Reworked this from the ground up pretty much!
Timorous is a story set in late 1800’s england. Around four hundred years prior to the story’s opening, mammals began behaving like men for unknown reasons. The tale is one of the expedition to find out why this was, and to sort out the rights and privileges of those Elevated animals that now coexist with humans.
I’ve written this opening like…nine or so times and I’m never quite happy with it, so I’d’ adore your feedback, and give hearty thanks to anyone who takes the time!
The door wasn’t a terribly large one. It sat on a bookshelf, it’s entire wooden edifice about the size of a brandy glass. Though Mr.Mus Musculus had expected screaming from beyond it, there was silence.
The worried mouse paced. ears and whiskers twitching. Worried paws fretted at a smock dotted with dyes and bits of food as he tried to calm himself. His pale brown fur was a jagged mess as continued his circuit between the two encyclopedias that framed their home. Besides the occasional sounds of the nurse beast shuffling around, and the vague silhouettes of her shape beyond the curtains, there was silence.
Mr.Mus Musculus continued his sentry, casting occasional glances from the bookshelf down onto the cottage floor. It was midday, and several beasts wandered about below. The small building had been abandoned long ago, the whole isle of Gossamer in fact. They made their home here, below were his neighbors, fellow weavers. He would have to face them with whatever news came from behind his door. His whiskers twitched more agitatedly.
“I’m useless,” he lamented. “Sat out here like a child.”
Mrs.Mus Musculus had been quite adamant that he not be inside during the birth. In fact she seemed a great deal more worried for him rather than herself. He knew she was right, he’d never held with the sight of blood. He would probably have been more of a hinderance than a help, standing inside the small room on shaky footing, like a dead mechanism in the winding machine of the nursebeast’s work.
Still, even from out here he’d expected to know more of what was going on than he currently did. As far as any outside viewer might have been concerned, the door to their home looked and sounded as quiet as always. It might as well have been any other day. Mrs.Mus Musculus had always been the brave sort, and refused to be reduced to a screaming wretch by something so mundane as childbirth.
He considered peeking his head inside, just to see. What if something had gone wrong? Ms.Vander was a fine nursebeast. Hadn’t the often severe shrew seen most of the babes of the isle birthed in good health? But, there was always a chance wasn’t there? Some hemorrhage or other such thing might sweep in, and take both her and the babe from him at a moment’s notice. He quailed at the thought.
In a single shift from one second to the next, the door turned from an infuriating barrier, to a dark gate threatening some unknown future. Mr.Mus Musculus suddenly had no desire to open the door, and resumed his worried pacing.
But then again…what if he could do something to stop it? What if such a terrible thing had happened, and he’d simply fretted outside the door like some imbecile. He’d never be able to forgive himself. He stopped pacing.
Opening the door. That was the thing to do. He was a weaver after all, he could stitch things if stitches were needed, that had to be helpful in some way, hadn’t it? Yes. Yes he would open the door for his family’s sake. It had been quiet for too lo-
The door almost hit his pointed nose as it swung open. The severe, sharp face of Ms.Vander met his with hardly an inch’s breadth between them.
There was a moment of silence, broken only by the squealing cry of a newborn.
Despite his shy nature, paternal instinct pushed all reservations aside. Mr.Mus Musculus pressed past the shrew’s glare. If she said anything about this, he didn’t hear it. His eyes were locked on the makeshift bed laid out on the dining room floor. On it, his wife smiled down at a swaddled bundle clutched in her arms. She looked lovely as ever, if a bit tired, her honey brown fur a bit mussed. Her smile was her usual smile, self assured and soft. Now, however, there was something new around its edges.
Instead of offering any explanation, she offered him the bundle. He took it as though it were glass, worried it might break at the smallest touch. The cries continued, and it wriggled as it sat warm in his paws through the blanket. With the tenderest care, he unwrapped its largest fold.
Two eyes stared back at him. The babe was fully furred, which wasn’t terribly unusual for animals of the elevated sort. Beyond this though, he gaped as a paw reached up and tugged at his whiskers. The babe’s fur, still smelling of new life and wet with his first tears, was black as a starless sky
“Oh dear…” said Mr.Mus Musculus.