Lessons from the Astral Plane
There on the other side of sleep, Nemo was waiting for me. It was a wide, open field at night, full of glorious golden wheat and plants everywhere that a mouse could eat with delight. He sat among some strawberries, looking fit and healthy as he had before he'd been attacked. He had some Cheerios.
I hopped up beside him and looked at the Cheerios with great desire. Looking up, I saw him smile.
"Have some, they're the next best thing to real ones," he said.
I ate one. It tasted real enough. Fine by me!
"This is the astral plane," Nemo said. "This is where I live now while my body heals...if it heals."
I stopped in mid munch and glanced at him.
"I might not," he said to me. "I was born with an immune deficiency problem, Squibble. All sapphire chinchillas have it."
"What's that mean?" I asked around chewing.
"It means my body is weaker than most," he said. "It cannot fight off germs or disease as well as others. Like the poison the black mouse used against me through my girlfriend."
"You were poisoned?" I gasped.
"As well as mortally wounded...in the head," he said.
"We have to tell my master!" I exclaimed. "He'll quest for the cure - he'll ...he'll know how to fix it."
"It cannot be fixed," Nemo told me. He munched a Cheerio, as if nothing was wrong. "It will have to heal on its own, or not."
"Howcome you never told us you have eyemoon fissency?" I asked.
"Heh heh heh," he chuckled. "I don't know it...on the other side. Not yet. By the time they find out, it will be too late."
My jaw hung slack. "But...but why don't you know it? Couldn't you know it if you wanted to?" I said.
"Yes, if I chose to," he said.
"What's up with that!" I chirped. "And just like...just like what was up with sending us out into the heat and the stupid field when you knew it was a trap! All you had to say was 'hey, guys, do this or that, and let's avoid the trap'! For that matter, why don't you just tell us where the black mouse is and zot him with an eyebeam or somethin!"
Nemo chuckled again, like Buddha (kinda like Bigfat too, come to think of it).
"Because then things would have happened differently, Squibble. And as it is, things happened just perfectly."
"What!" I exclaimed, furious. I threw my Cheerio to the ground. "Not even! My momma had to suffocate? My master has to wheeze all the time? All those mice had to die - and starve! No way!"
"Yeah," he said. "Way."
"NO!" I yelled. It echoed across the sunset sky of the dream field.
"Yep," he said, calm as could be.
How infuriated I was. Infuriated mouse! I stomped around.
"You wanna see?" he said.
"What!" I zipped over to him. "Yeah, lemme see!"
"You have to learn how, Squibble."
"It carries a huge weight, small mouse," he looked serious at me. He put the power on me. I could feel the weight of his warning. It slid right off my naivety shields.
"Yeah, okay already. Let's do it." I said.
He sighed. "Didn't Mike's warnings make an impression on you?"
"What? How'd you know about that?" I said.
"There are massive powers at work, here, Squibble. Listen to me. If you want my training, we have to skip all the small stuff now. We don't have time any longer. We have to dive right into the big stuff. The real power. And right away. I don't even have time to burrow through your thick skull to really make you believe my warning. What I am offering to teach you is how to use your prescience."
"Whazzat!" I said.
"The power to see all the futures," Nemo said. "And choose one. Many times."
"Cooool!" I said.
"No!" he snapped. I jumped back. "Not cool. Hard. Hard, dangerous, and heavy on your soul more than anything you could ever imagine." He softened and leaned toward me, tilting his head and making a compassionate face. "You will wish I hadn't taught it to you, my dear mouse."
In a hard-earned flicker of wisdom, I asked, "then why do you want to teach it to me?"
He pursed his lips and said, "Because you must know it to bring about the great plan."
"Ohhh," I pretended to know what he was talking about, then turned to him and frowned. "What great plan is that?"
"The one you haven't come up with yet. The one to save all rodentkind."
"Ohhh...that one. Yeah, I had kinda thought I already did that by warning the safe house."
"That wasn't even the tip of the iceberg, mouse," he said.
"And...you can see all this?" I said.
"And you're sure this is what I gotta do."
He nodded. "Uh-huh."
I sat down and pushed the Cheerio pile aside. "That kinda sounds sucky."
"Parts of it will be," he said. "But what have you wanted more than anything in the whole world, Squibble?"
"Well," I looked at my tail. "I used to want to be a great hero, but now I'm not so sure."
"Don't give up your dream. It is noble and good."
"It costs too much, seems to me," I said.
"Is that so?" he asked. "Did you expect it to be free and easy?"
"Well...yeah." I admitted.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because it always is in the stories. The heroes always seem to get everything in the end," I said.
"What stories are these?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.
"Tee vee," I said.
He frowned, nodding. "Squibble, TV is programming made for stupid people. It brainwashes you. It makes you dumb."
"Hey...don't hack on my teevee!" I argued.
"But I shall!" he proclaimed. He stood up and gestured at the air around him. "Real stories, Squibble, are full of conflict and strife, like life. TV would have you believe that if you just lie down and don't think, that everything will be well for you. All will be provided by others, it claims, and all the while you will grow lazy... stupid."
"Who makes teevee that way?" I asked. "It sounds like a giant plot."
"It sort of is," Nemo said. "A plot to get humans to spend money, be content with their lot, and sleep in their souls so they cannot see what is really happening around them. It is a plot by evil in the world. Not one being, but many. Affecting many. On such a huge scale that no one can really see it."
"And they call me crazy," I said. "There are good shows on teevee! Like...like... Star Trek!"
"Yes, you are right, Squibble. Nothing is black and white. There are some good uses for TV, like education, and that show you mentioned is pretty cool. But 99% of TV is not good for you. Not good for anyone. It is a way the masters of the world use to control the masses."
"This FBI guy on teevee would agree with you," I said. "He's all about conspiracy theory too."
"I know the show," he said. "But I am telling you the truth. The sooner you give up TV, the better. Read real stories instead. Like your master does."
Ouch. Touché. I turned away, sulking.
"Do you wish to begin learning what I have to teach you, Squib? It won't be easy. We'll have to go very, very fast," he said.
Boy, that crafty chinchilla knows just what to say to this mouse. He said fast. I like fast.
"Yeah, okay. Sounds like there's no way around it, anyway."
"Oh, but there is."
"Everyone dies," he said. "Not some. All."
"Oh..." I made a stupid face, sticking my already huge two front teeth out. "Okay, Duhhh, I guess I'll just let that happen then... huhhhh..."
"The training will be hard," he said. "I have never had so little time to train someone in so much."
"Yeah, bring it on, fuzzball."
"You will have to practice all the time."
"I ain't givin' up my chi gung," I said, whirling around face him.
"You won't have to - that's a very integral part to all of it, in fact."
"Good! More good news, please."
He grinned. "You'll be a mighty, powerful, and respected hero by the end."
"I better!" I chirped, pointing at him. "Cause so far, things look pretty bad. Bad deal so far."
His face fell into seriousness once more.
"They're going to get worse, Squibble." His eyebrows fell over his blue eyes until he looked sad. "Much worse."