The following takes place at a hotel somewhere in Lagos between 10pm and 6am.
Events occur in real time.
Sometimes all that glitters is not gold. This statement rang especially true for me last night. I had been called away on urgent business to Lagos and decided to lodge in one of the Posh hotels I found along the road close to my place of work. The surroundings were neat and the room fare was reasonable. I was assured of 24hrs power supply whenever PHCN decided to do their thing and the air conditioning was chilling. All in all, I was impressed with the place and decided to lay my head there for the duration of my stay. Little did I know this was to be the beginning of a very long and arduous night.
The first sign of trouble came from when I finished showering and got out of the bathroom to meet a swarm of mosquitoes circling the bread I had bought on my journey. They were everywhere and for a moment I wondered what they could possibly be attracted to in the bread since it contained no blood whatsoever, at least as far as I knew. My curiosity turned quickly to alarm however as they detected the presence of a warm blooded entity in the vicinity, namely me, and diverted their attention towards my direction. I swatted and slapped and eventually decided to put on the overhead fan on the highest speed to blow them all away. This worked and I dressed up in peace and decided to take further precautions by taking a little stroll outside to see if I could buy insecticide. I got Mortein odorless spray and came back ready to engage my undesirable roommates in chemical warfare. I sprayed the entire room and exited the place quickly. Even as I left I saw them falling to the ground like shot-down fighter planes. A few stubborn ones remained unperturbed and were still zipping through the air when I closed the door behind me, however I was confident that eventually the insecticide would get them.
I waited outside until I was sure the insecticide had taken its toll and then entered the room again. As I was going in, I saw one of the hotel attendants and brought his attention to the ravenous insects in my room. He apologized profusely and offered to go and get insecticide but I told him it was alright, I had taken care of it. I didn’t want him to feel too bad; afterall, he wasn’t the one who had put the mosquitoes there, was he?
By the time I entered back into the room, the whole tiled floor was littered with the corpses of my enemies. I sighed in relief at the sight and brushed them aside to the entrance of the door as a warning to other invaders that this land was now occupied. I settled comfortably into my room and ate some of the bread and some fruit and lay down on the soft silky bed for a good night’s sleep.
The time was 10pm.
I was awakened in the night by a strange tearing and squeaking sound. I sleepily glanced at my watch. It was 11.08pm. I moved my gaze to the direction of the noise and saw…
There, on the little centre table, what was left of my bread was being devoured by a huge rat!
It sat on its haunches and took little nibbles from the bread, pausing on occasion to enjoy the feast. It was obvious from the expression on its face that it appreciated the freshness of the bread and it licked its chops once or twice in satisfaction before going back to my previous dinner.
I watched, stupefied for a moment, wondering what an untidy creature was doing in such posh surroundings. It was not until the rat decided to take the rest of the loaf of bread home with it and began pulling it off the table that I snapped out of my hypnosis and startled it. Still, it managed to get the loaf of bread off the table and unto the floor before bolting out the door.
It was then I saw the problem.
The steel door had a gap between itself and the floor of the hotel, a gap wide enough for the rat to slip through safely. I groaned in annoyance and picking up the bread from the floor, dumped it into the dustbin at the corner of the room. Since I was now awake I then took the liberty to eat from the fried salted pork which I had purchased earlier. I ate from the meat and threw the fat into the dustbin as well, not realizing I was gradually creating a buffet for some unscrupulous characters.
I put on the TV and tuned to the movie channel. The Air conditioning was on full blast and extremely cold so I put it off and made do with the fan instead. I settled at the edge of the bed which was a few feet from the door entrance and focused on the movie which was about to start.
I looked at the time, it was now 11.45pm.
The movie was well underway when from the corner of my eye I saw movement. I initially tried to ignore it as some action was about to begin on the screen but then the movement came again, this time with a squeak. I looked down …and there a few meters from my left big toe was another rat, even bigger than the first one! It had come in from under the gap, had seen me balanced on the edge of the bed like a king on his throne and had paused hesitantly.
It is understandable to say I was disgusted and a little startled. I made a mental note to complain to the hotel staff the next morning about their vermin issue, but for the moment, I decided to prove to the rat that this was no longer its home and that I was the more dominant of the species.
So I waved my hand in a sudden movement and said “Shiaaaa!!!”
The RAT DID NOT MOVE.
The rat didn’t even blink. It raised an inquisitive nose in my direction and squeaked shrilly and I could almost hear it think:
“Na who be this wan? Abeg comot ya leg make I pass!”
And then it took three quick steps towards my feet.
There is no nice way to put this. Having been taken completely by surprise by the Rat’s boldness, and realizing the Rat did not share my sentiments on who was the more dominant of the species between us, I raised up both my legs in one lightening motion and bolted unto the bed after which I let out a very shrill lady-like scream. The sudden movement dislodged the side of the bed which clattered loudly unto the shiny tile floor.
That got the rat’s attention. It squeaked in alarm and beat a hasty retreat, disappearing out the gap beneath the door and into the outside corridor.
I must have remained hunched on that bed for five minutes, wondering what had just happened and if indeed that rat was a ‘real’ rat. I realized I wasn’t going to get any good night’s sleep tonight if I didn’t do anything about the gap beneath the door. So I summoned up courage and reminding myself that I was several pounds larger than my adversary, clambered down from the bed, fixed the dislodged piece, and began to set up a barricade.
My first move was to put my traveling bag against the door and then my shoes alongside it. I used nylon bags to stuff up the little holes that remained and satisfied my barricade was firmly in place I went back to bed, turned off the light and closed my eyes, the only sound in the room coming from the overhead fan and the TV whose noise I had reduced to a tolerable minimum.
At 12.09am, and I know the time precisely because I checked, I was once again awakened by a ripping sound. The sound of the ripping was not what alarmed me, rather it was the urgency of the ripping and its significance. It took my now tired and sleep deprived brain a little while to put two and two together to realize something was tearing my traveling bag to shreds.
I shouted and jumped out of the bed, angry now and ready to face my adversary come what may. I yanked my bag away from the door, and saw the quickly retreating forms of TWO rats.
TWO rats. The other guy had gone to get a recruit.
I looked down at my bag and on the side that had been against the door, three ragged holes now existed. Torn shredded bits of fabric showcasing the efficiency of little rat teeth. My clothing poked through the holes but thankfully was untouched.
I retreated to the bed and sat down perplexed. What could the rats possibly want in the room that they were willing to go through my bag to get it? There wasn’t any food anywhere, not that I knew of…
I decided to fortify my barricade. I went to the dustbin and took out two empty plastic bottles, squashed them flat and pushed them into the gap between the door and the floor. I used my shoes to close the remaining part as before and then placed my bag against the plastic bottles. Surely they would be discouraged from trying anything now, I thought.
I thought wrong.
No sooner had I fixed my bag and switched off the light that I heard a series of squeaks by the very spot I had just pulled my hands from when fixing the bottles. It seemed now that they were coming from at least three rats! One squeak was evidently louder than the rest. I stood stock still and listened.
“Hold the line! Stay with me!
“If you find yourself alone, walking green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled…
For you are in Elysium! And you’re already dead!”
(A Loud rousing clamour of squeaks followed)
“Brothers, what we do in life, echoes in eternity!”
(More loud cheerful squeaks)
Holy crap. It seemed like they were about to go to war. I quickly moved to the television, turning down the sound completely from the movie “Gladiator” that had been playing in the background and turned off the fan as well. Then I jumped on the bed and lay with my head facing the door, watching to see what they would do next.
It started with little nips and tugs. Then it became more frenzied as the rats came to realize the plastic bottles were made of tougher material than the fabric from my traveling bag. They pulled and pushed, squealed and struggled, and occasionally it seemed they fought among themselves. Thoughts of sleep had completely evaded me by now as I looked at my watch and saw the time was 1.03am. I watched in amazement as they fought their way through and eventually were able to make a small hole between the first bottle and the side of the door.
All was silent for a moment as I watched the hole, and then a head poked through. It met my gaze and blinked warily. I could almost hear it think:
“Still awake huh? You can’t keep those eyes open forever”
And then the head disappeared.
I stared at the hole in complete befuddlement. What was attracting them to the room so much? What on earth was in the room that was edible apart from my toes?
And then it hit me.
I jumped up from the bed again and pushed the barricade aside and flung the door open. There was a scampering of feet as the rats took to their heels. I yanked the dustbin from the corner of my room still containing the left-over bread and pieces of meat and dropped it on the other side of the outside corridor.
“There, its all yours! Now leave my room alone!” I grumbled and went back into my room, banging the door shut behind me and replacing my barricade.
I turned off the lights for the final time and lay down on the bed, keeping my ears open for any other squeaking sound or disturbance. I heard none and congratulating myself in finally solving the problem, I nodded off to sleep.
I heard a knocking on my window.
Tap Tap Tap, it went.
I turned over in my bed away from the noise and tried to go back to sleep.
Tap Tap TAP
Why would anyone be knocking on my window this early hour of the morning, eh? I was trying desperately to catch as much sleep as possible after my midnight adventure. I closed my eyes tighter and tried once more to drift off to sleep.
TAP TAP TTTAPPPP!
I opened one eye groggily. The shiny face of my digital watch showed 5.48am. I murmured discontentedly and put thoughts into process on how I would get out of bed and go and open the window…
Wait, why would anyone tap on the window? Wouldn’t the door be more logical?
Wait! Wasn’t my room on the second floor? How would anyone be able to tap…?
Suddenly I was wide awake. The window was directly over my head. In my sleep I must have turned myself towards the other end of the bed facing the window and right now something, not someone, was tapping against the window just above my head!
I jumped up, fists raised, ready to do mortal combat with the rat that had climbed up the bed to the window sill…
And then my eyes fell on the bird outside. It perched there, oblivious of my angry startled self inside the room, staring at its reflection in the window glass. It tapped the window a few more times and finally flew off.
I looked around and under the bed for any invader and found none. I checked my barricade and saw it was still in place. Wearily I covered myself with the blanket and went back to sleep.
I finally woke up at 8.30am this morning, feeling slightly fatigued but none the worse for wear. I sighed and stretched and groggily went to brush and have my bath. I was already late for the meeting.
It was not until I was fully dressed and was looking for my shoe that I realized it had been moved completely away from the door. Swivelled at a 60degree angle, it had been pushed aside just far enough to allow one or two or even three rodent bodies pass through.
I counted my toes. Ten. All complete.
I complained to the hotel staff later that day. Apart from grinning and offering apologetic smiles they said nothing. Perhaps the rats have been guests here longer than I have and so might have more rights. I intend to prove them wrong however.
Its 7.40pm now. Another night. The mosquitoes have already gathered but I’ll sort them out soon.
As for the rats, I’m ready for them as well. I’ve invested N1000 in buying loads of ratgum. There’s only room for one dominant species in this hotel.