was interrupted by his own amazement. “It’s gone.”
“Gone?” replied Ed. “Try your other leg.”
“No, I remember I was bitten on my right leg.”
“He’s right,” interrupted Mike. “I saw it, both the bites.”
After a brief pause, Benson rolled his pant leg down.
“See here, the punctures in my pants.”
Ed Jones saw the bite punctures and was amazed. There were two sets of holes in Benson’s pant leg—the kind a rat bite would make. Slowly the others drew closer to see for themselves.
All but quiet Linda. She looked from a distance, sitting and rocking gently on the floor, and then spoke without being spoken to: “He made Benson a little lower than the angels. A little higher than us.”
Ty Ferguson stood peering through the eye piece at the night sky. He had found the telescope in an old department store a few years after the war. It was small, about three feet long, and stood on a tripod some five feet off the ground.
Ferguson was the fifth man of the seven survivors. He was taller than the others, except for Reverend Tom. His hair was strawberry blonde, his thin beard darker. He wore army surplus fatigues that were cut off at his thighs and otherwise went shoeless and shirtless. Burn marks, some in the form of scars, some the color of charcoal and one or two yet unhealed and oozing dotted or splotched his otherwise reddish, pale skin—souvenirs of a nuclear holocaust which no one thought would ever happen after the cold war ended way back in the 90’s. But it had; Ty Ferguson was one of countless visible proofs.
For many months past he had been peering through this scope every night, plotting each position of the stars since the earth had been knocked off its axis. The sun now rose in the Northeast in summers where daylight scorched the American plains for 20 hours of every day. But the stars were there; earth had moved, but they had not, at least not in relation to each other. Medieval man had looked upon the heavens in their unmoving sphere and marveled at the unchanging perfection of the Stellatum. Ty took some comfort in the possibility of permanent order, even if it meant ignoring inconvenient facts.
The last of them had begun to doze off when Ty Ferguson came staggering through the shelter door, dragging his telescope behind him. He dropped the telescope and fell to his knees, panting heavily. Then he slammed the door closed and the others quickly woke. Ed Jones sat up in his old cot, grabbing the gun he had placed under his pillow. The cot was in the corner nearest the door, away from all the others. He wanted it that way in case they had any trouble. He saw Ty and began to worry. Ty was sweating, breathing heavily; and he was scared, Ed could tell that. Ty looked up at Ed as he approached, then turned his head downward in an attempt to catch his breath and tell Ed what had happened. The others began to stir.
“What happened, Ty?” asked Ed as he knelt beside him.
Benson interrupted Ty’s response: “The rats.”
Ed looked up and saw Benson standing at the other end of the room.
Then Benson repeated, “It was the rats.”
“How do you know?” asked Ed.
“What else could it be?” he replied. “We’ve seen more and more rats since the storm last month than ever before. There’s something going on with those rats.”
“Yes, it’s called multiplication,” Mike quipped.
“He’s right though, they were rats, hundreds of ‘em.” Ty had regained his nerve and his breath; he began to tell them his story.
“I was out with my scope, just like I am every night. Well I was just about to finish up, when I heard something rustling in the dark. I looked out around me but didn’t see nothin’. I could still hear it though, so I kept watchin’. I had a small fire built so I could see to write down on my notepad. Well I looked over to the opposite side of the fire, and that’s when I saw them—a hundred little eyes glowing, reflecting the light of the fire. Then they started poppin’ up everywhere, all around me. And then they started movin’ in; they came within fifteen feet of me and then stopped. There must have been a thousand of ‘em. They just sat there watchin’ me.”
“Then what did you do?” asked Benson; his voice sounded concerned.
“I grabbed my telescope and ran! That’s what I