a tale in weekly parts
Xander was worried.
Albert and Kr’veth’neq’is were half-running, half skipping (no mean feat for someone of Albert’s apparent age) away from the clearing in which Xander was playing with Chav, his faithful, if somewhat talkative Jack Russell Terrier, and towards what Xander believed would become known as the Garden of Eden. He knew where they were in the time-line of things, as they related to the early chapters of the book of Genesis in the Bible. Jarvis had explained that what many believed to be humanity’s progenitors, Adam and Eve, were in the garden and still having a splendid relationship with their Maker. He also knew that his great-uncle (who was, in actuality, his grandfather) and his sister were carrying with them a small sack containing something that was wriggling, writhing, and probably doing a number of other things that start with a silent ‘w’ (though not writing – writing in the sack is never easy).
He looked at his dog. The little terrier looked back at him with a quizzical expression.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Chav?” he asked.
“RABBIT!” Chav replied and disappeared into the undergrowth to chase down his quarry.
“I guess not,” Xander said; this time to himself as no-one else was listening.
Or so he thought.
As he watched his dog first recede into the distance then return with an expression that Xander tried so hard not to think of as ‘hang dog’ in view of the possible connotations, Jarvis’s voice sounded in his brain.
“You’re all right, Xander,” Jarvis said, “it’s not the serpent. That particular creature is in there already, just waiting for its moment. The story that’s been passed down through countless generations—”
“Although you know exactly how many, but don’t want to bog me down with numbers…”
“True dat. Anyway; the generally believed story is heavily edited. I don’t suppose you’ve ever read anywhere that young Eve was highly suriphobic.”
“Suriphobia, my young Padawan, is a morbid and irrational fear of mice and rats.”
“Are you sure?”
“Am I sure? AM I SURE?” Jarvis sent indignantly, “I am not some puny ape-descendant who has trouble even remembering where he put his phone from one minute to the next. I am bitek. I know stuff.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you’re wrong. A fear of mice is called musophobia.”
“What do you mean, ‘by some’?”
“Listen and learn, young human; listen and learn. Suriphobia comes from the French word for mouse – souris; musophobia comes from the Greek word for mouse and a third, murophobia, comes from “murine” – the family of mice and rats.”
“Okay, so I didn’t know that Eve was afraid of mice. Hang on, isn’t that a bit of a cliché? Why Eve? Not all women are afraid of mice; some men are too. Why not Adam.”
“Tell me, Xander,” Jarvis sent, “must you always open your mouth and let any old rubbish come out? Can you, just occasionally, exercise your brain fractionally before your vocal chords? It is because Eve, reportedly the first woman ever, was afraid of mice that it has gone down through the ages that women are afraid of mice. These things all start somewhere, you know. Think, when you can spare the brainpower, why there is a revulsion of snakes.”
“Because the snake tempted Eve, who then persuaded Adam to follow her lead?”
Chav chose that moment to approach his master. Xander heard him say, “I’m bored.”
“You can’t be bored; you just chased a rabbit.”
“Yeah, but it’s no fun on my own. I need a friend.”
“You have me,” Xander said, “is that not enough?”
“You aren’t always there. I need a dog friend.”
“But you don’t like other dogs.”
“I’m never bad with them.”
“No, you just ignore them, mostly.”
“Males, yeah; I’ll give you that. If I had a female friend, though; one that would let me be top dog and still play with me—”
“But let you win all the time…”
“Natch, but it’d be great, wouldn’t it? Oh, go on, can I? Can I? Pleeeeeease, can I have a friend?”
“I’ll talk to Mum and Dad when we get back, Chav. No promises, though.”
The way the little dog jumped up into Xander’s arms and proceeded to give him a licking of such intensity that the poor boy was barely able to breathe suggested that what his master had offered was an acceptable solution. Hearing a woman’s scream from the middle distance, Chav jumped off Xander with such gusto that he left a long scratch-mark on the lad’s arm. Xander followed, only to find Albert and Kr’veth’neq’is trotting in his direction, laughing raucously.
“Whatever happened?” he asked when they came closer to him.
Kr’veth’neq’is, through fits of laughter, said, “Eve was so freaked out by those mice. It was hilarious.”
Somewhat more soberly, Albert added, “If the big man was watching, he isn’t going to be amused. Jarvis; prepare to leave. Come on, guys, let’s go!”
Chav saw the excitement, but understood none of it, as it wasn’t sent on his wavelength. Xander quickly explained what had happened.
“There were mice?” Chav asked, “I could have caught them. Honestly; I get no fun, no fun at all.”
Albert the bitek, Xander and Kr’veth’neq’is the hybrid siblings and Chav the talking terrier ran back to Jarvis as quickly as their variously sized legs would carry them.
“Okay, sweets, we’re all in,” Albert said, “let’s be off.”
Jarvis closed the door and powered up.
Xander looked at his sister and said, “One thing is confusing me, Sis. When you went into the garden, you said you were going to fulfill your destiny. What did you mean by that?”
“There were no rodents in the Garden of Eden before we arrived with that bag of mice…”
“So Eve couldn’t have been afraid of mice before today, because she’d never seen one. Is that right?”
“Absolutely. She was so shocked by those mice—”
“How many were there?”
“Oh, I don’t know; a couple of dozen? Albert?”
“Yeah, about that,” Albert replied.
“Anyway,” Kr’veth’neq’is continued, “she was so shocked by these little creatures leaping about and trying to climb up her, that she is now afraid of them. She is the patient zero of suriphobia.”
“So; tell me if I’m wrong; but had you not done what you’ve just done, the whole thing about women being afraid of mice would never have come about.”
“In a nutshell, yes. It’s possible that something else, happening at another time, may have given rise to the same thing—”
“As indeed it has in a number of other dimensions,” Jarvis intervened.
“That’s it,” Kr’veth’neq’is agreed, “but in this dimension, on this time-line, it had to happen the way we did it; the way we’ve always done it. Had we not done it, we would have risked violating the integrity of this particular time-line in this particular dimension. Kapeesh?”
“Twas ever thus, is what you’re saying or, to quote Talking Heads, ‘same as it ever was’.”
“I know nothing of these Talking Heads of whom you speak,” Jarvis complained.
“You’re bitek. You know stuff. That’s what you told me. Perhaps you’re not so hot, after all.”
“I know stuff, young fellah. Just not that stuff.” Were Jarvis blessed (or cursed, depending on your viewpoint) with a human face, it would now have become quite mopish. “Anyway, leave me alone. I have to concentrate on getting us back to your space and time, I don’t have time to spend discussing the finer points of my immense intellect.”
“Just as well,” Xander replied, “I need to work out what to say to Mum and Dad; how to tell them that I know for a certainty that Chav is feeling lonely and wants a compatible playmate.”
On hearing that, Chav made that sound that dogs make when they’re supremely satisfied with their lot, the canine equivalent of purring.
“Good luck, Master,” he sent, “I’m going to sleep now, to dream about chasing rabbits. Maybe even catching them this time.”
“Yeah. In your dreams,” Xander replied with a chuckle.