(WARNING: This is a fictional, scary story. Read at your own risk.)
There were mice in the walls. Melissa could hear them every night, scratching away, building their home in her ceiling. When she sat at her desk, writing, she could hear one of them scuffling in the papers on her bookshelf. Scattered around the house, she saw little bits and pieces of the afghan her mother had knit her, obviously chewed off by the mice. It was distracting, thinking of these little creatures living in her house, chewing through her things. She wanted them gone.
Melissa didn’t really want to do it herself, but she lived alone so there was no one to do it for her. For a while she put it off. She pretended that the scratching was just tree branches scraping at her window. She turned her music up high. And that worked okay, for a while. But then she started seeing the mouse droppings. They were all over the place. She opened a cupboard where she kept casserole dishes, and the bottom of it was speckled black. She found mouse droppings on the floor, and the kitchen counters.
She was worried she’d get sick from the droppings; she’d read up about mice online, and had seen that they could spread just as many diseases as rats. Maybe the bubonic plague wasn’t around anymore, but there were still things like hantavirus that mice spread, that could kill you by drowning your lungs in water. Some people kept mice and rats as pets, but she didn’t know why. Not when they were carriers for that sort of stuff.
In her mind, Melissa envisioned the mice dancing in the kitchen sink, getting into the fridge and digging their teeth into her cheese, crawling over her legs as she slept. She shuddered. She decided she would buy mousetraps.
They arrived in the mail about a week later, a package she was simultaneously excited and disgusted about. When Melissa was little, her parents’ house had gotten mice, and they’d decided to do something about it. They’d put traps in all the closets, and caught at least ten mice in total. She remembered her brother holding one of them up by the tail, dangling it in front of her face, trying to get her to scream. She remembered the black, glassy eyes of the dead creature. It reminded her of a zombie.
Just holding one of the shiny, metal mousetraps in her hands made her think of death, made her imagine a mouse trapped under the bar, fighting to get free. She didn’t want the mice in her house, but she didn’t exactly want them dead, either.
Taking a deep breath, however, Melissa gathered her resolve, got a jar of peanut butter out of the fridge, took out a knife, and slathered the peanut butter onto the traps. Then, one by one, careful not to catch her own fingers in them, she pulled back the “kill bar,” as it was labeled, and positioned the other, hooked bar, so that each trap would go off as soon as a mouse even touched the peanut butter. Very gently, she set two of the traps in her kitchen, and two of them in the study.
She knew for sure that they frequented those rooms, because she’d heard them there. The trouble with putting the traps in the study and the kitchen, however, was that they were out in the open. Melissa couldn’t sit in her study without seeing the metal traps. She couldn’t go into the kitchen in the morning without holding her breath, wondering if she’d see a half-crushed mouse under her kitchen table.
Her appetite disappeared. Eating became a chore, instead of something she enjoyed. Taking a bite of cereal in the morning, she’d feel sick, imagining a mouse in it, drowning. Chicken for dinner tasted dry in her mouth. Even her peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch made her think of mice. Whenever she was in the kitchen, she couldn’t help looking at the traps.
Two days after setting them, at midnight, just before Melissa was going to sleep, one of the traps sprung. But the mouse wasn’t quite dead yet; it was just injured, and making a mewling noise, like it was in pain. She didn’t know what to do, so she called up a friend, who told her that she needed to put the mouse out of its misery. The friend recommended using a broom.
The thought of killing a mouse herself, not using a trap, but with a broom wielded by her own hands, was enough to send a cold shiver through her body. Her body went alternately hot and cold; her arms felt weak. I can’t do this, she thought. But the only other option was to wait several hours for the mouse to die, and she didn’t want to be in a house with a dying mouse. She knew she wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it, and wouldn’t able to eat, or get rest either. So she went to the closet, and took out a broom.
It took a few tries, mostly because she feared hearing bones crack. She didn’t hit it hard enough at first. But eventually, the deed was done. She put plastic bags over her hands, and disposed of the dead mouse, and the trap, in the outside garbage can. Then she went inside, washed her hands for good measure, and got into bed.
Sleep didn’t come easy. She imagined the other mice in the house, and what they’d do when they’d realize that one of their kind wasn’t coming back. She could hear them in the ceiling, and pictured them scratching through it, falling onto her bed when she was asleep, scratching her awake.
Her dreams kept her tossing and turning throughout the night. In the morning it was no better. She went into her study to open the blinds, and there were two dead mice in the two traps she’d laid there. She jumped about a foot when she saw them, and had to leave the room a moment to regain her composure. Maybe it was something she’d never get used to. Maybe it was good that she couldn’t get used to killing things. But maybe it was terrible that even so, she was still setting the traps.
Still, she thought, she was the one paying rent, buying food. The mice had no right to dwell in her walls, and get into her rice, and–she stopped herself. It was like she was having a conversation with the mice. They were getting into her head. She felt a little crazy.
When she went into the bathroom, later, to take a shower, brush her teeth, and pee, she had to check the toilet bowl twice before sitting down. She could have sworn she’d seen a mouse swimming around down there. She shuddered, and peed quickly.
Things got worse. Melissa started to not like coming home, anymore, because almost always, she was greeted by a dead mouse in the kitchen, or the study. She went through more plastic bags than she could count. And she started to think, what if these mice came back to haunt her?
She started imagining giant mice, the size of large pigs, coming into her room while she slept. She started thinking, what goes around comes around. If she’d killed so many mice (at least seven), then how could she complain if they decided to kill her? What if they started laying giant traps, so they could catch her the way she’d caught them?
It got to the point where she not only didn’t like coming home, she dreaded it. Mostly, she just went there to sleep, but she was considering moving out entirely, and staying at her friend Fiona’s house for a while. Her dreams were getting worse, and worse. She hoped they were just dreams, at least. She kept waking up after seeing eyes–big, round, black, glassy eyes–staring into her own. Whiskers would brush her cheeks. And then she’d wake, gasping.
Little things during the day, too, were starting to make her jump–dishes shifting in the dish rack, the creaking her own feet made on the wooden floors.
Finally, after talking to a coworker about the whole situation, she made up her mind. She’d move out. She was done. She’d stay at Fiona’s place, and Fiona would help her move out. Melissa called her up, and the plans were made. It was decided that after Melissa got out of work, that very same day, Fiona would pick her up, and they would go Melissa’s house to get all of her essentials. Melissa would move into Fiona’s place temporarily, and find a way to sublease her own.
Five o-clock, Fiona got off work, picked Melissa up, and they drove to the mouse-infested house.
Fiona went straight inside, no hesitation. She wasn’t worried about mice. She’d had worse problems to deal with before. She said, jokingly, “Wait here, Melissa. I’ll make sure the coast is clear.” But she didn’t come back outside.
After waiting a few minutes, idly checking the mail and looking up at the darkening sky, Melissa decided to go in. Fiona had probably just been joking anyway. She probably hadn’t meant for Melissa to actually stay behind. So, thinking that it would be the last time she’d have to do so, Melissa stepped through the front door.
An odd smell permeated the place, like dull urine, and wilted spinach. “Fiona?” she ventured, calling her friend. No reply. And then she turned, and saw them–seven giant mice, sitting in a row in her kitchen, looking straight at her.
You’re right, they seemed to be saying to her, you won’t have to cross that front door again. You won’t be leaving here after we finish with you. The question is, fast or slow? Two hits? Or six? Either way, we’re hungry, and you’ll be good food.
Behind them, Fiona, seemingly oblivious, gathered kitchen things, and put them into a big duffel bag. She hummed to herself, and then she noticed her friend’s presence, and said, “Melissa? Are you going to help me or what?”
Melissa just stood there, struck dumb, and the mice began to advance.