Chapter 5: Fascination and Repulsion

He doesn’t know how long has passed, but he does know that his “boat” has run aground, it’s dark and there’s a rustle of grass and leaves. In a pain filled daze, his arm slips off the boat, the ice cold moisture in the soil, sending a chill through every vein, snapping him into complete wakefulness. He musters the strength to raise his head, his eyes slowly adjusting to the dim light of a new moon. Not too far away, he sees tall squarish structures with many, many yellow lights, what is it? His only hope to survive at the source of those lights, forcing himself up on his feet the thief starts his slow limp through the long, dewy grass.

The moon rose and reached its peak overhead, a smile in the glittering void above, grinning like it knew a secret that it would never tell. Staring up, he manages a weak smile back, hoping the goddess watching him could spare a shred of kindness. He looks down to find himself on the edge of a camp, his heart jumped, beyond the camp are the structures. He sneaks into tent after tent, searching for a single morsel of food, but all he found was strange equipment, hoops, ribbons, bouncing balls of various sizes and weighted bottle-like things that don’t open or hold liquid. Surely the giant tent would have something… No, it was just an… Arena? Do people fight here? Executions? He doesn’t want to linger.

After leaving the arena tent, he noticed a small patch of cultivated land, with a beautiful wooden caravan beside it. After a thorough search, not even a single berry could be found, the plants were far too young to bear fruit. The closer he got to the caravan the more he noticed a strange smell in the air, it made his adrenaline rush. There was a strong buck rat nearby that the thief certainly didn’t want to tangle with. Backing away from the caravan and the crops realizing they must be the buck rat’s, he feels cold sheet metal against his back, he finds a whole new structure with a completely different fragrance. This one was a doe rat, young, healthy and fertile, what seemed to be her home was a block of metal and glass with what seemed to be a smaller building of the same kind built on top to create another floor.

In his starving desperation, he breaks the glass in the door and scurries in. To the right was a little kitchen, opening the cupboards he finds jars of dried fruit, rice and a tall pot of little yellow bows and spirals that snapped when he bit them. The fruit was so sweet, he’d gotten through half a jar of pitted apricots before the room suddenly became bright. Turing to see who was there, his gaze was met by two long adjoining pipes with a wooden handle at the other end, holding this strange object was the fiery-haired buck rat he detected earlier.

“Just what do you think you are doing here?” snarls Alroy, shoving the shotgun into the thief’s chest, pushing him onto his back, “Well?”

“I… I… I just…” the thief stutters, his voice was dry and rough, “…wanted…”

“I don’t care what you want, you break into someone’s home, you steal their food. What will you do next?” Alroy snaps, he opens his mouth to speak again.

“DAD!” Teagan cries, rushing to see just what was going on, tugging at her frilly blue night dress to keep herself covered up.

She walks around the island counter to see the thief cowering for his life. The panic clear as day in his earthy brown eyes, tears and burns stain the sandy coloured fur on his face. Looking at his body, she can just about see his ribs beneath the dark bruising on the right side of his chest, he has no shirt, no shoes, just some torn and bloodied brown trousers, a belt and a bandanna. Clearly an agouti buck, a wild rat, that’s has been suffering for some time.

His eyes widen at the sight of her, she could feel her own eyes welling with tears and her lower lip trembling.

“Daddy… how could you? He needs help why would you do this?” she wails, “LEAVE NOW! Do something helpful instead, get the doctor.”

“And what if he attacks you in the meantime, Teagan?”

“As if he’s in any condition for that! I can protect myself.” Teagan yells, pushing Alroy through the doorway.

The thief watches as Teagan rushes around her home, she finds a large, clean blanket and throws it over the settee, before returning to him. She lifts him up, one arm over her shoulder and her hand on his waist and lays him down slowly on the settee. Dashing off once again for scissors, bandages, a bowl of hot water, a clean cloth and some strong smelling antiseptic liquid. She kneels on the floor beside him and gently cuts the bloodied fabric away from his thigh and tends to his wounded leg.

He can’t help but stare, her fur is as bright and white as the moon he prayed to just hours before. Her hair is long, thick and as red as blood, her eyes were a green that not even the lushest forests or purest gemstones could match. She was very short, her figure was plump, strong and generous with large hips. His heart beat louder than it had ever before, he was scared she would hear it.


Her eyes shift up to meet his.

“Teagan…” he mumbles.

“Yes?” she responds softly.

He blushes nervously, unable to say anything, for a long minute.

“Doesn’t this hurt?” she asks, dabbing the deep scrape on his leg.

“It’s numb.”


“So, um… what’s your name?”

“It’s C… It’s Coinneach”

“Co-in-ock? Co-in-ock?” she repeats to herself slowly, breaking it down, “Such a strange name, I love it.” she smiles.

Chapter 3: Crooked

The school bell chimes into life. Each classmate grabs their bag before darting haphazardly to the door, including Teagan, glancing at the glowering Ms Hayflower as she rushes past the desk. The pupils push, shove and barge carelessly to get out. A sudden almighty squeal echoes through the corridors. She clutches her crooked tail in pain after the door rebounds, Urso, standing behind her smirks, insincerely responding with:

“Oh, I’m so so sorry… It was a total accident, I was pushed.”

Unconvinced, her blood begins to boil, her little hands clench. She tries taking deep breaths to calm down, but her anger bubbles over and she launches her fist straight into Urso’s left cheekbone. Urso clutches his face in pain, the few other classmates left behind call for Ms Hayflower, who screams at Teagan, demanding she heads to the headmaster’s office immediately. Tail still clasped in her hands and her head hung low, she legs her way through the corridors as fast as she possibly can, which is difficult when the corridor resembles a tin of sardines. She makes it to the main doors and across the fields and makes her slow walk home. It’s dark, it’s starting to spit, a sea of umbrellas rise, they ebb and flow with every step. Teagan carries on swimming against the crowd, raindrops hitching a free ride in her hair and clothes. The white streetlights flicker into life, glittering off the water, lighting her path home. At the edge, she passes through the gate in the chain link fence, her soft feet meeting the grass; her lungs and senses, the caressing fragrance of petrichor. This moment of bliss was not to last. A tall, ghost-white buck rat in a deep red suit approaches, his bright fire-red hair freshly cut and brushed back. 43 years old and in good shape.

“Uh… Hi Daddy,” said Teagan.

“I’ve had a call from your teacher today, talking back, spreading lies, beating up your classmates and refusing to see your headmaster…” her father says.

“Hey, she’s the one spreading lies!” Teagan yells in disgust, “Urso slammed the door on my tail! It’s crooked! What if it deglov-”

“Shut up Teagan, just… Go home,” he says, rubbing his eyes and shaking his head, “I just can’t deal with your crap tonight,” and with an exhausted sigh, he walks away.

Teagan stomps off, tugging her hair in anger, walking past her two-tier static to an airstream caravan just beyond it. After a firm knock on the door, she is met by a black mole, a perfect white coat around his portly body.

“Hello Miss McCarthy, what can I do for you this evening?” greets Dr Hood with a pleasant smile.

“Urso trapped my tail in the door again…” said Teagan, gently rubbing the sore kink in her tail. “It’s going purple…” sorrowfully, she gazes down at the ground, her mind drifts off, going over what happened earlier that day. Dr Hood watches her, after a few seconds of silence, he reaches out his hand.

“Come on in then,” he says, a hint of sadness in his smile.

Inside, the caravan is immaculate and clean, there are small drawers and cupboards of varying sizes running the entire length, and a silver padded examination table at both ends, each with their own curtain, operating lamp and a little metal table. It has everything a doctor could need for tending to illnesses and injuries. Teagan takes a seat on one of the tables while Dr Hood puts on his glasses and a pair of thin white gloves, he then begins the examination. Teagan just sits there, twiddling her thumbs, staring down at her feet in silence.

“So… Uh… Have you seen Alroy since you got home?” he asks.

“Yeah… Daddy wasn’t too happy, ” she mumbles.

“More trouble at school?” he says.

“Mmm Hmm…” Teagan replies with a gentle nod, not even turning to look at the doctor.

“Don’t you tell your teachers?” he says, dabbing the broken skin on her tail with an antiseptic cotton bud.

“They won’t listen, I’m the bad one,” She says, flinching with each dab.

“You’re not, you’re really not,” he says, applying a tight bandage to the wound, “you’ll find someone who sees you for you. There, you’re all done.”

“Thanks,” She says, giving Dr Hood a hug. He hugs back and pats her softly on the head.

“You look tired, go get your tea and have a good sleep,” he says, smiling once again. He opens the door and they wish each other a good night.

Teagan walks home and cooks up a large pan of vegetable soup, some for now, some for freezing to have another day. Home safe, and a full tummy, she heads up to her room asking for the day to end. It doesn’t take long for her to drift off to sleep, which is good because she won’t be getting much sleep tonight.

Chapter 2: Welcome To Menthol City

A few steps into the city, just passing the broken “Welcome” sign. The nasty industrial fumes fill her lungs once again making them feel heavy and leaving a metallic bitterness on the back of her tongue. Coughing just makes it worse. She looks at the little watch on her right wrist, “Ten minutes?” she gasped, “I’m not going to make it!” Fast, faster and faster she ran, her pink scaled tail whipping left and right behind her, hearing the rush of the wind blast past her large round ears. She dashes nimbly, cutting it close leaping between the traffic and dodging the oil spills on the road.

Eventually, she comes to a tall grey concrete building, spanning wide, surrounded by small brown fields of prickly grass and the occasional lifeless tree. Entering in through the heavy double doors, she skips swiftly through the corridors to her classroom. A plain box with a concrete floor, the white plaster walls covered sparingly with “motivational” (more like threatening) posters and a large revolving blackboard.

“TEAGAN! You’re late again. Just because you’re one of those circus folk doesn’t mean you’re exempt from being disciplined for your behaviour within the city.” barked the old dog that was Ms Nora Hayflower, Teagan’s form room teacher. A tall black, lanky mutt of unknown breed, with a white mane like fuzz around her shoulders, and a foul temperament. Clean and smartly dressed, but by no means approachable.

“I’m sorry, Miss,” Teagan mumbles nervously lowering her head, eyes glancing up at the other classmates.

“Hey RAT! Come sit with me.” invited Urso, a young bear, turning to snigger with his pals.

“Not if you’re going to start plucking my scales agai-”

“JUST SIT DOWN TEAGAN!” shouts Ms Hayflower.

Almost in a panic, Teagan takes the seat and mentally prepares herself for the torment of her classmates.

“Right… May we begin now, Miss McCarthy?” Ms Hayflower growls.

“Y… Yes… Miss,” said Teagan.

“Thank you…” she snaps before turning away and sitting at her desk, “Our headmaster has requested that all teachers assist in clearing up a little rumour that’s been making its way around Menthol, for the safety of the students. The rumour in question is that there are other colonies… Civilisations out there other than our own city, what I’m trying to say is… They don’t exist.”

A hum of many whispers fills the classroom, emanating from disconcerted and dissatisfied faces. Students leaning in close, heads together, murmuring confused sentences that together formed unintelligible noise.

“QUIET!” she bellows, abruptly silencing the buzzing voices, students launch themselves back into their seats. “This is for your safety, do not go out there, every person that has ever left has never come back, there’s nothing to be found out there.”

“It may be treacherous, but it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing out there!” Teagan replies, before suddenly holding her breath and covering her lips with her little pink hands.

Subtle gasps can be heard across the classroom.

“Excuse me? Do you want to come up here and teach? You obviously know so much more about everything than I do…” Hayflower scornfully responds.

Teagan lowers her head, clasping her hands tight together, breathing heavily, “But we can’t be alone in the world… If we can survive, others can too!”

“Enough!” said Ms Hayflower as she slams a detention slip down on the desk in front of her, “You will give up your lunch today, and I expect you to write down ‘We are alone’ until you get it into your thick rat skull, have I made myself clear?”

“Yes, Miss…” Teagan mumbles.

As soon as Ms Hayflower looks away, a ball of paper is thrown at Teagan’s head, she looks back.

“Well done, Freak Show! She’ll be unbearable for the whole day.” jabs Urso, before kicking the back of her chair.

Three hours later and it’s time for break, the students stand up and leave the classroom in their usual noisy fashion, Teagan follows. Ms Hayflower stands in front of her as she heads for the door, passes her a piece of chalk and points at the blackboard.

“Fill it, and write small,” she demands before turning, leaving and closing the door.

Teagan clears the board, puts the white chalk to the black… and begins.

We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone We are alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am alone I am al-

She drops to her knees, and quietly… she weeps…

Chapter 1: Now

The alarm rings, she wakes with a disgruntled moan and turns it off. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she sits on the edge of her bed, a twittering can be heard from outside. She gazes sorrowfully at the bright orange light beaming in from between the baby blue curtains. With a sigh, she lifts herself onto her feet and makes her way downstairs to the bathroom for a shower. Click!

“No hot water again?… how wonderful. My fur is going to be oily… I can just tell, today is going to be bloody fantastic.”

After dragging herself through her usual miserable routine, and a meagre slice of dry toast, she stands at her front door and takes a deep breath. Peering through the glass she sees the city, hazed by a foul, filthy smog. With one last deep breath, she unlocks the door and steps through, shivering as a chilling gust cuts through her, nearly lifting her grey pleated skirt. Down the steps and along the same narrow dirt path she’s been wearing away at for 17 years, gazing around at the tents and caravans that surround her odd two-tier static. She passed by a large traditional gypsy caravan, pristine and intricately painted.

“Good morning, Daddy…” she called, answered by only a faint howl in the wind.

Looking away from the hills on the horizon, she stands and stares up at the clouds hovering over the city. Strange how they never pass the city border, they never leave. Sadly, she must make her way into the city once again past that chain link fence, walk beneath those dreary dirty clouds, in a filthy crime-ridden city.

“Here I go again…”