< Photos courtesy Eastman Kodak Co.
After a long, hard day of false starts and a lot of misery, Mariah finally delivered her second egg at 12:37 A.M.
Mariah now rests from her ordeal, and coincidentally keeps her eggs warm. Wish her well; there may be three more eggs to come.
Chapter Eight: Surprise
The rustling of the leaves of her sanctuary startled her awake, and a green, oblong fruit dropped to the ground just to her left. She shied away from it, peering fearfully up at the shivering foliage. Two large black objects parted the branches above her, and two shining orbs gazed down at her. One of the objects extended toward her and she flinched away, but it continued past her and closed around the fallen fruit, lifting it up and out of the bush. Praying that she had not been seen, she inched deeper into the space under the leaves, closer to the short trunk, but her hopes were shattered when the other object speedily scooped her up, lifting her off the ground and out of the bush. She found herself enclosed in a rank, hairy palm as she was drawn upward toward the face of the unknown attacker. She tried to bite at the imprisoning paw, but the beast shifted its grip and her attempt failed. She closed her eyes in weary resignation, fully expecting to be devoured by the animal that restrained her.
The creature lifted her to its face, snuffling at her with its small rough nose. It held her closely but gently with one paw as it set down the fruit and poked at her with its other paw. It grasped her by the tail with two of its appendages and raised her into the air, tilting its head to one side as it regarded her with its luminous eyes, occasionally emitting a brief puzzled grunt. She turned and twisted in midair, struggling feebly, feeling exceedingly helpless.
After being unceremoniously prodded a few more times, and having elicited more muttering from the curious monkey, the argent mouse found herself once more on the ground as the beast finished its lengthy examination of her, bent over, set her down, and reached for the remembered fruit, biting into it with relish as it continued to gaze solemnly upon her, waiting to see what she might do. She lay completely still for almost a minute, watching the beast, not knowing what to expect. When the monkey made no further move to molest her, she dashed for cover, disappearing under the leaves of the nearby bush.
She huddled in concealment for what seemed like hours, wondering what further unpleasant surprises might lie in store for her. She was rapidly growing homesick, not liking this foreign territory that kept her off balance and dreading every moment. Except for the profusion of foodstuffs, everything she had so far encountered had left her less than thrilled. She was not normally a very adventurous mouse, and she opined that she had experienced enough escapades to last her a lifetime.
Chapter Nine: A New Life
Eventually she mustered the courage to venture out from beneath the protective foliage, reaching the reluctant conclusion that she must explore and familiarize herself with this unknown realm, perhaps beginning to fashion a new life for herself, as she knew not how to return to the place of her birth or her cozy and fondly remembered burrow. She moodily considered the possibility that some interloper had discovered her house, finding it unguarded and unoccupied, assuming immediate possession of it and greedily gorging itself on her laboriously gathered supply of luscious macadamia nuts.
Realizing that wallowing in self-pity was going to get her absolutely nowhere, she set off, searching for a sheltered spot in which to excavate a new burrow, a snug little lair that she could call home. She traveled a considerable distance, stopping to inspect the dimly lit greenery and blossoms that flourished luxuriantly everywhere and scrabbling repeatedly at the moist and fetid earth, hoping to discover a suitable location which would offer a measure of security and still provide access to a reliable source of food. She halted frequently to wriggle her nose and whiskers, tasting the air redolent with exotic aromas and harkening to the cries of the unseen denizens of the ancient, acheronian deeps.
Eventually she settled upon an attractive spot beneath the pendulous fronds of an expansive fern, with leaves so numerous and lavish that not a single ray of moonlight was permitted to penetrate the secluded depths of the little bower. She tested the earth, scraping at it with her tiny paws, finding it to be soft and moist and easily excavated. She settled into a routine, digging away at the loose soil and pushing it to one side.
A curious earthy odor teased her quivering nostrils, borne to her on the intermittent evening breeze, causing her to pause in her diligent delving and sample the misty air for the origin of the intriguingly musky scent. She followed her nose to a nearby depression in which a clustered colony of short, dun-colored mushrooms had established a foothold amidst the rotting roots of a ravaged tree trunk. This jagged and festering relic was mottled with a thick accretion of disgusting slimes and molds, pallid green and pasty yellow, unwholesomely milky fluids dribbling from them like pus seeping from a sore. The decomposing bark was soft and crumbly, and she briefly considered it as a possible source of bedding for her prospective new home, discarding the notion as she decided that the smell was simply too pungent.
She sniffed warily at the musky, unfamiliar mushrooms, unsure whether or not they represented food, and nibbled provisionally at one of the drooping caps. After a few bites she determined that she didn't much care for the musty, astringent taste and refrained from eating any more of the fungoid growths. Returning to the site of her former labors, she resumed burrowing into the moist earth of the jungle floor.
Some time later, she ceased her tunneling, crawled out from beneath the dripping fern and stared about her at the darkling depths of the ancient forest. She had neither smelt nor heard anything out of the ordinary, and yet there was an odd, indefinable quality about the pregnant atmosphere that refused to refine itself into a comprehensible form which she could easily grasp. She tried to focus her senses, but her thoughts had become disjointed and nebulous, swirling about in her brain like storm clouds just before the rains begin to fall. Her ability to concentrate had disappeared, a veil of vagueness descending upon her mind like a shroud draping the countenance of a corpse, and she began to meander aimlessly through the deep, shifting shadows and shimmering pools of moonlight, having no notion of where she was bound but for some reason needing to remain in motion.
She wandered for an unknown, timeless period among the trees, shrubs and foliage of alien blooms, completely enmeshed in a web of confusion and doubt.
That's all for today's installment, faithful reader(s). Thanx for your well-wishes; they may be helping. At least today I am occasionally erect rather than prone. Tune in tomorrow for another semithrilling segment of the continuing misadventures of Lona the silver mouse.
Peace and blessings.
Story content copyright Malcolm Mott 2005