By Ian Woodhead
James Darwin watched in exasperation as his two best friends scurried up that rusty metal ladder, bolted to the sewer wall. The comparison to there frantic movements to that huge rat that landed on Adam’s shoulder wasn’t lost on him. It wouldn’t be all that surprised if they started to squeak like that fucker too.
“You’re both a set of cowards!” he shouted. “It’s gone now; your pathetic bleating scared it away.”
The curved sewer wall amplified his shouts, making his voice sound twice as loud. Adam and Oliver both paused on the ladder but they didn’t turn back. James tutted in disgust as they climbed out onto the surface, leaving him alone.
Were they still up there? Hanging around to see if he’d follow them up? Well, if the yellow twats were intending to wait then they’d be hanging around for a long fucking time, James had no intention of joining them.
He pulled out a crushed packet of cigarettes from his inside jacket pocket and dug around, looking for one still unbroken. He gave that disk of blue sky before turning away. This was just like Adam, exploring the sewers under the school had been his fucking idea. Trust that gobby little shit to chicken out.
He lit the cig and filled his lungs with hot smoke, he nodded, that was so much better. The fumes helped to block out the eye-watering stench drifting up from the brackish water by his boots.
“Fucking cowards,” he muttered.
James switched on his torch and played the beam along the crumbling brickwork, smiling when the light illuminated the small furry body of a rat, it squealed before leaping onto the top of a large ceramic pipe. Those thing were more scared of him than visa versa. The horrible animal shot away. He couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the class that Adam had shat his pants at the sight of a rat. James giggled. Bugger it, he’d tell them that it was a mouse or a hamster or something. He’d make sure that Adam would remember this day forever.
He walked along the narrow ledge, being careful not to brush his blazer against the green slime coating the bricks. Rats, he could deal with but his mum was another matter. She’s tear him a new fucking arsehole if he buggered up his school uniform. James glanced at the sleeve; there were a couple of stains but nothing the new washing machine that his mum’s last boyfriend had bought could deal with.
James chucked the teb end into the water and checked the pack for another unbroken cig. He grinned when he discovered just one more left, it was a bit crumpled up but no splits, which was the main thing.
This pack had come from his mum’s latest shag-piece. Some scrote called Dave, apparently his mum had gone to school with him. He’d just been released from prison, not that James held that against him. He may be as rough as a badger’s arse and a bit shouty when pissed but at least he wasn’t one of those cunts who spoke with his fists once he’d had a skinful, unlike mum’s old boyfriend. The bonus was that Dave didn’t mind James smoking. Dave had thrown this pack at him this morning, told him he’d sat on it whilst in the pub last night.
James gazed up towards the open sewer cover, just daring them to show their faces. He lit his cig and waved it from side to side. “Well, fuck you guys!” he shouted, “I did say I’d crash my fags but as you two have lost your spines, you can both suck my knob.”
That’d well piss them off. Getting their hands on the old cancer sticks had been proving well hard since the pigs had cracked down on the local offies and corner shops. James found it a little ironic that it was far easier to buy weed nowadays than a packet of fags.
He continued on his way along the ledge. The idea had been to walk to the next exit, apparently that one came out directly under the girl’s changing rooms in the sports block. Oliver had told Adam that he was full of shit but somehow, James thought there may be a grain of truth in the rumour. Adam may be yellower than a wagon full of dead chinks but he wasn’t known for his bullshitting skills Whatever the truth, James intended to find out.
He shone his torch across the far wall, wondering just how far the next exit was, he attempted to go through the surface journey in his mind but gave up when he realized the idea was bollocks, he wouldn’t be able to do that unless he could walk through walls. Still, it couldn’t be that far.
Something further down the sewer fell into the water with a huge splash. James spun around and pointed the beam in front of him.
“Who the fuck id there?” he shouted. James looked up toward the open grate. It dawned on him what was going on, those turds up there were lobbing bricks down. “Just you two fucking wait,” he growled. “You’re both gonna get a total bitch slap, see if I don’t.”
he turned back and hurried along the ledge, eager to get to the next set of ladders, he began to feel a little uneasy, James couldn’t put his finger on as to why, he just felt spooked, as if someone was down here with him. Of course, the idea was just plain stupid, he was getting as queer as those two useless fucks.
He laughed out loud, startled when his voice cracked. James skidded to a halt when something else splashed into the water not far behind him. The opening was almost out of sight, that couldn’t have come form the surface.
Could it have been a rat? He shook his head, no way, not unless it was the size of a fucking dog. He flattened his back against the damp wall. Well, fuck the blazer, James shone the beam directly into the black water. The frightened features of his own face stared back at him.
It was time to get the fuck out of here, something here wasn’t right. He ran along the ledge, keeping his eyes fixed on the water. He heard something else, it sounded like moaning he stopped and burst out laughing.
“Oh bloody hell. You stupid pair of tossers. It’s you two ain’t it, trying to shit me up. You set of fuckers, you nearly had me going too.”
He swung the torch around, trying to locate them. James then heard another moan coming from the other direction. “How the fuck are they doing that?” he whispered.
He looked up and saw two faces staring down at him.
“Who are you talking to?” Adam’s voice sounded tiny.
James shrieked and jumped back when a blast of fetid air hit him in the face, followed be the sound of a phlegm-filled cough. He made out the shape of a huge body beside him. James brought up the torch and screamed again as the harsh white light illuminated a tattered dark jacket, barely covering a set of slimy rib bones. James staggered back, not believing this was happening. The dead thing shambled towards him, its moaning increased in volume.
His feet strayed close to the edge as James backed away from the approaching monster, a blackened arm shot out of the water and fastened around his ankle. Before he could react, a flesh-shrunken head followed the arm. The jaw opened and ragged chisel like teeth bit through his school trousers and into his flesh.
The intense pain shot through him like fire. He felt his mind close to locking up, James was vaguely aware of the other one reaching out towards him; its excitable groans were the only sound that he could hear. Suddenly, the one in the water pulled, James slipped, his head cracked against the concrete. The dead thing slowly dragged him into the freezing water, it lunged once more and bit into his inner thigh. The sewer water filled his open mouth before he could cry out.