The holes came to Holkum Springs one day in the summer without a sound. They turned up on the outskirts of town on the other side of the train yard, opening up in dirt roads and the miles of corn stalks on the Henderson’s farm, fat round cavities where people fell in and didn’t get out. Geologists from the college up the highway got on the six o’clock news and said they were sinkholes from heavy rains and soil erosion. The mayor slapped them on the backs with a smile and declared the matter closed to the public, and it made good enough sense at the time. They didn’t make towns like they used to anymore, what with all the jobs going to China and India and all the factories closing up. Sometimes towns just got old and fell apart.

In the heat of July the holes came to the water tower. They appeared in the old red barn on Route 91 and the roof of the church on the hill, big enough to fit a man through if one were so inclined. Pastor John shook his Holy Bible during Sunday service and yelled through the hole above his head for God’s strength to see them through, but God didn’t seem to be listening. If he had been, he didn’t have much to say on the matter. Theories moved through the town like a fire over the telephone line from house to house, but nobody seemed to know where the holes came from or what they wanted. When the holes got to Main Street everyone decided that they were bad, because by then everyone could see them and there was no skirting it at City Hall. The holes found their ways inside of the drug store, the barber shop, the fire station and the court house. They opened up in trees and dogs and pick-up trucks, like little windows or port holes made to look through to the other side.

Some said it was caused by pollution and space radiation. Others claimed that it was caused by gay marriage and drugs in Amsterdam. God was punishing sinners for prostitution and aborted babies, in a miniature Armageddon going down in Holkum Springs, a practice run for the real-deal. Talk down at the gun shop and diner pegged it as moral decay and liberal wishing-washing. It was weakening the fabric of the Heartland, crooked politicians making it bad for everybody else over coffee and eggs. That’s when the strings began to unravel, one for every hole, at the corners of buildings and under the frames of pickup trucks. They began to curl at the edges of leaves of the trees and in the webbing between fingers and toes, like the loose threads of a sweater, plucked and pulled.

Rick from the corner store said that it was just that the strings that held things together in the world had come undone. They were coming apart bit by bit until the holes began to appear, the spaces in between all things. It happened sometimes, he said, when they loosened up from overuse, something to do with the time-space continuum. Rick was a stoner from the community college who drove an old hatchback and mooched off of his girlfriend, so nobody really took him seriously. Nobody else had an answer either, not the mayor or the six o’clock news, so Holkum Springs continued to unwind, a little every day. People and houses and cars frayed around the edges, loosening up like straw-men, fearful of gusts of breeze that could sweep up their threads and carry them away until they unraveled completely.

After a few beers on a Tuesday night Rick got into his hatchback and drove past the train yards where the first holes appeared. Sitting around wasn’t going anybody any good, so with a flashlight in hand he wandered down the dirt road behind the Henderson’s farm until he found the first hole. It had grown since it first appeared, swelling up wider with each loosened string. Nosing around the hole with the toe of his shoe, Rick found a thread torn free of its mouth. He scratched his head and shrugged his shoulders, and stooping to take the thread he tugged on it, tugged and tugged until the hole closed up. Rick kept tugging, until the holes in the water tower and the church closed, the drug store and the barber shop and the fire station sealed shut with the sound of laces pulled up tight.

When Holkum Springs woke up the next morning, all the people were pulled back together again, with their dogs and pick-up trucks, strings taut and edges smoothed over. Half the town ran down to church, the other to the liquor store, and no one was talking about the apocalypse anymore. Rick just tugged the tread and tied it off, digging a pen and pad from the book-bag in his backseat. He left the thread where he found it, with a note, “In case of Armageddon, pull.”

"In Case of Armaggedon"
Copyright: © 2010 Magen Toole
Magen Toole is a writer and student from Texas, whose work has appeared in MicroHorror, Everyday Weirdness, The Battered Suitcase, and others. Her blog can be found here


  1. Creative and weird story, Magen. I love that he leaves a little note tied to the thread for next time. ;p The ironies.

  2. Loved this. A great confidence in the writing from the first word on, right up until an unexpected conclusion that made me smile.

  3. Jodi, thanks for reading. The irony was probably my favorite part about the concept of this one.

    Stephen, thanks for the feedback. I was hoping the ending would be funny, ironic, but still satisfying.