Illustration by Gabriell
Once, in a sprawling green expanse of forest there lived a small blind mouse. His gray pelt was matted and dirty, his rickety old body was cold and frail, and he wore a saddening pair of cloudy emotionless eyes. He resided in a rotten hollowed out oak tree filled with fungus and mold, and slept in a bed of sharp dried pine needles. By day the mouse would stumble clumsily around the wood searching for any morsel of food that would keep him alive, and would usually have to settle with old acorns and chestnuts that had fallen from their tree. It was not the most luxurious of lifestyles.

Alas the poor furry creature lived this way not because he was blind, or unintelligent, or poor, but because all the other animals in the forest treated him so. The badgers did not want him “getting in the way of their business”, the squirrels did not desire him to “interfere with their nut gathering”, the otters of the river did not allow him to drink from their plentiful streams for they claimed “his blind eyes would contaminate the water”, and the birds agreed that they did not wish for him to live in their trees because “the tiny weakling would ruin our nests.” In the end the animals decided to treat the mouse as an outcast, for his handicap made him different from them.

The younger animals would taunt and make fun of the mouse. They would jab sticks and his eyes, throw rocks at his head, call him names like “vermin” and “sightless fool.” The adults would jeer him and threaten him warning him to “stay away from our children, you’re a danger to us all.”

WHat Lies Within by Malcolm

illustration by Malcolm

 

And so one day the little mouse decided he had enough of the taunting and discrimination. He took his walking stick from the rotting oak tree and set off into the wood, determined to prove to the rest of the forest that he deserved better. He journeyed through the maple trees of the squirrels, the long winding river of the otters, and the through leafy bushes of the birds, and the big gaping burrows of the badgers until he came to a stop in the middle of a field. He then stood up, and with all the pride and strength he could muster, he squeaked a mighty squeak:

“Animals, beasts, creatures of all kind, gather ‘round me and prepare to be amazed, for I can prove that I am equal to you!”

His mighty squeal echoes off of every rock and tree and into the ears of the animals. The badgers were the first to arrive.

“What are you doing here,” sneered one of them. “This is not where you belong. Go back to your home.”

“But I have no home,” replied the mouse. “I belong with the other animals, and I have done nothing to deserve this banishment.”

“Bah!” exclaimed the badger. By now the other animals had arrived. “It is not what you have done, but what you are! You’re nothing but a useless bag of fur. Blind and dirty. We are superior to you. You do not belong with us, you belong far away with the other… vermin.”

The mouse calmly turned around, his back facing everyone and went silent. Several eerie moments creped by. None of the animals knew what to do. Finally, the mouse turned around. He had decided how he would prove to everyone that they were wrong.

“Everyone, close your eyes.”

The crowd shifted. Was this some sort of trick? Was he going to use his evil and devilish vermin power against the creatures and kill them all? The animals were now scared. Very scared.

Finally an old red squirrel spoke up. “Fine, we shall all close our eyes. However, when you are finished with your little speech you must leave our woods and promise never to come back.” The beasts obeyed the squirrel and closed their eyes.

“The mouse now shouted. “Face me! Face me now with your closed eyes. You can no longer see your surroundings. You can no longer see my dirty matted coat, or my blind eyes, or even yourselves. Now do I seem any different than you? Am I still my “vermin-like self, or was your vision simply feeding you lies?”

“Nonsense!” exclaimed everyone in the crowd. You are still blind, weak, and dirty. We simply have our eyes closed and unlike you we can open them again!”

But they could not.

As hard as they tried, something was keeping them from opening their eyes. There was panic everywhere. Animals scratching at their sockets, yanking at their eyelids, screaming and shouting. The only one calm was the little mouse in the center of the clearing.

“Now think of what you once saw,” he said in a booming squeal. “Your eyes let you envision your environment, but they only permit you judge others based on what is on the outside, not what is on the inside. You all greedily take in what you first see and interpret that into hatred and cruelty without first discovering what is hidden deep down within someone. We are all equal. All you have to do is close your eyes.”

And suddenly all the animals understood. Their eyes had engulfed them with hatred, and they hadn’t listened to their mind. They now knew their mistake.

The unknown presence holding down their eyelids was lifted, but the animals now took in their surroundings in a new way. A small creature that they had treated unfairly had given them the opportunity to see the world the way it actually is.

The small blind mouse now lives contently in the forest among all the other animals. He lives in a comfortable tree, drinks from the fresh water of the river, and reminds all the future generations of badgers, squirrels, otters, and birds an important lesson that no matter what outside differences appeared, everyone is equal at heart.

 

The End

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