One of the worst noises in the world is the sound of little rat feet scratching across the attic floor. That is an even worse noise than little rat feet scratching across the basement floor, because if the rats were in the attic, they could fall into your bed while you were sleeping or into your food while you were cooking. You had to think, what would be worse? Having rats in your food and eating them? Or having a rat fall in your bed and them eating you?
Those are both reasons why the rats in the attic were terrifying to the small children of the house on Jicama Street. There were two of them. One was named Quattro and the other one’s name was Osbardo. They were very young and strange and no one in the neighborhood really liked them. The main reason for that was because they carried around two very large dolls. They had been found in the woods behind the house, and ever since then, Quattro and Osbardo had carried them around.
That wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the fact that the dolls hadn’t been found whole, but rather just in limbs. Quattro had the arms, Osbardo had the legs, and they both had a head filled with little termites and old dirt dried upon the plastic faces. The people of the town would always whisper and not so whisper about the two children, saying that the dolls were possessive of all sorts of evil, evil beings and that they should get them away from Osbardo and Quattro before they sunk their demon teeth too far into the children.
There were other strange things about the children, like the way they seemed to stare too long and too deep at nothing and everything at the same time. They would talk to each other in bad, scrabbling little snippets of words and this drove everyone crazy because they had no clue what the siblings would be discussing. The habits of Osbardo and Quattro unnerved everyone, and almost nothing unnerved them except the rats in the attic, with their long bad nails and pointy snouts. Osbardo had seen one of the rats one day while he had gone upstairs to check if there were any scraps of fabric he could use to make for his doll legs.
There was the leader rat, sitting upon a brown old trunk and staring straight through Osbardo’s soul. He dropped the doll leg he had been holding and stumbled backwards down the stairs back into his room to where Quattro was licking peanut butter out of her socks. They stored peanut butter in socks all around the room; another one of the things that grated the nerves of their parents and babysitters.
**translated from the sibling language**
“Q, there has been a rat sighting in the attic!”
“Oh, that’s okay, Os, I’m not really that hungry right now.”
“Not to eat! A rat was looking at me!”
“Did you look back at it?”
“Yes, but it was frightening. I don’t care for rats.”
“Hmm, yes, I suppose sushi is better.”
"Q, I don’t want to eat the rats in the attic!”
So maybe it was only one of the children that was actually terrified of the rats in the attic, and the other one was indifferent towards them, seeing as she preferred sushi to rodents. The next few days following the rat sighting were spent by Quattro consistently convincing her brother that the rats would indeed not snap his toes off if he fell asleep without his socks on, and then him crying because he really did like his toes, and what was a person without a few good toes, and how would he get the world record for longest toenails if his toes had all been snapped off and fried up like okra by the rats in the attic?
And then his sister would just shake her head and go get his socks for him, so he would stop rambling about okra toes and world records. It wasn’t that pleasant of an image to go to sleep to, to be honest. Quattro had begun to get very tired of her brother’s frightened nature, and so one day she decided she would march up to the attic and string up those rats one by one by one until her brother would stop sniveling and she could leave him alone in the room without worrying that he would drown in a puddle of his own muddled tears.
**once again translated**
“I’m going up to the attic to do some pest control.”
“No, they’ll kill you!”
“I have the…”
“Oh, right. The, um, secret weapons.”
“Just say what they are, Os, no one else has a clue what you mean.”
“The dolls, then.”
“Yes, the dolls will take care of the rats, really.”
“Alright, good luck.”
“You won’t come with me?”
“I’m going now, and I’ll see you soon, hopefully with dead rats in tow.”
“Alright then, goodbye.”
“Goodbye to you too.”
With that, Quattro the brave soul took up all the doll parts she and her brother had collected and tied them all together in a heap of duct tape, plastic limbs, and hair ties. She walked down the hall and up the ladder that led to the attic, the ball of anti-rat she had concocted held close by her side. Once in the attic, Quattro did not turn the lights on. Things of the night were better dealt with in the shadows, as she had learned, and rats didn’t care for the buzzing of the electric lights whirring on. Quattro sat down in the middle of the attic floor and set the ball of anti-rat in front of her, crossing her legs and looking around the room suspiciously, ready for rats to come at any minute.
She waited, and waited, and waited, and then… One giant, nasty creature peeked it’s head around the edge of the old brown trunk and Quattro saw it. She picked up the doll ball of plastic anti-rat and chunked it straight towards the rodent, knocking it’s head off at once. Quattro gasped in delight and moved quickly to see the damage she had inflicted on the creature, only to be utterly shocked to find that the rat was completely mechanical. She picked it up and it gave out a long, wheezingly robotic sigh of discomfort.
“What are you?” She tilted it all around, but could not for the life of her find any sense of purpose to the rat. “What are you?”
Just then another rat snuck around the corner and Quattro turned just in time to see it opening it’s wiring filled jaw to clamp down on her exposed ankles. Quattro raised her foot and brought it down hard on the robot rat, crashing all the buttons and lights until there was nothing left but a sad beeping, echoing through the air like the tree in the woods that fell when no one was around to hear it.
“Stupid automated rat, what are you doing here?” Another rat shot out of the attic corner and headed down the attic ladder, but Quattro scooped up the anti-rat ball and smashed its head in. She had no idea what was going on but she had to stop the rats from getting to Osbardo, lest he live forever with his haunting fears. N0! Quattro would not let her brother be devoured by these sneaks! She would blink the electricity right out of those blasted tycoons.
They were swarming in from all the corners now, and Quattro was calling for Osbardo to help her, but he had fallen asleep by the chimney and would not wake up. Suddenly, Quattro knew she had to get down to the kitchen before the rats got to Osbardo, or they would eat him whole. “Don’t worry, Os! I’m coming to get you!” She loosened one of the hair ties with her teeth and used it as a way to swing the anti-rat ball in all directions; a new variety of the nunchuck. The mechanical rats flew and crashed everywhere, but for every rat that Quattro cracked, there seemed to be more and more and more. She finally got to the kitchen, but the rats were carrying Osbardo out the door. They had lifted him up off the hearth and were rolling him out the front door!
“Quattro, help me, please!”
“I’m trying! Don’t worry, I’ll be there soon!”
“They’re going to roll me up and eat me like sushi!”
“No, they can’t, they’re only toys!”
“What? Then why are you running after me?”
“I don’t know, it seemed appropriate! Where are they taking you?”
Osbardo didn’t know where they were taking them. He had never had the experience of being kidnapped before, much less by robotic rats. He realized also that his sister was making a huge mistake. Robotic and mechanical were not interchangeable terms. One meant that they had to be turned on or wound up to run… but the other… The other meant that someone was operating them. So the real question wasn’t what the rats were doing in the attic of the house on Jicama Street, but rather, who had sent them there and who was leading them away.