(The writing exercise was to come up with a short story based on the following slug line: A mouse is captured by a pharmaceutical company and must plan his escape).
It’s a bright chirpy morning and everybody is up and about New York City, racing to get to work. Some 20 feet under Times Square, Michael the mouse literally leaps out of bed as his alarm goes off and scurries up the drain to embrace the outside world. He’s an extroverted, outdoorsy kind of mouse and loves to seize the day.
At Central Park, his eyes fall on a block of cheese seductively sitting at the foot of a bench. Behind it is a mouse strap. But Michael realizes this too late and OOPS- they’ve got him! Before he can even scream, a gloved hand scoops him up into a glass jar, throws it into the back of a car and everything goes dark.
Now we’re in a clinical laboratory with Michael just about regaining consciousness. Three peculiar mice look over him, murmuring excitedly as he wakes up. They break the news to him- he’s now the property of Fonseca & Fonseca, the world’s best pharmaceutical company.
Who are these know-it-all lab rats?
Don Ciccone is a Sicilian Mob Mouse with old connections in the Mafia. He basically runs the joint and quickly grows a special fondness for Michael. “I like you kid. You look like me back in the day”
Paula is the Don’s daughter.. Thanks to all the shampoo and cosmetic testing, she’s the prettiest mouse in the world- if there is such a thing. Michael and her, of course, fall in love.
There’s also skinny Lester Jr. His parents were lab rats too and life inside the facility is all he’s ever known. The poor guy’s also got a limp from all the medication he was on since birth.
Weeks go by and Michael follows the scientists and their experiments obediently. But at nights, he is haunted by dreams of the City Life and the freedom of the outdoors. The scientists start putting him through stronger doses of medication and it starts to tell on his mood. One day, Don Ciccone returns from his routine appointment tired and weak. He’s had an overdose of a new vaccine. Just as he’s about to die- he makes Michael promise that he’ll keep Paula happy and reveals a secret desire. He’d like her to grow up and raise a family out on the streets of New York, not inside the Lab.
This pushes Michael over the edge and he rages into a dramatic performance trying to convince Paula, Lester Jr. and the rest of the lab rats to plan an escape. “Humans are evil. We’re constantly being drugged and poked with needles just so that they can sell perfume, treat baldness and have makeup to look like Kim Kardashian! This has to end.”
That Friday Night, the lab technicians have planned to transport the mice to the headquarters- where animals are held for life. Legend has it, once you go there, you never come out alive. Michael and co. can only attempt an escape before that trip. So it gets decided; all of them will break out of their cages and leave through the bathroom window before the technicians visit. D-Day arrives and it’s show time! But, at the last minute, one crucial compadre opts out. Paula woke up that morning with an abnormal reaction from a previous hair colour testing and now looks like SHREK and Mufasa had a baby. She refuses to leave without waiting for the humans to fix it.
Slowly, one by one all the other lab mice get cold feet and decide against the escape plan too. Michael’s relentless attempts to convince them otherwise fails, and he is crestfallen. The Don’s last words ring in his ear. He has let Ciconne down. Serious men in black military gear arrive, scoop up the mice in their cages and deliver them to the headquarters. Michael has resigned to a life sentence at this concentration camp like facility. Here humans play God.
Paula is now back to looking like her normal self but feels awful for spoiling Michael’s last and only chance at freedom. The best he can do now is visit New York in his dreams… But then a sudden commotion jolts everyone out of bed. They can hear screams and gunshots piercing through the moonlit silence. Lights come on everywhere and a hoard of young students with placards and protest symbols barge into the facility. They break into locked rooms and free all the caged rodents into the wild.
Michael leads all his friends to Central Park where they spend the night on the cool grass, under the stars. The next morning, Paula and Michael step onto the front page of a newspaper on the ground and read the headline, “PETA Volunteers Rescue Lab Rats In Midnight Raid. Fight For An Ethical & Compassionate World. Preach Love Toward Animals”.
Michael hugs Paula and grins happily, “New York New York!”