Monday, 3 May 2010

King Rat

A Writer's Extreme Creativity Challenge: Write a story a day, in May. That's it:

#3 : King Rat

Mr Roberts’ cursory survey of the attic had revealed nothing living. No rats this time, though nothing in the traps either, so he couldn’t be certain. They were definitely still around, but not dying like they used to. He closed the door and slumped off back downstairs.

Harvey moved in the darkness, but darkness which, to his nose, paws and whiskers, contained many things of interest. Fur, whiskers, piss and scratches. All of them rat. And all of those Rats that remained had learned that the smell of peanut butter leads directly to a smashed skull. The remains of Philippa in the wall behind them drove this point home.

Of the twelve remaining members of The Family, only seven remained as individuals. Five had became entangled, and over time had became the King Rat. Tails and fur and bones fused and knotted together. Five rats speaking with one voice, demanding to be fed.

And ‘it’ was fed. Unable to move fast or far, The King Rat could do two things that meant it should be obeyed. Firstly, it could still fight. An attempt to kill it by the other seven had resulted in severe injuries. But no death. Because secondly, it could also think, plan, reason. It had left Harvey with only one eye.

Slowly, patiently, it explained to the seven the flow of cause and effect by which peanut butter, cheese and other surprisingly available food leads directly to death. Death means no more mastication at all. No more fucking, no more pups. All of these are necessities if King Rat was to be sustained. Harvey had caught on fast. The other six had taken some time to appreciate the need for added complexity in their lives. The King Rat was patient.

And now the King Rat spoke in its five discordant hypnotic voices, three female, two male.

“Slave Rats. You are still Seven? Better than Six, but not Eight. You must become Eight, Nine, More! Two times Nine, Nine times Nine”

Harvey tried to comprehend more than two times nine and failed. It sounded like a lot. If the King Rat was One and not Five, Harvey understood that this made him not Rat Six but  Rat Two. If the King Rat was not a rat (and he didn’t seem to be anymore.. or... was gone?) then Harvey was Rat One out of ALL the rats in the house. Either way, making seven into Nine times Nine would be his job alone. He was pleased.

“Slave Rats. If we are to defeat the Council of Bunnies and retake the disputed territory that is the outside the house hot glass room with carrots, we must be more... in-numerable. More Rats.”

A less appealing prospect for Harvey. Harvey spoke: “The Council of Bunnies are many, King Rat, and they have an alliance with The Mister Roberts Man”.

The five faces of the King Rat sniffed at Harvey, getting the measure of the runt rat on which they now depended. Harvey flinched at the attention.

“An alliance?”

“I have spoken to the Tribe of Roaches. The man gives them carrots and other things. Old but good. They give him Bunnies”

The rats gasped. Harvey considered some of the other things that the elder of the Tribe of Roaches had told him: More traps, Blue lights, Poison Smoke, Kitties. Harvey kept this to himself until he knew more. Harvey was learning how to learn, and learning a lot of new things. A vague notion that power could come from something other than teeth and claws was starting to form.

“The Council of Bunnies do not make sacrifices or alliances and must be very desperate to have overcame their arrogance. The Man would not negotiate with us and we with him. Their sacrifices will enfeeble both their numbers and joie de vivre” hissed the King Rat .

Harvey struggled with this but got the gist and looked around to see who else was following the words. The female called Mona seemed to understand. Maybe a couple of the others, Arthur, Beyonce maybe?

“Rat Number One, I have orders.” hissed the King Rat.

“Yes” said Arthur and Harvey simultaneously. They looked at each other, confused, suspicious, aggressive. Arthur was bigger than Harvey. The two had never been tested.

The King Rat sniggered... “In-teresting. in-teresting times. Harvey, speak to the Tribe again. Find out what they want in return for in-formation. Suggest to the Tribe that they may find the area under the bath to their liking”.

“Yes King Rat ” said Harvey. He sniffed at Mona, who was inscrutable. He could smell anger and threat and hate from Arthur.

The King Rat dismissed the remaining seven, who skuttled off to their appointed tasks. As Harvey left, he saw the King Rat dragging themself over to where he had been standing, sniffing and pawing the space. The King Rat was weighing him up from his scent. Would he be found wanting?

Harvey was in danger. He had kept secrets. He had made enemies. But he had information and for the first time in his short, dark life, he felt that there might be something else than explore, eat, fuck, fight, run and then, lately, obey... there were options, choices... Suddenly everything was complicated.

The Tribe of Roaches talk to everyone he thought (they even mentioned Other Houses). He’d fought the Council of Bunnies many times, but never talked to one. Maybe even that was possible.

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