Cassius the Cruel. 2Kwds. | By: Oscar A Rat | | Category: Short Story - Fantasy Bookmark and Share

Cassius the Cruel. 2Kwds.


Cassius Rat was a Roman rodent with packrat tendencies. He lived under the coliseum in Rome, circa 500 BC. He also had a warped sense of humor, enjoying pulling jokes on human and animal slaves alike.


Late at night, the rodent would sneak into the slave quarters and bite toes, just to see his victims jump. When he would casually saunter down aisles between cells and cages, Cassius enjoyed hearing curses at his presence. Sometimes he’d even taunt and wave at his detractors. He knew they wouldn't get much sleep that night, knowing he was wandering the corridors.


If you think Cassius wasn't a very nice rat, you're right ... he wasn't. The guy was both a thief and a sadist.


"Cassius, honey, you should take it easy on those poor souls. They have it hard enough as it is, knowing they're going to die is such horrible ways," his wife Heloise, a Greek skunk, would plead, "Why do you insist on taunting them?"


"Cause it's fun," Cassius would answer while taking yet another inventory of his stolen property. His home was a huge chamber carved out of the ground under the stone walls of the Coliseum. It was almost full of loot. In general, if it was small and light Cassius would steal it. He had collections of stolen axe-heads and sword hilts, mouse armor and microwaves, tomahawks and tommy-guns, jewels and jumbles of junk.


"Well, if you have to steal, I wish you'd pilfer more food. We have fifteen kids to feed," she complained. "Even if it's not shiny. Our refrigerator is almost empty and everyone's hungry."


Shrugging, Cassius agreed. He was hungry himself, having just then returned from dragging a shiny silver brooch from under the stands where a spectator had lost it.


"I'll get some right away," he told his wife. "The refreshment stand should be closed by now."


Cassius was somewhat overconfident as he strode, whistling, through abandoned corridors of the huge structure. A few hours before, the place had been full of dirty awkward humans but now it belonged to him. Once the games were over, the humans rushed out to go home.


A few slaves were cleaning up, and kept an eye on him. The cleaning slaves had nothing worth stealing, so Cassius left them alone. They watched him closely though, not wanting to end their days on the fighting floor because of him.


Dodging into a familiar rathole, Cassius emerged in the refreshment stand kitchen. He found a plastic bag in a trash can and, going to the refrigerator, opened the door to fill his sack with eatables, just as he had done hundreds of times before.


This time he had a surprise in store. Cassius happened to be standing on the lip of a large pickle jar, loving dill pickles, when the refrigerator door slammed shut unexpectedly and shook the jar he was standing on. Cassius found himself splashing around in an inch of sour juice. He had to think, sitting down on the one small pickle the jar held.


Scratching the glass with teeth and claws did no good. It was wedged between three other jars, so rocking and shaking it did no good either. The thief was stuck and had to spend the night inside, shivering while eating that one little pickle and worrying about the next day. And yes, the little light did go out.


It seemed like forever before the door opened. A human reached in and, not seeing Cassius, grabbed a ham, the door slamming shut again as he left.


Cassius, cold and miserable -- sitting in pickle juice, his little toes wrinkled and smelling like he was himself a pickle -- sat and waited for succor.


The door had to open three more times before Cassius was discovered.


"Eek! There's a rat in the pickle jar," a human female exclaimed.


You must be kidding? Cassius thought. Maybe he could talk his way out of this?


In moments, the vinegar shriveled rodent was the object of unwanted attention as humans crowded around the open door, all eyes on Cassius. He could only sit and grin back at them, shaking like a leaf from cold and fear.


One of them picked up the jar and sat it on a work table. Those knives on the table looked wicked to the rat, but the human workers didn't bother him. They occasionally looked over to glare, laugh, or were simply disinterested in his plight.


Cassius tried to yell out the top, now capped, in both human and rat-speak, but none of them seemed to hear him, or knew any rat language -- most humans didn't. It sounded like squeaking to stupid humans. If he could learn human talk, they could sure as hell learn at least a little rat, he thought. Maybe it was the thick glass jar?


Still with no attempt at communication, the jar was picked up and taken out, rat and all. Cassius was both frightened and angry. At least they could have given him a slice of that big ham on the table.


The human carried him downstairs to a room he recognized as where prisoners were processed. Cassius knew the human at the processing desk understood a little rat. At least he could talk, maybe even get out, Cassius hoped.


"Well, well. We finally caught you, you little bastard." The human seemed happy. "You stole my pocket sundial last month."


Uh, oh, Cassius thought, this ain't too good.


"You know how to use a sword, little feller?" the human asked, smiling broadly, "You're sure as hell going to find out."


So Cassius Rat found himself being trained as a gladiator. Being the only rat in the program, he had to fight with aardvarks -- clumsy creatures. Even Cassius could beat your average aardvark.


At least that gave him a little hope. He knew he could survive in the arena, fighting those stupid bumbling idiots. All he'd have to do was bring a flask of ants in with him. An aardvark would drop anything for a juicy ant.


Although being a long-time resident of the coliseum, Cassius was getting his first taste of the way prisoners were treated -- and it wasn't very nice.


His meals made that pickle seem like a feast. The only thing that saved him was his kids sneaking in a steak or hamburger once in a while. Of course they had to bring a lot. He couldn't eat in front of the animals in his cage without sharing. Not that he didn't try, but they would always smell or see him eating his steak dinners. Although a strong rodent, he could hardly take on all the occupants of his cage.


And that damned lion, Colossus, in the cage next door would be sure to tell the human. In fact, Cassius had to watch himself, not getting too close to the bars. Colossus had been the butt of too many practical jokes by Cassius, and would love to get his paws on the rat. His toes were still sore from the last time Cassius bit them.


"Grrrrr! I'll get you yet, you little bastard," Colossus vowed, baring his fangs.


"Yeah, you and what army, pussy cat? Meow," Cassius retorted. There were a lot of big and little bars between the two. The lion charged the cage but only bounced back. "Damn kitty," Cassius growled back. "Think you're king of the beasts or something?" The wily Cassius had every hope of surviving. After all, he was a rat, wasn't he?


Feeding his cage-mates took its tole on Cassius's resources. He had to let Heloise sell part of his stash of stolen articles to feed them all. The rat hated that. It could set him back months on his collection.


Some of his cage-mates were originally angry at him for his former antics, but food solves a lot of problems. An occasional free pepperoni pizza for each cage helped a lot. Cassius even bought one for the night human -- so he’d let the pizza delivery boy in.


But Cassius wanted out. His wife visited often but couldn't find anyone to chance freeing her husband. It was politics, Cassius decided. Both his reputation and the fact that the coliseum owner hated him personally.


Although some of the humans sympathized with the rodent, especially because of his pretty wife, none would chance taking his place.


Then came the day. The day when he was to fight an aardvark. In public, yet.




Cassius was nervous as he was issued his battle trident, with really, really, sharp points on it. His net seemed too small to snare an aardvark and the rat would rather have had armor instead. The aardvark would have armor and a long sword, the thought of which made the rat shudder. However, Cassius did have a small bag of live ants with him.


"All right, Rat. Let's get it on. The Romans are waiting to be entertained." The human trainer let him out of his cell and, escorting him to the door, shoved Cassius through and onto the sandy killing floor. When he tried to run back in, the rat was only picked up and thrown back into the arena.


Humans laughed to see the quivering little rodent, already tangled up in his own net.


Getting his feet loose and the net back into a bundle, Cassius looked over to see his adversary.


"Ekkkkkkk," he squeaked. It wasn't an aardvark. It was Colossus the lion. "What, what are you doing here?"


"You're not the only one that can bribe a human, rat. I felt like an easy day today -- killing rats," the lion growled back.


The beast looked huge, his sword alone fifty times Cassius's weight. The rodent took one look at his own six-inch-long trident and little bitty net ... and ran like hell -- the lion after him.


Humans laughed insanely to see a small rodent running around the arena, a huge lion closing the distance between them.


As he ran, Cassius felt the lion's hot breathe on his back. Weapons long abandoned, traded for speed, he pumped all four legs, not daring to look back.


Suddenly, the ground opened up under him and the rat fell into a hole. He was going so fast he bounced to his feet at the bottom and continued running. It wasn't until he banged full-tilt into a dirt wall that the frightened rat fell over on his side, feet still pumping rapidly -- one terrified little rodent.


As he collapsed to the floor of the tunnel, Heloise and the kids finally caught up with Cassius. Booing came through from above as the crowd realized their prey was gone.


"Honey, you're safe." She hugged him tightly. "I didn't think you'd ever find our hole. We could only dig one and hope you'd drop in before he caught you."


After that, Cassius was a changed rat. Oh, he still stole from the humans, but only to sell his loot for food for the convicts -- including the human ones. The rat even made one pizza company so rich he secretly bought controlling interest in the place.


Eventually Cassius became a well-respected business rat with his own villa and a bodyguard – a retired half-blind lion named Colossus.


The End.

By Oscar Rat, the famous and humble rat writer.

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