But I can’t tell anybody. I can’t say the monster under the grate got him when he went to get his ball. I know they won’t believe me. But I really want to say it, tell them to go check the grate and they’ll find his blood on it, maybe just a little bit, but I bet they’d find it. Then they can check inside the grate and maybe see what’s hiding down there, and maybe the cops can kill it and find whatever’s left of Jason. But I didn’t say anything. I just stood there, and then the cops said good-night, and my old man closed and locked the door, see. He put the chain on, too. He always did, but he did it sorta slow, like he was thinking. He looked at me, with this sorta holy-crap look on his face, and then both my mom and dad hugged me and told me they loved me. They said I should go to bed and try to get some sleep, and they’d explain everything to me so I’d understand.
They didn’t know I already understood. I knew, see. I knew before they did, and they still don’t know. They think some nose-picking perv snatched Jason and did stuff to him and killed him. But that’s not what happened. I know … I knew then, and I know now. Whatever lives under that grate got him.
It’s down there. Lurking. Waiting. Watching. Hoping. Hoping someone will get too close.
More and more, I’m afraid to go outside and play. At least in the front yard. Once, I’d been thinking maybe the grate covers more than a pit, you know? So I asked my dad about it. And he told me the grate kept big stuff from falling into the sewers — like kids, he said, and laughed real good. I guess he thought that was pretty funny. I didn’t. He was joking, but I guess I went all white when he said it and he stopped laughing real fast and asked what was wrong. I told him nothing, and tried to smile, but I don’t think I made it. So I asked him what was under there, you know, under the grate, and he told me the sewer system. He said the sewer is a lot of tunnels that carry crap and pee and rain and stuff like that all through the town to the waste water treatment plant for cleaning. I asked him how many tunnels, and he said he didn’t know, they went all over the city. And I asked him if they were under our house, too, and he said yeah, our toilets and sinks and stuff connect to it, and the tunnels are all over.
And I know I almost wet myself, ’cause I was like, seven, you know? And I knew something lived down there, under that grate. I knew it did. I knew it wanted to get people — even kids, like Jason Crawton. So when I heard it could maybe even come up and grab me when I sat to take a dump, it didn’t do me a lot of good for peace of mind, you know? I remember being scared forever after that. And when I pooped or peed, man — I ran out of the bathroom, right after I flushed, ’cause I thought the water going down meant the thing in the grate could come up.
I’m older now. It’s been a couple o’ years since Jason disappeared — down the grate, I know, but no one else does — and his parents and sister moved away not too long after. I guess they finally gave up hoping he’d come back. And I know they still probably think some perv grabbed him and did bad booty-things to him. But that’s not what happened.
Some little girls moved in where the Crawtons used to live, and I watch them play outside. I don’t play out there anymore — like I said, those tunnels, and whatever’s down there — but they do. They sit on the curb and let their feet sit in the gutter while their butts are on the sidewalk, and they play with their little dolls and stuff. I see them out there a lot, and they look like nice little kids — maybe they’re like five or something — and I want to run out there and tell them about the thing under the grate. I want to. But I know their parents’ll think I’m a nut job and probably have me taken away.
But now I don’t know what to do, because I just saw one of those little girls drop her dolly into the grate. It teetered for a minute, then stopped, and then all of a sudden-like, it just … just vanished into the grate. And she looks confused, and upset, and she wants to reach down and see if she can grab the dolly. Her and her sister, they’re real close to the grate, right over it even, and I know they want to try and get that dolly back. And I know what took the dolly, hoping they’d try to get it back.
Lurking. Waiting. Watching. Hoping.
I wish I knew what to do.