I stepped into a spacious but modest room. It’s a clean and relatively cheap place – perfect for overnight. In the past, this was a luxurious building, and now everything what’s left of it is the ground floor. Remaining of this yellow-orange structure is turned into a theatre, obviously not from its golden era. While Alen is solving paperwork, I’m scouring the room which smells like naphthalene. A creaking sound resembling the sound of nails on a chalkboard interrupts mission “Petra the explorer”. It is coming from a white wooden box on the top of the closet. It’s similar to a junction box. Alen is back, and a few minutes later the sound is repeating again. This time the box is moving, and I can clearly see a tail just enough for me to realize what is making this sound. My panic scream “Rat!” is interweaving with Alen’s: “Squirrel!” Function of this mysterious box is solved. Installation hole is open, and the white box is stopping these “pets” from roaming freely around the room. This calls for an intervention so Alen is heading towards the reception. He is a calm person usually, but this time he enters the room waving and explaining to the receptionist that we have a squirrel in the room. This could only be a squirrel in a heavy chemotherapy, otherwise I couldn’t agree with him. The receptionist confirms my theory by waving off to his mentioning of a cute animal with a fluffy tail: “No, it’s a mousie!” He is calm and I feel like my roommate is Mickey Mouse. I even feel embarrassed because we interrupted him for nothing. Alen is confused: “Ah, OK then”. The receptionist shrugs and walks away. In that moment we should have danced and it would have been “Bollywood live”. “Mousie saga” continues during the night, after Alen jumps off the bed and knocks me down with his elbow. From that moment until the morning we are playing a game where the goal is to keep the mousie in the box. Alen is taking this game seriously. He is knocking on the box and jumping off out of fear that a flying squirrel might facehug him. It seems like he is dancing a traditional Indian dance. Spraying the rat with a mosquito repellent is the final move of despair. Loud screams are a sign that they are either fighting or copulating. Whatever they’re doing, it’s not a good soundtrack to sleep.
We are parking our dirty bicycles in front of a white hotel door. Two nice Indian people are welcoming us at the reception desk. Brief presentation of the room, keys handover, and we are already in. While I’m sitting on the bed and pulling out my fancy T-shirt for a night out, I hear squeaking. Sound is coming from above the closet, to be more precise, from a small white box leaning against the wall. I don’t know what it could be, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a standard hotel offer. Box is shaking, screaming and scratching. After knocking on it, I realize that it’s actually a cover for a hole in the wall. Although we saw a playful shadow in a split second, conclusions are different. Petra is typically sensationalistically declaring that she saw bare skin of a rat’s tail. I’m offering more exotic explanation and I’m claiming it is a grey squirrel that is a common resident of these cities. I’m presenting my less extreme variant of the story at the reception because, God forbid, I don’t want to offend anybody. The receptionist is following me to the room where I’m like an eyewitness in front of a TV camera pointing at the location where the supernatural event occurred. A gentle smile of relief is stretched across his face as he knows what I’m talking about. A moment of silence takes place as we are waiting for the answer. “Ah yes, mousie, mousie!” Petra and I glanced at each other. I feel like a western bastard who, dressed in finest white clothes, wants to experience heavenly adventures in the greatest wilderness, not tolerating anything less than highest comfort. Now we are laughing, too. It’s getting dark and seigneur Rat is inviting more folks to his party. Although we have avoided monsoon season, I think we ran into a mating season. Shouting, squealing, growling, scratching and lust fills this hot night, while eyelids on our bloody eyes just crave for a sleep.