Benson’s face showed relief as he said, “Then you didn’t hurt them?”
“No—wouldn’t have done any good if I tried. There were too many.”
Standing, Ed walked to where Benson was.
“Does it make any difference, Benson?” asked Ed.
“It might make a difference, and it might not.” Stepping around Ed, he approached Ty, who was just beginning to stand. “Did they attack you?”
“No, they just sat out there.”
“Like, they were watching you.”
“Watching him!” interrupted Mike. “Oh come on, Benson! Those rats are as mindless as you are. It’s obvious they were out there to eat him.”
Benson turned around and saw Mike standing at the other end of the room, a look of disgust on his face.
Taking in a deep breath, Benson replied, “Mr. Mc Leon, those rats came within 15 feet of him. If they had intended to kill him they could have and would have. He was scared, and he hesitated for a moment, and I assure you that that moment would have been enough time for them to get to him before he could even start running.”
There was a moment of silence. Then in a softer tone, Mike replied, “Benson, you’re crazy.”
“That’s enough, Mike,” said Ed. “Benson’s right. Those rats had enough time to kill Ty, and they didn’t. Now I can’t explain why, but they didn’t. What we’ve got to do is ask ourselves how we’re going to survive here with all this increased rat activity—they’ve never come out of the sewers before, not out in the open like this. Benson, you seem to have an idea about these things. What do you suggest?”
Benson thought for a moment, and then said, “Sleep, for now. There is no immediate threat—I think we can wait until tomorrow.” Then raising his voice and addressing everybody: “Right now I suggest we all get some sleep.”
“Alright, then we’ll sleep in shifts,” Ed responded. “We’ll have two people awake throughout the night. He paused for a moment looking around at them. “Okay, who’s first?”
“Me,” said Ty. “I’m too nervous to sleep right now.”
“Alright, you,” then turning to the others, “and who else?”
“Me,” replied Benson.
“Fine then, wake me in four hours.”
Benson acknowledged Ed with a nod.
Ed went into the corner and fell back into his cot; Betty began to turn down the kerosene lamps at the other end of the room. Mike sat down on his blanket on the floor and turned to Reverend Tom, who was lying in a cot next to him.
“What’s with that Benson, Rev?” Mike asked, “He hasn’t been the same ever since that storm last month.”
“I wouldn’t think that you’d care that much about Ben,” replied Tom.
“I don’t, but now he’s worse than he was before.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with him; he does seems to have gotten interested in those rats though.”
“Yeah, he’s starting to talk like they’re as smart as we are.”
“Perhaps they are, Mike. After all, they’ve survived a nuclear war much better than we have, and they had no bomb shelters.”
“Yeah, well—” His sentence was interrupted as he looked away toward the other end of the room. “Now what is he doing?”
Reverend Tom looked over and saw the outline of a man standing in the far corner looking upward at something. And as Betty began to lie on the blanket next to Mike, Tom stood up and walked toward Benson. When Mike reached him, he could see that Benson was staring up at the ventilation cover.
“What’s going on, Ben?” he asked.
Benson said nothing. He just stood there staring at the vent. He stood for a few more seconds, then he slowly reached around to his back pocket and, pulling out his flashlight, he lifted it slowly, fumbling around to find the switch. Then, aiming it toward the vent, he flipped the switch and the light came on. There, peering through the slats in the cover, were two glowing red eyes, shimmering from the light. And then the eyes disappeared, followed by a scurrying sound, which slowly faded. The two men stood in silence; then turning his head toward Benson, Mike said, “What was it doing there?”
“Watching, listening,” replied Benson.
“A rat? But why?”
“I don’t know. There’s something behind this, something intelligent. That I do know. I can feel it. I can feel it.”
Lying on her little palette to one side, seemingly oblivious to everything, Linda was trying to invent a palindrome: “ I saw Star Wars…” and she giggled. Then: “Raw rats was I…but that’s not right, Donny. It doesn’t make sense…Sshhh….Oh I see…It will to Benson. Raw rats