Fred the Chocolate Lab stood outside the small cave entrance, trying not to melt in the light of two suns. Of course, trying not to melt didn’t make any difference; he was melting anyway, but at least his intention was not to melt. But melting also didn’t seem to make any difference – somehow he was both melting and reforming in each moment, like a constant battle of nature.
Inside the cave, his friends were keeping the gateway between realms open. He very much wanted to go inside and see how he could help, but he was too big, and he wasn’t about to go try that shrinking water and lose his memories again. Dangerous stuff, that water, he thought to himself. He tried squeezing himself in as he melted, hoping that would somehow work, but his size and shape remained the same.
“Any sign?” came Jerry’s voice from inside the cave.
“No… I mean, I see Toucan coming towards us, but no moose.”
Toucan was indeed coming towards the cave, flying at top speed, and as the bird’s wings closed, the two friends on top held on as tightly as they could (easier for a mouse than for a mouse-sized moose), and the group shot through the air towards the small cave entrance like a baseball heading towards a pitcher’s mitt. Fred dove out of the way as the group crashed through the entrance with pinpoint accuracy.
Toucan’s torso jammed into the small tunnel of the cave, and the momentum of the two Montgomerys sent them flying through the air, bouncing off different hard surfaces until they both came to a crash just inches away from a group of creatures standing by a small portal which was bringing light into the space. Montgomery the Mouse, even as he moaned in pain, recognized Jerry, Tommy, and Dorothy, but he didn’t know the other person.
“Who the heck are you guys?” Montgomery the mouse-sized Moose asked.
“Wait,” Tommy replied. “Montgomery the Moose, is that you?!”
“Who the heck is Montgomery the Moose?” Montgomery the Moose replied.
“Oh dear,” Michael responded, seeing the panicked look on Montgomery the Mouse’s face. “He had some of the shrinking water, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” Montgomery the Mouse said, with tears in his eyes.
“Quick!” Toucan shouted, his neck fully stuck in the cave opening. “Get him through the portal. Now!”
Michael understood Toucan’s plan, and started to push the mouse-sized moose, but he was stopped by the mouse-sized mouse.
“Montgomery,” the mouse said to the moose, “do you understand what’s happening?”
Montgomery the mouse-sized Moose thought for a moment.
“No,” he responded. “Do I usually understand what’s happening?”
Jerry and Tommy looked at each other, and silently agreed that sometimes it was hard to tell. Montgomery the Mouse stood directly in front of Montgomery the mouse-sized Moose and looked his friend in the eyes. He could feel his heart beat harder in his chest, as if what he was about to say was maybe the most important thing he would ever say.
“You are Montgomery the Moose,” he started. “You are the most powerful creature I know. You are brave, and strong, and the best friend any of us could ask for. And you are going to go through this portal and rescue a dragon. It won’t all make sense, but by the time you’re done, you will fix magic, you will bring back your friends, and you will save the world.”
Montgomery the Moose’s face softened. This strange mouse who was the same size as him was getting through to him.
“Friends?” the moose replied, with hope in his voice. “I have friends?”
Montgomery the Mouse cried openly now. “Yes! You have friends. Lots of them.”
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” Montgomery the Moose said with deep contentment in his voice. He and this enormous-looking mouse looked in each other’s eyes for a moment that felt like eternity. “Okay, whatever I can do for my friends, I’ll do it.” He made a slow motion towards the portal, and Montgomery the Mouse gently moved to the side.
“Will you please hurry up?” shouted Toucan impatiently from behind. “Cuz right now your friends and everything else in your world is turning to chocolate!”
Montgomery the Moose’s eyes ears perked up and his eyes widened as much as any of the friends had ever seen. He turned away from the portal to face Toucan.
“Did you say… chocolate?”
“Oh no. No no no.” Montgomery the Mouse said.
“I looove chocolate,” Montgomery the Moose continued.
“Nonononono…” Montgomery the Mouse sputtered.
“I mean, you’re telling me you’re my friends, but I don’t know you. And I love chocolate.” He looked directly at Toucan’s head, which was all anyone could see of the bird. “Can you move out of my way, please?”
“I… no… I can’t. The only place for you to go is through that portal.”
“I don’t believe you,” Montgomery the mouse-sized Moose said calmly. He focused on Toucan’s head and backed up a few steps, before lowering his head and closing his eyes to start a run up.
“Uh,” Toucan worried, and looked at the others for help.
Montgomery the Moose leaned down to start running, but just then – bam!
Montgomery the Mouse crashed into Montgomery the Moose, redirecting him with precision into the portal. But Montgomery the Mouse’s momentum carried him through also.
The two creatures fell into the cavernous space with the enormous blue dragon in what appeared to be a jail cell, but Montgomery the Mouse was too busy spinning through the air to be able to see what was what. He eventually hit something softer than he expected, and when he sorted himself out, he realized that he had passed through the cell bars and hit the blue dragon itself, landing on its snout.
The dragon, with its eyes only open by the barest sliver, didn’t even react to the small creature climbing on its head. But what he heard next was the most beautiful sound he’d heard in a while.
“Montgomery!” It was his moose friend, with a voice as loud and booming as he had always known it. Montgomery the Moose had returned to his full size. But as Montgomery the Mouse tried to identify where his moose friend was speaking from, his friend spoke again, amidst the sound of straining animal and clanging metal. “Montgomery. I…”
Montgomery the Moose was stuck.
This place had returned him to full size, but it had done so while he was hurtling towards the cage that held The Great G’n-zalo. So now his head – well, mostly his antlers – were inside the cage with the enormous blue dragon and Montgomery the Mouse, while the rest of him was standing on the stone floor just outside the cage. Montgomery the Moose looked to Montgomery the Mouse for help.
“What do I do?”
Montgomery the Mouse was so happy to hear his friend back to normal, that he didn’t much care about anything else. He simply smiled back.
“No, you don’t understand,” Montgomery the Moose continued, trying to maneuver himself around. “I’m stuck. So how am I going to get the dragon out?”
“Oh…” Montgomery the Mouse said sadly. He could see his point.
“Maybe if I…” Montgomery the Moose said to himself, twisting his head to try to jam his antlers through. He heard creaking, which seemed like a good sign.
“Yeah, that should-” his friend replied.
“Oh… no…” Montgomery the Moose said sadly. His right antler, jammed as it was in the bars, had loosened and fallen off his head completely.
“Oookaaay?” Montgomery the Mouse tried to encourage his friend. “At least you still have-”
“Oh no oh no oh no! Bad bad bad!” Montgomery the Moose yelled. His left antler, which had also been jammed, had now fallen off too.
His head now free, Montgomery the Moose backed up, away from the bars and towards the now-tiny portal. The only other thing around was a wall, so there was nowhere for him to go. “Nonononono…” he moaned, unable to even look at the antlers he had just shed.
“Oh Montgomery,” his small friend said from inside the cell. “This is okay… right? I mean, moose lose antlers every year, right?”
“I know, but…”
“About this time of year…? I mean, I know it doesn’t feel like it here, but it’s getting towards winter where we’re from…”
“I know, but…”
“But what?” Montgomery the Mouse asked.
“But now it’s all ruined,” Montgomery the Moose replied. “I knew I’d do something like this. Why did everyone think I could save this dragon? What can I do? I’m just a stupid, clumsy moose who keeps getting stuck everywhere and breaking things and now I’ve lost my antlers… How am I supposed to get him out without my antlers?!”
Montgomery the Mouse looked at his friend with fondness. “Montgomery,” he said calmly, “I need you to break more stuff.”
“What?” his moose friend replied through sniffles of upset. Montgomery the Moose finally lifted his head and looked into his friend’s eyes.
“Maybe getting stuck everywhere and breaking things is what we need right now.” His large friend looked confused. “And maybe,” Montgomery the Mouse continued with a smile – he was feeling inspired, even if he wasn’t sure what impact he was having – “maybe you are more powerful than your antlers!”
There was silence for a few moments, punctuated only by Montgomery the Moose’s occasional sniffling, which settled as he calmed himself.
“Wait…” Montgomery the Moose said finally. “You really think I can break through these bars without my antlers?”
Montgomery the Mouse squinted at his friend in disbelief, wondering how Montgomery the Moose didn’t see it about himself. “Yes…” he replied kindly. “Yes, I think you can.”
Montgomery the Moose sniffled once more, before calming his breath and standing straighter in his body. He looked at the bars that had snapped off his antlers, and said confidently to himself, “Yes, I think I can too.”
He backed up as much as the walls would allow. Ten feet, fifteen feet, twenty feet… His focus was entirely on the bars, though, and he didn’t see what Montgomery the Mouse could see – that the wall and the floor were literally expanding and stretching as Montgomery the Moose moved back, allowing him a lot more space than had been there before. And then, Montgomery the Moose took a deep breath, closed his eyes, lowered his head… and ran.
Montgomery the Mouse felt the giant blue dragon beneath him stir and lift its head just as Montgomery the Moose hit the bars at full tilt.
With an almighty crash, Montgomery the Moose’s head hit the bars. The whole frame shook, but gently. A small crack opened in the stone ceiling above. But the bars didn’t crash open. The dragon was not free.
Montgomery the Mouse, along with the giant blue dragon on which he stood, looked through the bars at the Moose. Montgomery the Mouse suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of sadness.
“Ow ow ow ow ow!” Montgomery the Moose flailed around wildly, trying to stay standing. “That was so dumb. My head hurts so much.” Eventually, unable to take it, his eyes closed, and he came crumpling to the floor in pain and defeat. On his way down, his chin hit one of his antlers, still jammed in the bars, and the impact knocked him out.
As he fell towards the ground, though, the antler rebounded from the impact and sprung upwards, dislodging itself from the bars, and hitting the crack in the ceiling. This dislodged small chunks of rock, which dislodged larger chunks, which dislodged larger chunks, some of which fell onto Montgomery the Moose’s body as he fell, knocking his whole body into the bars. That impact loosened even more rock, and sure enough, within moments, the whole structure holding the bars in place collapsed around them. The bars holding the dragon inside fell forward, landing on top of Montgomery the Moose’s unconscious and exhausted body.
Montgomery the Mouse, who had been petrified by everything that was happening, climbed down onto the rubble and said quietly in disbelief, “He… did it.”
The giant blue dragon, who had perked up with energy it had kept in reserve for decades waiting for this very moment, said to itself, “I am free.”
Moving forward from the place it had been captive for so long, the blue dragon stepped over the pile of rubble that housed Montgomery the Moose, the creature that had brought freedom, without looking down. The dragon was focused on the small pinpoint of a portal that was still visible, and waved its right arm a little. The portal suddenly opened wide – wide enough for the dragon to fit through. Montgomery the Mouse could see clear blue sky through the portal.
Surely… Montgomery the Mouse thought, Surely he’s not going to…
With a flap of its gigantic wings, which knocked more rubble down from the ceiling and walls, the enormous blue dragon flew through the portal. Not even two seconds later, the portal shrunk, and disappeared entirely.
To be continued…