Something Slithery This Way Comes
I had another dream that night. I was very disturbed before I went to sleep, and believe me, this made it worse.
I was in the city. It was my pilgrimage, but I couldn't find anybody. No people, no mice. No rats, no animals. The whole place was empty. I wandered a long time with no food or water. It was very cold, even though I thought it was supposed to be summer.
Then I came to a huge hole in the ground. I mean human scale huge. Like a mile across. And inside, piled on each other, were humans and animals. All dead. All burning.
I gasped out loud and out of the shadows came ragged mice. Starving, dirty, and beaten. One of them was my master! He looked ancient. Bent over and ragged.
"Squib! Come quickly! You'll catch the plague standing there!"
I rushed into the alleyway where there were many other mice. All looking worse than the first group. It was dark. The sky wasn't as bright as it should be. The air smelled awful, I suddenly realized. Burning flesh and fur. Yuck!
"Master, what...what happened!" I exclaimed.
"The Black Mouse," he wheezed. He was gravely sick. I felt a pang of terror stab me in the heart. "It brought a plague down on us, then a famine. Finally, a war."
"The four horsemen of the apocalypse," said Shiva. He was missing an eye and an ear. He wore nightmarish armor made of red metal. He looked burned. And old. "It was conquest at first - raids, attacks, terrorist stuff. Then the rest. He had them out of order, but the idea was the same."
"Where's...where's momma? Thor? The children?" I asked, frightened.
"All dead, Squibble," my master coughed. Blood sprayed out of his nose and mouth. I recoiled in horror. "They died."
"Oh...Oh NO!" I squeaked. "No! How! Why? Why did this happen!"
Shiva looked up at me with his one eye. He looked hardened by pain, like polished steel hard. He looked like the god of destruction.
"Because you forgot to warn us, Uncle. It was your job to champion us, remember? Your job!"
I was in utter shock. I remembered my dream with Mike. I started backing away, but their eyes followed. A strange, psycho mouse in camouflage clothing was cleaning up my master's face as he sank to his knees.
"But...that...that was just a dream," I whispered.
Shiva shook his head side to side.
I nodded vigorously, as if insisting on my point might make it true. But the other mice all gazed at me with contempt. Shiva was right. I had accepted the task.
"It's two and a half years after you said you'd be our champion, mouse," Shiva hissed. "Humanity found out about us. They tried to kill every last rodent on the earth out of pure panic."
"They...they wouldn't do that," I said, knowing otherwise.
"They did. Apes. Fear of the unknown. Rather than face their brutality and ugliness, they tried to wipe out the witnesses. Over ten billion of them."
"What happened?" I choked.
Shiva smiled then, a wicked, evil grin I'd never seen on a rat before.
"We fought back."
I turned to look out across the cityscape. The buildings were torn down. The horizon was burning. The sky was blood red. The ground was brown with dried blood. It was a nightmare.
"How?" I screamed. "How did rodents do all this!?"
My master coughed and crawled to me with his blood-caked face. "Technology," he croaked. "We had to fight back. We had to."
Then, all at once I remembered the dream before Mike, and my master saying this was all caused by...
"The Black Mouse! It's evil! It's coming to get us!" I shrieked.
At that very moment, as if I had summoned it, the shade of that dead mouse stood in the back of the alley, covered by darkness, its fiery eyes burning like hot coals.
The mice reacted immediately, but not fast enough. BJ, first to react, was cast aside like garbage. Twenty mice went down fighting - all of them Mouse Knights. Nemo squared off with the demon mouse in a sorcerous duel of wills, and faded away to nothingness. Finally, there was no one left. And my master flung himself against me to shield my body with his own. From behind, the horrible mouse ran him through. A cold black sword, burning like it was just taken out of the forge, pierced my master's body and went through my chest, stopping just a millimeter from my own heart. I was stabbed. My master was dying. I felt such pain. My master looked up into my eyes.
"You can't let this happen, Squib. You're our only hope."
Then he died, and slid off me in a bloody mess.
The black mouse pulled back for the blow that would end my life and swung.
Clang! The arcing black weapon was parried by a shining, blazing sword of golden fire! And on the other end of the holy sword I saw a mouse in magnificent armor - made of lobster shell and snake scales, like most knightly armor mice wear - but also made of steel, with a flowing green cloak and a magnificent helm on his white head.
The new mouse beat the shade back with blow after mighty blow. He fought as though possessed. He fought like a warrior god. I had never seen such skill. Not even from my master, or BJ. The black mouse stood no chance. The fury on this new mouse's face, glaring from the slit in his crusader's helm, was too intense. This holy warrior would never give up.
The black mouse turned and fled.
The warrior mouse ripped the helm off his head and lowered his sword for one moment to gaze at me. He looked familiar. He looked beautiful and strong.
"Get up, Squibble! Wake up and save us!"
"Who are you!" I gasped.
He smiled. I knew that smile! "I am your own blood," he replied. "You named me, brother. Surely you know me now."
I did. I did know. "You're...Percival!" I said. "You're the...the Lord of the Mouse Knights!"
He nodded, yanked his helmet back on, and turned to pursue the black mouse.
"Prevail, Squibble, mighty prophet and champion of us all!" he yelled as he ran...so fast..."Prevail!"
Then two tiny paws were grabbing me, pulling me away from the alley and into a single beam of sunlight reaching down out of the sky. The mouse pulling me was taking me to that light, in wide, rotating circles. I looked up into the face of Scratchy, wearing armor and bearing a sword at his side.
Just as I hit the light, I heard Percival's voice echo. "Prevail."
Then I woke up in a cold sweat.
And forgot the dream immediately.