“After Eight” (2)
By Paul Larkin
When the first one jumped onto his bed, he knew it was a rat. As a committed Vegan, he took an extreme interest in animals. There were no bad animals. Anyway, he was dreaming, so his recognition of the rat's plump belly across his leg and the claw of its sharp feet through the summer duvet didn’t worry him unduly. He had been dreaming a lot in recent times. Very vivid dreams. In one, he had dreamt of a big juicy steak and the wolfing of it. The enjoyment and digestion of it, swallowed down with good red wine, had woken him in a sweat of disgust. He hadn’t told his partner, also a committed “Veggie”, because of the shame. There was another one running across the headrest. Little bastard. Sorry. Sorry rat old mate. Well she wasn’t his partner anymore. They never stayed very long.
She had left him because of the state of the place. That annoyed him. That seriously annoyed him. After all, she was no Miss Hygiene herself. OK so there were pots in the sink, grime everywhere, junk out the back and the neighbours had started a petition. Then he had heard her scream one morning and rushed down to see a rat scurrying out of the kitchen and she had her hands over her eyes. He had wanted to make love because the whole thing was a kind of turn on. He had showed himself but she had just run past him, pushed him, and started to pack. In his dream, she moved out as they moved in. Good swap. Bitch. He should have had her then. One for the road. Even the cats had moved out. Three of them. She was supposed to be a Vegan too for God's sake but it was all just a pose. Ouch. Breath deep relax. He would let this go on. Just as an experiment. See how far he could go. One thing. One thing. No way would he let them go near his privates. Especially now he was big. Other than that, he would go with the flow. The dreamflow.
By now, he could hear what sounded like the patter of trillions of tiny feet. Like a monsoon in an empty tin bath. It was almost as if they were looking for something. Frantically. Furiously. But that was the way with animals, ouch that hurt you little monkey. Actually monkeys were just the same and therefore humans. We all had this space to share and oh now hold on. Better stop all this thinking because it stops the karma. Between me and them. One last thought. Maybe just maybe it was those sores. She had told him to do something because she said one of them was weeping. Just at the top of his thigh. Ay-ya that hurt. That hurt. Better come out of this dream. Deep breaths. Where's your karma man? Live the dream. All animals together. You are a Vegan hero. Remember that time you were leaving that café and you stood over those building workers eating their swill. “How can you guys eat that shit. You know its shit..,” you had said. They kicked you up and down the pavement but your place in the Vegan Front pantheon was assured. That was when she had moved in.
All the same, this was beyond uncomfortable. The sexy, OK fetish, element to the dream had died a death. He had tried to dream that he was swimming. At one with them. Mingled. Holding his breath and swimming underwater in a sea of rats. But he just had to come up for air and as he rose he remembered that he had seen a film where if the hero switched on the light the dream would end. So he strained against the weight of rats, and the mania of them all over his body and rats attached by bites to his pale white arms which were now bleeding profusely. He reached the switch and flicked and flicked but it changed nothing and he roared a laugh and made a huge V with his bleeding artery on the headrest as a sign of defiance to the Carnivores and then dived in amongst them. Exultant.