October fifth, 1975. A litter of rats was born in a sewer on the edge of Louisville Kentucky. There were six, four boys and two girls. Of these, only three would survive longer than the first month, and one would live longer than any of them could have dreamed.
That, however, was far in the future, and now they had to worry about keeping their remaining children alive; Andrew, Kayla, and the youngest, Justin. The trio soon became inseparable, until one night when Kayla was sick.
"I don't want you going out tonight," their mother, Sarah, told them. Justin and Andrew had planned to head to the Farmer's Market; an area where they went nearly every night to play and collect the scraps of food left behind by the humans.
"But we already promised Rob we'd be there tonight," said Andrew.
"Andrew Wilson," Sarah scolded. "Don't argue with me. You're not going. Is that clear?"
Andrew sighed, turning away and tugging along his younger brother. Justin knew the look in his eye, remembering the other times they had snuck out after their parents were asleep. Their father, Tom, was already in bed, exhausted after a long night spent watching over his remaining daughter. The sun went down about an hour later, and with it, Sarah's lack of sleep caught up to her. When they were sure she was out, Justin and Andrew snuck out of the hole that led to their home, slipping through the shadows until they reached the square.
The air was growing cooler each night, and the number of rats at the market increased. Though they spent most of their time playing in the discarded containers and cans, they always remembered to gather some scraps from the giant bins that were never covered.
"It must have been really busy," Andrew remarked, seeing the large amount of food that littered the ground. "They couldn't even get it all in the trash cans."
Justin gazed around, seeing that the lights were all switched off, even though there was almost always at least one left on. A small feeling began to form in the pit of his stomach, but it was soon forgotten as he engaged in his usual games of tag and hide-n-seek. It was growing close to midnight before he finally decided to stop, only to find that most of his friends had gone.
"Hey, where'd everybody go?" he looked around, calling their names. "Jen, Andrew?" he ventured closer to a large pile of food near the center. "Zach, Robin?"
He'd almost reached it when a strange object crashed over him. The sky above became full of tiny, square holes, the lines between them thin and grey. "H-Hey, what's going on? Someone, help!" his frantic cries were mere squeaks to the humans above, each one dressed in a long white coat. Justin felt his feet leave the ground. He clung desperately to the sides of the net, trying endlessly to chew through it; but, whatever it was made of, it refused to break. He looked behind him, seeing a large white van with four red stains on its side. It wouldn't be until later that he knew what they said: N.I.M.H.
A second later his feet touched solid ground, but his legs soon collapsed from under him. The slamming of doors assailed his ears, a deep rumble causing the paper beneath him to vibrate. Every once in a while the floor would lurch, once more bringing the boy to his knees. Through the tiny windows outside the cage, he could see the night sky speed by, yet the full moon refused to leave. It felt like hours had passed before the van finally pulled up to a large, square building.
Moments later the back doors were opened, a wheeled tray behind the humans. On it were dozens of tiny cages, each one just twice the size of a rat. Justin watched as, one by one, the others were taken out, disappearing from view after they were placed in the tiny cells. He pressed himself against the back of the cage, hoping the humans couldn't reach him. In a few seconds a large hand closed around him, and though he bit and clawed, the human only laughed. "Bit of a lively one, isn't he?" they laughed, shoving him into his cage.
Once inside, he felt a hard object wrap around his throat, though not tight enough to hurt. He tugged and clawed at it, though no amount of effort could remove it. A moment later his cage was placed in a small spot on a shelf, and it only increased the feeling of dread. Justin had looked many times throughout the jolting ride, but had seen no sign of his brother, and he began to doubt that Andrew was even there. Tired and scared, he curled up into a ball in the corner, tears soaking his fur until he finally fell asleep. He would never see his brother, his sister, his parents, or his home again.
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