I tried to move and whimpered. My head still hurting, but maybe a bit less than in the car.
Wait. Was I out of the 4x4 ? I listened carefully. I was not in a car. There was no motor but I could hear rain and water running down pipes. I was likely in a basement.
My heart started racing again. I slowly moved my hands and feet, so very slightly. I was still heavily ductaped around the ankles. But my hands and my mouth were free now.
And it felt like I had peed myself. Urgh…
I pulled on my hands to seat up and shivered, disgusted.
Somebody had left a bowl with god knew what that smelled a bit like porridge.
I opened wide eyes to the shadows. My hat was still taped on, pulling on my hair, but it wasn’t functioning properly anymore. I tried to pierce the darkness to see who was communicating with me. How could I let Ergis know I wasn’t blocked anymore ? I couldn’t try to reach him, he likely was hours away, far out of my range, and I would let every telepath around know my hat was torn.
I licked my chapped lips, only to feel them dry instantly.
Bad. That’s dehydration.
Food ? Rat hungry.
A rat ? I kept the bowl on my knees. This looked as bad as food could get, but I hadn’t had anything for what felt like days. And I wasn’t going to hand any of it to a rat.
If human-telepath give food, rat help.
I paused. I couldn’t see the rat, but I could hear it. Could I really trust a rat to help me ? I knew rats were really smart, but still.
On the other side, what did I have to loose trying ? Whoever had organized my capture and brought me there was not planning on handing me to the committee anymore, obviously. They likely were looking for a way to get rid of me. Or worse.
I had thrown my phone through a hole in the cover of the pickup minutes away from it switching off in my hands, out of power. I was left with no way to contact anyone.
— Please come closer, I said in a low croaking voice. I’ll give you food if you help me.
The rat sounds moved a bit and a small shadow detached itself from the background and stopped about a meter away from me. I could almost see its whiskers moving.
Ok that’s indeed a rat. I hope it stays away, I don’t want to escape this and die from leptospirosis.
— I need to know where I am. Can you help me with that ?
I had no idea of how good rats were with locations and addresses, but from where I was standing, I’d be glad enough if it was to tell me that we were in trash-truck-passes-on-tuesday-street.
The rat scampered back into the shadows, leaving me alone again. I crawled backwards until I could rest my back on a cold and humid wall.
I breathed out and hoovered around hearing point in the hopes of catching Aldan, or even an unsuspecting kidnapper. But I heard nothing.
I sighted. What time was it in Paris ? Was Ergis so far away ? Had Ayatas done something to Aldan before I could warn him ?
I touched my hat a bit, tried to slide it down, but the tape was still very efficient, and as long as my captors saw it on, they’d not try to fry my brain.
I jumped when I heard a soft rustling sound coming towards me. I pictured something light being pulled and dropped, and after a moment, the rat appeared from the shadow again and left a piece of paper in front of me.
Rat no read letters. Rat give human-telepath letters. Human-telepath give food.
— Let me look at the letters, I said, trying to figure out the words in the almost non-existent light.
It looked like a pizza ordering menu. I decided it was proof enough of the rat’s will to help, and that I should reward it to encourage him to help me some more.
I reached as far as I could with a heavy spoon and dropped its content on the floor. The rat sat next to it and started eating. I couldn’t figure out an address on the pizza menu, but maybe if I could get some light… I stuck the paper in my bra.
Then I quickly ate the nasty porridge, leaving a couple spoonfuls in, hoping that the rat would be willing to help again, but he sort of nodded and scurried away.
I startled and figured I had probably dozed off for a while.
Rat brought rat. Other rat hungry too.
Oh god. Now there were two of them. I wasn’t hating rats, but if they kept bringing friends I’d soon be out of food and left with an army of hangry rats at my feet.
— Rat also want to help if I give food ? I asked, mimicking the syntax.
Other rat help. Human-telepath give other rat food.
— Ok. Just let me think. Can you tell me who lives in this house ?
Both rats went off as if I’d thrown a ball for them to fetch. Maybe they did enjoy the interaction ? Did rat enjoy playing ? Man I wish I knew. Maybe I could send them to look for someone who could help…
A loud banging followed by heavy steps sent my stomach to angry mode once more. I closed my eyes and pretended to be unconscious, my bowl on my lap.
The horse-smelling man who was driving the car looked around. I could see the torch beam going back and forth behind my eyelids. Then he came close to me and moved me away from the wall.
Did they catch the rats and came to punish me ? Oh shit. Maybe I could stick the spoon in his eye ?
But horse-smelling put me down somewhere else, tied my legs to something, not even noticing I’d kept the bowl in my hands, and walked back up the stairs. I was surrounded by heavy darkness again. I put my hand on my chest to take a few shaky breaths.
I was starting to wonder if I should finish the disgusting porridge when I heard soft scratching and rusting again. And soon the two rats were in front of me, with another piece of paper.
Rats no read letters. Rats give human-telepath letters. Human-telepath give other-rat food.
I took the paper thinking that my last question should be for them to find me something to make light. It was heavy and plastic-y, like photo paper. Damn. Photos would not help me, although I couldn’t fault the rats’ logic. They had brought me a picture of the house owner. I turned it around to see if anything was written, but I couldn’t discern anything.
— I don’t see letters. Where are they ?
One of the rats disappeared, and I heard clinking going up on one side of the room, and suddenly cold air filled the room. As did some light.
— Holy shit. Here. You can have food.
I dropped an even fuller spoon of porridge on the floor and inspected the picture again. Below the family picture there was, printed in dark ink, « Khotoy Ranch ». And one of the silhouette looked very much like horse-smelling.
I took the pizza paper out of my bra and recognized it immediately. That was Mexicatessen. I was around L.A.
Around L.A. in a telepath house.
I looked up to see both rats tidying their whiskers.
— Rats. I need to talk to an octopus. If you find me an octopus you can have all the porridge left, you and any other-rat that helps, and I’ll come back later, to give you enough food to last a winter.