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The Seventh Hour After Sunset
((Part one of three) (1962))
The bones were still warm! But picked clean, and the rats were starting to chew out the marrow. As I stood there and looked at this human waste, and the gleaming eyes that were starting to surround me, and joked with my comrade-we had, Mike Reassert and I, we had climbed down into the city’s sewer system, made during the Civil War days, to find jewelry caught in drain pipes and so forth, not realizing the blazing eyes and numerous amount of rats that infested the sewer system, and had been following us. At this point, nearly lost in the sewers, we had half dozen rings, one with a big diamond in it. There were heaps of bones in several corners of the sewer system thus far we recognized. Human as well as rat bones: the rats that were following us from a distance, had a kind of old-fashion ferocity about them, a hoarsely squeal, and Mike and I had only flashlights, and a twenty-two caliber derringer with us, that shot one bullet at a time and we had three bullets to spare, plus the one in the chamber. There must have been several rats behind this one rat, the savage looking rat.
My first thought was-even though we were in danger-was to avert fear, accordingly- and I told Mike just to have a normal conversation with me-act nonchalantly, the derringer in my right hand, the trigger cocked. Waiting to seize a favorable opportunity to shoot the rat-the leader rat, if need be. Thus, we proceeded to check under another drain for jewelry. And finding nothing, the unholy face of the master rat came closer, her face somewhat concealed by the dark shadow she seemed to carry with her, over her, examining me in particular, as her cohorts followed her-paying Mike little to no attention other than a quick glance towards him-my heart beating like a sledge-hammer.
I took advantage of the pause, and climbed up a few steps onto a ladder to see through an iron manhole overhead, through an opening in the iron lid, it was now a late hour in the night, it must have been, we had entered the sewers at 7:00 p.m., it was perhaps 11:00 p.m., now. Fumbling up the ladder my derringer fell out from my hand, which triggered a gloaming moment, the reeking foulness of the place, and blood-stained mouths of the rats jumped onto the danger, and cornered Mike.
The threatening yellow glitter from a dozen huge rat eyes blocked his passage to freedom, to the ladder anyhow. From where I stood these rats seemed strangely large: Mississippi Rats under this conservative city of St. Paul, unusually fierce. Mike was in some kind of whirling condition, in that his mind was closing down-I knew that from looking at him, and him looking back at me, it was as if the rats had mentally crashed through his baffled rage, and paralyzed him with this nightmare: and his body sank-his knees were as if he were drunk, he couldn’t remain erect, and he melted down in that corner like butter, and like a herd of piranhas, as if desperate to allow him to escape, they attacked him, as if they were picking, ripping rags apart. And they ate him up-just his bones, warm bones remained. And after that moment, I watched these human like rats, danced as if in a fiesta and were eating a fajita: they broke into a squealing vigorous merriment, of which it was ever my lot to listen to and observe. I feel inadequate to even tell this story, but they sang-I mean squealed, as if the leader was a heroine-I hope you can understand that now, as you have yourself observed, not only the rats per se, but the heaps of bones.
And there rests the horrible blood soaked buddy of mine-in the corner of the sewer, my youthful comrade, two years younger than I, and I was only fifteen at the time, there he lay, in this shapeless form. And still there, the rats were not content, now looking at me, advance with their discolored teeth, sharp as a butcher’s knife- gruesome murderers, turning one by one around to wait for me, and I said to myself, “I shall not give them the opportunity!” But should I fall, I was sure there would be no time for an outcry of help, like Mike, and my flash light was growing dimmer and dimmer, and the iron lid above me was very heavy, I remember.
Hence, I know for the rats-on their part, my death was settled upon; it was just a matter of time. I stole a glance or two down at the rats, then once up at the iron lid again above me, also took a glance at the heap of bones over in the corner.
The master rat said something to her followers, it was as if she said “Hurry up and surround the ladder, and capture him if he falls, and if he tries to climb it to escape onto the street, you three find a way out of here and go on top of the other side of the lid, and wait for him-if he pushes the lid onto the street-do what I told you to do…!” They weren’t stupid rats by far. For after she squealed whatever, that is what they did. Three rats hustled above the street dodging cars waiting for me to open the lid. And then I fell, and when I woke up, here I was, in this corner of the sewer, and that was twenty-five years ago-if you can read between the lines mister-I didn’t catch your name, whatever it is, I am the old man of the sewer, the rat master. And I can see in the distance, my little hairy friends are getting uneasy, it’s meal time.
No: 644 (7-14-2010) Dedicated to: Dalvir
The Seventh Hour after Sunset
((Part two of three) (1987))
I’ve been keeping a journal in the sewer system here, where I’ve been living for twenty-five years with the rats-the passing of those years was a slow horror-but the hour was at hand for things to change.
There are an incredible number of them here and throughout, let me tell you about one of them, the leader, actually she is the one that saved me from being the fancy of the others, meaning death-now so long ago. I call her Lilith, after the Queen of Hell-a she-devil in her own right; it was just two years ago, she was getting old, seated before us, me and a hundred rats, she was the queen, she was all hunkered down-meaning, settled down for the most part, retiring from her past battles, letting the others do her work for her: her hair was thinning in spots all over her body, her claws still complete, her eyes were as expected, fogy looking. The whiskers she once had were now nearly gone, pressed hard each night I suppose against the wet and dry sewage, but she had been queen a very long time in her life. We all looked at her as the one to fear the most; she was once a magnificent creature, a rat the size of a medium size dog, robust, a great size for a sewer rat. When I first saw her on that day where I was on the ladder trying to escape, she must had seen in me, confirmed in her the admiration I had for her, it changed her outlook on me, saved me, because I remember a shudder ran through each of my legs. Today her mouth and claws were smeared with blood, human blood-and I knew she wanted more. She knew also I no longer feared her as I once had, or did, nor the other rats-I mean, I might have escaped from their grips a few different times in the past, and I might not have, but I kind of lost hope in trying and accepted my lot in life, all the fear I had endured all these years, was gone for the most part, and her once hypnotic eyes no longer had their effect on me, that manifest itself when in those long meetings she had, I called them “Seventh Hour after Sunset,” meetings because when she wanted to instill her orders, or fear into everyone, with her hypnotic eyes, that was about the hour she called her meetings together.
Like most of the rats, I looked upon Lilith’s death as a means to an end, for me to become king. This day, after seeing her, and hearing a meeting was going to take place at the seventh hour after sunset, I didn’t know what was to follow, but I knew something was since she called this meeting, or gathering, my body chemistry told me so, she spoke in a faint voice to her comrades-I was always separated from those others, but now I knew how to translate her squeals, and body language, before she died she wanted to kill me, eat me, to prove to her kind she still had it-to become a legend among her own, but she wanted it to be a fair fight; and for no other reasons than that, for her kind to not interfere.
As she stepped down from her throne like cement step, into the pool of cold spring water, and slime in the dreary sewer complexity, that ran under the city like a giant cobweb, her paws stained in dry blood, she carefully examined my stance, nothing strange, she always did that before she attacked. My face fell as we faced one anther, it was at that ungodly hour, there was light throughout the sewer, not much but some, the authorities above had put in some lighting a few years back-sparsely throughout the sewer system. I had no knife, no weapon to speak of, but I had something for this occasion-and with the faint glow of the lights, I moved closer over to them, knowing I needed the light more than Lilith, now I felt better prepared to do what I hoped would again save my life.
Grave was the feeling within me. And my inner voice said: what are you going to do now, as if it didn’t already know, perhaps suspicion of what was coming, I mean, I had never really thought of it, not completely thought of it, and my second-self, that hidden person or voice within those deep chambers of each and every person’s mind on earth, we all have one or two or perhaps even three if indeed you have that kind of personality, was telling me to go over the plan, a sinking voice inside of me, but I had no time to, my face must have shown a pleading composure, because Lilith turned around to look at her comrades, as if to say: look at the distress I put on his face, I’m sympathizing but not for long with this fellow, our old human comrade, and before she turned back to look at me-completely look at me, face to face, shoulder to shoulder-or in this case my knees to her shoulders, with her flaming red and yellow eyes, full of indignation, before she did this, she seemingly discovered an unknown danger upon herself-felt it anyhow, and then when she made a half turn, I smiled I remember that smile so well because she met my eyes when I did that smile, her deadly yellow and red eyes, and her voice seemed far-away then-when she screamed that is, and only then did the horror of the whole thing burst upon her, there in the full sight of nearly five-hundred rats, the evil side of death jagged as it looked and as it came, this unviable human like, thinking animal figure, before all, saw death approaching-pained and alarmed-seeing in my right hand fire from a lighter I had taken off a dead body-one perhaps she gnawed on until the bones were cold, to this I pushed down on the side of it, in a second the wick was on fire, leaping towards Lilith, as I threw it on top of her-as if the fire itself had legs-the fire was solidly ablaze on her now: head to tail to her talons on her paws, and the area was rank with the smell of burning hair, and the five-hundred stepped back, in fear of being caught up in the little inferno, and now I could breath freely. And the Queen was no more.
No: 645 (7-15-2010)
((Part three of three) (1967))
(From my Journal notes) It was the fifth year of my captivity in the sewers of the Midwestern City; it all seemed to me a dream within a dream. Nothing changed much in those years, but the worse sight that had met my eyes up to this point, was certainly beyond my reality. I think it was around the year, 1967, in the hot summer months, I had seen two teenagers exploring these old cascading caves that were used by the soldiers of the Civil War era to keep prisoners and so forth, and thereafter, as the sewer system, that ran from one city to the other, from: St. Paul, to Minneapolis. And I had seen these two teenagers, one a female the other a male, about fifteen-years old, exploring the maze, I kept hidden, but Lilith, followed them like a hawk, Lilith, the rat antagonist-the Queen rat, the one that saved me, and for what reason, I’ll never know.
The young blond girl, pretty as peacock, was tired, and took rest against one of the old wooden beams in the cave, put her purse behind the back of her neck as a pillow so that her spine was more erect, so it appeared. And she caught sight of Lilith, and somehow-like Lilith had done to me-put the girl in a comatose like trance. She was for the most part, partly frozen in time and space. Her boyfriend took no notice of it, no special expression on his face anyhow and just kept walking about- aware of nothing, perhaps now a few hundred feet ahead of her, exploring. The warm blooded girl was breathing slowly, and Lilith patient as she can be, was cornering her, with her entourage of several huge rats, red haired rats. No fear no horror on her face, just a placid look of innocence-her eyes wide open staring into nothingness. Behind Lilith, another and another and another of Lilith’s army of rats showed up for the kill-perhaps twenty now. This is almost exactly where the boy got lost in the caves trying to find his way back, calling “Karin, Karin, where are you?” She never answered.
The teeth of Lilith were like heavy knives, leaf-shaped, as if to make a bigger and wider trench when she bites into a person. Thus, at that moment of striking this beautiful blond haired, fair skinned girl, with pigtails and all, she struck her flesh, but only the edge of her teeth went into her leg, kind of sideways like. As it was, her teeth didn’t cut through to the other side of the bone, and the girl jumped up, and out of her trance, blood was pouring out of her like Niagara Falls-she stood petrified but she could stand on both legs. Evidently, Lilith wanted to make one powerful bite, to break the leg into two pieces, so she’d collapse and be unable to run.
The wound of the girl, now in front of all those rats, was oozing with blood, with every pulsation of her heart, and it was staining her lower part of her dress and shoes and socks to no end. And now she was screaming, “Help, help, Brskine, help me.”
As I rose from my sitting position, between to rafters near the ceiling of the cave-I could see both her on one side and the boy on the other, I said to the boy, “Turnabout, take a left and another left, and you’ll be in front of her, grab that board behind you…!” And he did as I said.
Never shall I forget the look on her face when she saw her Brskine coming with a large board with nails in it swinging it every which way, and the rats rose from their paws-stunned faced, a strange picture indeed, and ran off to wherever but with a chuck of her leg. Then I heard him say, “I think there’s a ghost in those caves,” and he picked her up to carry her to the hospital, I expect, he did say-after putting a tourniquet on her leg, something on the order of: “We better get out of here to a hospital before you pass out, and lose all your blood,” because right after he said whatever he said, he picked her up and rushed out of the caves.
No: 646 (7-15-2010)
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