The Lorelei Signal
The Rat Princess' Song
Written by Avra Margariti / Artwork by Marge Simon
The first rat was a serendipitous oddity,
a desperate outlier.
She snatched it from the dungeon’s chilled depths,
apologized even as she ate its flesh
and sucked its marrow.
The princess dressed in rags fashioned two items
out of the rat’s brittle bones:
a skeleton key to aid in her escape,
and a three-key flute.
There were many a rat, afterward.
Many a song.
They came from the castle’s intestines
and the corn mazes of the surrounding fields.
Their pelts were covered in the baker’s flour,
the butcher’s blood.
At the first shift in rhythm, the rats would be ready
to pour into the castle’s grain storage,
carrying whatever disease or poison she saw fit.
The pattering of their paws would only amplify her savage tune
as her father, the king clung tooth and nail to his throne,
terrified of the magical heir he had once vanquished and imprisoned.
But that would come later, later.
The rats slept soundly under the harvest moon
whilst she leaned against a tree, watching over them.
She polished her bone flute, recalling her first rat,
its fibrous taste between her teeth,
her gift of survival.
Despite the rumors about her mercilessness,
the rat princess and her subjects had an understanding.
Whether she was killed by her father’s assassins
before she turned sixteen, or lived to see a hundred,
her rats would be there.
The pied piper would give herself over to them,
allowing her song to live on
in the sated purring of their bellies.
Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences.
Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vastarien, Asimov’s, Liminality, Arsenika, and other venues.
You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.