Where the Wild Things Are

When I was younger, I used to fancy that an assorted host of whimsical creatures inhabited the unseen corners of my house. Each oddly-shaped shadow or unexplained creak or thud that I noticed would be chalked up to another of the beings, which my young age and childhood affinity for nursery-rhymes and sing-songs would lead me to dub with names such as ‘the Findow at the window’, ‘the Yellar in the cellar’, or ‘the Vug under the rug’. I often lay awake at night wondering who and what these animals were, and from whence they came. Surely, I thought, if they did not arrive with my family and when we moved into the house (or at least I hadn’t noticed them), then they must have been tenanting the house already. If no one in the family had been feeding them (for neither of my parents had ever seen them, and adamantly refuted their existence when I mentioned them), then they must be subsisting some other way. Of course, my childish mind was never able to answer these questions satisfactorily, so I soon accepted what appeared to be the status quo, and contented myself that the snuffling sounds I would hear at night were the family dog, Sutcliffe, and not the vicious Vug; while the flickering shadows playing on the wall were merely those of tree branches outside, and did not belong to the tittering, razor-fanged Quimney.

On and on did this go, and for years I would barely sleep at night, and became more and more introverted as time went on, fearing no one would believe my tales. If I woke up with inexplicable scratches or curious little bite-marks, my mother would be quick to tell me that I had fallen out of my bed, or swear that she had seen a large mouse running about the house. Eventually, however, all of these things stopped, gradually diminishing as each occurrence became less and less frequent, before stopping altogether not long after a nearby house was fumigated for cockroaches – an event that sticks out in my mind, for I must have breathed in some of the fumes, as I recall coming down with a terrible cough shortly afterwards, and was confined to my bed for the better part of a week. Normally, this would have terrified me, but as the nights dragged on, and I sat unable to sleep due to my violent, hacking coughing, all I could see or hear were a few crows flying here and there around the window.

To this day, I have yet to hear another sound quite like that of the nocturnal snuffling and squeaking that haunted my childhood nights, or see upon the fringes of my sight a scurry of movement towards the empty fireplace; and my head and outlook have improved because of it. This tale, however, does not end there, though a digression must be made to fully explain it. Not long after I had moved out of the house, towards the end of the War, to attend the celebrated Arkford University, I met and fell in love with a woman named Jayne Parkes, and, with the feeling being reciprocated, we were married on what was to be the first Armistice Day. Though we were both young, it was not long before our first child was born, and little Lauren Patton was welcomed to the world.

Two years hence, I failed my final exams in Medicine, and was prohibited by my once-proud father from re-sitting the paper – my lot was cast, my fate’s string cut, as I was told. Therefore, I did the best I could do with what qualifications I had, and opened a pharmacy on one of the main streets of the city, where both Jayne and I worked to support ourselves and our beautiful daughter.

Years later, Lauren had grown to be a stunning young woman, and followed in my footsteps, studying Medicine in Arkford University. However, history repeated itself once more, as a whirlwind romance distracted her from her studies towards the end, and her result was the same as mine – disappointment. More compassionate to her plight than my father was to mine, I not only allowed he to retake the examination, but also quite literally coerced her, for I wished that at least one of the family should succeed in their dreams. On the second attempt she passed marvellously, and soon accepted a position in Saint Vitus’ Sanatorium, the money from which greatly increased the splendour of the wedding which took place the following month, to a respectable young man named Tiarnan McHugh, whom she had met in her classes.

Perhaps it was her career, or a personal choice, but it was to be a further decade before I became a grandfather, to a wonderful baby girl named Aoife. However, the Troubles had begun to arise at this point, and on one tragic April morning, when Lauren, Tiarnan and little Aoife were taking a trip to the city centre, the infamous Arkford Bombings took place, cruelly butchering thirteen people – my beautiful daughter included – for which I shall never forgive those bastards. The whole family was grief-stricken, but Tiarnan seemed to take it the hardest, and did not seem able to cope with raising the child without her mother around. It was chiefly because of this that we invited him to move in with us, which he eagerly accepted.

However, despite all of the warmth and love which filled our family home, Tiarnan soon began to feel the burden of pain and grief creeping up on him, and it saddened me greatly to see how soon it was that he lost his wits. It started small, as these things seem wont to do, with him half-imagining that he heard strange noises here and there, usually at night-time. It became progressively worse, though, and it was not long before he reported seeing faint flickers of movement around the empty fireplace, or in the darkness of the cellar. On one particularly delirious occasion, he fervently claimed to have seen a large rodent of some description, which he says was “a yellow ball of fangs and filth”, scurrying up the hallway, along the skirting board. However, both he and I checked the house all over, and found no trace of any such vermin, or any other kind.

This was not enough to satisfy Tiarnan, though, and he grew paranoid that this rodent was going to harm little Aoife – so much so that he laid traps and rat poison in any and all spots that they were likely to have their effect, and spent most nights keeping a constant vigil over the child in her cot. It was at this stage that he really began to fall to pieces, and it was with a heavy heart that Jayne and I called upon Doctor Bailey to have him committed to the sanatorium in which his loving wife once worked. He did not stay long, and after about three months was deemed cured, and released back into our welcoming arms – though this state did not last, and within a week he became the same gibbering wreck we had sent away, and was thus committed once more. This cycle repeated itself twice more, with his lucidity becoming less pronounced each time, and, although he eventually reached a lasting mindset between psychosis and clarity, it was deemed for the best that Tiarnan be permanently confined to St. Vitus’.

By the time this decision was reached, young Aoife was growing fast, and was a healthy four-your-old girl when her father was taken away from her for the last time. As I write this, she is eighteen, and although she does not recall her father ever being at home, she visits him daily, and although he has retained he semi-psychotic state, she has shown no signs of horror or distress from seeing him thus. This she has obviously inherited from her mother, who similarly showed no revulsion at the sights and sounds she often heard in the course of her short-lived profession.

However, I have allowed myself to deviate far too much. Upon the internment of her father in the sanatorium, Aoife soon began to exhibit much of his behaviour, though in a far milder form. Often she would talk excitedly about the “lovely little mice-men” and a “big fuzzy dog with ears like a rabbit’s ears” that she had seen prowling the garden in the evening, or darting out of sight whenever she peered into the cellar. In one of her particularly vivid stories, she told me that she had woken up one night when she thought that Sutcliffe – this time a Labrador, named for its predecessor – had been lapping at her face as he always does, but when she opened her eyes, it was not the overzealous golden puppy that was licking at her cheeks and neck, but a little pink creature, which looked like “a pink squirrel with no tail, and a big tuft of red hair”. It scurried off when it saw she had wakened, and though I searched the house all over, I could find no trace of anything of the sort – and the trees of the garden had long since shed their leaves for winter, sending any squirrels once inhabiting them off to warmer habitats.

It was only after she had turned fifteen that things began to take a darker turn – she had previously stopped recounting stories of her “little friends”, but would change the topic of conversation if they were mentioned. One morning, as she came down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast, I noticed upon her wrist a peculiar wound, like the bite-mark of two pronounced teeth. Questioning her on the matter, she claimed not to know what had caused it, but implored me to consider moving house. The three of us did not need such a large home, and all of us had engagements close to the city, which this address on the very outskirts made awkward. I talked it over with Jayne, who whole-heartedly agreed, and within two months we had moved to a smaller, more comfortable house closer to the city centre, just off the northern end of Patton Street.

With that, all of the dreams, half-sights, and unexplained bites, noises and everything else stopped, and none was heard or though of on the matter for almost a decade and a half. It was twelve years later, I believe, before the subject would be broached once more. By this time, my beloved Jayne had passed away, of sudden heart failure; and little Aoife had grown up to follow once more in what seemed to be fast becoming the family’s footsteps – attending Arkford University, and failing her final exam in Medicine. Once again, I paid for and coerced her into sitting the paper again, and this time she passed, with a mark even higher than her mother had before her. Perhaps through a wish to follow once again her mother’s example, or a desire to spend more time with her ever-devolving father, she too took up a position in St. Vitus’ Sanatorium, soon coming to outstrip her mother again, in terms of rank.

Once she had found herself comfortable – and extremely so – in her position, she expressed a desire to purchase the old family house from its current owners. She had, by this time, met and married a charming young man, named David Mustaine, and I assumed that they wished the larger house in order to settle down and start a family, and told her that I would help pay for the cost of buying it back. However, upon telling her this, I was met with an icy glare, which soon melted, and was simply told not to worry myself with monetary matters. The house was bought and the deeds handed over within a surprisingly short span of time, and although it saddened me that I was never invited into their new home, I was glad that my little granddaughter had grown up and was starting her own family.

This illusion, however, was to be shattered after only a week, when a colossal blasting sound echoed through the neighbourhood, and perhaps the whole city; and a tense telephone call from David told me that the old house had been demolished. He and Aoife arrived upon my doorstep within the hour, and recounted to me their reason for arranging the demolition of the old family house. Tiarnan’s babblings and ravings had grown more and more cogent over the years, and although their subject matter only cemented the reason he was committed, their delivery and syntax, and his overall manner and appearance had given Aoife serious doubts as to his supposed lunacy. He continuously spoke of savage rodents of exotic hues, and frantic yipping and snarling noises he had heard in the night whilst he stayed in that house, and of the seeming desire that the creatures had for getting near to the infant girl. He urged to her and David to return the house and rid it of these verminous fiends – something she eventually took to heart. She had confided in him all the wild tales from her childhood she could remember, and the pair hadn’t taken long to convince David that something was truly amiss. Having once been a civil engineer, he knew the necessary steps to take to arrange for the destruction of the house and its wretched denizens, and once the house had been purchased, they set about immediately. I knew not what to make of this story, and my scepticism must have been etched openly upon my face, for David, who had been recounting the tale, soon stood and made to leave, Aoife following close behind. As I wished them goodbye, vacantly shaking his hand and embracing my granddaughter, David slipped me a small package wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, bidding me not to open until the next morning.

That was yesterday, and as I write this account, not even knowing for whom it is destined, I cannot stop myself from casting furtive glances at the item which was contained within said package. Sitting across from me upon the table, it mockingly leers – the foot long skull of some sneering rat-like devil, still crowned with a dying halo of pinkish fur.

5 Responses to “Where the Wild Things Are”

  1. Ricky Flores Wrote:

    Well written and ironic

  2. Jesus Prime Wrote:

    Thanks, man. Was the end too derisive? I think I might have telegraphed it too much.

  3. Ed Wrote:

    “a charming young man, named David Mustaine”
    Heh heh! Nice touch…

  4. Goatman Wrote:

    Much like brown Jenkin in “Dreams in the -house” innit? Oh well. Good story. Keep up the good work.

  5. I'mnotNyarlathotep Wrote:

    Great story; lovely paranoia fuel for anyone who imagined there were monsters in the closet as a child.

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