The constant pulse of the train wheels matched the thumping of Emily’s heart. Looking up through the window she watches with trepidation as the full moon appears again from the stage curtains. Clouds are skating across the canvas. She hears her husband scrabbling along the roof, his claws looking for a grip on the metal surface. He is Were rat again.
One minute they were a middle-aged, middle class couple playing chess on the carriage seat-then this. Emily’s husband John normally an average man –an accountant, was now running along the roofs looking, sniffing for a victim– a meal. Emily groaned in despair. She a good woman (a schoolteacher) had unknowingly married a decent man who turned man/rat in full moon. Some poor soul was going to be murdered for their flesh.
The woman’s head sinks on her shoulders and she stares dazedly at the carpet. The patterns mesmerize her and she enjoys the distraction. Suddenly they look like swirls of blood and she thinks of past victims .She imagines their terror and pain. She empathizes with the traumatized families. The spouse of a large rodent she loves him too much to tell the authorities. Feeling trapped she feels she is a rodent caught in the rattling carriage.
Up on the roof John the accountant revels in his physical power, his confidence, the love of the wind and the rain soaking him. John’s claws skid on the painted surface until he launches himself to the end carriage. The Were rat’s instincts are to not be trapped by man or beast. John is hungry. The railway food was lousy, packaged, micro- waved crap.
John lets his tail hang over the window. He sweeps it side to side like the windscreen wiper in his Ford Lumbago, hangs down and peers in to see a couple in their thirties locked in a passionate embrace .They remind him of his earlier years with his beloved Emily. His whiskers twitch and his large incisor teeth tap together when he notes the woman has some flesh to spare.
In one deft movement John swings down his claws gripping the overhang and heaves himself feet first through the window. The woman looking over her fiances shoulder sees him first and screams. Jennifer from Leeds sees only the huge buck teeth and the piercing, animal eyes. She has never seen anything so vicious. The man Steven turns thinking a tree has fallen on the train and is pulled towards the open mouth which clamps over his throat. With a quick wrench like a tooth extraction John tears a lump of flesh from the shocked lover and spits it in a spray of blood into Jennifer’s face stopping her screams by half. Throwing the male across the carriage John reaches for the woman as his paws slide in the blood. Jennifer reaches for the emergency stop as the claws rip her arm open to the bone. Steven holding his savaged throat gallantly comes to her aid but is thrown through the shattered glass. The train’s horn whistling as they enter a tunnel drowns Jenny’s shriek as her partner’s arm alone is left in the bloodied apartment twitching, the engagement ring glistering like the Were rodents coal black pupils.
A woman opens the door looking for her errant daughter and gapes in horror .John scoops up Steven’s limb and chews on the armpit end observing the two women with his cunning, knowing accountant’s eyes.
Sally, a librarian from Sheffield looks from the bleeding woman’s arm to the creature built like a man, wearing a suit, covered in fur and attached to the longest and most hideous rat tail ever known to woman or beast or zoologist and joins Jennifer in fainting together to the rocking floor.
John walks down the corridor to the toilet. One man sees him walk past and just shakes his head.
Sitting in the lavatory John eats the limb down to the elbow, tries to flush it with little luck, drinks from the bowl, cleans himself up with the water and changes back to homosapien as the moon slips below the tree line of Sherwood Forest.
Emily looks up as her husband slides open the carriage door with a cardboard cup of tea for her and some biscuits.
She tries to read his face. ‘Has he slain innocents? Will a family be anguished to realms of madness? Has he, her prince, the conscience of the schizophrenic hyena?’
“Hello my love, nice cup of tea?”
“Yes thank you my sweet, has the night been eventful”
“Why, I met some nice people on the way to the restaurant car and we went through a long tunnel, little else Darling.”
“Surely you will partake in one of my biscuits John; you seemed a little peckish a time ago.”
“Thank you no my love I had a little something and am now quite satisfied.”
The train pulls into the station as an announcement comes over the intercom.
“Ladies and gentleman there has been an incident aboard the train and the
Sheffield and British Rail Police will be investigating this. Please show some patience and wait until you give your particulars before disembarking. Thank you!”
A chill went through Emily’s body and she shook like a mouse trapped in a milk bottle with a rat. They both stared at the wall in silence. After a time a detective came into their carriage and took their names and addresses. The policeman would not give them any details and they both claimed they had seen nothing untoward. They left the train and hailed a taxi to drive them to a motel. The couple were both attending a weekend conference for amateur theatre -a pastime they were both long involved in.
The taxi driver turns his head, “Gordon Bennet did you folks here about the how- to –do on the train? A woman claimed a beast attacked her and her fiancee. Another woman says it’s true. There’s some that say they were on drugs and the geezer threw himself through a window. People are saying there was blood all over the shop!”
John looks out at the street thinking, feeling, nothing. He has been a Were rat since he was a child, his middle class morals cause him to feel as though a great wrong has occurred, but only intellectually. The Rodent in him basks in having a full belly.
Emily feels nauseous .She thinks this affliction is the worst kind of horror and wonders how many other women have found out they were married to a Were rat, and how they coped.
Googling Were rat came up with nothing. Emily looked out at the ordinary people in the street and envied them. Those folk worried about what was on TV, the government, money, pregnancy, Syria. She would love to have their concerns. Sitting next to John who was grooming himself, wiping down his clothes with spit and tidying his hair, checking his large teeth in the car’s mirror she knew she couldn’t even confide in a counselor. A professional would mark her as barking mad and have her put in the nut house.
A full forensic team is inspecting the murder scene with great care. Detective Inspector McGribben is discussing the case with Detective Sergeant Mallory. The end carriages have been shunted down an unused line and have been cordoned off behind police tape. There is a crowd of people on the platform watching.
“Well Sergeant something very strange has eventuated in that end carriage. The two women are in deep shock and heavily medicated. They swear blind it was a creature more than a man. I believe a maniac on strong drugs has knifed the women’s arm and thrown her fiancee through the window. It appears he has eaten some of the victim’s amputated arm and left the train and is in the city.”
“Yes Sir it appears he had a mask on and was wearing a false tail much like a rats.
Forensics has already told us there was hair strands found that appear to be a rats – Rattus Repugni .A very nasty breed by all”
“Indeed Mallory the offender seems to have made a mask of rat pelts and so has got through all the closed circuit cameras without suspicion. No passengers looked remotely suspicious. Have them all interviewed in depth tomorrow, there’s a good man.”
Later on at the mortuary they are told the flesh torn from the throat appears to have been done by an animal or some powerful tool. The cadaver is so mangled from being dragged along the tunnel wall and falling under the train wheels it is in fact hard to give a full analysis.
John is enjoying the smells of a new city and sits in the taxi with the window down, his nose twitching as it takes in all the odours on offer. Emily stares at the hotel as the taxi pulls up at the curb.
“ I ‘Ope you enjoy your stay in our fair city, there’s plenty on offer. That’ll be ten quid thanks.” The driver reaches out and opens the back door.
John throws a note at the man and steps out taking in the street in one sweep seeing every detail.
Emily watches as he tips his head back and inhales deeply relishing it all. “I think we’re going to like this place my love, indeed it seems just right.”
The Were rat /accountant husband stoops quickly and confidently bounces up the steps with their luggage as though carrying a handbag and kicks the door open deftly. Emily enters the foyer as John holds the door for her. His physical strength and agility always takes her aback –he is forty five years old and moves as though twenty five or twenty four.
“Bing,” John hits the bell on the counter.
A woman enters holding a Persian cat. The cat goes berserk hissing and spitting. The
fur sticks up and it looks as though it has stuck its’ tail into an electric socket. They all hear it howling as it leaps through a window and is then run over by a double-decker bus. The shocked motel owner has gouges on her arm from the launching animals escape and runs outside to witness her Simbas’ dying breath. Emily looks down at the spots of blood leading to the front door and has an image of a blood spattered carriage and faints in her John’s sinewy arms.
Emily wakes up in an upstairs bed; she can hear John in the shower-he loves water. As usual he is extremely efficient and has grabbed a key, carried her up to a room and has left her there with a flannel on her forehead , a glass of water and some dispirins next to her. A rat always looks out for its mate. Rats are extremely social animals and enjoy company. They are very loyal and think ahead. They are brutally practical. John comes into the room his skin glistening- a picture of health. Emily has only once seen him in Were rat form and has never got over it .That was early in their marriage .It took the good woman a year to recover from it.
Lying on the bed Emily watches him throw on some after shave and a dressing gown. John is so comfortable in his skin, so natural. She thinks back to that night one full moon when she awoke upon hearing a noise downstairs. Creeping down the stairwell she heard the kitchen window being raised. Furtively with curiosity she peeped around the corner expecting to see John having a midnight snack when she saw it. Slithering out the window was the most revolting snake imaginable –grey,shiny, almost like a large earth worm. Running to the window she saw what looked like a large animal crawling under their hedge. Calling out Emily realized John was not in the house . She sent him a text.
Where r u?
Went out for a walk couldn’t sleep
Plz cum hm smthing was n house
Emily waited for hours then fell asleep. Hearing a noise in the shed Emily went out and looked through the window. Inside was what appeared to be a giant rat eating a Golden Labrador. The dog was as dead as a failed parachutist and the bucktoothed creature was covered in blood and gnawing at it’s entrails.
The police have interviewed the traumatized women train passengers at length.
Nothing more has been learned. The two still swear it was an actual animal, that it was too real to be a man in a rat suit. The two are given Prozac and have formed a bond through a horror only they can attest to. They are now Facebook friends and have swapped cell phone numbers. They will be attending the fiancees’ funeral when the police release his mangled corpse.
John is thinking about the amateur theatre convention in town at two and looking forward to Helen Mirren giving a lecture on the Shakespearean woman. Emily is in a state as they are walking down the road to the police station to be interviewed again about the awful murder that was all over the TV and internet.
“Come in Sir/Madame have a seat, would you like a cup of tea?”
“No thank you Sergeant we’ve just had breakfast.”
“You’ve met Detective Inspector McGribben of course?’
“Yes, have you made any inroads Inspector into this dreadful business?”
“No Mr. Taylor, nothing so far, but I can tell you it is obviously a maniac. All resources are being put in to checking our records for psychiatric patients with violent tendencies and dodgy rat catchers!”
“Rat catchers Inspector?”
“Yes train footage from British rail seems to show a man covered in rat pelts, large false teeth and a rubbery tail.”
“Are you alright Mrs. Taylor you have gone very pale.”
“My wife has a phobia about rodents Sergeant, she’ll be ok.”
“Well sadly it has leaked out and is all over Face book now and even animal experts have irresponsibly claimed it does seem to be a large mannish rat in clothes but this is of course absurd.”
John and Mary can add nothing more and head to the Town Hall where Ms Mirren is giving her lecture. John shows Emily to her seat and goes off to find the boy’s room. Taking the wrong corridor John opens a door to find an alleyway. Helen Mirren is there having a pre -talk cigarette to calm her nerves. They look at each other – two intense people. John finds her attractive .He is hungry. He likes to feed on attractive woman. Helen Mirren a woman of some insight into men senses something is awry.
‘Is he a stalker?’
Now she becomes nervous. She was also on the train to Sheffield yesterday after finishing a season of Othello and doing a cameo appearance in Coronation Street as a police woman in Manchester .The train murder is on everybody’s mind.
John is Helen’s’ biggest admirer. The Were rat has the new box set of Prime Suspect with extras. The full moon is clear even in the afternoon and Helen’s healthy skin overwhelms John’s human and civilized ways .He speedily turns Were rat. Helen’s eyes are like golf balls, she has seen this creature on the Guardian web site. As she opens her famous gob to scream the Were rat leaps at her and buries his huge front teeth into her famous left breast and tears it off .Helen a woman of some character kicks John in the testicles and leaps over him and through the door. Helen has a minder, a huge fellow who is an ex –army paratrooper. The man seeing Helen run past in a state comes to the door sees the creature in the alley and attacks it with a broom. John takes a nasty crack over the head then sinks his teeth into the man’s cheek and pulls it off exposing his teeth. The military man is hard and throws a left hook at John’s head. John can smell the man’s fear and plays with him for about ten minutes before eating his ears and feet off whilst he is still alive …..
Emily is riveted to the stage scene as Helen Mirren runs on screaming and covered in blood. The whole audience is in awe of her dramatic start to the lecture. Emily is most impressed and wishes John would hurry back. Then everyone can hear the sirens. John comes back and he has that look. His clothes look dreadful. Emily looks at Helen lying on the stage and a large lump on John’s forehead and wonders how much more she can take.
She opens her handbag and takes a double helping of Prozac.
‘Not Helen Mirren!
This is the bitter end. The two ordinary, pedestrian and acceptable looking people leave before the police and ambulance arrive. People have put film of Helen running on stage on YouTube and it has unsurprisingly already had a million hits.
They go back to the motel so Emily can lie down. It’s all too much. The police will see them on CCTV cameras and ask them to come down to the station again. Emily realizes he has now killed twice in twenty –four hours and her life isn’t going to improve.
That very night John sneaks out into the streets again. The Were rat has an insatiable appetite .John attacks a burglar as he climbs an old ladies back fence and finishes him quickly with a sharp nip to the back of the neck. Selfishly he enjoys the meal knowing his wife is on the border of a nervous breakdown. John scampers back to the motel and climbs the down-pipe hoping to have a shower and slide quietly into bed next to his faithful spouse. John’s whiskers twitch as he comes into the room. He smells something he doesn’t like. As he creeps past the bed a massive cat leaps on him. John fights back but the cat has claws and teeth, he is soon a bloodied and torn rat on the floor. Dying he looks up at the feline and as the suns rays come through the window he sees it change back into his beloved Emily- a good suburban, middle-class schoolteacher.
“You came home at the wrong time John; I only become Were cat when I hear Pink Floyd. You shouldn’t have taken the radio off BBC when I was at my wit’s end. Unlike you my love I don’t hurt innocent people, in fact I only eat rodents and Chihuahuas .Hurting Helen Mirren was the final straw. I’m afraid darling I am now going to eat your accountant’s leg!”
By David Boyle from New Zealand