Monday, April 11, 2005

Chapter Fifteen: The Forgotten Fragment

A rare sight.

   Eastman Kodak Co.

It isn't often that one sees Mariah and Kaver together in the nest box. You either have to keep constant watch or get very lucky (in this case it was luck.) It was hard to tell whether Kaver was feeding Mariah or if they were just sharing a tender moment (old softy that I am, I prefer to believe the latter.)

Chapter Fifteen: The Forgotten Fragment

     Movement in the far corner of the chamber caught and held her eye. Swiveling her head in that direction, she observed as a black, bulbous spider dropped precipitately from the center of its web like a bungee jumper leaping from a bridge, halted an inch above the floor and lowered itself more slowly to the hard stone surface. Touching its spinneret briefly to the floor to securely attach the anchor line, it began the long climb ceilingward again. It reached the center of the web, moved slightly to one side, and repeated the process. After a series of such movements, the spider settled in, apparently satisfied with its efforts, becoming motionless once more.

     The curious mouse watched this entertaining performance while it lasted, feeling no need to interrupt the urgent labors of the industrious insect. She pondered the advisability of sharing her nest with the sizable spider, which she could easily have worn as an eyepatch. She didn't know if it would bite her, but as long as it remained in its far corner, she didn't feel unduly concerned. It might prove useful if those nasty little gnats found their way in, snaring them in its web like tuna caught in a net, saving her the trouble of trying to drive them out. Maybe a bit of companionship would be nice, even though there was no chance of communication between them.

     Once more gazing around at the cozy chamber, a surprising thought occurred to her - she was content. Wrested forcibly from her comfortable life, thrown into a new and alien environment, menaced by all manner of hostile and inimical situations, she had nevertheless prevailed and managed to find a new shelter, seeking it out and furnishing it with the necessities of life. There was nothing to threaten her in here; she was as safe as she could be. She knew of no predator small enough to fit through the narrow passage leading to her sanctum, save for pit vipers, and she now knew how to deal with them. As for the larger predators lurking in the jungle, most of them were easily avoided. Yes, she was content.

     Across from her, the pyramid of figs beckoned. Her belly was empty enough that she bestirred herself from the fluffy nest, crawling to the pile and biting voraciously into the juicy, succulent flesh of the tempting fruit. Devouring it quickly, she uncovered a multitude of tiny black seeds, so sticky that within moments her whiskers were clotted with them. Annoyed, she scrubbed her face against the stone, and managed to dislodge the great majority of seeds. With rapacious intent, she fell to once more, determined to satisfy her insistent hunger.

     As she ate, she eyed the torus lying quietly in the corner near her nest. It had remained quiescent, as far as she knew, since she had brought it back into the temple. All the time she had spent gathering and storing, it had lain silent, lifeless. She sensed that if she approached it, lay her paw upon it, the eerie vitality would reawaken, draw her once more into its darkling depths and show her terrors and wonders. Was she ready for that? Did she want to essay that alarming experience anew? Had she the courage? She had no doubt that if it reanimated and desired her attention, there would be no denying it. Maybe if she demonstrated her lack of fear, her willingness to undergo the trials that the object offered, it would accord her a measure of respect. Since it seemed to be disinclined to be separated from her, perhaps her best course was to explore the reasons for its insistence that they remain inextricably bound, if she could but determine them. Also, she couldn't argue that she was mightily intrigued by the creature that seemed to exist within the eldritch artifact. Whatever miracle or curse had been thrust upon her, she was now able to formulate questions for which she craved answers, and the talisman, or the creature within, might possess them. Her decision reached, her meal finished, she crept toward the talisman and slowly extended one paw.


Story content copyright Malcolm Mott 2005

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