Hole
“Aesop and Frank”
Santa Teresa, California
Sunny
S01 E03

“Why’d you bring these?” Alix asks, holding up a crayon.

“Just as a reference,” Hana responds, in full seriousness.

It had only taken a few hours for Alix and Hana to make the Airbnb their own. At first, Hana had made an attempt to neatly store their belongings in the cabinets, but after Alix’s arrival everyone’s stuff ended up all over the place. Most of it is spilled across the bed, along with Alix and Hana.

“Why’d you bring so many crystals?” Hana asks, eying six or seven colorful stones lined up on the windowsill.

“They’re for protecting us from the spirits.”

Hana pauses to process this information.

“You know,” Alix continues, now fully in Hana’s spotlight, “like the spirits that could potentially be locked on this property. C’mon. You can’t tell me you know for sure what is and isn’t lurking underneath all this.”

Hana finally responds, “Soil, dirt, probably some rocks. Worms.”

“Hey, I’m just looking out for both of us…” Alix says, unearthing a massive citrine and pyrite crystal from their luggage.

Hana’s eyes widen. “They let you fly with that?”

“Yeah. Spiritual safety is important business.”

Hana reaches into Alix’s pile of stuff and pulls out a bag of marshmallows and a flimsy volume of scary stories written for children, featuring grotesque black and white illustrations of decaying horses and an emaciated woman with spiders crawling out of a hole in her cheek. You know what we’re talking about.

A packet of hot sauce falls out from between the book’s pages. They both stare at the hot sauce packet, now lying suspiciously still on the bed sheets in front of them.

“Was that a bookmark?” Hana asks.

“That’s just some hot sauce.”

Hana laughs.

Alix sighs, picking up the hot sauce packet and fishing a bottle of damascan rose facial serum out of Hana’s toiletry case. Holding one in each hand, Alix puppets the hot sauce packet and serum bottle, giving each a toy soldier-like swagger.

Hana opens their mouth to say something clever, but Alix interrupts in a lower voice than usual, pretending to be the hot sauce packet.

“Oh. Hey, Aesop.”

Alix switches to another voice, goofier and airier, meant to come from the facial serum bottle.

“Hey, Frank. What’s up?”

“Just wondering what’s over that mountain,” Frank says, motioning towards a nearby pillow.

“Are you asking me on a hike?” Aesop asks.

Alix looks up from the puppets, making eye contact with Hana.

“Why’d you stop?” Hana asks.

“You’re the screenwriter,” Alix says. “Help me out.”

Hana takes a deep breath.

“Okay,” they start. “So, it’s definitely not a hike.”

“Oh yeah?” Alix asks, getting excited.

“They’re stranded in a desert. They have been for days. And that’s not a mountain. It’s a sand dune. Maybe the last sand dune they’ll ever cross, if they even make it that far.”

Alix turns serious and walks the hot sauce packet and serum bottle closer to the pillow/sand dune.

“Aesop sees a well at the top of the sand dune,” Hana continues.

“C’mon,” Alix makes Aesop say. “I think I can see a well up there. We just have to go a little further.”

“Okay,” Alix says in Frank’s voice.

Alix walks Frank and Aesop to the top of the pillow, and then looks to Hana for the next plot point. Hana closes their eyes.

“It was a mirage, wasn’t it?” Alix asks. “Yeah,” Hana confirms, sadly.

Alix looks down at Frank and Aesop, letting Hana’s sadness wash over them.

“Wait, no, it can’t be a mirage,” Hana blurts, anticipating Alix’s disappointment. “One of them would’ve known it wasn’t there already. They wouldn’t have — ”

“No,” Alix cuts Hana off. “Frank knew it wasn’t there. They just went along with Aesop because they love them.”

“Oh. Well… I guess this is where it ends.” Hana says. “For Aesop at least. Frank the hot sauce packet can survive the heat, obviously. They’ve been hot all their life. But the facial serum was never tested in such extreme environmental conditions.”

They’re both quiet.

“Sorry,” Hana concludes.

Alix thinks for a second.

“I know what to do,” they say in Frank’s voice.

Alix tears open the bag of marshmallows and spills them onto the bed. They move the hot sauce packet towards the pile of marshmallows. Frank picks up the marshmallows, one by one, and begins to stack them in a circle. Hana watches in silence, masking their excitement.

After a couple minutes of watching the hot sauce packet stack marshmallows, Hana realizes what Frank is building: an igloo, just big enough for one 0.9 ounce facial serum bottle.

Frank finishes stacking the marshmallows, turns to Aesop, and says,

“Okay. Go cool off before it melts. I’ll look for water.”

Alix and Hana are quiet, digesting the happy ending.

“Wow,” Hana smiles.

Alix’s face lights up. “You’re so romantic that you forgot that when ice melts it turns into water.”

“Oh yeah,” Alix laughs. “Oh well.”

They’re both quiet again, and calm, gazing at each other. Hana’s eyes start to wander around the room.

“Look,” Hana gasps, pointing to the window. “You can see the sheep from here.”

Alix saw the sheep earlier. Their eyes are still locked on Hana.

“Cute, right?”

“Yeah.”

Hole
“They Usually Come Back”
Santa Teresa, California
Sunny
S01 E04

Jetting through the dry Santa Teresa terrain, Alix is quickly learning that sheep run faster than people. Faster than Alix, at least. It’s a fact they’d typically ask Hana to check, but Hana isn’t around right now. In fact, Alix hasn’t seen Hana all day.

Alix is surrounded on all sides by vast, yellow hills met by green blotchy mountains. The dry grass crunches beneath their feet. Ahead, a sheep outpaces Alix by twenty feet at least. Alix can’t tell how long they’ve been running, but it feels like hours. For a while, Alix and the sheep were running in circles, but now they’re gunning directly towards the woods.

After crossing into the thick of trees, Alix has no advantage and loses sight of the sheep. Alix stumbles over a tree root and gives up completely. Winded as hell, they survey their surroundings. Through a tangle of foliage and vines, Alix can make out a sun-speckled swamp nearby, its algal surface bursting with green amongst the muddier colors. It’s ominously still and quiet, reinforcing the fact that the sheep is long gone. Alix catches their breath for a few minutes, hoping the sheep will come back, but it doesn’t.

Heading sullenly back towards the Airbnb, Alix hesitantly dials Hana, unsure how to break the news.

“What’s up?” Hana answers.

“Hey, where are you?” Alix stutters.

“I went into town for a few things. You sound worried.”

“Um,” Alix starts. “A sheep escaped. The fence — ”

“What?”

“I accidentally let a sheep loose.”

“Okay,” Hana processes, keeping their cool. “Where is it now?”

“It’s gone. It ran into the woods. I couldn’t catch it.”

“How did it get out?”

“I don’t want to get into it.”

“Fine,” Hana says, worry manifesting in their voice. “You need to tell Dolly. Like, now.”

“I don’t know where she is.”

“Knock on her door. We’re probably going to get asked to leave. Seriously. How did the sheep get out?”

“I really don’t wanna talk about it. I’ll find Dolly.”

Alix ends the call and heads towards Dolly’s house, a chalk white barn with sharp geometric features and strangely placed windows. There’s a horrible bug on the welcome mat that looks like a gigantic, larval grasshopper. Alix swears the demon is making eye contact, surely a judgmental stare. Alix rings the plastic doorbell, and after 37 seconds Dolly answers the door.

“Hey, Dolly?”

“Hi, hello! Alix, right?”

“Yeah,” Alix says, face burning with guilt.

“Great. I was wondering when I’d get to meet you. Wanna come in?”

“Um,” Alix says. “This is weird, but there’s an emergency.”

“Oh, no. What’s going on?”

“A sheep got loose. I tried chasing it, but it escaped into the woods.”

“Oh, dear. I’ll have to text Lisa and Shane.”

Alix is silent.

“Our neighbors,” Dolly explains. “The sheep have escaped before.”

Alix’s anxiety is paralyzing.

“They usually come back. Come inside. Lemme show you around. Can I get you something to drink? Sparkling water?”

“Uh…”

“I have prosecco in the fridge, too.”

Alix thinks. “That sounds great.”

“Yes, it does.”

Dolly moves through her house respectfully, pointing out various art and books, mostly of Islamic origin. Walls are lined with beautiful drawings and textiles with intricate patterns. Shelves house an assortment of glazed pottery with iridescent colors and decorative motifs Alix has never seen before and some figurative stone carvings that look somewhat cartoonish. Details from the Airbnb, like the dishes and glassware, the fruit bowl, and the carpets, reveal themselves to be part of a bigger whole that lives in Dolly’s home. Alix is reminded of going over to a friend’s house for the first time and learning where they come from.

In an upstairs hallway, Alix’s eyes graze a framed photograph of Dolly, smiling brightly, with her arm around the waist of a woman wearing an ornate fuchsia scarf, crows feet around her eyes and salt and pepper hair. Dolly passes it without commentary.

Dolly seems a little distracted by the time they get back to the kitchen, so the two sip their prosecco in silence. Dolly gazes out the window, facing a small hill backdropped by the bigger mountains. Alix and Hana’s house is barely visible, just a corner sticking out from behind the hill.

Finally feeling relaxed, Alix asks, “The sheep really come back?”

“They have before.”

“How do they know to?”

“They’re not like people. They don’t really have a choice.”

Alix takes a long, slow sip of prosecco. Dolly seems completely transfixed. Alix watches Dolly lift a hand to her face, as if to wipe away a tear.

“Is everything okay?” Alix asks.

Dolly clears her throat, and faces Alix again. “I’ve been here for 30 years. I look out of this window almost every day. At one point, I thought I knew every inch of the land by heart. But now I realize that things are always changing.”

“What’s different?”

“Sometimes nothing. Sometimes everything.”

Hole
“Alix’s Reply”
New York, NY
Rainy
S01 E02

A spinning helicopter seed miraculously drifts in through the tiny gap at the top of Alix’s cracked window and lands on their forehead, but that’s not what wakes them. Their phone is buzzing with notifications. Alix sits up in bed, ignoring the helicopter seed, and checks their phone. There’s a missed call from Hana and some questions from Pilot.

What’s your favorite sound to fall asleep to?
  • Fan
  • Static
  • Crickets
  • Rain
  • Ocean
  • A ticking clock
  • Silence
Do you draw comfort from leaving the lights on around your house at night?
  • For sure
  • Nope

Rain is coming down in sheets outside. Alix had forgotten to close the window, and now there’s a good puddle or two on the floor below the sill. Alix’s tea is cold and the sun is gone. A record, having reached the end of its final track, spins aimlessly in the other room, filling the house with a rhythmic crackle.

Do you believe in ghosts?
  • I do
  • I don’t

“Alix,” a desperate voice shouts from outside.

Alix pushes the window open, letting even more water into the apartment, and pops their head out. Hana’s standing in front of the apartment building, three stories below, their denim jacket raised above their head to shield them from the rain.

“Hey,” Alix mumbles, half asleep still.

“You never replied to my email,” Hana shouts.

“I’m still thinking about it.”

The patter of rain fills the silence.

Could you see yourself retiring in a busy city?
  • Sure
  • No way

“Can I come up?” Hana yells, as patiently as humanly possible.

Alix snaps out of their fog. “Sorry, yeah.” They fumble around the bed sheets, finally locating their house keys between the pillows.

“Catch.”

Alix drops the keys out the window. They fall with the rain, collecting droplets as they cut through the air. Hana catches them, the impact of the keys stinging the palm of their hand. Alix watches Hana scramble into the building and slams the window shut. Still discombobulated, they float through the apartment, which is sparsely furnished and littered with knick knacks they are unable to let go of. They land in the kitchen.

When something breaks…
  • Replace it
  • Fix it
Do spelling mistakes bother you?
  • Yes
  • I don’t mind

Alix puts the chipped enamel kettle back on the stove and plunks down on a stool, imagining Hana climbing each flight of stairs before entering the door. Lost in thought, their eyes wander over the faux-stainless surface of the fridge. Letter magnets, spelling nothing at all, pin up a tiramisu recipe, a picture of Hana from 1998, a sunbleached postcard depicting the Los Angeles skyline that they bought for themselves long ago, and a junk mail advertisement featuring a dog cuddling with a cat. The ad says something about unlikely friendships. Hana is taking their time. Alix goes back to their phone.

Do you like travelling alone?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Sometimes
For the most part, what keeps you from traveling as much as you’d like?
  • Money
  • Time
  • Relationships
  • Anxiety
  • Laziness
  • Something else
Do sudden changes in plans stress you out?
  • No
  • Yes

Alix hears the keys turning in the door and it swings open. It’s Hana.

“Yes,” Alix says before Hana can close the door.

“Yes, what?”

“I’ll go.”

“Really?”

Alix smiles and shrugs. Hana struts towards them, soaked from head to toe, reaches for Alix’s hair and runs two fingers through it. Alix closes their eyes. When they open them again, they see Hana holding a helicopter seed inches away from their face. Alix squints at it, confused.

“It was in your hair,” Hana explains.