Hell Holes: What Lurks Below
by Donald Firesmith
Genre: Apocalyptic, SciFi, Modern
Paranormal 166 pages
It’s August in Alaska, and geology professor Jack Oswald prepares for the new school year. But when hundreds of huge holes mysteriously appear overnight in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle, Jack receives an unexpected phone call. An oil company exec hires Jack to investigate, and he picks his climatologist wife and two of their graduate students as his team. Uncharacteristically, Jack also lets Aileen O’Shannon, a bewitchingly beautiful young photojournalist, talk him into coming along as their photographer. When they arrive in the remote oil town of Deadhorse, the exec and a biologist to protect them from wild animals join the team. Their task: to assess the risk of more holes opening under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the wells and pipelines that feed it. But they discover a far worse danger lurks below. When it emerges, it threatens to shatter Jack’s unshakable faith in science. And destroy us all…
After seconds that seemed to stretch into eternity, the cigarette butt tumbled past Mark and eventually reached the depth where the concentration of methane and hydrogen sulfide reached explosive levels.
There was a deafening whoosh, and a huge fireball the size of the hole erupted from the pit. Luckily, the blast from the explosion blew us backwards, away from the hole. That was the only thing that saved us from the intense heat radiating from the colossal swirling ball of fire and smoke that had roared from the crater. It felt like I was standing next to a hundred heat lamps, and I heard the sizzling sound of my hair and beard beginning to burn on the side of my head that faced the flames. Turning my back to the hole, I immediately used my hands to extinguish my burning hair before it could seriously burn me. Disgusted by the stench of a mixture of burnt hair and rotten eggs, I picked myself up and looked back towards the hole. Above us, a huge pillar of smoke rose like the ash cloud of an erupting volcano. Looking back down, we saw the burning nylon rope continue to rise until its end slipped over the edge of the hole. Only a little of Mark’s smoldering body harness was still attached to its end.
“No!” We heard Jill’s horror-filled scream coming loudly over our walkie-talkies, followed less than a second later when her anguished cry reached us from across the pit. I could just make out Jill’s wavering form through the turbulent superheated air rising up between us as she raced back around the hole.
I looked over to where Kowalski was standing, staring in disbelief at the fiery pit his thoughtlessness had created. I was beyond furious. The next thing I knew, I had him by the jacket and was screaming in his face, “You Goddamned careless son of a bitch! Weren’t you listening? Didn’t you hear me say there was hydrogen sulfide in the pit?”
“Buh, buh, but…” he stammered as he tried to back away from me.
Without realizing it, I was slowly backing him up to the hole. I might have backed him over the edge had Bill not forced himself between us. “That’s enough!” he commanded.
Suddenly, I realized what I was doing and let go. It was clear from his expression that he’d had no idea that the gasses in the bottom of the hole were flammable, let alone sufficiently concentrated to be explosive.
My fiery rage died as I turned my anger inward. Kowalski hadn’t killed Mark. I had. I was in charge and responsible for the lives of my team. I should have spotted the danger sooner. Mark was my student, so I should have sent him up first. Worst of all, I had seen Kowalski smoking next to the hole and done nothing. I turned my back on the hole and wearily walked away across the empty tundra.
Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton
When hundreds of huge holes mysteriously appeared overnight inthe frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle, geologist Jack Oswald picked Angele Menendez, his climatologist wife, to determine if the record temperatures due to climate change was the cause. But the holes were not natural. They were unnatural portals for an invading army of demons. Together with Aileen O'Shannon, a 1,400-year-old sorceress demon-hunter, the three survivors of the research team sent to study the holes had only one chance: to flee down the dangerous Dalton Highway towards the relative safety of Fairbanks. However, the advancing horde of devils, imps, hellhounds, and gargoyles will stop at nothing to prevent their prey from escaping. It is a 350-mile race with simple rules. Win and live; lose and die...
That was when I noticed it: the faint sulfurous smell that was a sure sign I was sitting next to a demon. Somehow a demon had disguised himself as a human! I was too shocked to hide my sudden panic, and he realized he’d been recognized.
His appearance shimmered for an instant, and then suddenly, the injured man disappeared and I could see his true form. He was a devil, one of the higher demons that commanded the hellhounds, gargoyles, and imps. Now I could see him for what he truly was: hideously ugly and doubly naked. Not only was he sitting there without any clothes, he was grotesquely nude because, like all demons, he lacked anything we would call skin. Under a transparent membrane, his dark red muscles and the purplish arteries and veins that fed them were clearly visible. Still, it wasn’t the small horn-like projections of bone on either side of his skull, his yellow goat-like eyes, or even his repulsive body that terrified me. It was the demon’s impossibly large mouth. The monstrous creature was like a python, able to dislocate its jawbones to swallow animals larger than its head. His upper and lower jaws formed a near perfect circle of triangular serrated teeth. He leaned towards me, and I did what any reasonable person would do when facing imminent death by being eaten alive. I screamed.
A computer geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software- and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He is also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat worrying whether the term “distinguished” makes him sound more like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still more red than gray.
By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, his son Dane, and varying numbers of dogs, cats, and birds.
The idea for this book series came to me when I first heard of the discovery of several large mysterious holes in the permafrost of the Yamal Peninsula in Northern Siberia in mid-July of 2014. By the summer of 2015, some 20 to 30 such holes had been spotted. As in the book, scientists have measured high levels of methane gas in the holes. The holes are mysterious because of their large size, their existence in frozen ground (permafrost), their steep cylindrical shapes, and the fact that the contents of the holes is nowhere to be found.
There is no scientific consensus as to their cause. Scientific explanations have ranged from the explosive release of methane from buried methane hydrate ice to the melting of pingos (i.e., large dirt-covered plugs of ice) due to rising temperatures from Global Climate Change. Other less-believable proposed explanations have included meteor strikes and alien excavations. The best current scientific explanation is that as warming temperatures melt the ice in pingos, the pressure on the underlying methane hydrate ice decreases, causing methane explosions that blow out the soil that once topped the pingos. The holes are essentially the voids left behind once the pingo’s ice has melted.
The Hell Holes series is based on the following scenario: (1) thousands of such holes begin to show up around the entire Arctic including Alaska, (2) these holes were even larger than the initial ones in Siberia, and (3) there really is an “alien” connection with the holes.
For more information on the real Siberian holes, see: