We first noticed the rat two weeks ago.
These days it’s believable that winter is upon us. Grass and rooves stay covered in hoarfrost all day long, and we stay inside in front of the hot fireplace. The living room has got the last single-pane window in the house, a large panoramic one into the garden, but with all the heat radiating from the fireplace the cold from there is barely noticeable. You might stand right in front of the fire (or, just after it’s lit, sit on top of the stove and see how long you can hold out there) and let your view wander through the garden – there, what was that? A brownish rodent, perhaps a squirrel or some bun … no. A rat. A rat the size of Roald Dahl’s Grand High Witch (i. e., after her accident). It quickly zoomed along the garage and disappeared in the hollow beneath the six-step staircase leading up to the kitchen.
Often you’d return home, in the seasonal darkness, and hear some rustling in the leaves. These last days, the rat grew ever more audacious. It may wait for you in the large bird feeder on top of the staircase railing … once it sat right on the terrace table, just next to the kitchen door, staring at me for a long second until it hurried off sideways into the darkness.
If only it’s always the same, Claudia would think aloud in a somber tone, and not be an entire pack already. Tonight, Bernd returned home with three traps of a rat-worthy calibre. Nutella is rumoured to make excellent bait. Within fifteen or twenty minutes, a smallish – ≈15 cm? –, young rat is pushing up the daisies (quite literally. If you die on this property, you are human or you end up fertilising the rhododendron. Possibly both, though for sure I don’t know of an example).
Soon, Bernd is leaving for a non-rat-related excursion. I’m getting the instructions, and the emergency bludgeon, in case a trap snaps but doesn’t finish the job. We are against unnecessary agony. Rumour has it that someone here even voted green in the last general election. Said emergency arises immediately: The second trap snaps while we’re still chatting outside. This blow isn’t final, we need the bludgeon.
The Grand High Witch still hasn’t been seen, but a third of the young ones had been running across the terrace while I was getting back inside. Definitely we’re not just enjoying a single animal. Inside, Claudia and I exchange our latest tales of surprise sightings. We realise those beasts are damn able climbers and wonder whether to shut the always-opened toilet window for once. As the fireplace roars at Dantesque temperatures, we agree that at least an invasion through the chimney is out of the question currently.
It’s getting cosier and cosier inside here as the thermometer slides further below zero and the brown faces line up outside the panoramic single pane, flattening their tiny brown noses on the glass while peeking inside. I’m re-reading Camus“ «La Peste». As the scratchy noises from the toilet next to the front door increase I’m savouring the knowledge that there are three more at our disposal. No, four —, no, that fourth one is the rotten bowl in the lower attic that nobody has sat on in twenty or thirty years. Not that it wouldn’t work, but certainly that attic with its flimsy isolation is already starkly infested with scrambling rodents … I should soon resolve in which room to barricade myself; movement through the house will be difficult once the hallway has fallen. Perhaps this whole fight was a blunder, perhaps we should have domesticated them instead of setting up the traps (the three of them went clack clack clack some time ago and now no-one’d dare to go out, dive through the mass of soft white bellies and brown backs and reset them) — then again if it’s indeed us against the Grand High Witch, then negotiations would be for nought anyway.
All is silent, yet. Soon they will descend upon our walls, our windows, our doors and floors and ceilings. Is that a faint scratch I’m hearing?
They’re coming. They’re coming for us.