The man, the rat and the room

As the rodent approached the trap with its nose twitching, he held his breath. The snare then closed with a sickening snap around it. The rat howled in agony as its tiny body flailed frantically
Design: Maisha Syeda

It began with a faint sound of walls being scratched. Initially, the man believed it to be the normal sounds of an old home settling during the middle of the night. However, as the days passed, the sound became louder, more persistent, and more disquieting. It appeared as though something was attempting to enter the man's room from the darkness outside.

He initially attempted to disregard it; told himself that his imagination was playing pranks on him, or that it was merely a loose pipe in the wall. But the scraping persisted, and it soon consumed his mind. Every night, he lay awake listening to the rodent scurrying through the walls and its claws clicking against the pipes.

The man made every effort to eliminate the rodent. He set traps and used poison but nothing worked. The sound of scratching continued, and it drove him to the brink of insanity. He could hear the rodent gnawing on the woodwork, destroying his home's very foundations.

He closed his eyes and willed the rodent to leave but opening them once more, it was still there, gazing at him. He could feel the rat's eyes penetrating his very being. It appeared to be taunting him with its presence, as if to ridicule him. He knew he had to take action. This rodent could not drive him insane.

He rose carefully from the floor, attempting to avoid sudden movements. The rat observed him attentively, its tail wagging rapidly. The man knew he needed to act quickly. He reached for a nearby broom and approached the rodent with caution.

The man raised the broom above his head, but the rat did not recoil. He inhaled deeply and brought the broomstick down with all of his strength. The rat's body crunched horribly as the broomstick made contact with it. The man exhaled a breath of relief. Finally, it was over.

The man was unable to shake the feeling of unease that the rat had left in his consciousness, despite his initial relief. He could not help but picture it crawling over him while he slept, or even worse, biting him while he was defenceless. Every noise and movement in the darkness caused him to startle. Even when he attempted to distract himself by watching television or reading, he was unable to concentrate.

As the days passed, the man grew increasingly agitated. He developed severe insomnia and was unable to sleep for more than a few minutes. He constantly imagined a rodent lurking in every nook and cranny of the house. He attempted to rationalise his fears, but the persistent sensation of unease persisted.

After hours of tossing and turning, the man succumbed to exhaustion and fell into a deep slumber one night. However, his slumber was brief. A grating sound emanating from the corner of his bedroom roused him. Initially, he believed he was experiencing hallucinations, but the din grew louder and more persistent.

He attempted to disregard it, assuring himself that it was likely the wind or a loose shutter. However, the sound intensified, as if tiny talons were scraping against a wooden floor. Slowly turning his head towards the source of the commotion, the man's heart pounded in his chest.

In the dim light of the moon, he rediscovered the rodent. This time, it was larger and more dangerous than before. In the darkness, its beady eyes glinted, and its long, slender tail twitched avidly. The man attempted to rise from his bed, but his extremities were sluggish and uncooperative. Fear paralysed him, trapping him within his own body as the rodent approached.

It crept onto the bed, leaving filthy paw prints on the sheets. The man attempted to cry, but his throat became constricted. The rat crept closer and closer to his face, until it was almost touching it. On his epidermis, he could feel its hot, putrid breath.

The man abruptly awoke, gasping for breath. He told himself it was only a nightmare in an effort to calm his racing pulse. But the solace was temporary. He looked around the room, and there was the rodent again. It scurried across the ground, leaving destruction in its aftermath. The man could no longer handle it. He seized a broom and swung it erratically in an attempt to strike the rat. However, it was too swift, scurrying away at the last second.

In his rage, the man chased the rat through the home, breaking vases and overturning furniture. He didn't care about the damage he was causing; all he cared about was catching the rodent and making it pay for all the trouble it had caused him. However, the rodent was always one step ahead, never within reach.

The man collapsed onto the floor hours later, exhausted and vanquished. His home was in shambles, his psyche was in shambles, and the rat was still somewhere in the vicinity. He knew he could not continue living like this. He needed to do something, anything, to eliminate the rodent permanently.

At that moment, he recalled the basement. It was the only location he had never dared to enter since moving in. His vertebrae shivered at the prospect of what might be buried below. However, he knew he had no other option. He had to confront his anxieties and finally confront the rat.

The man descended the squeaky stairs while his heart pounded in his chest. The air smelled musty and stagnant, and the darkness seemed to envelop him entirely. He attempted to manipulate the light switch but was unsuccessful. He was engulfed in total darkness, the only sound being his own heartbeat.

Slowly, he felt his way along the frigid, damp walls as he made his way through the darkness. His hand came into contact with something wet and sticky, and he recoiled in dread. He was unwilling to learn what it was.

He abruptly heard it again. The sound of creaking. It had become noisier and more persistent. It appeared to originate from a location deep within the cellar.

The man's heart pounded in his chest as he inched forward. He had to locate the source of the noise and put an end to this for good. He almost threw up when he stumbled over something soft and furry and smelled decay.

His fingertips frantically searched for anything that could assist him. Then he discovered it. An old, rusty trap covered in spider webs and grime. It was exactly what he required.

The man baited the trap with a piece of cheese he discovered in the refrigerator. In the darkness, he waited with his gaze fixed on the trap. Eventually, he heard it. The unmistakable sound of a rodent sniffing around a cheese-scented area.

As the rodent approached the trap with its nose twitching, he held his breath. The snare then closed with a sickening snap around it. The rat howled in agony as its tiny body flailed frantically.

The man approached the trap while wearing a triumphant expression. He had triumphed. He had finally eliminated the rodent.

But as he reached down to dispose of the corpse, a peculiar event transpired. The rat's eyes opened and it regarded him with unearthly intelligence. Afterward, it spoke.

In a voice that was both human and animal, it asked, "Is this what you wanted?" "Is this what you needed in order to feel better?"

The man recoiled in shock and retreated from the snare. The rat continued to speak, its voice becoming increasingly menacing and louder.

It said, "You believed you could kill me, but you cannot kill the darkness within you. You cannot eradicate the nightly dread that grips you. You cannot eradicate the memories that torment you."

The man shielded his ears in an attempt to muffle the sound. It was too late. The rat had planted the germ of insanity within him, which grew with each passing second.

His mind was racing with confusion and anxiety as he climbed the stairs. He staggered into his bedroom and fell unconscious on the bed. He knew he was losing control of reality, but he was unable to halt his thoughts from racing.

The rodent was now within him, slithering through his veins like a disease. It had taken over his mind, and there was nothing that could be done to stop it. He was doomed to spend the remainder of his life in fear and paranoia, haunted by the sound that started it all.

As the sun rose, the man curled himself into a ball, his consciousness engulfed in darkness. Everything was gone, including his sanity. All because of a single rat, a tiny creature that had infiltrated his consciousness and refused to leave.


Pratik Mainali is a writer based in Kathmandu, Nepal, and a BIBM graduate from the University of Wolverhampton.