By the time dinner rolled around they sat around the table without a word, none of them enjoying their mac and cheese. The silence was eventually broken by the sound of something scurrying across the floor. All four of them stiffened visibly. Aimee was the first to speak.
“What the hell was that? Was that a rat?”
The moment she suggested it, both girls squealed and pulled their feet onto their chairs.
Jack swept the kitchen with his eyes, searching for the intruder. A second later the sound of tiny nails running across the floor were heard again. Jack pushed his chair back and fell into action, searching the kitchen before someone decided to scream bloody murder. The girls got their phobia from Aimee. During the summer, when a field mouse had chewed through the screen door, it was a wonder they hadn’t destroy the house the way they leapt from chair to couch to coffee table—they may as well have been a family of Russian acrobats.
“I don’t see anything,” Jack finally announced.
“Well there has to be something,” Aimee insisted. “We all heard it.”
“But I don’t see anything. I can’t just wiggle my nose and have the damn thing come out from wherever it’s hiding.”
Jack returned to his seat, smoothed out his napkin, and grabbed his fork.
“Let’s all just keep quiet and eat,” he said. “We’ll trick him.”
“Or he’ll trick us,” Aimee muttered.
Less than a minute later the sound was back, but this time it was in the walls.
“Great. Now it’s gone and crawled inside the wall,” Aimee said with a huff. “We’re going to have rats making little rat families inside the house.”
Jack narrowed his eyes at the noise. It didn’t sound like an animal. It sounded more like someone scraping their nails across a surface, like claws being drawn down a plank of wood. Aimee’s eyes grew wide the louder the sound became. Abigail sat petrified, her hands pressed over her ears. Charlie, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be bothered by it. She still had her feet up on her chair but continued to eat her dinner.
After a few minutes, Aimee shot up from her chair and grabbed her plate, not able to take it anymore.
“Okay,” she said, “that’s it. Abby, get your books ready for tomorrow. Charlie, bath time in five minutes.”
Abby bound from her chair, anxious to get out of the kitchen. Conversely, Charlie took her time, stabbing another elbow macaroni with her fork.
“We need to call an exterminator,” Aimee said. “I can’t live with rats in the walls, Jack. Just the idea of it makes my skin crawl. How are we supposed to sleep with that scratching? What if they crawl into… oh God. What if they crawl into the beds?”
Just then, as though the source of the noise had heard Aimee’s question, the room went silent. Charlie slid from her seat and padded down the hall, her fingers dragging along the wall. The scratching tailed her like a loyal companion.
Want to read more? Check out all the samples here, and keep an eye out for Seed this June!