The Rat

As Edmund climbed down the thin steps and long ramps, he continued to read the slip of paper he had held in his hand all night. Several of the scribbles were difficult to read, but here and there a word was legible. “Great Agreement” kept popping up, as did “Stories,” and “History.”

One phrase that stuck out was “Believing a story makes it real.” Edmund paused as he descended the iron staircase and stared at his sloppy handwriting. He wasn’t entirely sure what he had meant by that…Obviously it wasn’t true. Just believing something wasn’t enough to make it so. If it were, more than half of the children at the the Home for Wayward Lads and Ladies would have long since been adopted. The phrase had obviously been written through the haze of sleep. He wished he could remember what he had meant to say…

A sudden movement caught his eye. He stopped on the third floor balcony, and peeked over the railing into the library below.

For a moment, he didn’t see anything. Then, he saw something thin and black crawling over the book he had left open on his favorite reading desk. As quietly as he could, Edmund climbed down the ladder to the second floor. As he drew nearer, he could see it was a small thin rat scrabbling over the book, sniffing intensely and periodically grabbing a small day-old crumb of Edmund’s toasted bread.

Edmund was amazed. He hadn’t seen any rats, spiders, beetles…any living animals at all in the mansion. It had been unnerving after the weevil ridden orphanage. He was only just beginning to come to grips with there not being any animal life in Moulde Hall. Now that he had found one, he wanted to see where it lived and how it got into the library.

It was so intent on finding every last crumb Edmund had left behind, that it didn’t notice as he slowly came up behind it and bent down to get a better look. When it had finished sniffing and searching, it looked around and locked eyes with him.

There was a pause as they both looked at each other, Edmund staring deep into its opal-black eyes, and then it gave a squeak and shot off. Edmund chased after it, as fast as his legs could carry him. He was eager to see where this rat had come from.

The rat was fast, darting in-between books and cracks in the shelves, but Edmund was always just fast enough to catch a glimpse of a tail or flicker of fur that kept him on the right track, until at last Edmund turned around a shelf of books to find himself standing in front of the large red tapestry. The rat had vanished.

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