Copyright is held by the author.
THERE IS nothing new about dark holes, from outer space to the remotest corners of this earth, they exist — and all share the same sinister reputations. People mention their reputations in hushed tones. The greater the hush the more sinister the hole, until it can only be mentioned by rolling of the eyes, the wringing of hands and avert glances, as if this knowledge comes direct from the almighty, secret and forbidden, as dark as, if not darker, than the hole itself.
So it was when I was young and long before I even saw one, my vivid imagination had conjured, older both my knowledge and world expanded and I learned firsthand of our local dark hole from the urchins who inhabited my formative years. At first I was too young to be accepted as a full member of the gang and be party to their escapades, but curiosity is the narcotic of the young, I had to see it.
Its location was not common knowledge and certainly mostly unknown to the adult population of the village. Had it been, we would certainly have been banned from ever going there for it lay within the boundaries of an abandoned brickyard. But what made it interesting and irresistible to us kids was the warning sign on the broken gate. “Danger! Do Not Enter! Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted!” The site covered perhaps some thirty acres, a jungle of shrubs trees and grasses hiding several large ponds, deep open pits and numerous small holes. Although I say abandoned it did occasionally operate. The clay mined there contained a blueish mineral making it desirable for quality bricks. This was extracted from pits, seventy or eighty feet deep, scattered in pockets and numerous test holes were dug to locate these deposits. An iron bucket hauled the clay to the surface by means of a manually operated winch with a crude safety brake. As you might suppose, us kids soon discovered how to work this and we had a field day winching each other up and down in the bucket. Gravity took a hand one day when several kids clambered aboard overloading the bucket and making a near fatal descent to the bottom in record time.
The pits, when exhausted along with the test holes were simply abandoned, left to nature and the elements, eventually to become ponds or dangerous overgrown man traps. When we tired of the pits there were the old brick kilns to delight us. These were essentially thick walled houses without roofs with tunnels underneath which when fired with coke, baked the bricks, the heat sealed in by a temporary roofing of corrugated iron laid atop. These kilns became our castles and forts, the tunnels dungeons and hiding places. From the parapets we repelled countless waves of Viking invaders, swarms of Bedouins, Arabs, Mongols and whatever else took our fancy from the movies. We were a motley crew of unbeatable defenders armed with wooden clubs and swords, shielded by stolen dustbin lids, helmets askew, made from old pots with slots cut in. Attempts to recruit a farmer’s horse for cavalry had to be abandoned – the animal it appeared was double jointed and could kick sideways with deadly accuracy.
Oddly though, my fascination about the dark hole was not universally shared by the kids and it was some time before events provided me the opportunity to actually see it. This came about because of an article in the village newspaper which related the story of a woman of reputation who years ago had mysteriously disappeared, her body dredged from one of the ponds months later. Her spirit reportedly haunted the area and had been seen by several patrons of The Brickmakers Arms, a pub which stood barely a stone’s throw from the old brickyards and which had served its thirsty workers for generations until the blue clay expired. Reportedly, her nocturnal rovings also encompassed the old churchyard behind the Arms where supposedly she was buried, her apparition sworn to by numerous patrons of the pub as they staggered home at closing time. We kids now put fact, fiction and our imaginations together and became convinced that the pond in question had to be the notorious dark hole. Subsequently one of the gang’s members who boasted knowledge of the pond’s exact location was elected to lead an expedition. Although long ago, I recall it was a glorious summer day when we set out but rapidly turned cloudy and dark, an omen perhaps of things to come. As usual we brazenly entered the brickyards, cheerfully ignoring the welcoming sign on the gates. We were barely inside before a feeling of unease began to gnaw at my insides. It had become much darker now, the clouds taking on a strange greenish hue with thunder roiling in the distance. In turn the darkness triggered my memory, dark thoughts that I really wanted to forget – closure which never happens.
Months ago, I had been reading Dracula, and now a horrific part of the story began to play on my mind. The part where one of his mistresses on a search for blood had encountered a small child who she unsuccessfully tried to lure for breakfast. The child unable to pronounce “beautiful,” described her to the authorities as the boofer lady. What if the spectre of the Dark Hole was also a boofer lady with the same dietary preferences? My further thoughts were interrupted by an excited yell from our leader of “Over here!” The mob dashed to join him and we found ourselves on the edge of a large pit, the sides almost vertical and 20 feet below, black water, still, silent, foreboding and bottomless. Nothing stirred the surface, no ripple or bubble, nothing — a deep mirror of solid black onyx polished and impenetrable. My ever ready imagination took off again. Was this a manifesting of old folk lore I wondered, and if so, what fearsome creatures were imprisoned within? Yet my thoughts were interrupted again by our leader.
“See?” he proclaimed expansively addressing the mob like Moses on the mount, “The dark hole, like I promised you guys. Now do you believe me?”
Silence — then a question from a small tyke at the back: “Is this where the ghost drowned?”
Some people are born cynics and from another urchin came the unqualified answer: “Bullshit, you’re crazy, ain’t nothing in there, see.”
And with that he picked up a large rock and hurled it into the sacred pool. It landed without a splash, as if sucked down and without even a slurp. At that precise moment a thunderous bolt of lightning tore the heavens apart. It appeared to spring directly from the pool itself although years later I reasoned that it was a reflection from the pool’s surface. I swear my ears still resonate from the blast, I can still taste the acid in the air, it was that close. Near panic set in and without waiting to see the boofer lady or the rest of the pond’s gross inhabitants, the mob took off. We did not stop running until we reached the safety of Brickmakers Arms.
I aged and other interests took over, the war came and the brickyards were taken over by civil defence and the military for training purposes. I remembered it but I never went there until after the war when the family decided to emigrate. Before our departure I went around the village saying my goodbyes to friends and storing up memories of the places I knew. On passing the Brickmakers Arms it was inevitable that I would remember the dark hole and its reputation. Was it still there I wondered? Ignoring the welcoming sign on the gate I trudged in and eventually found it. Low and behold the hot summers suns had evaporated its evil black waters, it could not have been more than an inch deep, we could have walked through it in sandals without ever getting our feet wet.
In some future time in some future universe a group of astronauts will confront a massive dark hole with all its sinister trappings. They will be deathly afraid until some cynic in the back yells “Bullshit!” and tosses in a space rock, evaporating it all to pixie dust.