A few people have been asking for a bit more of NIGHTSHADE CITY, so here it is! This is a favorite excerpt of mine, all about Billycan, the most depraved rat in all of the Catacombs. In other words, not a nice guy! It's hard to believe some day this angry fellow will be in print. Yikes! All comments welcome!
xoxo -- Hilary
Billycan ambled down the corridor of Sector 337 with a deviant leer. He had come to collect the Ministry Stipend. His red eyes flashed against the flickering torch light, making his appearance more maniacal than usual. Parading down the corridor, he swung his beloved billy club, as he yelled raucously for the High Ministry's weekly Stipend.
The towering, snow white rat had the vexing habit of sporadically speaking in the third person in a grating, irregular tone. "Billycan thinks you should be more generous to your Ministry. Don't try my patience, Billycan wants the Stipend paid now!"
Billycan held the dual title of High Collector of Stipend and Commander of the Kill Army, dangerously clever and wicked to his very core; the white rat served his Ministry well. Catacomb citizens were hard pressed to find something about the albino rat that didn't strike them as unsettling. Especially sadistic, his depravity outreached even the most evil of creatures. His callous persecution of Catacomb rats harmonized with his cold, colorless exterior.
Citizens claimed Billycan to be possessed, supernatural--just not right. The old ones maintained he once drove a rat to stab himself, possessing him with his eyes. The rat lived through the ordeal, to this day claiming Billycan's eyes glowed like galvanized rubies, two glass bulbs filled with a red vapory substance, commanding the citizen to take his useless life.
The few rats that had dared to challenge the High Collector were either deceased or missing their tongues, a favorite among the appendages he enjoyed extracting. He had a raised, black scar running across his face, as a result of one such challenge during the Bloody Coup. The thick gash trailed from the corner of his left eye, over his long snout, finally tapering off at the opposing corner of his mouth. His opponent met a gristly fate. The Trilok Loyalist had briefly gotten the upper hand over Billycan, but not for long. Left bleeding out in the corridor, the fearless rat lay dying, one eye splattered against the corridor's dirt wall.
Rumors circulated through the Combs regarding Billycan's damaged brain. Everyone knew he served as a lab-rat at the Top Sider pharmaceutical company, the infamous Prince Laboratories. He alone survived the torturous experiments. No other white rats existed in the Catacombs or all of Trillium for that matter. Since his liberation from the lab, he'd never seen another of his kind, nor did the rats of the Catacomb's every produce one. Excluding Billycan, the albinos were gone forever.
A favorite topic, the citizens often debated as to what made Billycan so wicked. Some insisted the drugs given to him at the Top Sider lab had eaten away part of his brain, leaving only the corrupt portions intact. Others believed he was a demon rat, sent from the pit fires of the underworld, while others argued the eerie white was nothing more than a bad egg, plain and simple. Years of inbreeding, forced on the rats by the lab personnel, combined with the mind altering injections were most likely the culprits, but gossip propagated throughout the Combs.
The Top Siders' testing had caused Billycan's spine to grow coiled and elongated, obliging his neck and angled jaw to jut out far in front of his body. His milky coat disbanded at the base of his extended tail, which trailed behind him like a hairless garden snake, revealing his pale skin, a powdery, encrusted white, more reptilian than vermin.
The drugs from the lab cursed him with a nagging and insatiable hunger, still unappeasable no matter how much he gorged and gobbled. Forever eating, Billycan could not keep weight on his considerable bones, giving him a lean, cadaverous manifestation, like a farmer's scarecrow half stuffed.
Stipends were collected weekly. Eleven years back, Killdeer proclaimed each citizen must produce one Stipend a week, a tariff for enjoying the sanctuary of the Catacombs. Stipend consisted of items useable to the Ministry, such as food, weapons and tools. Food had to be edible. Attempting to disguise compost as Stipend incurred a fatal consequence. Once, a desperate rat tried to palm off a rotting pear as Stipend. As sentence, Billycan chained her to a post in the center of Catacomb Hall, leaving the rat to die of hunger for all citizens to see. Still a youth, the girl's parents wailed in misery as their daughter took in her final breath.
"Stipends for Killdeer!" shouted Billycan. "Stipends for Killdeer! Everyone to their doors, quickly, quickly, do not test Billycan's patience." With a piercing pitch, his voiced blasted through the corridors. "Billycan's time will not be wasted. Have them ready. Billycan does not like to wait--no, no, no!" The Collector sauntered down the corridor, followed by three hulking lieutenants and his Kill Army assistant, Senior Lieutenant Carn, all four pushing rusty wheelbarrows in a single file line.
Billycan walked with his hollow chest pushed out like an underfed rooster. He wore a crimson and navy blue sash, Kill Army colors, made specifically for his lanky frame by the High Mistress of the Robes. As he strolled, he swung his billy club from side to side, banging it on Catacomb doors, and scratching it against their flimsy planking with an uncanny resonance. Citizens knew the Stipend routine. Don't speak unless spoken to, have all items ready and above all things, don't look the High Collector in the eyes.