15/02/17 | By

cover art officially by Tom Brown.

Here are a few excerpts from Intelligent Designing for Amateurs, featuring creepy mice. I blame Douglas Adams entirely, I just can't get enough sinister mice...

Charlie caught the dog-faced boy trying to put wheels on one of the mice.

“So it can go faster,” he explained.

“But mice aren’t supposed to have wheels!” She felt exceedingly uncomfortable. “Where are its feet?”

“I took them off, first, or they’d have got in the way.” In his furry hands, the mouse barely moved. Little whiskers quivered, but it showed no signs of trying to escape. “Think what we could do if the mice all had wheels, not feet!”

She thought. Wheeled mice had potential, but the idea troubled her.

Nigel continued. “Then we could move on, to other animals. Think how much easier it would be, getting cows to market if they had wheels! And what horses could do.”

“They’d need brakes,” she said, imagining what would otherwise happen on slopes. Free-rolling cows did not seem like a good addition to the world.

“I always wanted wheels,” Nigel added. He let the wheeled mouse go. It careered noisily across the table, dropped alarmingly to the floor and, faster for the wheels, escaped under the cupboard before Charlie had chance to even think about catching it.

She shook her head. “That’s the fifth mouse this week. We’ll have to get some more somehow.”

“They’ll come back,” Nigel pronounced. “Once the ones under the cupboard have seen the wheels.”

“How have you managed to put wheels on mice?” Charlie asked. He didn’t have any tools out.

“It’s pretty easy, once you’ve unscrewed their feet.”

Charlie thought about this. Biology had not been a serious focus of study at any time in her history as a student of science. Her brief, childish foray into the messy world of animal dissection had taught her a few things though: Normal mice were not designed to be unscrewed.

* * * * * *

Charlie turned the mouse over in her hand. It offered no resistance, but waved its little wheels in the air. Aside from the absence of normal feet, it looked entirely like a real mouse, with fur, ears, and whiskers. However, it felt quite heavy, and not very soft. She suspected it of not being what it seemed. Her taste for dismantling small mammals had departed years before, and she felt no desire to open it up and see if anything made it tick.

“Once the feet are off, you can peel them,” Nigel said. “Putting the skin back’s harder.”

“Let’s not,” said Charlie. She put the mouse down and watched it speed across the floor.

* * * * * *

The voice at her head pleaded with her to stop, to think, but she couldn’t. Fingers had to move. Oil. More cogs. Part of the bicycle frame. She had the lid from an old biscuit tin in her hands now, and no idea what it was for, but that didn’t make any difference. Out into the yard, in the gloom. What days was it now? Dawn, or twilight? She couldn’t tell. Looking for something, hand wet amongst items long abandoned. Something found. An old chain, heavy in her arms as she staggered back like a somnambulist. Tighten. Oil.

She was so tired now that the room flickered in and out of focus continually. Her eyes closed for seconds that could have been hours, and the pillow upstairs seemed to be calling her name in a whispery, seductive sort of voice. It ought to be possible to stop and lie down, but she couldn’t.

Now, in a final insult to sanity, the room was filling up with mice. Hundreds of mice, whirring and squeaking, with feet and wheels. The walls between wakefulness and nightmare had become so thin that she could see right through them. Only she didn’t know which side was which any more. Where had the mice come from? Surely they hadn’t got through this number of rodents? Had they been breeding behind the cupboards? What had they been eating back there? Surfaces undulated with mice, a living, squeaking wave of abnormality.

Slowly at first, the mice climbed into the machine. They clicked and shrieked amongst the moving parts, working their way into the mechanism. She’d never seen mice this organized before. Were all mice like this, once you got to know them? Were they all thinking independently, or was someone telling them what to do? At last, her hands fell still, with no more work to be done. Like a puppet that is no longer held up from above, Charlie flopped. Strings finally cut, she drooped in a chair and stared at the nightmare reality of mice before her. They came from the cupboards in numbers beyond counting, heading for the machine with a most eerie certainty.

“I see mice,” Nigel said, voice quavering.

“Could be worse,” Charlie replied, repressing the urge to giggle because she knew it would be a short step from there to screaming. “Could be dead people.”




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