• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 04
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When the Music Stops

I don’t bother to surface much, anymore. I’d rather not spoil the rats.

I take them for granted, sometimes. They are an ugly congregation. They pick apart the great remains, scalding their little feet on the searing sands. They love me, but they adore my shadow. When I emerge from the earth – ash and sand cascading down my shoulders – they flock from every direction, fighting for a spot in my shade. Every so often I imagine one of them tilting its empty eyes skyward, their soul pierced to see themselves reflected in my visor. Yet to me, they are the ones who reflect. They fill up my shadow, animating my umbral after-image. A perfect companion; a river of rats. I shudder in my great rubber body-suit. But at least they are familiar. They’re social, but not in the same way the ants and the cockroaches are. They have that mammalian appeal – a scarce commodity nowadays.

I can’t imagine life without them.

Sometimes I think about moving forward. Abandoning my tunnels and blowing the silt from my scuba-flute. Taking my chances in the ash-blown plains. Oh, but how I would hate to be just another one of the skulls. Filthy remains, rooted to the spot, picked apart by once loyal followers.

It’s when I get too complacent that I remember:

Zealots in hard times are fickle, when the music stops.

Rats can always find another ship.