Tamera Schlueter Halloween tale of big hole, magic shoes

“What happened?” asked the compassionate policeman. He handed me a cup of coffee that had been on the burner too long, but I was grateful for something to occupy my trembling hands.

I avoided his face as I answered, afraid he could see how ashamed I was of breaking a common sense rule — don’t run alone after dark.

“It had been a long day at the office,” I began. “I needed to run to burn off some steam.”

And thus began my tale of terror on the gritty streets of Hastings. The sun had set long before I lit out along my five-mile route. The beam of my uber-sexy headlamp sliced a narrow blue streak through the dense fog, and my footsteps were muffled in a cloud so thick I focused on the curb to stay on track.

Weird stuff always happens in the fog.

“So I’m shuffling along,” I tell the policeman. “And the next thing I know, I fell into the mother of all holes. The ground was there one second, and gone the next. It could have swallowed a swimming pool in the middle of the ocean. I drive this street every day, and I’ve never found as much as a pothole. But this was as though the Grand Canyon opened underfoot.”

I plummeted more than fell, with arms and legs akimbo as though I’d parachuted from a plane. I half expected tentacles or giant lizards to spring from nowhere, or a sequence of images as my life flashed before my eyes. My mouth yawned but I was struck dumb by the absurdity of my situation.

Now is a weird time to mention my brand-new running shoes. I’d bought them on a whim online, after reading a customer review that claimed they were filled with life-saving magic. I’d been struggling with knee pain lately, and thought a dose of magic might help. Those shoes were as ugly as the hole was deep; with crazy red laces, and thick, gummy soles. Bloody marshmallows came to mind when I pulled them out of the box.

Oh, but were they comfortable; like having featherbeds strapped to my feet. Nonetheless vanity reared its ugly head, and I wore them only at night to hide their appearance.

I could feel the floor of the hole rising fast, so I flipped in the nothingness until my feet pointed downward. Come on, magic, I thought to myself. Show me what you’re made of.

WHAMMO! My knees buckled, and my bum hit hard as my feet met rocks and sticks, dirt and chunks of cement. I braced for oblivion, but instead I, well . . . bounced. Actually it was more like rocketed than bounced. My shoes hit the ground, and shot me upward like someone had launched a missile. My eyes watered and my cheeks flapped wildly, and up I flew until the night fog enveloped me once more. I had never been so grateful for the smell of damp pavement and decaying leaves, or the distant sound of passing traffic.

But my upward projection continued past streetlights and trees, through clouds and the Northern Lights. I spied Orion’s Belt, and perhaps an angel or two. I slowed, and stopped, and for a whisper-brief second held suspended, until floating slowly back to earth and a big dose of madness.

“And that’s why you found me bawling in the park,” I told the cop. “I can’t explain any of it. But when I army-crawled along the street, the hole was gone.”

I stole a look at his weathered face, and waited for the straitjacket and commitment papers. Instead he pointed to my ridiculous shoes.

“The online review you read about those shoes,” he said, “was mine. I was wearing a pair just like yours when I fell in the mystery hole the last time we had fog like this.” He opened the drawer of his metal desk, and drew out his — my — our shoes. “I don’t know about you, but I’m ordering another pair.”

Happy Halloween, everyone! Beware of fog and man-eating holes.

Copyright © 2015