A father drives into the desert with his young son, a small family on an exciting road trip to any police officer or petrol station attendant that looks their way. But this father isn’t the pleasant soul he acts for strangers. And it’s not suitcases weighing down the back of his sedan. More
Car boot loaded with his wares, Naos Tana leaves his Oshi Daini apartment at dawn, setting a gruelling pace for the Sato Area. With him, he drags his son. No apparent care for the boy, or “rat” as Tana calls him, he is brought only as a disguise, to mask a business trip of malicious intent as a harmless holiday. The rat is good-natured despite frequent humiliation and mistreatment, and is continually crushed by his father’s scorn, at a loss as to why he cares for his car, but not his son. When the rat sneaks from their inn room and unlocks his father’s car in the dead of night, the horrific nature of Tana’s business enterprises is exposed. Caught and with no one to turn to, the rat endures the remainder of the trip in terror, under threat of dire punishment for going near his father’s products. But even such misery fails to blunt the rat's curiosity when Tana unwillingly acquires a stirring bundle at the conclusion of his business transaction.
Set in the Four Free Areas, a technologically advanced world where Gods watch from rivers and fantastical arts are practiced by wizards and priests, The Rat is the third instalment of the short story cycle Treading Twisted Lines with Darren, Maddi, and Kai.