A Black Hole was discovered on the edges of town, in the woods. She started very small; you could barely see her unless you were standing in just the right spot, looking for the bugs and leaves she would suck inside. You could barely hear her unless you were listening intently for her polite burps, which created the softest of breezes and made your arm hairs stand up as they brushed over you. As citizens learned of her existence, more people were pulled in by her magnetic energy field. With each passing day, she grew larger and more powerful. And then she needed to be fed.
Her inky ripples never stopped moving. We soon adopted her way of life ourselves, so as not to displease her. In our sleep, we wiggled our toes so she would know we were always ready for whatever task needed completing. The neighborhood council hung signs promoting the benefits of lack of rest. Loitering, lollygagging and laying about are all against the law, punishable by death. There are only two ways to escape this fate if found guilty: give something you love dearly to the Black Hole and thank her for the opportunity to do so or sign up for a program giving all your earnings to the Black Hole until she feels she has been repaid properly.
I do not want to say what I had to throw in. I will say I miss it every day, which pleases the Black Hole until I feel her calling out to me again. It is always more, more, more. It is never enough.
Because of this, some people feel like they can never win with her. They make a conscious choice not to adapt. They choose a spot in a field to take a break and breathe deeply. We all know what will happen at the end of this silent protest. Moss collects over their limbs and eyes, torsos sewn to Earth, bones piling into dust. The Black Hole pulls them towards her gradually. The whole process can take days or weeks or years depending on how far away the field is from the Black Hole. They are sucked in for their indolence. All records of their existence are thrown into the Black Hole: children, pets, college degrees, cars, books they loved, albums they memorized, t-shirts from basketball camp they had kept since middle school, an oil painting by their grandfather that hung in their living room and made them smile every day, a half-eaten turkey wrap left in their fridge, encouraging post-it notes they’d scrawled to their partner and stuck to the bathroom mirror, a jar of sand their mother sent them from Jupiter Beach. The Black Hole and most everyone else forget them instantly. A few times I have seen their confused and lonely spouses wandering the fields where they were last seen. I assume they are wondering if this type of sacrifice was worth it if no one remembers anything of the person except them.
Men talk about the Black Hole as if she is magic. What did we ever do before she told us how to live? Now we have a reason to get up in the morning. Now we have no excuse not to be lazy, unlike those other people in other towns who know nothing about commitment to something greater than themselves. Sometimes I feel deranged because I cannot tell anyone I do not worship her.
Someone comes up with the idea to start charging everyone to see the Black Hole. It is a natural wonder of the world; you can’t just give those types of thing away for free. Even though it is a requirement that we see her, we still have to pay. If you forget to send in your payment, you will be charged extra when it comes time to see her. It is hard to keep track of when you are supposed to pay whom and how much and I wonder if the Black Hole planned it this way.
Deep inside my chest cavity, there is a yearning I cannot explain. It has been there in pieces ever since this whole thing began. Longing for something that is not there. Craving for doing things differently. Obsession with emptiness. My own personal Black Hole.
Vanessa Mancos is a television and short story writer living in Los Angeles. She enjoys hiking, finding new and inventive ways to destroy the patriarchy, and hanging out with her fluffy Calico cat, whose quinceañera recently went viral on Twitter.