my eyes open up after a night's long sleep. my ears pick up the noise out of my surroundings. looking around, i see some of the other mice already awake by now, spending some time to groom their fur and eat breakfast. none of them have spoken to me yet, but sometimes, they make noises reminding me of the comfort of my mother. we are all young mice, only a couple of months old now. life is quite active, we all live in the smae encoulsure. the giants make regular visits, checking in on us and delivering more food, more water. the other mice are terrified of the giants, hiding from their large, long paws when they reach in to clean up the enclosure.
today, i looked around from the invisible barriers surrounding the enclosure. i was looking to see what may lie beyond the barrier. to my surprise, i saw similar enclosures on a long, tall area rising up parallel to the rest of the ground. the ground outside of the enclosures wasn't covered in the usual substrate i was used to, it looked to be empty, devoid of any soft coating. i take notice of whatever i could. light streamed down in bright lines above us, held tightly above us by a solid barrier. what lay beyond this, i could only imagine.
the other enclosures had strange-looking creatures inside of them. some had longer snouts, sharper teeth, more flattened tails than the other mice and i had. most of them were many times my size. i watch, as a few of the giants return. for once, i am able to get a better look at them.
"What do you think, is she ready to go out?" Kreeme questioned. He busily looked over the labrador, who had been eating solid food for about a week now. She'd been weaned from her mother, the rest of her siblings already in the kennel for a few days. She looked to be in good health, from what he could tell.
The veterinarian nods, leaning herself down to eye level with the labrador puppy. The dog is responsive, giving a lick and sniffing over Lessa's outstretched paw. "Yeah, she's ready. Looks to be quite a happy pup, too. I'm sure someone's going to give her a great home."
i watch as the female giant carries this animal out, towards a section of the outside that seems to be emitting light. the two of them disappear, the wall folding shut like a set of paws closing together. i turn to the mouse next to me.
"did you see that? they said she's ready to go... somewhere. something about home. what's home mean?" i watch my fellow mouse, but he doesn't respond to me at all, other than to flicker his whiskers as he busily eats away at the seed in his paws.
i think about it for awhile, quietly sitting on top of the pool of water inside our enclosure. the words sounded nice, the giants seemed to be satisfied with the larger animal. they had taken her outside of the opaque walls... there must be a place outside the walls. surely outside of this large space is similar to here?
home... it felt like a soft word, it sounded low, gentle.
. . .
a great section of time passes, before the giants return. i see them approaching OUR enclosure now, sending the rest of my kind into a panic. they scurry around underneath all of our hides, and into the softer piles of substrate. i stand down on all fours, looking up as the giants stare back down at us.
"They're doing great, don't you think? I'm sure some kid's gonna go crazy for them." Kreeme smiled down onto the mice, chuckling to himself as he watched them scurry about. He'd always taken a liking to mice. They were a fast seller at the center, probably due to their small size and easy diet. "Mice are so cute. They must make their owners pretty happy, don't you think?"
The otter frowns at his coworker. "Are you joking? I still don't know why we sell them, they don't live very long. Who wants a pet that's only gonna live a few years? Kids would be better off with a dog, or a cat, something they'd remember when they grew up." The otter helps set the small enclosure onto the rolling cart. He was careful not to disturb the mice inside too much, not wanting to damage anything that could be sold.
Kreeme gives the otter a look, briefly baring his fangs, irritated to hear his coworker give the animals such disregard. "Hey, they can't help how long they live. They're small, and fragile, and easy to scare. But they can be pretty affectionate, and have lots of love to give."
As they roll the cart out onto the floor, the otter finds himself rolling his eyes. "Love? Mice don't feel love. They're too small to have complex emotions like that. Besides, how is a mouse supposed to express love to someone taking care of them? They're not like a dog, or a cat. You can't hug them or take them for walks. Hell, even a lizard would make a better pet. Honestly, Kreeme, I don't know what you see in them."
The fox bites his lip a bit, keeping quiet. Frank wasn't the kind of person to really feel much affection for animals, anyway. Kreeme had heard he'd gotten the job here just so he didn't have to drive to work, living only a few blocks away. "If you say so, man..."
"Ugh, help me out here. We got more product to do after this. Boss wants the birdseed stacked better this time, he says you weren't careful enough last week."
Carefully, the two of them set the enclosure into the slot on the shelving unit, sliding up the glass barrier in front and locking it tight. Frank scoffs. "Why do we even lock em up anyway? They only cost a few bucks." He shrugs, pocketing the key and heading off, not giving much thought to any of that afterwards. His shift was almost over, after all, and his mind was preoccupied thinking about spending time with his mate once he left.
Kreeme, however, knelt down to stare into the mouse enclosure, watching them calm down. He counted the mice. Ten, eleven... Sixteen mice. Wait, no. Seventeen. His eyes shot down to the lone mouse laying down on the substrate, right next to the glass. Unlike its siblings and cousins, the mouse appeared rather calm to begin with, the fox noticed.
"Hey there, little mouse."
as all this quickly unfolds, my head is spinning. i'm thinking very fast about all that i heard. mice don't live long? what does that mean? and why would nobody remember a mouse? this puzzles me, and i ponder it for a long moment, before suddenly noticing one of the giants had yet to leave. in fact, he was looking right at me, directly into my eyes. he speaks, greeting me. his voice is quiet, soft, not like the other giant's was. i stand myself up a little, staring up at his eyes. they were green, brightly glinting in the brighter light here.
Kreeme smiles down at the mouse, watching her. His shift was only starting, his break about to begin. He makes a note to come back and check on the mice on his break. The fox really had a passion for working with any kind of animal. He felt it was the responsibility of the anthros to take care of their feral brethren. He starts to write out the tag for the mouse enclosure, carefully penning it down. 'Fancy mouse, captive bred. Lifespan 2-3 years. An herbivore, they eat mostly seeds. Their round ears and long whiskers help them navigate their environment. In the wild, these mice would be hunted by most larger animals, like--' He stops for a moment, looking at the lone mouse again. He notices her gazing right back at him, her nose wiggling as she sniffs. '-- like owls, foxes, and other medium-sized predators. Here in the city, some mice live in houses as their natural habitat, or can commonly be found in parks and fields. Kept in a tall enough habitat to prevent their escape, they can be easily cared for by adults and children alike, making them a great starter pet for animal entheusiasts.'
He muses on this for a moment, continuing to speak to himself as he writes it out. 'Care: Mice are social creatures who prefer the company of their own kind, though they can live happy lives alone if given enough attention and proper care. Mice enjoy small areas to hide in inside their enclosures, providing them a sense of safety. Be sure to check out our various hand-made products to enrich your pet mouse's life!'
Kreeme seems satisfied with this, placing the note inside the placard for the mouse enclosure. He smiles, heading to clock out for break.
im not really sure what to do with all of this information. ive been told a lot about my species all of a sudden. i wonder what our purpose is here? what does it mean to be a 'pet' mouse? from what the giant said, it would make us mice happy. i look at my brethren, but the giant's words seem to be lost on them, almost like they cannot understand his words, or... or even my own. why is that? why do they act so differently from me? we're from the same litter, most of us. shouldn't they all be talking like i am?
i watch them carefully for awhile. they busy themselves with grooming, eating. and they seem to enjoy exploring the substrate and two large hides we have. but none of them say a word to each other, or to me.
i turn around quickly, staring up. the giant has returned.
Returning from his break, he fox unlocks the display barrier, carefully reaching his gloved paw in. As a six-year veteran of the store, he often performed visual inspections of the pets before they were sold. The small mouse was acting a little strangely, and he wanted to give her a good examination, just to make sure she wasn't injured or anything. "C'mere, little fellah, it's alright. I'm just going to make sure you're not hurt, alright?" His paw holds onto her a brief minute, slipping the mouse into a small cup on his belt, and he closes the slotted lid up, taking the mouse over to the clinic area. He wasn't a vet himself, but the store had trained him in the basic examinations as part of his duties. It was routine for him to do this sort of thing, but not usually on mice. Something about this one just made him a little... curious.
he reaches for me, his massive paw approaching. i start to feel a new sensation, my face feeling hot, my ears twitching, filling me with a great urge so run deep under a hide. i am about to turn around, until i hear him speak to me again... not hurt? i... i don't feel hurt. but... but maybe i could have gotten scratched by the other mice while chasing around, perhaps.
his paw folds around me, gently encircling my entire body. i find myself removed from the enclosure, exposed to the cooler air in the larger space. but i'm not there long. instead, i find myself contined in a very small space, one with thick, opaque walls surrounding me on all directions, encurcling me in an almost perfect round shape. it's much smaller than the hides. i feel my new space gently shudder every few moments... i reason out that the giant is probably walking around. i wonder where hes taking me?
Kreeme gently sets the cup on its side, removing the lid. He sat at the examination table, taking out the smaller set of tools that generally were't used too often. These exam tools were meant for lizards, but he'd used them on the rats before, so maybe a mouse would do just fine. He smiles down at her as she slowly walks out of the cup onto the table. "Hey, this isn't going to hurt, and it won't take very long." He wraps her waist into a small sesnor band, flipping on the scanning device, waiting for it to display results.
It seemed to say the mouse was in good health. Her heart rate was normal, blood count was good. Her lungs and her respritory system were all healthy. He presses a few more buttons, watching the machine start to give more advanced details on this individual mouse.
"Well, you're in good physical shape. You're not that typical, though, you don't seem to be afraid at all. Funny.." His gaze returns to the display on the machine. He reads the lines of information it spits out about the mouse, tilting his head a little.
"Fascinating..." As he reads, his curiousity is peaked. The seemingly ordinary mouse had some strange test results. "Hearing efficiency beyond normal range? Abnormal activity in cortex areas of the orbital brain structure. Prefrontal section........ Prefrontal section activity two orders of magnitude higher than average results."
The fox thinks a moment back to his mathematics. Orders of magnitude, that's in the tens times table. The mouse had twenty times more activity in her brain? "Zyne, what is the prefrontal section of the brain used for?"
The AI in the fox's wristband activates at the use of its name, performing several dozen sets of searches to answer Kreene's question. "Prefrontal cortex activity is associated with the following in higher mammals: Excecutive function, planning, setting of long-term goals, reasoning skills, higher logical functions."
The fox stares down at this mouse, his eyes wide as he watches her. Her paws are tracing over the sensor belt on her. The press into the silicone band, flexing it in various directions. Her claws press in, and she watches as the band folds back into its original shape once it's released.
"..." Kreeme leans himself down, gently lifting the mouse and removing the band around her waist. He watches as she stares back at him, alert.
"You.. You're very different, little mouse. You don't have the same kind of mind as the others... I wonder what the vet's going to think about this. Or... should I even tell her?" He watches the mouse, and she flicks her head in an upwards motion, before returning her gaze directly at his face.
"Huh. If i didn't know better, I'd have said you nodded. But..." He gently slips her back into the cup, closing the lid. "Just hang tight here a minute, okay? I'll be right back."
. . .
"You ran a neroscan on a mouse? For what reason, Kreeme?" The cardinal frowns, clicking her beak as she browses the initial results."
"It's really strange, docrot, you should take a look at her. She's not afraid of me at all, she doesn't act like the other mice do."
Her sharp eyes read quickly over the scan results, and she loses the irritated look on her face... She reads the entire report, seeming to have a puzzled expression. Kreeme waits, a little nervous, glancing over at the cup that held the mouse in question. Finally, the vet speaks.
"She has higher brain function. Maybe we should run some maze tests on her? Or some puzzles. She how she does."
Kreeme thinks on this for a moment, stepping next to the vet as she stands up to face him. "Doctor, you won't hurt the mouse, right. These are just the basic tests we give to demonstrate their intelligence, it sounds like. Will we keep her in the lab?"
The cardinal gives a short nod. "Yes, but I'd like to take a look at her first."
The fox tilts his head a slight bit, his ears raising. "Why's that?"
"Because, I've seen this sort of thing before. We had a lizard like this, a couple years before you started working here." The cardinal empties the mouse out into her feathery hand, staring down at her.
i listen as the giant speaks, feeling around at this new object. it encircles my waist tightly, and has some hard, cold things embedded into the inside, where it presses on my fur. it seems to return to its original shape once handles, not showing any signs of damage at all.
im listening carefully to the giant, carefully taking his words in. i hear him speak for awhile... and i feel...
... i was right in my observations, there is something different about me compared to the other mice. another voice speaks, in response to the giant's question, and it tells me that i have... higher function? what does that mean?
i ponder this for a little while, as the other giant lifts me. she looks remarkably different from the others that i've seen, her snout has no fur, nor does it seem to have skin. it is curved, pointed towards the tip and looks very smooth. as she leans down to me i get a chance to feel over this snout with my paw. it's incredibly hard, harder than the invisible barrier of the enclosure.
"Doctor, what are you..." Kreeme steps closer a bit, feeling a bit of concern. He watches as this mouse seems to feel the vet's beak, feeling a little... He didn't know how to describe it, actually. But he feels an urge to take the mouse away from his colleague. Strange... He shakes it off. "Just be careful, doc, she's still a feral mouse."
"I don't think she is, Kreeme." The bird gives a chirp, one that the fox hadn't heard from her before. He watches as she sets the mouse atop her beak, sniffing over the body of the small rodent. The bird's gaze goes a little cross-eyed as she stares down at the small rodent. She gives another short chirp, musing to herself as she turns to the younger fox. "Look at that!"
The fox calms down a little, grinning slowly, watching the cardinal. He'd never really seen her like this before. She was usually so serious, and now here she was with a mouse in her beak, chirping away. "Are you having fun, doctor?"
She gazes back towards him, amused, but not humored. "Kreeme, do I look scared? She's being very careful with my beak. Look." The bird's tongue slips out over her beak, in full view of the mouse. It's too short to reach up to her, but the vet watches as the mouse reacts to this.
the giant makes a very cheerful sound, a light, happy sort of whistle. i find myself on her snout, and suddenly feel a rush of air blow through my fur. the giant is scenting me out. i wonder... what do i smell like to others? i know my own scent, but is it different for them? im not even sure what to compare it to besides my own kind. i raise my snout into the air, taking in the giant's scent as well. it is like a soft, warm breeze. i am reminded of my mother's embrace, and the warmth shared by my siblings and i as we slept so safely next to her. i wonder if the giant has any offspring of her own? what would they be like?
curiously i notice that she is sliding her tongue along her beak. hmmm, why is that? i step a bit closer. her tongue doesn't look like a mouse's tongue, it's thin and it looks almost.. sharp, i guess? it travels along the length of her beak, never quite getting close enough for me to touch, before it disappears from view. i look back up into her eyes, marvelling at the sheer difference of size between us.
"Doc..." The fox is even more worried at this, stepping next to Doctor Shyrre. "Doc, what are you doing?"
"Relax, Kreeme. I've never hurt a fly. She's safe with me. I'm just... She reminds me of the pets I had, before I started this profession." She gently places the mouse back into the cup, handing it to the fox. Shyrre seems to have a blank expression, but... Her mind is going back, years and years ago. She closes her eyes for a moment, remembering the scent of her own pet mice, who she had earned the trust of over a long time. It had taken many months for them to warm up to her, and she remembers the day one finally stepped into her hand of its own accord. The scent of this mouse, here at the store, was... Comforting, it brought her back to simpler days. But only for a moment.
As she opens her eyes back up, she nods to the fox. "Kreeme, take this one back behind into the lab. I want her kept comfortable. Pick out a few hides, some fresh substrate. Give her some seeds. Not that cheap kibble that otter friend of yours uses. Something natural."
The fox finds himself staring down into the cup. "She'll be comfortable, Doc. You have my word.
... how long did i sleep?
wait, where are the other mice?
i step around. i don't remember falling asleep, but sometimes i drift off... this enclosure is a bit smaller, but... there's no one else here.
i have this place all to myself. the substrate smells really fresh!
woah, the water is nice and cold, too! hmmm... i wont have to worry about the other mce making it all dirty anymore. maybe this could be a little easier on me?
besides, the other mice never talked to me. here, i still don't have anyone to talk to, but... it's quieter, calmer. i can think a bit more clearly here.
i feel like some time has passed, like there's a new day starting. i can't wait to see what it brings...
a whole place to myself~ sounds exciting.
A story written by the mouse.
She has yet to return to it, but it looks very promising.
Perspective shifts and whatnot, but it's mostly self-contained.
Not meant to be absolutely realistic.