By Alan Ford
When Jamie went out he usually felt bored. Like some people he couldn’t put his brain on hold. He needed something to think about.
One day he was looking down at his cell phone, sending a text message to a friend, when he fell down a sewage manhole.
He ricocheted off the sides. And landed on his feet in a splash of water about ten feet down. There were no broken bones just a broken cell phone. So he massaged his aching hips and ribs and looked around.
There were no steps. And the walls were too slippery to get a grip. A Houdini impersonation was out of the question.
Somewhere up there was the idiot who had removed the manhole cover. Maybe irresponsible kids. Maybe a highway worker who had forgotten to place a wooden barrier around the hole. Whoever it was they didn’t hear him shout for help. He lived in a quiet residential road so that was hardly surprising.
Then he noticed the dreadful smell. So he tied his handkerchief around his face. At least there wasn’t a fat-berg to block him in.
There must, after all, be other entrances, somewhere with steps leading up to the street. He just had to find one. So he began to splash his way through the ankle high water until he came to a junction. There were two other tunnels to choose from but they had very low ceilings. Not built for human transit.
After a while he had an irrational thought. Maybe he would never get out. Maybe he would spend the rest of his life trudging around like a sewage version of the phantom of the opera. But then he got a psychological grip. It was, he assured himself, just a question of time before he found the way out.
Eventually he came to a vertical tunnel, a tunnel with steps going up. Hope rising, feet slipping, he scrambled to the top and pushed the cover. But he couldn’t move it. Maybe it was stuck with detritus? Or there might be a vehicle parked on it?
So he climbed back down and waded on. He thought he could hear distant sounds but they bounced off the walls so he wasn’t sure where they were coming from. Or what they were.
Further on he came to another vertical tunnel. This too had steps so he slid up them and pushed the cover again. This one moved. So with a sigh of relief he pushed it to one side and climbed out.
He found himself in a residential road near his own. So he replaced the cover and went home.
After a shower and a change of clothes he ordered a new cell phone. Then the moral of his experience hit home. Stop looking down. If you feel bored then at least look up.
The next time he went out he did just that. He saw things he had never noticed before. Shop signs, pigeons resting on a ledge, an attic over a shop, some unusually shaped roofs. He even developed a passing interest in architecture.
Even the sky looked interesting. There were some unusual cloud formations. He could see where rain was coming from. He saw a passenger plane overhead. In the distance he could even see a cell phone mast stretching upwards.
In the street ahead of him was an open manhole.
Alan Ford has been writing short stories for about six months. He is interested in unusual rather than traditional subjects. He has had one acceptance so far from Brilliant Flash Fiction. (and three poems accepted elsewhere).