“How far does it go?” asked Mark.
George looked at him, grinning stupidly like he did every time he got a bad idea. “I don’t know. I bet it’s far.”
Mark shook his head. “You know what I’m gonna say.”
“Get my climbing equipment?”
“No, but I guess that’s what you want to hear.”
George shrugged, still grinning. Mark sighed and threw George his car keys. After four years of college and two of med school, Mark and George had collected a variety of tools for mischief and adventure–their Daredevil Chest–which they kept in Mark’s trunk in case it was needed. One time, when they’d gone to Seattle to visit Mark’s mother, George had demanded that they jump from a waterfall he’d seen from the passenger’s side window.
Mark got down on all fours, his hands cupping the sides of the hole in the earth. George–who else?–had found this place online while he was searching for cool, off-the-beaten-path things to do during the summer break between finals and practicum. La Boca del Infierno, the local missionaries had called it back in the day. They had built a church over the hole, presumably to seal it, but it had burned down some 20 years before. Mark had no idea what back-ass end of the web had this place on it, but George said it was awesome because no one knew about it but them. And he’d convinced Mark to drive them all the way to New Mexico to the middle of the desert to see it.
“Hello?” Mark called into the hole.
“Hello?” the hole echoed.
George was on his way back with the equipment when Mark heard the hole add, “Please help.”
Mark spun around and crouched to listen. “Hello? Anyone down there?”
George crouched beside Mark. “What’d you hear?”
“I thought… I thought I heard someone down there.”
George grinned again. “Let’s go see. Tie me up!”
Mark knew better than to argue. He got George all bound up the way he’d learned when they’d gone to mountain climbing classes for when George had wanted to scale the Grand Canyon on their senior year. George leaped into the hole, and Mark let him down gently, despite George’s pleas to make him go faster.
George started to bounce on the rope, which made it harder to keep it steady. “Hey, George, stop bouncing the fucking rope!” yelled Mark. “You’re gonna make me drop you!”
“George, you there?”
Then the rope pulled hard, burning Mark’s hands even through the heavy gloves he was wearing for protection. The rope yanked one way, then the other, then relaxed, then pulled again, and finally stopped.
“George!” Mark fastened the rope and looked into the hole. “Bombs below!” he said, and he hurled a flare down. It hit the ground, not more then 100 feet down. The rope was longer than that, but there was no coil at the bottom. And no George.
Then the rope snapped, and the ground shook. A giant, scaly eye lid opened, peeling away from the layer of dirt under which it was hiding. Then it pulled down, diving deep into the earth and taking the floor and George with it.