It was Friday night when Lois found the hole.
It had opened up in the flowerbed, where the cats had been buried, one after the other, where the summer blooms had been brown and wilted and dying. They were all gone now, having fallen into the black pit without a trace. It was as wide and rancid as a giant’s belch, giving off the fecal stink of mulch and afterbirth, reminding Lois so vividly of the day the twins were born that she had to sit down. The sad pull of nostaglia often got her that way, in recent years, making her wonder if she’d been right to have her tubes tied after Mara and Linette, if it would have made Alan change his mind about things.
Silly that such niggling thoughts could be provoked by a hole in the garden. But it was a strange thing to stumble across, there being no way for it to have appeared between earlier in the afternoon and now. Lois had been outside several times to smoke and hadn’t seen a trace of it, nor was there any dirt surrounding the hole to imply that some odd character had snuck over the fence to dig. Kneeling in the soil beside it Lois peered down, trying to make out exactly how far the thing went down. Perhaps it was a sinkhole or some other natural phenomenon, the roses collapsing into some forgotten cavity far below. But Lois got the sense that it was deeper even than that, although what that meant she couldn’t quite understand.
She reached out into the hole, clenching her hand over the dark. The air was hot and clammy, like the inside of a mouth, and Lois was certain that she could feel a soft breeze blowing upon it that simply wasn’t present above-ground. Lois quickly stood up, brushing off her jeans, and stared into the chasm with a shapeless dread. She’d never liked holes, the suddenness of them, the way you could see them everywhere, often dirty and ugly- the pores on a wine-flushed nose, an anus clenching over an unwanted digit, a mouth howling in grief.
For a brief, mad moment Lois considered running back to the house to call someone, anyone, get them to come here and explain this hole to her, like a child. But Alan had stopped picking up the phone after the divorce papers were finalised, and the girls had changed their numbers so many times Lois had almost given up trying to find them again. Anyway, they’d only think that she was drunk, or playing a game, but she wasn’t; how could even they deny the hole, so vast and black and consuming?
Abruptly Lois turned and made a beeline for the garden shed, remembering that there was an old spade rusting behind assorted paint cans and one of Linette’s forgotten bicycles. It was only when Lois had the thing in her hand and was stood, panting, over the impossible hole that she realised that there was nothing to fill it in with.
“Stupid,” she said, and laughed, throwing the spade at the pit as if she could wound the thing, or make it close up again like a Venus Fly Trap over a bluebottle.
She listened for the spade hitting the ground at the bottom, or worse, making no sound at all. Instead Lois heard a fleshy thud and a muffled but unmistakable moan of pain, making her jolt in surprise.
“Is… is someone down there?”
There was no reply. When she listened closely, however, Lois was sure that she could hear a quiet, wet sound, as if something was dragging itself through a puddle. There was someone at the bottom of the hole, human or animal it didn’t matter- it was hurt, and Lois was going to help it.
She really did go up to the house this time, searching for a light to help assess the situation. Lois had never been good with patching up the kids’ scrapes and bruises; Alan would always give her a withering look and sigh, elbowing her out of the way to take charge of things. But then again Alan never seemed to think that Lois was decent at anything but the one, and he’d got sick of that too, in time. It often made her think he’d be glad if she dropped off the face of the earth, but that’s what he’d done, in the end, tired of waiting for a miracle.
There wasn’t a light in the house, it seemed; even Lois’ mobile phone was knackered, having been dashed against a wall in a tipsy, regrettable rage. There was a dusty old candle, something left over from a wedding gift, gathering dust. It would have to do. Plucking a box of matches from a drawer in the kitchen Lois looked at the half-drank wine on the countertop and considered taking another sip to settle her jangled nerves. She ended up pouring a glass, swallowing it with her other hand gripping the sink, another hole she was too used to hanging over.
Lois carried the candle and matches out into the garden, stumbling a little, then circled back for the wine. She felt she couldn’t face the hole again without it, so vast, so black, so hollow save for the unknown thing down at the bottom. Rolling sour wine around her mouth Lois struck a match, held it to the candle, and swore as the wick didn’t light. It struck her as stupid that she’d bothered to bring out the candle when it likely wouldn’t produce much more light that a match, and that made her laugh again until tears ran down her face.
She lay in the grass by the hole and struck a second match, holding the little flame out over the chasm. Again she called out, not expecting an answer. It was probably a rat down there, or a vole, something used to dingy pits that didn’t truly need her help. But then again who knew, when the hole itself had come from nowhere, sudden and unwanted and awful.
Yes, awful, for as the match lit the darkness below Lois saw that the hole had no dirt in it at all, not of the earthly kind. The walls and the floor were wet and red and raw, like the inside of a mouth, no, the inside of a cunt, putrid meat, all pulsing and weeping scarlet, alive, alive, alive. There was another hole burrowed down at the heart of the pit, blacker than the gaping aperture that contained it. No, not hole, an eye, a staring cut with nothing but pitiless interest in the creature peering into its domain.
For a minute Lois tottered, her mind fraying as she gazed at the pit. This thing had perhaps always been here, waiting for someone like her to come, jaw unhinging like a titan crocodile to bear her down. Perhaps Alan had called it there, or Lois herself, if useless women had the power to do such things. There was no question of why it had appeared, however, gaping in the dark.
It was why an infant’s mouth opened for the tit or to scream, why men and women and animals shrieked in the night.
Where else was Lois to go but down? She was falling even before she knew it, the wet red walls closing behind her, the eye that was a hole that was a mouth opening around her.
It was only when she struck the bottom that she saw its teeth.