} The rats brought him in with the rest of the morning catch.
} Winifred was so struck by his cranial development and seemingly
} self-aware bearing that she asked for him to be set aside for
} examination by the scientifics. The rat captain, officious as ever,
} declared that this one was destined for target practice for the army,
} and we scientifics would just have to catch our own torture victims.
} Then, as they were rat-handling him into the paddy wagon, the subject
} of our discussion turned on one of them and shouted: "Get your stinking
} paws off me, you damn dirty rodent!"
} You can imagine the sensation this created. A talking human?
} Impossible! The rats staggered back, and were all for killing this
} monster, this freak of nature there and then. But with my help Winifred
} convinced them that this was a scientific specimen which had been
} surgically altered so as to be able to articulate some simple words,
} and that it had escaped last week. Hence it really belonged to us
} already. The rats took some convincing, but they are not good at
} dealing with anything out of the ordinary, and eventually allowed us to
} claim our prize.
} Winifred then insisted on taking her new pet to our home. I was
} against it, of course: the proper place for this peculiar, not to say
} repulsive, creature was the laboratory. And anyway, you can't house-
} train a human! But she got her way, as always.
} At first we could get nothing out of our talking man. He appeared
} to harbour deep resentment against all rodents and, for some reason,
} hated our kind more than the others. We could make nothing of it. But
} Winifred refused to give up on him and, through tireless coaxing and
} kindness, she gained his trust and eventually got him to respond to her
} questions. We learnt that he called himself Or-rie, that he had come
} from far away, and that he was looked on as something of a wise man by
} his own people.
} "That's no surprise," I laughed. "Your people are dumb, brutish and
} uncivilised. They haven't even got tails! You must be their greatest
} genius ever. I only wonder how you manage to communicate with them."
} "You don't understand, Walter," said Or-rie earnestly. "Where I
} come from, all humans can speak. It's the rodents that are dumb."
} "Rodents dumb?" exclaimed Winifred. "What an imagination! How
} "How heretical," I corrected her. "Please don't let anybody else
} hear you say such wild things, Or-rie. Others may be less broad-minded
} than we are. In fact, if you come up against the rats again, remember
} never to speak at all!"
} He looked surprised. "What the hell would I have to say to a rat?"
} he asked. Winifred chortled; she found it all a great joke. Why
} couldn't she see the danger we were in?
} The danger manifested itself all too soon. The rat patrol that had
} captured Or-rie reported the talking incident to the council and,
} though we tried to convince them that the captain had been at the
} fermented grape juice and was consequently too rat-arsed to know what
} was going on, the gerbils commanded us to bring Or-rie before a panel
} of inquiry.
} "For god's sake, Or-rie," I warned him before we entered the
} council chamber, "let me do the talking. Say nothing! If they find
} against you, they will dissect you, and they will kill you. In that
} "I hate these cat-and-human games," Winifred protested. "Why can't
} we tell them what we have found here? Or-rie is the scientific marvel
} of the age!"
} "And you stay quiet as well," I insisted. "You've done enough
} damage. Now let me try and save all our hides."
} Well, I thought I built a pretty good case for the defence. I
} explained to the three members of the panel that this human specimen
} had unusually well developed vocalising abilities, and we had taught it
} to utter some simple sentences. The rest it had picked up by mimicry
} while living in our house.
} "You know the saying," I concluded, "human see, human do."
} "So there is absolutely no doubt in your mind, Doctor Walter,"
} asked the chairgerbil, "that the creature has no actual understanding
} of speech?"
} I was about to agree heartily when Winifred interrupted.
} "Of course he understands!" she cried angrily. "What's the matter
} with you? Are you mice or men? We can learn so much from this human."
} "The only good human is a dead human!" squeaked one of the panel
} members; the others muttered agreement, covering their eyes and making
} like three blind mice. Things were not looking good, and Or-rie now
} proceeded to make them worse by opening his mouth.
} "Would it help," he asked, "if I pointed out that I am not actually
} human, but a divine, omniscient, immortal being?"
} All hell broke loose. The gerbils were in uproar, demanding that
} the animal be silenced before it could spout any more obscene
} blasphemies. The rat guard duly gagged him. I begged the panel to
} overlook Or-rie's words as he obviously couldn't comprehend their
} meaning, but all they did was recite the Sacred Scrolls at us over and
} over again: "Beware the beast Man. Let him not breed like rabbits, for
} he will makes a rat's nest of his world and yours."
} We were helpless to prevent the outcome. Or-rie was dragged out by
} the rat guards. He managed to work his gag loose and yelled suggestions
} at the panel about what they could do with themselves and some duct
} tape, which I don't care to repeat. Later we learnt that he had been
} lobotomised and set to work in the treadmills that generate the town's
} power supply. Winifred was beside herself with grief. I found her
} sitting in the back yard, a pile of wood next to her, chucking bits
} "Please don't, my dear," I begged her. "It's not worth it. He was
} only human."
} "Don't pretend!" she snapped. "You loved him too. We both did, even
} though he was so damned ugly. And they treated him no better than a
} She threw another piece of wood. I wondered idly how much wood she
} could chuck, left to her own devices. I guess I was about to find out.
} ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
} The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
} Your question was:
} > Oh Oracle most wise,
} > what will the month of April bring?
} And in response, thus spake the Oracle:
} I've just cast my mind into the future to find out what's in store in
} April and, let me tell you, it's not pleasant. First of all, there's
} been a nuclear holocaust and human civilisation has come to an end.
} Then... What? April 3955, of course. Which April did you have in mind?
} This coming April? That's not very ambitious, is it now?
} Oh, all right. You're going on a long voyage and will meet a tall, dark
} You owe the Oracle a half-buried national monument.