There was light; in fact, there was nothing but light. It was hard to sense anything beyond that, other than the vague presence of something or someone else. Silver could not make whoever or whatever it was out yet, but he was not alone. He went over the last few minutes to try and account for it: he had picked up that radio to examine it. It had been broadcasting a news bulletin from 1937. An obvious anomaly, Silver had thought. A little too obvious, it now seemed.
“Aha,” said a voice from beside him. “I set a trap, put down cheese, and voila! One mouse.” He stepped into Silver’s view; in appearance a man wearing a grey suit exactly like Silver’s, although the being – for he was not a man, nor another Element – had seen fit to add a bright green tie and a spotted green handkerchief in his breast pocket. It was a mockery of a sort; Silver recognised that instinctively.
“It’s a funny thing,” the stranger continued. “Here I am, thinking I know everything all because I’m omniscient – and then it turns out there are things like you hiding about the corners of the cosmos. Like little mice scurrying about under the floorboards and behind the wainscoting – only fixing things instead of nibbling on the wiring. Care to explain, Mouse?”
Silver thought, but he had very little to work with. He brushed his hair back from his face, and tried a wary smile. “I’m sorry?”
“You… Elements,” said the being. “Or whatever it is you call yourselves. You keep yourselves busy, don’t you? Hah. I expect I keep you busy sometimes, which is amusing, don’t you think?” He raised an eyebrow, and gave Silver a look. When Silver didn’t respond, his expression darkened swiftly. “No, you don’t, do you? Even you, Silver. So very... utilitarian. Doesn’t anybody know how to have fun these days? It makes the universe a dull place.”
Silver got to his feet, still wary: was this a transient being? Someone or something else that worked for the other side? He wasn’t another element; he certainly wasn’t human, or even mortal. Silver had a feeling he didn’t want to probe too far. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I hope you appreciate the neatness of it, Mouse,” he said, folding his arms. “You could be here a while if you’re not going to talk to me. I’m Q, but I expect you knew that.”
Silver glanced around him. He still couldn’t sense where he was, and it was a terribly disconcerting feeling. He was used to reading everything around him: location, time, signals from all sorts of things; too much information to process at once. The absence of that was an unpleasant sensation. It meant, in addition, that he was dependent on this being – Q – for explanations.
“Oh, yes,” Silver said, giving a suitably admiring smile. “You must be very clever. But then, you did say… omniscient, didn’t you?”
“I did. And so here we are, Mouse. Just you and me, and one isolated moment of time inside a single snowflake. Forever.”
“Oh,” said Silver, his mouth quirking in amusement, “how romantic.” It was half-hearted; he was testing the answer by what little he could sense of his surroundings, and it explained enough. It wasn’t much help, though. If it was true, it was no wonder he had nothing to work with.
The other became petulant. “You’re not impressed? But it’s classic – perfect! And I can do worse than that – Mouse!” He snapped his fingers.
Suddenly Q seemed much, much taller, and Silver much smaller – and far more sensitive to smell, and there were other things – new and interesting things, like whiskers… Except that he was also being picked up by his tail, which was another new experience, although he decided swiftly that it was not one that he liked. Moments later, he was dropped into the being’s hand.
Q stroked his fur with a finger. How do you like that?
Very nice. It was, of course, but very interesting, too –
I meant being a mouse, Mouse.
Silver licked Q’s finger in return –
“Aw. Maybe I should keep you this way -”
– and analysed the results, filtered information throughout his inconveniently tiny being, making the effort to concentrate before the mouse nature took too much of a hold –
“If you’re not going to talk to me, then I don’t see why -”
Silver reappeared; falling onto the ground, and giving Q an apologetic smile. Then his nose twitched one last time, and he suddenly missed his whiskers. He put a hand to it, and gave Q a reproachful look. He liked his usual form and didn’t feel it required any improvements mousewards.
“Well, well,” said Q, and raised an eyebrow, as he looked down at Silver. “So, how about you talk and I don’t turn you into anything else?”
“Your fellow mice. I’m intrigued. You know, if I want to talk to someone, I can usually just fetch them. I had to sneak around setting traps to get you. Not that it wasn’t fun, of course. I might do it again sometime.”
Silver got to his feet. You don’t need me to talk, not now you have me here.
“Perhaps,” said Q. “But come on, Mouse, time to start squeaking.”
“You could send me back.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
Silver smiled. “You wanted to know about us. One of us… well, it isn’t enough. You could meet my colleagues – if you like.”
Silver glanced downwards in amusement. “Yes. I think you and Steel ought to meet.”
“You know, mouse,” Q paused, “why do I get the impression that you’re the one setting the trap this time? You can’t possibly do anything to me!”
“Oh, quite,” agreed Silver. “I wouldn’t dream of it in any case.”
“Yes, and I know that you know that, so… true. Why not?” Q shrugged. “After all, there’s only so long before snowflakes and mice get boring. I’ll take you right back to where I found you and we’ll see.”
Q snapped his fingers, and they both vanished. And once the two improbable beings had gone, the snowflake melted away, as snowflakes do.