4XF#1 Travelling with Rats

Travelling with Rats

“I stabbed him nine times. It was awful – the blood gushed out and it was black.”

Louise put down her spoon and said wearily; “That’s enough, Jimmy.”

“The gang chased me. I ran out of the tunnel trying to escape.” The boy went on, agitated, looking at their faces, trying to get their attention. No one responded.

“But I couldn’t get off the ground into the air – my wings were stuck to my ribs. Like this.” Jumping up, he held his arms close to his sides to demonstrate. Pleading with them to look at him.

His father turned over another page of his newspaper. He didn’t even glance up. His son’s daily descriptions of his nightmares were becoming tedious. Yesterday the boy had been imprisoned in a cave with tarantulas. On Monday it had been rats in his rucksack. Last week he’d been in an air crash.

“Do finish your cereal, Jimmy, and calm down.” His mother had stacked the plates in the sink and was looking round for her purse. “We’re all off to the new shopping centre in town.”

The boy sat down. “I don’t want to go shopping.” His voice was petulant.

“You’ll miss out on the cinema this afternoon, if you don’t come,” said his sister, grabbing her shoulder bag.

“I don’t want to see a film today.” Why didn’t they realise he didn’t need external distractions? He had enough going on inside his head.

“OK, lad. You stay at home then” His father spoke irritably. “Just as well. We’ve all had enough of your lurid imagination.”

“They’re dreams, Dad. I can’t help them. They come out of nowhere like bats in the night. Screaming at me. I can’t control them. And now it’s happening in the daytime.” The desperation went unnoticed. His father had left the room to get the car keys.

His mother said, “There’s some ham in the fridge – and cheese. Make yourself a sandwich for lunch.”

A horrible image of rotting food wormed its way into Jimmy’s mind, and he knew that within hours the cheese would be mouldy and the ham full of maggots. He shuddered.
Louise put her arm round his shoulders and said cheerily, “Bye then. Stay chilled.” She followed her mother out of the room. They didn’t care about him. The front door banged. The car engine started – and faded as they drove away.

Jimmy sat still. He had to control his mind. Keep out the fears. They had sharp teeth. If he didn’t move, perhaps they wouldn’t come back. He needed his family. But they didn’t understand. They’d left him, like rats abandoning a sinking ship. He was in a locked cabin. Dark waters seeping in. Going down.