The first day after, they didn’t talk much. He sat alone on their grimy, threadbare couch, raggedy as it was, and so he was as well. She stayed in bed. She complained of discomfort and malaise, though she could provide no explicit details of her ailment. Occasionally, he would hear her through the bedroom walls, gently weeping into the folds of the covers. He wanted to go to her, or at least he thought he did, but his feet were rooted to the floor by a paralyzing apathy that he could not rightly explain. And so he continued to sit.  


The second day after, she still refused to leave the bedroom. He brought her some soup and some plain crackers, which she pretended to eat until he left. The crackers tasted like ash and salt, and her mouth was so dry she couldn’t swallow anyway. Once the door clicked shut behind him, she spit the mouthful she had taken onto the floor beside the bed. Her tongue still tasted ash.


The third day after, he noticed a spot on the living room floor. It looked like a small water stain on the cheap vinyl of the floor tile, a tiny discolouration in the faux wood finish of the laminate. He wondered where it came from, but he didn’t think it warranted any further examination. In the bedroom, she was sobbing. He continued to sit, pretending he did not hear.


The fourth day after, she stood in front of her bathroom sink, ignoring the gaunt, dishevelled spectator examining her from the other side of the mirror. She filled her mouth with Listerine and toothpaste, but she couldn’t wash the taste of ash from her tongue. In the living room, he knelt on the floor, examining the spot, which had darkened considerably overnight. It had also grown in size. He touched it with his finger, but it didn’t smudge or smear. It was as though it was inside the tile. He felt a yearning to understand what was causing this strange black spot to appear on his floor, though he couldn’t really explain why such a thing should matter to him at all. From the bedroom, he heard the sound of breaking glass. He sat back down on the couch and did not investigate the sound.


The fifth day after, she asked him to buy her a pack of cigarettes. She hadn’t smoked in years, a fact which he reminded her of, but her mind was made up. They had provided her some amount of comfort in her youth, and so she thought they might again. He acquiesced with little persuasion. In truth, he was relieved to have an excuse to leave the apartment, to leave her, without the overwhelming sensation of guilt which stabbed him deep in his stomach every time he considered opening the door. His only hesitation was the spot on the floor. It had grown again the previous night, and for some reason he was convinced that if he let it out of his sight, it would expand further, discoloring more of his floor. He had no particular affinity for the floor, or the apartment as a whole, but he was concerned about the damage deposit he had paid to the landlord when he first moved in.

Once he was gone, she felt like a weight had been lifted off her chest. She felt like she could move around her home freely, unshackled from whatever bindings had held her captive in the bedroom. She hadn’t realized her misery had been so closely tied to him, and to his very presence. The knowledge brought her no pleasure. She did not want to hate him, and she realized then that she did. She wanted to love him as she once had, as she had believed she always would, but now she was afraid that they were forever torn apart.

She walked into the living room for the first time in nearly a week. It looked the same, but it felt different. Every inch of the apartment felt different. She noticed the spot on the floor. It had grown to about the circumference of a coffee mug, but oblong and warped. As she looked closer she saw that it was moving, growing right before her eyes. Around its outer edge were tiny black protuberances, inky tentacles reaching out and pulling the blackness open ever wider. She sat on the floor and watched for over an hour until he came home.


The sixth day after, they sat on the couch together. The package of cigarettes lay forgotten in a plastic bag by the door, untouched since their delivery the day before. The spot was wider and darker than ever before. It was more than a stain, it was more than a hole, or perhaps less. Perhaps it was the absence of a hole. It was the absence of everything. It was black, but it was also the absence of black. It was as though all matter ceased to exist within the confines of its darkness, all the while its dark tendrils reaching out in every direction sought to expand its territory. They watched it because they could do nothing else. She forgot her hatred. He forgot his apathy. They were united in their curiosity and no longer did her tongue taste ash.


The seventh day after, the hole had expanded to the size of a car tire. It was nearly to the couch, and they both wondered silently if the hole would eventually swallow up the entire room. It was dinner time, but they hadn’t eaten in days. He retrieved the cigarettes from next to the doorway and pulled the plastic wrapper off the box. He extracted a single cigarette and held it out above the hole. He looked to her. She nodded. He dropped the cigarette into the hole. And the cigarette was gone. It was consumed. It was there and then it wasn’t and the mystery of the hole compounded.


The ninth day after, the hole took the couch. First the couch began to lilt, as the hole overtook the space under the front left leg. Then, within minutes the entire couch had upended itself and disappeared into the lightless chasm, sucked into the black abyss with seemingly supernatural force. He realized they hadn’t spoken in days, but it didn’t strike him as important. There would be time to talk later. There would be time to sleep later, and to eat. At that moment there was only the hole.


The tenth day after, they started smoking the cigarettes. He lit hers, then lit his own, as they had done when they stood outside the fence of their junior high school. It seemed like lifetimes had passed since then; it seemed like an impossible memory to fully resurrect, the finer details lingering just out of grasp when they tried to recall them. As they finished the cigarettes, they tossed the remnants into the hole, which swallowed their refuse without complaint.


The eleventh day after, the taste of ash returned to her mouth. The hatred returned as well. The hole, which now took up nearly half of the living room, had been distracting her, but she realized that the distraction was never meant to last forever. She continued to watch the hole, and indeed it continued to fascinate her, but occasionally she would turn to look at him. She looked at his features, once handsome and appealing, now utterly repulsive to her. She could see the wonder in his eyes as he watched the hole slowly growing before them and it only increased her rage. He had forgotten. The hole was his world now and it had allowed him to forget. She hated him because he had forgotten and she resented him because she knew she never would. She had tried so hard to forget, but it had come back. And she knew it would always come back.


On the twelfth day after, she imagined pushing him into the hole. Her hatred grew every moment they were together, but she found she could not bear to leave. She was not entirely certain that there was even anything outside the apartment door. She felt like the apartment was her whole world, and there was no escaping it. And so they stayed there, side by side with him, watching the blackness swallow their living room in minuscule increments. And every time she turned her head to look at him she wanted him to be gone and she envisioned with relish throwing him into the dark pit.


On the thirteenth day after, she was gone. He had fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion, even as he’d tried with all his might to stay awake and continue observing the hole, and when he awakened she was no more. He searched the apartment, tearing himself away from the hole for the first time in days, but she was nowhere to be found. He briefly considered the possibility that she had left the apartment, but somehow he knew she hadn’t. He could feel it. As well, the chain was still bolted from the inside, and that was proof enough. This new development was surprising to him, but he found he wasn’t particularly moved by the realization she was gone. He didn’t need her with him in order to watch the hole, and the hole was all that mattered, all he needed, all there was.


On the seventeenth day after, he realized he was alone. And not in the conceptually simple way of being the only one in the apartment. He realized he was alone in a different way, in a wholly encompassing and profound way. He was alone in a way that seemed to preclude the existence of any other living soul in the world. He was alone in a way that he knew he would never recover from and with that realization, his interest in the hole melted away, as did his apathy. It was replaced by a white-hot, bitter rage that soured in his stomach and took the air from his lungs. He began shouting, to no one and about nothing, and smashing the remaining contents of the living room, those things which had not yet been swallowed up. He tore pictures from the wall and threw them into the darkness, watching them vanish out of existence, and then he cried, because he knew that nothing mattered and nothing would ever matter again.

And so he threw himself into the hole, in a moment of clarity that enlightened him as to where he had to be. He was, and then he wasn’t, vanished from existence in an instant and with him vanished the hole, which was only ever there for him anyway.


The Hole
Travis West Writer