Short Fiction: Arthur The Usemite

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I am Arthur Ecmi, former soldier of the last surviving members of the Usemo clan. Now I have been ostracized from my once great empire. That is until I can acquire the Holy Magofre and restore my citizenship. And there it is only a quick footrace distance from me, so why am I scared? I have made it past the Demons unnoticed and have even managed to have all the nearby Tezaks distracted. All I have to do is bring back the Holy Magofre and I can return to Usemo safety. I have already tainted my name, but I must prevail and clear my dirty deed by bringing back the Holy Magofre. But before I accomplish my task, let me explain who I am and why I am here to do this daunting task.

Usemo was once a proud and diginified race. 50 of us once roamed Prat, and believe me when I say it, anything over 30 is magnificent.

Prat was our homeland, in which we used to thrive and prosper. Our race was the most cultured and most worthy of respect and admiration from the other clans. Usemites, in general, was the most unique race out of all of the others that lived on Prat. Usemites have fur covering their entire body, this way we can shield ourselves from the bitter wrath of nature. Although it would be nice to have our tails covered just a little bit. What is the most interesting quality about us is our size. We are so miniscule compared to many other creatures. But what we lack in size, we make up with intelligence and numbers. Every adult Usemite is in the army (the kids are in boot camp and school), and every soldier puts their life on the line to ensure our prosperity. Sometimes we have scouts go out and survey land to see if it is possible for us to expand our empire when our current city gets to be too small, (although on many occasions they don't return because they are caught and/or killed). We have an uncanny keen sense of hearing and smell. Because of these attributes, Usemites have the perfect genetics to allow the greatest percentage for thriving. But all of that changed that one fateful day.

I was at my outpost station in the safety on an alcove. I have to be quite honest; this is the only reason I joined the army. I didn't want to join so that I could go out and fight. Sure I knew how to fight, I had to put up with boot camp when I was a wee Art. However, I was a nature lover by heart. It was only once in awhile that I had to keep a keen eye out for danger.

"Well now aren't you just the dutiful one." I had been dozing off and not paying attention again as usual. But I was lucky this time, for it was only Hibocs. We were both green and couldn't handle all the tasks that our drill sergeant assigned us. However, ever since that mission, and even until now, we considered each other brothers.

"Huh? Oh hey Hibocs. Didn't even hear you sneak up on me," I said in a semi-confused state.

Hibocs chuckled, "Just a question when do you ever hear me? You're too busy daydreaming about living amongst the wilderness to even notice what's going on in the real world." Replying calmly, "Yeah I know, I'm supposed to watching for danger, but since there rarely is one…might as well observe nature in its beauty." A strange cry was overheard in the far distance at a wailing pitch.

"Well you are lucky that I caught you instead of one of your superiors…wait did you hear something?" "Yeah I am kind of lucky…huh? Yeah I heard something, but its probably nothing…" The same thunderous bellow pierced our eardrums a second time.

"Oh no…not that…NOT THE DEMONS OF PRAT!" Hibocs exclaimed.

The Demons of Prat are a force that no Usemite has lived to tell about. They can make their presence known and unknown. The Demons hate the Usemites, and when any Demon sees even a lone one, they perform a deranged ritual that summons the most evil minions to crush them and wipe it out. They send out the Tezaks to do us in. Tezaks are the creatures that Usemites all-around fear the most. Over 100 times our size, they range in color and variety. But we are able to identify them with a few features. Most Tezaks have the same fur defense that all Usemites have, but the most distinct that are common will all Tezaks are the antennae, the eyes, and the sounds they make. The multiple sonar antennae protruding from their face allow them to hear a single Usemitic whisper from a distance that outmatches ours. The eyes with night-vision-like ability cut the darkness like none other; able to give them exact pinpoint location of anything they see. Finally, the cry of a Tezak is unmistakable due to its uncanniness to render a whole platoon immobile.

"Hibocs quickly go sound the bell! They are calling the Tezaks upon us!!" "Don't need to tell me twice!" He ran to the bell and banged on it repeatedly. It echoed with a deafening cry like a stampede of a thousand Tezaks. I looked down at our city-folk, who were scampering around in formation to prepare for the attack. The commanders gave out a quick speech to everyone and then the entire Usemo population was hurried out one platoon after another. Whenever a solider stepped out of Usemo walls, we were already in Demon Territory. Everyone was going to fight and give their life for this city if they had to…everyone except me. Even Hibocs had left and joined his platoon right after the sounding. I remained in my post, scared as ever. There was no way that I would take on a Tezak. I didn't care what would happen to me, or what punishment I would receive; Tezaks were known to EAT Usemites whole! Grab them by the tails and scoop them up with their mighty hands…along with the razor-sharp claws that extended their reach even greater distances. I was too scared to even watch the bloodbath. Although I did mentally root for the success of our forces, so I at least had them in mind during the time that I huddled in the corner. Occasionally I peered over the edge to see what was happening. Every new sighting depicted more and more dead. Then with a few final cries of agony…silence came. Pure silence…so quiet that you would mentally hear the sounds of the souls rising from the bodies they once lived on through. Peering over my tower, I saw what was not a bloodbath…but a massacre of legions of good-natured Usemites. It seemed that the Tezaks didn't want to take the city, but reduce our numbers dramatically. I scampered down my tower (this was after of course I caught my breath from the fear) and walked alongside the dead. I tried to find some of the dying or wounded…but there were none to be found at all. Every Usemitic body that was on the ground was in their own pool of blood…I knew that I would have been one of these people had I not chickened out. And then I saw a head move in the distance. Running like crazy after the dying soldier, I realized that it was Hibocs who was still alive. I held him in my tiny arms, not caring that he was coughing up blood.

"…Arthur? You're alive…?" "Oh Hibocs! Forgive me! I have failed the Usemo. I never fought the Tezaks, for I stayed in my watch tower huddled in a corner pretending like this was a bad dream." Hibocs tried to fight for a few last words, "…I forgive you…I…don't blame you for…being scared…but your cowardice will not go unnoticed…you have…no scars…you will be punished…" I complied quickly, "I understand, I will tell the remaining leaders of my cowardice." "I…am the last leader alive…", Hibocs forced a chuckle, "…forgive my masquerade before…but I am the last leader who can give orders…and I have two final orders for you…" "Oh anything for a friend…" I begged just to hear him speak just for a few more minutes, "…please tell me what must I do." "I order you to get the…the Holy Magofre…that lay deep inside…the Demon's lair." I exclaimed, "The Holy Magofre?! The same Holy Magofre that many Usemites have ventured to obtain, and all have died trying?" His words became more slurred, "Yes…I want you…to obtain that…only then will your…citizenship be returned…" "Returned?…wait are you saying…", I questioned Hibocs even though I knew the answer.

"Until you…prove your…valor…you are…ban…ished…from Us…emo…safety…I'm sorry…friend…I'm just do…ing…my…j-j-job…" and then his eyelids shut, his head dropped to the side, and he spoke no more.

He lay there lifelessly in my arms. I didn't believe what task he wanted me to uptake. As a friend, I would do it in a heartbeat, but as a Usemite in their right mind, how could he expect me to slip by the Demons? They could easily summon a Tezak and it would appear right in front of me. From what I saw on the battlefield, not a single Tezak was even wounded! I looked back at the city I was doomed to never return to until I completed my task. The door to the Usemo keep, I always felt safe and secure until now. And here I stand in Demon territory. "Why couldn't you just join your platoon and die…" I thought, "…instead of cowering in fear." As I kept mumbling to myself I overheard a Tezak on patrol. Scampering around and running up many walls, I was able to hide on top of a large structure before it saw me. While I was perched up here, I saw the entirety of Prat. It seemed to be distinctly divided into four "worlds". The Usemites lived in the world I was currently in. Filled with many thrones for the Demons to relax in and discuss politics about the future of Prat, all while observing the random images that illuminated from a giant box. This box seemed to attract the Demons and keep them null and void of the events in Prat. The Tezaks roamed mindlessly in no orderly fashion. Without an order, it made my task that much more difficult.

While I scoured Prat for possible hiding places…there it was; The Holy Magofre! There it lay on top of a Demon type contraption. It was some sort of black platform and a gray box-like ring that went behind the Holy Magofre. It radiated with a luminescent yellow none like anything else. So distinct in its brilliance, I felt myself drawn to it. I just wanted to grab it and hold it for all eternity.

I decided to come up with a game plan. I knew that slipping by the Demons is fairly easy, but the Tezaks are another story. I knew the strategies of my former crusaders: espionage. Run in, not be seen, get what you need to get, and get out without being seen. Although it sounds simple, it is extremely unlikely that one will survive a Tezak encounter. They keep a watchful eye on everything that goes on around them. I had to find some means of attracting their attention elsewhere.

I thought, "Now if I can somehow bring their attention…oops!" I had knocked over a colored ball of fabricated wire nearby me while surveying more hiding places. "OH NO! It's going to hit the Tezak!" "THUMP", it hit the Tezak square on the head. It put up some sort of a frenzy to attack what fell on him, and in the process it became entangled in it. It was trapped! My own stupidity trapped a Tezak! That was when it made its deafening cry.

"MREAWWOOOOOO!" It repeated this over and over and over again. That's when more Tezaks came out of literally nowhere. Behind walls, above alcoves, they removed themselves from their posts to save their fallen comrade…wait. They aren't trying to save him…in fact. They are trying to get entangled in the same wire as the first one did! This was too perfect of an opportunity to pass up. I dashed out of my hiding place and ran straight for the Holy Magofre. Not a single Tezak noticed my breakthrough. Even the Demons sat up from their thrones and tried to get the Tezaks free, but they couldn't get the mess undone that their own second-in-commands got them into.

And here I am, standing in front of this sacred relic. I am so close to it, all I have to do was go out and grab it, and I will be able to return to home a fallen hero. Just as I am about to secure my prize a sense of doubt overcame me.

"Something is wrong here…something is very wrong…" I thought, "…even though the Demons are far too occupied with their faithful Tezaks, there is still something very wrong with what is going on here." Looking closely at the apparatus, I notice that there was some kind of a trigger hook attached to the box-ring. That trigger hooked appears to be attached to the platform that the relic sat on. I realize that if I touch it or disturb it then I will probably be heard from the enemies.

A Tezak made its psychotic noises as the Demons freed him from his peril.

"Oh no! I got to move quickly before I am seen!" Shaking off all my fears, I back up from an angle to the Holy Magofre. If I can move swiftly enough, then I could be in and out and not have the device make my presence known. I stretched my muscles, and made a sprint that any Usemite would have been proud of. I dive in the air, and in a slow-motion perfection I grabbed the Holy Magofre without touching the platform! For a split-second I came to believe that I was saved and freed of my banishment. Oh the joy and wonder of having that beautiful artifact in my hands was implausible! "SNAP!" Both the Demons and the Tezaks stopped what they were doing and turned to me, while I lay screaming in pain. My tail…fluttered behind me and tripped the platform. The box-ring pinned my tail to the apparatus and because of it I was trapped. As I desperately tried to lift the ring off of my tail, and pull it from underneath it, the Tezaks slowly crept to me.

The mental image of Hibocs dying in my arms came to me. "Until you prove your valor…" At first I thought it meant surviving the trial of getting the Holy Magofre. To be able to live through what all other Usemites before me had failed at and I almost succeeded. But now I think I understand what he was trying to tell me. He knew it was a suicide mission from the start. It wasn't about the fact that he wanted me dead. It was about proving myself that I could take upon a greater task than not a single Usemite would ever do. Under normal circumstances, there would be no way that I would do this to myself. Risk my neck with the great chance I never come back alive, but when Hibocs death gave me the push I needed to succeed. It never was about the Holy Magofre all along…it was about my own fear that I needed to overcome.

Then one of the Demons finally spoke out at me. "EEEEK! A MOUSE!!! I thought Fluffy and her kitties got those damn mice a little while ago!" "Honey calm down, its only a mouse. Look, it has its tail stuck in the mousetrap that we set…" I try communicating back with them, but all that I can produce is "Squeak…squeak!" "EEEK…" she jumped onto her throne and began to perform her dark ritual, "…kill it! Fluffy kill it!" Apparently "Fluffy" was already on the prowl. Understanding that this was nothing more than a test of virtue and valor I took in a big breath, stuck out my chest, closed my eyes and awaited "Fluffy" to rip me to shreds.

Author's Note: Yes, Arthur Ecmi is nothing more than a mouse. All this time I led you to believe that this was a fantasy epic. But in reality it was nothing more than a mouse's tale of two things: 1) Surviving an attack by a couple of cats.

2) Trying to get a piece of cheese.

There were clues throughout the entire story that hinted to the ending. All of the names of everything in the story had some relation to the ending.

1) Arthur Ecmi: A nickname for Arthur is Art. Unscramble that and you get Rat. Ecmi is the word "Mice" Jumbled 2) Usemo: Jumbled version of "Mouse".

2) Prat: Jumbled version of "Trap".

3) Hibocs: Jumbled version of "Bichos". Bichos is Spanish for "Vermin" and "Tiny Beasts".

4) Tezaks: Take the singular form of it. You get "Tezak". Unscramble it and you get "Katze". Katze is German for "Cat" 5) Holy Magofre: Ignore the 'Holy' part. Magofre is the jumbled version of "Fromage". Fromage is French for "Cheese".

The Demons (the humans in the story) on the other hand, had no jumbled version at all. However, there is a reason why I left them as Demons. If you were standing next to something who's foot could cover about 5 of "you's", and had such a menacing hatred toward you, wouldn't you call them demonic or something along those lines? Descriptions of Arthur, the Tezaks, the mousetrap, the "deranged ritual" that the Demons performed, and the "colored wire" (which is none other than yarn). The ritual was that of someone getting scared and freaking out at the sight of something that was "disgusting" in their minds. Other clues were the actions that Arthur and the other "Usemites" took in the story.

"...our city-folk, who were scampering around..." "…Scampering around and running up many walls…" 'Scampering' is most often used when talking about rodents who are running around. Normal conversations about people running around mindlessly have phrases like "chicken with its head cut off" or something like that. Also, with the exception of the movies and books, how many people do you hear about that can run up walls? I hope I have fooled you all into believing a story that was well camoflauged until the end. I'd like to hear your comments about my story and what I could do to make it better. Thank you for reading it, for your shock and disbelief brings me great pleasure.