Rat Key (Updated Version)
Author's note: This is the revised version of Rat Key and let me tell you, it is much improved. I'm still... Show full author's note »
And so the poison is released“Let’s kill him!” My head falls against the round, stone table. “Lord, help me,” I whimper.
“We can’t kill him! Are you mad?”
“Then what do you propose we do?”
‘Such a heated argument,’ I think, rubbing my temples, ‘And all over one man.’
I look around the leaders’ table. There’s Hearth, standing out of her chair, with her hands placed firmly on the table. She has her auburn hair tied back in a ponytail today. I assume she knew that there would be quite a bit of work to be done. Then to Hearth’s right, I see Croc, calmly sitting in his chair with one foot on the table that’s pushing him back so that the chair’s resting on its hind legs. His light brown and very tattered cape covers the majority of the chair, but not his face. He very rarely puts his hood up and when he does, you can be sure that nothing good is going on. Sitting next to Croc is Well. He sits on the edge of his chair, resting his elbows on the table with his fingers laced together, supporting his head. He’s not planning on getting overly involved in this debate, but he’s not planning on sitting out either, that I can tell. He scratches his head, ruffling his brown hair while he opens his mouth to say something that’s never heard over the others. Spark stands next to Well, waving his arms about, trying to get his point across I suppose. His face is slightly reddened from all the yelling he’s done. Directly across from me sits Memory, the incredibly creepy leader of the Ghost gang. He sits up straight in his chair with a large black cape covering almost all of his body and face. I can only tell that he’s pale and is somehow enjoying this because he has a slight smile on his face. Spear sits to the right of him, acting as the voice of reason. I’d say he is the wisest of the leaders, possibly because he’s the oldest. Today his eyes are especially stern and seemingly very impatient. Then to the right of him is the glorious, or I suppose, grand, Grand. He’s got a bandage over one eye and a still bloody cut across his face. Gust sits next to Grand, swishing his light brown hair back every so often and offering snide and rude remarks all around. ‘He’s just trying to pick a fight’ I think. Then sitting in between Hearth and Gust is me. I feel quite unwanted even though I was requested to attend this meeting. While all the others bicker amongst themselves, I just sit there, feeling awkward. I just knew this meeting would be loads of fun.
“He’s going to ruin us!” Spark yells out.
“Not if we kill him, he won’t,” Gust says.
“We’re not going to kill him, Gust!” Hearth shouts.
“Hearth is right. If we killed him, the people would rightfully assume it was us and attack,” Spear adds.
“What’s the problem with that?” Gust asks.
“You’re sick!” Hearth declares.
“What, Hearth? It’s just a little war. Surely you of all people would love to see some fire,” Gust says.
Hearth leans forward to hit him, but Well calms things down before she can. “Alright, alright, let’s be decent now. If we fail to reach a decision on this then the Tunnels are doomed.”
“Well is right,” Croc said, speaking for the first time at this meeting, “Let’s figure out what we can do and then we will weigh the consequences for each option.”
“I propose we wait it out and see if he is actually a threat and if so, fight him off by overwhelming him with our combined power,” Hearth says, pulling her chair closer to the table and sitting down in it. The others who are standing follow her actions as well.
“Alright, that’s one way,” Croc says.
“I propose we kill him,” Gust says.
“That’s another option,” he says, “Anybody else?”
“We could just leave him be and watch what happens,” Well says, “I’m not in favor of that, but it is an option.”
“What kind of option is that!?” Spark exclaims.
“No, he’s right. That is an option. You may not like it, but others might,” Croc says. Spark pouts like a little girl. “Shocking,” Croc laughs.
“You’re funny, Croc,” Spark says rather venomously.
“In any case, we seem to have two realistic options. Wait it out and exterminate if needed, or kill him now,” Croc explains.
“If we wait it out, it’ll be too late and the Tunnels will collapse,” Gust says, almost maturely.
“But if we kill him now, it will enrage the public and pit them against us,” Hearth says, resting her head on her fist, “We can’t fight the public.”
“And why not?” Grand asks.
“Because there’s children up there! Those people are innocent! We can’t kill them, it’s not right!” Hearth says, appalled that anybody would ask such a thing.
“They ain’t innocent if they’re fighting us,” Grand counters.
Hearth contains her anger which must be boiling over by now and sighs. “Shall we put it to a vote?” she suggests. Several of the leaders nod yes or said something quietly to signal approval. “Alright, those in favor of waiting it out?” Hearth raises her hand along with Well, Spark, and Croc. Half. “Those in favor of killing him now?” Grand, Memory, Spear, and Gust raise their hands. Half. Before I even have time to think, all the heads that aren’t mine turn to look at me.
“Can I help you?” I ask with somewhat of an attitude.
“Ha, sure can. It’s a dead tie, Rat,” Croc says, laughing a little. ‘Surely they don’t expect me to vote, too?’ I think, ‘They can’t. I’m just a rat.’
“And you’re the only one who hasn’t voted,” Grand spits. ‘I thought wrong.’
“Listen, Rat. You’re the only one who saw him, so we need your input as well. You have the exact same right to vote as we do,” Hearth says to me.
“No buts! Just do it,” she snaps. “Are you in favor of killing him or waiting it out?”
Suddenly I feel like I really am a rat and all the others are looming over me as if I’d just chewed my way through their wall. ‘This is not good,’ I think, ‘If we kill him, the Tunnels will be safe for sure from him…but there’s the public and how can I just let a man die? Even if he is our enemy, I can’t bring myself to kill him. I’m no soldier.’ I sigh deeply. ‘Here goes nothing.’ “I’m in favor of…waiting it out.”
Grand immediately throws his hands upon the table, creating a huge thud. “This is ridiculous!” he booms, “The Tunnels are doomed!”
“Even if they are doomed, this is the decision we’ve reached,” Spear says with his arms folded across his chest and his eyes closed tightly as if he could block out Grand’s presence just by not looking at him.
“These Tunnels are going to fall,” he declares, “They will crumble into nothingness with all of you idiots in tow, whether it’s by the government’s hands or mine.” Then he storms out of the room and starts barking orders. ‘That went well,’ I think.
Hearth sighs and leans back in her chair. “Grand can be so difficult,” she says.
Croc laughs, saying, “Difficult is an understatement.”
Hearth adjourns the meeting and all of us go our separate ways with our minds clouded with worry and anger.