Ashlynn backed into her spot, fist slamming into the button and her emotions a tumultuous swirling twister. She couldn’t tell if she wanted to scream or cry, drive through the wall or curl up in the back seat.
It was done – finished, for sure this time – and Ashlynn wasn’t sure how she felt about it yet.
A night of self-care was no longer a suggestion – it was mandatory.
She fumbled with the keys and shoved them into the lock. Wrong key. She cursed under her breath while twisting the silver ring of keys in her fingers to the identical key on the opposite side. She had to get a cover for the apartment key.
As she turned the lock, she heard – or thought she heard – something on the other side of the door. It was muffled and distorted and sounded like a voice. Ashlynn shook her head. It was a long day at the courthouse and it was most likely the neighbor kids playing in the front yard. She only hoped they didn’t scuff up her windows again.
She stepped through the door into the kitchen. A wave of warmth washed over her body. She crossed the threshold and tossed her keys onto the counter. Despite the warmth in the air, a cold shiver ran down her spine and prickled the hair on the back of her neck.
Something felt off about the air of the kitchen. Something charged and uneasy. Ashlynn glanced around the small, joining rooms from the kitchen, dining area, and living room. Nothing.
Ashlynn was about to write it off as her feeling paranoid when she heard something that sounded eerily similar to a cough. She walked around the corner of the counter toward the trashcan.
She glanced around the can and onto the ground. There. Immediately, she leapt backwards up onto the counter and drew her legs to her chest. [That’s just great. That looser set all of those mouse traps and now I’m the one who has to clean it up.] A quick, unnerved shudder overtook her shoulders as she carefully slipped back onto the ground.
The broom was in the closet, but the bags were nearby. [Oh gosh. What if it’s not dead?!] Ashlynn peered around the corner again and prayed the mouse was dead already. It wasn’t moving, which seemed like a good sign until she noticed something off about the creature.
She had dealt with mousetraps before, but she hadn’t seen a mouse look like this before. The way its leg was under the bar wasn’t quite right. The mouse seemed flattened, yet it wasn’t close to the bar. More importantly – and most unnerving of all – it had arms.
Not only did it have arms, but it had hands and a mess of dark brown hair which contrasted greatly with the smoky grey pelt of the mouse. The leg was splayed on its side, and there was a something that looked like a shoe.
Ashlynn’s instincts were electrified, curiosity peaked. She began to wonder if this was even a mouse. She knelt and leaned forward. Her heart began to beat faster, her breath held unintentionally, as she reached out and pulled the mouse head, which she could now see had no eyes, up slightly.
She retracted her hand immediately after spotting the small, pale features of what looked like a human face. Her hands trembled and suddenly felt tremendously cold. She wrung her hands together as the mind ran off to the races.
What was this? Some kind of practical joke? This looked like a human – a person. Was it a figurine? The notion was ridiculous. A doll wearing mouse skin? Was it even still alive? She didn’t want to check, but some part of her compelled her to do so.
Ashlynn reached forward again and pulled the mouse pelt away further to reveal the small face again. From what she could tell, this new person was a he. His body was shivering, but he didn’t seem to be conscious.
Panicking, she reached over to the edge of the mousetrap, hesitated, then stood again. She couldn’t call emergency services. What would she say? That there was a human looking person the size of her hand laying on her kitchen floor caught in a mousetrap with what looked like a broken leg? No. As usual, she had to do everything herself.
She didn’t understand much about emergency first-aid, but she knew his leg was most likely fractured or broken by the way it was turned in the trap. She had helped her cousins set a few noses and fingers. How hard could this be? The leg needed to be braced, and there weren’t a lot of things to use. [Great. This is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to come home to an obligation – a very, tiny obligation. It’s not like I was going to drown my sorrows in a bathtub and binge watch a season or two of something.]
Thankfully, her crafting from her youth was finally coming in handy. She quickly cut some cheep chopsticks and gathered up some tape before going back to the mousetrap. He, whatever he was, was still there laying relatively motionless and shivering from time to time.
As carefully as she could, Ashlynn secured the trap and lifted the bar. Instantly, there was a pain filled gasp as the small figure lurched and turned, falling off of the trap and onto the tile. Ashlynn could now see his entire front exposed. His limbs wrapped across his form, yet he still seemed unconscious.
His clothes were a patchwork of dirty cloth made of a dull, muddy green and brown. There were things around his waist which rested on his hip and across his body. Ashlynn marveled at the figure before he convulsed into another bout of shudders. She needed to work fast.
With a mixture of fascination and annoyance, Ashlynn worked on the small humanoid. She secured his leg within the brace, noting the small amount of blood by his shin from where his leg was pinched beneath the bar and how he winced and gasped as she carefully set the leg. Google had served her well, but it took a while to find a website that helped walk her through the process.
It took nearly an hour, but she managed to brace and, for the most part, set the leg. She had to remove most of the pant leg to successfully brace the leg and immobilize it in a wrap. Something about his skin felt warm, yet clammy. [He’s not sick is he?] Ashlynn, with the utmost care, laid the tip of her index finger against his forehead. He was burning up.
[Great. Just great. Sick. Broken. This is fine. It’s not like I was going to do something for myself. Curses! Why do I always get stuck with the ones I have to fix!]
Ashlynn finished up gathering other supplies for her new sick and injured house guest, knowing a sleepless night was before her.