Rat Race

 

RAT RACE

 

Macy’s open toed Michael Kors sandals kicked up puffs of age-old dust as she shuffled through the tunnel. She let her hand trail a hair away from the moldy damp cement wall, adverse to get her fingers dirty. Every so often she would sidestep a broken bottle or heap of refuse. Sallow ocher lamps barely lit the way. The scent of stale urine and mildewed papers hovered in the humid air.

She spoke quietly into her phone, not wanting to make her presence known to anyone that may reside in the unused tunnels. “If you are just tuning into Facebook live, I swear I saw The Rat Boy in the subway this morning on my way to work. It seemed as though no one else saw it, but I know for a fact I did.” Macy paused as a sneeze tickled her nose. She squinted, held her breath and – nothing. So, she continued on. “I got off at the Jackson Ave stop and followed it because I’m tired of you all teasing me that The Rat Boy isn’t real. I’ll show you he’s real.”

Macy held the phone outwards so anyone watching could view her trek first hand. To know how brave and fearless she was – taking such a risk. She only hoped that her GPS was tracking her in case she got lost. She’d been walking for about a half an hour with only the muffled sounds of the distance trains and the occasional crunch of something unseen beneath her expensive sandals. When a new noise echoed up from behind her. “What was that?” She stopped and listened to the previously silent tunnel.

From a distance, there was an echoing tick -tick -tick, like nails on a hard floor.

“Hello?” She peered into the dark beyond the arch of light. “I am live videoing this,” she held up the phone to reinforce the statement.

The ticking stopped, and then silence once again. Her own breathing hovered in her immediate space, and she could faintly make out a drip of water from somewhere far off. The rumble of another train drowns out all other noise. “Sorry guys,” Macy gave a trembling chuckle, “this is not going to be the best video, I’ll admit it’s creepy down here all alone.” She turned to resume her search when as the train faded away, the tick -tick- tick, came again, this time faster and gaining volume. Macy turned quickly, automatically bringing her arms protectively to her sides. Her heart throbbed in her chest, her breath came in short, frightened bursts, and her phone held forgotten at her side.

She caught a hitch in her throat and stumbled back a step as The Rat Boy emerged from the darkness behind her. He stood on his hind legs and lifted his waxy lips in a snarl. His beady red eyes reflected the amber light into blood red pools and his pale segmented tail whipped through the air over his head.

Macy screamed in earnest and warm piss coursed down her leg, ruining her precious sandals. She stumbled left, scraped her hand, along with the screen of her I-phone across the cement wall, and turned to run. “H-h-h-,” she huffed her eyes bulging as she ran, “h-hel-p-mmm-e,” she stuttered out through deep breaths.

Her foot caught an unbroken bottle, her ankle twisted and Macy fell face first into the filth. She went down with an ‘oomph’ as the wind was knocked out of her and her phone flew into the darkness. It skittered a few feet away, the eye pointed at the grungy ceiling, live feed still active.

Macy scrambled to get back up, too terrified to look over her shoulder. The flesh was peeled from one of her hands, and her ankle pulsated with pain. As Macy tried to stand, The Rat Boy ambled along behind her. Hearing his long nails on the cold cement, she rolled onto her back and held her hands out as though begging for mercy.

It sniffed the air, it’s large wet nose twitching, and it hissed. Saliva dripped down its matted gray fur, and its whiskers undulated wildly. Then it let out an ear-splitting screech, and a wind of hot putrid breath blew back Macy’s bangs.

Macy covered her ears and screamed along with it. She scuttled herself backward away from the beast, almost hoping to sneak away, and then another sound filled her bowels with dread. The quieter more familiar squeaking of New York City rats reached her ears. She made one more attempt to stand, but it was too late as hundreds of rats filled the tunnel. They raced towards her, over the strewn about garbage and up the sides of the walls.

Macy closed her eyes, shook her head no, and cried out, “Help me! Please – oh god -please!” She began to cry.

The rats crawled up her legs, their sharp claws piercing her tender flesh, now Macy screamed and jumped to her feet. She shook her legs, forgetting her sprain, she pushed at their large hot oily bodies. Her screams grew in volume as tiny sharp teeth bit through her clothes and the pain seared her senses. Macy spun and flailed about in a macabre dance as the rats ate her alive.

Finally, the rat boy wanted his own live feed. With one powerful swipe, his razor-sharp claws tore out her windpipe, silencing the screams.

Macy’s live feed recorded on, catching sight of tiny pink toes, gray and brown furry bodies, and twitching whiskers. The show finally ended when a rat scampered across the screen trailing a bloody finger and blotting out the camera’s eye.

Thousands of horrified, mesmerized, viewers watched Macy’s video debut, and not one of them saw a Rat Boy.

 

This story is by TheresaJacobs and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.

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