Written in response to this prompt from Writer's Digest:
You've been outside digging a large hole for several hours when you realize that you can't recall why you are digging it. Retrace your steps to try to discover your motivation.
I stare blankly, transfixed by the widening wound in the Earth's surface. The soil seems to part of its own accord, each grain moving with purpose. Timidly, I peer into the void—a thousand grains of dirt look back at me, each greeting me with a maniacal grin. Shrill laughter fills my ears, a horrifying cacophony of malicious shrieks.
I quickly pull away and raise my hands to my ears, desperately attempting to stop the ceaseless flow of noise, but it seeps through the spaces between my fingers. I press my hands more tightly against my ears, a tortured moan escaping my lips.
Then another noise joins the laughter—a metallic shriek—and all else is silent.
The insane grins of the little grains of dirt contort into looks of terror. A gleaming shard of metal strikes them, and I realize that I am wielding it; I am holding a shovel. I am digging a hole.
The little grains of dirt are silent.
I watch, detached, as the hole grows. The soil no longer taunts me; it is silent as I assault it. I attempt to look about me, but the landscape is obscured by a heavy fog—or perhaps it is my thoughts that are obscured. I shake my head, trying to clear the grayish cloud that has invaded it, but I cannot. I am aware only of the hole.
And so I dig.
I grunt as I drive my shovel into the earth. Sweat begins to form on my brow, and I impatiently wipe it away. Again I strike, and the thud of my weapon hitting the soil begins to sound like music.
The comfortable rhythm I have developed is interrupted by a noise that is foreign to my ears. It is not the little grains of dirt—no, I have silenced them. This is the sound of a person. His words echo in my mind, but I cannot comprehend them. Frustrated, I drop the shovel and focus solely on expelling the fog from my mind.
Then his words become clear.
Why are you doing this?
The question swirls about me, strangling me.
Why? Why? Why?
The fog is lifted and the faces of a dozen people become clear. They are watching me. I lift my hands to my face in an attempt to hide from their wary stares—and for the first time, I notice that they are stained with a sticky liquid. Shocked, I back away from the crowd. I look for a way to escape, but I am surrounded by people.
Then I remember the hole.
Quickly, I stumble into it. A sharply metallic scent fills my nostrils. It is repulsively sweet—in my disgust, I open my eyes.
Another pair of eyes stares back at me, empty and lifeless—they hold an accusation. My own eyes slowly slide down, taking in the delicate features of the woman's face, finally reaching a deep gash in her throat. It is still oozing blood.
And suddenly, the fog is replaced with understanding.