Wednesday 6 July 2005

Of Mice and Men

History gives us many tales of heroism, stories so rich with human courage that men's hearts are filled with admiration and purpose. The accounts of those who have fought for freedom down the ages have always ranked amongst mankind's greatest moments.

Few stories, however, have so touched the soul so powerfully as the tale of Daniel, the young mouse caught up in events beyond his understanding, swept by currents of history from his simple life in a simple home to despair and terror.

For our young hero was happy in his life; food was plentiful (the carpet being littered with crumbs, having not seen the underside of a vacuum for many months), pets of any kind were absent (due to draconian tenancy arrangements) and the disarray of the house left many convenient places for young Daniel to hide.

So it was that the little creature went to bed one night, safe in his bed of cast-off garments and forgotten brochures. His life of comfort was forever ripped away, however, as the cataclysmic event that would come to be known as the Great Cleaning saw everything he had known be taken away. No more the ready-made shelter; clothes were tidied, papers were recycled. No more the steady stream of food; the floors were vacuumed and mopped until the original surface could once more be seen.

Daniel panicked, as any man would. His heart threatened to give way to despair, as he surveyed the hell that his home had become. But Daniel would come to realise that the worst was yet to come.

Bereft of shelter, our furry friend fell prey to the worst predator of all: man. He was captured and cast into a terrible dungeon - the upstairs cupboard where we keep the toilet paper. In this dark place his soul was attacked by unseen foes. His every nightmare came to pass, as the ravages of time and hunger took their toll.

His gaollers took turns at playing with him. Dark, devious forms of torture were devised and inflicted on the hapless mouse. To them, he was little more than vermin. In that place it seemed that the joyful place in which he had once lived was a different world, inhabited by a different Daniel. A younger, innocent Daniel who had been lost forever in a sea of sorrow.

But before he could give in, before his limbs gave way to hunger and his mind to insanity, the young mouse discovered thought of the many generations of mice who had come before him; of the legions of rodents who had struggled to survive against all odds. He seemed to hear them whispering to him in the darkness, calling to him, urging him to fight. And so he determined to do.

Though his stomach growled, though his legs threatened to give way to fatigue and starvation, Daniel struggled for his liberty. He could not fit through the crack under the door, as his cruel tormentors had plugged it with a T-Shirt. But our indomitable hero refused to give in. Using only the teeth that God gave him, he nibbled himself a hole, a hole back to the light.

It took him many hours, but finally he was able to poke his little whiskers out, and breathe his first breath of fresh air in what seemed like years. However the gods had not finished with him; they had sport to make of him yet. One of the gaollers returned, just as Daniel was preparing to make a dash for freedom. He ducked back inside the shirt, hoping to avoid detection. However he was noticed, and the warden flew into a terrible rage. Determined to make the mouse pay for his temerity, he flung the mouse to the ground, using the shirt as a makeshift sling shot. Bruised, broken and half-dead, Daniel was locked in a new prison, where he felt the pull of death grow stronger.

Bored at last, his keepers decided the cruellest, and therefore most amusing, thing they could do would be to cast him out. Therefore they took out to the backyard, where they left his battered body to die in the cold, frosty night.

What happened to Daniel, none knows. It seems doubtful he could have survived the night. But the tale of Daniel has great allure, and his legions of admirers refuse to let him pass away into oblivion. Often the tale is told around the campfire of how a father saw the mouse return to inspire his brethren to feats of courage. It is said by many that he will return at the end of times, to hold the scales that weigh the deeds of mice and men.

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