Underneath All the Skeletons of Rats by Michelle Ann King

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Underneath All the Skeletons of Rats by Michelle Ann KingUncle Jeremy said the aliens were coming. He said that if we were very quiet and listened carefully, we’d be able to hear them. He said they sang songs all the time, but other people thought it was the wind, or birds, or ice cream vans.

‘Your uncle is a complicated man, Beth,’ Mum told us.

We knew what complicated meant. It meant shush, and don’t ask any more questions, and you’ll understand when you’re older.

‘Jeremy got his mouth and his arse mixed up,’ Dad said. ‘He forgot what each one’s supposed to be for. Don’t listen to a single thing that comes out of his gob, if you don’t want to watch everything end up covered in shit.’

What an image! Of course, from that moment we hung on Uncle Jeremy’s every word–daring each other to get closer and closer.

‘It’s a metaphor,’ Uncle Jeremy said, when we expressed our disappointment, and laughed. He had a weird kind of laugh, high-pitched and rumbly at the same time. We tried to do it, but we never could.

We thought metaphor would be another word like complicated, but Uncle Jeremy said we didn’t have to wait until we were older to understand. He said it was better, much better, to understand now. That sounded sensible to us: there was a lot we wanted to know.

Uncle Jeremy told us how to catch rats with the aliens’ music, just like the pied piper in the story. We asked if the pied piper was an alien but Uncle Jeremy said no, he just got lucky.

We caught a lot of rats. They really liked our songs.

Davie down the street used to be our best friend, but he didn’t understand Uncle Jeremy. ‘What do you want to hang around with that nonce for?’ he said.

We didn’t like that. Nonce was a bad word. We knew all the bad words now.

The rats didn’t like it, either. They told Davie so. We think they sang to him.

Uncle Jeremy went away after that. We asked Mum where, and how come, and when could we go and visit, but she just gave us red-eyed head-shakings instead of answers.

We asked Dad, and he gave us a whole new set of bad words. Which was great, but it wasn’t what we wanted.

We asked the rats, but they didn’t know where Uncle Jeremy was, either.

We got worried, because the aliens were coming and who was going to teach us how to sing to them?

Then we heard a police siren go past, and it sounded just like Uncle Jeremy laughing. And we looked out the window, and into the mirror, and underneath all the skeletons of rats. And we realized that the aliens had arrived a long time ago.


AUTHOR BIO: Michelle Ann King writes SF, dark fantasy and horror from her kitchen table in Essex, England. She has worked as a mortgage underwriter, supermarket cashier, makeup artist, tarot reader and insurance claims handler before having the good fortune to be able to write full-time. Find details of her stories and books at www.transientcactus.co.uk