I could barely speak the words to tell him what I had found, so I emailed instead. Then found I couldn’t type it either. And so I announced that I had found signs of A Creature in the spare bedroom. Not a spare bedroom anymore as far as I am concerned, of course. It is the Creature’s Lair.
I am morbidly afraid of them. Family legend has it that my mother, who is also morbidly afraid of them, saw one and jumped up on a chair, leaving me as a baby on the floor with it and giving me my lifelong horror of them. Alternatively, it could have been all the stories of the one that ran up my grandfather’s trouser leg and which he was forced to squish in situ. With one in the house, I know I will never sleep again.
I have paced for hours. I have given the cat dirty looks. Honestly, how can this happen five months after adopting a cat? But can I blame her? We adopted a supermodel, not a mouser.
Later he investigates and confirms the worst. He sets three traps and we wait, drinking a surprisingly good shiraz in large quantities. It is surely an adventurer who wandered in an open door and, unaware of the cat’s complete disinterest, fled to the spare room when it realized its mistake. By bedtime he has caught it and protected house and home. He’s justly proud of himself and pleased we can have a good night’s sleep. We leave the traps out just in case. I dream of horrible things.
Another. I can’t believe it. And whatever he saw in the spare room this time has shaken him. I beg not to be told the details and in my imagination what he caught is huge, or mutated. Maybe wearing a gang tattoo and now the others will come to avenge him. Maybe my dread is contagious. We both jump out of our skins when the cat’s tail brushes us unexpectedly.
We drink a harsh, tannic wine. Inky, bitter and bleak like failure. After three glasses I suggest moving to the seaside. The cat gives me an apologetic smooch.
I am in the kitchen when he comes to say he’s found two more. Then he says they have taken one of the traps away with them. The ashen look on his face means he isn’t kidding. He can’t find one of the traps. I make tea for him with a shaky hand, sure that after a cup of tea he will go back and be able to find it.
And so he does. He announces the whole trap had been knocked or pulled into The Entrance. I open my mouth to ask what he means and then stop. I know what he means. The gateway to hell is in the spare room.
He suggests we move to the seaside. We drink wine right from the bottle.
The cat strikes dramatic poses.
I hear banging. More banging. I imagine first Tom and Jerry, then Quentin Tarentino. Goodfellas. Joe Pesci will appear, blood-splattered, and ask me for my biggest kitchen knife to pry a hoof out of his grill. Then it goes quiet and I don’t expect anyone to reappear at all because they have won.
But he does. He says nothing.
The cat eats two bees and climbs her first tree.
He has surrounded the Hellmouth with a killing field of traps and oats and built a wall of wooden wine boxes around the perimeter. Grimfaced he checks the traps every hour.
To boost my flagging feminist pride I repair the hoover. To bolster his spirits, I make more tea. Egg and cress sandwiches, and scones as well, because he is English and I am weak. Apparently I fill the gaps in my courage with clotted cream and jam.
The cat vomited copiously. Twice. Not scones and clotted cream, mind.
Is that five now? Six? Many more and we will be alcoholics.
The tension in the house is palpable. Even the cat is affected, dreaming of ninja attacks.
There is nothing.
He says he has set up….
He says it’s impossible….
He says there’s a….
I can’t listen to any of it and he doesn’t bother finishing any of his explanations of why he thinks it must be over. He invites me to come into The Room with him, where it is all quite safe. I can’t.
Today there is another. A seventh.
“They keep getting smaller and smaller,” he says with a laugh. Desensitized? Hysterical? I imagine a kind of Russian nesting doll. Then stop myself.
Today nothing. Maybe it will stop at seven. Seven seems a good, round Biblical plague sort of number. A fairy tale number. There’s a completeness to it. I dare to hope.
The cat found a dead squirrel in the garden. That must be today’s dead thing. She sleeps the sleep of the virtuous, sure she saved us from a dangerous undead zombie squirrel.
He embarks on the job of closing the Hellmouth. He agrees to check everywhere in the house and make sure there are no other ways in. He tries to talk to me about it in greater detail because he believes it is over, but for me, there is not enough gin in the world for that conversation.
We attend a garden party where I can tell he wants to swap stories with other people about our harrowing experience, but he stops short when he sees my eyes go wide. It must be lonely for him, not being to able to discuss it with me at all. I hold his hand as we walk home.
The cat is one year old tomorrow. I am preparing to buy treats for her birthday dinner. Ok, so she isn’t a mouser. She’s good company and quite sweet, and no more useless than I am when it comes to pest control.
We have reached a pause in our story, with traps still set but no visitors expected. My head tells me it should be over, and so does the hero of the tale, who did his valiant best to protect me. The cat seems convinced we’re safe now too. Of course, a lifetime of horror films has taught me that the villain always gets up again and there is always a sequel, a reboot, an origin film, and probably a poor-quality tv series. We will have to be ready.