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"Rats"

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I always hear these rats scratching in the roof when I try to sleep. It keeps me awake some nights, but other nights I sleep through it, blissfully unaware that they continue to rake their little claws across the roof all night long. I share a room with my twin sister, and she can never sleep through it. She often wakes me up, standing over my bed and whispering tiredly, “They’re doing it again, Kayla. The rats are scratching again.”

I don’t really know why she always woke me up though, I mean, we were only twelve years old, and it’s not like I could go out and buy a rat trap or climb into the attic myself and catch them with my bare hands. So we would walk down the dark corridor in a straight line towards my parent’s bedroom, and wake up my dad. He always knew what to do.

He would put us back to sleep, and tell us that the next day he would buy some new kind of trap to kill the ‘furry bastards’ with. Don’t get me wrong, I hate cruelty to animals. I think it’s probably one of the worst crimes imaginable, and I’d do anything to protect one. But when you’ve been kept up night after night after night with those diseased vermin scurrying their way through your roof, looking for god knows what up there, you would do anything to get rid of them.

And when I say being kept up for night after night, I mean months. The rats in the roof had been there ever since my sister and I had turned twelve. The first time they made their existence known to us was the night we turned twelve. Their little tapping claws scouring the roof, their beady eyes looking for food in the darkness, their diseased bodies pushing over one another to find anything edible. We wanted them gone, and my dad knew what had to be done.

This one time he bought these extra strength rat baits, guaranteed to kill a rat with just one nibble of the navy blue rectangle of poison. He climbed through to the attic, and into the roof where he lay the little death squares all around the place. Climbing back down through the manhole, he turned to us and rubbed his hands together. “Now we just have to wait, they’ll be gone soon,” and he walked past us and out of the laundry.

That night, we didn’t hear a thing for quite some time. “Dad did it,” I whispered to my sister, “he got them.” Though I still wasn’t entirely sure. Looking back on that now, I think that I said that more to reassure myself than to comfort her. Although as the night progressed we began to hear the noises again, and I knew the rats hadn’t fallen for the bait. We would have to consult our dad again in the morning.

I always thought it was strange how we never heard them during the day. Maybe that was due to the fact that it was quieter at night, and easier to hear them, or they never came out during the day. Whichever it was, I didn’t care at the time, I just wanted them dead, and nothing was working. God knows how many different traps and different kinds of bait we stuck up in the roof. I bet anyone else who poked their heads into the attic would think it was a secret stash of poisons belonging to a serial killer. But we were just desperate to get rid of them, and they seemed desperate not to leave.

Dad had eventually had enough, as understandably anyone would. My mum had begun to grow tired of his ‘money-wasting’ on all of the different products he had bought trying to get rid of them. She suggested that he climb into the roof and find out where they were coming from, and if any at all had died. So, drawing near to the end of his tether he climbed into the attic with a torch.

“You’re going to have to go all the way down to our bedroom, because that’s the only place they ever scratch,” my sister said as his legs disappeared into the thick blackness up above. We could hear him thumping and crawling his way along the roof all the way down the hallway. “Have you seen any dead rats yet, dad?!” I called, hoping the darkness hadn’t swallowed him entirely and drowning him and the sounds of the outside world. Luckily, it hadn’t.

“Not yet, it’s weird, there isn’t even any evidence proving that there were ever rats up here, it’s really strange..,” he trailed off mid-sentence, and I thought it would be best to let him concentrate. After a few minutes of thumping around in the roof, he crawled back out through the attic, no dead rats or traps or anything, except for an old torn and bloodied t-shirt.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“I just found it; I’ve got no idea who it belongs to. Probably been accidentally thrown up there during a party or something,” he said as he threw it into a nearby bin. “That’s not the only weird thing either. All of the traps are gone,” he said, a serious look overcoming his face.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked him.

“I don’t really know, they’ve just vanished,” my dad replied, a dumbfounded look upon his face. “I have to talk with your mother now girls, leave us alone for a bit,” and he pushed past us and walked towards his bedroom.

That night at the dinner table mum and dad talked to us about a proposal they had in order to catch whatever animal was in the roof. It had to be intelligent, to have gotten rid of the traps and bait. Dad thought it may have been a possum, but the only way to get rid of it was to make sure of what it was.

“We’re going to place a camera in the roof, and see what starts making those scratching noises. If we know what it is, we have a better chance of capturing it, okay?” Mum said to us, and I couldn’t fault their logic. It seemed like a good plan.

Up the camera went, into the swirling darkness. Dad placed it in the stretch along where our bedroom was located, seeing as that’s where most of the activity happened. He had put a sim card in the camera with twelve hours of recording time on it. Dad put the camera up there at 8pm, and would retrieve it at 8am. Then, it was just a waiting game.

I heard the scratching noises all the way through the night, as usual. They started at exactly 9:24pm, I know because I checked the time so I would know when to fast forward the camera to in the morning. A pungent odor had also made itself known ever since Dad had found that T-shirt. It smelled like raw sewage, and my nostrils were always burning when I woke up. But considering we had no idea what we were up against, Dad couldn't do much about it.

I couldn’t really get a wink of sleep, because I knew that the next day we were going to discover what the animal was and get rid of it. So I just lay awake all night long, thinking of the blissful days of sleep that lay ahead of me.

At a little past eight in the morning my Dad woke me up and handed me the camera. “Watch this and tell me what animal it is,” he said turning to walk back out of my bedroom.

“Where are you going then?” I asked him, stopping him in his tracks.

“The baits and traps mysteriously reappeared. I’m going to get a box to collect them and then head up there. Funny thing is, they’re right over your bedroom,” he said, giving me spirit fingers and exclaiming, “WOOooo! Spooky!” then he laughed and exited my room. I shook my head and fast forwarded the footage on the camera to the exact time I’d heard the scratching.

After a few minutes of fast-forwarding, the camera read 9:20pm. I figured I would rewind it to the point where the animal actually came into the roof so I might be able to recognise it better. One minute passed, two, two-and-a-half. I watched the screen intently to capture any kind of movement whatsoever. And then finally it made its emergence.

Something that was curled in the fetal position of the far side of the corner began to move. Its spine was visible in the dim light, protruding through its pale yellow skin, almost the colour of off-milk. Its long and bony arms stretched outwards, its skinny and impossibly long legs stretching downwards. Its limbs seemed too long for its body. Cramped muscles from lying in the same position for hours and hours finally got relief. Its body was spotted with blood, and it had a bloody rag on around its legs. Whatever it was, it was disgusting. But the scariest part was when it turned towards the camera. Pure black eyes, the colour of coal stared straight into the camera. It opened its mouth in some kind of putrid grin, yellowing, diseased teeth peeking out from its mouth, desperate to escape. It was at that point that I knew it was a human.

It crawled up to the camera, its bones visible through the thin yellow membrane acting as its skin. Its pure black eyes stared into the camera, then it touched the lens, and I could almost feel its brown, rotting fingernails against my face. Then it turned from the camera, spit starting to drool from its mouth, and it crawled over to the spot just above me and my sister’s bed. Then its face turned towards the camera unnaturally, and it began to scratch, staring at the camera the entire time. No, staring through the camera and directly at me.

I couldn’t watch it any longer. I fast-forwarded the footage as fast as it could go, and it never blinked or looked away from the camera for the entire ten hours it scratched at the roof. Then it stopped, placed the rat traps that had disappeared the day before in front of the camera, then turned away and returned to the position it had come from. It tucked its impossibly long and skinny limbs into its body and curled into the fetal position.

It hadn’t left, and now dad was up there. My heart jolted in my chest and fear overwhelmed every inch of my body. I heard a scream from above.

Written by Natalo
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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