It had started a week ago; at first, Jacob thought it was his imagination, or his uncle playing tricks, or maybe even the summer wind. He dismissed all three options after a careful experiment: he stayed awake late into the night, listening. It came with the same intensity and at the same dark hour each night, confirming his suspicions that there was in fact something underneath the house. And to his knowledge there was only one thing under the house: the crawl space.
Cleaning stray tumbleweed babies out of the crawl space had become Jacob’s job when he turned seven; Uncle and Pa were tall men and such work was not to be handed over to Ma, which left only Jacob. He dreaded going there in the daylight and the thought of something wandering around under there at night gave him an upset stomach worse than Ma’s succotash and poached fish.
“Jacob!” Pa’s voice startled him from an uneasy sleep that he had not realized he had fallen into. He jumped up quickly and stepped into his Saturday work clothes, figuring that he must have slept past yard-work time.
“Yes, sir?” He entered the kitchen still rubbing sleep from his eyes.
Pa handed him a burlap sack and the rake. He knew what was coming. “It’s time to go get those tumbleweeds from the crawl space. Must be a bunch of ‘em down there; I been hearin’ ‘em scrape up under the floor. Y’might have to make more’n one trip, so hop to it. There’ll be a nice hot breakfast for you when y’finish.”
Jacob took a deep breath and answered, “Yes, sir.” He exited the back door like a man going to the gallows; with a swallow he twisted the latches that held the little door to the house foundation and lowered himself into the darkened space. He could see a few tumbleweeds in the square of light left by the hole he had entered and a few more in the light of the single ground-level window. Although it was summer, the chill of the earth under the house made him shiver. He made his way further into the space, gathering tumbleweeds as he went along. Eventually he had gathered as many as the sack would hold and turned to go back out to dump them into the bin Pa kept special for burning them, but the exit was gone; he was met by darkness all around, except for the one window, where more tumbleweeds had gathered.
Today’s Write 4 Ten prompt was “space.”