Tuesday, March 16, 2010

[Mythos I] The Things That Scrabble Within the Walls

Every now and then, I feel like imitating the style of the really quite inimitable H. P. Lovecraft, a master of the macabre and a prose stylist if ever there was one. I mean, who can top this as an opening paragraph? From the Cats of Ulthar:
It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat; and this I can verily believe as I gaze upon him who sitteth purring before the fire. For the cat is cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see. He is the soul of antique Aegyptus, and bearer of tales from forgotten cities in MeroĆ« and Ophir. He is the kin of the jungle’s lords, and heir to the secrets of hoary and sinister Africa. The Sphinx is his cousin, and he speaks her language; but he is more ancient than the Sphinx, and remembers that which she hath forgotten.

Alas, no HP Lovecraft am I, though my own prose has been known to be more than a trifle purple at times.

Most people think I'm just some crazy dude who sits at home trolling the InterNet and skirting the edge of "acceptable use policy" at the Washington Post website comments sections. Well, all of that may be true, as well, but I also have written considerable fiction. Yet I grow tired of seeing some of my best ideas resurfacing as bad adaptations skirting the edge of copyright violation, though I have to admit that some of it has been recycled in ways that I thought to be not too bad. I mean, who would ever have suspected that Yours Truly would in fact be considered infamous and original within the (thankfully) underexplored sub-sub-genre of scene-exploitative Gothic Lesbian Realist Vampire Fiction?

Well, that sort of stuff is not hard to write, don'tcha know; lots and lots of endless protestations of love, almost nothing that remotely resembles actual porn as most men would understand it, but inevitably involving one partner who goes off of the deep end while dragging their unfortunate partner into a maelstrom of bloody murder of foolish or abusive males, running from the law, and ultimately coming to no good end. An exceptional example of this genre, drawn from real life, won an Oscar for Charlize Theron, for her dead-on portrayal of Aileen Wournos in Monster.

But frankly, as easy as that stuff is to write -- I bet you didn't know I was a romantic, eh? -- I'm dead tired of even reading, much less writing, Tawdry Inter-species Romances between Hapless Victims of Love and and their Romantic Reluctant Predators. Besides, I can generally only ever write that schmaltzy schlock when I'm at one stage or another of my own hapless romance, and the closest thing I have had to a romantic relationship in nearly two decades consists of occasional wrong numbers dialed to my home phone, generally looking for some guy named "Julio".

What I can write about is dread and disgust, as per Steven King's advice to the effect "if I can't muster up the chills, I just write a nice gross-out".

Sleep is a lovely place, a place wherein things can seem so real that they are more realistic than reality. Yet sometimes reality and dreams sometimes mesh, and that's when I come hard awake.

I've been lucky in recent years, lucky enough that I make my own business hours, and wake more or less when I want. Sometimes I do set the alarm but that's really quite rare, and in such cases I set it for a time well before I wish to actually get out of bed and face another day. That way I can hit the "snooze" button and complete my latest dream, or do some lucid dreaming.

Ah, sleep, that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, as the Bard said. We all know that it's essential to get enough sleep, and modern science shows that too little sleep has a distinct physical effect. The shift from Daylight Savings Time to Standard time has been shown to create a statistical spike in heart attacks, for example. So I like to get my sleep and I like to be less stressed about it than most people. You could say that I like to be relaxed about sleep. I've found that you get more rest that way.

In a quiet room, noises you don't expect will wake you up pretty fast and hard, depending on what those noises might be. If I wasn't sleeping alone, a voice whispering "honey, do you wanna..." would wake me only enough to rise to the occasion, as it were. But that isn't what I heard in the wee hours that first time I heard them scrabbling. Scrabbling in the walls.

Rats, maybe? I don't know, I don't even know for a fact that I've ever heard rats in the walls, or mice for that matter. Whatever this was, it was as rapid as the rattling of a viper, but somehow softer. You could almost call it fluttering.

What the hell flutters in the ceiling? And not exactly quiet about it, either.

I wasn't at all ready to wake, it being all of three in the morning, so I tried to get back to sleep.

I have rather good hearing, and sleep wasn't possible, not much anyway; it's bad enough that I'm hearing fluttering overhead, but it's fluttering from one side of the room to the other. While fully awake, I can tell myself that it's on the other side of the ceiling, and thankfully it actually is. But with my eyes closed and drifting off to sleep, my ears are perfectly reporting the direction, but not the distance.

The fluttering isn't non-stop, but rather intermittent. Silence for minutes, I start to drift off, and then it starts again. From one side of the room to the other, taking about a second: "flutta flutta flutta flutta flutta thump". Between my ceiling and the upstairs are joists of 2 by 10, with assorted plumbing and wiring and insulation, no doubt. And, perhaps, at least one bat.

I have an absolute dread of bats. No, I don't see a picture of a bat and then faint, and I don't think they'll get tangled in my hair. I do know that if you ever wake up and there's a bat in the room with you, you should immediately seek out a physician. You need to get prophylaxis against rabies.

Nowadays, rabies shots aren't a horror of abdominal injections, but they're quite expensive and they aren't optional. If you don't get them, you will die from a disease that is 100 percent fatal but also 100 percent preventable.

This, more than anything else, is what keeps waking me up every time I hear that fluttering. "Flutta flutta flutta flutta flutta thump." My eyes pop open, and on go the lights. The fluttering continues and my hearing locates it -- I'm not quite as good at this as a bat would be but my hearing is pretty accurate -- and as it moves from one side of the room to the other, I can see that there's nothing there. The bat or rat or whatever is behind the ceiling. But what if it gets out into the room?

How could it do that? And this is why I am less certain that it's a bat, and more open to the idea that it's a mouse or rat. Sometimes it's just the fluttering and a thump... and sometimes I hear gnawing.

Whatever is in the walls is trying to get out.

Out into my room... while I'm asleep.

Flutta flutta flutta flutta flutta thump gnaw gnaw gnaw gnaw flutta flutta thump gnaw.

Eeeeew. I gotta do something about this.