In the thick darkness of her room it seemed nothing stirred: the dirty water in the enamel basin was preternaturally still, on the three hooks of the clothes-rack, like great slides of beef above a butcher’s counter, hung her sweater, her raincoat and a substantial quilted jacket, the bunch of keys hanging from the lock had stopped swinging, having finally absorbed her earlier momentum. And, as if they had been waiting for just this moment, as if this utter immobility and complete calm had been some sort of signal, in the great silence (or perhaps out of it), three young rats ventured out from under Mrs Eszter’s bed. Carefully the first slithered past, shortly followed by the the other two, their little heads raised and attent, ready to freeze before leaping; then, silently, still bound by their instinctive timidity, they proceeded, hesitating and freezing every few steps, to a tour of the room. Like intrepid scouts for an invading army apprising themselves of enemy positions before an onslaught, noting what lay where, what looked safe or dangerous, they examined the skirting boards, the crumbling nooks and corners and the wide cracks in the floorboards, as if mapping out the precise distances between the bolthole under the bed, the door, the table, the cupboard, the slightly teetering stool and the window-ledge – then, without touching anything, in the blinking of an eye, they shot of under the bed in the corner again, to the hole that led through the wall to freedom. It was no more than a minute before the cause of their unexpected retreat became apparent, for their intuition had warned them something was about to happen and this faultless, naked and instinctive fear of the unpredictable was enough to drive them to the option of immediate flight. By the time Mrs Eszter moved and disturbed the up-till-then-unbroken silence, the three rats were cowering in perfect safety at the foot of the outside wall at the back of the house; so she rose from the very ocean bed of sleep, drifting for a few minutes up into the shallows through which consciousness might faintly glimmer, and kicked of the eiderdown, stretching her limbs as if about to wake. There was of course no prospect of that yet and, after a few heavy sighs, she settled and began her descent into the depths from which she had only just risen. Her body – perhaps simply because it was no longer covered – seemed to grow even bigger than it already was, too big for the bed and indeed for the entire room: she was an enormous dinosaur in a tiny museum, so large no one knew how she had got there since both doors and windows were far too small to admit her. She lay on the bed, legs spread wide, and her round belly – very much an elderly man’s beer-gut – rose and fell like a sluggish pump; her nightgown gathered itself about her waist, and since it was no longer capable of keeping her warm, her thick thighs and stomach broke out in goosepimples. For now only the skin registered the change; the sleeper remained undisturbed, and since the noise had died away and there was nothing else to alarm them, the three rats once more ventured into the room, a little more at home this time but still maintaining utmost vigilance, prepared to flee at the slightest provocation, retracing their previous routes across the floor. They were so fast, so silent, their existence barely crossed the sensible threshold of reality; never once contradicting their blurry shadowy essence, they continually balanced the extent of their excursions against the peril of their sphere of activity, so that no one should discover them: those slightly darker patches in the darkness of the room were not hallucinations born of fatigue, not merely shadows cast by the immaterial birds of night, but three obsessively careful animals, tireless in their search for food. For that is why they had come as soon as the sleeper had fallen quiet, and why they returned, and if they hadn’t yet run up the table leg to pinch the heel of bread lying among the crumbs it was only because they had to be certain nothing unexpected would happen. They started with the crust, but little by little, and with ever greater abandon, they stuck their sharp little noses into the loaf itself and nibbled at it, though there was no sign of impatience in the rapid movement of their jaws, and the bread, tugged this way and that in three directions, was almost consumed by the time it rolled off the table and under the stool. Of course they froze when it hit the ground and once more stuck their snouts into the air, prepared to make a dash for it, but all was quiet on the Eszter front, there was nothing but slow even breathing, so, after a good minute of suspense, they quickly slipped to the floor and under the stool. And, as they were to find, it was in fact better for them here, for apart from the dense darkness providing greater protection, they could cut down the risks of exposure in retreating to the cover of the bed and thence to freedom when their extraordinary instinct finally told them to abandon the now barely recognizable piece of loaf. The night, in any case, was slowly coming to an end, a hoarse cockerel was furiously crowing, an equally angry dork had begun to bark and thousands and thousands of sleepers, Mrs Eszter among them, sensed the coming of dawn and entered the last lat dream. The three rats, together with their numerous confrères, were scuttling and squeaking in the neighbour’s tumbledown shed among frozen cobs of well-gnawed corn, when, like someone recoiling from a scene of horror, she gave a disconsolate snort, trembled, turned her head rapidly from left to right a few times, beating it on the pillow, then, staring-eyed, suddenly sat up in the bed.
Bonus: Nešto malo slavljenički
objavio Anthony W. Mouse u 22:32