He lay there, watching the old two-legs with the angry voice who always spoiled his adventures. His four small legs trembled slightly as he fought for breath, it was harder now to move around. His tiny nose quivered, recognizing familiar smells, dry crackling smells, he knew they were the white old scented things that rested between the heavier, dark stuff that smelt like the covering the two legs protected their feet with. The word he understood disappeared from his grasp in the confusion of his mind, then with clarity it returned 'books'. The old two-legs with the angry voice would hound him from the refuge he had found, so he kept still. The pounding in his chest eased, he made his move, silently, slowly, he didn't want the old two-legs with the angry voice to know he had been in forbidden places.
As he made his escape, the tunnels became familiar guides to lead him to safety, to home. Again he paused not understanding what was happening. A new sensation washed over him, fear, but he did not recognize it, he had not met fear before, not like this. Fear for Arthur meant being caught by the big two-legs stealing food, or the little two-legs who tied cans to his tail, but that was long ago, only dim half-remembered fears. This fear was new, unknown, and he needed the security of his safe place.
Tantalizing scents from the chamber where the two-legs found their food held no attraction for him, he had to get home. Beneath his legs the tunnels sloped upwards and he fought every inch of the way, as he reached the iron grating the pain hit him once more. Tiny eyes scanned the darkness searching for the little two-legs the ones they called children. They hurt him sometimes with things sticking out of their mouths which sent tiny stones to torment him, he was alone with no explanation for the pain, but it was a different pain. Stones stung, this was a building continuous hurt which ebbed and flowed through the tiny body. He pushed himself on........ he had to get home.
It was down now, down and down, the pain subsided and he rested. Hot, dry, and weary, he sniffed the air around him, damp air. Nearby was water, and a desperate thirst washed over him. Yet he knew he could not seek the cool clear water...... he had to get home. He was barely walking now and his back legs left furrows in the dust as they dragged from time to time, but he fought to control them, they had never refused to carry him before, again the unknown terror took hold of him. Twice, his four legs seemed to belong to another animal, and they ceased moving, then he rolled over and over in the dust, to land in a heap at the bottom of the stone ramp.
He could no longer feel his four legs, and from deep within came the knowledge that he would not move again. A soothing numbness began to creep along his body, slow and comforting, for now there was no pain, only a longing for the safety of familiar surroundings........ of home. His eyes closed and he surrendered to the sweetness of oblivion. Sounds disturbed his calm, sounds he knew, they raised his hopes as his tiny eyes opened wide in joy. It was the two-legs who smelt of oil, and machinery.... it was his two-legs.
All sensation had left the small body now, only his mind remembered and was glad.......... arms he knew lifted him from the ground and cradled him close. He drifted off, then became alert again as the smells of chemicals and oil and his safe place drifted into his nostrils. The strange unknown fear had left him now and a peaceful contentment seeped into him. He was home, with his own two-legs, and he knew nothing could hurt him anymore. Snuggling close into the protective warmth of leather, wool, and linen, he sighed. The dullness crept into his mind, but he could feel nothing but the soft beckoning peace.
He was not aware of the tenderness with which his two-legs laid him on the cushion, he did not feel the gentle hand stroke his long slender body........ all he felt was 'safe'...... and he sighed again. He did not feel the tears fall onto his fur from the eyes of the two-legs who fed and cared for him as his own eyes glazed over. He did not hear the words of goodbye softly spoken. He did not know that he would live on in the memory of the two-legs the others called Mouse.......... and even the most devastating of his explorations, would be remembered by all Below with fondness and with love. How could the small raccoon know he would never really die and, as stories of his adventures were passed on from one generation to the next, the story of Arthur would become a part of the magic weaving only the greatest of legends are made of.
About the Author:
Amber James lives just outside Manchester, England. She came into fandom in 1991, after watching her first episode of B&B, "An Impossible Silence". Having made a decision that the advance publicity did nothing to encourage her to watch the series, she had not seen previous episodes. Flicking through channels one night she spotted an actress signing, that actress was Terrylene who played Laura. Amber, who uses British Sign Language herself, couldn't resist watching the episode and the rest is history.
She has written many short stories, vignettes, poetry and full-length zines. She had also won a large number of awards for all the various forms of writing in England. Outside of B&B fandom she has had a number of pieces published, written short stories for B.B.C. radio, and had two plays (both farces) staged at the Clarendon Community Theatre in Nottingham. Amber works full-time as a senior manager in local government. She is married with three children, four grandchildren, and admits to being 'over fifty'. She has attended a number of conventions in England, managed the 1996 British Convention 'A Moment In Time' and will be managing 'A Moment In Time 1997 in August this year. Amber's e-mail address is email@example.com.