Hole
“Swamp Thing’s Gotta Give”
Santa Teresa, California
Foggy
S01 E05

Hana got up early again, and Alix isn’t sure where they are. They left their laptop open on the kitchen table but are nowhere in sight. Alix tries not to look at the screen, but ultimately caves. In its current state, Hana’s magnum opus is hardly more than a blinking cursor.

Alix wriggles into some flip-flops and steps out into the heavy morning fog. They say hello to the neighbor’s horses, check Dolly’s garden, and start counting the lizards that scurry in and out of the holes all over the ranch.

Once Alix counts twenty or thirty lizards, they typically join Dolly for coffee. Today, however, Alix decides to retrace their steps back to the woods, keeping a safe distance from the sheep pen. Alix’s memory of the sheep chase is cloudy, leading them to question whether they made up details like the swamp, if not the entire scene.

Trekking through the woods, Alix checks the weather on their phone. It’s 59 degrees and foggy, illustrated by a grey, gloomy backdrop not too dissimilar from the actual environment. They swipe left in the app to review their other saved cities: 62 degrees and sunny in New York, 59 degrees and mostly cloudy in Tokyo. They watch the grey clouds animate across the screen, wondering if they’ll ever get to see them in person. Shortly after Alix and Hana became friends, they swore to visit Japan together once they had found their respective successes. The milestone always felt a little less concrete to Alix. Alix swipes up to close the app, comes down from the clouds of Japan and lands back in the fog of Santa Teresa.

It turns out Alix hadn’t made up the swamp. They approach the edge of the slimy, green surface, a hint of water peeking through the layer of algae and duckweed. Driven by god knows what reason, they crouch down, digging their heels deep into the mud on the bank and gather up a handful of wet earth. They begin shaping the mud into figures meant to resemble the carvings from Dolly’s art collection. The mud sculpture keeps running through Alix’s fingers, but as it dries, its shape begins to hold.

As they reach for another helping of mud, a small dash of fuschia darts across the swamp’s surface, causing Alix to jump. They follow its movement as it grazes over some lily pads,and disappears behind a fallen tree.

Alix stands up, ready to run, but find that they’re ankles-deep in the mud. They yank themselves out foot by foot, and take a few soggy steps back from the swamp. They hope that Hana packed an extra pair of shoes.

They instinctively look behind them to find the fog slowly creeping into the woods. An unusually chilly breeze hits the back of their neck. Turning around again to face the source of the breeze, they find that the swamp is now sparkling in sunlight. The bright light washes everything out, and Alix feels that the spooky fuschia thing has moved on. The temperature in Santa Teresa goes up 5 degrees.

Alix considers investigating further, and crazy possibilities run through their head. Maybe the fuschia thing was trying to lead them to the missing sheep. Maybe it was leading them to more trouble. They take in the energy and vibe of their surroundings. Sensing neither a threat nor an invitation, Alix makes a safe, intuitive judgement to head back.

As they emerge from the woods, they notice a white bird at the edge of the property that seems to be frozen in mid-air, flapping its wings but stuck in one precise spot. They watch the bird for a moment, waiting for it to break from its stationary position, but it continues to flap its wings without moving up, down or forward. It seems strangely caught on something, like a kite on a string, but it doesn’t appear to be struggling.

Alix rubs their eyes, finally ready for coffee. They realize that they left their mud sculpture in the woods.

Hole
“.....”
Santa Teresa, California
Clear
S01 E06
Today 5:45 PM
Hana
Look at these weirdos!!! 😭
Alix sends a pinned location.
The pin is labeled “Ol’ Pete”.
Hana stares at the blinking cursor on their computer screen, paralyzed with frustration.
Alix opens their mail app and swipes down to check for new mail. They look at the transcriptions of voicemails from their mom that they never bothered to open. Most of them are pocket dials. They launch Pilot only to find a blank white screen, then check their email again. They finally go back to their messages with Hana.
For a second, Alix stares at the Airbnb. Hana is only about 140 yards away. They sit down on the dried grass and stare up at the bright, blue sky. It’s night time in Japan, they think.
Hana searches “possum” and realizes that it’s not a rodent, it’s a marsupial.
A small lizard chases a bug into a hole beneath a cactus patch.
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.”