The Nickel by Read_Write
Runner-up, January 2014 Writing Contest
Every light in the building shut off, one by one. I prepare to scurry out of my hole-in-the-wall house and go halfway across the gigantic building to my favorite store: Brie's Cheese. (It's actually pretty impressive—the sign outside of it advertises that there are over one hundred types of cheese that you can try. Oh, and yes, mice can read.)
Anyway, every night after the lights are turned off in the building, I sneak over to Brie's cheese. That's exactly what I'm doing now: creeping across the dark, very dirty floor. I dart between two stands and hide under the chair of one. The tile floor is cold under my paws, and I tentatively peek out, checking to make sure there aren't any guards or mean mice nearby.
All clear. I race past a remote-controlled helicopter stand and up the dark windows of a dark McDonald's restaurant. I sit on top of the big 'D', waiting for my best friend Jazzie. She and I always meet here to go to our favorite stores, knowing that there is safety in numbers living in a big mall like this. There are lots of big and gruff cannibal mice…it's rather disturbing.
"Em?" Jazzie squeaks as loudly as she dares. It's deathly silent in the dark mall and pretty hard to see, but if it wasn't me and instead a Chaser (that's what we call the mean mice), she would literally be dead meat. "Emma, is that you?"
"Yeah," my soft voice could barely be heard, even with the sharp ears that we mice have. "Come on, it's cold tonight." Jazzie skitters to my side and together we descend the McDonald's. Silently, Jazzie and I make our way towards Brie's Cheese. We always go there first, and if we're daring, into the realm of the Chasers and to the very empty and deserted Papa's Pizzeria (Chasers hate the smell-it's the only place they actually avoid. Thank goodness a worker accidently burnt one too many pizzas!). It went bankrupt a couple of years ago and is for sale, although nobody ever wants the small musty old place.
"Emma!" Jazzie shakes me out of my thoughts, a warning tone in her voice. I realize that I'd been thinking so hard I almost went directly into the beam of a guard's flashlight. Quickly, I scurry back to Jazzie, who is hiding under a glass-covered shelf full of phone cases. My heart is beating so hard and fast that I'm afraid the guard will hear it.
Finally, though, the guard walks past, playing his flashlight in every dark nook and cranny. My heartbeat thankfully slows down as Jazzie and I slip out from under our hiding place and run to another good hiding place.
"Hey," I hear a male voice call gruffly. I know immediately that it's a Chaser and so does Jazzie. We, the simultaneous thinkers, race to the top of two shops across from each other. (We found that this works best- the Chasers aren't smart all, so even though they usually travel in groups of five or six, they only go after one mouse instead of both.) I am out of breath by the time I reach the top of the Sushi shop, but I push on, racing across the top of makeup and shoe stores. Knowing that Jazzie is doing the same is pushing me on, especially because mice don't get very big adrenaline rushes.
As I cross over yet another sign for a clothing store, I hear a very high-pitched squeal that I know must be Jazzie. A panic attack almost overcomes me; I stop running for a second, but then realize that Jazzie was actually ahead of me on the other side of the store. If I stopped running now, the Chasers will quickly finish Jazzie off and run directly across the floor of the mall and come for me. Even though I'm insanely scared for my best friend, I don't stop to help. Every mouse knows that stopping is almost guaranteed suicide.
It only takes me four and a half minutes to cross the remaining part of the mall that Jazzie and I didn't safely get across together. Totally and completely wiped and out of breath, I wearily slip under the door of Brie's cheese, taking in the delicious scent of cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, and most of all, brie.
Sadly, I climb up the counter and sit on the cash register. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I can sit on a certain button and a tray will pop out with a 'Ding!' Even though it's loud, it's worth it. One time, there was a shiny brown coin sitting in one of the parts. That only happened once, but even if there's nothing in it, Jazzie and I like to sit in the trays and try to lift the heavy clips in the big parts. (We've never managed, but we did find out that they make good slides.)
I get up from the button I was sitting on and jump heavily onto the certain button. And just my luck- the drawer pops open. I can't believe my eyes. In one of the small parts, there is a thick silver coin just sitting there. Almost forgetting Jazzie, I race over to it and touch it with my paw. It's really shiny but cold. I decide I love it and flop onto it.
A little while later (I must've fallen asleep) I wake up to find Jazzie shaking me. Groggily, I open my eyes, and there she is. I jump up, squealing with joy. She's alive! One of her nails is missing and another is chipped and slightly bloody, but she's alive! I grin and show her the coin. She just about faints at the sight of it; it's absolutely beautiful.
Thinking as one, we attempt to lift it. It's pretty heavy, but we manage. Grinning at each other, we get it safely to the ground and start pushing it along the floor. I don't ask about what happened with the Chasers and she doesn't tell me. We know each other that way- she doesn't want to talk about it and I don't want to know. We also both want to bring the shiny thing to Papa's Pizzeria. Mice bring all the shiny treasures we can find there. It’s not like we can do anything with them, anyway, so we all bring them to display at the Pizzeria. It's kind of like a fair. Everyone has their own little section of things, and most of us have enough dignity not to steal another mouse's trophies.
After about an hour of swerving, avoiding, and pushing, Jazzie and I reach the legendary Pizzeria. Grinning at each other, we push our prize out into the open, foolishly not hearing the soft footsteps behind us.
"Ah, two more!" A human voice says loudly. Jazzie and I look at each other, terrified. We didn't realize that it was morning already- some shopkeepers come in and set up for the day before the lights turn back on. "Come to mama," the woman coos at us. Jazzie and I are disgusted and are about to run away when human hands enclose around both of us.
All of the sudden, I am staring into the face of a pretty woman. She's smiling at us. "Oh, you brought a nickel! I've found how you mice love to bring shiny items." The women steps effortlessly over our nickel, bringing us into Papa's Pizzeria. Except Papa's Pizzeria is no longer a terrible-smelling pizzeria—it's a pet store. Jazzie whimpers and I squeeze my eyes shut, willing the nightmare to end.
A second later I feel myself being gently set onto some wood chips. She sets Jazzie down next to me and slides a cover over the top of our cage. She leaves, then returns a minute later, opening the cage. Dropping the nickel in and sliding the top over again, she smiles at us. "Don't worry," she told us. "You'll love it here," Smiling softly, she walked away. I rolled my eyes at Jazzie, like, 'Yeah, right,'
But do you know what? The women was right. Jazzie and I loved it that first day in our little cage, steadily being fed cheese and water, playing with our 'nickel' and other toys, and most of all, never worrying about the Chasers being right behind us.
And that, my friend, was just a normal day in the life of a mouse. When I settled for the night that night, listening to the bangs of the lights turning off, though, I was honestly scared about what would happen tomorrow.