Weekly Skylights: The Tripod Looks to the Clouds

5 min read

Joey Cifelli ’23

A&E Editor

February 5, 2022, Part 1 

Though small in size, the mice of the Billenten Mansion never thought of themselves as such. To their miniature, glassy eyes, the manor’s old wooden floorboards and creaking ventilation shafts were built to exactly the right dimensions for their purposes. Purposes which included, but were not limited to: sneaking about in the dead of night without a sound, thieving bits of nuts and crackers from numerous well-stocked pantries, darting into cracks and hiding-holes when maids or butlers thundered by with their gleaming leather shoes smashing the floor, and transporting tufts of couch stuffing or cloudlike fabric with which to construct impossibly comfortable bed-nests. Life was exciting, peaceful, and decadent in equal amounts, which is about as much as a mouse can hope for. While the Billentens lived and died and loved and entertained in that old place for decades, generations of Billenten mice came and went at much greater speed, roaring underfoot like a white frothing river to the humans’ oozing honey. It was a happy harmony, fine-tuned and ready to chug along indefinitely. And then, of course, came the rats. 7.1/10 

February 5, 2022, Part 2 

No one knew where they came from. The rats appeared to rise out of the ground one day like monsters from a crypt. They were filthy, and violent, and each one ate enough every day to feed ten mice. The problem, the mice soon realized, was that a rat is much much bigger than a mouse. By great factors. Therefore, when mouse and rat alike desire the same wedge of cheese, or sleeping nook, or general right to walk around in good humor and fun, the rat can take what it pleases, and, meeting any resistance, simply attack the mouse until it is dead. Naturally, the reverse is not true. With that cruel and undeniable truth branded into their brains, the mice were forced to give up their precious pathways and warm nests. Blood was shed in those times, especially among the younglings. A dark age descended on the manor then. Fear and hunger reigned. 8.0/10 

February 5, 2022, Part 3 

Many generations later, a mouse named Deschu wandered off from the network of plumbing where the mice had done their best to resettle. The metal pipes were damp and mottled with rust. Occasionally the system failed and water flowed the wrong way up the pipes, soaking any mice who happened to be huddling there. It was cold, terribly cold. They ate beetles and slugs, when they ate at all. Still, the pipes were better than the rats. Anything was better than them. So, time passed. And yet, had anyone actually seen a rat? Nobody Deschu spoke to had seen one. The old mice were vague and mysterious in their answers. Certainly, they were still there, said the old mice. It was only due to the mice’s own strict vigilance that there hadn’t been another disaster, a repeat of the cataclysm described in myth. Really, they were fortunate. Deschu listened and nodded and decided that no one knew what they were talking about. He would find out for himself. So, there we find him now, skittering up a pipe, just about to reach the manor’s wood floor. A pink nose breaks pokes out of a gap, which sniffs from side to side, and is followed by paws and fur. The eyes dart from shadow to shadow. There is not a rat to be seen. 8.4/10 

February 6, 2022 (Pictured)

Carefully, Deschu stepped over the wooden boards. No rats at all. None of the smell, which, he had been told, was worse than the scum that grows on sewer sludge. No wicked teeth, no gleaming eyes. Deschu stumbled upon the mice’s ancient paths and nooks. They were covered in droppings and scrap, yes, but no sign of any murderous beasts. No sign of anything. The old mice really were full of dust. The place was fine. Deschu scrambled back down the pipes to tell everyone. A few days later, one by one, a stream of mice passed from the dark underground onto the surface. The younglings and old-timers gazed on their surrounding with the same expression. One born from wonder, the other, disbelief. The mice quickly followed Deschu into the walls and began to make themselves at home. Dust and garbage were removed with great efficiency. Nests were assembled. Paths to food were forged anew. Slowly, the Billenten mice found their own way to their ancestors’ lives. They did not know from where this miraculous gift had come, but that did not matter, they embraced it wholeheartedly. They would flourish here. And then, again, all too soon, life changed for the mice in a fraction of a second. The rats’ absence was revealed, along with their own doom, in a bone-chilling growl that made the blood turn thick. Its source was just outside, and as the mice clung together in a corner, its form appeared, blocking the exit with a single, predatory eye. A cat had come to play. 7.3/10 

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