Novella about an insignificant hole in the ground that brings on an extinction event. As seen through the eyes of a normal teenage boy.


Extinction Event - A Novella

They were up at the Park again, just another Saturday afternoon with a leaky football and heaped jackets for goal posts. They could play for hours out there, getting muddier and colder as the winter sun fell behind the oak copse and the wind grew a keen edge through their shirts. A raggle-taggle bunch of nineteen boys of all ages, the teams uneven, the rules negotiable and the pitch a weary oval of muddy turf where it wasn't unusual to skid through dog turds or trip over used hypos. Here at least, there was peace from nagging parents, from sarcastic school teachers and imperative bells. The boys played football in the one place that was theirs and they never imagined that life would be different.
Ray noticed it first, that cold Saturday in November. Man United had gone top of the Premiership again, Christmas was still weeks away and the weather was generous enough, like today, to offer sun from time to time. For Ray, all was right with his world. Except that he was marooned at the top of the field in goal again. The boys in his team were doing well this weekend, which was cool, but it also meant that he had spent the majority of the afternoon hopping between the heaped coats, clapping his hands together and rubbing at his knees, his nose turning red, then blue and developing a permanent drip as the ball was kept busy at the far end of the pitch.
Then Rocky Dixon, Roger to his parents, kicked a fluky one from midfield, the baggy black and white ball curling up into the air in Ray's general direction but eventually passing him wide of the goal, to disappear into the long grass beyond the top end of their muddy pitch. It seemed to want to roll back with the natural slope of the hill but then it stopped, rocking a little as though it had hit a root or a stone.
"Go On Ray!" The boys yelled, breathy clouds afloat around their hot heads. Ray bounced on his toes twice and then ran after the ball, his feet so cold inside his Adidas boots he could hardly feel them and it felt as though he was running on sponge rather than firm ground.
The ball was still moving as he got to it, but strangely, sort of squirming on the ground like a badger taking a shit. It was freaky. He bent over it slowly, reaching out, and snatched it away expecting to see a hedgehog or maybe even a rat wriggling around underneath. There was nothing there.
Ray frowned, ignoring the chorus of yells that rang in his ears.... 'Chuck it here Ray, Hey, come on, kick it back, whatyadoin' Ray....playing with yerself?' Laughter.
He bent over to look more closely at the ground. There was nothing, yet.... he could hear something, a hissing sound like pressurised air escaping through a tiny hole. He scratched at the ground with the toe of his boot but there was nothing to see. Ray shrugged, glancing back at the gang of mismatched boys, wondering whether there was anything here to tell. The daylight was fading, street lamps beyond the park glowing orange in the gloom. The shouts and catcalls were getting more impatient with curses reaching his ears. Ray spun and ran back down the hill, booting the ball high into the air in front of him as he went. Within a second the game was back on and the boys played until the light was so dim they could no longer see each others faces in the dark.

On Tuesday Jane Shankhill's Jack Russell dog, Bluey, chased a squirrel off the pavement running along the fence outside the park, through the railings and across the pitch. The squirrel, its tail high, leapt and bounded just feet ahead of the terrier's snapping jaws. It's home was a small hole in one of the oak trees in the copse and it was certain it could make it. As it flew across the muddy pitch and up into the long grass beyond, however, it disappeared completely and so suddenly that the dog overran the spot and had to turn back to investigate the sudden disappearance. There was a small hole in the ground, perhaps the size of a golf ball. The dog hovered there, uncertain, working its nose and its tail in unison. It could smell where the squirrel had been, but there was no trace of it now, no warm waft of its musk drifting up from the hole in the grass, no distant scuttle of claws against earth, no steady rat-a-tat of heartbeat from inside the hole. Instead there was a slow and suspicious hiss of air escaping which made the dog distinctly nervous. It whined in its throat, backing nervously away, its tail stilled. As it stood there, earth and roots around the edge of the hole seemed to be slipping inside, slowly trickling down the edge and disappearing into the black centre. The dog whimpered nervously, sensing inconsistency in the ground beneath its feet and then it turned and ran, nose to the ground. There were other squirrels...

By Saturday, Ray had forgotten completely about the strange way the ball had stuck on the ground by the copse for two reasons. Firstly, it had been his birthday during the week and he had been given a brand-new, Premiership quality football. It was this the boys were kicking the next Saturday. Secondly, because of the kudos gained from ownership of such a ball, Ray was not stranded in goal but playing on the wing, a position which far better suited his skills. Mickey Edwards, slow but steady, fifty pounds overweight but able to fill a goal mouth adequately, was the man on guard at the top end of the pitch today.
The teams were more evenly matched this time, many of the little kids absent, and both goalies were kept busy as the ball flew from one end of the pitch to the other and shouts rang out in the damp air. A whistling strike by Willie Middleton, the littlest of the three Middleton boys but a kid with a killer left foot, missed Fat Mickey's four-coat right goal post by inches and sailed away towards the trees travelling at speed. It spun into the grass and rolled, slowing as it went, and all but Mickey, who was occupied with lumbering after it, watched it go. Something tweaked at Ray's memory as he saw the ball hesitate in its forward motion and then stick, once again, as though wedged upon a root or over a rabbit burrow. This time, though, the strange squirming of the ball was visible to all.
Mickey reached the spot and just stood there, the grass up to his calves, his hands limp at his sides. Some of the others yelled at him but Ray, suddenly worried about his ball, ran across and several of the other lads followed shouting abuse at Mickey who still stood, eyes glued to the ground, with his hands by his sides. He had made no move to retrieve the ball and when Ray reached him he could see that Mickey's eyes were as wide as his mouth which was pretty fucking wide.
"Whassup Mick? Belly get in the way?" Ray joked, but his heart was doing a stuttery, trapped-bird impression in his chest as he looked at his ball and realised that it wasn't just wriggling, it was rotating slowly as though caught in the outflow of a bath. Ray, turning white, snatched his ball up immediately and it came off the ground with some resistance as though it had been stuck down with Velcro.
He tucked it firmly under his shirt, his eyes widening. There was a perfectly circular and distinct hole in the ground where the ball had been sitting, not a very big hole, perhaps the size of a cricket ball, but as they watched, and there were four or five boys now standing wordless in a loose ring, they could see that the edges of the hole were slipping into the darkness, the movement irregular, circular, like a Mexican wave at a cup final
Hughie Chipman, mud spattered with his shirt half torn, was the eldest there and the first to comment.
"Whas' that then?" He muttered in Ray's general direction. Ray didn't answer, his eyes, like the rest of them, were fixed on that strange little hole where the grass and pebbles on its edge were spiralling blade by blade and clod by clod down into blackness out of sight.
Mark Luteen got a rock, half a house brick in fact, and lobbed it gently over the hole. The rock sat square across it for a second and then the end began to writhe and the stone began to turn, very slowly, as though someone was screwing it down with an invisible driver.
"Man, fuck this for a laugh!" Said Billy Kelligan quietly and he turned and ran. Ray didn't remember seeing him at the park after that. Hughie, who could see the brick turning, just like the rest of them, chose to say nothing. It took the youngest of them to make a suggestion as to what it was they were looking at.
"It's a landslip, that's what it is?" Piped up Willie Middleton, "Look, there must be some old drains here. Something's collapsed, that's all. We should tell the park-keeper. The whole wood could go." There was a high excitement in his voice and his cheeks were bright pink. He sounded so serious, so earnest, and so adult right then that the other boys were left speechless. Then fat Mickey turned and punched him fraternally on the shoulder, but hard enough to make the little kid rock on his feet and drag tears to his eyes.
"Yeah, right. Come on. Its a fucking rat hole that's all. Thought we were playin' footer?"
The ribald comments rang out on the still air and suddenly they were all chasing Willie, who was faster than any of them, and the group of boys ran back to their game, the hole forgotten. Only Ray stood there for a second longer, looking at the spot where soil had been the week before, a vague unease in his chest, the new football hugged to his belly. He watched the brick turning slowly, sinking all the time as the hole pulled it in. That was how it was - the brick wasn't falling, it was being pulled in. Ray cocked his head on one side, his eyes still fixed, but his name was being called and, realising that he was holding up proceedings, he backed away from the hole. Finally he turned and ran back to the game, but the fun was gone from his day after that.
On Sunday morning, he went back up to the Park on his own, tapping the football ahead of him across the pitch, not going anywhere really, but actually......
Most of his mates would still be in bed, or down at the town ground watching their non-League team play. Ray was off to see his heroes, Man U, play Leeds at home that afternoon. His Dad had a season ticket and Ray got to go to most of the Sunday games but they weren't leaving until twelve. Too restless to stay indoors, too preoccupied to go up to the town ground with his mates, he had wandered until his feet had brought him to the Park gates at which point he had stopped to wonder what the hell he thought he was doing up here.
He walked on through the gates, at least half of him reluctant. He dropped the ball on the grass and tapped it with his foot, following it slowly. Picking it up on his instep he started a slow jog, nudging the ball ahead of him with his feet turned out. He circled with it, dribbling toward an imaginary penalty box, hearing the roar of the crowd in his head and dreaming of a team around him in red shirts with a hundred thousand fans cheering him on. He worked his way up the pitch, dodging Newcastle defenders, hurdling a fallen team-mate, crossing the ball in towards Scholes, who..... Scooooooorrress!
Ray ran to retrieve the ball and the winter trees loomed dark above his head. He was at the edge of the copse and he stopped for a second, listening. He could hear it from there, that strange dry hiss like a punctured tyre. It was louder now. He walked across the straggly grass, dodging piles of dog turds as he went. He could see the edge of the hole from five feet away. It was grapefruit sized and the brick was gone. The edges formed a smooth cone down into the ground with a perfectly round centre right in the middle. He peered over, keeping his feet well back from the edge. A landslip, that'd be right. There were rubbish dumps and old drain workings everywhere around here. The whole estate had been built on flattened factories, who knew what was underneath? Willie was right, the whole wood might disappear, but that still seemed a dramatic consequence of this small hole. Still, you never knew....
Ray found a small stone, the size of a Brussels sprout. He leaned over the hole again and dropped the stone dead into the middle. It disappeared through the hole in the ground without preamble, falling smoothly away into the darkness. Ray listened beneath the hiss of turning soil but no rattle of a landing came back to his ears. The hole was a deep one then.
He leaned back and went to find a bigger stone. At least it would prove how fast the hole was growing. After a few minutes of hunting about in the copse he found a broken breeze-block which he lugged back to wedge over the hole. It sat there firmly and he stepped back, nodding. He would come and look again tomorrow and see if the stone was still there. If it wasn't, he would tell his Mum about the hole. If it was, he would forget about it and think about football instead. Satisfied and feeling the worry shifted from his shoulders he headed home. He let his thoughts become consumed by football and there was a smile on his face as he kicked his ball back the way he had come.
Man United beat Leeds by five spectacular goals to one that afternoon and, floating on the euphoria of that high, Ray could talk of nothing else for the best part of three days. Coupled with the weekly visit to his Dad, the whole weekend became that Sunday afternoon and pretty much everything else got forgotten. It wasn't until Thursday morning, talking about vortexes in a science class, that Ray remembered the hole and a chill panic settled into his gut wiping out all his warm thoughts of playing in the Premier league. He hadn't been to check. It was a horrible thought. What if a kid fell in that hole and he had known about it and hadn't said? How would he explain that to everyone? Oh, sorry, well yeah I knew, I just forgot to tell anyone? Sure, that would go down well with his Mum!
A sour voice piped up inside him, offering defence. He wasn't the only one who had seen the hole in the Park. Others had seen it too. None of them had said anything, so why was it down to him? Comforted a little he turned back to physics, or rather, dreams of soccer glory and, to placate his conscience, after school he took his best mate, Andrew Watland, up to the park to validate his find.
Andy was a geek. He had asthma and didn't play football. Andy had the best computer games out of anyone at school and their friendship had been cemented over joysticks. Ray had taught Andy how to play computer soccer. Andy had taught Ray how to do his homework. Of all the guys at school, Andy would know what to do about the hole.
"So I told 'er, if she wants to move there, that's fine... I just aint goin' with 'er. I wanna stay 'ere with me Dad." They were discussing Ray's stormy home life. Ray didn't talk about it to anyone else. Andy always listened.
"Phew!" He whistled through his teeth in reply, but it was his lungs which whistled the loudest. Ray heard the way the air was strangled as it tried to get in and out of Andy's weedy chest and felt sorry for the guy. It was tough enough living in this place, it didn't help to be a breathless weakling. Andy got beaten up roughly once a week. It didn't exactly allay his overall anxiousness. With Ray, at least, he felt safe. Ray played football for the school. He boxed in the local under 16's boys club and he was big enough to look after the both of them. Andy thought a lot of Ray and had never once questioned his story about a strange hole in the Park.
"So what did she say to that?" He went on, awed by Ray's nerve in answering back like that. Ray's Mum was a formidable woman who had ousted Ray's dad after fourteen years of apparent wedded bliss. She had a job now and was good at it. She didn't have a lot of time for Ray these days.
Ray winced and tapped his ball across the muddy grass.
"She said we're going. She won't even wait 'til I'm sixteen! How am I gonna get selected by Man U if I'm in sodding Australia!"
It was an outburst that didn't require an answer. Andy nodded understanding but secretly envied Ray his chance to escape the grey suburb where it never seemed to stop raining and nothing ever grew straight. Australia seemed a world away, full of sunshine and bronzed people with big smiles. Andy's parents worked in a local factory, had both done so since leaving school. He had no hope of escaping Hell.
"How long you got before you have to leave?" Was what he said.
Ray kicked the ball hard, his face screwed up and angry.
"Dunno. She's already got the effin' job. They 'aven't told 'er when they want 'er to start yet. Might be soon. Bloody 'ell! Why couldn't she wait another year? I coulda stayed then, with my Dad!"
There weren't any words beyond that. Ray fell into a morose silence and Andy began to notice that it was almost dark now. They were headed in the general direction of the oak copse and it was suddenly an unfriendly place full of shadows.
"Where's this hole then? It's getting dark, Ray." Said Andy, trying not to sound like the baby he felt inside. He didn't like the dark. Bully's hid in the dark and jumped out at you, kicking and beating with hard fists and boots. You only had to be putting the rubbish out, or walking the dog last thing, or wandering in the park after dark...
"Shuddup scaredy arse. You're all right. I'll take care of you." Ray's voice was only slightly mocking. Andy's fears, as he well knew, were real ones.
"It's over here. Listen, if you're quiet, you can hear it."
They walked a few more careful steps and then stopped, breath hushed, heads on one side like mime artists in a street show. Andy felt stupid for a second, not sure what he was supposed to be listening for. Above them the trees creaked in the unsteady wind and streetlights began to illuminate in the road behind them. Andy felt a chill run up his spine and imagined a snake in the grass nearby, could almost hear the steady hiss of its threat as it prepared to strike. Then he realised the hiss was the noise he was supposed to be listening for and now he noticed that it was actually quite a loud hiss, not missable at all. The hole sounded really close.
"Shit!" Said Ray.
"What?" Muttered Andy.
"It's bigger." Said Ray.
Andy looked down and saw that he stood about eight inches from the edge of a hole that could happily have swallowed his Dad's wide-screen TV and possibly the table it stood on as well!
"Fuck me!" Said Andy and backpedalled, deeply disturbed by the way the turf around the hole was sloping downward as though it were being sucked inside, rather than just crumbling away like a cliff-edge into the sea. In the centre of the funnel-shaped depression was a black hole that was football sized. A child could easily disappear down a hole that big. Needless to say, the breeze block was nowhere to be seen.
"Jesus, it's fucking huge!" Shouted Ray, clearly distressed. He was looking around, his eyes wild and wide, as if hoping for a strolling evening Bobby who could be called upon to summon the Home Guard. A pointless hope really because Bobby's didn't walk these streets, they spun through in area cars at 29 miles per hour and people called them Pigs and oinked as they passed by with their windows shut tight. Ray turned a circle and swallowed to moisten his throat. When he spoke his voice still croaked.
"What if someone's fallen in? It'll be my fault. They'll say it was my fault!"
"Shut up Ray. It isn't your fault. You're not the only person who seen it. It's big enough, someone else musta seen it by now. Who's gonna believe us anyway? Who are we supposed to tell?"
That silenced them. Who were they? Just a couple of teenage boys, troublemakers, pulling a stunt, just larking about.... Who would believe them? Now it was Andy's turn to look around in the hope that someone else might turn up who could validate their story. The Pope perhaps.
Ray got to grips with it first. "We have to phone the police, that's all, or the fire brigade. They'll come out and see it and after that it'll get sealed off an' someone will fill it in. Come on, I'll call."
They turned and walked away, slowly at first, but the further they walked the faster they got. Andy couldn't run so what they made it to was a slow jog. The pay phone was only at the top of the street but even so, by the time they got there, Andy was fighting for breath. Ray called an ambulance as well, just for good measure.
There was a shitstorm of course. Ray was verbally assaulted at the hospital by Andy's Mum who had a mean tongue and wasn't afraid to use it. Ray's Mum stepped in to defend him and was bitten herself. On the way home she had been grim, silent and stony faced as though Ray had created the whole situation just in order to ruin her day. He remembered her doing the same thing to his Dad. He hadn't tried to talk. Hopes of reprieve from Australia were slipping away.
This was confirmed at bedtime when his Mum stuck her head around the door to say that she had decided, after tonight, that the sooner they got out of this hellhole his Dad had brought her to the better. The whole place was going to fall into the ground and the people around here were scum. They would be moving to Australia before the beginning of the month. Ray had two weeks to get used to the idea. Two weeks!
He hadn't slept. The next morning he was out before she was up, dressed for school but not going there yet. He walked up to the Park, curiosity dragging him back. He got as far as the metal gates and was stopped by a Pig. Around here?
"Sorry son. Can't come in 'ere this morning. There's a landslide up at the top end. Grounds a bit risky. We've been told to close off the park until the council's been up to look. Could be a while. Sorry."
The copper was inordinately polite. Normally the lads on the estate earned only sneers and derision from the local constabulary. Members of the community both young and old did regularly came into contact with the Law but most usually from the wrong side. It was unusual for Ray to be spoken to by someone in uniform and not have it come in the form of an accusation. Mostly the lads avoided the drugs, the pimps and the Law and, in return, the Law left them alone. It was a shit place, really, but it was home and from dawn to dusk the boys owned it. It was unnerving to suddenly be denied access to such a crucial part of their territory.
Ray wandered up to the school instead and found Hughie sitting outside the bike shed with Emma Burton, his girlfriend. Ray felt immature and awkward. Girls were still alien beings to him, floating on the extremity of his vision, soon to be needed but presently extraneous. Emma Burton, however, was not a girl. Seventeen, sexy and scarily grown-up. Ray wasn't sure he could talk about the hole in the Park with Emma there.
She, however, was full of gossip and proved to be a fine source of information. Her father was the Surveyor for the Town Council. He had got a call at home the evening before warning of a dangerous looking hole that had appeared in the park.
"They made him go out at ten o'clock!" She exclaimed, outraged. Ray looked at Hughie who looked back. Our hole?... was the unspoken query. Ray nodded and Hughie began to look interested in the female prattle.
"So obviously I stayed up 'til 'e got back. He didn't say much about it but he was dead ratty. I reckon it really worried him. He only gets like that when he's worried. He said he would have to get the County Planners down here. My Dad never needs the County Planners! It must be serious."
Hughie silenced her by planting his lips forcefully over hers, one hand in her hair, the other offering his half smoked cigarette to Ray, who took it carefully, trying not to blister his fingers, and finished it with four deep drags as he wandered away across the playing field, thinking of Andy's lungs as he did so. Andy had needed to stay overnight in the hospital. They had said they would let him out today. Ray didn't expect him to be at school so it was a surprise to find him lurking by the door to the Computer room, waiting for the Tech teacher to turn up with the keys. Andy was grinning, but underneath the smile he looked pale.
"Thought your old lady would have kept you home today." Said Ray, more pleased than he could admit.
"Nah!" Replied Andy, "She's got a double shift. I came straight from the hospital. She never said nothin' about stayin' home. I'm okay. Thought I'd come in here and find out some stuff about your hole. I know some guys who might be able to help.
"Doesn't matter now. The Council 'ave closed off the Park. Guess they must know what it's all about. By the time we finish school it'll probably all be filled in."

The Council, however, were completely perplexed by the appearance of the hole. Despite common belief, there were no mine workings under the park and never had been. It had always been an open space so no half-buried factory basements lurked in the ground beneath the copse. The Council dropped plumb lines down the hole but, three hundred feet of cord later and they had still not reached the bottom. To all intents and purposes the hole itself appeared to be narrow, probably no more than ten inches wide at the base of the funnel, but by the end of the day, no one had any further ideas what could be causing the phenomenon and the diameter had increased by another two or three inches.
Ray got a visit from the Police that afternoon. They had with them a grim-faced man in a grey suit, Emma's Dad, and another man from the County Surveyors office. No one was smiling and Ray wasn't inclined to be that helpful. He felt surrounded and singled out although he knew these men were planning on talking to all the boys. His Mum sat through the whole meeting without comment. Ray had to weather a roomful of disbelieving looks when he told them that the hole had not been visible two Saturdays ago but, in the end, they left without actually accusing him of lying to cover up something the boys had done out there in the Park.

"Perhaps they thought we'd been diggin' an escape tunnel out of this fuckhole?" Declared Mark Luteen with a sour face. That had caused some laughter. Ray joined in with the banter but was disappointed that, despite all being interviewed, none of them had managed to learn much about the hole. They had been forced from the Park to the kids playground at the back of the Primary School. There wasn't enough room here to play football so they had resorted to throwing the swing seats up over the top bar and dismantling the seesaw instead. Now, with darkness closing in, they lounged on the roundabout and slide smoking tabs and drinking cans of beer pillaged from the corner store. Andy couldn't smoke but he could drink and he had bought a bottle of vodka from his house which they were passing amongst themselves.
"Emma said her Dad wasn't giving much away. She overheard him tell her mum that they are planning on filling it in tomorrow. They've got a load of rubble from the old warehouses on Brook Street." Said Hughie.
"Rubble? They aint gonna fill that in with rubble!" Piped up Andy, immediately drawing attention to himself. Ray could see his chin tuck in defensively and his eyes grow wide and scared when he realised that all the boys (some of whom had beaten him up in the past) were looking at him as if a worm had just popped its head out of the ground and called them all shitheads.
"What the fuck do you know about it Fog Breath?" Said Fat Mickey.
Andy coloured up and Ray's heart bled for him.
"Just that it ain't no hole you can fill with rubble, that's all..... I saw it..... It was kinda weird....fucking weird....." He trailed off. Ray knew that there were other things Andy wanted to say but, afraid of looking like a fool in front of the gang, he had clammed up. Probably a good idea. Ray knew what Andy's geeky Internet mates had been talking about, Volcanoes and vortexes, wormholes and other sci-fi paranoia. Ray only partly believed any of that. It was still a pretty small hole, a long way off being a volcano.
"Ahh, who gives a shit what it is! Why did it have to be in our Park, that's all I care about? What are we gonna do if they close it off for good? We can't hang out here for ever! It sucks!" This came from Hughie, who they all respected, but it killed the speculation and after that the gang began to drift away home. Ray and Andy were left behind and it was then that Ray told him he only had another ten days left before his mother intended to fly him to the other side of the world for ever. Andy was silent. Ray was important to him in lots of ways. Life would be much harder here without him.
"We can e-mail though." He said, without drawing much comfort from the thought. "I'll tell you what happens to the hole. Maybe your Mum will let you come back to visit. Maybe I could come out there. Maybe...."
"Yeah, maybe." But it was a faint hope.
During the following week while the boys were in school buried up to the eyeballs in mock GCSE exams, the County council went to ever more drastic measures to fill in the hole in the park. Two thousand tonnes of crushed rubble disappeared into that hole over the next five days, delivered noisily on big tipper trucks and shovelled over the edge by a fleet of bulldozers contracted in for the task. Everything disappeared, even larger chunks were going down by the end of the week. By the following Saturday the hole in the park was the size of a garden shed and the rate of opening seemed to be increasing. It was time to call in the experts.
A group of seismologists and geophysicists came from London to view the hole and set some monitoring equipment up. All over the weekend they ran tests and measurements, estimating the rate of increase and examining the depth of the hole. On Sunday afternoon they held a press conference at the Park gates and during the half hour they stood there the hole increased in size enough to swallow a good many of their instruments and the County Surveyor's pickup truck which had been parked unwisely close. The rate of opening seemed to be increasing.
By Monday morning the story was by-lining in the papers and by the evening, it was on the national news. Suddenly the whole community was turned upside down and everyone was a target for photographers and journalists seeking an angle on the story.
For Ray the developing situation outside his home seemed to mimic the upheaval and confusion which reigned inside. His mother had started to pack up the house as soon as she had confirmed the start date of her new job in Perth, Western Australia. A friend living over there had found an apartment for them.
"You can see the beach from your bedroom window!" His Mum had excitedly reported to Ray who had never seen the sea, and to whom all this seemed an impossible dream. Over that week before news of the hole hit the national awareness, Ray's house became a depressing mausoleum of boxes and empty spaces where things had stood his whole life. Trips were made to the dump with what seemed like half of his childhood crammed into the boot of his Uncle's car. He was forced to decide between books and possessions he had never expected he would have to discard. As his home was emptied out, Ray felt as though his life was being emptied at the same time.
He had two or three morose and uncommunicative visits with his Dad that week. He had prayed for reprieve, for a word to suggest he might be able stay behind when his Mum went, but his father never even brought up the fact that within a week they were going to separated by fifteen thousand miles. Instead, he took his son to a midweek fixture at Old Trafford and for a blessed two hours, Ray was able to completely forget the turn of events that had upended his life.
They were due to leave the following Tuesday. That Friday before the news broke was his last day at school. After being embarrassingly pointed out to all and sundry by the Head at Assembly and made to stand at the front while the whole school apathetically wished him success in his new life, Ray took the remainder of the day off with ten of his best mates and they went up to the town, hanging out at the shopping centre until they were chased out by the security guards who were sure they were shoplifting. They ended up at the Park, coming to it from the canal side where the fence was down and three hundred yards of scrub and bramble separated them from the football pitch they were no longer allowed to enjoy. Without a real plan in mind the boys tracked along the well trodden paths winding through the bramble patch to where it opened out at that top end of the Park. Here they did meet a formidable cordon fence but all the suits and boots were at the far end of the Park dealing with the assembled media and the ever-expanding hole. The boys were able to lurk up there, sharing cigarettes and talking football whilst they checked out what was going on in their Park.
It was while they were sitting, watching, waiting for school to be out so that they could rejoin mainstream life, that the first of the oak trees became victim to the inexplicable crater. They were too far away to see that the hole, which had started at a spot fifteen feet from the copse, was now sucking soil from the roots of one of the knarled old oaks. All they could see, at first, was the top of the tree beginning to shake as though a bull elephant was standing at the bottom headbutting it.
"Hey, look at that!" Exclaimed David Russell, pointing. They all looked, eyes widening as the shaking branches gradually convulsed into a fit and the tree began to rock back and forth like the tall mast of a sailing ship in a sudden storm.
"Holy moly!" Said Ray, the butt of his cigarette smoked, from economic necessity, down to the filter dropping from his fingers.
As they watched the ancient tree began to sink, not tumbling sideways in the fashion of most felled trees, just sliding elegantly and erectly beneath the surface of the world as though the ground had simply opened up beneath it which, of course, it had. The tree dropped about twenty-five feet and then jammed, the spreading width of the lower branches bracing themselves against the ground like a faller through an ice hole.
"That's that then." Said David, "they didn't need all that rubble, they just needed a tree."
They all laughed at that one but the laughter was extinguished as the two biggest branches suddenly snapped off and the leafy top was sucked quickly into the ground with the crash and crackle of branches being put through a wood-shredder. As the top of the tree disappeared from sight, the big branches left dangling over the edges of the hole upended and followed it. The boys were speechless. It wasn't until another tree began to shake, rattle and roll that the boys broke position.
"I'm outta here." Said Hughie without reserve or fear of ridicule and as one, they all turned and followed him out of the park. Suddenly it seemed that what had, at first, appeared to be just a curious anomaly might actually be something that could affect their lives.
"If it doesn't stop, its gonna suck up the whole town!" Andy commented to Ray as they walked back to Andy's house. Both his parents were still working and his older sister was no doubt down at the pub with her unemployed boyfriend so they had the place to themselves. Andy got edible snacks and Ray put a CD-ROM into the computer, but the game was irrelevant, neither boy could stop thinking about what they had seen in the Park.
"It'll get the school before it gets your house." Ray commented companionably. Andy was sparked
"It'll get your place first. You're closer to the park than we are. An' old man Hanley's shop, that's right opposite the park. That'll go."
Ray grinned sourly. Old man Hanley was a grumpy old git who owned a tatty newsagents just around the corner from Ray's house. Hanley wouldn't let the kids in unless they came one at a time and there were curly edged notices stuck on everything telling them not to touch the magazines, the cheap toys, the sweets or the drinks unless they put their money on the counter first. The loss of Hanley's shop would not be grieved over. Unless, of course, you were leaving for ever in which case it would have been nice to be able to think back and reflect that everything you knew was still there even if you weren't!
"Reckon your Mum knows something everyone else doesn't." Andy said at one point and Ray stopped playing F1Racing for a second so that his Ferrari disintegrated messily against the tyre wall and the race was stopped.
"Whaddaya mean?" He was looking for offence, but only because he was pissed off at life, not at Andy.
"Don't have a cow. I didn't mean nothin'. Just, if you had to pick a time to go to the other side of the world, you couldn't have chosen a better one than right now with the town about to be swallowed by a black hole. Guess your Mum must be psychic." Ray grinned. His Mum was the least psychic person he had ever met. It was blind misfortune, that was all. This was possibly the most exciting thing to ever happen to the town since the steelworkers strikes of the last century. And he was going to miss it all.
"You reckon its a black hole then?" He asked, returning to the game where the restart was happening behind the pace car.
Andy nodded. "There's these guys at NASA, if you ask them questions then they send you an answer. Anyhow, I asked if a black hole could open up anywhere in the universe, even in the park and they mailed me back and said, Yeah, they didn't have to just exist out in space. They could just start anywhere. So then I asked them if they thought the whole world could fall in to the hole and there's this guy, Stuey who always writes to me and he reckoned it could happen. Just like that. So I don't think the council are gonna be able to do much about it. Do you?"
Ray didn't answer. It didn't matter what they did about the hole, this time next week he would be on the other side of the world and this place would be history. How was that for perspective? He chucked the joystick to one side and stood up.
"I'd better get going. Mum'll want me to pack up the rest of my stuff. The shippers are coming to take it in the morning.
"You playin' tomorrow?" Andy was referring to the school team who had a home fixture the next day.
Ray nodded. "Yup. S'gonna be a tough game. We win this we make the regional finals."
Neither of them voiced the immediate realisation that Ray wouldn't be here to play in the regional finals. It just kept getting worse and worse. Andy broke the tension.
"Well you'd better make sure you lose then."

There was quite a crowd for the home game up at the school and once or twice Ray was sure he caught a sight of Andy amongst it, which was pretty unheard of because Andy didn't like to stand out in the cold and watch football. It was often hard to get him to watch it on the TV, so Ray could barely believe that he might have come up to watch and when he went to look for him after the game, a 2-Nil defeat of the strongest local opposition, he didn't find him, so he was sure he must have been mistaken all along.
Walking home after, Ray passed by the Park and saw that most of the trees were now gone. The hole, now surrounded by high barricades and raised tarpaulins, overhead lights blazing onto the site as though they might help the gathered suits see where it went to, was getting bigger by the hour. At this rate, the whole Park really would sink into the ground. And the streets beyond....?
Further along there was a battalion of press photographers on ladders and Ray skirted them, stepping over wires, piled metal boxes and arc lights in spiky stacks, his dirty kit weighing down his shoulder, regret weighing down his joy at winning. He stopped opposite the gates, looking between shoulders at the brown morass which had once been their football pitch. He'd been playing out there for nine years. It just wasn't right.
He went over to his Dad's the next day and they kicked the ball between them in the little park opposite his dingy flat. No mention was made of reprieve and Ray went home more depressed than ever. The news was on when he got in and he sat with his mother and watched it helplessly. After tomorrow, even the local news readers would be different.
The news reader was showing footage of the Park filmed from over the fence. There was nothing to see but blue tarpaulin. So far, no one knew what the hole represented and seismic activity of some kind seemed the most likely possibility. The police were asking for calm. No one in the local community need be affected. The emergency services were doing all they could to ensure that the hole did not pose a threat to the area beyond the Park.
"What measures?" He snorted derisively. His mum looked at him sharply and he felt compelled to explain.
"Andy thinks its a black hole, just opened up somewhere in space and we happen to be where it is. There's no way they're gonna be able to fill it in."
"Then it's a good thing we won't be here to worry about it isn't it. You should go on up to bed Ray. We've got an early start tomorrow." Was her answer. Then the doorbell rang.

The excitement did get to him in the end, but he was on the plane before he felt it. Looking out of the oval window at the runway tarmac, he felt a moment of guilt that he hadn't managed to say a proper goodbye to his mates. A round of last minute visits by grandparents and other relatives had kept them busy until almost midnight and they had turned the key in the front door lock for the last time at 5.30am that morning. Understandably not many of his mates were hanging around right then. They had been driven to the airport by his Mum's little brother Alan, travel bags piled high in the boot, their individual pretensions gone now. His mother looked pale and scared as though she was only just realising what she had done and as they turned out of his road and along the perimeter of the Park Ray saw her glance across to where the tarpaulins still cloaked the hole and the lights blazed above it. There was activity going on up there as the workers moved the boundary out yet again. His mother's grim look became replaced by one of relief and certainty. Ray knew that, in her mind, she was rescuing her son from a world that wanted to devour him. That spreading hole was just a manifestation of her fears for his future. A second later, the car spun by and the Park and the gloomy suburb it bordered was behind them.
As the plane accelerated off the runway, Ray swallowed his regrets and let the bubble of excitement he had been holding below them burst. This time tomorrow he would be in Australia. It was summer there and he could look forward to a land filled with leggy women who wore really funky bikinis, drank lager and fought crocodiles. Now was that really so bad?
The plane gained height over the cold grey suburbs of the black country towns beneath. Ray had a second to wonder if his house might be below them right now and then they were up through the clouds and out in the brilliant blue beneath the sun, all views of England cloaked for ever. Ray wondered if they played soccer in Australia.

As Ray made his intercontinental escape, his little hole was just beginning to affect the consciousness of some very important people. The Prime Minister was told about it on that Tuesday morning and a special task force was immediately despatched to take over the operation. The Prime Minister wasn't a man given to spontaneity but this turn of events had him worried. A bottomless hole with no explanations for its appearance or its consequences sounded too much like the current economic circumstances. He began to prepare a statement for the House based on what he knew and it wasn't much. There was an election coming. He didn't need this right now, but perhaps it would provide a diversion from the real problems the country was facing. As long, of course, as they managed to solve this one.
A dozen physicists were at the Park by the middle of the week, as well as several other specialists from miners to potholers as well as experts in seismology and plate tectonics. Whatever went down the hole unattached to terra firma disappeared for good. However far anyone or anything was lowered, the bottom of the hole was never found. Nor was it, inside, like a bore hole or a normal crevasse. The inside of the hole was dark and airless and the 'sides' were smooth and, somehow, not there. There was nothing to retrieve, no samples to be brought out, no walls to breach or test. The hole did not provide a vent to the core of the planet, it just seemed to descend without limit into....where?
They sent down a drone camera but the picture gave them nothing. The hole was an empty nothing. After fifty miles, the picture just ceased, but there were plenty of other things going down that hole too, so it might have been destroyed by a falling rock. They sent another one. The same thing happened at around fifty miles. So they dropped down a cable that was sixty miles long but it was still falling when it reached the end of the reel. So they dropped down a cable that was 100 miles long. The same thing happened. No one had the faintest idea what was going on.
At this stage, almost a week after they had begun measuring the hole, another realisation came to them. The hole wasn't increasing in size at a comparative rate, but exponentially. To put it simply, the bigger it got, the faster it grew.
One of the physicists had an answer about that which was offered to the media on the Friday.
"Given this factor, which we are beginning to believe is an important feature of this phenomenon, it would seem possible that this hole..... This 'spatial vortex' if you like.... has always been there, perhaps since the beginning of time. Except that it was so tiny, it was not visible to humanity and the rate of its increase was so slow that no being could ever be aware of it before now. Once it established sufficient size to expand at a relevant rate, it finally became detectable by humans. And so it has become this." And he waved a hand towards the blue tarpaulins for theatrical effect before continuing.
"At this moment in time, we are busy working on a solution to this problem and we feel confident we shall find one before very much longer."
The press conference continued but the news was immediately sent around the world and on Friday night when the perimeter fence of the park was swallowed and a row of abandoned houses along the top road followed shortly after, the decision was made to evacuate the estate and the International media went ballistic.

Ray woke up in a sunny room, barely able to remember the late night dash from the airport to this dark apartment in an anonymous town. He rolled onto his back and looked at the white ceiling, enjoying the way the sun dazzled across it and made the whole room almost iridescent in gold. His window was partly open and pale curtains fluttered softly. Beyond there was a blazing sky, the deepest blue he had ever seen, and the heat was already rising outside. There was a sound beneath the city hubbub, a rhythmic rush and hum that was completely unfamiliar and, for one terrible second, Ray imagined that the hole had chased them right round the world and even now was eating up the pavement outside his bedroom window. He swung out of bed and staggered across to look out, his heart shuddering in his chest but something quite unexpected met his gaze.
The apartment was in a block overlooking a long white beach and what met him was the azure glory of the sea beneath a generous summer sun. It was possibly the most beautiful view he had ever seen and the heave and swell of it all the way to the curved horizon was a view he thought, right then, that he could spend the rest of his life looking at.
"This beats Musky Bodall's shithole." He muttered to himself. For most of his fifteen years he had opened his curtains every day to be confronted directly with the bedroom window of the local drugs dealer. Mortimer 'Musky' Bodall had earned the nickname because he permanently smelt of the skunk weed he grew in his back bedroom under a battalion of UV lights. The tatty edges of two towels he had nailed up as bedroom curtains had been the first thing Ray would see every time he looked across the street from his own room. Never again, he thought, turning to view the room he now found himself in. It was twice as big as the one he had left, with a walk in closet and his own bathroom. There was a TV and a stereo and a huge poster of Man United on the wall. He nodded to himself. Some of his pennants and trophies, his scarves and pictures, red curtains... Yup. This would do. Ray went to find his Mum, a smile on his face at last and nothing was further from his mind right then than the hole in the Park.
He spent most of that day on the beach or exploring the city he now found himself near to. Perth, on the West of Australia was almost like heaven to Ray, who, used to dingy bricks and grey pavements, could not get over how light everything was. Many of the houses were white, the city buildings shimmering and spacious, the pavements clean and palm trees growing everywhere. He made friends on the street outside his house and by the end of that first, trouble-free weekend he had already been introduced to most of the local hangouts, to all the good places to eat and drink for boys his age, and most important of all, to a couple of lads who played for a local soccer club. He played beach volleyball for the first time in his life, was given a lesson on a surfboard and even got eyed up by several of the scantily dressed girls who continually stalked the beach. On Sunday night, exhausted and happier than he could ever have believed possible, he watched the news for the first time.
Two stories from home made it round the world to Perth that night and they brought Ray conflicting feelings of euphoria and despair.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Man United had won twice that week, both in the League and in the European Championships. Ray was ecstatic on two counts, both the winning and the fact that the club had a high enough profile around the world for its games to be a matter of news even here.
Secondly, and the story was run right at the end of the news like an afterthought, the hole which had appeared in his Park just three weeks before was now more than half a mile across and had swallowed everything around the park including the canal and all the water in it for sixty miles in each direction. The armed forces were planning to send a submersible with four men in it down the hole to see what was going on. The world was waiting with baited breath to find out what would happen next.
Ray, watching with his Mum, at the end of perhaps the most perfect day of his life - he had been given a PC by his mother who started her new job the next day and would be mostly absent from his life from then on - felt a cold hard stone settle into the base of his chest. His street was gone, fuckit, Andy's street was gone! The school was gone and the swimming pool, the kids playground and most of the shops on Wilton Street and now the hole was beginning to threaten the town centre and the Football ground. Another mile and it would claim his Dad's dingy flat.
Ray and his mother sat in bleak silence as the report was read. The news reader looked both amused and slightly rattled. Everyone was really starting to worry about this. No one seemed to know how to stop it. People had imagined that the end of the world might fall out of the sky but it seemed they hadn't much dwelled on the possibility that the ground might simply disappear from beneath their feet. The British government were still convinced they could handle the problem and were telling the world not to worry, this was not a nuclear explosion or a military experiment gone wrong, it was a natural phenomena and as such could be tackled. The government and all its agencies were applying all efforts to solve the problem before it spread and, lets face it, the dingy estate was no great loss from the skin of the planet. Rebuilding would improve the area once the problem had been solved and the hole filled in.
People were convinced by the government claims because they were used to accepting what they were told, but even so, towns and villages around were being evacuated and there was a steady increase in departures of people from England to visit friends and relatives abroad. All in all, now seemed like a good time to take a holiday. Christmas was three weeks away and everyone should have been preparing for that great celebration but, even though many went through the motions, the hole was never far from anyone's thoughts.
Even Ray, halfway round the world, spent his first four days at his new school thinking of little else. Few of the kids there were talking about it, so he was marooned in a world of worry where making new friends seemed callous when he didn't even know where half his old ones were.
Andy had managed to e-mail him once he had set up his new computer and nagged his Mum for an Internet account. That had been easy really. She was buried in her new job and very happy that Ray seemed to have found nice kids to hang out with and things to keep him busy. Andy's parents had only moved as far as his grandmother's house three miles away, their own now gone along with everything in it, the garden shed, the garden and the cat. Yet still they were turning up for their shifts at the factory and had made no mention of moving to a safer distance.

> they won't move 'til they're dragged away kicking and screaming>

Andy had written in his e-mail, along with a half-joke that an invite to come and stay with Ray would be only too welcome right now and was there any chance....?
Ray had laughed and replied that Yes, right now there was every chance because his Mum was feeling so guilty about how much time her new job was taking up she would probably let him have an elephant for a pet if he asked at the right moment. Ray asked if Andy had spoken to his friend at NASA and was told no, the NASA friend seemed to have dropped off the face of the universe and perhaps he had strayed too close to the hole. His theories seemed to have gone down the plughole with him. Andy was scared. He had skipped school three days in a row because suddenly he was a target for every kid bigger than him in the whole school and that was a lot of kids.

>They'll have to go when the factory gets sucked in>

Ray had typed optimistically but Andy hadn't replied to that one and Ray had to wonder if it was because he was afraid his parents might be in the factory when it succumbed.

>Don't worry>,

Andy had written back

>I'll be out of here before they are>

Ray was disturbed by that. It wasn't the first time Andy had talked about running away. His life was shit, they both knew that. He and his sister were strangers and his parents were no better. He was the disappointing weakling of a son who would never make anything of himself according to his Dad, and to his mum he was an endless expense who filled his room full of strange things she didn't understand or value. Never had a better case been made for the possibility that Andy's mum and dad were aliens as far as Ray was concerned. His own Mum could be an ogre sometimes but at least she wasn't a xenomorph like Andy's folks!

The probe mission came to nothing. The crew lost contact with mission control three hours after hurtling into the darkness and for no particular reason that anyone could see. By the following day, Thursday in England and Friday night for Ray, the Government had to accept that they had lost the ability to control and defend the area around the hole. Ray's town was gone, the hole was devouring great tracts of farmland and all the villages between and the cities of Nottingham, Stoke on Trent and Birmingham were starting to be threatened. The government declared a state of emergency and began to evacuate the Midlands. Andy and his whole family, along with most of Ray's relatives were suddenly refugees and the e-mail messages stopped coming. Now Ray was forced, like everyone else, to follow the story on the news. By that weekend, it was all the news there was.
The hole was eating up the ground at a rate of feet per minute rather than inches per hour. And its speed was increasing. By Sunday night, the entire midsection of England was nothing but a yawning hole going nowhere. On Monday, they fired a nuclear warhead down it in the hope that the detonation might close the hole, but it didn't, so they fired another one. It made no difference. The hole was an insatiable monstrosity which was indifferent to the efforts of man. It continued to grow and the theories around its existence got wilder and wilder. The exodus from the British Isles continued. It looked as if they were going to evacuate the whole country. And then what? The world? Where was everyone supposed to go?
On Tuesday the entire world waited with baited breath as the edges of the hole raced towards the Bristol channel. Lives were being lost now, some people escaping the police cordons and the abandonment orders and staying in their homes in the hope the hole might just pass them by. Several fire trucks were caught napping on a back lane near Evesham which left them nowhere to go and all forty men on board had been swallowed. An entire hospital, emptied of patients but still containing a number of security staff had been sucked up and Birmingham's infamous Bull Ring was now nothing but a distant memory.
But the sea? What would happen when the hole reached the sea? Would it stop there or was it just the British mainland which would suffer this appalling catastrophe?
The answer came after dark, which made it somehow more terrifying and forced the nation to sleep with their fears. As the hole reached the Bristol Channel, swallowing the city before it, it did not stop, did not just draw its walls in and close up like a zipped dress, it merely moved down the channel swallowing the water as it went. Ten minutes later the eastern rim of it broached the coast at Kings Lynn and the same thing happened. By the morning, most of the water in the Atlantic ocean was gone, as well as the contents of the English Channel and the North sea and the hole was threatening the Continental coastline. This problem was not going away.
Panic struck then. Suddenly the entire population of Britain just had to get as far away from home as possible. The air terminals were suddenly under siege. Boats were no use because the channel had become an impassable gorge of treacherous sands and wrecked oil tankers. There wasn't a lot of water to float on. Every means of transport known to air travel was engaged to move the population. On Thursday a fleet of four hundred hot air balloons left from Lowestoft to cross to France. It really was that desperate.
Australia felt very far away from it all and although the local kids did talk about it as they lounged on the beach after sunset next to driftwood fires downing tinnies and passing joints, it just didn't seem real to them. They hadn't seen it of course. Ray tried to remember that, and if he hadn't seen it, would he have taken it seriously? It wasn't that hard to forget about it during the day with these carefree kids in this beautiful place, but the fear was in his mothers eyes when they passed each other on the way to the bathroom night and morning. They never spoke of it, but he knew it was close to her mind too. Her parents had called from a reception centre in France. They were frightened and being moved again the next day. The hole had begun to encroach on the French coast and was rushing towards them at a rate of a mile an hour.
She had begged her parents to fly over and join them but there wasn't a single flight with an empty seat for weeks. They would wait, they said, for the government to take care of them. They were sure that the government would take care of them, had lived their whole lives under that proviso, all of them had. They would wait. They were sure it would be all right. His Mum had come off the phone and cried. Ray had never seen her do that before, not even when his Dad left.
His Dad, on the other hand, was one of the wise ones. Frightened for his son, he had bought a ticket out of the country the day after his flat was swallowed by the hole. He arrived in Perth that Sunday and Ray's mum went ballistic. Ray, ecstatic that his family were once again together, no matter how grim the conflict, had left the apartment to allow them room to scream at each other and headed for the Cyber cafe further down the sea front. Here he was gratified to discover that Andy had finally managed to get him an e-mail. It was two sentences long and contained a file attachment.

>I'm okay. Only allowed one minute to use computer - please read attached file. A. >

Ray downloaded the file and opened it there and then. It was a mail from the guy at NASA who Andy had always talked to. It gave the calculations for the black hole and offered a conclusion that Ray found too astonishing to believe. The guy at NASA was certain of his findings but had been silenced because everyone knew you couldn't fight a black hole. They didn't want the world to know it was doomed. Ray read the report and realised, right then and there, that life as he knew it was about to be over.
An uneasy peace had fallen over the apartment when he got home. His Dad had managed to persuade his Mum to go out to a restaurant, according to a note propped on the kitchen table, but the air still reverberated with the tension they had left behind them. Even so, Ray was relieved. It was both reassuring and unnerving to have his parents seeing eye to eye. Things must be bad.
They got back after he had gone to bed and so when he looked out of his window the next morning and let out a short strangled scream at what he saw, he was marginally surprised that it was his Dad who stuck his head around the bedroom door to see what was wrong.
"The sea's gone." He said bleakly and, with shock taking over his face, his Dad looked where he pointed and saw that it was the truth.
Beyond the beach a moonscape stretched as far as the eye could see. No rippled water, no heaving swell, no flat, reflective calm remained. Had they been explorers, they might have been able to walk all the way to Asia.
"It's all finished isn't it Dad? Everything? It's over, right?"
His Dad had no words to comfort his son, but he put an arm around his shoulders then and they stood that way, staring out at the strange landscape as the city of Perth woke up below them and realised that the hole was coming their way.
Watching it on the TV was a bit like watching an election or a nuclear war.
"It's got New York" was the catchphrase of that day. Or, "I hear it will take Moscow by tonight.", or, "Budapest is gone, Rio is gone, Toronto is gone. How long before it gets here?"
No one else had any other interests. Half the world had disappeared into nowhere and people had stopped running away now. There was simply nowhere to go.
It was on the Friday night, a week after his Dad had turned up, three weeks after arriving in Perth and only six weeks after finding the hole in the first place, that Ray coldly realised this was going to be their last night on Earth. The hole had swallowed most of Asia, all of North and South America and Canada. Only part of Alaska remained and the easternmost edge of China. Australia was all but isolated because the rest of the world had stopped sending messages. There was nothing to be said or done, nothing that could be salvaged or stored for safe keeping. There was nowhere to send the children or the sick and old. All and sundry had to just sit and wait for the end to come. TV was surreal, constant news reports, followed by hastily retrieved reruns of all the best programs ever made as though the nation needed a last fix of popular culture before it was devoured by Infinity. The kids Ray had started to hang out with had all gone home and the street outside was deserted. Ray looked out of the windows and thought that, at least for a week or two, it had been nice to live near the sea. Shame it was gone. Shame it was all gone.
The next morning, he, his parents and half the community went out and sat on the beach. There wasn't much chat, no radios playing, no beach volleyball. No one brought surfboards or boogie boards. Everyone just sat in morose little groups, watching the skyline. Sydney, Melbourne, Victoria and Darwin had all gone during the night. The hole had consumed Alice Springs at dawn. It was going to be a race to see whether it got them from the east or the west. In the end, it came from the west. There was a gasp through the crowd as they saw it breast the horizon and race across the expos




Short story by Carey Lenehan
Read 978 times
Written on 2006-11-04 at 12:03

Tags Disasters  Extinction  Adventure 

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