He Had a Void in His Chest
by Luc Reid
He had a void in his chest. It wasn't a hole, like the kind of thing a shotgun would make. It was very dark, and it only barely had edges, and it seemed to make you bend toward it, and it made a low sound like water running over something electrical, and frightened me nearly to death.
He, the homeless man, sat stiff against a tree, his legs crabbed back and his arms splayed out and his throat exposed and quivering with wiry black hairs. A boy--he can't have been more than five or six--threw a pine cone at a passing rollerblader on the bike path, but near the path the pine cone veered as though it were being swung on a string ... veered toward the man with the void, slowed down, rolled across the ground, sped up, skittered over the dry, sandy earth, leapt into the hole, and was gone. The noise, the water running over something electrical noise, went up in pitch just a tiny bit.
I turned, and there were people wandering toward us through the park, a pair of lovers whose held hands were losing their grip, a man in an expensive suit who had forgotten his laptop case on a park bench, a pair of girls dangling Barbie dolls ... all staring at the void.
My shoes started scraping against the dirt. I was sliding toward it.
"Go away," said the man with the void. "Far as you can get."
I shuffled backward, my treacherous feet nearly sliding out from under me, moving toward the void.
"What is it? What's in there?" I said. But he shook his head, and shuddered, and suddenly he folded in on himself and the void was much larger, a gap in the ground that was beginning to swallow the tree. I ran, pushed through the people, out into the traffic that all seemed to be veering now toward the park. I ran for the river, where there were oceangoing ships. I imagined the ocean roaring in, pouring into the relentless gap, the earth collapsing in on itself like the man had done.
But I didn't understand, because when I turned to look, fearing I would see the void already engulfing the park, instead there was a light in that direction, a brilliant light that shone like a new star.