A Tale of Two Micies

Mouse Story Number One: As Told By Josh Barkey

Sunrise was still an hour away and the clouds were blocking out the waxing, near-full moon as I drove my parents' Honda Fit down a tree-shadowed stretch of unpopulated highway, on my way to pick my folks up at the bustling Charlotte airport. They'd been off in California for nearly two weeks, spending time with family. The entire time they were gone, their car had sat idle.

[insert ominous thunderclap]

A car that is not regularly driven begins to die: Inside the engine, the gas slowly turns to varnish. Rubber seals dry out and crack. Oil settles away from where it's needed, and rust begins to bite. And sometimes, if the proper precautions have not been taken, dark spirits move in as well―at least, that's what I was thinking when I saw the shadow of some unknown creature flit past my left shoulder. It ran along the sill of the window, up to the dashboard, and then back again. Was it a trick of the light? A weird shadow cast by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle? I did not know.

Reason told me not to fear.
Reason told me it was nothing.
Reason is a liar.
I drove on.

Several minutes later, when I'd entered a more populous area where outside lampposts and the lights of homes and businesses polluted the darkness and lit up the inside of the car, I saw it again. A mouse! Running up the side of the car to crouch―eyes glistening with malevolence―by the front left heat vent.

The mouse watched me intently. 

I'd lived with the skittering of mice before―interrupting my sleep, dropping their diseased biological weaponry in and around the very food I needed to eat to stay alive. This rodent-of-the-darkness was clearly out to kill me! And then, quickly as it had come, the mouse scampered back along the ledge and disappeared in the recesses of the car.

I am not ashamed to admit that the proximity of this hellish beast in an enclosed metal hurtling death machine made me nervous, so I pulled into the next gas station and got out. I searched a while for the foul creature, but to no avail.

Perhaps it had vanished through whatever fetid portal it had emerged―returned, as was its wont, to the hell from which it had come.

I got back into the car and drove on.

The mouse waiting. Cunning.

I entered another dark, sparsely-populated section of road.

The mouse attacked.

I felt it scampering up the front of my sweater. I felt it on my neck. MY NECK!!!

The mouse was headed directly for my mouth! It planned to enter me! Possess me, perhaps, and use me in its nefarious schemes for world domination!

With lightning reflexes, I grabbed the mouse before it could crest my chin and hurled it to the floor of the car, uttering a malediction that I will not reprint here (lest the more sensitive among us find ourselves fainting dead away from their phones/computers).

The mouse was gone―vanquished.

Or was it?

I drove on, and at the next red light (wisely) thought to scrunch my pant legs up past my knees, lest the vicious little fiend try for an even darker orifice. I also switched on the dome light of the car, thinking that―like most evil beasts―it would shun the light.

At the airport cell phone lot, I pulled into a spot directly beneath the glow of an overhead street lamp and quickly exited the vehicle, leaving my door open.

I might have to wait for my parents to call for a pickup, but I did not have have to wait in the vehicle with that monster.

But for the street lamp, the cell phone lot was dark and mostly empty.

Three parking spaces down, a man sat waiting in a white BMW. In the glow of his cell phone I could see that he had darker skin, and was perhaps of Indian or Pakistani descent. He seemed solidly-built. A strong, capable man.

I thought, as I marched away from my parents' vehicle, that I should perhaps warn him of the dangerous beast in my car. I turned back, just in time to see a small, dark form scamper between the two vehicles―away from the Honda and straight for the BMW.

The mouse disappeared under the BMW.

I gasped in horror and walked across the parking lot to the other side of the white car. The mouse had not emerged. It was still there, under the unsuspecting man's car.

I was frozen in terror.

What should I do?

Sure, the owner of the white BMW seemed capable. He'd bought himself that fancy car after all, and does not Father America teach us that those who have wealth must have achieved that wealth by virtue of their, well... virtue?

I decided that wealthy or not, the man deserved to know.

But just then, the man in the BMW turned on his ignition, pulled back out of his spot, and drove away. Where he had been parked, there was nothing.

The mouse was gone.

And though you may think less of me to admit it, I breathed a sigh of relief.

The End
- - -

- - -

Mouse Story Number Two: As Told By Shorttail Mouse

All right, so the first thing you gotta know about me is I ain't no ordinary mouse. Like, sure, you see me crossin' your floor you're gonna think, "That there's a mouse." But inside is what I'm talkin' about. Inside, I got the heart of a gol-dang mountain lion.

Even back when I was a blind pinkie, I was always wrigglin' my way outta the nest. Momma likes to say she just about told my dad he could go ahead and eat me for dinner just so's she wouldn't have to keep chasin' me all over (No hard feelings, though. Momma was a big breeder, and eatin' babies is sort of a thing with us mice).

Anyways, I kept it up all through my growin' years, til there weren't no corner of the Big Pinkies' home-box I hadn't explored―no trap I never got the best of. Two of my cousins got killed just trying to keep up with me, but I didn't give no never mind. No sir. I might've lost a bit of my tail to a door that one time (hence the name), but that was just because I was showin' off. I was a beast.

Eventually it got so the Big Pinkies' home-box wasn't enough, and I started venturing out a ways.

I tried not to go too far, though, on account of the screaming-death-shadow-from-the-sky that got Uncle Nibbler last year... but enough to get the lay of the land, ya know?

When I found the metal oil-box I didn't know what it was, but I knew from the sharp smells that it was dangerous. "Perfect," I thought to myself. I crawled up the round black stinky thing and then, with some amazing acrobatic and athletic feats of derring-do, managed to make it inside the oil box. From the smells, I could tell there hadn't been any Big Pinkies in it for a while, which suited me just fine. There were some crumbs to eat, and I wanted to get a feel for the place so I could describe it better to my family.

I never got the chance.

It was still dark―long before the Big Pinkies ever usually stirred and started moving about―so you can imagine my surprise when a Big Pinkie came pulled a piece off the side and got inside the metal oil-box with me! He (I could tell it was a male by the smell) made a jangly noise and then there was a ROAR in the front of the oil-box and, get this, the whole thing started to move!

I don't mind admitting I was a little bit scared. I mean, since when is something that big supposed to move, know what I'm sayin'? And that roaring sound?! For a minute, I thought maybe I done crawled up inside some humongous monster that had eaten one of the Big Pinkies and was now carrying both of us away. But I knew from the smell that the oil-box wasn't alive, so I hunkered down until I could figure out what to do next.

Eventually, I got a sense of the rhythm of the thing. I learned how to anticipate its movements, and after the first stomach-turning moments I could even walk around a little without falling over.

That was when I decided I needed to go meet the Big Pinkie.

Obviously in the home-box it was best to stay away from the Big Pinkies, but this one was clearly as much a prisoner of the oil-box as I was, and was so terrified he hadn't moved since he'd gotten in except to twitch his legs and flail his arms a bit. I was scared, but he was terrified, so I reckoned we could help each other. If there was any creature big enough to break us out of this oil-box, it was him. With my brains and his brawn, ain't nobody could stop us.

At first I ran back and forth a few times beside him to get his attention, but he just ignored me. So I ran up to the front and just stared at him. I knew from experience that Big Pinkies are stupid and don't understand language. But I figured that with enough time, him and me could figure out some other way to communicate.

He looked over and then looked away. Didn't even try any of those nonsense noises the Big Pinkies sometimes make. He just kept sitting there―frozen with fear (I knew it was fear for sure when I got up close, cuz I could smell it on him).

I ran back into the shadows to think.

The oil-box pulled to a stop in a bright, shiny place that smelled like more oil. The Big Pinkie got out through the opening he'd gotten in by, momentarily shaken out its fear. For a minute, I thought about running away. But before I could do it, the oil-box swallowed that Big Pinkie whole again, and I knew it wouldn't be right to leave him behind.

Then I had an idea.

See, there was this wood rectangle on the wall of the home-box that one time I thought was a window to another world, but eventually I realized it was completely flat, like somebody took a piece of real-world and squished it. Anyway, there was a Big Pinkie in the rectangle (who was actually pretty small, but didn't seem to be able to move at all) that was hairless on top and wearing some sort of loose brown fur. And he had animals all over and around him, including a mouse like me, cupped in his hand!

I knew what I had to do.

I would run right up the Big Pinkie like I never would've done before and I would nestle myself right into a warm place, like I used to do with Momma. Maybe his neck or something would be good. I would just snuggle right up and comfort him until he and me were close friends and could break out of that oil-box together.

Anyway, it took a while to get the courage up, but then I did and you better believe it worked, but not in a good way. That Big Pinkie didn't just wake up―he grabbed me and threw me through the air.

I hit the ground hard, and the wind was knocked right out of me. 

It took a while before I could gather up the gumption to crawl back into the shadows and hide myself away. My body was hurtin', sure 'nuff. But more'n that it was my feelin's, y'know? Here I was trying to save this fool Big Pinkie's life, and he plumb near tried to kill me.

I knew right then, I'd be taking the first chance I got to escape.

The oil-box moved on and on and on, until finally it stopped. Again the Big Pinkie got out through that opening, but this time I could smell grass outside - good, clean grass.

I went for it. Zip-zip-zip.

The moment I was free, I realized that there was nowhere to hide. The Big Pinkie could be coming back at any moment! I was in serious danger! I ran for it, over to and then under another oil-box.

I knew from the first time where to go, so I crawled up one of the round things and hid inside. I'd learned my lesson, though. I stayed right where I was and just waited for a long, long time. The oil-box stopped and swallowed another Big Pinkie (this one a female) and then went on and on and on, until it brought me here, to this place.

It was weird at first, being the only mouse from my family in a place where everything smelled a lot more like oil than my first home-box (which smelled like good things like wood and dirt and cobwebs), and the Big Pinkies kept everything all shiny all the time. I had to be smart and think on my feet to avoid being seen. But there's another family of mice here that's taken me in. They showed me the ropes, and they got a daughter I swear's been givin' me the ol' humpty-eye. So I've been thinkin' maybe I'll stick around and start a family of my own.

Sometimes, though, I go out and have another look at that oil-box.

And I wonder.

The End


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