My little brother Thomas was afraid of rats. When he saw them around the farm he near had a heart attack right on the spot, and if they popped up on television his eyes grew wide and he screamed. I didn’t like them either, sure, but my reactions to rats never sparked such raging terror as his. Our parents had tried to dull it for years, but, even after the age of five, he still dropped anything he was doing when the vermin came in his sights.
I got hours of enjoyment out of teasing him, no, torturing is more like it. Often I’d take him somewhere I knew groups of them waited: squeaking and gnashing their teeth. I placed a flattened one I’d found in the cow pasture on his bed one night, stood with an ear to the wall, then laughed like the bratty shit I was when he flicked on the light switch and howled. Super Rats flew through the air sometimes, landing on Thomas and gripping his hair and clothes.
Needless to say, though I will anyhow, I was almost-always grounded or punished in some way.
Hell, you can’t blame me. Thomas did his fair share of bullying, too.
I spent hours trying to watch him, having to take “extra good care of him” when our folks were out since he was my “precious younger brother.” Those days concluded with us beating and thrashing around. When the car roared up the driveway later, our house was usually the Wreck of Mercedes. I stood on the short end of a fake straw getting blunted with repercussions.
Thomas laughed when our parents weren’t looking. Every single goddamn time he’d make that nasily noise, and I’d just want to choke him. Thank the Lord getting revenge on the kid was easy.
One particular day he took it too far: I was 14, he was 12. Happened to be chatting with my girlfriend over the phone during summer vacation, he poked his rat-fearing nose where it didn’t belong. Inevitably, he picked up on our conversation and ran to the kitchen to whine about it.
Now, my family lived in a house with very tight rules outlining what ages someone could date without getting in trouble. So, I wound up unable to call anyone for the rest of the break. With one last dial, I had to kill my relationship. He’d crossed a line that nobody should ever cross under any circumstances. That evening I would turn to rats for what had to have been the billionth time.
I found Thomas out in the barn’s henhouse with a little metal bucket collecting eggs, a daily chore of his. My plan went into action when he left this bucket to go grab a carton: I pulled the old switcheroo, setting an identical pail holding two small rats in its place. What a scare, was the thought that came to mind, but he deserves it.
My little brother didn’t deserve anything near what he got. Standing in a hidden corner, I winced as he screamed and flailed around like a madman with rabies. Upon squinting I noticed one of the rats had sunk its teeth into his hand, not letting go for anything. I was worried but foolishly decided to stand a bit longer.
He sped from one end of the barn to the other over and over, shaking it furiously, yet it still stayed hooked. Blood trailed down his arm. I decided I’d had my fun with tormenting him, running out to pull it off. He was so freaked out that he didn’t seem to notice me. Keeping up his wild sprint, he raced right past me even as I told him to stop.
“Get it off! Get it off of me!”
I reached out my hand to catch him, missing him by a mile. With one final burst of speed, he threw himself right out a large window. The vile creature finally unlatched as Thomas screeched, plummeting to the grassy ground several feet below.
I peered down, hearing a familiar squeaking sound. My heart leaped into my throat as I saw something terrible: a swarm of rats crawled over his unconscious body. His fall had revealed a hidden nest. I screamed, practically a headless chicken when I ran outside and turned a corner that led to green pastures. Mom and Dad helped each other hang clothes but stopped when they saw me.
When I reached Thomas, I was frantic, shaking, and sobbing. My knees felt weak, as the rats were having their fill of him. I hastily began prying the bloodthirsty things off, soon not alone. It hurt like the devil. Some decided they liked us better. None would eat again.
The way he appeared afterward, the lack of movement and odd color of his throat, he had to be a corpse. Mom relied on a beam for support as Dad had passed out.
Then, Thomas gasped. Well actually, because his neck was broken, it was more of a gurgle.
My brother is blind and paralyzed due to the damage to his spine: if he could write it would be poor anyway without sight, and he refuses to learn braille. A wheelchair is what he gets around with these days. He lives in a home where other people are required to take care of him, and, apparently, is the angriest man who any of his caretakers have ever met.
I would know that, considering I visit him weekly. He curses at me, only retaining his ability to speak, and threatens me when I come to sit beside him. One should think that he has a cap to his anger, but he's a spiteful bastard. He's ornery, unkempt, spends all his time in the dark, overall a real rat.
I made him the very thing he once feared. God forgive me.