Why Are You Digging That Hole?

You’ve been outside digging a large hole for several hours when you realize that you can’t recall why you are digging it. Retrace your steps to try to discover your motivation.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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200 thoughts on “Why Are You Digging That Hole?

  1. subhendubhowal

    Moist breeze blows across the river. Evening is drawing near. Hundreds of shovels strike the earth creating a discernible harmony amidst the cacophony that fills up the place. We, with the shovels in our hands, do not know why we are digging. We never do. We are never told. We are the temporary hires carrying out the Government job. Our shovels strike in unison unaware of the facts. We will get our wage at the end of the day. Then we’ll take the state sponsored buses to our village. A conductor, short and huge in his khakis, shouts encouragement on the boom set in his hand. And hundreds of us sweating like pigs, with slime and dirt covering our skin, keep on thrusting our shovels in the ground. Our bus, some army jeeps and covered trucks wait in the distance.

    The site looks like a trench now, soft and stark, with heaps of earth outlining its edges. And clouds cluster across the sky, gravid with rain. Our job should be done before the rain starts. Once the site is ready, we leave. We never wait to see what happen to these trenches. We are never asked to. But people whisper among each other. Like people generally do. Words on Chechnya, Khmer Rouge reach our ears time and again. But we don’t pay attention. It’s a good thing that they never tell us.

    The darkness comes early with a strong breeze that carries the droplets from the heaven. The setting sun gets hazed over by the rain. The man with the boom set asks us to stay back. Drenching in the shower, we wait. As the rains go stronger, the dig up earth starts flowing with the water.

    We wait hoping the rain would stop. But the rain does not. The excavated earth moves faster. The covered trucks move reluctantly. Local police lend their hands. We wait looking at other directions. Then we are called again. We cover up the trench quick and fast. As good as we can. And we flee to our bus.

    We have a hearty laugh as we take seat in the bus. One of us opens his fist to show a ring, another one shows a wristwatch. One has got a chain. Another displays a gold bracelet. I got the emblem of Mr. Mohammed, a policeman from our neighbouring nation. He was married to Fatima and had two children in the name of Ali and Mehdi. I put it up on my chest playfully.

    Before the bus starts, our policemen board the bus. They sneer at us in contempt. In a matter of a day, Mr. Mohammed gets killed twice.

    1. JR MacBeth

      Interesting subhendubhowal. It appears that English may not be your first language, but a compelling story comes through nonetheless. I can see some serious creativity too. Perhaps you could team up with a native English speaker to help iron out the fine points? Certainly, I want to encourage you with your writing. A lot of potential here I think!

  2. Empty, Completely

    He stared at the hole in the ground that was at his feet. He had forgotten why he had started digging it, which would have frightened him a year ago, but now his forgetfulness was becoming more and more common.

    “No matter,” he thought. He resumed digging, allowing his mind to wander as he attempted to round out the hole, making a game out of it. After a short period of time, his idle mind filled with angry thoughts and he began to mutter to himself.

    “So this is what my days off have become. Wasting my time until I have to go back to work again, trying to keep myself occupied with anything. It’s because you’re worthless! A sorry, pathetic person who everyone will soon forget. You’re getting old and what have you accomplished? A hole in the ground, and it isn’t even that large.” He smirked at what he considered his cleverness. It was a pathetic attempt to cheer himself up. ”You aren’t as clever as you think you are, you know. You’ve done absolutely nothing with your life. Nothing. Even worse, you’re nowhere closer now to being anything than you were ten years ago.” The digging turned into sharp, hard stabbing motions. His quiet murmuring was becoming louder, and his voice started to fill with disgust. ”What the fuck is wrong with me? Why can’t I ever turn off my brain? Why am I so critical of myself? Why can’t I just be happy?” At this last question, a deep sadness washed over him, calming his voice. He fought off tears as he slowly sat down inside the hole and leaned the shovel up against the dirt wall. ”Why can’t I just be happy?” he whispered.

    His eyes wandered upward, and he stared up at the dimming sky. He shook his head at himself, disappointed. A glance at his watch reminded him of the late hour.

    “What a waste of a day,” he thought.

    After a while he sat up and headed back into the house, leaving the shovel where it lay. He turned to look at what he had created. ”Maybe tomorrow I can make it a little bigger,” he said.

  3. peterglcsw

    Sweat is pouring off my face, it burns in my eyes, the shovel catches on a root and I stumble forward. Damn it, why am I doing this anyway?   I chop the root in two and continue to dig. The dirt moves a little easier and I get a quicker pace going, my boot pushes the blade in deep, I lift and twist it around to fling the dirt over by the box. Back to the hole and my blade hits stone, the clang shatters the silence of the night and it cuts through my hands and arms.
    Why am I doing this anyway? It’s the middle of the night, I am in the middle of nowhere and it’s hot.Not as bad as Beumont in August, even the guards complained about it, never wanted to annoy one of them on those nights. Boy did they like dragging you out of bed and down to the equipment room. We could all hear the screams through the vents and worse the low moans that came towards the end. 
    Still got this lousy hole to dig, the stone is big but not bigger than me so I work it out and give it an extra fling down the hill. The hole is starting to take shape, I look over at the box and back at the hole, still got a lot of dirt to dig. The stone left a big space to get some good leverage and the dirt comes flying out in big chunks now. Down, lift, twist, and fling, the rhythm gets into my head like that song mama would sing. My hands are bleeding and the pain in my back and shoulders has sharpened, taking my breath with each lift.
    Why am I digging this hole? I know that box goes in here and I need to  get it in the ground before the sun comes up. Hated the nights at Beumont, all that was bad happened at night and no one was safe. The equipment room smelled like old piss, there was one light bulb that threw shadows across the stacks of metal chairs. They liked to put you over this one bench in the corner, where the piss smell was strongest. I drop the shovel and puked over in the bushes, it’s that hot bitter stuff that gags me all the time. Wipe my mouth and get back to work. I know what I need to do now.Mama always said a job ain’t done till its done. Remember her saying that to me as she gave me over to the sheriff ,when he came with the other kids headed to Beaumont. Her and her boyfriend arm in arm smiling and waving. That’s what kept me going for two years and keeps me going tonight. And now I have this hole that is just big enough for the box that had just enough room for two big smiles and their waving hands.

  4. l24y

    I dig. I dig all the time. It’s my job- how can I not dig?
    So here I am, digging again. With a shovel in my gloved hands, a dead woman in a coffin next to me, and a giant, rectangular hole in front of me.
    But why? Why on earth did I ever want to do this? I don’t remember being a kid and thinking, “Ooh, I wanna be a grave digger when I grow up!” I don’t remember ever even knowing what a grave digger was. So why the heck am I here, now, with a shovel in my gloved hands and a hole in front of me?
    Muttering to myself, I stepped into the hole and continued digging. Because digging is my job. Planting the flowers after the funeral- that’s my job. Putting in the hedgestone- that’s my job. But still, the question is bugging me- why?
    I try to remember. It had nothing to do with my parents- I hadn’t spoken to them in years. It had nothing to do with my girlfriend, who had dumped me a while back. It had nothing to do with how I had no friends. It had nothing to do with my boring life, or my three dogs that ran away, or my house filled with junk because I’m too scared to throw any of it away, or how I never graduated from high school, or how I have three kids that all hate my guts, or how I’m broke.
    Who am I kidding?
    It has everything to do with that, with all of it.
    I dig because I want to. I dig because I want to be the people I dig holes for.

  5. jbeauli

    As I grow older, I seek to find ways of keeping fit. I like, and prefer, to sit. But I also like to sweat because I always think that if I’m sweating, I’m getting stronger or at least not getting weaker. So today, I’m in the backyard digging a hole. I like geometrical shapes and this hole is rectangular. I find it hard to dig deep if the hole is circular or square. The sides of the square have to be larger or the diameter of the circle has to be larger than any hole I dig that is rectangular.

    The work is going well. I am down about three feet and I have about three more feet to dig down. I don’t know why I’m digging this deep other than I’ve decided to make the hole six feet deep. Why did I decide that? When did I decide that?

    I know that I came out here knowing the dimensions. Did Ellen tell me to dig a hole this big? Ellen is my wife. Sometimes she tells me what to do and I always do it. No. I don’t think she told me. No. She didn’t tell me. I think I had some other reason. But, of course, the exercise. No. It isn’t the exercise. I think I have some other reason. I wish I could remember.

    Ellen gets after me when I forget things. She keeps telling me to write down things so I won’t forget. So I have a little notebook in my pocket that I write down what I am supposed to remember. What does the notebook have in it? Opening the notebook, I find nothing about digging a hole. There is the shopping list that I completed yesterday, but nothing for today.

    Because I’m older now, I tend to forget more. Ellen is younger and remembers everything. I’m usually more patient than she is. Usually.

    The hole is down six feet now. The edge of the hole is just at my eye level. I pull down the short ladder that I put at the top of the hole so I can get out. I once forgot and had to shout and yell until Ellen heard me and brought me the ladder. I filled in that hole, but Ellen went on for weeks about my forgetting the ladder.

    The question in my mind is still, why did I dig the hole? I think I will ask Ellen. Maybe she will know.

    When I enter the house, I see Ellen on the floor and I remember why I dug the hole. Ellen was becoming more impatient with me and last night and loosed a tirade that went on for over an hour. I tried to stop her, but she just kept yelling and screaming so I put my hand over her mouth. After a minute or two she stopped moving and fell to the floor. I’m going to take Ellen out to the hole now and fill it in.

  6. Alexus

    Renee was in her robe, blonde hair a mess as she pretended to listen to her daughter rant and rave about a rule that was only there to keep her safe.
    “…. and I just don’t think it’s fair that I can’t stay out till eleven. It’s Ludacris. I’ll sneak out you know, you can’t stop me,”
    Renee sipped her coffee looking her daughter in the eye, giving her a look that deeply warned such a rebellious decision would open a can of whoop ass on her pearly white bum….’ That seemed to poke out of her shorts more and more these days’ Renee thought,
    “And would you stop looking at me like I’m twelve! I’m thirteen. Thirteen in a half. And I deserve some me time.”
    Renee watched her daughters face lighten, the usual sign that she has said what she needed to say, that mother had permission to speak. Renee missed half of what her daughter said but what she did hear she was disputing about in her head, calculating the correct response that wouldn’t unleash her daughter’s dragon.
    “Dear, yes you do deserve me time, but like you said yourself you’re only thirteen years old, so, me time is out of the question when you’re requesting it to be an hour before midnight out with your friends.”
    She thought over the next part, it sounded nice in her head, it sounded fair, sounded like motherly advice.
    “And sneaking out would be digging yourself a hole that would take a serious effort to crawl yourself out of Denise. You have till nine o’clock. You scream and throw a tantrum then you’re not going out at all.”
    For the first time since the age of nine Denise just shrugged, flipped her hair and walked away. The afternoon sun that poked through the curtains made her juvenile rainbow painted fingernails shimmer.
    Renee’s insides uncoiled, she let out a deep breath. I can’t believe how well that went she thought. The last of the coffee slid down her throat, filling her empty stomach. Renee put the drained cup in the sink and went to the backyard to do her morning gardening. The garden Renee designed was half finished. Lavender mixed with fuchsia colored Lilies spread beautifully around her prized cucumber plants and admirable White Magnolia shrubs. Now all she needed was to plant the Ajuga to fill in the empty space.
    The sun passed and the stars spread evenly across the scroll of the night sky, puffy rain clouds made mysterious grey accents dotted above the town. The sound of dirt and pebbles hitting grass was heard amongst the crickets. The shovel handle bonked Renee on the head, breaking her out of the misty train of thought she got lost in hours ago.
    ‘What the hell,’ Renee looked forward squinting. It’s a dark night she thought; she threw the shovel to the ground and walked forward. She only made it two feet before she impacted with a wall of dirt. Panic set in. She clawed and pushed, clumps of moist mud fell to her bare feet.
    She looked up at the sky and realized she was in a hole much taller than her five foot self. She tried to think but she couldn’t remember even digging a hole, just morning coffee and semi decent argument with her daughter. She yelled,
    “Denise! Help me!” Tears left tracks on Renee’s dusty face. She felt like such a fool. Shuffling came from above; Denise popped her head into the six foot hole. She sported a sour smile on her petite pale face a dark comparison to the moon.
    “I was wondering when you were going to snap out of it. You forgot to take your serotonin pills this morning mom,” mischievousness glinted in her eyes, the next remark came out smart and somewhat evil, “it seems the consequence for not taking your crazy meds is… you dug yourself a hole that will take serious effort to crawl yourself out of. I’ll be back at eleven.” Denise threw a halfheartedly made sandwich down to her mother and skipped away laughing.
    Renee was stunned, she screamed and cursed. Then she stopped and thought, thought really hard.
    “I think I am going to disown my daughter.”

  7. lyttlebits

    Sweat dripped from my furrowed brow. Blisters were forming on my hands and they hurt, burned. I was more than physically hurt. That’s why I was out here, wasn’t it? Working with my hands instead of using them to hurt someone I deeply cared about.
    What was the point of this hole? This hole that looked like a shallow grave, could be a shallow grave. Should be a shallow grave. The man who was blackmailing my family needed to disappear. No one would ever look for him in my backyard. Except for my husband of 20 years, no one knew the blackmailer. Who would notice if he simply, vanished?
    “Are you coming inside, or are you still mad at me?” called a deep voice through the dusky night. The shovel was hot in my hands, heavy with my anger. “What are you doing out there? Digging my grave?”
    I laughed. “No, just making room for the trees coming this week.” Yeah, and making room for a little extra fertilizer.

  8. Bumblebee83959

    My arms were sore from the streneous work of digging the shovel into the earth, and throwing it over my shoulder onto the pile that was steadily rising taller than me. A sudden thought dawned on me as my shovel hovered over the hole. Why was I doing this in the first place? I couldn’t quite recall what brought me out here to my front yard, where all the neighbors could see, and create this hole. Delving deeper into my memories only resulted in a blank. Maybe retracing my steps would help me remember? First thing I did this morning was wake up. Placing the shovel on the ground, I entered my house with my eyes set on the bedroom door. I opened it and collapsed onto the bed, pretending to be asleep.

    I “slept” for a few seconds before I opened my eyes and climbed out of bed. “Next, I… cooked some breakfast.” I hurried out the door and into the kitchen. My pan was still covered in little bits of scrambled eggs and bacon bits. Just the thought made my mouth water all over again. Was it dinner time already? I looked at the clock on my oven and stared at it. What the…?

    It said it was 6:00 AM in the morning. Was it really that possible? I thought the sky had been orange because the sun was setting, not rising. That made no sense. That meant that I have been digging the hole since I woke up, and I woke up a few hours ago. But if time hadn’t budged since I opened my eyes, that meant I was stuck in a time warp. I thought about it for a second, then chuckled.

    A time warp. Really? This was really getting to my head. The oven clock must be broken. Perhaps my cellphone had the right time. I made a mental note to fix the oven later as I flipped open my cellphone. The time glared back at me, the exact same as the oven. 6:00 AM. What the heck was going on here? My cellphone was never wrong. I got scared as each second ticked by. A waited a minute, expecting my phone to change to 6:01 AM. Nothing.

    “Get back to work.”

    I jerked out of my anxious reverie, whipping my head around to find the source of the voice. It was male, I could distinguish enough. The tone was calming but with a fierce edge to it that sent me scurrying back to the hole and picking up the shovel. I worked twice as fast, ignoring my screaming limbs as I dug deeper and deeper into the ground.

    “Stop.”

    The voice made me freeze. I dropped the shovel and looked up to see a shadowy figure looking down into the hole. I couldn’t see the face, but I saw a smile that curled up at the corners. “Well done. Now sleep, my darling.” Suddenly, my limbs weighed me down as I collapsed to the ground.

    I never woke up again.

  9. catbr

    “Shut up! Why don’t you people feed that dam dog or take it for a walk sometimes. Maybe then it wouldn’t bark so much.” Darlene yelled out at the racket of the neighbour’s incessant barking dog. It was pitch black outside and she had no idea where she was. Apparently someone else didn’t like the noisy dog either because it suddenly stopped. Now it was just deafeningly silent and still. The air was unbearably hot and humid. She wondered where she was and why was she holding onto a shovel. The fatigue hit her hard. She had to sit down. Her hands, arms and clothes were covered in dirt. Her face and hair felt hot and dirty with sweat dripping profusely into her eyes.

    “What the hell did I do?” Darlene sat in the grass and wiped some of the sweaty grime from her face with the inside bottom of her filthy t-shirt. She looked at the large hole in front of her. It looked rectangular with turned over dirt all through out the formation and clumps of grass along the sides.

    “Darlene? Are you okay?” Darlene’s husband John called out to her, in a concerned voice.

    “I’m back here John.” She finally realized where she was. It was her parent’s backyard. Their yard was quite large and she was at the very back of it. Her mom had always wanted a vegetable garden but was unable to dig one due to the arthritis in her hands and knees. Darlene kept promising to dig one for her but was always too busy with her own life. She thought she was in a dream and that this couldn’t be real. She wanted someone to wake her up. Darlene became nauseated and threw up in the freshly dug earth.

    “Here Darlene, drink this.” John handed his wife a large bottle of cold water and sat beside her on the grass.

    “Oh my God John. Mom’s dead isn’t she?” Slowly nodding his head, John put his arms around his now uncontollably sobbing wife offering her the comfort she needed. Darlene would be in shock for a few weeks over the sudden unexpected death of her mother and best friend.

  10. erikabaxter5

    i need money i will go to the bank i have no money in my banker sip someone stoll my money i neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd money but in 2 secs its closing now 1 its closed really it closed i need mmmmmmmmmmmmmoooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeyyyyy i need money i gess i will try tomorrow but i had 100000000000 dollars in that banker sip bye

  11. erikabaxter5

    do u no that stephbax8 is my sister and I’m only 6 years old ok i love 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 66 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6

  12. erikabaxter5

    i was digging a large hole for severl hores then a squall came a cubed it up and i say stoppppppppppppppppppp i say he sud not be here and digging up my hole a squall a squall just go away now now now now i been digging this hole for hows erika

  13. lindseywrites

    The soft dirt began to crumble at the edges, caving in on the hard work on which Will had spent hours. The metal tip of the spade hit the ground again, over and over until he’d rubbed his palms raw, angry blisters bubbling beneath the skin. Golden afternoon had given away to inky darkness, and he squinted as he he looked deep within the hole. Five feet deep, four feet across. And it was empty.

    His face fell. Overhead, thunder rumbled across the sky, deep and forlorn. As he looked at his watch, he realized he only had a matter of hours, possibly less, until he was discovered. The investigation had been posted everywhere. Newspapers, late-night television specials, his face printed on pamphlets plastered in every grocery store across the country. He’d already resolved to believing he wouldn’t end up unscathed, but if he was able to find and cover the evidence better, he would at least survive.

    Suddenly, he looked up, panic pulsing through his veins. What if he had the wrong location? What if he hadn’t remembered it like he thought he had? Why was he even digging this hole? If he was wrong, it would cost him his life. Of that, he was sure. What was he thinking?

    He thought back to what Joseph had told him, understanding slowly creeping back to him. He had to find it.

    He rammed the shovel into the dirt once more, throwing the pile several feet away. Satisfaction melted into fear. Frantically, he tried to think back to that fateful night, one he thought he remembered as clearly as yesterday. But when the details mattered the most, they blurred, like a photograph faded with age. Rain began to fall, the ground below him turning muddy and slick. He had to remember where it was. He had no choice.

    He heard the sirens before he saw the glassy reflection of the red and blue lights. They skidded down the road, spitting gravel as they slammed to a stop. Guns loaded, he knew he only had a matter of minutes as they searched the field. He fell back, broken, the shovel uncovering one last square of earth.

    Light flooded the hole as he looked down, wholeheartedly believing he had been mislead; that he was in the wrong location. But wispy, brittle strands of hair peeked out from underneath the dirt, dark as night. He knelt down, brushing it away with his gloved hand, and his chest swelled with overwhelming disbelief as he looked at the decaying bones and flesh. Empty eye sockets stared hollowly at him.

    He had found her.

  14. Jaybo

    I DIG IT!
    “Ooooh thwat Beathal Thong” IAh ahah-ahah- Dig Ah Pony”!
    Thwat Joahnn Lthlennon, He shured knowed howth to thing a thong to dig byth. I haveth been outh herth for an hourth anth ith seemsth thwat I am runningth oputh of placeth to dig. Maybe I needs anotherth thong to thing. Leths sthee. “Oh bury me noth… Onth a loneth Prarie.,Where the cyodes howl and the windths blowth freeth. I likth that part “Bury me noth. I meanth afther awll, dignz is thso much fuyns; thspecially when theresth goodies at the bottom of the holeths.
    “Bang Bang Maxwellth Silverth Hammerth cameth down across herth head, Maxwelth silverth hammerth made shurth sheth wath deadth.” Hhh-Hee-Hee! Beatlths!
    Dog goneith. I markesh the spoths wherthe I puts that lasth one. I musht have moveth the smarkers. My big problemth isth is it take bwains to remember whereth I put thsings and I don’t haves any anysmore… and it’s gettings harders to make myth armsh workth, shinceth they’re justh abouth ready to come offth. At least my rights onesh isth, left onesh sheems to bew holding upth oketh for nowth. Is gots a hole dugth hereth, ands hole dugs thereth: where did I puth that freshth body?
    Dogsth can shremember wherth they dig bonesh daysth afster itsh done. Dammit, I hate thish.I amz alwaysh hungrysh. I need Bwains to eat sho I can ushe my bwains to remembers wheth I hid bwains for dinners. I hates beinth a Zshombie.

  15. theano7203@gmail.com

    Oops It seems to have placed itself before I could edit or finish. Oh well–writing is a process.
    Here is the rest.

    Ricardo knew not what possessed him to dig that morning. The cancer battle his brother was enduring at the moment was at a stand off. No grand news of a recovery or ultimate demise had been announced. He knew not why the night had caused him such distress. Only the same old questions and answers arose. Insurance, the will, and coffin had all been decided.
    None the less he had arisen early and started digging. Putting down the shovel, he went and sat on his porch. Ricardo began to ponder the significance of a hole in the earth that he had created. Was he facing the ending of his brother or was he opening a new beginning in his own life? Ricardo went through the arguments for each. Neither side won. What is it about digging a hole that is so calming?
    He decided it did not matter where the process started whether from the negative position or the positive position. With each shovelful of the dirt his psyche changed. Life did not change. The same issues were still there. What would change was his perspective. After digging he was able to look down both paths detached without anxiety or emotion. A matter of fact would descend upon his thinking about what life would hold. The peace and calmness that it brought was preparation for what was to come that day. In the end Ricardo decided he simply was able to work from the center view and then was able to face his life.
    Arising peacefully he called out, “Honey is the coffee ready yet?”
    Into the house and his life he went.

  16. theano7203@gmail.com

    The night had been filled with a disease. The inky black kind that seeps into one’s soul when life takes an unexpected turn. Ricardo had watched his brother age as the cancer raged across his insides. This morning in the grey, hazy sky Ricardo grabbed the ditch digger shovel and went out to the farthest point on his property. Every time he dug he did not have to think. He decided there is only the feel of the steel sliding through the sod, creaking as one leveraged back and the fell of release as one lifted the sod into the air. Ricardo decided something was most satisfying in placing the sod in a new place. The back and forth rhythm like rocking a small baby offered solid comfort and a respite from life. All one hears is the steady movement of the breath in and out with the beating of your heart.

  17. David

    I’m in the woods behind the house and lying among the patchwork of ferns and fallen logs, just a few feet away, lies a rolled up green army blanket. Trembling, I walk over and unroll the scratchy wool blanket to find the stiffened golden body of my cocker spaniel. My dog is dead.

    Consciously I do know that the first step of grief is denial, but all I feel in this moment is bewilderment, confusion, and anger, not anger that my dog is dead (there’s no way my dog is dead) but a rage that comes from not understanding. It’s not fair, it’s not real, but it’s right there in front of me, still covered in soft golden fur, but too still. She was never that still.

    I look away. The hole is big enough now; I guess I’d been digging for a while. I roll my dog back up, remembering I’d done this the first time so I wouldn’t have to look at her. I look at her now. I get it; she’s really gone. I note that hot tears are rolling down my cheeks; I hurry to finish rolling the blanket.

    I pick up my dog in both arms, trying to give this body as much dignity as possible, and I carry her to the hole. I want to walk down and lay her neatly on the ground, but the hole’s not that big. I set her down beside the hole and dig some more so I can at least lay her body flat on the bottom of the grave.

    Laying her down carefully and lovingly feels good. Not good, but right; I do not feel good. I pause with my head bowed to pray, “Dear God, thank you that I got to have Sydney, for my dog. She was awesome.” I am crying a lot now. I don’t like crying but it feels better than holding everything inside did.

    The first few shovels of dirt are the worst. I can see her black nose sticking out of the end of the blanket. I don’t want to see this body anymore. I cover the nose, and scatter dirt with the next few loads so It just looks like I’m filling in a hole, and not a grave.

    I’m done crying, and my mind goes quiet as I fill in the rest of the hole. I don’t mark the grave. I don’t want to think about this anymore, so I don’t. I walk silently back to my house, and in the quiet I notice things I usually ignore; the grass is a deep emerald green, spotted with drops of dew. The sun is streaming beautiful colors from over the eastern horizon.

    Inside, I grab my backpack, and head out the door to catch the bus. On the bus I find a seat next to my friend Bob. “Sup?” yawns Bob. “Nothin’” I reply, and the bus rolls forward.

  18. rob akers

    A Captain Bill Rimes Story

    Tabuk Saudi Arabia 8 March 2003

    Bill rolled out of his cot awakened by the alarm clock on their first morning in Tabuk operating on only three hours of sleep. Chief Rick Locker and Bill walked through the fine silty sand towards the muster area, each step producing a plume of dust.

    “So this is Tabuk?” Bill said to himself as much as Rick.

    “Boss, some people might call it hell but looks like home to me.”

    The Lieutenant stood on the hood of a Humvee and addressed the 100 newest residents of Tabuk. Giving his best General Patton speech, he savored the moment and the medal that was sure to follow. “I need 50 men to build tents and 50 men to fill sandbags.” The LT held his hand out and divided the crowd in the middle, while Bill looked at his Loadmaster, Barbara better known by her call sign, Combat Barbie, who rolled her eyes as the LT droned on never recognizing the 20 women in his presence. “You men on my right are tent builders and you men on my left are filling sandbags, questions?”

    Before the LT could dismiss his minions, Bill raised his hand and forced the LT to recognize him. “You never mentioned the women present, May I make a suggestion?” Without pausing. “I suggest that my Loadmaster return to the tent and don a burka. She should make cornbread and iced tea then clean the tent. Later we will use her as our crew sperm bank. When she gets pregnant, she can take off the burka and go home early to enjoy the summer at the lake while the men persecute the war against Iraq, as only men can. I commend you for your insight, sir!” He stood at attention and saluted as the other crew members quickly joined in the mocking salute of the General of the day.

    Red faced the LT began to backpedal. “That is not what I meant.”

    Bill interrupted him again. “You’re right, Sir. Cookies are better. You are destined to be a leader of men! You Academy types are truly the brightest and sharpest.” The assembled aircrew started to laugh and the former General Patton began to shrink before their eyes. Bill turned and walked towards the sandbag area with a huge smile and a wink to Barbara as the LT simply dismissed the troops.

    Four thousand sandbags later. Rick, Barbara and Bill exhaustedly walked back to the tent muddy from sweat and sand looking forward to their first of many 2 minute combat showers. Barbara sarcastically thanked Bill for using her as a prop for addressing women’s rights and to illustrate inequality to the LT. Bill answered. “Barb, if you were a Boy Scout like Rick and I then you would have just earned your Ditch Digger Merit Badge.” Rick finished the thought. “With our help you can still earn your Sperm Bank Merit Badge.” Bill laughed as the comment earned a huff and a fresh shower of Saudi sand from Combat Barbie.

    1. erikabaxter5

      good story i love it i like the bill part it is really really funny and the cookie part it is a aosume story i lllllllllllllllllllllllloooooooooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeei love it a lot i wish i cud make something that long and good

      i love it so much

    2. Icabu

      Having been a female member of a very male-dominated squadron, I appreciated this. Also, having filled many thousand sand bags – they seemed to become a status symbol; the more you had around your area, the more important you were. The Sand Bag Wars…the war within THE WAR.
      Enjoyable read – thanks.

  19. TEMiranda

    “Dig. Dig. Dig.” I whisper to myself over and over. I stop to take a breath and find myself dressed in a rubber suit wearing tight, foggy goggles holding a shovel. My cheeks itch from the dirt fluttering in the air and when I raise my hand to wipe my face thick, leathery, dirt-covered gloves prevent me from doing so. The sense of urgency to continue my task battles with my memory, my curiosity, my thoughts, and I take a moment to evaluate my situation. I hear the cadence of a construction site and I wonder how diggers can keep to such a steady pace. When I turn around towards the ominous beat I see at least a hundred other figures digging into the ground in a monotonous, mechanical rhythm.

    Something strikes me on my back and I twist forward to continue digging. My arms catch up to the tempo reverberating in the cave; crackle, shush, crackle, shush. The controller on the hovering vehicle shouts into a hand-held radio about a “possible resister”, floats past me a few feet and turns the corner out of my sight. “Dig,” I think to myself, “you’ll figure this out later”.

    “Water,” a man behind me whispers and I jerk my arms in response for a millisecond before returning to the rhythm. “Water is what we are after. Shut up. Keep digging.”

    That’s what the electric whip is for – to make us forget, to keep us blindly focused. But this time it did not work. I remember everything now; the whip’s effectiveness is gone. We were brought here to dig for water. We were shipped here from Earth against our will. The human race will die if we fail. The volunteers stopped pouring in decades ago and a draft was imposed. We all have to pay our dues. It is an honor, a duty, a privilege, a sacrifice for the greater good. Not everyone survives. Some die day one, some die before their service is complete The lucky ones go home after completing their five-year service remembering nothing.

    “Hey.” I whisper.

    “Shut up. Keep digging.”

    “This isn’t right. We shouldn’t be here.”

    “Controller!” the man stands and shouts towards the floating vehicle with his right arm outstretched, pointing his index finger at me.

    The vehicle whirrs to my corner spot in a heartbeat. The controller takes out two sparkling, electrical whips and lashes away at my back. I crouch down and raise my arms over my head to shield it from the blows. Strike after strike I see memories of my parents, my friends, my wife, my newborn daughter, my life. Slowly, painfully, and then almost thankfully, I see nothing but darkness.

    …..

    “Dig. Dig. Dig.” I whisper to myself over and over.

  20. hillsworth

    Bruno poked his head out of the hole in the ground and looked at Therese. She was sitting in the shade of the portico, her long legs crossed at the ankles and her bare feet singing praises of being released from the constraints of the bright red stiletto heels.

    “Remind me again why I’m digging this hole in our yard?” he asked.

    Therese puffed out a disgusted breath through tightly pressed lips. “We need to send a message to Louie’s family. Something they ain’t gonna forget.”

    “But that’ll just stir up more trouble between the two families, Therese.”

    “Quit being a pussy, Bruno. It’s time we take back what’s ours. I’m tired of playing second string. This city was ours, until you got soft, Bruno,like cake.”

    Bruno looked down at his feet. His three hundred dollar Moreschi loafers were caked with mud, surely ruined. Closing his eyes, he asked, “So, what’s the plan? I assume it has something to do with Mac.”

    “Yeah, it does. He should be arriving any minute now. Eddie and Tony had to make a couple stops to pick up the stuff we need. Just make sure that hole’s not too deep, I want Mac’s head sticking out.”

    Bruno’s eyes opened wide at this and he snapped his head back out of the hole. “What are you gonna do, Therese?”

    “We’re gonna have an old fashioned weinie roast.” She stopped and cocked her head, then rose from her seat and headed for the doors. “It looks like the guests have arrived. Get up out of that hole and go clean yourself up. You gotta look presentable, Bruno.”

    A half hour later, fresh from the shower, Bruno opened the french doors leading into the back yard and stepped out onto the veranda. Straight ahead where he had just toiled for three hours digging, was an ornate fire ring with a pile of split wood stacked next to it.

    Tony and Eddie were nowhere to be seen, but there were muffled noises coming from inside the ring. Bruno walked over and peered inside to see Macs head frantically shaking from side to side on the freshly packed dirt, trying to dislodge the gag that was wedged between his split, bleeding lips. There were five or six pieces of wood forming a rough ring around him and Bruno could smell the lighter fluid that was soaking into it. From behind him, he heard the doors open and close again. He turned to watch Therese approach, carrying a mini camcorder.

    “Therese, we don’t have to do it this way.”

    “Shut up, Bruno.” She opened the tripod for the recorder, placed it directly in front of Mac’s face, close enough to the fire ring but yet far enough away from the heat.. She reached into her pocket and produced a Zippo lighter, flicked it a couple times, chuckling as Mac squirmed, then tossed it to Bruno. “Okay boss, it’s your show.” She reached up and pushed the record button.

    To be continued…

    1. DRoberts

      Hillsworth,

      Great opening paragraph. You weaved the suspense factor really well through-out the story, building it toward the end. Good visual descriptions. Great dialogue- “This city was ours,until you got soft, Bruno, like cake.” We’re gonna have an old fashioned weinie roast.” The dialogue drives the story forward. This would make a great first chapter for a longer story. I can’t wait for the continuation. Great writing.

  21. Mag

    The slice and crunch of a spade hitting rocky dirt woke me from my reverie. “What the hell? The sky above was dark blue, fading to purple in the west. My back ached, my feet were wet, my hands were sore and blistered, and I was sweating. I looked down at the ground around me. I saw a spade shovel half buried in the soil and my soaked feet. Again I say, “What the hell?”
    The last thing I remember is being at Dan’s house. The shots were flying, the glasses were slamming, and the table was covered in sticky liquor.
    “Anybody up there?”
    My yelling was pointless. If I know them, and I do, there’s an iPod taping my every move and posting directly to You Tube, and yelling only makes my head pound.
    I’ll be damned if I give them ammunition to bury me with, excuse the pun,” and that was the last word I speak aloud. Whatever is going on, it will end up on the internet.
    I really need to take stock of myself and figure out what the hell is going on. I am covered in silt and mud. I am obviously extremely hung-over. I have no idea how the hell I am going to get out of here. No snickering, no noise, no nothing is going on above me. I don’t even know where the hell I am. I am never drinking again.
    Throwing the shovel aside, I make for the side of the hole I have dug for myself. Scrabbling futilely up the side of my tomb not only frustrates me, but makes me want to puke. Landing on my butt soaks my ass and makes me want to puke, again. Before I can catch my breath, the sides begin to collapse. Okay so now I can climb up the fallen dirt and get out.
    The more I climb, the more dirt falls and the more tired I become. The earth is swallowing me in a small four foot hole. Panic sets in and now I am climbing for my life. Scratching, clawing, and falling as the dirt falls deeper around me. The top is no closer, only further away. How can that be when I’ve been struggling to get free? I should be closer, not deeper. The circle of light is smaller, and fading into the dark night. The wet air weighs heavily and breathing is impossible. Rocks and silt tumble faster than I can climb and it is burying me alive. “What the hell?”
    My friend Charlie grabs my shoulders, and shakes me. His large hands reach through the darkness and pull my up from dream. My friends are laughing, at least two iPods are taping me, and I lean over and throw up, all over Dan’s floor.

  22. metaman321

    My head is throbbing, I can barely keep upright. The gray-blue light of the overcast sky drills into my eyes like guilt into my conscience. My clothes are soaked and filthy. A red haze tints my view of the muddy hole I’m standing in, the hole that I’m digging.

    “Why am I digging this hole?” I ask aloud.

    No answer.

    I stop digging so I can wipe the rain from my face with the dirty sleeve of my flannel shirt. The sleeve comes away red.

    Startled, I search for the source of the blood. There’s a deep cut on my forehead just below the hairline. It hurts like hell, and it’s sticky. Suddenly my vision darkens, the world spins, and I begin to fall. I try to catch my balance but I can’t move my feet. The ooze in the bottom of the hole is sticky, like the blood on my head, and my hands. It‘s sucking me down. I fall face first.

    The hole is shallow, the bottom soft. I lift my head from the mud and gasp for air through my mouth. My nostrils are plugged and my eyes coated with muck. I scramble to my knees and claw at my eyes, clearing them. I see eyes; his eyes.

    I stare. He stares back.

    “Why am I digging this hole?” I ask him. “Do you know?”

    No answer. The dead speak to us only in our dreams.

    His right ear is missing. A blood clotting hole has taken its place. The ear dangles from a string of cartilage.

    My vision darkens again, the world spins.

    He sits across from me, our feet covered with the slime at the bottom of the hole.

    “Why am I digging this hole?” I ask him, “do you know?”

    “You killed her and buried her here, in this spot.” “I was forcing you to dig up her body.”

    I don’t need to ask who he’s talking about.

    “Why would I kill her?” “She was my wife.”

    “She was your wife, but she loved me!”

    Ignoring his response, I say, “You had a gun.” “Where is it?”

    He points to it a few feet away and says, “You hit me on the head with the shovel, but not before I grazed you with a shot to the forehead.”

    “So now what?”

    “Finish digging the hole and lie in it.” “Take the gun, use it on yourself and join us in hell.” “We’ll continue this battle there.” Then he smiles.

    Thunder and a fresh onslaught of rain soaked wind brings me out of my stupor.

    Is suicide and eternal perdition the way to go, as my tormentor suggests? Or should I finish the hole, bury him in it and continue among the living for a few years more, delaying inevitable judgment? Or should I dig up her bones, reveal my sins, and seek redemption?

    I’ll decide later. For right now, I’ve got to dig this hole.

  23. laurentravian

    Shelley shoved the spade in my hand. I looked at her like she was crazy. How could I dig her hole for whatever she wanted, with THAT?! A PINK spade? With butterflies and rainbows? Ew! She glared at me for a minute, (well, she glared back at me) then snatched it out of my hands and shoved a plain shovel in. So very grateful to the by-otch. All afternoon, I slaved away, while she (literally!) sat in a pink lawn chair drinking pink lemonade. I had to avert my eyes from the glare emanating from her. By 6pm, I had dug her a hole for whatever purposes. It was a fine hole. A good hole. All it needed was a roof that made it look perfectly ordinary, black velvet covering all the dirt, several bookcases, a minibar, and a couple of bean-bags and it was heaven. Too bad Shelley didn’t think so. She had the nerve to scoff at it! At last, several hours later, she was satisfied. “Oh, Carey! It’s perfect!” She simpered. I left the pink queen of mean alone with her hole for a couple of days. I heard people whispering about it later. Some said that was where she disposed of the school garbage. Others said that was where she went with one of her boyfriends to have sex. Others still say that she buried a time-capsule there. I would shrug, and try not to be sad. It was too nice a hole for any of those things. I couldn’t dig another because Headmistress wouldn’t allow it. So, on the evening of my birthday (gee, thanks for remembering Mom!) I was bouncing a tennis ball off the wall when Shelley came barging in. Not even she had any birthday wishes for me. “Do you want to see my hole?” She whispered conspiratorially. I scowled. She probably wanted to push me in. No one would mind. It’s not as if anyone here likes me. “Don’t you mean OUR hole? And besides, I don’t like pink.” I growled. Sadly, she didn’t go away. She started making annoying noises with her mouth. How does she always know how to get under my skin? Begrudgingly, I followed her to the hole. She had a trapdoor over it. Nice, I thought. Adds class. Shelley climbed down the ladder and I followed her. Inside, was my sanctuary, black velvet and everything. I was stunned. I didn’t have a gift for her. But then I remembered that scarf I got her but never gave her. She fawned over it, and we hugged. Maybe for a twin sister (identical except she has pink hair and mine is jet black) she isn’t so bad after all.

    1. jincomt

      You have some nice descriptions in here like, “She started making annoying noises with her mouth.” Or the pink spade, the pink chair, and pink lemonade. You show the character rather than tell. Nice.

  24. mwhite1212

    Just a few more feet. Just a few more feet. It’s almost deep enough. Wait. Why am I doing this? What the hell is this hole for? I am digging an enormous hole in my own back yard! Oh my god Oh my god. Where’s Susan? “Susan? Honey? Could you come here a sec?” God, where is she? Why isn’t she answering me? I’ll go inside and look. I’m sure she’s just in the bathroom. Or in the studio. I think she decided to finish that painting after all. It’s not really a studio. It’s just a room. I call it a studio though. I can’t believe there’s a huge hole in my back yard. Why was I digging that? Why can’t I remember? I’m sure Susan knows. “Susan! Baby, where are you?” Strange. I know she’s here somewhere. I’ll go in through the kitchen. Where’s the dog? The AC needs to be turned up. What is this on the floor? I need to clean it up before Susan sees it. She’ll freak out on me. She can be such a bitch sometimes. Is this steak sauce? Who ate a steak? Certainly not me. God forbid. “Susan! Honey! I need to ask you something!” Maybe she’s on the phone right now, talking to that bitch of a mother of hers. She’s where Susan gets it from. Women. “Susan, what was it that you wanted me to dig this hole for?” Where’s the dog? Little mutt. I hate that thing. Sheds hair all over my sweaters. Where is this damned woman? I’ll check the bathroom. You know how much women love the damned bathroom. “Susan?” Not in here. The bedroom then. Her mother’s probably talking so loud she can’t hear me. “Susan?” Huh. She’s not in here. She wouldn’t have left without telling me. I think I saw her keys in the kitchen. Yep. Here they are. Her car’s here. Where the hell is this damned woman? “Susan! Seriously, where are you? I don’t want to keep yelling like this!” There’s a hole in the back yard. Why is there a hole in my back yard? Is the Yankees game on tonight? I should check. I like the T.V. in the living room best. There’s the damn mutt. “Trixie? Come here girl. What’s that on your neck?” Stupid dog won’t get up. “Susan? Honey, what are you doing on the floor?” Did she spill steak sauce on the new rug? That’s not steak sauce. “Susan! What happened?” She doesn’t look good. “Honey, what was it that you wanted me to dig that hole for? What was that? I can’t hear you. Oh, that’s because you didn’t say anything. Not so talkative now, are you? No, you’re not.” I hated that dog. She made me get the damned thing. No more dogs now. “Susan! I just remembered something! That hole’s for you Susan! Why don’t we go see if it’s deep enough? Trixie, stay, you damn mutt.”

    1. jincomt

      I think I can see the intent: the inner ramblings of a man who just murdered his wife and dog and is having some kind of psychotic break. But the flow was a little difficult to read. The very last sentence was a nice pitch of dark humor.

    2. Icabu

      Paragraphs would help with reading, but I kinda like the bunched flow as his pushed-over-the-threshold mind reels. A break at the Yankee’s game seems natural as different thoughts start to seep in.
      I like the concept – good job.

  25. Philosopher

    “This is crazy, Jim!” Eleanor clutched at her umbrella and tried not to let her heals slip into the muddy grass.
    “All the most worthwhile adventures are.” I shout back and heave another shovel full of mud.
    “It’s hard enough for me getting someone to fund research on your strange ideas about memory and existence and yadda yadda. If benefactors didn’t think you were a nut before you they will now.”
    “On the contrary, the more I dig, the more I’m certain I’m about to answer the questions in my own life that drove my research. We could have proof.”
    “Has it crossed your mind that whatever is down there is probably so terrible that you’ve blocked it out?”
    “What like a body? I don’t think so. And you’re sounding more like my psychiatrist than my grant writer.”
    “Jim…”
    “But you might be half right. Whatever is down there might solve the mystery of my amnesia. I don’t remember why but I have to dig.”
    My shovel struck something hollow. I drop to my knees. A flash of memory. I see a boy sitting in an office while a woman with a clipboard shows him pictures and makes notes. I see the woman talking to the boy’s parents. “…highly intelligent for his age but very withdrawn.”
    I know there’s more but it fades. I clutch fiercely at chunks of mud, hungry for more. The buried object emerges with the memory. The woman is talking to the boy. “Can you imagine where you’ll be in thirty years? Your life will be wonderful if you want it enough. A mind like yours can do anything.”
    I dig. The object comes loose as the last memory hits. I see a young man covered in dirt and talking to a friend. “I’ve had enough. I’ve got to go.”
    “What have you been doing?”
    “I buried it like I said I would.”
    “You can’t be serious, man. I thought you were just talking trash.”
    “They say it gets better. I think I’ll know someday if it did.”
    My hands hold the object as the rain washes it and me clean. I hear Eleanor say, “Do I need to call a lawyer?”
    I pop off the top of the plastic container and inside are photos and toys with a note. I rave to Eleanor, “I proved the connection between memory and existence. I erased my existence.” I say with a grin. “Don’t you see? It’s a time capsule. I buried my memories.”
    I can’t wait to get home and tell my family.

  26. Amy

    The work was mindless and numbing. My shoulder muscles tautened with each downward thrust of the shovel. Sweat trickled between my shoulder blades and dripped from my brow. Its salty tang burned my eyes and my lips.

    From above, the sun burned through the layer of dust that settled upon the landscape like a shroud. I wiped my brow with the back of a hand I no longer recognized as my own. Each excavation of the shovel, each satisfying scrape of the blade against dirt, represented a burden liberated.

    Something was wrong, but its significance escaped me. Why was I doing this? I stopped the rhythmic motions and stood on quaking legs staring at an unfamiliar vista. The hole I stood in was almost two feet deep and eerily resembled a grave. But what was its purpose? I shook my head, trying to clear it, beads of perspiration taking flight, sparkling like diamonds before falling to earth.

    Leaning heavily against the rough wooden handle of the shovel, splinters pierced my palm. I welcomed the pain, willing it to rouse me from my stupor.

    Think, Mason, think, I told myself. I closed my eyes against the sun’s heated glare and tried to reconstruct the events that had led me here.

    There was a sound, roaring in my ears like a freight train. Ginny and I, our voices raised in discord, each trying to one-up the other. Neither of us noticing the darkening, boiling sky, the smell of sulfur, the rising wind.

    We both stopped mid-sentence, the eviscerating dialogue forgotten. Words were unnecessary as we regarded one another with terror-stricken eyes. Soundlessly, our fingers entwined and we began to run.
    That’s when the roof tilted, like a ringmaster tipping his top hat, and the walls expanded, as if the fat lady was holding her breath, and the world as we knew it came to an end.

    We were sucked into the abyss, precious possessions becoming lethal missiles. I held tightly to Ginny’s hand for dear life, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough. She slipped away from me.

    And now here I was, digging a hole in a bomb-imploded countryside where nothing had survived, not even a blade of grass. I would rebuild, I promised myself. I would.

    But first things first. I began again, methodically digging. When completed, the storm shelter would be 8x8x8, a cozy, safe haven.

    The sun continued its assault and sweat poured once more from my brow until I was interrupted again, not by my own confusion, but by sweet, sweet music. The sound of Ginny’s voice.

  27. bmadsen

    It’s going to be dark soon, I should get back home. They’ll probably be waiting for me, they’ll be expecting answers. I’m cold, why the hell am I so cold? Why do my hands hurt so much? Where the hell am I? I look up; a perfectly round circle hovers over, still, round, perfect. It’s cold in here. It’s dark but I can still bluish stains of light. That circle, that circle is my only friend. If I lose it, I lose everything.
    When that circle faded I knew I had no fight left in me. I simply closed my eyes but didn’t go to sleep, I just thought, I just tried to remember. I tried to remember why my hands were aching so much. I tried to remember why my nails had pulled back, leaving only inserts of flesh instead. I tried to remember why my knees were red with blood, why my skin was dirty, sweaty, why I felt primal, basic and beastly. Why did my mouth stink to copper? I tried to remember why I cried all day, all night, all the time. I tried to remember what the hell I was doing in that tunnel. I closed my eyes and chose to think, chose to remember. My mind chose to betray me.
    This will be a perfect spot for this. There are no trees nearby so digging will be easy; the rocks that surround me will provide cover from any unwanted visitor that most definitely appear. They will scream, he or she will run for help, I’ll be a sitting duck for sure. Why will I be a sitting duck?
    Why are there screams in my head?
    Why am I in a dark tunnel?
    Why don’t I want to get out?
    Why…?
    Those screams.
    That struggle.
    Those hands pushing me aside.
    That’s why.
    That’s her.
    My love.

  28. cms222

    “Dig Deep”

    At the mouth of the alley I see a dripping wet, emaciated, primeval black panhandler limping past. He is weathered, bald and shirtless, wearing intricate bronze armbands and flashing glass bead necklaces. He just seems to appear, an out of place urban spiritualist with a battered and stained cardboard sign reading, “I’ll listen to your problems. $5.00,” the childish letters scrawled wildly in blue and green magic marker. His scabby ankles extend out from the tops of his dilapidated Converse All-stars which are encircled by worn dingy duct tape.

    A woman flits eagerly towards him, trilling at family and passersby alike, arms outstretched, fingers pointing. She places herself in his path, her yellow raincoat shimmering, illuminated by the lights of passing cars.

    “Can I take your picture?” she screeches.

    Unable or not agile enough to avoid her, the Shaman grinds to a slow halt. “Grrrr,” he says, bony arm twisting towards the sign. He slowly starts moving towards the tourist who is now backing away and looking behind her for some sort of help. She is met with averted eyes, knowing half smiles, turned heads.

    The two pass out of sight and I can’t help but hope that he has eaten her.

    The downpour stops for the moment but where I’m sprawled the rainwater continues to gush from the filthy pipes and ducts surrounding me. I am soaked through; I am a dam fast collecting the city’s garbage and discarded dirty dreams that lay bunched behind my legs.

    “Water, water, every where,
    And all the boards did shrink;
    Water, water, every where,
    Nor any drop to drink.”

    The man beside me is regurgitating, word for word, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”. He said he could. From memory but for a price.

    I met him as I was leaving a deli, a six-pack of Guinness in hand. I had received my own personalized half-day today. The man’s price? Half the stout. I had nothing better to do so we picked an alley and sat smoking, drinking. I listened as he told the tale, occasionally stopping him so I could return to the deli for refills. He’d said he used to be a professor at Columbia. I drunkenly believe him now.

    How did I fall into this hole? Sloppy in an alley drinking Guinness with a discredited professor quoting Coleridge. My hands are covered with gray-black slime mash, our city’s version of grass-fed country dirt.

    The rhythm of the professor’s speech matches the rapid beating of my heart as he picks up the pace; perhaps sensing our newly found friendship may soon end. Slowly, I begin to remember.

    “You dug this grave yourself. Can’t you understand that?” the sweaty fat suit had croaked earlier.

    “Fuck th-yew,” I slurred, picking up my bag and leaving, b-lining for solace, for drink.

    Standing up I wipe the grime from my hands and throw my bag into a dumpster, the professor’s speech softening behind me as I leave.

    Tomorrow? Another day. How bad could it really be?

  29. HannahHayes

    I didn’t realize where or what I was doing until I felt those first few raindrops. They pelted the back of my neck and they were cold; so much like the cold that sat heavily in my chest at the moment. Looking up I see the edge of my lawn with the dull gray sky mocking me with its half-assed raindrops. I look down to find my running shoes covered in mud. Leaning against the dirt wall of the hole I have found myself in, I hold my shovel; it bites into the compact earth and stands strong, waiting for the chance to be used again.
    I get lost in thought often but not so much that I can’t remember how I got somewhere. The only memory I have before coming to and finding myself buried in my lawn, is the phone call. The person on the other end was a woman, I know that much; someone I’ve spoken to many times before but I just can’t place the voice to a face. There was an exchange of bad news I think, at least that is what I feel and it settles in my center. It is thick, dense and it freezes me. I remember letting go of the phone and watching it dangle off the counter top; the curling cord swinging the receiver back and forth like a pocket watch in the hands of a hypnotist.
    And now I am here, breathing heavy and blinking away salty, stinging sweat from my eyes. How long I have been digging I do not know but I had gotten that call in the early morning and now it seems the sky darkens with an approaching evening. I stand a moment longer and try my best not to remember anything else. The damage has been done. The hole I have dug is too deep now, I cannot undo it; the only option now is to continue, I guess. I take hold of the dirt stained shovel handle, feeling its splintering wood slip into the skin on my palms and heave the pointed scoop hard into the dirt. I do this countless times, enjoying the burning in my lungs and the fire in my muscle. Loose dirt flies overhead, landing somewhere on level ground above me. I scrape at the sides of the hole, making it wider, easier to maneuver in. as I dig, the heaviness seems to fade, and as I dig I am no longer subjected to the pain that awaits me on the end of this task. I try not to think of it and carry on digging.
    It is late when my body finally forces me to stop and I fall to the pit of my hole, struggling for breath. I hold to my shovel for support and like I had expected, the heaviness finds me again, wrapping itself tightly around me. I bow my head and let myself remember, giving myself to the cold, heavy feeling.

  30. jmiff328

    Torrents of rain were sheeting my face as I looked into the midnight sky. The moon was a sliver of light trying to penetrate a world of darkness. I looked at my hands, covered in mud, my clothes not discernible from the ground below. The hole in the ground in which I stood measured at least six feet deep. Reality snapped back into place as I tried to remember why I was digging this grave. Why would I think of it as a grave?

    I pondered this quandary as I tried unsuccessfully to jump out of the pit. I finally made it out with super human effort and lay spent at the top gasping for breath. I would need to quit smoking. After a bit of rest I walked to the back door of my home and stripped my clothes down to my boxers and tossed them into a pile in the rain. I doubted that they would ever be worn again. I let the rain wash off the dirt it could muster and opened the sliding door. I ran through the house and into the laundry room where our towels were stored. I wrapped myself up and sat on the couch to try and relax. I hadn’t let the gravity of the situation catch up with me yet and I didn’t want to think about why I was just doing what I was doing.

    I turned on the television and caught the end of a breaking news story on my local station. “Police say that anyone displaying strange behavior are urged to call the number on the screen below, this behavior would include memory loss, violent outbursts, unusual cravings, and extreme trouble sleeping. Residents are also urged to stay indoors for the next few days if possible. All businesses that cannot be run from home are ordered to be shut down, by executive order of the United States. We will be continuing coverage of this breaking news as more information comes our way.”

    I sat staring at the infomercial that immediately followed the new broadcast, not watching it but contemplating what this all meant. I decided that sitting here was doing nothing and I was going to need supplies if I was going to be here for the next few days. I pulled on a pair of dry jeans with my work boots, an army green poncho, and headed for the door. Before I was able to open it, it flew inward straining against its hinges. A group of four men in full body yellow suits moved into my living room. Three were holding automatic m4 rifles while the fourth had a hand held device the size of a loaf of bread. It had two prongs on the end a small screen on top. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I asked. “By order of the United States of America we have the right to test your blood for an unknown pathogen that has infected this area. Please give me your arm sir.” He said it without inflection and somehow that scared me more than the suits or the guns. I held out my arm and without hesitation the two prongs were inserted. The pain was tolerable and fleeting. The small screen started to flash a rainbow of colors until it landed on green. “Sorry for the inconvenience sir.” The lead man said. I nodded my head as they left through my broken door. I closed it as best I could after them and headed to my truck. I had a feeling things were only going to get worse, and I needed to be ready.

    1. jincomt

      What I really noticed, and liked, was the tone– for example, the news report and the men in the yellow suits. You did a nice job conveying an official voice. I also liked a lot of your word choices.

  31. Karrah

    “Dig, dig, dig,” Max grumbled, flinging the shovel down in a sudden burst of annoyance. “I’m sick of digging!”

    “Then stop digging,” came the response from above.

    Max gazed over the edge of his hole to meet the inquisitive gaze of the little girl who had answered.

    “I can’t.”

    “Why not?” Her blue eyes were wide and she was on her hands and knees, peering down into the darkness in which Max stood.

    “Because, I have to –“

    Max paused, his mouth still open as if to finish answering, but nothing came out. Why was he digging the hole? The girl looked up at him and Max snapped his mouth shut, rubbing his hand over the stubble on his jaw. The girl cocked her head a bit, blond braid falling over her shoulder.

    He nodded slowly. Maybe she was right. He could stop digging for now, at least until he figured out why he was digging the hole. Well, not hole so much as trench.

    The girl retreated from the edge. Max climbed out and sat down, feet dangling into the shadows, while he contemplated why he was digging. There weren’t any dead bodies – at least none that he could see – and his only clue was a six-year-old girl sitting beside him. What in the world –

    The girl beside him screamed, startling Max, and pointed towards the – what was that?

    The girl scrambled to her feet and Max did the same, reaching blindly for the handle of the shovel. His fingers closed over the wood just as the human form limped towards them, arms outstretched, and foaming at the mouth. It let out a cross between a gurgle and a snarl and lunged for them. Max swung.

    The bottom of the shovel collided with the thing’s head with a sickeningly wet crunch. It collapsed immediately, twitched once, and then lay still. Max dropped the shovel and then crouched next to the girl.

    “Everyone okay?” John’s voice reached them before he did. “Got another straggler?”

    The girl shivered a bit and then stood up, brushing off her dress. “We’re okay, Daddy. Max killed the zombie.”

    John nodded and then scooped her up into his arms. “Good, Sarah. But you need to be in bed.” The man nodded at Max. “Thanks, man. You mind dragging it to the burn pile to the west?”

    Max shook his head. Still mildly confused.

    “Good. See you in the morning.”

    They disappeared. So now Max had a hole, a dead – er, re-dead – zombie that needed to be burned, and no idea what he was doing. With a sigh, Max grabbed the zombie’s feet, preparing to dispose of it, when someone else stumbled through the bushes. He seemed half asleep and didn’t seem to notice Max as he approached the hole and dropped his pants.

    Max almost lost his grip on the zombie’s feet before realizing what he was witnessing. A latrine. He’d been digging a latrine. Fantastic. Max’s life just got better and better.

  32. rmacy60@yahoo.com

    I’m still wearing my high heels from work, I’m angry, and my nice blazer is now all dirt stained. I just bought it too!

    I remember grabbing the shovel from the shed, mumbling curses about how my ex never did throw out that old set of tires that’s still sitting at the back behind the rakes and shovels. Just before that I’d been reading the mail. The mailman had delivered my neighbor’s mail to my box, again. And before that I’d been yelling at my dog for napping on the couch. Dog hair and blazers—not a match!

    The whole time I’m digging that hole, I’m raging over the way my boss lectured my team for the Donovan account we just lost, and how he kept scanning me with those beady little eyes, like he thought it was my fault!

    And those damn tires! How hard would it have been for the loser to remember to take them to the dump! Guess that’s why he’s hit the road.

    And when is the effing mailman going to stop giving me the wrong mail? Just once, I’d love to see a pre-approved credit card add with my name on it.

    Then there’s Mutt, the little scoundrel! Always waiting for me to leave the room so he can hop on the couch and rub in all of his doggy odor on my new microfiber lounger—a present from when I landed the friggin’ Donovan account!

    Damn, I’m exhausted! Can’t a girl just come home to a glass of wine, take a nice hot bath, and put her feet up?

    Then . . . the idea struck.

    Since I didn’t have a bathtub in my house, only one of those ridiculous standing showers, I would put a damn tub in! In the backyard! I’d seen this done loads of times on the Home and Garden channel. They dug big, massive holes and plunked in a tub! I could do that!

    So, I tossed the mail aside, sneered at Mutt and made my way to the shed—only to find those accursed tires glaring back at me. But that wasn’t going to slow me down, no. It only fueled my fire.

    Heels or no that damn hole was going to be ready for a hot tub by the end of the night!

    Thus a crater in my backyard. Heels broken. Blazer stained. Mutt jealous. Tires leering.

    Hot tub to be delivered tomorrow. Now where’s that glass of wine?

  33. Icabu

    Sore and chilled from the morning dew, I woke sitting on the back porch steps, my face wedged between two paint-chipped balusters. Looking at my dirt caked hands, I noticed the palms covered with bleeding, oozing, and puffed blisters. Cradling them in my lap, I looked out across the back yard. Like a black scar on the neat green was a large hole.

    I blinked, but the mysterious hole remained. At the foot of the steps lay a shovel, the blade dirty and the handle smeared with blood. Like my hands. Dirt and blood. I shook my foggy head and rose. The weathered boards creaked as I reentered the house.

    The kitchen displayed the remnants of the wake. Plastic wrapped platters of food covered the large table and most of the counter. The trash can overflowed with used paper plates and empty soda and beer cans. I stumbled into the library. I remembered being in here after everyone left. This was my grandfather’s favorite room. It still smelled of him.

    Many of the books were scattered on the floor now. Had I done that? Was I going to bury them out back? On my grandfather’s desk – my desk now, I thought as grief gripped my heart again – was a landscape drawing. A red heart on the drawing indicated the rose garden my grandfather began thirteen years ago when his wife died. He tended it, expanded it. Now they both rested there.

    The mostly empty bottle of scotch explained my fuzzy head and slightly queasy stomach. I pushed it off the paper and noticed something new on the drawing. A fish, or what looked somewhat like a fish, was drawn in the middle of the back yard.

    I dropped into the chair as last night’s bright idea came back to me. A pond … in the back yard. In a grief and scotch haze, I’d dug through the night. It’ll be filled with lily pads and brightly colored koi … for my grandparents – Lilly and Coy.

    1. danmcgrath

      It’s a tight little story that builds up towards the end. Gives me just enough information to in all the right places, without completely giving it away till the end.

  34. penney

    OCD

    “Eight, nine, ten,” he counted to himself, stopped and wiped his brow before the sweat trickled into his eye. He stepped up the ledge that now had formed from him digging a hole. He walked over to the tree and leaned the shovel against the trunk reached for the shovel again and leaned it against the tree again. Eighth, ninth, tenth time, he was good. He proceeded across the lawn to the garage door grabbed the doorknob twisted it, again, eight, nine, ten times he twisted it. Before he pushed the door open he paused as if in a trance. He stood there seeming to stair at the door for several minutes, pure silence enveloped him. When this happened, he didn’t really see anything, it was like a black veil was laid over his eyes. His mind honestly was a total blank. Then as if something clicked in that void, he turned, walked across the lawn grabbed the shovel and stepped back in the hole to start digging.

    “Eighth, ninth, then the tenth shovel of dirt hit the ground off to the side, again to the tree and again to the door. He was meticulous, he never lost count, and this was trip number five. He was back in the hole when his little boy standing next to the hole cautiously tried to gain his attention.

    “Daddy, watcha doin,” he new the answer but momma had sent him out to try anyway.

    “Ah, diggin,” his father replied.

    “How many left,” his son asked?

    “Five,” his father responded again.

    His father lifted himself out of the hole and headed for the tree. His son staying safely out of the way as he rose his hand, all five fingers up and wide open to sign the number five. His mother looking through the kitchen window frowned and nodded her head. There was not much to do about it.

    “Daddy, why are you diggin a hole,” the little boy asked while his father stood at the door in his veil of darkness.

    “Daddy, why are you diggin a hole,” he said it a lot louder trying as if to wake his father up.

    His fathers head snapped over to look down at his son. “What, dig a hole?”

    Before he could think of an answer, his wife was beside him. “Here honey, you forgot your rubber bands,” she helped him put them on his wrist. He stood there and snapped them ten times, turned and went in for dinner.

    “What’s to eat, I’m starving,” he said smiling. Then he stopped at the door snapped the rubber bands ten times and walked in the house with his family.

    1. danmcgrath

      “before the sweat trickled into his eye.”

      I couldn’t help but think he only has one eye.

      You give the issue of his OCD a good treatment, it appears to be recognized by everyone but him. A suggestion, leave out the OCD title, and let the reader come to their own conclusion. You’ve laid out a neat tidy little package that made me think there was something up with the character without even needing to read the title. All the essentials are in the story for the reader to draw their own conclusions.

      1. penney

        Thank you for you views and suggestion. “Eye” one because I didnt think that sweat always runs in both eyes at the same time, but I see what your saying. The title thing is probably peer presure after seeing others put titles to their works.

    2. jincomt

      I kind of liked having the title. With such a limited word count, it can be hard to convey the intent of the story. But the title gave me a framework to help make the story flow– I read to fill in the meaning of “OCD”.

      1. danmcgrath

        Having read it again I can see where you get that interpretation. It works very well from that angle by citing specific examples of OCD like behavior to define the condition in 500 words.

        Personally I favor no title, but if I knew nothing about OCD, I’d go the other way.

    3. Icabu

      I liked that the mother and son worked together to help the father out of his OCD rut. You’ve captured the confusion of a troubling and often misunderstood condition nicely. Great job.

  35. danmcgrath

    I feel the rolling death of nuclear discharges shaking their way through the planet. In confusion I flood my mind with a volley of questions. Who am I? Why am I in a hole in the ground holding an automated digger? Why am I in powered armor suit? These are the questions that are my immediate concern; not to mention the nuclear explosions I watch over the edge of the hole that are ripping apart alien cities.

    I drop the digger and hoist myself out of the hole, panic chasing me out into the open. Lights begin to flash in front of my eyes; I see red triangles that seem to indicate danger. What are they, danger? One of the triangles begins to throb and I find myself in a terrorized daze as an alien having a few too many arms, few too many legs, and a very ugly head approaches and opens fire on me.

    The suit that I’m in automatically responds and launches a small rocket of some sort. The alien is blown in two large pieces gory pieces. Without a second of hesitation, the suit begins to target and destroy the triangles that are farther away, triangles that represent more aliens. Death and fire rages around me and I’m helpless to understand or control what happens, I’m trapped as the aliens explode out of the ground.

    The suit wastes no time engaging, quickly pieces of alien are flying around me as the suit closes the distance. Fear floods me and I struggle against the suit, which responds by administering a weak sedative to help me relax. At once I stop struggling and I watch as I’m carried closer to the nuclear fires and what appears to be fleeing aliens. I watch as the suit unleashes a salvo of weapons fire on a small ground vehicle filled with what appears to be civilians, I scream, “STOP!”

    “No, mission must proceed.”

    I think to myself, “Don’t speak the questions, I think them at the suit?” The suit, while busy, dedicates a small portion of its capacity to answering them. “Who am I?” I think at the suit. I’m watch the question flicker in front of my eyes.

    “Captain Davies, Terrain Marines, Serial #11204023202.”

    “Where am I?”

    “Hell.”

    “I’m dead?”

    “Your parameters are sub-optimal. Unit #11203023202 suffered a serious head trauma due to nuclear discharge concussion, but is not deceased.”

    “But I’m in hell?”

    “Planet Hell is the 7th planet of the Proxima Centauri System.”
    “Why am I here?”

    “Simple answer or long form?”

    “Simple.”

    “Administering sedative, one moment…”

    “Answer me!”

    “Sedative administered, your orders are to assist in elimination all sentient life.”

    The events that follow overwhelm me, I’m numb, and my brain can not process what my eyes see. Adult aliens, children, the young, the old, the weak, and the injured die before the guns of the suit. I’m helpless to stop it, I can do nothing. I’m a passenger in a nightmare that can’t be stopped.

      1. danmcgrath

        yes, I love sci fi. It’s difficult to write as there is so much of it you really have to be creative to come up with your own original material. Power armor has been written about extensively, so you have to be think about it a bit more and adapt a human condition within the overall scheme of things.

    1. Icabu

      I think the suit has a concussion and is sub-optimal with that mission.
      I like the sci-fi theme, difficult with only 500 words – good job, want to read more.

      1. danmcgrath

        I toyed with making the suit seem completely wonky by having it quote Dick Cheney, but I figured that not all the readers are savvy to American politics and decided against it. That and I wasn’t going for funny this time around.

  36. DMelde

    Timber squinted up into the hot afternoon sun. His shirt clung to his back as he pushed another shovel of dirt off to the side. “Almost done,” he thought.
    The hole grew big after the first few hours. Digging proved therapeutic to Timber, because it made him forget what he was doing. He searched his mind, trying to understand, but comprehension eluded him. He stood still and closed his eyes. Through his mind’s eye, he saw everyone he had ever hurt. They lined up fearfully before him. He didn’t feel sorry for any of them. In fact, he didn’t feel anything at all. He had never known a day of laughter in his life, or of sorrow. He had never gone to a dance, never been kissed by a girl. The only times he felt alive was when he did it, when he hurt them, and when he saw the light leave their eyes. During those moments he felt almost human, but he knew that he wasn’t. In his coldness, he felt superior to everyone else, untouchable. “They all say the same thing at the end,” he thought, and then suddenly he remembered her.
    She was hard to forget. He should know, he tried hard to forget her every single day. At first, she was no different than the rest. It had started the same as always; the stalking, the planning, a rush to his heart when he took her, the look of fear in her eyes. The same as always, but then, it changed. She changed it. Her look of fear disappeared, and in its place was a look in her eyes of something that he couldn’t understand. He hurt her, but she stayed mute, and at the end she mouthed to him, “I forgive you”. He saw himself differently after that. Her eyes haunted his sleep. There was a stain on his superiority. He never wanted to meet someone like her again. Some might call it remorse. He called it weakness. She had made him weak.
    The hole was big enough for a man to lie down in, so he quit digging. When he remembered her, he also remembered why he dug. “One more time,” he thought, “then I’ll be done.”
    Timber squinted up into the hot afternoon sun. His shirt clung to his back as he threw aside the shovel. “One more time, and then she’ll be gone.”
    “Someone say my name.” he called out, followed by a loud report from a handgun firing.
    Timber buckled to his knees, falling face first into the cool, fresh earth.

    1. JR MacBeth

      I think your use of forgiveness as a pivot point worked especially well, leading to a creative kind of “redemption”. And yet, justice was not entirely cheated, still leaving the reader with a satisfying ending. You also managed to portray the deranged mind of the sociopath effectively, without going too far. The risk of having the reader hate “too much” was mitigated by those few choice details provided about his miserable life. Now the reader feels a little sorry for the guy! Nicely played, and probably not easy to do in so few words. Great job!

      1. jincomt

        Agree with these comments. I had similar thoughts while reading it. Instead of spending the limited word count in the “why of the hole”, I was intrigued with the why of the killer. Nicely spun.

    2. Icabu

      Great description of a troubled mind. It seemed the hole in his soul, dug by the woman, was bigger by far than the holes he’d dug to bury his victims.
      Great read.

    3. DMelde

      I only used about 430 words to write this story so I thought I’d add a little to it.

      #######

      Epilogue
      The Timberland Killer was never caught. When police found Timber, they identified him as Jason Walker, never linking him to any of the killings. His victims’ families never found closure. The holes Timber dug into their lives never healed. The last hole that Jason ever dug was into the heart of his mother, who knew that Jason was a troubled child. A son she was never able to save.

  37. Dean Kutzler

    BLINDING RAGE

    Blinding white light was all that filled Mason’s vision. Faint stringy shapes started emerging as they floated and moved above a much larger darker shape, which was forming before his eyes like a Rorschach test coming into focus. For a moment, he thought he’d died and was headed to the ever-after when he heard a sound—a sound like a locomotive slowly coming to life; shfff—shfff—shfff.

    As the white light faded from his vision, he realized the source for the pain in his back—and for the sound. Good ole’ Engine No. 9 had never left it’s station. The full moon shone its eerie countenance across the yard. He’d been digging a hole—a large hole in the back yard next to Hartley’s dog coop under the Weeping Willow. As if on cue, blisters tweaked a ‘hello-there’ on his palms and he tossed the shovel to the ground. He stood, staring in bewilderment at the hole big enough and deep enough for him to lie down in. Why did he dig this hole?

    Shaking his head in confusion, Mason brushed sweat from his brow and winced in pain as he felt a bump on his head as big as a goose egg. How’d that get there?

    He left the strange hole and turned for the house in hopes of discovering the reason for his nighttime folly. The back door was open wide, howling at the moon. He trotted up the steps pulling it closed behind him and noticed the kitchen window was broken; the pieces of pane lying on the tiled floor next to Hartley’s bone shaped bowl. A piece in the sill, holding on for life flashed a spark of reckoning as the moonlight hit it before it fell to lay amongst it’s brethren. Did I hear a crash?

    Yes. Yes. He was in the study, working on the proposal for the new Flosheim building when he’d heard the glass break. He’d skipped the fishing trip with the boys so he could make the deadline early. Before he had a chance to react, Hartley had padded down the stairs and headed straight for the kitchen. Good Ole’ Hartley; ever the faithful watch dog. Was it a break-in?

    No! No! Remembrance flooded in on him like a broken dam. He’d read the newspapers—the reports of the violent break-ins around the neighborhood. They’d murdered poor Mr. Allen only to make off with his dead wife’s costume jewelry.

    He scrambled in his desk drawer for the .45 and ran to the kitchen. It was dark and the intruder was huge, bulky in size. He made a dash for the light switch but missed, forgetting about the useless doggie gate that never kept Hartley out. As Mason toppled to the floor, he hit his head on the counter. But before the bulky shape started to loom over him he pulled out two rounds from the .45. Now he remembered.

    Elena must have taken the redeye back from her Paris trip and lost her keys. She’d been carrying so many packages she’d used her teeth to hold one, so she couldn’t yell out—couldn’t save her self.

    He hoisted the body over his shoulder and carried it back to the hole. Gently he cradled it as he lowered it down. He wept in silence, as he finished filling in the hole. Staring up at the last light of the moon before twilight surged over and reclaimed the day he said, “Hartely, you were the best Great Dane a man could have ever asked for.”

    1. JR MacBeth

      Awesome description, a picture painted with words. Nice twist too. With all the dead bodies to bury from this prompt, I like your change-up. Poor Hartley!

      1. rob akers

        You are a master of description! I love how you tell the story and describe the setting with such ease. On top of all that, you have a wonderful twisted mind. He shots is wife and dog and he is grieving over the dog. That is great writing! You are the man, a master among us worthless amateurs and mortals.

    2. Icabu

      Visually descriptive.
      Reminds me of those country songs where the wife leaves and takes the dog and the guy sure misses his dog.
      Great read.

  38. Kae Lee

    Rain drops brought me back to reality and I instantly dropped the shovel. My hands were covered in dirt and blood and I was standing in a hole deep enough that it took me several tries to get out of. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I had been digging such a huge ass hole. Come to think of it, I couldn’t actually remember much of anything.

    Rain was beginning to come down harder so I made my way into the house. The moment I walked in the back door and stood in the kitchen I knew something was off. I couldn’t quite figure it out just yet but I knew the more I tried I would eventually knock something loose in the noggin and everything would come back to me. Beeping caught my attention. It was my cell alerting me that I had a voice mail.

    I listened carefully to the message. It was Janna’s husband wanting her to call him immediately. He sounded super pissed. The date on my phone was November first which meant last night had been the Halloween party my girlfriends and I had been planning for months. Suddenly I noticed Kelly’s huge red purse sitting on the counter by the coffee pot. Then it clicked. The girls had come to the house with bad horror movies and enough gin to put the neighborhood under the table. But where were they now?

    After searching upstairs and downstairs and not having any luck, I decided I should probably check the basement.

    As soon as I entered the kitchen again, the door to the basement caught my eye. It was slightly ajar. I flipped the light switch by the door and descended slowly down the steps into the dim lit basement. The first thing I saw was the Ouija board and black candles that had longed burned out sprawled across the basement floor. Blood was everywhere. And that’s when everything came back to me. The heavy drinking, playing with the Ouija board, Kelly making the pointer move and denying it. My stomach was suddenly sick.

    I heard a child-like giggle. “Think harder Sarah.”

    “Whose there?” I asked wishing I had brought a weapon down here with me. My knees were weak and shaky but that didn’t stop me from twirling in a circle searching for the source of the voice.

    “Don’t be silly. I’m inside your body now.” The creepy child voice said again.

    “Who are you?” I asked out loud.

    More giggling inside my head. “Lilith but the question you should be asking is, what am I?” But before I could ask, she spoke again. “I’m the demon you conjured last night with that nifty little board Kelly brought over. Oh and don’t fret about your friends, they can be found at the bottom of that hole. You weren’t digging, you were packing the dirt on top them silly.”

    1. jincomt

      I read an article (NPR maybe?) that with the popularity of board game-themed movies, it’s a wonder no one has capitalized on the Ouija board idea. Maybe you’re on to something.

  39. JR MacBeth

    A child looks down at a man digging in a hole.

    “Whatcha doin’?”

    Startled, the man looks up. He sees a dark figure standing at the edge above him, but the sun is too bright.

    “Who’s there?”

    Silence.

    “Who’s there? Get out of the sun so I can see you!”

    The child moves slowly. She is a girl, perhaps only six or seven years old.

    “Why are you down there?”

    “Why, uh, well I…I don’t know.” His expression is one of total confusion. Old enough to be the girl’s great-grandfather, he was used to forgetting things these days. But this was very unusual. He suddenly realized he would have an awful time getting out. He also felt the heat of the sun, his mouth was so dry. Was he also starting to feel the old chest pains again? And what on earth was he doing in a dirt hole?

    “What’s your name girl?” She said nothing but looked him straight in the eyes. Perhaps she was older than he initially thought. Maybe she was big enough to help him out of his predicament.

    “Can you help an old man? I don’t know how I can get out of here, I have a bad leg you know.” She tilted her head just a bit as if she was considering what he said. She then turned and disappeared from sight.

    “Hey there! Young lady! You still there?” He grabbed his chest looking at his other hand still holding a shovel. Nothing was coming back to him.

    “Hey girl! Get back here!” Nothing. Time passed. He went through his thoughts trying to recall anything. He remembered being in his room. He remembered his dutiful son there at his side. The nurse.

    Suddenly, a shadow blocked the heat of the sun. The dark girl was back.

    “Thank God you came back! Listen, I’m very thirsty. Gimme some water.”

    “If you keep digging, you may find some.”

    He was incredulous. She was not going to help him, she was probably laughing at him!

    “Step out of the sun! What…Why can’t you get your Daddy, or Mama, someone to help me out?”

    “My mother died!” Was she crying, or laughing as she said it?

    He really didn’t like these people, and it was clear they didn’t like him either. Perhaps he could bribe or outwit her.

    “What kinds of things do you like girl? You know, I’m a rich man. I can get you whatever you want!”

    “I want my Mama.” Now stepping out of the sun, he could see she was not laughing after all. Her dark eyes stared down at him over tear-streaked cheeks. Could he possibly know her? She was familiar!

    “Who are you? Do I know…?”

    Instantly, he knew. More than a half century had passed. Not enough time to erase his crime.

    “Please! If people knew I had knocked-up a…I mean…well it was another era! It would have ruined me!”

    “Ruined you…Daddy?”

    1. SchmidtHappens008

      Interesting, very interesting. It has a Tales from the Crypt feel to it. Someone getting his comeuppance for past evils. Very creepy. I like it.

  40. thesaturnbull

    Swimming pool, right? I was digging a swimming pool? No, I lived in Seattle. Nobody in their right mind who lived in Seattle owned an outdoor swimming pool. What, for three days out of the “summer” – or maybe a month, if we were lucky? Nope, that wasn’t it.

    I threw down the shovel. It clanged off a partially exposed rock and attempted to jab my foot in retaliation. I jumped back, nimbly dodging the animated steel.

    There had to be a reason why I was out here, covered in sweat and caked dirt, but I couldn’t remember it. Damn those malaria pills. Side effects supposed to include horrific nightmares, not active sleepwalking. One week after we returned from India, three more weeks to go in order to finish the prescription (just in case some horrible bug with WEST NILE tattooed down its teeny, tiny arm had bitten me), and I was losing my mind. Or at least my memory.

    Motor skill functioned fine. Apparently. Just by looking around at the six-by-six foot hole. Luckily, sleep-walking-me had remembered to bring a stepladder. I wondered if sleep-walking-me had remembered a sandwich, or at least some sweet tea. Digging was thirsty work.

    I clambered out of the pit and right over a dead body, lounging on the grass.

    I knew it was dead (and not just snoozing) the moment I touched it. The unnaturally stiff limbs. The maggoty eyes. The deep gash across the forehead, also a giveaway.

    It lay beside two other bodies. Similarly stiff. Similarly gashed.

    “Oh, for the love,” I whispered. Really? Murdering? Fuck it had been years (years!) since my last episode. And now this. Triple homicide. I wondered if I could blame the pills. Probably not, but I bet I could blame my doctor for not guessing the possible drug interaction between malaria cultivates and Ziprasidone. I had asked. It was on record.

    I sighed.

    Well, these bodies sure as hell weren’t going to bury themselves.

    I jumped back in the hole, and back to work.

  41. William

    I was digging away with full intent when my strange reverie was interrupted by a loud snap, rumbling, then mini shadows blocking the sun as my neighbor Bernie’s block wall fence came tumbling down toward me. One of the blocks glanced off the side of my head which apparently did not faze me because I went right back to my task. Even Bernie yelling down into the hole didn’t stop my feverish pace.
    My wife tried next and finally gave up and dropped a six-pack of cold soda and a wrapped BLT sandwich down into the hole, then disappeared from view with the words, “You know. When you’re done you’ll have to fill up the hole and repair the damage. I hope you know that!”
    It didn’t matter. I had to keep going at the task at hand. Just for the life of me, I couldn’t remember why I started this project? Never mind. Dig. Dig. Dig.
    All of a sudden, most of the light was blocked out and I looked up to see that Bernie had recruited all the neighbors to persuade me out of my task. Just then, one of them shined a flashlight down into the hole, illuminating something I’d missed. I picked it up and held it out to them.
    “See this,” I said shaking it in my fist.
    “What is it?” asked a neighbor.
    “Bamboo root. I poisoned it once and it came back, I dug down a couple of feet poisoned it again, and it came back, and again after I dug down over four feet.”
    “So,” came back the response.
    “So,” I said as I leaped out of the hole to the ground level. “Remember the house near Lassen and Balboa that had the bamboo problem?”
    Some of them nodded. They knew what I knew. The bamboo had taken over the yard, destroyed the pool and then the house. Even today, several years after the house had been torn down by the city, there was a bamboo covered lot that the neighbor’s kept fighting a losing battle with.
    So, I’m not about to give in, because I really like this neighborhood. Persistence is what’s going to beat this problem.
    It’s now 4 a.m. in the morning and my digging project continues. But more than three hours have passed without another bamboo root being found. I turned the lights to focus down in the hole a bit better and said,” as I leaned into their view, “I think you’ve about got it now.”
    “Just two more feet,” came back the reply.
    “You said that over an hour ago,” I responded.
    “Maybe, but we want to be sure”
    I sighed, leaned back into my lounge chair, slurping noisily on the sodas they wouldn’t take time to drink, and dipped another chip into the salsa, feeling just a little bit like Tom Sawyer getting the kids to whitewash his fence. I wondered how much these guys would pay to keep working?

    1. Icabu

      Hmmm, there’s a thicket of bamboo between my neighbor and us …
      Is the hole really about bamboo or did the neighbors get ‘Tom Sawyer’d’ for a different purpose?

  42. slayerdan

    The light rain was just enough to arouse John from his sleep. His head throbbed at first, slowly easing up as the cobwebs began to clear. He didn’t fully realize where he was until he sat up. He was in the small area behind the large, shady oak trees in the back yard. It was maybe an 8 by 8 area, ending in a concrete wall at its farthest points. “Why the hell am I out here?”, he thought to himself when it dawned on him what he was sitting in front of.
    A hole. Not a perfectly round hole. It was oblong, maybe 3 feet deep and 5 and a half feet long. A broken shovel on one side, apparently a victim of the entwined tree roots underneath.
    “What the HELL happened here?” he reasoned out loud, although more to himself than anyone listening. He looked at the hole, the shovel, and then realized he had a fair amount of dirt on his hands and clothes.
    “Was I digging a hole?” He did seem to recall digging, fighting with the roots of the trees but for the absolute life of him he could not understand or remember why. He ran through as much of the day as he could recall, but nothing jarred his memory. As the rain began to fall faster, he pulled himself up and made his way back to the house. He could see the kitchen light was on and figured it to be about 7pm, based on the amount of light left outside.
    Looking back at the trees that now hid the hole, he seemed to recall going to dig the hole. A throb in his head reminded him he had hit a particularly thick root with the shovel, breaking the end of it off. Stomping his foot, he got caught up in a root and remembered falling.
    “ But why was I even digging a hole there?” he muttered to himself as he entered the back door. Turning down the first hallway from the door he rounded the corner into the dining room.
    “ Well look at all that Goddamned dirt you’ve dragged in on your sorry ass,” came the shrill attack of Beatrice Johnson, mother in law and last, John was sure, of the medusae. She stood glaring at him, all 5 foot 6 inches of her, her horn rimmed glasses aimed directly at him like the horns of a charging bull. His wife standing next to her, shaking her head, pleading with her eyes to John to just let it go.
    A slight smirk of recognition on his face,” I am sorry, Miss Johnson. Let me head back out real quick and finish up, and I will come back in and take care of everything,”he followed.
    “ See to it you do, you filthy thing. I didn’t visit to have to clean up your mess, I came to rest and relax in the shade.”
    “ Oh you will Miss Johnson, if it’s the last thing I do, you will get to spend your time in that shade,” John replied, and turned for the door.

  43. Eli_13

    I’ve heard people talk about being “in the zone” but I’ve never experienced myself and now here I am, digging a hole and I have no clue why. It’s definitely a good hole, pretty big and deep. I could put a lot of things in that hole, a lot of things or just one big thing.
    Out of no where I hear “Mia! Where are you?”
    What does he want now? John’s like a child and cannot be alone for two minutes. Can’t a woman have a little peace and quiet from time to time?
    “I’m outside babe. What do you need?”
    “What are you doing?” Looking up I see John out the bedroom window. So damn nosey he is.
    “What does it look like John? I’m digging a hole.” I yell up to John.
    “Are you almost done?” John says in the whiney way of his when he’s not getting enough attention.
    I force the shovel down in the mound of dirt I’ve created. Dropped my pretty pink flower gardening gloves and smooth out my dress. Even when digging a girl must look her best.
    “Yes dear. I’m almost done. Meet me in the kitchen?”
    John is standing at the refrigerator in a grungy white t-shirt and a pair of boxers with dogs on them. He just stares into the fridge like something is going to change the longer he stands there. The cold air pours out in the kitchen. What a waste.
    At the sink I pull open the cutlery door and grab the pink handled butcher knife that I got for Christmas last year. It glints like so many diamonds in the late afternoon sun that is streaming through the kitchen window.
    John closes the refrigerator door. Scratches his ass and says “Babe, what’s for dinner? I’m starving.”
    John walks up to behind me and grabs my hips. Does he think that’s a turn on?
    “You won’t be eating tonight dear.” I whisper as I turn and in one quick move sink the pink handled butcher knife into John’s chest.
    The look of shock on his face is priceless.
    “Babe?” he whimpers as he falls to the ground.
    Dropping the knife in the sink I grab a dishtowel and wipe my hands.
    “Time you did something useful.” I said to John as I gather up his feet and pull him out the kitchen door to the hole.
    On top of the covered hole I place a pretty picnic blanket and lay back to enjoy the peace and quiet.

      1. Aican

        Wow! I hope her boyfriend isn’t that whiney of a guy to inspire that story.

        I agree though, it was very well written. The “At the sink I pull open the cutlery door and grab the pink handled butcher knife that I got for Christmas last year. It glints like so many diamonds in the late afternoon sun that is streaming through the kitchen window.” has a way of slowing down the story enough so that you can picture the knife in her hand. Hopefully for her boyfriends sake she hasn’t tried it on him yet.
        Please submit some more Eli_13. Maybe some that shows the guy as better then that.

        1. rob akers

          Wow, cool twist on the prompt. I never saw it coming. I love the lines about him holding the refrigerator open, nothing changing and wasting the cold air. Perfect description. I could feel her hate and disgust in that one section.
          After reading I did have one thought. Did you consider having her invite him to the back yard to show him the hole and as he looked down then she stabbed him? It would have saved her from cleaning up me mess and dragging his body to the hole. Just wondering, great job!

          1. jincomt

            Your response made me laugh, Rob. How methodical of you to think of this neat solution to the bleach n’ blood dilemma.

          2. hillsworth

            Yeah Rob, kinda like “Hey honey, lean over the edge here and tell me if you see that shiny thingy at the bottom.” and then WHACK! the knife to the back and gravity takes over, she turns toward the house and dusts her hands off on a dish towel, whistling the theme of the Andy Griffith show.

            Eli, you did a great job on this prompt, that’s just me rambling on thinking of Robs reply (which I liked).

    1. Eli_13

      Thanks for all the great feedback!
      @ rob ackers – I did consider making it a little easier on Mia but she’s the type of gal that would definitely look forward to cleaning up that mess!

  44. SchmidtHappens008

    How long has it been? All I can remember is that it was still daylight when I started. It’s getting colder. Somehow I don’t seem to notice. I don’t seem to care. I don’t seem to really be…present. It’s as if I’m watching myself mindlessly dig this hole. Why am I digging this hole? Is it for me? Is it for someone else? Oh, God, what have I done?! No, I’m not a murderer. Look at the size of this hole. This isn’t for a body. I’m suddenly aware that I’m not the only one digging. About a dozen or so other disheveled bodies are mechanically digging away right along with me. I want to ask what the hell is going on. I want to stop digging. I can do neither. All my body seems to know how to do anymore is dig.
    As I continue to dig I think I can feel a faint throbbing under my feet, a pulse. And warmth. We’re not digging this hole to put something in. We’re digging something up. And whatever it is, it’s big and alive and wants so desperately to be free. That thought triggers something, a memory. A fragment of an explanation flashes through my mind. A voice spoke to me in a dream. It promised me an end to my suffering. All I had to do was suffer just a little more, make one last sacrifice of pain to free him. All I had to do was dig. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My life is a joke, always has been. I was always a paycheck away from being homeless. I’ve never known love aside from my parents and they’ve been dead since I was five. This world has done nothing but take from me. Now I’m finally going to get something. I just have to keep digging.
    More time passes and we’re so close now. The pulse is stronger, louder. The warmth is more intense. And there’s something else. Something I didn’t feel in the dream. Something I hadn’t noticed until this moment. It’s difficult to describe evil, but you know it when you feel it. We have to stop. I try to scream. STOOOOPPPP!!! No sound comes out. My body still doesn’t respond to my will. It belongs to him now. We all do. And it’s too late to do anything about it.
    Suddenly, finally, we all stop digging. Under our feet is a huge ancient glyph. Before I can really process what I’m seeing I’m overcome by intense pain. We all fall to our knees in agony, begging for death. It comes swiftly and gruesomely as every ounce of blood in our bodies is violently drawn out and spilled onto the glyph.
    The voice made good on its promise. My suffering is finally over. Sadly, though, yours is just beginning. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.

    1. JR MacBeth

      Yes, a bit of the Lovecraftian here! Something real too, the paycheck away from homelessness, life a joke. The reader sees this isn’t just an exercise, a mere working of the prompt, but an opportunity to meditate on Life itself. Cliches here absent. You really pulled it off!

  45. skdunning

    A Hole at the Pecan Tree
    by SK Dunning

    She stood at the edge of her newly-made hole, the mound of displaced dirt and grass a mountain behind her heels. The old pecan tree provided both shade and a wealth of rock-shaped fungi in its roots. She bounced happily at the discovery of the truffles, delighting in the pungent, earthy musk that coated the inside of her nose.

    Nearby, birds disturbed the undergrowth and startled her to stillness. Her ears strained at the cacophony, listening until the purpose of her dig faded from her memory. Confusion settled into her veins. It was her hole. It was a recent hole. It was even a decent size. Nothing was buried here and she brought nothing to bury. She whimpered. It wasn’t the first time something like that had happened.

    Soon, a voice rang out and she recognized the sounds. “Come on girl!”

    She barked and raced for her person, careful to keep her head up high so her ears wouldn’t trip up her awkward puppy feet. A treat would be waiting in her person’s pocket.

  46. Imaginalchemy

    “Down Deep”

    How I was standing there, fifteen feet underground, holding a spoon-like shovel, was beyond me. I had clearly been digging for some time now—dirt caked my clothes and hands, there was a searing burn streaming throughout my arms and legs, and exhaustion saturated my eyes—but I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I was digging, or what I was digging for.
    I saw a bucket dangling from a chain by my side. The bottom of it was dusted in dirt, so I figured that must be where all the earth I was shoveling was going…and that meant someone was at the top hauling it up, as there was no mechanism down here to lower or raise the bucket. I tugged on the chain, and the silhouettes of two heads appeared at the top of the hole.
    “Excuse me, but why am I digging again?” I called up.
    The heads glanced at each other, and then back down at me. It was hard to see what they looked like, with the light behind them, but I could tell by their movements they were nervous—as if they were stunned I had the audacity to even ask.
    “Keep digging,” one of them said.
    Something in me triggered an automaton mode, commanding me to return to my labor, but I forced myself to look up again. “Answer me first.”
    One of the heads ducked back, as spindly fingers clutched the edge of the precipice. “Can she do that?”
    The other one cocked its head, as if thinking. “You’re too far to stop now,” it called back. “Keep going. And don’t talk anymore.”
    I could feel a monstrous pull—it was like a strong man grasping my shoulders and pushing me downwards—but instead I slammed the shovel in the dirt and grabbed the chain. I started to climb upwards, which sent both of the silhouettes above me into wild manic chattering. They started shaking the chain to throw me off, but I hung on and kept climbing. As I got closer to them, I could see the knobby hands, the barracuda teeth, the goat-like eyes, and yet for all their alien traits, they felt so familiar to me, as if I had encountered those demons time and time again…
    And just as I broke the top of the hole…
    I took a deep breath, sitting up on the couch. The wine bottle I had been drinking from lay on the carpet, a puddle of redness spilled out. The TV, which I had left on all night, was broadcasting some infomercial for a weight loss video. The pack of sleeping pills I had bought last night still lay next to me. It was broken open…but all the pills were in the package.
    I stood up on shaky legs, and felt my pocket…my house keys were there. I picked up the packet of pills and chucked them into the garbage.
    Seems like a good morning to take a walk.

    1. JR MacBeth

      Excellent buildup! Ex machina escape, but hard to blame you with such a small word allocation. I’m guessing you can pack some serious punch. Not sure about the end, but there’s that pesky 500 words again!

    2. cindishipley

      I loved the ending, sometimes less is more. I think the story has beautiful descriptive phrases about the vulnerability the author feels. Great story.

    3. Imaginalchemy

      Thank you for the comments, everyone. Yeah, I admit this is one of those stories that probably should have been longer (and it is kind of a “Dallas” ending, isn’t it?) but maybe this prompt will spur me to expand upon this idea at some point. Thanks again, I appreciate the feedback!

    4. Icabu

      Great read. Makes me wonder how much she brought into the nightmare with whatever made her buy the pills and wine. That pull to do something you don’t want to and then the will to break away from it…

  47. Leond

    I looked down at the ground in front of me. I recognized it as my backyard. And yet, there was a giant hole in the middle of it that I couldn’t place at all. Had someone snuck in and made it.
    A second later, I felt a heaviness in my hand. I looked down and noticed that I was gripping something. It was a shovel. And in it was a full load of dirt.
    “All right,” I thought. “So I’m digging it. That’s curious.” I felt bizarrely lightheaded. I sat down and looked at the hole. There was something peculiar about the shape of the hole. I wasn’t planting flowers. It was too big for that. And if I was planting flowers, I would have dug something circular. That wasn’t circular. It was more… rectangular.
    “About six feet high,” I muttered. “About six feet deep.” Something struck me about that shape, but I wasn’t quite positive what it was. It was on the tip of my tongue. It was a very specific kind of hole. “Six feet high,” I repeated. “Six feet deep.” Strange.
    I felt something liquid on my forehead. Sweat, I supposed. After all, if I had made all that I had to have been working for a while. I wiped it off. Curiously, my brow felt almost as wet as if I hadn’t done that at all.
    I looked at my hand.
    “Funny,” I thought. “Usually my sweat isn’t red.” I wiped my brow again. More red. I must be very tired indeed.
    On a sudden impulse, I climbed into the hole and lay in it facing upwards. Clouds were floating gently past in the sky. I thought I heard a robin somewhere. It was peaceful. One of the most peaceful places I’d ever been in.
    Something struck me about the world “peaceful”. Again, it put something just at the tip of my tongue. It was a short word, I knew. An important word, though. Did it start with a C? No, that didn’t seem right. Maybe it was a D. D seemed right.
    It was Tuesday. I remembered that. Tuesday was a good day. But it did mean that I had to go to the office pretty soon.
    For some reason, the office didn’t seem that important. I didn’t want to go there. And besides, I didn’t feel like I had to. I felt like I’d rather stay here. Just stay here and rest. Something seemed right about that.
    As I closed my eyes, the word I had been looking for finally came to my mind.
    Dead.

    1. cindishipley

      I think this is an awesome story. Such a cross between the confusion of living and the dedication we have to daily routine…don’t know if that makes sense to you.

      1. rob akers

        Nice job. Like everyone else, I really enjoyed this post. Love how you keep the reader guessing about what is going to happen next.

        I did not find it very creepy but more light hearted to me. I like the blunt, matter of fact way that you describe death. The I am dying but really dont care thing works well with your style.

    2. laurentravian

      Interesting. I saw it coming though. You might want to elaborate on why he/she couldn’t remember much. Or what blood was. Also, it wasn’t clear whether they were already dead or digging their own grave. But it was good.

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