Observation of nightly decapitation: Julia’s striped scarf, too thin for the autumn chill, rests where she left it, draped over the room’s sole lampshade. The intermittent glow from the awakened night city creates tremulous waves on the peeling wallpaper. Thus illuminated, the scarf morphs into a weeping lady, her head downcast over the standing lamp, as though the world’s sorrow weighs down on her. At the whisper of dawn, the truth is revealed: she has no head.
First sighting: 7:26 AM. Detected as it unfurls from the shadowy gap between the aged wooden flooring and the right interior wall of the cupboard, sniffing the air tentatively, its snout highlighted by an isolated shaft of daylight. Moderate head-size: around 7 inches from the snout to tail? Darts away when Julia’s hiking boot is tossed at it.
Sixth sighting: 11:19 PM. Only the tail observed, disappearing under the door to the corridor. Must be dexterous or unusually small. The space under the door is less than an index finger’s width. Reflects on the idea of sealing the door with duct tape before dismissing it. It would only trap more of them within. Besides, the duct tape cannot be located.
Experiment on Eating Habits: All foodstuff (excluding Julia’s green tea, that couldn’t be accommodated) sealed in an airtight steel canister as suggested. Wrap self within the quilt crafted by a long-departed grandmother from bygone school uniforms and wedding attire. Will Mus musculus tackle the precarious porcelain sink in the restroom, its little clawed feet clattering against the slippery surface? Will it chew through the firm plastic edge of the Herbal Essences container, and against all logic, will it consume the shampoo within? If not, what explains these bite marks on my shampoo? (General note: Julia’s green tea remains untouched.)
Observation on the radiator: Emitting peculiar noises. The usual rhythmic hissing has noticeably slowed. Trying not to overinterpret.
Field Notes: Tuesday
Third sighting: 4:45 PM. Unclear movement along the southern wall. Evades direct gaze, like a hazy dream-figure that eludes as one attempts to look straight at it. The movement corresponds to a sudden crackle on the radio. Similar crackling echoed at various times throughout the day. Coincidence?
Ninth sighting: 9:10 PM. A five-incher snoozing in an empty mug, nestled against the chinaware, a vermin barge in peaceful slumber. Within its twitching whiskers, memories of a journey from freezing piers, its stealthy arrival in the belly of a grand vessel, slithering progression over mountains of rusted chains and seasickness. Took aim with a hiking boot, but let it be.
For further exploration: Sleeping patterns of the mice. Possible connections with radio waves and sound, light distortion.
Observation on the radiator: Radiator is freezing and has ceased hissing completely. A careful listener would now hear faint voices, like a spectral choir, resonating deep within the maze of its tubing. Possibly relevant: the crackling has seeped out from the metallic confines of the radio. Amidst the perpetual grey hum, mice have become harder to differentiate from spaces devoid of mice.
Scarf Experiment: Envelop oneself in Julia’s scarf. Assume the weeping lady’s posture of insurmountable grief. Embrace the grief. Grieve.
Supporting Facts: Wednesday
First sighting: 11:03 AM. Twelve-incher at the window, consuming scrambled eggs with a spoon. I felt a sudden chill and realized nightwear had been removed during sleep. The exposure stirred an unfamiliar sense of decency. I got up from the air mattress and dressed only after the fascinated Mus musculus sauntered off through a chipped hole in the baseboard—that I had previously failed to notice. Amazed by the detailed craftsmanship evinced by its tiny spoon and plate. Aroma of authentic butter.
Further sightings: Witnessed Mus musculus in a realm unseen, pink tails disappearing under an invisible door. Mice gnawing on other mice, complex puzzle pieces fitting together with a surreal elegance in mirroring an Escher image. The gnawing hum is omnipresent within the walls. There is too much gnawing to be held within them. The gnawing spreads outwards to the city’s outskirts, where derelict barges and broken docks reach out with dilapidated, many-fingered hands across the river. Evening news anchors appear agitated and unsettled. Do they sense the crackling?
Observation on the radiator: Frost within windowpanes. Julia might have been correct; nothing in here seems functional—or perhaps, everything within has a purpose different from and beyond its apparent utility. For example: in emitting eerie tunes that tug at one’s heartstrings like a phantom hook lodged behind the breastbone, expelling music from a parallel city extending downwards through forgotten cemeteries, gas pipes, and into total breathing darkness pierced exclusively by my mice-infested radiator, in that respect, the radiator is more functional than ever before.
Comments on quilt made by a forgotten grandmother: Uniform patch replaced by a patchwork of mice. Reluctantly abandoned quilt. Extremely cold.
Experiment on Communication: Dial Julia’s number. Let it ring five times before going to voicemail. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Perhaps: What transpires here cannot be faithfully replicated from previous experiences—what takes place in suburban neighborhoods with real gardens, actual supermarkets, where everyone commutes, where walls are simply walls and nothing resides within your radiator or under your bed. If we accept a new set of circumstances, we must accept a fresh connotation for words spoken in an apartment where light and sound movements are warped, curving over the smooth grey backs of Mus musculus. “I can’t be with you anymore” might mean “Rescue me.” An individual might say “I’m leaving” and it could denote “I can’t bear to leave you.” It might imply “This city is asphyxiating me; I suffocate throughout the day with no breath to cry out.” It might mean, “The mice are swarming.”
Experiment on Taking: After Julia gently drapes her striped scarf over the standing lamp in the apartment, guide her into the infinite darkness of the surrounding void. Use your tails to bind her wrists and draw her in, squirming, into a land devoid of language. Now, take me into the underbelly of this city, where I will stumble upon her, fragmented, her essence lost in the web of gnaw-marks, swallowed by the grey riddles of your nesting zones. The radiator moans ominously and the only warmth radiates from your countless offspring, all of us blindly swirling in the muggy obscurity.