Memories of the Future
After taking a warm bath with the kind human's help in his sink, I tossed out my old clothes and armor, and put on new robes made of a grassy brown color. I took my slingshot to my now empty nest and repaired it with Vulcan's help, giving it a new band and reinforcing the wood with resin after scrubbing it with sandpaper. I took a white feather and attached it to the bottom in memory of my master who had made it for me. Then I attached a blue one for my daughter, who was still in this world. The house was safe again. The horsemen had gone, leaving the survivors to rebuild. She was still with me. The tribulations had not taken everything.
I fixed up my house and in the process, found all my old drawings and journals. Seized by sudden motivation, I sat down and wrote the last few hundred or so pages you've read, encompassing the Great War and my time in the city after my master passed into the west. I read Percival's journal BJ had given me and decided to include it as well. No one else had survived but him. It had only been one season ago, but the Great War was already fading into mythology. There were precious few left who remembered it. So, I wrote for posterity. It took a few days.
Then the thought occurred to me. I had hundreds of pages stacked up. I had written a long novel. With the exception of my modest beginnings, it covered my entire life. My master had been brave enough to publish his story. Might I do the same? I gathered it all into one pile and thought it over. Perhaps it might help someone, somewhere. It would be worth it all if it might save the life of one mouse, or cause some human to treat their pet with more kindness.
Of course, my master had gotten incredibly lucky with publishing his book, even using the human pen name. Getting published was exceedingly difficult, and I was an unknown. Mouse. An unknown mouse. I would think on it. With all that I had to do, one more hard thing would not be so much, maybe.
I started my chi gung up again, and every evening Scratchy and his son joined me. I was always glad to see them, and welcomed them with a smile. I stashed and stole Cheerios from the human and had them waiting for the brave knight and his child for when we finished our meditations. My daughter joined in eventually, and Nemo would come if the human was around to carry him over to my "front yard" of carpet. When I meditated, I went to my peaceful dock, and true to my master's words, it came easily the moment I desired it. In that place, everything was perfect, and my course of action seemed clear always. No more confusion, no more mystery. It was a tremendous gift my beloved master had granted me. A place I could go, anytime I wanted, for the rest of my life, to rest. I go there often. It is the most priceless gift I have ever received, and I finally understood it.
The river is life, and most of the time I was down swimming in it, experiencing all the wonderful and awful things that came to me in the water. Sometimes the water was warm, sometimes cold. Sometimes smooth, slow, fast or rough. The dock was my way to step out of it... to rest, relax and recover. Such a powerful gift. How many of us have wished for a chance to step outside of life, to be clear and calm? It was from the end of that peaceful place I always looked out across the stream of life at the beautiful sunset. The sun was always setting there. I guess that meant that, once on the dock, all was timeless. Or perhaps it meant that every time I was ever on that dock, I was traveling to the end of my life. The sunset of my days.
I say that because I finally now understood that the forest across the river, all awash in golden light from the dusk...
...That was home.
Along with the gift came other things as well. My powers began to manifest themselves in great numbers, and with great intensity. It became easy to see the spirit world, to read minds, to know the immediate future. I learned to levitate. It was easy - all I had to do was relax in my meditation. After scaring the fur off my other chi gung partners, I stopped doing it in public and confined my powers to my new cage the human had built for me. It had a lot of space, and two levels. I had my own playground, my own practice yard, and my own meditation room. The human put a small fountain right outside that had a waterfall and a spinny marble ball that turned on a small water spout underneath it. It gave my home atmosphere and a natural feeling. I began to feel happy again, with no worry of it lasting. I knew it wouldn't. Happiness never does. But neither does sadness.
There came a time when a young boy mouse brought me his sick mother. She had cancer, and because so many mice die that way, she was not special. The kind human had tried everything he knew how to do, and now everyone was waiting for her to die. The boy came to me because he had heard my momma died the same way. He begged me to help his poor momma. He was her only son. He was also the first mouse of the new generation to have the courage to approach me.
If ever there was a cause that struck a personal chord, it was that one, and so I told him I would try. I remembered asking Nemo if someday I would be able to cure cancer, and like the supernatural creature he is, I heard the kind human outside my house dropping him off just as the dying mother was being helped in by her tearful son. I looked back at him and he met my gaze. No words needed to be said. I sent energy into that sick mouse with all the willpower I had in the world, and Nemo was always at my door, every day, watching. Maybe helping.
The mother began to get better. She started eating again, drinking on her own, and being able to breathe freely. She recovered, and went on to live a happy life. I don't really know if it was my energy, or Nemo's sorcery, or just the prayers of a small, lost boy who couldn't stand to lose his momma, but the cancer left her. And I know better than to question something as good as that. I gave the universe (and the Mousegod) my thanks, and left it at that.
The boy was thankful beyond measure, and never said a word to anyone, which was just as well. I was fairly sure I couldn't cure the world's mice of cancer. Not enough time. He did come to me to learn the chi gung though, and taught his mother after that. They went on to teach other mice, and I hear it's common practice now in the New Kingdom. The boy went on to become a knight who traveled the land healing mice. I heard later he achieved great heights of chi power, even able to cure cancer. He was named Saint Happy by King BJ, and would live to a magnificently ancient age, in good health, traveling the land and healing the sick. I felt almost like a hero. Not all good deeds are punished.
It was Saint Happy that created the Mouse's Prayer.
I resumed drawing, and illustrated my journals, as I had been doing all along. The human bought me a real oil paint set, and had Vulcan turn it into something more my size. With an endless supply of oil paint, brushes, and canvas, I fulfilled my earlier fantasy of painting, and became a painter. I wasn't very good at first, but I got better. You can see for yourself.
The painting was every bit as fun as I knew it would be. I felt like a real artist, and many mice wanted to pose for me. I painted mice, rats, the scenery around the safe house, and even the humans. I drew and painted a lot from memory, and those illustrations, while not nearly as realistic as the work I did from life, were more enjoyable, I think. The painting from life was work to improve my skill; the other stuff was fun - using my hard earned skill the way I wanted to. By accident I achieved a somewhat normal level of social acceptance from the safe house community after being a spirit, a hero, or a prophet for so long. They could understand painting.
I know I scoffed at it before as a young mouse, but I began writing poetry.
Like the rise of wind they rush
All this was done on my spare time, and by no means consumed my days. I spent my days, nights, and long hours working on my master plan. I'd tell you about it, but I have decided I cannot. I'm sorry. These pages may get published, and it cannot be written down, lest someone discover it and act against it. It simply must succeed if rodentkind has any hope of a future. I hope you'll understand. If it works you'll find out for sure. You won't be able to miss it.
Not that anyone would believe any of this. This journal will eventually be published as fiction. Everyone knows mice can't write. He he he.
I can only tell you that it involves magic, science, and something my master once told me in this very story. He planted the seed for my idea. As always, he was the catalyst that would end up saving us all if my plan worked. Nemo helped me, Branch joined us in his dreams all the way from China, Scratchy and his son, too, and Vulcan to some degree, but that was all. I slowly began giving orders again, sending people to far places and back, sending knights on quests for this or that, and asking for volunteers to go break into labs all over the city. It ended up being Sneaky, Squeaky and Clyde that performed almost all those jobs, and they got freakishly good at it. They never failed me.
Shiva and Thor returned to the city, telling us they had a greater destiny than to sit back and enjoy safety. I heard messages written by BJ only weeks later that the twins had taken up residence near the new kingdom, and had computers installed as well as rats working for them manufacturing weapons. A few weeks after that I heard they had taken up vigilantism, hunting down humans who mistreated rodents and punishing them appropriately. As if it were possible, their legends grew ridiculously out of proportion. The rodents here now call them "The Terrible Agents of Justice," and some in the city call them "Death and Destruction." I can see them having a grand old snicker over that, and doing nothing to correct it. My boys. They have found their calling and I am happy for them. On occasion, when I have a job too tough for anyone else, I call on them. They have never disappointed me.
I spend a great deal of time walking around, looking for things that others can't see, and talking, apparently, to myself. Everybody still thinks I'm crazy. Now I'm just a heavily-respected loon is all. Of course, I'm not really talking to myself. No one's ever had the guts to actually ask me what's going on.
I'm talking to spirits. Angels, elementals, ghosts, and all that. Nemo's words of power never wore off. To this day I command a legion of angels (that's about 7000 by the way). I send them all over the earth, doing deeds, brining me information and other things I need for my great task. They seem quite willing to cooperate now, although I've learned their limitations and sometimes we debate on what they should be able to do and what they obviously won't do but could. Where my ultimate goal is concerned, they obey nicely. It seems that since I accepted my destiny the universe is on my side. It's nice.
In my work I travel often. I get rides from the kind human, who dearly cherishes his oldest remaining pet and treats me well. Sometimes I hitch rides with Raven or the old owl. That always gets a reaction whenever I land in any rodent-populated place (he he heee). By now I have been all over this continent seeking pieces of the grand puzzle I must assemble before my time is up.
In each and every journey I always look for Percival. I have come across occasional signs of his passing: good deeds done with honor that could only be his handiwork, entire mouse communities saved from destruction by a single white mouse, sometimes single mice who cannot forget what he has done for them, nor his noble way (or that butt-kicking sword). But of my great brother himself I have seen neither tail nor ear. He has vanished from the normal world, chasing his foe over the horizon of mythology in some fairy tale, and has faded from my vision as a result. He kept his promise. He has chased the black mouse to the ends of the earth, and beyond.
And it is well, this last deed of Sir Percival, for because of him, every effort I make now goes completely unresisted. I am opposed not at all. It's amazing to me what one can do with free reign when one has grown used to the weight and tyranny of infernal opposition for most of their life. I feel like a bird, born free, but caught. Wings clipped, and stones tied to my feet for 65 years. Now, because of the staggering sacrifice of so many good mice, I soar once more.
I mean to use every second of it, too. I was used to painting blind with a brush in my teeth. Now the world will soon see what I am capable of, being set loose to do as I please.
Thank you, Percival. Your sacrifice was perhaps the greatest of all.
I feel motivated now, more than anything I have ever desired to do, to accomplish this task set before me. The burning passion to make it work overcomes the fear, the doubt. I know my calling at last, and having accepted it, I find it becomes me.
I have, in particular, a soft spot for roadkill.
On my journeys I came upon a time across a road. In the middle of the road were three corpses. Two baby squirrels and a mother, all run over by cars. I knew right away what had happened, and it was one of the saddest things I have ever beheld. One baby had gone into the road, curious, naïve to the danger, and had been hit. The mother, in an attempt to rescue her child, had dashed out, too late, and also been smashed flat. The second child, starving and wanting his mommy, went to her body, and he too was run over.
As I sat there on the curb, crying and watching the cars drive over the bodies again and again, uncaring of any lives but their own, something nudged me from behind. It was the last baby, now very hungry and frightened. He had the brains not to go out into the road, but I could tell he was desperate. Unless I intervened, he would go join his family.
When the kind human came minutes later, I explained the situation to him. He went to a store and bought twenty pounds of nuts and grain, and poured it all over the entrance to the baby's den. He was old enough to eat it, and so he lived. Not entirely whole, I'm sure. He had seen what happened to his family. He would live like I do, scarred but stronger for it.
It's like the mice in the plowed field. It's like the pet stores. It's like the labs. Rodents need help. And no one is willing to stand up for them. If I've learned anything in this amazing life I've lived, it is that everything has a soul that has life. Even things humans think have no life have souls. The entire planet has a soul. To leave anything out of that equation is pure arrogance. This is why I was called to become the champion. Rodents need help. It is a huge calling. A frighteningly huge job. But heaven knew I was the one, even while I didn't. Hey, somebody's gotta do it. If you had seen what I've seen, and hopefully now you have, you would feel the same.
I have spent all of spring studying and planning. If I were a human, I'd have several MDs, about 20 PhDs and a hundred master's degrees by now. I told you - mice learn fast (even without the help of an angelic legion). Finally, I'm just about ready. So recently I set out to find the only thing I'm missing.
All this was going smoothly, and my powers increasing as my work grew into a solid picture. Then one night I had the dream. I dreamt every night, and they were always meaningful, but I had been waiting for this one.
I opened my eyes and saw my master and Nemo sitting in front of me. They were young and healthy. I was overjoyed to see my master again, and told him so.
"Again?" He asked. "Squibble, what do you mean? Are you still asleep?"
"Oh yeah," I said, happy to be there. "I am asleep. A year and a half from now."
They looked shocked. They looked at each other, puzzled, and then at me. I was enjoying every minute of it. I drank deeply the sight of my young, healthy master and the majestic, strong Nemo. I wished I could see my momma.
"Want me to prove it?" I said. My master nodded. "Okay," I said, "I'll be going away soon. It's all a big stupid misunderstanding, but it happens. That starts everything off. Things go way downhill from there, but they sort of have to."
Nemo cocked his head and his eyes shot open wide. He knew. Heh heh heh heh. He knew already, and I knew he would know.
"He's telling the truth," Nemo said, stunned. My master snapped his head back and forth between us.
"You mean... you mean this is really Squibble as an old mouse... from... from the future?" he said. Nemo nodded along with me. My master peered into my eyes. He could see the age and experience there. I just knew he could. His own eyes got wider, then relaxed a bit as he accepted it.
"Squibble, you were complaining about bad dreams," my master said. "I thought maybe they were just..."
"Just dreams?" I said. "I wish. No. They are warnings. I won't listen to them, so don't try to make me. They're premonitions. A lot of bad stuff is coming, master. More than anyone wants to come. I'm sorry. It has to be this way. I believe that now."
"Most paths can be changed," Nemo said, transfixed with fascination. "Who told you that it had to be that way?"
"You did," I said. They both gasped. "At first I didn't believe you. I didn't want to believe you. It was my worst fears, coming to life, one after another. I just couldn't accept it. But in the end, I had no choice. Nobody did."
My master's face was painted worry. "Why, Squibble? Why? What happens?"
"I can't tell you all that," I said. "I'm sorry. It might change things. The future is a road with a million forks in it, master, like a tree, ever reaching upward with smaller and smaller branches. I can see it like that now. Every fork in a branch is a different possibility for the future. And every time I've looked, I only see one way to our salvation. Out of all those branches, only one path to where we have to go in order to survive. As horrible as it is, things need to happen just the way they did - and will. Otherwise all mousekind will suffer."
"It's that big?" He asked me. "All mousekind hangs in the balance?"
"Oh yeah," I said. "Bigger even. All rodentkind. All humankind. I'm working on it right now. I was chosen to do this. To save everyone. Bitch of a job, but someone's gotta do it."
Nemo regained some of his composure. "Surely you can tell us some things."
"Ohhhh," I said, "Big all-powerful prophet can't see the entire future eh? Missing some parts, are we? Hate that, eh? Wanna know, don't you?"
"Yes!" He said.
"How does it feel to want, big guy?" I said, grinning.
Nemo growled something under his breath.
"Squibble...?" My master was speaking to me now as if he were afraid, and of course he had right to be. I felt sorry for him. Almost no one suffered more than he did. "Please tell me what's going to happen. We can't be ready for it if you don't tell us."
I caved under the look on his face. I loved him so much. Maybe a little wouldn't hurt.
"Well," I began...
"Oh, no you don't, twerp!" Came Bigfat's voice. I realized it was coming out of my own mouth, though in the dream I saw him standing next to me. Nemo and my master jumped a foot each. There was no mistaking that voice. My master must have thought I was possessed. I kinda was.
"B... Bigfat!?" My master exclaimed, eyes round as full moons.
"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Hi there, dude. Hi there, Nemo. Heard lots about you up here. Good rep. Solid."
"Oh my lord," my master breathed.
"Well, the kid here thinks so, but not really," he said.
"Why can't we know anything?" Nemo asked him.
"HA! You asking me that?" Bigfat chuckled. "Really!"
Nemo made a frustrated face. It warmed my heart, as much as I respected him, he was never wrong, and even more rarely flustered. It did me good to see that he was as fallible as I.
"Listen," Bigfat told them. "I'll tell you this. Get ready for the ride of your life. The twerp here is the champion of the Mousegod. He's the chosen one, and many months from now he's done real good. He's a true hero. A great hero. But the ride along the way sucks, and that's putting it mildly. Nothing must happen to him or it's all over pretty much. So I gotta ask you. How bad do you want it?"
"Want what?" My master said.
"Equality with humans."
"No way!" My master exclaimed. He he! He sounded like me!
"Way," Bigfat said. "Way big. Nothing less is on the line here. If it goes poorly, it's the end for all of us. You have no idea. Those rats... you taught them a little too much..."
"Shiva and Thor?" My master asked.
"Ah, enough of that. How's the woman? Happy?" Bigfat asked in a friendly no-big-deal tone.
"Umm... She's great!" He said. "Had kids. I have a family now."
"Take good care of 'em," Bigfat said, obviously disturbed. I shot him a dirty look. I wanted to bite his ear. Forcing my nose through the "possession," I took control.
"Master! It goes poorly! Don't go to war! If you do, you'll die! Everybody dies! Don't go!" I cried in a sudden lapse of reason. Bigfat quickly recovered from his horror and took over again.
"Moron!" He shouted. My master looked pale. He slowly looked at Nemo, who looked back as if someone had spilled the beans and it was his fault. I felt sorry for opening my big mouth now, looking at my best friend in the whole world. I should have stayed shut up.
"War??" He choked. "War?"
"Ah, pay no attention to the kid," Bigfat said. "The Great War wasn't so bad. You won. Sort of."
"Great War?" He whispered. His face was crestfallen. "When does this happen?"
"Not for awhile," I said, nosing past Bigfat, who wasn't omnipotent after all. "You have much time left, master. There are yet adventures to come."
He looked very sad. He gazed back toward the dining room, where his cage was. "Tree..." he said. "She's alright?"
I looked at Bigfat and he at me, each of us blaming the other for speaking at all. We stayed silent.
"Oh, no..." my master sat down. "Oh no. No."
"Oh," I said, my heart aching for him, "Bigfat, stay outta my way, or I promise I'll find some way of biting your ear even in the spirit world!"
He looked down at my master and felt what I did. He looked back at me. "Yeah. Yeah, okay."
I went to my master and felt my young paws touch his silky fur one last time. "Master, all the horrors to come have but one purpose. To free all mousekind from human domination. We volunteered for this, before we were born. We all agreed to pay the price for every single mouse and rat in the whole world. Lucifer, he hated this upon hearing of it, and sent one of his powerful generals, in the form of a black mouse, to test our resolve. It gets bad. I won't lie. It gets really, really bad. Worse than you can imagine. But it comes out alright. In the very end, it comes out alright, I'm certain."
"Then you are not speaking to us from the end of all things?" Nemo said.
"No," I said. "No, I'm not. I have much yet to do."
"Then you don't know how it turns out," my master sobbed. I winced at his ability to see truth.
"No, I don't, but the black mouse was defeated, sort of," I said. "I know what I must do, and I am doing it. It took a long time, and many terrible tribulations, but I am finally doing it. It's working so far."
My master looked up in tears. "But my family."
My chest hurt. I had thought the hard times were past.
"Your family goes on," I told him, meaning Percival and Branch. "Some of them go on."
"Nothing so valuable comes without a price," Bigfat said. "You're the mouse knight. Will you pay the price for every rodent in the world to have freedom? That's what's being offered to you, and the rest of the house. You can pay, and have your chance at making all the world a haven for mice, or not, and await the day humans figure out you can read."
My master's head came up and I saw the fire of heroism in him, that light I loved so much. "Squibble? What did you answer to that question?"
I looked at him face to face.
"I said yes, master. When it came down to it, in my moment of truth, I said I would pay. And I did." Oh boy, did I ever.
His face hardened for the first time. That expression that would later be worn as a mask on the battlefield to command the Hordes of Squibble into war. I saw it for the first time, and finally knew where it had come from. His eyes were set in grim determination.
"If you can do it, my friend," he told me, "then I can too. I will pay. Whatever the price. I will do what I must."
"Like any great hero," I said. "You have never disappointed me, master. Never." I smiled at him. My beloved master. "Do right and fear not," I said.
He looked at me with amazement. Then he turned aside and wiped the tears from his eyes as his true face came back. Worried and scared, but true. "What a wonderful saying," he said. "That is exactly how I have tried to live. It gives me strength, Squib."
"Take it as your own, master," I said. "Of all mice, you deserve it the most." Nemo's eyes were wide and alert, like someone watching something amazing that they will always hold dear, and knowing they're only going to see it once. "Neither of you can tell me any of this when I wake from hypnosis," I said. "You must realize that. It would change everything." I remembered how frustrated I had been that they wouldn't tell me. Looking back, if they had, I'd have gone and hid in a tiny hole for a year. Ahh, I wasn't going to believe them anyway.
They both nodded. All my life others had told me hard, scary things. I never got to do it the other way around, and now that I had, it wasn't any fun. The look on my master's face was miserable. I hugged him. He held onto me for a long time. Finally, he managed a smile. I had always wondered when the change had happened from his carefree self to the reluctant commander. It had been then, in those few hours I was put under, and it had been because of what I'd told him. He had gone to the war knowing that he - and everyone - would die. What an awful burden. And he bore it like a true knight. All because of my words to him now. Fate has a strange sense of humor.
I told him a few more things. Bigfat told him some as well. We tried to lighten the heavy mood and spoke of fun things. I told him not to worry about Scratchy, and told him a little about our perfect adventure. "Remember to bring the honeycomb," I said. "That was the best part!" He agreed, chuckling.
Before I knew it, it was time to go. I was waking up in my future, and in the past it was almost dawn. Bigfat was already gone.
"I have to go," I said. "I'm sorry. I don't want to. I want to stay with you."
"We all do what we must," my master said. "I know you'll come through in the end. I have faith in you."
"Yeah," I said, smiling sadly. "You always did. Even in the darkest moments. You always believed in me." I looked him right in the eyes. "I couldn't have done any of it without you, Spritely."
Both he and Nemo drew back in complete shock, and then, when his eyes went back to normal, my master smiled. The wonderful, charming smile that was his trademark. His eyes glistened with gold in the dawn light.
"I love you, Squib," he said.
"I love you..." I said, and woke up in mid sentence.