Have I ever told you about Joh’s Night-time Adventure? I know I haven’t, because it just happened last night.
It begins like this. Joh and I are reading in bed. Our cat, Merlin, is luxuriating between us, delighted that we are doing his favourite activity, and is alternating between baring his belly at Joh for tummy-rubs and kicking his feet against me to remind me to stroke him.
At some point, I surface from my book long enough to realise that Joh is no longer in bed. I realise this because there is an almighty clatter from the hallway. ‘Joh, are you okay?’ I call, alarmed.
A pause. ‘I’m fine! Don’t worry about it!’
Something about Joh’s tone strikes me as familiar and mildly concerning. They are not distressed they are just … strange.
Joh is often strange, especially at night. They are a sleep-walker and a sleep-talker and tend to get very hyper when the sun has truly set, like a cat with the zoomies. They creep around the house crafting strange things, or cackling like a clown, or twisting themself into strange shapes. Recently, they have been too tired to really express that but I still know the signs. My partner is a nocturnal creature by nature … well, more like a nocturnal cryptid. Night Joh.
I leave Joh be.
The clattering continues and then goes silent for a while. Joh does not return to bed, even though Joh loves reading in bed with Merlin. It is one of the only ways in which Joh is really routined.
‘Joh?’ I call.
‘I’m fine!’ Joh calls back, still strange. Still in the voice of Night Joh.
I decide to investigate. I find Joh in the hallway outside our room with the largest storage tub we own. It was a struggle to fit it into the closet and I can only imagine even more of a struggle to get out. Everything that was once inside the storage tub is now on the floor. The lid has been removed and Joh is balancing it on its side. Joh looks at me with wild eyes and a sheepish expression.
‘I found our floor glue,’ says Joh, as if I do not know that that has nothing to do whatever they are doing right now.
‘That’s great, I say,’ and leave Joh be because I want to read.
Later, I hear water running for a very long time, followed by loud, deep squeaking sounds. Merlin, who is very glad that Night Joh is not being weird at him, has expanded to fill Joh’s side of the bed and is pestering me for attention. I oblige Merlin and then investigate the sounds.
‘Joh? I’m coming in,’ I say. The door is unlocked.
I walk in to find a frozen tableau. The room is eerily dark, lit only by a phone torch perched on the radiator. Our light has been broken for weeks (and inconsistently broken for years). Joh is crouched inside the storage tub (fully clothed), which is inside a very full bath tub. At first Joh looks worried, like I am going to scold them. Their eyes are very wide. The water is lapping at the edge of the bath, nearly overflowing. The water is still running.
I burst out laughing.
Joh relaxes and says, ‘You should stay! I’ve almost done it!’
‘It’, it turns out, is floating. It has required filling the tub almost to flooding, but Joh is managing to float inside the bathtub. It is utterly unstable and keeps tipping to scrape along the bottom of the tub. Joh is delighted. I am delighted. This is utterly ridiculous.
A suspicion strikes me.
‘Joh … this is about making a makeshift coracle, isn’t it?’ I ask.
Joh immediately looks shifty, and I know I’ve struck true. A few years ago Joh was obsessed with coracles and the idea of a boat you can carry on your back, something they could take down to the local lake. Obsessions like that tend to come back around.
Joh had been reading on their phone, which they don’t normally do, unless …
‘You were reading about how to build one!’ I accuse.
Joh nods. ‘I need to put some flotation around the edges to stop it from tipping, but this will work! It will WORK!’ Night Joh still seems very wild.
I agree that of course Joh can build a makeshift coracle but preferably they will go and get a storage tub we aren’t already using. I return to bed and when Joh is done with their adventure on the very low seas, they return to bed as well and pick up their actual book and return to their usual night-time routine as if nothing has happened.
And that’s the story of Joh taking a seacraft across our bathtub in the dead of night. I suppose I’ll have to tell another story if and when Joh builds their coracle.
And remember: always be kind to your local cryptid. Especially if they live in your house. They’ll do the same when it’s your turn to be a cryptid.