This year, I am making a concerted effort never to publish a first draft of anything. It’s not the best habit to get into, especially when I plan on sending things off to be printed. This work in progress is a work in progress. If anything, it was a practice in seeing if I could write around a thousand words a day. Which this is. Which will probably be the last time I do that. A thousand words every couple of days…much better to manage.
This was a rough idea. In the beginning, I couldn’t see where I was going with it and was prepared to go about it at a completely different angle. It took me the longest time to figure out where it was going until it hit and everything fell into place.
Very Brief Synopsis: It’s an adventure story, filled with sacrifice, political intrigue, love, fighting, monsters, and the main characters are mice. Criticism is always welcome, and as always I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.
My plan is to tinker with the chapters throughout the week this summer and publish on Fridays. Many other stories are in the works, so expect a bunch of stuff.
Thanks for reading…
Foxglove stirred slowly in the morning sun’s rays that were streaming through the slats on the side of the house. It’s been ages, he thought. There were times when he and his kin thought the Spring Rains would never stop. The foraging patrols would return with their hauls of nuts and seeds and tales of how their old warren has almost completely vanished. The new colony is young and thriving. There are very few who still possess the memory of their old home. There are very few who speak of the old days and of the perilous journey. Names of the fallen are still uttered in hushed reverence when the moon is high. Foxglove remembers those days well. The scars and the throbbing pain in his bones remind him almost every morning.
The sun is high in the sky today. The blue skies have returned, and the grass is tall and dry. From his straw bed, he can hear the colony returning to their holes. The Elders shuffle and discuss the news of the day, while parents call their rambunctious, laughing pups inside to rest. Bedding is tended to, food is traded, and everything grows quiet. Everything is as it should be. Despite his nocturnal instincts, he rouses himself from his bed and breathes deep the country air that filters its way inside. Soon, the humans will wake and start their day in a mighty clamor.
This morning is a good morning. He wonders for a moment how many of his children will witness a sunrise. He wonders how well he has taught them and bristles at the thought of one or all of them standing at the ready to defend their colony or their young. One by one, thoughts, dreams, concerns and questions left unanswered float through his aging mind, and one by one, they disappear like so many of his brethren. Slowly, the nagging of guilt and fear gives way to feelings of joy and contentment, for today is a good day. Today is a good day to move on. He steadies himself on one leg, tidies up his bed, takes one last inspection, and limps quietly from his hole.
He shuffles along the avenue of wooden beams and horsehair plaster. He remembers when he first found this space, and the joy felt when his kin could finally settle in peace. As he passes through, the hum of the colony as soft as power lines. Mothers telling tales to their pups. Fathers diligently preparing their homes for their expanding families. The coo of a lovers’ embrace. The weeping of an elder thinking of their departed other half. All around him is life. Every so often, he likes to be reminded of it.
“Out for another stroll, eh?” Foxglove recognized the voice, even if he couldn’t see the mouse it was coming from.
“Ah, Primrose,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be out so early.”
Prim smiled her warm smile as she straightened his whiskers. “You never expect it, dear. It’s always new to you.” Foxglove grinned as he tried to find another thing to focus on instead of her gaze. In his life, he has faced dangers that would make an average mouse soil themselves in fear. He has grappled with beasts who wouldn’t think twice about ripping him to shreds. He has lived a life of bravery. Yet, he could never find the courage to look into Prim’s eyes. She could always see right through him. “It’s always good to stretch your legs. To get out of your hole for a while.” Some days are better than others to get him to talk.
“Oh yes,” he said, small talk not being a skill he possessed. “I like coming out here when the sun comes up. It… it reminds me… of…” his thoughts evaporate.
“It reminds you of…home?” she whispered. This was not the first time that Prim has heard this. She never tires of it.
“Yes. Home,” his thoughts snap back. “I loved the old warren. When I was young, the grass was so green, and there wasn’t a sniff of a dog anywhere. Did I ever tell you the time I faced a pack of rats, and took all of them on myself?”
“Oh, yes dear,” she chuckled. “I was there, remember?”
“There I was,” there is a sparkle that returns to his eyes when he talks about his past. “Outnumbered, desperate and hungry. They were there to take what we found, and I wasn’t going to let that happen. Not on that day.”
“You were so brave,” she took his paw and held it gently.
Foxglove sighed. The moment, relived many times before had gone again. It wasn’t courage that finally made him catch her gaze, it was resolution. “Ah Prim, I am so tired. I can feel the warmth of the world again, but the days seem so short.” He clutched her paw and leaned in closer. “You’ve always been there for me, Prim. This old mouse might be forgetful of the last time he ate, but he sure remembers you.”
“Fox, let’s not talk about this right now,” Prim’s voice beginning to shake.
“No my dear, I need to talk about this now,” strength returning to his voice. “Were it not for your care, your sympathy, your love, I probably wouldn’t have made it as far as I have. Most of the colony seems to think that I had everything to do with their salvation, when the reality of it is, none of it would have been possible without you.” Prim is holding on by a thread. She can feel him slipping away, and is powerless to do anything about it. “I never did thank you, love. I and every other mouse here owes you. Never forget that.” And with that, he turned and shuffled his way towards the hole in the baseboard. It leads to the land of the humans. They’re awake now and should be able to see him. The pain has taken him. He drags himself out into the light. He has found his freedom.
[to be continued]
©2016 AA Payson