Creatures can live in your house and you won’t even know it. Creatures you don’t recognize and couldn’t name if paid.
And then there are the many animals and insects that could be in your house, feral, secretive creatures that know how to stay out of your way. Their little grey bodies feel your footsteps and sense your squinting eyes. They pack themselves into backs of drawers never opened, pawing through the christening ribbons and the photos from your high school picnic. Sometimes you will see the marks of their bored chewing on your things but decide it’s only the passage of time that has roughed the edges of your belongings.
At night, there is the possibility of creatures running through your house, or worse, soaking into your bedroom and hovering, breathing just inches from your face so you feel their presence with the hairs in your nostrils. The doorbell rings, a book drops, a glass shatters on the back porch and you ignite into wakefulness, alert and at the ready. Which door is it coming through? Can it be seen out the window? Who is on the street? Who is climbing the trellis?
The sound in the wall was there always. Guests never heard it. Only me. Tiny thumping like a heart beating right up against the wood, a powerful heart, though, one that could be felt throughout the big house, all three stories, the many bedrooms. If I stayed perfectly still, the wee baboom-baboom-baboom could be heard anywhere.
‘You hear that, right? Can’t you hear that?”
“It’s just the refrigerator.”
“The refrigerator hums. It doesn’t beat. It doesn’t have a rhythm.”
“It’s all in your head. There’s nothing there.”
It was there. I heard it in the attic while I was looking for Halloween decorations, in the basement doing laundry and in all of the rooms in-between. It’s coming from the kitchen, I said. I knew it.
“We have to take out the kitchen wall.”
“That’s crazy. We can’t do that.”
“The thumping is coming from the wall. Tear it down. We have to tear it down.”
Behind the plaster and the dry wall were the house’s original bricks and wood, layered there a hundred years ago. I felt each inch with my hands, stood on a kitchen chair to reach the tallest places where the sound could be hiding, took all day and the night to finger every crevice but there was no small beating heart, no evidence that any creature had lived there in the kitchen wall.
“You’re right. There’s no creature. It was just my imagination.”
“Well, I’m glad you figured it out. It’s really just all in your head.”
Now the beating heart was behind my eyes, thumping, thumping, thumping, in that small space, that tiny space where the creature had decided to hide.
Settled in. To stay.