I had a friend at school, who I will call Chan, who had a normal house in a normal street with a normal family. I was friendly with him on and off, although we did not keep in touch once we left school, we were friendly enough then that I would go round to his house.

We’d play in his room, cards sometimes or computer games, but when we did play computer games his mum had a rule about how much we could play, would set a time and then would come upstairs, tell us we had to finish our game or level or what have you and then wait for us to finish playing and watch us turn it off.

This was more strict than my parents who were glad to be left alone, but not completely uncommon or unheard of.

One day we were playing games when she came up and as she stood there in his room, she fully freaked out. She heard something, started squealing, ran in a few circles then ran downstairs to Chan’s dad. Which was weird, and I tried to make eye contact with Chan about it, but we were both caught up in our game and kept playing.

Then Chan’s dad came up. He stood in the room till we’d finished and then watched us turn it off and went back downstairs when I could hear Chan’s mum talking quite loudly. I went out into the hallway and could hear that she was praying.

Being, as people are, mildly curious, I asked Chan what was going on. He told me it was nothing, it was just that his mum had this thing, a condition really, where she thought there was someone living in the attic, and it terrified her, so sometimes she heard or thought she heard a noise up there and totally freaked out.

I remember being bewildered by this, but Chan didn’t think anything of it, and so I moved on, and when I got home I told my dad about it. He took it in his stride and asked me what I thought about it.

I said, reasonably, that the thought that someone was living in our attic was about the most terrifying thing I could imagine if I believed it even a little, but that I did not think there was anyone living in the Chans attic, since his family were not insane and would clearly have checked.

Dad told me that the power of fear was that you only needed the smallest seed and it would grow on its own. And also, he added, wasn’t their house, like our own, a terrace where all the attics are joined together. So someone could just climb through and escape if the needed to.

I locked my bedroom door after that for years.

So it’s with that context that I say that there may be someone on this ship with me, a stowaway. Or the biggest ant ever created.

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