When she awoke, it was to see the giant Anna crawling over toward the mirror. Her mind struggled to make some sense of what she was seeing, but none of it meant anything to her. How could Anna be so big? Somehow she had to fix poor Anna. The mirror kept pressing itself into her mind, though.
The mirror! The mirror had done this to her! But what had it done? It was lying face down, so she had no way of seeing herself. She looked at her hands, though, and they weren’t hands at all. They were paws! She felt her face, and she felt whiskers. Her nose wiggled as they thought, and suddenly she understood it all. The mirror had turned her into one of the frightened little mice engraved on its handle.
And now Anna was lifting the mirror!
She had to get that mirror away from Anna somehow. She yelled, “No!” at her little girl, now huge before her, but only a squeak came out. Anna had the mirror, but she dropped it again. This time it landed face up.
She did the only thing she could think of, and ran across Anna’s little fingers. They were bigger than a couch to her, but none of that mattered. Anna squealed in fear, and then delight. She took off after her new fuzzy little toy.
Cinderella had gotten her attention. Now, she had to lead Anna away from the danger. She dodged left and right, and kept herself just out of Anna’s curious, crushing fingers. When Anna was far enough away from danger, Cinderella hid herself behind Snuggle Bear, an old teddy bear that Anna didn’t like any more.
She went to catch her breath, and turned around to lean against the fluffy comfort of Snuggle Bear, when she saw a Fluffy that was no comfort. Bigger than Anna, and crouched to pounce, a merciless Fluffy the cat was getting ready to eat her mouse-sized mistress.
Fluffy’s eyes hypnotized her. The most fascinating shade of orange, they were as large as a dinner table, and intent on nothing but her.
Those eyes were flying through the air, directly toward her.
She caught the briefest glance of two paws looking like the outstretched limbs of some horrible tree. Those paws were like nothing she had never seen before. They were not the pillows of softness that comforted her every night. Each paw held five curved razors spread wildly like some awful dragon’s, and all 10 of them were aimed directly for her heart.
Fear finally broke Fluffy’s hypnotic hold over her, and Cinderella ducked under Snuggle Bear. Snuggle Bear crushed down onto her under the weight of Fluffy’s flying leap. Fluffy threw Snuggle Bear away, leaving Cinderella face-to-face with Fluffy’s wild eyes, and overpowered by her terrible kitty-breath. She had nowhere to run, so she ran right under Fluffy, slipping between her legs to freedom.
Fluffy wheeled to chase her, and fell right on her head in a crashing pile of cat and teddy bear. She had not noticed that her claw was hooked on the bear. She rose, trying both to track Cinderella with her eyes, and shake her claw free of Snuggle Bear. Cinderella ran straight past the mirror, then back to it. It was a horrible risk, but she had to look into that mirror once more, and see whether it offered any clues.
In its glass, she saw only the furry white face of a frightened mouse.
Snuggle Bear and Fluffy were both charging across the room to get her. Fluffy could not get her paw free, but she couldn’t give up the hunt, either. Far worse, though, Cinderella saw Anna headed back to look at the mirror.
The mirror was full of evil magic, and the old lady was the witch that put it there. No old witch was going to hurt her Anna.
Fluffy and Snuggle Bear charged, flailed, and crashed after her. Cinderella’s poor mouse-heart was beating a thousand times a minute, and it was screaming for her to make it to a mouse hole. She could even see a good one straight in front of her. Freedom and safety were just across the room. Behind her, though, Anna grew closer and closer to that hateful mirror.
Without thinking, she ran right straight under Snuggle Bear again. Fluffy tried to follow her and got flipped upside down, but when she rose, she was free of her snuggly shackle and ready to begin the chase for real.
Cinderella saw that there was a table standing right over the mirror. Maybe there was something up there that she could push off to break the mirror. She scurried up the table leg. That put several feet between her and death.
There was a book on the table that was surely big enough to break the mirror. She was not sure she could move it, but she was ready to try. Her thoughts were interrupted by Fluffy, though. Fluffy was unable to think of anything but catching that mouse, and playing with it until it could play no more.
Cinderella dove off the table for dear life.
As Cinderella flew off the table toward the mirror, she could see Fluffy’s image reflected in it, and looking down to mark her target. A terrifying plan entered Cinderella’s mind, and she froze there in the middle of the mirror. Fluffy froze too, waiting to see which way the helpless mouse would flee. Anna was reaching out, about to grab her or the mirror. Cinderella could not tell which, but she said a quick prayer that Fluffy would not wait any longer. Fluffy needed to pounce NOW, before Anna got any closer.
Cinderella just sat there, motionless on that mirror.
Fluffy would not pounce!
Anna’s hand touched the mirror handle, Cinderella remembered that cats don’t attack things that are being still so she ran in a quick circle around the mirror. Before she could look up, she knew Fluffy was in mid-air. She waited just a blink longer then ran for the mouse hole.
Fluffy landed directly on the mirror, just as she’d hoped, but the mirror didn’t break.
Fluffy took off after Cinderella at lightning speed. Well, almost. Really, she tried, but instead she spun out on the mirror, throwing it backwards across the room and shattering it against one of the table legs.
The noise distracted even Fluffy. She and Cinderella both turned around to see a kind of red fog drifting up from the shattered mirror. It was not like smoke, because smoke would be thinning and going away. This fog was getting stronger, and starting to float around in the room. One glance told her that Anna and Fluffy were both watching it with great interest.
Like some sort of jinni from a bottle, the fog seemed to take on a kind of a shape and almost seemed alive. Anna sat up and started giggling. She had never seen anything like it. Fluffy started slowly walking up to it. The fog turned, and started moving toward Fluffy. Fluffy jumped and ran back a little way. The fog turned again, and started toward little Anna. It seemed to follow whoever was closest.
Cinderella knew she had to be closest.
She ran directly behind the fog, but it completely ignored her. She ran right into the fog, and all around it, and it didn’t even seem to see her. It just kept drifting toward silly little Anna, who just kept looking at it and giggling. Fluffy was still proving what it meant to be a “scaredy-cat”. There was not a hope in the world.
Cinderella just plopped down on her furry little bottom, and gave up. The cloud had already gotten her, and now it wanted a fresh victim. There was nothing she could do. The old witch had beaten her. How could she fight a cloud?
The cloud had worked its way past Cinderella, and was now drifting lazily toward Anna.
Cinderella wanted to wave a book around in the room, and make the cloud go away, but mice are not built for that. They are not very brave, either! Cinderella had already overcome that natural fear that mice have too many times for one day. She just couldn’t do it again when there was nothing to be done.
The cloud had passed Fluffy, and she started toward it again. Curiosity, they say, killed the cat, and Fluffy seemed to need to prove it. She wanted a good sniff at the butt of that weird looking cloud, and she was going to try to sneak up behind it to steal a whiff.
Cinderella watched, with fascination and a little hope. As soon as Fluffy was closer to the cloud than Anna, it turned to drift toward her instead. It was almost beautiful to watch, in a terrible sort of way. The cloud held together with its own shape, and it almost seemed like it had a head and knew which way it wanted to go. When Fluffy snuck up behind it, the cloud never turned around. The head just kind popped out right in front of Fluffy!
Fluffy poofed out her hair like a blowfish, arched her back, hissed, spit, jumped 3 feet in the air, turned around, and jumped backwards like an acrobat. The head of the cloud immediately turned back to Anna, who was still sitting there giggling and cooing in perfect innocence.
Really, Fluffy had only backed up about a foot, and as soon as the cloud was headed the other way, she got interested again. She still looked very, very Fluffy with her fur all poofed out, but she was sticking out her nose as far as she could without moving her feet, trying to get a sniff of that weird thing.
Cinderella felt something like hope.
She ran out in front of Fluffy, and tried to get her give chase one more time. Fluffy glanced at her, and then went back to sniffing the cloud from five feet away. Cinderella started running in circles, hopping, and even squeaking as loudly as she could. It was no use. Fluffy was only interested in that weird cloud, but not interested enough to make it follow her.
Cinderella would have been confused and desperate, but there was not enough time. The cloud was only inches away from her beloved, cooing little Anna.
She ran up to Fluffy, that mountain of claws, teeth, and eyes that hypnotized just before the kill, and bit her on the toe as hard as she could. It was not a smart idea, but a half-baked plan just in the nick of time, is better than the perfect plan one second too late.
Suddenly, Fluffy was interested in something besides that cloud!
Fluffy picked up her paw, and shook it mightily. Cinderella hung on as long as she could, but eventually Fluffy figured out that she could just bite the mouse off her paw. That would NOT help anything! So, Cinderella let go, and took off running.
Fluffy was just a little slow, because so many things were happening that were all confusing her badly.
Cinderella did not run directly toward the cloud, but just a little past it on the left. Fluffy took off after her. She suddenly did not know why she had been ignoring this mouse. That cloud was very confusing, but a mouse was a problem she could solve. Catching the mouse would be much more useful than sniffing some cloud.
Cinderella saw the cloud hovering ever closer to her Anna. Anna was reaching her chubby fingers toward it, but could not quite touch it yet. With a silly grin on her face, and a twinkle in her eyes, she kept waiting to touch this pretty red cloud sent by an evil witch to do who knew what to her.
After getting just past the cloud, and hearing Fluffy almost right behind her, Cinderella dashed between Anna and the cloud. Fluffy wheeled hard to the right, right behind her tiny prey. Suddenly, Fluffy realized the trick. She tried to stop, but slipped, and came to a crashing halt right between Anna and the cloud.
Fluffy was stunned.
Her whiskers were actually touching the cloud, and she was frozen in place. In a moment of sad confusion, Fluffy decided she might as well smell that cloud if she was stuck under it. She touched the cloud with her nose, and took the world’s smallest sniff.
The tip of the red cloud touched the tip of Fluffy’s kitty-nose and, Whoosh! The whole cloud jumped into her nose at once! First there was a cloud, and then there was a wide-eyed Fluffy standing there blown up like a balloon about to burst, and no more cloud anywhere. And then it was over. Fluffy turned into a confused, orange mouse.
Weeping little mouse tears, Cinderella ran over to Fluffy, and threw her arms around her. If not for Fluffy, that would be Anna as a mouse right now, and that would have been terrible. As it was, Cinderella had a friend in her plight.
Together, they would figure out what to do next.
For starters, they would get out of little Anna’s reach. Babies are not always gentle when they catch furry little toys!
Cinderella did not have to think long before she knew what to do. Her fairy godmother had once given her beautiful clothes, and a fine carriage when the king announced his ball for the prince. She might or might not be able to help her now, but she was definitely her only hope. The prince and Cinderella had set up a special home for her in the castle as soon as they had been married, as the best thank you they could imagine, and so she would be easy to find. Cinderella and Fluffy went to her at once.
It was not an easy trip, because Cinderella didn’t know how to use the little mouse holes that were all over the castle. They had to take the usual hallways. Every now and again, some servant girl would see them and run screaming, or some servant boy would see them and try to catch them, but with quick dartings, and good hiding, they eventually made it safely to the far corner of the castle, and all the way into her godmother’s room.
When they entered the room, her godmother was sitting quietly in a chair, reading a story written one of her friends. Upon seeing two little mice come crawling under her door, she did what any good fairy godmother would do. She said, “Cinderella, I’m so sorry this happened to you! I knew that no good would come of you arguing with that horrible, ugly woman.”
How did she know that that the little mouse was Cinderella? Well, that’s just the kind of thing you know when you live in fairyland, and you are a fairy godmother.
She said, “Cinderella, I cannot keep you from paying the price for your pride over Anna. It is good to be proud of your baby, but bad to make everyone else act as proud as you. But, that witch wishes to punish you over-much. I can help you fight her curse, but I cannot fix it for you.
“This I can do,” she said. “The curse that the witch has placed upon you can only be broken by the kiss of true love, and it’s not likely you’ll be winning the kiss of true love as a rodent! I can turn you from a mouse into any animal you choose, and as that animal, you must win your prince’s love again. I can do this for you 3 times, so choose wisely. In what form would you fight the witch’s curse?”
Cinderella looked at Fluffy. Seeing another little mouse was a great comfort to her. Her fairy godmother had stooped down as low as she could, and she was speaking as quietly as a mouse, but she still looked horrifyingly huge, and sounded like the sound of a dozen carriages. Fluffy was just the right size, even if she was not much of a counselor.
She thought about all the things that made her prince happy. First, there was Anna, and herself. That thought alone almost reduced her to tears, but now was not the time to give into sad emotions. She had a prince to win back, and a witch to beat.
The prince was a man, and men loved their hobbies. Men were just boys in grown-up bodies, really. That meant that she could win his love by being fun.
What was the most fun the prince had? Sometimes he loved games, but there were no animals in his games. Sometimes he loved reading, and the theater, but there were no animals there, either. What could she choose?
Ah! Falconry! The prince loved to hunt with his falcons. She looked up at her huge fairy godmother, looming above her though she was lying on the ground beside her now, and asked if she could be a falcon?
Her fairy godmother hesitated a little bit, and seemed to pluck at her chin. “Do you think, child, that you will be able to win his love as a falcon?” she asked.
“Oh, yes! Very surely,” came Cinderella’s reply.
“Then it shall be as you wish it, dear,” said her fairy godmother.