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The Trap – Piece 5

February 20, 2011

The pack had awoken and followed the alpha to the usual feeding ground near the dumpsters. But on their arrival, they were greeted not by the dank smell of banana peel and spaghetti stew, but of artificial citrus and soap. The bins were empty and the concrete scrubbed clean.

Their lunch gone and their stomachs empty, Neesum seized his opportunity. Without delay he turned and set off at a slow pace. His departure was not unnoticed and the rats soon fell in behind him. He winded his way on his familiar course. The scent of food increased as they neared the food hall. Neesum could smell the rats hunger and fear grow. They knew where this led and Neesum knew he would have to overcome their fear so that their stomachs could do the thinking.

This was all included in his plan. As they travelled the pipes they came upon the first trail of sweet food that Neesum had left there. The rats smelt it and greedily gobbled up the tiny bites. Now they had the taste for it and the further Neesum led them, the more they got. Only little bits, nothing to touch the hunger, but only to whet the appetite.

Neesum’s little heart pumped faster and faster. As the darkness ended so too did the silence. They had reached the crack in the pipe. The bustle, words and laughter of the humans was fearfully close. Neesum knew at once the rats were questioning their hunger. He could not let them think. Sticking his furry face through the crack, he smelt around, and with no humans near he sprung through nimbly. Thankfully the big brown followed straight away and squeezed his wide backside through the crack a littler slower. The pair ran the few meters and got inside the pipe. Neesum watched as the other rats, sensing the success of their leader, started filing out.

From two, to three to four, they filled the pipe until suddenly a human strode across from the food hall to the kitchen. The rats watched as one of the slick brown females froze halfway between the pipe. She did a half turn back, thought better of it, then sprinted to the pipe. They all crowded in, listened and sniffed the air. Neesum did not know what the other rats thought, but his fear left quickly. From the uninterrupted chatter of the humans, he knew that they hadn’t been noticed.

As the human strode away with its heavy footsteps, Neesum started making high-frequency squeaks and rat messages. The other rats heard, understood, and slowly started to join them. They could not all fit in the tunnel so Neesum turned his attention to the other end of the pipe. The kitchen staff were not shuffling around too much and it was too easy for him to creep under the nearest cabinet. He did not go up the first rat hole he had made, but led them past the first and second to the third, where the sweetest prizes lay. He hopped up.

To a rat it smelt like culinary heaven – all the smells of food trapped in that closed space, mingling with the smells of the pack Neesum had also laid, gave a sense of pleasure and comfort.

Immediately they started tearing at the bags and wrappings of biscuits and breads. Neesum left these four and went back under. The other rats had not yet entered any of the cabinets and looked unsure of where to go. Neesum led them up the two of the others, so that in the end, out of the five cabinets he had prepared, three of them were filled with at least two rats each.

While they feasted, and the hunger distracted them, it was Neesum’s turn to make an exit before their wits returned to them. But he did not leave altogether. He went to the cracked pipe and he waited. This part of his plan played most to chance. He sat and waited for the sound of human words and their screams. For his plan to be a success, the pack had to be discovered. He didn’t think he would be able to get the rats to come up here again. Not in the daytime. And something told Neesum that it would take a brazen attack on the humans food, discovered in the daytime for the humans to perform effective retaliation upon the pack.

He listened. The humans scuffled about, there was laughter, clanking of plates, but not yet anything out of the ordinary. If the rats were not discovered, then they would return here, and they would all return to the den, and that was it. He would become a permanent part of their pack.

His brain ached at the thought. It was like he had a jet engine inside the chassis of an old Volvo up there, and the Volvo was about to give. Something told him that this was his only chance, and the pain was designed to make sure he tried his best to succeed.

A plate smashed on the ground made him flinch back into the crack. A moment of silence followed and on the trail of silence a scream, harsh words, and the sound of stomping shoes. The natural rhythmic sound of the food hall had been broken.

 

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