It’s often that I hear him that I’m already awake, but just so, teased across the membrane of sleep with a toe or two, with the sheets damp and my head a nub above them, withdrawn, when I hear him.
Maybe I smell him first, and that’s what wakes me, the sulfur, the factory run-off he’s slicked up out of, is still dripping with when he’s made it here, creaking across the floorboards, clicking his talons, dragging his tail, closing the distance between us over who knows how many miles, driven up over embankments and through empty intersections by the drone of all-night manufacture, by ceaseless by-production, vibrations felt out in the swamps.
He’s disturbed; I can feel it and almost empathize; it’s a long way he’s come to be up on his hindquarters, stabbing for purchase with the probing-end of the cane he’s hobbled himself to carry, to be now doffing his stovepipe hat in appeal.
All of this inferred by shadow, let me say, the shape of him as it struggles to stand on the other side of the blanket, the mass of him moving as it does, with an ever-present sway.
“Let me in,” he could be saying, “it looks nice in there, and warm. Snug, like the nest of my youth. Shielded from aerial predators by reeds. The blankets seem to me like reeds.”
But the sound produced is hostile, guttural, in all ways alien, and I am afraid, afraid that even the slightest motion, my breathing beneath the sheet might be interpreted as invitation, as anything at all, when interpretation seems all the alligator is after, intoning as he is through serrated jaws; when giving in to the desires of an alligator, any serrated-jaw-possessor in one’s own bedroom, seems ill-advised, even foolish, connected, as it were, by tearable sinew, to any number of other antecedent needs, wants, namely hunger.
But he knows that I’m there, has deduced as much from the shape of me as I have him and peers, patiently nictitating.
I know he’s an alligator, as he knows I’m not-alligator, knows little of from where I’ve risen, knows the factory, the coating stink of it.
He knows the narrow network he’s traced to get here, the carved course of his nightly visitation; that much is clear in bent brush and claw-marks in dried mud, in the parted sawgrass and decorative median-strip flower beds between the swamp and this room; unless, and I’d ask him if I could, there’s a scent, some chemical cast-off I’m not consciously producing that he’s able to detect beneath the suffocating miasma of the factory’s smokestacks and must heed, for unknowable alligator reasons, on the most expeditious path available, which is still wending, circuitous, accounting for the fence-cuts and gaps in topiary that make traversal even at all possible, plus the coast’s near-constant wind changes; the scent is wafting after all, subject to redirections, especially along what I know to be a fairly busy shipping corridor.
There’s a non-discountable possibility it’s a sound he’s hearing, not a scent.
I’m known to talk in my sleep and can’t be counted on to comment on content or volume. I could be singing “Come All Ye Alligators,” or screaming, and he’s here to help.
All this to say, it’s probably not his fault that he’s here.
It says more about me than it does about him.
How I conduct myself in ways both conscious and not.
Certainly more about that than the Alligator Agenda, than occasionally spotlit slit-eyed searching on the side of the interstate, though who’s to say.
Don Television is an American writer. His fiction has been featured in or is forthcoming from Angel Rust, Apocalypse Confidential, and Identity Theory. Reach out: www.donatello.vision.