For three days I wasn't able to make my day-time trips to The Cave: I'd gone into a close partnership with the toilet, and nothing could untie me for longer than 20 minutes. It was a shame, for a squirrel had given birth to a clutch of young, and was busy scampering and scuffling about as the did her frenzied nest duties. Before locking the doors, I'd enquired if she had access to the outside, and was assured that she jumped out through a ventilator near-by. For three days her brood hardly entered my mind, which was more concerned with where to pitch my tent to rest in the field of consciousness. In the phantom world between outbursts of heat and sweating, followed by tooth chattering cold. I called for blankets – lots of them, yet 20 minutes later I was drenched in sweat. Somewhere between these two states, there's a grey land where you can take your rest, and that's where I managed to sleep; I gobbled the slumber deeply and shortly before the cycle moved on, and I reckoned that the interval between the two states was about the same as Dawn and Dusk on the planet Mercury.
On the third day I rose shakily from my bed, initially unknowing whether I was dead or alive; but the smell that came to me as a entered The Cave told me that the dead thing definitely wasn't me. Something had passed away. The rotting stench was unmistakeable, yet not steady. It blew over in acrid little wafts. Our first thought was to make a search for a dead lizard as one of them passes away in the bookshelves every so often. However on this occasion nothing was found until our noses led us to the box where the squirrel had her kits. It was too late for two of them and the third, dehydrated and shrivelled, was squeaking its last, calling for milk we couldn't give. I was told wrong: the mother wasn't getting out by the window vent, but would wait until I made my daily entrance. I think that during the confusion and process of the guys propping me up, she must have scampered in and out.
Another squirrel has entered my life now, this time through the kitchen. She enters through the extractor fan over the cooker and is busy making her nest in a cardboard box full of wires, broken plugs and adaptors This is a more sensible choice for her, and I look forward enormously to watching the kits scuttle in and out. They all look like beach pebbles in embryo before they open their eyes, grey-backed with silver on the bellies; they're gobs of mercury waiting to streak along, just at the edge of field of vision, slipping past and gone so quick I wonder if anything was ever there.
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