The darkness had a stomach and the stomach heaved with a thousand rats. A man had fallen. A man had fallen through the sidewalk into the darkness. He had been swallowed. Submerged. The fire department dragged him from the pool of squirming rats. His body breached the surface like a shipwreck at low tide.
All through the city, people were talking about the man who had survived the rat-filled chasm that had opened, by chance, and taken him in, whole. What an awful thing, they said. He had been in there for hours. They couldn’t stop talking about it. The rats consumed them.
A meteorologist went on the air with spinach in his teeth and forgot how to pronounce isobar for ten seconds. The teleprompter had to be paused while he stumbled through language like an unfamiliar house at night. After the broadcast was over, the cameraman clapped the meteorologist on the shoulder and said, Well, at least you didn’t fall into a rat-filled chasm.
A university student wrote an entire nine-page paper on a seismograph sculpture that he described as Duchampian, before discovering that it was a hygrometer that monitored the museum’s humidity for preservation purposes. The student’s professor handed back the paper gleaming with red marks and said, Well, at least you didn’t fall into a rat-filled chasm.
A wife watched her husband, who had allegedly left the city on a business trip, kiss another woman tenderly on her left eyelid, their faces sudden against the sky on a baseball game jumbotron. As the crowd writhed their mouths with joy, the wife’s sister said, Well, at least you didn’t fall into a rat-filled chasm.
A man with rot between his teeth and red marks on his arms, legs, and throat lay under an X-ray machine with his eyes closed. As he waited to be penetrated by the light, a voice above him said, Well, at least you didn’t fall into a rat-filled chasm.
But, doctor, the man said.