Published: “New York Twist Magazine,” October/November 2008.
Won: “WeMakeYourMovie Contest,” March 2009.
“Little rats, all my little rats.” The Lord of the Dome inhaled the damp rotten air with an impish grin, staring down upon the sniffing masses of his devoted followers. “Yes, yes. Drip goes the water to the tune, no gloom, of my glorious realm.”
He sat down, leaned against the damp stone wall, and took his night’s meal from a torn, gray duffel bag. He chewed on the empty juice box till his jaw went numb and spit the remnants aside. He didn’t like the taste anyway. Too savory. After eating a few more objects discovered earlier in the day, he rubbed his long fingers together in defense against the shallow chill of his cavernous home.
A screech, followed by the racket of heavy metal being crushed, erupted somewhere above, sending jolting vibrations into his back.
“What? What be this noise? Dare, dare you break the sleep of my ears?” He stood and sniffed the damp air. “You not know who I be?” He craned his neck and twitched his ears, but the noise didn’t answer his movements or questions. Irritated, the Lord stomped his feet and his subjects scattered. “Little rats, I apologize. Apologize, yes I do. A disturbance, minor, minor it must be.” He glanced up at the gleam of light from a rectangular opening and caught the sound of a low moan. “This annoyance, discover, yes discover I will…to protect us. I go. Til then…be as you may.”
The Lord of the Dome worked his way up the wall, grabbing notch, lip and ledge, till he reached the narrow space. Set at ground level on the edge of a hard path, the rim dribbled water down his front. He licked some to wet his lips and quench his thirst. He spit out the gritty after-bite. Hmm, water, drip drip warmer here. Remember this, must remember.
Outside, darkness held its comforting grip, scattered only by a singular glow attached to a tall pole. He could see well enough, the vile rays had not yet appeared. Across the hard path, twisted metal whirred for a second and puttered into silence against a wall. Painful groans came from within. He considered going back, but the potential threat required closer inspection.
He squeezed through the opening and immediately two bright eyes charged him. He leaped away, dodging the monster, and crouched to prepare for another attack. It roared in passing and was gone.
“Dark Eaters, light bringer, vermin wretches! Yes, damn, damn Dark Eaters. Find a way to destroy them later. Time not right.”
A quick check revealed no more dangers, and he scampered to the wreckage. Inside a hideous creature whimpered. A huge rat, devoid of fur save a long patch on its nearly snoutless head, squirmed feebly. Mutation. I’ve heard of such. This be ill omen. It moaned again and the Lord noticed the reason for its piteous cries. Pinched within the metal heap, a large piece of see-through stone pierced the rat’s shoulder.
The Lord knew what must be done. He had helped many of his subjects before and this one was one was no different than the rest, other than being bigger and mutated. Fix the wound first, yes, before the life runs out. Then free, free it.
He ran down an alley and found one of the Boxes of Instruments. Each of these wondrous containers held many a prize, if he could find what he needed. Lifting the large lid, he tossed it up to flap behind the huge box, and leapt in. He rummaged through its secret contents, before raising his prize in the air with a triumphant cry. “Yes! Magic cloth of breaking water!”
He returned with much speed using all hands and feet. It took a moment, but he wrapped the wound at the base of the clear stone with the cloth he had found. His subject cried out at his ministrations, but seemed too weak to take notice of what occurred. The red water of its life stopped draining out. He needed to find another handful of the water-breaking cloth in order to remove the stone, but at least he had gained some time.
Clambering from within the wreckage, he heard a distant wailing. It escalated to a high pitch and suddenly a bright rainbow of colors flashed from the dark further up the hard path. He rushed to hide and covered his ears as the sound grew louder and louder. The lights and sound came from a large square beast. The noise stopped as the creature came to a halt not far away. It split open and more tall, mutated rats scrambled out.
They ran to the junk pile and the Lord prepared to attack, scratching his nails on the ground. When they carefully removed some of the twisted shards entrapping his injured subject, he stopped, retreating into shadow. They be helping. He watched more intently, hoping to learn from their magics. He never knew such creatures existed above the Dome.
They left in their magical flashing beast, taking the wounded rat with them. He stared after them as they departed, then into the great dark overhead. The Eyes of Above still twinkled there but he saw them differently now. They were much more. The Eyes of the Greater Dome.
His true realm lay here. He was sure of it. He would be Lord of this Greater Dome. Protected, protected, they must be. Long nails clicking, he clambered up a nearby wall to perch atop a tiled roof. “Rule over all rats of this dome, surely it is true. I will be. Yes. Be your sovereign! My subjects, I am your Lord!”