Ratsbane

Dorothy J. Heydt


A day or so after she came to Syracuse, she had come down with a flux that had melted all her inward parts into glutinous mush, bubbling slightly (over a low fire, so to speak) and threatening to slosh over the sides of its container. Now her whole body seemed to flux, arms and legs and trunk flowing like water, and she could feel her back stretching out like dough in the baker's hands, stretching out into a long supple tail.

Her face was in shadow, she could not see. In momentary panic she clawed at whatever it was, and scrabbled for a way out. Something clinked against a stone, and she was free. (I forgot to take my clothes off, she realized.) There was the hole in the wall, as large as she was now; she leapt through it and down the narrow side-yard behind the wall, following the rat.

As she might have suspected, the world was full of smells, rich and provocative: fish, mud, rot, salt, stale straw somewhere; lentils cooked with onions, some human's dinner; and twisting through them all, a clue thick as a rope, the musty stink of the rat.


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