hole.
Phil began screaming.
“AAAAH! OH GOD GET ME OUT!”
Brian scrambled forward and grabbed his friend. He pulled back as hard as he could, but it was useless. He looked over to Lucas, who had fallen backward and was crawling away from the hole, paying no heed to the danger signs he was knocking over.
“Lucas! Help Me!” Brian shouted, but Lucas was already scrambling to his feet and running away.
“LUCAASS!” Brian screamed, but his screams for help were being drowned out by Phil’s screams of flesh curling pain. Brian held to his friend with knuckles white and dug his heels into the ground. Whatever had hold of him would not let go. The hole was over two feet wide now, and Brian felt another sharp jerk pull on Phil, which pulled his whole upper body into the hole. The screaming abruptly stopped. Whether Phil was unable to scream or just couldn’t be heard, Brian didn’t know. He clung tightly to Phil’s waist, pulling as hard as he could, his shoes scraping on the pavement.
“Help!” he screamed, “Somebody Help!”
He couldn’t see if anyone was coming to the sound of his pleas, but he didn’t know what else to do. Another short jerk from the hole, and Phil was pulled in even further. This time, Brian’s hands were pulled in as well. Brian now understood why Phil had been screaming.
The sensation was almost indescribable. At first, it was like plunging his hands into a fire and a blender full of dull razor blades at the same time. Then, there was an even worse sensation, like a massive bristled tongue licking his hands, but it was as if the tongue was under his skin, extending up through his veins, through his heart and up into his skull. Where it gave his brain an wet, hungry lick.
Brian screamed for only a second before the next pull from the other side of the hole.
And then the street was empty. Nothing there save for a four foot wide sink hole surrounded by the caution tape and a few signs marked ‘Danger’ in English and Spanish. The only sound heard on the street was the sobs of a young boy named Lucas, hiding under his bed.