By Lea Anne Stoughton
The Hole wasn’t always in my closet—at least, I don’t think so. But it’s there now. It’s been there since I was little. Different closet, you know, but still. Always the closet.
The first time I saw the Hole was right after Liam was born, so I was maybe 4? I remember having to push my old snow pants to one side to get a better look.
It’s a funny Hole. You can’t look in it and see through to the other side of the wall. I remember peeking into it and thinking I’d see Liam’s room, his crib and the rocking chair. But it’s just black. Not dark—black. It’s definitely a Hole, though, because I can sense space beyond the blackness.
I wanted to put my hand in it.
I wanted to crawl through.
Even now, the thought of crawling into that funny Hole gives me goosebumps.
I didn’t, of course. I tried to forget about it, but there was no forgetting it. The same questions that plague me now echoed in my child’s brain: Where does it go? Is there another world over there? Or is it just . . . nothing?
That night was the first time I sat in front of the Hole. God, I remember it so clearly. It was almost 20 years ago now, but thinking back, here, in this dark closet, I’m that girl again, in that room, in that closet. I’ve had a bath. My hair is dripping down the back of my nightgown. I’m cross-legged on the floor, staring at the Hole. There is the Hole, nothing else, nothing but the whispering . . .
It was very faint, then, the whispering, like a sheet rustling in another room. I wanted to hear, wanted so badly to hear, I was leaning forward, my ear inches from the Hole. If mom hadn’t knocked on my bedroom door just then, I don’t know what would have happened.
I might have fallen in.
Barbie, though. Barbie was just a doll. She wasn’t even a good doll—Allie next door had pulled off her leg and her hair looked chewed. At first I just pushed her foot through, the only foot she had left. It was weird; it looked like Barbie’s leg just stopped at the ankle, like it was chopped off, right where the Hole was. I kept pushing her farther in, and Barbie kept disappearing, one piece at a time.
Then, all that was left was her head. Just her head, chopped off at the neck. Oh, but her smile, she kept smiling, it was horrible. I didn’t want to see that smile anymore, that painted false smile, so I pushed it in the Hole to get rid of it.
And then Barbie was gone.
God, I wish I had a cigarette right now.
After Barbie went in the Hole, the whispers were louder, just barely. All I ever wanted to do after that was sit and listen.
It was right around that time that my parents got divorced. I admit, I threw quite a tantrum the day we moved. Mom had gotten some crappy apartment that was so small I had to share a room with Liam and leave most of my stuff behind. No one knew it, but really I was mad that I was leaving the Hole behind. It already had its hook in my brain, you see.
Turns out, I didn’t need to be worried. The Hole was waiting for me in the new closet.
While we lived together in that room, I never let Liam near that closet, near the Hole. Did he know about it? Over the years, in that apartment and later the house with the porch, did he ever wonder what I was doing, sitting in the closet for hours on end, alone? I wish I could ask him now. Of course, I wish I could do a lot of things now.
Not much happened with the Hole while we were in that apartment. One time I got angry because Liam wouldn’t stop crying for daddy, so when no one was looking I took his favorite blankie and threw it in the Hole. Mom thought dad had taken it and they got in a huge fight. She probably still thinks he took it.
Another time my teacher had sent home a note wanting mom to call her about a fight I got into with another kid. I was terrified to let mom see that note, so it went into the Hole.
The house with the porch was much bigger, which is what happens when your mom remarries and the guy has money. The guy in our case was named Larry, and he liked to drink. I listened to the Hole a lot in those years (it was waiting for me, of course, in my big closet at Larry’s house). I was 11 then, and when mom would go out with her girlfriends and Larry would get extra drunk, I was very aware of my new breasts. I would lock my bedroom door and listen to the Hole and its whispers. They were louder then—not as loud as they are now, oh no, but I didn’t have to listen quite so hard anymore.
I started talking to them sometimes, the whispers. I don’t know if they can hear me, and if they do, whether they can understand what I say. I think that’s best, really, the not knowing. I’m not sure whether I want them to know so much about me. Hell, I wish I didn’t know so much about me.
My grades sucked. It’s hard to find time to study when you spend all your time either in a closet or being accidentally groped by your mom’s new guy. Mom and I fought a lot, and Liam went to live with dad.
When I was 15, I dragged the entire contents of Larry’s liquor cabinet to the Hole and disappeared the bottles one by one. That was funny. They both wanted to think I drank it all with friends, but they knew I didn’t have any friends. They were so mad they couldn’t prove anything, and I was off the hook.
By the time I managed to graduate from high school I was beyond ready to move out. I landed a job working nights as a grocery store clerk, and moved into an apartment with a girl I found on Craigslist. She was going to school to be a nurse, so she was gone a lot, which suited me fine. I didn’t want to have to explain who I was talking to in my closet.
A couple years went by and I moved to the day shift. I met a guy, one of the stock guys. His name was Dave. I started bringing him back to the apartment. It seemed like something to do. When he did his thing, I would lay on the bed and try to listen past his grunts. Afterwards, we’d smoke a couple cigarettes from the pack he would bring and he’d tell me about his dead parents and how he wanted to get into the electrician’s union. I’d kick him out before he fell asleep.
The other day, he came over reeking of gin. I told him to leave, but he started shouting at me. Told me he was sick of the one-way thing. He wanted to know if I was just using him. He accused me of being frigid. He grabbed at me and shook me and tried to make me kiss him, but I kneed him in the balls and he fell. His head hit the corner of the dresser.
He didn’t move for a long time. I think maybe he was dead. I couldn’t bring myself to check. I smoked the last half of a stale cigarette I found in the ashtray and listened to the whispers from the closet. They seemed very loud. Screaming whispers.
I think he’s dead now. He must be. But I don’t know. I can’t know, really. It doesn’t matter much at this point. He’s gone in the Hole.
Oh, Dave! I wish I’d checked to see if you were dead first. Maybe you were alive but you’re dead now. But maybe . . . maybe you’re alive now. Are you alive? Are you with the whispers? What is it like there? What are they saying? What are you saying? What are you telling them about me?
Ah, shut up! Shut up, whispering Hole! Shut up and tell me if Dave’s dead! Was he dead? Is he dead? Is he alive?
I have to find out. I have to. Dave, I have to know if you’re alive and what you’re telling them. I have to get these screaming whispers out of my head.
I just wish I had a cigarette first.
This is our new Wicked Short Stories page with submissions from various Authors. Please look for bio-snippets about the Author at the bottom of the various pieces. Enjoy!