Hell, oh, Neighbor.

Is that peppermint?” Greg wondered as soon as the odor hit his nose. He was on his knees staring down into an open manhole, but the only thing he saw was inky darkness. Out of all the odors he expected from a sewer, fresh peppermint was the last. The mid-30s man fished his cellphone from his pocket and shined a light down the hole; it was still darker than a moonless night. Then, his phone slipped out of his grip.

“Aw, hell!” he cursed to himself. His phone hit the ground as soon as he got the second word out. Where ever the hole led, Greg realized it was only a short drop to the floor below. It helped him make up his mind. “I’m not going to explore anything,” he began to remind himself as he stood from the ground. “I’m just going to get my phone back. Nothing else,” he said as he wandered into his garage. He grabbed his heavy-duty flashlight, some rope, and some fishing line.

After tying the rope to a support beam in the basement, Greg stood over the hole again. He switched on the flashlight and aimed it down; the hole’s darkness was impenetrable.

“I’m just getting my phone back,” he said. He hoped saying it aloud would make it more true. “Here goes nothing.” Greg took a deep breath, crouched to his knees, grabbed hold of the rope and climbed down. At one point, he stopped climbing and held on to the rope with one arm. He knew the flashlight was on but saw no light. He held the bulb directly in front of his face; he might as well have had his eyes closed. “Just getting my phone. It should be right under the rope,” his voice was something familiar in the darkness. “I don’t even have to let go of it,” he reasoned and shimmied down some more. After descending another few inches, he noticed the flashlight’s glow. The smell of peppermint grew stronger.

He grew excited at the sign of light and traveled faster down the rope; bright sunlight struck his eyes as his feet hit the ground. He was outside.

“What the hell?” he asked himself as he took in his new surroundings. He appeared to be in a tunnel of some sort. Two curved sides and the arched ceiling he climbed down from were made of thick wooden logs. Wide openings ahead and behind him led to lush, green fields of peppermint. A gentle breeze flowed through the tunnel carrying the strong scent. he looked up at the hole. The rope was still there dangling from the darkness.

Greg’s eyes focused on the ground to search for his phone; it wasn’t there. He looked directly under the rope as well as a wide circle around it from wall to wall. There was no sign of his phone, but he noticed footprints in the dirt. They were much smaller than his and looked like they belonged to sneakers.

“And now, someone ran off with my phone,” he sighed to himself. As he debated returning to his home or exploring the green fields he heard a girl’s voice; it made him jump.

“Hello!?” she said; it sounded like the voice came from the hole he came through. He looked up and saw a white-haired girl climbing down the rope. She wore a blood-red hoodie and black jeans; Greg had no idea who she was or what she was doing in his house. She reached the ground, smiled at Greg and pulled a phone from the front pocket of her hoodie. “Is this yours?” she asked.

“Uh.. yeah,” Greg accepted the phone, but he felt very confused. He had too many questions trying to get out of his mind at once; he picked one randomly. “Whats’ going on?” he asked. The girl shrugged.

“I was walking by, noticed the phone on the ground. I wanted to give it back to its owner,” she nodded at him. “Mission accomplished.”

“But..,” he realized one question wasn’t enough. “Who are you? What were you doing in my house? Where is this?” he asked the last question by gesturing at the peppermint field. The girl smiled and a tall black hole, like the one Greg climbed down through, appeared vertically in the air behind her.

“I’m Cherry,” she said, then stepped back into the hole. It disappeared taking her with it. “I was trying to return your phone,” she shouted above him and fell out of the hole as if she’d jumped from his house. “And, this is Hell,” she grinned.

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