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Text: Our ancestors discovered it centuries ago. Now it is a tourist attraction, Image: A roadside billboard reads, "Visit the Bottomless Pit, 10 miles." Poem by John Johnson. Art by Bob Hall. Text: they put bumper stickers for it on your car if you park too long in nearby towns, it's a hole in the ground. Like a round black pupil. Surrounded by a concrete iris rim. There is no guard rail. It would be easy for someone reckless to leap across. Image: A drab green field contains a cracked concrete circle around a black hole like a staring pupil. Text: But it truly is deep beyond imagination…a tunnel going down endlessly. Current operators say it was built for entertainment, but it's much older than that. And it doesn't go out the other side of the world, so it must end somewhere. Image: Planet Earth surrounded by its atmosphere, a mirror image of the hole circled by concrete.

Text: There was a small crowd of vacationers milling about. Bored, standing too close, I thought, like people too close to the tracks in a subway, like they didn't believe it was dangerous. There was a toddler, a little girl. I watched as the mother unbelievably became distracted, just for a second. Image: Tourists of all ages gather around a hole the size and shape of a well, leaning over the edge to take selfies, dangling their feet in. A toddler in flip-flops perches on the lip of the hole while a woman holding a shopping bag looks at a small dog. Baby feet twist into the air as the child tumbles forward. Text: I didn't have time to yell. Image: The toddler's frightened face and outstretched hand as the child falls into darkness, a loose flip-flop beside the child's contorted body. Text: The child peered over and tumbled in.

Text: I still think about her falling. I try to believe the experience was so unusual for her she didn't process it as fear, but rather as the sensation of floating, the rushing air a wind, pushing her back to her mother. Image: Four vertical white lines show different stages of the child's fall. The child is halfway down, then lower, then lower, falling, twisting. Text: To plummet like that, on and on, unknowing, it would be a kind of freedom. One night, I dreamed there was a soft landing, just a little ways down, a sunny, grassy, bottom, where she tumbled, alive and happy… Image: The moment of impact—the child landing on her bottom in a patch of grass, bare feet waving in sunshine. Final Text: …with all the other fallen children. Final Image: The child smiles gently as she is greeted by two dozen enthusiastic children of varied ages and races. One boy turns toward her with a ball in his hands. Another child waves from a climbing tree. Another holds his arms wide, inviting a hug.

John Philip Johnson has work in Rattle, Asimov’s, F&SF, Apex, Mythic Delirium, The Pedestal, Phantom Drift, Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry,” and the Poetry Foundation, with Pushcart, Best-of-Web, and Rhysling noms. He would love to live on Mars. His comics are from his new comic book, The Book of Fly, which is graphic poetry in Twilight Zone-like episodes. Available at
Current Issue
5 Jun 2023

Jackson sat at Kay’s bedside, one of her hands laid atop his, palm to palm, fingertips against the soft inside of her wrist. His fingers measured her temperature and pulse, her blood pressure, and her blood oxygen levels. She was no weaker or stronger today than yesterday. He was unsurprised and uneasy. Her vitals were regular with sleep. She had been resting when he returned from the shore.
You do not mean this as slang.
certain people of the town go outside, kick off their shoes
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