By Holly Thomas
In the corner of the room, there is a mouse.
He is eating cheese as I loom over him. How unsettling it must be to be so small, to see so much.
I turn and leave the room, to get the wine from the kitchen. I do this because I know that he needs to talk to me, and it’s polite to add Merlot to gruyere.
I pour some wine into the lid of the bottle and give it to my friend. I sit next to him on the floor and tell him I’m not ready to go with him yet.
We cheers, me clinking my wine glass against the fragile bottle lid. He makes a small toast as he climbs up my boot, up my leg and onto my knee.
We look each other in the eye, and silently wonder how long we have known each other for.
At some point, the magic of this moment seems to end. My friend senses it too, so he turns back down my leg and nibbles a hole, straight through the leather of my shoe.
My big toe is now visible, the red nail varnish shimmering as if to say hello. My friend wraps his tail tightly around it and slowly starts to pull, inching my bum further along the floor. Soon I am horizontal and I grab a piece of cheese for the journey.
We don’t say much; old friends don’t need to.
Slowly but surely, he drags me outside towards the hole in the ground from which he came from. I have been here many times before and I recognise the damp smell of moss. The hole leads to a tunnel that is dark, like most tunnels are. I raise my hands above my face as we enter and feel the warm earth above me.
We stop for a minute or two. I can deduce from the heavy panting that my friend is tired and needs to rest a while. The tunnel is too tight for me to raise my head and ask if he is okay.
Soon we start to move again, until I see a light and know that we are nearly there. When we eventually burst through into the other side, we are in my friend’s home. It is the size of a well-proportioned cave, and the community of mice that live there line the walls. They look down on me as I am dragged into the centre of the space.
One by one, the mice start to come down from the walls and circle my body. Each mouse carries a small amount of liquid in its mouth, which it spits on me before finding a place once again in the auditorium around us. From the smell, I know that the liquid is gasoline.
I watch as a match is lit and thrown on my doused body. I watch as my boot starts to burn.
“I’m sorry” my mouse friend cries.
“I’m sorry too,” I say as I look through the flames, “I did not know he was your brother”.