The Ship’s Rat
We have spent a day on the ship now. The Seaworthy knot is not proving to be very seaworthy.
Mr Wombat staggers in.
“Maybe I was wrong!”
“Wrong about what?”
“Riding on Parsley is DEFINITELY not as bad as being seasick.”
“I told you so!”
None of the others have got their sea legs yet. They spend all their time up on deck. I have some free time down below, and I have heard mysterious sounds coming from the hold. I do not like them.
We have spent our time on the ship so far looking for holes to live in, and I am still doing that. I decide I might go check for empty holes in the middle deck. I find one in a very, very thick wall. I crawl into it. And that is when I hear it. A growling sound from the hold. Something on this ship is very wrong.
I breathlessly race up onto the top deck. There are the others, looking (as usual,) bright green. I smile. It’s good to know that SOMETHING is normal. My smile fades as I hear the growling once again.
The next day, I crawl out of my hole and find myself face to face with a thin, scrawny grey and white rat.
“Hello matey! Ya here to ‘scape ‘em wild cats?”
“Yes, but how did you know?”
“I recognise ya. Do ya recognise ME?”
“Well… you do seem kind of familiar.”
“I’m LIL! L-I-L!”
“Ya met me at the wild cat’s base!”
“Oh. THAT Lil.”
“Yep. That Lil.”
“Okay. Do you want to join us?”
“Sure! But you’ve got to meet mum first. Follow me.”
We race along the deserted corridors, tails streaming out behind us.
“Woohoo! This be the best thing ever!!!” shouts Lil.
“Where’s your mum?”
“Not far to go now!”
We keep running through the ship for what seems like hours, and finally, we come skidding to a stop outside a large hole in one of the bigger walls.
“This be it!” says Lil. “Ya wanna go inside?”
“Sure!” We go inside, and I see what looks like the inside of a tree. There is a table carved out of the wood, with bizarre shapes on top that look only vaguely like cups, plates and bowls. Carved out of the floor, there are chairs. And playing around the place, there are twenty-one tiny ratlets!
“Err… Mum’s a big ship’s rat adopter. These are all me baby brothers and sisters. Do ya wanna be introduced?” Then, without waiting for an answer, she starts.
A small white and black patchy ratlet steps up. “This is Clary.” Next, a grey one with a black patch over her left eye. “Jessica.” A black one. “Felix.” A grey one. “Leo.” A grey one with a black patch. “Bob.” A black one. “Bill.” Another white one. “Emily.” I yawn. Lil, however, just keeps droning on and on.
Finally, she is done. “Now I better get mum.” Lil races off into another chamber.
While she is still away, a small black and white ratlet who I recognise as Clary walks up to me. He looks up at me, eyes wide.
“Lil told us you were escaping from wild cats! Tell me why they’re after you! Tell me, tell me!”
I tell him about my adventures with the wild cats. About the cauldron, about the kit-tour, about Deadeyes and Bloodfur. About EVERYTHING.
When I am done, Clary is staring up at me in awe.
“Always been an adventurous spirit, that one!” says a voice coming from the corner of the room. I jump, turn around, and see a large, motherly looking grey rat looking at us, with a big smile on her face. I realise that she must have been watching and listening the whole time. “Now, deary, do you want to stay with us? I would do anything for you and your friends. I have a big debt to pay back!” I pause, confused.
“You saved Lil from the wild cats! She was driving me MAD with worry! I thought that she was going to get eaten for sure!”
“Oh. Well, she’s paid me back already! Without her, Wilfred and I would be (as Lil put it,) bubblin’ away in some fat old cat’s belly!”
“You saved her, and I’m grateful for it.”
The next day, I get up and find everyone packing up the home.
“What are you doing!?” I ask.
“We’re moving ships!”
“’cause we want to! Now, deary, do you want to come with us?”
“Uuuum… maybe not.”
“That’s fine!” says Mrs Rat.
Suddenly, Lil pipes up. “Mum, can I stay with Stanley?”
“Can I stay as well?” I turn around to see who is talking. It’s little Clary!
“As long as Lil takes good care of you. You hear that, Lil! Take care of Clary!” Then, along with the other 20 ratlets, she leaves.