The Hole — Chapter 15

A Novel of Supernatural Apocalypse

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oroni was here, in this world. Both of them knew it as soon as they were made aware of the nature of their quest. Furthermore, he was in Salt Lake City. That was why the crazies had migrated here. The Mad King had established his earthly kingdom and Elliot and Evajean were on its outskirts.

“He could be at the temple,” Evajean said. They stood in the hotel lobby, looking out at the dark and empty street. “The big one you see in pictures.”

Elliot thought about this. Back in the hotel room, they had quickly come to the conclusion that gathering weapons for some sort of assault would be meaningless against an enemy such as Moroni. Instead, the two of them would have to rely on prophecy, accepting as truth what they had read in each of the Smiths’ writings. They would have to rely on the impressions of Evajean. They were meant to destroy Moroni and everything they had done until now was leading them to that confrontation. Guns wouldn’t matter, neither would strategy or tactics. If they had within themselves the power to defeat this otherworldly being, then they would defeat him. But if he and Evajean were not the One Mighty and Strong, as Evajean seemed so certain, then no amount of preparation would make any difference.

“I don’t think that’s where he’ll be,” Elliot said. “When the Mormons came here, when they built this city, they were coming to something.”

“The salt lake.”

As soon as he said it, a shock wave went through Elliot’s mind. He stared at her and she at him. Something tickled his consciousness. “Remember,” a voice inside him said. “It is time to remember.”

They left the hotel and with it the journals, leaving them behind on the bed in the room. Neither noticed their absence but, even if they had, they would have known that those messages from the past had fulfilled their purpose and were no longer needed. Now the only purpose left was the one that had driven the lives of Elliot Bishop and Evajean Rhodes.

“Is it far, do you think?” Evajean said after they had walked west for several minutes.

“It probably is.”

“Will we make it by morning?”

“Yes.”

The city was empty. They neither heard nor saw any sign of the crazies and, the further they walked, the more convinced Elliot became of Evajean’s claim about the lake. That’s where the crazies had gone and that was where they would find Moroni.

They stopped after a couple of hours to rest. Evajean pulled her jacket tighter against the night chill. “Are you scared, Elliot?” she asked, looking not at him but out across the city in the direction of the lake.

“Yes,” he said.

“I am, too. I keep thinking how insane this all is, everything that’s happened. I don’t want to believe it. I want to think that I can just turn around and go home and Henry will be waiting for me and that we can bring a bottle of wine over to a barbecue in the evening at your place, with Clarine and your daughter. You’ll cook some steaks and maybe I’ll have a drink, but not as much as before. I think how wonderful that would be, and it makes me scared and sad.”

Elliot didn’t respond. His stomach twisted as she spoke. He turned his face away from her.

“It was all so beautiful then,” Evajean continued. “Before. But I know that if all this is true, if everything we read isn’t just made up stories, and if we really are the One Mighty and Strong, then that beauty was false all along. Because no matter how good things were, there was still Moroni and there was still Yahweh. And all of this was going to happen no matter what we did.”

“Except stop believing,” Elliot said. He turned to face her. “It’s belief they needed to do this. That’s what the journal said. If we had stopped believing…”

“Stopped believing in what, Elliot? They were there. They were real. You can’t stop believing in something if it’s really right there in front of you.”

“That’s not what people believed in,” Elliot said. “They didn’t go to church to worship Moroni and Yahweh, the demons from another dimension. They went because they believed in God. That’s what the demons used, that faith. They needed it to keep people’s minds open so they could make the crazies when the time came. If we had rejected that belief…”

“I just want things back the way they were. I really do.”

“Yeah,” Elliot said.

“But I don’t hate them.”

“Who?”

“Any of them. Any of the people who believed and, I guess, caused this to happen. I can’t hate them. They believed what they did for love.”

“A lot of people have believed a lot of things for love,” Elliot said. “That doesn’t make any of it right.”

Evajean nodded. “But it makes it more okay,” she said.

Elliot shook his head. He didn’t know how to respond and he didn’t want to. What mattered now was the road in front of them, the last miles until the water and whatever they might find there. “We have to see this through,” he said, standing up. “Come on, let’s go.”

She followed him, and kept any further thoughts on the matter to herself.

Some time later, they saw the first crazy of the day. It was a young girl, and she stumbled down the middle of the same street, in the same direction as they, toward the lake. Elliot noticed her when they walked around the side of a van abandoned in the road. They had emerged from the city proper and were following a two-lane highway that travelled in the direction of the Salt Lake.

Elliot grabbed Evajean and pulled her down to the curb. Startled, she called out, but he pressed a hand to her mouth. “Sssshhhh,” he said, pointing.

She looked. The girl, ten or twelve years old, wore a green dress torn up the back. Her hair was dirty and matted. As they watched, she was joined by an elderly couple who came out of a row of office buildings on the left. Three males wearing jeans and novelty t-shirts were in the cab of a tipped-over semi. The truck was on its side, the passenger door open to the sky. The men clambered out and teetered on the side of the cab, then began climbing down onto the street below. None noticed Elliot and Evajean.

“Where are they going?” Evajean whispered.

“The lake.” He lifted himself part way from the gravel.

The last of the three men leaving the cab — a fat, middle aged guy — slipped from the top of the truck and slammed into the road with his shoulder. Elliot heard the bone break. The guy pushed himself up with his other hand and got to his feet, stumbling after the others. As he had fallen, he’d looked directly in Elliot and Evajean’s direction, but the crazy gave no sign of noticing them.

Elliot turned back to Evajean. “I don’t think they can see us,” he said. “Or, if they can, they just don’t care.

She shook her head. “Why?”

That sensation of memory came again. But it was faint and fleeting. “I don’t know,” Elliot said.

They lay there until the flow of crazies diminished and finally stopped. Elliot stood up.

“Whose do you think they were?” Evajean said when they had started walking.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean whose side? Yahweh’s or Moroni’s? I figure Moroni’s because I think that’s what most of them have been, but you can’t tell.”

“No,” Elliot said.

The sun had begun to turn the sky orange when they confirmed where the crazies were going, and whose side they were on.

“Jesus,” Elliot said.

“What are they doing?” Evajean said.

The salt lake spread out in front of them, its surface golden in the morning light. They stood on a raised stretch of highway running parallel to shore. Under was the hard packed dirt of the Utah desert, the wind kicking it into clouds and funnels of dust. Elliot leaned against the bridge’s concrete railing and looked out at the madness beyond.

The crazies were raising a city. They had begun along the muddy beach, and had built out a hundred feet into the water. The closer construction took the form of wood and reed huts, held together by gravity and mud. Thousands of crazies ambled about, some holding up logs or rushes, while others reached into the water for handfuls of thick mud, which they smeared along the seams of the buildings.

The hive of activity below them was not what had drawn Evajean’s attention and Elliot’s exclamation. Rather, their focus was on the enormous structure rising from the gentle surface of the lake some fifty yards out. The pyramid climbed more than two-hundred feet into the sky. Its surface shimmered a sickly turquoise. Crazies swarmed its sides, carrying rocks or pulling ropes attached to carts. The top third of the pyramid remained uncompleted, and it was there that the crazies brought their materials, moving carefully to finish the construction.

“This is where they all went,” Elliot said. He knew this place. He’d seen this place. He blinked and the feeling was gone.

Evajean just shook her head in bafflement.

Stretching out along the shore in both directions were countless crazies, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. They pushed over each other to get out onto the docks, straining to reach the pyramid and help in its building. So many, erecting their city, raising their temple. “To Moroni,” Elliot said. “It’s for their god.”

“It makes me feel sick,” Evajean said. “They’re like ants.”

At the top of the unfinished pyramid, where the construction was most recent, the stone hadn’t yet been painted. It was a deep red, the color of the Utah badlands. As they watched, a crazy on the pinnacle began screaming, waving her arms, and then went stiff, standing tall, before falling backward. At first it looked as if the nearby crazies were reaching out to catch her but their outstretched arms were not to help but to push and drag and then eventually to throw her over the edge, where she tumbled, kicked by more crazies along the way. Her body rolled the full height of the pyramid before plunging into the water. She floated, face down, drifting toward the middle of the lake.

“What’s it for?” Evajean asked. “Why would they build an entire city?”

“They’re colonizing,” Elliot said, knowing with total certainty that he spoke the truth. “That’s the point of all this. They’re returning the world to the way it was, when Moroni ruled. They’re preparing it for his reign.”

“Elliot…”

He looked at her. She was sitting cross-legged on the road. She stared up at him. “Elliot, how are we going to stop this? That’s what we were meant to do, right? The Mighty and Strong? I guess I hadn’t really thought about what that meant, you know?”

He sat down next to her.

“I wish I had the dog,” she said. She hugged herself, rubbing her hands along her arms. “I’m terrified, is what it is. It was all an adventure, we had it figured out and we were going to find this lake and do what we were meant to do. But, goddamn, Elliot, there are so many of them. How are we supposed to do anything? We don’t even know where Moroni is and, if we find him, we don’t know how to kill him. I thought we’d know by now. That I’d know by now, the way I knew who we are. But I don’t.”

Elliot leaned against her. He smiled. “You remember how this all started? When we were sitting in my kitchen and you said you wanted to go to Salt Lake City?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“We did it, Evajean. And it’s where everyone else was going, too. We did exactly what we set out to do. And there it is, right in front of us. Sure, I don’t have a clue what it is, but you know what? No matter what happens from here, we found it.”

“We succeeded in our quest,” she said.

“We did.”

Evajean laughed. It was a quiet sound, but it was authentic. “Now we just have to slay the dragon,” she said.

“We do,” Elliot said. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but if all this stuff we’ve learned so far, about who we are and what we were put here for, if all of it is true, then I think we will know when the time comes.”

“Henry wouldn’t have made it futile,” Evajean said. “He loved me. Whatever he might have been up to, taking us to Virginia, being part of Smith’s conspiracy, I know he loved me and he wouldn’t get me into something there wasn’t any way for me to get out of.”

Elliot didn’t necessarily believe that. With the stakes so high, sacrificing the two of them for even a chance of success was the prudent thing to do. But then he thought of Clarine, and her involvement in all this, too. She’d been part of Smith’s conspiracy and she had brought him to Virginia, where he would find Evajean, his counterpart. Clarine loved him, too, and he loved her and she had given him Callie.

“Tell me about Nahom,” Evajean said. “When I killed the crazies.”

Elliot thought back. “Those weren’t these crazies,” he said. “At least I don’t think so. The villagers were Mormons, fundamentalist ones. That would put them in Moroni’s camp. But I think they were there to guard what we found in the cave. Guard it or look for it. The crazies attacking them must have been Yahweh’s.”

“But tell me about what happened,” Evajean said.

“It’s like it’s always been. They were closing in on us. You held the box, the book, over your head, said some strange stuff about leaving this waypoint, which makes more sense now than it did then, and there was a pulse. It shot out from the box and knocked all the crazies flat. Then you passed out.”

“I think I could do it again.”

That caught Elliot by surprise. “What do you mean? Do you remembering doing it, remember how you did it?”

She shook her head. “It’s a feeling. In the back of my head. Like there’s energy there. I hadn’t noticed it before, with everything that was going on, but now that we’re sitting here and I guess now that I’m calming down, it’s there and I think I need to release it.”

Elliot saw her in Nahom, the crazies closing in, the box held high. That terrible burst and the carnage it brought, and then the thought of that same thing happening again, here, with a million corpses, it was awful. But he also knew, terribly, that the power to do it was in her. He wanted her to use it. If these crazies, the Nephites, were Moroni’s legion, then they deserved it for all the damage they had caused. Callie and Clarine and Henry and everyone else who had died or been driven from their heads by these possessing hordes. Evajean could slaughter them all.

He looked at her. His thoughts had suddenly plunged him back into doubt. “If you can do it, you should,” he said. “But what’s my part in this? We’re the Mighty and Strong.”

Evajean shook her head. “You’ve saved me. More than once.”

“Yeah,” Elliot said.

“No one told us how to do this, how to do any of it,” Evajean said. “It just happened. That’s how it’ll be down there. It will just happen. So let’s go. Let’s get it over with.”

“You’re sure?” Elliot said.

Evajean nodded.

“Okay,” he said. He took her hand. “We’ll go when you’re ready.”

“Now,” Evajean said. “Let’s go now.” She began walking, pulling on his hand, and Elliot followed. They stayed in the middle of the road, on the yellow line that curved toward the shore of the Great Salt Lake.

The first of the crazies noticed them when they were halfway down the ramp. A young boy looked up from a chunk of broken road barrier that he was trying to pick up, and stared at them. He remained bent over, hands on the concrete, but his eyes fixed on Elliot, then drifted to Evajean. His mouth opened, closed, and opened again. Finally, and with an expression of total disinterest, he shrugged and resumed his task. “Why do you think — ” Elliot began, but Evajean was a step ahead of him.

“He doesn’t know he’s supposed to care about us, all he knows is we’re different and he needs to build.” Evajean said. “He doesn’t know what we’re here to do. We’re protected.”

“Somehow,” Elliot said. They both kept their voices low, unwilling to draw attention even after the boy’s behavior.

“Yeah,” Evajean said.

They reached the bottom of the ramp, where the Nephite crazies were more densely packed. A few glanced their way, but their reactions of complete indifference were the same as the boy’s. Evajean squeezed his hand as they drew closer to the fringe of the crowd. Elliot squeezed back and looked over at her, smiling reassuringly. The grin fell away, however, when he saw light surrounding her, surrounding them. He gripped her hand tighter. He didn’t say anything about the light, knowing that she knew that words weren’t necessary. Whatever it was the two of them were meant to do, whatever they had been created to accomplish, had begun.

Their light spread and intensified as they approached the Nephites. The crazies fell back, pushed away in a twenty-foot radius, those closest to the edge of the light throwing up their arms. Some screamed. Elliot could barely hear them. Sounds coming through the light were muffled and had the warble of traveling in water. Beyond the crowd, the unfinished summit of the temple rose, shimmering and still crawling with Moroni’s followers. Elliot could hear himself breathing, could hear his heart beating and the crunch of his shoes on the gravel. He could feel the warmth of Evajean’s hand. He closed his eyes and let her lead him onward.

His sense of the passing minutes became fluid. When he opened his eyes, he saw a dock extending out from the beach and into the water. As the Nephites cleared, he saw that it stretched the full distance to the temple. This was the path they would take to enter Moroni’s domain. When his foot first landed on the wood, he realized he had been holding his breath. He let it out and concentrated on walking.

The crazies milled about at the perimeter of the light, stretching their arms toward Elliot and Evajean, calling out to them, pleading. Elliot wondered if they knew what was happening, if they were aware that he had come to destroy their god. He thought so, but felt no pity. They had ended his world and now he was going to end theirs.

Half way along the dock, Elliot noticed a hump rising in the water. As he watched, it settled back beneath the surface, only to return a dozen yards closer. Elliot’s attention felt slow and shifting, his skin pleasantly warmed by the light from Evajean. He focused on the thing in the water and, after a moment, he saw it breach. It was one of the creatures, the same that had eaten Melvin and chased them the previous night. They were swimming in the Salt Lake, doing laps around Moroni’s temple. This is where they had come from. They were beings from the same realm as the Mad King, loosed upon the earth.

The crazies dropped away as Elliot and Evajean progressed along the dock. A few swam beside them in the water, but most remained on the shore. Those on the temple kept their distance, too, jumping into the water as Evajean’s light approached. Soon the path between Elliot and Evajean and the steps leading to the top of the temple was entirely clear. At the top of the pyramid, hovering above the uncompleted apex, was a purple ball of light no bigger than a man. Elliot could barely make out a flow of energy coming from it, erupting into the sky. He looked up and saw it spread away into the distance in all directions. The clouds above shimmered.

Evajean stopped walking. They were only within a few paces of the temple’s stone steps. The light no longer came just from her but from him as well. Elliot could feel it inside his body, shedding heat as it burst forth. Evajean whispered and, over the sound of the water and the calls of the crazies, somehow, he heard her.

“We’re nearly done,” she said.

There was a moment, the briefest of flashes, when Elliot wanted to turn and run, to return to Virginia and let the world end without him. The moment passed so quickly that he barely remembered it. He turned and put his arms around Evajean, squeezing her against his chest, smelling her hair and the dust in her clothes. Her jacket smelled of Hope, the dog’s scent rubbed in deeply by all of the times she had cradled him close to her.

“Now, we finish it,” he said into her ear.

She nodded and pulled away. She looked up into his face and smiled. “I think we already have,” she said. “It’s over. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

Elliot looked and would have fallen back except for the supreme calm that had washed over him. Moroni climbed from his fortress, a beast easily matching the horrors that he had wrought.

The water around the pyramid erupted into froth and waves. The creatures swimming there squealed and fled. Enormous arms rose from the lake and clawed up the sides of the temple. Dozens of them, as big as telephone poles, scaled the walls, twisting and loose like tentacles but with recognizable joints and huge hands. Crazies fell from temple’s sides or died, crushed beneath the palms. The arms were covered in coarse fur, which Elliot realized was actually fingers, grey and slick and hooking out in all directions. The arms pulled the mad king’s weight out of the water, a semicircle of flesh — carpeted not in fingers, but teeth — that surrounded the pyramid. It was like a hood unveiling, as if the temple was being prepared for rain or protected with shade. The hood slid upward until it had reached the temple’s height and then came forward and down, smothering the stone and steps. The arms continued all across its surface, groping bristles of vaguely human appendages. The palm of each opened into a black hole, not a mouth, but an empty cavity, out of which came a thousand screeching babbles, the call of the crazies, but terribly magnified and deafeningly shrill.

Moroni’s body rippled and writhed, the hands along the underside holding fast to the stone, while those across the top grasped futilely at the air. Steam rose from Moroni’s flesh and washed over Elliot and Evajean. From the cacophony of hands, a voice emerged.

I DESPISE YOU, it said, in a myriad of pitches and volumes. I HAVE DESPISED YOU SINCE I FIRST WAS.

Elliot ignored it and resumed walking, stepping off the end of the dock and starting up the side of the pyramid. Evajean paused only a moment before following. She caught up to walk close to him, taking his hand again. The light from both of them was blinding now, Moroni, stretched above them like a tarp, only visible as a rough shape.

YOU ARE NOT READY FOR THIS, the god continued. TURN BACK AND I SHALL CALL OFF MY ARMIES. TURN BACK AND I WILL PROTECT YOU.

Elliot shook his head. “No,” he said softly.

I WAS FIRST, Moroni said. The arms twisted and snatched at the sky, more frantically than before. THE OTHER WILL BETRAY YOU. DEFEAT ME AND YOU ONLY GIVE THE WORLD OVER TO HIM.

“We will see that he fails, too,” Evajean said. They were halfway up the side of the temple, Moroni’s bulk blocking out the sun. Elliot and Evajean’s light filled the cave of flesh and stone.

YOU CANNOT DO THIS. YOU ARE NOT ABLE. YOU WILL FALTER BEFORE THIS ENDS.

“We have defeated you before,” Elliot said and knew it to be true. He knew what would happen and, remembering Callie and Clarine and all the other deaths he had experienced, he was glad for it. What was left for him here, in this world? He felt Evajean’s hand relax in his. She knew it, too. They finished their walk.

The hands strained for them as they took their final steps up the pyramid’s slope. Moroni was forced back by the light. and strong, Elliot thought. we are mighty and strong.

The last of the steps passed beneath their feet. They stood on the peak and looked into the sphere of light, the hole through which Moroni and his army had emerged.

“Elliot,” Evajean said, and even over Moroni’s screaming the word was clear.

He took her into his arms and, together, they walked through.

Silence. And then a rush of sound and sensation, overwhelming Elliot’s senses.

But he wasn’t Elliot, not really. Not anymore. He still held Evajean and she held him. And then they were no longer just holding each other, but joining, flowing together. Returning to each other. It was like nothing Elliot had ever felt, an intimacy and a familiarity beyond imagining.

Darkness and light and sound and silence buffeted him — buffeted them — and, suddenly, Elliot — or the thing that had been Elliot — and Evajean — or the thing that had been Evajean — knew. It understood.

The One Mighty and Strong remembered.

It remembered being born with the universe and sharing this new creation with its many brothers, Moroni and Yahweh among them. But brotherhood turned to rivalry as the universe aged and cooled. These gods forged followers, dimensional beings like themselves, but weaker. This wasn’t enough, however. Their ambition was too great.

As the planets formed and populations grew, Yahweh came to covet Earth, as did Moroni. The One pleaded with them to put aside their ambitions, but without success.

Yahweh sent followers through to this new realm, but outside of his home plane, he was weak. His spirit followers couldn’t gain a firm hold in the minds of the creatures, the humans, who dwelled there. So he spoke through avatars, projecting himself into human and unhuman forms. He tricked the strange beings who lived on the Earth, convincing them to start religions in his name and, in so doing, open their minds to his spirit minions.

Moroni grew jealous of his brother. He sent his own followers through the rifts to Earth and there the brothers waged war against each other. The Nephites, the spirit followers of Moroni, and the Lamanaites, of Yahweh, took control of humans and used them to combat each other. Yahweh’s forces were stronger and they defeated Moroni, driving him from Earth. But Yahweh was weakened in the battle and, after securing victory, his forces fled the field.

Seeing an opportunity, the One struck. (What was left of Elliot remembered this as in a dream, and shuddered at its scope. What was left of Elliot held on to his waning consciousness, not yet ready to abandon who he was, to abandon Evajean.) The One fought its brothers and won. It built prisons for the two gods and locked them away. But the prisons weakened and the Mad King and Yahweh grew stronger.

Moroni, the younger of the two, discovered cracks in his cage first. He sent through his avatar again, remembering the success Yahweh had, and contacted Joseph Smith. He tricked Smith into founding a new religion, one that would, Moroni hoped, grow to rival those of Yahweh.

The strategy worked. As the Mormon faithful multiplied, Moroni’s power grew and, with it, he was able to weaken the walls of his prison faster than Yahweh could weaken his own.

The One saw this all. (I saw this all, what was left of Elliot thought. We saw this all.) His powers depleted from creating the prisons, he knew his only hope was to stop Moroni when the Mad King came through to Earth, when he was forced to take physical form. And so the One hid himself on Earth, dividing his essence in two and placing the pieces in different locations on the continent where the final battle would be waged. The One, through Joseph Smith, who had come to realize his mistake, established an organization of humans who would help it when the time came. (Cassandra, Elliot thought. And all those who came before her.) It placed tools it would need in locations only it would know, locations it would be drawn to. (That’s why we ended up in Nahom. To recover the box, which would trigger Evajean’s power and, with it, start her on the process of remembering. That’s why we found the church where Melvin hid. We were guiding ourselves.) And then the One made itself forget.

Moroni’s prison broke. The Mad King walked again upon the earth. His spirit followers flowed through the hole between the dimensions and took over the minds of humans. Many couldn’t cope with the alien beings attacking their minds, and they were driven insane and killed. But other humans, especially those primed by Moroni’s religion, fared better. These were the crazies Elliot-who-was-not-Elliot and Evajean-who-was-not-Evajean encountered as they were drawn by latent memories of their true nature to the tools they would need to become who they had always been.

But Yahweh’s followers escaped to Earth, as well, possessing their own humans and fighting those in thrall to Moroni. And through the hole flowed other things, twisted things, that warped the creatures of Earth and made them monstrous. (The beasts that ate Melvin, the fast-fading Elliot knew. And the awful thing in the house.)

Some of Yahweh’s followers remembering the power of the One Mighty and Strong, and fearing his wrath upon not just Moroni but Yahweh as well, entered not into war with their counterparts but, instead, chose to help the One in its quest.

These crazies tried to help Elliot and Evajean, to protect them and remind them of their essential being. They told the two halves, again and again, who they were. But the two halves didn’t believe them or couldn’t understand their message. It was only as they began to awaken, when the energies in the box unleashed Evajean’s powers, when Melvin’s stories triggered locked away thoughts, that the One became aware again of its purpose.

And now the One Mighty and Strong understood that purpose — and it understood how to fulfill it. The last of Elliot slipped away, as did the last of Evajean. The One Mighty and Strong drew on its recovered strength and struck out at Moroni, tearing at the Mad King, rending his worldly flesh.

The heavens shook. The gods clashed. And Moroni, the Mad King, again lost the battle to his brother. Stripped of the power that was his in his native realm, Moroni succumbed.

The One Mighty and Strong murdered his brother, as he should have done an eternity ago.

The hole between the dimensions closed and spirit minions trapped on Earth, both Moroni’s and Yahweh’s, withered.

The One Mighty and Strong, as Joseph Smith had prophesied, put forth his hand and steadied the ark.

The young boy blinked. His hands hurt and he dropped the stone he had been carrying. It was small but its edges were rough and it was heavy for a boy so small. He watched it roll away from his feet, then rubbed his palms on his jeans.1

Overhead, the sky flashed, like lightning from everywhere, and then faded to its original color. The boy wondered what that color was, realizing he remembered nothing of where he was or how he had gotten there. He looked around.

A grocery store was off to his left, cars filling the lot, their windows sparkling in the morning sun. He appeared to be alone. Behind him, the skyline of the city was unfamiliar, as was the landscape that it rose out of. He recalled seeing pictures in a textbook once, and knew he was in the West. He wondered at this, too, for he had been born in Boston and spent every year of his life there.

Loneliness overcame him.

The boy walked to the cars, not knowing what else to do. He was confused. His head hurt, but the pain ebbed.

He heard barking. The boy turned and saw something jump from the back of one of the cars, through the frame in the door where there had once been a window. The boy ran toward it.

The small, black puppy stopped in front of the boy and stared up at him. The dog began to growl, then sniffed the air. It yipped. The boy bent down and reached out with his hand. The dog took a step forward, stretched its neck, and smelled him. Then it barked again.

The boy made a calming noise and patted the animal on the head. The puppy pushed against his hand. “Hi there,” the boy said. The dog cocked its head. “My name’s Rodney. My friends call me Rod.” He rubbed the dog behind the ears. “You can call me Rod if you want.”

The dog nuzzled into his arms. Rodney scratched its stomach. Then the two of them set out toward the city.

Thank you for reading The Hole. I hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear what you think. And if you want to check out more of my stores, you can find them at my fiction Medium Publication.

-Aaron

Political ethicist. Writer. Podcaster. Free Market Buddhist.

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