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Ever since those construction workers broke that water main, all of the rats from the sewers came up into town. We’ve never really had a problem with them, because the cats would always just catch them and that’d be that. I hadn’t really noticed until I overheard Pop and Mr. Johnson talking about them.
“The cats aren’t going after the rats like usual…” Mr. Johnson mumbled to Pop.
“Yeah, and when one of ‘em comes up to Lily, she’ll jus’ hiss at it and then run away…” Pop stopped and thought a second, as he began to stroke his beard. “Come to think of it, I haven’t seen her since the rats started gettin’ really bad…”
“Them rats are vicious though,” Mr. Johnson said. “One of ‘em nipped at my ankle when I was walkin’ down town. Good thing I had my cane with me, so I hit ‘im ‘til he left.”
“Well one of ‘em got me,” Pop said raising his hand so Mr. Johnson could see. “Got me when I was messin’ in the yard.”
Pop is always getting’ hurt by something or the other, although a lot of people had been getting bit by these rats lately. Something he said had stuck with me though; I hadn’t seen Lily lately either. I didn’t blame her for running away though, because these rats were unnatural…Big, hairy and mean looking. At the same time, they looked a bit like they could keel over at any time. If I had to walk down town, I’d cross the road, just in case one tried to bite me.
Just the other day I had to go get something for Mama when I passed Ms. Emily’s house, and I saw a whole bunch of them scurrying ‘round her yard…I think I even saw one crawl underneath her house…The construction workers were about to leave town by then, and leave us to deal with these darn rats. That was one day after Mr. Homer left, and Ms. Emily hadn’t left the house since.
It’s dark out now, and it’s way past curfew, so I’m trying to hurry up and get home. As I pass Ms. Emily’s house, I hear a strange noise coming from inside. It was a low, raspy moan. I stop and glance over at the old, creepy house. One of the drapes one the second floor moves like someone tripped and fell against them. But as soon as it happens, they’re still again. The negro she keeps ‘round must have tripped or something, I think to myself. I start to walk again, but then I hear the same noise again, only louder. I look over
at the house again, and see a huge group of those big ol’ rats gathering ‘round the base of the house. It’s starting to get really queer, so I decide to just let things be and go home before I get into any more trouble than I’m already going to be in.
I know that Ms. Emily isn’t the…most normal person in town, so there’s no telling’ what she’s doin’ in there. Just as I start walking again, I see someone up the road coming towards me. I wonder if they’re hurt, because they’re limpin’ like an old dog that’s been hit by a car. I squint my eyes to try and make out who it is, and then I see that it’s Pop. He must be real mad about my being late, and probably drunk judging by the way he’s walking. I start to walk towards him when I hear the sound again. The low raspy noise that doesn’t sound like any living person could make. But the thing is, this time it ain’t coming from Ms. Emily’s house…it’s coming from Pop. I stop where I am and just stare at him. He’s still limpin’ towards me, but he’s really slow.
Suddenly Ms. Emily’s front door bursts open with such force that it nearly makes me jump out of my skin. The rats surrounding her house aren’t look startled at all. Then out comes Ms. Emily herself. She stops when she sees me, and then looks even more frightened when she sees Pop, who hasn’t made much progress. She looks like she’s about to say
something when Mr. Homer appears in the door way behind her. He looks like himself, but at the same time, he doesn’t. His skin is paler which make him look sickly. He’s got green stuff coming out of the sides of his mouth and eyes. His eyes look angry and hollow, and they’re looking straight at Ms. Emily. He opens his mouth wider than any normal person could to reveal ugly yellow teeth. Now a horrible noise that sounds like someone screaming while being choked erupts from his throat. I cover my ears, but I can’t look away. I know I should run, but my feet wont listen. It’s hard enough to get my lungs to work let alone my feet and legs.
When Pop hears Mr. Homer’s howl, he howls too. My heart stops when I hear the same howl echo across the whole town in front of me. Mr. Homer moves a lot faster than Pop, and lunges at Ms. Emily. They both fall to the ground, and Mr. Homer does the strangest thing; he bites Ms. Emily. But it’s not one of those bites like from a little puppy. He bites down deep, sinking his ugly, rotting teeth into her arm. She screams, and then the negro appears in the door way as Mr. Homer rips a chunk from Ms. Emily’s arm off and swallows it. The negro looks like how Mr. Homer does; pale, well, as pale as a negro can be, and has the same dried trails of green stuff. The only difference is that the negro has a large bite mark on the side of his neck. He moves just as fast as Mr. Homer does, and is over at Ms. Emily in an instant.
My heart is in my ears, and I can’t breath as I watch them rip poor Ms. Emily’s screaming body apart. Tears form in my eyes as I see Jimmy, my neighbor, dash past me and acts like he doesn’t see what’s happening. I look in the direction that he’s running from and see a bunch of the folks from town coming this way, with a hoard of other folks who look like Pop and Mr. Homer behind them. Some run as fast as Mr. Homer and the negro, and others limp like Pop does.
Then I see Mama. She’s not like Pop, and I almost faint from relief. She sees me, and Pop. He’s still a good bit away from me, so she goes to him first, until she realizes that he’s one of them. She’s at me now, and she’s taken my hand and started to drag me along with her. I never knew Mama could run so fast.
“Hurry up, baby! We have to go! Hurry up!” She’s saying, and I finally get my legs to work again so we’re running together now. She’s crying which makes me cry too, which is bad, ‘cause it’s harder to breath when you’re running and crying at the same time.
“What’s happening, Mama? What’s wrong with Pop?” I ask between breaths and sobs.
“Those damn rats!” Is all she says before telling me to hurry up. I can hear a horse whinny somewhere, and Mama can too. We both look over to the lonely barn owned by Mr. Peterson. The horse whinnies again, and Mama says we’re going over there.
The other horses are already gone, but Mr. Peterson’s mare is still in her stall, and I can tell she wants to get away as much as we do. Mama tells me to go watch the door as she gets some reigns. I run over to the barn door and I see Mr. Peterson. And he sees me, too. He howls that horrible howl and charges toward the barn. It’s too bad he doesn’t limp like Pop. I start to tell Mama about Mr. Peterson, but she’s scooping me up onto the horse. Mr. Peterson bursts through the barn door and snarls at us before lunging towards us. Just as he does, the mare rears back and kicks him in the head, knocking him flat on his back. When she lands, it’s on his head, and it makes a crunch that makes me sick to my stomach.
Mama is making the horse run as fast as she can, and we’re passing a lot of the
people from town. We pass another scene like the one at Ms. Emily’s house, and I have to
look away ‘cause I’m crying again.
All I can hear is those howls, the screams of people being eaten, and Mama’s voice saying, “We’ve got to get away! We’ve got to get away!”
I hope we do.