The shock of your history teacher dying in a car accident hits you like a ton of bricks, especially when you really liked him. Mr. Straithen was a good man. Virtually every one of his students liked him, including myself. He would go easy on the homework and usually let his students take the last ten minutes of class off.
Of course, I was a history buff to begin with. All those names and dates interested me. Mr. Straithen realized this and encouraged me to do my best. Imagine, me, a fourteen-year-old C average student, easily acing tests and homework. I'll sure miss good ol Mr. Straithen with his pepper- colored receding hairline and his deep laugh.
I persuaded my mom to let me take a couple of days off from school because I needed to grieve for Mr. Straithen. I think she sensed my sincerity and let me stay home.
For two days I stayed in my room and when Thursday came, I was prepared to head back to school. I wondered who would replace Mr. Straithen.
"Paul, how ya doin buddy?" It was Carl, my best friend spotting me as I walked to my locker.
"I'm o.k. Just needed some time to think." I was afraid my grief would show through.
"Yeah, that's cool man. What a bummer what happened to Mr. Straithen. I heard it
was a messy accident. Hit a pothole of all things, some big hole in the road. Guess he didn't see it in time."
Carl had a way with words. Cool...man...bummer...what dialogue. "Do you know who his replacement is?"
"Yeah, some fat guy. Weird name too...Mr. Hole."
That first day in history class was a killer. I felt uneasy the entire period, as if I were dangling above a pit. The slightest tilt would send me pummeling down into the abyss. I sat through class virtually motionless.
The new teacher unnerved me as well. Mr. Hole was a short round man who appeared to be in his fifties. He was dressed rather conservatively in a jet-black suit with a black tie and his oiled hair lay flatly on his small head and parted severely to the left. It was at the end of class, as I walked past his desk, that I noticed his eyes. I had thought they were a dark brown, but they seemed to be closer to a dull black. They looked straight through me.
"Mr. Tinton," he calmly stated as I tried to scurry past him. "May I see you a minute please?" His expression was lifeless. I slowly turned and stood at the edge of his desk.
"Mr. Tinton, you appeared to have been daydreaming in my class today. Can you explain?"
"Umm...I didn't realize...I haven't been feeling well lately."
He stroked his second chin. "Yes, I understand you are distraught about Mr. Straithen's untimely demise."
"Very well then. I understand. You may go."
I seized the opportunity to leave immediately. As I literally sprinted out the door, I glanced back at Mr. Hole. He was gently rubbing his stomach.
During the next few weeks, nothing out of the ordinary happened. History class was gradually becoming bearable and my grades started to pick back up. All in all, my life seemed to be slipping back to normal ...or so I thought.
But then May eleventh came. That was the day three kids in my History class were killed in a freak accident. Joey Silvering, Frank Tills and Sam Wieton. They were riding their bikes out by Alcove Lake. Apparently, they fell into a sinkhole. Fifteen feet straight down onto jagged rocks. Joey and Frank died instantly; Sam made it through surgery, but died of complications shortly afterwards.
The suddenness of the tragedy coupled with the bizarre way they died had the entire school in shock. Counselors were brought in to deal with the situation. Although I hardly knew them, I still felt shaken by the incident. A sinkhole? Who ever heard of such a thing?
The bell sounded with its usual audacity, allowing the halls to be filled with throngs of students. Mr. Hole sat quietly behind his desk. As I walked by, he stood up abruptly. He looked at me as a hungry man would look at a plate of food.
"See you tomorrow, Mr. Tinton," he said as I hurried by.
"Y...yes sir," I managed to reply. Again, I couldn't help but notice him rubbing
his stomach, His right hand gently moving in circular motions like waxing a car. I left the room as quickly as I could.
The next two days were a blur. Each hour meshed with the one before it. I found myself entertaining horrific ideas about Mr. Hole. Everything from him murdering children to being a Mafia hit man.
"Mr. Tinton! What is that on your desk?"
I looked down to see that between my hands, one of which still held my pencil, was a cartoonish drawing of Mr. Hole. It was brashly labeled Mr. Hole-in-the-head. It depicted him as a sloppy clown picking his nose. I had no time to realize what was happening because within seconds I was being dragged out to the hallway. He stood me up against a locker, the air vents stabbing my back.
"So, you're an artist? Well, I think this calls for detention." His dark eyes swelled with satisfaction. "Three o'clock sharp! And no reading material."
"But Mr. Hole," I pleaded. "I didn't draw that. Someone's playing a joke. I never even seen..."
"Enough! Three o'clock sharp. Now back to your seat."
I stumbled back to my chair and slumped into it. The remainder of class took years to pass with Mr. Hole looking at me periodically with a cold stare.
As three o'clock approached, I felt increasingly sure that something was going to happen in deention. Mr. Hole and I in a classroom alone for an hour...the thought sent a shiver down my spine.
"Mr. Tinton. Glad you could make it. Please, have a seat." His politeness was overshadowed only by his deceptiveness. I quietly took my seat and folded my hands on the desk. He gazed at me with fixed eyes while lightly rubbing his stomach. After several
agonizingly long minutes, he spoke. "Mr. Tinton, do you know why you are here?"
"Because of the drawing I didn't do?" My courage surprised even me sometimes.
"I know you didn't do the drawing...I did. That was my way of getting you here. Clever wasn't it?" His eyes were now starting to darken. Soon they were completely black, void of any pupil whatsoever. Two small black holes where eyes should have been. Fear kept me glued to my seat, that and the fact that he was between me and the door.
"What are you?" I managed to ask.
"You wouldn't understand," he stated calmly.
"Very well, Mr. Tinton. Even a small mind such as yours can grasp the properties of holes. Every hole, large or small, deep or shallow, leads to somewhere. Whether a foot deep or miles deep, each one will nonetheless, lead to somewhere." As he spoke, I was aware of the shades drawing themselves and the windows closing and locking. "Some might lead to knowledge, while others..." he paused, and then started to rub his stomach again.
"I'll scream," I defiantly announced. He immediately snapped his pudgy fingers and I felt my throat constrict, making it impossible for me to utter a sound.
"Do you know what a Black Hole is?" Again, he paused then continued when he remembered he'd severed my vocal chords. "A Black Hole is a collapsed star whose gravity overwhelmed it's mass causing it to collapse into itself. Nothing can escape its gravitational pull, not even light...nor humans. "
He casually walked over to the front of my desk where I sat completely immobile within my seat. Leaning in towards my face, he continued, " When I told you that every
hole leads to somewhere Mr. Tinton?" He leaned even closer, his odor filling my nostrils. "That applies to Black Holes as well. There might be one closer to Earth than you think. Close enough to allow me access to this planet." Standing back up, he adjusted his suit and slowly walked back to his desk. After seating himself and straightening his desktop, he looked directly at me. His eyes, or should I say his holes, started to rotate, spinning rapidly within his head.
I was transfixed at the horrible display in front of me. The only thing that broke my gaze from his was the new phenomenon exposing itself to me on the floor. A hole. A jet black hole growing in diameter in front of my desk. In a span of a minute, it had stretched to three feet wide. I could feel the cold emptiness from the opening yearning for me, reaching out for me. But I was unable to move or even scream. I was a lamb waiting for slaughter. sat placidly not more than ten feet in front of me, oblivious to his creation.
Feeling myself being drawn into the hole was a terrible feeling. Being helpless to stop it was even worse. My last sight of Earth was the opening far above me as it grew
smaller and smaller.
Eventually, I hit bottom. Where I was or how far I'd fallen was God's guess. I stood up only to bang my head on a metal lid of some sort. Reaching forward, I felt the bars of my cage. I was trapped.
"Who is there?" a desperate voice called out. A voice I recognized.
"Is that you Mr. Straithen?" I yelled, suddenly aware of my ability to speak again.
"Yes," the voice answered back. "I'm trapped in some sort of cage."
"I thought you were dead!"
"I am dead. This is my soul. He keeps us caged here until he's hungry."
I went numb. This can't be happening. This is some sort of bizarre nightmare.
"I suspect I'll be next. It's been a while since he last came." Then Mr. Straithen fell silent. I could hear him settle back down into his cage. I did the same.
I was awoken by a scream...Mr. Straithen's scream. "Get away from me," he cried as I heard a cage door open. Then...silence. Absolute silence. I clenched my fists as tight as I could, vowing to myself that I'd put up a fight when my time came. I sat back down and fought sleep.
The policeman mumbled to himself as the coroner zipped up the body bag. "Only fourteen years old. Too young for a heart attack."
The second officer patted his rookie partner on the back. " Don't worry Tom, " he blandly said. " You'll see plenty of this stuff before retirement."
After the body was removed and the police had finished with their questions for him, Mr. Hole sauntered back to his desk. He was tired. He would go to bed early tonight, maybe even skip dinner. After all, he'd already eaten earlier.