Three days ago, being in somewhat of a funk, I sat down and started writing a story. I had no idea where the story was going because I didn't care. I had no idea who or what my characters were because I just wanted the mental exercise of escape telling myself a story without agenda, deadline, or word count.
The result was a 5,500-word story of Conrad and his very inhuman partner, Darci, working underground with other teams to protect people living above ground from some very nasty critters.
The story is very different from what I normally write. My favorite point of view as a writer is Third Person Limited which means as the narrator, I only know and reveal what one character knows and sees. Rat Hunt is written in First Person.
Also, I like to keep the grittiness down a notch, but Conrad and Darci live in a very messy and violent world. Think Blade Runner, but underground.
Also, there is an undercurrent of sexual tension in the story, an element that has never been part of anything I have ever written before. Even though my main characters are male (human) and female (definitely not human), the bond between them is one of a partnership born of working together every day in a dangerous job, but they are still two separate genders put together by urgent circumstances.
I was ready to throw this work on the slush pile where it would join other experiments of the past, but I have been challenged to consider publishing this work. I will leave final judgment up to you as you read the opening paragraphs:
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The alarm clock interrupted one of my favorite dreams where I walked on a clean sunlit beach and the air was so fresh that I just wanted to inhale its sweetness until my lungs burst. I opened my eyes to a dark room illuminated only by the light of the buzzing alarm clock, the air still so very humid and stale and cold as it always is when you live a hundred feet below the city streets.
With a yawn, I sat up, my feet finding the cold metal floor. Reaching for the bedside lamp, I turned the light on. Across the small room, my partner still lay wrapped in her blanket. The only visible part of her was her tail, gray and hairless, as it spilled out from under the quilt down to the floor. “Darci!” I said. “Wake up. Time for our shift.” I reached over and shook her by her blanket-covered butt. “Get up. I want to eat breakfast.”
With a groan, Darci rolled over and tossed off her blankets.
Gray fur covered her body except for her tail. A genetic fusion of Homo sapiens and Rattus norvegicus, with her shoulder length hair and profile, Darci could be mistaken for a human woman at a distance if you ignored the muzzle, the ears, and the tail. And nobody could deny she made a great partner as we together hunted the vermin that pestered the underground tunnels and subways. What better way to hunt rats than having a partner who is mostly rat herself.
And let's clear up one issue right away. Though Darci's body has a very feminine outline, our relationship is totally platonic. Once within my hearing, a newcomer to the Rat Squad made a rather rude observation about his suspicions about my relationship with Darci. I think they found most of his teeth later. The Sarge busted us both down one pay grade, but I still think it was worth it.
The only real physical contact between Darci and me is once a week when I brush and comb her back where she can't reach, but that is an act of common sense, not intimacy.
C’mon. Darci looks like a rat and I like my lovers human, not humanoid. Not that with this job I have any human lovers. Anyway, that’s why the Rat Squad put us together. We simply make a great team. With over two hundred confirmed kills, only Hinkle’s team has racked up more.
Muttering something I couldn’t make out, Darci sat on the edge of her bed as I reached for my clothes. She stood up, stretched, and scratched her naked backside as she stumbled toward the bathroom. When you’re covered in fur, you don’t need a lot of clothing.
Later in the mess, we joined the rest of the first shift teams and watched the third shift teams come in from their patrols. Gossip and talk were light and that’s always a good sign. It means the third shift didn’t have a lot of incidents.
|Conrad and Darci's work environment is not OSHA approved|
Oh, and in case you think they are fighting typical rats, they aren't:
We had walked another quarter of a mile when again Darci stopped to sniff the air.
She paused and walked ahead ten yards. A small access tunnel led to the right, just tall enough that we could walk through it by stooping. She waved her furred hand toward it. “I smell death down there,” she said simply.
I unbuckled the eight-cell flashlight from my utility belt as Darci did the same. Shouldering our shotguns, we unholstered the handguns that would be more effective and mobile in the narrow passageway.
We found the solitary rat some thirty feet down the corridor, the stench of death so heavy I could taste it. Darci looked at the corpse dispassionately. “That’s been here a few days,” she said. “I wonder how it died.”
Even in death, the rat looked fearsome, its teeth bared as if it were ready to fight the Grim Reaper itself. Its six-inch long claws were outstretched as if ready for combat. It easily would have stood over me by a good two feet, but it was emaciated, probably no more than three hundred pounds.
“Look how thin it is,” I said. “It probably got kicked out of its swarm or got lost and here is where it died of hunger.”
“Why didn’t any of the other patrols smell it?” Darci asked. “It’s been here for at least a week.”
“None of the other patrols for Center Green have gens. You smelled it because humans couldn’t. Not that we can smell much of anything down here in this sewer of a subway.”
Darci stared at it, shrugged, and turned back toward the tunnel. “It’s dead. Let’s continue.”