The town was overrun with the vermin. Everywhere you turned, there were rats under foot, eating our grain, marking territory, making trouble, and scaring even the meanest of the barn cats.
We needed a solution, and we needed it soon so we would have a chance of surviving through the winter.
Then the package came in the mail.
Addressed just to “The Town”.
Inside was a record, and a short note. It read, “The solution to your problem.”
Luckily, there was a gramophone in town, normally kept at the Inn where it was cranked up occasionally when enough customers wanted to dance. The innkeeper was bustled off to find it, then again to find the crank. The spring was wound up, a fresh stylus installed, and the record poised to play.
We weren’t sure what was going to happen, but it had to be better than what was happening now.
At first, nothing more than the scratching of the stylus on a blank groove was heard.
Then it began.
All around us, the rats perked up and turned to look toward the square where the gramophone stood. They listened for a short while, then turned with military precision and marched off.
At first, we were overjoyed that it seemed to be having some effect.
Then the screams began.
One by one the town’s children marched into the square, each with at least one rat riding it, and in many cases far more. The rats had rigged harnesses on the children, with bits in their mouths and reins running up to a rat on their head. Many of them had packs stuffed with household valuables. Some carried loads of rats.
They came to stand in the square, as the record changed tune.
“People of the town,” began the recorded voice, “your children are perfectly safe as long as they don’t attempt to disobey. They will now collect this recording and depart as directed by their new masters as conscripts. You will find that your remaining stores of food will suffice for the coming winter. Unless you attempt to follow or report this incident. If you do, the rats will return and empty your stores as well. Thank you for your cooperation.”
With that, the rats directed the children to the road as the town’s adults stood dumbfounded.