Disclaimer: For those of you suffering from rodent-centric phobias, you might want to skip this one.
Oliver killed a mouse last night. A real, actual, fuzzy little mouse that I almost stepped on when I came in the door after a long and dismal commute. As I gaped in horror and confusion, he told me all about his adventures with a series of very proud, excited meows. I think he was rather puzzled that I didn’t immediately praise him for heroically slaying the invading foe, but I was too busy running away as fast as possible.
It was very clearly dead. It was dead when it was lying on the doormat, and it was dead when Oliver started batting it around, tossing it up in the air and catching it like one of his squishy balls as I shrieked at him to stop. It was dead when I took to Twitter to compulsively share my anguish, and dead when I tentatively reached out to trap it under The Creature Cage (the top of a big glass vase that serves as a temporary containment facility for beetles and other creepy crawlies that I have to work up the courage to dispose of).
I know this marks me as the wimpiest of spoiled suburban girls, but I really hate creatures that don’t belong in houses. Houses are places for civilized things that I choose to put there. Houses are safe places. They are human places. They are, in my idealized world, impenetrable. I have never encountered a rodent in any of my previous living situations, and I hope that my landlord will ensure that I never encounter one in my current situation again.
That being said, I’m very glad to have Oliver as my champion. He can’t really be bothered with ordinary spiders or bugs, and even jumpy crickets only hold momentary fascination, but he certainly did his feline Viking ancestors proud with this one. He already has a great deal of practice when it comes to hunting big game (read: he grabs and chews on my arm while we are watching TV together), and I was told when I adopted him that he had already vanquished a dragon (read: some sort of small garden snake that had found its way into a basement).
He was so pleased with himself that I couldn’t really be angry that he had brazenly taken the life of a small, squeaky, innocent creature that had likely just come in for a nibble of cat food and an escape from the cold. I don’t think I have any real reason to be angry. He’s a cat. It was a mouse. We’ve all seen the cartoons. What else was going to happen?
Oddly enough, the only thing I could think about for the rest of the evening (besides the worry that there were even more mice lurking in every quiet corner) was the strange dichotomy between Fantasy Writer Jen and Real Life Jen, who was afraid to approach the stiff little corpse, equally terrified of its blank, foreign lifelessness and of the possibility that it might spring up and run off. Fantasy Writer Jen doesn’t fear mice. Fantasy Writer Jen tortures, maims, and kills with little compunction, describing blood and gore and horror in great, poetic detail.
Yes, things are getting pretty tense in Book Four, which is coming along nicely thanks to NaNoWriMo, and there is plenty more murder and mayhem to come as I wrap up the series. As writers, we often let our imaginations take us into dark places – we often force them into ever darker and darker places, inventing new and horrible ways to cause pain and misery just to ramp up the tension and raise the stakes for our hapless puppets. But how many of us are too afraid, in real life, to approach a dead mouse?
Fantasy can be funny like that. We want to make our imaginary worlds as brutally realistic as possible, and we happily tap away at our keyboards when there are vicious battles to recount or terrible plagues wiping out thousands of innocents, secure in the knowledge that most of the time, any small creatures we might happen to encounter on our way to Starbucks do not carry yersinia pestis.
How fortunate we are in our imaginations, which let us dip a sterile-gloved finger into grimy, bitter, violent worlds where pest control is far down on the list of major concerns. And how fortunate we are to have keen-eyed cats in our homes who take great pleasure in reminding us that without them to protect us, the modern world could be a whole lot worse for someone as squeamish as Real Life Jen.