I was thinking of the land my father used to tell me about when the rat men walked into the room. I heard them from my hiding place behind the wall and adjusted to see them better. They were having another “meeting”, which meant stuffing their faces for the next two hours while the workers starved below.
I loathed leaving behind the memory of the place my father called the “Outside”. A place people used to live. A place where people were free. A place where the big Sun felt warm, and the air was blue and clean, and the water was too. Many fathers told of this land, and their father’s had told them of it before. Some of us believed and wanted to go there. That is why I am watching the rat men now.
We called them the rat men because the is what all the bureaucrats were, big, nasty rats. They wiggled in where the weren’t wanted and the multiplied quickly, using up the only real resource left in this world, people. It was as much a part of my instinct to hate these man as it was for me to hate the rodent. No one had to tell me the rat man was dirty, I knew it in the old parts of my brain. It had been bred into me.
The rat men ran the factories and the workers ran the machines. We lived, and worked, and died in these damp and dirty factories for the bureaucrat and capitalists. We would get capitalist too but we had to go through the bureaucrat first.
Each one of them had once been a worker too. They rose by convincing the rich men they could make them richer. They convinced us by promising more food and better conditions, but they never really helped.
We needed to get rid of them but killing them did no good, we’d tried that. We needed a plan more cunning than that. That is why I need to be here, watching the rat men now. How else could I beat them without becoming one of them? How how else could I become one if I did not watch them?
I longed to return back to the floor among the machines and men I’d known my whole life but this was the only way for us to be free. Through the destruction of the hated bureaucrat we could move up, we could move out, we could see what was beyond and maybe, one day, we could see what was Outside.
I allowed myself one more memory of my father and his words. I allowed myself one thought of all the bureaucrats hanging from the beams of the very factory that was their kingdom. And I briefly thought the death of the fat capitalist that was pulling their strings. Then, I pushed those last thoughts away, matched my face to that of the rat men, and turned my heart to ice.
Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.
Featured image via Matt Baume