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I Hate My Friend’s Pet

I hate my friends pet


Estimated reading time โ€” 11 minutes

I’ve recently realized that the older you get, the fewer close friends you retain. You get so caught up with real-world stuff that you forget about the people who’ve made monumental impacts on your life. That harsh reality hit when one of my closest friends, whom I hadn’t spoken to for a while, DM’d our group chat with the devastating news that he was terminally ill.

The impact of just a few text messages hit me like the force of a grenade in a 10×10 room. As the wave of “I love yous” and “We need to see each other soon” poured into the chat, I kinda just sat there, reading the message over and over again. My mind thought back on all the memories I had shared with this person and how, in a moment, all the memories we had yet to make were taken away. Not just in that moment, but in all the moments, I had prioritized other things over the meaningful people in my life. It was a jarring realization.

Suffice it to say, not only did I make plans to see that friend and give them all the support and love that I could, I took two weeks off to take a little road trip and re-connect with many of the people I was beginning to lose touch with. For everyone out there, I highly recommend you do the same. Please reach out to the people you’ve spent years caring about. You never know when the last time will be the last time. If you can, keep those meaningful connections alive.

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Anyway, it turned out to be a really great trip. Not only did I get to see a lot of the country I hadn’t seen, but re-establishing those old connections made me feel more complete. On my way back, I only had one more person to visit, and it was probably the person I had the most solid connection with. I don’t want to put his real name out there, so I’ll call him “Jacob.”

Jacob and I had known each other since we were in elementary school and were inseparable until I went away to college. When I told him about my trip and that his house was the one I was most excited to hit, the feeling was clearly mutual. Recently, he moved back to this childhood home after losing his apartment, and as childish as it may sound… I was excited to be in the same rooms we used to play in as kids.

When I arrived at his place, I saw him sitting outside and smoking something with a familiar aroma. I greeted him with a very loud, “Whaddup, brotherman?!” He returned a warm smile, and we embraced. From there, we got to talking like only childhood friends could. Going from subjects ranging from the monotonous to political to weird in a way, only those closest to you can understand.

When we finally made our way inside, a distinctly older version of his family greeted me with a fully cooked homemade meal. The love radiating from them hadn’t missed a beat from years ago. I’m not sure which part of your brain is responsible for nostalgia, but that little bit lit up like a Christmas tree as we all sat down to eat and talked about the years that had passed. Everything was just the way I remembered it to be.

In an oddly personal moment, Jacob’s mother commented about how the timing of my trip was perfect. When I asked why she revealed that Jacob had been struggling since losing his apartment and long-time girlfriend. And that it had made it difficult for him to hold steady work. I wanted to tell her it wasn’t best to discuss that at dinner in a family setting. Still, Jacob seemed to agree and gave me a soft nod when I responded awkwardly, “Yeah, man. I’m here for you.”

Half out of necessity and half because the conversation was getting a tad uncomfortable, I excused myself to use the bathroom right past Jacob’s old room. It wasn’t until then that I discovered the first thing that felt shockingly different. A passing glance at Jacob’s uncharacteristically clean room revealed that taking up nearly all the space on a table next to his bed was a large white cage.

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My first instinct was confusion. Not only that, my friend, who was an unapologetically disorganized person, had maintained a room that didn’t have so much as a speck of dust lying around. But this same person had a massive fear of rodents, and yet, in front of an impressively built model house that nearly reached the top of the cage stood a chubby brown rat.

And when I say stood, I mean he was literally standing upright on two disturbingly humanoid legs, with arms casually hanging at his sides; he looked directly at me.

He didn’t move his body when I approached, but the slightest turn of his head with his dark eyes trained on me let me know that I was being watched. Oddly enough, the fact that this thing was making it a point to stare into my soul wasn’t even what disturbed me the most about it. No, what really got me was the buzzing or ringing in my ears the longer I maintained eye contact. It filled me with an incredible sense of sorrow the more I let it grow, and the only way of getting rid of it was to turn away completely.

I shut my eyes, and half sprinted out of the room, only turning back when I heard what sounded like a small door slamming behind me and found an empty cage where the rat had once stood.

When I finally returned to the dinner table, Jacob immediately called out how long I had been gone and the noticeable beads of sweat forming on my brow.

Bewildered, I looked Jacob dead in the eye and asked when the hell he became a neat freak, got over his fear of rodents, got a rat, and then proceeded to teach that same rat to stand on two legs and stare at whoever came by.

His response was… I don’t even know how to explain it. He kind of just laughed at me? Or maybe he was laughing at the situation. I don’t know. The point being his response was, “Yeah. Mr. Katz is an interesting character, isn’t he?”

I’m sorry, what? I thought maybe he didn’t hear me or thought I was messing with him, so I reiterated my experience, and he shook his head and said he totally understood me.

Strange as it was, I decided to drop it. I couldn’t rationalize it at the time but honestly? I’m not a rat expert. Maybe that’s a normal thing they do from time to time? Perhaps he just really liked to mess with people now, and teaching his pet to stand and stare is a great way to do it. Creepy as that rat is, it still is just a rat.

When we finished eating dinner, Jacob and I went outside to go on a mini hike, grab some snacks, and hit up some of our old stomping grounds. Within a few hours of hanging out, that warm sense of nostalgia and happiness began to fill me up again. So much so that I had nearly forgotten about the creepy pet rat.

In our travels around town, I often found Jacob taking a second to absorb things. One of my favorite qualities about Jacob has always been his ability to appreciate the moment and put it into context in a positive way. Whatever the situation, he’s always been great at putting things into perspective and grounding us.

But this time, he seemed unsure. It was as if looking back at his past made him scared for the future. After going off to school, finding someone he thought he’d be in love with, and getting a new job and apartment, things were looking up… Until they weren’t. And he had ended up right back where he was.

I could see a sense of frustration building up in him as he looked at his best friend seeing all his memories as just that… Memories. A past life. While for him, it was just his everyday existence. Same old. Same old. Same old.

Once it fully hit me that being out there wasn’t as fun for Jacob as it was for me, I suggested we head back and chill at his house for a bit before I went back.

When we returned, things took another turn for the weird. All the cars in front of the garage were still there. No one had mentioned going out earlier. In fact, Jacob’s parents and siblings made reference to seeing us later. Yet, the house was completely empty and silent. I asked Jacob where his family had gone. Rooms, bathroom, backyard… Nothing. Again, he laughed it off and made a weird comment about how they were probably off somewhere bettering themselves.

Taking that as a moment where I silently shake my head and move on, I thought we’d end the night with a dumb movie and some shots before I returned to my hotel.

Two shots of whiskey and half an Eric Andre special in, and Jacob casually turns to me and mumbles, “I knew he was gonna get sick, you know? Before he told us.”

The world drained away for a moment. I turned back to Jacob, dumbfounded, and replied with a stumbly, “W-what? Who?” He gave me a blank stare before pulling out his phone, scrolling to a text thread he had with himself, and showing me a text detailing precisely what our mutual friend had told us. Not just that, but he had sent this to himself a week prior.

I didn’t know how or why. And before I could ask if Jacob just happened to have been told before the rest of us were, he showed me another from that same day. One about me. It said how I had planned a two-week road trip after hearing the news, how I’d come by to see Jacob on the last leg of my journey, and the exact day and time I’d be there.

Before he could go any further, I smacked the phone out of his hand and told him to stop. If this trip was some elaborate prank, then OK, but he could at least have the balls to leave our friend out of his weird joke.

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He shook his head and told me I didn’t get it. There wasn’t a joke.

I wanted to leave that instant, but I felt frozen. What could he mean? Before Jacob could explain further, I heard my name being called from the slightly obscured door leading to the garage. It sounded like Jacob’s mom.

A wave of relief washed over me. I had forgotten entirely that the family had an entrance to their garage and had converted it into a secondary living room. Whatever was going on with Jacob, he wasn’t doing well, and at the very least, I felt the need to tell his parents to get him some help.

With a simple, “Yeah? Give me a sec!” I hopped up from the couch and half jogged towards the garage with Jacob staring me down the entire way.

Blindly, I opened the door and began to blurt out an unorganized sentence about how something was wrong but was met with a meaty hand to my mouth, a secondary arm around my abdomen, and a deafening “Shhh!”

Jacob’s parents and two siblings were standing in a nearly empty garage, fixated on the one thing I had hoped never to see again. A table with a large white cage containing a model house and a chubby brown rat standing in front of it.

I was being held in place by Jacob’s massive father. All I could do was dart my eyes over to the young girl closest to the table, mumbling under her breath excitedly, “C’mon. Do something! Do something! Please.”

Mr. Katz, however, didn’t seem to mind the girl. His soulless black eyes, which seemed just a little too big for his skull, were trained directly on me.

As much as I didn’t want to, I couldn’t help but look back. Something deep within me wanted to observe what it would do. And when I got my answer, a sense of confusion followed. Where before the chubby rat seemed to stand motionless, now it had begun to rhythmically sway back and forth. I watched as the fat rat moved his body like a pendulum, my body going numb with each sway. As the world grew increasingly fuzzy, a distinct buzz grew louder and louder.

However, this time, it was different. This time, the buzz was accompanied by a voice. Probably the most comforting voice I’ve ever heard. One that told me that everything would be alright, that Mr. Katz only wanted what was best for me, and that I should be grateful to be in his presence. I was in a safe home, after all. I was surrounded by people that loved me. I got to experience great memories. And for all the uncertainty, Mr. Katz did seem like a great rat, after all. A rat that should be respected and loved. Revered even. That’s why he had such a big home in his cage. Maybe he deserved an even bigger one. And maybe in return… He’d give me something. Knowledge. What could be greater than that?

In a split second, that angelic embrace was sucked away, and what replaced it was pure dread. Images of horrors I could never imagine seared themselves into my memory. Profoundly dark revelations about loved ones and strangers flowed through my mind. Evil secrets about the things you and I question daily became loud, harsh truths. I saw crimes yet to be committed, mass events impacting thousands of innocents, and the unrelenting wave of sorrow accompanying the seemingly innocuous actions of our daily existence. And the inescapable Knowledge of where our choices were leading us.

I tried distracting myself, but with every failed attempt at an intrusive thought, something ten times sicker would enter my brain. A panic attack rose to a fever pitch, but I wouldn’t be granted the sweet relief of stress-induced numbness. I was teetering on the precipice of the deepest despair, anxiety, and depression as the thoughts ramped up again and again. Anguish, suffering, and a horrible destiny crashed like waves against a rocky beach. Each impact sent shockwaves inside me until finally… It stopped.

The next thing I remember, I was on the ground looking up at Mr. Katz. I wiped the saliva from my mouth and tried to adjust my eyes on the demonic rodent who had now left his cage onto the tiny space on the table. He looked down at me with the two black voids he had for eyes and gnawed on the still-twitching body of a rather large cockroach. His puffy lemon-yellow teeth methodically chewed on the gooey remains while his fleshy tail twitched behind him.

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I expected another round of excruciating mind games, but another voice came from behind me. “Do you want to pray to Mr. Katz now?” It said. To my surprise, standing next to the door, Jacob flashed a wide smile at me. “You’re my closest friend, Shakur. You’re the only person outside my family I could share this gift with. Don’t you want to know which of our friends will get married? Who’ll be successful, and who will fail? Or when they’ll die? He tells you things about yourself, too, you know. How to be a better you. How to…”

I yelled for him to shut up, and instinctively, he did. Despite my outburst, everyone else still kept their eyes on the goddamn rat on the table. Everyone but Jacob, who took another step towards me and said that it really was my choice. But in all his years, no one has ever said no to Mr. Katz. In Jacob’s words, “Knowledge that great is too valuable to pass up. You’ll never know what you’ll learn.”

As I slowly got up to my feet, my mind was made up. I took a moment to process what had just happened. After briefly evaluating my choice, I concluded that I had never been more sure about anything in my life. I didn’t know what the hell that thing was, but it damn sure wasn’t what they thought it was. And I was absolutely positive that whatever it can do isn’t just limited to putting some messed up thoughts in your brain. The last thing I’d ever want to do is piss it off.

Carefully, I made my way over to Jacob and stuck out my right hand. He looked at it and smiled up at me. As he went to shake it, I threw a crappy left hook to his jaw. I’m not exactly Mike Tyson, but it did enough to stun him, which allowed me to shove him down and sprint back into the house and out the front door. I did what you should never do and looked behind me to see Jacob’s parents running after me.

After a brief stumble, I managed to open the front door and jump into my car. I fumbled for the car keys in my pocket and barely got them into the ignition as the pair assaulted my windows. But luckily, I was fast enough to slam my foot on the gas and speed off into the night in no particular direction.

Only when I was sure I was far enough from them did I finally pull into a random parking lot and attempt to process my day before finally heading back to my hotel.

Admittedly, I also stopped at a 24-hour gas station and bought an irresponsible amount of alcohol, found a late-night pizza place, and ate my experience away until I passed out and woke up at god knows when.

I had planned to stay in town a little longer but after that? I think I’m just going to head home. I’m using my self-chosen last day here to write this down while the details are still fresh. Partly as a form of less expensive therapy and catharsis. Partly because I’m still in shock, and it’s taken me a couple times to read over my own story to accept what happened. And partly because I know Jacob will try and reach out to me.

Bad as what happened was… Jacob, I love you, man. I don’t know how this all started or why you need that thing in your life to show you awful futures, but please, seek help. There are so many resources nowadays to help you heal. But until then, or until that thing is very dead… We can’t see each other. We can’t communicate. Nothing.

What happened at your place is what happens when humans dive into the dark corners of the earth that we were never supposed to see. And I’m sorry that that corner won’t let you go. I wish I could be there to help, which may make me a bad person, but I can’t. I saw so many horrible things… Horrible things about people I love or… Loved. Things I may have to go to the police about. Futures I have to consider telling them about or letting happen. It’s not fair. None of this is. And I wish I knew the answers, but I don’t.

Until this is sorted, and who knows if it’ll ever be, this has to be goodbye.

Credit: Bryan A Young

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