“Hey, buddy, gimme someth’n. C’mon, dude, don’t be an ass. You got some nice boots there, sure you have cash. Gimme what you got, buddy… Don’t turn your back at me, dude, I’m all chill’d out, ya see? I’m asking nicely, man, don’t walk away… Eeeehhhh… C’mon, man, gimme a fucking shell! You goddamn son of a bitch, now you walk away! I know your face, aight?! You hearin’ me? Next time I see ya I’m gonna cut you for good, ya piece of shite! I’m a good fella’, ya motherfuckin’ scumbag! I am all chill’d out!”
Maybe Old Ratcutter isn’t as old as his nickname or his looks might imply, but as sure as hell he seems that old. All the wrinkles in his face, his hair dirty and greasy as a drainpipe, that mouth with only three or four teeth left, his hoarse voice like crab after a life of smoking joints and drinking any spirits distilled in a backyard, his hands shaking due to an eternal jonesing and the ever-present paper bag with a bottle inside, might give him a general image of the usual homeless druggie tramp, but perhaps life has just been that mean to him.
His real name? Who knows? I’m sure he doesn’t know it himself, with all the shit he has been using all his life, from anti-freezing fluid to glue, including any substance or powder he could sniff or inject. A real human waste, I tell you, but one of those who makes you feel some degree of pity when you see him tumbling around, mumbling nonsense, completely lost, or lying under a bench while dogs piss on him.
Few remember Ratcutter’s youth, because there is almost no one left from his generation and young people don’t give a shit about crappy things like remembering their old ones’ history. Only those freaks at the Scrapbridge Historical Society, with their books and their shit might care. What it is known is that he was with the “tunnel wackos”, that folks that earn a living sneaking into tunnels and drainpipes to hunt vermin, avoiding that several kinds of evil critters down there multiply and cause a plague like that of mutarats in the early twenties.
It seems that Ratcutter was the best “tunnel wacko” of his time. Not much people lived that long dragging themselves through filthy drainages (he already was well in his thirties, back then), not even those junker Probe posers. The thing is that Ratcutter was the big poncho of the entire crew, and he had his coat, made with the pelts of the biggest, fattest and meanest rats hunted in Scrapbridge’s underground, to prove it. That coat was the envy of many a guild lord’s mistress, junker trader, gang leader or quarter spokesman… except those who could afford one made of martabbit fur, of course, which is as fluffy but doesn’t smell funny.
So Ratcutter was the baddest kick-ass in his field, but then one day he entered tunnel 666, the one legends say that goes deeper than any other into the ground. All began with a simple bet, the typical “you don’t have the guts”. Wackos went into that tunnel as often as in any other, but there was a “point of no return” in that hole beyond which people disappeared; not due to cave-ins, rat stampedes or meaner creatures, as it was part of the job in other tunnels, but because of something “else”. Dickhead who went farther than X distance, dickhead who was never seen again. But Ratcutter said it all was because they were all some sorry pussies, and no one as fucking awesome as him had ever tried to do so before.
So Ratcutter went down there and disappeared… and I say disappeared because no one knew shit about him for three days. He came back pale, sweating, covered from head to toe in a slimy fluid nobody knew if it was blood or something else, staring vacantly to the sky and repeating constantly a single word in low voice: the horror… the horror… the horror. He still yells that word sometimes in his dreams, when he passes out on a pool of his own vomit and pee.
Since then he has been slipping into madness, drugs and oblivion, becoming the sorry-ass beggar he is nowadays. No one has been able to make him talk about what he saw or what he went through down in the tunnel 666, not even bribing him with more stuff for his jonesing or with a magazine full of bullets. But he did see something, something big and nasty, because one week after that Jess Tabárez, boss in the Facesmack quarter where the 666 entrance is, ordered it to be blown, walled and a scumbag left on permanent patrol in front of it. Supposedly to avoid anyone from opening it up again and entering, but some people say it is to keep something evil as hell from coming out.
Yes, with his electric blue tactel tracksuit (that one with the barely visible logo that reads “Moscow ‘80” and that smiling little bear that scares the crap out of everyone), his J-Hayber sneakers which must have been white in some point of his life, that plastic watch without batteries he still carries in his wrist, and the bald head with four lonely hairs on top, he doesn’t strike you as a famous and respected guy here in Scrapbridge. Dude now is utterly harmless. He always buries his right hand into one of his jacket pockets, threatening you with taking a knife out and cut you, but I tell you that pocket is as empty as mine; poor soul surely sold that knife long ago to but some booze or drugs. No one has ever seen him with a razor in his hand since he went nuts, not even when he still dared to wear that fancy coat of his made with the furs of the rats he had killed in his good old days.
And yet he has managed to be considered as a celebrity by many in the neighborhood, everybody knows him, greets him… and what is ever more amazing, they even give him food or change. In a deadly, ruthless place like Facesmack, you would think that a human waste like him would have been death long ago by natural causes or beaten up by some thugs, but there he is. Like black weeds in a garden, these old school junkies have more lives than my cat. Hear this out, that bastard even has a job, now. Those nutheads writing the Scrapbridge Gazette come to this “well of popular and street wisdom” to get his pearls of multi-drug insight about life in the streets or stories about his time as a tunnel wacko. In return he gets some shells, maybe a couple of glasses of beer or a crapamari sandwich from the square stalls, and now he probably thinks he is a journalist, or some shit like that.
But truth is this guy is really wasted, both mentally and physically. Not long ago I found him under the overpass to the second level, seated on a bench with an old paint can filled with god-knows-what toxic beverage, arguing with another element of his same kind. Old Ratcutter was telling this other guy that it was impossible, that there were no one left alive. The other one replied that indeed they were. Intrigued, I slowed down my pace and sharpened my ear to hear the rest of the conversation. Ratcutter insisted in his negative, saying that there were about 300.000 in the whole world, but people had wasted them all, and his colleague replied that he has been one with his own eyes right here, in Scrapbridge. More intrigued with each passing second, I was shocked to hear the final sentence from Ratcutter: “Then it was not a mongrelmorph”. End of the issue. That is the guy who offers his inner wisdom to the Gazette. State-of-the-art journalism.