(You’ve all heard the old saw about “alligators in the sewers,” right? Supposedly, back during the 1960s when buying people baby alligators as pets became a fad, people ended up worriedly flushing them down the toilet when the scary little things got to be too big. This happened again and again, until, according to urban legend, there now resides in the sewers beneath major cities a horrific population of mutant albino gators, just waiting for their chance to crawl to the surface—most assuredly in some crime-infested area—and wreak their vengeance.)
THE FOLLOWING MAY OR MAY NOT BE A TRUE ACCOUNT.
Sam had hired himself out as a test subject when he found out that he was broke. The semester was almost over. The summer kids already had all the good jobs and he was a little low on funds. So when he saw the advertisement bulletin on the board at the student union, it seemed like the best deal in all the world.
There was a special study being undertaken by the government and they were looking for students who wanted to make some quick cash. Sam could barely afford to eat at the cheapest fast food restaurant. He needed the money.
His first day was a little perplexing, though. The program was presided over by an ugly doctor he thought of as “Pickle Face,” and an even uglier nurse who looked as if she doubled as a cast extra in that musical Wicked. She had a tremendous crooked nose, long nails, and a wart that even grossed him out. She brought him vitamins and really gross apple juice (he had always hated the stuff) on a little silver tray. There seemed to be little for him to do but lounge around in a hospital gown, flip through magazines, and wait to see what all of this was about.
The room he was in was small, like a little waiting room, and there was a couch he could lie down on. There were a few fake plants, a sliding glass partition behind which was some sort of receptionist station, and a table of old editions of National Geographic and Time. He flipped through an outdated Time, and settled back. There was faint, canned relaxation music playing in the walls. He leaned back on the sofa, started to fall into a sort of half-dreaming state.
Suddenly, he heard what sounded like a strange, low hiss coming from underneath the couch. His eyes popped open.
That didn’t sound good. He suddenly felt uneasy. He heard a strange scrabbling beneath him. Could there possibly be some sort of animal beneath the couch?
He was almost too scared to look. But, suddenly, in a burst of panic, he leapt off of the couch and onto the hard, carpeted floor.
He crouched low on his hands and knees, peering into the darkness beneath the furniture.
Two yellow eyes suddenly opened in the darkness. They were deadly animal eyes, slitted pupils like cats' eyes, piercing laser-like through the black.
He reeled back, a scream dying in his throat. A huge, scaly tail flopped out from beneath the couch, and a horrifying, squat thing began to crawl, slowly, toward him.
Too scared to get up for a moment, he began to back away still sitting, crawling backwards like some sort of crab, before finally he jumped to his feet, at last managing a scream, peering around wildly for the exit.
There was an alligator.
From underneath the couch.
And he knew it was going to eat him!
He looked around wildly, but the only door he saw was a mysterious dark wooden door set a foot or so off the floor, with no steps in front of it. All of an instant, he realized something very peculiar. He had no memory of just how he had gotten into the room in the first place! How in the world did he intend to get out?
The wooden door was NOT marked “Exit,” but instead bore an enigmatic question mark painted in dark neon green on the front. In a panic, realizing it was his only hope of escape, he grabbed the handle and pulled.
The door popped open.
Before him, a short flight of stairs lead upward to…another door!
He quickly jumped up and slammed the door shut behind him.
Amazingly, it fell off the hinges!
(He thought madly, “What! Am I having some sort of a nightmare?”)
The alligator slinked slowly, menacingly, over the fallen door, as if it were a bridge from the ground floor to the stairwell, where he presently cowered in terror. He hammered on the second door, which seemed to be about as wide as a wall, but which was most assuredly hollow.
“Help! Help! Open up! Let me out of here! There’s a vicious alligator down here!”
The alligator slowly crawled forward, its yellow eyes gleaming in the gloom, saliva dripping from its heavy, scaly jaws. It stalked slowly, oh so slowly, before opening wide its immense, killing mouth, revealing rows of hideous sharp teeth.
He turned, blind with panic and terror, and began hammering with both fists on the metal barrier.
He was nearly out of his mind with fear when the portal slid open, and he fell forward, stopping his plunge to the floor with his splayed fingers.
He looked up. An older woman in a skirt and white lab coat looked at him with a sense of seeming irritation. She put her fists on her hips, said, “Now just where in the world do you think you’re going? And why did you come up here, anyway? We use X-rays around here you know! Now, I’m not saying that there’s any danger, but I feel I have to give you fair warning.”
He looked up, huffing and puffing, could barely spit out, “Lady, quick, shut that door! There’s an alligator climbing those stairs right behind me!”
She looked stunned.
“An alligator? Why, these young research scientists and their silly pets! Hey, you’re not planning on suing us over this, are you?”
She then bent forward, looked unaccountably concerned. He stammered, “Yeah, sue, that’s exactly what I’m going to do! Just, just shut that door before it gets in, okay?”
The woman lab technician looked skeptical. Bravely, she thrust herself through the door, walked down a few steps, and then was silent.
He started to worry that the alligator had somehow gotten her.
“Hey, hey lady? You still there?”
She suddenly peeped her head around the corner, smiling.
“Why, I don’t know what in the world you could be talking about! There’s nothing down here! Certainly, at least, no alligators!”
He felt stunned. He crept forward cautiously, wondering just what in the world could be going on.
“Y-you mean, there’s no alligator down there?”
The woman laughed, breaking out into a smile. He noted she had large, tobacco-and-coffee-stained teeth.
“Why, of course not, dear boy! Er, of course, there is just one thing…”
And she stepped aside. Up from the staircase came two guys, dressed in what looked like radiation suits. They towered over Sam menacingly. One of them had something in his hand that looked like a straight jacket.
“Yes, it seems this one has escaped from the ward! He’s having his delusions about alligators again! Humph! The only thing to fear around here is radiation. Of course, I’m not afraid. I’ve already been exposed to it, so there’s no going back for me.”
The woman burst out in a wicked laugh, bending over as Sam was hustled into the waiting confines of his straight jacket. He suddenly realized, through his terror and pain, that she also looked a little like she had been sucking on pickles.
Sam was carried back down the stairs and back to the ward…
Coming back to the present...
Outside, in the dark and lonely streets, an old wino pitches a bottle into an alley.
It’s dark back here, slicked with rain. He drunkenly stumbles around, imagining he hears some moving around back there. Tin cans and old bottles rattle, garbage cans scrape and overturn. He hears a terrific hiss.
“Hey, what gives! Who’s hiding back there? Hey, show yourself!”
He sees two burning yellow eyes close to the ground, and the swishing of a long, scaly tail.