On my back interwound I opened my eyes and they met his. Around me a mass of my brothers and sisters slumped against one another as though asleep. I look down and my tail is still bonded with them but this silence is so new. My head feels clear for the first time and I'm alone with my thoughts, no interruptions or panicked pushes towards survival. It's like nothing I have experienced before... Silence and a lack of motion as this beings eyes loom over me as I lay here. Finally at rest...
"Hello there. Don't worry about your family here they're all asleep, not dead." The huge face lurching over me booms. He carefully arranges my nephew Barry to be some kind of pillow to prop me up as he delicately arranges the mass of my family in front of him.
"Looks like you're all tied up here by your tails. And I thought my family was complicated." He says laughing. There's some kind of slime on his head.
The creature looming over me begins reaching into his pockets and I thought my time had come. Especially seeing all my brethren around me unconscious. But he pulls a little piece of cheese out of his pocket and offers it my way and, my god, its good.
He smiles whilst I eat it. It's been a while since we had any real food around here. My belly is exposed to this giant as I fill it, staring him in the eyes but he looks gleeful and curious, not menacing.
"It seems here we have a Rat King and because you are the only rat currently able to understand me, that would make you the king of rats my little friend." He says as little bits of Lancashire cheese falls from my mouth into my chest hair whilst I chew. The snot on his head began to move and I think it talked. Wait actually it's a frog of some sort, I hear it tell the creature to help me more.
"Oh if I must" And the towering creature reaches towards me with a long pointed finer.
"ShazzULza or whatever." He says as the finger hits my engorged belly.
"Now you can free yourself from this bondage, these chains of yours. Think of where you want to go and you can walk into it, like entering a doorway. You'll no longer be trapped in this family of yours." He tells me in a deep voice.
I thought about the pocket he had reached into, the one where he produced the cheese. And the next thing you know I'm walking into a huge pocket of cheese. I didn't even know they made cheese pockets or even pockets this big but it was huge. I've never even felt my tail being disconnected from the rest of my family before... I was finally free to live my own life. I ran my hand down along it and felt how smooth the skin felt all the way to the tip, nothing in its way. Alone at last and then I delved into the cheese in this creatures robes, everything else faded away all but that glorious cheese.
A moments later I feel the cheese being tugged away from me, I bite hard onto a crusty edge and follow it upwards into the air as I realize the giant creature from before is removing the whole block from its pocket, me attached, and dangling as he moves it in front of his face. On top of its head sits a frog wearing a robe and on top of the frog sits another, very small frog. A weird kind of totem. I look to the creatures shoulder and think about it long enough to appear there.
Into the creatures ear I ask "What... Is happening?"
I see his jowls raise as he smiles, leaning his entire face to the right to try take a peak at me on his shoulder. The Stoic frog in some kind of robe silently watches the whole thing unfold from its vantage point.
"I'd really appreciate it if somebody could tell me what the hell is happening right now because this is wild." I quickly speak into the creatures ear.
I look down at my entangled family and moments later I am walking through a door next to them on the ground. The huge, bearded figure shrouded in a long robe stands over us as I try to wake them from their slumber.
"That won't work my friend. They will sleep until I wake them. You however are now awake in a different sense... How did you come to end up in this mess?" He asks.
I look up to him and try to remember back before the chaos.
"A great fire once tore through this land and wiped out the previous occupants. In the piles of their corpses my people thrived on their charred flesh until there were so many of us we lost our way. Fell into one another and became trapped by our own bodies, rolling endlessly with no real agency or control. All trying to survive with no coordination. Our tails and fur entangled and imprisoned us together in a waking nightmare." I tell him my story as I began to untangle the tails of my friends. It's a mess, like the innards of a man.
"Hmmm I imagine somebody must have left an oven on." The giant towering over me says, rubbing his chin.
"Well, would you like to join me and my friend Froglin on a little adventure? We're going far from here, to find some peace and quiet. There's all the cheese in the world out there waiting for us. Maybe you could learn a thing or two along the way." He asks me.
I'm struggling with tails and hair trying to part my cousin from my second cousin but it feels futile.
"Here let me help you." he says and taps his staff onto my bundle of rat family.
There's a puff of smoke and all the rats are untangled, awake. They stare at one another and at me for a second before running in different directions into the night. Leaving me alone and abandoned. It was like they didn't recognise me.
"Come join us. Family isn't always what you're born with, it's the people you meet on your journey through this life." He reaches out his hand outstretched in my direction and I look at it before appearing within it.
"Nice little trick I gave you huh?" He says smiling. The toad on his head stares at me silently. "Hop up to meet Froglin, he'll fill you in on the details".
• 100% certified organic cotton 3/1 twill
• Fabric weight: 8 oz/yd² (272 g/m²)
• Dimensions: 16″ × 14 ½″ × 5″ (40.6 cm × 35.6 cm × 12.7 cm)
• Weight limit: 30 lbs (13.6 kg)
• 1″ (2.5 cm) wide dual straps, 24.5″ (62.2 cm) length
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