By Martin Murray
We all called it “The Pit.” It was a giant hole. An open abyss in the woods behind Jeremy’s house. We threw anything we could find into it: sticks, rocks, cinder blocks.
At the end of every school semester, we’d empty our backpacks. All our homework, pencils, and books, the white pages fluttering silent into the darkness.
On boring days, we’d scour the neighborhood for beer bottles or abandoned car tires to throw down. One time, Angela’s mom put a couch on the curb for trash pick-up. It took six of us to carry. When we dropped it in, the couch fell end over end, even did a full flip. What a great day.
We didn’t know much about the pit. But we had stories and started rumors like pirates dug the pit and hid their loot at the bottom. Except this story didn’t hold much weight. Why would pirates come into the woods? Another rumor was the pit used to be a coal mine, but they closed the mine because it’s haunted.
Whatever the story, there was always debate: did the pit have a bottom?
Jeremy always claimed, “There isn’t a bottom. It’s an elaborate cave system that spits you out two states away.”
“It if spits you out, that means there’s a bottom, idiot!” Kyle would protest.
The pit probably had a bottom. We just couldn’t see it.
Plants didn’t grow in the area near the pit. This fact convinced Paul that the pit was an impact crater from a meteor. “That’s why there’s no trees or other plants around. The meteor burned the soil so much nothing else can grow here. And the pit goes straight to the center of the earth.”
Stanley claimed his soccer ball fell into the pit once. “It rolled and accidentally fell in. I thought, well, it’s gone forever. But then, I swear to god, guys! I started to leave but heard something, so I turned around, and my soccer ball was there. It came back!”
“That’s impossible,” we all said.
“It’s true. I swear, it’s true.”
Stanley told this story for so long, with no one believing him, that he got fed up. “Fine. You don’t believe me? I’ll show you.” He grabbed his soccer ball, marched to the edge, and chucked it down.
“Watch,” said Stanley. We waited. The soccer ball never came back.
Most of the adults didn’t care if we were in the woods near the pit. Maybe they should have. There were no fences or signs urging people to stay away. There was no precaution, no safety.
The only adult that cared what we were up to was Officer Leonards. He’d pull up in his squad car and say, “Boys, come here, now.”
He’d always have some excuse like, “Someone laid sheet metal across the train tracks,” or, “There’s been a report of some kids peeking through people’s back windows. What are you? A bunch of peeping Toms?”
Always some reason to stop us, hassle us, even though we’d never done anything that Officer Leonards accused us of doing.
He’d single out one of us each time, throwing the passenger side door open, pointing, “You. Come on.”
Then he’d drive one of us to a spot by the river, park in an area surrounded by thick trees and not visible from the road. Usually, he’d have beer or booze in a flask.
“Drink this. Mum’s the word,” Leonards would say. “I’ll tell your folks you’ve been drinking. They’ll smell it on you.”
Leonards grabbed us all eventually.
The night we killed him, Albert built a bonfire. In the early evening twilight, you could see the smoke billowing up through the trees.
Leonards crept along in his cruiser, moving slow. He didn’t turn his lights on until he was very close. When the high beams hit us, we shot up and dashed away.
He rolled down his windows and stuck his head out, shouting, “Caught you, boys!”
His car sped after us, engine roaring. Its grill violently snapped loose tree branches, and the tires ground leaves and twigs into dust. It was a monstrous vehicle.
We all ran in zig-zagged patterns, heading in the same direction. To the pit.
When we got to the clearing, Leonards slammed on his breaks. He got out, holding a flashlight, blinding our eyes.
We started to circle him.
“A fire, boys? That’s arson.”
He didn’t notice the pit until his foot kissed the lip, and he stumbled. His flashlight shone into the void, but the light didn’t go far.
“What’s down there?” Leonards looked at us. “Boys?”
We pushed him. Maybe it was one of us. Maybe all of us. He didn’t make a sound when he fell. He’d dropped the flashlight on the ground, and Paul kicked it in after him.
Derek put Leonards’s cruiser into neutral, saying, “My Dad lets me back out of the driveway.” That made it easy to shove over. We waited for an explosion, or something, when it landed. But it never came.
We used tree branches to cover up the tire tracks. It worked.
The tracks were gone. The cruiser was gone. Leonards was gone.
No one ever asked us about it. And none of us told a soul. Every so often, even into adulthood, we’d dream about the pit. The edge would be bigger. The darkness growing. Building outward, attempting to swallow us up.
Sometimes Leonards would crawl out of the pit. In one of his hands, his flashlight. In his other hand, Stanley’s soccer ball. He’d grin. And say, “Come on, boys!”
But these were only dreams.
I love the atmospheric pull. Could be a great novel. Really well done. Thank you.
Good story! It held me through to the end. A very cinematic story. Well done!
This was a captivating tale. Definitely movie quality. “Stand by Me” comes to mind, on a more serious note. Your writing brought us right into the folds of the story. Would love to read more from this writer.
This was a good story; it did also remind me of “Stand By Me.” “The night we killed him…” is so casual, it’s chilling. And the innocent buildup works well. It’s amazing how a pit, symbolic of so much, will invade your dreams. Well done.
Awesome! Very nostalgic. Love to read more of this.
Excellent story, both matter-of-fact and chilling.
I only have one question: Is it a true story?