Bird cage

Wednesday the Raven

by Colin Lewis


Chapter Eighteen

A Mouse Called Hurricane

Halfway up the outside of the Broken Clock Tower, a small mouse paused his climb to narrate the scene.

“As our daredevil hero ascended,” he said, “a crowd of onlookers gathered below and gazed skyward with awe and admiration in their eyes. Up he went, paw over paw, with neither the benefit of harness nor safety net.”

The mouse pulled his backpack tighter and continued his climb.

“At any moment,” he said, “a loose foothold could trip the adventurer and leave him hanging on for dear life! The crowd gasped in fear! Would he make it?”

The mouse looked around for a loose foothold. He couldn’t find one, but he did see a short bolt that stuck conveniently from the mortar. The mouse hung from the bolt with one paw and peered down at the base of the Tower.

There was no one there.

He looked around and saw a squirrel who sat on a distant tree branch and watched him. The squirrel held an acorn in his paws.

The mouse waved.

The squirrel waved back.

“Fearful that their hero would plummet to the earth,” he continued, “and unable to stand the suspense, the crowd had apparently fled from the scene. Stunned authorities continued to monitor him from above. Who is that brave crusader? Why, that’s Hurricane, bewhiskered adventurer extraordinaire.”

Hurricane brought his paw to his mouth and made the sound of a distant crowd cheering.

“He’s smarter than a sewer-full of rats, and his heart is as big as an ice cream truck. He roams the city, documenting the unexplored and battling injustice wherever he finds it.”

Hurricane looked back at the tree. The squirrel had gone.

He wiggled his whiskers.

“Fortunately,” he said, “our hero prefers to work alone and out of scrutiny of the public eye.”

Hurricane narrowed his own eyes and squinted up at the top of the Tower. He tried to squint as often as he could. He knew that squinting made him look determined and heroic.

It also made it difficult to see, but such is the hero’s burden.

When Hurricane reached the ledge, he pulled himself up and leapt into a crouch position.

“Hurricane!” said Hurricane. “The people demand an answer: why risk whisker and tail to scale the dangerous Tower? Calm down, fans! The answer is simple: a true adventurer has no choice. The undiscovered wants revelation. Darkness wants illumination. Towers want me to climb them.”

He swung his little backpack around and rummaged through the bag.

“Compass, whistle, and rope,” he said. “Signal mirror, needle, thread, two buttons, unfinished map of the Park, pouch of sunflower seeds, disguise kit with false whiskers and wig, pencil—ah, here it is.”

He opened his field mouse notes and wrote: Clock Tower: height approximately 230 tails.

Hurricane looked around.

“A dark entrance presented itself to our explorer,” he said. “What mysterious danger lurked beyond its threshold? There was only one way for a mouse to find out.”

Hurricane ran to the edge of the entrance, pressed himself against the wall and peeked around the corner.

No mysterious danger lurked beyond the threshold.

He relaxed and entered the Tower.

Hurricane walked by wheels, pulleys, automatons, and the other parts that powered the great clock. He passed the grinding wheels that sent out the showers of sparks on New Years Eve. He saw his image in one of the vernal equinox mirrors and saluted his reflection.

“Looking good,” he said.

He entered Wednesday’s collections and whistled.

“What a lot of junk,” he said.

Hurricane stopped along the way to examine a group of blue postage stamps and a selection of coins. He wound one of the watches and pressed against it to hear the ticking gears.

Eventually he found himself in a room filled with cages. Hurricane counted a half dozen cages, and in each cage he saw a different species of bird. He wandered down the row and called out the names of the birds as he passed.

“Sparrow, warbler, chickadee, finch, starling, robin.”

He stopped before the robin at the last cage.

“What were these strange beings he saw before him?” said Hurricane. “Were they the prisoners of a foul marauder? Victims of some treacherous scheme? Or were they vicious monsters, locked up in the Tower out of fear for public safety?”

“We’re birds,” said the robin.

“Right,” said Hurricane. “I can see that. What are you doing here?”

“We were brought here against our will,” said the robin.

“Bird-napped!” said Hurricane.

“Yes and no,” said the robin. “The starling was still in her egg.”

“Egg-napped?” said Hurricane.

“And that new bird flew here by herself, but it was an elaborate trap.”

“Egg-napping, bird-napping, and elaborate traps!” said Hurricane. “Who is this rotten egg and bird-napper who imprisoned you? Is it Doctor Temporal?”

“Who is Doctor Temporal?”

“My nemesis,” said Hurricane. “My archenemy in the struggle for justice. I’ve never met him.”

“Oh,” said the robin. “No, it’s not him. It’s a big raven named Wednesday.”

“A raven?”

“You don’t know what a raven is?”

Hurricane rolled his eyes. “Of course I do, but pretend I don’t. Is it like a crow? Does it eat mice?”

“It’s a big black bird like a crow, but larger and wilder.”

“Is it a big black bird that eats mice?”

“They eat mice and everything else. This one is a collector. She’ll collect you if you’re not careful.”

Hurricane made a little fist and shook it in the air.

“She would be sorry if she tried. If she eats mice then I’m against her. I will help you to vanquish this mouse-consuming, bird-napping, all-things-collecting raven. For all we know, she may be in cahoots with Doctor Temporal. Or The Tall Phantom.”

“Who’s the Tall Phantom?”

“Another of my many adversaries. I have several. There’s Doctor Temporal, The Tall Phantom, Professor Nightmares, and more. I’m an explorer of untamed, unmapped wildernesses like this Tower, and I’ve made a lot of enemies along the way.”

“This isn’t an untamed wilderness,” said the robin. “It’s a tower in a park.”

“It’s unmapped,” said Hurricane.

“I’m pretty sure it’s mapped,” said the robin. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to vanquish anyone. I just want to escape.”

“You want me to let you out?”

The robin nodded.

“Sorry,” said Hurricane. “I can’t let you out.”

“Oh,” said the robin. “Why not?”

Hurricane pulled at the cage door.

“I forgot my lock picks,” he said. “Maybe I can use something else. Do you have a paper clip or bobby pin?”

The robin looked around. “No,” he said. “What’s a bobby pin?”

“It’s a kind of lock pick you put in your hair,” said Hurricane.

“I don’t have hair,” said the robin.

Hurricane pressed his paws against his temples and scrunched up his face.

“Are you okay?” said the robin.

“Our hero screwed on his thinking cap and set his mighty brain to work. How could he open the cage doors?”

Hurricane clapped his paws together over his head.

“Pow!” he said. “The answer came to him in a brilliant flash of inspiration.”

He looked around the room.

“What’s the answer?” said the robin.

“Thanks to an impressive and comprehensive knowledge of science,” said Hurricane, “our hero knew that the mechanical advantage of a simple machine would be perfect for solving this problem.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said the robin.

“I need a lever to pry open the door,” said Hurricane.

“Can’t you just use the key?” said the robin.

“Not exactly,” said Hurricane. “I would need to set up a covert surveillance program, sneak in during the dead of night, steal the key and make a wax impression—”

“The key is hanging on the wall somewhere down by the sparrow,” said the robin.

“Oh,” said Hurricane. “Where?”

The robin pointed at Ella.

“The new bird,” he said.

Hurricane scampered along the row of cages and stopped in front of Ella.

“Greetings, new bird,” he said. “I’m here to save you.”

Ella looked up at the mouse with sad eyes.

“Huh,” said Hurricane. “Would you look at that—scarf. Lovely scarf.”

Ella tugged halfheartedly at her scarf.

“It’s a very blue scarf,” said Hurricane. “Have you seen a key?”

Ella stared at the mouse for a moment. She pointed to where the key hung near the door.

Hurricane retrieved the key and unlocked Ella’s cage. He took a deep bow.

“Voilà!” he said. “No need to thank me. It’s all in a day’s work.”

Ella didn’t answer.

“Anyway,” said Hurricane, “I’ve fixed it so you can go now.”

He pointed toward the exit.

“Escape and freedom are that way.”

Ella looked at him blankly.

“They’re over there,” said Hurricane.

Ella shook her head.

“You don’t want to go?”

She shook her head again.

“You do want to go.”

She bobbed her head up and down.

“And yet,” said Hurricane, “you won’t go.” He leaned against the cage. “Liberating the prisoners proved more of a challenge than our hero expected,” he said.

Ella opened her eyes wider.

“Apparently,” said Hurricane, “you had a terrible accident and you can’t speak.”

“I can’t remember,” said Ella.

“You can’t remember how to speak?”

“I can’t remember how to fly,” said Ella.

“Oh, that’s simple,” said Hurricane. “All you have to do is move your wings. You must know. Flying is an instinct for birds, like gnawing. I could never forget how to gnaw.”

He grabbed a short stick that lay nearby and quickly chewed it in half. He spit the splinters on the floor and wiped his mouth.

“See? I’m sure it’s the same for you and flying. It’s easy. Flap, flap, flap.”

Hurricane jumped up and down and flapped his arms.

Ella shook her head again.

Hurricane stopped jumping and flapping.

“No?” he said.

He scrunched up his face again.

“I’m pretty sure this is a standard feature for birds,” he said. “Come out to the ledge and you’ll remember.”

He led Ella away.

“Wait,” said the warbler. “Are you going to let us out too?”

“Never fear, your hero will return,” said Hurricane.

He waved at the birds as he left.

“Don’t worry! I’ll be back.”

The robin watched them go.

He shook his head and settled back into the corner of his cage.

“I’m not sure I can remember,” said Ella.

The silent heart of the Tower loomed up beside them, and ahead glowed the light of the entrance.

“I’m telling you,” said Hurricane, “it’s instinct. It’s natural. It’s one of those things you don’t have to learn. It’s the reason fish can swim, and why turtles dig down in the mud. Rabbits hop, honeybees dance, and squirrels juggle acorns.”

“I don’t know,” said Ella. “This feels different.”

“And even if you have forgotten,” said Hurricane, “I’ll eat my hat if you don’t remember by the end of the day.”

“You don’t have a hat,” said Ella.

“Don’t worry,” said Hurricane. “I’ll get one.”

“Oh dear,” said a voice.

Ella and Hurricane stopped and stared.

“This is awkward,” said Wednesday. “Am I interrupting something?”

Wednesday the Raven cover

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