An animal is scritching in the wall behind my bed. At first I thought it was some kind of water crackling in a heating pipe but what kind of water stops when you thump the wall? I don’t mean to be mean, I mean to make it scurry off, to send it to scritch somewhere I can’t hear.
No, I’m not afraid—it is small, by the sound of its scritch. I’m not in Room 101, not worried about a gnarled whiskered rodent face chewing my eyelids in my sleep. I know these small animals, if it is an animal,
are generally afraid of big, intelligent me so far up the food chain, capable of terrible violence if frightened. I know they know they can never physically get me and are only after a crumb or a drop, like everyone really.
No, I’m trying to protect my peace of mind, my inner life, my pest-free dreams, from these unseen labors in a frenzy in the wall behind my bed. I was going to say it drives me mad and that is its fault, or was I going to say who am I to judge the urges and intensities of another species?
What I’ll say instead is that I am part of the universe, privy to sounds parallel but unreachable, and on some other level, that I know I am alive, factually, unloving and alone.
Excerpted from The Octopus Museum. Copyright © 2019 by Brenda Shaughnessy. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher.