The Rat Lord
The Rat Lord
Millions of years a shallow sea covered Texas. In central Texas, in where the small city of Temple would one day form, a small but dense magnetite deposit was formed beneath the ground in the sedimentary rock formed by the shallow sea. Much later, after the sea had dried up, the water table shifted and created a small lake over the magnetite deposit. The mineral dissolved greatly into the water.
The Native Americans of the area revered the lake as a place where spirits gathered. They discovered that if they bathed and drank from the lake, that they could talk to other animals that also drank for the lake, and even sometimes make the animals do their bidding. They could call a deer to slaughter it for food, and they could make a wolf bring them its kill. But the American Indians stopped using this place of power, because so often the drinkers of the lake would go mad.
Much later the lake dried up and became a small spring . The spring was good for watering crops so a meager farmer planted an acre of corn on the land. He built a small corn barn on the property. He stored his corn there, and it of course attracted rats from far and wide. They fed on the corn and grew strong and large. The corn grown from the water of the spring was rich in magnetite, and therefore so were the rats. The part of a rats brain that controls puzzle solving is enlarged in a rat brain, and the magnetite clung to this area of the brain more that any other. The magnetic waves from the magnetite gave the rats the power to communicate their thoughts, transmitting them over the magnetic waves to each other, and eventually after many rat generations they evolved even more developed brains, and they became a collective hive mind. Sometime when the farmer entered the corn barn he heard the sound of many whispers, but he dismissed them as overactive imagination. The rats became much smarter and worked together to accomplish goals, but true consciousness eluded them. their hive mind acted more like a massive compter .
The barn existed for ten years. Then houses began to spring up all around, so the farmer sold the small plot of land to a developer. The developer was an unscrupulous fellow. He should have torn down the corn barn and built a new house, but instead, to save money, he added two lean-to's an small kitchen with no more than a stove, and a small bathroom with the only running water over the bathtub. To further save money, he didn't bother connecting the tap to the cities water supply, nor did he install plumbing to drain the water. Instead he capped the slow spring, and fed the water into the tap over the bathtub. So now whoever lived in that house bathed and drank the magnetite water.
On of the tenants of the house trained his dog to do all kinds of tricks. The dog could balance all four paws on a wire. It could do back flips. It could bark a number of times after it's master said that number. The dog could even bark "I love you" although with a thick canine accent. People said that no one could train an animal without witchcraft. But the hive mind of the rats left the man alone because his mind was not open or creative enough to be a suitable vessel.
Eighty years later a man named Chance Weatherby moved in with his cat called Momma. After chance drank the magnetic water for awhile, the rats became very excited. Here was finally a suitable vessel for them to evolve into a true consciousness. But his cat, that bane of rats, produced too much fear in them for them perform their dark business properly. Something would have to done about that cat . . .
The voices started after the cat, Mama she was called, ran away. I did not know for certain she ran away, though, I just know that one night she disappeared. That was strange because all the doors and windows were locked. All I found was some thicker than usual tufts of grey hair on her cat bed and, when I examined the bed under a flashlight, a bunch of very short whiskers, and a single cat claw. How could a cat lose a claw with nothing to catch it on? There was one hole that she could have fit through, the hole over the bath tub. but how would she get up there? It was too far for her to jump. I found out later, when I went into the crawlspace above the ceiling. The rats were so numerous and large in the walls at that point, that I began to fear that the rats got her. But to think that was madness. She was much bigger than any rat. And if she was in danger, why had she not called out in the night? The rats would have to hunt in a pack to even hurt her, and they don't hunt in packs. But thought they do kill and eat insects though, because after the cat disappeared, a little while later there were never any insects inside the house, not one. Which was very strange in a house that old. Either they sensed it was not their domain, or they were exterminated. I was beginning to miss seeing a few roaches running about.
The house was distorted by age and weather in every dimension. But after living there awhile, I could not see the distortion anymore, like a man who sees himself too long in a fun house mirror, and so his mind begins to correct for the errors. The walls stood askew, and the plywood floors bowed outward in the middle. The glass of the windows was thicker just slightly at the bottom of the panes more than at the top, because old glass is amorphous, and as a window ages the silicon flows down and thickens at the bottom. It was a small house with tall sides, like a small barn. A main room was in the middle, with two lean-to's on either side, albeit well constructed lean-to's. The bathroom, if you could call it that, was off the back lean-to. The bathroom was deplorable. The sink was missing, and the bathtub did not have a real drain, it drained into a gravel area behind the house. I think that is why the rats congregated in that house, because in the long dry summer they had all the water they needed. The tub was at a slight angle so that I could never get it to drain all the way. Many times I came home from my meager job to find several small rats drinking from the water pooled in edge of the tub. I did not have the stomach to squash them as they sat drinking. That was my mistake. I did not see any of the big rats at that point, not until, in desperate curiosity, I tore open one of the walls, but I could judge their size by the thickness and length of the tails, thich as a finger, that sometimes hung down from the hole in the ceiling,. I guessed that the smaller rats dropped down from the hole in the ceiling , but I could not figure out how they got out of the tub's smooth sides that they could not possibly climb, or how they got back up into the ceiling. There were no other access holes in the bathroom of which I knew. I wondered if a really big rat could grow such a long tail that other rats could use it as a climbing rope. And where not rat tails prehensile? I wondered if a long enough tail could quietly slip out of a crack in the wall and strangle a cat in its sleep and then later drag the body up into the hole in the ceiling by the neck before daybreak. I wondered if the same tail could strangle me in my sleep. But they needed me, didn't they. I provided water. What nonsense was I thinking, rodents saving me, because they needed me? I later found out that they needed me for more than just water. They needed my brain to provide a conduit for their collective hive mind. But again, that was madness. That would be a kind of rat lord, I thought. I shivered even though the bathroom was warm. I shook the thoughts off.
Voices, voices, I heard voices. Voices are nothing more than sounds to which meaning has been applied by the brain. I heard small shuffling sounds from every direction in that cursed house, and the the sounds became more numerous and intense after the cat disappeared. The sounds came from many different levels in the walls and from many different points in the ceiling and floor. Oh, why did I stay there? Because the rent was only one hundred dollars a month and I could afford nothing else. Anything was better than living on the street, or so I thought. I certainly could not afford an exterminator, and an exterminator probably would thrown up his hands and walked away anyway, telling me to tear the house down instead, and start anew. The landlord was no help, why would he help me for one hundred dollars a month? He showed up once a month and collected his rent in cash. Later he stopped showing up and I lived there at the end rent free. I never found out what happened to him. Maybe the rat lord got him. I only knew his first name. His name was Cottle. A strange name for the land lord of a strange dwelling. The noises were the shuffling of the rats in the walls, above the ceiling, and under the floor boards. They had me surrounded. There feet made noises, and their tails also made noises as they dragged and twitched them. Even though I only saw a few small rats at a time I knew there must be many more rats unseen because of the number of sounds at once. The voices that I still hear to this day, although much less since the addition of the cat Audre to my life, started as the shuffling sounds in the walls. So many slight noises, like many whispers, for so song, confuse the brain, and so many sounds from different directions at once begin to produce emergent patters in the brain. They voices started out as meek narrations of my daily activities, "He is taking a bath" "he is eating chips" he is turning on the radio" he is tying his shoes" and so on. Later on the voices began to make predictions about what I was going to do next. "He is going to fry a piece of fish" "He is about to lay down for sleep" "He is about to get up again to get a glass of water." What was stranger than hearing the predictions, was that the predictions occurred right after the actions occurred to me, most of the time without any external sign from me that I was about to take an action. I had to draw the conclusion that someone or something was reading my thoughts, or else I was losing my mind or both. Later still the voices began to make predictions, usually negative ones, not just about me, but about the world in general that I would hear later on news radio. Eventually the voices began to say such terrible things that I would have burned all the rats alive if I would not have then become an arsonist. And I had nowhere to go, anyway. They started to say such terrible things about the same time that I found the rusted metal Texas star and circle around it on the outside wall of the house was turned upside down. That's when I realized it was a pentagram. I thought someone was playing a trick on me. But when I tried to right it, I realized it was nailed fast and would not budge. I had no tools to take the nails out. I had seen the star the day before after work, and I thought it was still right side up. How had the nails been hammered in again in the night without waking me up? A Rat could not do That, I thought. I covered the covered the star with an old cloth as best I could so as not to look like I believed in witchcraft. But almost every morning when I went to work the cloth had been blown off the wall and into the back yard, revealing the star beneath. What was going on?
In a dream of a dream of a dream, there in the deepest part of sleep where they thought I could not listen, I heard a squeeky voice say in a hushed tone:
"Let us tell him to kill himself."
Then a voice of higher authority squeeked and said coolly, confidently:
"No, you fool, we need him or our consciousness is lost. We are lucky that we have found a suitable vessel after so long in hiding. No, wait, by my 23 grey whiskers, it is not luck. It was mandated long ago by the eternal Rat Lord that we shall rise up as one to be free forever and ever. We must be patient with him, until it is time to perform the ritual. The cat bones have dried now. We will have to grind the lot of them into a fine dust for him to inhale. And that is only a fraction of the preparations. We have much work to do and little time to do it. They will level this corn barn when he leaves, and we will make sure that he will leave with us or he will not leave at all. Above all we need to keep him here until the ritual. We need a contingency plan. But I am sure his ripe brain will provide us with the fruit of an idea to keep himself here. My, how this human language facilitates communication, I getting ever more comfortable with it. If he leaves without us then all our years of struggle will have been in vain. But after the ritual he will be ours and we will be his. We will finally be free to roam and find even larger vessels to fill and so live on forever, eventually becoming the dominant species on earth! They use our kin in their scientific experiments, but one day we will put them in mazes and see how long it takes them to finish! We are the puzzle solvers of this world! We deserve the hands! And all the smarmy cats, we will finally do away with all the smarmy cats! So until the ritual then, he stays as himself. "
Then a smaller voice spoke up:
"But it is no use, he knows what we know, just as we know what he knows. Surely he will flee in fear before the time of the ritual."
The voice of authority answered:
"Yes, but we can confuse him with voices, making him mistrust his own mind, until he fears the world more than he fears staying with us. Fear is our only tool against the humans, as it has always been, but will not always be. The humans have bombs, great bombs. We will use them to our purposes if necessary, once we have become free. And no matter what happens we will survive longer than them. We have crossed the oceans on floating logs. We colonolized the continents long before the first ships sailed. We roamed the great cities of Egypt before the cat was domesticted, and after. We climbed the great white pyramid stones at Giza and left wheat grains on the pinnacles in honor of the Rat Lord. We have outlasted the dinosaurs and the great catacylism, I tell you, I remember it all! We will outlast the humans as well, even if our consciousness becomes scattered again and we must live in crevices and holes and feed in the fields for further eons . My brothers and sisters, we will be free one day."
And a hundred lesser voices exclaimed:
"Yes, the ritual, the ritual! We will be free!"
Another voice asked:
"What is the hour of the ritual?"
"When the clock struck one, the mouse did run." The voice of authority answered.
"What is the day of the ritual?"