The flooded sewers made it hard to navigate and pull out the endless trash.
He had been doing this job for years and nothing surprised him anymore. But as he turned the corner and came face to face with two black eyes, he scrambled back and prepared for the worst.
The storm that blew through Mexico City had been a bad one. It wasn’t just heavy rain that flooded the streets.
The drains were backed up with tons of trash that had been swept away. Miguel and his team pulled up to their designated section. Whatever was down there was already seeping a terrible stench.
As they prepped their gear and donned their masks, they started to take bets on what they would find.
Phones and keys were likely, but so was bigger stuff like shopping carts or stuffed garbage bags with unknown contents. “Maybe we’ll find a giant alligator,” one of them said to the newest guy.
“Really?” the young man asked, peering down into the hole. “Yeah,” they answered. “They can get huge, so watch your feet.”
Miguel sighed. “Alligators are in Florida, kid.” He paused then grinned. “We have giant crocodiles.” The team bent over laughing. “What about rats?” the young man asked, still looking worried.
“Big as cats,” he answered. The joking continued as they stepped down into the tunnels.
It was always wet down there but now it was like wading through a river. Bags upon bags and other trash slowly made its way to the surface. Every layer brought up “new discoveries” and smells that seeped through their masks.
Rubbish and who-knows-what drifted at their waists and floated beneath the surface, bumping into their legs.
Shadows bobbed across the flashlight beam, occasionally highlighting something small that scurried away. The new kid turned a corner. A piercing scream bounced off the tunnels and a torrent of water splashed around them.
The young man pulled himself out of the dirty brown water, sputtering and coughing.
Miguel helped him up. “I saw… I saw… Oh my god.” He moved the kid aside and made for the turn. All jokes and myths aside, there were times they made discoveries that required the police to show up.
Miguel cringed at the thought of whatever the kid had seen, but now he had to look himself. Darkness and gooey algae clung to the concrete.
Bits of foam and hardened oil swirled around him as he pushed through. He glanced around the corner. The light caught a clump of matted fur.
“It can’t be!” he thought, taking a huge step back. Whatever sat before him was hunched over like a monster from a movie.
A long tail poked out of the surface and two beady eyes stared down at him. Giant claws tipped massive paws. It was a giant rat. Literally. But it wasn’t moving.
Miguel dared to take a step closer. The light shined over the mucky hair and frozen limbs.
He reached out and poked it, ready to act if it moved. But as the big lump tilted and fell over, he let out an enormous laugh. “Yep, kid,” he said, “You found the biggest rat in Mexico.”
It was nothing but a prop. Granted, the detail and work that had gone into it made it quite realistic (especially in the dark), but it was just a decoration.
They carefully hauled it to the surface – making sure to scare a couple of their coworkers in the process. But why was it down there?
It turns out a woman named Evelin Lopez had the answers.
She had made the giant rat from scratch for Halloween. The thing had gone missing “years ago” during a similar storm. She had asked people to help look, but no one volunteered. Miguel was so impressed that he decided to wash it off.
He wanted to return it to the woman. As he sprayed the thing down, his friend took a video and posted it on the internet.
Netizens marveled at the craftsmanship but physical bystanders said it was all too realistic and quite jarring. A few even screamed when they spotted it. Also, there was one overwhelming agreement…
Everyone wanted Evelin to set it up as part of her next Halloween scene – as well as make more props to showcase her talents (provided she washed it off more and removed the sewer smell).
There were years of wear and tear that made it look quite real. The team also had a plan.
Whoever was next to join the team would be hazed in with a new, terrifying story about a massive sewer rat (complete with “photo proof”).
And, even though the new kid would have to retell his dunk in the dirty water, he was more than happy to be on the giving end of the prank next time.