I always loved the evenings of late spring. The time of the day between five thirty and eight o’clock were always the most magical. Everything about that time giggled with magic, the cool breeze that whistled across the suburbs, the promise of descending darkness. I would often find myself—even as a child—watching on my back porch as the sun dipped beneath the sea of rooftops and the sky turned a brilliant shade of orange and red.
And that was directly where I found myself one elegant evening in June. Perched comfortably on the back porch overlooking the ever darkening garden and admiring the golden sun as it slowly began to descend upon the earth. On my lap was Lawrence, the fat, Russian Blue. Happily purring as my fingers stroked the grey fur along its back.
As I watched the sun sink into little more than a semicircle, I noticed a small separation in the grass, as if a tiny creature was charging through my backyard. I eyed it for a while, and was completely taken by surprise when a small field mouse appeared from between the blades of grass. It had brown coloured fur with a patch of black fur over its left eye; almost like an eyepatch. I watched as it sniffed the air for a few seconds, then went charging into the flower bed lining the house. I chuckled at seeing the mouse, and went back to stroking Lawrence.
A few moments later as I pondered the idea of going back inside I heard loud screaming come from inside the house. Immediately I was on my feet and I charged into our small house. When I reached the source of the screaming I saw Val standing on one of the dining room chairs with her eyes frantically scanning the floor tiles, her skin was pale; as if a dead man had just begun walking through our house.
“What on earth is going on in here?” I asked.
“There’s a rat, Jack. A disease-ridden rat!” She jabbed one of her slender fingers at a small shape barrelling itself across the kitchen tile.
I eyed the shape more closely, and noticed it was the same mouse as before. With the black fur over its left eye. “How had it gotten into the house?” I thought to myself.
“Honey, calm down. That’s not a rat, it’s just a little mouse.” The tone of my voice seemed to soothe her slightly, and her face went back to its normal color.
“I don’t care, Jack. Get rid of it!” The mouse sprinted full speed towards the open door of the basement.
“There’s not much I can do right now, Honey. I’ll set up some traps and we’ll see if that doesn’t get him.”
She slowed her breathing to a more normal pace, she sighed; “Yeah, you’re right.”
“Don’t worry, honey. I know how much you dislike rodents.”
“I goddamn hate rodents.”
Later that night, when both of us had gone to bed and I had placed seven mouse traps across the house. I lay listening, waiting to hear the satisfying snap of the mechanism crushing the mouse’s neck.
I did not wait long.
It was a quarter past eleven when I heard a low snap resonate from the basement. I sighed and shut my eyes.
“Was that what I thought it was?” Val asked softly, resting her head on my shoulder.
“Yes, honey. Your brave knight hath slain thine perilous demon mouse.”
“Thank you,” she whispered softly and fell back asleep, and as I gradually slipped into unconsciousness I thought I heard the soft patter of tiny feet along the carpet.
When I checked the mousetrap the next day before I drove to work, I found that the mechanism had shut. But there was no dead mouse inside it. I disregarded it as maybe he had somehow managed to outsmart the trap, so I reset it and decided to set more later. After returning home and smearing more traps in peanut butter, I sat waiting for the mouse to stumble into one of them.
I barreled down the stairs and into the basement, my heart beating in my chest. Then I ran through the laundry room and rounded a corner. Then I was in the boiler room, and that’s where I found him. I scanned his body to make sure he was dead. His neck had been crushed under the weight of the locking mechanism; and both of his eyes were closed. In a way I almost felt bad for the thing, but it was a mouse and it had to go. As I took a plastic bag out of the closet nearby I heard the front door open and Val stroll into the house.
“Jack?” she shouted across the house, “Jack, I’m home.”
I abandoned the mouse and moved back up the stairs to the front door. “Hi, honey. I caught the mouse.” I took one of the grocery bags out of her arms and placed it on the counter.
“You finally caught it?” she asked, and I saw her eyes light up with excitement. “I wanna see it.”
“It’s next to the boiler, in the basement. You can go look at it, I’m gonna put away the rest of the groceries.”
She nodded and half-skipped down the stairs. A few minutes later as I emptied the last of the grocery bags into the cupboard, Val came up the stairs pale and blank faced.
“Val, what’s wrong?” I moved to embrace her and she immediately burrowed her face in my chest.
“That wasn’t a mouse, Jack,” she whispered and began softly crying.
“What do you mean? What was it?” She said nothing, only continuing to cry.
Later when Val had settled down enough for me I finally went to check the mousetrap, I found much to my surprise that the corpse of the mouse was gone. As I looked over the mousetrap I felt what appeared to be a human’s touch; but when I turned around, there was only a still silence.
“Odd,” I said, before walking back up the stairs.
Four days passed.
Val spent the next four days in our bedroom, crying. I don’t know what she saw, or what she thought she saw in the basement, but whatever it was, it scared the hell out of her. She begged me to hire an exterminator and not try to catch it myself, she says it’s beyond words what she saw. But whenever I try to ask what it was she refuses to go into detail.
A week passed since the incident.
I believe this mouse is not a normal mouse. I must’ve caught him dozens of times in the past several days, I have seen his corpse caught in the traps each time, his eyes closed and his body gnarled. And don’t think for a second I’m not doing it right, I grew up dockside on Draycott, you could literally be paid for getting rid of rodents. By the time I left dockside I had become a local expert in mouse catching. Yet this mouse had made a mockery of that. And I think it knows it.
Val still hadn’t got over what she saw in the basement. Usually, she stays hidden in our bedroom all day, crying softly to herself. When she does leave she simply wanders the ground floor of the house aimlessly. I don’t know how to help her, I bring her meals to her and I’ve taken off enough days of work to look after her. When she did speak she begs me to call an exterminator, I always refuse and say I would catch it myself.
A few days later, I realized I had to go to work or risk losing my job entirely. Val begged me not to go, she told me she didn’t want to be alone, she was horrified of being alone with whatever it was she saw in the basement. I told her I had too, and she wouldn’t be entirely alone either, Lawrence would be with her. I told her if that wasn’t enough she could always go visit one of the neighbors (most of them are retired, and would gladly enjoy the company of someone to talk to). But she said she wouldn’t feel safe without me, that I was the only thing that could keep her safe.
Regardless, I regrettably left the house for work and left her crying in our bedroom.
I spent the next six hours trying to cut down the massive stack of paperwork on my desk. After that, barely getting half of it done. I drove home and when I parked the car in the driveway, I found Val sitting on the steps leading up to the front door, cradling Lawrence in her arms as if he was a baby. When I approached her I noticed her eyes were red from crying and she was shaking.
“Val? Honey, are you okay?” I said slowly, trying not to startle her.
“Jack, I saw him. Or It, I don’t know.” She began weeping again.
“Who? What did he look like?” I was horrified that someone may have broken in, and she mistook them for whatever it was she saw in the basement. I went up to her and lifted her to her feet, “What. Did. He. Look. Like?”
“I can’t even describe it, Jack. It was so horrible.” She broke out into tears again and buried her face into my chest.
“Isn’t that your laptop?’ I noticed the smashed remains of her computer in a pile on the front lawn.
Her voice was thick with crying and fear “Yes, I... I was playing solitaire and I got this pop up ad… so when I went to go delete it I accidentally clicked on it. And this face showed up, it was awful. It was bleeding as if its face was ripped off. And it was laughing, horrific, cackling laughter. It only stopped when I threw it out the window.” She buried her face again.
“And that’s why you’re on the front lawn?”
“No, I heard Lawrence meowing on the stairs so I went to go see what it was. And a horde of rats stormed up the stairs, hundreds of them. I couldn’t stay in that house any longer after that.” She burst out crying again.
I was in utter disbelief, how could there be so many rats in the house? I decided I’d call an exterminator later.
A few hours later when I managed to calm her down I called her mother and told her what happened. I then told Val that she would be coming over later to take her back to her house with her sisters. Val protested at first, saying how she couldn’t feel safe without me. Eventually she caved and agreed.
When Val’s mother and sisters had taken her back to their house I called my stepbrother, who was luckily an exterminator by trade. So I told him about the mouse and possible rat infestation. I made sure I didn’t mention what happened to Val. Instead, I told him that I kept leaving traps but the mouse kept outsmarting them. He believed me and got to work immediately.
He managed to catch the mouse quickly. However when he went to collect the corpse he returned with the same face of shock Val had. “That ain’t no mouse or no rat infestation either." He refused to be paid and left soon after.
So I would have to battle this mouse myself.
The mouse is winning.
Several days passed and I have come to the conclusion; now this may sound crazy, but I believe it is a ghost. Or something along the lines of a ghost; a phantom, a zombie, a spirit. What else could have its neck snapped only to immediately spring back to life and hide in some darkened area of the house. I saw its neck crushed, it must somehow be able to escape the trap after it’s dead. To make this sound even more crazy, I had a bag blessed so that I could hold the mouse in it after I caught it.
This idea has driven me near crazy, I haven’t been able to sleep nor have I wanted to. I must stay awake, I must catch it the moment it falls into the trap, or else it will simply vanish again. I keep wanting to call Val but I hear the snap right as I am about to pick up the phone. I found the phone destroyed one morning, I do not know how. I have taken to drinking as of late so it might have been in a drunken rage. I should shave. But then I might miss the snap and the mouse would get away.
Here I sit, awaiting the snap of the mousetrap. Today will be the day, today will be the…
I’m on my feet in a half second and charging towards the source of the sound in the other half. “I‘ve got you now, you bastard!” I shout across the house, I am alive with ecstasy, the mouse that has prevented me from sleep and driven me to near insanity will die today. In under ten seconds I reach the source of the sound—the linen closet. There is a soft squeaking on the other end. I focus my eyes on the floor and throw open the door.
I see the neck of the mouse’s corpse jammed between the locking mechanism. Then I see a ray of yellow light envelope the body and the mouse charge through the open doorway. I spun around to watch it disappear behind a corner before I felt something cast a shadow over me.
I turned slowly, and was filled with horror with what I saw. Standing before me, over eight feet tall, was the rotting form of a human. The skin across its face had largely fallen away, leaving most of the skull visible underneath decomposing red flesh. Mice scurried in and out of the rotting holes peppering its body, all having the same black fur over their left eyes. The creature was silent, and horrifying in its stillness.
“Oh my God,” I barely managed to whisper as the creature reached out one of its long, decaying arms and enveloped my face with its hand.
“No,” was all it said.