My parents became worried when I refused to go outside, so I didn’t tell them for a long time that the reason I wouldn’t go to school or even out on the street was because I was sinking.
When I walked outside that day and took my very first step out of the door of our building I sank into the sidewalk. I just sank a tiny bit, maybe a hair, but I felt it for sure, yet when I picked up my foot there was no footprint left behind like when you walk on Jones Beach, and the sidewalk just covered itself back over where my foot had been.
I went to school that first day I began to sink, and with every step I could feel that I was sinking deeper and deeper, and I was sure people would notice, the doorman would complain about the footprints ruining the sidewalk in front of the building, though he didn’t seem to mind or notice, the other kids would yell and scream, or for sure the teachers would rub their chins and call my parents, but no one could see it or maybe no one cared. By the time I got home I could barely see the tops of my Reeboks, it was like walking through an inch or two of snow, so I knew it was getting serious.
When I got inside the school building the sinking stopped, and the same happened when I got back to our apartment building’s lobby, and I didn’t sink through the floor of our apartment either. Only when I was outside on the sidewalk or on the street did it happen, and the next day I tried again, and I began to sink the second I stood out on the pavement, and I raced back up to the apartment, and I decided I would never step outside again or else who knew how much I might sink the next time, up to my knees, up to my neck, and I didn’t want to find out, it was too scary.
At first my parents thought I was trying to play hooky, but I told them school was OK just so long as it came to me but that I wouldn’t go to it, and they pleaded with me to tell them what was wrong, were the kids mean, and then they thought I was just being stubborn and I just wanted to play hooky, but after I was willing to get spanked or yelled at just so I wouldn’t step outside they really began to worry. I was sorry to make them so upset, and I really meant it, and I told them I was sorry, but I wasn’t crazy enough to go outside and get swallowed up.
Finally, I had to explain to them what was happening, that I was sinking into the ground. At first they looked surprised, with a strange, curious look, but then they said they understood, although all that meant was that instead of yelling at me they began to whisper to each other. After awhile of whispering they told me that I better see a doctor in order to help me, that maybe I could take some medicine which would stop me from sinking, some kind of anti-quicksand pill. I told them there wasn’t any quicksand, that it was still solid sidewalk in Manhattan but that for some reason I was able to pass right through all the pebbles and molecules and stuff, or maybe they passed through me, and I didn’t know why. So they just called it anti-sinking medicine instead, and they explained that the doctors knew how to cure the problem if I would just go visit one.
But how could I go out to visit a doctor if I might slip deep under the ground with my very first step? I said the doctor was OK, but only if he came to the apartment. No way was I going to walk outside. But they argued and argued and told me not to worry and that they would each hold me by the hand and if I sank they would hold me up long enough to get me into a cab waiting right outside the door. So finally I agreed.
I put on a pair of new Nikes – they said new shoes might help – and we took the elevator down. When we reached the lobby I couldn’t take it anymore and tried to go back into the elevator but they grabbed my arms and told me not to worry they were with me and would protect me, but I knew otherwise, I knew that once you start to sink through the earth you never can stop. It’s one of those things that you feel inside you without knowing why or how, just that it’s true.
They said I had to go. The doorman held the door open, the taxi driver stood next to his cab, and Mom and Dad stepped right outside, reached in for my hands, and pulled me through.
The first step I took I sank up to my ankles. They all stared in amazement, the doorman’s eyes bugged out like one of The Three Stooges, the taxi driver ran behind the double-parked cab hoping the trunk would protect him, all four of them shouted in alarm, and Mom and Dad grabbed my hands even tighter. I kept my other foot back on the doorsill; then I took the next step.
In an instant I began to sink more than ever before, up to my knees, sliding down into the sidewalk like it was warm butter, and this time I kept dropping, until the sidewalk was up to my chin, my hands over my head. Mom and Dad screamed but held on even as I sank over my head, and they held on to my fingertips as I reached up over my head until they couldn’t hold on any longer. My fingertips slipped beneath the concrete, but for Mom and Dad the concrete was still hard, so they had to let go when their own knuckles scrapped against the ground.
Then I was sliding through dirt and darkness all alone, their screams growing fainter the deeper I plunged.
This, then, is where our story begins.