I Can Hear Them

I can hear them sometimes you know. Chittering and snickering in the shadows beyond the corner of my eye. They disturb my sleep when they scratch and scamper in the space behind the walls of my room. The room is old but I think that they are older still, I think that they were here before. If they were then what right do I have to complain? How could I, a mere passerby in temporal terms, ask that they vacate this space when they were here first. When they will be here when I am gone?

Once, when they were being especially noisy and bothersome, I called upon my landlord -a decent fellow for a landlord- to ask if there was anything that could be done to either encourage them to move on or even to soundproof my lodgings somewhat. He merely told me that he hadn’t had any complaints from other tenants and, the next day, came to my room with mousetraps for me to set. I knew that they would do little good. I set them anyway.

The room is small and so there were few places for me to set the traps. I placed two under the bed, one beneath the small cabinet next to the bed upon which I keep whichever book I am reading at the present time (Aitken’s Tracticus Timor at the moment) and another beneath the battered Yorkshire dresser which holds what few clothes I have.

That first night, after I had set the traps, they were quieter than usual and I fancied that they had taken fright at this sudden escalation in our domestic arrangements. In the morning the traps were, as expected, untouched and the morsels of food with which I had baited them remained whole. The next night however I was awoken to a series of large snaps as the traps all sprang shut at once. I leaped from my bed and, fumbling with matches, lit the candle I kept for reading beside my bed. There in the center of the room were the traps, each of them sprung, arranged neatly in a circle.

As I stood there, candle in hand and my breath misting in the chilly midnight air, they set about making an appalling and tumultuous commotion. I dropped the candle so as to cover my ears against the din and, as its light was snuffed out, I caught my first, and only, glimpse of one. Tiny milk white eyes set in a horribly wrinkled and leathery face. Tufts of bone white fur and claws as sharp as needles. It hissed at me and then the light died.

I dressed immediately and left the building, quietly so as not to disturb my neighbours should the creature’s clamor not have already done so. I walked the empty streets until the sun began to sap the darkness from the sky and the birds began to awaken.

I had spent the night considering moving away, finding a room in another part of town or, perhaps, even in another town altogether. Unfortunately this wasn’t a course of action that my present financial situation would allow for. I decided therefore that i would have to make peace with the things which live just out of sight but always within earshot.

I returned to my room and cleared away the traps. Now, every night before I snuff my candle, I leave a plate of food below the Yorkshire Dresser. In the morning it is always picked clean. I do this by way of apology for setting traps for the room’s older inhabitants and as a gesture that maybe we could become more than simple roommates. I think it’s working as now, sometimes, when it’s quiet I can hear them in places outside the room. I can hear them at work, when I’m sat on a tram or bus, and when I’m walking in the local park. I can hear them. Sometimes.