The City of Rats – Flash Fiction

Word Count = 1,030 words

Estimated Reading Time = 5 minutes 

Genre = Flash Fiction

“Today’s the day I change.” The grand wizened one quipped with a nauseating grin.

The gathering was confused. Was the grand well? Certainly, she had to be ill for never had the malevolent one dared make a jest, least of all on this their hallowed day. 

Her revolting smirk widened, exposing blackened gums and rusty fangs. “Sisters tell me. What shall I transform into first, a rat, a hat, perhaps a fat cat?” The grand wizened one teased with a hoot. 

At her banter, the appalling cackling of a thousand hags ricocheted off the sewer walls. Yet not a peep was heard in the town above, for where witches brood, black magic seals ears good. 

As quickly as she had broken character, the grand’s spindly finger returned to her cracked lips, replanting her scowl. A hush smothered the crowing. 

“Listen and listen good, a wizened must do more than distort her mood if she wishes to hunt for food.” She exclaimed, inflecting the last word with a scream of delight.

“She must croon and frown, pucker brows and howl as she transforms into horrors of hallowed ground.” The grand screeched. “Sisters… Observe!” The grand ordered. 

It was a good thing that the crowd was well below the ground for the hag, though proud, looked quite silly going round. She hopped and twirled, with a pop from her wand. Then she grimaced and sulked, turned her head all about. When she was done, she gave a horrible yowl.

It went a little like this.

We nasty, ghastly, horridly unsightly,

Wizened must always be a terror, unattractive,

Hideous, piteous, terribly, tedious, 

We must always trap, with a voice so mellifluous,

Terrible, skeletal, positively horrible,

Wizened never gaudy, kitschy or showy,

For a shivering, quivering, shuddering, trembling,

We shall oblige, give the children a frightening.

When she was done with her wailing song, the gathering was surprised to find that she’d morphed into a dirty little rat, a flea-bitten parasite that kept scratching, gnawing, turning this way, and that. Still, her wand and robe were neatly transformed, all that is, apart from her hat. It came flying from above and fell with a plop, trapping her inside the smelly round top.

 All of a sudden, not quite unlike a gathering wave, deafening cackling broke out. The grand was embarrassed of course, very displeased, as she struggled to escape the hat’s smell of cheese. Then finally free her wand gave a spark, turned three witches’ into bats and silence returned to the city of rats.

“Now, take your positions!” She squealed as the gathering obliged.

Footsteps splashed against raw sewage and thundered over pipes and grimy floors. Before long, they stood as battlements of pointed hats and warts. “Sing you wretched scum of the earth. Sing and let the sewers ring with rats!”

The grand ordered as the hags obeyed, hollering the enchantment in chorus. Bright green sparks of light zapped around everywhere like bees, shrinking the wizened lot down to their knees. Some yelled while others shrieked, but the grand was altogether quite pleased.

Before long, the sewer rang with a thousand rats, squealing and squeaking in utter delight. It was a most terrible sight to behold with a stench that could wake the dead. Again the grand called for silence with her hand and all the rats stilled, looking ahead.

“Listen sisters,” The grand squeaked. “We shall terrorize them these pests, those rancid insects. We shall bite their silly little legs. We will flood the streets with the smell of cheese and send them a scattering as we please.”

She pointed to the left flank. “You, to the boiler rooms, quickly!” The grand ordered as hundreds of mice fled up the pipes.

She turned to the right. “The kitchens and rooms must feel our wrath too. Spit in their soups and soil their boots. Go!” The grand ordered as more rats ran up the pipes.

She glared at the remaining number. “You my pretties have the best job of all. You shall gnaw at their cupboards and chairs, scamper around and give them a scare. A couple of you should jump in their hair. Bite their toes and ruin their clothes. Let them rue the day they let us rot in these holes.” The grand ordered as the last battalion left up the pipes.

Content with the madness she had spun, the grand made her way up the pipes as well. She scampered over grimy plastic and rotting walls, cackling and chuckling, though not very loud. She knew the sewers well for the wizened had lived off the rotting hell. But she was no longer content with the foul depths below. It was time for the humans to feel her blow.

Outside in the glow of the hallowed moon, rats ran a mock in the town of Wooloon. Men screamed and stomped their feet, while women ran hollering to the trees. The grand snickered, snorted, and joked, then she danced around screaming “Bite their toes!”

It was a pity that she did all of those, for if she hadn’t, she might have I suppose, seen the army that gathered round very close, smacking snouts and waiting.  From their den came no less than ten skinny little cats from the hearths of men. They purred with delight as men took flight and stalked, joining the dance of the night.

The first to be attacked was the grand, oblivious of the cats that prowled. She was gobbled up entirely, coat and all, not even a nail was left in the alley. Next, the cats rounded up the rats, picking off the fattest of the bunch. What began in flight and cowering, had soon become a feast of meowing.

Felines gobbled five, sometimes ten, licking their lips and swaying their hips. They vacuumed the streets, roads, and holes, no stone did they leave unrolled, until at last, the cats were fat, stuffed, and fed on the stinky rats. The town rejoiced, returning home as the cats fell asleep, back by their hearths and mats.

The End

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