Me, on tactical day.
Rats! Rats! Big freaky rats, with "tails" THIS LONG! (a paraphrase)
I barely slept a wink last night.
Lately, I have been having a lot of trouble falling asleep in the evening, and I'm not sure why. I get sleepy during the day, and I am usually sleepy at bedtime, but when it is time to put my head down, I just can't seem to fall asleep.
One of the problems in recent nights has been the termites. In our tent, we have these enormous bugs that look like big, black, evil ants with wings. They are multiplying in number, and they are intimidating as can be. We figure they must be termites, so I guess they don't bite, but they have an abdomen and lots of creepy legs, so I am afraid of them. One was crawling on my arm last night, and another perched itself in the middle of my computer screen while I was typing, so I kept thinking I had bugs crawling all over me while I was trying to fall asleep.
A bigger problem is the extreme dryness of the air. When I'm laying there, breathing, the air coming in through my nose is so dry that it sort of squelches the back of my throat. It's not pain that I feel, but it's, like, irritating and dry. It's hard to describe, but I bet you know what I'm talking about. Well, to overcome this problem, I have to put my covers in front of my mouth so my own breathing creates a sort of humidifier effect. That works for a while, but only if I fall asleep right away. If it doesn't work immediately, I end up feeling like I can't breathe (I HATE having something in front of my face, because I don't like the warmth, and that's why it can be hard for me to sleep in a sleeping bag when it is freezing cold outside, for example). So I have to move the covers to breathe the cool air again, and my throat gets dry, and it is a never-ending and vicious circle. It's infuriating, and I end up all groggy when I wake up.
Well, last night was no exception. I tossed and turned until maybe 0100 or 0200, when the Vick's 44 finally kicked in (I have a cough/stuffy nose, which is likely brought on by allergies). Well, I was sound asleep when a blinding light jolted me out of a dream at about 0430. Since I had accidentally left my cell phone/alarm clock in the office, I was relying on a crappy clock that I pulled out of storage for the night, and it still had pre-daylight saving time on it, leading me to believe it was only 0330. What in the WORLD would somebody be doing getting up at this insane hour!? It was one of my eight young roommates, an nice Air Force staff sergeant named Nicole. She always puts the light on for a few minutes, and it always wakes me up, but then she extinguishes it and I fall asleep. Thinking this was a normal, albeit earlier, morning for her, I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. BUT THE AIR WAS SO DRY!!!
I tossed and turned, and just as I was drifting off, the lights went on again. This time, I could hear three excited voices. In my half-sleep, I thought I heard Nicole say something like, "I'm UA. I just walked out. I'm packing my stuff, and I'm going home." Ohmigosh. Crisis. I rolled over, groggy, and saw her flip off the light and walk out of the tent.
"What's wrong?" I whispered to Donna, next to me. "There's a rat in the tent. Nicole saw it dragging a Power Bar out."
Wheels turning in my brain...slowly grinding...fuzzy picture becoming clearer...
"Oh, for crying out loud," I said, rolling over and covering my head with my pillow, reinserting my foamy earplug. For the love of God, I just wanted sleeeeeep.......
0500. The light goes on again, more voices, lots of shuffling. Our youngest roommate, Katie, the cutest little 20-year-old Army sergeant you've ever seen (or you've never seen), is up now, looking around frantically with her flashlight. All three girls are up. The rat is back. I look at my clock, see that is says 0400, and decide I should defer to my wristwatch. Just as I suspected. The clock was wrong, and it was 0500, and I had three more hours to try to sleep. I took a trip to the toilets and back, and they were still hunting for rodents.
I put my head down, closed my eyes, and suddenly I heard scratching below my head. Something was under my bed!!! EEEEEK! I don't mind mice, or even small rats, but this didn't sound small, and I don't want ANYTHING crawling near my head! I shined my light around, but I couldn't see a thing. I put my head down again, and, scritch, scrinkle, claw, shuffle, shuffle, SOMETHING IS RIGHT BY MY FREAKIN' HEAD! And it's not afraid! I was bolt upright in bed, fumbling for my light and afraid to turn it on, certain that it would shine into the slobbering face of a Hollywood special effects-like R-O-U-S (rodent of unusual size). (The Princes Bride. The Fire Swamp. Am I more afraid of the rat, or the midget inside of the rat costume? Anyway, back to the story.) For the life of me, I could not find that rat, but I knew it was there, somewhere, lurking.
Several of the girls have food in the tent, which is the only reason a rat would ever dare enter, so I mentioned that everybody needs to get rid of any food they have. I knew that all I had was a bag of almonds (gotta bring that to work in the morning) and a square or two of chocolate, which was somewhere on my nightstand. I turned on my flashlight so I could put the almonds and the chocolate where I wouldn't forget them in the morning. Almonds, check. Chocolate, not so check. Where was it?! I know it was there before bed, because I remember remarking that it had melted when the A/C broke earlier in the day. But where was it now?! I searched the floor and under my bed. It was nowhere to be found. Oh. My. Gosh. The rat must have crawled onto my nightstand and made off with my chocolate bar. And if he had climbed onto the nightstand, he had probably crawled onto my bed, and possibly even ON MY HEAD! Oh, the HORROR!!!
I tried to put the rat out of my mind, as I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep. Suddenly, I felt something run down my left side, around my feet, and back up my right side. The rat was doing laps on top of me, on my quilt! Or was he? I tried to scream. I tried to launch the rat through the air. I tried to tell the girl next to me that I had found the rat. But I couldn't move, or yell, or scream, or even lift my head or a hand. I was in that magical state between dreaming and awake, and I couldn't do a thing. The part of me that was dreaming was trying desperately to get away from the giant rat, and the part of me that was awake couldn't move at all under the weight of a sleeping Nancy. I was trapped, and I didn't know what was real. This went on for the rest of the night, in between other vivid, rat-related dreams.
During one part of my dream, I caught the rat, and he was white with black spots, like cookies and cream ice cream. But he could squeeze through the tiniest of cracks, and he got away. I looked for him under my bed and found, instead, a cream-colored mouse. The girls yelled at me to hit it with my shoe, but I protested that I didn't want to squish it. They insisted, and I gave it a whack, splitting it's little mouse skull open. A blister began to form on the wound, and they screamed at me to get it out of the tent before it bled on anything. When I got outside, the tent was suddenly some sort of a rustic Chinese restaurant/cabin, and there was a Chinese fountain on the porch. I put the mouse in the fountain, and his skin and flesh melted off of his bones. Eeew. Creepy. What in the world was happening? It was a clean skeleton, and I could see red tissue through it's thin, transparent skull bones. And then--could it be? It squeaked! It started squeaking and moving slightly, and then it was fully animated. The mouse skeleton was alive, evil, and looking to kill its, um, killer. It wanted my blood. Someone, I don't know who it was, but it was a boy, grabbed the skeleton with some pinchers and carted it off, and I spent the rest of my weird night trying to escape rats and dead mice and a catatonic zombie state. It was awful.
When my alarm woke me at 0800, I was barely able to get up. When I did, though, I was ever so happy to see that the tent hadn't been turned inside out, there was no sign of blood or dead rats, and everything seemed to be back to normal.
We're required to have our kevlars and flak jackets at work today, so I had to dig mine out from between my bed and the tent, at the head of my bed. Guess what I found under my duffle bag?
My chocolate bar. With tiny little teeth marks and a hole gnawed through one corner...
The rodent of unusual size creeping through our tent.