Sometimes in the small hours nature calls. I drag myself from the nest and pad down the hall tunnel in my pyjamas. I know the route blindfold and it used to afford no hazard.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but I share my burrow with a creature called Monsieur Boo. He is white and fluffy and has a long black tail. But don’t be fooled; the soft toy exterior is deep cover.
In our time together, Monsieur Boo and I have expended a lot time squabbling over alpha status – especially who gets to sit on the typewriter, eat, or sit closest to the fire. Monsieur Boo outstares me every time. He is fearless.
Or so I always thought.
Until Ultra Alpha moved into the burrow.
Ultra Alpha arrived with an assurance granted to those of great antiquity, especially those who are well-travelled – and Ultra Alpha, who was over 250 years old had just voyaged half way around the world. He chose to position himself in the hall tunnel. He stood, and still stands there, tall, slender and sleek brown. His bronze, finial ears are always perked, his keyhole eyes keep a weather eye on Monsieur Boo’s food bowl in the kitchen beyond.
At first Monsieur Boo would pause at Ultra Alpha’s feet, glance up, then quickly avert his gaze and slink away to eat his meals. But that was when Ultra Alpha was silent; before he found his voice.
Voice is the wrong word – too gentle. Growl is better. Shortly before the hour, every hour, a long, deep growl vibrated from the bowels of Ultra Alpha. It was an otherworldly growl, resembling nothing so much as heavy chains grinding over cogs. the growl made Monsieur Boo sit up like a meerkat, but it was what came next that pierced his heart with such terror, he trembles now at the mere recollection. Ultra Alpha struck a chime so loud that it as good as banished the demons from the entire neighbourhood. And Monsieur Boo left the the burrow at lightening speed. He took up residence under a tree, and vowed never to return.
I reached an agreement with Ultra Alpha, that he would only growl on special occasions, and I negotiated with Monsieur Boo to return to the burrow – and all was well.
All was well, except…
In the pre Ultra Alpha days Monsieur Boo left the booty of a night’s hunting discreetly in the back parlour. Now it is placed at Ultra Alpha’s feet in the hall tunnel, an appeasement to the gods.
So I found when nature called in the night and I blindly groped my way down the hall tunnel, my paws would likely make contact with cold, stiff fur, or worse still the softer, sticky viscera of some mangled victim.
On the positive side, it has to be said that since the arrival of Ultra Alpha, my relations with Monsieur Boo have become tempered. We are both aware that there is a higher authority in the burrow.
And I now take precautions. If I get up in the night, I wear spectacles.
And I carry a lamp.