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Cat n mouse

Chapter Text

Gas snores, his head on the table.

 

You’re lucky he’s not using a keyboard for his nap.

 

You jump on the chair, press a black button with your nose.

 

The computer wakes up with an ear-shattering noise.

 

Gas doesn’t seem to mind.

 

You breathe out and send the yesterday document to print. Fix an unruly sheet with your paw.

 

Twelve pages.

 

You know he won’t wake up.

 

You check the tables and the graphs. Z-fold the pages and squeeze them with your teeth. Slip through the cat door.

 

The pet shop around the corner is still pitch dark.

 


 

“You’re lovely.”

 

Compare her whiskers to the Nile reeds. It’s over the top enough. It should work.

 

She purrs and rolls around the enclosure. Her nostrils twitch.

 

What of scent-flattery one sticks to words for the great cause.

 

“Dearrrrr, dearrr, what for? I’ve already given you everything I wanted.”

 

“When does your ape return?”

 

“In half an hour.”

 

You snort.

 

“Why won’t they just invent a can-opening machine?”

 

She laughs, enfolds you hind leg with her tail. Purrs that it already exists.

 

You both know your ape is as poor as a church rat. Does it stop her from twisting the claw every single time?

a)    Nope.

b)    Not in the slightest.

c)     Never.

 

“Why won’t you find an ape who’s richer?”

 

“Because I don’t cost a thousand krones?”

 

She snuggles to you, brushes her cheek against yours.

 

“Why don’t you cost a thousand crones?”

 

You whisper to her ear.

 

“Because I eat canaries and hate children. Because I scratch the armchairs…”

 

You almost beg her to turn over. She laughs.

 

“Dear...”

 

Yes, dear joker, dear lock-picker, dear smeller and speaker, dear, unlike all the pet-shop rogues.

 

“No.”

 

You climb onto her spine, breathe into the back of her head.

 

“I’m just an ordinary house cat. I don’t have your golden ears, your amber fur… I haven’t drank from kings’ goblets.”

 

Every single time. Self-deprecation. Tender sighs. All the will power simply not to come into her.

 

“I don’t have the intelligence of glorious, beautiful…”

 

Her head drops back. Her claws dig into your paws, as she breathes out the answer.

 

“Felidae....”

 


 

 

She licks herself, as you try to catch your breath.

 

“And the things I asked for?”

 

You nod to the slightly wet pages.

 

“Here. The essentials of genetics. A tiny bit about plant-hybrids.”

 

The curve of her neck is exquisite.

 

“What about the mistress?”

 

“She will come today around six. Will you be a good girl?”

 

She rolls on her back catches and imaginary butterfly with her long paws. You smile.

 

“Thanks, dear. You’re verrrrrry kind.”

 

You slip out of the tiny door, flick its lock in place.

 

“Yep. I know.”

 

She’s already deep in the chewed pages.

 

You come home. Your paws are numb. The pillow above the radiator is soft and warm.

 

She’s the last. Finally, the last.

 

They (especially the fancy golden males) don’t even look at the lesser breeds anymore. They already believe. They already start thinking.

 

In half a year, they’ll chew the ape-science to the bone. In a year, you’ll be able to work with them.

 

You lick your battle wounds, stomp over the pillow, and curl yourself. You imagine a cold, dead tongue on your battered head.

 

Claudandus would be proud of you.

 

Chapter Text

Six o’clock. You wallow on your blanket, eye that ape lazily.

 

Blue pelt, tattered pelt. The real skin shines through the tears. Mother-ape looms behind her back. Father-ape speaks to the plastic brick.

 

You walk to the ape, bump your nose to the glass.

 

She laughs.

 

“Mom, look!”

 

You lie on your back, roll the invisible ball in your paws, catch it with the teeth.

 

“Mom, look, look!”

 

You curl yourself, closing the nose with the tip of the tail. Wink.

 

The ape is yours for good.

 

Her father fixes the glasses on his hairless nose.

 

“What breed is that? Why so expensive?”

 

The feeder-ape dashes to him, fast as a sparrow.

 

You wish he handed out the lunch with the same speed.

 

“African wildcat, sir. The new domesticated type. Extremely fashionable – the wild nature in your house.”

 

“And why does it have such long legs?”

 

The feeder shrugs.

 

“Such breed, sir.”

 

“Okay. We’ll take it.”

 

You’re taken away in a tiny leather-lined room. The beast it was made of is dreadfully stinky.

 

The ape looks at you through the plastic basket, pats your head clumsily.

 

You want to sink your fangs into her rosy fingers.

 

You purr and snuggle to her palm instead.

 


 

 

You wake up to the sounds of pouring water. The window is pitch black.

 

Too early for the ape to go hunting.

 

You stretch and go to the kitchen. The plate is empty.

 

She has forgotten. Again. Gods, she even forgets to feed herself.

 

You claw the bathroom door, mew as loudly as you can: the ape has ears of a blind kitten.

 

It’ll be very funny, if she starves to death out there, and leaves you locked in this stone cube.

 

She stumbles out to you, wet, ruffled, clad in a fluffy white pelt.

 

“Oh God… I’ve forgotten, haven’t I?”

 

You barely keep yourself from answering.

 

She opens the can, plunks its contents into your plate. Your tail twitches.

 

How about being more gentle with a tender liver of a young goose? Though, what else can be expected from a creature who takes a wonderful salmon and scorches, and covers it in some sticky mess.

 

While you enjoy your breakfast, the ape looks into the mirror, brushes her wet mane.

 

“Pffffft… What do we do with it, huh?”

 

Shaving it to the skin would be peachy… Though… You have an idea.

 

You go to her room, climb on the shelf full of children encyclopedias, pick one.

 

Will she get your drift?

 

The book flashes - green, blue, orange, gray – and plops to the floor. You spring to it, go through pages quickly.

 

There you have it.

 

Curly people, showered with golden bugs by a long-handed sun. Beautiful Felidae watch them from the distance.

 

The ape plods into the room, sighs, sprinkles you with water. You hiss.

 

She picks the book up, watches the picture sleepily. Pouts.

 

Come on… Come…

 

Her muzzle lights up.    

 

“Why the hell not?”

 

Clever girl you think, curling yourself on your blanket Clever girl.

 

You fall asleep to the howl of fire-breathing tube.

 


 

 

There are castles of books and notes on the windowsill. The ape studies hard, though her science of choice is not quite what you want it to be.

 

Linguistics. Gods, who in the world even needs linguistics?

 

You climb onto lexicology, reach for the window…

 

Locked. The handle lowered. No chance to open it in sight.

 

She spent an hour and a half getting pretty and forgotten to open the Gods damn window.

 

You rise on your hind legs, bite the handle, strain to give the damn thing a turn... Your teeth slip off the smooth plastic. One more time.

 

“And she’s tryin to hold the handle with her fangs… Will that do her any good, ladies’nd gentlemen?”

 

Squeaky little voice. You don’t turn around. You don’t give him the satisfaction.

 

“This is the moment, ladies’nd gentlemen, I want to bring your attention to… And she slips again! Another grip, maybe?”

 

The handle rattles, moves about a half of a sparrow beak… And stays stuck.

 

“Claws?”

 

Your legs start to ache. Your spine is nagging. You sit, try to breathe, to look around.

 

“How about a lil extra height?”

 

You put a weighty notebook on top of lexicology, climb, reach…

 

“And she slips again! Well, ladies’nd gentlemen, that’s one lousy day for the great Felidae!”    

 

The plastic is covered with tiny scratches. Another attempt, and the damage will be spotted even by ape’s eye.

 

You spring from the windowsill, stroll to your bed, curl yourself into a loaf and close your eyes.

 

Whatever. You’ve watered them. They can go a couple of days without a fertilizing.

 

“So, we’re goin to lie around, yes?” The voice buzzes against your ear like a dumb fat bumblebee. “Yeah, let's submit to our fates like bunnies. Great and wonderful Felidae defeated by mere…”

 

You snap your teeth.

 

The rat jumps away, screeching. You’ve almost bitten the tip of his tail off. You leer at him lazily, lick your lips.

 

“You’re lucky I’m full today.”

 

He glares at you, rubs his tail with pink translucent paws…

 

They look so much like human “hands”, don’t they… How many troubles would be gone if you had such hands?  

 

“You lazy bums’re always full.”

 

You yawn. He jumps further, watches your maw warily.

 

“If you are that brainy, go ahead, open it yourself. Or is a wonderful Rattus defeated by mere window handle?”

 

His fur rises. His whiskers take the angle of forty-five degrees against his nose.

 

“Where does your screecher keep pencils and duct tape?”

 

“Second drawer to the right.”

 

You turn, stretch your back and watch as he tries his hardest to grab a round wooden knob.

 

Silly thing.

 

“And another try. And another… And he slips, ladies and gentlemen. Purrrrrhaps, we might take a commercial break.”

 

He stands before you, stomping, breathing hard.

 

Very scary.

 

“Would the wonderful mistress be so kind to help the serf to open this bloody drawer?”

 

You stretch, unsheathe your claws.

 

“Possibly. Probably. Most likely.”

 


 

 

You curl yourself next to the lexicology. He sits on the overturned cup, busy with a pencil and a piece (you had to dig through the entire bathroom for manicure scissors suitable for this clod’s paws) of duct tape.

 

He glues the tip of the pencil to the plastic handle, gives it a try. Nods. Squeezes the lever with his teeth.

 

The handle creaks, slowly, slowly starts to move…

 

You feel the frosty air, the car honks, the stomping of the hunting apes.

 

The window is opened.

 

You reach your paw out to him. He jumps away, watches you warily.

 

Finally decides to shake the given claw.

 

“I must admit, you’re quite brainy. For a rat.”

 

His whiskers rise with pride.

 

“I must admit, you're quite kind. For a cat.”

 

You headbutt him in the fluffy stomach. He squeaks and falls over. You push the books away from the ceiling, gently place the mug on the floor.

 

It’s time for you to go.

 


 

You sit in the flowerpot.

 

The trees are thin as asphalt cracks. The smoke rises from faraway chimneys. The entire town is sparkling white.

 

The rat is shaking. A snowflake lands on his nose.

 

“What on earth do you want in that cold?”

 

Technically, you can show him the answer. Your project is of little nutritional value for the rodents.

 

You turn your tail to him.

 

“Follow me, clever rat.”

 

His paws sink into the deep snow.

 

The old attic window is less tricky. You slip inside to the wet warmth to the rows of long flowerpots.

 

The rat sits on the edge of the biggest pot, looks through the warm grasses, over the lilac buds.

 

How long did it take you to collect everything? The soil, the water, the fertilizers and toothpicks for weak stems? And the seeds? Valeriana. Lemon balm. Thyme.

 

“I get it. You cats use that one as weed. This one’s a good herb. This… Don’t know, it smells nice. But this? This? This?”

 

“A hybrid.”  

 

He falls silent. Clearly, he doesn’t understand a thing. You roll your eyes.

 

“Cross-breeding. Genetics, my friend.”

 

“I KNOW what the hybrid is.”

 

He folds his paws on his stomach. He’s shaking. His fur stands on end. He tail twists like a mad worm.

 

“The mouthless. They take a big needle, shove it up the ladies” you cringe at the word. “And then something is born, something that smells weird… Not a rat… Not a mouse… Something weird… A hybrid, lots of hybrids.”

 

You touch his back with the very beans. He jolts, turns around.

 

He does not see you.

 

You check the cloth on the radiator.

 

Dry, as usual.

 

You take it in your mouth, climb on the roof, cover the tattered thing with snow, and hang the damp cloth back on the radiator.

 

The rat scratches his torn ear, wrinkles his nose.

 

Seems like he’s back.

 

“L… Listen. Do you have a spare flowerpot?”

 

“What if I do?”

 

“Wh… What if I bring my own seeds in here? Only, please, don’t turn them into…”

 

He starts to fade away.

 

“I won’t. But what’s in it for me?”

 

He clenches and unclenches his rosy fingers.

 

“I can do lots of things. Not only open windows. I know things you’ve never even dreamed of.”

 

Why, that’s easy to check, verrrrry easy to check.

 

“And what’s in it for you?”

 

He shows you the row of long yellow teeth.

 

“We don’t need apes’ kindness. We don’t need nature’s mercy. We’re not lazy bums. We're not damn rabbits, ya know.”

 

You think. You fan him with your tail.

 

It would be sweet to get a pawful of barley… Or rye… Yes, rye would be sweet…

 

“Sure. Bring whatever you want. Maybe, something will survive.”

 

You lie by his side or more precisely around his side, with your paws tucked, just for the peace of poor rat’s soul.

 

Still he’s practically ringing with fear.

 

“Now, I will take a nap. Don’t pout, tell me something nice…”

 

He takes the tip of his tail in both paws.

 

Just like an ape in a long pelt trying to cross a puddle.

 

“What, for example?”

 

“For example, something about those damn bunnies.”

 

He raises his whiskers.

 

The stink of rage is hilarious.

 

“They live through nature’s mercy. They grow fat in their lairs. They stuff each other with tales.”

 

You lower the eyelids. The bunnies float before your eyes. Bright… Green and juicy, like sweet grasses.

 

“They think of the Sun as of their friend.”

 

Francis once told you that the sun is neither a friend, nor a foe. That it’s just a big lantern, far, far away. A big. Mindless. Lantern, lit by Gods.

 

“They have officers, many officers, whom they trust like the Sun. They survive for the Sun.”

 

The long-armed sun showers the bunnies with the golden bugs.

 

Just like it did to those curly people in that book about fine old times, when apes knew their place and the word of the Felidae was sacred.

 

“They don’t build like we do, and they don’t grow like you do. They cannot read. They could once, but they forgot.  They said, it was a bad magic, those letters. They never tried to run…”

 

Something glistens in your brain. An idea for the new, superior work.

 

“They sat around waiting for food, as they were cut and stuffed with needles, as they had the sparkly threads shoved into their brains…”

 

Curly people lay out the dishes on nice-smelling plates. Liver, chicken, boneless herring.

 

Fine old times, when apes knew their place and the word of the Felidae was sacred.

 

You drift asleep.

 


 

 “Oh, Neth… Your herbs…”

 

She lies, her spine curved, behind the bowing lilac flowers. Her pupils are wide-open. The green of her irises is rich and deep.

 

“Neth… Neth…”

 

Her scent is sweetly thick.

 

She raises her tail.

 

You almost want to climb onto her. To bite the golden ear, to bury your nose in the fragrant fur…

 

Gods damn these hybrids.

 

You turn away to the pot, gently loosen the soil by the rye sprouts

 

Rattus’ specimen are fine.

 

Little by little, she comes to her senses. Turns over, licks the fur hair to hair.

 

“Nethikerti, your herbs are the gift of Gods.”

 

You move your whiskers.

 

You are starting to forget the sound of your real name, pronounced in right tongue, with the right stresses, with the clear sounds.

 

She brushes her head against your tail.

 

“What is this, o, the color of my eye?”

 

“The rye.”

 

Her ears rise, as she leans to the pot.

 

“The rye? For the bridies?”

 

“For the rats.”

 

“Oh yes… How’s your rattus, dear one?”

 

You don’t say a word. There aren’t enough words and scents to fully grasp this weirdness.

 

He can barely hold a pencil with two paws.  He jumps around the ape’s keyboard, not understanding the meaning of the buttons anymore. He sees things.

 

“There. Gave us much potion. Now not at all. Now bad.”

 

You asked him about the potion, Gods know you did. All you got were unconnected words about the bubbles and big needles.

 

You can’t make it with the plants. You need the ape reagents, the chemicals and flasks…

 

“There, dying in the corner.”

 

The pendant of her collar jingles. She turns her head.

 

“Simply dying?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And he doesn’t act odd?”

 

You turn away from the pot.

 

“And he can’t make all those rattus things anymore?”

 

You step to her.

 

“Yes.”

 

“And he struggles with elaborate concepts?”

 

You lie down.

 

“Yes…”

 

“And the grammar is not his strongest point anymore?”

 

You snort and pull out your claws.

 

“Just tell me, where you saw it. Quit playing around.”

 

She laughs, licks you on the nose.

 

“Come on, don’t be angry, o, color of my eye, you know I love to play.”

 

Not even to play. You know a better word, one from the rattus tongue, but you’re too well-bred to use it.

 

“Where I saw it? My ape has a big cage full of white mice. Five or six of them, I believe. They used to be so bright… They got me a wonderful thing, that has many, many pages, once you press the buttons.”

 

Your rattus wanted to make something like this too, but never got around to doing it.

 

“What happened to your bright ones?”

 

She scratches her ear, smiles.

 

“The same thing. But not to all of them. They managed to tell me many things. About the place, where they were stuffed with needles. About the bubbles and the needles.”

 

You look over your claws.

 

“Rodents love to squeak. Mine told me of bunnies’ cults.”

 

Her eyes light up.

 

Good bait.

 

“They begged me to help… I told them, that ape potions weren’t my line of work.”

 

Yes, her line of work are the ancient signs, the language. Her line of work are the tales of curly people and fine times.

 

“But I know someone who can help..”

 

She winks: a red eyelid drops and rises, flutters like sparrow’s wing. You don’t understand her scent.

 

“My ape has many needles, vile liquids, glasses and powders. Your ape has books, articles and notes. Do you understand me?”

 

You lower your tail, swing it from side to side.

 

“Look at me, Nethikerti. We have nothing in common appearance-wise, do we?”

 

You don’t.

 

“But in the eyes of the apes we are twins. If not for the pendants they wouldn’t tell us apart. They are dumber than blind kittens.”

 

You nod. You understand. You call your rattus.

 

“Can you undo our pendants?”

 

 He climbs on your back, grumping some unrelated words, fusses around the clasp…

 

In ten minutes, the pendants lie at your feet.

 

“Now, put this one on her, and that one on me.”

 

He obeys. He never stops grumping.

 

“Do-undo. Rattus push. Rattus thank not.”

 

You send him away with a soft clawless smack. He rolls like grey dust ball.

 

You try to explain to her how to watch over grasses.

 

She yawns. She scribbles something with her claws on the rotten floor. You watch the tiny apes, the birds, the circled dots…

 

“Too difficult, don’t you think?”

 

She hangs her whiskers.

 

“I do, I do, o, my color. Sounds difficult, the writing is difficult. There’s much to work on.”

 

“Will you see me to my new home?”

 

She sniffs your tail.

 

“Will you tell me about bunny cults?”

 

The tiny creeks flow across the streets. Wet ape kittens follow newspaper ships.

 

It’s spring again.

 


 

“Ladies… Gentlecats…”

 

They don’t understand you anymore. The tongue is quick. Now, they give names. They leave the rows of smelly lines and dots to each other.

 

Her love watches you, swings her tail with pride.

 

Is that what you wanted?

 

You nod, you strain to smile.

 

“Hanraj-ua!”

 

Twenty golden heads turn to you. You cough. You shake.

 

Good old CO isn’t so good for lungs, huh, Francis?

 

You allow her to climb onto your place. She raises her paw, licks a drop of melted snow off the beans.

 

“We know how much the apes love their computer branches. We know that every attempt to establish contact leaves the poor things… Perplexed.”

 

The better word is insane, but alright, alright, continue.

 

“We know their tongues. We know their things. We can climb on their branches. We can speak to them. But the risk is too great.”

 

Every nod brings you the smell of late escape, almost under the very nose of a sleepy ape. She breathes deep, raises her whiskers.

 

“We can’t use those clumsy ape computers forever. We something of our own, but our paws can’t do such mouse-work.”

 

They grow alert. They understand.

 

“We need rodents.”

 

They shrink back. They whisper and shake their heads, covering their noses with fine paws. A glowing beauty laughs by three faithful husbands.

 

“Domesticating apes, making friends with rats, sleeping in dog kennels.” She lies on her back, admires her long claws. The light dances in her eyes. “That’s very… Sweet. But not  quite in our way.”

 

Someone hems. You barely turn your head. Neth watches the crowd lazily, from beneath half-lowered eyelids. She speaks, low and deep.

 

It’s quiet enough to hear the water tapping on the street.

 

“Our way is see dreams and sleep all the day long, bearing warm kittens. That’s very… Sweet. But in it’s right time.”

 

Nobody dares to object.

 

Because, hey, how many of those round-bellied lassies got their backs gnawed by her fangs?

 

“Yes. They do care for us and bring us home, but they neither know, nor hear. We need to domesticate them. We need their computer branches and woods. We need to save everything we know till the last line.”

 

T hey purr, their voices merge into one thick, approving hum. Her lover watches her with and admiring scent.

 

“Whether we want it, or not, little mice need lube for their little brains. So, who wants to help the beasties to save their minds and to call the apes to the claw?”

 

Four of the beauty’s husbands crawl to Neth with their ears pressed to their heads. Five cats follow.

 

Seven tails lie by her love. She calls one of them, whispers something in his golden ear.

 

In their shadow, you smile and wheeze.

 


 

“See you, Tappy.”

 

Tiny-tiny ape kitten hugs you, till your ribs creak. She reeks of extra-vitamin “milk” (that artificial garbage she brings home in small blue packages).

 

You wash your maw for a lo-o-ong time.

 

In her father’s study you spring on a soft rolling chair. It’s grey… It’s soft… It’s beckoning…

 

Come on, lie down for seven or eight hours, till the apes start fussing around.

 

You bite the tip of your tail.

 

Pull yourself together. Smell. Listen.

 

Too much. If the chemicals weren’t locked in their aquarium, you definitely would go mad.  Scorched chicken. Ape sweat. Some smelly bitter goo in yellow mug. Mice hills.

 

You lick your nose, turn around.

 

They’re right in front of you. You can hear the movements of tiny tails, the quiet squeak, the fine mix of acids and minerals, like the one of your own rattus.

 

You open your eyes.

 

A book case. Another one. And another, covered with a white sheet. The chemicals’ aquarium: the colorful signed labels glisten like scales.

 

You roll your chair to it.

 

So much work. So many possibilities.

 

You purr looking at the clean beakers, notice a movement from the corner of your eye.

 

The sheet. The frantic squeaks behind it.

 

You bite the dusty cloth, pull…

 

The cage floor is covered with sand. One white mouse runs round and round. Another scratches the wall.

 

The rest of them huddle together in the corner, look at you with small red eyes.

 

“Hanuvat?”

 

You raise your whiskers.

 

That’s who she tried it on, your noble, sweet tongue. On the laboratory mice, by Gods…

 

You sigh. They shiver. The biggest wide-eyed one steps to you.

 

“We’ve done little, hanuvat. We won’t make it. The two of us are already lost.”

 

They surround those two, stroke them with small pink paws, staring at you.

 

“We’re scared, hanuvat. But we’re working.”

 

You pick the lock with one movement of your claw.

 

Rattus’ lesson.

 

“Show it.”

 

“Sure, sure, right away, hanuvat!”

 

You raise your ears.

 

Something tells you there used to be more of them.

 

The healthy ones sprint by, jump on the floor, move a baseboard piece , disappear.

 

“Where are they going?”

 

He’s digging the sand quickly.

 

Gods… Is he going mad too?

 

“For the supplies, hanuvat, for the supplies. Now look here!”

 

A golden plate. Five claws long, four claws wide.

 

He pulls some tiny lever, presses the button – the screen lights up. He jumps from key to key – the screen fills with lines, dots and circles.

 

Welcome!

 

“You can keep many lines in here. Six ape pages – not much, but we’re trying, Gods see, we…”

 

He sniffs sharply. Jolts. Jumps away.

 

“You… Are not her…”

 

Oh, really?

 

You press the keys with the tips of your claws.

 

Funny thing that Gods chose these idiots for the gift of crafting.

 

“Your hanuvat send me here. How do I delete that?”

 

“The triangle key, hanuvat.”

 

He grips the tip of his tail.

 

“It’ll be much easier, if some of you remember anything except for needles and bubbles.”

 

He wrinkles his nose, scrubs the scar on his belly.

 

“Little, hanuvat, very little. We’ve been living there for many years, before the Quiet One brought us here. He was the one with needles and bubbles.”

 

Well, that’s something isn’t it?

 

You push the plate away.

 

The father ape must have something left.

 


 

 

You’ve been sitting in front of the clumsy ape screen for two hours. The mice sway before the TV, looking at their cartoony dancing brother.

 

Lines. Many lines.

 

“Purpose: the study of the swimming abilities of the average dog. A dog (mixed Labrador) is placed in the open tank of lukewarm water. When the firs symptoms of drowning begin to manifest artificial ventilation is to be performed. Time of experiment: 5-6 hrs.”

 

You don’t like dogs. Any cat doesn’t. But by Gods…

 

“Purpose: the study of the influence of social isolation on average chimpanzee. A male chimpanzee is placed in a ventilated, sound-proof tank. Time: to be defined »

 

A hairy ape sits in the iron barrel. Hours pass… Then days… Then weeks…

 

Cartoon he-mouse kisses a cartoon she-mouse. Your idiots sigh in awe and press their trembling paws to their hearts.

 

“Gentlemice?”

 

They turn around.

 

“Don’t you think you should do something useful?”

 

“Purpose: the study of the influence of electric shock on the brain activity of an average rabbit. A female rabbit undergoes trepanation. The electric wires are inserted.  The time: 2-3 minutes. The maximum voltage: to be defined.” 

 

They sat around waiting for food, as they were cut and stuffed with needles, as they had the sparkly threads shoved into their brains…

 

“The purpose: the study of effects of declawing on the mental well-being of the house cat. A male cat….”

 

Your fur stands on end.

 

Great wisdom demands great suffering.

 

That’s what Francis says. That’s what brother Claudandus used to say.

 

Maybe it demands. But nobody, neither a cat, nor a dog, a wise or a foolish one, deserves it.

 

Mice take the miniature hammers, drills and nails out of the warm sand.

 

Dogs, monkeys, rabbits, cats… Rats and mice.

 

“Purpose: the study of intellectual abilities of various rodents. An adult rodent is injected with NIMH №2189”

 

Not a word about the contents. Not a word about the dosage.

 

You scratch the number on a sticky yellow paper.

 

Behind your back, the air is filled with a soft, long squeak – the mice sing as they work.

 


 

The head mouse continues running around his plate. You’re almost ready to eat him.

 

There’re only three left.

 

The others arrange a leather (that’s where ape’s old wallet went) harness around him.

 

“Are you going to ride him?”

 

His successor flinches, presses the paws to her round belly.

 

These ones will almost definitely be mindless from birth.

 

“No, hanuvat, we’ll only use him for transporting. There’s nothing in there, hanuvat.”

 

Her thin little voice is shaking.

 

She turns away, puts her instruments into the empty teabag. You move your whiskers and spread the folded piece of paper.

 

You’ve killed three days to find it. An hour to decipher the ape’s writing, fifteen minutes to find the needed chemicals. An eternity to find the correct percentage and dosage.

 

Because somebody didn’t bother to write things down, nine brainy heads break their tails over this stupid potion, catching mindless mice, cutting mindless mice, poisoning mindless mice.

 

You look at the successor. She strains to lift the matchbox, fails, falls on her back. You push the box to her. You don’t say a thing.

 

She lights the match. Does her best to merge two wires together.

 

She may talk gibberish about the little mouselings in her belly all she wants. You both know her hind legs will fail her soon.

 

You can hear somebody mewing behind the front door. You rise from your warm seat.

 

“Nose, m’lady.”

 

You raise the cat door...

 

And barely keep yourself from hissing.

 

He cocks his head, sniffs. His nose is really a wonder – pink, with beautifully curved nostrils and an elaborate pattern.

 

The hide around it is completely smooth.

 

You barely make out what used to be eye-sockets under the red fur.

 

He looks like a toy that got its eyes torn off by an ape kitten.

 

“Rabbit and turkey stew. Holl Company. Packed yesterday, I presume?”

 

You try to direct him to the kitchen.

 

He silently shows his claws.

 


 

He lies down by your plate, shows his teeth.

 

Gods, he’s five or so.

 

You turn away from the eyeless gaze. Wait, till he’s full and ask:

 

“How did it happen?”

 

He licks his fangs.

 

“Pests. Eye pests.”

 

You cringe.

 

“Don’t pitty me, m’lady. I don’t want your petty. I’m not blind. I feel the liquid your mistress uses to wash the floor, I feel the dry paint n this wall. I feel the strange mice you keep in this house.”

 

You nod and follow him to the study.

 

He jumps on the rolling chair and sniffs the potion draft. Wrinkles his nose in distaste.

 

You summon the successor.

 

She climbs on the table. She doesn’t flinch at the sight of Nose. She doesn’t squeak. She simply bows and whispers.

 

“Good evening, r’haraj.”

 

He lies down before her, puts his maw on his paws.

 

“That’s a jolly odd word to hear from a little mouse. I heard it many times. What’s it? Some new talk?”

 

You swing your tail slightly.

 

“Old and new and different. Get to the point.”

 

He breathes deep, shows the tip of the tongue, licks the white fur. The mouse doesn’t dare to move.

 

You move the draft to him. He moves his ears, “watches” the ceiling intently.

 

“Wrong, m’lady, completely wrong. Take the clean glass… There you go… Now, pour this, spicy one by two claws. Add this powder. A pinch of that salt. And a few drops of this bitter thing.”

 

You barely scratch the numbers on the table.

 

“Now, we need fire.”

 

The mouse lights the burner without any orders. At his words, she removes the glass from the fire.

 

He bends to the potion so low, that you start to worry he might burn his whiskers.

 

“Yes… Now’s good… Now’s fine… Add three drops of this potion to three claws of water, and there you have it.”

 

Compared to that, finding the right dosage will be a piece of trout.

 

You see him to the door.

 

“Nose?”

 

“Yes, m’lady?”

 

“Those pests… Did you have them since birth?”

 

He grins.

 

“No, m’lady. They just… Came one less than fortunate day.”

 

“And your sense of smell?”

 

He purrs, raises his tail with pride.

 

“Oh, I had it since I was a kitten. Back then, I could name every flower of my mistress’ garden without looking at it.”

 

You should definitely have a word or two with good old Francis.

 

“I might call upon you this spring. Thank you.”

 

Nose bows. You watch as he strolls down the concrete road and vanishes to the grey and black night mist.

 

You should add someone on your list of potential paramours.