Of Mouse And Man
From a small opening tucked into the corners of a great room emerges a mouse, a skittish and twitching figure. Scurrying into the room with towering walls that reach out towards the heavens itself, the expanse of ground dotted with shimmering waters whose depths it can barely fathom. The landscape, embellished with exotic fronds and great towering leaves.
Truly, the land was unlike anything the poor country mouse had ever seen. Its walls rise to the heavens yet are exempt from the unforgiving sun. The water is impossibly deep, yet its surface is clear. A sweet fragrance permeates the air; the mouse looks around to see branches drooping downwards heavy with fruit. The mouse weeps and cries out: “Paradise! Oh I’ve been cleansed and permitted entry!”
As the mouse tredges on, wishing to seek his creator in paradise, it meets three curious characters that will define this tale. Firstly, it meets paths with a rat. A familiar face, “though we are very different creatures in truth,” the mouse thinks. Rats were low and vile.
Regardless, the mouse calls out to ask: “Where is the center, and where do I find the maker himself?”
The rat was frenzied and clamoring, evidently fleeing this place, yet the mouse was blocking its path. “Where does this path head?” the mouse asks. “I’ve been here for some time and frankly, I’ve got no idea how to make my way through all this.”
“Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” the rat cries out and overcomes the poor mouse with its frenzied strength. “You must have something that could help me!” No further response could be elicited from the rat. The dust in the space it’s inhabited, settling.
The mouse parries on, little feet taking its voyage one foot after the other. At every point on the path as it seeks something, what it’s searching for is right there in reach. Once thirst parches its throat, immediately a fresh spring emerges down the corner. As fatigue rears its ugly head, a comfortable shade falls over the plane.
Next, hours along its journey, it meets paths with a rabbit standing proud and dignified. Rabbits, who take pride in their swiftness, yet another familiar creature. Once again the mouse asks: “Where is the center, and where do I find the maker himself?”.
“Well, I’ve traveled far, seen all there is to see of this vast land. I tell you, it’s beautiful, really! But once you’ve had your taste of everything, you’d soon be seeking more. What you’ve seen so far? That’s all there is to it, here.”
Taking in the freely spoken words of the rabbit, the mouse began: “If things are truly as you say, all this time I’ve been trying to find its center.” The rabbit scoffs at that, yet the mouse continues: “I suppose you’ve been lonely lately; perhaps you’d fancy a little bit of company, and we might find something new together.”
The unseemly pair head together deeper into the towering stalks. With each path they take, and every corner they turn, each stray piece of foliage is impeccably designed, each frond carefully set in place in a way that is uncanny, artificial, and utilitarian. Stalks all sharp corners trimmed to equal, pleasing heights. The place begins to feel less like a paradise and more like a carefully crafted room encased in film. Stifling and claustrophobic.
The pair comes to stand upon a little dock, with artificially clear waters stretching out into the horizon. A wave disturbs the stillness, and before them is a flurry of movement. Fast approaching and growing larger, a behemoth koi fish rearing its head through the waters, writhing as if maddened and maddened as if in pain.
As the koi makes its impact with the dock, the pair are thrown out into the air. The mouse into its agonized gaping mouth, the rabbit landing clumsily onto the water’s surface. It swims out into currents to save its companion, yet its efforts are in vain.
Firstly, the mouse notes the splash of water hitting its fur. Then the cold, sticky wetness of being swallowed whole. The sensation of falling into the koi’s stomach follows. Frenzied, it clamors to get out from the hold of the muscular walls enveloping it. The cavern smells of decaying hide, all sorts of culture mingling in rot. Embedding within you the distinct smell of putrefaction.
The koi itself is close to death, in its final stages of consumption, and as it wretches and heaves, pushing its innards out, the mouse finds its escape as the koi expires and bursts with a sigh.
Swimming away from a watery grave alongside its captor, it manages to escape closer to shore and it spots a lotus stalk, a dry oceanic oasis. The mouse climbs the stalk, for it is the only thing to tether oneself on. In its tiredness, the stalk seems to stretch downwards from heaven, its height insurmountable. Salvation is a paw’s breadth away.
The mouse stands at the summit, delicate petals beneath its tired paws. It is finally at the center, the heart of the domain. The mouse has seen god and is.
Before it, a panorama of carnage, of mice maimed and pained. The stalks remain indifferent, wafting the same perfume. The mouse is rendered still and contemplates its next step.