It was just a hole in the ground, Malikai told himself. A hole that appeared in the backyard of his small, cozy summer cottage. A hole that sang to him; that called to him from the depths of who knew where. Malikai wanted to break away and run, but, there was something palpable in the voice that escaped through the darkness.
“What are you?” he asked.
The continued sounds of a sweet baritone voice continued to sing. Malikai could not quite make out the words, and he had to fight his impulses to go closer.
“Hello?” Malikai asked once again.
The breathy baritone once again emerged from the darkness that concealed its owner. Curious, Malikai took a step closer and brushed his salt and pepper locs out of his face.
“Look, if you’re looking for help, just let me know. Perhaps, I’m in a position to help you.”
It was then that the pleas for help became clear. It was almost as if, in recognizing what Malikai had asked, the request became pointed.
“Help,” the voice said. The voice did not sound afraid, it did not quite sound perfectly fine either. It seemed more like the mimicry of a human who had not yet learned the meaning of the word help.
“What’s going on down there? Are you in trouble?” Malikai continued asking. He was unsure if he was quite safe himself. A thousand questions swirled in his mind. Who was this person? How had they gotten down there? Who was their tormentor?
“Help,” the voice said once again. “Help me, please,” it implored.
“Alright, alright,” Malikai finally responded.
Malikai steeled himself. He could not quite explain why he was full of fear, but he did decide that he needed to do the right thing. Someone was in trouble, and he was the closest available help. A call to the police could be too late. As he inched ever closer, he prepared to place his hand into the darkness, and steeled himself for what might grab him.
A sudden knock at his front door pulled him away. The voice stopped, and the hole was no longer as dark as it seemed to be mere moments ago.
Silence met him.
“Are you okay down there?” Malikai was met with only the sounds of the gentle breeze that had begun to blow. Reluctantly, he made his way through the cottage and to the front door. Malikai had no idea who could be knocking on his door. He was on a sabbatical and no one knew where to…not even his cousins, which were the only family he had left.
The knocking at the front door continued, and they seemed to be getting more frantic as he got closer.
“Hold on a damn minute, will you?”
Malikai flung the door open and found himself staring at a tall, thin woman he didn’t recognize. She seemed taken aback, as if she didn’t expect anyone to be home. Her face turned beet red, and she smiled an uncomfortable smile.
“May I help you?” Malikai said.
“Oh yes, certainly. I was told someone would be here,” she said, in a deep southern belle accent. “And I just came by to welcome you.”
“Welcome me to…where…exactly? If you hadn’t noticed, this cottage is far, far from any other home. Which is exactly the way that I like it.”
“…right. Well I’m not sure exactly how long you’ve been renting this place, but, last year, this area became a part of the unincorporated town of Nerisville, and as town recorder it’s my duty to welcome everyone into the town. So, Welcome!”
The woman pushed her hands out to reveal a small tin of peach cobbler.
“Well thank you, Ms?”
“Thank you, Ms. Livett. But I have owned this cottage as my summer home for 20 years and I haven’t heard any news of the town borders changing. Granted, I do spend most of the year teaching at the University of Florida, but I try to keep an eye on any news involving my property. So, maybe I missed something. Thank you for letting me know”
“Oh! My apologies, I just thought-,”
“Oh, I’m sure you did. Listen, Ms. Livett. Thank you for the cobbler, but I really must be getting back to tending my garden out back,” Malikai lied. He began to close the door, but Ms. Livett’s spindly fingers pushed back against the door.
“Apologies, sir, but I must confess, I came here for a second purpose. There have been rumors flying about this place. Dangerous rumors. I must say that I’m not one for superstition, but after going through some old town records, it’s possible they have some truth. Be careful out in that yard.”
Malikai nodded his head, and Ms. Livett turned away. As she did, Malikai could almost swear he saw her bright green eyes swell with fear and concern. He closed the door behind him and sat the cobbler on the table. Just as Ms. Livett got out of sight of the cottage, the singing began again. This time, he could hear the words more clearly.
“Safe in my arms, comfy, you’ll be. Come and join me, Mr. Lee.”
Malikai ears perked a little at the mention of his last name. “How do you know who I am?” he screamed.
The voice just kept singing the same line over and over, and the more he heard it the more he wanted to find the person the voice belonged to.
“Who the hell are you?” Malikai screamed. Like the last statement he made, he was only met with more singing. He decided he was going to see what the cause of this was. He was going to put his hand in that hole in the backyard and confront whatever it was that was calling out to him.
As he exited the backdoor, his landline began to ring, and the singing once again stopped. With frustration, he stomped his way back into his cottage. He cursed his luck for having the wherewithal to get rid of his cell for the summer and not get rid of the landline. He yanked the receiver off its holder.
“Hi, it’s me again, Ms. Livett. I was just calling to see if you had a chance to try that cobbler? I made three of them and my family says they’re just the best. Possibly the best I’ve ever made so, naturally, I wanted to get an…unbiased opinion.”
“Look, Ms. Livett. No, I haven’t tried your damn cobbler. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really must be getting back to my garden!” Malikai said. He slammed the receiver back down. This time, Malikai was determined to find out just what had been calling his name. He ran to the hole that had begun singing once more.
“Malikai please, don’t pluck out your eye, you can’t have seen something more beautiful than I.”
Malikai stuck his hand into the earth and felt relieved that he felt only cold wet earth. That feeling didn’t last long as he started to feel a slight tug. The tug became the feeling of 5 needles piercing his forearm, and before he knew it, he was being pulled headfirst into the hole. As he plunged deeper and deeper into the darkness, slivers of light began to shine through. The singing continued the entire time.
Eventually, the darkness gave way to a pool of water in a cave of light. And that was when he realized just what was standing, or rather, floating in front of him. It was a man, but not just a man. It was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen. His skin was the color of a blue sky and his eyes a bright and shining grey. He had a dark flowing beard and muscles Malikai could certainly get lost in.
“Well, hi,” Malikai said. He seemingly forgot what had just happened. The man said nothing. Malikai inched ever closer. “Is there a reason you dragged me all the way down here?” Malikai continued. Putting on the flirtiest voice he could find. But as he got within the distance of a tight embrace of the man, he suddenly realized that nothing about this man was as it seemed. His skin was pockmarked with scars and its eyes resembled an angry lion. Malikai looked around the cave and saw several skeletons that had seemingly been chewed and tossed aside. Fear swelled within him.
Malikai began to try and swim away, but he realized there was nowhere to go. The ceiling of the cave was too high to reach, and he could not swim down. He was trapped. The thing opened its mouth and a horrible cracking sound emerged. Its jaw seemed to dislocate and revealed several rows of sharp teeth. The thing’s fingernails grew and elongated. The eventually resembled sharp knives.
“No, please. Don’t hurt me!” Malikai begged and pleaded. But it was too late. Malikai had now become the things’ latest meal. His screams were heard far throughout Nerisville.
Ms. Livett and her husband sat around their kitchen table, with four cobblers that had just been pulled out of the oven. Malikai’s screams reached their home
“Let me guess, he didn’t eat the cobbler?” Ms. Livett’s husband said as he read the newspaper.
“They never do,” she replied.