The Pit

by Peter Ely

Chapter I

The town had been built over 150 years ago about a half mile from the river and had remained pretty much the same ever since.

Children grew up and moved out of the town and sometimes they moved back into the town but the town pretty much remained the same. 

Therefore the people of the town were horrified when they woke up one morning and found a gigantic pit, deep and wide and long enough to fit a large building in, in their backyards.

There was no sign of any construction equipment and no heavy duty caterpillar treads and no explosion overnight to indicate how the gigantic pit might have been dug, and the town did not have the resources to fill in the hazardous eyesore.

Federal or State emergency money would be required to fill in the pit and to restore the natural, riverside vegetation.

Chapter II

The husband stood at the edge of The Pit, thinking how easy it would be to "end it all."

The Pit seemed to the husband to be an obligation to destroy himself, placed there by some superior being or life form; if not God, per se, then something akin to God.

The husband looked to the right and to the left. It was a rare moment when he was the only one visible at the pit.   

Of course, the Pit was a month old now so some of the novelty had worn off. The National Press Corps with their photographers had come and gone.

But the husband might not really be invisible. There were plenty of views from the houses all around him out their back windows.

But even if the husband had enjoyed perfect solitude and privacy, he wouldn't have jumped into the Pit at this moment.

"No," the husband announced to himself. "I must take Anna and Rebecca with me."

Chapter III

The man considered the possibility of leaping into the Pit while holding hands with Rebecca and Anna and decided that it wouldn't work.

Rebecca was only a five year old child of course and very impressionable; so she would accept anything her father told her. The man would only have to tell Rebecca to close her eyes as they leaped and Rebecca would be perfectly comfortable.

But Anna would not accept her husband's view that the Pit was a supernatural evil. Anna would insist that man could repair the Pit with equipment and manufactured materials and she would resist the man's death order.

Therefore the only solution for the man was to lure Anna and Rebecca to the edge of the Pit and to shove them into the Pit, trusting entirely to his own judgment.    

Chapter IV

While Rebecca was outside playing, kicking a ball around with the neighborhood kids, the husband spoke earnestly with Anna, seeking to persuade Anna to join him and have them both leap into the pit together along with Rebecca.   

But Anna stubbornly argued that life was still worth living, that the Pit was manmade and could be eradicated through manmade effort and machinery.

"At the very least, Jack," Anna implored. "We can reconcile living with the Pit, since it didn't swallow the whole town."

But the husband merely shook his head morbidly, in response to all Anna's entreaties and enthusiasms.

"No, Anna," the husband negated, shaking his head discontentedly. "The Pit is being measured by the scientists and the engineers on a daily basis and it is growing by 20 feet in diameter on a daily basis, so that even the safety fences erected around the Pit are constantly being threatened and constantly having to be moved. In a week or two, or a month at most, all the houses and public buildings will be at the bottom of the Pit. Why delay the inevitable, Anna? Trying in vain to delay the inevitable only makes the suffering worse, especially for children like Rebecca."

"Then we will leave this town, Jack," Anna argued desperately. "We'll go to some other town where there is no Pit."

"It's hopeless, Anna," Jack cried stridently. "There is no escaping a judgment like this, if not from God, then from some supernatural being, for you and I and Rebecca except at the bottom of The Pit. Think of it, Anna. Whatever made that Pit, all 8,000,000 cubic feet of it, did so soundlessly and almost certainly invisibly, leaving no trace of itself. The soil in the bottom of the Pit and along the sides of the Pit is pure. There are no traces of manmade chemicals or manmade metals in that soil. And this gigantic pit was created overnight, probably in a split-second, all at once. There is no retreating from such a supernatural force to another town or anywhere else. The three of us must be masters of our fate and leap into the Pit. We three shall be the first to leap into the Pit and the rest of the town, thus inspired and given courage by our example, shall join us at the bottom of the Pit. And thus Anna, immense and unnecessary suffering shall be avoided because everyone in the town shall be lying at the bottom of the Pit, dead and feeling nothing."

Chapter V

The next day, Anna suggested a compromise.

"Jack. Why don�t we construct our own personal fence around the house? I have a feeling that the Pit is going to just keep growing and then stop, when it reaches the house."

This remark from Anna made Jack very angry.

"Anna, how can you possibly know that the Pit will stop growing when it reaches our house? What evidence do you have that the Pit will stop growing? The scientists and the engineers have studied the Pit and they have found no evidence that the Pit will stop growing. Anna, you and I and Rebecca need to jump in the Pit immediately, while our courage is still high. Each day that we wait, Anna, it will be harder to jump into the Pit."

Chapter VI

We have a large property, Jack," Anna replied calmly. "Let's just build the fence 30 feet from the edge of the house. That way if the Pit should grow under the fence overnight, you said that the pit only grows 20 feet every 24 hours, it still will not have reached the house. And then I promise you when we see the Pit extending under the fence, you and I and Rebecca will jump into the Pit."

Jack very reluctantly agreed to the plan.

"I think that that is a very bad idea, Anna, but I suppose that I must agree to your plan. After all, I can't throw you into the Pit against your will. But I warn you, Anna, that delaying will just make it that much harder to jump into the Pit when the time comes."

And so very reluctantly, Jack constructed a chain link fence around his house, watching the Pit devour more ground each day and grumbling over the superfluousness of putting up a second fence to separate his house from the Pit.

Chapter VII

But Anna was right.

On the morning that the Pit grew within a few feet of the new fence around the house, it came to a halt and never grew another inch, in all the years that followed that morning.

But that wasn't the end to Anna's worries.

Anna could see that Jack had wanted the three of them to jump into the Pit, just for the oblivion of jumping into the Pit, regardless of the danger that the Pit presented to the three of them and to the community.

Yes, Anna could see that Jack had just wanted to jump into a Pit, this Pit or any Pit, and that when the Pit had stopped growing and threatening, Jack had been acutely disappointed.

And so even after the Pit stopped growing, during all those years, Anna never slept well at night.

From the day that the Pit stopped growing onward, Anna always slept with one eye open as it were, in case Jack should grab her and Rebecca while they were sleeping, drag them down to the edge of the Pit, and hurl them into the Pit.

BIO: Peter T. Ely is a graduate of Penn State University, who has published two thriller books, The Butcher and Gunpoint. He resides in Haverford, Pa. and newspaper articles about him have appeared in The Suburban and Wayne Times and The Bi-College News (of Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College). For relaxation and fitness, Peter runs several miles a day. He is currently a tutor of literature and is writing a novel about a serial killer who preys upon a mythical college town.