Offerings

Offerings

Back in the 1950s a hole opened up in the garden of a suburban house in Shuckleigh. It appeared overnight. Not a very wide hole, about a metre in diameter, and almost perfectly circular, like a giant’s drill-hole, very deep.

The people who lived in the house were Harry and Lucie Morgan and their children James and Daisy. Naturally alarmed, they called in a builder who said it must be a sinkhole, but he knew of no mining or underground cave that might have caused it.

They fenced off the hole and a geologist came to look at it, said it must be a sinkhole and tried to measure its depth, but his line was not long enough, which he found remarkable.

Since their house did not appear to be in any danger, the Morgans got used to the hole and started to ignore it. Daisy began to throw things into it, a crust of bread, a pebble, a doll that she was now too old for.

When the doll went down, the hole rumbled.

Daisy, who was thirteen and had never really liked dolls anyway, went and got all her others and threw them into the hole one by one. The hole rumbled every time.

The last one went down to a very satisfied-sounding rumble and Daisy got scared in case she was setting off some kind of vibration that would make the sinkhole get bigger and swallow the whole garden. She went back into the house and pretended that nothing had happened. Nothing did happen.

The geologist came back with a colleague and he descended into the hole on a rope. Daisy watched, for two reasons: The geologist was young and good-looking, and she was waiting to see if the hole would rumble when a real live person went down there.

The rope paid out for a long time before he called to be pulled back. Up he came, holding a dirty and battered doll in one hand.

‘Is this yours?’ he asked Daisy. ‘It was caught on a root.’

Embarassed, she took the doll. He smiled at her and she blushed bright red, which only made him smile more.

To her father he said, ‘The hole goes right into the bedrock, but it gets too narrow for me to get to the bottom of it. I’ve never seen anything like it before. No idea what caused it, but it seems stable.’

They went inside to discuss practical matters and Daisy stayed by the hole, mortified, clutching the dirty doll. As she stood there, she heard a whistle from the hole.

‘What?’ she said.

It whistled again, a few brief notes, like someone calling a sheepdog.

Very annoyed with everything, Daisy threw the dirty doll. It bounced off the edge and fell into the darkness. The hole made a low rumble.

She went indoors, and passing the living-room door, she heard, ‘…fill it with concrete…’

Serve it right, she thought.

That night the hole started whistling again.

Daisy’s brother, James, heard it too. It woke him in the dark small hours and he looked out of his window. Daisy was standing in the moonlight, looking down into the hole as if she was listening. James opened the window to call to her to come in, but in the moment he took his eyes off her to find the window latch in the dark, and then looked back, she had vanished. He thought he had dreamed it. There was no more whistling and no-one in the garden. He closed the window and went back to bed.

In the morning, Daisy was nowhere to be found.

James told his parents what he had seen and they called the Fire Brigade to go down into the hole in case Daisy had fallen in. There was no sign of her.

For two days the neighbourhood was searched. Every shed, every garden, the countryside all around.

On the third night there was a tremendous rumble that rocked the whole house and the whole neighbourhood.

Fearing subsidence, the family ran into the garden to find that the fence around the hole had fallen, and where the hole once was, their daughter lay curled up on the earth, as dirty as if she had been dug from the ground.

Daisy did not speak for six months, and when she did, she claimed to have no memory of anything that had happened.

Of the hole there was no sign but a circular patch of bare earth on which nothing would grow for many years.

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