A knocking came from the bathroom. It was hollow, tentative and soft. I got up and turned on the light. I checked under the sink first. There had been a story, I remembered it now, of a miniature man who lived below a sink. That man took the child who found him on an swashbuckling adventure, but I am 24, nearly 70, and I have it on good authority that my adventuring days are over.
The cupboard was empty except for three bags of travel toothpaste and toothbrushes from the dentist, an extra roll of toilet paper, and a stained copy of Paradise Lost that I believe I must have placed there by mistake. However useful it is, Paradise Lost does not have hands—it cannot knock. Just then, the knocking sounded again, closer, now. I turned to the toilet, afraid to open the lid and greet whatever foul thing had clawed its way up through the plumbing of my building. I peeked with one eye, as if a lack of depth perception could save me.
The bowl was empty and cleaner than I’d expected. But the knocking had come from the toilet, no mistake. I lifted the top of the tank and wondered what some previous tenant may have left to breed in the dank chamber. The insides were usual: float, fill valve, flapper, lever, overflow. I knew them all. But I did not know the figure clinging to the refill tube, body dangling just above the water. A mouse, I thought, but did not drop the porcelain top in fright. If it was a mouse, it’s limbs were too long (I shuddered thinking that they’d stretched out from hanging there for days, maybe weeks). Its tail was absent also, as was its fur, and ears, and beady eyes, and anything else that could make it a mouse at all. So. An un-mouse, then.
The un-mouse said, Help.
Why, I asked, and I meant it, too.
The un-mouse said, Please.
I opened the medicine cabinet and extracted a toothbrush. It was not mine (no, it was not anyone’s), but I grimaced all the same, and I held it out into the tank, and the un-mouse grabbed onto it. I deposited the creature onto the windowsill and set the toothbrush by the sink.
So, I said.
So, said the un-mouse.
I did not know the time, but the lack of street noise from outside suggested that it was no time at all, that the cracked street had packed itself up into a shoebox and left only the un-mouse and me to stand for the world. I sat down on the edge of the bath.
Thank you, said the un-mouse.
You’re welcome, I said.
You saved my life, said the un-mouse.
And what kind of life is that, I asked.
A good one, I hope, said the un-mouse.
I laughed. The un-mouse did not.
There was a tear in my sail.
In your sail?
Yes. The un-mouse gestured back down into the toilet tank and, sure enough, there was a dilapidated sailing ship there. Chipped cursive letters on the side named it Discovery II.
And where were you sailing to?
The un-mouse shrugged and gestured. Here, I suppose, the un-mouse said.
I laughed again.
Why, I asked for a second time.
The un-mouse shrugged again.
I did not know I would need so many answers, the un-mouse said.
What will you do now, I asked.
What does anyone do now, the un-mouse asked.
It was a good question, I thought. I did not answer.
We stayed like this for some time. The bathroom light buzzed incessantly, and I soon found a rhythm in its buzzing, but I did not dance. The un-mouse did not either. Its face was blank. Its legs dangled from the sill.
In time, it was morning, and we were still there, the un-mouse and me. In the bedroom, my alarm went off, its digital melody at odds with the rhythm of the bathroom light. The sound did not startle the un-mouse. The un-mouse did not even flinch. I cleared my throat.
I have to leave, I said.
Okay, the un-mouse said.
Will you leave too, I asked.
No, the un-mouse said. My sail is torn, he said.
That’s true, I said.
Be seeing you, the un-mouse said.
Be seeing you, I said.
Alex Evans lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and has done for a while now. He writes stories, makes coffee, sings songs, drinks wine, and doesn’t sleep nearly enough. He loves wrinkly dogs and hates the smell of airplanes. His little fictions have been featured in “X-R-A-Y Lit Mag”, the “Jet Fuel Review”, “Five on the Fifth”, and “Ohio’s Emerging Writers: an Anthology of Fiction”. He tweets at @alexevansohio and lives at alexevansohio.com.