top of page
  • Writer's pictureAnais Sobrier

Rat King

Style: Flash fiction.

Statement: "Rat King" is a flash fiction piece inspired by the phenomenon of a collection of rats whose tails are bound together by entangled material or by someone tying them together. I was particularly inspired by the way late 19th and early 20th century writing styles for horror balanced intricate visuals with overwhelming emotion, and I explored the style by adding my own idea of a monster created by its surroundings' negligence.

“They didn’t treat the kids good here, did they?”

“Nope. Only the rats,” Vernier quipped as he chewed gum. Jean pressed his glasses up and chuckled. Martin, who had a frown permanently etched onto his thin face, followed behind Jean and Vernier, the tallest and roundest. The three of them, all policemen, had been sent to investigate the abandoned, two story hospital in the countryside of central France.

The dirty confinement, covered in torn wallpaper and painted with feces, reeked with a putrefying neglect. The three men closed their mouths to the air that tasted of expired milk. A small room on the right of the hallway was full of broken, overturned cribs and had a missing door, leaving only rusted hinges. There was a subtle, static sound of scratching. Dust came in through shattered windows and lingered in the early morning light. As they walked through the building, the men’s leather shoes stepped over diaper cloth, paper, planks of fallen wood, and scurrying rats.

“What’s worse,” added Jean, “is that these kids stayed here ‘til eighteen.”

“Sick orphans?” Martin asked, gripping his flashlight with clammy hands. He slowly passed the light across the ripped wallpaper.

“Both mentally and physically,” Jean mused as he checked the undersides of his shoes.

“Wouldn’t be surprised if we found an adult skeleton in a crib.” Vernier gasped on his gum from the piercing stench. A shiver reached up their backs, clasping their necks. “Just check the whole building.” Vernier weaved through piles of unidentifiable waste. “Neighbors been reportin’ screams ‘round here.”

The group continued down the hallway toward the only remaining door in the establishment. When Vernier opened it, an acute odor ignited the structure, drying their throats, nauseating their minds.

Vernier covered his mouth. “Damn, now I know why they hollered for police.” He spit his stale gum onto the floor and quickly took out a new piece from his pocket.

Jean looked at Vernier, his face contorted in revulsion. “Some guy came up here to investigate about two weeks ago and disappeared.”

“Disappeared?” Martin’s eyebrows raised.

“Could’ve just been wanted by nearby gangs or somethin’,” Vernier figured.

“Then do we call for backup?” Martin panted.

Vernier sighed and Jean let out a scoff, though Martin worried one of them might have whispered “coward” at him.

The men continued to move, their feet whispering on the ground. The flashlight beams explored the spacious room, pausing upon powders, pill bottles, empty syringes—a silhouette scurrying across the light.

Martin inhaled sharply, jumping back.

“‘Nother rat,” Vernier observed in an irritated tone. Martin frantically scanned his flashlight on the ground.

“Hey, relax. They won’t kill you. It’s not like we’re dealing with a criminal case.” Jean looked up at the scratch marks on the ceiling. “Though I really wish we had a criminal case,” he complained.

“Why is anybody worrying about shouting in here when no one in the right mind would come here?” Vernier posed.

Jean cackled. “Maybe this town is out of their mind.”

“But,” Martin hesitated, “they’ve been reporting shouts for a while, right?” He tried to swallow down all the doubt he had in his voice.

“There’s nothing much here, just shit everywhere,” Vernier concluded.

“That’s all?” asked Martin, standing at the center of the room.

Vernier’s eyes dulled. “What?”

“We’re here to inspect,” Jean clarified. “Not help.” Vernier raised an irritated eyebrow.

“C’mon,” Vernier groaned. “We’ve basically seen everything.” He and Jean turned off their flashlights and went out to the surrounding field of bare, crooked trees.

Martin watched them leave but hesitated to follow. “I’ll finish checking this room,” he shouted after them. Vernier, facing away, waved his plump hand in a good-bye.

Martin stayed inside with his light on, scanning the building’s scars. The floor’s creaking evoked a deep dread within him, but he knew that once he saw everything, he could reassure the neighborhood with certainty.

creak creak creak

All at once, the pattering of nails and the thudding of feet grew louder. A deformed accumulation of rotting human bodies, both dead and alive, covered in stains of dried blood emerged from the corner. Its limbs were entangled together, forming a grotesque collection of bodies that acted as a singular being. Ribbons of flesh sticking out from its chests embroidered its skins. Mold grew under the assemblage of emaciated limbs, bare torsos, and hollow faces. The rot of the bodies smelled of all imaginable secretions — sweat, urine, blood.

It scurried out towards Martin. Shot by bullets of adrenaline, he turned his back onto the naked mammoth and sprinted out the doorway. His voice was trapped in his dry throat, and his legs were pumping with an indescribable fervor that had stricken his entire body.

The cries of the warped bodies rapidly neared, reducing the gap between predator and prey.

Martin’s eyes darted back at the flailing mass chasing him down the hall. He threw himself into an open room in a desperate frenzy. A shattered window urged him to seize his chance at escape.

The running monstrosity, shaking the hallway with its flailing arms that hit the walls, swerved to the left. A wet hand grabbed Martin’s ankle, dragging him across the floor and back into the somber hall. With his eyes protruding from his skull, he let out a breath so heavy it crushed his heart.

The unknown consumed Martin until nothing was left except his leather shoes.

Outside, Vernier and Jean were by their car, smoking cigarettes as they waited for Martin to come.

Jean pointed his nose up. “What’s that smell?”

“Never smoked before?” Vernier joked.

“No, no. It’s coming from the building, but it’s not the same as before—”

“Prolly the rats.”



bottom of page