May 28, 1996: Minor editing and spurious titles were added later. This story is not suitable for small pets.
Mike lived alone in a large, seven bedroom house. Downstairs, his two rotten sisters lived alone, each in their own room. Upstairs, his parents lived alone in their bedroom. Oh, occasionally one would bump into another family member, but not often enough to establish clear residence. Mike didn't have many friends. A lot of it could be explained by the strained, estranged family situation.
A lot of it maybe because of his hobby: his microscope. It was a GOOD one. Black metal, really clear numbers and stuff. Glass slides. It could have made him the talk of the neighborhood. Letting his friends check out dead bugs, boogers, pieces of scab, the usual. But Mike had a rule: it was to be used for bacteria only.
Mike's friends found other places to be. Even his pet gerbil. Fortunately for Mike, 'other places' for the gerbil was pretty much limited to the huge pile of sawdust in the aquarium, since he couldn't climb out the walls.
Today, Mike again sought solace in the only friend he could produce on demand. But it was rough going. Apparently Raymond didn't want to be found tonight. Mike finally started scooping the sawdust out of the aquarium, until only Raymond was left. "What is your problem?" he shouted, as he picked Ray up, perhaps a little too harshly. Raymond bit him on his thumb. This had never happened before, so Mike understandably dropped Ray on the floor. Ray rolled over once and looked up. Unmistakably in the still, quiet room, Ray stuck out his tongue and yelled 'JERK!". Then he disappeared under the bed.
Raymond stared up at the amazed human face above him. The eyes were so strange... He did not notice the slightly grimy hand until it surrounded him, squeezing him a bit harder than what he was used to.
"What did you say?" asked Mike, unsure whether to be angry, amused, or astounded...
"I called you a JERK, that's it, Mike!" Ray blinked his small black eyes, and Mike could've sworn he saw a smile. The hand started to become a bit unsteady... Suddenly, Ray found himself at the end of a long black tube with a bright light shining on him. He was wondering just what was going on when he felt himself moving again...
"Well, you LOOK normal, so back to the cage for you..." Mike carried him towards his cage by the window...but on the way there, he tripped over a bump in the carpet...and Ray felt himself flying. Mike watched his pet fall from the window into the hedges below, shrugged, and went to find that box of Q-tips...gerbils were cheap, anyway, and so were hamsters, although they didn't taste quite the same.
Meanwhile, Ray opened his eyes in the grass below the window...one small talking rodent, one big world...
Actually, Raymond thought to himself as he reflected, one small talking rodent, one big LAWN! "How am I gonna get from here to the street?" he muttered.
"I know how!"
And Raymond jumped straight up in the air and turned to see who it was who had spoken. A small centipede (small even to Raymond) was staring at him. "To get to the Street," the centipede said, pronouncing "street" with a capital letter, "Thou must truly, truly believe that the Street exists."
"Uh-huh," said Raymond, taking mental notes. Street exists. Check.
"Then, thou must clear away a bit of underbrush, and thou must afix thyself to the ground from which you were spawned."
"Uh-huh," Raymond said again. Sit in mud. Check.
"Then thou must calleth upon the flying creatures of the heavens that they might carry you to the Street-"
Yell at bird. Check.
"-Believing of course that such flying creature doth exist."
Bird Exists. Check.
Raymond stood there and stared at the 'pede staring at him, and said, "That's it?"
"Thou hast understood correctly," and with that, the 'pede nodded sagely and skittered away.
"Well," said Raymond, "Here goes." He threw himself down in the mud and screamed, "Hey! Bird! Get down here and PICK ME THE HECK UP!!!!" And lo and behold, a bird swooped down, picked Raymond up, flew towards the street, and dropped him into the middle of it.
Raymond's first thought as he watched hundreds of huge blocks of metal rush past him at a billion miles an hour was, "Dang centipede. Had it in for me from the start."
It was a fabulous spring day, the latest in a series of peaceful weather this week. The grass was green and the sky was blue, what else could a gerbil need, thought Raymond to himself, as he scampered through the freshly cut grass. He smiled and looked about, smiling hello to all his wonderful friends in the fields. The dew tingled on his feet as he scrurried across the meadow.
Ahhhh!!! thought Raymond to himself. Life is great. Be young, have fun, drink Pepsi and all that. But alas... All of a sudden a dark shadow crept upon the furry fur of Raymond the gerbil and he was lifted way up into the sky by an unknown presence.
The men in white cloaks plopped Raymond into a plastic bag and hopped into the black Limos, which went SCREECHING off over the distance. The next day, Raymond awoke. His eyes barely squinted open, but he was in some strange place he had never seen before. There were needles and test tubes and electric equipment everywhere. And lots of men in long white suits were busily working around Raymond.
Someone gave him a piece of cheese which made Raymond very happy. Raymond thought, "Well this doesn't seem so bad after all" But then, Raymond had no idea what had happened to him. Some tight plastic gloves lifted him up into the sky once again and strapped him down into a metal vice. A colossal needle pushed its way forward and jammed itself into Raymond's chest. He screamed with all the lungs that a gerbil had, but no one could hear him.
The next morning Raymond awake again. But this time he was in a fluffy bed, and he seemed to have grown 5 feet.
Gingerly, Raymond wriggled his toes and carefully swung one now huge back paw from the side of the bed. He wasn't sure that he wanted to get up. It was soft and certainly much more comfortable than the prickly and sometimes painfully dry straw that he was used to sleeping on. But, then again, he thought to himself, nothing ventured, nothing gained and he was anxious to find out more about what was going on.
He rocked a little as his feet touched the floor. He held out his front paws and inspected the claws which were now a good four inches, if not more, longer than they had been before. He crouched on the floor and scratched quickly at the carpet. It was rather gratifying to see the fabric rip and shred before his eyes. He loped over to the door and took a swipe at the wooden panels. They too began to splinter with the force of his clawing.
Raymond gave a small chuckle (assuming that a gerbil is able to emit such a sound) and experienced something he had never known before. He wasn't yet sure what it might be. Power, perhaps? A small sense of maybe being able to run the show instead of running endlessly around and around an always-spinning wheel? The more he thought about it, the more energetically he tore at the door barring his way.
Eventually, one of the panels had been shredded sufficiently for him to shoulder his way through. Now, there would be no more cages for Raymond. No more confinement or captivity. Raymond was free, and he intended to stay that way.
As Raymond muscled his head and sholders throught the wall, he saw a room unlike any he had ever seen before. The only thing he recognized was the instrument, a black thing, looking just like the thing that his old friend Mike had spent hours looking into. Other than that, all he saw was white...white walls, white cabinets, white covered people outside of big glass windows. What Raymond didn't know was thaht he was in a level 4 containment facility, more secure than any place known to mankind.
Pappion regarding his imprisonment on Devils Island couldn't have dreamed of the futility that faced Raymond. BUT.... Raymond was a gerbil, and what do gerbils know of futility. After all, they spend hout after hour chasing ghosts and shadows on wheels that go nowhere....quickly. Raymond paused....he pondered and in that space, fairly substancial as he still had a rodents brain, he overheard the white-suited people talking outside the glass windows.
"That crazy kid had a witches brew of pathogen, mostly viral, in that bedroom of his. There is no telling what caused this reaction to occur in this animal. Is it infectious? Airborne? And what kind of containment are we looking at? This critter has been all over that area..... outside, for heavens sake!"
Another voice said, "Gentlemen, we have another problem. Our little friend isn't so little anymore...and he appears to be listening to us."
"I suggest we start by saying hi to Raymond."
Raymond liked the second voice, a lady, but not like the two sisters, nor the mother that he had heard before. This voice was softer, less caustic, and southern to boot. :)
Raymond was perplexed. Always at home he had been ultra cautious when he heard the sound of feminine voice. The southerner reminded him of Michael and his sisters, especially Carla, the elder, the gangly, rigid force behind the tense conditions at the only home Raymond had ever known.
The southerner looked different. She was wide lipped and dark haired and oozed grace when she moved. Eventually Raymond's gerbil brain noticed an area of familiar tawny brown amid the sea of white in the outer room. It looked like some kind of animal but smelled long dead. The southerner picked up the animal and put it on her head Raymond began to become panicky. His physical needs began to gnaw at his being. He realized he was very hungry.
Suddenly a periodic clang breaks into the air causing him to stir with every beat, his memories of the night slowly vanished. He opened his eyes slowly, then closed them again after being blinded by a bright red light. Rolling on his side, he opens his eyes and sees the gerbil, motionless in its glass tank. The clang breaks the silence of the morning once again. He turns into the light, seeing 5:59 flashing from a small box. Uninterested, he turned his attention back to the gerbil in the tank.
He noticed he was unaffected by the noise. He tried to rise but, was struck down by a sharp pain. In his hind leg. Lying in pain he tried to remember his nights adventure. A centipede is all he remembers, then a street, five......no, he cant remember much else-
The noise sounds once more, and he sees Mike rise out of bed unable to run, he curls into a little ball as Mike's hand comes closer and closer to his body. He is gently lifted into the air once more, feeling the pain in his leg once more as he looks around, he can see many gerbils, but none moving, all showing no signs of life. Mike's voice then pierces the air.
"He did it. The little bugger survived the first dosage."
Raymond sensed in how many ways his life had changed...the falls, the pain, the white room, the glass, the people in strange suits... He didn't exactly understand how all of it had happened, but except for the pains he would occasionally feel in his leg (and the southern woman putting the dead thing on her head), he liked the meals they brought him and the gentle treatment.
He looked forward to the times the southern woman would come and visit, bringing her notebook and her treats for when she held him. And even though she and Mike were in clumsy white clothing, he could still see their kind eyes behind their hooded heads. Being in a "containment field" was kind of fun and special for him. That was, until he woke up one morning foaming at the mouth, with a terrible thirst for his water. That was also the morning many new people frequented his room with wide eyes brimming with fear.
"It's airborne, isn't it?" the nice southern lady asked the professionals who had been called in (putting RM on ignore).
"It's airborne, and all over the neighborhood. Dogs are lying dead in their yards, birds are falling from the trees, rabbits and squirrels are living together... We won't know until next week if it's contagious to humans..."
Raymond's world became a kalediscope of colours and pain that shattered into new forms with every breath. The fever that ran through him during every waking moment of his day was a mere glimpse of haven compared to the living hell of the nights.
Strange forms of white wraiths prowled the silent halls, lifting smooth furred bodies from their cages and dropping the corpses into a metal bucket, the sounds of their limp bodies hitting the steel echoed through the vast halls. Raymond saw the southern woman very rarely now. Her voice had grown strong with worry the last time he had seen her and her face now was grey and lined with an age not borne of years. Mike no longer followed her every footstep but now moved around the rattling.
Storm says: little girls it seems to say.... Storm says: never stop upon your way. Cages on his own, prodding others with a small thin needle, its syringe filled with a sickly red fluid. Raymond watched as the creature in the space next to him trembled as Mike approached and shut his ears as its screams tore into his brain. After a few moments, the small hamster twitched and peeled its mouth open, a pink foam coursing from its innards to spill on the cage floor. After a few violent seizures, the hamster lay on its side, its ribs cracking as it struggled to breathe. Finally, it ceased its struggles and lay still.
Mike motioned to the southern woman and she leaned over the cage, stroking its hapless still body with her gloved finger and murmured words of comfort as it left its earthly existence. Raymond schrilled in terror as Mike leaned over the open door and gripped the hamster in his hand. Sliding its pathetic body from the pink froth, the technician placed the hamster into the bucket on the floor and reached for the next needle, and opened Raymond's door.
Dreams of death were common to Raymond. As he cringed in the corner of his tiny cage watching the long, dripping needle of a mad scientist come closer and closer... he began to shake. And just before the tip of the needle pierced his furry coated flesh, Raymond woke up.
His entire body was covered in sweat, and he had several seisures before he could calm himself down. His blankets were tangled about him and he struggled to free his limbs....throwing the blankets aside one by one in his attempts. Moments later, an ice cold shower served to calm Raymond once more. How many mornings had he done this now?!
He started the coffee with one hand and shaved with the other, he couldn't be late for work again or he'd get fired for sure! In 15 minutes he was grabbing a tie from the rack at the front door while his car was already warming in the drive. Raymond flipped on talk radio and tried to forget the nightmares! There was little hope for that, however....
He turned off the main road, and followed the winding drive into Beleveue Research Center. Snatching his ID from the visor, Raymond shuddered & ran inside...
So sit an listen while i tell you what happened now you're not gonna believe it and women eyes, and women. See, Raymond was the one in charge of the whole thing to start with, but the latest alpha wave readings.... combined with the dreams he'd been having. Well, Raymond was completely ready to accept that he might have a screw or two loose.
Now was the last time that Raymond wanted to be thought of as even geekier than he really was. Now, Maria really loved him, and well, the rats were kinda a second in his life. Well, they weren't really rats, mostly gerbils and some mice, but he had noticed that he spent a LOT more time talking to them, and really feeling really bad when his experiments didn't work out as planned. Of course, that was all SINCE Maria and the dreams, and now he really wasn't sure of anything.
The cold whitewashed walls seemed to greet him back to his place of work, goodness knows he has spent enough time here to know every nook and cranny by heart. The guards greeted him as he walked by the washroom, up to the thick iron doors labeled GERBIL EXPERIMENTS - EXTREMELY FLAMABLE - DO NOT LIGHT A MATCH. Wait a minute.
He put in his key card and opened the doors. He twitched as he watched his fellow researcher, Ms. Darnette, inject one of his beloved friends. Oh well, they were for experimentation. He entered the room, and checked the cages of the mice and gerbils, noting effects and problems.
I should really call Maria.
He picked up his current experimentee, Carl, and checked the vaccines he was injecting. I shouldn't have left her alone that night, damn it. He wrote down the information and leaned back, looking at the ceiling. He felt as if he were running in a wheel, same as the animals he was subjecting his will to.
Over and over again, the same problems. He wants to do it, he wants to tell her, but the words escape him. He stops short. He looks around, on the table, under the table. Carl is gone. Damn my eyes, can't I keep my head straight!
Xirian D'al ,warlock, elementalist, the betrayed. He had fallen in love, deeply in love. This tale I tell is about the betrayed of the heart.
A rapid beating on the door shook Xirian from his study of the salamander carcas. Cursing about being bothered he threw open the door and stopped dead in his tracks a beauteous maiden with flowing blonde hair and blue eyes that drew in his soul stood in the freezing blizzard that was raviging the entire country. He had immediately fallen in, or so he thought.
"My lord I need a nigts lodging.' she said in her soprano voice.
"You shall have it maiden" was D'al's answer. He led the maiden to her room observing her figure in the candle-light. He hoped she would stay until the blizzard ended,which he could make indefinite.
Katalina, princess of the guild of magi, stepped up to the house of her prey. If she killed him she would rule as Leader of the Magi, the first dragon to rule over the humans in any way. Her prey opened the door. "Quite handsome for a human" she thought. He led her to her room. Tonight he dies...Tonight.
The message to the magi council was intercepted by D'al. It read: D'al Shall die by my hand. After reading this measage D'al set to kill the maiden first. Running out of his personal chambers, D'al went to his laboratory and freed his death bite mosquito. The insect flew into the maiden's room catching her while she was changing forms. The insect flew, biting at the back of the neck of the half dragon, half human.
The dragon took off gracefully, but once over the deck she fell with a howl of pain. Xirian felt betrayed by the one that he had thought to love, but he must survive to save all the life of this planet from the death magi.