Moonlight Through the Manhole

Title: Moonlight Through the Manhole: a short story

Series: none

Genre: Science Fiction, Coming of Age

The Story:

Billy Clifford, a first-grade student at Everton Elementary, knows where the missing children are: under the manhole.

Who put them there? The aliens, of course.

So, on the night Billy sees a glimmer from under the manhole, he climbs down the sewers well prepared…

A story of unexpected friendships amidst tragic circumstances.

The Excerpt:

As soon as Billy saw the reflection of the moonlight flashing from the manhole, he scrambled off of his bed. Very little of that light entered his room because he’d kept the curtains closed but for one tiny slit through which he’d been observing the manhole. But he wasn’t one to miss the tiniest clue. So, in the near-dark, he touched his way to the open closet.

Shoes—where were the sneakers he’d hidden from Mommy? There. Way before he saw them, he smelled the unwashed sweat mixed with blood, spat out during the countless bullying sessions in the locker room. (Billy, the bullied, and the others, the bullies, to be clear. Things hadn’t worked out in Billy’s favor since entering elementary school, around which time he’d begun wearing glasses—possibly because of his habit of reading copies of Alien Today in the dark without noticing that the sun had set—but he still had great plans for himself and never ever bullied anyone. He didn’t want to disappoint his future fans.)

Like a dog that could smell its way through anything, Billy snatched the sneakers from the sundries filling the closet, put them on (didn’t bother putting on any socks), groped for the flashlight, the one on his desk—but found nothing. It was supposed to be there.

Come on, hadn’t he practiced for an entire week for this very moment? Blindfold and all? From his bed to the manhole? To get out of the house while Mommy snored in the next room?

Billy whirled and whirled in search for the flashlight—thump.

Mommy’s snoring immediately stopped.

Billy held still. He’d whipped the flashlight from the desk. The thing kept rolling across his tiny room for a second until it hit the bed with another, quieter thump.

“Billy?” called Mommy, her voice full of sleep.

She was an extremely light sleeper. That was the funny thing about being tired; one would think that as soon as the head touched the pillow, one would fall asleep and stay that way, but it wasn’t so. Mommy awoke at the tiniest noise.

As quietly as possible, Billy breathed in and out. Only his cotton pajama pants fluttered in rhythm, as if they were protesting how difficult it was for them to attempt to cover Billy’s ankles. He’d outgrown them months ago; why did Billy insist on making them labor past retirement age? And especially his mother, shouldn’t she know better? Hadn’t she watched Billy’s grandma die at a premature age from overworking?

Just bear with me, thought Billy. Once I find the aliens in the sewer, I’ll let you retire. Not just that. I’ll mention you when all the newspapers and TV stations interview me. I’ll tell them—these pajama pants have stood by me when everyone else around me told me I’m crazy, including my mother—

Mommy’s snoring resumed.

Billy let out a soft sigh and picked up the flashlight. Tonight, luck was on his side.

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