We have Rats in the Walls. H. P. Lovecraft made this sound all very macabre and spooky but in reality it is just tedious and irritating.
We hear nothing from them much of the time, as they are outside eating our pawaws, but they come to seek shelter in the walls and ceiling cavity when it rains, or when they particuarly need some plumbing pipe or electrical cable on which to sharpen their incisors after all that soft sweet pawpaw has gotten too much. At first I thought the rythmic, repetitive squeaking noise was our upstairs neighbour…umm…brushing his teeth….until it kept going for far longer than the average man could possibly engage in teeth brushing activity. The clincher was when he went away to the provinces and the noise was still there the following night.
“Well, fiddlesticks, we’ve got rats,” I said. Those were my exact words. Since then they have become more bold, and consequently, more noisy. Sometimes it sounds like there are several large cats playing touch football up there. When this happens I usually retreat to the loungeroom and sleep in the children’s tent. They don’t go above Louise’s room so much, and the kids are out to it, but the guys upstairs have heard them too, and a few times the noise of Edward (the other guy upstairs) banging on the floor has been added to the general din.
Anyway, we’ve recently tried to posion them, and one more was caught in a sticky trap attempting to raid the larder of the place upstairs (no sign of entry down here, thankfully). Lately we haven’t heard a peep out of them, so maybe its over until the next time a group of them figure out how to get into the house.
This is not the first time the place has had them. We recently entertained a former occupant, ‘Mister F’, who told us the following anecdote:
‘Well, Steve’, he said, after adjusting his monocle and taking an exceptionally long puff on his hookah, ‘I woke up one night with water pouring out of the plumbing in the ceiling and I heard this squeaking noise. “Fiddlesticks, we’ve got rats”, I said. Those were my exact words. So I called up the estate caretaker, Paul. (Paul is a half-Chinese guy who still looks after the place for us). “Paul, we’ve got rats. Can ya get rid of them please.” But I wasn’t there when he came round to fix the problem. When I spoke to him about it later and asked him how he got rid of them, he said: “me and the boys used magic. Went around the house and cast our spells real good. Drove the rats right out of here.” Obviously he’d just used poison and told me he’d used magic because he thought it would sound better. Strange fellow.’
I’d read about Gaule and Malaitan sorcerers who believe in ritual magic, and knew about far-flung islanders who haven’t taken to Christianity and “still worship idols like the people before Moses”, as one of our guards put it. It’s also the case that many of the Christians here mix their belief with some animist practices, too. I’m interested in pre-scientific beliefs, so I was anticipating an encounter with local magic practice at some point while I was here. But I had pictured myself present at a ‘kastom’ ceremony during a village stay, or to witness to some flamboyant display for tourists, like the fire dancers we saw in Bali one year.
Instead, I get told this bizzare second-hand story about a naturalised Chinese guy who claimed to use magic spells to get rid of vermin in my house a few years ago. I’m not sure if I’m disappointed. In a way, it’s more intriguing than a tourist display.
Anyway like I said the rats are gone, we think. Let’s hope that’s the end of that particular story.