Story up! Rats will Run is free to read online from BuzzyMag.
On the distant planet of Cit-Bolon-Tum, a cancer-researcher chases her hallucinating colleague into the unforgiving alien jungle. Is the man dealing with an advanced case of cabin fever, or has he become part of someone else’s experiments? Will she be able to save him before he gets eaten by the local vegetation, or will she fall victim to the same inexplicable visions driving him onwards?
I freaking hate rats.
So I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why Pedro wanted to release a test group in the lab. “Can’t you do it in the observation cube? Why in here? They’ll get their rat germs all over everything.” I shivered, thinking about my tablet with tiny paw prints scattered across it.
“No, no. It has to be in here,” he insisted, pushing up his thick-framed glasses. “Gabby, trust me, you want to see this. I discovered it by accident.” Taking off with a hop and a skip, he went to retrieve a set of cages.
“Accident? What does that mean? One got loose? Geez, man, I had my lunch sitting out here yesterday.”
He let out a disturbing, manic cackle.
Perhaps he’d finally snapped–gone stir-crazy. We’d had a handful go wiggy over the past year. One guy even went outside the base sans pressure-suit. That wasn’t pretty. Isolation can do that to people–and it was hard to get more isolated than HD 10180-4.
We liked to call the planet Cit-Bolon-Tum (Tums for short), after one of the Mayan gods of medicine. It offered thousands of curative prospects, which was why all two hundred base-dwellers had made the trek to its shores.
“Is this what our Saturday nights have come to?” I asked as he hefted two cages–each with three rats–onto one of the touch-tables. “Oh, come on, I have to give presentations with that.”
“You can use the far wall,” he said, rolling his eyes. “How did you get into bio-research if you hate animals so much?”
“Microbiology,” I specified. “Microorganisms. You know, the things that don’t have faces. Or claws, or whiskers, or long, naked tails.”
“You still have to run experiments. Cancer cells don’t exist in a vacuum.”
I shrugged. The teasing from my subordinates was routine. I was the only biologist on the team–to hear them talk, in all of mankind–that hated nature. Well, not all of it. Just anything that scurried, or crawled, or scuttled. Which applied to almost all of Cit-Bolon-Tum’s complex life-forms.
“Get to it,” I insisted. “What’s this great rat-discovery you’ve made?”
“Watch,” he said with a giggle. “These ones on the left have been given compound 0697. The ones on the right are the control group.” He opened one cage, then the other, pulling a rat from each. Proudly, he held up both–a little grandstanding. Then, he turned both loose on the floor.
I leapt up onto a stool near the counter, almost knocking over an irreplaceable electron microscope in the process.