When I interviewed the Atlanta Ballet's Jonah Hooper about dancing the role of the Rat King in The Nutcracker, it gave me a combat-related flashback. Specifically, it reminded me of December 2003, when Creative Loafing's intrepid Tom Bell was an embedded journalist in the Nutcracker's army, sending dispatches from "Operation Extreme Extermination," a military action against the armies of the Rat Kingdom:
St. Petersburg -- A flash explosion witnessed coming from the laboratory of "Dr. Death" Drosselmeyer was cited today by Administration officials as further evidence that the Rat Kingdom is developing and stockpiling Weapons of Balletic Destruction (WBD). Intelligence reports from Antland and Catatonia have repeatedly warned that Drosselmeyer is producing "weapons-grade dream powders and mechanical men."
The charge comes amid revelations of ties between the Rat King and "Nicholas," the nom de guerre of the child leader of a band of known terrors. A report from Britain's MI-5 credits Nicholas' organization with a Christmas Eve attack on several little girls at a party. Early reports that Nicholas' sword and hatchet had been supplied by CIA operatives for guerilla operations against neighboring Cockroachia were dismissed by an agency spokesman who said the hatchet was clearly one of the Axes of Weasel, a Rat Kingdom ally.
Despite the new allegations, the French government made renewed calls for patience, urging that health inspectors be given more time to complete their work. The Rat Kingdom is a major importer of French cheese.
The U.S. House responded with a resolution proclaiming the French "rodent-loving live trappers."
Antland -- From the summit of this bare, conical hill on the northern border of Antland -- our staunchest ally in the region -- you can count the tails of the Rat Kingdom regulars awaiting the attack they surely know is coming. Turn around, and at the base of the hill, the "Nutcracker" Division is gathering its weaponry.
They've been preparing all night, ever since the announcement yesterday that "Operation Extreme Extermination" had begun with the dropping of 1,000-pound battle boots over the Rat Kingdom capital.
"We're here to liberate the rats from their dictator," said one square-jawed Nutcracker. "The Rat King used arsenic on his own subjects. We're here to make sure he can never do that again."
Rat Kingdom -- They weren't supposed to be there. But somewhere in the maze, they took a wrong turn and found themselves in a lavish ballroom -- one of the dozens built by the Rat King with money diverted from the cheese aid program.
PFC Marya Petrov (aka "Clara"; aka "Mary") volunteered to recon the room while her fellow warriors secured the perimeter. She shouldn't have been there. A fresh-faced young woman with golden hair and a ready smile, she belonged back home in her own bed, hugging a pair of silk ballet slippers.
Too late, though. The rats rose up from their hiding places and descended upon her. Cool-headed Marya called for backup, then dug in behind some curtains, grimly determined to give up her life before she yielded an inch of the dance floor to the rats.
Her Nutcracker unit arrived, and the soldiers threw themselves upon the enemy. They fired their rifles, they charged with swords and horses, they fired their cannon. Bravely holding her position, Marya called out the enemies' coordinates.
And then the very nightmare of nightmares was upon them. The Rat King himself came into the room from his underground bunker, wearing a gold crown and a vest of mail and glittering gems. He was 10 feet tall and wielded a deadly iron sword.
The Nutcrackers fell around him like hay before the scythe. He attacked the unit's captain, punishing him with blow after blow, beating the gallant officer to the ground.
Marya's clip was empty, but seeing her captain in trouble, she unlaced her boot with drilled speed and precision, then threw it at the Rat King's head. It hit with such force that he was dead before his crown hit the parquet floor.
She shouldn't have been there. But the whole world is grateful that she was. The war is over, and the streets will soon be strewn with roses.
The Land of Snow -- PFC Marya Petrov (aka "Clara"; aka "Mary") was crowned in a special ceremony today despite persistent questions regarding the accuracy of the "boot" story originally leaked by unnamed military sources.
A member of Petrov's unit, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claims that Petrov was never in any direct danger. The source also claims that Petrov was only "reconning" for the ballroom's bathroom after a nap and was wearing slippers, not combat boots. Furthermore, the slippers missed the Rat King's head, only distracting him long enough for the unit's captain to deliver a fatal blow with his sword.
Petrov has yet to comment. Today, she and the captain she allegedly saved rode together in a sleigh through a snowflake parade to mark the end of major hostilities.
The Land of Sweets -- In a celebration hosted by the Dew Drop Fairy, envoys from around the world danced today for the liberators of the Rat Kingdom. Dancers from Spain, Russia, England, Arabia, China and many other nations entertained the guests in a display of renewed multinationalism.
Some commentators suggested less noble intentions motivated the event: The nations were hoping to secure contracts for the reconstruction of the Rat Kingdom. While refusing to admit contractors not based in the U.S. or the Bahamas, the Administration did agree to require those contractors to hire unskilled labor from other nations and pay them at least 15 percent above their countries' established minimum wages, if any. An unconfirmed report claimed that the first priority of the imported labor will be to strew the streets with roses.