The hole was deep enough to stand in, but not deep enough to disappear in, so they told Piper to keep digging. When it was deep enough that standing two long strides away meant he and his shovel were invisible, they told him to make it longer; when it was longer they told him to curve, first north, then south.
He falls asleep at the end of shift boneweary, beyond conscious thought. He wakes with the cloying smell of earth clogging his nose. He dreams of burrows, the white gasp of exposed roots, the half-bodies of severed moles, the traitorous immovability of stones. Days blur together; he is digging for weeks. One trench ends and another begins, twisting, three dimensional maps like molten silver poured into a termite mound.
Gas rolls across the top of his burrows, a choking yellow fog, and he lets it wash over him, eyes red behind glass, face lengthened into a protective snout. When the wind shifts, he turns back to his shovel and begins filling in the hole, covering over the bodies left behind.