The hot Kansas wind twisted around Isiah Milton’s face. His mother named him after the sound the wind made when it came through the front door of his childhood home. ISIAH. It called again twenty years later, and he stumbled through the Kansas plains searching for it. He needed food, sleep, and shade, but had nothing but the dusty trail under his tattered boots, and the only shade came from the scavengers flying overhead, waiting for him to fall.
Not that the vultures would have much to eat. Isiah, who had stopped growing at twelve, looked foolish in his confederate uniform. Without some new boots and a change of clothes, his days were numbered. An unhappy soldier, Isaiah walked away from the battlefield with no plans on how to survive. It took some time before the troop noticed he was gone, and even though they were better off without him, Isiah knew they would come looking. When confederates started paying soldiers to find, return, and then execute deserters, poor Isaiah knew that with neither horse nor sense of direction, it was hopeless.
He lost track of time. Had it really been a month since he walked away? Up to now, he was what they called a straggler; someone who leaves the camp but eventually returns. Everything changed after day thirty. You got reclassified as a deserter. He had a target on his back, and a reward on his head, or was it the other way around? He had no experience or training to outrun or outfight a group of vicious and ruthless men. Men willing to give their lives to keep slavery around aren’t just dumb, they’re dangerous.
Isiah fought through the pain of his blistered feet and looked behind to the horizon to see the silhouette of the horsemen dancing through the wavy summer heat. Isiah could hear his mother calling, and he pushed on. ISIAH.
While dragging his tired feet along hurriedly, he sang a tune to lift his spirits and quicken his pace.
When Johnny comes marching home again
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
The men will cheer, and the boys will shout…
Isiah quickly ditched the song and forgot about the men tracking him when he stumbled on a massive hole dug directly along his chosen route. This hole was too wide to be an empty well, but it was perfectly round and about 12 feet across. There was nothing to mark its location, who had dug it, or what was at the bottom; or even if there was a bottom. Had he traveled at night he’d have fallen in without so much as a whisper, never to be heard from again.
Standing at the edge, Isaiah could not see how far it went, just more deep darkness. There was nothing about it that belonged to this planet except a cooling breeze that escaped from its depths. ISIAH, it called, sounding more like his mother than the wind.
Curious to gauge its depth, Issah picked up a rock not much bigger than a pebble and tossed it down. He stood silently, waiting for the sound of a rock hitting the bottom, but it never came. As he listened, he thought he could see a boy watching him in the distance.
Isiah was set to continue on the path, as he needed a hole in the ground as much as he needed a hole in the head, when suddenly the rock he had dropped was tossed back out of the tunnel.
Isiah picked up the rock, which felt bigger than the original stone. Again, he tossed it back down, this time with more force. There was no sound of it hitting any bottom, but once again, a minute later, a rock flew out of the hole, this time nearly hitting Isaiah in the head.
The rock had changed. This was not the same one, he was sure of it. This one was at least twice the size. Now more curious than ever, he reached into his knapsack and found a bullet. Without delay, Isiah flung the bullet into the pit and waited.
There was clearly someone watching him. Isiah’s eyes weren’t playing tricks on him. It was a young boy, and Isiah lifted his arm in a lazy wave. The boy did the same. Isaiah forgot about the bullet he had dropped until it came back up. It came back different; it was much more substantial. This bullet wouldn’t even fit in his rifle. It looked like a mini-missile.
“What it tarnations?” Isiah mumbled to himself. He compared it to his other bullets; the projectile was more than double in size. He quickly scrounged in his backpack and found a small piece of stale bread and gave it to the darkness.
While waiting, he again looked for the boy, but he was gone. When the hole tossed back up the bread, it was now the size of a loaf.
“Holey moley,” He took a bite of the bread.
“Isiah Molton?” a voice from behind called out. Isiah spun around, his mouth full of food.
“It’s Milton,” Isaiah said to a troop of Confederate soldiers standing on foot; their horses huddled in the distance. The men all carried guns like him, but theirs were already pointed in his direction. He was still chewing on the stale bread, not wanting to spit it out.
“Milton. Molton. It matters not. You will be forgotten. We are here to bring you to justice, deserter”, their captain said.
“You mean to execute me for abandoning your stupid war,” Isaiah returned.
“That is what I mean,” the captain agreed, while the men approached. Isiah stepped back, his feet only inches from the dark void in the ground.
“I am unwilling to fight your stupid war, but I will fight you,” Isaiah shouted before jumping into the hole.
The men all watched as he disappeared into the darkness. They circled the pit, dumbfounded by the man’s stupidity.
“All of that work to watch the man leap into a hole,” one soldier said. “We still get paid, right?”
“Let’s go,” the captain followed, and they turned and headed back towards their horses.
They only made it a few steps before hearing a loud thump behind them. They spun around to find Isaiah, now nearly as wide as the hole and more than 12 feet tall. The once small figure was like a man amongst toddlers.
“You’ll remember my name, now won’t you. It is Isaiah Milton,” Isaiah said. His deep voice surprised him.
Before the soldiers could get off a shot, Isaiah pushed the nearest man to the ground. It was no longer a fair fight. The bullets and the men were no match. Isaiah’s whole view had changed. It was like he was standing on top of a tall ladder, looking down on playful children. The men were quickly beaten and bruised with broken bones and headed back to their horses.
“We’ll be back,” one shouted.
“I’ll be waiting,” Isiah returned.
When it was quiet again, he turned back to the hole in the ground. If they returned with hundreds of men, he didn’t think he could fight them all; not at this size. He believed if he was 30 feet tall, he could end the war. Intoxicated by the power, Isaiah the giant did an improbable thing. He leaped back into the hole.
A minute went by, and Isiah was not tossed back out. After ten minutes, when it was clear that he’s stuck and not coming out, a Native American boy no older than eight approached. He wheeled a cart half full of fruit and vegetables.
The boy began tossing the food into the hole, waiting for them to be returned, doubled in size, to take back to his people. He threw apples, squash, corn. Each time, they were thrown back up twice their size; more food to feed his family and tribe.
The last apple, now the size of a pumpkin, got tossed back with a bite out of it nearly as big as the apple itself. The frightened boy left the apple to rot on the ground and hurried back to his tribe. He left the giant, who was now too big to escape the underground world.
The following morning the men of the tribe returned. They brought with them several mules that pulled various items they needed to cover the hole, including lumber. They carefully and expertly bridged the gap. Once the lumber was set, they blanketed the logs with clay, dirt, and grass, which blended in with the countryside, and the hole’s location became secret again.
It took some time before the hole was forgotten. When the surrounding area was settled over the next century, and a school was built, a school playground was erected on top of the pit. The playground had swings, slides, and climbing things. It also had talk tubes, a big pipe that let kids talk across long distances by speaking into either end of the cylinders.
In a corner of a playground, a young boy played alone, ankle-deep in rubber mulch. He stood by the talk tube with no-one on the other side to communicate with, but he laughed and sang anyway.
A teacher feeling bad for the youngster went to the other end of the tube to give him some conversation. When she neared, she could hear the boy’s song exiting the tube on her end. He sang, “When Johnny comes marching home again, Hurrah Hurrah. We’ll give him a hearty welcome then hurrah hurrah.”
While she thought that was odd, when the next line was sung by someone with an impossibly deep voice, she freaked.
The men will cheer, and the boys will shout.
The ladies they will all turn out
That joyful day when Johnny comes marching home.
The teacher carried the boy away. That afternoon Benjamin, the school’s janitor, filled the tube with concrete so no-one could communicate with what lay beneath. But even now, when you stand at the Middletown Middle playground on a hot August day and feel the warm breeze whispering ISIAH in your ear, you can still hear the giant singing his favorite song.
Get ready for the Jubilee, Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll celebrate the victory, Hurrah! Hurrah!