For a long time, they didn’t know where they were. They crawled through ducting and sewer pipes and air ventilation systems without knowing why or where or anything at all. For a long time, they were just mice.
They made dens. They copulated. They ate refuse left behind the others—whoever they were—and they didn’t ask any questions at all. It wasn’t in their best interest. Many, many generations later, they still hadn’t asked themselves any questions. They still ran through ducts and piping, and scurried over one another for the crumbs that piled up in the metallic corners of their world and when they did wake up, they did not question it.
One mouse simply looked at another, shrugged his shoulders, and said, I think we are awake.
The other mouse shrugged his shoulders, too, and said, Yes. I believe you are right.
They began to form families, cities. They expanded their territories, and they sent out their scientists, and eventually, after much argumentation and deliberation—with great amounts of high-brow jargon and academic speech thrown around their great and civilized forums—they decided, that beyond any shadow of a doubt, that they were in a spaceship, and that the gigantic monstrosities in the holds of that spaceship were casks containing their creators.
But why are they asleep, some asked.
And why did they put us here, others refrained.
What is the Purpose of it all?
In the great forum of mice that gathered about the monolithic capsules in the vast expanse of the space vessel’s basement, arguments raged back and forth and sides were taken. A great Disagreement settled upon the mice, who had previously only cared about collecting and consuming the crumbs that piled up in corners. They could not decide whether the beings in the caskets were gods or if they were already dead.
When one mouse—a high priest of noble lineage who had been educated in the best of their academies—decided that the strange and alien faces looking out at them from the frosted glass of the cold casks must, in fact, be gods, he decided that any other explanation was simply impossible. The faces through the glass—eyes glued shut and pasty skin taut across frozen skulls—had a serene look, as if they were happy. Only a god could be happy with being frozen in a tiny box, the mouse decided, and his supporters chirped and squeaked their assent.
But the greatest of the warriors among the mice took one look at the insipid faces frozen in time and said, These are no gods! What gods find themselves trapped in a tiny box, frozen and powerless?
The high priest and his followers raised a great rabble after that, and the cacophony of chirps and squeaks and cries of mourning rose to the vaulted ceilings of that basement as a great war raged, with the Priest’s mice fighting against that of the Warrior’s, and the Warrior’s followers fighting back—biting and scratching and gnawing and squealing until the entire floor of the spaceship’s sublevels trembled with the great force of bombs exploding, and the whine of aircraft that split the sky open with their terrible engines.
A few days later the High Priest died of old age, and so did the Warrior. But this did not end the war. The children of the Priest and the Warrior continued the struggle, and so did their children, and theirs, until many generations had passed and none of the mice knew why they dropped bombs or raided villages or tortured prisoners. They did so out of habit. The entire vessel was a burial ground for the mice who could not decide whether or not the faces frozen in ice were those of gods, or of buffoons who found themselves trapped in their own refrigerators.
Into the chaos was born a Scientist—a hundred generations after his forebears decided that the faces belonged to gods—who was perplexed by the fighting and the killing and the maiming, who could not comprehend how gods could allow such horrors to ensue, nor how buffoons could build such a spaceship.
The Scientist spent his long hours of life in the terrifying and indecipherable study of the control panels that extended from all of the casks in the basement of the spaceship, to a single locus. A single panel that featured a single button.
He stood baffled before the button, questioning his findings and rereading his findings and discoveries until he became sure that the only way to end the fighting that had destroyed a thousand generations of his people was to press the button that—he hypothesized—would awaken the sleeping giants in the iceboxes.
Comrades! He shouted from the parapet of the panel, seeking the attention of his peers, but no one heard him over the crack of fission bombs.
Comrades! He repeated, but still the fighting raged below him.
After a long second or two of consideration—since he was getting old by this point—he decided to press the button. It was the only way to end the war, the only way to solve the mystery. He stood before the great, round red button with all its glory washing over him and he contemplated the advances of civilization that he had seen, and those that would follow when he awakened the Great Ones.
He was so deep in concentration that he did not hear the static whine. He did not see the stealth bomber that crept overhead with the speed of spider ambushing its prey. He teetered on the lip of the button, and tried once more to proclaim his discoveries, but the sound of his voice was drowned out by a photon bomb that turned the entire hold of the ship into a brilliant beam of light that fried his retinas, boiled his blood, corroded his flesh until nothing remained but his skeleton, perched over the button with one claw extended toward its center.
Written by Kane