Once upon a time, there lived a mouse. He hid under the dying shades of a willow tree. And bearing the weight of a gargantuan human hat were his feeble shoulders. For most of his life, that was the frame of his identity. He was a small and weak creature, shielded from the world by a soulless perennial plant, with a destiny that mirrored a curse. And with such a fate, he couldn’t live. Yet, in the irony of his birth, he was told to live – a great and mighty life.
Growing up, he heard stories about the creatures beyond. They lurked outside the drapes of the sallow. They had monstrous fangs, sharpened claws, and an insatiable appetite for little mouses. And the one he trusted – the one that groomed him – the tree, continued to feed him those lies. It painted a hazardous unknown, one he feared the most. But then came the day he was done – tired and frustrated of living in the shadows.
“I cannot live like this, Willow,” he said.
“Then how should you live – as dinner for those beasts?”
“I can sneak.”
“And your hat?”
“I can be quiet.”
“You stupid little mouse. I’ve told you, these devils can smell you. They can’t see, but they can sniff.”
“Then what am I to do – continue with this purposeless life?”
“You have a purpose. You will be great one day. But that day, is not today.”
The tree shook its branches – shedding its browning leaves – ending the conversation. The mouse was left to wallow in the growing darkness, as day gave way to night. Soon, the moon would bask in the starry canvas. And soon, he would hear the terrifying howls of the monsters outside. Perhaps the tree was right. Perhaps he should remain where he was, do what he was told, and wait for the promise of a great life. But how long should he wait? He was no longer a pup. He could now carry the human hat with little difficulty. Should he wait till his shoulders were broader? They didn’t seem like they could grow any wider. Deciding to take control of his destiny, he left the tree.
As he cautiously slipped from under the willow’s shade, the glorious evening hues had altogether vanished. It was now the darkest hour. There was no warmth in its embrace, and absent was the comforting scent of spring. His little feet scurried to the nearest rock for safety – his shadow stretched distorted under the moonlight. And in the silence, his ears perked for the familiar call of the beast. Yet oddly, there was none. Were the monsters in hiding? His eyes darted to every moving shadow, as his breath grew short.
Five feet behind him was the tree in its slumber. It was unaware of his truancy, and he was tempted to scuttle back in fear. But, he pushed forward. He’d caught sight of a glistening body of water, and its preternatural attribute called to him. Its stream winded through the field of grass. Its current stirred a soothing melody. And in its transparency, it reflected the night sky. Dragonflies zoomed above, unafraid of the night and the monsters in hiding. Having not met any creature outside his cocoon, the prospect of friendship excited him.
“Hello there,” he greeted in a whisper.
Three dragonflies buzzed past, but one stayed behind. It had a peculiar question, one the mouse didn’t expect to hear.
“Why are you whispering?” the dragonfly asked.
“The beasts. They might hear me,” he replied.
“The beasts that devour mouses like me.”
The dragonfly, in its graceful flight, oscillated from left to right. “I see. But you don’t have to whisper,” the dragonfly stated.
“It makes no difference, little mouse.”
The dragonfly caught the night breeze. It rose in its lift before diving down. “It doesn’t. And with a hat like that, you’re safe.”
“But Willow said my hat makes me vulnerable.”
“Did it now? See that owl on that tree.”
A few feet down the stream was an autumn tinted tree. Faint were the colours of its leaves, but bold was the predator on its branch. The snow white bird swivelled its head toward them, and a shiver ran up his fragile spine.
“That’s a beast!”
In the panic, he scurried into a bed of periwinkles. The dragonfly promptly lowered itself on a leaf beside him.
“One of the many beasts in this world, I’m afraid. But look, it isn’t coming after you,” the dragonfly said.
“Because of my hat?”
“Because of your hat, and because of you.”
“Go to the water, little mouse. It’ll show you who you are.”
“But the beast…”
The dragonfly didn’t wait for him, nor did it offer to watch his back. It left him words without assurance, taking off into the sky. But as it did, a strange desire to see himself sparked. So he took a bold step forward. And with one step, came another, and another, until he was at the bank. In his peripheral, the owl remained perched. But the caution toward his predator evanesced when he caught his reflection.
Staring back, in the mirror of the universe above, was an aged man. Adorning his head was a shimmering crown, embellished with rubies and sapphires. Draping from his broad, square shoulders was a crimson robe. He was no mouse – he was a king. The willow had lied. And a costly lie it was. But could he blame it and not himself? He chose to believe the willow’s tale. He chose a sheltered life. Now, if only he was braver sooner. If only he wasn’t fearful of the unknown, he could’ve lived a greater and mightier life – a life promised from birth. But at the very least, he could now die a man. At the very least… he was no longer a mouse.
Willow, mouse, and hat were words given by SJJ. When I think of these words, I think fairytale. Hence, I’ve attempted to write a story one would read to a child during bedtime. I’m not sure if I did a good job, so I’ll leave the judging to you.
Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words and write a piece of your own. You could, perhaps, take a fairytale spin to it too. The choice is yours.
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2017 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)