Having no choice really, but to trust the mouse, she made her way carefully down the black, cold, stone corridors, feeling the wall as she walked, and following the mouse’s tiny voice as he kept her abreast of turns, gaps, and new corridors. At one point she started to giggle, and when asked what was funny, replied how ironic it was that the first person she had met underground who could hold a normal conversation turned out to be mouse.
What’s more, she was worried that if he stopped talking for a moment she might accidentally step on him, which for some reason made her giggle some more. Still, he was decent company, and she did honestly become grateful for his presence.
His name was Deacon.
“Why is this happening?” she eventually asked.
“I don’t know, miss.”
“They just came and took my baby.”
“I know, miss.”
“How do you know?”
“Word gets around down here. There’s scouts watching you.”
“Watching me? Who?”
“Scouts. They report to the Riders, and the Riders report to the glen.”
“Who are the Riders?”
“You’ll meet them in just a bit.”
“Why did they take my baby?”
“Either your family is at war with them or you gave permission.”
“I didn’t give permission to take my baby! And my family is not at war with anybody”
“Well, they always, always follow the rules.”
“But it’s preposterous!”
“I can ask at the Meeting of the Guards. We’ll be there really soon.”
“Will I see my baby again?”
“I hope so, miss. Look, we’re almost there.”
Far ahead was a dim flicker of light. They approached in silence and as they grew close, she could see that there was a high mound of dirt obscuring an oval entrance to a large, lit room.
Climbing the mound, they found themselves looking down into an astonishingly immense antechamber with round, ornately tiled walls made up of intricate mosaics that ended abruptly at a dirt floor. The cavern was illuminated by no visible light source, and was completely empty. Lining the bottom of the walls on both sides were a row of circular holes. As they descended down the other side of the mound, a long, two-story descent, Deacon explained the procedure to her.
“Once on the floor, miss, take 13 steps forward. That’s it. Then stop and stamp 3 times. And miss, please don’t freak out. I promise you, you’re safe.”
She landed on the floor, put her foot forward, and counted out 13 steps. She turned and caught sight of Deacon, a tiny little mouse alright, scurrying beside her. She paused, listened, and realized that there were no flutes anymore. Looking around at the massive, silent chamber, feeling small and awed, she found herself unable to stamp her foot.
“I know. I’m not going to like this, am I?”
“Really, miss, it’s nothing. You’ll see.”
Taking a deep breath, she stamped her foot 3 times.
Three flutes playing a long single note harmony sounded out, reverberating off of the tiled walls and filling the room. It stopped suddenly.
The same note sounded out again, but with only one flute. The second flute entered after several seconds with a much lower, slowly rollicking, sedated Jack-In-The-Box like melody. The high note stopped and the low melody continued. Then, a bit higher in pitch, a mid range, faster melody began. It sounded as if the mid range flute was a voice commentating more voraciously on the theme the lower flute was speaking of.
A third, fast, high flute now entered, spastically commenting on the commentary.
An even higher, furiously rapid sound now entered the mad, disturbed discussion, and it took several seconds for her to realize that it was no instrument, but the pattering, the scurrying, of a legion of tiny, forked feet.
From the rows of holes embedded in the walls they poured in, a sea of rats, raging like a biblical plague, filling up the thousand upon thousands of square feet of ground in perfectly ordered rows of rodents. Wave after wave, pouring in relentlessly, lining up row after row after row onwards filling up the enormous hall.
She reached down, picked up Deacon, and placed him on her shoulder, thinking as she did so of a childhood book she had read about Benjamin Franklin and a little mouse who sat behind his ear giving him all of his good ideas.
At last the torrent stopped, and they all stood there in a heavy silence, an ocean of rats lined up in front of her.
Standing in the tense stillness, she pictured the flutes coming back in, this time playing the theme to ‘The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly’, and desperately surpressed a giggle.
“In the back,” Deacon whispered into her ear. “The Riders.”
She squinted. She couldn’t quite see that far back, but it almost looked like there were several rows of little, tiny men riding atop the backs of the rats.
She stood, awkwardly unsure of what to do with her hands, and opted to just clutch the straps of her backpack.
The silence continued, until in unison, the sea of rats sat upright on their hind legs and smiled at her, thousands of little crooked teeth grinning, sending a chill through her shoulders.
The noise began faintly, a few rapid clicks here and there, but it quickly spread until all of their tiny teeth were manically chattering, row after row of frenetic clacking filling up the cavern and burrowing into her head. The walls and floor shook and soon the entire chamber and all in it were vibrating rapidly. She could no longer see straight. Everything around her seemed made of a thin, frail ice, and piece by piece it started to crack, until the entire world simply shattered into a hundred million pieces, falling into an abyss beneath her and she was suspended in dark nothingness with only a high pitched drone around her.
Out of the blackness, millions of tiny dots appeared, crystallizing and bursting into form and color, until she found herself standing on a cliffside overlooking the ocean, wind tussling her hair. Behind her, the landscape was a deep green rolling meadow, with a large, great house nuzzled picturesquely into the sweeping view.
She stared up at the sky, above the rolling waves. A dot flew across the clouds, circling in towards her. As it approached, she saw that it was a large, white winged horse, which descended out of the sky, landed on the cliffside, and galloped towards her, stopping arm’s distance away.
They looked at each other.
As she gazed into its large, sad eyes, it became a man. Tall, naked, long gently curled hair, exquisitely toned body, full firm cock, and soft, feathered wings protruding from his back, he looked at her with a gaze equal parts melancholy and lust.
He reached out his hand and softly took her hair. He smiled.
“You are so beautiful,” he said, and his eyes filled her vision, and his hand ran down her neck.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
He stepped forward to smell her hair, his bare chest almost touching her breasts.
“You are safe now. Away from that horrible world of sadness and cruelty and pain. Please, make love to me here beside the ocean,” and he kissed her warm and luxuriously, his hand cupping her neck. As he held her to him, she could feel his cock pressed against the inside of her hips.
Confused or not, she had to admit it was a damn good kiss, and with his arm around her, they were floating, slowly falling backwards for just a moment, and then she was being placed in a warm pool of water, a hot spring that lay in the ground beneath them. It smelled of violets and seaside mornings, and as the water surrounded her body, his hands touched her stomach and breasts.
“Uhm… I’m sort of looking… my child….” She started to say.
“Hush my beautiful one. Your child is gone. You must forget about it. Here there is no need for sadness or remorse.
“But I have to…”
His hands were all over her now as she floated in the warm spring water. “No more words,” he said, and kissed her again, pressing his magnificent body onto hers, and undoing her pants.
She sighed. With her left hand she reached down and gripped his erect penis, and with her right hand reached down into her jeans, pulled out the iron knife, and put the blade against his scrotum.
He pulled back from the kiss and looked at her in surprise.
“Now that I have your attention,” she said, “perhaps we could first discuss where I am and how I’m going to find my baby.”
Large, sad eyes gazed into hers. His teeth began chattering and he shivered. The world shook suddenly, shook violently, shattering
and she looked down at the hand that was gripping his penis, only it was holding a policeman’s black nightstick. The policeman’s other hand was cautiously resting on the gun at his hip and he was studying her carefully. They were in Grand Central Station.
“Ma’am, I’m asking you to put down the knife,” the policeman said.
She looked at him bewildered.
“Ma’am, do you know where you are?”
She looked around her. They were in the main terminal, and a crowd was staring.
“I’m not sure,” she answered.
“Okay, ma’am, you seem to be posing a threat to yourself and others. If you put down the knife, I can take you somewhere safe where you can get help.”
“My baby. I have to find my baby.”
The policeman glanced down at his nightstick, which she was still gripping. She released it.
“Good. Now if you come with me I’m sure we can work something out. Can you tell me your name?”
She opened her mouth to speak, but then paused. “I was told under no circumstances to give my real name.”
“Okay, ma’am, are you on any type of medication?” She shook her head. “Have you taken any kinds of drugs in past few hours, maybe PCP or LSD?” She shook her head. “Well, ma’am, it appears you’ve suffered some kind of psychotic break, and you need to let me help you get somewhere safe.”
She stared at him. “That is without a doubt the most sensible thing anyone’s told me in days.” She sighed again. “Unfortunately, I can’t go anywhere before I find my baby.”
“Ma’am, if you put down the knife and come with me calmly and quietly, you won’t have to worry about anything.”
She lowered the knife.
“Where’s my child?”
“Please forget about that. Just close your eyes and take a deep breath.”
She bowed her head, and as she did, out of the corner of her eye she saw the nightstick swinging towards her. She jumped forward and stuck the knife into the policeman’s side.
The world around her shattered
and the ocean roared and splashed beside her. In front of her the white, winged horse was bleeding just above his left foreleg.
“Please,” it said, “it doesn’t have to be like this. We’re not enemies. We’re supposed to be friends, you and I. Climb upon my back, and together we can fly across the waters to other lands and worlds.”
“I would love that. I just have to find my child, first.”
“Your child and your other world are gone. You must forget them and embrace a new life of freedom and wonder.”
She sighed a third time. “So you won’t help me.”
“I will help you forget. Now come, we will go far, far away.” The horse stepped forward.
She didn’t raise the knife menacingly, just matter of factly, simply showing it to him.
“Look, I know you don’t actually want more of this.”
He looked at her with such large, sad eyes that she thought her heart would break. Then he turned from her and set off down the cliffside in a gallop, wings beating, and took off into the sky, flying out over the ocean and disappearing into the horizon.
The waves crashed against the rock wall below, the sound of them becoming higher and shriller. Each splash cracked the world around her until finally it shattered, and she was falling into nothingness once again, surrounded only by a long, high drone.
She closed her eyes and when she opened them, she was standing in the large, underground chamber, surrounded by the ocean of rats, whose teeth were chattering away. One by one they were stopping however, and the sound slowly died down until at last the cavern was bathed once again in silence.
She eyed her shoulder. Deacon was still perched there.
They all stood there for a long pause, motionless, until at some unseen cue, the last few rows of Riders far in the back turned around in careful precision, and trotted out the oval opening at the rear of the chamber.
“What just happened?” she whispered.
“I think they decided you’re a good mother,” Deacon whispered back.
After waiting for the back rows of mounted rats to depart, the sea of rodents, like a well organized military, shuffled orderly about and parted in the center, a clear walkway rippling forth into existence. They poised upright, grinning at her and waiting.
She willed herself to begin walking, passing through this surreal Red Sea like a poor man’s Moses, and upon reaching the opening on the other side, kept walking and didn’t look back.