Chapter Two: A Realm of Ruin
Mice are normally the most timorous of creatures, seeming to realize that they are but a whisker's-breadth from the bottom of the food chain. Their needs are simple: reliable sustenance, secure shelter, and a paucity of predators. They spend most of their time and energy in pursuit of these goals. When they dream, the stuff of their dreams is likely to be of the primitive sort: endless stores of seeds, nuts and berries; soft, plentiful nesting material; and agreeable companions. Their nightmares may be much like ours: being chased; falling; drowning; being crushed by large objects.
The phantasms that at times threaded their way through the more familiar dreamscapes to which she was accustomed were totally alien to the mind of a mouse: visions of behemoths that towered into the sky, so vast that they barely noticed the tiny creatures which scurried out from beneath their enormous bodies and lumbering feet; brightly blazing suns and slowly spinning galaxies like lambent will o' wisps reflected in a black, limitless pool; incredible vistas and nebulous objects that beggared description and comprehension.
Affrighted and shaken by these unwanted glimpses of nameless apparitions, the shivering mouse slowly struggled up through the layers of sleep that enfolded her. As her eyes opened, she attempted to gauge the time of day. Late afternoon sunlight slanted through holes in the roof of the structure, and long were the shadows cast by the objects it struck. The petite rodent raised her twitching nose and sniffed the dusty air; she lifted her ears skyward and listened alertly for signs of nearby peril. Her eyes settled upon the body of the dead fer-de-lance, and vivid memories of the previous night's mortal battle returned to bemuse the tiny creature. She spent a few moments marveling at her own temerity before resuming a vigilant surveillance of her surroundings.
Satisfied that there was no imminent threat to be detected, she began a thorough and fastidious toilette. As she groomed herself, she noticed that her wounds had closed and, though not completely healed, seemed to be less serious than she had at first thought. The mouse felt surprisingly little pain, and was grateful for that.
She bided her time until the last rays of the setting sun gave way to a silken shroud of dusk, then made her way toward what her keen sense of smell assured her would be a likely source of water. Locating a hollow in the stone floor that contained a small quantity of liquid, the mouse delicately lowered her muzzle and drank, all the while keeping her senses keenly attuned to her immediate surroundings. The water, though somewhat brackish, was cool and refreshing. After quenching her thirst, she sniffed the air again, hoping to detect a source of nearby nourishment. A faint odor of some sweet fruit reached her quivering nose, and she carefully began to wend her way through the humped and shattered landscape in the direction of the tantalizing scent.
As the tiny rodent made her way among numerous daunting obstacles, she gazed about, not only to watch for predators, but also because she found herself struck by an uncommon curiosity about the oddities that lurked all around her. Instead of darting from shadow to shadow, as she normally would, she paused on occasion to peer around at the massive masonry. The interior spaces of the temple were vast, with various graven images adorning the walls, and here and there, standing sentry over a realm of ruin, loomed grotesque and crumbling statues. The images on the walls were hideous and horrible, demonic visages that appeared to grimace and leer at the little mouse. The statuary was no better - the eroded stone stelae depicted astonishing beings of considerable height, standing on their hind legs and holding incomprehensible objects with their front paws. She recoiled from them at first, fully expecting them to spring to horrible life like animated golems and lumber toward her, crushing her unavoidably beneath their enormous stony extremities. They did not bear any but a vague resemblance to creatures that she had encountered previously, and the little mouse hoped she would never have to face them in future.
There was a plenitude of vegetation that had invaded the structure over the centuries - seeds, dropped by birds, had grown into mighty trees; vines and ivy had crawled over the outside and into the very heart of the temple. Below the spreading branches of one of the massive trees, the silvery mouse discovered the source of the pleasant odor which had drawn her there - dark green fruits with smooth, thin skins, nearly as large as her entire body. She bit into the juicy interior of one and relished the sweet flavor of the black, jelly-like pulp. There were a small number of seeds at the center of the fruit, and she devoured those too.
After having gorged herself on one of the fruits (for they were so large that one was all she could comfortably handle), the silvery creature once more engaged her senses and sought for any signs of danger. Apart from an almost imperceptible humming, a vague disturbance of the air which caused her to shudder involuntarily, she could detect nothing threatening, so she crawled into the protective shelter of gnarled and mossy roots which extended from the base of the tree and curled into a ball, gradually drifting into a dreamless, seamless slumber.
That's it for today's edition. Stay tuned. Peace.
All content copyright Malcolm Mott 2005