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I think I read this in an anthology sometime back in the 1980s, and later reread it in the 1990s. Both times, it was in hardback story collections which I found in public libraries. I believe the story in question was already pretty old when I first stumbled across it -- I wouldn't be surprised if it dated back to the Golden Age.

I remember the plot pretty well, but nothing about the title, author, or names of characters. Here's what I recall:

  1. A college professor has invented something. He takes his class outdoors (maybe onto the school football field) to test it. At first glance, his invention appears to be a large metal hoop resting on a stand that keeps it vertical. But when the professor throws small objects through it . . . they go in one side and don't come out the other! Just vanish into thin air. Or, according to the professor's calculations -- he's probably a physicist -- those moving objects are essentially teleported from Point A to Point B, but even the professor has no inkling of where in this universe "Point B" is located. (These days the writer probably would have called it "an artificially generated wormhole," similar to the key premise of the Stargate franchise, except that the effect didn't wear off after a few minutes; the wormhole stays permanently open for one-way trips.)

  2. At first, the students are just having fun by tossing things into the hoop and seeing what happens. Then things take a darker turn. One very athletic young man (possibly a football player) impulsively makes a running leap and goes right into the hoop . . . and doesn't come out, of course. The professor is just as shocked as anyone else; he had not thought his new discovery was anywhere near being ready for human trials. (For instance, there's no guarantee that the student emerged in a place with breathable air.)

  3. At this point, it becomes a police investigation. But what can the investigators do? Nobody knows where the athlete ended up, and there's no physical trail to follow. A lot of people were probably hoping they'd get a long-distance call from Timbuktu or someplace, saying that a very lost U.S. citizen had just turned up at the local embassy, but they didn't. The disappearance becomes a news sensation, of course.

  4. I believe that at one point the local chief of police says he has some cops who have volunteered to go through the hoop and see what's on the other side, perhaps while roped together so that the others can try to pull the first man back out of the spacewarp after a minute. But nothing comes of this plan. (I'm not sure, but I think they probably tried throwing in an inanimate object which was tied to a rope, and found that no, the plan to pull it back out simply didn't work. So it wouldn't work for a cop, either.)

  5. Eventually, however, it is decided to put this new discovery to good use. The big metal hoop becomes the town's new garbage dump. Every day, dump trucks come by and dispose of tons and tons of trash. From their point of view, all this unwanted stuff just magically vanishes into thin air. (I don't remember if any other communities in the area started doing the same thing.) I would hazard a guess that the professor was being paid something for providing this service, but I don't remember that for sure.

  6. In the last page or two, we finally learn where "Point B" is -- in other words, where the missing athlete and all those tons of trash have ended up. There's a local earthquake, and the ground cracks open to reveal all of that recently-dumped garbage. The implication is that the spacewarp (or whatever we call it) has simply been teleporting everything straight down, to a point perhaps a mile or so beneath the surface, and eventually this created so much internal pressure down there that something had to break under the strain. At one point, the professor is talking to someone on the phone about this, and says sadly, "I suppose they haven't found [missing student's] body yet?" (No, they hadn't.)

  • Yes I know that story. By the way, are you ever going to accept an answer to your prison planet question? – user14111 Sep 2 '17 at 1:40
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"The Hoop", a short story by Howard Fast; first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1972, available at the Internet Archive.

One very athletic young man (possibly a football player) impulsively makes a running leap and goes right into the hoop . . . and doesn't come out, of course.

And then, out of the crowd and into history, raced Ernest Silverman, high jumper and honor student and citizen of Philadelphia.

In all the exuberance and thoughtlessness of youth, he flung himself through the hoop— and disappeared. And in a twinkling, the laughter, the shouts, the exuberance turned into a cold, dismal silence. Like the children who followed the pied piper, Ernest Silverman was gone with all the fancies, and hopes; the sun clouded over, and a chill wind blew.

At one point, the professor is talking to someone on the phone about this, and says sadly, "I suppose they haven't found [missing student's] body yet?" (No, they hadn't.)

He picked up the telephone and found that it still worked. He dialed his personal line, and across the mountain of garbage the electrical impulses flickered, and the telephone rang in Professor Hepplemeyer's study.

"Hepplemeyer here," the professor said.

"The mayor."

"Oh, - yes. I heard. I'm terribly sorry. Has it stopped?"

"It appears to have stopped now," the mayor said.

"Ernest Silverman?"

"No sign of him," the mayor said.

"Well, it was thoughtful of you to call me."

"There’s all that garbage."

"About two million tons?" the professor asked gently.

"Give or take some. Do you suppose you could move the hoop—"

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