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“My stomach feels like a bottomless pit this morning,” Claire said to her boyfriend of 8 months. They both were drawn to Ponca, Arkansas (The Glowstick Capital of the World) by their desire to escape society.
“Just eat then. Crap, I lost phone service again,” Jim replied, not looking up from his phone.
She was 9 months pregnant. Instead of feasting, Claire laced up her hiking boots. The baby was due any day so this was possibly her last time to hear the songs of nature.
“I’m leaving, Jim. I’m going on a hike on the Asuti trail.”
“Alrighty,” he responded, accompanied with a thumbs up.
The path opens up randomly in the tree line behind her cabin. This path is where she met Jim, when both were unfamiliar and exciting. Now it bored her, but it’s convenience and her pregnancy pidgeon-holed her to the one path.
Hiking through the woods, lost in thought, she suddenly heard an odd sound in the woods. She wanted to say it was a bird. She did not want to admit that it the sound of a lost baby’s cry.
Someone was likely hiking with their child, but worry crawled back into her stomach as she heard the sound of multiple babies crying. Her pace quickened.
Fear struck her as the sound changed. It sounded like the babies were crying to the tune of a familiar song. She began to hum along with the tune. Her feet began to shift back and forth beneath her in a sway. Then, right as she was about to burst out with the words, she disappeared beneath the Earth.
The small town gathered around the hole swiftly. Hank Gloeistokkie, the town’s plumber and loudest citizen, shared what he thought happened. Fresh glue, water pressure, and a new septic tank could cause the ground to give way under an unsuspecting, expecting woman on a hiking trail.
The town heaved its world famous glow sticks in the hole for lighting, all the town’s mattresses for comfort, and a small dog—Glow Ko’oko’o—into the hole for companionship for Claire while they figured out how to save her.
Mayor Gloedstok declared that the cause was insignificant in comparison with a resolution to the conundrum. Hank volunteered, declaring, “I’m good at getting things out of stuff.”
Jim arrived to the scene last without the courage to go after Claire, but mountain towns like Ponca, the Glowstick Capital of the World, impose their chivalry with responsibility.
Hank’s large barrel chest was a perfect fit for Jim’s chicken frame as they were tied tightly together with a bungee chord for their descent into the ground. Hank and Mayor Gloedstok exchanged code words to let the town know they had arrived, and the men were ready to go. The entire town held the chord as they slowly lowered the two men down into the hole. The closeness of their faces caused awkwardness for Jim, but Hank saw this as an opportunity to make a friend.
“So, what brings you here? Not the hole of course,” Hank said as he offered a laugh, “I mean Ponca, the Glowstick Capital of the World.”
“The mountains. Yeah. Nature, you know.”
“Great. Yeah. They’re beautiful. They really are.”
Silence passed between the two men and the sinkhole itself. Hank fell asleep for awhile, but he awoke just in enough time to ask Jim if he had ever seen a toilet clogged with glow sticks. Jim had not, but Hank promised to fix that too.
The two men’s descent was completed as Hank’s back found the soft, mattress ground first with Jim on top of him. Hank chuckled and Jim quickly untied himself.
Freed, Hank yelled back up to the town’s people, “Glow!”
They shouted back, “Stick!”
They looked around the illuminated cavern for Claire, but they heard her before they saw her.
“Near the village the peaceful village, The lion sleeps tonight! Near the village the quiet village, the lion sleeps tonight!”
“What in the hell… Is she singing?” Hank asked. However, Jim’s eyes had found her first, and he was lying passed out.
“I figured it out! I figured out the song! ‘Hah Hah Eeeeeeee A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh!’” Claire sang out as she danced wildly around the cave, her clothes tattered and her belly hanging below her shirt.
Before she could begin the next verse, she was interrupted by a large contraction as she was now in labor. She slowly lowered herself onto one of the mattresses beside her. This baby was going to be born in the sinkhole.
Undeterred, Hank looked to Claire, pulled out a plunger and said, “I can fix that.”