Ratty Tidings

It’s strange that a city rat should be out and about in the daylight, moving with impunity, unharmed and unimpeded on the sun-scorched concrete. It’s strange that it should parade itself in front of its natural predators with nary a thought paid to the tenets of self-preservation. Stranger even, the fact that it boldly dashed without any mind given to any form of temporary cover, caution thrown to the wind in a most uncharacteristic manner for a creature known for its craftiness at the art of survival.

Certain parasites and diseases may cause creatures to act in such a manner; toxoplasmosis, for example, would account for this particular rodent’s lack of fear in the face of the panoply of feral felines that populate the city sprawl, but such is not the case. The rat is not drawn to cat feces, so that hypothesis is thrown right out the proverbial window.

Under the glaring sun and the summer heat, this intrepid rodent – perhaps smarter than given credit by the humans who deludedly think themselves the apex species of the planet, like they know what crawls beneath the foundations of their settlements, ha! – made its way into a building of rather inconspicuous nature amongst this forest of giant concrete trees, finding its nimble way up to one of the uppermost floors where, it was told by something that now resides within its body along with it, the rat is to perform a little task.

Strange that a rat should scurry, not dragging its long tail, but rather with it curved and poised, tip suspended just above its head, as if it were being protected, coddled even. Odd that it should make the rat resemble a scorpion ready to attack with its stinger. Bizarre, that it should appear as though the tail were some rider, mounted on some invisible saddle, leading the rodent on.

The tail, this rat reasoned, was its friend, for it had led it to many a bounty of food, and it had brought many females’ attentions to it for mating. In short, the tail was its advantage over its fellow rodents, so wherever the tail instructed it to go, it went, and whatever the tail wanted done, it would do.

The tail whispered things into its mind when it slumbered, in as far as a mouth-less appendage might be said to “whisper” at all, planting seeds of ideas and ambitions far beyond the biological maxims of its species. The tail watered those seeds with concepts like “king” and “domination”, it fertilized them with visions of skies of strange configurations and rodents covering the land like a blanket.

So into the building and into the floor where many metallic machinery and electric wires –the rat really liked electric wires, perhaps the tail would let it feast – it went in search of strange looking objects which image had been implanted into its mind’s eye by the tail. The rat was to make slight, almost imperceptible changes to the objects, each of which had a symbol etched upon them.

It found the objects laid out across a metallic floor strewn with mounds of dirt placed in what appeared to it to be deliberate; the rat, since the tail began to communicate with it, had begun to develop its mind in ways it had never before, such that it now recognized concepts like geometry in ways abstract rather than just practical. The dirt piles smelled of different places, each evocative of vegetation and fauna unlike that found around the city sprawl. Some smelled of things even the rat’s ancestral brain could not reconcile with memory, a few smelled of things it was glad it could not remember even through its ancestral well.

Upon each dirt-mound rested one of the objects, and at each one the rat gnawed carefully the modification to the respective symbol on the object as instructed by the tail. It had to be careful not to make a mistake as there was no way to correct any errors; once etched out meaning, the symbol could only be further warped, or so the tail had communicated to the rat.

When the rat had questioned the tail about this plan – having now learned to question beyond the binary concepts of deadly and beneficial to the continuity of its existence – the appendage had replied with the concept of “glory”, but a pair of other concepts seemed to have seeped through unintentionally in the psychic communiqué, those of “return” and “madness”. Neither concepts were very clear to the rat, but it sensed something amiss. It did not pay it mind, though, as it understood very well that it stood to reap benefits from the whole of those concepts.

Once done with the task of the tail, the rat scurried its way down and out of the building, with no human the wiser. A block away from the building it came upon a large tabby cat, its face scarred from years of warring with other strays and animals of other various veneers. The feline hunched, making itself flat upon the pavement as if preparing to pounce upon the rodent, but at the last moment, as its muscles fired to make its move, it modified its course with a loud meow and it bounded off, away from its would-be-prey.

The rat had paid it no attention, bold as before thanks to the tail. The tail had paid the predator no attention either. It need not be bothered by such affairs. The cat, in turn, kept trying to outrun the stench that had come from the rat. The stink would not relent, it clung to its nose and would not let go. Minutes later and kilometers away it flung itself from a city bridge and into the river, so that watery death and darkness would mercifully take the maddening smell away.




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