Hello, all. It is with great pleasure that I can post a writing sample today from me and Australian author John Birmingham‘s tentative shared universe; it’s a dreadful place where the Black Death, or a modern version thereof, stalks among us once again. This piece has no name, just a number. It is called 4 (5); “Sinkhole” works better.
Here goes! A joint effort and sample, JL/JB.
Not in all of his days had Bob Parker seen so many damn flies. Looked as if his dump truck was gonna get swallowed by a great black wave of them, a living storm, as he drove into the glen outside of Bayonet Point, Florida. Nothing for it, but. The Pasco County Health Board was desperate for places to bury the dead and someone had pointed out this clearing in Forest Acres.
This part of Florida was famous for sinkholes; the yawning chasm that Bob backed up to had opened just a few weeks earlier. Before all this other business with the virus and stuff. It’d been huge, but the damn thing was nearly full of bodies already. In a few more loads the county people would have to find somewhere else. Still, that wasn’t his problem. Some poor bastard standing with a facemask backed him up. This guy was standing right next to the lip and all he had for protection was an an old bandana wrapped around his face. Bob was glad to be sealed up inside. He didn’t even have the air on.
Bob paid extra close attention to his hand signals. Last thing he wanted was to get his truck stuck in a pit full of corpses. The stench was overpowering on this sunny spring day. He thought for a second about spinning his wheels; his mind shut down. He made a face and gagged.
The guy by the pit halted him. Gave him a thumbs up. Bob worked the dump bed controls, the massive hydraulics whined as the cylinder pushed the bed upright. The tailgate popped open, the lumpy, oozing, farting and stiffening load dumped out into the hole. Bob heard the man by the pit call out.
Bob called back. “All right! Coming down.” The hydraulics whined again, after a few moments the lift bed clicked back into place. With some haste, Bob pulled out of the lime-green field and went back into town for another load.
There was a problem, of course, but neither Bob nor the civil servants working for the Health Board could be expected to know all the facts about karst topography and the formation of sinkholes. Florida was basically a limestone finger, jutting out of North America into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Limestone dissolves when exposed to water. It decays into a series of interconnected caves, sinkholes and ridges known as karst topography. Lots of wells had been drilled into the limestone for drinking water and millions of folks depended upon these wells.
Wells that were directly connected to the sinkholes throughout the state.
A few days after Bob Parker made his runs, Elmer George, a retiree from New York who had sealed himself off in his house, opened his kitchen tap.
A stream of brownish water gurgled out.
“Jesus, Lord God!” He gagged. “But does that stink!”
He let the tap run in hopes that the pipes would clear out. The pipes gurgled and belched and quit running.
What the hell, he thought. He figured something must have clogged the sink faucet. He knew there was a small filter in there. He’d had to have a plumber clean it out once after doing a pretty poor job of tending to it himself. Elmer opened the window for the stench and shuffled at double time up to the hallway closet where he kept a small handyman’s toolbox. He’d be damned if he was paying some toilet engineer three hundred bucks to come out and do this again. Elmer pulled out a set of slip-joint pliers and returned to the kitchen. He unthreaded the filter from the faucet with care and set it aside.
Then he turned on the water.
A massive blob of something flew into the sink, along with a splash of the foul brown water. Elmer swore and turned off the sink with haste. He examined the gob, the blockage.
It was a wad of scalp and human hair.