The sinkhole began in the center of town, unnoticed by most of the 153 inhabitants of Burville, who were watching the little league game at the ball field just outside of town. Jimmy Thompson had just smacked a long fly ball into right field when,on Main Street, a loud crack pierced the air, rousing Tom Godwin from the X-men comic book he was reading on his bed in the second floor apartment above his fathers shop. Tossing the comic book across the rumpled comforter, he moved to the window.
Tom watched as a spiderweb of cracks raced from the yellow center line that bisected the only road that ran though town. Growling, like the grind of a thousand teeth, it approached the sidewalks on either side of the asphalt. When the noise stopped suddenly, he heard the pounding of his heart thundering in his ears. Exhaling sharply, he sighed and great chunks of gave way, sucked into a dark abyss below.
Dogs began to howl in the distance, as if they knew what had happened, what was coming. Tom watch a streak of white fur rush up the street. Mr. Fitzmeir's poodle. It stopped five feet from the hole, yapping and growling. Fearing the dog may fall in if the jagged edges expanded further, Tom slipped on his shoes and began clomping down the wooden stairs to retrieve it, but the yapping ended in a wet gurgle when he was halfway down.
Curious, and somewhat afraid, Tom turned and raced back up the stairs to look out the window again. There was no sign of the poodle, but along one of the edges there was a crimson scuff, as if something had been dragged, bleeding. As he watched, another few feet of road gave way taking what he believed to be the last little bits of the poodle with it. Hot urine ran down his leg into his shoe, matting his jeans to his leg.
Pete Hammond, shook with a start when the dogs started howling, the flashlight on his gun belt jangling against the keys in his pocket. He was at the game providing security, making the townsfolk feel safe, and make sure no one got too bent out of shape when their little one got called out. This was the most excitement the sheriff of Burville had each week. Sure there was the occasional tractor trailer trying to cut through their town to avoid the scales on the interstate, but mostly keeping the peace was a pretty easy job in a town so small. He watched Otis Fitzmeir's poodle shoot like a rocket from his resting spot beneath the fold out chair towards town, furthering his unease.
"Keep your seat Otis! I am going to run into town anyway, I need to check on a fax," he lied, not wanting to incite others to something that may be nothing.
Sliding into the drivers seat of his patrol car, he waved at Dan Godwin, the owner of the art gallery in town. Dan and his son had moved to Burville about a year ago from somewhere out west. He was running from the memories of his wife who had been killed during a burglary in their home, dragging his son in tow. Tom, the son, didn't talk. Evidently he had been the one to find his mom and the scream he let out when he did was the last thing anyone ever heard from him.
When Dan opened the shop, the people of Burville had flocked to his door curious about what they had never seen in the small town. The artwork was dark, matching his mood, but after a visit by the leader of the Ladies Auxiliary he had started carrying a much lighter, happier stock of art. Pete chuckled, he had his own run-ins with the Ladies Auxiliary over the years. They sure had a way of setting men straight.
Once he was out of the gravel parking lot and on the road, Pete gunned the engine, covering the mile into town in seconds. He almost did not see the gaping hole in Main Street in time and left smoking black streaks where his tires dragged to halt. For a minute he sat there, staring, his mind clicking off the things that would need to be done. This was the only road through town. How was he going to get all the people at the baseball game back to their homes on the other end of town?
His eyes caught a slight movement in one of the shops and he noticed Tom standing in window on the second floor of their shop. Perhaps the boy saw what happened, if only he would talk. Flipping on the light bar, so no one else would drive up on him without noticing the hole, Pete stepped out of his vehicle, adjusting his belt. He took the flashlight from its loop in case he needed it. Shoes skritching on loose pebbles, he approached the hole, realizing it was a good twenty feet across an stretching sidewalk to sidewalk.
"Anyone down there?" he yelled, hoping not. He really did not want to have to crawl down there.
He peered into the darkness of the hole, unable to see the bottom. The walls of the hole were rugged but had form, as if someone had bored up from below. A perfectly round hole. He barely had time to register what was happened as his head was engulfed in something warm and wet. The last thing he felt was his feet leaving the ground.
Tom watched from the window as the Sheriff was pulled into the hole. He saw it this time. He did not know what it was, but he saw it. He began to tremor, then shake, but he could not look away.
The Barons beat the Braves, 9-6, and for the most part parents were civil as they collected their kids and shuffled them into minivans. Those without kids milled around talking to neighbors, catching up on the gossip for the week. Secrets were not kept long in small towns, your business became common knowledge soon enough. Not that anyone would talk to you about it face to face.
The families were the first to arrive in town, stopping in a long line behind the yellow and blue flashing lights of the patrol car. The men left their wives to tend to the kids, who were complaining about being hungry, to go investigate. A steady stream of concerned neighbors flowed by the line cars, on foot, to see what the hold up was. A few wives honked their horns, slowly losing their sanity to the bickering of the kids. Eventually they became exasperated enough to drag the screaming kids forward to find their fathers.
Tom watched them all from the window, one by one, then in small groups falling prey to the thing in the pit. It crushed their bodies in great pulpy masses before dragging them in with it. He wanted to scream, to tell them to stop, but he couldn't. He just watched, his eyes bleeding rivers of tears down his face. Stop! Stop! Stop!, his heart beat.
Tom heard the back door to the shop below rattle, then glass breaking, tinkling on the floor. The door banged against the wall, as is swung all the way open. Then footsteps took the stairs.
"Tom! Tom!," he heard his father's voice behind him, searching for him.
He felt his father enter the room, "Tom, my god, what is...," he stammered out of breath.
His father's hands grabbed him roughly, turning his from the window, pulling him into a hug, "God, you are okay. I thought..."
Over his son's shoulder, Dan saw it emerge from the hole. It sweeped a group of women and children into a tangled mass, smashing them into the storefront of a building across the street. Blood ran like wet spray paint down the brick. He screamed, "Oh God...holy shit...what the fuck is that?"
Leaving his son standing, Dan ran to his bedside table, ripping the top drawer out. It fell from his fingers to the floor, spilling contents under the edge of the bed. Dan snaked his arm under the edge of the bed, groping until his fingers felt the handle of his gun. Popping the clip he counted his shots, before banging it back into place and chambered a round.
"We are safe, we are going to be safe. It does not know we are here. I will protect us. It won't get us...," Dan was yammering, to the back of his son, now turned to the window, to watch once more.
"Oh hell! I left the door open! Be right back, don't move!," Dan yelled over his shoulder, rushing down the stairs to beat his nightmare thoughts to the open door. Slamming it closes, he pulled down a cabinet of smaller pieces of artwork. The crash was deafening and he hoped it did not draw the attention of the thing outside. He watched it writhe through he large front window, a great mass of pink fleshy tentacles. Tongues. It reminded him of the color of tongues.
One smashed through the window, sending glass shrapnel flying into the shop, knocking over easels. Dan fired blindly as he ran for the stairs. He may have hit it, he had no idea as he scrambled up the stairs. He could hear it thumping against the walls, furniture screeching, wood splintering. It was coming.
This time, when his father came spilling into the room, Tom turned to look at him. His father was sweating profusely, hair matted to his head, babbling incoherent. There eyes locked and there was a wildness in his father's eyes. They pleaded with Tom. To speak.
Releasing the clip, his father checked the clip again. "Oh god! Shit! We only have one bullet left son," his voice shook.
"... kill my mother...," Tom's voice was weak from disuse.
"What?!," his father's voice was loud in comparison, shocked that his son actually spoke, then at what he thought he heard.
"You killed my mother!," Tom shrieked.
"No!," Dan yelled, his eyes jerking to the stairwell as a tentacle slammed into the stairwell wall.
Tom crossed the room in a flash, leaping upon his dad's chest, driving air from his lungs. Anger burned in his eyes, swollen from crying. His fingers gripped his fathers cheek forcing him to look at him. Dan bucked throwing him off, shoving Tom toward the stairwell.
"No! Not now! We...we only have one bullet left...we are going to die," Dan was frantic, caterwauling his eyes around the room, looking for the escape he knew was not there.
"Use it on yourself," Tom said coolly as he began descending the stairs toward the thrashing tentacle.
The tentacle was warm and wet as it wound around him, pinning his arms, dragging him back through the shop. Tom watched the life he had led the last year slip by in the debris of torn canvases, broken frames and spilled paints.One puddle of paint caught his eye. It was blue, his mother's favorite color. Wrapped in her memory, he heard the gunshot softly that took his dad and smiled.
The Tenth Daughter of Memory