Mary’s belly worked itself into tight knots as she approached the shabby, rundown, godforsaken apartment that she reluctantly called home. As she trudged up the cold, miserable steps, a fat mouse dashed from the dark shrubs nearby and stopped for a moment in her path. It stared at her with a sad expression in its eyes, lifted its upper body, sniffed, and then made off for the dense undergrowth on the other side. She, being used to such encounters, continued on to the door without a wince, nor a scream. There were bigger things to worry about than mice. If anything, she would have preferred to live with mice than to living with a bunch of wild human beings. With a very heavy sigh, she rammed into the door with her side. It swung open, but then suddenly drew to a halt after hitting into the light, worn-out plastic that served as a carpet. It had opened only wide enough to allow her plump self to squeeze through. Barely had she got in when she was pelted with a barrage of insult
“You silly, good-for-nothing, idiotic, pumpkin-headed, potato-bodied girl; you’ve ruined my carpet!” The source of this foul language was her mother. She was sprawled on the worn-out sofa in front of the television set that they had newly acquired (indeed, it was amazing that, despite the fact that the house and everything therein was falling to pieces, they could afford to buy a brand new television set). There was nothing but contempt across her face which was nearly looking like that of a clown, being smeared with too much makeup. The sofa, upon which her being was sprawled, was soiled and reeking of the smell of dirt that had accumulated over a decade of being sat upon by beings of a plebian nature. But she herself was shiny and clean, and the smell about her was that of the most extravagant blend of perfumes and oils. Though she was in her early forties, the apparel she wore was that of a sixteen year old—a tight little blouse that not only showed her large breasts but also her belly, and a short, brown skirt. Next to this person that Mary reluctantly called her mother, was a large man of an unsavory nature. He had a bald head, surly red eyes, thick lips burnt red by alcohol and a large pendulous belly that he was scratching in a very disturbing manner. What made his appearance more disturbing was the fact that he was naked from waist up, exposing a few kinky chest hairs. He wore a large, baggy pair of shorts that were besmirched by the alcohol that was dripping from the bottle that he carelessly held in one hand, and from which he sipped occasionally. This ignoble being was her father, but she was very reluctant to call him this. He stared at his daughter with a sleepy expression. Mary decided to ignore this unpleasant pair of human being and proceed to her bedroom, where she hopped she would find one or two mice to keep her company, but she soon realized that such a move was unwise.
“Mary!” Her mother yelled, “Come here!” She reluctantly obeyed. She flopped onto the seat furthest from the one on which her parents sat. Her mother stared at her with fierce indignation.
“Why are you coming home so late?” she asked sharply.
“I’m from studying,” she replied casually, staring at the floor.
“Studying, bah!” Her mother hissed. “I don’t believe that! I think you were just playing.” Mary suddenly felt a strong surge of anger. She glared at her mother and said in a cold tone: “I wasn’t playing.”
“Don’t answer back your mother,” her father suddenly ejaculated inarticulately, reeling unsteadily. Mary’s eyes fell to the floor once more. Inside, she was boiling lava, waiting to burst. “It is highly inappropriate for a girl of your age to be arriving home around this time.” “How old are you?” her father interjected, suddenly starting forward.
“Seventeen,” she mumbled. He paused in silent contemplation, then sat back in the seat and took a long sip at the bottle.
“From this day onward, you must be coming home early,” her mother continued.
“Yes, mother,” she said in a low tone. She felt the urge to tell them the reason why she always came home late—that it was their entire fault. At that moment she felt the urge to tell them straight that she found home a nightmare; and that she preferred hanging out with her friends to being at home. She wanted to tell them that she detested the way they treated her, as if she was a cheap and dirty little piece of shrimp. They seemed to forget that she had feelings too, and that what they did and said hurt her feelings. But she held in all that.
“Hurry up and prepare us supper,” her mother said, waving her off in disgust.
“Yes mother.” She got to her feet in a burst of anger and trudged to the kitchen. She looked around the dreary room and cringed in revulsion. Everything was in a mess. The sink was full of dirty plates and the floor was muddy to the extreme. She slid and nearly fell as she advanced across the room. “Oh mom!” she whined. “Why do you have to be downright filthy?” Of course, she did not say this loudly, but she whispered it. She shuddered from head to toe with disgust as she touched the plates. With a heavy pout on her face, she began the laborious task of preparing supper. Almost an hour later, she set the food before her parents on the little creaky table whose surface was soiled with scraps of food from bygone lunches and suppers.
“Move out of the way, dog!” her mouth shouted. Mary glared at her for a brief moment, a dark expression across her face. But then, in a servile act, she fell to her knees and quickly placed the dish and container of washing-water beside her feet on the floor.
“I’m done,” she said coldly. Her mother uttered no word of thanks—in which occurrence Mary would have been pacified a bit—but waved her off with an indifferent gesture of her hand, all the while her eyes fixed solidly on the TV screen. Mary sulkily retreated to the kitchen. Her parents always ate while watching television. On the other hand, she always ate from the kitchen, alone, at the old rickety table. It was at such times that she wished she had a sister, or even a brother. Most of the time, she was alone—alone in her own dismal world. It was terribly miserable to have the parents that she did and to live the life that she did. It was terribly hard to be Mary Mpata. That night, as she lay awake in her bed, she wished she could be someone else with another life. She would give anything to exchange her life with someone else’s. All she desired was a perfect life like the one most people had. She sighed heavily as she heard the sound of the mice as they scurried about in the ceiling above. It was hardly a pleasant sound, but it comforted her because it reminded her that she was not alone. “I wonder how it’s like to be a mouse,” she thought, “they must be so happy and carefree, running about in the ceiling like that.” As these merry thoughts occupied her mind, she slowly drifted off to sleep. A little while later, she woke up with a start. She had felt a hand with the like of sharp claws pierce her chest. She almost died with shock by what she saw. There, seated on its hinds at the edge of her bed, was the biggest mouse she had ever seen. It was nearly as big as she was. Its eyes were round and seemed to be popping out of their sockets.
“You are awake,” the mouse said in a gruff voice. Mary went stiff and cold with shock. Her eyes bulged out like golf balls. A giant talking mouse? She must have gone insane! “It is time,” the mouse said. There were scraps of food wedged between its sharp teeth which were protruding from the sides of its mouth. It leaned forward and stretched out its sharp claws towards her face. She winced and cringed with fear. “Didn’t you hear what I said?” the mouse hissed. Mary could not utter a single sound. She was too shocked for words. She watched in pure, unadulterated horror as the sharp claws reached out for her nose. As her eyes followed the movement of these dangerous claws, she gave a little shrill of shock when her eyes fell upon her own elongated nose. It was long, winding, crooked and ugly. As her eyes fell upon the rest of her body to scan it, she almost passed out, for, most shockingly, she was a mouse—a big, ugly mouse! She started to her hinds in a frenzy of madness. “What is wrong with me?” she shrieked. “I am a mouse!” The other mouse stared back at her with a rather contemptuous look. “Of course you are a mouse,” it snapped, “you have been a mouse all your life!” These words made Mary hysterical. She lashed out at the mouse with her claws. He had to duck several times to avoid injury.
“Turn me back!” she squealed, “I am human!” The big mouse clamped down her wildly flying paws with his, making her slump on the bed, which, to her great alarm, was only a bundle of dried out leaves and grass. “Mary,” he snarled dangerously, “I don’t know what has come over you; but you have always been a mouse; you have always been my sister. We’ve grown up together, you and me. If this is a trick to avoid work—” “Oh God!” Mary, too overcome with disbelief and hopelessness, began to sob. “I hate this nightmare; I must wake up!” She looked up at the mouse with a strange vagueness in her eyes and said: “I’m an only child, my parents are human, and I’ve never been a mouse.” The big mouse yanked her to her feet in a burst of fury.
“Stop this nonsense at once!” it shouted, so angrily that Mary was started into obedience. “You are a mouse, Mary Mouse! And you are my sister; and right now, we need to go and get food.” She instantly stopped blubbering upon seeing how seriously threatening the look on the face of her ‘brother’ appeared to be. She looked at her hideous mouse body once more with a strange sense of resignation. She looked into her ‘brothers’ eyes, and at that one moment, a strange sense of belonging came over her. At that moment, she felt a peculiar déjà vu, and an overwhelming fulfillment upon realizing that her wish had been granted in some mysterious way by some mysterious power. She smiled.
“I am a mouse,” she said musingly.
“Come on,” her brother said, “Our parents await.” Parents? Mary was intensely curious, and as she scampered after her ‘brother’ along the twisted network of pipes and tunnels, she wondered whether her so-called parents would turn out to be as mean as her human ones had been, that is, if she had ever had any. She was immensely amazed at how fast she ran along the pipes, and almost effortlessly she did. She seemed to have great control over this mouse body of hers, even though it looked hideous to an excessive degree. Before long, her ‘brother’ came to a screeching halt in front of a large pile of leaves, sticks and putrefying morsels of food. On this highly grubby mountain of crap sat two large mice of the most hideous nature. They looked down at them with lazy expressions on their faces. “Our parents, these,” brother mouse whispered into Mary’s large and funnel-like ear.
“Please behave.” “Children,” father mouse said, (it was easy to tell who was who because one had a more ‘manly’ look about him) “We have run out of food. Go and get us some food.” Mary was startled by this request, because she thought it was the parents who were supposed to look for food for the children, not the other way round. A huge urge to protest came over her. But she did not, for common sense—which is not so common in the world of mice—told her not to do it. Instead, she just goggled at them in some kind of awe, and subtle contempt. True, her human parents had been appalling, but these, she had to admit, were outrightly gross.
“What are you staring at, fatty?” mother mouse snapped, in a way that reminded her so much of her human mother. “Go get us food!”
“Let’s go,” brother mouse said, tugging at her hand. “Why are our parents so lazy?” She asked her ‘brother’ as they scurried along in the dark. “They don’t want to get caught by Mr. Tom—you know that,” brother mouse replied, quite off-handedly.
“Mr. Tom,” she asked curiously, “who the heck is that?”
“The cat, silly!” he snapped, visibly upset by his sister’s sudden bout of ‘amnesia’. Mary gulped loudly. The thought of being caught, and possibly eaten, by a cat made her feel quite sick and nauseous. She decided to concentrate on other less unpleasant thoughts.
“Forgive me, dear brother,” she began, rather chirpily, “I can’t seem to remember many things nowadays. Can you please remind your poor sister of her good brother’s name?”
“Charlie,” he hissed.
“Charlie? Oh goody me! What a wonderful name!”
“Shhh!” Charlie slowed down to a mere crawl, “We are there.” “‘There’—where?” He pointed to a large crack in front of them from which light streaked. He squeezed himself against the wall and peeped out cautiously. “Oh dear me,” Mary whined, “I don’t want to be eaten.”
“Follow my lead and you won’t get eaten, fatty!” Again, Charlie’s sternness made her quiet instantly.
She watched with round eyes as Charlie squeezed himself through the aperture and vanished onto the other side. For a while, she stood all alone, and a thick blanket of loneliness wrapped around her. Suddenly, Charlie’s face appeared in the aperture. “Come on, Mary!” he snapped. She reluctantly moved forward. She fought rather hard to force herself through, as she was quite plumb—even as a mouse! When she had successfully got to the other side, a dazzling world of light opened up. She gazed around in awe. Everything was fantastically large and shiny. She felt so small and insignificant. They seemed to be in a kitchen. She could tell because there was the stove, exquisitely shiny; the sink, devoid of dirty plates; and the cupboard, full of cutlery of the highest quality; and the table, in the middle of the room and spotlessly clean. In fact it looked so much like the one back at home; only difference was that it was very clean. She stood on her hinds and sniffed. The air was scented with the sweetest perfume she had ever smelt.
“This way,” Charlie said, darting across the shiny, tiled floor towards the cupboards. Mary followed apprehensively. They stood before one of the cupboard whose door was slightly opened. Charlie stopped and looked around. “You stay here and watch out for Mr. Tom,” he said.
“Where are you going?” She asked, shivering with fear. “To eat inside there,” he said brusquely, pointing to the slightly open cupboard door. “I’ll be back soon; then you can have your turn.”
“I thought we came to get food for mom and dad,” she said. “We gotta eat too, don’t we?” At that moment, she realized just hungry she happened to be, for her stomach rumbled.
“But what do I do when Mr. Tom comes?” She looked about her with pure terror. Considering how gigantic everything happened to be, she knew the cat would be terribly and furiously large.
“You scream, then run for your life.” “Oh, dear me,” she said, her sharp, and rather sparse teeth chattering in her mouth. Charlie nudged the door open and vanished inside, leaving a shaken Mary outside, looking about her furiously, and starting at nearly each sound. Finally, after what seemed like ages, Charlie came out. He grinned widely. He looked fatter. “It’s your turn now, sis,” he said encouragingly. When she showed some reluctance, he pushed her forward. She squeezed in through the door and found herself in pitch blackness.
“How the heck do I see in here?” she squealed in despair. But, it suddenly occurred to her that her elongated nose could smell so well that she could almost see with it. There were chocolate cakes, some cheese, nuts, assorted biscuits, and some fruit. By the time she got used to the light and could clearly see, she was quite full.
“Oh, dear me,” she said, “How will I walk…” she paused and chuckled, “or is it run—since I’m a mouse now?” Just when all these thoughts were occupying her mind, Charlie’s head popped in, giving her quite a scare. “Carry some food for mom and dad,” he commanded.
Mary hesitated, gazed about in dazed wonder, and then said: “How do I do that? I got no basket.”
“In your mouth, silly.”
“That is so insanitary!” Her ‘brother’ eyed her with red, chilly eyes. Presently he said:“We’ve been carrying food like that for ages, and today you say it’s insanitary?”
“Okay, I’ll do it.” She said in a grumpy voice. She bit a large chunk out of the cheese and lifted it. Her brother did likewise. He gestured for them to move out, as his mouth was too full of food to bark out commands. He disappeared through the door with his sister at his hinds. As they skittered across the floor, Mary could not help looking around in amazement. If only the kitchen back home could look like this one did! Suddenly, as they moved across, they happened to pass by the door that led to the living room. Mary instantly drew to a halt, rushed back and stood in the doorway. She stared on with large eyes of wonderment. Her mouth fell open, and the cheese in it dropped to the floor. Her ‘brother’ screeched to a halt upon realizing that his ‘sister’ had stopped following him. He turned around and was thoroughly traumatized to see her standing in the doorway on her hinds, with her eyes bulging out in a gaze of wonder. His first impulse was to shout, but upon realizing that his mouth was full, he gently placed the large biscuit on the floor.
“Mary!!!” He shrilled. But she did not budge. It was almost as if she were in a trance. With a lot of effort, he rushed back to where she was. “What are you doing?” He asked in despair, tugging at her paw. She pointed above with her paw. He followed the direction of her gaze and started, for right there, standing in the midst of the room was the largest and most hideous human being Charlie had ever seen. In her arms was a smaller human being, which was making giggling sounds.
“That is my mom,” Mary breathed in a shaky voice. “And that baby in her arms… is me.” Charlie would have scolded her but a cold icy fear crept all over his body, and he went stiff, for right there behind them, growling and staring evilly at them was Mr. Tom.
“Run!!!” He yelled with all his might before diving to his feet into a run for his life. As he made for the aperture in the wall, he did not look back. All he cared for was to save his dreary little soul. But Mary got wind of the danger too late. By the time she knew what was happening, she was dangling by the tail on Mr. Tom’s paw. He did not waste time. He instantly threw the mouse into his mouth. After a few snaps of his razor sharp teeth, Mary stopped wriggling. A dense darkness and grave silence suddenly set in….
Mr. and Mrs. Mpata banged on the door of Mary’s bedroom fiercely.
“Why won’t the rascal open up?” her mother hissed.
“Stand back,” Mr. Mpata said, “I’ll break it down.” He took several steps back. Then he rushed forward and slammed his bulky body into the door. It flew wide open, and almost off its hinges. They two of them rushed in. “Wake up, lazy girl!” Mrs. Mpata screamed to Mary, who lay motionless on the bed. But Mary did not respond. Mr. Mpata bent over and turned her head. They gasped in shock and fell backwards. Mary’s eyes were round, bulging out and unseeing. There was foam on her lips.
“What is wrong with my baby?” Mrs. Mpata screamed, suddenly turning affectionate. Mr. Mpata bent down to the floor and picked up—just under Mary’s outstretched hand—a little bottle with a few little pills in it, some of which were scattered on the floor. He shook his head sadly and took his blubbering wife in his arms.
“She was miserable honey,” he said in a shaky voice. “We made her life miserable.”
“It’s my entire fault,” Mrs. Mpata said, her face sopping with tears, “I killed my baby.”