.

There is a town with a hole in the middle of it.

It’s been there a while. Years. No-one really knows how long, but they say – they being the sort of people who talk about things like this when they’ve run out of scones on a bright sunny day and they need others to feel that same sense of dread – they say it’s always been there. The town was not built around the hole so much as vomited out of it.

They also say it spits out ideas. Inspiration. Perhaps a muse lives down there in the dark, if such an existence can be called life. Rotting in a pit, every last excretion siphoned unwillingly into a hungry subconscious up on the surface. Or perhaps it is nothing of the sort.

Perhaps staring into the pit is what creates the ideas. The darkness draws them from you, tastes them, digests them, then puts them back. All the thoughts were already there, inside your head, and the void is the canvas. They like that idea a lot, makes it much easier to sleep at night if there isn’t some inscrutable creature thrashing in the dark.

No-one really knows why it lies, though.

The ideas it sends are tainted. They seem benevolent, motivating. Golden ambitions and the confidence to achieve them, squeezed into a mind too small. They sour over time, turn bitter and rancid. Dreams turn to nightmares turn to facts.

Whatever is in that hole does not even enjoy itself. Pain for the sake of pain.

The town still functions, despite all this. Everyone keeps on keeping on. They keep colour in their cheeks, smiles on their faces, but everyday the hole grows larger. Inch by inch, heart by heart, dream by rotten dream.

A few people will swear they have seen something lurking down there – those with keener night vision than most, those who spend their nights staring downwards. They only ever see the eyes. Only the whites. There is no iris. The darkness is the iris. They don’t blink, they recede.

Eventually it all recedes. The hole grows wider and wider, and then shrinks. Smoky fingers uncurl from around grey hearts and slink away. Barely takes a day for the hole itself to all but vanish. A speck.

The town holds a festival on this day, no matter when it is. An irregular festival, but a warranted one. They stop shy of parades – far too gaudy – but they keep the flowers, the parties, the stolen and rented kisses. Fireworks.

Some couples visit the speck, cosy up together in front of it on a warm evening. They say it’s romantic to taunt the thing. Let it send them lies, they know them for what they are. They’ve won. They are love. It never stood a chance.

And the speck is silent. It’s patient. It’ll get them in the end, at least for a time. It knows what they don’t, what they forget the moment the appearance of a threat is gone.

It knows it is eternal.

It was there before them. It will be there after them. It can’t be angered – of course it can’t, it is anger as much as it is anything else. It waxes and wanes, but it is patient.

That’s the real trick. They never worry about it when it’s barely there. They see the speck, and they brush it off. A small thing, an insignificance.

And yet, underneath that speck, the dark. Always the dark. Always the ideas. Always the lies.

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