A Rat Of Many Colours
Long ago, before humans built London, there was just a river surrounded by grassy hills and trees. It was the domain of furry things that scurry. I’m talking about rats. When humans began building, the rats took to the nooks and crannies, and also underground for a while. Then the humans, or OVERgrounders as they’re called, started digging to make subways. Rats went even farther down. But like I said, that was ages ago, before this whole beautiful, bustling UnderUnderground rat city existed.
Who am I and why am I telling you this? We’ll get to that in a moment, for my story started more recently. You could say it began the day I met Reginald Twitch. Or, Posh Rat as he’s known. Folks call him 'Posh Rat' because of his father, Finnicus Twitch. Yes. That Finnicus Twitch. The one whose face is on the largest CheeseCoin. The stingy Cheesemarshal Millionaire Rat. That is Posh Rat’s dad.
As heir to the Twitch fortune, young Poshy was recently promoted as the UnderUnderground’s Tubemeister, overseer of roads, tunnels and waterways. This was a job in which he had no real interest. You see, Poshy didn’t know quite what he wanted to be...until the day we met, that is.
That was the day in the UnderUndergound that rat tube trains began pulling into the stations all streaked with bright, vibrant colours. Very strange. The rat train carriages that were normally a dull silver-grey were now daubed and striped in any number of the most spectacular hues.
“Reginald,” Poshy’s dad called him that. “As newly appointed Twitch family Tubemeister, you need to oversee the tunnel team to figure out why our trains are being ruined by these awful colours.”
Well, Poshy knew not to say to his father that he thought the colours looked quite nice, actually.
So indeed, Poshy’s crew of rat-workers discovered a leak in the drainage pipe beneath the Overgrounders sweet factory. Pink, blue and bright green swirling streams were oozing down into the main UnderUndergound tube tunnel, colouring the trains as they passed beneath it.
“It does dazzle the eyes,” Poshy said. “But don’t just stare. Fix the leak!”
In a shower of sparks, the helmeted rat-workers re-sealed the pipe, putting a stop to the coloured oozing.
“We’re done sir, may we be on our way?” The worker rats said, eager to get away from any member of the Twitch family, Poshy included.
“Well, the pipe looks secure, so you—” Before Poshy could finish his sentence, the crew of rat-workers had scurried off.
Alone in the tunnel, Poshy was about to leave when he noticed a crack of light coming from above the just-repaired pipe.
“Help us!” Poshy faintly heard small voices coming from behind the crack. He poked upward with his walking cane and the earthy tunnel ceiling crumbled a bit to reveal even more bright light. Pocketing his white gloves, Poshy climbed up the dirt wall toward the bright light. He poked his head through the hole and into what certainly looked like the inside of a laboratory. Indeed. It was a workroom in the Overgrounder’s sweets factory. Labelled boxes of lollipops, tubs of cotton candy and jars of sparkling colourful treats sat in rows among the test tubes, gadgets with dials and science equipment. And there on the desk by the tubs of coloured gumballs stood a cage - crowded with rats.
“Lab rats,” Poshy said as he blinked.
“Help us!” the caged rats implored to the handsome rat with a tall top hat poking up from the floor. These lab rats were all brightly coloured. Yellow, orange, red, purple, neon pink, sky blue, bright white and minty green.
The neon pink one...is me. As I promised to explain: I am also a rat. My name is Pinkerton Barnes. Yes. I know. A pink rat named Pinkerton. Laugh if you must. I wasn’t born this pink, mind you. I have a much more dignified flamingo shade beneath this neon gumball colour. Anyway, I used to be free, but one day I got captured by the human Overgrounders for experiments. Now I’m a lab rat with all these others. Can you imagine? It’s quite embarrassing really.
So here we all were, in the presence of an actual Twitch. We recognised him from the telly. Though no one liked the Twitches much, we couldn't deny his handsome looks. His black eyes twinkled in the glare of the laboratory lights.
“You’re all different bright colours!” It seemed Poshy had a wonderful way of stating the obvious. I spoke to him with my pink hands on the bars.
“We’re being held here by the Overgrounders. They’re testing the gumball colours on our fur. It’s downright undignified!”
“Well yes, it is,” Poshy said, rubbing his clean grey chin in thought. “You were all caught, though.”
“Come now!” I felt myself getting flush as I stood up for myself and my fellow prisoners. “You’re not so posh as to think there are rats who deserve this sort of treatment!”
Posh Rat clambered out of the hole in the floor and onto the table where our cage sat. He stood close enough for me to appreciate the fine hand-stitching of his three-piece wool suit.
“Dear sir, have a heart,” the blue rat said.
“We haven't seen our families in months,” said the green.
“Oh, he won’t help us. He’s too posh,” the purple rat scowled. “No Twitch would save a lowly street rat.”
Reginald 'Posh Rat' Twitch paused to look at us. But at last he shrugged, turned and let his climbing rope uncoil from the table to the floor.
“Yes, that’s right. Go home to your father’s piles of CheeseCoins!” the red rat jeered as Poshy began to lower himself down from the table.
“Wait,” I said. “You don’t have to be like all the other Twitches, you know. You don’t have to be like your father.” Poshy’s brow whiskers flattened. There was now a different twinkle in his eye. I knew I’d gotten to him.
Poshy pulled himself back up onto the table and over to our cage. With the flair of a seasoned swordsman, he flipped open the latch with his cane and I thrusted the cage door wide open.
“Hurry!” he said. “I hear footsteps!”
Like a squeaking rainbow waterfall, we all scurried out of our cage, down the rope and through the hole in the floor where Poshy had entered.
The rats all hurried off in different directions, leaving just Posh and me standing face to face in the tunnel.
I took his impeccably manicured paw in my paw. “Sir, take me with you. You’ll need an assistant, I imagine.”
“An assistant?” he said, tilting his head.
“Well, of course,” I replied, smiling. “Every hero... needs a sidekick.”