Author: Robb White
The black hole first appeared in Aaron Jesperson’s upstairs room Thursday night and seemed nothing more than a fuzzy donut, a “wobbly thing,” according to Emma, when she went in to look for him. She found him in the kitchen swearing and holding his hand under the tap.
“Forgot to put your mug under the Keurig again? You’ll be leaving your keys in the fridge next,” Emma said.
She was short on pity, long on rebuke. Aaron gave her a baleful stare but worried she might be right this time. He’d only been retired a year and time hung heavy nowadays.
It was an hour later before Aaron entered the room and discovered what Emma was talking about.
Circular, soundlessly moving, it seemed to just hover there. The “donut thing” crinkled the air at shoulder height. At first, he thought it might be a trompe-l’oeil effect, light from the window hitting the back of the screen just right and producing this strange ripple—but, no, a second glance proved that wrong. It was there; it was no optical effect of light or shade. More disturbing, it moved of its own volition—a tiny shift to the right then back to its spot like a runner running in place.
Gently, cautiously like a child’s first attempt to pet a dog, he set the corner of a DVD case against the outer edge of the swirling eye. The DVD disappeared. Gone! Nowhere to be seen. Just not there anymore.
Aaron flushed with exhilaration.
More DVDs went into the tiny black hole with the same result. Each time, Aaron’s mind anticipated the thrill of the item being snatched—almost like dropping a moth into a voracious spider’s maw. No telltale sound in its wake—just the thing ceasing to exist. A pen, a plastic yellow backscratcher, a pocket dictionary, and a glass paperweight with a scorpion inside all went the same way.
But where, though?
The thought he might have been sucked into the donut and transmogrified into an eviscerated strand of human spaghetti made his knees buckle. His mind couldn’t fathom such a fate, and he remained in a stupor until the doorbell below gave its usual trill.
He left the room, gave a nervous backward glance, lest its ravening maw should send out invisible tentacles to lug him toward it from that distance. He peeked over the banister rail to see the top of Emma’s salt-and-pepper head greeting her older brother with a rambunctious hug and noisy smack of a kiss on the cheek.
Hugh openly despised Aaron and let him know it at every opportunity.
“I have something to show you, Hugh. You’ll get a kick out of it, trust me.”
Hugh sighed theatrically and headed up the stairs, his heavy tread increased the smile on Aaron’s face a millimeter with every step.
Minutes later, Emma called up the stairs for Hugh to come down for his coffee.
“He’s not here,” Aaron said, his beaming face appearing over the rail. At a trot, he came down the steps and took the cup from her and sipped.
Ah, perfect, made with heavy whipping cream and Brazilian chocolate.
Emma’s pout replaced the scowl. “He might have said something to me before he left.”
He smiled thinking about life’s wondrous strangeness, how the banal could become so magical, so monstrously eye-opening all at once. In the echo chamber of his memory, he heard once more the half-finished alto shriek from his brother-in-law’s throat climbing high like an aria’s single silver note in that split-second as Hugh stretched forth a contemptuous arm to touch infinity.