The Rats of New York City

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A Short Story By Danny Mendlow and Zack Mitchell

 They say that there are more rats in New York City than people.

 What they don't tell you, is those are just the scouts.

 The population of New York City has hovered just over the 8 million mark for about a decade. The population of Scout Rats has remained about the same. So to be true, there are not more rats, just about the same number. More or less, one rat for every person. Being humans, the residents of New York City never once suspected there was a reason the rat population directly mirrored that of the people. Even if they knew just how close the numbers were, they would toss it up to coincidence, a miscount, or simply not care because they had more important things to do. Being important was very important if you wanted to live in New York City. If you weren't actually important, as all humans aren't, then you have to pretend you are, as all humans do. In essence, New York City is one big, giant, perpetual 'pretend how important you are' contest. The winners make the most money, but are too busy being important to enjoy it. It's a tough racket. But at least they get to live higher up in the buildings and look down upon the inferior humans at night from their balconies or penthouse railings.

 Deep below the bustling sidewalks lies the infamous sewer systems of Ninja Turtle and rat infestation fame. Deeper still, lies the Reporting Center for the Scout Rats, staffed at all times by a dedicated, crack team of 'Runner Rats' who take in the reports from above and scurry them through the intricate piping system down even further to the Main Processing Station (MPS). Due to the frequency of reports, and the need for all reports to be accurate and up to date, there are FIVE TIMES as many Runner Rats as there are scouts. The Main Processing Station serves as the central processing center for the non-stop flow of information coming in from the Runner Rats.

 The MPS is a vast, open, warehouse style floor with forty-seven thousand layers of Processing Rats systematically working side by side, stacked up in what amounted to an inverse, underground, high rise office building with all floors easily connected by frequent holes in the perforated structure. Instead of isolated cubicles, the Processing Rats scurried up and down and across the giant labyrinth in a dizzying display of co-ordination and selflessness. It was a perfectly executed, organic communication network, with every rat playing their role and barely a conflict or a misfire to be had. It was more accurate, powerful, collectively intelligent and error free than every computer on earth combined. Every piece of information pouring into the organic, rat based MPS has to be analyzed from many different angles so there are TWENTY TIMES as many rats working in the MPS as there are Runner Rats.

 This constantly accumulating barrage of information is then distilled and added to the overall wealth index of the Rat population. The knowledge is constantly applied to the two major facets of the Rat's long-term plan: Operation Human Kill (OHK), and Operation Rat Takeover (ORT). Rats are not big on subtlety. As no one suspected the scope of their population, or their visionary potential for dominance, there wasn't much need for subtlety in Rat communication. The benefits of being under-estimated and viewed as lowly scum are extremely high, so long as one was able to know ones true potential, as the Rats very much did. The Scouts bore the biggest brunt of the rough treatment and operational hazards; with rodenticides, gun shots, traps, electrocutions, flooding, sewage-related-drowning and feline attacks taking their lives on a regular basis.

 But The Scouts knew how important their job was, and unlike the humans they were observing, The Scouts were treated with the utmost respect by the Rat Community. Underneath the sidewalks, The Rat community worked very much the opposite of the human social order above the sidewalks. This, the rats thoroughly believed, was the reason they would ultimately fulfill their destiny, overthrow the humans of New York City and install their long coveted Above Ground Rat Society (AGRS). The Scouts were the hardest working and most perpetually at-risk of all the Rats. However, they were the smallest proportion of the overall Rat population, and the most respected. In the human world above, the hardest working and most in-danger humans were the huge majority of the population, yet they were by far the least respected. They lived as close to the ground as possible, or often underneath it in basements, or perhaps crammed into small rooms. The important thing is that they remained out of sight of the ones who worked the least hard, and had virtually no risk of physical harm or death in their job description.