The Rat Chase: December
The Rat Chase: December I don't mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but that's how I am, and that's how it comes out. I wish I didn't have the self-esteem of a preteen, the gait of a hobbling old man, and the face of an androgynous male who obviously looks like a really ugly, homely country bumpkin girl without makeup, but I can't help that either. I can't help that I'm emotionally abusive, manipulative, controlling, and drug addicted, and I can't help that most of my creativity manifests itself at three in the morning. And I can't help that I'm a manically-depressed vaudeville performer living on absinthe, crackers, and the strings of support from my best friend whom I treat like a dog. Actually, I might be able to help some of these self-loathing flaws, but if that's even possible I won't try anyway. I was like that for awhile, but so long I didn't notice. I was too busy noticing that my makeup wasn't on right, or the spotlight was pointing at the wrong spot on stage. Or maybe that a string on my viola was so out of tune that it sounded like a cat on LSD. In time, you will learn my sense of humor. Until then, you will suffer under it. Awhile ago I was hanging out in the outhouse with my pet chicken when I heard a loud scream come from the house. I ran(if you can call walking like a lame duck running) with the chicken chasing after me, only to find that my brother James had been torturing one of his lady friends with his disturbing antics and jokes to make Queen Victoria have a heart-attack. There's this pawn guy named 'Good Ole Tom' who has these really f*ed ads where he's slowly handing people money. I always imagine he's buying their immortal soul. He's also always wearing a cowboy hat. I think he might be Satan. Good Ole Tom stood in the drawing-room with his hat in his hand and the rat sniffing it. James and his lady friend continued to giggle and drink absinthe. My absinthe. The peircing scream did not come from James' lady friend, but from Good Ole Tom himself. “A rat! A rat! Get it out of here!!” he shrieked, much like my fat aunt Maria whilst she makes love. Grand Jete, my pet rat with a heart-shaped birthmark on his ass, sniffed and squeaked as Good Ole Tom pranced around the room like a freakshow performer. It's not that I have anything against freakshow performers, because I know lots; but that's what he really looked like. James was drunk and swooned ontop of his lady friend as soon as Grand Jete crawled up his nickers and into his secret pocket. I quietly reached my hand down his pants to retrieve the rat while the lady friend snorted like a mad antelope and Good Ole Tom ran to the front wooden doors. This was completely normal. “Sorry about that,” I commented. I heaved James' heavy body off of his lady friend and put Grand Jete in my pocket. “Does he pass out often?” the lady friend asked. “Yes,” I said. “I'm truly sorry, but I must get going.” The snorting antelope gave me a look of confusion as I put on my top hat and instructed my devoted followers to come to the carriage. A rat and a chicken. There is an art to being "Mentally f****ed up" in a good way. It's called playing the viola like a banshee on fire. My best friend Matthew inquired me about it after trying to kill myself onstage intentionally and come back to life(you'll learn about my mortality later). Matthew is the type of person to dye snorting peas instead of cocaine, and after he saw me trying to strangle myself with the bow, he concluded I'd most likely die during a zombie invasion instead of intentional bow-strangling. He also stated I have a mild case of OCD. Which doesn't surprise me to the very least. Obsessing over the details, and playing the viola like a banshee on fire were and are one of my many flaws, but I didn't start to notice them until three years ago. That was before most of my flaws started to show themselves, and I became the cold, heartless monster I always feared becoming. When I was younger my mother compared me to frogs, because they are so androgynous. It kind of hurt my feelings, even though she was right, because before I turned thirteen I could have easily been mistaken for a little girl if wearing a dress, stockings, and bloomers. Then, of course, puberty hit, my shoulders got broader, and I grew to be 6'1(taller than most people I knew). Now I was just a skinny kid with an attitude to send Queen Victoria to her grave and myself to a mental asylum. Of course, I could speak my opinion as much as I wanted, but that doesn't go saying my ethics and ideas go with the people of England. I knew that if I wasn't careful and I let some of the more provocative and offensive ideas out into the public I could easily be admitted to the mental health institution...so I kept it to myself. I scribbled out sheet music like I was going to be put away tomorrow and left my poetry and spoken plays by the absinthe and wine bottles. I sat in the theatre with my dancers staring at me as if my face was covered in cocaine. I checked, just in case, and sighed in relief when I came to the conclusion that I was just being a self-conscious looser. “Come on ladies,” I cleared my throat and tapped my cane on the stage, “Dance like there's no tomorrow.” I did mention about my mortality earlier, didn't I? If I didn't, I'm sorry, because then you wouldn't know why I do half the things I do, and why I walk like a limping swamp-donkey. Three years ago, Hell happened. Hell was brought into my life, because I made a stupid decision, and now I have to pay for it. My left leg is permanently f*****d up because a carriage fell on top of it and decided it would be funny to just crush it. And my brother thought it would be funny to twist it after the carriage was taken off of me and make me scream like a little girl because when your leg is crushed and your brother twists it you can't help but scream bloody winkum. And then my fiancee got shot. Because of me. And my father decided to make me his guinea pig. He made a chemical called Aveira, and it creates a chemical imbalance in my system causing me to never die. Basically, immortality. Now would be a great time to get into a discussion about why, who, rat, when, and where, but I have flashbacks so that will take care of that later. The important thing is now I use a cane and hit people with it, and I refuse to compose music. Ballets don't technically count, because I can't dance. “Mr. Caldwell,” Neha, the tall dancer with ebony hair and burlesque features, tugged on my hair.(I refused to cut it. It's too beautiful.) “Call me Cain, sweetheart,” I said. “Cain,” she nodded. I giggled, in spite of the sick irony between me and my gimpy companion. I named my cane Madison. “That's correct,” I smiled. “Now, what is it that you need?” Neha straightened up, her brown eyes sparkling. I loved the way they looked in the stage light. If I ever directed a vaudeville show, I'd want her to do the striptease. She smiled sheepishly. “I was just wondering if you could play your viola this time around.” “Oh?” I pondered. “Well, we have been only practicing with the piano, and I've always wanted to dance with a full orchestra...” “Stop kissing up to him,” Sharon, a feisty young woman who reminded me of a gypsy, scoffed and tossed back her long curly hair she never tied in a bun. “It's never going to happen, pretty.” Some of the other girls laughed while some blushed. Neha tended to flirt with me on occasions, and both I and the other girls got a bit sick of it. I was open with them, I let them call me by my first name, and if they didn't agree with the choreography, I would gladly change it for him. I never meant to pick favourites, but Neha was one of the best dancers, and since I couldn't dance, I needed someone to demonstrate the moves for me. She was also from the country of Qatar. “I'll play,” I said. I sat down on the piano bench and began to play the melancholic rhythm, the ballerinas twirling around the stage. After I stopped, Neha asked, “How did I do, Cain?” “You dance like a well-trained bear,” I nodded. “What?” Neha exclaimed. “That's right,” I agreed. “But you can't train a bear!” “Exactly.” The girls laughed. Neha turned bright red. “Mr. Caldwell!” she pouted. “Yessum?” I asked. “You were just joking, right?” I turned my head. “Nope.” Eyes. A pair of silver, filmy eyes. At the back of the theatre. I shivered, but stayed still, ignoring my dancers as a fight broke out. He was here. Watching me. With those eyes. Those silver, filmy eyes. Right here. In front of me. IN FRONT OF ME. Are you really suffering? Do you really feel this? I hurt you. She dies. I hurt you. SHE DIES. I hurt you. I hurt you. I hurt you. I HURT YOU. I felt the slight tremor in my left hand began to shake. If hell was around me, the fiery pain like my chest was being flogged began to throb as if I were to lay in lemon juice. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No. I can't take this. You ruined me. You ruined her. You took my innocence. I WANT MY INNOCENCE!!!!!!!! “Mr. Caldwell! They're going to kill each other!” The sound of screams took me out of my flashback. “ا ہوپے یو برن ان ہال " Neha screamed in her native language of Urdu. “Du bist so ein Primma donna!” Sharon, who probably instigated the fight, screamed back in German. “Ladies,” I said, still shaking a bit. “Break it up, please!” I parted in between them, Neha shaking like a cat and Sharon about ready to pounce on her like a lion. “It's not the time,” I said calmly. “We need to get this under control. No sour faces. You are ladies, not gypsies.” Sharon giggled. “This is a ballet, not a carnival. And you are not burlesque dancers, you are ballerinas. Think about it.” I clapped my hands, even though everyone was staring at me anyway. “Ladies, practice is over for the day. I expect you all to come back at five o'clock.” I tried to jump off the stage to make myself look bad ass, but it only made me look like an idiot. “You okay?” Sharon huffed. “I was checking to see if the carpet needed cleaning,” I said. “Sure,” she agreed. As the dancers began to clear out, I found myself alone again. This time, spooked(even though my goal is to be spooky always) and pissed, because whoever was standing at the back of the theatre must have been James playing a joke on me. He was going to get maimed when I got home. I started out on the long journey. I am man. I am one. I am none. I am many. I am the monster. I am the scapegoat. I am the being. I am the savior. I am the antichrist. I am the end. I am the beginning. I am the light. I was the enemy of my own body before the accident robbed my innocence and stole the light of my life. I am the shell of the monster I always feared becoming. I live each day like a crow picking one grain of sand off a beach every day for eternity. Sick is a complement for me. But I'm not sick, I'm just intelligent. I often wonder if the burden of intelligence is the source for my misery. I'm too afraid to ask. There was a note on the dining room table that said James and Good Ole Tom went off to college. I had a feeling I wouldn't be seeing them for awhile. Matthew was gone, back at the theatre painting sets for the ballet. Grand Jete, myself, and the chicken laid down on the couch and tried to sleep. It didn't turn out so well. I'd been having these really f****d nightmares where I'm trapped under the carriage and my left side is crushed again. These nightmares are different though, because when I wake up I feel the pain and smell the disturbing scent of blood and smoke. Then I'm tied to the wall again being flogged and my leg gets twisted. Whenever I wake up I just scream like a lady and fall over. But that happens anyway when I don't have my cane. After falling asleep on the couch with the chicken on my face, I got up and decided to go find Matthew. I was lonely and I knew he was at the theatre painting sets for the ballet. At least that's what I told him. I met him last year during a limping escapade to get some absinthe. After purchessing my alcohol, I stopped at the park to communicate with the pigeons. I set the absithe down on the curb and began to sit down. I didn't notice the figure beside the bench. It was probably because I had no intentions of looking for anyone--male, female, transgendered--but this was a bit inevitable. In a wrecked state of crying helplessly, this figure was in an awkward position of misconception. I did believe the figure to be a woman, and became distraught. If you see a lady in that form, it should be your duty to comfort the poor creature, shouldn’t it? But I observed closer. My distressed Ophelia was a man. A man who looked his mid-twenties, who obviously didn't bathe in two weeks and whose unkempt hair was grown way past his waist, soaked in London garbage, and looked like a cat had been chewing on it. I tried to get his attention, but he continued sniffling and didn't make one attempt to look up. He was curled in a ball with his head on his knees, occasionally wiping his nose on his pinstripe sleeve. I followed an instinct. I took off my coat, bent over, and put it around his quivering shoulders. He looked up. It was a man. I had no doubt about that at all. A confused look spread on his face like butter. “Your coat?” he sniffed. I stood up, but he grabbed my right leg like a little kid. “Now you'll be cold, sir!" “I'll be fine,” I said. The man's eyes gleamed gold and his face pale. Now he stared at me, not once taking his eyes away. “But now I feel guilty.” “Don't be guilty," I stated. I started to walk away but he called, “Please don't go. I'm not a beggar or pickpocket or anything. I'm just homeless. But not poor-homeless.” I nodded and sat down. It was when I sat down that would change my life forever—uncertain of the fact that it was for better or worse. His name was Matthew de Graaf, and he would be the cancerous sack in my life, but also my best friend. Matthew latched onto me protectively, but slid down onto the bench. His arms sort of got tangled in his mop. “My master kicked me out of his estate,” Matthew sniffed. It was because of his lewd and lascivious behaviour and a conviction for it. “But I’m out of prison, now,” he shook his head. “I don’t see why he doesn’t want me. I’m perfectly capable of being a butler.” “I'll hire you,” I said. Disbelief coated over his confused, butter-smeared face. “What did you say?!” “I said that I'll hire you.” Even though he wasn't looking or acting like a butler. “I'll pay you money and then you can leave when you want.” No matter how disturbing the situation was to me, I was determined to have some living in the house other than the entities and ghosts that stopped by whenever they wanted. “No, I can't. I simply just can't” The man got up and hugged me. “I'll just be a burden!” he cried. “Shh. Don't be so loud. People are starting to stare.” This one must've had a bad emotional breakdown. He started crying again. “You won't be a burden. You'll be my butler.” “I'll just be a butler carrying a huge burden," he contemplated. “Don't talk such nonsense, sir. It's not a big deal. You're in need of a job, and I'm offering you one right now. You shouldn't have any second thoughts.” The over-exhausted ex-butler still had his head buried in the crook of my arm. His hair covered his face, blocking my view of his expression. “Come, come, now,” I eased. “Let's go. To my mansion....” “Because I'm the king," he whispered in a soft, sort of bombastic, disturbing way, which made me want to hide under the bench. His pupils dilated and he smiled a gleaming smile, then giggled sinisterly. “Pardon?” I would get used to his erratic personality in the time to come. At the moment I was terrified. “My ardent and admiring charisma must have certainly drawled you in, and now you have no choice but to take me under your wing! That's why.” “It is?" I pondered. “Unless the burning passion that blackens your lungs has become too much too handle, and you're just going in to seduce me instead.....” I did not try to seduce him, but this was the beginning of a turbulent relationship some could call dysfunctional. I entered the theatre with my followers to find Matthew preparing for a zombie attack. He was fully convinced the flesh-eating monsters were going to start gnawing on my leg first, then move on to his hair. “Matthew,” I grumbled. He glanced up, fully involved with his makeshift work of a small hut and a bowl for a hat. Candles were lit about the foyer and a bottle of absinthe lay at his side. “They're coming.” “No, they aren't,” I said. I hit him over the head with my cane and grabbed him by the neck. “Let's go, the ladies will be here soon.” “But—but, the zombies! I saw them with my own two eyes! They were tall, with long black hair, piercing blue eyes, and walked with heavy limps!” “Funny,” I said flatly. “Now, Matthew, how much work did you get done?” We walked into the auditorium, the crystal lights sparkling and the stage gleaming, just teasing me. “Hey, Cain, come 'ere! Play your f**ng viola for us!” “This much,” Matthew said, proudly showing me a piece of cardboard made to look like cheese. “No, no no,” I said. “Disgusting. The cheese is not supposed to be orange.” Grand Jete started sniffing it. “Yellow?” Matthew asked. “Last year's cheese was yellow!” “This year as well,” I warned. “I want you to go to the market right now and fetch me some yellow paint. Agreed?” Matthew sighed. “Agreed.” He skipped jovially away as I slowly climbed the stairs to the stage. There was my viola. It was something I hated, but loved at the same time, and as I played a random melody, someone began to clap. "You are so beautiful." It took four words, is all. Four words to completely ruin and maim my life to a shallow black mass of emptiness. It wasn't my choice to do this. God made it happen, because God hates me just as much as he hates you. I stood in silence for awhile, trying to comprehend the sentence and NOT smack the man over the head with my cane, something I started doing for irrelevant reasons yet always seemed to always make the situation right. I once had a nightmare when I was a kid that I was in a giant cathedral. There were nuns in weird hats and had devilish faces. I sat down in the back and watched the pastor preach, but as soon as he saw me he shot a disapproving look and ordered his followers to crucify me. I ran away onto a busy street half naked, trying to beat the devilish nuns with a twig. I wish I had to use a cane then--it would have come in handy. "Are you okay?" His voice had that tense, grating quality, like a machine in the poorhouse where the enslaved children are forced to work. I stiffened and nodded while attempting to smile, the man staring at me like I was about to faint. "Fine," I mumbled incoherently, trying not to make eye contact. "I was just wondering," the stranger pushed. "You were staring off into space..." Narrowing my eyes I grumbled, "Yeah, well sorry about that." I busily started tightening a string on my viola again. It hated me. I put up with its abuse for nine years, but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. I thought that it would come back to haunt me and impale my ass with the bow.....that I could not handle. The man stood on the stage and continued to stare at me, his weight into his left leg and his hand on his hip impatiently. His ratted hair was almost formed to dreadlocks, and purple circles ringed his eyes. He smiled in a weird erotic way, the big pores on his face breathing with each flash of teeth. "Can I help you?" I snapped. "Or have you only come to degrate me?" "Degrate you?" He raised an eyebrow. "I called you beautiful. It wasn't degrating unless it's an insult to you--s" "Whatever," I replied flatly, cutting him off. "Just tell me why you're here and go away." Clearly taken back by my response, the man put a hurt look on his face and asked if he could sit on the piano bench. He rubbed his hands together, which were in rubber gloves. He wore a red kilt, green stockings, and a pair of rainboots that were two sizes too big. I mentally questioned his motives. "I'm sorry if I offended you, Mr. Caldwell, but I have a question." His eyes, big brown orbs, lightened up as I smirked at him. It wasn't friendly, but he must have thought it was. "Oh?" I questioned. He nodded, giggling in a demented way. As he continued to stare blankly at me, I snarled, "What the hell do you want?" I smiled politely. "Question," he repeated. "I have a question." I sighed, pursed my lips and said, "Proceed." This was my inevitable response to set off a chain reaction of events, that at the time seemed to make the world expload. “My good ol' chap Nero wants to know if you would direct our show.” “Oh?” I asked. “Is that so?” “Obviously,” Bacchus snorted. “Because I wouldn't be asking you.” “I see.” I stood up, and put out my hand. Bacchus didn't shake it. “Is is an opera?” “Sort of,” Bacchus giggled. “Our show is going to be a vaudeville show. But not just any ordinary vaudeville show.” “How is that?” “You're directing it, so that means, it should be spectacular, right?” “I never said yes,” I told him. I lifted up his hair with my bow and took a look around his neck, face, and collar bone. He had a square jaw, thin lips, and disoriented nose. He reminded me of myself, but a scummy, proficient drug addicted, anorexic drag queen Cain Caldwell. “Say yes, sir,” he demanded. “Nice face,” I said. “You look like a man of theatre. It's absurd. I love it. I'll do it.” You may find me foolish for settling on a deal just by judging a person by their features, but that is how I do my dirty work. “Really?” Bacchus said in amazment. “Thank you, Mr. Caldwell!” My leg started to hurt. I cringed. “You're making that face again,” Bacchus said. “I'm sorry, I was having a flashback.” I stook out my hand again. “Very well. It was a pleasure meeting you. When shall we discuss the show?” “Lord Nero and Reverend Samael would like to meet you as soon as possible. Tomorrow, I presume.” “Splended,” I smiled. “I shall see you then.” Bacchus left as the ladies began filing in. I was afraid I made a mistake, but at the same time, I always wanted to direct a vaudeville show. I approached Neha. “Hi!” I exclaimed. “Oh. Hello, Mr. Caldwell,” Neha peeped. She continued to tie her pointe shoe. “What is it that you need? I have been practicing for you. I hope it is noticable. I worked so hard.” “I'm sure you have,” I said. “But I have a question.” Neha's eyes lit up. “Yes?” “Do you have any experience in burlesque dancing?” “A bit,” she said causiously. “And modern. Why?” “Well,” I said, sitting next to her, “I'm going to be directing a vaudeville show, and I was wondering if you would like to be in it.” “Me?” Neha's grudge over the trained-bear comment seemed to disappear. “Yes, you.” “Of course I would love to be in it!” I nodded. “Excellent.” Sharon, who was listening nearby, raised an eyebrow. “A vaudeville show, Caldwell? That's not like you.” she shook her head. The more I was thinking about it, the more I wanted to be able to challenge people's views on society and the perfect little tea parties the rich people have. That's why no one likes Grand Jete. “That's why no one likes rats,” I mumbled. “Rats?” Neha bursted. “I'm terrified of those sick creatures! They carry the plague! I sure don't want the plague.” Luckily, Matthew took the chicken and Grand Jete to the market. Practice went smooth that day, everyone on beat and everyone in rhythym. No one died. That was positive. I watched carefully at everyone's feet, making sure everyone's legs were turned out in First Position at times, and Second Position at other times. The steps in this dance were fairly easy; I just hoped it wasn't too difficult for the new dancers. Matthew burst in with the chicken. After giving the dancers a break, I hobbled over to him. “Matthew,” I said, “where the hell is Grand Jete?” Matthew raised an eyebrow. “He got away before I left. Somewhere around the theatre.” I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Nice going, buffoon.” Clapping my hands, I ordered the girls to get back on stage. “We're going to play a game,” I winked at Matthew, hoping he'd get what I meant. “It's called The Rat Chase. You're going to prance around the stage like rats.” I yanked Matthew down into the aisle. “And we're gonna crawl and look for the rat, you dimbo.” So we crawled and looked for the rat, absolutely getting nowhere. I glanced up. Grand Jete was on the stage. In Neha's hair. “Neha!” I yelled. “Don't move.” She stopped, dead silence enveloping the theatre. I limped slowly up to the stage, eyeing Grand Jete sniffing around up in her bun. I raised my cane above my head slowly, towering over Neha like Nosferatu. Actually, I looked like Nosferatu period; with a lot of hair. “Mr. Caldwell...what are you doing?!” “Cain!!!!!!” Matthew screamed, Grand Jete jumped down and Neha shrieked. I caught the rat quickly and put him in my pocket. “Taken care of,” I said calmly. Neha was still in a fuss and fainted. Everyone else laughed and came up to pet Grand Jete. Matthew and I slept on the stage that night.