I awoke that morning with a start, the faintest light from the first rays of dawn cast across my living room floor, the gentle nestle of warmth and safety and comfort cocooning me as I rouse from unconsciousness.
Then the sound comes again, unrecognizable at first, startling though, just the same.
A faint-hearted, futile shriek registers, triggering the memories from the night before.
It had come so matter-of-fact, so pedestrian, to set its spring tension with the click of the trigger mechanism. No thought to suffering or the loss of anything. Only the removal of annoyance. Unwilling, unable to share my own domicile with anything else.
Rightly so, you might say.
I would agree.
But, still, waking to it’s last, desperate cries, listening to a thousand years transpire in the breadth of but a single minute.
It shook me to my foundation.
To my core.
I knew without a doubt, lying there in my hammock, what fresh hell this moment was for one less fortunate than I. I knew there, quite surprised, that I would never forget standing witness to the death of such insignificance.
But, still, what does that make for me? How might I, too, shuffle off the edge of this so familiar stage, simply a pawn dispatched out of the desire for efficiency, economy?
It was the cost-effectiveness that brought about the purchase. A better mouse trap, the ad copy said.
Murder is murder and death is death and all roads lead to the burning pit that is the hell of good intentions.
Can I assume that I desired mercy for a creature riddled by disease and tormented by suffering? Or, did I simply wish to dispatch the bother altogether?
Out of sight.
Not this night.
Not this kill.
The thoughts echoed through my mind as I waited patiently for it’s last gasp.
Would it be missed?
Were there young ones waiting at home? Would they not likewise perish, dying painfully slow in their coffined nest?
A full minute passed and then silence once again swallowed up the room.
Had it even happened?
Had I imagined it?
Was my mind playing tricks on me, or was I still fast asleep, dreaming of a dreadful encounter with a beast?
It had happened.
And, it had not been the first, by far.
But, the others, they died silently, their bodies growing ever so cold, their thirst unquenched, wanting, longing for understanding, if they could even comprehend.
Those deaths often go unnoticed, their twisted, ghastly bodies splayed out in the nether regions, tombed away, desiccated, forgotten, forsaken, ripening in secret until to dust they return.
Who am I to take such proclivities? Such a lackadaisical concern for the living?
In the aftermath, I stir, out from under my covers – my safe, warm, comfortable place, where all things are right and great and find in a world gone mad and murderers go unpunished and revel in their misdeeds.
I stumble into the kitchen, still a little weary from sleep, still a little shaken from the previous proceedings.
There, on the floor, where I had laid the trap so cleverly, baiting it’s trigger with a dab of peanut butter.
My peanut butter.
There I was, sharing my food with a stranger.
Reaching out a hand of friendship, in a bleak and merciless world, only to then plunge a dagger in it’s back.
How might others congratulate me for a job well done. How they might have criticized if I had chosen a different way.
Does this “mine” provide the ample rights to douse a flame? Might I have, instead, reasoned with it? Could it have understood and, with some consideration, found more appropriate lodgings?
What gives it the right to invade my home, my dwelling, simply because there is food here and warmth and its instinctual need is to find food and warmth and a place to have children?
Yet, I lie here, much later, and find myself haunted by those few seconds.
What does this thing mean, Death?
Will there be a sentience foreign to me, listening intently at my own death rattle, as I spit up the last of the air from my lungs, as blood begins to settle into my lower extremities, as my body begins to shut down?
Will I be spared at the last moment, my killer more merciful than me? Or, will I be so callously snuffed out with the taunting of a crumb of food?
We are not unlike him who died, who breathed a final good bye and then forever lay still at my feet.
Time slips us by.
Like catching water with open hands, there is no end to our missed opportunities, to forsaken chances. If only to reconsider the free offer of food….
But, there is no help for us or him.
None of us have chosen to live.
To be born.
None of us choose what state we might be forced to undertake. Can we even be compared to such a deplorable station?
We are all drowning rats on a sinking ship.
One day each one of us will meet the maker of this grand experiment.
And, like my strange, unwilling friend, some of us will do so much sooner than we think.
Suffice it to say, he shall, that reaper, come for each of us, all. And, in that split second, as I pass, soul and spirit, from this world to the next, I think my final thoughts will be of this tiny fire I snuffed out so casually.
And in the end, it was all in search of a better mouse trap.
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