Terrouge E-zine Archives
Story That Falls Apart Towards the End
By: Alasdair Stewart
Jacob stopped for a moment to recover. Hours of trudging through the heavy snow left his legs numb and weak. His pack, almost as large as the mouse himself, had worn his back down. The straps bit into his shoulders and he couldn't tell if it was sweat or blood that was dripping down. Looking around, Jacob found the nearest pine tree and sat under it, too tired to even remove his pack. The ground under the tree was dry and bare, a safe pillow of pine needles provided a natural insulation from the ground, a perfect place for a bivouac. After several hours to set the camp site, Jacob was all but spent. Weary, he climbed into his sleeping bag and closed his eyes.
The mouse knew his enemies lurked ever warily in the shadows; foxes, rats and ferrets—predators in his midst, their eyes locked onto him, licking their chops. He fell into an uneasy sleep, his right paw on his sword.
He dreamed of his old life, dreamed of the sunny spring days in Redwall Abbey, amongst his kin and kind; friendly faces and safe havens. He hated and cherished the place all at once. Walking through the familiar paths and buildings he saw Martin and his pious companions with disgust—he was one of Martin's best warriors, but after he committed his crimes he knew his name would be stricken from their history. Such is the fate of all pariahs, it seems. There he found himself with his love, Daisy, the long nights he spent with her in the meadows. The tears streamed from her face as he turned away from her; even in his dream he felt the soul-wrenching agony of his heartbreak. Long gone, hazy memories from what seemed another world.
A rustle nearby stirred Jacob from his light slumber. Sword in hand, he jumped to face the sound's origins, sleep blurring his eyes momentarily. A lone fox stepped into the edge of the dying campfire light. His left paw was tucked across his stomach to his opposite ribs and a bloody sword was clenched in his right paw. Jacob didn't say a word. He stared down his unwelcome guest, ready to strike. Dropping his sword, the fox staggered to a nearby pine and leaned against it, leaving a trail of blood behind him. Keeping his sword ready, Jacob approached the dying predator, who was slumped against the tree, his ragged breaths grew ever more shallow.
The scars and strange tattoos that marked the fox's face and body lent to the mouse the impression that he stood before a fellow warrior who had seen many battles and atrocities and finally was at his end. But who struck the death blow? Was he betrayed? Were his adversaries all dead, or hot on his trail and approaching fast?
"Where have you come from? Who did this to you?" asked the mouse.
"Tell me," said the fox, his voice soft and faint, "how does it feel to know you have lost the game?"
Jacob stared at the fox. The fox stared back. The waited for each other to say the first word. They waited for hours, then days, then a thousand years, and then just hours. They evolved into spaceships and fought intergalactic crime. They helped JC Denton uncover MJ12's plot to rule the world, and it was Jacob who shot the Arab, not Mersault. They convinced Warren Spector to atone for his crime that was Invisible War and they recovered Lion-O's Sword of Omens from the evil Mumm-Ra.
It was pretty cool.
With my regards to McSweeny's