The Hole is a serial apocalyptic horror novel, based in Mormon mythology, about a global plague, zombies, and a small group of survivors making their way across a very weird Midwest. An archive of the prior installments is available.
The doors thumped again. Melvin stuck his head out, looking at them, then at Elliot. "Oh, it's pretty safe. They'll bang away for fifteen minutes then get tired of it. I wonder if it hurts them, kicking it or ramming it or whatever it is they do out there? Anyway, the doors have held up nicely every other time--no reason to think they'll give out now." He disappeared back into the side room.
Elliot rolled his eyes slowly, shaking his head. They'd held up nicely. That was good to hear.
And they did hold up. Melvin returned shortly from the other room, Evajean following behind. She had a cup of coffee in each hand, and Melvin has the same in his right, but in his left hung a beige grocery bag, which he set down on a pew. Elliot took a coffee from Evajean while Melvin opened it.
"Now," Melvin said, holding up the food, "it's not the best to go with coffee, especially *good* coffee like this--which is from Whole Foods and had only been in the back of my car for a little while--but it'll have to do. Which kind do you want?" He had Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes and Elliot didn't care which because they both looked wonderful. Days of apples and jerky and oatmeal had him craving sweets.
Elliot grabbed a Twinkie and pulled open the packaging. He took a sip of the coffee-which was quite good--and then took a bite. It made him feel like he was home again, like this all hadn't really happened and it was Sunday morning, early and relaxed. He sat down and finished the food and drink to the sounds of the creatures still milling around outside.
An hour later, the creatures were still there, though their banging at the doors and walls of the church had become less constant and enthusiatic. Evajean had gone to sleep on a pew and Melvin was sitting with a book he'd found in the small side office. Elliot tried to nap, but sleep wouldn't come, and so he paced, looking over the contents of the church, sometimes looking through the stained glass at the huge shapes wandering by. Eventually, Evajean got up and fed Hope. The dog finished its food and lay down next to her. She smiled at Elliot and he smiled back. He didn't know how long they'd have to wait here, but the waiting wasn't bad.
He and Evajean were leaning against the alter, chatting about times before the plague, when Melvin returned from one of his trips to the office for books and walked over to them.
"Do you have it?" he asked. "I know you do because I saw it. In the dream. I saw it and this very moment, the two of you standing right there and that dog-- Can I see it?" Melvin was trembling with excitement. He'd left a pile of books on the floor behind him and now stood, hugging himself, while he asked his questions.
Elliot looked at Evajean. He face had gone tight, her lips pressed into a line. She held Hope to her chest, and the dog began growling low in its throat. The calm of a moment ago was gone.
He turned back to Melvin. "See what?"
"The box. The one you have with you. I know you have it. The dreams, over and over again, they're telling me that you have it and that I need to see it. I just have to."
"Do you know what it is?" Elliot asked. Evajean still had the box in her coat pocket, but he wasn't going to tell Melvin that, not yet.
"It's a message. A powerful message for the two of you, but only I can tell you how to read it. Don't you see? This all was *planned*. All of it." He was glancing back and forth rapidly between the two of them, his eyes watery. "I can tell you how to read it," he said.
"Then do it," Evajean said, startling Elliot. He turned to see her taking the brass box out of her pocket. She held it out to Melvin. Elliot wanted to stop her, to slap her hand down, to keep the box away from this suddenly strange man. But he couldn't, because what choice did they have? It was useless to them as is, unless Evajean could make it glow again. Then they might use it as a weapon, but right now the box was just a container full of pages of gibberish.
"Ahh." Melvin's hands shook as he reached for the box. Evajean let him take it and Melvin pulled it close to his face, running his fingers along the surface. He backed up and sat down in the first row. "This-- It's exactly like in the dreams. I knew it would be, of course, but to actually see it... I can't believe you came."
"What is it?" Evajean asked.
"I believe it's your guide," he said. "Can you show me how to open it?"
Evajean did and Melvin flipped the pages with wonder. "I can read this," he said. "Just like the dreams told me I could, I can read it."
"What language is it?"
"Oh, it's something close to Egyptian. Did I mention that? I studied antiquities for a long time, got my doctorate in it, in fact. It was my job for many years to read the inscriptions on artifacts the museum brought in and, now, here's another one. But it's not exactly Egyptian, no. It's different. The letters aren't at all the same. But I just *know* it's a similar language."
He peered closely at one of the pages, scanning over the lines of text. "It says, 'For those--' No, no, it says, 'For the ones--' That's it. I can read it," he said again, looking up and grinning, like a child who'd just figured out long division. "I'll read it to you."
Evajean and Elliot walked over and sat down on either side of him, leaning in to look at the pages. Melvin studied the book for a moment more, whispering under his breath, and then sat back. "The Ones Mighty and Strong," he said. "That's who this is for and, if I'm understanding this all correctly, the book and the dreams, they're you. Elliot and Evajean," he said, "the Ones Mighty and Strong."