Rats in the City
A Narrative

Running away. ...It's become the essence of human life, hasn't it?

The city is but a blur to me, a wash of grays and blacks as I bolt down the street. Rain makes inky rivets in the pavement, splattering like miniature wet bullets from the sky. Cars whoosh past, spraying up rain in my face and honking viciously as they pass, but I pay them no heed. I just continue in a straight line down the middle of the road, evading everything that happens to come in my way. Messenger boys on bikes scurry to avoid me, the crazed pedestrian who chooses to use the middle of the street instead of the sidewalk like everyone else.

Am I crazed? No. Not yet, at least.

My chest heaves, every breath now a labor. The polluted city air stings my lungs, causig them to ache as they struggle to do their job. My legs pound against the asphalt at a steady pace, yet even they are beginning to lose stamina. Only my iron will to escape presses me forward down that seemingly unending ribbon of black. After a while, I almost forget what I am running from, only that if it catches me I certainly won't escape. I trust no one in this game for survival, not even myself at times. My only friend is the ongoing road, a surface to speed my way upon toward freedom. Freedom is the only escape from this nonsensical chase. It is the only way to get away from them.

The Doctor had come to me a month ago, his men in white always behind him. He asked me to be his patient, to allow him to use me as his guinea pig for his extraordinary experiments. Yet I knew not to trust them — they were mere pawns of the higher powers, trying to use me to get what they wanted. The Doctor was a user, a taker; if I gave him my life, he would never give back. And so I refused. Oh, he was persistent, ever eager and willing to use me, but I knew his true motives. If I went with him, I would never come back the same person. I wanted to keep my liberty, my sanity, so I refused. He came back to me day after day, each time his pleas growing deeper and deeper. Soon enough they were not pleas at all but orders, threats to try and scare me into submission. But I knew their motives too well; I sneered at their silly offers and turned my back on them. They would not have my body, not ever!

Yet last week they finally let their greed take over. When the Doctor came to my door today, he and his men in white were armed, voracity glowing from their eyes. Their mouths spoke in tongues, words I could not understand but shocked me with their intensity. I was forced onto my knees, begging for mercy as they poked and prodded at me. The Doctor took me, whisked me away into his laboratory where he changed me, changed me into a clone, into what he wanted. There were others there, and I was stripped of my mind and body until I was exactly like them. My head was shaved, my clothes taken from me, and my brain programmed to be just like the rest. Free though was taken from me, and now I was just a pawn.

They sedated me, ran tests, did what they wanted. I was forced to comply, for now every time I rebelled against the Doctor I was harmed by some strange torture device that shocked me every time I thought about or did something that was not what they wanted. The Doctor and his men in white had a Master Plan, a mission they were trying to accomplish to make the world how they wanted. Every night, I was not allowed to sleep. Instead, the men in white injected me with a serum that excited my mind and made me too awake to sleep. Then, they would chain me and force me to watch a screen. All night long, it would play images of the Master Plan, trying to teach me what they thought was right. I tried my hardest to resist, to fall asleep despite the serum and the pictures flashing before me. But I was becoming a clone, becoming like them, even if I didn't want to.

Then, I had my breakthrough. Somehow, I was able to endure their experiments, just through my sheer determination to be different from the others. I escaped, the men in white trailing, and just began running.

All the others in the city stared at me and whispered. Some even ran away in fear. They did not know what I went through, and mocked me for not agreeing with the Doctor. They all had already been through the cloning process and believed in the Master Plan, so to them I was but an anomaly. I rejected the system, so therefore my only option was to be rejected in return. Yet I didn't care — during my week with the Doctor and his men in white, I learned that no one can be trusted, so they were of no use to me. They only things I could trust were my two legs to carry me back to freedom.

So here I was, running. The miles did not matter to me, all that mattered was that soon I wouldn't have to deal with anyone pressuring me to anything I did not want. Yet suddenly, the men in white were right behind me, grasping at my back and hissing at me to rejoin them. I screamed, yet no sound came out; my voice had been stripped of me so that the Doctor would not have to hear my protests. He had simply done what all others like him do: get rid of what opposes them and make them into an enemy.

Albeit without a voice, my legs could still carry on. My fleeing would speak loud enough and tell the men in white that I did not belong to them.

I came to a part in the city I had not ventured into for quite some time. It was unlike the other parts in the fact that there was not just one long strip of road. In fact, there were many twists and turns of it that went in many different directions, each one leading to something uncertain. My head swam; which one led to freedom? I had been subject to the cloning process so long that I knew nothing but the ordinary. Alas, there were so many choices, yet I did not know which one to make!

Soon enough I head the pitter-patter of feet coming up behind me. The men in white sloshed angrily through the rain, their dark angry faces barking at me to stop running and obey their command. Yet I still had enough free will to know that listening to them would mean death. I had strayed too long from their control for them to spare me if I went back now. The Doctor would only kill me as a lesson to show the others what happens when someone dissents against the Master Plan.

My road abruptly stopped then, and I came across a towering building. It was a corporate skyscraper, a place that housed people like the Doctor and his men and white. Certainly that was not where I wanted to go, but where else was there to turn to?

There was only one place to go, and that was up.

I began climbing up the building. The sky was a complete mask of gray, uncertain and foreboding, yet I used that insecurity to my advantage. I looked forward to finally laying eyes on the whole sky, the big picture. I wanted to see the truth. So I continued my ascent, never looking down to see whether the men in white were still chasing me. It didn't matter now. I would get what I wanted, and it didn't matter if they were standing in my way or not.

Finally, I made it to the top. Yet when I got there, I did not see what I expected. I wanted paradise, I wanted freedom. But all that was roosting on the roof of the skyscraper was a pack of lonely rats, small and insignificant. I sighed, content in the fact that I had at least escaped the men in white for now. I walked over to the rats, gazing at them in mild amusement. The Doctor had tried to teach me that petty entertainment would not last forever, and that stopping for only a second would take one's mind off the Master Plan. But now that I was supposedly out of the Doctor's grasp, I could do what I wanted without the pain it would have caused me earlier.

Yet what I saw when gazing at the rats did not give me pleasure. All around the rooftop were traps set to ensnare the rodents, which were obviously in abundance and a problem to the people inside the building. Every few minutes, one of the rats would get caught in a trap and begin running around frantically, bleeding profusely. In time, the rat would simply give up and charge off of the building, falling several thousands of feed to a bone-crunching death. I flinched as each fell, one by one, until I was alone on the roof.

I shook my head in disgust. This city was so bad that even the rats wanted no part of it. And now I looked up at the sky, the drab gray blanket that hung over me, and I wanted no part of it. I would not take this prize, for I did not deserve it.

And so there was only one thing I could do. Just like the rest, I stepped forward onto the bank of the building, rocking back and forth from ground and air, sanity and madness. Then, I merely closed my eyes




There was nothing else I could do. I couldn't run anymore, and there was only one way I could get away. I had to do like the others did . . . Because, after all, we're all just rats in the city, right?