A field mouse, let’s call him George. George is a good of a name as any, I would think. So, George the field mouse was as joyous as joyous could be: foraging for seeds, scavenging meats left behind by the bear or wolf, or gathering cheeks full of water for later use. He had a prosperous life, keeping to himself in his little den and having his quaint little adventures in the field. He had no enemies, but he had no friends either.
Sometimes, George would sit inside the entrance to his home, looking out towards the night sky. He saw the big green ball of cheese glowing there, lighting up the field with a faint light. He longed to nibble on that ball, if only he could reach it. Those were nights he dreamt he was a bird and not a mouse with small arms and hands. He would flap his wings, soaring higher and higher. The cheese in the sky would get bigger, and his mouth would salivate with anticipation of biting into it. In his dream he never reached it. He would always wake up hungry.
One morning after a particularly vibrant dreammare, his stomach growled louder than ever. George looked for something to calm it down. His pantry had a meager collection of food. After devouring what was there, George’s midsection cramped and spasmed, he knew it was yelling at him for more food.
George ventured out into the field, eating what he could find. Nuts, berries, the occasional insect or two until his stomach was full.
“Time to fill the larder up”
As he was gathering, he heard a frantic squeal.
“It’s none of my business.”
He went the other way, determined to ignore the cry for help. It didn’t work. For you see, George was a good soul. He also was a brave one. His conscious bothered him with every step. He had to go back and help whomever was in trouble.
Putting down his spoils, he turned around and sprinted to the source of the commotion. Soon, he saw a young field mouse cornered by a big snake. George’s nose worked up and down, sniffing to see if anything else was around. Only finding the scent of the snake’s prey, identifying the creature as a she, George looked for anyway he could help her.
He saw they were not very far from his den. The path to it was right behind the snake. All he had to do was distract the reptile and outwit it. George put on a show, puffing his chest out and jumping up and down while squeaking. The snake’s tongue slithered out, and slowly it turned its head towards the newcomer. George looked bigger, a much better meal. The snake slithered after George.
The little mouse turned, squeaking to Miss Mouse to follow the path behind where the snake was until she found his den.
“Hide in there until I come back.”
George didn’t pause to see if she listened, he just ran for his life.
The snake was fast, but George was a bit faster and he knew the area very well. He cut through gullies and bush which were narrow and difficult, and jumped over fallen logs. Soon he gained enough distance between himself and his hunter to be able to double back and get to his den for safety.
Off he ran, leaving the snake confused.
George’s den was well hidden by tall grasses, so he simply disappeared.
Inside, George found Miss Mouse. She was huddled into a ball in the farthermost corner.
“Hello?” he squeaked.
Her head slowly lifted, one eye staring right at him. Her gaze went to the entrance. She stared for a long while, her body not moving as she held her breath, waiting for the snake to appear. When it didn’t, her body deflated as she unfurled. She scampered up to George.
“Thank you. I must be going. You were very brave, saving me like that.” She began moving. George stopped her.
“ It’s still not safe out there, not yet. I would wait a while. Let that slitherer get bored and go find something else to eat.”
Miss Mouse paused. Her nose twitched.
“Do you have anything to eat? I’m hungry.”
George went into his hidden storage and came back with a few ripe berries: the best he had.
They ate in silence. Once done, Miss Mouse squeaked.
“Nice place but a bit small. You alone? I suspect so. A nice sized family would need a much larger place.”
George didn’t know what to say to that. But she was right, it was cozy and compact. Just the way he liked it. He never thought about having a family though. Maybe it was time to think about the future. Did it include a family?
He began digging out his den to make it bigger, depositing the dirt and rocks on top and around the field around his den.
After a few hours, he was tired and fell fast asleep, forgetting Miss Mouse was there. She had been quietly watching him work. Appreciating someone else getting things done instead of her. She had been daydreaming of how George would look like as a person.
Now there was something special about Miss Mouse which you could not tell by looking at her.
She was not really a mouse, but a young lady. You see, she was indentured to a Sorcerer by her parents to pay off a debt. For several years she toiled for him — running errands, doing chores, cooking, and other odds and ends. Everything was fine enough. The Sorcerer didn’t treat her badly, mostly ignoring her. She was fed, had a nice room, and kept warm and clothed.
But one day, she heard the Sorcerer mumbling to himself. “I wished she would hurry up and reach her eighteenth birthday. This immortality elixir requires the blood of a sacrificed maiden.”
She knew she had to escape. She thought long and hard. She couldn’t run away. He was too powerful. His magic would find her. So how?
Then she remembered. The Sorcerer had recently made a batch of transformation brownies. She pilfered several and stole herself away, leaving a note she was going to town for provisions.
As she walked through the woods, she dug a hole by a boulder she knew she would remember. Two of the brownies, she put in a small container and buried them. She was ready to eat the third.
What shall she turn herself into? She thought for a while. Couldn’t be a big animal. He may be able to still find her. Then she saw a mouse scurrying through the grass, picking up nuts and berries.
“That’s it! A mouse.” She ate her brownie and was changed, only to find herself being stalked by that awful snake! She screamed for help. It came out as a squeal. She was doomed. But then the little mouse came to her rescue.
Now that Miss’ first adventure as a mouse was coming to an end, she discovered she was tired too, and decided to get some rest. As she started to close her eyes, she heard her savior squeak.
“One day, I will be able to fly! I will soar high to get to that ball of green cheese and eat to my heart’s contentment.”
“What a strange wish.” Miss Mouse thought as she drifted to sleep.
The next day, George woke up early. He saw Miss Mouse was asleep, so he went to find the day’s meals.
As he was scavenging, Miss Mouse woke up. She began digging out the den a bit herself. She liked a lot of room.
When George returned, they ate crunchy nuts and drank water he had brought with him in half of a nutshell.
George and Miss Mouse continued to work, digging out the den. At the middle of the day, Miss Mouse went out, saying she would return soon. George kept working. When Miss Mouse returned, she offered George a small piece of brownie.
“Here, eat this. While you sleep tonight I want you to dream of what you always wanted to be.”
George ate it and found it tasty.
“Tell me what you want to be.” Miss waited for him.
“I want to fly and eat that green ball of cheese in the sky.”
“It will be hard for you to fly. You don’t have wings. Maybe you would be better off learning to get what you can reach more easily.”
“What do you mean?” George was curious.
“You see that thick root above your head? You can climb other roots to get to it. I think you should. I think you should hang down from it, holding onto with your back paws. I think you should stretch for as long as you can try to reach the earth with your front paws. Maybe then, you may actually achieve something possible.”
George looked at Miss. He didn’t know why, but he felt he had to impress her. So he climbed and did what she asked. He didn’t last long upside down, losing his grip as his legs tired out. He fell with a thud.
“Are you ok?”
“I am fine. I am going to sleep,” grumped George, pride more hurt than his body.
The next day, the whole thing became a routine. George would go out to get food. Miss mouse would start digging out the den. A big mound began to grow on top of them. George would come back. They would work. She would go out and bring back a tiny piece of brownie. He would eat it. Each night he would climb onto the root and hang. Each night, his paws and legs got stronger and slightly longer. Every night he hung upside down just a bit more.
For days this went on. Eventually George began to notice his arms and front fingers were much longer, The skin between his wrist and his back legs was stretching out, flattening.
He was growing wings!
Excited, he hung on the root longer and stretched harder every night.
Now, Miss Mouse was giving up one of her brownies to help her hero become what he always wanted. There were only a few more bites left. All this time with George, she grew accustomed to his company. He was noble and decent and brave and a good provider. A lady could do worse she found herself thinking. That night, having made her decision, she ate half of the second brownie.
She went to sleep wishing to look just like George.
They woke up together in the morning. George was shocked. Miss’ legs and paws and skin had changed. She was looking just like him. He went to go out, but had to come back in fast.
“What’s wrong?” Miss went towards George. “Are you ok?”
“The light in the sky. It is too bright! It hurts my eyes. It is almost like I am blind. I can’t go out and hunt for food. We will have to eat what I have here.”
They ate and spent the day hanging from the root together, chattering about what changes had been happening to them.
Miss Mouse admitted to George, “I want to have a family with you. I want to fly with you. I want to die with you. I want to reach the big round ball of cheese in the sky and eat it with you.”
This made George happy. He didn’t care anymore about the cheese. He had Miss with him. And that was much better. Miss brought out the last of the transformation brownies from a hiding spot and they ate. They ended up sleeping for the rest of the day hanging upside down from the branch.
Upon the pale light from the Sky Cheese shining into their now cavernous den, they woke up. Their wings were fully formed. They stretched out, and let go of the branch. They flapped their arms and flew! For the first time they felt the cool air against their bare skin as they glided through breezes. They caught insects to eat. They flew in an ecstatic dance of spirals and quick sharp turns. They squealed in laughter, discovering their voices bounced back towards them, informing them of prey up ahead. They were happy.
George took a look at the Sky Cheese. “I have to try.”
Together George and Miss Flew higher and higher and higher.
To this day, you may see a new bite on the Sky Cheese if you look carefully. George and Miss and their family of bats having had their fill for a time.