King Rat by China Mieville

By China Mieville

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Said Saul slowly. ’ he stopped, remembering, for what seemed the first time in hours, why he had been in the police station. ’ King Rat turned and stared at Saul, those features, already so obscured, now invisible in the moonlight. Without taking his eyes from Saul, he slowly sank until he sat straddling the roof ridge like a horseman. ‘Slide over here, cove, and I’ll tell you the story. ’ Saul lowered himself carefully, facing King Rat, and pulled himself forward until he was only a couple of feet away from him.

When he understood he had taken Saul off his shoulders and walked with him over to the workmen, who had leaned on their shovels and grinned quizzically at the anxious child. Saul’s father had leaned down and whispered encouragement into his ear, and Saul had asked the men what the tar was. The men had told him about how they would spread it thin and put it on the road, and they had stirred it for him as his father held him. He did not fall in. And he was still afraid, but not as much as he had been, and he knew why his father had made him find out about the tar, and he had been brave.

Through the flesh of his belly he felt King Rat pause, then pad forward without the slightest sound. Saul kept his eyes shut tight. His breath came in starts. He could hear the low hubbub of people nearby. He felt the wall press into him. King Rat was hugging the shadows. From somewhere in front of them came footsteps, brisk and inexorable. The wall scraped along Saul’s side as King Rat swiftly sank into a crouch and froze. Saul held his breath. The footsteps came closer and closer. Saul wanted to shriek his guilt, his presence, anything to break the unbearable tension.

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