Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Hermy walked out his front door early one hopeful morning. He stretched his tiny paws towards the sun and sighed with the simple kind of happiness that only the fresh, crisp air of early spring can bring.
He lived with his mouse family in a Lilliputian burrow in the gnarled roots of a grand magnolia tree. The fragrant waxy blooms were just starting
to drop their pink-tinged petals. Last year, he and his siblings had played hide and seek around the base of the tree, the petals were like overturned boats on a beach- perfect hidey places. When the game was over, the perfumed mice added the jasminny scent to their burrow, much to their mother’s delight.
This spring Hermy had a mission- he wanted to fly. Actually, the obsession had only festered all through the snowy winter, occupying every spare minute of his thoughts.
From the time he could walk, he had snuck outside every night, no matter how frigid the earth, no matter the ominous hooting from the hills to the north. His eyes, round and shining like black drops of dew, took in the vast starscape- a clear night sky made his jaw drop and trapped his breath in his lungs. Sometimes the moon smiled fatly down; sometimes only a sliver glowed, like the fingernail of God.
Then at last, they came. Their fluttering ebony silhouettes pirouetted through the magnolia branches and high into the twinkling ballroom of the sky.
Bats! They were mice with wings! He’d finally exhale, jealousy and admiration fighting a battle in his heart. When the last of the flying mice chased its brothers and sisters out of sight, Hermy sighed and went to bed. He dreamt of flying of course.
Normally, when he awoke in the morning, he felt a kind of melancholy that ached from knowing he was doomed to be weighted to the ground.
Today was different, however. Today he had a plan. He ate a bit of bread with peanut butter and tip-toed outside before any of his siblings could sound the morning alarm and wake the parents, they were as rackety as a tin shed full of roosters!
There would be feathers amongst the old damp leaves of winter, and plenty of them. He gathered over twenty the first day, most were taller than him but very light, he struggled to keep his feet when a breeze brisked up. By the third day, he had collected at least fifty. He hid them in a grassy ditch and covered them with leaves.
At farmer Gruman’s big red barn he squeezed through a knothole and skittered across the dry dirt floor like a tiny grey puff of smoke. He made off with a ball of twine. On the porch of the charming white ranch house across the yard, old Gruman’s wife sat rocking and mending shirts.
He waited until she went inside to refresh her lemonade, then he skittered to the sewing basket and snatched a spool of thread and a needle. He raced back to his hiding spot.
When he rounded the boulder next to the hidden ditch he ran right smack into the tail of a blue jay. The jay spun around, in her beak were three of Hermy’s feathers!
“Stop thief! Those belong to me!” he shrieked at the jay who was at least four times his size.
The cobolt blue bird cawed, “Ha! Finders, keepers!”
Hermy said, “I found them first, I hid them here for safe keeping.”
“Feathers belong to birds, what do you want them for anyways?”
Hermy looked at the smarmy bird with pleading eyes, “I want to fly.” And he sighed, figuring the jay would just laugh and steal his feathers.
The jay laughed and stole his feathers.
Hermy brushed his frustration aside, “Go choke on a toadstool!” he yelled in the bird’s wake.
He found a superior hiding spot- a hollow under a spongey, mossy old log.
At the supper table that evening, his three siblings chattered away. “We made a bridge today! At Monty’s Creek!” exclaimed Janey.
“Well, it was really just a couple of sticks,” added Hammy.
Janey said, “It’s a bridge.”
Hammy rolled his eyes. Jenni looked from Hammy to Janey and back, but she refused to take sides.
Mother said, “You were out early this morning again Hermy, what sort of mischief have you been up to?”
Hermy shrugged, “Just looking for mushrooms, watching the clouds, you know, the usual…” There was no way he would tell anyone about his plan. His parents would forbid it and his siblings would say he was dumb.
His dad said, “As long as you stay clear of Gruman’s place. Heard they got a new cat, a saucy young Siamese.”
“Sure dad, no problem.”
The next morning, Hermy again slipped into the misty iris colored dawn and down to his hidey-hole. He heard the obnoxious squawk of a jay bird and froze. He waited until the bird’s voice receded, then recovered his stash of supplies.
He made a harness from the rope then sewed the feathers together and then to the harness. He slipped one of the straps around his neck and climbed up the tallest tree he could find.
At the top, He wriggled into the harness and put his arms through the loops on the wings. It had taken all day, the sky now a deep indigo in the east.
He said a short prayer...and leapt into midair!
He glided downwards quite gracefully. Then panicked a bit when the ground came up faster than he expected! He flapped for downwind and soared upwards towards the sheeplike clouds that whisked away in his slipstream.
“I’m flying!!!” he shouted gleefully. His cheeks ached from grinning, while his mouth dried of all moisture; his whiskers quiverd against his face like mosquito wings.
The brave little mouse flew over Gruman’s farm, over the woods, the meadow, and finally to the edge of town.
Town was dangerous, “time to turn around.” He tried changing direction and suddenly the feathers splayed apart, some coming loose!
He fell into a dizzy spiral, plummeting to earth, his wings a ratty mess behind him.
A great gust of wind blew him against a chimney that was at the top of a three-story house. “OOF!”
He was stunned for a bit and pretty bruised. “Grrrrrr” He growled as he kicked the whole mess of feathers off the roof. They fumped softly and mockingly to the ground. He slid down a gutter pipe until he came to a wood molding sticking out half an inch. His wee paws pattered over to a window.
The window had been shattered, a delinquent softball perhaps? He eased through the window, being wary of the razor-sharp shards- angler’s teeth- embedded in the frame. He used the dilapidated lace curtain as a ladder to descend to the night table. It was dark, with only a reflected strip of moonlight from the window. He climbed down the table’s leg and hopped to the bare wooden floor. He waited for a minute, ears perked, and stomach filled with ants, until his eyes adjusted to the gloom. “The door!”
Hermy raced to it…
…And wiped out as he tripped over something. He fell flat on his poor bruised nose and skidded a foot. When he got to his feet, he saw the leg.
A bird’s leg. The blue jay thief- it lay silent and as unmoving as a tombstone.
“Serves you right for stealing my feathers!” He again headed for the door, rubbing his nose gently. Shadow branches from the tree outside fell across the dusty grey boards, reaching towards him like arachnid limbs.
He heard a Harpy’s raspy voice, “stawwwwwwp. Stawwwwwp.” He froze…then realized it was just those same branches raking the windowsill. He paused at the door.
Hermy turned around and looked at the bird. “Grrr. Rotten So-and-So!”
“But if I leave her to die, I’ll be just as bad.” He thought, “She’ll haunt me forever.”
Hermy went back and felt the bird’s chest. She was breathing. Glittering shards of glass lay around the bird like a halo of diamonds. She had obviously been the crasher through the window.
Hermy gently pulled the bird’s wings open and found a ragged hole at the top of the bird’s left wing. She’d lost several feathers, the wing was crusty with blood. Bee-bee gun? As he gently felt her wings for broken bones she moaned and came to, he moved away into shadow.
The bird groaned then tested her wings. She winced as tears leaked from her clenched shut eyes. She opened them and sighed, folding her wings carefully against her body.
Hermy came out of the darkness and looked into her watering eyes.
The bird sat silent for a while as she brushed twinkling bits of glass from her feathers.
“I apologize for my behavior when we first met. My mate was killed by a bobcat just as we were building our nest. My eggs are due any day, I wasn’t in my right mind, I should never have stolen from you. I’m Matty by the way.”
Hermy said, “I’m sorry about your mate, that’s just awful. If I’d known why you wanted them, I’d have given them to you. I was saving the feathers for a stupid cause anyways.”
Matty asked, “What cause?”
“I wanted to fly.” Hermy said, feeling dumb and slumping his shoulders, “It’s dumb. I know, but bats are mice with wings, I thought I could fly too.”
The bird said, “I totally get it. Next to my babies, flying is my greatest joy. Though I’m not so sure I can at the moment.”
“Let’s get out of here, I have a bad feeling about this creepy place.” said the mouse.
“You bet! C’mon!”
Their eyes were suddenly assaulted by bright overhead light!
A tall human in a long white robe glided in, clasping his bony clawed fingers to his chest, “What is this?! New subjects at my door!” His eyes,
bulbous behind his coke bottle lenses, took notice of the shattered glass, “Or I should say ‘window’” He cackled like an obsidian windchime. “Very nice indeed.” He said as he rubbed his shiny black gloves together. They made grotesque squelching sounds.
He was as bony as a rickety ladder, bald and stooped, strongly resembling a Mr.Burns with a chest length frizzy white beard. His heavy glasses slid to the end of his nose. He peered over them as if spying a last tender morsel in his soup. His liver-colored lips curled upwards at the ends, like a .rubberband.
As he came closer, the mouse realized it wasn’t a robe after all, but a lab coat, complete with speckled bits of what looked like brain matter and red gore. He pushed the glasses up his greasy bridge and said, “What do you think Simon? Is this our lucky day or what?”
He turned slightly and Simon, a mangey scrawny Siamese cat, padded into the room. The cat licked its lips, its tattered ears pressed firmly to its head, his eyes glowing malevolently.
The terrible cat lunged with surprising speed and caught Hermy in his jaws. Burns scooped up Matty in his slick rubber-clad hands.
Down into the bowls of the terrible house they went. Through decrepit halls miles long, down rickety narrow stairs that complained with every step.
Finally, the basement. Creepy Burns turned on the overhead fluorescents. He opened a cage on a shelf and shoved Matty inside. He then took the mouse from the cat and also deposited him in a cage. The cage was across from Matty’s.
There were many stinking cages. Some with alive animals, some with still fur lumps. There were two whole shelves holding at least a dozen jars, each one containing a horror worse than the one next to it. In the hazy liquid depths faces floated. Mouths agape with silent screams and many cloudy eyes wide with the terror.
On the steel table between them towered a confusion of tubing, vials, bottles, and shiny metal machines with colorful dials and glass windows with spinning needles.
When Burns and Simon left, they turned out the lights. Dim light fought its way in from a small window high in the back wall. Red machine
lights blinked on and off like devil’s eyes.
“We’re going to end up in a jar, aren’t we?”
Matty stifled a sob.
Another voice floated from the gloomy depths of the chilly room, “I may be next. I’ve been here for two weeks already.”
Hermy zoned in on the voice and found it came from a cage to his left. He gasped as a face came to the bars. It was a small brown rabbit with its
eyes sewn shut. The ugly black stitches leaked silvery wetness and its fur was matted with bloody scabs. Its ears drooped in despair.
“We have been here for three I think.” Said a pretty white mouse. Next to her sat a catatonic twin. “There were three of us.” Her ruby red eyes
involuntarily shifted to the jars on the lower of the shelves. A small white body was suspended in a clear solution, looking much fresher than the rest
though all four of her limbs ended in tiny stumps.
Hermy’s blood was freon in his veins. Matty shivered uncontrollably. Then he noticed a furry brown lump in the cage to the right of Matty’s.
“Who’s in that one?” he asked the white mouse, pointing at the cage.
“W-w-ha…?” the furry lump moaned. The creature unfolded slowly. It looked black in the low light, with long gangly limbs and even longer tail.
“I’m okay…” it groaned as it turned to face the cage front. His face was white in the dim light. A monkey?! “Hey, I’m Archie.”
“Woah!” exclaimed Hermy, “I’ve heard of monkeys but never thought I’d see one.”
“W-w-where am I?” Archie said, “Last I remember, I was in the zoo’s vet’s office. He gave me a tranquilizer to operate on my goiter….” the
monkey pawed at his neck. “At least it’s gone now.” And he actually smiled. (It must have been quite painful.)
“We’re in a mad scientist’s laboratory.” Said Hermy. “And we’ll all end up in jars if we don’t get out of here.”
“If I could get out, I could open all the cages.” said the monkey.
Just then a soft scratching sound came from the high little window.
“Shhhh!” Said Hermy with authority.
In the gloom, the scratching continued.
There was a cat door in the human door. Clip-clop went the flap as it opened and closed. The old scrawny cat padded to the wall under the
“What are you doing here?” Simon asked the figure at the window.
The figure replied, “I miss you Pop.” sniffle
“It’s too dangerous here! Please go back to your new home. I’ve heard it’s a nice ranch with kind people.” Simon added, “I love you Princess.
But please don’t come back, keep safe.”
Another sniffle. The cat shadow at the window turned away.
“Wait!” Hermy cried out desperately.
Simon froze and turned his weary head towards the feisty mouse. The small Siamese in the window perked her ears and waited for the mouse to speak.
“Simon, why do you do that evil’s man’s bidding? What’s he got on you?” asked the wee mouse.
Simon slumped like an old worn-out tire. “He took my beloved Sarafina. Ten years ago. I followed but there was nothing I could do. He told me
to be in his service would save her life.” Simon shook his head sadly, “she died five years ago. We had five kittens when he took her. Two went feral out
into the woods, three went into town to be picked up off the street, hopefully to good homes. Princess, up there,” he pointed to the window, “Just found a
home on a farm.”
“Yes! The Gruman’s!” exclaimed Hermy. “I know the place! They are kind people and will take you in too. Live out your days with your
“I’d given up on life after Sarafina died. He said he didn’t have anything to do with her death but that’s all he’s about- cruelty, death. My heart
says he’s not innocent…I’m in.”
Princess, being the runt of her litter, was small, sleek, and quick as a whisper. Ironically, she’d been adopted as a mouser. She contorted her
sinewy frame through the narrow opening in the window. “Here I come Papa!” she said as she took a leap of faith to the floor.
Simon caught his daughter. She immediately hopped to the table with wings invisible. She took a few frustrating minutes to open the monkey
cage. Archie leapt out, and within under another minute, unlatched all the cages with living beings still in them.
At the rabbit’s cage, with the door open, the rabbit said, “I have my part to play. It’s not out there, but here, with my last friends.”
The monkey nodded gravely and gave her a hug, he didn’t have an audible voice at that moment, just sobs. Then the acrobat grabbed tubing from
the table and easily scaled the wall to the window.
In the hallway outside, a scary man with a scary screech! “What’s going on in there?! Simon!”
As the door flew open the crazy man saw the last of his captive’s tails slip through the window. The tail was a cat’s- long and scruffy grey with
black at the tip.
“AAAAAAhhh!” he screeched as he flew into a rage and whirled around. He saw the blind rabbit on the steel table. She turned her tail into the
small Bunsen burner flame. It lit as a torch. She pulled the tubing from the tall metal stacks and the gases ignited in a flash. Her last heroic effort was to
leap upon the man’s white coat…he became a torch.