A man, lying sleepless in the dark one night, presently became aware of the sounds of mice in the walls.
“How they run!” he said. “What a noise they make!”
In the morning, he called his neighbor inside to tell him of his troubles.
“Listen!” he said. “There are mice in my walls! Can you hear them?”
“I have mice in my house too,” said the neighbor. “So does everyone. Did you hear of our neighbor far away that has a problem with rats instead? Don’t worry so much.”
And that night, still thinking of rats far away, the man went to bed and heard the mice, and the next night, and the next, and every night the noise grew louder, until one night, many months later, it was loud enough to wake him up.
“How they chew!” he said. “What a noise they make!’
In the morning, he called his friend inside to tell him of his troubles.
“Listen!” he said, “There are mice in my walls! Can you hear them?”
“I hear no mice,” said the friend immediately. “What did you want to talk about?
“Just listen,” said the man, “If you are quiet you will hear them.” “There are no mice,” the friend insisted. Don’t worry so much.”
The man began to worry that only he could hear them, that maybe he was mad for worrying so much about the mice, but that night he went to bed and heard the mice, and the next night, and the next, and every night the noise grew louder, until one night, many months later, it was so loud he could not sleep.
“How they burrow!” he said, “What a noise they make!”
In the morning he called his brother inside to tell him of his troubles.
“Listen!” he said, “there are mice in my walls! Can you hear them?”
“Yes!” said his brother, “What a noise they make!” And the man was overjoyed, knowing he was not mad and thinking he would finally have help.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” he told his brother, “because they were so loud. Sometimes I worry about them. I worry they will bite me.
Sometimes I worry they will come out of the walls and chew me to pieces.”
“That can never happen,” the brother assured him. “Nothing so small could hurt you so much.”
“Maybe,” said the man, “But they must be doing terrible damage to the house. Hear how they chew at the walls!”
“Listen,” said the brother, “they may make a terrible noise, but how small they really are! They are nothing, really. Don’t worry so much.”
And the man despaired, knowing his brother didn’t understand after all, and thinking he would never have anyone to help him with his mice. But he went to bed that night and heard the mice, and the night after that and many nights later he still had not been able to sleep for the mice in his walls.
“They are like a pulse in this house!” he cried. “They rush in their own pathways and are everywhere inside it! What a terrible noise they make!” He sat up in bed, worried about the mice in the dark but more worried he would step on mice if he stood up to put a light on. He heard a scratching on the floor.
“Just a mouse,” he told himself. “Every house has them. Don’t worry.”
He felt the tug of something tiny climbing up the blanket.
“That’s nothing,” he told himself. “There is nothing there. Don’t worry.”
The mouse scurried across his bedspread.
“You are very small,” he said to it, “Too small to ever hurt me. You are nothing. Maybe you are not even real.”
But after years and years of running and biting and burrowing, the walls no longer had anything inside of them that could support the weight of many thousands of mice, and they collapsed on top of him. In the morning, his neighbors, friends and brothers came to assist him, but he was quite dead and his house was in ruins.
“How terrible!” said his neighbor. “How many mice there must have been!”
“How terrible!” said his friend. “I never knew he had so many mice!”
“How terrible!” said his brother. “I never knew anything so small could do such damage!”
And they went for the body, for they wanted to put him away as is right. But when the walls collapsed and killed him, though many mice had died as well, those remaining had run and scurried and eaten him up, and there was nothing anyone could do for him now but wish, truly, that they had paid more heed to the mice in the man’s walls.