“The Sewer Rat” was written for the final Cracked Flash Fiction competition of 2016. In this competition you are given the sentence you must start with and 300 words in which to finish the story.

In the case of this story, I lengthened the first sentence, as the only part given was “Sometimes it was better to hide the unsightly with shiny things than to try and fix it”. Notes on the story will appear on my Patreon page.

The Sewer Rat

Sometimes it was better to hide the unsightly with shiny things than to try and fix it, I thought as I traced a crack in the porcelain of the mask with a brush, pressing goldleaf into the imperfection.

Across from me sat the owner of the mask. His own face had been pressed into a grotesque gargoyle-like visage by the mask he wore. I wondered who had made the mask for him, but daren’t ask. Money that could afford porcelain as fine as this did not take any questions into the secret lives of their owners lightly.

“Is this going to take very long?” His voice was silky smooth, charismatic. The kind of voice you wanted to listen to, that you believed no matter the vile rhetoric it spewed. The voicebox around his neck bobbed up and down as he spoke.

“It is a long process,” I sighed and rolled my shoulders. “It takes as long as it takes.”

He harrumphed, drank more of the coffee he clasped in his hands.

“You know,” he said after a while, “you lot should really be kept an eye on. You can’t just go making masks for just anyone who asks. There should be -” he paused, “standards. Look at me. I deserve that mask. Sewer rats should stay where they are.”

Sewer rat. Someone once called me that and he left crying and with three less teeth. But my mask ensured that I escaped that life. Not many had the chance. Especially with a slum lord like the one sitting across from me.

I went outside, scraped soot from the outside of the building, pressed it into the last part of the crack. Soon all would see the man for whom he really was. The sewer rat behind the mask grinned.

To read the story notes, click here.