The Ratconteur

An antique dining table stretched across the dust-streaked, cobwebbed room. At each end sat one half of an odd couple: an old man and a large rat. One was painfully oblivious of the other, to the other’s amusement and partly, chagrin.

This soon changed, when the smaller creature decided to break the silence and make its presence known, “Where do I begin?”

Abandoning his bread and wine, the man looked around with furrowed brows. The voice confused him. He had lived alone all his life, which explained his less-than-savoury dinner, or home on the whole. His eyes darted about. No matter where he looked with his neck stretched taut, he saw no other person in the room.

And so, he cried out impulsively, “What? Who’s speaking?”

“Right here.”

Upon the second statement from the stranger (and intruder, if he may so assume), the man almost fell from his chair and most certainly, did knock over his wine glass. He stood up and began to shout, “Where, where?!”

“Here, here, here,” the calmer voice reiterated. “I am right across you, seated with my feet on your leftover breakfast.”

Unwillingly, the man followed the voice. And true enough, there it was. For five full minutes, he sat down in silence and poured himself a second glass of wine. Then, a third. And a fourth. He was thinking of what to say, but simply could not find the words as he looked through his new wine glass – at the warped shape of a talking rat.

The rat bared her gums, staring back at her human companion with just a quarter of his arrogant insolence. With all due respect, she lost interest in the unresponsive common man. Instead, she began to break some stale bread crumbs with her padded paws.

Another minute later, boredom got the better of her as she spoke again, “Where would you like me to begin?”

The man’s fallen jaw ached. He could not quite believe his ears, or his eyes for that matter. It was a rat-like voice from a rat-like creature (just like how he would imagine it might be), and it filled him with utter repulse like a rat-like rat. But it just could not be possible, could it?

Where could it begin? Anywhere it wished! For he supposed he must be mad, and a mad man had no right to bear command to anyone.

The man said those very words out loud, for hell he must be mad to be talking to a rat. A mad man had no obligations to manners, and it seemed that the rat did not mind very much at all.

She answered, “Mad men often have plenty of stories to tell. Or so I have learnt from my years of meeting your kind. Now, where shall we begin? How about we begin, with the story of your very own child?”

“What child? What of? What do you mean?”

“Your son.”

“I have no son,” the man made his impatience known. “No daughter, or any children at all.”

“A crying shame, for it’d have made a good story.”

“What’s a good story to a… rat like you?”

“Hm, a life without stories isn’t quite worth living, is it? Why else would I risk scampering into the houses of men, who only wish me dead?”

The man thought about this and finally conceded, “I guess you’re right.”

Blinks punctuated his reply, as he still struggled to make sense of what he was looking at. Patches of grey against dark grey formed its unevenly scrubbed coat. Dust against dirt thickened its thin whiskers. It was unmistakably a creature.

“It’s rude, you know.”

“What’s rude?”

“For one, referring to me as an ‘it’. It’s Racquel, thank you very much, kind sir. And two: staring! Now that’s no gentle mouse… Pardon my squeaks, gentle man’s behaviour.”

“Well, I’m sorry Racquel… I suppose.”

Sorry? The man could not believe that had just apologised to a rat. And called her by her name. And to refer to it as a ‘her’, look at that! That was enough absurdity for a day, and he wanted it all to end.

Looking at the half-empty wine bottle on the table, he realised that he could drink no more. Not if he wanted this illusion gone. So, he removed the warm bottle with his clammy palm, and threw it hard against the brick wall of his shabby place.

He missed.

Sharply.

Where it landed was sadly fatal. Not for the man of course, but his dear new friend. Before the poor little rat could scurry away, a glass shard had impaled her tiny head. She managed no clever last word before she squeaked her last breath.

Oh, Racquel. The man sighed at the wistful loss. He has begun to feel the brunt of his solitude returning, as the room fell back into silence again.

The next morning, the man woke up alone.

Well, not exactly.

There was a dead mouse just across him. Hung over and slumped over his antique dining table, he observed the creature that looked almost human in his groggy mind. Its mouth dripped blood and traces of her – its last meal.

He looked around his empty home, trying to recall the night before. It was then that little by little, he started to recollect a bizarre, feverish dream…

Daily Prompt: Pest

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