Through The Hole

by | Nov 22, 2023 | Flash Fiction | 0 comments


I can feel the layers of threads, but behind them the outer envelope is rock-hard. Each time I try to get through, my thin legs are sucked into the silk of the cocoon. Each time I pull back in horror, scared they would get trapped inside. Yet I cannot stop. It gets more and more cramped in here, and the air is stale, sparse. My new body wraps around me too tightly.

I use hind legs to keep the threads apart, then find a seam with my front legs and pry at it until a tiny hole opens. As I deepen it, a gasp of breeze, a dot of brightness and a pungent smell assault me. I jerk back and hear a snap just a second before pain reverberates through me. The cocoon throbs at the same rhythm.

I shift to keep the broken limb aside, then look into the hole. I see an expanse of blue – a vast abyss that tastes of freedom. Bitter anger stings me from inside, chastising me for the injury. But I have no option. I let the cocoon squish me harder. I need to heal…


He is barely in his twenties. The bright neon violet wetsuit encompasses his slender body. The man pulls the left strap of the parachute, squats lower and with a sharp turn of his knees rotates the board. It screeches against the left magnetic rail, slants; he almost goes off into the Gynkan Abyss behind him. But at the very last moment he twists, leans forward, regains the balance and surges on at a high speed in the direction of the Jinbu area. The Gynkan Bridge, which connects the two flying districts, flashes in the background. Sometimes the man looks down and there is nothing but the whitish haze. He yahoos, breaks as Jinbu comes into the view, and the video ends.




The message stared at Makoto from the screen, making her grimace. She imagined 6YaMaTo6 falling, as his jetpack malfunctioned, and the hard earth far below greeting him deadly. She wiped sweat off her palms and typed:





Makoto reread. Cliched. But she found it difficult to write juicy descriptions lately. The more she worked for Extreme Platform, where all you saw were supermen feats, the more she connected to other type of videos, on YouTube, full of gore and broken limbs, the so-called backstage of adventures. Makoto felt nausea rising and went into the kitchen to make some matcha.

Why did I agree to all this? she thought as she whisked the powder with water and then returned to the room with the mug. It would be less disturbing in the convenience store downstairs.

Makoto leaned against the wall next to the narrow window and looked outside. Half of the view was occupied by a huge pillar – one of the many supporting the suspension bridge, leading to the Harayuku “saucer”. Next to it, squeezed more grey apartment blocks like hers. The solar panels flickered in-between the same narrow windows; the nuclear energy wasn’t enough to keep Tokyo flying and functioning.

Makoto angled her body to peek down. Even from the fifth floor, the height was scary. Beetles of autocapsules scuttered past. Then there was the fence… and the Drop. She saw the small rainbows in the usual abyss haze. Makoto fought the vertigo and kept staring. Perhaps today they were flying low enough to see the real earth. She wished they could end this soaring and land before they fell.

Everyone falls sooner or later.

That was where the Extreme Platform came in: watching the videos was still frightening, but with them she was safeguarded against the fall and could quieten her somnambulant curiosity without going out at all.


The Banto “saucer” was the greenest of the districts. Hills, small squares of meadows, groves of dwarf pines and birches, even a miniature lake in the centre. It was the favourite place for weekend picnics.

Makoto and her friends chose the “cliffs” for their graduation barbeque. The rocky slopes were craggy in places, covered in sparse vegetation, and dropped into a small bushy ravine. Their group of six climbed to the small plateau at the very top – that was the way to celebrate the start of the grown-up life.

Kaito and Haru were setting the grill on the other side, behind a boulder.

“A bursary? From Sony? To study engineering? I always knew you would get into something boring,” Haru laughed.

“Engineering is not boring. And give me that bottle. You’ll drink all the beer before we’ve even started.”

They chased each other around the stone. Sachiko stopped humming “You can be your own star” and threw a half-washed potato at them. “I’m starving. Get down to business, boys.”

Makoto kicked a pebble over the edge and followed its fall with her gaze. She thought of the fortune cookies she’d baked. There was one particular prediction she’d put in that she craved. Other cities await you. Taste the otherness. She rocked from heel to toe, feeling the hard stones through the thin soles and imagined a flight in a hand-gliding capsule – the speed, the turbulence.

“Daydreaming again?” Akira appeared behind her. “How about a kiss then, princess?”

He smelled of sake as he pulled her in. His mouth was open like fish’s, his black eyes glistened.

“Go away,” she pushed him.

Akira squinted, then laughed. “Sorry, of course, we forgot to check it with your dream master plan. How many boxes have you ticked off already?” he screwed his face in an ate-something-rotten grimace.

“You have no idea how much I’m going to achieve, Akira-chan.” She reached out to grab him by the elbow with one hand, while the other fist was raised for a punch.

But Akira swung his arm down and back, shaking off her grip. A few stones rolled from under her feet. Makoto flailed her arms, losing balance, a scream caught in her throat. She hoped Akira would catch her, but he stood arms crossed. He didn’t realise until it was too late.

Makoto tumbled down, the stones punching her in the back and legs. Everything was smudged and upside-down. Then she heard a crack – fiery agony ran from her spine. She wanted to cry – maybe, she did – but all she heard was something breaking in her body. She could not feel the usual heaviness of her limbs, the warmth or cold in them, not even the spikes of numbness. In their stead seeped the fear. Makoto wanted to faint, but her body denied her that.

She lay on the rocks and stared at the sky. Later she stared at the hospital ceiling. Then, the one in her childhood bedroom, with stupid luminescent stars. Her eyes were all that moved. She learnt she wasn’t designed for adventure.


Makoto was browsing through VR-shells. She felt like going out tonight. The smell of cheap noodle soup wafted from her desk, where it cooled in the Styrofoam cup. She’d eat it when she reached the diner in VR.

She zoomed in on the tattoos she would wear. The red dragon snaked around her arm. She would need just a touch of gold on the bicep. The screen blinked, deleting the tattoo altogether. Then it went completely black and kicked her out. She roared – an hour of preparation down the plughole!

Makoto saw the chat box blinking at the bottom. Mother? She shivered. Or the platform manager with an urgent task? She wanted to ignore whoever it was, but this would be undutiful. She clicked.




Makoto jerked her hands away from the keyboard and pressed them into her chest. Her heart was pounding. How did he find her private account? And what for? Users never paid any attention to her person. In fact, this Yamato was the first one to thank her in all the years. On the other hand, what bad could it do to hang out in VR? She was planning it anyway. And she could make him talk about his tricks more, so that the stupid adventure dreams didn’t come to her.


The doorbell rang. Makoto checked the time on the screen. Fourteen minutes – that was record-fast for food-delivery. She paused the video, snugged her feet into the plush slippers and shuffled to the door.

But outside stood not a MotoFood guy, but a man in a green T-shirt with a chunky tree logo. Makoto frowned.


He shoved her a transparent plastic box with perforation on the sides. Inside hordes of springy vines with fleshy leaves curled like exotic worms. She could not see the pot in this tangle.

“I didn’t…”

But he was already holding a tablet for her.




“Please, sign.” The delivery man gave her a stylus.

Makoto, loaded with a heavy box, scribbled her signature. Before she could ask a question, the man was gone.

She kicked the door shut and returned to her desk. What a weird deed, she thought as she placed the box on top of it. They’d been chatting on and off and meeting in VR for about a week now. 6YaMaTo6 could give her stuff there – simple and effective; Makoto could use e-tokens, but this?

She opened the box: the vines burst out; one tried to wrap itself around Makoto’s wrist. Poor thing, she thought as she pulled the heavy pot out. Couldn’t they have found a bigger container? She paused and looked around her two-by-three-metres room. The instruction from the lab manufacturer said – no direct sunlight. There wasn’t much choice then. She placed the pot on the chest of drawers in the farthest corner.

“Your new neighbour,” she said to the my-little-pony amigurumi.


Makoto clambered onto her desk, careful not to knock off the computer, and tried to adjust the blind. Her foot caught on the vine, crawling up the side of the desk; the stalk was three-fingers thick by now. Balancing on one knee, she thought of reaching for the scissors and cutting it off. No. Even if it was lab-grown, it was still green life, still rare. Makoto hoped more sun would make the plant relinquish some of the territory back to her.

She pulled on the rope, and the corner of the desk was stricken by the sun. She stared at the chubby leaves, but they didn’t want to wither or even pull back. With a sigh, Makoto scrambled back down. Her stomach growled in hunger. Longingly, she looked at where the door out of the room used to be – now it was one green wall. For two days she’d been surviving on the snacks she stored in her drawers. Makoto popped a red bean mochi into her mouth and checked the chat box, but the last message was from her to 6YaMaTo6, asking the contact details for the lab, which weren’t on the box or in the instruction. It dated four days ago.


The hole in the cocoon is teasing me with a cacophony of smells and sounds: fragrant, acrid, dull, rumbling, weird – life in one word. My leg has healed, but I am still not sure I am strong enough. While at this rate my pulsating case is going to crush me very soon. I can barely breathe.


Something slithery spread over her body, as if she’d dived into a vat with ultrasound gel. The long-forgotten feeling of total immobility was back. She was paralysed, helpless. Not again!

Makoto jerked awake to find that she’d slipped off her chair during the night and the vines had crawled all over her. She kicked and pushed against the muscly stalks until she could get up.

Gaping for air, she saw that her room, apart from a small space around the window, had forfeited to the artificial nature. The world had come to her and was ousting her out. She imagined the plant mummifying her and shivered. It could not go on like this.

Makoto stared at the window.


When the scissors would not cut further, Makoto would take the metal ruler and saw through the vines. If need be, she’d bite them off. The plant stroke back, gripping her wrists, trying to snatch away the tools. She slapped it and stomped on it. This wasn’t true nature, but some parasite, which would strangle her and use her body as soil. Now she knew 6YaMaTo6 was mocking her, just like Akira did on the cliff. But she would not let them, or the plant, or the fear bury her.

The cut chunks of stalks she tied into a makeshift rope. Surprisingly, the dead vines still grew and merged into each other, needing no roots, no pots. She looked at it, trembling, but for once the vitality of the artificial nature worked in her favour.

When a long rope coiled at her feet, she saw the real spread of the plant: the exit and the bathroom were still blocked, she could barely open the cupboards. And in some places, she had cleaned, the new tentative vines were emerging. Quickly Makoto picked some provisions, rummaged through the wardrobe and even packed the old tent. Back in the room, she pushed the desk aside, puffing, fixed the rope and, without catching a breath, threw it out of the window.


When Makoto fell off the cliff at sixteen, she felt no wind – only the weightlessness of her body against the gravity. As she climbed down the rope now, she could feel every kilogram of her body and the treacherous gusts, blowing her aside. She didn’t look down, still she could sense the five storeys below her. Her heart pummelled against her ribs; her muscles were starting to tremble.

A storey and a half later, Makoto considered climbing back up and cutting all the plant out. The height was too much too bear. But would she manage before she needed some sleep? Even now she felt the bumps of fresh leaves and stalks pushing against her palms. Makoto feared the plant’s vengeance. Besides, the way up was more difficult: she might not have enough strength. So she went on, slowly and clumsily, straining every muscle of her body to hold her.

She landed on all fours and panted till the trembling abated. After a few minutes, she got up, grateful for the firm ground underneath her feet. Only it wasn’t the real soil. There were hundreds of metres of empty air between the “saucer” and the real earth – another possibility of a fall. If Makoto wanted to escape, she had to escape fully.


Makoto read about the escape capsules – they were there in case the “saucer” malfunctioned. Perhaps, because no one ever thought of escaping to toxic Earth, it was easy to steal one. And the navigation was similar to VR.

Even so, her hands were sweaty on the steering wheel, and she wanted to shut her eyes closed. A nagging voice in her head kept asking her what she would find on the barren planet. Makoto thought of all the extreme videos she’d annotated – show-off dangerous antics, when real feats could be done there, on Earth. Somebody should at least try.


It turned out worse than she expected. The tent stakes would not go into the hard-boiled soil – Makoto had to use the branches of the nearby trees and the already existing cracks to put the tent up. It took her some time to find a tiny pool of water in between the roots of a dead tree, and it had an oily stain on it. She had to wait till the water settled in a Styrofoam cup, while she munched on dry noodle pack.

As the Tokyo “saucers” drifted away, Makoto wondered where exactly she ended up. She shivered in her thin sweater, knowing that tomorrow she would have to start looking for old cities and places to loot. Solitude spread to the horizon, but her heart for once was light – empty of the fear of heights. And she felt a small prickling in her limbs – the old forgotten desire to embark on a journey.

Makoto leaned back against the dry tree trunk, the bark chafing her uncovered neck. Something – she thought a twig first – landed on her lap. She picked it up and brought it to her eyes. It was a thin leathery husk, broken at one end. She looked around, searching for the butterfly.


The outer envelope of the cocoon snaps under my legs, suddenly fragile. I push the flapping part until I am out of my prison and hang on it till my wings dry.

The wind reeks of waste. My wings feel feeble as I spread them and catch the current. But they are holding me afloat, and behind the odours I can smell something good this way comes.

Written by Nadya Mercik


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