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Hole (A Gothic Short Story)

15 pages13 minutes


A freak industrial accident leaves a man trapped in a hole in the ground. Alone and injured, he is pushed to the brink of insanity by the broken steel beam that hovers above him, threatening at any moment to fall and end his life.

This short story is inspired by Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” and is approximately 3300 words.


The beam’s going to fall. Any minute now. It’s going to fall and when it does, I’m going to die.

I’m not afraid of dying. In the beginning I was. I screamed. I called for help. I tried to claw my way out. Not anymore. Now I find the prospect of death comforting.

It’s going to happen soon, I tell myself. The beam will fall and it will all be over.

I don’t know how long I’ve been down here. At least one night has passed, maybe two, maybe more. There are moments of near-impenetrable darkness, when all I can see is the steel glint of the beam hanging above me. No sun follows these periods, only a dull gray light. We haven’t had a sunny day in weeks, it seems. Why should it be any different for me now? I wait for the rain to come. I want to die, but the animal part of my brain compels me to tilt my head upward, catching the cold drops in my mouth. The water pools atop the beam; the weight of it tips the steel down toward me. This time it’s going to happen, I think. Thank God. But the beam won’t satisfy me. It dumps its load of water onto me. It soaks my chest, the crotch of my jeans.

Stay with me a while longer, the beam says in a voiceless croon. We still have business, you and I.

I stare at the beam and force myself not to weep.

It was Friday when the ground gave way. I was alone on the building site. We’re not supposed to be here alone; Scanlon has always made that clear. But I didn’t stay to work. I only wanted to see it, to take a walk around the great steel shaft we have halfway completed. It’s the first job of its kind we’ve had in years. I won’t deny being excited by it. A man should enjoy his work. It’s a rare blessing to be able to take pride in the labor of one’s own hands, dirtied and cracked as they may be.

The others packed up to leave for the weekend around 2:00. We exchanged words only slightly tainted with uncertainty. An unpaid balance might keep the work from continuing, as might the weather. But for this week we did well, and we all knew it. The delay was on the bosses’ own heads, not ours. Their quarrel had nothing to do with us.

I stayed only to look at the tower, to make one round on foot at its base. There was no sign that anything was wrong with it. It was a fine piece of work, one that would perform well when the time came. The tower would become a machine, and the machine would open the earth, exposing its tenderest fruits. Men would bring forth fortunes by its efforts.

The ground rumbled beneath me. An earthquake? But we don’t get earthquakes here, and as the base of the tower shifted I knew something was wrong. The earth underfoot went soft. The tower groaned and clattered above me. I felt myself sinking, falling --

Impact. Nothingness. A dark dream in the interim, immediately forgotten.

I awoke at the bottom of the hole.

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