I have many faint memories of myself, floating underwater, seeing a red orange yellow glowing world through my shut eyes. It was dreamlike in a way. I could feel hear my heartbeat strum all around me, breathing in and out like ocean waves on a beach. Beyond the glow I could sense images, black-and-white shapes fluttering by in a slideshow. These eerie memories seemed to stretch back eternally, like a massive ball of visceral thought. And for whatever reason, I was swimming out of it, budding off its wall, and when I separated, it became very faint. It was no longer all-encompassing for me, but it did hold an umbilical, more like a voice in my head. That was when “memory” took form.
My first solid memory was a distinct urgent desire to escape. I rolled around spasmodically, trying to learn to control my infant body. I kicked and squirmed, then banged my beak furiously against the wall. It felt so thick and tough that breaking it seemed futile, but with each impact I felt stronger, more determined. I hurled myself against it again and again. I felt it give just a bit, and crack. It was getting easier now, or maybe I was just numb to the effort. I pushed as hard as I could, trying to widen the tiny hole. I felt in the background a sort of pain, like white noise bubbling up to the surface of my mind. But it was not important now. The one and only thing I had to do right now was fight my way out of this cage. I strained my neck and legs, oozing out of the egg with great determination. The hole became increasingly merciful, tiny pieces flecking off to let me through. I thrashed about, cracking the sides, leaking its contents, collapsing the shell however I could, until finally I lay on the ground amidst broken fragments of eggshell, out of breath, and exhausted.
That’s when I realized what the white noise was. The pain that I had numbed myself to was a piercing, enveloping sting of cold. The cold air grabbed me in an icy fist and squeezed. Little frozen daggers plunged into my body, one after another, washing through me, flooding the last bit of warmth I knew out of my blood. Just when her clutch tightened to a maximum, I braced against the pain, and she tightened still more. My senses locked up, no longer able to cope with the extraordinary pain. I simply stopped coping, and let her overtake me. In a feeling of overwhelming surrender, I squeaked and opened my mouth wide. If I left my mouth open, I would get a treat of warm, tasty food. Then the cold wouldn’t feel so bad. I waited anxiously, dreaming of the feeling of a warm lump of food sliding down my throat. I lay there, shivering, eyes closed, feathers wet, shaking on the ground with my beak open desperately. But nothing came.
Time slowed down. The fist of cold loosened ever so slowly. My feathers were drying. I was able to sit comfortably on the ground, huddled in a tight ball. My eyes were still closed. All I could see through them was a grey collage of indiscernible shapes. My mouth still hung open, somewhat puzzled but blindly confident. I was beginning to feel a wary urge to open my eyes. Somehow a mystery was boiling up inside of me, and its solution lay in the opening of my eyes. I didn’t know what the solution was, nor what the mystery was to begin with, but I could feel it growing inside me, not so much a thought as it was an object. This object as it were grew heavier. A feeling of suspicion and fear and denial welled inside of me, weighing down like lead. Reluctantly, I opened my eyes.
That’s when it all came together. In my mind I saw my sisters chirping beside me. I saw our mothers above us, feeding and warming us. I saw our family alongside hundreds of other families, nesting on a great green field. The sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky. But it was all in my mind. The real sight that lay before me was harrowing. The sky was dark and overcast. The grass was all dead and eaten away. Worst of all, there were no others. No families, no mothers, no sisters. Just me, and an endless barren landscape, scattered with broken eggshells. This extraordinary revelation weighed heavily upon my soul. I stood shocked and frightened for a long time, staring into the void. My mouth still hung open in longing desperation.
A strange thing happened inside my mind. Visions disguised as memories appeared in a nightmarish slideshow. It was an early spring morning. I saw an egg lying still and dormant when others were hatching all around it. I saw a beautiful green field filled with families, bustling with life. They were digging around the ground for food. Thousands of chicks churned up the dirt savagely, rooting out every last grub, laying to waste every last blade of grass. I saw them spread out in all directions, razing the entire field. After a while, all the mothers moved in one direction and started marching. The chicks swarmed behind them in a great army, noses in the dirt, eating as they walked.
Then they were all gone, leaving the empty field behind, in silent solitude. There I saw a small chick hatching from an egg, alone, shivering in the dark. She had hatched late. She had been left behind. I asked the slideshow what happened to such chicks, what they were supposed to do, how they were supposed to live. But the chick did nothing. She sat still, mouth open hopelessly, waiting for a comfort that would never come. Night fell and she sat still. The air grew dark, the light melted away until the slideshow became nothing but a black canvas. When the sun rose the next morning, and the light fluttered back in, the chick was gone. She didn’t exist anymore. A chick couldn’t survive a night alone out here. Her life was temporary, a fluke, an accident quickly corrected. She was an errant mark on the drawing of her species, swiftly and justly erased. My mouth snapped shut. According to the cosmic slideshow, I had been born to satisfy a certain necessary imperfection, and it was my destiny to die, and leave the species perfect. The slideshow asked me if I understood. I did.
The sun began to set. I dutifully sat still and shivered as the heat and light began trickling away. I did what I was obligated to do. As the night fell I closed my eyes and wept dry tears. It wasn’t just the pain of letting go that gripped me. A new pain welled inside me, a far more basic one: hunger. I tried to ignore him, and focus on what my ancestors wanted of me. But like a tiger trapped in a cage he fought and bounced about. He formed a cold, deep hole in the center of my body, which with each passing minute grew. I tried to put him out of mind, and do what was best for my kin. But this tiger would not be hindered. This hole would not be filled. My body shook now not from the cold, but from the struggle of coping with the overwhelming feeling of hunger in me. The cold pit at my center swelled more and more, spreading his tentacles throughout my entire body. The tiger stretched his claws out of the cage, reaching as far as he could, growling for release. It was no longer a choice. My sense of duty held strong, but she simply could not stand against hunger. He was not my weakness. He was in fact my strength.
The hole finally burst. The tiger broke out of his cage. I stopped sitting still. I jumped up and ran. I ran as fast as I could away from this spot. The tiger roared, soaring across the ground like wildfire. The hole inside me screamed for food. I ran fast and hard through the dark, looking for a hint of food that the scant light of dusk would reveal. I stuffed my nose in the ground and ravaged in vain. But it had been picked clean. I felt that my body would explode. I felt like stuffing my face with dirt and grass just to ease the tense twinge in me. Tears of pain and frustration fell down the sides of my face. Not a single morsel of food could be found. My muscles burned. I had been outdone. I had abandoned my post for nothing, and now I would die anyway, only dishonorably. That’s when it happened.
I found an egg. It was intact, unhatched. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go through with what flashed through my mind just then. I decided to walk away, to keep going. But my legs turned against my will. My feet shuffled in the egg’s direction without my power. They were powered by something else. The sheer will to survive. I didn’t want to, but I ran to the egg, and stood over it ominously. I tried to cry out in protest, to tear myself away from temptation, but my will to live was too strong. I pounded my beak down on the shell, crushing the hard surface. I hit it again and again, until I had made a nice big hole in the top. The stench of cold flesh emanated from its sticky contents. I opened my mouth wide and prepared to plunge into it. I could see it moving. The little chick inside stirred in her prenatal slumber. Her eyes were closed, wings and legs curled up into her body in a ball. I stood paralyzed, mouth open, ready to sink into her and satisfy my hunger. I searched my conscience quickly, trying to find a way to justify this. But I could find none. There was one and only one way to proceed: self-preservation.
I took a deep breath, and descended into my food, my sister’s flesh. I slurped a bit into my mouth and swallowed. It tasted disgusting, like excrement. My esophagus stopped swallowing when it was halfway down, preparing to reject it. But the hole of hunger in me generated suction, pulling the food down rigorously. The second bite tasted just as bad, but slid down a bit easier. My stomach accepted it gratefully and loosened. I ripped flesh away from bone numbly, swallowed hard, and calmed down. After a few more bites my stomach was satisfied and I was able to stop. I wanted so badly to throw up, to purge myself of such a gruesome act, but I could not.
I huddled against what remained of the egg and the chick inside, soaking up the tiny bit of warmth it gave off. But in minutes, it was cold as the air around it. I began to shiver. The cold slid a hand around me, and slowly began squeezing, just as before. The meal had been pointless, I knew. Even if I didn’t starve to death, I would undeniably freeze to death. I had known all along that the slideshow was right. It wasn’t a choice. I did not have the power to live or die. Nature did, and She had chosen death. All I had the power to choose was whether I would go peacefully, or shamefully. I had chosen shame.
I collapsed to the ground in a tight ball. It felt a little better down here, without so much wind against me. I dug my cheek into the dirt. It really was a bit warmer. My eyes snapped open at the notion. I dug a hole into the ground with my beak, deepening it with my claws. I crawled in and tried drilling deeper still. I was able to push dirt below me away, and the dirt above me collapsed on top of me like a blanket. I kept digging as deep as I could, probably not very far, but enough to feel the warmth of the soil around me. I settled into my little cave, completely sealed and buried. The cold began to melt away. If I was to die, then I would die comfortably.
The next morning I awoke to the faint light that penetrated the soil. I climbed out clumsily, wondering how I had managed to get in. I broke through the surface of the ground, clambered up onto my feet, and looked around. The sun was up. The egg that I had eaten the night before stood next to me, cold and dried out. The air was still chilly, but not nearly as daunting as before. Very slowly, a revelation came to me. I was alive. It took several minutes to digest, but I realized that I had survived the night. I was still here. I still existed. I had defeated the slideshow. I had underestimated my will to survive. I had thought I would die but I didn’t.
A new revelation came to me after that. I had to live. Something had been trying to convince me the night before, but somehow I couldn’t understand it. Now I could. I had to keep going. No matter what happened, I had to make it for one more day. I had to press on. I made a choice. I chose to fight, to do whatever it took to survive. I could not be torn down by the will of my kin anymore. I had my own will to serve. I had to live for nothing else, only myself. I would be thenceforward a solitary being alone in the world, but I would be there forever. Meanwhile, back at the spot where I was born, a chick was no longer there. In a way, the slideshow was right. I had died. A part of me no longer existed. The part devoted to a higher cause. I couldn’t afford it. That part of me shivered and starved and disappeared into the night. But a new part emerged from her ashes. A creature willing to do whatever it took to continue on the journey. I would find my family. That’s what I would do. I would follow the flock. I would catch up. I would do what no one could have imagined possible. I would reach salvation. Those green fields and blue skies and lively yellow sisters. That was my future.
I asked the slideshow which way I needed to go. She showed me the great flock of chicks, following behind their mothers, who formed a broad line at the very front. But I did not know which way the mothers had gone. I asked the slideshow how the mothers knew which direction to go. She showed me a small chick following her mother, then over time she grew. Eventually she too became a mother, returning to these nesting grounds, and finally, leading her own chicks in the direction she had been led long ago. But if this knowledge was passed on from one chick to the next, then how did the first chick find her way? The slideshow took me back generation by generation, each time losing clarity and details. Eventually all I could see were a few random images of chicks and their mothers, then nothing at all. The slideshow had only begun at the dawn of the species, and her images were not strong or clear, her lessons and wisdom had no basis until centuries of trials had sculpted her to perfection.
This left me completely lost. I saw the families charging across the fields happily, green grass below, blue sky above, with a brilliant yellow sun moving across the sky…from right to left. The sun rose on the right end of the flock, and set on the left. That was it. I pointed my beak in the direction that the sun had risen, rotated to my left, and stared into salvation. The great path that had been carved for me. And marched onward.
I crossed the land as swiftly as I could, knowing that the flock was moving hastily. I had to go faster than them, and I had to catch up before the chicks were old enough to fly. If the flock took to the sky before I reached them, then all would be truly lost. At this thought, my eyes deepened, and I pushed myself harder. I could still hear the tiny voice in my head telling me that I would never make it, that it was impossible, against the laws of Nature, that one way or another I would perish eventually. But this voice no longer consumed me. I had her caged like a bitter and cowardly tiger. I listened to her. I paid attention. Every word she uttered angered me and fueled my will to defy her, to go on. In a way, she was the only help I ever received. I rolled along like an engine powered by hot coals of discouragement.
I saw something up ahead. I caught up to it, and stopped cold. It was an injured chick. It was one of my sisters, pulling herself along, dragging a broken leg in her pitiful wake. I could see the blood dried to her feathers. I wanted to help her, to throw her onto my back and carry her to salvation with me. But I knew she would only slow me down, and kill us both. I solemnly dismissed the notion, and reluctantly entertained another. To eat her. This was the first bit of food I had seen all day, and could be the only bit for days. But I wasn’t hungry. I considered taking a piece with me, just in case I could find nothing when I did grow hungry, but I was afraid to violate the poor creature’s body without just cause. I asked the slideshow if there would be more opportunities such as this along the way. She showed me the great flock, and thousands of chicks crawling over each other, competing for grubs. Every now and then, one would get hurt, or get sick, and fall behind. It was actually a common occurrence for this to happen, and in the wake of the flock I saw dozens of injured chicks hobbling, crawling, dragging themselves along hopelessly. If this were the case, then I would leave her be, and only eat one in the future if hunger demanded it of me. I took one last look at the poor thing, and tore myself away, walking on before I wasted too much time standing still. I couldn’t help her, and I wouldn’t hurt her. I just let her lie where she was and die in peace.
Rushing along, I tried to put her out of my mind. But she stuck with me. For some reason I pondered her situation, wondering about something I couldn’t quite place. The same question I had asked the slideshow before. I asked what she was supposed to do with her life, what became of her and those others who fell behind. The slideshow brought me to the chick being broken in the flock, and slowing down. She lost her ability to fight for limited food, and eventually fell behind. In the back of the flock the weak and injured received last rights for pickings, and the worst of them fell too far back, until they had no sisters beside them, and dragged themselves across the empty wasteland. It was here that I saw her now, overexerted, starved, and doomed.
Night fell on the weakling and she shivered in the dark. But for the first time I could see through the dark. I could see, without the need for light, the chick curled up on the ground, on the brink of death. I could see something coming upon her. A swarm of shadows. They gathered around the chick and took form. Rats. Gruesome disgusting horrific rats, the size of three chicks. Their grimy, dirty fur was matted against their skin crudely. Their bony hands were tipped with razor sharp claws, stained with blood. Their faces were tainted with an evil ever-present smile of crooked teeth, also saturated with the dried remnants of their meals…us. I saw the swarm dive their nasty noses into the injured chick, and ravenously tear away her flesh. When they finished their meal, they turned and scuttled on, dragging sickening furless tails behind them which flopped about vilely. They left the chick behind, now no more than a flattened pile of stripped and bloody bones.
I looked down, suddenly aware that my feet had stopped moving. My mouth had dropped open in shock. I looked behind me frightfully, and suddenly a bomb of unfathomable terror exploded inside me. I screamed and ran as fast as I could, then screamed louder and ran faster. I demanded the slideshow to tell me everything about these vicious creatures, how they lived, and how to avoid them. She showed me their nesting grounds. At dusk they were born. Their flock was separated into small groups, half a dozen each. They had no food, so the tiny, slimy chicks sucked food out of their mothers’ bellies. When the night and the cold had descended, they began to move. They followed our flock, still separated into small groups, starting in our nesting grounds to eat up the remaining unhatched eggs. Then they moved on behind us, scrounging for weaklings that had fallen behind, turning them into putrid leftovers. When the sun began to rise, they curled up against each other, and slept until the next sunset. That bit of information calmed me a bit. They were sleeping now. They only emerged while we slept, but hopefully they were far behind.
I pressed on as the sun began its descent from the heavens, then kneeled to the ground, then finally laid itself to rest. The cold came all over again. But this time I knew that rats were waking up, stretching, and starting on their journey. Even as the darkness settled like a blanket over the world, I kept on, not willing to sit still and vulnerable to my predators. But the cold weighed down upon me like lead. I could not continue without rest. I stopped and burrowed myself into the ground, curled up into a ball. I shook the last traces of cold off me as the soil wrapped around me graciously. As I drifted to sleep, I reminded myself to wake up early the next morning, get a head start.
The hours of the night passed without my knowing. My dreamy world was far removed from this shameful bed of dirt. I dreamed of sleeping under the comforting wing of my mother, pressed against the warm bodies of my sisters. In here the biting wind became nothing but a light breeze, defeated and playful.
Entering the early hours of the morning, I felt a cold hole widening above my head. I tried to put it out of my mind but it worsened. Something was rustling above me, a vexing entity disturbing my rest. I finally turned my head around to see what was happening. I saw the tips of claws penetrating my cave, grazing my head. Petrified, I tried digging deeper, but my sudden motion only encouraged the creature. He dug more feverishly, and let out a squeaky groan of pleasure. I tried to escape but his emaciated fingers gripped me and pulled me up. I kicked and I screamed but he had me tight and refused to relinquish his prize. He dragged me to the surface, where the cold air drove a dagger through me. I looked up and beheld a ring of rats standing over me, mouths red, eyes black, against the background of the night. All at once they lunged, sinking their slobbering teeth into me, tearing my body apart.
I woke up screaming. My skin crawled. I knew they drew closer every night. It was just before dawn, and I knew I would not fall back to sleep. I crawled out of my bed, into the cold, and the bare tips of daylight. I looked at the dim glow where the sun would peak above the ground in a short while. I looked back where the rats were charging along, probably slowing down to sleep now. I looked the opposite way, toward my flock, where my family was just waking up and rustling their feathers. I took a deep breath of chilled air, and began my march. I knew I was drawing close. Just a few more days perhaps. But I knew the rats were close too. Maybe even a few hours behind. I knew too that the distance between the rats and the flock was diminishing, day by day.
Curiously, I asked the slideshow what happened if the rats got too close to the flock. It brought me to the nighttime, a few hours before dawn. Many of the mothers went to the back of the flock and stood watch at nighttime. I saw a rat scurrying along, ahead of the rest of its clan, too close for the mother’s comfort. The rat looked right into a mother’s eye, and took step after step, daring her to engage. After a critical step, she did. The mother spread her wings and squawked wildly, waking the rest of the flock. The rat bared his teeth and hissed, but inched back. The mother flapped her wings violently and continued squawking angrily, but with control and precision. They held each other’s gaze tightly. The tense situation lay stagnant until morning. Then the flock awoke fully and started on their way, and the rat’s clan caught up to him, curled up next to him and slept.
As I ran across the barren field, the sun rose beside me, pouring golden light over the land. It climbed its invisible ladder to the peak of its invisible mountain. With every inch of its ascent came another pang of hunger inside me. I knew in my soul that the next chick I found would be my meal. It was early afternoon when I came upon her. I had known this moment would come and it finally did. I crept up to her slowly. She had a broken wing. Her eyes opened and closed intermittently, with great strain. I did not idle this time. I did not grope with my conscience. I sliced her throat with my claw and waited for her to die. Then I sunk my head into her body. I carved a hole in her belly, and took what I needed from her gut. It didn’t take long to finish. When I did, I took one last look into her eyes, licked my chops, and continued on. As the day wore on, I tried to search my mind for a hint of remorse. When the day finally waned down to nothing, I still found none, having exhausted every last corner. I felt evil, but not sorry.
I found myself at the top of a hill. Looking down and out into the horizon, I saw something that I had not yet seen. I saw the tail end of the flock, dozens of chicks mounting a hill in the distance and descending to the other side. It was just for a few moments, but I saw my salvation, a glimpse of my future. I charged down the hill, but it was a race against the sun. A race I could not win. I didn’t even come close to that next hill before darkness fell and the cold biting wind swept down the mountain behind me. I stopped and burrowed down into the ground like I had done before. I knew I wasn’t wasting time, for the flock was already settled down for the night.
I fell fast asleep, and in my dreams, I caught up to my flock. It was early and they were just waking up. I smiled and waved and ran into the mass. The mothers spread their arms and hugged me. The chicks chirped excitedly. Everyone flocked around me and told me they missed me and asked how I had made it, how I had beaten the odds. I would tell them that it was the ever-present dream of reaching them, the wonderful tastes and smells and feelings in my mind that were able to fend off the horrible tastes and smells and feelings around me. They told me that they were overwhelmingly grateful to have me back, and I told them I was blessed to have gotten back. Then the flock started moving ahead, and I moved with them for the first time. I wiggled my nose into the ground and ate grub for the first time and it tasted like ambrosia. That night I curled up with my family and went to sleep in heaven.
These peaceful dreams excited me so much that I woke up and climbed to the surface. It was cold, but only an hour or so before dawn. I could make it. My legs powered faster than ever, treated with the sweet fuel of the promise of salvation. Nervously I peeked behind me, and saw what my nerves sensed. Rats, only minutes behind me. Evil shadows lurking behind. If I had woken up any later, I could have been dead. But I put the thought out of mind, and concentrated on making it to the flock. And doing so before they made it to me. I crested the hill where I had seen them cross the night before, and the sight I beheld was breathtaking. Looking down into the small valley, I could see the thousands of my sisters, still sound asleep, spread over the land in compact sleeping quarters, delimited into their own separate families. I wondered which one was mine.
I rolled down the hill with elation. In only a few minutes, I came within range of the flock’s edge. It was early dawn, light just beginning to grace the hillside. I saw a mother standing guard, and ran to her with open arms. She too opened her wings and squawked for joy. My sisters awoke from the commotion and chirped loudly, exhilarated by my return. I reached the mother and threw myself into her. Her great wing came down upon me, hit me hard against the head, and flung me back. I hit the ground confounded, but laughing at her playfulness. I brought myself back to my feet, shook myself off, and started toward her again. But the chicks were all running away. The mother leaned her neck down to my level and roared menacingly. I stopped, but I didn’t understand.
Heartbroken and befuddled, I asked the slideshow what was happening. She hesitated to respond. I screamed for her to tell me what was going on, why they would not take me in. She showed me a mirror. She brought the mirror down to me, in plain sight, right in front of me. I saw in the mirror myself, a healthy young chick, albeit worn and beaten by the elements. But then I looked closer. My feathers were dirty and grimy, matted to my skin. My claws and mouth were stained red with the blood of my sisters. My eyes were black, adjusted to the night travel. Slowly I came to understand it. I was a rat.
The mirror dissolved and beyond it I saw my flock moving away, starting on the day’s journey. I fell limply onto my rump. I would never be accepted. I would never hug my kin. I would never eat grub. I would never walk beside my sisters proudly under the warm sun. I would never find my family and curl up next to them at the day’s end.
The slideshow tried to console me, explain it to me. The flock is beautiful. The species is perfect. Late hatchers, weaklings, and injured are not a part of the great plan. An imperfection as severe as me, who sank to such levels for the mere purpose of preserving my imperfect life, could never mingle with perfection. The laws of Nature wouldn’t allow it. One way or another, through death, weakness, or rejection, I would wither away. It was my destiny to die, my duty to leave the species be. The fact that I did not choose my destiny, that I had abandoned my duty, made little difference. My fate had been sealed long before I was even born. The slideshow asked me if I understood. I did.
I sat on the ground weeping, watching the flock disappear into the distance. I could hear the scratchy, foul sounds of rats approaching from behind. Now it was time to finally do my duty, for once. They found me and came upon me greedily. It felt good to do a good deed for my kin. The rats made a great circle around me, looking down and smiling their evil smiles. I looked up at them, fearless. My will to live was gone. My will to live had just disappeared over that horizon. This was my destiny, to be consumed by rats. If I had done my bidding long ago, they would have eaten me back at the nesting grounds. Now the circle that I had opened would be closed. Everything would be as it was meant to be.
I looked up into their hungry eyes in surrender. They grinned down on me, hounds having finally caught up to their prey. They slobbered and descended down upon me. I winced, but they did not use their mouths. They slammed me with the sides of their bodies. I wondered what they were doing. The sun was rising. They were curling up to sleep. But they didn’t eat me. Were they saving me for morning? No. They took me in. They thought I was one of them. I looked around at them. They had gotten comfortable. I screamed in immeasurable terror. This was far worse than being eaten alive. I screamed in the worst terror there was. I truly was a rat. I had become a rat.
I didn’t know it, but Mother Nature had made a bargain with me the day before I was born. In this coming life, I would be tested. I would be given a bad hand, because after all it had to be given to someone. Serve the species, do my bidding, fulfill my duty to my kin and I would die with honor. In the next life I would be rewarded with the best hand there was. I would be the strongest chick born that generation, eat fresh grub on the front lines of the flock. However, I would have to overcome great temptation. Resist Her will and She would throw every possible barrier my way, to remind me to do the right thing. In time She would allow me to atone, unless I simply fell under her torments by my own weakness.
But I had resisted for far too long, with far too blatant a disregard for my duty. I had passed the point of no return. I would not be forgiven. I would not be allowed the opportunity to atone. I was issued the punishment deemed only for the worst offenders. Really it was not a punishment at all, but a choice, a natural revelation. Should I turn my back on my duty, my species, then I would never again join them. Should I succumb to the rats’ way of life, then I would be a rat. For the remainder of this life and all my lives thereafter.
Where do you think rats came from? The slideshow asked me, though she herself did not even really know. The slideshow was no expert on the beginnings of the world, but she knew a thing or two about it, and she had a hunch as to what initial conditions had trickled into the present world. Rats are the product of chicks gone wrong, compounded by generations. They are the collection of errant chicks, the mistakes of one species pawned off to another, to serve some vile niche that needed to be served to complete the cycle. They were the fallen, the damned. And without knowing it, I had taken the path to them. No mere chick could contend with Nature’s Plan. Any who tried with such adamancy was sentenced to an eternity of rathood. The slideshow asked me if I understood.