“Are we there yet?”
My legs burned. My bites itched. Cory had promised an interesting hike, but so far, the most interesting thing I had seen was a woman wearing sunglasses in the shade. Oh, and a squirrel falling out of a tree. So I was about to abandon them—take my chances with the bears and the moose and whatever the hell else was out here—when Cory replied:
“Finally,” I groaned. “This better be good, because—”
My breath caught in my throat.
We were standing on the cusp of a huge pit. A thin fence circled it, covered with signs that read DANGER and NO TRESPASSING.
Vegetation crept up to the edge and spilled over into the darkness, like some kind of grassy waterfall. And an unfortunate tree grew at the edge, its exposed roots stretching towards the bottom.
If there even was a bottom.
“What is it? A sinkhole?”
“Beats me,” he replied, pacing around the fence. “All I know is, locals call it the Pit of Endless Darkness.”
“Oooooh, so spooky,” Kat mocked.
“How deep does it go?” I asked.
“Who knows?” Kat shrugged. “And who cares?”
Cory got out his phone. “If we throw something in, I can time how long it takes to reach the bottom. And then, using kinematics, we can calculate—”
“You’re such a nerd, Cory,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“No, let’s do it,” I said, reaching into my pocket. I pulled out a water bottle, and chucked it. With a soft rush, it fell down into the pit.
Kat leaned against the fence, peering down into the darkness.
But she leaned a little too far.
The fence gave way.
Kate tumbled forward—arms outstretched, face frozen in surprise.
And then she screamed.
And screamed, and screamed, and screamed.
Cory and I lunged forward. But it was too late—her scream was echoing up the pit, fading with every second.
And then silence.
No smack, no clunk, no thud. Just the chittering of the birds above, and the rush of the soft breeze.
“Kat!” I yelled, trembling.
“No,” Cory said, his voice cut with sobs. “No, no, no! Kat!”
I stumbled away from the fence and collapsed in the soft grass, sobbing. I pulled out my phone, started to dial 911; but I knew, deep down, there was no saving her.
But then I heard it.
Shrill, high-pitched, reverberating through the trees about a dozen yards away.
Cory and I stared at each other.
And then we ran as fast as we could, the branches snapping beneath our feet. “Kat!” we yelled, as the sound grew louder. “Kat !”
There she was.
Lying on the ground, caked with dirt and dust, facing away from us.
As we approached, she tilted her head up towards the sky. “I’m okay!” she called up, her hands cupped around her mouth. “Cory, Jen, I’m okay! I’m at the bottom!”
“Kat?” Cory asked, stepping towards her carefully.
“Yes! I’m okay!” she yelled, her face still tilted towards the sky. Then she stretched her arms out, groping at the dirt. “Dammit, I can’t see a thing. So dark down here.”
Wobbling, she pulled herself up.
Then she turned in our direction.
Cory stumbled back.
“No,” I choked out.
They were completely gone.