The Hole in the Closet
by William Quincy Belle
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Jack blinked. He was lying on his back, looking straight up. His brain was addled and his body felt jarred. He moved his right arm a bit. He held up his left hand and looked at it. Then he flexed his legs. His body seemed to be functioning. He turned his head to the right then the left. There didn’t seem to be any pain.
He looked up again, and things slowly started to fall into place. Jack had been checking for messages on his cellphone when he had opened the closet door to get dressed for work. He had set the phone down, taken a step, and then pitched forward. He had fallen for a split second, hitting several things that snapped, and ended up on his back, cushioned by something soft and a bit prickly.
Jack sat up slowly and looked around as he tried to grasp what he was looking at. He seemed to be in some sort of fluorescent woodland. All around were bizarre trees with twisted trunks, covered in bright red leaves. An expanse of yellow grass was spotted with rectangular blue bushes. Jack realized his fall had been broken by one of them. He carefully placed the palm of his hand on the bush beneath him. It felt like a sponge.
Jack furrowed his brow as he turned to look around a little more. He raised his gaze. The sky, or whatever was above him, was an odd shade of green. But, almost directly over him, a coloured spot hung in midair. Jack stared at the spot for several seconds, trying to see through it, until he understood that it was the inside of his closet. His eyes widened.
He rolled off the bush onto the ground, then looked back up at the view of his closet that hung above his head. Somehow when he had stepped into his closet, he had fallen through a hole into this weird place. Obviously this wasn’t the third story under his fourth-floor apartment.
Jack tried to estimate the height of the hole, if he could call it that. It seemed to be about fifteen feet up. Just fifteen feet away was his escape out of this place and back to his world, but how would he ever get up there?
Jack took a step back, still looking at the hole. As he put his foot down, something behind him squealed. Startled, he spun around. There on the ground was a tiny creature, no bigger than a mouse. He leaned over to look at it closely. Its bright orange body seemed to be a shell mounted on three legs.
The crab-like creature scurried back and forth a number of times, stopped, and tilted its body upward so its two eyes could look directly at Jack. After a moment of silence, a mouth at the front of the shell opened, and the creature hissed.
The crab rushed forward over Jack’s slipper and started to climb the leg of his pyjamas. Each of its legs was able to grip the material as the crab scaled his leg like a fly on a wall.
Startled, Jack stepped back as he looked down in horror at the odd creature attached to him. Out of blind fear, he reached down and swatted it. It tumbled to the ground and rolled over a couple of times before its three legs got a grip and righted its body.
The crab turned to him and hissed again. It started towards him. He raised his foot, paused to aim, and then stomped down on the creature with his full weight. The hard shell cracked under the strain, and Jack heard a distinct squish. He could see the three legs splayed out from under his slipper. The ground around his slipper was covered with bluish goo. He couldn’t tell whether it was the creature’s blood or its flesh.
Jack wiped the sole of his slipper on some fresh grass. Blue smeared on the bright yellow blades. He glanced at the bottom of his slipper. Most of the blue was gone.
Returning to the sponge bush, he gazed towards the opening to his closet. How could he get up there? Fifteen feet wasn’t that high, but it was certainly out of reach.
He looked around and noticed several tall trees off to one side. They looked taller than the height of the opening. Unfortunately, the gap between them and the closet looked to be about a dozen feet, so it wasn’t as if he could jump from one of the trees. It didn’t seem likely that he could build a ladder, and he doubted he could find anything resembling a pole tall enough to shinny up, even if he could figure out how to securely anchor it in the ground.
Off to one side, Jack noticed what appeared to be some sort of vine. He strode over to the base of one of the twisted trees and reached down to grasp a rope-like stalk. Yanking upwards, he managed to free a section of the vine. With both hands, he twisted it, trying to determine its strength and flexibility. It could substitute for rope. He looked back at the trees closest to his closet. Could he use the vine to swing into the opening?
“Ouch!” Jack jumped back, startled. Something had jabbed his ankle. Looking down, he saw a crab on his slipper. It raised one of its legs and poked him in the ankle again.
“Ow!” Jack shook his foot, and the crab tumbled off to one side. It righted itself, then started coming back. Jack was alarmed by its apparent aggressive behavior. He raised his foot and stomped down, but the crab had seen or sensed the movement and scurried to one side. It ran forward again and climbed back on his slipper, raised a leg, and stabbed him in the ankle.
“Damn!” That had hurt. He tried to shake off the crab once more, but it had dug its legs into his slipper and wouldn’t come off. He shook his foot again. The crab hung on. He brushed the crab off with his other foot, and it tumbled onto its back. Jack immediately stepped on the crab and then leaned with his full weight on it. For a moment the shell held, then there was an audible crack, and blue goo spurted out from under his slipper.
As he watched the goo ooze out, he heard a rustle behind him. He turned to discover a number of crabs had gathered around the body of the first one he had flattened. Several of them were using a single leg to touch the broken shell.
Suddenly, the group turned to face him. As he looked at the crabs, they seemed to stare back at him. Then, in unison, they all rushed towards him. He took a step back, surprised by this unified action.
As the first few crabs got close to his feet, Jack raised his foot and brought it down, kicking out with his slipper. He managed to catch several crabs at once, sending them flying in the air. The rest of them stopped and stared at him. He stepped forward and executed another kick, sending another three flying. The remaining crabs scattered.
Jack stood defiantly, looking around for others. None seemed to be close. He had just relaxed a little when there was a sharp pain in his left ankle again. He whirled around to find a lone crab just behind him.
“Dammit!” He raised his foot, but it started to run away. He leaned forward and transferred his weight to his front foot. He caught the crab in the middle of the shell and crushed it completely.
Jack spun around. The other crabs were coming back at him. He went towards them and gave them a boot, sending several arcing through the air. He repeated kicks several times in a row. The remaining crabs began backing away.
Turning, he found more coming up behind him. He kicked at them and then spun around and surveyed the area. Crabs were everywhere. He was now standing in a little crab-free zone that looked to be shrinking as their growing number moved in closer.
Jack ran up to the first group and started stomping his feet. He aimed his slippers as strategically as possible. Crush! Crush! Crush! He stepped on crab after crab, leaving a trail of blue splotches behind him. Once again, the remaining crabs scattered out of the way.
He stood looking at the damage he had wrought. There were splashes of blue goo and crushed shells all around him. For the moment, things seemed to be calm, but he was getting the idea this wasn’t going to be the end of it. Everywhere he looked, he could see crabs. They were keeping their distance, but it was becoming obvious that they would attempt another assault. Jack would remain safe only if he was vigilant. Was the idea to wear him down? Did the crabs go after creatures larger than themselves this way, eventually winning when their victims tired out? He needed to get out of there.
He turned back to examine the vine, only to notice that all the crabs had turned to one side, as if they were looking at something. He peered in the direction they were looking and saw movement among some trees. An odd noise came from that direction. He tried to identify the sound; it was like slurping, like the sound made when sucking through a straw.
A lumbering animal the size of a bear waddled into view. It had its head down and was slowly moving it left and right as it seemed to examine the ground. Sprouting out of the middle of the creature’s head was something like a short elephant trunk, which it was moving just over the ground. Whenever the trunk came in contact with the ground, there was a slurping sound.
When the animal got a little closer, Jack realized that it seemed to be sucking up the crabs. It would sway its head, examining the ground, and when it saw a crab, it would put its trunk over it and the crab would disappear. The crabs were still, all staring at this odd animal. Were they all mesmerized by this living vacuum cleaner? Maybe this distraction would keep them from bothering him.
He turned back to the vine and carefully unwound its length from around the base of the tree. He wondered how much of it he could gather to have a continuous length of rope. He bent down, grabbed part of the vine, and started tugging at it, pulling it up from the ground. It was attached in places, so he occasionally had to pull hard to break it free. He started coiling one end of the vine to make it a little easier to carry.
Off to one side, the living vacuum was waddling slowly around the trees, sucking up as many crabs as it could find. It seemed totally uninterested in Jack. So far it had not even acknowledged that he was there. Maybe it was short-sighted or was only interested in crabs, he thought hopefully.
Jack tugged on the vine, but it refused to come away from the tree. He soon determined that part of the vine was wound around a root. He was bending over to free it when he heard something go “splat” above his head. He looked up to see something gooey splashed on the trunk of the tree. As he stared at it, a vapour started to float off of it, accompanied by a hissing sound.
Jack stood to look closer. The trunk seemed to be dissolving. He was intrigued, but then he looked back. The animal was pointing its trunk at him. He jumped out of the way just as something squirted out of it and flew against the tree. He looked at it with wide eyes, realizing that the fluid was some sort of acid. And the acid was dissolving the tree trunk.
He quickly stepped behind the tree trunk and peeked out. The animal still had its trunk pointed towards him. He looked around and spied something that looked like a rock on the ground. He picked it up, took aim, and flung it at the creature. The lumbering animal was still looking at Jack when the object hit it square in the forehead. The animal blinked, then shot more acid towards the tree. The hissing was louder.
Jack found several similar objects and picked them up. One by one, he threw them at the animal, hitting it a few times in the head and body. The animal sprayed more acid on the tree. The hissing was quite noticeable now, and Jack could see a cloud of vapour slowly floating away from the tree trunk.
There was a crack, then another. The trunk trembled slightly. As the animal watched him, there were several loud cracks. Jack put both his hands on the trunk and pushed. He could feel the tree swaying. He backed up and then lunged at the trunk several times, throwing all his weight against it.
Suddenly there was a loud crack, followed by a drawn-out sound of something breaking apart. The tree began to topple, slowly at first, then picking up speed. Jack backed up to get out of the way and watched as the tree fell over with a crash. He could hear squealing coming from the other side. The tree had fallen on top of the animal.
Jack picked up his coil of vine and tugged at the remaining length, freeing it from the surrounding roots. He could see the animal struggling under the branches of the fallen tree. For the moment, he wouldn’t have to worry about that. But would the presence of the animal be enough to keep the crabs distracted?
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Copyright © 2014 by William Quincy Belle