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Things that go squeak in the pitch black

BELOVED and I were in a little, old house in a hamlet in Spain. Remote, but not entirely isolated. The sun beat down on the newly whitewashed walls and, all around, the almond trees had passed from flower to green fruit. As dusk slid in, the birds nesting in the nearby pine tweeted their heads off. No children, just us. So romantic.

Then, as if the sun had simply fallen off the side of a mountain, night fell. We'd had to call in a neighbour to ask about the water heater, which was making a ferocious noise; we weren't sure if the ferocious noise was normal or a forewarning of imminent explosion. The neighbour had chuckled at our foreigner gobshitery: "It won't explode. Well, I don't think it will." We squeaked in dismay. "I'm only joking. Leave it on all night and see how it goes."

We went to bed and I read for a while, then had to get out of bed to switch off the light. I thought my eyes would adjust to the remarkable dark, but they didn't. It was pure dark, the kind that strikes fear into a suburban, street-lit heart. The water heater had gone silent, I knew not if in slumber or prelude to detonation, and in its wake was this weird, utter quiet.

Then a fly, buzzing somewhere in the pitch-black. Where had it landed? I felt certain I could hear some class of scuttling. Snuffling? I knew there were boars and things outside, then I realised outside was five feet away, behind an old door with a gappy end through which any number of savage, if admittedly small, beasts could sneak.

I lay imagining heinous insectery all waiting to rampage over us and do us damage. I wondered about the welts I was sure to wake with. Then I noticed another strange thing, an absence of snoring. "Can you not sleep, either?" I whispered.

"No, the dark woke me."

I confessed to feeling mild to moderate terror. He replied: "I'm bleeping asteriskingly bleeping. I opened my eyes and I thought I'd gone blind."

"I keep hearing noises," I said. After all, why fear the savage beasts alone?

"Noises?" Beloved asked, but he's half-deaf so I filled him in: "Scuttling, snuffling, in here, and outside. We're going to have put a draft excluder brush thingy on the end of that door."

"A draft excluder? That's not going to keep them out!"

"Keep what out?"

"The demons. Fecking demons and Challenger 2; if we aren't possessed, we'll be blown into small chunks of a Spanish mountain."

Nearly 90 of years of living between us, but all logic wiped out by the power of this unfamiliar silent dark. We clung to each other, laughing in a pelvic-floor harassing manner, but too afraid to get out of bed to turn on the light, much less go to the bathroom. I was too afraid to stick my hand out to sweep around the floor for my phone (ie, clock and light in this signal-free zone), Beloved was in two minds about turning on the light at all, "there's probably going to be 20 people standing there."

He lost the bet to get out of bed, and stood on something that squeaked before he hit the light. A small rubber duck. Nothing could persuade him the demons didn't put it there. I knew it was the roaches.

Sunday Indo Living