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Story Notes:

Written circa 2006.
It was the second Saturday of the month, which meant that somebody had to go down into the dungeon and feed the rats. But not literally, like with themselves being the walking rat buffet. No, these rats ate peanut butter sandwiches and crickets—or peanut butter and cricket sandwiches—and six gallons of skim milk, because Toki said that theys would all chokes on de peanuts butter and cricket legs if they didn't have somethings to drink.

The rats were part of a long-forgotten side project started after Dethklok's first world tour, an attempt to breed an army of corpse-eating vermin. It quickly became apparent that the rats didn't want to eat corpses, so the band finally gave up and let them run wild and breed like crazy down in the dungeon-slash-basement. And because none of the Mordhaus employees were suicidal enough to feed the rats—some of which were the size of small dogs—no matter how much money was shoved into their orifices, the members of Dethklok usually ended up doing it themselves. They drew slips of paper from a Chinese-bone salad bowl (not bone china—there is a difference) twice a month. There were two names on each slip of paper, since it was always safer to do things in pairs or threes. Like sex and recreational drugs.

Pickles, slightly hungover from last night's booze binge and shamelessly scratching his balls in front of everyone at the breakfast lunch table, squinted blearily at the slip of paper he had pulled from the bowl. "Pull an' Muffin. What th' hell dude, did somebody screw around with the bowl again?"

Skwisgaar leaned over to see for himself. "Its says Toki and Nathan, dummy. Do you needs glasses or somethings?"

"Yer gonna need glasses to see t'ru the black eyes'm about ta give ya."

"Fine, be a mister crankys." Skwisgaar retreated and rolled his eyes. "Somebodys must have wakes up on de wrong sides of tracks."

Nathan finished his fourth cup of coffee and set his empty skull mug on the table with a heavy thunk. "I fed the rats last month with Murderface already. I shouldn't have to do it two times in a row."

Murderface was reading the obituaries and chuckling through his gap like a leaking air mattress. Totally ignoring everyone else. This was one of the few moments of happiness he allowed himself.

"What about Skwisgaar?" Nathan grunted. "He hasn't had rat duty since August."

"Sorry, man." Pickles half-shrugged. "That's jest the way it goes. Chance, y'know. Ratio an' likelihood an' all that crap. Everyone's names're on these papers."

"I thinks Skwisgaar may be taking his names out on purpose," Toki muttered conspiratorially, munching his grilled cheese sandwich. "He never gets picks."

"Shut up, Turkey," the tall Swede snapped.

"You shuts up, cheater . . ." Toki fumbled. ". . . cheater-eats a pumpkin's peter!"

"Oh my Gad the both of ya shut the hell up," Pickles moaned, hand over his eyes. "I'm gonna barf piss if ya keep talkin about food."

Murderface lifted his head. "Shumbody shay pish?"

"I did."


Toki was intrigued. "You is gonna to barfs piss? Or barfs first, then piss?"

"I wonder if it's posshible to pish barf?" Murderface pondered. "You can pish when you barf, but barfing pish might be—"

Pickles promptly barfed on the table. Whether it was piss or not, nobody knew, but it sure smelled enough like piss that everybody took his word for it.

Nathan stood from his chair while Pickles continued to heave an incredible amount of partially-digested alcohol all over the tabletop. "Uh . . . okay. Rats it is. C'mon, Toki."

"But I haffen't finish my grills cheesy san—"


"Okays. I'll just brings it down with me."

Halfway down to the dungeon, Toki and his grilled cheese sandwich had become the biggest thing to hit the rat race since the Bubonic Plague, and the Norwegian guitarist was shooing them off of his pants and boots by the dozen. They were crowding worse than groupies on speed, but at least Toki didn't feel bad about kicking people in the eye. He liked rats. But that fucking sandwich was his, and he was going to eat it before the rats did, so help him Judas Priest.

Nathan was starting to get annoyed by Toki's squealing and complaining, and he was trying hard to remember just how he had ended up being the one carrying all the rat food down the impossibly steep, slippery, moldering, crumbling, potentially-life-ending stone staircase. They really needed an elevator down here.

"Toki, keep the damn light still," Nathan growled over his shoulder. "I can't see with you thrashing all over the place."

Many many stairs behind him, Toki held high over his head a battery-powered Dethlantern in one hand and his grilled cheese sandwich in the other. He shook his legs with each step to dislodge the rats crawling up his pants, but it wasn't doing him any good.

"Damn rats!" he cried, sending two dozen of the large, red-eyed rodents scattering. "How many times I got to tells yous, this is not your foods! This is Toki foods, not yours! Stops crawlings on me and gets out of de ways before I steps on—"

Just then he lost his balance and accidentally stepped on a rat. Toki wasn't a heavy guy, but his boots were at least one-third his entire body weight, so that rat didn't stand a chance. It let out a shriek as both its eyeballs popped out of its head like champagne corks, and its ribcage snapped like toothpicks, and guts and blood burst from its ass.

This took about .73 seconds. The slippery mess that was once a rat had lubed the stairs better than buttery-spread K-Y jelly, and Toki had just enough time to scream "OH M—" before his foot went sailing out from underneath him and he began to roll ass-over-tit down the stairs like a barrel, squishing rats by the pound and leaving a trail of slimy red smears in his wake.

Nathan looked behind him when he heard the noise and saw Toki doing a screaming slalom at 45 miles-per-hour right toward him, and he bellowed in horror "MOTHERF—" before the world's second-fastest guitarist plowed right into him.

You'd think that Toki and Nathan would both tumble down the stairs together and then end up at the bottom together in a breathless tangle of limbs, with Nathan crushing the bejesus out of Toki and the both of them covered in blood and snot and spit, and then they'd start mashing tongues after passionately declaring their love for each other, right? Well it didn't fucking happen, you sleazebags. Nathan was just too big, and Toki didn't have enough momentum to knock him over anyway.

The rats were fleeing the scene of massacre as Nathan dropped the supplies and stooped down to inspect Toki, who was covered in rat blood and rat shit and itty bitty rat bowels. "Holy crap, Toki. That was brutal," he muttered, trying to find Toki's face in the knot of legs and hair. "Are you, uh . . . you hurt?"

The young Norwegian's face came into view. His right cheekbone was bruised, his temple was pouring blood, and he had melted cheese in his Fu Manchu. And apparently he had broken his arm . . . if the ulna jutting out of his flesh were any indication. But Toki was a tough little krumkake and had the capacity of being a blunt, insensitive bastard sometimes, even if he was considered the "most normal" of the band. So when he started to cry, it didn't surprise Nathan at all.

"Hey Toki, don't . . . uh, cry," he said in his best "comforting" voice, and only succeeded in sounding like Full House era Bob Saget if Full House era Bob Saget gargled gasoline and threw a lighted match down his throat. "It's okay. Just don't think about the pain. Hey, the bone looks really neat, sticking out of your arm like that . . . you, uh—"

"You stupids hard-on!" Toki wailed, waving his bloodied limbs about. "I not crying about de pains—I kills de poor rats! I KILLS THEM, NATHAN! I shoulda just share my grills cheesy sandswich with thems, buts I didn't! And now they dead! They's just wants some foods, and I KILLS thems!"

"Toki . . . are you high? I know it's a stupid question, but I just had to ask, 'cause . . ."

Toki responded by throwing up grilled cheese sandwich all over Nathan's boots. It smelled like lunch. "I can't feels my foots," he moaned when he was done, wiping the puke off his chin with his good arm.

"That's probably because they're folded up under your shins," said Nathan. "You know . . . fuck these goddamn rats. They can just fuckin eat each other. C'mon." He picked Toki up in his arms and began to carry him up the stairs.

There was positively nothing romantic about this at all.

As he hefted the injured little guy up the stairs—boy those boots weighed a fucking ton—Nathan thought about stuff. He wasn't used to doing that, at least not the real deep important things, but something had made him think. He was thinking about Toki, and the way he had crushed the life right out of that rat and then fell-the-fuck-down the stairs, and had gushing blood wounds and a splintered bone sticking out of his blood-drenched arm, and he was covered in stinking, still-warm rat guts, and had violently thrown up on Nathan's boots to end it all. And even then, Toki was more concerned about the mangy little flea-bitten hell-spawns he had mowed down than his own grotesque injuries. And that, Nathan thought with admiration, that was fucking metal right there. Toki was more awesomely brutal than he looked.

What a rush of inspiration; suddenly Dethklok's next album was right in Nathan's mind—Dungeons & Ratguts—with songs like Bathed in Bile, Compound Fracture, and Vermin Genocide, set to that same rhythmic tempo that Toki had made when he crashed down the stairs like a body bag . . . without the bag part. It would be heavy and brutal and holy goddamn he needed to write this down, it was golden.

But these happy fuzzy thoughts didn't last long, because an uncomfortable feeling in the crotch of Nathan's jeans alerted him to the horrifying fact that he had just popped a huge boner. Thinking about Toki doing all that horrendous, wonderful shit and the ideas for their next album must have gone straight to his dick, and now Nathan stopped in his tracks and uttered, "Oh my fucking LORD."

"What's de matters?" Toki mumbled, arm dangling limply by his side. "Something's wrong?"

Oh, Toki. You don't even know.


After delivering Toki to the in-house emergency staff and after twelve minutes in the john with the latest issue of Valkyrie Vixens, Nathan called a band meeting that evening to discuss plans for the new album.

"But we jest released the DethCyclone 'Live in Chernobyl Hammer-Sickle-Homicide Russian Remix' eight months ago!" Pickles complained, tossing back six Advil with a rum and cola chaser.

"Yeah," Skwisgaar griped, "I thought we's plans to takes de year off."

"We can't shtart another album!" Murderface roared, planting his Bowie into the already mangled table in the conference room. "I jusht shtarted my bonshai-trimming lesshons lasht week! I've got the makingsh of a mashter trimmer, Shenshei Yakamura shaid sho!" Spit was flying everywhere. Skwisgaar was actually wearing a rain poncho designed for exactly this sort of thing.

"Look, I know you all have plans and side projects you wanna do," Nathan explained gutturally, "but I'm telling you, this thing will fuckin blow the balls off of DethCyclone. We could even use those damn rats in our concerts, sell them as pets or something. Have a whole vermin franchise, maybe even a movie based off the music video for the single . . ."

The others seemed to be digesting the possibility of becoming even more filthy stinking rich and famous when finally somebody noticed the obvious: "Hey, where'sh Toki?"

"The hospital."

"What de hells he is doings dere?" Skwisgaar demanded. "He's not been eatings de free candies again, has he?"

"He fell down the dungeon stairs and killed a whole shitloada rats," the lead singer said with a facial expression that just might have been a smile . . . or the sign of an upset bowel. "You guys shoulda seen it. It was brutal. Like . . . blood n' guts on a slip n' slide."

"That'sh a good shong title."

"Toki killed rats? No way, he loves those things," Pickles pshhted. "If it weren't fer him, we'da left those sons a bitches to die down there."

"He likes animals," Skwisgaar said, for once getting all his S's in the right place.

"It was an accident," Nathan grumbled softly. "He broke his arm and I think both his ankles, too. And he threw up. Think he mighta hit his head. It was bleeding pretty bad."

"Wowwww," said everyone else, sincerely impressed. No, really. This is Toki we're talking about here.

"Sho Toki's the inshpiration for the new album?" Murderface asked, cheerfully chipping chunks out of the table.

"Uh. Nuh-yeah . . . um, kinda."

"I think it sounds great," Pickles admitted. "The whole rat thing. Maybe we can give 'im his own song, y'know, since he's in the hospital now an' whatever. Or he can do a solo-open at the concert, an' we can get a rat god outfit for 'im or—"

"A rat's costumes?" Skwisgaar inquired with delighted disgust in his voice. "Huh huh, I thinks he would likes dat a lot. Little rat playings de guitars, with ears and—"

"No, no. Like the rat god—there's a rat god, ain't there? Don't the Hindus got one 'a those? With the temples n' all where the rats live an' people feed 'em—"

"You mean Mordhaush?"

"Yeah, we's already does dat in de basefloors."

"No, douchebags. I mean like the . . . ah, fuck it." Pickles downed another alcoholic beverage and gave up.

Nathan was oddly quiet.

"So," Skwisgaar said after a while, "what's does Toki says abouts all dis?"

"He doesn't know," muttered Nathan.

"Well hell!" Pickles slapped both hands on the table and stood up. "We need t' tell 'im. C'mon, dudes. Let's go t' the hospital."

"Yeah! I wanna shnap hish bonesh back into plache! I hope they haven't done that already. I'll be dishappointed."

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