Those Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy…

May 23, 2011

“…they first make mad.”

 

Andrew sat in the chair, his eyes heavy. Lack of sleep had worn away at his desire to stay ever vigilant, and his head was beginning to droop. He felt himself being drawn into the abyss of sleep, sucked into the peaceful blackness…

He had barely closed his eyes when a sound on the edge of his awareness caused him to start. The mouse rose, sighing. It looked like he wasn’t going to get any sleep tonight. It happened every time. He would be just about to get some rest, and then his ears would pick up the unnatural scrabbling of those Things and that would be the end of that. Andrew would freely admit that he lived in terror of whatever it was that he heard at night; usually the problem was that beasts wanted him to stop talking about it. Well, it would serve them right once they were all killed like poor Bayard.

Over the week and a half that he had spent locked up in the kitchen Andrew had conjured up with a mental picture of what the monsters looked like, and if the image were ever put to paper he would probably have been censured by some of the more conservative Abbeybeasts. The Things of his nightmares had the slinky, sinuous bodies of a weasel, and the heads of wolverines. Their great slavering mouths were full of knife-like teeth, curved to deadly points, and they had sickly yellow eyes. Their tails resembled those of rats, all fleshy and constantly twitching. The beasts walked on four paws, which looked somewhat like a marten’s, and had giant sickle-shaped claws.

Andrew lived in both constant terror and hope that he would encounter one of these abominations. Hope because he would finally be proven right, and fear because he had seen what they did to their victims.

The mouse looked out over the darkened Abbey lawns for the umpteenth time and still did not see anything. This did not discourage him. The creatures were stealthy, but he could hear them crawling around and one day he would catch them in the act. Besides, the Abbot was on his side. Surely everybeast would believe him now?

***

“I would like to speak with Andrew,” said Carter from the other side of the door. The mouse in question, who was listening through the keyhole, could not suppress a brief shudder of apprehension. The Abbot, coming to speak with him? It must be something seriously important. Perhaps there were finally going to force him out of the kitchen.

“Alone, if you please,” said the otter. There was the sound of retreating pawsteps as the guards that stood by the kitchen door were dismissed, and then silence. It was eventually broken by Andrew.

“Well? What is it you want to say to me? Still trying to coerce me out of here, I suppose.”

“No, Andrew,” said Carter in a soft voice. “I’m here to tell you that you’re right.”

“Well, your cajoling isn’t going to work on me. I know that those things are out there, and…” There was a pause while Andrew’s brain backtracked to make sure it had heard the otter’s statement correctly. “Wait, did you say that I’m right?”

“Yes. Listen, I don’t have much time. Those beasts you hear are real. I was trying to protect the Abbeybeasts from it because I knew they’d panic, but you were too clever and you found out. You have to realize that these things are the reason for the lockdown, and the only way I can keep everybeast safe is if they all listen to me. I understand now that it would be best to inform everyone about the monsters, but I cannot do it myself for fear of being called crazy.

“But you, Andrew, know more about these things than I do. You have to get the word out and inform everybeast about the danger they’re in. Tell them why the lockdown is needed. I’m relying on you.”

“Yes…sir,” said the awestruck mouse. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that he would ever be taken seriously by anybeast, let alone by the Abbot himself. And he was entrusting Andrew with such an important job!

“I won’t let you down, Father Abbot!”

“Good. Good. I have to go now, but Andrew…remember what I told you. You are very important to my plan.”

“Yessir!” said the mouse, who, getting rather carried away in the moment, saluted even though he and Carter were separated by a solid wood door.

***

Andrew mulled over this conversation again and again in his mind. It was thrilling to have his fears vindicated by authority, but the part of his brain that saw the little inconsistencies in the world* was giving him trouble. What exactly was the advantage in having Andrew spread the word instead of the Abbot himself doing it? Beasts were more likely to believe Carter than him, as Andrew already had quite a reputation as a crazy beast. And why had the Abbot stressed the importance of the lockdown so much? Everything didn’t quite add up…

The mouse shook his head to banish such thoughts from his mind. Beasts would take him seriously if he was on a mission from the Abbot, and he wasn’t going to ruin that. He just had to figure the best way of getting the word out.

Well, I’m certainly not going to be able to do it from this kitchen, he thought glumly as he surveyed the room. Beasts tended to be skeptical of someone who locked themselves in a small room for days, and though he was taking a big risk in going outside, he would have to do it for the sake of the Abbey. That just left the problem of how to escape. Not through the door, certainly. There were always guards posted, and they would drag him off to the Council if he put one paw out the door. Andrew did not want to have to explain what was obviously a secret mission to a large group of beasts who had never been very accepting of his knowledge.

That left the window. The mouse examined it. It had a somewhat low frame, but he would be able to squeeze through with little difficulty. Plus, it had the advantage that even though the noise of him shattering the pane would summon the guards, he would be out before they could break down the door.

Andrew decided to seize the moment before he had a chance to talk himself out of it. He swung the heavy cleaver in both paws and was rewarded with many glass shards and a loud noise, which as predicted caused a hubbub of voices on the other side of the door. The mouse quickly cleared out the worst of the broken glass from the window and jumped through. It turned out to be a tighter fit than he anticipated, and Andrew found himself stuck midway through the window.

Then he heard the loathsome skittering of one of those Things behind him. They had gotten into the room! They were going to kill him for knowing too much!

The mouse mustered all his strength and popped out of the window like a cork from a bottle of champagne. He tumbled onto the Abbey lawn, rolled, and took off running as fast as he could. Andrew’s heart was pounding in his ears as he ran, and he imagined he could almost hear the Things pursuing him. He decided to make for the shadow of the west wall, where he could conceal himself and assess the situation, but as he rounded a corner he crashed into a group of shadowy figures. He grabbed the nearest one, intending to get it with the cleaver and at least take one of the things with him.

“You!-” Andrew’s heroic last words didn’t make it past the first pronoun as he realized that this was a female fox, not the monstrosity of his imagination.

“Let go! Let go!”

“Oi didn’t do it!” A heavy bass voice cut through the young vixen’s screeching, followed by the sight of a large dark shape looming over the pair. This did nothing to calm Andrew’s nerves.

“Help me, please! They know! They know I know!”

The fox’s leg lashed out, kicking Andrew in the stomach. He doubled over, releasing her.

“What are you doing- Hey, I remember you.”

“Really?” The mouse recovered his cleaver from where he had dropped it, and held the weapon up triumphantly.

“Aye. You’re Mr. Andrew, the one that showed up for that otter’s funeral and talked about those things that ripped out his throat. Didn’t half scare me, I can tell you that. I had nightmares for-”

“That really isn’t important right now. There’s something after me-” Andrew took a quick glimpse across the lawn back the direction he had came. All he saw was a quiet, moonlit panorama of grass completely devoid of slavering monsters. “…and now there’s not. Figures that they never show up when other beasts are around.”

“What never shows up?” asked the dark figure, who in Andrew’s rapidly adjusting vision was revealed to be a mole.

“…Never mind. I’ll tell you later. Anyway, what are you two doing wandering around at this hour?”

“What are you doing attacking me at this hour?” shot back the vixen.

“Escaping. I thought you were one of the monsters. Now answer my question. I’ve had a very trying night.”

“Found this pin on a body what was dumped in my graveyard. We’re taking it to Brother Aloysius to see if he has anything in his records about it.”

“Can I see that, Miss…”

“Tamarack, not miss. And this is Cobb.”

“Hello. Noice to meet ee,” said Cobb.

“I’m Andrew. Now can I please see that pin? It may be something important.”

Tamarack handed over the cloakpin with bad grace. It was made of silver, or at least a silver-colored material, and it was fashioned in the shape of the Abbey. There was a bright red gem where the gates were supposed to be. As he examined it, Andrew’s paranoia-honed instincts told him that this was important. This pin was obviously part of something big, possibly even bigger than the murders. Or they could be related, since the previous owner of the pin had been killed, maybe by the Things. Either way, there was no way he could let something like this walk away from him.

“This is quite interesting,” said the mouse at length. “May I join you? I would like to know where this pin comes from myself.”

“…Aye. But you keep your paws to yourself.”

“It won’t happen again,” promised Andrew.

The odd trio made their way across the lawn to the gatehouse, arriving at the door without incident. Tamarack knocked loudly.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

After waiting about half a minute and receiving no response, Cobb broke the silence.

“Per’ap’s ee’s asleep.”

“Don’t be silly. He’s a bat. They sleep during the day,” said Tamarack.

“Isn’t it lizards that don’t sleep at night?” asked Andrew.

“Oi thought it was cats.”

“You two are as dense as Colm. Everybeast knows-”

The creak of the gatehouse door opening interrupted the rest of the vixen’s statement. The three looked up and saw a figure silhouetted in the doorway.

***

*Which were shortly afterward corrupted by the rest of his mind into illogical paranoia. The brain works a lot like a corporate office, with the added difficulty that the ratio of employees to managers is reversed.

 

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