“This one is yours.”
Roscuro tries to be a proper rat.
Roscuro looked at the man closely. “I will make him suffer,” he said.
But as he stared up at the man, the door to the dungeon was suddenly flung open and a thick and brilliant shaft of afternoon light cut through the dark of the dungeon.
“Ugh,” said Botticelli. He covered his eyes with one paw.
Roscuro, however, stared directly at the light.
Reader, this is important. The rat called Chiaroscuro did not look away. He let the light from the upstairs world enter him and fill him. He gasped aloud with the wonder of it.
“Give him his small comforts,” shouted a voice at the top of the stairs, and a red cloth was thrown into the light. The cloth hung suspended for a moment, bright red and glowing, and then the door slammed shut again and the light disappeared and the cloth fell to the floor.
He continues to yearn for the light, for a better life. But naturally, Botticelli shuts him down again.
“It was beautiful,” said Roscuro.
“No,” said Botticelli. “No.” He looked at Roscuro intently. “Not beautiful. No.”
“I must see more light. I must see all of it,” said Roscuro. “I must go upstairs.”
Botticelli sighed. “Who cares about the light? Your obsession with it is tiresome. Listen. We are rats. Rats. We do not like light. We are about darkness. We are about suffering.”
Botticelli insists that Roscuro would be better off learning to enjoy a rat’s life, and maybe he’s right. That would be more comfortable at least. But Roscuro’s desires won’t just go away – so Botticelli suggests an alternative.
“Who lives upstairs?”
“Exactly. Mice.” Botticelli turned his head and spat on the floor. “Mice are nothing but little packages of blood and bones, afraid of everything. They are despicable, laughable, the opposite of everything we strive to be. Do you want to live in their world?”
Roscuro looked up, past Botticelli to the delicious sliver of light that shone out from underneath the door. He said nothing.
“Listen,” said Botticelli, “this is what you should do. Go and torture the prisoner. Go and take the red cloth from him. The cloth will satisfy your cravings for something from that world. But do not go up into the light. You will regret it.” As he spoke, the locket swung back and forth, back and forth. “You do not belong in that world. You are a rat. A rat.”
Botticelli is adamant that rats are synonymous with evil and darkness and suffering, that their lives mean nothing apart from that context.
“I am a rat.”
“Exactly,” said Botticelli. “A rat is a rat is a rat. End of story. World without end. Amen.”
“Yes,” said Roscuro. “Amen, I am a rat.” He closed his eyes. He saw, again, the red cloth spinning against the backdrop of gold.
And he told himself, reader, that it was the cloth that he desired and not the light.
Until next time…