When I was younger, I needed cash. Who doesn’t? So I got a job down in Boston. Not in this godforsaken city, but out in the countryside. I’m sure you’ve seen the countryside. It’s absolutely beautiful. And for some reason the hills always remind me of knuckles which must make the rest of that green land a hand, palm facing downward.
Underneath all this green land are pipes that get filled with all kinds of shit. Kind of like arteries. It isn’t healthy to keep them clogged full of filth. It was my job to clean the waste out. Keep the flow going.
The job sucked. There was morning and night, and the intervals in between seemed non-existent. Everyday I would come home smelling like crap, but it paid well and someone had to do it.
There had been a heat wave that week. That’s the worst. I mean, the smell, its bad enough on its own, but when that shit gets cooked in that kind of heat…
…Jesus Christ. Just thinking about it makes me feel nauseous.
So one day, me and a co-worker, Jerry Stein, we went down into this pipe which snaked its way underneath those hills. And we made our way down with our bulky flashlights. By the time we made our way all the way in, the water was up to our waists, soaking through our jeans. But that was to be expected. We picked up trash as we waded through the water: tree limbs, rocks, discarded toys, unwanted furniture. Just about anything could be found in those pipes, but we weren’t expecting to find what we found that day.
I mean everyone heard stories of bodies being found, but that was rare. I spotted it leaning against the wall for support. At first, I thought it was just a shadow or the lights playing tricks on my eyes. However, it wasn’t a trick or an illusion. It was substantial, and all too real. We approached it cautiously, assuming it was just an injured animal of some sort.
We were proven wrong when it moved. It was a man or at least something resembling a man. I mean, it looked like me and you. It had all the right features except something was off — the bloated stomach, the sunken eyes, and the rancid smell.
Its wet body glistened in the light as it stood there shivering. The whole time it hugged itself tight, trying to retain some warmth. Its breathing was ragged and heavy. Each breath took a considerable amount of energy from the thing’s body. I wonder how long we stood there in awe and fear till it collapsed.
Jerry told me to go outside, get above the surface and get some help. I argued with him, but he just wouldn’t listen. He was always a stubborn bastard.
I ran as fast as I possibly could, my chest on fire. The whole time I ran I felt something bad was going to happen. Call it intuition if you will, but some gut feeling told me there wouldn’t just be one body on the stretcher.
When I came back with some cops and other guys from my company, we went down into the dark. The thing was gone and so was Jerry. There was no trace to be found of either one of them. Nothing to even say they existed at one time or another.
Then we combed the countryside, looking in every niche, every cranny; anywhere a body would fit, we searched. For all our effort we ended up going home empty handed. The cops filed a missing person report. It’s probably stored away in some basement, covered in dust, forgotten by all except me and those who still remember Jerry.
There’s something I forgot to mention. The cops did find Jerry or at least part of him. An index finger was found in the pipe, floating on top of the murky water like a lily. The fingerprint came back inconclusive and couldn’t be matched up to an owner. The only person who knows what truly happened is Jerry, and that thing. Perhaps Jerry is still down there somewhere underneath our feet, stumbling blindly through the darkness.
Grant Wamack has work that is due to appear in Saucytooth’s 365 Days of Dementia. He has been published in Nemonymous 8, Polluto #2, and 365 Tomorrows. He lives and dies daily as a student at Northern Illinois University. You can hear him talk about nothing at http://grantwamack.blogspot.com/. If you haven’t had enough nothingness, you might as well visit him at http://www.myspace.com/gsmooth101.