By Vita Forest
In which we learn of Christabel’s clandestine pleasure.
Do not imagine that the fact that the Good Ship Possession is firmly anchored to the ceiling, limits in any way the interest that Christabel La Mouse finds in her surrounds. Not at all. For the sea is full of life. A great percentage of all living things live there, so Christabel has read somewhere or other (and if something is written down, it is generally true).
There are of course, the comforting creatures of The Deep who reside on the Tablecloth, the school of flying fish who live near the Distant Doorway and The People who swim about freely as far as the spyglass can see. But most intriguing of all (as well as most terrifying), are the elegant, the graceful, the beautiful, the monstrous – those leviathans of the deep; the whales.
The whales fill Christabel’s heart with fear. Their size! Their strength! Their razor-sharp teeth! The hooked talons of their claws! But as well as making her tremble, the whales fill her with fascination. (How often is it thus?) And so Christabel is careful to maintain control, to not lean too far over the edge of the ship, to avoid succumbing to the siren call of the whales, to the hypnotic glamour they exude.
She knows all about these creatures, of course. You can find a plethora of information about them in any handbook on ocean voyaging, in countless tales told to children (to entertain, but also to warn youngsters about surrendering to the temptation of diving down and curling up in soft white scales, or along an ink-black tail). Christabel must constantly remind herself that if she lets go, if she gives in, these creatures would indeed EAT her, would not see her as a kindred spirit (as she feels she is), but as a tasty and unexpected supplement to their diet.
There is The Elegant White One who chirps and hums – perhaps as a means of detecting distance, or maybe she is composing a tune (it is so hard to tell), or it could be she is calling to those other pods of whales that must migrate past their little corner of the world at some point. (Floating on the warm currents of the Tabletop or perhaps breaching the surface of the sea with a young calf. Just imagine! And yet, she really mustn’t…)
And there is The Masked One who chews pieces of cardboard and paper to keep her teeth in good working order (and perhaps to terrify any quaking prey who witness such violent crunching of her jaws). This one likes to curl up in the depths of the Tabletop, perhaps atop a sewing basket, or any whale-sized white rectangle left about.
Christabel knows the danger, and yet, these dragons of the water with their white whiskers and their sinuous bodies, curling up in spirals among the rocky floor of the Cushions, are nothing short of mesmerizing. It is shameful to admit, and she would never report it in any official despatch, but a good part of her day is spent observing the goings-on of these enthralling creatures.