The Rip [short story]

The first hole opened up on a day so hot and bright you didn’t know where to aim your eyes. Even looking down at the sun-baked pavement was painful; looking up was out of the question. The only sensible approach was to squint straight ahead at what was in front of you. Maybe that was what it was counting on.

The five of us had finally all reached the age where our respective parents were ready to send us off to the pool by ourselves. Kendra had been showing up by herself practically since she was old enough to get in alone, while Toby’s protective parents hadn’t cleared him until that summer, with high school just around the corner. At ten years old, Blake’s little sister Melanie was the wild card. She’d been begging and ingratiating herself for weeks, and their parents had finally insisted that Blake bring her along, much to his dismay.

We’d been swimming for most of the afternoon, and the heat and the splashing had worn holes through all of us. There’s a peculiar exhaustion you feel after enough time in the water, when you step on land and feel your full weight once again. We were chlorine-sapped, feeling what little breeze there was on our strange new bodies. Melanie had reached the point of complaining about how hot it was, how hungry she was, how she didn’t want to leave yet, somehow all at once. Blake had already snapped at her twice, as the rest of us swapped glances and tried not to interfere.

All of this is to say: we were just young and hazy enough not to be as alarmed as we should have been when we rounded the corner, our minds vaguely set on the promise of milkshakes and air conditioning.

In the center of the parking lot, a perfect circle stood on end, about seven feet around.

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