“Stay where you are! It’s unstable!”
Startled, I look across the pit. A compact, muscular blond man on the other side of the huge cavern shouts, “Are you all right?”
Where did he come from?
“I think so,” I shout back. “What happened?”
“Sinkhole,” he says, as if the word explains everything.
I notice that even though he warned me away, he’s approaching the pit himself. His white-blond hair gleams in the now blinding sunshine, creating a halo effect around his head.
Still holding Mr. Bibbs, I rise to my feet, move a little nearer to my side of the hole, a little closer to whatever it is that teeters at the edge of the pit.
“I said stay back!” The blond man waves his arms as if he can push me away long distance.
I stop. But as soon as he’s again occupied with his own investigation of the pit, I move up a few more feet.
Mr. Bibbs meows, wriggles like he wants to get free. I’m afraid to put him on the ground, afraid he’ll go toward the sinkhole.
“Behave,” I say.
The command works when Gramma uses it, but Mr. Bibbs almost never listens to anyone else. He continues to struggle. When I shift my grip, trying to ease the pain in my wrist, he twists out of my arms and bolts for the sinkhole.
More worried than annoyed, I snap, “Bibby! Mr. Bibbs! Get back here!”
He pauses, glances toward me like he’s thinking about doing what I told him to. Though I figure it’s a trick, I dart forward, hoping to catch him before he takes off again. He’s still, waiting, as I hurry closer.
Just one more second ...
Uncomfortably aware of how near I am to the pit, I keep my eyes focused on Mr. Bibbs and try not to think about the vast hole that just swallowed an entire five acre field.
From a distance, I hear the blond man shout again. “Are you crazy? Stay away from there!”
“I’ve got to get my cat!” I call back, and reach for Mr. Bibbs.
As if we’re playing a game, the cat eludes me, takes off again. I break into a run, racing after him, reaching, stretching …
When he skids to a stop at the edge of the pit, I have to dig the toes of my wet sneakers into the sludge to avoid falling over him.
Off balance, I teeter. My flailing arms catch nothing but air. A clump of dirt breaks off under one foot, tumbles into the hole. I hear gurgling, realize it’s my breath, stuck in my throat.
I’m going to fall …
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