The Rats in the Foyer

Come with us, they said orbiting the girl, deadlocked in the foyer.

The crash of the monster, waking from slumber, closed in.

The girl flung the door wide.

The rats, eyes glassy with night, scampered through the tall grass, the girl following behind the blades rustling, keeping step. 

They disappeared into the old barn, threadbare like denim worn at the knees.

Over here, they whispered, Behind the straw.

Ruby rolled herself into a ball like a Rollie Pollie prodded with a stick.

Her heartbeat a hammer, slapping a nail through the meaty flesh of the fence board.

Shhh, they said. Don’t make a sound.

The girl held her breath, squeezing deeper into the paper-thin cranny between bales.

They heard the monster, pleading for the girl. 

His voice bellowed like a forlorn steer.

Shhh, they said. Don’t make a sound. 

The beam swung like a metronome, the flashlight sloshing in his hand.

Ruby?! Whures ye at, gerl?! Ye betta git on inside, ye hir me?!

The monster tottered, a scarecrow hoisted on a cross waving in the wind, silence his only answer.

Like a well-worn moped on pavement, broken and wet, the flare swerved, his boots cast-iron skillets slapping the dirt, fading into the distance.

The rats slithered from the straw, climbing the girl’s shoulders, braiding into her thick mane like blossoms in a coronet, their coats silver mirrors reflecting the moon bloated bright, a million little orbs busting against the bleached sac the Wolf carried across the sky. 

He’s gone! He’s gone! they chattered. Come with us, Ruby! Come with us! We’ll show you the way!

Where will we go? she asked. This is all I know. 

The rats, ancient rovers of the forest, implored. We’ll show you! they said. 

Ruby hopped up onto her little feet, tough and smooth, scoured by the earth’s pumice in her few short years. 

They ran through the nettles, the homestead fading behind them, soft beards of wheat showering Ruby’s legs with seed as she went, like dried rice cast at a young bride, descending the steps from the sanctuary.

The rats scrabbled back and forth, like ribbon in bows on gift boxes, waiting for the girl to catch up.

Ruby ran blind into the air thick with tears, ensuing the singing whispers of the rats, toward their promise of Elysian Fields.

This way! the rats trilled. 

Soon, the loam gave way to the brack, and the girl was swallowed whole, a kernel of krill sucked into the sweeping gullet of the Baleen lying in wait. 

Ruby pawed and punted at the pond water.

She could not swim.

The rats weaved laurels around the girl, circling her like a maypole, their long smooth tails rudders at the helm, skimming the consecration.

Their voices soothed Ruby as she sank toward the trundle, her lungs pushing against the bars of her ribs, like jailbirds pleading for mercy.

The rats cooed, “You’re safe now, Ruby. We love you.”

Ruby reached up, looking at the halo of rats above her head, and let go. 

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