Winner of the last 2000AD forum short story competition, Tales from the Clara Pandy, and printed VERY late (my fault, sorry) with the author’s permission, we give you…..
“You ratted me out?”
“You dirty rat!”
“Enough,” squeaked Weil to his brothers before tightening his tail tighter into the knot for reassurance. “Look, it doesn’t matter if they never have a good word to say about us. Right now, we need their help. I am dying.” Weil lifted his chin briefly from the cushion. “And if I die before we get help”—he coughed blood—“our knot will undo and you’ll all become like Algernon.”
“How dare you,” squeaked one of Weil’s brothers, though Weil’s mind was clouding and he could not place the squeak. “Algernon was a mouse; I am no mouse!”
Weil let his tail go limp and held his breath and lay still, and his brothers all gasped and gnashed their teeth and clawed at the cushion.
“See—you’re all frightened of losing Our mind,” squeaked Weil. “There is nothing to fear from humans; they’ve always been helpful. They build sewers.”
His brothers warmed to that.
“And grain silos.”
“And garden sheds.”
“And garbage bags.”
“And alley ways.”
“And the Hoop.”
“And nail technician boutiques!”
“Err, no—that’s just you, Hanta.”
“I do find dealing with humans distasteful,” squeaked Weil. “They travel the stars as they once traveled the seas, always thinking that everything is about them, never bothering to learn anything else’s language, never thinking that they have to share with the rest of us.” He spat more blood. “Such ignorance. You have to squeak at Johnny Primate slower and louder until he finally realises that you’re squeaking to him—and even then, Johnny Primate won’t listen or even try to listen: he’ll just scream and run off and call pest control and bring poison and death.” Weil rolled his eyes. “Pest control, indeed.”
His brothers tittered.
“It’s almost like they don’t realise that they’re the pests,” went on Weil. “Pollution, war, extinction, Gaiacide—all uniquely human to life on Earth.” Weil paused, struggling for breath. “The Cetaceans are taking us to Pototoplec for a reason: pest control, to cull the humans before they steal and ruin and destroy and, well, humanise the place.” Another pause, then, “My legs feel cold,” then, “I feel so cold,” then, “Hanta has bio-engineered a virus so potent that humans will flee the place—”
Hanta clacked his manicured claws, as if to prove the point.
“Assuming they survive long enough to flee,” squeaked Weil. “Then the Cetaceans will quarantine the planet for the humans’ safety.”
“We’ll get the blame,” squeaked one of his brothers. “We always do.”
“Listen: there’s a human coming,” squeaked another brother. “Let’s squeak for help. Remember: squeak louder and slower to get its attention.”
Weil’s head lay tired and heavy on the cushion. He watched as the human came into the Rat King’s cabin. He didn’t notice her shocked face. He saw only that she had a tail. He dipped her a nod and closed his eyes for the last time.