The Rat King
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The inexorable call of the book plagues your mind.

In all of your time in the Library, you've never felt drawn to a text like you are now. Books have piqued your curiosity, you've been interested in a subject matter, but this is different.

You knew the book was terrible when you first saw it. Sitting at the end of an aisle, backed by a stone wall, was a lone podium, the book resting on top. You felt the gravity of the tome, your feet sliding across the wooden floor towards it. Your vision tunneled as the cover came into sight, your ears beginning to ring. Terror filled your heart, adrenaline giving you the kick you needed to break yourself away. You fled the stacks, retreating to your Way, looking to separate yourself as much as you could from the book.

You didn't escape it.

It has taken root in your mind.

It seeps into your every thought. You avoid anything to do with aristocracy because those thoughts will inevitably lead back to the book. The mere thought of the color purple is enough to sink the fish hook into your cheek once more.

Restless sleep plagues your every moment of rest. You dream of walking though cylindrical stone halls, water pooled beneath your feet, following the cries of rats. As you get closer to the sound, it transforms into a beautiful choir, but you never reach it before the dream is broken by the light of morning, feeling just as tired as you were when you rested your head.

You can't remember a time where you could walk a consistent path in the Library and end up in the same place twice, you would always need the help of a Docent, but now you find that every path always leads back to the aisle with the podium sitting at the end of it.

There's a taboo nature to the book, one never told to you or enforced, but present nonetheless. The draw of the book, a sword of Damocles, hanging over you, threatening to curse you should you confer or confide with another. Isolation has driven you to the edge.

It has all become far too much to bear.

You walk aimlessly through the stacks of the Library, knowing where you will eventually arrive at. It takes twenty minutes, but you turn another corner and see the podium at the end of the aisle. You feel the gravity again, you feel your feet shuffling. The ringing from before is replaced by the choir you heard in your dreams.

The faded purple cover greets you, the gold calligraphy title, "THE RAT KING," etching itself onto your eyes. You open the book, the crackling of the pages silences the song in your ears. The world has become unnaturally quiet, no sensation exists outside of your visual perception.

You no longer feel the thumping of your heart.
The sensation of holding yourself up against gravity has disappeared.
Saliva has stopped filling your mouth.
You don't even know if you're breathing.

Are you alive?

You gaze at the words in the book, engulfed in ataraxia.

I reside in my kingdom with my subjects, their song saturating the air.

My rule is just.

My kingdom is vast.

My visage is beautiful.

~ ~ ~

Solitude is the food of thought.

Hatred is the food of conflict.

Music is the food of love.

Scrap is the food of opportunists.

Vultures are of the highest order.

The stray dogs at your feet are the most adored.

Snuggled into the fading warmth of the dead, maggots writhe in royal ecstasy.


The vultures, the stray dogs, the maggots of the metropolitan zeitgeists and everything below them.

I wished to join the ranks of those who scurry in the darkest corners of the streets.

To cast myself out from my old home, become one with the beady-eyed.

I prayed, I begged, I pleaded.

The good graces of those unraveling my spool of yarn fell upon me.

I found the crown of suburbia in the gutter, and I picked it up.

In that dark and filthy alley I ascend to the heights of untold glory.

I cupped my hands and filled them with mud and street scum.

I drizzled it onto my head, feeling the cold slime slither down my back and temples.


I walked into the street and lifted the heavy disc of iron that served as the door to my domain.

I sprinted down the halls of my castle, yelling the good news to my people.

Your king is here, your king is here!

Rise to your feet, abandon your slumber!

A new dawn has risen past the horizon!

Your king is here, your king is here!

I prepared my banquet hall, the floor laden with the left-behinds of the wasteful.

Yellowed apple cores, swaths of soft fat, delectable mushrooms, and water, sweet and syrupy.

Ambrosia and nectar.

I ate this feast alone, but as the days passed, my people began to recognize their king.

We ate together, played together, fought together.

On cold nights we slept together, keeping warm and safe.

My kingdom flourished, my people heeded my every command.

The remaining evidence of my former life rotted away, leaving me bare to the world like my brothers and sisters.

Still did the crown remain upon my head, when all else had withered away.

My people taught me to scavenge, how to mark territory, how to keep it.

In return, I taught them art, dance, music.

I, the conductor.

My people, the choir.

Our songs echoed through the chambers of my castle.

Haunting, euphonious.

Our raucous nature did not go unnoticed.

Our Elysium was intruded upon.

A guardsman from a previous life began walking my halls.


A scout told me of his coming, I asked her to greet him and bring him to my court.

I sat upon my throne, prepared to be benevolent to the poor fool.

Footsteps approached the entryway, he appeared.

A guardsman in his blue uniform, sullied by my kingdom's dirt and scum.

Adornments of platinum and silver.

A golden badge, sullied by his trespasses.

To the land, to God.

Blood upon his boots, blood that belonged to my dear scout.

Innocent, beautiful, martyr.

He shined a light in my face, light like I hadn't seen in a long time.

I hissed at the light, he greeted me with a shaky hello.

He did not kneel, he did not render himself prostrate at my feet.

He brought with him demands for knowledge.

He demanded my name.

I am the king of my people, my identity outside of that is nothing.

He demanded my past.

I once was hollow, now I am fulfilled.

He demanded my home.

I reside in my kingdom with my subjects, their song saturating the air.

He demanded my family.

Their eyes, flashing in the darkness as he scanned with his flashlight, the answer.

He demanded my cooperation, demanded that I come with him.

For this, I groaned with disdain.

I had welcomed him into my home, shown him mercy despite his malfeasance.

In return, he sought to usurp my reign.

I called for my people, commanding that they make him submit.

He fell to the ground in a panic, my people viciously attacking him.

For this, I feel no remorse.

I pinned his arms with my knees, my hands prying his mouth open until there was a crack.

For this, I feel not a twinge of guilt.

I sunk my teeth into his tongue, pulling the wriggling muscle until it tore.

For this, I feel great satisfaction.

As the blood pooled and he choked, my people tore away at his flesh.

A grand feast.

I swallowed, satiated by the pleasure of protecting my people.

The guardsman, transformed into a writhing mass of brown, black, and grey.

My people cried out in praise.

They thanked me.

They thanked me for protecting them.

I crushed our enemies underfoot.

They thanked me for providing for them.

I brought food to their table and bones to gnaw on, keeping their teeth in check.

I lavished them with opulence.

I was their righteous king, they were my subjects.

My heart swelled with love.

My lips dribbled blood onto my chin as I grinned, watching my people feast.

I licked them clean.

Enraptured by the song of my people, I tilted my head back and began to sing with them.

Their song still rings though my castle's halls.

I have seen generations come and go.

But still I sit on my throne, ageless.

My people lose their luster and go grey.

Yet I remain.

They bring forth young, sleek and handsome.

The young lose their luster and go grey, just as their parents did.

The young bring forth young, sleek and handsome, just as their parents did.

So the cycle continues, ad infinitum.

Yet I remain.

And so I will remain.

With my eyes and ears everywhere, above and below.

I know how they speak of me, the filth above my kingdom.

They fear me.

The man in the pipes, the sewers, the grates.

They tell naughty children that I will take them away if they don't obey.

If they stay out too late, I'll drag them down a manhole once the streetlamps begin to glow.

They say that I have spent so long with my people that my eyes have turned black.

That I've grown a tail.

Long, pink, and ugly.

When they're older, they tell their teens that I'm simply a myth.

Yet they still speak of me in hushed whispers, praying that I do not hear.

They cry and plea into the grates in the streets when no one is watching, begging that I return the missing.

The truth that they will never understand is that none come to me unwillingly.

I have never stolen anyone from them.

The wanderers from above come to me, allured by my majesty.

Drawn to my kingdom.

Desiring to assimilate into my people.

Pleading to be loved.

I welcome them.

I embrace them with a warm heart.

I let their tears fall upon my form.

For I am a loving king.

My rule is just.

My kingdom is vast.

My visage is beautiful.

I am the king of the metropolitan zeitgeists and everything below them.

I will embrace you with a warm heart.

I will let your tears fall upon my form.

I welcome you into my fold, o beautiful member of my choir.

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