There once was a small mouse. Smaller than most rodents, he could fit in even the tiniest nooks and crannies which helped him reach places where other mice had trouble getting to. Like others of its kind, he loved cheese, but unlike most of his furry brethren he also hungered for another morsel quite more special than old gruyere.
He loved to eat book pages. Devouring from all available genres (though it did favor science fiction for some reason or another). A nibble here, a bite there. Chew, chew, chew on each page. It wasn’t just for the feel of paper as it chewed on it, nor the tingling sensation in its tummy as it digested the printed ink of each book. Early on he realized something was happening to him after he began his nightly rounds in the library at the house where his den was located.
It started by the appearance of words and images associated with those words inside his mind. He began to identify them as thoughts. He was starting to think and realized his brain wasn’t as tiny as before.
The first thought that came to him was the realization of his own nature. First the ‘I’ came in, followed by ‘am’ and then quickly an ‘a’. The last word he had some trouble with, but in the end it came forth like the rest, ‘mouse’.
‘I am a….mouse. I am a mouse. I AM a MOUSE!’, it spoke out loud and was shocked to hear himself speak words instead of his usual squeaking. ‘My whiskers, I can talk and….think too!’, it jumped up and down happily, knowing somehow that his trips to the library were the cause of it, so he started frequenting it more often. Chewing, digesting and gaining more knowledge. Expanding his intellect it began to have more complex thoughts and learned to articulate more difficult words until he was speaking quite fluently, but generally kept to thinking in his head so no human could hear him by accident.
Ome day the mouse had decided that it didn’t want to settle for referring himself as just another random mouse, so he thought hard for a name that he could adopt for himself. In the end he settled for a name from a very famous story about a man who made a deal with a demon for ultimate knowledge, and even thought he was like that man pursuing knowledge, he fancied more to be the demon for it was more clever in the end.
‘I am Mephistopheles!’, he squeaked triumphantly.
Unfortunately, not all was going well for in the last few days the humans who lived in the house started noticing all the chewing in their book collection and had started setting up mouse traps, which Mephistopheles thwarted with ease with his ever-expanding intellect. So after a few days of not yielding any dead mouse, only activated traps, they decided for a more classical approach: they got a cat.
This feline was no fluffy pet to rub its tummy and watch it play with a ball of yarn. No, this was a mean kitty with an appetite for mouse flesh set to safeguard the house at night from any small, four-legged saboteur dumb enough to go out and have a literary snack. It was a young, agile thing, covered in shiny black fur, with eyes that were as black as onyx. His claws and fangs were long and sharp like meat hooks waiting to capture prey.
Mephistopheles was unfazed by this and thought to himself, ‘So they got a cat? Pah! I won’t cower and run away like a….like a….er…like some of my more dumb brained cousins. Yes, that’s it. I won’t be deterred on my quest for cheese and knowledge!’.
The next evening he went back for his nightly intellectual snack, being extra wary for any feline presence. He chewed very slowly, page by page, trying to not attract unwanted attention (but not wanting to choke on an improperly half-chewed page neither). After what felt like a long time Mephistopheles felt his tummy quite full. He started to move his small paws to take him back to his den but noticed that he wasn’t making s lot of progress. To his horror he saw that his paws were barely touching the ground while his belly was flat over it, making it hard to move quickly to safety. In a fit of nervousness he made a grave, unwilling mistake, he cut a loud one.
Mousefarts, dooming mice since 3, 456 BC.
‘Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I ate too much!’, it squeaked out loud, forgetting his self imposed silence for a second. Out of the blue he heard soft purring behind him as his hair stood up, ‘Well, well, what do we have here? It appears to be a small rodent that has, to put in the proper vernacular, cut the cheese, eh? A furry, gassy, snack, how charming!’, continued to purr the cat as he circled Mephistopheles.
The fur on its body stood up as he heard a soft purring voice behind it, ‘Well, well, well. What is this? A furry snack trying to slip away! Tsk, that just won’t do!’.
If he had been a human, Mephistopheles would recognize that the color of his skin would have attained a paleness due to the blood draining from his body. He was so scared he dared not even twitch a whisker. ‘Did I get your tongue, little mouse? Not that anything worthwhile comes out of your squeak holes. No, you just skitter around, leave droppings on the floor, chew books, make holes in walls and eventually, most of you, end up in my belly. Might as well finish up, no?’, the cat’s voice was silk with an edge of steel as it raised a paw, claws unsheathed, ready to swipe at Mephistopheles.
They say fear gives someone wings. In this case it gave a very scared mouse the desperate notion to start yapping away, ‘Wait, my feline lord! Before you decide to snack upon me, this poor humble mouse, let me admire your greatness for a moment longer!’, he squeaked, not really knowing what he expected to accomplish besides delaying his death for a few more seconds. The cat’s eyes widened in curiosity, bringing down its paw as well as his gigantic face to Mephistopheles’ level, ‘Ah, interesting. So the tiny cheese stuffer doth have a tongue, and a very eloquent one! I could almost be tricked into believing you had…intelligence. Do tell, why should I not just eat you up? A talking mouse is still a mouse, and a tasty-looking one at that.’, it purred dangerously low.
‘Why, a smart and wise creature such as you deserves to stand tall even amongst others of your kind and I…..I can make it happen!’, Mephistopheles squeaked, hoping he could think of something as the cat unsheathed his claws on both front paws now. ‘Now why would I care about that? I am already smart as a cat can be, and that is pretty smart. More so than most creatures out there. Even if I showed some interest in this, how could YOU aid me in improving my intellect? Surely you don’t expect me to take lessons from a mouse, eh?’, he gently traced a line down the middle of Mephistopheles’ back with a claw as the mouse felt a pellet of dropping come out from his body.
‘I….I have a way so that you could gain instant knowledge and expand your intellect. I have learned how to produce knowledge in an edible form. When I began to eat the pages of books and started gaining both an intellect and knowledge, I realized my condition as a mouse, or any other creature, was most surely unique. And lo to my surprise when I found out that I also uncovered the secret of passing down said knowledge when a cousin of mine from our den accidentally ate a bit of edible knowledge and was able to utter the word ‘fart’ non-stop instead of squeaking! This I guarantee!’, he ranted for a bit in a hurry, so as to not give the cat a chance to ponder and change his mind. The feline pondered for a minute or so, never taking his eye from Mephistopheles, running his claw back and forth from the mouse’s back.
‘I need not be a genius to assume you would trade this wellspring of edible smarts for your life, hmm? Well, they won’t call me an ungrateful puss, I will give you 5 minutes to procure this edible knowledge in my dish bowl at the kitchen. If you try to escape I will track you down and eat you….slowly. Piece by piece. So off you go, mouse.’, the cat flicked at the mouse’s face, making it squeak in surprise. Mephistopheles shivered for a moment, controlled himself, bowed to the cat and scurried off towards the direction of the kitchen.
‘Superior intellect, hmm? And mine is already quite vast, but I must admit it is tempting to be smarter than even other cats. Maybe smarter than my human caretakers, ha! I could be the king of this neighborhood with unimaginable bigger wits, yes! I shall find uses for this new brain…and no need for the mouse to share it with anyone else. No sense in wasting good food, so I shall snack it once I make sure his edible knowledge works.’, it thought and grinned, flashing his sharp teeth. It began to slowly track its way back to the kitchen as it chuckled to himself.
He reached the corner reserved for him in the kitchen and saw his dish bowl in the distance with the mouse next to it. The bowl was full of several brown pellets that as he approached began to emit a stinky smell he knew to well. The cat’s grin changed into an angry scowl and jumped at the mouse who squeaked in terror. Pinning it down with his paws he hissed at the furry creature, ‘You expect ME to eat YOUR droppings!? If this was meant to be a joke, it was not funny, so I hope it was worth doing so. You die now, snack o’mine!”, he opened his jaws wide. ‘WAIT, THE DROPPINGS -ARE- THE EDIBLE KNOWLEDGE! I know it seems crazy, but think about it! As my body was able to absorb whatever knowledge and intellect the pages that I ate gave me, some of it somehow ended up being digested and passed on to my poop. That’s what my cousin ate it, confusing it for some food (and being a dumb mouse, like I used to be), and I saw how he gained some knowledge with it. It smells bad and surely tastes worst, but it’s a small price to pay for the knowledge you shall win, sire!’, the mouse pleaded, terror in his eyes.
The cat squeezed Mephistopheles a bit in his paws, deciding what to do. After a minute or two, he made a decision, ‘I shall eat you afterwards to take away the taste of mouse droppings from my mouth, so don’t go away’, it hissed softly, holding the mouse with one paw as he reached for his bowl with the other. With clear greed in his eyes, of both eating the mouse and being smarter, he opened his jaws as much as he could and gulped as many mouse droppings as he could in one bite, starting to chew and having some trouble due to the amount he swallowed. After a few mere seconds of chewing, and gulping down a few pellets, he didn’t feel any particular rush of intelligence seep into his mind. To his horror, he realized he was simply easting regular mouse droppings.
As the full fact of what was going on reached him it hit him with an unbearable sense of disgust, making him double in himself and start retching all over. Stumbling over himself and releasing his grip on the mouse. Mephistopheles, thankful to the Universe at large for his crazy scheme working, didn’t think it twice and scurried off as quickly as his little paws could allow. And they were fast. The cat was still vomiting from the nausea that it was unable to give chase.
Several days later of searching and stalking for that damned mouse, wondering why he had not seen him try to go to the book shelves or the kitchen for food, he noticed a small sheet of paper next to his dish bowl in very small handwriting (or pawwriting). He went over and read the note (as cats are smart enough to read, in case you didn’t know), its jaw dropped both in anger and amazement:
Might is not always right
Brain overpowered brawn
I proved to be the smarter one
Your greed was your downfall
So now I’ve moved home
I shall find a nice public library
Reading instead of chewing
Worry not for me, I will survive
Goodbye kitty, goodbye puss
You were my Faust
PS. I left a “present” on your dish bowl.
I know how you enjoy seconds, ta-ta!