In The Black Box


One Week In November

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Sitting ankle-deep in the last twenty-four hours of a week that will not be easily forgotten. Waiting for little claws to scratch holes in the side of my brain… little feet to scurry across my consciousness.. waiting for a noise, anything, something…. just to make it alright.. because this week was bleak and no amount of Bon Jovi up loud on a weekday “morning” (late Afternoon) while in a dressing-gown eating coco-pops moons and stars is going to fix it. He is out there somewhere… beneath a leaf… very wet.. squeaking curses and looking round for options… im just waiting.

The week started just like any other – with a Monday Morning. I was riding a freshly rolled wave of rediscovery – I had once again found myself listening to the tried and tested power ballads of Bon Jovi, and for the first time in a long time there was no amount of shame or secrecy to come with it… It seemed i was “old” enough now have no shame… yet “young” enough to realise. 

It was a reading week: for some this means a chance to catch up on work, get an essay done and get ready for any tests to come, for others it’s a holiday, a mid-term, a reason to go out get drunk and forget everything to do with college. For me it was simply a disaster. I wanted to do the work, get the essay written, read that book… but instead i was waking up with the moon and sleeping at sunrise… playing internet games and watching shit movies… shit SHHIT movies (Saints and Soldiers – watch at your own peril).

And so the week kept to the usual 7 day routine, by the time I found myself watching re-runs of Top Gear and inspecting the lint that had collected in my belly button, the week had decided that it would suddenly be Friday morning. The previous few days had not really come to much, and the period between Monday and this most fateful moment in the earliest hours of Friday can be summed up in very few words; sleep, broke, Bon Jovi, Dressing-gown, Top Gear…and… broke. This mid-semester melt-down I guess was to be expected, and I knew I had fallen into it’s vicious circle by the time i was huffing and puffing at football on Tuesday night. It was clear i wasn’t far from a complete shut down.


The first scratches went by unnoticed… i now wonder what it was like before i was fully accustomed to the noise, before I would stop still and prick my ears at any hint of a noise between the walls. It was only after a few minutes of this weird clicking underneath the hall floor that i decided to investigate…. when the reality dawned that little creatures were now living below the floors i was fairly amused and content to say the least. At least i was happy i wasn’t going mad, my mother could hear it too. A mouse, “just” a mouse. It was nothing to get too bothered about, it would scuttle along downstairs… staying warm over the winter and then leave and everyone will be happy.. right?

I was happy with that thought, it was only as i was settling down for another late mornings nothingness that it dawned on me that my relationship with this mouse was going to be far more personal. The blur of this tiny creature making a break for my bedroom door and then retreating back beneath my bed was enough to freak the living shit out of me. The fucker had invaded my room, had broken that unspoken barrier and infiltrated my sanctuary and made me feel like an alien in my own world.. the little hairy fecker.

At first i didn’t want to kill him. My first sights of the thing, and his tiny thumping body was enough to tell me that he was freaking out as much as me. He had found himself trapped in this awful position and had no way out, some big human shining a torch in his eyes, surely he’ll just let him get on with things ad harmony would be restored…surely!

And as i shone the light in his beady little eye i devised a cunning plan to trap him and let him go. Blocking up the gap beneath the bed with any clothes i could find i cut off his options.

Checking my watch- the hands were pushing 3.30am – and this was supposed to be an early night, an attempt at salvaging the end of a long unproductive week – god damn! This little fucker is messing everything up!

I was in a weird state of limbo –  Every moment i took my eyes off it i was afraid he had run off somewhere… into one of his little holes.. there were times in that room that i had no idea what i was doing… sitting completely still waiting to hear him do something…wondering how i had found myself in this position; bent over on my floor with a torch shining from between my teeth, jamming pairs of pants beneath the bed and moving furniture to give me the best possible access to the it… I looked around.. after 4am now… the room a mess, a weird silence in the house.. trying not to wake anyone up… but determined not to lose this opportunity to sort out our “mouse situation” in the most humane fashion. I had reached new lows.

My attempted capture had failed.. he had run off with my cheese and was happy to eat it in front of me, safe in knowledge that i was unable to do anything to stop him. I was insulted, hate boiling up in me… pure.. tired hate… i despised this creature who was stealing my sanity. I wanted to suck him up in a Hoover and burn the bag… i was happy to do anything that would remove this thing from my existence.

I could hear noises again.. something strange was happening this night and the mouse was only the beginning of it. The scratches on the walls ere getting into my head… i was begging for sleep and peace.. I imagined the mouse population was plotting against me.. and then the lights went.

At first i thought it was just my room, as if the mouse secret police were about to come crashing through the windows and fill the room with tear gas, apprehend me crimes against the mouse population. Yet i noticed a lack of any light… not even from the street, and it wasn’t long before I found myself struggling to see anything at all… the world had stopped breathing.. and every light had been extinguished for as far as i could see (which wasn’t very far at all). I naturally dived for the camera and began documenting this most incredible event – as far as i was considered i was the only thing on earth, buildings and whole civilisation had simply disappeared right in front of my eyes. Faint car noises and head lamps plunged through this fresh darkness… struggling to find their feet, moving daintily through the black. Above me the earth was reunited with the universe. For the first time i could remember the stars extended from the darkest point in the centre of the sky right to the horizon where the city would usually burn away the darkness. Yet at this moment as i sat silent in my open window the world was truly asleep.. and space bled into our atmosphere and we were silent, we were now moving around a sun… we were now finding our way beneath a universe of suns, me the mouse… we were all in the same boat and simply reduced to animals with our senses.

At this point the opportunist photographer in me had struck gold – i was clicking madly, finding new ways of seeing the world around me – i was fuckin’ extatic.  The mouse hunter side of my persona however had failed – Failed Royally!

By the time the world had coughed and chugged back to life… it’s first breaths spewing light back out into the universe the mouse had dissappeared. I once again felt trapped… violated. I stood still – very still. Barely breathing… listening hard – very hard – the sort of listening that reveals a low ringing and makes you woried that all that loud Bon Jovi was some day going to turn me fully deaf.

And then i heard it, that scratching.. he was in the wardrobe.

My mother was awake by now and the light had allowed me to read my watch…. 6am. I was truly convinced that my life had hit rock bottom. Not only was i once again at the end of a long pointless day bumming around the house, i was now trying desperately to corner an animal that was proving to be both far faster and more intelligent than me. At this point i was in no mood to compromise, disturbing the little critter from his hiding place I jetisoned the contents of my wardrobe in his direction as he darted around my room. Books, pants, bags and lamp shades all flew in his general direction. It was futile, and even when he dived to scramble past the clothing barrier under the bed my attempts and pumling the tiny turd through the clothes was to no avail. He was simply to fast for a run down insomniac like myself. returning to his familiar position beneath the bed, i lay motionless on my side on the bedroom floor, torch in hand, one eye closed so as too peer accurately through the small gap beneath the bed. We were conversing with our eyes, like two boxers in our corners during a fight. I had respect for him now, it was not going to finish this way… and the 7 and half hours of this Friday had gotten the better of me. I blocked up the rest of the gaps and made for the couch.. Round one to the mouse.

The next morning he was gone, however traps had been bought – he would be back. My twittering had gathered a crowd on the internet.. other than the reality of the situation that i had truly gone absolutely bonkers there was a debate as to what to do with the “poor little thing”. I had expressed my intention to kill and some agreed while others believed he deserved a chance. At this point I can’t honestly say that i knew what i wanted to do… all i wanted was my life back on track and this miniscule mop of hair was between me and normality… it was him or my sanity.

So the traps were set and I went on with my life. Though part of me knew he wouldn’t be back.. he knew that my room was no place for both mice and men. Yet as i lay awake on Saturday morning (because Saturdays come after Fridays I believe) at 4.30am, i could hear him scratching at the wall and moving from place to place. Getting on with his life i suppose, he probably didn’t even like it here, it was dusty and old… and the humans played awfull 80’s rock up way to loud while he tried to sleep! But he had probably decided it was best to stay rather than brave the cold and find somewhere better. And now he was only out of an attack from a hairy human.. and probably petrified to do anything. As i lay there i wondered what i would do If he did hit a trap.. would he die? Would he be stuck but alive? Would I care?

Saturday happened, and eventhough I ventured from my home this time i still felt it was yet another wasted collection of minutes and seconds. And only a short two hours ago I was slipping into bed at the early hour of 1am… an attempt to do what i had failed to do the night the mouse arrived. Just before bed I had consulted Yahoo to see what is the best bait for a mouse. It said peanut butter, I read sticky sugery spread and within minutes marmelade was applied to a mouse trap. This time though i decided to put it in the hotpress, the place where i thought the mouse had first made it out from the wall and into the “human” space. I left it down and closed the door.

Lying in my bed, i sort of knew i wasnt going to get to sleep very easily. I was half listening for a noise.. half thinking about our chances against France in the second leg of our World Cup qualifier… thinking about music…about what i could be doing if i wasn’t in bed… about how i was never going to wake up at 9am even thought the alarm was set…


I was suddenly focused on one thought. Holy Fuck i got him. I was deadly still, I didnt know what i was waiting for, i didn’t know what to expect… a noise? There was nothing, and i didnt even hear him walking around… I eventually rolled out of bed and threw on some clothes..

I cracked open the hot press door. My eyes adjusted to the light, on the floor i could see the trap had snapped and lay upside down… a small trail of marmelade led to some blood… and the blood led to a small hairy mouse. He lay on his side, a small smatter of blood was behind his back. He was dead.

I closed the door and announced the news to my mother before going to get a bag and some kitchen roll to mop it up. The second i heard the snap i had felt both regret and relief… and as i opened the door I wondered if it needed to come to this.

It didnt occur to me at first that the mouse was now standing upright.. but eventually as i moved my hand closer i realised that he was alive.. he wasnt moving, and there was clearly a bit of blood on his back but he was definitely alive. I moved my hand in never the less, hoping at least to release him into the wild somewhere far away. Yet as i moved in he revealed he could run, and at the last moment he over came his initial shock and scuttled drunkenly past my feet and back into my room.. behind my shelves and then into the corner.

My mother had joined me at this stage, and we closed in on the petrified prisoner. It was either my slow reactions or my lack of conviction that allowed him beneath my bed once again. And so we found ourselves back to this familiar setting.. in our corners.. ready for round 2. But this time things were different. He was injured.. ready to be knocked out.. suffering and in pain… wonering how he had found himself in this mess… I was left with no choice but to move in for a final punch.. finish it before it is all drawn out.. and with a jab of a metal pole I thought i had finished things.

Yet still he stood!

At this point i had only admiration, if not a bit of frustration too. And eventually my mother and I trapped him under an upturned waste paper basket.. we had him now.. and my mother decided we should drown him.

I found this a little strange yet more so that she should do it with a hose… surely you would need to submerge a mouse rather than simply sprey him.. yet sprey she did… and as i expected he was wet… but not drowned…

If anything it had made things worse! He was now bleeding… stabbed.. wet and cold… and trapped.. he was still alive though and Icould see he had not been injured as bad as i thought, i think i missed him with the metal pole (missed by accident… or on purpose… well thats a subconscious thing…). But he was truly a broken mouse by now..

I convinced my mother to bring us out in the car at 3 am to let him free far enough away from the house so that he would not return on his own. It was only as she was backing the car, extremely slowly, out of the drive that i realised she wasnt 100% up to the task, and as we eventually moved up the road.. me in the passanger seat with basket/canvas (we used to canvas to block off the end of the basket) and the mouse within… my mother revealed she had a full bottle of wine working away at her liver!

So there we were… my mother, the mouse and I driving drunk through a residential area.. and it occured to me that perhaps we should have just killed the mouse instead of killing us all! But we kept going.. the mouse wasnt moving so much now, i hoped it was because of fear.. but we rounded to the far side of the block and i exited the car… lifted the bin and lightly threw the mouse free into a bunch of leaves… he sniffed a little but didn’t move.. I expected him to scamper away as fast as possible.. but instead he slowley limped towards the leaves… he was wet, injured and bleeding, probably hungry, and now out in the cold with no shelter. I quickly realised that I was essentially killing him very slowly, and instead of simply doing one or the other, caught between two minds i had reduced his existance to nothing with the intent to kill but not the conviction.

And so hear i am wondering if it will return, and if it does will i be relieved or annoyed? Will I accept it in my room or simply trap him again and this time kill it and kill it good.

I expect to hear the noises anyway, there must be more of them here.  And there probably will be more in the future.

And here I am at the arse end of the week, with nothing to show for it except a half dead mouse and a hotpress that smells like marmelade.. I feel guilty but happy… relieved but sorry… satisfied but empty.

I wiped the blood up from the floorboards where the trap was sprung. It had dried in already… i had to scrub hard. Then i wiped my hands clean… and tried to get it out of my head.

Perhaps this will finish it up.. get it down in writing.. and let history swallow it up. Yet i cant help feel that this event will resonate a little… pop its bloody head up every so often..

And the clock ticks 5.30 and here i am… burning into a 7th day of nothing.. waiting for a Monday morning, because thats how the week always starts.. wishing i was still in bed! And all those good intentions to sort it all out, wake up early and fall asleep before midnight like all the normal people with burn up in the sun…

 “the best layed plans of mice and men often go awry”


Written by Dave

November 15, 2009 at 5:30 AM

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