The Brass Rat

The old curio-shop was half buried in the tumbledown tenement, it were as if some arcane force held the cement at bay, differentiated by its diminutive size. The man walked in the door and was greeted by a strange old man, the pawnbroker, who stood at the counter. Pawnbroker nodded, wordless and stoic as statuary. The man looked about the shelves filled with books and baubles, baseballs and baseball cards and trading cards and broken radios, the detritus of dead decades. After some minutes rummaging he chanced upon a glistening statue behind a pile of junk, a brass rat, of relative size. He asked the broker how much it would cost. The broker replied, “$10 for the rat. $1000 for the story behind it.”

“I’ll just take the rat. You can keep the story.”

Pawnbroker nodded and took the money as the rummager left the shop and headed out upon the sidewalk. After a pace he heard a scuttling. He glanced over his shoulder. Nothing. Continuing on he heard the sound once more. Again he turned. A filthy, fat rat scurried up behind him from a sewer drain, squishy, amniotic eyes gazing with bottomless hunger, its movements liminal in the sprawl. The man shooed the furry beast away with a hiss, annoyed and disgusted and left off. A few moments later he heard the scuttling once more and, turning for a third time, beheld ten rats. Fear seized him like an ephemeral vice. Shortly, ten become twenty and twenty became fifty and fifty become a hundred and hundred became hundreds. A chittering mass of claw and teeth and feral desire, the sight thereof pounding his heart’s pistons into manic machinery, ceaselessly sounding behind blood and bone.

The shopper began running now, the little statue tucked under his left arm. He turned sharply and vaulted a fence which let out to the shipping yard adjacent the sea. The rats followed still, their savage increase unabated by time. All their squishy black eyes fixed upon the statue. Realizing this, the man bounded to the edge of the nearest pier and, with a grunt of exertion, hefted the totem in a wide arc, sending it up to meet the sun and down into the briny depths below with a resounding splash. The rats followed without hesitation and spun out into the abyss. Drowning in the vastness of that capricious waste of salt and scale and swirling wetness. The man looked on in shock, the wind then sweeping up as if in mourning of the grotesque affair.

The man returned to the curio-shop and slammed his wallet down upon the counter, his eyes intense, fearful and filled with yearning. Pawnbroker met his gaze.

“I take it you’ll be wanting to hear that story now?”

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