When I woke there were voices. I expected to hear Bigfat telling me off for being so stupid, but they were human voices. The female human was arguing with a security guard. I was still in the glass. The damn Baytril was still within arms reach - if I could reach through solid matter.
The glass was frosted - hard to see through and blurry. I could see the figures of the two humans and hear them, but I couldn't see details. That's okay. Mice can't see details anyway.
"You can't take him there, he'll get experimented on and die," the woman said. Oh boy. That didn't sound good.
"It's a mouse from next door," the man said. "They've specifically asked us to return their stock when we find it, and my boss - your boss too, missy - has given me strict orders. I'm gonna do what I gotta do."
"Darrel, you psycho, this isn't a mouse from next door - it's brown, not white."
"Ma'am, I'm obeying orders, like a good soldier."
"You're not in the army anymore, Darrel, jeeze!"
"I still have my integrity, though," the man said, and he came over to the glass. He slid a piece of cardboard under me (I had to jump to avoid getting my toes cut off, thankyouverymuch!) and took me up to eye level.
"Sure is a little guy," he said.
"He's going to be tortured and killed in that insane place," the girl said. "Just give him a break. Let me take him. I won't tell anybody."
"No can do, ma'am. I have my orders."
"Damn your orders! I'm sick of your weird psychosis. This isn't the green berets - it's Pharmart!"
"Yes, Ma'am," he said, as he was carrying me out of the room.
"My name's Kristin, not Ma'am, moron!" she yelled after him. He ignored it. He marched (no kidding) out the back door and to another door in the same line of buildings as the pharmacy. He took out his big ring of keys and unlocked it. I immediately smelled mice. Lots of mice. I also smelled sickness, fear, and pain. I knew without trying that this was the lab. I was going to be put in hell. My tummy sank. I had to be brave now. If I panicked here, there would be no mercy for Squibble. I would be doomed for certain. My heart was racing, my mind was flying through a hundred thoughts - most of them bad. I forced myself to reason through the panic and pain of my swollen leg.
"Reason, Squibble," my master had said. "It's what the humans say separates them from the animals. It's what we have. It's our greatest weapon. Reason. The ability to respond instead of react."
I had to reason!
Well, there was good and bad to it. The bad, I would probably be experimented on, it would be found that I could read, and the safe house would be found and taken by the government or something stupid like that. It would be the end of everybody I loved. They'd be subjected to heinous experiments because of me. We'd be at mankind's mercy. HA. What a joke. "Mankind's mercy." As if there was any. The bad sounded pretty bad.
The good side to it was not nearly as bad as the bad side was, but it was this: They'd have drugs here. They'd have Baytril. I held my mind on that one thought. I was a Mouse Knight. I had a duty to escape and warn the safe house of the coming danger. I had to live.
I was roughly put in a cage half the size of a small shoebox. It was dark. All around me I smelled blood and urine. The guard shut the steel barred door rapidly after taking the glass away, not even bothering to see that the mouse he had just captured was wearing clothes and sporting a sidebag. He hastily scrawled a note on a piece of paper and attached it to the door hinge with the pencil. And it was there that he messed up.
I waited for him to be gone, which he was in no time. I crawled up to the bars on shaking legs and reached for the pencil. I had to be very cautious, or it would fall to the ground far below and my chances of escape were shot. My limbs felt like spaghetti. I had a fever. I felt as though I was back in front of the bully mouse, robbed of my strength. I used my tail to wrap around the writing tool just in case. Then I gnawed off the tip. Mine!
I tugged at the paper for an hour to get it all inside the cage without ripping it. The pencil was loose then, and I struggled with that, suffering greatly because of my illness and the weight of the pencil, until I got that inside too. Things were looking up, even though I felt like I couldn't breathe and I was dying. I now had a pencil, a paper, and the door latch was loose.
"Hey," a voice from the cell above me said.
"What?" I said impatiently. "I'm working here."
"You're not white."
"No I'm not. I'm a mouse."
"Yeah. I figured that," I said.
"Get us out."
"Working on that myself, thanks. Can't worry about everyone."
"But they do terrible things to us here," he whined. He sounded like Scratchy. I was about to get mad, but I remembered how that little twerp had turned down so many offers of squirehood just to be my squire. As much as I hated admitting it, that took guts. I wish I hadn't kicked him. Or maybe just kicked him softer. I almost missed him along with the others. Compassion finally kicked in.
"If I can get out, I'll see what I can do." It was the last thing I wanted: more responsibility. But I was a Mouse Knight. If I could get out, why couldn't I get them out too?
"Thanks!" said the other mouse. "You're the mouse!"
I perked my ears up. "Hey - that's slang from TV," I said. "Where'd you learn that? How'd you know who Batman was?"
"They have a TV here," the mouse said. "It's over there on the counter with all the pokey things and the rats."
Pokey things? I shuddered. "Rats?" I said.
"Not good enough that they abuse mice? They gotta abuse rats too?" My work was going well. I had erased most of the guard's message and was adding my own. He he heee!
"They also experiment on guinea pigs, hamsters, and other animals."
"Jerks," I said.
"Yeah," the mouse said. "We oughtta blow em' up!"
I giggled. "Yeah, maybe we oughtta do that."
"I have two brothers in here," the mouse said.
"Good for you," I replied. My note was finished. I carefully set it, and the pencil, back in place. I kept the tip though.
"You gotta get us out," the mouse said. "I'll be your best friend."
"I already have a best friend," I said.
"I'll do anything. We all will!" Many voices chirped their agreement. There were alot of mice here. Maybe a thousand. None of them doing very well. Egads. I felt so sorry for them, but I had to escape first.
"I'll see what I can do," I said, not knowing what else to say. I sat back and ate some of the bland food in the cage. I drank some of the water. I was hot...burning with fever. I wasn't going to last much longer. My leg felt like it was huge. My stomach felt awful from not being able to pee or poo. I had to get medicine fast.
I was asleep in the morning when the humans came. There were two of them in white coats. I listened to them in their routine for the first half of the day. As I listened, I became aware of three things. First, they know how smart we are. They just don't know we can read yet.
Second, it was only a matter of time. I realized this with shock. I even sat straight up as the thought came to me. It would happen someday. The more mice we taught to read and write, and the more mice that went to foster homes, the higher the chance that someday, someone would figure all of this out. In fact, it was eventually inevitable! No matter what, it was going to happen. And what then? We'd all be in labs!
Third, they were doing terrible things to these mice! Things that hurt and things that were horrifying just to listen to. Mice screamed in agony, screamed in terror, and then sometimes the screams just stopped. The smell of fresh blood and urine would fill the air, and the rest of the mice all fell silent for a moment. I guess they were probably cringing in horror, like me. The experiments, whatever they were for, could not be justified in my eyes. They had no way of knowing just how much pain and terror they were inflicting, but they did know. Oh yes, they did - and they were guilty for it. They just...didn't care!
I had to do something about it! About all of it! The mothers in the pet stores, the labs abusing the animals, and the scary fact that, unless...unless mice made peace with humans somehow, it was all over. We couldn't fight them. They were too big and too strong. They had technology. Oh, what a mess! What a mess.
"Look here," one human said, reaching for my cage. He had snuck up on me. I quickly lost my outfit, stashing my tunic, bag, and all the paper and drugs in the corner of my cage. I was burying it with what they called bedding when the door opened. The human reached in quickly, like an expert, and grabbed me. I resisted the urge to bite him. He held the scruff of my neck with one hand and my tail with the other. Then I realized I had forgotten the cast! Oh no!
He was reading the note. He read it to his friend out loud.
"My pet mouse neds medikal atenshon. Pleeze treet him an' let him go. Thanks!
"That Darrel is sure a character," the man said. "Can't spell worth beans."
Best I could do on short notice, human, I thought.
"Well, what do we do? We can't let him go," the other one said.
"Yeah, but we can treat him. Darrel will come get him. It looks like the army boy tried to make a cast for the leg here. Huh. Looks pretty good. I wonder how he got the mouse to stay still for that?" he said.
The other guy came over to look. "Wow. Yeah, really nice work. Well, we'd normally euthanize it, but the cast may actually work. Meanwhile, let me see him."
I acted like a stupid, normal mouse as I was transferred to the other hand.
"Yeah, looks very sick. Respiratory, runny eyes and nose. Swollen leg. It's bad. We'd better get on it if Darrel's going to keep his pet."
They took me over to the cold steel table and gave me a few shots under the skin. It hurt but I didn't move. Shots were great. It was just exactly what I needed. I'd still have to find medicine, but those shots would hold out for awhile.
"This mouse is really friendly, Dave...look - he doesn't even move."
"Probably sick as a dog."
"Yeah. Poor fella."
They were partially right. My appetite was all gone, and I'd probably be dead within days without that medicine. I was having a hard time thinking straight, or seeing straight for that matter. For example, the rats I saw in their cages on the counter. Two of them looked exactly like Shiva and Thor.
And they were looking at me too. Like they'd seen a ghost.
"Squibble!" one said. "No way!"
I perked my head up. "Shiva!?"
The man grabbed me by the scruff of my neck again. I was really sick of that.
"Oops, he got some energy back," the man said. He lifted me off the table to put me back in the cage.
"Thor! Shiva!" I cried.
"Uncle Squibble!" they yelled to me.
Then I was back in my cage. The man fastened the latch tightly this time. There was no way out.