Glen Pourciau

A voice from within is telling me this story. It rises like protruding lumps from nowhere.

I’ve been watching a patch of ground in my backyard that has been disturbed by something moving up from below. I’ve hammered it down with the blade of my shovel. I checked it again today and found the ground raised and cracked, the grass on top of it turning brown. I crawled over the patch, listening, and thought I heard activity underground. I feared a creature would pop through and went inside to gaze at the spot from a window.

I wake up early, thinking I’ve heard movement. I throw on my clothes and shoes and go to the window. I see a hole and mounds of dirt around it. Could whatever has emerged be hiding in the hollies or concealed by groundcover? Has it found what I buried in the backyard? Has it burrowed a network of tunnels and in the process come across the object? Could that be related to the creature bursting forth?

I grab my axe out of the garage and go outside and look into the hole. I see that it runs deep and takes a turn, and I see claw or teeth marks in the dirt. I notice another disturbed area, near the west flowerbed. I turn to make sure nothing is moving toward me and ask myself what that would be.

How many of them are working below and will they begin to gnaw away parts of the object, bring them above ground and scatter them across my yard? Will they create a larger hole and force segments upward? Are parts of the object already in the flowerbeds? I search my beds for garbage-bag shreds or excavated pieces.

A second hole has appeared, this one by the west flowerbed. Walking from one hole to the other, I pass directly over the place where the object is buried. I kick the mounded dirt in the holes and watch it fall. If I hook up a hose and run water into the tunnels, will I flush the creatures out or only soften the ground and collapse the tunnels? I imagine a sinkhole opening and the object floating to the surface.

I go inside and occupy myself with daily tasks, but the holes and the object won’t let me go.

As I try to sleep, I imagine the authorities knocking on my door, flanked by men with shovels, and I have fleeting images of a mob with weapons gathering outside my house. I tell myself these fears are baseless, which doesn’t erase them.

Nothing is buried or rising from below in my backyard, no conspiracy of burrowing rodents that, if they existed, could be baited and killed. My conscience is clear, guided only by its own instinct. This story should be rooted out, destroyed, but talking to it doesn’t make it go away. Even when silent, something insidious gnaws inside it.

Glen Pourciau’s second collection of stories, View, was published in March by Four Way Books. His first story collection, Invite, won the 2008 Iowa Short Fiction Award. His stories have been published by AGNI Online, Antioch Review, Epoch, New England Review, Paris Review, and others.