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The Fall of 1983 (ShoStoBloMo #1)

November 2, 2009

There was a night during the fall of 1983 that Sinsy Cline fell into a hole. For years to come, during the Thanksgiving stories old, fat relatives loved to share over dry turkey and canned cranberry sauce, it was known as both the fall of 1983, and The Fall of 1983.

“Capital ‘T’, capital ‘F’,” Aunt Lucy would say, vaguely whispering in that annoying stage whisper fat relatives are so good at.

The Fall of 1983 was an accident. Obviously. Sinsy was plodding home from her friend Jenny’s house, after a long day of building Lego houses and playing Parsec on the TI-49A computer. Her thumb was sore from both prodding apart stubborn Legos, and forcing the reluctant joystick to get that damn spaceship into the refueling cave without blowing up. Who puts a refueling depot in a rocky cave? Morons.

This is what was going through Sinsy’s head as she felt her right foot lose its footing and plummet into nothingness. It was as if the earth had opened up and sucked in her leg like she had just inhaled the udon noodles Jenny’s mom had made them for dinner. Except when the earth slurped her leg, her leg did not detach from her body like a noodle might have. (This is a good thing.) Instead, it slurped her other leg, too, and her body, and her arms, and her face, and her raggedy hair that she refused to comb before she ran out of the house that afternoon.

The hole was deep enough for Sinsy to wonder if maybe she would see a very late rabbit float past. It was deep enough for her to wonder if she had somehow been sucked into a rather unfortunately placed refueling cave. It was deep enough for her to have time to A) scream B) stop screaming C) wonder just how far she was going to fall D) briefly begin sketching (in her mind) a personal parachute one could wear around the neighborhood in case of errant refueling caves.

Just as she began sketching out her parachute plans in her head, though, she hit bottom. It was not hard. It did not break her legs. It seemed to actually envelope her momentarily, as if the bottom of the hole was made of marshmallow, or a giant, extra super thick duvet cover.

She was completely incased in this soft, squishy (but not sticky or otherwise gross) stuff for a brief, suffocating moment, but then it relaxed around her and she was able to bounce-walk around the small circumference of the hole.

It was, of course, pitch black. Above her, Sinsy could see the pinprick light of the evening sky, but she knew that soon it, too, would go black as night fell. Her arms went out in front of her and she felt the walls of the hole. They did not feel dirty or wet or muddy or dusty or however hole walls should probably feel. They felt cold and smooth and when she knocked her knuckles, she heard a dull clunk.

Technically, it appeared she had fallen into a tube of somekind, not a hole. Or maybe it could be a hole and a tube at the same time. Sinsy wasn’t sure. What she was sure of, though, was that she was in the ground. Deep in the ground. And no one could hear her. And no one knew where she was. And it was getting late. And she hadn’t finished her homework for the weekend. And her mom probably had a bowl of ice cream waiting for her. And it was probably melting.

Sinsy was good at not panicking. She had never been a panicky kind of girl, except for the time the neighbors’ terrier came charging at her across the yard. She kind of freaked out then. But that hardly counts because she was younger then and that terrier was out for revenge.

Even when she needed stitches in her leg and was bleeding all over the kitchen floor she didn’t panic. Even when she ran over that snake with her bike and it got tangled in her spokes she didn’t panic. So finding herself in a hole didn’t send her palms sweating or her heart racing. Not like a vengeful terrier would at least.

Instead, she felt a sense of excitement and forboding. She was in a hole! She was… in a hole? Other than invent a parachute that would have just softened an already soft landing, Sinsy was out of helpful ideas. She could clunk-clunk-clunk on the walls of the hole and hope that someone would hear. Maybe she could try screaming again. But really, neither of those ideas seemed very appealing.

She felt around on the squishy stuff under her feet. Maybe something was down there bouncing around with her. A flare gun! No, just a stick. She picked up the stick and held it closely to her face. She could see nothing. It felt rough and dirty, and she plucked a crunchy leaf off of it. The leaf turned to dust between her fingers. Wiping her dusty fingers on her pants, she twirled the stick with her other hand. What could she do with it?

Poke things.

Of course.

She poked the wall in front of her. Nothing. She poked the wall behind her. Nothing. She kneeled down and poked the squishy ground. At first, nothing happened. The stick was absorbed into the squish just as she had been. But instead of wearing soft-soled Keds, the stick was wearing years of jagged bark. Sinsy pushed it deeper until she felt a little pop.


She pulled the stick out and felt around for the puncture. She stuck her finger into the hole (the hole in the hole, as it were), and wiggled it around. Soft. Feathery, almost.


She tried to stick another finger into the hole, too, to stretch it out, make it bigger. This didn’t work very well, so she took the stick and she poked a series of holes in close proximity to one another. She couldn’t see what she was doing, but her plan was to weaken an area of the squish with a bunch of holes so that she could eventually make one big hole.

Sinsy stabbed away for a while, not crazily, but with a sense of determination. Finally, she tucked the stick into the waistband of her shorts and she ran her hand over the area of holes she’d just made. She sat on the squish, adjacent to the holey area, and put her hands in front of her. Then she stuck the fingers of her right hand in the holes on the right side of area, and all the fingers of her left hand into some of the holes on the left part of the area. She pulled hard, like she was trying to open a stubborn bag of chips.

There was a rip. Sinsy quickly disentangled her fingers and felt for the rip. Underneath was more of the soft feathery stuff, but it felt solid. More solid than she had expected, like a sofa made of feathers.

While she was sitting there, trying to determine what in the world she was sitting on, she heard another soft rip. And another one. The blinding darkness (Sinsy took a brief moment to ponder how both darkness and light could be blinding), prevented her from seeing where the rips were. Almost immediately, though, she felt one of them open up right under her bottom.

Instead of falling further into the hole, she landed a mere inch or so lower, on top of the solid-ish, feathery, non-sofa, sofa-feeling thing. She was debating whether or not she should try to poke a hole into the feathery thing she was now sitting on, when it gave a shiver. A small ripple occured right underneath her, and she could feel that it went deep and all around.

There was another one, and this time the shiver was greater. She was tossed onto her back. She quickly turned herself over, onto her hands and knees for better purchase. Another shiver rocked her, and she grabbed hold of some of the leftover squish that seemed tangled in the feathery mass.

At this point, she was beginning to think about screaming again. Not for help, but out of frustration. What was going on with this hole? She was not the type of kid who shied away from a challenge. If there was a tree everyone said was unclimable, Sinsy Cline would climb it. If there was a teacher who could not be tamed, Sinsy Cline would tame her. If there was a squishy mass of  feather things that kept having little earthquakes at the bottom of a heretofor unknown hole in the ground that might possibly be a tube and was surely not a refueling cave, well, by God, Sinsy Cline was going to figure out what the squishy mass of  feather things actually was.

The shivering stopped, which gave Sinsy time to stand up and stamp her foot in anguish. There was a moment of stillness and then Sinsy was knocked back to her hands and knees as the mass below her bucked. It bucked again, and this time she felt herself sliding at an angle. How could that be? She clambored upward, her hands scrabbling at the softness that was suddenly creating a diagonal plane in front of her. The dangling piece of squish from before lightly fell into her face and she grabbed it quickly.

The incline increased and soon it was only the dangling squish between her fingers that was keeping her from falling.

Suddenly, she felt herself lurch upward. In big, heaving movements, the squishy mass of feather things was moving up the tube. Up, up, up, and soon, the humid night air coated Sinsy’s face like a warm wet kiss from fat Aunt Lucy. She saw stars in the sky and fast moving clouds. Then she noticed that the squishy mass of feather things was still moving upward. As they took to the sky, Sinsy was able to see the wings unfurl completely. Huge, brown wings with fuzzy-looking black spots. Intricately patterned, the wings beat once, twice, then stopped briefly. Then once, twice, again.

Sinsy’s hands tightened on the dangle of squish as the antennae appeared before her. Long, thin, flexible filaments reading the night sky and not paying any attention to her. She hazarded a look behind her. The ground continued to drop away. She was now falling into the sky, a sky quickly becoming just as black as the hole, as the swift clouds blew in.

Higher and higher they flew until they were above the clouds and Sinsy could see the beautiful full moon. It hung in the night, like a skylight to the heavens. The stars around it winked in chorus. Sinsy reached one hand over her head, as if she could collect moondust on her fingertips, or pluck the tiny stars from the sky like shiny champagne grapes she could eat to light her from within.

Then they were moving down. Not diving, but soaring, gliding, back through the clouds, back into the humid air closer to the ground, back into the dark, still night.

The giant moth landed softly on the grass in a part of the field just past the hole that had slurped Sinsy down into it. For a moment, the girl and the beast regarded each other.

“I’m sorry that I poked you,” she whispered. “I’m sorry that I fell on you. But you really need a better place for metamorphosis, you know?” The black moth eyes stared. “I mean, I know it’s too late now, but for future reference – or just for, like, the collective knowledge of giant beasty moth creatures – an uncovered hole in the ground is just begging for someone or something to fall in it.” She reached out and rubbed her hand across the moth’s back. “You’re lucky I wasn’t a vengeful terrier.”

The antennae moved slowly, as if taking in Sinsy’s advice, then the moth beat its wings and was off. Sinsy watched it fly high into the sky, until it disappeared into the clouds. She walked in the direction of her house, this time in the street in order to avoid any other giant insect holes that might be peppering the neighborhood.

Fat Aunt Lucy was going to love to hear about this. She hated moths.


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