“Maybe it was a rat,” said Paul nervously.
“Rats don’t shine,” argued Eve.
“Their eyes do,” said Paul. He was beginning to feel decidedly uncomfortable in the damp dark tunnel, and had started to think of all manner of things he would rather be doing. “I think…” but he never got any further.
His words were cut off by an enormous splash as something fell heavily into the water not five feet in front of them. It was clearly alive, because it coughed and spluttered and thrashed about in the water, soaking the children from head to foot. Instinctively, they drew back and grabbed hold of each other. It was several seconds before Paul recovered enough to point his torch in the direction of the commotion. By this time the cause of the splash had recovered from the shock of falling in the water and stood up. It was a man.
To be precise, it was man-shaped—not man-sized, being considerably less than a metre tall. His clothes were unconventional, the bright orange trousers, yellow waistcoat and crimson shirt rapidly shattering any illusions one might have had about one’s colour sense. The most remarkable things of all were his eyes. Even in the torchlight they shone. They were the brightest blue eyes the children had ever seen.
The small green object floating in front of him turned out not to be a toy boat, but his hat. He grabbed it and put it back on his head, foolishly neglecting to empty it first.
“You’ve not seen me,” he shouted excitedly, spitting out a mouthful of water. “I don’t exist, I’m just a thingy. What’s it called? Like a filament. Figment, that’s it. A figment of both your imaginations.” He paused a moment, seeking inspiration. “If you tell your parents you’ve seen me, I’ll go to your house and tell them you were lying and I don’t exist at all.”