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Mouse

Fic: 'Will-o'-the-wisp' (10/25)

Title: Will-o'-the-wisp
Fandom: The Matrix
Characters: Mouse
Word Count: 936
Prompt: From fanfic25, 5/24: 'Rain'.
Notes: Merry Christmas to jean_c_pepper. I'm back, baby!

Summary: Mouse remembers walking in the rain.

Will-o'-the-wisp

    The clouds seem to press down on every inch of the city, their grey palms spread against hills and rooftops. They have been threatening rain for most of the night, and now they seem intent on delivering. Occasionally, thunder rumbles and reverberates off glass office buildings; it curls in across the harbour. It is a sign of electricity in the air. Everything about it speaks danger.

    Mouse sits in the glowing light of a convenience store, waiting for the first light of dawn to show itself through the clouds. At dawn, the payphones four blocks over will start to ring. When it does, Mouse will know the mission has gone well - Cypher and Trinity will be on their way back to the Nebuchadnezzar. Mouse doesn't want to think of what it might mean if the phones stay silent. He pauses to slurp another mouthful of his Slushee, and watches the occasional taxicab drift past in the darkness. He wants it to rain.

    The clerk wanders back across the linoleum floor towards the counter, having restocked the cans of soda for the fourth time in the last ninety minutes. Well, perhaps 'restocked' is the wrong word. The first time was a restocking, then next three trips were just unnecessary and increasingly depressing rallies against boredom. Mouse remembers high school, working a job much like that and finding pointless busywork to occupy himself. The green bars of the neon sign outside cast a dim and spooky glow over a few feet of asphalt outside the windows. Mouse checks his watch, slides his plastic convenience store chair back, and stands up. He nods a brief goodbye to the clerk, who manages a head-tilt that suggests to Mouse that the guy has lost most of the motor skills that don't influence walking to and from the refrigerators.

    The air outside is bracing and heavy. Mouse stands in the thin strip of hazy light and looks out towards the road. A drop of condensation on the outside of the Slushee cup trickles down over his knuckles. All the cars have gone - anyone watching would never know that there was anyone else in the world except for Mouse and the teenaged clerk, gazing out through the window at the young man in a long coat, clutching a vibrant blue drink in one hand. For a moment, they were all alone in the universe. Mouse looks up. Inside the store, he could barely tell how low the clouds were hanging, but now when he looks out towards the skyscrapers in the middle of the city, he can see smudges of mist drifting past top-floor windows. A large spot of rain splashes onto his forehead.

    In that moment, he wants to drop the cup, and let the shards of blue ice spray across the parking lot. He wants to dash back through the automatic doors, slam his hands on the counter, and spill everything he knows about the world to the clerk. Nothing is real. Everything, outside and inside this little neon-coated cocoon, is a lie. Those cans of soda you've been carefully rotating for the last five hours of what you think is your life are insubstantial, ethereal, just signals sent from one part of your brain to another. Mouse wants to shout and scream and cry. He wants to be heard.

    He doesn't do any of that, though. Instead he curls his fingers round the paper cup and crushes it, then tosses it into a trash can nearby. He pulls his coat tighter, and casts another glance back through the window at the clerk. BRAD, the kid's nametag reads. Mouse smiles. Brad stares back suspiciously. Mouse turns and walks across the parking lot, towards the glowing skyscrapers.

    The sky opens up.

    At first, Mouse is taken aback by the feeling of it, the way it seeps slowly through his hair and drips down the back of his neck. After a while, though, he starts to warm to it, and before long he's smiling as he trudges through the rain. The clouds in the east are starting to lighten, turning from charcoal grey to a lighter shade, and Mouse feels the dawn coming on.

    The rain is coming down heavier now. Mouse has to blink water out of his eyes regularly, and his field of vision is reduced to a hazy orb a few yards wide. At one point, he looks down and sees a pair of yellow lines beneath his feet, alerting him to the fact that he's wandered into the middle of the road. He looks around. There are still no cars. Mouse looks up and opens his mouth, wide, and lets the rain fill his mouth. It doesn't refresh him at all, but he thrills to the sensation of data hitting his tongue.

    He starts walking again, knowing he's only a block away from the payphones. He thinks about how Cypher once told him that ignorance is bliss, and how he didn't want to believe that at the time, but now, with his coat soaked through and water seeping into his T-shirt and boots, he kind of sees how that could work. Mouse remembers how he used to like walking in the rain, back when he thought it was real. For a moment he wonders if Brad has ever walked in the rain. For a moment he wonders whether he wants the responsibility that comes with knowing the truth any more. He checks his watch.

    Dawn breaks. The payphones start to ring. The streetlights illuminate the rain, looking like little will-o'-the-wisps in the grey light of the city.

Comments

Oh, what a wonderful Christmas surprise! This was fantastic. So little time is devoted to what they actually lose by unplugging and the little time that is given(with Cypher in the movie), he is villainized for missing ordinary things like tasty food. Don't get me wrong, I loathe Cypher and what he does, BUT there isn't nearly enough time devoted to this subject. You WOULD miss things like rain and sunshine and such. Good job! Glad to see you back!