A merchant approaches you! o__O
"Yaargh, wish I had wares to sell ya!"
It was a mean night in a mean city. A good start to a trashy novella, but here I was living it. I had a job to do, see? It would be unpleasant and poorly reimbursed, but a fella has to pay the rent somehow. I wait a bit to ensure I wasn't followed then pry open a manhole. The sewers. My quarry was down there, but excrement and disease were the least of my worries. This town was different. How so? Among other things, the mutant rats. Some as large as men and almost just as disagreeable, the sewers were full of them. And with my luck, it'll be a regular rat political rally going on down there.
I check my ammo and supplies. As usual, the outlook was grim. There was a very real possibility that I'd find myself in a situation I'd have to get out of with fisticuffs alone. I shuddered at the prospect of finding myself waist deep in a pile of smelly, possibly rabid mammals. Then again, I suppose that was just a typical Saturday night for me.
I hit the ladder resigned to my fate. And as the faint street lights from above have all but faded, I knew I was out of my element. What this cramped and damp hole needed was a good, hard dick; and I was zero out of three. But as I told my employers, you get what you pay for. I cross old pairs of 2x4s with scrap for railing you could only call "bridges" out of function. OSHA compliance was obviously not a priority down here. And as I think on some ways to crack wise about it, one of the damnable things gives out on me. An event so sudden I don't even have the time to appropriately swear about it before I've hit the ground. As I shake off both literal and figurative cobwebs, I hear a sound almost like music. I wonder how hard I hit my head? And as I fumble my way down the corridor to an opening, I see them. Just pairs of eyes at first as my own pair adjust to the soft candle light. Then, silhouettes become discernible shapes.
Rats. Rats and other things here, but mostly rats. I hold my ground and brace for trouble, but something was different. Hats and scarves... Sharp suits and sunglasses... This was a whole different kind of scene than I would have expected to find. These rats had, as you might colloquially say, "mellowed the fuck out." The crowd stares me down like I'm the biggest square at the circle convention. The band checks me out too, but they don't stop playing. Real professionals, them. And soon enough, everyone's returned to their business. Dumbfounded by the scene and a possible concussion, I lean back against the wall near the entrance.
And there next to me is one of the rats. He presents me with a hit off of whatever he's smoking. The smell hits me. That pungent aroma with just a hint of citrus was a dead giveaway for ilrika grass, a mind altering drug with a real tongue twister of a name. It was usually quite expensive, and always quite toxic. Finding quality ilrika was like finding a full box of donuts in a police station, not the sort of odds you'd want to take to Vegas. But when a rat bigger than my kid sister offers you something, you damn well better accept it. I take a modest drag, as is custom, and my body instantly knows something is wrong. My jaw goes numb and I bite down on my tongue hard enough to draw blood. Various joints luck up as my heart loses rhythm. Searing pain at the tip of my brainstem works its way down to my toes. I clinch and tense my muscles to keep from voiding my bowels unceremoniously into my pants. Random patches of body hair fall right out.
Jesus, this was good shit.
The rat and I exchange subtle, knowing nods and I stagger my way to the bar out of habit. I figured if I was going to gawk at the scene, I may as well grab a drink. "I'll take a clean double of Wellman's Scotch." The barkeep sneers at my poor choice in drink, but how could I have any faith in sewer booze? I figured that, in the very least, I could get out of here cheap. I do another panorama of the room. There were lounge lizards here, too. Actual goddamn lizards! How's a fella supposed to enjoy a quite drink while he's getting eyed up by half a dozen scaly, cold-blooded fuckers? He doesn't, I tell
ya. And so, I pay my tab and bolted out of there. I had bigger fish to fry. Sewer fish. And if I didn't get this business finished up before that ilrika really kicked in, I may wake up in bed with that business. And I doubt any party will be happy with that outcome.
The rat band was called "The Survivors." I don't know why.