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"This won't hurt, Mr. Whiskers." Katrina said as she wrapped her fingers around the pudgy body of her favorite rat.
"You shouldn't make friends with those wretched creatures." Sasha said. She moved in with the syringe. "Just hold it still, will you?"
"You aren't vermin, Mr. Whiskers, are you?" Katrina touched noses with the sniffing rodent.
"Don't make me sick."
"Do you ever wonder what we're putting in our furry friends?"
"If it were really important they'd have one hundred thousand dollar-a-year scientists working on it in some secret lab in New Mexico. Let's not get carried away."
"But, what if we're filling my sweet baby with cancer causing agents?" Katrina turned Mr. Whiskers to face Sasha. "How could you hurt a face like this?"
"With a shovel. Now hold him still."
"Oh well, time for your medicine Mr. Whiskers."
The experienced hands inserted the needle, delivered the fluid and withdrew with a flick. Mr. Whiskers didn't seem to notice.
Katrina, with a sparkle in her eye, looked up at her dark haired friend. "Doctor Mortimer must have a file in his office on this experiment."
"No, no, no. You're not dragging me into another stupid adventure!"
"He claims to have an open door policy. He says we can come see him anytime we need help."
"That's not what he meant."
"Don't do it for the adventure, me, or even them." Katrina waved an arm towards the cages. "Do it for yourself. What kind of peace of mind can you have knowing you've killed these little creatures, and not know if it is truly worth it?"
"Six fifty an hour, we're not paid enough to care."
"It would help my peace of mind." Katrina's face sank to doleful pleading.
"You're going to keep this up until I give in aren't you?"
Katrina’s smile became devious.
"Okay, let's get this over with."
"Good. Come on Mr. Whiskers."
"You're not bringing that along?"
"He has a right to know what he's dying for, doesn't he?"
With a sigh, Sasha swung her arms to the door. "Shall we?"
They closed the lab door behind them. The hall was dark. Bright streaks and splotches filtered in from streetlights, through storage rooms and labs. The floors of the venerable building creaked under their weight.
Mr. Whiskers stood on Katrina's shoulder, sniffing at the air.
Sasha broke the silence. "It's nice you brought that rat along."
"You hear that Mr. Whiskers, Sasha likes you."
"Yeah, right. If we run into anything that the rat doesn't scare away, we can sacrifice the little beast to it."
"Cover your ears Mr. Whiskers, you don't want to hear things like that."
As if in response, the white rodent squeaked a high howl and jumped from Katrina's shoulder. Both women watched in stunned silence as the skinny tail disappeared under the archeology storage room door.
Katrina turned to Sasha; her mouth twisted into an apologetic smile. "Oops."
"You realize what will happen if we don’t get that creature back? The test will be ruined, we'll be fired, and maybe expelled, if we’re lucky."
Katrina was the first to the door. The knob rattled as she violently turned it one way, then the other. "Oh, great, it's locked."
She knelt down, putting her face to the floor. "Mr. Whiskers," she called under the door.
Sasha pulled a flat piece of metal from her pocket, and inserted it into the keyhole.
The rattling caused Katrina to look up. "Give it up Sasha, you can't pick a lock."
"These ancient ones are more of a challenge, but it should be...” The handle turned and the door opened. "Voila."
Katrina stood up. "When did you learn to do that?"
"Ryan Miller, a guy from high school, his father was a lock smith." Sasha said as she headed into the room.
"Why didn't you tell me before? You know what we can do with this?"
"Sorry, girl, I only use my powers for good. Except once, but that was a special case."
Katrina raised her eyebrows.
"That was you?"
They walked past row upon row of shelving. Dusty boxes, books, and occasional artifacts filled the room from ceiling to floor.
"Well," Katrina pleaded, "give, give."
"I was dancing with him at this party."
"Ooh..." Katrina said looking down an isle.
"Yeah, until Susie Hatchmiere walked by. She flashed her baby blues and he was gone. Bang, just like that, and I was left standing on the dance floor alone."
"Justifiable homicide," Katrina's voice seethed.
"Un huh," Sasha intoned
"But still, I think you went overboard on revenge."
"Maybe a little." Sasha shrugged.
A squeak came from further back in the room.
"Sh…," Sasha shushed holding up her hand.
There was a faint glowing beyond the next row of shelving. The two women edged around to the aisle. Near the end, Mr. Whiskers lay on his belly and squeaked quietly. Before him was a miniature shrine, the size you’d expect to see under a Christmas tree. It was dirty and pieces were obviously missing from the twisted root that it must have been carved from. A halo shone around it, bluish white, with occasional flashes of green.
The two women stared at each other, fumbling for words. The squeaking fell into a rhythm.
“A chant?” asked Katrina.
“Look, we have an escaped lab rat. Stay focused on that. Block everything else out.”
Katrina rolled her eyes in amazement. “How can I not…”
Sasha cut her off. “I’ll circle around to the other side. It’ll be trapped between us. We grab it and go. Don’t look back.”
Sasha left her open-mouthed friend and hurried down the next aisle. From the other side she was much closer to the escapee. Katrina, at the other end, seemed to have more control of herself.
The two closed in on the prone animal. Sasha scooped it up and sprinted towards her friend.
One step, two steps, Sasha closed to within an arm’s length of Katrina. A light, like a dozen flashbulbs, exploded behind Sasha.
Katrina blinked furiously, trying to clear the white fog from her sight. Sasha grabbed her wrist. “What have you done now?”
“Me? You’re the one who grabbed the rat.”
A high-pitched voice, too high to boom, boomed. “Let my pilgrim go.”
Sasha ripped her hand away from Katrina.
Again the voice boomed, “let my pilgrim go!”
“I think he means Mr. Whiskers, Sasha.”
“Oh,” Sasha dropped the rat and turned. Before her stood a seven-foot tall rat. It’s fur white and inviting as that of a baby seal’s. Mr. Whiskers scurried to the figure and climbed up the giant. He nestled, blanketed in the white fluff on his host’s shoulder.
The huge beast cracked a caricature smile gazing on the little rat.
Sasha put her arm around Katrina and tiptoed away from the apparition.
“Wait, humans. Why have you tortured my children?”
Katrina spoke up. “We aren’t torturing them. We look after them, like a country club.”
“This pilgrim says that you are kind, although given to silliness and undignified behavior with his kin. But you,” It said looking at Sasha, “torture them with all sorts of picking and probing, leaving many of them sick.”
Sasha cleared her throat. “I’m just trying to help.”
“You keep them locked up, prisoners.”
“No, no,” Katrina responded. “Those are condos, luxury apartments. Look, I don’t know what Mr. Whiskers has been telling you, but all the others are happy with their accommodations.”
“That’s right,” Sasha added. “They are fed regularly and want for nothing.”
“Except freedom. My disciples need to roam, to scurry about. Can they come and go as they please?”
“We let them out regularly for exercise.” Katrina crossed her fingers behind her back.
“So, they have been out today?” The monster hissed as it stepped closer.
The two women looked at each other. Katrina shrugged.
Sasha looked from the Katrina to the creature. “Was it my turn to put out the rats? Maybe this once…”
“Enough! Take me to my subjects”
The women turned and started walking. As they rounded the corner, they sprinted for the door. Two strides into flight they were thrown to the ground. Their bodies flopped to the wooden floor; their arms and legs lay limp.
“What is this thing?” Sasha asked looking up at the giant rodent.
“I am the god of nature,” it beamed with pride.
“The god of nature is a 7 foot tall rat?” Katrina asked.
“Yeah, I thought it was Mother Nature.”
“Humans,” the god of nature said in disgust. He focused his gaze on each or them. In turn, they regained control of their limbs. “Now, lead on.”
Sasha and Katrina entered the lab. They gingerly made their way opposite the door, by the windows.
The great beast lumbered in, cocooned in silence. It scanned the room quickly. Its fur turned gray and bristly. The perfect white teeth yellowed. Its pink eyes burned red. “Let my people go!”
Both women were too stunned to move.
A shrill screech shot out from the god of nature, shattering all the glass with in the room. Katrina and Sasha clamped their hands over their ears.
Objects began flying about the room, first papers and pencils, followed by a throng of books, cages and furniture. In the center, Mr. Nature morphed. His fur, matted and dense, stuck out from his body in clumped barbs. Crooked black teeth filled the ragged hole of his mouth.
Everything in the room spun around the screeching fiend.
The whirlwind tossed Katrina against the wall. She slumped to the floor in a heap.
Sasha collided with a flying chair and spun to the ground. She called to her fallen friend, but the roar of the wind beat back her voice. Flat on the floor, she dragged her body forward; the relentless wind beating back at her with debris.
Above it all the screeching din of the raging god prevailed.
Sasha gasped for breath. The air seemed to be sucked away before she could breath in.
Katrina raised her head and looked around dizzily.
With her last strength, Sasha called to her.
Katrina rose, as if to walk. The wind took her immediately and sent her careening at her friend. They tumbled together crashing against innumerable objects in the maelstrom. They came to rest in a small eddy in the corner of the room.
“Looks like we’ve really done it this time,” Sasha said.
Katrina struggled to catch her breath. Between gasps, she managed to get out, “…one last crazy idea.”
She struggled to her feet and helped Sasha to her side. Cupping her hands around her mouth, she yelled with all the strength she could muster, “You’re not a god! You’re a wimpy rodent whose only talent is passing a lot of wind! A side show freak!”
Sasha gripped Katrina tightly, “Wha…”
The beast glared at them and let loose with a roar. The wind hit like a freight train, crashing them through the window frame and thirty feet into the yard.
They came to rest near an old maple tree. The earth rumbled beneath their feet like ground zero. The crack of a hundred thunder bolts burst through the air.
A tornado erupted from the building and leaped to the sky, where clouds furiously gathered around it. Debris shot out in all directions. Just in time, the friends pulled themselves behind the tree. When they dared to look out, the tornado was terrorizing the school’s ball field and heading to the local trailer park.
Katrina whistled. “What do you suppose the god of nature has against trailer parks?”
Sasha brushed her disheveled hair from her face and stared at her wide-eyed friend, her rage building.
“Let’s go check it out, you said. No one will ever know. It’s for the good of the animals! It‘ll put our minds at ease.
“Well, how are we going to explain this?” Sasha pointed to the hole in the ground where the science building once stood.”
Katrina stared at the mess of scrap wood and broken glass, and shrugged. A tuft of soiled white pulled itself from the wreckage and ambled towards Katrina.
“Mr. Whiskers!” she shouted.
“Of course it would survive. It’s the mammal’s cockroach.
"Well, let's go," Sasha said with a sigh. "No reason to hang around here."
"Guess not. Hey, you know I have a friend who runs a kennel. Maybe we could..."
"No! no, I had enough of animals for my life, thank you very much."
"But nothing, the next thing you know we'll be finding out that the god of war is a dog."
The two walked away from the wreckage with Mr. Whiskers perched quietly upon Katrina's shoulder.
"Live to fight another day?" Katrina asked.
"Live to fight another day." Sasha responded
Mr. Whiskers squeaked.
kerochan - Great story! I wanted to test out the new rating system. This one deserved five stars.
It started out promising but fell flat
What a fun story! Great characters.
This story has been viewed: 6373 times.
by Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
by Timothy O. Goyette