Week 8 February 19-25 Prompt: The year is 2563
“Yes, I know I’m just an outcast
I shouldn’t speak to you
Still I see your face and wonder
Were you once an outcast too?
God help the outcasts
Hungry from birth
Show them the mercy they don’t find on Earth
God help my people
We look to you still
God help the outcasts or nobody will”
God Help The Outcast The Hunchback Of Notre Dame,
Songwriters: Alan Menken / Stephen Schwartz © Walt Disney Music Company
Shivering against the night air, she kept her eyes closed as she’d learned.
The damp weather was perfect hunting conditions for a mouse like her. Her red hair was plastered to her head by the damp air. She opened her eyes mere slits looking left and right for the blue-tinged light which would make her own eyes glow.
Seeing the coast clear she opened her own lids and ventured further out into the streets searching for food.
”Pssst” and voice hissed, “Red Mouse, Red Mouse is that you?”
She glanced up to see Brown Mouse scurrying across the street towards a bone with pieces of meat still glistening.
“No!” she cried as the blue lights shined from the 3 cars making the eyes of all the little mice glow. She turned into the wall, closing her eyes and making herself as small as possible, cringing at the sound of the pellets from guns hitting her friends.
She heard their screams and cries but was unable to help.
“Got One!” a cruel voice cried out gleefully. “Here Mousies. Here Mousies. Come on out. We got some food for you. We won’t hurt you.”
She stayed still. Even when the voices and taunts died away, she remained frozen in place. She waited until the heat of the rising sun warmed her back. Only then did she feel it was safe to turn her face to the street and see her fallen friends. Killed for sport by the flat eyes.
The street had old buildings with fallen walls, broken windows and roofs open to the sky. Large Boxes held together by rope, wire and covered with rags leaned together like longtime friends holding each other up through a drunken romp. Despite not having eaten for two days, Red Mouse found she was no longer hungry. Making her way to her little hole in the wall and the end of a narrow path she passed Brown Mouse’s home spot and felt sorry for him. She knew no one else mourned him. None of the flat eyes cared about any of them. They were “mice” and of no value. Just casualties of the law.
She knew the story. How at the end of the last century when all the prisons were filled, and land became scarce and more valuable, it was decided to use chemicals to cage and control lawbreakers.
Violent criminals were either killed outright or injected with a cocktail of chemicals which left them placid and simple-minded. Often, they ended up in the waste facilities doing repetitive jobs that no one else wanted to do. They ate little and had just enough intelligence to do simple tasks. They cost little to house and feed and the fact they worked for pennies a day which made them a bargain.
Non-violent criminals were injected with a substance that made them glow under the blue light. Thus, branded they kept to themselves and stayed in certain areas of the city. It was illegal for them to be anywhere else and there was a sort of safety in staying with others like yourself.
They made some money going through the old dumps looking for metal and glass to be turned in for scrap. It was back breaking work and dangerous. Some poisonous chemicals had been discarded by companies that didn’t want to pay the cost to properly dispose of their waste.
And there were those who preyed upon them. Bosses who underpaid them. Merchants who charged them outrageous amounts for food that had already started to spoil. Property owners and Landlords charged them huge amounts for places to live that were falling down shacks or often little more than old large appliance containers and cardboard boxes. Most felt it didn’t matter, they were criminals after all. They had no advocates who stood up for them.
However, the unintended victims of this system were their offspring. Like Red Mouse, called “mice” because the chemical affected their size. Being children, they tended to be smaller. Then being smaller and hunted, very few of them lived long enough to grow to adolescence.
Unlike the parents, the skin of the children didn’t glow under the blue light. But, the eyes of the children would shine brightly when hit with blue light.
These little ones were easier prey for those cruel members of society unable to catch the older stronger outcasts.” Sport” Red Mouse thought again. WE are sport for them.’ She crawled on hands and feet into her hole drew up pieces of soft rags around herself for warmth and drifted into an uneasy sleep.
Something roused her. She stayed still, having been taught from an early age to be as aware as possible before opening her eyes. She smelled food! Cautiously she poked her face out and saw a piece of meat lying by her hole. Still expecting danger, she tentatively pulled it into her space. ‘Poison?’ she wondered before quickly deciding it was better to die than live like this and she gobbled it up.
Red Mouse backed out into the daylight. One of the old ones was there with several mice around her. Red Mouse had seen her before. She was called “Pink” because her skin glowed a rose color when hit by the blue light.
“No, it is true,” the old one called Pink said, “There is a place that will keep you mice safe. You have to make your way to the old train station but if you can get there, you will be taken care of and kept safe.”
A voice snarled out,” That is so far away. How could we ever get there? And what if we do get there and this is all a lie? Another flat-eye trick to get rid of us? Do you really believe there are flat eyes out there who care about what happens to us? Well, I don’t believe it! Not for a second!” Black Mouse said.
Pink stared him down saying, “Are you doing so well here that you won’t even try? You are small and if you travel by day as much as possible most flat eyes won’t even see you. You are invisible to them unless they are hunting you.”
Red Mouse looked around her. She could see Brown Stripe, Torn Lip, and Little Bit looking at each other and nodding.
Pink said “I can lead you to the edge of our homes, but it is too dangerous for me to go beyond that point. I can’t risk being picked up by blue light, but I can take you that far. That is part of the way.”
Several small voices raised in assent. “If you all want to go get yourself killed, it’s nothing to me.” Said Black Mouse.
Red Mouse found herself speaking, “I want to try. I don’t want to wait here and be shot with the pellet guns late one night when hunger makes me careless.” I’ll meet anyone who wants to make a run for it here tomorrow when the sun starts up into the sky.”
Pink slipped into the shadows.
Red Mouse crawled into her hole and gathered her few possessions around her and curled up to sleep. As she drifted off, she felt something new in her heart. What was this feeling? Could it be this thing others called hope?