Jenna’s eyes fluttered
open. So bright. It felt as if she’d just gone to sleep. How could it
be morning already? Her eyes focused on the sky above her. The sky?
She sat up, gasping.
Her hands dug into the lush, green grass underneath her. She was on
the edge of a forest. Two narrow, roughshod paths started a short
distance away from her.
She slowly stood,
looking about her as she went. This definitely wasn’t her bedroom,
was it? She brushed self-consciously at her backside. She felt denim.
So somehow she’d managed to get dressed, too.
Jenna jumped at a
sudden flash of something gray moving in the grass before her. The
gray lump stopped abruptly and looked upwards. It was a mouse. It
grinned at her. “Hello, there! Welcome to our world.”
The young lady first
gasped, then grimaced. “Oh, no… Not again!”
“Not again, she
says.” The mouse crossed its tiny arms. “So rude!”
nothing personal. This isn’t the first time I’ve been here, and it’s
always a pain in the ass to get home, and…”
too!” The mouse harrumphed.
Jenna clucked. “Yeah,
well… That’s me.” She brushed an errant lock of hair from her
face. She surveyed the two different paths. “Let me guess, one
of these will lead me home.”
Jenna frowned. “Both of
them will lead you home.” The mouse beamed.
“Of course they
will,” she mumbled to herself. She turned back to her new
friend. “So which one gets me there quicker? Hmm?”
“Well that would
be the left one, but I really don’t think…”
Jenna strode past the startled mouse and stepped onto the left
pathway. She turned, smiling. “See you ar-OOF!” She found
herself plastered against a very sudden, very solid brick wall.
The mouse winced. “I
told you that wasn’t a very good idea.”
Jenna gasped. “You
The mouse’s eyes
narrowed. “I certainly tried.”
“I suppose you
did…” Jenna sighed. She turned back to the wall. “Well,
every wall has a corner.” She turned to her left and was greeted
by an adjacent wall. She cried out in disgust.
the corner then, eh?” The mouse chuckled gleefully. Jenna shot
him a death glare. He shrunk back. “You could always try the
other path, you know.”
Jenna rubbed her
temples. She slowly shook her head. “Fine. Sure. Why not? It’ll
The mouse beamed. “Of
it will be fun! This is after all the land of…”
“Yeah, yeah, I
know! Just… Let’s go.”
“How did you ever
manage to get here with such a terrible attitude?”
Jenna rolled her eyes.
“Just call me lucky.”
“Maybe one of
us,” the mouse mumbled.
“Right this way,
milady!” The mouse shot forward down the path to the right.
Jenna plodded along
behind the mouse, a dour look on her face. It softened as she took in
the forest around her. The midday sun was pouring through the
treetops, making vibrant, dancing shadows on the forest floor. It
Jenna blinked. “I’m
The mouse stopped,
turning around. “You’re remembering, from before. Surely your
last visit here couldn’t have been so bad?”
She sighed. “Well…
Not all of it, no.” Her hand subconsciously moved to the keloid
scar on her upper arm. “I never asked to come back, though.”
The mouse pointed. “Here’s another split for you, then. The left
path is shorter again but I’d strongly suggest going to the right.”
“Left it is.”
The mouse groaned, holding his shaking head. She peered down that
direction. The ground appeared a little dampish, but the way was
otherwise clear. “Don’t be silly. It looks fine.”
“As you will.”
The mouse turned down the right path and bounded away without another
“That’s more like
it.” Jenna smiled, turning down the left path.
The trees surrounding
her slowly pulled away from the roughshod path she walked. They were
replaced instead with tall, flowing grass. The ground grew
increasingly damp to the point where standing water appeared in
places. Mosquitoes of alarming size and volume flew lazily about
A boggy pond came into
view as she rounded a muddy corner. She grimaced, immediately
regretting her decision. She turned around to return from the
direction she had come, but it was too late.
eight-foot-tall man stood before her. His sloping brow stuck out
farther as he considered her. An ogre. His mouth stretched into a
wide, toothy grin. “Well hello there, lovely! Haw haw!”
Jenna smiled hollowly.
“An ogre! Okay! How lovely! Yes, well… I’m just wanting to go
back the way I came, so if you don’t mind…”
“P’raps I do
mind, then!” He crossed his log-like arms.
“If I’m on your
property, I apologize. I’m just passing through.”
The ogre shrugged.
“I’ll let you pass…” Jenna relaxed slightly. “If
you give me what I want. Heh!”
Jenna shot him an
incredulous look. “I am not
that kind of lady!”
“Hold on to your
garters there, miss. If I wanted your flower I’d pluck it, sure as
the sun hangs high. I just want a kiss. On my forehead.” The
grin returned. “Or is that too charged for you, eh?”
She sighed. “Well…
I guess that’s not too terrible.”
than me tossing ya into yonder bog for being a pest, hmm? Haw!”
stared absently at the path behind the ogre. “Yeah… Alright, I
guess. Bend over so I can reach it.
spirit!” He did as she asked and looked at her expectantly.
“Oh! No peeking
now! That wouldn’t be very proper, you know.”
The ogre snorted. “Oh
do pardon me,
ma’am!” He closed his eyes and waited.
Jenna quietly tip-toed
to one side of the ogre before making a run for it. She dashed past,
brushing past him in an attempt to stay out of the boggy earth beside
the path. It was a mistake that would cost her.
The ogre roared loud
enough to shake the trees. He spun about and charged at her. He
caught up with her in two strides and grasped the back of her shirt.
She made a choking sound as her momentum pulled the neck of her
blouse taut against her throat.
He lifted her clear
off the ground by the garment. He held her at arm’s length, a smirk
on his face. “We look slow, don’t we? But we ain’t! Haw! Not a
Jenna stared at the
giant with wide, pleading eyes. “What… What are you gonna do
with me? I’m sorry. I…”
“You’ll be sorry,
right. What am I going to do with you?” He flashed a sinister
look. “I’m gonna do just what I promised!”
He started spinning around as he finished the sentence.
Faster and faster they
spun around. Finally, he threw her with all his strength and a mighty
roar that sent the birds fleeing from their perches. Jenna soared
through the air, mewling and flailing as she went.
She fell back to earth
in the center of the bog. She struggled to her feet, soaked in tepid
water and rotting vegetation. She let out an exasperated scream.
The ogre boomed
laughter. His mighty voice easily reached her ears. “Maybe next
time you’ll just take your medicine like a good lass!” He swung
one mighty hand in dismissal and pounded back the way he’d come.
Jenna fought back the
urge to cry. She started dragging her way through the mud towards the
other side of the bog. A familiar gray shape came into view as she
neared the edge.
flung out a muck-covered hand, extending an accusing finger. Mud flew
through the air and landed to one side of the mouse. The poor
creature jumped, peeping in surprise. “How!”
The mouse’s eyes
narrowed. “How? I took the path I told you
to take. Funny how I’m here nice and dry while you’ve been tossed in
Jenna growled but said
no more. She pulled herself onto the dry path near the mouse with a
tired grunt. She sat down, turned back the way she had come from. She
looked at her clothes and groaned.
“I tried to tell
you to take the other path.”
Jenna sighed. “Yes,
you did.” She pushed her way to her feet, absently shaking her
arms as she stood.
The mouse gestured towards the path. “Shall we?”
“Sure. Why not?”
The mouse was all too happy to skitter away from the look on the
young woman’s face.
A short walk later,
and the unlikely duo found themselves standing at another fork in the
road. Jenna’s misery deepened. “Great. Another fork.”
“Well it would be
odd if it were a spoon, wouldn’t it?” The mouse tittered at its
own joke. Jenna did not. The mouse nervously cleared his throat.
“Let me guess. I
should take the right path.” The mouse shook his head. “So
the left path, then.” The mouse shook his head once more. Jenna
frowned. “Well I have to take one path or the other!”
“Yes, you do…
Just not at the moment.”
Jenna growled. The
mouse took an uneasy step backwards. “Yes
at this moment! I want to go
“Well right now
you should go up.”
The mouse nodded at the tree behind him.
mouse nodded. “You’re insane!” Jenna pounded past the mouse
onto the left path. The mouse looked nervously on, then thought
better and took his own advice. He watched her progress from a
slightly higher vantage point.
Jenna plodded down the
path, head hung low. Each heavy step raised dust and dropped mud from
her soaked clothing. “Go up…
I’ve had enough of this place. I loved
this place! Such absurdity…”
She suddenly looked
up. “What…” There came a loud rustling from further down
the trail. She paused, listening. The sound subsided. “Just the
wind.” She huffed and continued walking.
The rustling sound
started again. She slowed. The rustling grew louder. “I uh…
Maybe I should try the other path.” Jenna turned around and
started back the way she had come.
The rustling did not
subside. It instead grew louder, more consistent. She walked quicker.
Was the ground rumbling? She slowed and ventured a look over her
Her mouth formed into
an “O” at the sight of the massive dust cloud rising in the
distance. The rumbling grew in intensity. “Oh sh…” She
turned and ran. “Mister Mouse! Mister
A wild group of
galloping ostriches clawed and leaped their way through the forest.
The mouse’s tree was just ahead! She spared a look behind her and
paid dearly for it.
The toe of her shoe
caught fast on a root in the ground and sent her stumbling to the
ground. She was quick to her feet, but the ostriches were even
quicker. Jenna turned to see them bearing down on her.
The ostriches hissed
and scratched and kicked as they scrambled around her. Jenna’s
screams were quickly lost in the stampede that surrounded her. The
crowd finally began to thin out. Jenna, shaking, collapsed against a
tree and began to weep.
She stood wearily a
short while later. She looked down and fought not to cry again. A
quiet rustling came from behind her. She jumped, quietly crying out.
It was the mouse.
looked at her from head to toe. “Oh… Oh, my. I dare say,
you’ve been tarred and feathered, haven’t you?”
Jenna looked down
again. The thick, sticky mud had clung to the loose feathers of the
ostriches as they streamed by. It was an apt description. She
sniffled, nodding slightly. “I just want to go home,” she
said in a small voice.
The mouse sighed,
nodding. “Best thing for you, perhaps. Maybe you’ll follow my
advice now?” Jenna nodded numbly. “Right! This way, then!
This path would have taken you straight to the razorhides.”
Jenna did not recall the razorhides, but shuddered all the same.
They rounded the tree
that the kindly mouse had scrambled up a short while ago and took the
path to the right. It slowly arced in a semi-circle back in the
direction of the left path. One path eventually crossed over the
other via a gracefully arched stone bridge. The mysterious razorhides
could be heard howling somewhere in the distance.
They emerged from the
forest back into the brilliantly shining sun. The mouse sighed
contentedly. Jenna frowned as the mess on her slowly dried in the
heat. Tarred and feathered, indeed.
The mouse turned to
face Jenna at the end of the path a short time later. “I’ve two
things to show you, young lady. First, please follow me.” Jenna
did as requested.
They ventured to the
left a short distance through the grass. Soon they stood at the edge
of a seemingly bottomless pit. The mouse turned to Jenna. “Not
one person to fall in there has ever returned.”
“That’s too bad? I won’t jump in there?”
The mouse smiled
slyly. “You tried to!” He turned and pointed at a short
cliff on the far side of the pit. “Up there… That’s the end of
the path you tried to take at the beginning of this little
“So that wall
wasn’t trying to keep me from going home, it was trying to keep me
out of the pit?”
“Looks that way,
doesn’t it?” The mouse winked. “This way, please.” He
skittered back the way they had come.
A short walk later and
they stood before a round pool. Jenna ran a hand along the top of the
slate wall that formed its sides and leaned over the edge. Her own
gently rippling reflection stared back up at her.
Looking closer she saw
something beneath the surface. Buildings and people were vaguely
visible. Did she hear the drone of distant traffic? She spun around,
smiling. “It’s the way home!”
The mouse jumped out
of the way of a flying chunk of feathery mud, frowning. “Yes, I
suppose it is, isn’t it? Perhaps you’ll be a bit cleaner on the other
side of things…”
looked down at her ruined clothes. “Still…” She looked
back out across the fields before them. Maybe I could stay a while
longer? I… Well, I missed being here.”
The mouse raised a
furry eyebrow. “Fancy that, with you rushing for the exit so
It was Jenna’s turn to
frown. “Yes, well… I suppose I haven’t been a very nice
person…” The mouse nodded enthusiastically. “But perhaps
if you gave me another chance…”
ogre loomed up from around the far side of the pool and pounded
“What? How? I
don’t…” Jenna’s head whipped back and forth between the petite
mouse and the mammoth ogre.
“Quite true, you
don’t. Haw!” He hoisted her up and dumped her unceremoniously
headfirst into the pool. “Heh! The end, eh Mouse?”
The mouse nodded his
head. “Quite! What a figure…”
Somewhere on the far
side of that pool, in a city far away from the peace and tranquility
of the other-world, Jenna rocketed out of a public fountain. The
pigeons that had been sitting quietly about it screamed in defiance
and fluttered into the air as she splashed back down. Jenna popped
back out of the water, gasping. She spit out water, shaking her hands
in front of her.
A police officer that
had been leaning on the side of his cruiser stood up, eyebrows rising
markedly. He shook his head and pushed on the bridge of his mirrored
sunglasses. He walked towards her, talking quietly into his radio as
Jenna smiled innocently and waved. A chunk of mud flew through the
air, just missing the officer. The man flinched reflexively
backwards. “Oh… Sorry!”
The officer smirked.
“Ma’am, I’m gonna have to ask you to step out of the fountain,
Jenna did as she was asked.
“So what’s your
story? Take a wrong turn, or something?”
flushed. “Yeah, you could say that.”