By David M
Usually it was quiet where Officer Bryant lived. There was hardly any commotion to speak of. Of course there were the little crimes, speeding and littering, but overall if someone lived there they would never have suspected something strange happening there. That’s why Bryant was so confused, no . . . more than that- Bryant was flabbergasted. He wasn’t even on duty when it occurred.
The police officer had assumed the day to be like any other. It was a little more chilly than usual, but it was the end of the summer so it was to be expected. He was wearing a brown baseball cap which covered up the majority of his brown curly hair, and he was wearing a similarly colored brown coat to somewhat fight against the cold. The rather plainly dressed off-duty officer spotted a manhole beginning to shudder in the middle of the streets, as if some invisible force was trying to pick it up and repeatedly failing. However Bryant quickly realized that that might have been a stupid conclusion to come up with.
The manhole continued to shudder, eventually coming up so much that he could see a hand trying to push the thing up from below it. Was there a man underneath there? Bryant quickly thought to himself as his attention was now being completely zeroed in on the manhole. At first he thought he had to be seeing things or maybe that there was some rational explanation to this. However, he was wrong, with one last burst of energy the man underneath the manhole finally pushed the cover up and peered out of the hole like a mole having just borrowed its way out of the ground.
The man was very obviously covered in filth. His skin was covered with sewage sludge along with his clothes. The man was holding a paintbrush in his right hand, it also being covered in the sludge. Somewhat more worryingly, though, the man was holding what appeared to be a sludge covered rifle in his left hand.
“This situation can only end good,” Bryant said sarcastically to himself before realizing that he just talked to himself out loud. Quickly looking around him, making sure nobody just heard him talk to himself, he carefully approached the sludge man.
“Sir, any possible explanation for what you’re doing?” Bryant asked cautiously. Considering the man was clogged with so much sewage water, Bryant doubted the man could actually fire the rifle, but just in case he didn’t wanna make him decide to take any rash decisions.
Surprisingly, the sludge man didn’t answer at first. He just looked back into the manhole as if to check there was nothing following him and then looked back up at Bryant.
“I’m just traveling from point A to point B,” The man said with such a cheery smile that it put the officer off a bit. The strange man didn’t look like he knew that what he was doing could be considered strange. He wasn’t wearing any sort of uniform that indicated he worked in the sewers, so officer Bryant didn’t think to ask him if he worked in them.
“Right . . . what's the rife for?” which was the second biggest question on Bryant’s mind.
“For the crocodiles,” the man said, still having that cheesy grin on his face.
This actually made Bryant chuckle a bit. It seemed he was just dealing with someone a little loony. Still didn’t mean he was completely safe though . . . “You realize that's just a myth right? There are no crocodiles in the sewers.” He then followed up with, “Can you tell me your name and why exactly you were using the sewers to travel?”
The man kept his smile on while letting out a boastful laugh, “No crocs? I suppose I won’t need these then!” He dropped the rifle and the paint brush onto the street beside him. Then, with his free arms, he pushed himself out of the hole and planted his feet onto the ground. The odd man had a momentary great look of pride before announcing his name, “I’m Paul Bunyan! The Crocodile painter. They’re such an awful color that I figured I would do them a solid and paint them something more dazzling, like purple or violet, maybe even magenta.”
The officer stared at ‘Paul Bunyan’ in confusion for a couple of moments, “Those are all just different colors of purple . . . ” But Bryant cut himself off. The colors the man had just named weren’t really important.
“First of all, you’re not Paul Bunyan. He’s a folk tale hero with a blue . . .” This time the sludge man cut him off --
“Crocodile!” He yelled out excitedly, as if he was on some sort of game show.
“Ox . . . ” Bryant said, finishing his previously interrupted sentence.
“Ox, crocodile, they’re practically the same thing.”
Bryant sighed, looking up a little and face- palming himself before asking, “Are you gonna tell me your real name or what?”
“Nope!” Before Bryant could reply, the sludge man grabbed his paintbrush, perhaps deeming it more important than the rifle, and hopped back down the manhole. Usually a fall like that should have at least broken someone's bones, but the sludge man was completely fine as Bryant heard him begin his run back through the sewers.
Bryant really didn’t want to follow him. He was off-duty, after all . . . although he knew if this guy caused trouble, and he let him get away, it would be his fault. Then again . . . he would probably just end up hurting himself if he pursued him into the sewers, so he just shouted a vague warning down the manhole to the sewer man and patted himself on the back.
“You’ve outdone yourself Bryant.”
As he began to walk joyfully away from whatever that abomination was, he heard a bit of a rumble, this sound was quickly replaced by the sound of running water. The lazy officer turned around to see a giant hand formed from water and sewage sludge reaching out of the manhole. It was “Paul Bunyon.” The man hadn’t just been covered in sewage, it’s what he was made of.
“You can’t be real!” Bryant yelled out in shock as he began to book it down the street. The watery hand expanded in size as it easily reached over and grabbed the officer, pulling him down into the sewer. The man had seemed off at first but this was far more than strange. This was complete insanity! He fought back against the water, but all of his effort was little to no help.
The giant monster began to form itself back into the filth covered man. Bryant knew that he needed to get out of there and call for help, although he wasn’t entirely sure if anyone would believe him. His set his eyes on the manhole. It was his escape, and if he managed to get the lid back on, his victory. Assuming this monster didn’t try too hard to follow him back up, that is. Bryant began to run towards the ladder that led to the manhole but quickly found himself in the grasp of the monster once more. Fighting against water really wasn’t going to be easy.
Bryant needed an advantage, some form of weapon- But the rifle was still outside of the sewer . . . what could he do? The watery beast threw him onto the ground, coincidently Bryant fell right next to the man's paint brush. Instinctively, when he saw the man’s arms turn back into water and elongate towards hi, he grabbed the brush and swatted it at the monster! It dispersed his watering hand for just the right amount of time. Bryant sprinted over to the ladder faster than he had ever run before in his entire life and began scurrying up it like a squirrel.
Upon seeing the daylight once more, he threw himself at the manhole cover grabbing it with his arms and throwing it back onto the manhole. Without a second thought he began running down the streets. He didn’t stop until he was sure he was safe.
Due to the quiet nature of the town, when he told others about what had happened no one believed his tale. It was simply too outlandish to be possible for them. Bryant never saw the monster again, but that day never faded from his memories.