A series of small quakes began it, none exceeding 4.2 on the Richter scale. Enough to resemble a series of heavy goods vehicles rattling by. There was no discernible property damage. The news spread slowly over social media, the MET seizing upon the seismograph readings first, and then eyewitness reports of strange fissures around the town. A group of archaeologists noticed a series of strange divots appear in their dig site in a matter of moments, resembling post-holes where had previously been bedrock. The Vicar spoke in apocalyptic tones about the little sink holes dotting his aisles, his voice reverberating with panic. The supermarket by the ring-road was riddled with them, hundreds across the expanse of the store. The area manager ate up his time on the local bulletin with a look of disquieting satisfaction, embracing his moment in the limelight.
The geologists arrived soon after, gesticulating wildly and pontificating in the public houses over stout. Underfoot should have been igneous rock, but there was no record of it being porous. The area was geologically sound, no recorded prior seismic activity. A “head-scratcher” they admitted through mouthfuls of scampi fries.
When the 2nd set of vibrations hit a week later the rumbles underfoot were drowned out by screaming. The earth tumbled away where people were standing, tens of thousands of perambulating pedestrians several feet shorter as their legs vanished down into the pits and stuck fast. The first wave of emergency services became stuck themselves, having been circling the afflicted when the aftershocks hit. Nearly a hundred thousand men, women and children rooted in place by their own limbs. The rolling news called it a “plague” of holes. Military personnel poured in to assist. They began to try to cut people free with pneumatic drills but the earth would only tumble away until the drills themselves were trapped in holes of their own. Scientists waxed lyrical on national television, gushing unsubstantiated “theory”, but in truth nobody knew.
The entrances and exits to the town were sealed, not that it would have mattered. A perimeter of the holes encircled it anyway. Nobody dared approach, they could hear it kilometres away: a whooshing of air into the pits competing with the screaming from the town. A few of the journalists who had slipped in alongside the military began posting the photos online that night. Sunken, starved human hollows sprouting from the ground. Still-howling faces retreating into flaccid torsos, sagging & compacting into the streets. Trembling scream-soundtracked video footage followed from the tower blocks: holes had punched upwards through floor after floor until they found feet. Waggling through the ceilings came contorted, elongated limbs trailing ever closer to ground. Tangled & overlapping where 8th floor limbs met 3rd, draining into the myriad cavernous maws of the hungry earth.
When the 3rd set of vibrations hit, the world simply hoped it was a mercy.
~ Leland V, 2015