What’s afoot?

Inspired by a 9-word note on a torn sheet of paper found while going though a box of old files.

I have lived alone for the longest of times.

I do worry about myself at times. I talk to myself incessantly, putting on different accents to accentuate the different moods in which I start my day.  I have a Welsh voice, a Glaswegian, an Edinburgh brogue and numerous Irish lilts. There is an occasional visit from the Black Country or Birmingham, I cannot be sure which, and a regular character from Yorkshire. Only rarely does someone from Tyneside intrude, or from Cornwall – but a loud-mouthed Cockney is never far away as I wander downstairs, socks in hand, considering what to have for breakfast,

They stay with me for most of the day, bursting into conversation at the most unlikeliest of times. It is a form of company, I suppose. I don’t give them names. The really would be overdoing it.

The good news is that they are not with me when anyone comes to the door, although they have been known to crop up in the middle of odd conversations on the phone with old friends. They humour me, sometimes, even congratulating me on my accents, even though they, my friends that is, like me, can barely distinguish which voice I had just adopted. I sometimes suspect that they do something similar when they are alone. We oldies are a rum lot.

But none of this is what I wanted to tell you about. It is something far more sinister.

The only strangers that have let themselves into my little cottage in recent years have been the innumerable spiders who seem to find it a good place to hunt. Their webs are everywhere. They never seem to catch the bluebottles that buzz around annoyingly when least you need disturbance. Perhaps they are too powerful for the delicate webs that adorn each corner of each room and sometimes even appear overnight between my toothbrush mug and the bathroom window! 

And they are useless when it comes to fruit flies who manage to escape the skeins twixt fruit bowl and the kitchen window cill. No matter how carefully I examine the fruit I buy on my weekly trips to the local supermarket, one at least must be the weak link that gives rise to a multitude of pesky flies. Where they come from is one of life’s great mysteries for me. Did you know the females can lay up to 500 eggs at a time, and their offspring can live for almost two months!

They seem impervious to the judicious use of my fly swatter. I imagine the little blighters fly through the tiny holes in it. I know that is fanciful, but that is what one of the conversations I have had between my Yorkshireman and my Dubliner. My dour Glaswegian advised vinegar and washing up liquid in an empty jam jar. That did seem to do the trick for a few of them, but the rest quickly got wise to the death trap. I suppose it is the speed of their evolution. They hang around taunting me whatever the weather. Apparently they can also breed in dirty drainpipes. Maybe that explains the funny sounds I sometimes hear coming out of the plug hole in the kitchen sink. “They’re laughing at you,” I hear myself say, in whatever accent comes along.

Getting back to the spiders. I don’t know what they feed themselves on. Maybe the mites that I cannot see but which must inhabit the dust that somehow settles on every surface, including the spiders’ webs. I must say it annoys me when a spider spins a web over my wall lights with the new fangled light bulbs you can’t touch with your fingers. They are supposed to last forever, but they keep shorting on me, if that’s the right word, when a moth get entangled in the web or the dust makes it sag and it touches the element.

But I digress. What I wanted to tell you about what what happened last night. 

I slept downstairs on the sofa, because I am afraid to go back up to the bedroom. Last night, just around midnight I switched off all the lights downstairs after locking the front and back doors – well, the back door is usually locked but I always check. I don’t go out into the garden much these days. 

I had fallen asleep watching something that was supposed to be funny on TV – I always like to end with something cheerful, the news is so awful these days and there are so many programmes on about crime – but it hadn’t tickled my fancy evidently.  Anyway having switched the television off I pulled out the plug at the wall. It is a old habit, and it’s an awful faff having to reboot everything when you switch on the TV next day, but old habits die hard and they say it decreases the risk of an electric fire. Better to be safe than sorry. A friend of mine had her house burn down after an electric fire.

Then off I went to bed, climbing the stairs with my glass of water into which I always crush a slice of lemon or lime. Sometimes I take a herbal tea up with me, but it usually tastes revolting when it’s gone cold and bitter in the morning, so a glass of cold water, filtered of course – I really hate the taste of water straight out of the tap. Filtered is a safer bet. 

I switched on the bedroom light and glanced with warm affection at the flowery duvet cover on my bed. It always gives me a thrill because I love my bed. It brings me warmth and comfort every night, and it is one of the things I look forward to everyday. That and reading to my bedside light. Well I don’t read to it of course, but by its light.

Anyway I put down my drink on the bedside table, switched on the bedside light, switching of the off the overhead light simultaneously – it’s a thing i’ve got into the habit of doing – and proceeded to disrobe, pulling my pyjamas from beneath the pillows on the bed. But it was when I pulled back the duvet that I got the shock of my life.

There, clear as day on the pristine brightness of my white fitted-sheet, was a huge, dirty footprint.

Now I know what you are thinking. It was probably me when I reached up to brush away a cobweb from the overhead light. But that is not the case. I tend not to disturb their webs if I can, anyway, and there’s isn’t one on the ceiling, so I did no such thing. 

And besides, this foot print was huge, at least size 11, if not bigger. My feet are quite little – I only take a size eight. This was not my footprint. Someone else with dirty feet has pulled back the covers and trodden on my bed. But I have had no-one else in the house for years.

That is what sent me scuttling downstairs, nearly tripping over my dressing gown cord as I ran from this monstrous incursion. I did not even have time to pick up my book or switch off the bedside light.

I spent the night shivering on the sofa, too scared to investigate further; too scared to risk ridicule by trying to tell someone my awful discovery.

I just don’t know what to do. Who or what is in my house?

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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