The Story Of Timothy GrayAn original work of fiction
CHAPTER ONE: Weakness Is Strength
In a wide open meadow, under a full moon and clear sky full of stars, lies a small mouse, sprawled out in the dirt near the creek. Fur mangled and stained with blood, his red cape spread out like a blanket drew every eye of the meadow with great concern. It is the hunting hour. No tiny creature is safe, especially not one so exposed to the forest treeline with no cover or shelter to be seen. All the critters of the creek seemed to shriek out with heartbreak. The songs of insects drowning out the low flow of creek water. Suddenly a dead silence falls on the entire meadow. One can almost hear the faint whimper of the mouse. Everyone knows what is about to happen, but fear paralyzes the entire spectrum of life on the meadow as a winged shadow glides from the forest trees. A collective breath is held as every other tiny critter of the meadow is conflicted with heartbreak and gratitude that they are not the target of the owls evening hunt.
The mouse takes a deep breath as the owl shifts position into a full dive. The next few moments take place very quickly to the outside observer. It was over in a flash. A mist of blood and feathers, flapping and twitching. A fight unlike any in the meadow had ever seen. One might not have questioned an injured creature who had just given up on life, but this was in no way the case. Upon closer inspection one might have noticed that the mouse did not close his eyes in fear, but instead was looking head on into the approaching threat with a sense of anticipation. One might even begin to question if his whimpering was sadness or antagonize. Most cringe and turn their eyes at the climax of a violent moment, but if one had looked closely, they would have learned that things are not always as they seem.
As the owl extended it’s talons, spreading them wide, the mouse rolled to its side to reveal a long sharpened stick hidden under his cape. The long stick, covered in dirt once lifted up, extended well beyond the mouse’s position and appeared to be hinged under a rock. The owl had no time to react and knowing nothing but the thirst of flesh it had no inclination of breaking off it’s attack. As the owl reached it’s target, the mouse thrust the spear into the air impaling the owl directly below the neck. The mouse now lay in the clutches of the owls talons, but the owl’s flight was halted and it’s injuries fatal. Not even the owl had fully understood what had taken place, attempting to fly, unaware of the grounding rod through it’s collar. The fury of flapping movements that followed were difficult to watch. Still wrapped in the owl’s talons, the mouse drew a razor sharp blade from his belt and sliced through the tendon above the talon. Instantly he was flung from the owls grasp and into the creek bed.
The owl now lay still, panting and wheezing. It was losing control of it’s extremities as it still twitched and squirmed. The owl was in shock. For as long as it could remember, no tiny creature from the meadow had ever been anything more than a tear soaked meal. None had ever so cruelly fought against the natural order of life. “How?”, the owl whispered. “How is this possible?” The figure of the mouse emerged from the creek, dripping wet and in it’s hand, the razor, but in it’s eyes a fiery rage. “You feed on the sorrow of families. You target the weak and the small. Your judgment has arrived.” The mouse walked up onto the owl and was now standing on his chest looking down on him, one hand holding the end of the stick now penetrating and pinning the bird to the ground and his other hand wielding his blade, a small curved piece of surgical steel. “Who do you think you are?”, the owl spat out in disgust to have his meal standing on him. “Shhhh” the mouse said as he pressed down on the stick causing the owl to shutter in pain. “Unlike your victims you swallow whole, this will be over far too soon.” With that, the mouse slid the knife slowly across the neck of the owl opening it’s major arteries and causing blood to drain into the creek. He stood there with hate in his eyes and he watched the life fade from the eyes of the confused bird of prey. When he was satisfied that the moment had passed, he began cleaning his blade with some feathers he had plucked from the underside of the massive bird.
As he sheathed his sword and took a deep breath, he began to weep, leant against the carcass of the owl. His mournful cry grew deeper until he was disturbed by rustling in the nearby tall grass. He froze for a moment and slowly placed his hand on the tang of his blade. “Speak up, you have nothing to fear, lest you come seeking trouble” the mouse shouted out into the wall of grass. He wiped the tears from his eyes and sat up. Squinting his eyes, he could see a large figure emerging from the tall grass.
Slowly and carefully stepping through the brush, about three times the size of the mouse was a possum with dark ears and a pale white face. “I seek no trouble, no trouble at all” the possum spoke, timidly lowering his head and sniffing the ground. The mouse looked the possum up and down and then turned his back to him and began plucking feathers from the owl carcass. “That is a mighty fine trophy you have there” the possum said, slowly waddling closer and looking longingly at the animal flesh. “I have never seen a small mouse fight so bravely” the possum said inquisitively, “You are not from this meadow are you?”
As he began tying stacks of feathers together the mouse, somewhat distracted responded, “NO. Well, yes but no. I was born nearby, just below the old maple tree, but I have been gone for a while.”
“I thought you looked familiar” the possum declared, “you are one of the Gray litter!”
The mouse froze as if he had seen a fright. “Yes, my mother was Evelyn Gray” the mouse said softly, “Did you know of her?”
“Oh yes. Dreadful thing what happened to your mother, she was a fine lady” the possum spoke delicately and then after an awkward pause inquired, “I don’t suppose you would mind if I helped you with this.”
The possum stuck his nose directly into the neck wound of the owl and began gnawing upon the flesh.
The mouse twisted his face in disgust. “Sure, I suppose. And you can call me Timothy.”
The possum brought his head up to meet Timothy. His face newly stained red with blood just below his eyes. He licked his lips and spoke, “Very nice to meet you Timothy. I am Tobias Greenbottom, but you may call me Toby.”
He looked back down to the now gnawed opening of the bird carcass with a large smile. “I have never had the pleasure of a warm meal such as this!” He crawled back down and began to grind his teeth through bone and flesh.
Timothy climbed down from the piled remains of the owl and began gathering his things. He stitched together the large colorful feathers into four stacks of tightly bundled packs, all connected with string that Timothy was tying around his waist.
As he fastened his last knot and adjusted his blade tucked into his belt, he paused for a moment and looked back at the curled tail of the possum’s backside. He opened his mouth to speak, but then contemplated. He looked up into the stars and then turned toward the bank of the stream and set off, disappearing into the thick blades of grass dragging the feathers behind.
Toby instantly popped his head out from bird to see the feathers disappearing into the thick. Blood now dripping from his chin, his dark pointy eyes slowly panned from side to side. The sounds of the forest had returned and seemed to be amplified in that moment. The breeze through the pale green brush and the howling wind above caused his hair to stand up on the back of his neck. Toby slowly stepped away, moving slowly, his attemp to act subtle, but then slowly increased in speed as his heart began racing with fear.
As Toby came to a clearing he quickly slowed down as to not expose himself to his surroundings. There, at rocks by the creek, was Timothy. He was gathering and laying feathers out onto the ground while weaving them together into a pattern. Timothy had noticed the bright red nose of the possum poking out of the tall reeds. Timothy called out in a soft but confident voice, “Did you abandon your feast so soon?”
Toby slowly emerged from the grasses.
“I find it best to not linger around a fresh kill site at this time of night… the smells tend to attract competition.”
Toby spoke softly as he ventured to the stream edge to have a drink. Pausing every few steps to look in a frozen stance to observe his surroundings, all while Timothy continued diligently, hopping around his strange crafted object, pulling feathers from one end through to the other.
Timothy showed no sign of concern for the possum, or anything in his surroundings. He seemed to have a crazed dedication to the task at hand. Toby’s attention was drawn to Timothy and his efforts. There was nothing normal about this to Toby. He kept his eyes on Timothy as he drank from the creek.
“Do you find it wise to build your nest out in the open good sir?” Toby asked trying not to seem rude. Timothy paused for a moment and looked down at what he was building. “I suppose this does look like a fine nest I am making” He continued to sculpt upwards on what was beginning to look exactly like a birds nest made of feathers and grasses.
“So it is not a nest then sir?” Toby asked while walking closer to inspect.
“No, good sir, a nest it is not” Timothy looked up, proudly smiling as he had just put in the final feather. He then glanced over into the tall reeds and bolted towards them.
Toby’s eyes got wide as he looked upon the bowl shaped basket of feathers.
Timothy began gnawing at a large dried reed plant until he had knocked it down to the ground. Toby watched with excitement and curiosity. This level of action and activity was highly unusual at this time of night. It was somewhat comforting to Toby to be so close to such an active creature in the open. Surely if they are spotted by a predator, this mouse jumping about will be the target of an attack and not himself Toby thought as Timothy chewed on the reed, flattening it out on one end.
Timothy took the long reed into his mouth and began flipping his creation end to end until it flopped over, slowly getting closer to the stream.
Timothy turned and spoke to the possum who was clearly still confused, so much now that his head was beginning to tilt to the side.
“It has been a pleasure to become antiquated with you Toby, but I am afraid, where I now go, you will not be able to follow.” He turned his head down to the ground. “Which is a real shame, because this has been a very lonely journey”, his eyes reconnected now, “but such is life. Goodbye friend. I wish you a long life and many warm carcasses to come.”
With that, Timothy flipped his not-a-nest again one last time and it flopped into the creek. He placed the reed back into his mouth and then jumped into the bowl shaped nest afloat in the water. He used the reed to push off from the rocks and into the current of the stream. Quickly he faded into the slowly rising fog over the creek and was swept into the current and out into wide rushing water.
Toby walked out to the water’s edge and then down into his reflection in the moonlight. No one had ever called him “friend” before, he thought, as a smile came over his face. Suddenly, he became aware again of every sound coming from the nearby forest. The hoot of a distant owl sent shivers down his spine. He slowly backed away from the stream and then quickly scurried into the safety of the tall grasses.
CHAPTER TWO: Feathers Float
The fog was rising from the steaming waters. Timothy navigated the rough twists of current until the water calmed, as it opened wide into a much larger river. The waters went almost still as the surface became a smooth mirror, reflecting the stars and the cowering trees from the nearby forest. The night was still and silent but the trees of the forest seemed to have many eyes looking down upon this oddity of a mouse, floating out into open waters on a boat made of feathers. Timothy’s reed no longer touched the bottom. The water was deep and he dare not look too deeply into it. Timothy was exhausted and in a rare moment of quiet, laid down in his boat looking up into the clear nights sky. It had been a while since he had just taken a moment to sit still and rest. Seeing as there was nothing he could do to expedite his journey across the river, he found it best to just be still and not attract any attention.
Timothy gazed into the stars, always checking his bearings with the north star, remembering fondly how his mother had taught him to navigate the night to find his way home. He came from a long line of skilled scavengers, for Timothy was a field mouse. Every winter was a right of passage, the young field mice would venture into the nearby buildings that sprawled hillside of the prairie. It was always the north star that would guide him back to the mighty oak in the spring. It was on his last trip home that everything changed. That mighty oak that once represented family and the comforts of home would now be seen as a tombstone in Timothy’s eyes. Ironically, it was on that day of returning home that he learned how feathers float upon the water. Haunting memories seem to lash out at him. Memories can be conflicting to the soul. For how can you remember the face of your mother, but not suddenly recall the violent end to her life carried out in front of you. Timothy curled into a ball floating adrift in his own past, forcing himself to recall if only for the opportunity to see her face again.
It had been an interesting winter for Timothy. He had ventured farther then any of his family. Against the wisdom and wishes of his mother, he had gone to spend winter in a hunting lodge that was sometimes inhabited by humans. For as much as Timothy had been taught to avoid humans, he also found them supremely fascinating. It was that winter that Timothy first discovered the power of words. In the lodge, he had encountered a pack rat by the name of Philip that taught him the art of written word. Philip had accumulated many scraps of paper and even a few full length novels in the sub-flooring of the hunting shack. Timothy had taken such an interest in reading that he didn’t return home on the first warm night of spring, but instead chose to finish reading a tale penned by the author Alexandre Dumas, in which had become so absorbed, that he neglected to realize the change of seasons.
By the time Timothy returned home to the mighty oak, his entire family was already there. He was wearing clothes, which wasn’t unheard of for a mouse, but his fluffy white shirt and paperclip bent into the shape of a sword was probably a bit unusual and he was concerned how his brothers might tease him. It didn’t matter. He wanted nothing more then to embrace his mother and tell her of all the adventures his mind had been on throughout the winter months. But something wasn’t right upon returning home. The mighty oak tree which was just beginning to bloom and would normally be heavily populated with spring songbirds, was void of life and movement. There was an awful stillness across the entire prairie. Timothy’s stomach sank and his heart began to pound. He ran to his home at the opening near the base of the mighty oak. In his horror, the entry to his home was torn wide and long trails of blood and entrails scattered the opening. The smell of death permeated from the tree. Timothy screamed for his mother. “Mom!” Nothing could be heard but a gentle breeze and then a distinctive sound that sent chills down Timothy’s spine. The sound of wide large wings sweeping the air beneath them.
Timothy looked above him to see not one, not two, but a parliament of owls covering the canopy of the tree. In that instance, he was torn between a primitive instinct to run and something deeper within him demanding to learn of what happened to his family. Before he could even process these thoughts, a shadow slowly grew from behind him, overtaking the landscape and he felt all muscles of his body give way to pure terror. As he turned, he saw the figure of an owl with its wings raised up above it’s head. It seemed to fill the earth with its ever expanding dimension. Timothy quickly pulled out his sword, which was a broken piece of a paperclip and held it up towards the owl. “Back beast!”, he screamed loudly in a shrill voice. The owl paused and tilted it’s head, taking notice of the oddly behavior.
Timothy summoned up the courage to scream again, “Where is my moth…”. But before he could get the words out, a different owl had quietly swooped in and knocked the breath out of him, while clasping him in its talons. Timothy remembered being squeezed so tight that shortly after he could remember nothing at all.
When Timothy awoke to consciousness again, he was high up in the mighty oak tree. He instinctively attempted to stand to his feet, but the ground below him was soft and wet. It seemed to move with him as he attempted to stand. Nothing was left of his shirt except some lose rags dangling around his scratched and bloodied frame. As he slowly made his way to his feet, the reality of his situation slowly sunk in. The loose ground on which he stood was the dismembered and mangled bodies of his brothers and sisters. Although he was not gravely injured, the sight of his family torn beneath his feet gave him the feeling of his bowels falling out from inside of him. He fell backwards stumbling away from the frightful pile of mice nestled into the fork of the mighty oak tree.
For Timothy the next few moments were difficult memories, but also etched perfectly into his mind. As he lay there looking upon his loss, unable to grieve, yet completely overtaken by grief, he could feel all sense of hope draining from his body, as if he had a mortal wound and his blood was escaping him, along with any instinct for survival. In a way, Timothy Gray died in that moment. And what was left, the shell of what he once was, began to fill with a boiling hot fury. The color returned to his cheeks, but the life didn’t return to his eyes. Instead, there rested a burning flame. Timothy turned to see an owl sitting proudly on its perch just a few limbs over from where he was. Timothy looked back at the pile of remains and saw there his bent metal sword. Timothy slowly crawled back atop his family to retrieve the bit of wire he called a sword. He had only ever used it in to practice on twigs and leaves. Even against such things, it did not prove very effective. He clutched the bent wire in his hand and rolled over on his back, unable to look any longer at reality of the substrate on which he lay. He began to weep quietly as he gathered the courage to face his doom. Just as he began to sit up, he was stopped by a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Frightened at first, he turned quickly. It was his mother. She was barely recognizable from the last time he had seen her, battered and bruised. One hand extended out to Timothy, the other clutching the lifeless body of his baby sister Lilly. Timothy’s eyes opened wide and he began to open his mouth to speak, but his mother quickly motioned her hand over her lips. “My dear Timothy” she began to weep, “You must go.”
Timothy looked around with a quick glance, “Come, we will go together.”
“I cannot, my legs are mangled.” she motioned to her leg which had bone protruding. “You must go son. Jump into the river and let the current take you far from here.”
“I will not leave you”, Timothy said reaching for her hand.
As she took him by the hand, both with tears running down their cheeks, unable to speak, Timothy set his sword down to better pull her to safety. Just then, a large burst of air nearly knocked him to the ground as an owl touched down directly in front of them both.The owl looked Timothy square in the eye and began lurching forward with its beak open wide. Timothy inched back but was frozen in fear. Suddenly, the owl let out the most horrific screech ever heard by mouse ears. It’s head swung back to reveal Evelyn holding Timothy’s blade steady in her hand, the blade sunken into the belly of the bird. Evelyn turned to Timothy and yelled “Run!”. With that, the owl picked up it’s talon and slammed it into Evelyn’s body, nearly running through completely. She collapsed as her body went limp. Timothy screamed, “No!”.
The owl looked down at Evelyn’s lifeless corpse. Feeling satisfied that she would not harm him again, the owl let out another loud shrill. The entire tree had now become alive with the beating of owl wings. Timothy rose to his feet and began to run down the length of a branch directly toward the owl he had earlier plotted against. Owls are not accustomed to their prey running toward them. The owl began to fluff her chest and lifted her wings to attempt to intimidate Timothy. And Timothy did change his course, but not in a way the owl anticipated. Timothy ran up a divergent branch that was smaller and brought him dangerously close to the owls sharp beak. As Timothy traveled down the length of the branch it began to bow downward, slowly taking him away from the owl and slowly stretching down until the angle was sharp enough that Timothy could just slide down the branch, grabbing onto the end and using the bounce of its swing to launch himself in the air. The branch returned to wallop the owl directly under it’s still stretched out wing, tossing an explosion of feathers into the air. Timothy hit the water below and plunged deeply into the river. As he fought to find the surface, he quickly grew to question this decision, as mice are not excellent swimmers. Upon reaching the surface though, he was greeted by many delicate feathers floating atop the surface of the water.
This was the moment that Timothy learned that feathers float. It was because of those few feathers that had gathered on the water’s surface, that he was able to coast down the current away from the mighty oak that day, almost a year ago, and today it is his boat of feathers that leads him back. His boat had taken on some water, but he spread his weight across the surface to stay afloat. Unsure if it is water from the river or his own tears filling his boat of feathers. Soon he will reach the forest side of the river across from his old home. The area of the forest the owls were have said to travel from and where he now heads in search of justice, not as a young mouse afraid and rash to fight, but like one of his books from his youth, he has planned and prepared and returns now to exact cold and fearless revenge on the creatures who took away his family.
CHAPTER THREE: Avoid Unnecessary Burdens
Timothy’s feather raft was closely approaching the once distant shore on the forest edge. He began thrusting the reed into the deep waters attempting to catch riverbed and adjust his course. His attempts were futile as the water was very deep and as Timothy leaned over the edge looking into the deep he could only see his distorted reflection in the dark mirror. As he lowered the reed again as deeply as he could he felt it wobble in the water with a great deal of force. Timothy raised the stick again when suddenly the reed was dragged out of his hands and cause his boat to spin completely around. Disoriented and looking around him for where the reed went, he was only beginning to become aware of the frightening truth that he was not alone. He held his breath and attempted to minimize his movement, wanting to not draw more attention to himself. He could see movement in the water around him but refrained from reacting, hoping that his raft would appear simply as refuse adrift.
He could see his destination ahead, all he had to do was drift a little farther, but the activity in the dark water around him was increasing and he could feel something hitting the side occasionally, causing him to spin faster still. The spinning caused him to lose his footing and stumble from one side of the boat to another. Suddenly the waters went silent as he could see the ripples from his movement spread across the waters surface. The hairs on the back of his head stood up as he sensed a rumble in the water approaching closer. Before he could fully process what was happening, the bottom of his raft lifted up and split into pieces, casting feathers, along with Timothy, out and away from what could only be described as a monstrous wide mouth bass with its mouth fully extended taking feather and grass into its cavity and then thrashing about half of its body extending out of the water.
Timothy found himself underwater, being pulled by an under current, fighting to return to the surface. Mice can swim, but being submerged in water is a terrifying thing for a mouse. As he returned to the surface struggling to catch his breath and grasping handfuls of water hoping that something would enter his grasp that would aid his struggle. As he looked out across the water to get his bearings he saw a frightfully large object coming straight for him. It was easily twice the size of the fish that broke his boat. He turned quickly and began fighting to reach the river’s edge before he being devoured by any beast of the deep. It was painfully obvious that the creature was gaining on him. He could hear the water being greatly disturbed behind him. He could not reach for his sword without risking sinking to the bottom. All hope was lost. He suddenly felt a pinch on his back, the cold water numbing him to the pain, he felt his body suddenly accelerate into the water in front of him. All he could do was hold his breath and cover his face from the force of water and violent thrashing behind him.
So it was a great surprise when Timothy felt his body lifted from the water. As he looked around to realize he was now on shore, he shook violently to free himself from his captor. He was tossed to the ground, wet and disheveled. This would be his opportunity now to make a stand against his foe. He drew his sword and jumped to his feet in one continuous motion. Not fully able to see the form before him with eyes still burning from the rushing water.
“Stand back foul beast!”, Timothy bellowed while rubbing his eyes with one hand and pointing his blade with another. To his surprise, he saw a friendly face. Looking quite different, soaked with water, but with with a very recognizable polite grin. It was Toby the possum, whose grin turned timid at the sight of Timothy’s sword. Timothy lowered his sword and inquired, “Tobius?”
“I am sorry sir, I am a curious soul, I didn’t mean to intrude. Were you going to battle the fish as well?” Toby asked apologetically.
“No, I am sorry, I appreciate your assistance.” Timothy resheathed his sword and took a deep breath. “I honestly thought I had met the end of my story there. I have never been fond of water. I always feel like no matter how hard I swim, I will never escape it.” Timothy said, his head sinking low in shame.
“Oh, I love a good swim, I do.” Toby said with a large smile. “I swim this river every day, sometimes twice a day.”
“How very admirable and impressive. I am indebted to you sir.” Timothy said with a gentleman’s bow.
“You are a funny mouse. I like the way you talk.” Toby said with admiration.
“As much as I appreciate your accolades, I must be on my way. You should head home.” Timothy said looking at the sky which was beginning to glow, showing signs of an approaching sunrise. As he turned to walk away he can hear Toby mutter, “Well, I don’t really have a home.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Was your home lost?” Timothy remembered his childhood home to which he has never returned.
Toby realizing the touchy subject he had approached responded, “No, no, my home is wherever I lay my head. I have never been good at building a nest and I just feel safer when I am on the move.”
“Yes, I can understand that. I have also adapted to living a life on the run. Although it does not make me feel safe at all. Instead I feel as though I am constantly under threat of attack. Danger seems to loom at every turn and I am but a tantalizing morsel to most of the creatures I run into. I am honestly surprised you have not yet attempted to devour me.” Timothy said giving an accusing glance at Toby’s large grin of sharp teeth.
Toby just leaned in with wide eyes and said “I sure do like the way you talk.”
Timothy did not appear pleased with Toby’s response to his inquiry.
Toby looked around slightly embarrassed.”To tell you the truth, I do not enjoy hairy flesh. Never much have. I rarely get the opportunity anyway. With the exception of your owl friend back there, it has been weeks since I have eaten anything that wasn’t brought up from the earth.”
“That feathered beast was no friend of mine.” Timothy said in disgust. Suddenly a loud, almost deafening, screech came from nearby, just downstream from their position. Both Timothy and Toby cowered instinctively at the loud shrill sound and then looked at eachother.
“Follow me, I know a nearby log we can hide in.” Toby whispered quietly and began walking backwards away from the sound slowly. Sounds echoed through the early morning air of a struggle in the distance. Again a deep honking howl ripped through the air and was almost painful to Timothy and Toby’s ears.This time the loud honking was mixed with a sharp white noise, like rain on the old tin roof of the hunting lodge.
Timothy reached for his sword and began walking toward the sound. “Where are you going?” Toby raised his voice in concern. Timothy turned to Toby, “Yes, you should seek safety. I am on a path that you can not follow.” Timothy turned back to the direction where the continued piercing screech resonated and began quietly stepping through the tall grass, avoiding contact with underbrush as to not give away his position. Toby pondered for a moment but felt a great deal of concern mixed with curiosity over his new friend. “Timothy…”, he called out stepping forward in follow. “Friend, wait, what if death awaits you as it does that creature who cries?”
Timothy turned to see Toby shoving his way through the brush. He let out a slow breath of disappointment. “Toby, sir, you cannot follow this path. Plus, you are not exactly a creature of discrete stride.” Timothy looked up at the obvious division of grass where Toby stood.
“But, friend, we do not know what dangers lie beyond in that scuffle down there. This is a dangerous time of morning to venture out.”
Timothy paused and looked down. Then he raised his head with a smile and spoke poetically,
“And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods,”
A peaceful smile came across Timothy’s face, “You must stay behind, or you will give away my position. Worry not for me, for I go to chop at the root of evil. That is the cry of suffering, I know it well. You should find shelter. You are a noble creature and your company has lifted my spirits, but I can not carry more burden then I already do. Goodbye again friend.”
With that, Timothy turned and darted into the underbrush, weaving into the shadows. Toby looked to the ground, his heart heavy. “I am not a burden”, he muttered and lowered his head and turned his head to walk away.
CHAPTER FOUR: Misery Loves Company
Timothy reached a small clearing and the source of the violent cries and loud He hid in the brush to asses the situation. A rather large goose with its arms stretched high was waving about in a threatening manner, ducking and weaving as if it was in a territorial dispute with another bird. Timothy looked around to see who this goose was ready to do battle with. That is when he heard a sound that instinctively made him cower to the ground. It was like that of the rain on the tin roof, but now closer, it was intense and district, and that is when Timothy saw it. Just past the goose in a small crevasse in the terrain was the tail if a snake and on the end a large rattle almost half the size of Timothy himself. It shook so fierce that it became almost invisible as the sharp sound cause both the goose and Timothy to recoil and cover their ears.
Timothy who had spent the last year training himself to face his fears head on now felt inside him a terror he had never experienced before. Something generations deep in his soul told him to run and hide. Maybe Toby was right and he was a fool for rushing into such an unknown enemy. Timothy decided to climb the brush and get a better perspective on the size of the snake.
Upon reaching the top of a curled branch of a bush Timothy was able to see and comprehend the full terror of the situation. The snake was coiled and twisted, making it impossible to gauge its full size, but what really struck at Timothy’s heart was to see the snake with its jaws stretched wide devouring a young gosling.. It was struggling to get small bird past its jaws while looking at the mother goose right in the eyes. The goose was still shrieking in a loud slurry of sound, mixed terror with anger and remorse. The situation was impossible. Timothy had never encountered such an enemy and with only moments to decide a course of action, he deeply considered the possibility that it was too late. He also began balancing his own mission for justice with this gooses cry for help. He closed his eyes and pressed his head against the vine he held to. His mind was drawn to a letter he had once read in a newspaper clipping, his friend Philip the pack rat had kept cherished in his nest. “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere”, Timothy would often struggle with concepts of justice and ethical righteousness in a world fraught with violence and despair. “Could these human concepts even be applied?”, Timothy pondered once again to himself.
The loud scuffle of flapping wings and continued rattling pulled Timothy back into the moment. Timothy could see that the snake had now devoured the gosling and was positioning itself to strike against the goose who was still flailing about in an attempt to scare the snake away. That is when Timothy first noticed, cowered behind the mother goose was another baby gosling, just barely a hatchling. When Timothy saw the look of fear on the baby gosling who had just witnessed the murder of it’s sibling, he no longer needed to weigh the decision. Timothy sprang into action. He lunged forward and positioned himself in front of the last remaining gosling and drew his sword. The mother goose, unsure of his motivation turned to him still screaming at the top of her lungs, almost insane now with fear and dread. “I am here to assist you madam.” Timothy said as he stepped toward the snake taking it’s attention away from the Goose and now solely onto him. The goose, realizing the opportunity began backing away and pushing it’s remaining young from the nest and away from the clearing.
“What gives you the right to take the life of another?” Timothy yelled out in anger.
The snake, still struggling to swallow down the first gosling, looked down on Timothy with wide eyes and an awkward grin. “Take a life?”, the snake responded with a hiss. “I have never taken anything that wasn’t offered up freely by the weaker among us.” The snake drew closer to Timothy and looked him in the eyes. The glands on his face fluctuated as he smelled Timothy. “I only kill what I need to survive. Nothing more. Can you say the same, odd little mouse?” Timothy looked down at his blood stained hair and clothes. The rattlesnake pulled it’s head away from Timothy and again forcing it’s meal farther down it’s body it spoke, “Perhaps you should not be lecturing others about taking a life.”
Timothy turned to see that the goose and gosling were now far away. He was now alone. His nerves obviously affected by standing before such a large snake, which had now stopped rattling and was slowly unraveling and seemed to grow in size by the second. The sword in Timothy’s hand began to shake as the snake rose in stature until his head blocked out the rising sun peaking through the peaks of the tall grass. “I wish you had arrived before my meal, I prefer the taste of rodent.” said the snake, extending it’s jaw open wide to display its elongated fangs.
Timothy began stepping backwards to put some space between him and the intimidating snake, but the snake, almost as if floating on air, began descending toward him. Hissing at Timothy with his long forked tongue, “I am afraid though, I can not let you, a pathetic field mouse, walk away after challenging me in such a contemptible way. It would be an affront to the very order of everything.”
“I warn you. You may strike me down, but at great cost. This blade in my hand is no meager weapon. It was given to me by the gods to smite the likes of you!” Timothy spoke boldly, somewhat from his heart, but also stalling. Knowing full well that strike from a rattler’s venom is a death sentence.
The snake took pause at these words and looked closer upon the blade held by a field mouse. It was all just odd enough to take notice and warrant concern. Timothy’s blade shined reflecting the rising sun and the snake winced at the shimmering light. Timothy took notice of the snakes sensitivity to the reflected light and turned his sword to place a reflective shimmer on the snakes eyes. It reared its head back and diverted its gaze for a moment. Timothy turned and ran as quickly as he could, but the snake was determined now. The snake flung itself forward in pursuit. Timothy turned to see the snake closing the gap between them and preparing to strike, its head raised up and fangs exposed hissing in anger.
Timothy turned to make his last stand, spreading his cape wide with one hand hoping to confuse the snake and his sword stretched out in the other. The snake raised its head and spread its jaws wide. Just as Timothy braced himself to receive a deadly blow, the snake suddenly recoiled in pain and the rattle that had gone quiet now shot straight up in the air and was shaking so violently that the sound was deafening. The snake and Timothy both turned their head to the snakes lower portion where just a few inches from the rattle stood a dirty white haired possum named Toby with a mouth full of snake butt and an oddly satisfying grin on his face.
The snake quickly reared its head back and struck Toby just above his right shoulder.
“No!” Timothy shouted, charging forward.
Toby bit down harder, the snake now writhing in pain turned to strike him a second time. This time it struck him in the back and held tight. Toby winced but ever more determined began grinding his teeth sawing through snake flesh. Timothy lunged onto th snakes mid section just above where it was digesting the baby gosling and plunged his sword deep into the snake. The snake released from Toby who had now almost completely severed the rattler tail from the snake and the rattle had ceased vibrating and was now just twitching on the ground. The snake coiled more trapping Timothy in its folds. Timothy being tumbled into a twisted maze of scaled muscle was feeling the crush on his body. He had no escape, but hand still on the sword he pressed down. With every press of the sword he felt the grip of the snake grow weaker. The snake unraveled exposing Timothy to the sunlight and there above him was the snake looking prepared to strike. Timothy, having no way out looked to the opening he had carved in the snakes abdomen and being desperate for shelter did something no mouse would ever willingly do. He crawled into the belly of the snake. The snake upon seeing this became outraged and struck at him, sinking his fangs into his own flesh. Timothy laid curled inside of the snakes stretched out belly with a dead bird to his left and fangs poking through the flesh directly in front of him, dripping a deadly toxin.
As the snake drew back to strike again he saw a blade burst out of his own flesh, causing him to jerk and twitch involuntarily. The blade would retract and then burst through from another position. The snake hissed violently eyes wide with horror and opened its mouth wide extending his fangs out as far as he could stretch them, but before he could strike he felt the sharp grasp of Toby wrapping his jaws around his neck, just below his head, leaving him immobile. Toby pulled his head down low to the ground and he was forced to watch as a mouse carved through his abdomen and crawled out covered in blood. The snake’s body continued squirming and fighting almost involuntarily as Toby tugged and bit down hard. The sound of bones cracking beneath his powerful jaws. Timothy was now face to face with the snake.
“What kind of devil are you?” The snake whispered as it grew weaker from the struggle. Timothy, bruised and struggling to catch his breath, looked up at the snake responded, “I am but a mouse, fueled with the wisdom of men, though it was the likes of you that set fire to my rage. As for the devil, you will see him soon enough.” Timothy looked Toby in the eye and gave him a nod as he approached the snake and placed on hand upon his nose. “Consider this a mercy.”, Timothy spoke as he quickly dove his sword deep into the eye of the snake. The snake convulsed and flailed around one last time. Timothy withdrew his sword and breathed deeply before looking at Toby, still holding the neck of the snake in his mouth. Toby gently released the snake and it collapsed to the ground. Then Toby with him fell and his arm began to twitch on the side where he had been bitten. Timothy dropped his sword and ran to his aid and attempted to help pick him up. But Toby was far to large and he was barely able to lift his arm. “Sir Toby, why ever did you do that?”
Toby said softly, “I wanted to show you. I am not a burden.”
“You most definitely are not a burden friend.” Timothy’s eyes welled up with tears as he embraced Toby, or at least as much of him as he could. Timothy whispered, “That is twice now that you have saved my life in as little time as I have known you. You sir are a gentle knight among creatures. A hero if ever there was one.”
“I am very tired Timothy”, said Toby, “and cold.”
Timothy wrapped his arms wide and attempted to comfort him. “It is alright friend. Rest comfortably. I will not leave your side.” Timothy nuzzled his head into Toby’s side and although overwhelmed with grief, he felt very much safe and at peace. The two of them, both worn and exhausted, drifted to sleep in the warmth of the sun.
A large shadow loomed over them as they slept. They were not alone.
CHAPTER FIVE: Chosen by the gods
Timothy awoke buried deep in a bed of soft moss and luxuriously soft down feathers. He rubbed his eyes for a moment. It had been a long time since Timothy had slept that well and he was a bit confused about his current situation. He quickly realized that his robe and belt had been removed. He quickly turned in a panic realizing his sword wasn’t on him. There next to him laid his cloths, belt, sword and all, neatly folded and just within reach. He looked up to see a giant goose that was stretching it’s head down to eye level. “I took the liberty of washing your things down in the river. I hope you don’t mind, but i did not want blood in my nest.”, said the towering goose in an odd quivering voice. Timothy had not spoken to a goose before. The cold reality is that he had not spoken to many creatures apart from Philip and his family. After the dark day at the mighty oak tree Timothy returned to the only place he felt safe, the hunting lodge. And there he buried himself in books. Everything in the outside world only reminded him of what he had lost, but in those stories, he was able to forget, if only for a moment.
“Why do you wear these things?”, the goose’s question pulled him back into the moment. Timothy began putting on his wardrobe which consisted of a cape made from a gentleman’s handkerchief and a leather belt and sheath cut from the thumb of an old discarded sheepskin work glove.Tucked into gis belt on either side were two fingertips of a glove a longer one used as a sheath for his sword and a shorter one that he would use as a pocket for seeds that he carried for food on his journey.
“It is a bit odd. Do you think yourself a man?”, she poked again.
“Madam…”, he began to answer the question, but then realized a greater concern, “How did I get here?” Timothy was sitting in an obviously used nest and by the look of the brown coloration of the down feathers from which it was composed, he was likely speaking to the owner of the nest.
“My husband and I brought you and your friend over to keep a watchful eye on you while you slept. It was the least we could do after what you both did for my sister Mary.”
Suddenly Timothy felt as if all the blood had been drained from his body as he was reminded of the events of that morning. “Oh no, Toby! Where is my friend, the white possum, he is poisoned!”
“Poisoned you say?” a gander came stumbling onto the scene. He had a silly grin on his face and chuckled as he spoke, “Well that is the healthiest poisoned possum I have ever seen.” Timothy gave him a confused look. The gander waddled closer and stretched out his wing to Timothy, “Climb up, I will take you to your friend.”
As Timothy climbed up on the gander’s wing he was lifted high into the air. Suddenly he could see above the underbrush and all the way to the river. He was in awe of how many birds he could see, their long necks poking out of the tall grass. Now he could hear them as well, a flood of chatter and squeaking filled the air. He climbed down to the gander’s shoulder. “There are so many of you.” Timothy spoke with a sense of wonder.
“Yes, we nest here, but we will travel to good feeding grounds as soon as the goslings are ready for flight. Speaking of goslings, I think I see your friend.”
Timothy looked down to see Toby with a gosling riding on his back, jumping around like a wild stallion. The gander made his way toward them and pointed his wing to the ground. Timothy slid down his wing and ran up to Toby who was smiling and bouncing around while the gosling on his back giggled and honked. They both froze upon making eye contact. Timothy confused and Toby slightly embarrassed to be playing like a child.
“Toby, I don’t understand, I saw the rattler strike you.” Timothy said concerned.
“Oh yeah, it really hurt, but I feel better now.” Toby said with indifference.
“But I was always taught that a rattler’s blow was a death sentence.” Timothy still confused.
“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about you know what in front of you know who.” Toby said gesturing his eyes to the gosling still bouncing on his back.
The gander lowered his head into their conversation, “Yes, that reminds me, Mary will want to thank you personally.” He lowered his wing out the Timothy again.
The gosling on Toby’s back spoke up, “Mommy?”
Toby quickly diverted, “Mommy is still tired little Dorothy, let’s go hunt for grubs. I think I saw a juicy one over here.” Toby smiled and the gosling giggled and spoke, “Yummy in my tummy!”
“Yes, yummy grubs. We can gather some for mother Mary too” Toby said cheerfully as they hopped away.
As Timothy climbed onto the gander’s shoulder again the gander whispered, “Dorothy isn’t quite aware of what all took place this morning.” He turned and began walking to the clearing where other geese circled around quietly where a small goose lay on the nest where they did battle with the snake. “Mary had lost her husband to a pack of wild dogs just before Daniel and Dorothy were hatched. I am afraid the loss of Daniel may have pushed her over the edge. Just be aware, she is a good goose. She is just still in shock.”
“I understand.” Timothy spoke before fully grasping the situation.
The gander lowered Timothy down to the ground in front of Mary, who was cradling the limp colorless body of a dead gosling. She was rocking him and and singing a gentle song. Timothy’s eyes diverted to the floor which still showed evidence of the struggle earlier that day. He could see in the distance the mangled and dismembered body of the snake.
“Mary, this is the brave mouse who rescued you.” The gander looked down at Timothy, “What was your name brave mouse?”
Timothy cleared his throat, “Timothy, Timothy Gray.”
Mary looked up and stretched her neck down until she was eye to eye with Timothy.
“Thank you Timothy, thank you for saving my precious family.” Mary spoke softly with a quiet reluctance.
“You are most welcome my lady.” Timothy instinctively bowed down, somewhat confused about how to respond.
Mary lifted the lifeless corpse of her gosling and nuzzled it with her beak. “If you hadn’t stepped in, I may have lost my baby boy.”
Timothy’s eyes grew wide. The circle of geese all looking away from the horror of what Mary was going through. “I only did what anyone else would do.”
Mary began rocking and singing again looking straight into the face of her dead child. “Let us give her some space.” Said the gander and he brushed Timothy into his wing. As they turned to walk away Timothy let out a long slow breath. “Poor thing.”, Timothy spoke in a whisper.
“Grief can make people do strange things.” said the gander with an air of sage wisdom.
“Yes, I am familiar.” Timothy said coldly, staring off into space with what he had just seen weighing heavy in his heart.
“You know, what you did was not what anyone would do. Sure, for one of your own, maybe. But for another kind, it is a rare thing to bare witness to.” The gander said inquisitively.
“We all bleed the same. Are we not of the same kind?” Timothy contemplated as he considered Philip, who he grew to accept as family despite their differences in appearance. And now his thoughts went to Toby. “I must speak with my companion, the white possum.”
“Of course, Tobias Greenbottom” The gander said with a chuckle.
“You know Toby?” asked Timothy.
“Oh, I have run into him in the past. He normally keeps to himself. It is just his name that makes me laugh. Surely that cannot be a family name.” The gander pondered as they walked along. Timothy did not comprehend, but smiled and pretended to understand the humor, hoping it was not at the expense of his new friend.
“Here we are.”, the gander lowered Timothy down as they came to an opening where Toby and the baby gosling were picking through and old rotted tree limb on the ground eating the grubs and insects. Timothy walked up and picked a snail off the tree limb, lifted up to his mouth and sucked the slimy insides right out of the shell. He then groaned in pleasure, “These are my favorite.”
The small gosling waddled up to Timothy with her wings full of grubs an larva, gesturing as if to offer him some.
“Little Dorothy, this is my friend, Timothy Gray”, Toby said proudly.
The baby gosling looked Timothy in the eye and spoke, “Timmy Dee Dee Gway”.
Toby smiled from ear to ear and looked at Timothy.
“Come little one, let us take those treats to your mother.” said the gander, giving Timothy a moment with his friend.
As she waddled away with the gander, Toby turned again to Timothy with a very large grin. “Timmy Dee Dee!” as he broke out in a giggle. “How adorable is that?”
Timothy nodded, mildly amused but also wanting to ask Toby a serious question.
“Toby, friend, comrade… brother. I am on a quest. An assignment given to me by the gods.” Timothy rambled.
Toby drew a serious face.
“I do not believe that as I just began my journey that I stumbled upon you by accident. You who swim so well when I was in danger. You who fought so bravely when I was in peril. You who received two lashes of rattles fang, but still here you stand. I do not believe these to be coincidence.” Timothy looked up to the sky.
“Toby, I believe the gods are calling to you as they called to me when they gifted me with my blade.” Timothy continued as Toby’s serious face was returning to a big goofy grin.
“Toby, would you join me on my quest to the deep wood in search of justice for my family?” Timothy asked with his chest held high.
“You sure I’m not a burden?” Said Toby timidly.
“No brother, You are a true hero. A champion. I am sorry that I at all considered you a burden.” Timothy said contritely.
“Well, I guess I could go on a quest. I have never been on one before.” Toby answered, a little confused about the details, but Toby had tasted adventure now with Timothy, and it made him feel an energy he had ever experienced before. Like a delicious fruit fallen to the ground perfectly ripe, he had tasted it and could not bring himself to walk away.
“Good to hear brother, let us take the day to forage and get well rested. We will depart for the deep forest tonight when the moon is high above.” Timothy spoke, and then placing a hand on Toby’s shoulder said sensely, “I am ever so glad you are okay Toby.”
Toby made a serious face and responded. “Me too Timmy Dee Dee”, as he broke into laughter. Timothy smiled, which was not an expression he was completely comfortable with, but Toby had a trouble free spirit that was beginning to grow on Timothy. They spent the rest of the day and into the evening feasting on grubs, nuts and berries and enjoying the company of the geese who’s towering presence provided both shelter from predators and a sense of family belonging that they both deeply enjoyed.
CHAPTER SIX: The Twisted Forest
I decided about a year ago to start writing a story. One based on a role play character I created. A small mouse. I hope you enjoy. Also, this is not to be reproduced or copied without written permission. I would like to publish this one day, so please understand that I share it to motivate me to keep working on it and making it better, but it is protected by copyright as an original work and all rights are reserved for the creator… me.