Authors: William Kotawinkle
There has never been a rat like Doctor Rat, Ph.D. Frenzied survivor of medicine’s most vicious experiments; brilliant eunuch; insane prophet of progress through genocide.
is sheer horror, pure joy, a one-rodent crusade. He’s man’s best friend… Nature’s worst enemy…and the world’s maddest Messiah. He’s an experience you’ll never forget.
“Bill Kotzwinkle is one of the few American writers who is in complete control of his materials and his materials seem to come from somewhere deep down…”
—Kurt Vonnegut. Jr.
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NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED
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A Bantam Book / published by arrangement with
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Knopf edition published May 1976
Bantam edition / September 1977
Portions of this novel originally appeared in
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1971, 1976 by William Kotzwinkle.
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In the colony I’m known as Doctor Rat. Having been part of this laboratory so long and having studied so carefully, it’s only right I be given some mark of distinction other than the tattoo on the inside of my ear, a mark that all the other rats have too. Some of them have tattoos and V-shaped wedges cut out of their ears. Some even have three or four wedges cut out of their ears, but that doesn’t mean they are as learned as I. It simply means they have had the liver removed (one wedge), the liver and pituitary gland removed (two wedges), liver, pituitary and pineal glands removed (three wedges), and so forth. After they remove your heart, no more wedges are needed, ha ha!
Then they just bottle your bones, bottle your bones.
But I’ve come to enjoy the smell of formaline—a 5% solution is satisfactory for removing all the soft parts of a rat’s body. Yes, the smell is pleasing to my nose because I know the bones aren’t mine.
From my platform here in the maze, I can watch the whole procedure—a dead rat is now being dunked in the formaline. Soon all the soft parts of his body will fall away. Then a simple solution of sodium carbonate, bleaching powder, and water is sufficient to take off the rest of any muscles or fat left hanging. The expense is not great. To the rat involved, of course, the expense is complete, but what does he care, he’s free!
Death is freedom, that’s my slogan. I do what I can for my fellow rats, giving them the best advice. For after all is said and done, the Final Solution (5% formaline) is death, and death is freedom.
My own case is not unusual. I was driven mad in the mazes. The primary symptoms of shivering, whirling, and biting have all passed now, but I’ve been left with the curiously mad practice of writing songs and poetry. Obviously this is somewhat out of place in a scientific atmosphere and I do my best to suppress the tendency, giving all my attention to writing learned, factual papers. I like to think they’re the very latest word in animal behavior.
Well, why shouldn’t they be? I’m intimate with all the animal behavior programs. There’s an interesting demonstration going on in the lab at the moment: A young rat has just been placed on a small metal stand. His back paws have been pierced by thumb tacks which hold them in place nicely; his front paws are raised onto the metal stand and tied there, so he’ll remain in an upright position. His eyes dart about. I can feel the racing of his heart, and I call to him, giving him moral support.
“Don’t worry, fellow rat, it won’t take long.”
“What are they doing to me!”
“Nothing that won’t be done to all of us, sooner or later, dear brother. Remember the slogan, death is freedom.”
“I don’t want to die!”
The Learned Professor who directs the many and varied experiments in our lab has now stepped up to the stand. Carefully, coolly, he makes the cisternal puncture, draining out the rat’s spinal fluid. The rat wants to die now, I assure you.
Death is freedom, brother!
Now bottle his bones, bottle his bones.
His spinal fluid is being examined by one of our graduate assistants and now the assistant is pouring it down the sink. He’s getting better at this experiment. It’s part of my work to spot the promising young scientists and feature them in my Newsletter. At first, this lad’s hands were nervous and trembling. He looked a little like a young rat about to be castrated—those weighing more than 30 grams are discarded at birth. But after practicing on fifty-two rats, the boy is really solid. With a smile of accomplishment he washes out his test tube.
Now over here, in a thermos bottle of ice, you’ll see several young rats being cooled to two degrees below zero centigrade.
“Doctor Rat, we’re f-f-f-freezing!”
“That is correct, my friends, and soon you’ll be c-c-c-castrated, as I am. But you won’t feel a thing. Your nuts will be numb and they’ll come off without a hitch.”
“Please, Doctor Rat, h-h-h-help us!”
“My dear friends, don’t worry. After your b-b-b-balls are removed, you’ll get your p-p-p-picture in the Newsletter, and it goes all over the world.”
In this way, I spread good cheer throughout the lab, helping my fellow rats to understand the important role they play in global affairs.
I should now like to sing “Three Blind Rats.” It’s part of the experimental program of music that’s being channeled toward certain rats, to make them more docile and sweet. Several of them are indeed beginning to nuzzle up to each other, one of them even executing a light-fantastic tripping of his tail, in time to the beat.