The rain had fallen hard for six straight days and the muddy ground sucked at Rebecca Robinson’s boots as she approached the edge of her property calling for her dog.
    The sky churned shades of gray that wrestled and rolled against each other like lovers, or maybe enemies.
    “Lou!” she yelled, nearing the tree line that marked the beginning of 900 acres of wild forest. Where has that dog gotten off to?
    She stopped, frowning into the woods, listening for the sound of paws tramping through underbrush or distant teasing barks, but there was nothing.
    No birdsong, no insect drone, not even the rustle of branches scraping back and forth against one another.
    Glancing back up at the sky to ensure that she had indeed seen evidence of wind, a feeling of uneasiness began to creep around in her belly. Boiling clouds spun across the heavens, chased by others as far as the eye could see.
    And yet, nothing moved on the ground. No leaves tumbled by, not a single blade of grass stirred, Rebecca’s long dark hair lay flat against her back, completely undisturbed.
    Worried, she peered into the darkness of the forest, hoping for some glimpse of movement, a flash of white fur. “Lou?” she called again, hearing the nervousness in her voice. “Come on, boy. Time to eat.”
    Above, the sky broke open again and she became immediately drenched to the skin. Cussing, she turned back to the house, hoping the dog might be back on the porch, having approached from a different direction, and sure enough, there he was, dripping wet, panting happily while eyeing her with what appeared to be amusement.
    Cursing still, she started back to the house, thinking about starting a fire and boiling water for tea before peeling the soaked clothing from her skin. She kept her eyes on the ground, her boots sinking nearly ankle-deep into the muck that was her land. The land, the house and the dog were all she had to show for twenty years of marriage and one year of widowhood. The cancer that had taken her husband Glen at forty-two had torn her heart from her chest but had been unable to touch the more substantial objects of her world.
    Fifty feet away, Lou barked suddenly, causing her to look up just as the ground beneath her feet gave way. Crying out, she leapt backwards as the ground collapsed in on itself, creating a sinkhole the size of a child’s swimming pool.
    Recovering her balance, she back-peddled until the ground felt solid enough to stand on. From the porch, Lou continued to bark. Rainwater ran off the end of her nose as she cautiously approached the ragged edge of the hole, trying to see just how deep it went.
    Small stones and mud slid down the sides of the 4x4 hole, slipping away into what appeared to be a bottomless pit. Squinting against the rain, she stepped closer to the edge and gasped when the ground gave way once more. Rebecca fell into a sitting position on the edge of the sinkhole, legs dangling down into the darkness, hands seeking purchase and coming back with fistfuls of mud.
    The earth under her disappeared and she scrambled backwards like a desperate crab, the ground vanishing the moment her weight touched it.
    Hollow , she thought frantically. The earth is hollow and hungry and it means to swallow me alive.
    Screaming was pointless. There was no one within miles to hear, but she found herself doing it just the same. Lou’s barking turned panicked and she was dimly aware of his presence, closer now, just on the other side of the ever-growing hole, and then the ground was solid again, firm enough to hold her weight as she leapt to her feet and skittered back towards the tree line. Only when she had reached the lip of the forest did she feel safe enough to stop. The house seemed miles away now and between her and it was a sinkhole large enough to swallow a car.
    “Jesus Christ,” she panted, bent at the waist, hands on knees. Rain continued to pelt her and her hair stuck to her face in thin, tangled strands. The dog

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