Moby and his kits sat at dinner, chewing on their food in awkward silence. Moby was oblivious to all this, still wrapped up in the thought that an entire maun of his life had been wiped from his memory.
Mat saw a good morsel that Mik had dropped, and reached over Any for it. Rik let out a strident squeak.
"Gimme," Mat whined. "I'm hungry."
Mik looked over, his dark eyes squinted. "You always take my food. You say you'll give me some of yours the next daun, but you never do. No. Enough is enough."
"Oh come on!" Mat argued. "I'll give it back as soon as we get more food. The priests said it was coming soon. As soon as Man gets more food, he'll share it with us!"
Mat reached over again, in more of a begging than furtive manner. "Please? I'm so hungry!"
"So am I, but I don't complain about it. Do what the Priests tell you and eat what you're given. Remember, Man looks kindly upon mice that don't complain."
"What I don't understand is why we don't get more food now that Me and Brad are working too," said Dane.
Brad started to explain the idea of a society in which everyone does his job the best her can and everyone receives what he needs to survive, without greed.
Moby cut him off: "You kits are working now?"
Rakel cut in. "They have thirteen mauns. It's time."
"But you're only–" Moby began, but drifted off, realizing his error. How did I miss that much time, he thought.
As Mik stared at his father, Mat reached across Rakel and grabbed the tidbit. "HEY!" Mik squeaked. "That was mine! Give it back!"
Mat spit on it."Still want it now?"
"Yes, actually, I'm still hungry!" Mik reached across Any again, who leaned forward as the two practically scampered over her, whipping their tails and limbs. Just as Mik was about to grab it, Mat took a big bite. Mik watched as Mat ate the last his food, again.
"You little–" Mik dove over Any who was backpedalling as quickly as possible. He cleared her with ease, however his tail smacked into her face. Any burrowed deeper into the fluff.
"Stop it! Both of you!" Rakel shouted at them. Mat, apologize to your brother for eating his food, and Mik, apologize to your sister, she's hurt."
"Yes, Rakel," groaned Mat.
"Sure, Mom," joked Mik.
Moby's face suddenly transformed. "Mom," he repeated, sounding as though he had echolalia. "Where is she? Where's Meredith?"
The kids all stopped what they were doing, and fell silent, staring. It was Rakel who finally spoke up. "You don't remember?" she asked, fear, shock, and outrage creeping onto her face.
"Remember what? What's there to remember?" Moby was frantic.
"Mom's–" Any said, letting out a sob. "–gone."
"Gone how? What's wrong? What happened?" Moby panicked.
"Mom," Rakel sighed, "Mom died. You don't remember this?"
"You mean, while I was sleeping?"
"No. A while before that," Dane put in. "You're telling me that you don't remember your ma'am's death?"
"My ma'am is dead? Your mom is dead? Meredith?" Moby asked, his face falling. He began to cry. His and Any's syncopated sobs sounded like an african drumbeat.
Rakel came up behind him and nudged his face with hers. "Dad, go to bed. You clearly aren't feeling so well."
Moby pushed her away. "Meredith... What happened? How did it happen? I want to know!"
Rakel and Dane exchanged looks. "We'll talk about it in the morning. You need your sleep."
"By what you said, I got a month of sleep!" Moby shouted. Even Rakel flinched. "What I need to know is what happened."
"It was a trap," Rakel said. But her face betrayed that she was leaving something out.
"You're lying to me. My own kit is lying to me about my Meredith. Is she really dead, or did you all just drive her away?"
"I'm not–" said Rakel, pausing to compose her words. "I'm not lying, it's just–"
"Just what? I can handle it, Rakel, I can handle it!"
"It's just that it– wasn't exactly an accident."
"Who would do that to her? Was it one of you? How dare you sit here and lie to my face when you killed my ma'am, your mother!"
Brad was tired of dancing around it. "She killed herself, Dad. Like, suicide."
Moby fell silent, and curled up in the fluff. He felt like his mind was being drawn and quartered– tied to four horses who were running in four different directions. It was mid-split when he fell into a dream.
Moby was following the cats and he didn't know why. He tried to turn around, but his body kept moving forward. "Oh, so my free will is gone. That's cool." he thought.
He heard an echoey voice respond. "What free will?" it asked him.
He ignored it, and continued trying to pull himself out of the quiet scamper from hiding place to hiding place. "Why am I following them?" he thought, hoping that the voice in his head would hear it. "And why am I hiding from the priests?"
"You'll see," it said. The marionette strings he found himself metaphorically connected to hid him behind a pipe. He watched as the cats surrounded a mouse. He squinted a second, and then recognized her. "Meredith!" he tried to shout, but the puppet master wouldn't allow for it. "That wouldn't be such a good idea," said the voice.
The cats stood in a circle around her. At first, he thought that she was the center of some sort of prayer ritual, but then he saw the fear on her face. "What's wrong?" Moby asked the voice. No response. He watched her face crinkle.
"You scared little mouse?" he heard Constantine ask maliciously. He flashed his long white teeth at her. Meredith put on a strong face, but Moby could see her cower.
Basilicus stood on her other side. "Don't worry, we don't have to eat you. There's another way," he teased, tilting his head towards the wood-and-red trap behind her.
Moby tried to scream. "Why have you brought me here?" he asked the voice.
"You brought you here," it responded. "A month ago. You brought you here?"
"Is this where I hurt my head?"
"No, not yet. This is where Meredith dies."
Moby squealed, but his mouth didn't move, his vocal cords didn't vibrate. He was trapped in a haunted house, only it was his life.
"Please, I won't tell anyone, just let me go!" begged Meredith. "I have kits to take care of. Without me, who knows what will happen to them. And Moby, what will happen to Moby? Please, I won't tell anyone! Just let me live!"
"Meredith!" Moby thought. "I'll be okay! Don't worry about me! I love you!" He knew she was about to die.
The cats snickered. "Pick your poison. You can go fast, or slow." said Basilicus.
Constantine looked back. "I always like a runner. The chase is so satisfying when you can pull a mouse to pieces, limb by limb. Definitely the best part."
Meredith looked at them defiantly. Moby tried to close his eyes, to turn his head, but he had no choice but to watch. "Get me out of here!" he shouted at the voice. "I don't want to be here, I don't want to do this! Why are you making me!" The voice didn't respond.
With a glimmer of revolution in her eye, (a glimmer that Moby had never seen in her before) she took a step back. She stuck out her front foot like she was about to take off running, and then, with the smirk of a spiteful martyr, stepped back again.
Moby watched, screaming as loudly as he could in a paralyzed body as he watched it all in slow-motion. He saw her paw reach the red comercial engravings on the pinewood, the spring snap up into the air, and the metal shoot forward, falling onto her back. He watched the pain spread across her face, her mouth open to bear her long, white teeth, as her spine snapped. And then it was over. She was gone.
The cats cackled. "I knew she would choose the trap," Constantine boasted. "And the best part is, now we have something to show the family."
Basilicus cracked a grin at his brother's brilliance. "If any others know something, they'll sure want to keep it quiet now!" The two chuckled as they walked off, leaving Meredith's body for Justinian to "find" on his nightly rotation. When the cats were out of sight, Moby felt his legs pull him forward again.
"Oh, no," he thought. "Don't make me! No! I don't want to see the body! I'm done with this!" He felt himself dragged forwards by his nerves and muscles. He felt as his front right leg lifted to touch the bloody body. He could still feel her warmth, the softness of her fur. He began to cry: finally his inside matched the out. He stroked her head. "Meredith," he whispered. "I wish I could have saved you. I love you. I'll miss you." Tears rolled across his face, down his nose, and landed on his paw, still rested on her head. He moved it to her paw. "I love you! I love you so much! How am I supposed to live without you?" But then, he heard footsteps, and, even though he now wanted to keep his body standing where it was, to stay and face whatever, even if it be his own death, with the strength and bravery of his ma'am, he had no control over his legs, which took off.
He scampered back behind the warm, textured pipes and watched, as Justinian walked over to the body. "Tempting," he said to himself, "But I must preserve the body. The other vermin have to see him, on display, so that the ones who know will know something else: not to cross me."
Moby tried to run forward, to yell to him, to do anything to get back at the bastard standing over his wife's dead body.
"Not yet," said the voice. "In time, but not yet."
Moby felt like knocking over brew-pots, chewing at wires, and doing whatever he could to get back at anyone, even himself. Instead, stood still. While he wreaked mental havoc across his entire world, he stood still, watching as Justinian lifted the trap, Meredith still in it, by his teeth, and began to carry it towards the fluff complex.
Moby heard a voice. "Dad! Dad! Why are you screaming? Why are you running? Dad!?"
The world, his ma'am, that evil cat, everything faded. "I'm going to get you!" he screamed.
His kits backed away. He looked around, and saw that he was in the fluff. He had stopped moving, and stopped yelling. The kits were staring, wondering what their insane father would do next.
"What are you all looking at?" he asked them incredulously. "Go to bed. You have school, and, uh, work in the morning."
The kits paused at first, but with another, highly compelling look from their father, scrambled off to their spots. Moby, however, sat still, watching them. "Just a nightmare," he said to himself, "Just a nightmare."