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

Cutter Hays

Dreams and Stories

Cage so small... (Copyright 2005 Cutter Hays)

I'm kinda wondering about these weird dreams. They make me write strange stories. Sometimes they make me think strange things.

Yesterday I saw on TV that in another far away place in the world there are these cool critters called foxes. It was an advertisement for the zoo (I must go there at once!). Besides the fact that they eat rodents (everything eats rodents, okay? We're used to it.) they live in the desert and can burrow faster than a man can follow with the eye. So cool. And they're really cute. They have huge ears and big bushy tails and kinda look like a really big, lean chinchilla with long legs. Oh - and they're fast. I like that. I like fast. They're called Fennec Foxes. They live in Egypt (which I always thought was just a term meaning "far away," but it's really a real place!) and they're awesome. I wonder if they can read too.

Then I had this awful dream about the cute foxes in tiny, tiny cages. Cages so small they couldn't lie down or stand up. Just sit there. They were being sold by men in a market as food. People were gonna eat them! The poor foxes were miserable, and depressed. I could tell it was agony being in those cages and they knew they were going to die. Then I saw the most terrible thing. I saw a mother fox with her two kits in the same cage. One of the kits had died because there wasn't enough room in the cage for them all - some human had crammed them in - and the kit had been squished against the bars. It had choked to death. The other one couldn't reach its momma's nipples and was wasting away. It shocked me so bad I couldn't think. It brought back a flash of me, when I was tiny, clutching my momma's breast desperately to keep warm. I was starving. We were both dying.

I woke suddenly and my girlfriends ran away because I spooked them. They said I was muttering and tossing in my sleep. Mice don't really do that. My eyes were wet - I guess I was crying too.

I went right away to my master and climbed into his cage. I woke my momma and nuzzled up against her soft fur. She held me while I shook.

"What happened, little one?" she asked, worried.

"I...I had a bad dream," I replied.

"Was it that bad to scare a brave Mouse Knight?" she said calmly. I love my momma. She's always so calm.

"It was bad," I said. "It was about cute things suffering under human cruelty."

My momma grew more concerned and chirped for my master, her husband.

The master came right away from his books on the same table.

"Squibble, what happened?"

"I had an awful dream," I said, and explained it to him.

He was thoughtful a moment and then frowned. "Too much TV," he said.

"What?" I asked, surprised.

"Too much TV. The learning channels can be traumatic for us, Squib. I once saw a documentary on snakes...there was this mouse..."

"This was a dream!" I chirped, upset.

My momma shook her head sadly.

I looked back and forth between them, horrified.

"You mean...this...this really happens!? " I said.

Master nodded his head. "Yes, Squib. The world is cruel to animals."

I was stunned. I described the dream again in detail. "Are you sure it's that bad?" I asked.

"Worse often," master said. "Kits are left in the desert to starve because they don't have any meat on them worth eating. More often the animals are just exterminated like vermin. They stand no chance against guns."

I knew what a gun was. I had seen that on TV. What my master and momma didn't know is that I hadn't seen any documentary besides the show on foxes, and they hadn't shown anything bad happening to the poor critters. Ever. The only thing I usually watched on TV was action flicks and stupid dramas. I never knew there was a Learning Channel.

I was silent a long time. Finally I whispered, "It's like the pet stores."

"There are worse things than the pet stores, Squibble," said my master.

"You're safe here, my sweet son," Momma said. She cradled me gently in her arms. She groomed the top of my head. I was looking at the ground but I'm pretty sure she made a face at my master.

"Of all the places a mouse might be, Squibble, this is the best. You're as safe here as any mouse gets," my master told me.

But I didn't feel safe. I wasn't sure if I'd ever feel entirely safe again.

Anyway, that dream led me to write this story, which I don't understand either.

The Mouse with 1000 Kisses

1000 Kisses (Copyright 2005 Cutter Hays)

Once upon a time there was a mouse who had a thousand kisses from his beloved human. He treasured them, as mice don't own much, this was all he had.

But the human got sick and died, and the mouse was given away to a shelter, and from there to an evil pet store. In the dirty, sad cage he saw mice that had no kisses at all, and never had. He felt sorry for them, and gave one to a mouse who was his friend. That mouse was picked the next day to feed a snake, and vanished forever.

There was a momma in the cage with little ones. She kept losing her children to the big hand that came in to grab food for the monster snake, even though she fought and fought, trying to pull her babies back into the cage. She always lost, and would go back to her corner, weeping. So he gave her one kiss for her, and one for each baby she had lost.

He gave kisses to all the scared mice before they died, and at night he escaped the cage to give kisses to every other mouse in the store. He wandered about at night, handing out kisses to any mouse that needed them, and he found that everyone always needed them. He gave them to wild mice, poor mice, rich mice, sick mice and well mice. He gave them to pretty mice, ugly mice, and even to mean mice (because it made them nice). He found that everyone who got a kiss was happy. And in the morning he would go back to his cage, having no other place to eat or drink.

One day, when he was old and grey, and couldn't understand why his turn at being snake food hadn't come, he found he had only two kisses left. He missed his kind human, and wished he could see him again and get more precious kisses. He had been a rich mouse, but had given it all away. Now he was poor.

The hand came for him that very afternoon. He gave one of his kisses to the hand as it set him in the snake cage. And as the snake came for him he gave his last kiss to it, just before he breathed his last breath.

That was the end of the story. It was kinda sad. I went back the next day and wrote this ending, after thinking about it:

The mouse went to Heaven then, where the Mousegod asked if anyone would speak on his behalf so that he might get into Heaven. If no one speaks for you, then you have to wander endlessly until you find another life.

The mouse saw hundreds, even thousands of mice come out of the clouds and speak for him. Every mouse he had ever given a kiss to. Then the snake came, and said he should be allowed into heaven. And then the pet store clerk who had fed him to the snake. She said he was the only mouse who had ever kissed her hand, and she begged his forgiveness for not taking him home like she wanted to. Last of all, his old human came out of the light, and picked him up. He was robed in white, and had a halo over his head. He was a special human, and always had been.

"My sweet friend," the human said. "You spent my kisses exactly as I hoped you would. You gave them to those who needed them most, and the world was a better place for your being there." He kissed the mouse once, and all thousand kisses came back, and more. "Now come play in my gardens, and let me give you kisses forever."

That was pretty cool, but I kinda wanted to give it another ending on top of that one. I wanted the mouse to volunteer to come back to earth and keep helping mice, like my master did. I think my master is one of those special souls that will just always be here. He could probably have stayed in heaven, or gone on to become even greater things, but he's passed all his tests. He's a mouse messiah now. A truly great being. A legend. You can tell I like him huh?

My greatest wish is to be one tenth as great as he is.

I remember having a dream about that...or something.

But to be great takes all kinds of things. Like a vision. My master had one, right after he was made the first Mouse Knight. I don't have a vision. I just like to tell stories, draw, and be happy. I really wanna be great, but...well, I'm worried that maybe it's just not in me. I don't know. I just can't see myself doing all the amazing things that my master has pulled off. People say I have, but I was just doing what anyone would do, you know? Nothing special. Just what I had to.

Today I had a first experience. A mouse died. Now, that happens all the time, but this mouse was special. It was my aunt. My momma's sister. She had no name, but she was a nice mouse. When mice die, which happens everyday, the other mice take care of it, usually burying them out back in the field. Sometimes the Kind Human collects the bodies. But it's no big deal, just part of the natural way of things. Mice die of accidents, disease, and old age. Mice die like humans do. And when they go, their friends and family take care of it. But my aunt was special to the Kind Human, who seems to have about 40 really special mice. He cried and put her in a special wood box with bedding in it. He put some Cheerios and millet in there with her. It was for her journey, my master said.

Then we all gathered together for a funeral (my first), and Nemo said kind words that sounded really comforting. My momma cried and my master held her. The Kind Human dug a really deep hole (a foot!) and put my aunt, in the box, into the hole. He marked it with a stick and said it wasn't right that she had no name. So he named her Spot, because she had a white spot on her forehead. So she got a name in death, and everyone thought that was cool.

Except the whole thing bothered me deeply, and I don't know why. I drew this picture afterward:

In the box (Copyright 2005 Cutter Hays)

And then I had bad dreams. Dreams of the skeleton mouse coming and getting everyone. Everyone was stuck in the ground and couldn't get out. They were clawing and clawing but they were buried alive. In tiny boxes. Without food or water.

I gotta get rid of these dreams. They're driving me crazy. I've been messing up in my classes and I never do that. It's embarrassing. I have a reputation to hold up, being my master's squire and all. I can't make him look bad.

I told Nemo the dreams. He said I'm afraid of dying. I told him that was ridiculous. Knights are brave - not afraid of anything. He insulted my mousey dignity. Prophet or no, I almost gave him a good beating right there for that. Of course...I would never have hit him, but that's beside the point! He also said there's more going on than I know about, and that he and my master are looking into it.

I peered at him and rattled my tail a bit. He just laughed and rubbed my head. Grrrrr.

Well, today something truly rare has happened. Something I never thought I'd see. It's amazing.

The human asked my master if he would have kids with my momma.

In the process, my master told the human how hard it was for the mouse community to not breed, and begged for permission to be granted to a few select others. Just enough to keep the population stable.

Well, the human said okay! Can you believe it? He gave permission for 4 animals to have one litter each. My master, BJ, Nemo, and...me! BJ declined, saying there were too many mice in the world already without homes. Nemo has a new girlfriend now - the human got her from the chinchilla ranch. She's kinda uppity, but Nemo likes her. My master and momma have promised me brothers and sisters. Wow! What will it be like? I never knew my other siblings. I often wonder what it would be like if they had lived.

As for me, well...I don't know. I don't really want kids. They're a pain, always crawlin' all over you, chasing each other around and gnawing on everything (well, okay, I do that still, but whatever). They eat all the good food. They use all the toys. Master said I wouldn't have to do anything - just "hook up" with a girl (that's what they call it these days on TV). The girl, whoever I wanted, would raise the kids and so would the rest of the mouse community. My kids would get special treatment. They'd be cherished and loved, always have warmth and water and food. Everyone would want to take a turn caring for them. Everyone wants these kids but me, it seems. The human really likes me, and I appreciate it, but I don't think I'll be making little Squibbles anytime soon. I'm much too busy trying to be a great hero! No time for kids. Nope. Momma and Nemo really think this is a good idea, but they don't run my life!

My master does.

The Runt