So, Monday was my birthday and I forgot to mention that I was taking the day off… Whoopsie doodle.
It started small at first. Insects. Mice. Fish. Things I could purchase from pet stores, from animal supply stores. Frozen meat from the grocer. Anything I could think of to fill the void, I tried. Greedily it accepted my offerings, wet sucking and snapping sounds drifting up from the depths, and for a while it seemed that the situation was improving. I marked the edges of the void with chalk once more, and when I checked them in the morning, they were untouched. On some days, the void actually seemed to retreat. The parts of my foundation that had vanished into the depths returned, and they were barren of things that they had supported before the void claimed them, but they were. I started dreaming again, silly and senseless and innocent things. I even found myself smiling from time to time.
It didn’t last. The void grew quicker and larger than ever before. I stood there staring into it, feeling helpless. For a while, things seemed to have been going better and now they were the worst they’d ever been. All I could do was think, “I have to try harder.”
It helped some. For a while, at least. The void shrank, but it never retreated completely, and my dreams became nightmares where crying children from the neighborhood came up to me and asked me if I’d seen their pets. I watched the void now more than I ever had before, noting every minute change in obsessive, terrified detail. I thought I could save myself through vigilance. I thought I could react to everything, anticipate, overcome it, maintain some kind of stasis.
In my nightmares, the police knocked on my door and demanded to speak to me about the disappearances in the neighborhood, and in twisted dream logic I imagined myself saying to them, “Come inside. Come inside and you’ll see. Stand right here on the edge and peer as deep as you dare. Stand where I have. See the darkness that dogs howl at in the night, that children awake from with tears staining their cheeks. You’ll see.” But no one ever came. I bore my guilt and my despair alone, without even the reprieve of finally being caught and taken away.
Meanwhile the void grew, and the old ways of filling it stopped working. I had taken to talking to it, as if there were anything that waited down there that would speak to me. Not even an echo. “What more do you want from me?” I asked. “I have given you everything.”
But that wasn’t true. Not everything. After all, I was still there to watch and to bear witness to the dissolution of everything I’d ever known. That is all I do now. I just stand and watch, watch the edges of everything so closely I could swear I can see them crumbling away before me. All I can do is stand and think about the little truths I have always known.
Some things just grow bigger the more you feed them. Some holes can never be filled.
So ends “What Waits in the Void!” Be here on Friday for more short fiction and fewer unannounced vacations!