Outside the shop, Tommy was standing at the opening of an alley. “This is where we got the idea,” he said.
“That night when you thought you saw the monster, we learned something.”
“What do you mean I thought I saw it?”
“We learned to listen to you. There was no monster. We could see that. But you believed it was a monster, which was ingenious.”
“You’re saying I came up with the idea?”
“Not exactly. You created it, but that’s different from coming up with the idea. We did that. But clearly some part of you knew that you were responsible for creating the monster. Your conscience, your subconscious, your soul.”
“Tommy . . . or whatever your name is, I have no idea what you’re saying right now.”
Tommy motioned down the alleyway. “What do you see now?”
Grenshaw looked. As usual, the alley was dark. And sure enough, there were the eyes, a pair of glinting lights.
“C’mon,” said Tommy, walking headlong into the darkness.
“Are you crazy?” Grenshaw watched as Tommy’s figure began to fade from view. He followed reluctantly.
As he proceeded, his eyes adjusted. He could make out shapes: metal trash cans, broken bikes, doorways leading into more darkness. And people? Yes, there were people. Small figures leaning against the brick walls and standing in doorways. They were no bigger than children, but their faces looked weathered.
“Tommy?” Grenshaw asked. “What is this place?”
“This is where your trash goes.”
Horrified, Grenshaw looked from face to face, trying to discern the obscured expressions. “Is this place real or is this another computer-induced vision?”
“What do you see now?” Tommy asked, nodding down the alley.
Grenshaw saw a pair of tiny figures sifting through shards of glass and metal. They moved quickly, selecting the favorable pieces and throwing the others toward a trash can. They held small torches. By the light, Grenshaw could see their youthful faces. These were children.
“Your monster is a couple of poor kids, Mr. Grenshaw.” The boys paid no attention to Tommy. Maybe they couldn’t hear him.
Grenshaw didn’t know what to say. From the shadows, another figure emerged. Grenshaw recognized him by his blue coat. He approached the children and peered over their shoulder. “Good work, boys,” he croaked.
“They might grow up to be criminals,” Tommy said. “Then again, they might grow up to be like their father.”
Through a doorway, a fourth individual appeared in the alley, this one taller than the others. “Boys,” he said, “come on inside.” Grenshaw could barely make out his features, but he didn’t need to. He recognized the voice.
to be continued . . .