Unstable Ground, by Adam Dove

Ludvic had not always lived underground.

He had once been a respected member of the community: attended church with his family, valued a hard day’s work. People waved to him in town, and he waved back.

It was from one of these workdays he returned home to a short note from his wife, and an empty house. The paper felt like fire in his hand. He left it where it lay, and went upstairs to bed.

The next morning, he awoke to find that his house had sunk beneath the earth. He hadn’t heard it, but in the night a sinkhole had opened beneath him and swallowed his home. This happens sometimes in the old mining towns. Unstable ground. He leaned his head against the wall in despair and found that if he listened hard enough, he could make out the sounds of the world above, of footsteps and laughter throbbing through the dirt.

The town rallied. Efforts were made. But try as they might, they could not remove the house from the hole, nor Ludvic from the house. Even when they managed to lower a man into the hole, Ludvic refused to come to the door. They remained concerned for a while, but before long their concern turned to impatience, to indifference, and finally frustration. The children of the town would come to the edge of the hole and shout down to him, hateful things, but those children grew, as did their children, and as the generations turned like pages, Ludvic passed into lore.

The hole now sits in an abandoned part of town, a meeting place for rebellious teens and double-dares. Some swear they’ve heard him shuffling around down there, though it’s been now more than a century. They say that if you keep still enough, you might hear him cry.

They say he keeps his ear to the ground, straining for the sounds of footsteps returning home.

***

This story originally appeared here.

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