Jack falls through a hole in his closet into a mysterious and dangerous world; by William Quincy Belle.
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?
Jack walked back towards the other trees, looking up at his closet and trying to estimate which would be best tree to swing from. He studied each of the high trees, trying to imagine the vine tied to a branch like a pendulum. If he hung off it and kicked his legs, he figured he could increase the arc to the point where he could reach his closet. That was his theory, in any case.
Jack laid out one end of the vine and uncoiled the rest of it as he walked towards the bush, which was almost directly underneath the opening to his closet. He wanted to estimate the length necessary to match the distance between the tree and the opening. He dropped the other end of the vine at the bush and then paced back the length. It seemed to be eighteen feet long.
He looked up at his closet then at the trees. Swinging seemed like a risky way of getting back to his closet. It would have probably been preferable to tie both ends of the vine to trees on either side of the closet and then slide across it, but the only trees higher than the closet opening were on one side. He would have to swing. The problem was getting a clear swing. He needed a high branch that stuck out far enough to allow for an unobstructed movement.
Choosing a tree, Jack re-coiled the vine and walked over to the trunk. He peered up into the branches to see how high he would be able to climb. There was a long, sturdy branch a little higher than the closet opening. He hung the coil over his shoulder to free his hands, then reached up to a low-hanging branch and climbed up.
Fortunately the tree had a lot of branches, and climbing was fairly easy. In some places, however, the branches were sparser and it took a bit of planning to figure out the best route up. Periodically, Jack stopped and looked over at his closet. He wanted to make sure he climbed to the right height.
Once level with the closet, Jack looked up. Just up a bit was the large branch that projected out farther than the rest. This was the one to which he would tie the vine.
Jack climbed onto the branch and laid himself out flat. He started to half-crawl, half-slide farther out on the branch. He looked down. Whoa, bad move. It wasn't that high, but it would be high enough if he fell. Jack went back to concentrating on the matter at hand.
Checking the clearance, he knew this was the spot. He carefully balanced himself as he took the vine off his shoulder, tied off one end, and let the rest drop. It hung down clear of the lower branches. Taking a last look at how well he had tied off the vine, Jack slid back to the trunk and climbed down to the ground.
He grabbed the end of the vine, which was a few feet off the ground, and looked up at his closet. This just might work, he thought. He tied a knot in the vine about six feet off the ground to make it easier to hold onto as he swung back and forth. He also wanted to be off the ground so he wouldn't scrape it with his feet.
Jack took a few steps back, then ran forward and jumped up to grab the knot. He swung towards his closet a bit and came back. He twisted, kicking his legs to increase the swing. Fortunately, the vine remained fairly fixed even as he turned, so he was able to keep swinging towards the closet.
With each successive swing, the end of Jack's arc came closer to the closet. He was starting to feel pretty certain he would be able to get back. All he had to do was get a leg and an arm through the opening and grab onto something like the door jamb, and he would be able to pull himself back up. If he missed, he pictured himself doing what he had done to get there in the first place: falling fifteen feet onto a sponge bush. At least he would have a soft landing.
Jack was swinging back and forth faster now, each time bringing him higher. He was getting close. He heard a noise off to one side and turned his head. He briefly saw the vacuum creature wandering through the trees. No matter; Jack kicked his feet. His goal was in sight. Just another couple of swings and he'd be there.
He arced up. He could see inside his closet. It was just out of reach. One more swing would do it. He swung back down, but just as he reached the lowest point in his arc, his feet struck something. The force of the impact jarred his body, so much so that he lost his grip and fell to the ground. He lay there a moment, the wind knocked out of him.
He sat up and looked behind him. The animal was on its side, not moving. It must have waddled by the tree, directly in his path, and his feet had slammed into it. Jack wasn't sure whether he'd killed it or just hurt it, but whatever the case, he had to get back to swinging. He had been so close, and he didn't want to miss his chance to get out of this crazy place.
He got up and straightened the vine, then ran and jumped up to grab it again. He kicked his feet to build up the pendulum motion. He could do this. He had to do this. He had to get back home.
After a number of swings, he glanced down and noticed the animal was no longer lying on the ground. He tried to look around, curious as to where it had gone, but he couldn't see it, so he concentrated on swinging.
With renewed vigour, he kicked his legs with each swing and was once again almost to the proper height. He readied himself for the final swing and the effort it would take to hook his leg and arm inside the opening. This was it. He arced back, but then felt the vine jerk. He looked up and saw the entire tree sway. He panicked, confused. The branch had been stable up until now.
As he swung, he tried to look at the tree trunk. He spotted the animal standing close by. There was a cloud of vapour around the trunk, and Jack could now hear hissing. His eyes widened. The creature had sprayed its acid onto the trunk of the tree. It was going to knock the tree over.
With one arm, Jack reached for the opening, but he wasn't quite close enough. He swung back down and felt the vine shake. The tree was going to fall over. He swung back up and kicked his feet with all his might. Now or never. He had to make it.
He felt himself surge forward. He knew this was going to be it. He swung up to the top of the arc and managed to get one foot and an arm in the closet. He grabbed hold of the door jamb and held on tight. Just then, he heard a loud cracking sound. Jack looked back and saw the tree slowly topple over. He let go of the vine and watched it being pulled away from him by the force of the falling tree.
Turning back to the closet, he strained to pull himself up. Twisting, he tried to get his other arm closer to the opening so he could use both arms. He moved in spurts. He grunted. He pulled. Finally he got his torso over the lip of the opening, and the balance of his body completely changed; the majority of his weight was now back in the closet. He had made it.
Jack pulled himself into his apartment and lay on the floor as he caught his breath. That had been a close call. He rolled over. Sure enough, there in the floor of his closet, just inside the door, was an opening. He had opened the door, and instead of stepping into the closet, had stepped through this hole. He looked at it totally perplexed by the incongruity of the situation.
He cautiously moved close to the opening and looked down. There was the bush. There was the toppled tree. He could see the vacuum creature wandering around.
Lying flat on the floor, he put both his hands on the edge of the opening and put his head through it. He turned his head to look around and stopped. In one direction there were no trees, and he could look off in the distance. He could see other openings. There were several of them close by, with more spread out in the distance.
Just as he started to count them, something fell through an opening. After taking a moment to process what he'd seen, he realized it had been a body. Somebody just like him had taken a step and pitched forward through a hole. Shocked, he continued to stare in an attempt to see any movement.
Jack turned his head to look in the other direction. He stopped. He had the answer as to whether others who had fallen had escaped. A couple of hundred feet away was another opening, and just underneath it was a body of what looked like a man. There was a big hole in his chest. He was certain the man was dead.
Beside the body was one of the vacuum creatures. As Jack watched, the animal began to suck up one of the man's arms with its trunk. The trunk reached all the way to the shoulder, and then the animal turned and waddled over to a leg. The arm was gone.
Jack pulled himself back into his apartment and moved as far away from his closet as he could get. He stood shaking trying to understand what this was all about. It didn't make sense. It was crazy.
He looked at the time. He had been gone only an hour. Suddenly he felt very tired, so he lay down on the bed. Just give me a moment, he thought.
Jack woke with a start. What time was it? Damn, had he overslept? He glanced at the clock. Oh God, he was late for work. He jumped up to go the bathroom, where he quickly brushed his teeth and shaved. Back in his bedroom, he tore off his pyjamas and grabbed some socks and underwear from a dresser drawer.
His spied his cellphone on the dresser. He picked it up and checked for messages. There were none. He set it back down and pulled open the closet door. Just as he began to take a step into the closet, he panicked. He shifted his balance and moved his leg all the way to the back of the closet and stood there doing the splits, with one foot in the bedroom and one foot under his hanging clothes.
He looked down at the floor. It looked perfectly normal. He grabbed the door jamb and pulled himself back into the bedroom, then got down on his hands and knees and began to touch the floor of the closet. It was solid. Nothing looked unusual.
Jack stood up and, balancing himself, put one foot on the floor of the closet. It seemed to be okay. He tentatively lowered his foot to the floor and slowly put more weight on it. It was holding. The floor was really there. Standing there for a moment, he stared down at his closet floor. He doubted his own eyes. Had it all been a dream?
Shaking his head and chuckling, he started grabbing clothing. He hopped up and down in front of the closet as he pulled on one pant leg and then the other. He had some shirt buttons to contend with, then a belt, and he was good to go. There wasn't any time for a coffee, so he would have to grab something on the way. He picked up his cellphone, keys, and briefcase and headed for the door.
Just before he opened the apartment door, he glanced at his phone and scrolled through his various news feeds. The same old, same old was trending. Cat found in tree, film at eleven. As he scrolled down, he saw somebody had written about a mysterious hole. What the heck was that? He scrolled some more and found two more entries that mentioned strange holes. Were they the other holes he had seen?
Jack opened his apartment door as he studied his phone. This was incredible. Other people had experienced the same thing, going through a hole into another world. He had to find these people to see if he could figure out what had happened to him.
Jack took a step, then pitched forward and fell out of sight. There was a moment of silence in the hall before Jack's muffled voice from somewhere below said, "Ah crap, not again!"