The Mouse and the Scorpion

Deep in the burrow, the brothers and sisters were snuggling together for warmth against the damp musty air. A smell of wet fur and newborns was still evident upon entering the well hidden home under the ancient tree. The ancestors had raised all of the generations under this same old oak tree and it had born witness to all of the wonders beneath its roots. It had also witnessed the tragedies. This tragedy however, is foremost in its memory. This story is about one particular creature that had always seen the world from eyes of wonder. Burnsting was a very normal looking field mouse. He had brownish matted fur and an extra small and twitchy nose. His brothers and sisters usually laughed at him when he would have one of his moments of vision. He had a very peculiar way of noticing the small things, while never really grasping the larger ideas like the time he day-dreamt for days why the little line marching bugs would break their formation when interrupted, instead of asking himself how they eventually overcame the obstacle in their path and continued to their unknown destination. Burnsting was a wonderfully simple creature and most of his syblings loved to be in his company, even with his overly simplified view of the world around him. He was just very trusting and quite a happy little mouse, which is why it is so much harder to understand, what in the end, occurred.

The burrow was also home to many varied and interesting other creatures. There were long legged occupants with many eyes. There were many legged squiggling creatures and there were also the hard-shell rollers that would curl into themselves when disturbed. These were mostly harmless when confronted however there were some creatures living in the burrow that were not so harmless. These were creatures that when confronted would not just curl up and hide or quickly squirm away into a dark corner. These creatures would raise the evil death striker that protruded from behind them and if an innocent was close enough, would strike with it, causing a slow, twitching, and painful death. This had happened, or so it had been said by some. It had never, however, been witnessed by any of the relatives that were still in the presence of the old oak tree. And to Burnsting, it was just make-believe, which is why on that day when the legs of the old oak were washed free of the warm and familiar walls of soil that created such a loving and womb like home for all the fathers, mothers, brothers, and the sisters, Burnsting wandered into the burrows depths and into the tunnels of the dark side of the ancient oak tree.

The dark side was an area that never saw the light from the warm globe above the tree. Some of the dark creatures that made their home there came to the light side for warmth, but were never bothered when they did so. Venturing into the dark side was always forbidden for the brethren but on that day, the burrow was a mess. Many of the tunnels were gone and the remaining tunnels were full of water. There was not a dry place to be found on the light side. Burnsting was only trying to help his family when he wandered into the darkness and found a peculiar and short lived sort of friendship. His new found friend’s name was Akbar and he was a small, yellow scorpion.

When Burnsting leaped through the mangled remains of the old oaks’ root system and entered into the dark cavern that was once the dark side of the tree, he had intended on turning around immediately. He realized at once that the entire tree had been deprived of its precious soil on both the light and the dark sides. He began to turn but he noticed a glimmer across the pool of rising water in the bottom of the dark cavern. There was a creature trapped against the far wall and would surely perish if something wasn’t done to save it. Without thinking, Burnsting jumped to its rescue, not thinking for a moment of his own peril. The water was still rising and the current was powerful and erratic as the water spilled into the black pool from beneath the exposed tree roots. He was barely halfway across when he realized that the creature was one of those that he had been warned of. He almost turned in panic back to the tunnel that lead to his family, but decided to at least talk with the creature before he abandoned it to its own fate. He was sure that, once he was close enough, this would be possible to do from a safe distance.

He swam as hard as he could and stopped just in front of the frightened scorpion. Its death striker was raised in a frenetic and menacing threat and its arms were slashing out at the mud walls and bared roots behind it. It twirled to meet its new adversary and its death striker slashed out at the air between the wet and tired Burnsting and itself. Burnsting had an urge to flee but instead, spoke to the frightened scorpion. Burnsting had always had the desire to make peace and to question things that were, in his experience, only baseless fears. The stories that had been told were most likely only exaggerated fabrications of fears that had been passed down from the ancestors. These fears had created a deep rift between the creatures of the tree. He needed to find out if this was true and what better way than to do it while saving one of these dark creatures and uniting it with its family on the other side of the swirling dark pool of flood water. He asked the scorpion its name. “I am Akbar, son of Achmen,” replied the scorpion.

At the sound of Akbars’ voice, Burnsting relaxed his tremulous breathing. The dark creatures’ voice was soothing and calming. It was fluid and was not threatening. It could not belong to a creature with evil intentions but just to make sure, Burnsting asked a second question, “Are you able to swim?”

“No and I will surely parish and never see my family again,” Replied Akbar in a smooth and non threatening way.

At this response, Burnsting noticed the death striker relax and fall behind the dark creature. The scorpion was ready to speak, not to fight. Burnsting approached a little closer, for he was also getting tired of swimming in the turbulent water. “If I give you a ride on my back to the far side of the pool, what is to prevent you from stabbing me with your death striker?” asked Burnsting.

“If I were to do that, we would both drown,” replied Akbar in his most soothing voice.

Now this made sense to Burnsting. The stories of old must only be exaggerations and the time was now to put the old oak trees’ community tradition of baseless fear to rest for good. He would unite the tree and all its inhabitants could live in harmony together. Burnsting swam close to the edge and asked the scorpion to gently climb on his back. He steadied himself for the extra load and once Akbar was on his back he swam as hard as he could for the opposite shore, to the safety of his family, and to the glory that surely awaited him for putting an end to this ridiculous ritual of fear.

Burnsting swam like never before and only once did he worry that his new friend the scorpion would be washed off when he had to traverse a particularly nasty section of currents. He doubled his efforts and once through, could see the light from the opposite side of the cavern. He swam, the whole while, with Akbar caressing him with words of encouragement. He was almost there, just a few more good hard strokes and this dangerous journey would be at an end, and so would the delusions of a community of fear mongers. Five more strokes, Three more strokes, and…

Burnsting felt a peculiar sensation of the weight lifting from his back and at the same time, a sharp pinch, just behind his shoulder blade. At first, Burnsting didn’t know what had happened, and then he understood. He had been stung. But how could this be so? He was sure that they were both safe. Akbar, the scorpion, had stung him and must have tried to make it to the shore by jumping. As they both swirled in the dark pool and down into its depths, Burnsting was able, between spasms of toxin driven nerve damage, to ask, “But…why?”

The answer was simple, Burnsting heard the scorpion, with its last breath as it disappeared beneath the dark water say, “It is my nature.”

And then it was quiet as both Burnsting and Akbar sunk to the bottom with the only witness to this terrible tragedy being the ancient oak tree that had once been both their friend and their home.

Adapted from the original and written by D. Noll

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