RMCA Fiction:
The Mouse Knight II: Squibble's Story

Cutter Hays

The Moment of Truth

(Copyright 2006 Cutter Hays)
I knew things were bad when Mike showed up. He came that evening. He drove up to the house on a big Harley Davidson motorcycle, all white and silver. We could all hear it coming. Myself, I could feel it coming. If Nemo had been there, he would have known as well. There was a heavy air about the entire house, the impending coming of doom. There was no escape.

The kind human came to the door along with many mice to meet the stranger.

"Hello," the kind human said. "Umm... Who goes here?"

Magnificent man held out a bronzed hand. "Michael," he said. My master showed up with BJ and Squibette. Scratchy took his place at my side, staring google-eyed at Mike. The angel was the picture ofcharisma and perfection, long flowing golden hair touching his broad shoulders. Not a mark on his white suit.

The kind human looked down at his mice and saw my master look at me in surprise. I nodded to him. He nodded to the kind human.

The kind human looked back at Mike with alarm and awe in his eyes. "The Michael?" he asked.

Mike nodded. His bright blue eyes blazed like twin suns.

The kind human stepped aside. Mike came into the house, careful to stay between the red taped lines. The first thing he did was to stoop down and pick up my master.

"Hello, my friend. Good to see you," he said.

My master nodded vehemently and looked down at me excitedly. Mike noticed me then, and picked me up with my master.

"Look at him!" My master said. "He's a human! A big human!"

"HA HA HA," Mike laughed. "I can understand you, dear one."

(Heard something! Both of us).

I looked up at Mike. "Reeely?"

"Really," he said.

I relaxed. "Everything's going to be okay now," I said.

"Perhaps," Mike said, carrying us to the kitchen table. The kind human was pouring glasses of juice for him and Mike.

"What do you mean, perhaps?" I chirped. "You go smite the black mouse now, big angel guy!"

Mike smiled. "Someone took my sword. Can't find it."

"We have it!" I exclaimed, pointing at my master's belt. "Now take it and go a-smitin!"

"Hmmm... Much too small," he said. "Can't use that. Someone else will have to."

"What's up with this!" I growled.

"Squibble," my master said, "The rules of engagement between Heaven and Hell don't allow direct intervention. This trial is ours, not Mike's."

"But this is all his fault - his and Bigfat's!"

"Not true," Mike said. "As a race, you chose this. Evil has decided to test your right to evolve. Mankind was tested in the very same way."

"Is that what this is all about?" My master said to Mike. "Our right to join humanity as an advanced species?"

Mike nodded. My master pondered it.

"This is worth it, Squibble," he said to me. He looked hopeful. "If we pass this test, rodents will evolve into a species with every right humanity has, at least on a spiritual level. This whole thing does have a great purpose."

"Humans will never let us join them," I said. "They'll kill us first."

"That's for sure," said Shiva from the table. Thor had joined him.

Mike looked down at his sons. My master said to them, "Boys, this is your father."

Their sour expression changed immediately. They gazed up at him in shock. For a long time they gazed, jaws slack.

"He's .... kinda big..." Thor said.

"This is the spirit Michael," my master said. "He came in his last life as a rat, to help me on my holy quest. He was your mother's mate, and your father. This is his true form."

"Not really," said Mike. "It's my human form. Hello, lads. You look well."

The rats climbed into his other hand, which held them both. They continued to stare upward into his face. They took off their helmets.

"Nice armor," Mike said.

"You don't mind that we designed it to look demonic?" Shiva asked.

"Nah. I know better. It throws fear into the heart of your enemies. That's a good tactic," Mike said. "It pleases me greatly to see you."

The boys must have felt that he was, indeed, their father, for they warmed up to him then. They climbed up to his shoulders and licked his face. Artemis and Aphrodite joined them. Mike played with his family for several minutes.

Mike sat down at the dining room table (after checking the chair for animals) and accepted the glass of juice from the kind human. He put us down on the book-covered surface.

"Why are you here, Mike? Is it to help us?" My master asked.

"As much as I am allowed, yes," he said.

"You owe my master one wish!" I reminded him. He nodded.

"That is why I am here," he said.

"Am I to use it so soon?" My master asked him.

"Very soon, yes," Mike said.

"Can you tell me if Nemo is well?" the kind human asked.

I expected some mysterious, all-powerful type answer, but Mike didn't play that game. "Yes, he is," he said. "I passed him on my way to the house. He searches for the field mice to aid your cause."

The kind human visibly relaxed. "That's nice to hear. Can you please explain what's going on here? I've heard it from them, but...I'd like to hear it from you."

"Certainly," Mike said. He began explaining, but my attention was on my master. He was taking off his armor and equipment, including the sword.

"Master?" I asked.

"I just want to be a normal mouse for a little while, Squib. I've been wearing that armor for weeks now, with no break. It feels good to be out of it. Trust me."

I removed my stuff then as well. It did feel great to be free of the weight. I hadn't realized how heavy it was. How much it bore me down.

My master turned back to Mike and the kind human picked him up to pet him. My master adored it, and laid down in the gentle hand to bask in the affection.

I was eyeballing the sword. I looked back and forth to the humans, the mice, and the sword. My master's eyes were shut. The sword whispered to me.

Did I really want to know?

Like a Cheerio that you know is somewhere in your cage, it beckoned to me. Part of me had to know. The other part hated my gifts and wanted to remain blind. I feared what I would see. I feared not seeing it, too. What if I could prevent it? What if I could see the way to our victory - and what if I didn't use that chance? Oh, the choice was so hard.

But, in the end, I was a mouse. Mice are inquisitive creatures, and can hardly deny their vast curiosity. I picked up the sword.

I didn't even have to draw it. The spirit world came. Michael had a great, blazing halo and gigantic, golden feathered wings. Angels surrounded him and the house again. The spirits of our dead people were being escorted to heaven by some of the angels, through golden gates. Other spirits chose to remain. My master had a soft, beautiful glow about him. The kind human had the same glow. BJ's aura was golden reddish, and my daughter's was a soft blue. Stompy's was almost entirely red and orange, and Scratchy's was white. Like Mike's.

Then I focused on the sword. Show me, I said in my mind.

It did.

Prescience went into full throttle and the normal worlds vanished. I was again on the smoke covered battlefield. I felt the "roads" of possible futures before me. I saw offramps and onramps plenty, leading to other outcomes, different possibilities. I stayed on the biggest, most likely road, which was far greater than all the others. This was the almost certain future.

I beheld fighting in earnest. Fires. I saw the monsters destroying us, and then, suddenly they were falling to a giant figure wreathed in smoke and fire - a titan of terrible power. I saw aerial battles raging in the sky, and I saw the entire battlefield collapse into the ground, as if swallowed whole. The river was choked with bodies. The dead were everywhere. I saw my master holding the sword aloft, and its shining light covering the field. Before it, no zombie could stand. Percival, a few others in tattered armor, and my master, finally, retreated to the chest of the dead or dying kind human. Fighting the swarm of undead mice that assaulted them, standing in a tight circle, the very last of our army still fought against thousands. A handful of worn and weary officers, raising their swords with strength borrowed from nowhere, surrounded by the last of the enemy's undiminished force. It was horrible. I thought that this was the end, that it could get no worse.

That was when fire began to fall from the sky.

Lightning and flame thundering to earth all around them, our side fell, one by one, to the enemy as my master's sword arm grew stronger and Percival's quicker with each loss. My master looked as though he was possessed. His eyes shone like Heaven's glory. Percival was laughing like a madman, decimating opponents left and right with blurring speed and flawless accuracy. But it was not enough. They were ten, then eight, then five, then three. Finally, it was Percival and my master alone, back to back on the unmoving human. Everything was surrounded by fire. Everything was burning. It was a scene straight out of the darkest hell.

Then the scene sped forward against my will. I saw the end.

My master was dying from a chest wound. The battlefield was empty but for a few straggling mice. The ground was wet, and the spilled blood of so many made it look like the entire landscape was covered in crimson. Panic shot through my nerves as I saw my beloved master sag to the ground, the sword no longer in his hands. His head fell to his chest and blood ran freely from his nose.

I freaked out. I forced myself off that road. I chose a road where that does not happen.

I saw him as an old mouse, in a world of horror. It was the world I had seen in my dreams - the world blasted by Armageddon. Animals and humans had gone to war. They had destroyed each other. I saw Shiva and Thor, Shiva missing an eye and ear again, and they were leading the animal armies against the humans. Pets, lab animals, zoo animals, and wild animals had all ganged up on humanity all at once. So much death had resulted so suddenly that humanity had reacted in pure instinct and thrown every weapon they had at the inside enemy. The sky was burned red with radiation. The war had gone on a long time. Bodies littered the ground in this vision as well, but this time they went on forever. To the very horizon. My body was not there. I was dead long before.

With no friends left, I saw my master die a sick, awful death. Like my poor momma, he choked as the blood in his lungs came too quickly. He gagged and panicked, running about on stiff legs, trying to escape his doom, full of the terrible knowledge that he could not. Terror took him, and he died in agony and pain on a cold, lonely street, far from home, twitching and spasming in prolonged, futile desperation. Not a warrior's death. Not a death that any being should have to suffer. Finally, his eyes bulged from their sockets and he lay still. No angels came for him. No light came to guide him home. There were no angels. There was no light.

Gasping and freaking out, I let go of the sword.

Those were my choices!? They had been the only two roads available to me, and to him. I sat down hard, trying to breathe.

I knew it would be stupid! I knew I shouldn't have looked! By the Mousegod, why is everything so messed up!!? It wasn't right! My master didn't deserve to die! I should go in his place! He had to live! I couldn't live without him! The house couldn't live without him! Such cruel reality! The world sucked! Why did this have to be!? WHY!?

I began to cry. I knew it was the future, and I knew that because I had looked, what happened was up to me. It would be my fault, no matter what. The weight was heavier than anything I had ever experienced. I felt sorry for Nemo. I felt what was left of the happy-go-lucky child in me being crushed by it. That happy spirit in me that had wanted nothing more than a good, exciting life and to be called a great hero was sagging like a wet piece of cardboard under a ten ton slab of ruthless stone. It was like losing my soul. I liked that me, and it was dying. Worse yet, I could not prevent it. If this was what growing up meant, it sucked! My dreams had been pure, my heart good and honest. My master even more so. We didn't deserve this.

When I looked up, everyone was staring at me. There I was, with the sword at my feet, and me looking like I'd blown a gasket. Eyes full of tears, nose running, mouth drooling.

"Squibble?" The kind human asked. Mike looked at me with more compassion. He knew.

I hissed at Mike and ran from the table and hid below it, under the refrigerator. I was so mad!

After a minute, their conversation resumed.

"It's very sad that all this has to happen this way," the kind human said. "I don't understand it, and I don't like it, and I shouldn't be one to question divine wisdom."

"But you do," said Mike.

No answer from the human.

"You may speak your mind to me," Mike said. "I've heard just about every blasphemy there is."

I could smell anger building up in the kind human. I wondered if Mike could.

"Will you tell me what you think of this?" Mike asked. Nope. I guess he couldn't.

"Since you asked," the kind human said, and paused for effect. Knowing the kind human, he was staring straight into those ice blue eyes of Mike's, and he probably wouldn't flinch at it. "I think it sucks to high Heaven. Literally."

"Do go on," Mike said, calm.

"These aren't normal mice. These are pets," the kind human explained, clearly upset. "One in every million mice gets to be a pet, and now they're all going to get hurt or die because of your holy war and your rules. It sucks."

I imagined Mike nodding. "I understand."

"No you don't," the kind human said. "If you really are some big angel then you don't at all. My son here," (he must have meant my master), "tells me you were that rat I picked up off my front porch and tried to save last winter. This is the thanks we get? Everyone dead and the rest going off to war!? Bullshit!"

I imagined then my master trying to calm him down, for he said, "No, baby, I won't. He asked."

"Yes," Mike said. "Yes, I did. Please go on."

"You say all this is necessary and right, but it doesn't feel right to any of us. You say they chose it, but my children don't look too happy about it, and I know my most precious friend, the first of the Knights and my favorite mouse in the whole world, certainly doesn't want to go to war. He's a gentle, kind mouse! Why must this awful thing happen? Is God so cruel?"

Mike said, "No. He is kind enough to let us find our own way, and choose what liberties we might earn."

"And what do they get if they win this, huh? What's worth all this death and pain?" The kind human was genuinely angry. I was rooting for him. Give it to him, big friend! Tell him off!

"They get freedom. Equality. Power," Said Mike.

"Oh great!" said the kind human. "Just like us. And look at what we've done with it. Whee ha. Have you asked them if they even want it?"

Mike said, "They do."

There was silence then, and my master chirped at the kind human. I saw him in my mind nodding, agreeing with Mike. I knew it was happening - I could see it in my mind. Sadly, despite how he really felt, my master was siding with what was right, as always, and fearing not.

"Oh, baby...does it have to be this way?" the kind human pleaded with my master. "Can't we pass this hardship by somehow? I can't bear to lose you!"

"If you do not let him go," Mike said, "all of mousekind will pay the price. Imagine how people, as they are now, will react when they find out that an entire race of animals, indeed, the entire planet of animals, that they have abused for so long, were actually their equals. Imagine what the animals will go through then."

"Humanity doesn't deserve this planet," the kind human was fighting back tears. "This whole thing is stupid! Stupid, do you hear me! THESE ANIMALS ARE INNOCENT!"

"Yes they were," Mike said. "But they are no longer. They have chosen something more. God is ready to give them what they desire, and Evil has challenged it. Now imagine what might happen if rodentkind and humankind were to cooperate. What they might accomplish together."

Something lit up in my head. What a grand idea! Why hadn't I thought of that? We rodents were so afraid of humans, so scared of them and so resentful of how we've been treated...we've never once stopped to think of what could be. Mike was a genius. I hated to admit it, though, and I guess the human did too. He was quiet.

"This is that big?" He asked. I didn't catch Mike's silent body language.

"I had no idea," the kind human said.

"They did. They do," Mike said.

A moment passed. Finally, the human said, "They can do what they feel they must. I fear for them greatly, but I do not control them. They aren't mine. They're just my friends."

"That," Mike said, "Is why they chose you. Even quested for you, over long, hard miles and against all odds. That little one in your hands had a vision of you from the beginning."

"I think I finally understand that."

"And do you understand the consequences of the path they have chosen?" Mike asked.

"Yes, that much I surely understand, for that is what I hate the most. But promise me - the universe will help them, if they earn it."


"But poor Squibble. And my poor baby here..." He sounded pleading. "They have suffered so. Can I not do anything to ease their journey?"

"You will do your part," Mike said. "What you think is best, when it comes time." I heard the human sigh and smelled great disappointment.

"This is all so disturbing," the kind human said. "It seems so stupid."

Right on, brother!

"It may yet have a happy ending," Mike said, and then changed the subject. "How are you recovering from your accident?"

"It hurts to walk and sleep," the kind human said. "My neck has three herniated disks, my wrist has pain, my elbow has a compressed nerve. My middle back spasms and locks up on me at night so that I cannot sleep without drugs, which I can't take for fear that the animals will need me. I've lost hearing in my left ear, I get headaches, nausea and fatigue plagues me. And pain shoots down my left arm all the time."

"On top of all you have lost, you've lost your health as well," Mike said.

The human probably nodded then.

"The stuff isn't important. The lives. All the lives. They can't be replaced," he said.

"Your soul is pure," Mike said. "You have spent all your money on them. You take them to the vet..."

"Not any more, unless Heide is around," the kind human said.

"You are broke?" Mike asked.

"No, I have no transportation," The kind human said. "I used to have a Harley - like yours but not nearly as nice. I sold it recently."

"You sold it," Mike said. "To pay for their supplies."


I lowered my head. The human had loved his Harley. We were breaking him in more ways that one. How sad that he had to sell it ... for us.

"You valued your Harley Davidson," Mike said.

"It...yeah. My father rode before me, and his father before him. That bike had spirit. It was my horse."

Mike laughed. "Yes, I know. That same spirit is now in my bike, outside."

"The silver and white one? That's a classic softail - really nice work. I was looking at it when you rode up. You've done alot of custom work to it. All the chrome, the brakes, the engine looks rebuilt..." The human had clearly missed Mike's meaning, but I hadn't.

"It has about 50 grand into it," Mike said. "But my work here is almost finished, and I won't be needing it anymore."

"You're going to sell it then?" The kind human asked.

"No," Mike said. "I'm giving it to you. That's why I brought it."

"I....I don't want your charity..." The kind human sounded unconvincing. He was blaming Mike still, like I was. Hey, it was hard not to.

Mike laughed a little. "There are no strings attached," he said. "If you won't take it, it will sit in your front yard and rot."

The kind human was speechless. I heard keys clink down on the table.

"Since you put it that way," the kind human mumbled, and took the keys.

"There is one more thing I can do for you," Mike said, rising from his seat. "And for our mutual friend."

I knew what was coming. I had prayed for it often enough. I climbed out from under the fridge and scrambled as rapidly as I could to the table top to see Mike laying one hand on the kind human's shoulder and the other over the hand my master sat in. Of its own volition, my spirit sight kicked back in and I saw the lights - the glorious, wonderful lights all around Mike. I saw energy funneling down from the sky in a white beam with golden tinges, and that sang through Mike and into the human, and into my master.

It only took a few seconds. I saw it all. I understood what had happened. I'd done a much smaller version of it myself.

My master woke up and blinked. Then his eyes got round. The human looked just like him.

"Oh my god." the kind human whispered.

"I can breathe!" My master said out loud.

"It's...amazing!" The kind human said, standing without the bent back and shaking legs he'd had for the last few months. "I...I feel..."

"No pain!" My master chirped. He hopped in one bound from the human's hands and down to me. He stood up and spread his arms. "No pain!" he exclaimed, shaking with excitement. I smiled, and looked up to Mike in gratitude along with my master.

He was looking down at me.

"You thought good had abandoned you, little one?" he said to me. I nodded slowly. "No," he said. "We have only reserved our blow for last. Now it is time for us to strike. Now comes the hardest time of all."

"I'm healed, Squibble!" my master said, astonished and ecstatic. "It's a miracle!" I nodded. The spirits were fading away, but before they did I saw my master's aura - as bright and full as it would have been the day I met him, I was sure. His chi was restored. All the damage life had dealt him was gone. At least the physical side of it.

I sat there staring at Michael. It was uncharacteristic of me to sit still. He knew this. He peered at me as Nemo always did. Seeing something only he could, he smiled.

"It's almost over, little friend," he said.

I just kept staring. I felt small. I felt small, and surrounded by giants.

As the sun descended upon the horizon, the armies were gathered and ready. Column after column were arranged before the house, in the front yard. Part of the barrier wall had been removed to let us march forth. I was wearing my armor, bearing all my weapons. I left the comic drawing on my shield. I thought it was funny. Maybe the black mouse would see it and at least be irritated.

I had my thousand chosen troops behind me, all wearing red sashes striped with blue as a symbol of their rank - the chosen high guard. Each and every one had been hand picked by my master, BJ, and the rat twins. These were the best of the fighters. Among them were Scratchy (quite proud of his new colors), Stompy, Squibette, Sneaky, Squeaky, Clyde, One-Ear , and Ghost. There were one hundred rats in this new rank as well, all high ranking members of the Swords of Michael. (The swords had gotten to finally meet the man for who they had been named. It has been amusing to see them puff themselves up and parade before him). Looking to my right, Shiva and Thor themselves were wearing the red and blue sashes. I was quite honored, and just as dense as a mindless rock.

The kind human came out into the dusk, holding my master in his right hand. His eyes were wet. Silence descended on the field and the house, and we all heard what he said to his tiny white son.

"Little one, once you would have been sold for ninety-nine cents at a pet store." He kissed my master ever so gently on the head. "And now you're priceless."

My master gazed back, longing, wishing it was different, I think, and told the human he loved him. But of course, all the human heard was a chirp. It seemed that the message got across, however, for the human let tears flow and smiled. The man put his mouse gingerly to the top of the porch. The human's face was painful to look at as he let the mouse crawl off his hand. My master gazed at him lovingly one last moment, and then turned around. His face went from deep sadness to stone.

"These are the orders given to us by Nemo," My master addressed the great lines of warriors. "He gave these to me a month ago, just before I left to recover this..." He drew Excalibur. It shone in the sunset light. Mouths dropped open. The intake of breath was a great wind. Eyes bugged out. The entire army went down on one knee.

"I shall lead the main force," he said across the silent field. "Our King shall return to the city, to be guarded by the force we left there." BJ looked startled and spun his head to my master, but my master went straight on without a sideways glance. "A force shall be left here at the safe house, which is sure to be hit while we are gone, to protect the women, the sick, and the aged. That force wears the red sashes. We march now to war!"

The army stood and cheered, drawing weapons and holding them high. BJ and I jumped in front of my master immediately.

"No way!" I said.

"Absolutely not!" BJ said.

My master turned to us, still holding the holy sword in his hand. The power of that mystical blade reached out to us and loomed upon our souls, as if to bear pressure down on us if we did not obey. The force of it was staggering. We were both harshly reminded of my master's indomitable spirit. Before that light, we could not even open our mouths to argue. But he sheathed the sword.

"I know you both hate this decision," he said. "But Nemo declared it to me long ago. He arranged all of this ahead of time. He said it must absolutely be so. He said there must be no other way."

BJ was angry. "Why didn't you tell us before now?"

"Because you would have found a way around it," my master said. "As it is, if you like, you can challenge me for the right to lead the army, my King."

"You clever rodent!" BJ exclaimed. "You made the proclamation before our entire force, and in the name of Nemo! I can't challenge you now, and even if I did, it would do no good to have either of us hurt. Wasting our energy fighting each other is what the Devil wants!" He snaffed and stomped a bit. I had never seen him do that. "You have read too much about court intrigue and subterfuge. You have outwitted me!"

My master shrugged. "The King must live through this, Your Majesty. Nemo knew that."

"We both know who the real King is here," he growled. "It is he who holds the sword. You just never wanted the title is all."

Again my master shrugged. "You have been a fine King," he said. "And you must continue to be. The people need you."

"I shall hate... hate... missing this fight," he said. "It is an unworthy fate!"

At that moment Percival came up to his father's side, dressed in full armor and bearing all his weapons. A kite shield hung from his back. Upon his lance was the flag of our people. It was the very first insignia I had designed for my master's very first shield. A happy, dancing mouse. They had chosen it for the very flag to represent us all.

"I shall keep a journal, majesty, that you might read it," Percival said. "You shall be with us in spirit, I pray, and all you have taught us shall determine the outcome."

BJ was clearly giving up. He withdrew to the kind human, who picked him up and held him. Heide was there now, and Michael stood behind them both. The kind human gave BJ to Heide to take back to the city once the army had marched. BJ's face was one of pure resentment, though he seemed to understand.

I, on the other hand, was not about to understand!

I set my feet firmly apart, called for my squire, and drew my sword, right in front of everyone.

Scratchy zipped up to my side, his blade drawn like mine.

"Kill anyone who interferes," I ordered him. My voice was not recognizable as my own. It sounded like cold steel.

Scratchy put his back to me and bared his teeth to the whole world.

I pointed the sword at my master.

"You might be the better swordfighter," I told him, eyes flashing, "But this one you will lose! I must go with you. You don't need to understand why. I must!"

(Copyright 2006 Cutter Hays)

He stared at me with an unreadable expression. It had depth to it I had not ever seen in him to that day.

"You cannot go, Squibble," he whispered.

"I am going!" I bellowed. "You cannot stop me! No one can!"

Scratchy stomped his feet as if to say, "Amen!"

My master only calmly shook his head. He made no move toward his ridiculously superior weapon. "No."

"YES!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. I was shaking with fury and fear. If I could not go...if I could not protect him...

I felt the great boots of Michael stomp up behind me. Good. He would make my master see reason.

My master looked up at Mike, sadness in every line of his face.

"Mike?" he said. "You promised me one favor."

"Yes," Mike answered.

"I'll use it now."

Before I knew what was happening, Mike had grabbed me. He held me in between his two cupped hands. He gave me only a tiny slit through which to see my master.

(Copyright 2006 Cutter Hays)

Scratchy flew into a whirling blur of weapons and teeth, tearing at Mike's hands to carry out my orders. Mike didn't even notice the feverish assault.

I was stunned. I realized what had happened. My mind snapped and I threw myself into a berserker rage with everything I had. I slashed, thrust, and broke my sword. I broke my backup, then bit and bit, tearing at Mike's flesh viscously. Though he bled, he did not let go.

"THIS!" I screamed through the tiny hole at my master. "He promised you anything...ANYthing - one time - and you chose this!!!??" I screamed in fury. "What's wrong with you! Don't you realize you're all going to die!?" Through the tiny slit, my master made no reaction. Only he could hear my ranting. The army lay in the other direction, behind Mike. Percival closed his eyes, bowed his head, and left for his place at the head of the army.

"Everyone dies, master! Everyone dies!!" I cried. "No one comes back alive! I've seen it! I saw it! I can change it! LET ME GO!"

Slowly, looking down, he shook his head.

"I know, Squibble."

I stopped still, my heart attacking my chest to escape.

He met my eyes.

"I know."

Some moments in life are so powerful, so traumatic, so terrible - that there simply is no appropriate - or inappropriate - reaction. None at all. I could only stare, tears gushing from my wide eyes. I was paralyzed.

"You told me long ago, when you were hypnotized," he said. "You told me I would not come back from the war."

I could feel nothing. I went numb. I felt as though I was dying. My heart raced, faint and quick, like fading smoke.

"Oh, Mousegod...this isn't happening...please don't go, master..." I whispered through trembling lips. "Please... please...don't..."

He smiled. That wonderful, beautiful, peaceful smile.

"I love you, Squibble. Do right, and fear not."

Then he turned, and left my field of vision.

Michael turned around, and I saw my master moving to stand before his army. Percival was already there, atop a great rat. My master mounted his own armored steed rat, white with a golden hood as Mike had been when he was wearing that body, and gave the order to march.

Panicking, unable to move or escape, I watched them march through the gates without me. I watched them march to their deaths, and was powerless to stop it. For many minutes they marched in formation away from the house and into the fields; thousands and thousands of rodents in armor, bearing weapons, pulling siege engines and catapults. The last I saw of my master was his flowing green cape and the shining star that was his sword. Then they were gone.

Michael put me down on the porch. I saw my high guard standing at attention. They had been in on it. I could see it in their faces. Every one of them that mattered. All in on it. I felt betrayed, as I had so long ago before my pilgrimage. I knew if I ran after my master Mike would just catch me again. Scratchy was now attacking the giant's ankle. Mike lifted him up by the lobster shell of his armor and gave him to the rat twins, who disarmed him and held him down under one foot. Scratchy was beyond insulted. He chirped over and over. The only sound he could make.

I looked up at Mike, completely furious. Even an archangel had stabbed me in the back. In my moment of greatest need, I was abandoned and powerless. I hated everything. Everyone. Oh, what I would not have given at that moment to be his size. But I was not.

I was just a mouse.

(Copyright 2006 Cutter Hays)

The Great War: Day 1