Rat King

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

“Only the rats were,” Officer Bells quipped. 

The dirty confinement covered in torn wallpaper painted with feces enclosed an overwhelming reek of neglect, the air tasting of sour milk covered in a thick layer of old mold. The small room on the right hosting broken, overturned cribs had a missing door that was ripped right off its hinges. The windows in each of the small rooms had no glass, only dust lingering in the early morning light barely peeking through the heavy fog. Walking down the narrow hallway, the mens’ leather shoes stepped over used diapers, paper, and planks of fallen ceiling wood littered about, hopping around scurrying rats. 

       “What’s worse, these kids stayed here ‘til eighteen,” added Taylor, trailing behind the other two. 

“Mentally disabled kids?” Marks asked again. 

The air suddenly stood stiff. Now only the perpetuating smell circulated the establishment. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised,”  Officer Bells suspired with his mouth, struggling through the piercing smell, “if we found an adult skeleton in one of those cribs.” A shiver crawled up the back of their necks. 

The men opened the only door left in the building. A sharp smell shot through the doorway, drying their throats, nauseating their minds, igniting the structure in flames of a shocking stench much stronger than the first. The scratching on all four sides from the rats in the walls grew silent. 

Despite the bleakness of the room, it could be noted that it was indeed spacious, especially compared to the miniscule, limiting rooms seen prior. The police’s flashlights explored the dark room: walls marked with scratches, waste covered newspaper piles, empty syringes–a silhouette scurried across the light.

Marks inhaled sharply, jumping back. 

“Just a rat,” Officer Bells observed. Marks coughed furiously from the dust that had entered his throat. 

“Nothin’ more here, just feces everywhere,” Officer Bells concluded. The two men turned off their flashlights and took their leave out to the surrounding field of bare, crooked trees. Marks’ light stayed on, running up and down the walls, scanning the building’s scars and marks of old age. The uneasy eeriness of the place was unsettling, evoking a deep fear of the unknown within him. All the rooms before looked ominously the same. This room was independent, mismatched–disconnected from the rest.

       The wooden plank floor creaked in the corner; the walls soon followed in a growing, squeaking sound.

Creak, creak, creak. 

And all that once, the patterning of nails grew, and the thudding of feet from the corner heightened, like a large, scampering rat. 

A deformed accumulation of dirty, rotting bodies, both dead and live, covered in stains of dark, dried blood and wet hair emerged from the shadows in a sudden manner. Their hands held up their twisted body of entangled legs. Ribbons of rotting flesh embroidered the center matted with hardened dirt and human waste. Mold grew under the assemblage of stick thin limbs, bare torsos, and hollow faces. Hair sprouted on their backs. Skin rotting away smelled foully of heavy sweat and blood. 

The grotesque collection of bodies with some dead, drooping arms dragging on the floor, scurried out with cries of agony and adrenaline. Marks only had time to turn his back onto the naked, overt monster and sprint out the doorway in hysteria. His voice, wanting to let out a scream of horror, was trapped in his dry throat as his legs were pumping with an indescribable fever that had stricken his entire body. 

Panting breaths filled the hall, echoing fear throughout the building. 

The fetor and cries of the warped bodies approached as it quickly filled the gap between the predator and its prey. 

Marks, struck with panic, let out a gasping scream. His eyes darted back at the flailing mass chasing him down the hall. Terror consumed his thoughts and actions. 

His right leg slipped on a piece of paper covered in feces. His legs skidding around as he fell into the open room to his left in a desperate frenzy. The window, completely open with no glass, urged him to seize his only chance to escape. 

The running cluster of children knotted together shaking the hallway, their flailing arms hitting the dirtied walls, swerved to the left. 

A wet hand grabbed his ankle tightly, dragging him across the floor and back into the somber hall. 

With the last of his might, Marks let out one last scream muffled by the hands of the beast, his eyes protruding from his skull in anguish. 

The wind outside stopped blowing, and the scrawny trees with their twisting, extending limbs shivered. All was quiet. The men looked around. 

Taylor pointed his nose up, his face scrunching together in disgust. “What’s that smell?” 

“The rot of the building,” Officer Bells answered. 

“It’s coming from that direction, but it’s not the same from before–” 

“Probably the rats.” 

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