My hiatus from writing has been considerable to say the least. I won’t go into the boring underpinnings of this; suffice to say they are many and have coagulated into a sort of fear slash inertia. I suppose I’m also saying this by way of a caveat. I haven’t written in so long that I’ve almost forgotten how. But instead of being precious about it, the intention here is to start exercising the muscle again, rather than embark on any significant wordsmithing or involved editing.
But forget all that.
What better way to break the ice than to relay another of my crazy dreams.
We recently had a rat issue at the back of our property. No surprise given the ferality of beyond the fence, but disgusting all the same. The pest man was called, the baits set and my rodent anxieties took hold of every function of my being. I saw movement in all corners of my eyes, and I would find myself staring out of the back window searching for signs of activity, as if willing more into existence. Each day I would do my rounds of the garden, investigating digging sites and sniffing for ammonia like some kind of cro magnon wild woman.
There were also other oddities afoot in the back garden. I came home once to find an empty coke can outside the back door, immediately arousing my fear that someone had entered through our very exposed and unsecure back gate, scoped the place for potential break in, then calmly sat down and had a refreshment. On another occasion, my rosemary bush had been violated by what I assumed to be a fox digging in the soil around, only to discover that a granola bar (complete in its unopened packet) was buried therein. Similarly, closer investigation of a digging site in my thyme crop, procured a buried golf ball.
What the fuck was going on?
“Squirrels,” my friend explained. “They bury all kinds of weird shit.”
“Even the coke can?” I asked.
She was at a loss there.
Increasingly, I couldn’t escape the notion that someone was taking me for a long con, gradually wearing down my sanity by planting small inexplicable pieces of evidence to fuel my deep-seated paranoia and wild imagination. Rodents, break-ins, squirrels, foxes, peeping toms… it all combined in my head to create a soupy anxiety that churned about inside me, infecting every thought and preoccupying me completely and utterly.
The crescendo was reached when I dreamt that while away on holiday, unbeknownst to us, someone came to squat in our house. In the evenings, this devious interloper would lie on our sofa and watch TV, burying his oily face into my favourite velvet cushion and warm himself under the children’s blanket I’d painstakingly crochet for them, wrapping it around his gnarled and decrepit feet. He’d make himself bitter cups of tea in my mug with the fish on it that I use every morning, his cracked mouth sticking to the lip of the cup every time he took a sip. When preparing for sleep, he would lather my electric tooth brush in paste before putting into his mouth, the bristles buzzing against his rotten yellow teeth. Finally, he would curl up in mine and the Doc’s bed, the end of the duvet pulled up against his face so while he slept, mouth agape, bits of sour dribble would seep into the covers.
Having left like a phantom just before our arrival, we returned home with no knowledge of our guest and life resumed as usual. But as I stepped over the threshold, there was a stirring deep inside me – I felt unsettled but unable to identify the source. Days passed and as I drank coffee from my fish mug, daydreamed on the sofa, brushed my teeth and went to bed at night, I couldn’t shake this unnerving feeling that we were being watched somehow. And then one night, as I lay in bed with the lamp on, I caught site of something on the wall across the room. I got up and walked over and as I peered closely, I saw the words Bill was here ’16, written on the wallpaper in permanent black marker. Suddenly, everything I’d touched in the house, everything the children had touched, used, played with or put in their mouths, flashed before my eyes and I began to scream uncontrollably. Then I woke up.
When I was younger, my dad told me jokingly, the urban myth about the family who goes on holiday only to return to a house ransacked by thieves. Weeks go by and the father (or mother—whoever) finally finishes off the film that was in one of their cameras that was lying about the house. The film’s developed and as the family goes through the collection of photos, they find one which perplexes them for several minutes before they realise the implications of what they’re looking at: a photograph of two bare arse, clearly in the family bathroom, with two tooth brushes shoved up the middle of each. The father suddenly screams as he realises the source of that peculiar taste when he brushed his teeth.
For days following that dream I felt violated and strange. Last week, the pest man returned to examine the baits for the third time, declaring us rodent free. I felt mildly reassured, but still manically alert to movement. The Doc told me I needed to stop being so paranoid and then rather swiftly had to reneg his statement when two nights ago, I pointed to the rug under the dining table and breathed the word “mouse”.