's 2016 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by eli

           The rat's nose was caught in the trap. Perhaps overcautious, it had only been sniffing at the food when the metal slammed itself down. Now rather than a quick death with its neck caught or snapped, it had suffered the whole night through.

           The woman grimaced. "Honey, come here. Can you get this?"

           "These damn rats." He walked over, staring down at the trembling little mammal with contempt. "It's all that candy those stupid teenagers left all over our lawn."

           "Maybe if we had answered the door when they kept ringing."

           "The lights were off, Mildred. And besides, if they had all those sweets to trash our yard with, they didn't need any of ours anyways." He popped a caramel out of his pocket and began to unwrap it, still observing with a smug look on his face the trapped rat.

           "Just because you like candy so much doesn't mean you have to hoard it. And can you get rid of this rat? I have no idea how you're snacking with that thing in front of you. Take it out of the trap and let it outside?"

           "Are you kidding me? I'm just gonna kill this thing. Put it out of its misery."

           Mildred looked disconcerted. "Elliot, it's not even dying. Just take it out of the trap."

           He scoffed. "You think this thing is as disgusting as I think it is. You take it out if you feel so strongly about it." Seeing her hesitate, he laughed again. "You can't even do it." He kicked the trap, dragging the rat along with it.

           Mildred hesitated. "Don't do it on the linoleum."

           Elliot took it outside and smashed it under his heel.

           Then popped another caramel in his mouth.


           A week later, they heard a skittering noise in the laundry room.

           "Must've bred before I killed it." Elliot cursed under his breath. "I'm gonna have to buy more traps. Nasty little things."

           "Stop calling them that."

           "We're doing this again?"

           Mildred sighed. "They're just hungry. We should just lure them out or something. I told you I didn't like the traps."

           Elliot rolled his eyes. "I'm not budging on this. They're not getting any of my food, especially if we'll get sick if they've been rooting around in it."


           Elliot, perhaps overzealous, had placed traps in every corner of the house, tossing morsels of food on each one with apparent glee.

           "If you said they weren't getting any of your food, you're giving them half the fridge just to catch them." Mildred rolled her eyes as Elliot snapped another trap back and placed it in the corner.

           "They're better off dead and you know it. Nobody likes a rat." He sat back on his haunches, surveying his work. "They're just greedy thieving little animals that eat other people's food without doing anything useful." He stood up. "We should just get rid of them all."


           It was a repeat event of the last rat, really. Mildred pleaded for Elliot to just let the damn thing go, but Elliot picked up the trap and threw it against the wall. The sharp little crack was, regrettably, simply its ribs cracking. Elliot watched it with a satisfied look before tossing it outside, still writhing.

           "Happy?" He dusted off his hands before sneaking his hand back into his pocket.

           "God, I can't believe you! That one was just a baby. There's no reason to hurt them like that!" She crossed her arms, glaring as Elliot, unheeding, unwrapped a chocolate and put it in his mouth. "This is practically animal cruelty! And I especially can't believe how you're eating after you just tortured a harmless little thing like that!"

           "Hon, torture's a little strong of a word. Like I've been saying, they deserve it."

           She stared coldly at him. "You know, my mother used to say you shouldn't be mean to any creatures, even the ones you find unsavory. They know when you're doing it, you know. It's bad luck."

           Elliot laughed and laughed at her.

           "My stomach hurts." He guffawed.

           "Maybe it's all the candy." She responded.


           They found a rat, dead, in the bed, the day after the second rat. It was not tangled in the sheets, nor inconspicuously tucked away somewhere. It was lying neatly in the center of the bed, as if some unseen cat had deposited it, bloodless and solitary.

           "Not funny, Elliot."

           "Why the hell would I pick up a rat and put it in our bed?"

           "Because you want to gross me out. Because you're mad that I asked you to not torture animals."

           "I didn't do it!" Elliot scowled. "Just move it out of here or something."


           The morning after, his clothes were chewed up.

           In the afternoon, a rat, jumping out of the fridge as he leaned down to it.

           Three days later, while he dug for the remote in the sofa, his hand met the selfsure teeth of a rat who has been trapped under someone's sofa would have.

           And so it continued, rats lurking in corners and in beds, in cupboards and drawers.

           "I'm calling an exterminator." He announced.

           "We've already gotten rid of all the rats—that's what you said four days ago." Mildred continued to turn the pages of her book.

           "You've seen what's been happening to our things, don't you?!"

           "Your things."

           Elliot curled and uncurled his fists. "Look, fine, your feelings got hurt when I laughed at that stupid thing Joanne—your mother—said. It's not my fault you believe that sort of thing!"

           Mildred set her book down. "Oh and I'm supposed to just be okay with the fact that you've been hunting down pests that you can't even catch? Our house is covered with traps and yet I don't see a single rat in them, let alone any rats where you've claimed to see them!"

           Just then, both of them stopped. The unmistakable crinkling of cellophane around sweets resounded faintly from the Halloween bowl still in the kitchen.

           "Milly, you know I love you." Elliot said, voice dangerously low. "But if you're playing some sort of trick on me, just know that I have had it. I'm not going to be happy."

           Mildred shrank away from Elliot, focusing her eyes on the bowl. She stepped forward, cautiously and quietly.

           The wrappers crinkled.

           Elliot's fingers drummed upon the side table, a breakneck rhythm.



           Skitter, went Elliot's nails clacking across the wood.



           Skitter skitter.

           Mildred peeked into the bowl.

           And screamed.

           Wriggling and squirming inside the bowl was what seemed like far too many rats, clawing and falling over each other in an attempt to escape. Their tails, however, shone with the dull sheen of sugary coating—knotted together into a tangled mess. The rats at the bottom had been dead long enough to stink—it was nauseating. The smell of old candies and decaying flesh mingled dreadfully.

           Mildred practically stumbled backwards into Elliot, who didn't even bother to catch her or indeed, look at her. His eyes were trained on the remains of a Halloween stash of candy, the carcasses of rats covered in bits of caramel and licorice.

           "Elliot, it's disgusting, it's horrible! I can't believe you didn't notice any of that when you stuff your pockets with candy from that every day!"

           Her cries went unheeded. His mouth twitched open in what looked like a frown and it was only then she realized the dark matted fur caught in his teeth.

           She could only stare at what happened next. Elliot's eyes bulged forward and his mouth widened—almost as if he was going to throw up. But rather than that, his skin seemed to suddenly melt off, boiled by heat and dripping away. What used to be his face sagged downwards towards his neck, his mouth still gaping open.

           There comes a point in which disgust, fear, and loathing have no sound. The screaming is over, and abject horror simply closes over your heart like malfunctioning elevator doors.

           And so that was how Mildred felt as a rat ballooned from his throat, ostensibly from his stomach. It emerged, slimy and sickening. Not clawing so much as taking a peek out, a gory bloodstained Punxsutawney Phil. Out popped another one, clambering over Elliot's teeth, but still rooted in his mouth. The Pied Piper could not have called out more rats from a hamlet, their little eyes darting around, noses sniffling the air in one strange symphony. She watched as they began to squeal and squeak, impossible numbers of rats continuing to emerge from where her husband's face used to be. What was left of his throat began to tear, distending outwards with bulging shapes that could only be more of the tiny mammals—and if it was not, it would soon become certain, as the flesh began to tear.

           As Elliot's body toppled forward, the rats finally burst forth from his neck, all squealing and squeaking in one terrified voice. Their tails, like those in the bowl, were twisted and snarled together, around what must have been Elliot's uvula. Then they hit the ground. Underneath his body, they thrashed, teeth gnashing, claws sliding across the floor.

It was quickly replaced with silence. Mildred, still rooted to the spot, exhaled, breath shaking. She gulped, rubbing her hand quickly over eyes.

           "And right on the linoleum, too."


inspiration: i based this pretty strongly off of a recent experience my parents had with rats. i exaggerated it quite a bit of course and the characters are nothing like my parents, but my mom definitely told me as a kid that if you speak badly about rats then they'll chew up your stuff in retribution. figures! they're just little buddies.