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This is the shortest complete story I’ve ever written. It began life when I quipped to my wife one morning (whispering in her ear to wake her from her night’s slumber) that there were women in the pit and that we should throw them raw meat so they would not starve. While it began on such a silly note, somewhere along the way it became a bit darker. At a mere 438 words, you can breeze through and judge for yourself.


by William Butler

Martin drove into the garage and let the engine run.  Lightning flashed, briefly illuminating the darkness as thunder rumbled in the distance.

“You know what’s next, don’t you?”

His voice was cold and hard.

Jenny sat huddled against the passenger door.  Makeup left dark trails as it trickled down her cheeks from red, puffy eyes.  She shivered from fear rather than her cold, wet clothes.

“I won’t do it again, Martin,” her voice quivered.  “Really I won’t”

When Martin didn’t respond, she pled again.

“Please don’t put me back.  Oh dear God please, Martin.  Please.”

Martin switched off the engine and stepped from the car.  Jenny stayed hunched against her door eyeing him in the service porch doorway.  Finally, she got out and eased past him.

He followed through the kitchen and into the main hall where they stopped at a recess leading to the basement stairs.  Martin reached around her and opened the door.

Light shown from below, casting odd shadows.  Jenny stared down into the semi-darkness, shook her head and began to inch away.

“No,” she begged. “Please, Martin.”

“I’m sorry but it didn’t work.”

Before she could offer further protest, he lunged forward and grabbed her arms.  Lifting her bodily from the floor, he carried her kicking and screaming down the stairs.  At the bottom, he flung her sprawling to the floor.  Through tears, her eyes found the pit.

It spanned twenty feet from edge to edge, and fell away into a tangible darkness.  Faint voices rose up from below.  Disordered and excited, they called Martin’s name.

“You see,” he smiled.  “You have to go back so I can bring one of them out; give one of them a chance.”

The voices grew louder.

“I won’t do it again.”  Jenny slid away from him and nearer the gapping hole.  “I swear, Martin, I won’t.”

Slowly, he moved closer and knelt beside her.

“I let you out, cleaned you up and clothed you.  I tried to show how much I loved you; cared for you.”

With one hand he stroked her hair while the other gripped tightly around her arm.

“But you ran away in less than a week.  And I told you…”

Before he could finish, a hand reached over the pit’s edge and clamped around his ankle.  Two more appeared, then a fourth.  He tried to stand but they clawed and pulled, and he toppled over onto his hands and knees.

He turned to Jenny, eyes pleading, his mouth open in horror.


“Yes,” Jenny shouted as she scrambled to her feet and threw herself at him, “let’s go into the pit!”

Martin screamed.


Copyright © 1994 by William Butler


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