By Gemma Elliott
The grey squirrels started shrieking and we thought it could be a territorial issue, or a mating call. We weren’t especially concerned. But within weeks there were hundreds of them gathered in the street, shouting. Not just at each other but into the sky. Or at us? We didn’t know. What did they want? Certainly nothing that we offered: nuts, bird seed, scraps of fruit, a digestive biscuit coated in layers of toffee and chocolate.
They took all of these, of course, but nothing satiated their thirst for yelling. We couldn’t sleep at night, the sound piercing through even the best earplugs available. By day our video meetings were drowned out, our thoughts interrupted, the dogs’ lives ruined. It was relentless, it was horrible, and then it stopped.
We could hear the garden birds again, the repetitive chirrup of the house sparrow was back, a sound we had once found irritating was now imbued with the simple peaceful charm of the countryside. Likewise, the low hum of traffic on the main road a few streets away was audible again and we appreciated it like we never had before.
The squirrels were gone, though. Not just the noise, but the squirrels too. The bird feeders were left undisturbed all of a sudden. The holes they had chewed in wheelie bins left unfilled. The neighbourhood dogs felt a lack of things to mindlessly chase and began to turn on one another.
Later, we read that the population of red squirrels in our country had been decimated in what appeared to be a targeted attack. The greys had been organising an assassination, we suggested hesitantly. Could we be held responsible, for not intervening? Surely not.
Gemma Elliott (she/her) lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and works in local government. She has most recently published short fiction in Neon, Crow & Cross Keys, and Truffle Magazine. Gemma can be found on Twitter.