Knacker Town

by ROB THOMPSON

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Jason cried out. The light on his helmet had faded to a dull orange glow. It would only be a matter of seconds before he was left in complete and utter darkness. They'd put him in headfirst and since the pipe inclined downwards it made getting back out impossible. Lord knows he'd tried.

They had sworn the pipe would widen out at the bottom but with all his gear on he wasn't going to risk going any further. He was fighting a strangling sense of claustrophobia as it was - the yelling helped. No, the only way out was the rope tied around his feet. He realized this was the dreaded initiation prank he'd heard about. The crew had left a newbie in a shit pipe for over an hour last year - at least he was in a storm drain.

Jason could not believe his luck when he'd gotten the call from the employment office a month ago. He'd been handed one of the plum summer jobs that most students only dreamed about. He was making $30 an hour inspecting drainage pipes. Even though it was one of the filthiest and most exhausting jobs he'd ever had, it was worth it.

The first week had been hell. After work he'd go home and collapse immediately into bed. It was now the second week and he found he had just enough energy to watch some TV before conking out. But none of that mattered. He'd go back to university a rich man, his tuition would be covered and he'd have enough money to move out of his parents’ house. Every time he thought about having his own apartment a thrill ran through him. It was so embarrassing making out with Christie in his bedroom when his mom and dad were downstairs. O-R-G-Y, can you spell the word?

The light faded out.

Blackness.

Jason's throat was sore from yelling but he gave another half-hearted shout anyway - it fell into a muffled silence. The smell of rotting leaves filled his nostrils.

What was that? He thought he heard a rustle. Oh great. He'd seen a few rats, big ones too, but the crew had assured him that they would leave him alone. Maybe that was a lie as well.

There it was again, something was definitely there. A pungent, feral smell reached his nose. Jason's heart missed a beat. He strained his eyes into the pitch black. Something was moving towards him and it sounded a lot bigger than a rat.

A small hope flashed through him. It was probably one of the guys. That bastard Donny had come in the other end to make him shit his pants. That was the true sign of a successful initiation. They boasted they'd succeeded once a couple of years ago.

Maybe the tunnel did open up just ahead? It would have to for Donny to get his fat ass through.

"Okay guys, good one, let's get back to work."

The noise stopped.

Jason held his breath and listened.

The rustling began again. The fetid smell of warm breath reached his face. Jesus Christ! There was something right in front of him.

Jason let out a scream for all he was worth. As he yelled his head jerked up and the lamp hit the top of the pipe. For one brief instant the bulb flickered on and illuminated the space before him. What he saw strangled the scream in his throat.