Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Clockwork Mouse

There it was again: a scuffle behind the wardrobe, a whir, followed by a hollow metallic clunk as it hit a pipe that ran through the wall cavity to the flat above. I tiptoed over to the wardrobe and pressed my ear flat to the plasterboard. Nothing.

I hadn’t told anyone about the mouse yet. I’d thought about who I might like to tell but the idea stuck in my throat. It wasn’t finished, still imperfect. I had come close. Dozens of prototypes lay stuffed in a box under the bed but each had suffered from something unbefitting of a mouse that had forced me to start again.

Now, this one, the one that scurried about the walls at night tormenting me, she was different. The whiskers had proven troublesome to begin with but after weeks of painstaking work those quivering bundles of nerves bristled with intelligence. I admit the wheels in place of back feet weren’t ideal but getting her to manoeuvre naturally had required a bit of poetic license. Besides, she had her front set if she ever needed to scratch her face - and what a delicate feat of engineering those two tiny paws had been. The ears were designed from a tissue thin, vibration sensitive composite; her sandy coloured coat, placed hair by hair by my own indelicate hand, sprouted as naturally as if it had grown there. The nose didn’t function. I had decided this quite deliberately as, what with the stench that wafts daily through this rotten back water, a nose had seemed a cruel infliction. Though purely decorative its small diode twitched busily about and, mouse to mechanical mouse, the effect was much the same. Yet without her eyes, I let out a groan of frustration, without her eyes, the most vital and complicated part, she would never find her way back out of the dusty network of tunnels she made for herself around the room. With a sigh I lowered my face to the table and peered miserably at the two lonely black beads.

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