The Lonely Mustache

February 8, 2013
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There once was a happy mustache who lived on the face of a benevolent man. The man groomed the mustache every day with loving care, making sure the ends were curled just so. The mustache loved his man, and the man loved the mustache back--or so the mustache thought.
One morning, completely unannounced, the man took a pair of scissors and snipped the
mustache off, washing him down the drain. The mustache shrieked as he was flushed through the narrow pipes. Down and down he went. After some time, the pipes ended and he was dumped unceremoniously onto cold, wet cement. Coughing and spluttering, the mustache got up and looked around. It was pitch dark save for thin rectangles of light high above him shining through a drain. Cars and buses rumbled over it. He was in a narrow tunnel which did not appear to have a beginning or an end, and everything around him was cement. The walls and floor were caked with grime. Through the middle of the tunnel, septic water flowed steadily like a river cutting through the forest. It dawned on him that he must be in the sewer beneath the city. And unless he sprung wings and flew out of that drain, he was never getting out.

"How did this happen to me?" the mustache thought miserably. "My best friend abandoned me! What could I have done wrong?" Dejectedly, he wandered forward across the slimy floors of his new home, unsure of where he was going or what he was going to do. "Am I really that worthless?" he wondered.

He must have walked for miles when suddenly he heard voices echoing off the walls. The tunnel widened into a big open room, which was connected to another tunnel on the opposite side. At the edge of this room sat three men around a flickering fire, warming their hands. They had dirty, bearded faces and mismatched layers of coats and sweaters. The mustache felt a burst of hope. Maybe one of them would like to wear him on his face?

The mustache nervously approached the three men. He cleared his throat. "Greetings, gentlemen. Mind if I join you?"

The men looked down at him with mild surprise. One of them scooted over and made room. The mustache settled himself in front of the fire and sighed contentedly at the warmth that washed over him.

"Cold down here, isn't it?" he asked conversationally. One of the men grunted.

"It doesn't help that everything is so wet. My hair is starting to droop." No one answered. These men really weren't a talkative bunch, were they? The mustache cleared his throat and tried again.

"Forgive me if this seems forward, but would any of you gentlemen like to have me on your faces? I'm relatively low-maintenance and I think I would look most flattering on you. You only have to trim me once a week or so." The mustache gazed up at them hopefully.

One of the men sighed. "Can't you see we've all got plenty enough facial hair as it is? We don't shave."

"You could always use a little more," the mustache suggested, trying to hide his desperation.

"What's a young mustache like yourself doing down here all alone, anyway?" said another man.

"The man whose face I lived on cut me off and washed me down the drain," the mustache said sadly. He didn't want to think about it.

"That's rough, bro," the man replied.

"Listen, kid," said the first man, "That sucks, it really does, but this ain't no place for you. You don't belong here. So why don't you run along and go look somewhere else?"

The mustache could feel his face burning. "Thanks for letting me share your fire," he said. Then he headed into the next tunnel. It was darker and narrower than the first one. He had to sidle against the wall to avoid getting too close to the rushing stream of sewage water. Oh, if he fell into that vile stream of waste, he was sure he'd die. The stench was so strong it burned his throat. Then, to the mustache's horror, he slipped on the wet ground, and in the blink of an eye he had fallen into the water with a splosh!

It took the mustache a few moments to regain his bearings. The water was freezing and pitch dark. He didn't know how deep he had sunk because he couldn't see anything. He tried to swim to the side and find the edge, but he could only float forward with the gentle pull of the current. If only he were made of muscle instead of hair!

The mustache let the current carry him further and further, trying weakly to fight against it every so often, but it just tired him out. So eventually he resigned to floating lazily.

"I suppose this stream shall empty into a large body of water eventually," he thought. "Maybe the ocean." That would be preferable to the filth he was submerged in currently. He shuddered and tried not to think about it.

Something flickered in the water far ahead of him. Faint orbs of orange glow bobbed and dipped. There were quite a few of them, perhaps a dozen or so. As the mustache was carried closer to them, he saw that they were fish. Glowing fish. How peculiar. Besides the fact that they radiated light, they still weren't ordinary fish. Generations of living in polluted water had made their fins shriveled and malformed, and while their heads seemed oversized, their tails were long and thin like taffy that had been stretched too far. The light that shone from their scales was a dirty, oily orange. Long toothpick-like teeth jutted out of their mouths every which way.

"Hello there," they said when they saw the mustache. Their voices were soft and whispery.

"Hello!" said the mustache, pleased that they had spoken to him.

"What are you doing in our river?" they asked.

"I fell in," he explained. "You see, I was washed into the sewer and I'm rather lost."

"Lost. Lost," they tittered. Their teeth gnashed and chattered.

"You can swim with us, if you like," they said. "We do love company." They circled around him, closer and closer.

"Really? Oh, that would be excellent. I could certainly use some traveling companions." A skinny tail brushed against him and he shuddered.

"We could use a new...friend, as well," one of them said, uncomfortably close to him.

"Friend, friend, friend," the others tittered. The mustache thought he heard the word "food" somewhere in there, as well.

"Erm..." The feeling of unease that he had been trying to ignore was growing. He heard something behind him. Turning around, he saw one of the fish approaching him rapidly, mouth wide open and filled with rows of jagged, skinny teeth.

The mustache screamed. He was so terrified, he jumped clean out of the water like a mullet and landed on the edge of the concrete once again. He inched away and did not get up until the soft glows beneath the water's surface were completely out of sight.

"You escaped the fish, did you?" said a voice behind him. He gasped and turned around. Standing at the mouth of a giant cave were two brown rats, watching him curiously with shiny black eyes.

"Th--they tried to eat me!" he cried.

"Yes, that is what they do," said one of the rats. "They took one of our babies just the other day. Indeed, while the Great River is generous with what it gives, it also takes away."

"The Great River?" the mustache snorted. "It's a stream of sewage waste."

"Do not speak in such a way of the Great River!" said the other rat, offended. He closed his eyes in reverence. "It is our source of life and protection."

"Sorry," said the mustache, "Look, can either of you point me the way out of here?"

"The quickest way is through our colony's territory," said one of the rats. "We can escort you. I am Jericho, and this is my brother, Isaac."

"Pleasure to meet you," said the mustache. "You're not going to try and eat me, too, are you?"

"Of course not, brother," said Jericho. "While we are quite hungry, we prefer food that is not sentient."

The three of them walked through the cave, which was dark and smelled of fur and rot. Occasionally they passed other rats, and Jericho and Isaac would nod their heads in greeting. Every one of the rats stared at the mustache in wonder. It was not every day they saw such fine facial hair as himself, he supposed. One very old rat hobbled out of the shadows. His white fur had almost all fallen out, and cataracts gave his eyes a milky glaze. He pointed a shriveled paw at the mustache.

"He has come! Be ready, brothers, be ready! Nothing will be the same."

The mustache eyed the rat nervously. Isaac and Jericho ushered him forward.

"Just a lunatic," said Isaac, "Don't pay him any attention."

Another rat scurried up to them when he saw them.

"Did you find anything?" he asked desperately.

"No, Brother John," said Isaac, shaking his head sadly. "Though we did not get very far. We found this lost mustache and are escorting him to the exit."

"Mus--mustache?" said Brother John. His eyes widened and he fixed them on the mustache in awe. He bowed his head reverently. "Good luck to you, sir."

"What was that all about?" the mustache asked when Brother John was out of earshot.

"They sent us out to look for food," Jericho explained. "Our colony has nearly run out of it. Our king, Lord Ratzenburger, has been taking it from us and keeping it for himself. Our numbers are dwindling. He is slowly starving us to death."

"He's a pig," Isaac spat. Jericho laid a paw on his shoulder.

"That's awful," said the mustache. "But what I meant--" He stopped. They had come to a giant chamber in the cave crowded what must have been hundreds of rats. They all sat in little huddled bunches. Some groomed themselves or their babies, and some milled slowly about. Most of them, though, sat quietly, eyes downcast and faces forlorn, bodies too weak to move. The mustache could see clearly the ribs protruding from the thin, patchy fur of those sitting near him. He stopped where he was in shock.

The rats all turned toward Jericho and Isaac expectantly. The mustache could sense their disappointment when they saw they had not come back with any food. That disappointment turned to wonder when they noticed him, however. He heard a ripple of gasps as he walked through the crowd.

"What do we have here?" said a loud voice. "An intruder?" Out of nowhere, an enormously fat grey rat appeared, surrounded by several giant bodyguard rats. The mustache assumed this had to be Lord Ratzenburger. He wore a gilded toothpaste cap for a crown, and his belly bulged like a balloon.

"He's just passing through, my lord," said Jericho. "We're simply escorting him to the exit."

"You know how I feel about uninvited visitors," the king said. "They have a tendency to...disrupt things."

"It looks like you've done a fine job of that yourself already," said the mustache coolly.

The king's eyebrows raised. "What did you say?"

"I'm just astonished that you're in charge of hundreds of subjects and you let them waste away and starve," the mustache retorted. Part of him knew he should stop talking, but the other part didn't care.

The king's eyes narrowed. He turned toward the guards standing around him and nodded. "Take him out back, boys."

A rat came out of the crowd and bowed at the king's feet. "My lord! Please! Don't do this!"

The king kicked him away disgustedly. "Get out of my way, worthless peasant," he snarled.

The mustache was seized by the guards and dragged out the mouth of the cave towards the river again. The king followed behind.

"I hate to do this, mustache," he said, "But troublesome intruders must be ousted."

The guards lifted the mustache over the rushing water. He could see the faint glow of the fish underneath.

"Why are you doing this?" he cried. "I did nothing wrong! Just let me go and I'll be on my way!"

The king ignored him. Just as the guards were about to fling him into the river, he lurched backwards, whacking one of them in the face and slithering out of their grip.

"No!" the king cried. He grabbed at the mustache, who jumped on his face. The king staggered, trying to pry him off. In the process, he knocked both guards into the river, and he himself fell in, as well. The mustache was still wrapped tightly around the king's head when they all fell into the water. Panic made him loosen his grip. The king grabbed at him, but the mustache was too quick and the king sank like a rock. The mustache leapt out the water just in time. Both the guards and Lord Ratzenburger never emerged from the river. There was nothing but bubbles.

The mustache lay panting, astonished at what he had just done. He turned around and saw dozens of rat faces standing at the mouth of the cave, staring at him in shock. Jericho stood at the front.

"You--you've done it," he gasped. "The prophecy has been fulfilled."

"Prophecy?" said the mustache.

"The prophets have spoken of this moment for years," he continued. "It is said that our god is destined to come back to us in the form of facial hair and save us all. You, sir, have done it. You have rid us of our evil king. We can now live in peace and prosperity."

"We couldn't be sure you were the one," said Isaac, "But you have fulfilled the destiny which has been predicted in our scriptures for centuries."

"I--what--" the mustache stammered. Every rat got on their knees and bowed. He saw hundreds filling the entire cave, all kneeling before him.

"We are eternally grateful, my lord," said Jericho. "Anything you wish for is our command. We are your humble servants now."

The mustache was crowned king that day, and the first order he issued, without hesitation, was for all the food to be taken from Ratzenburger's hoard and distributed to all the citizens. With help from the stronger rats, he built them warm shelters and gave them permission to exit the sewers to hunt for all the food they wanted. They gained access to pipes with much cleaner water than what the sewage stream provided, but the "Great River" was still revered for its sacred properties.

Over time, the rat kingdom prospered and grew until it covered nearly the whole sewage system. The mustache ruled with a just hand, and his citizens lived happy, full lives.

One day, he returned to the dark tunnel he had first been dumped out of, shattered and broken. Jericho and Isaac, his head advisors, stood at his side. His heart swelled with pride at how far he had come since he first got here. These rats depended on him, and he ruled with love and fairness in return.

"Nobody," he thought, "is worthless."

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Hermione700 said...
Feb. 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm
MOUSTACHES ARE AWESOME! Thanks for writing about moustaches! I used to have an obsession with them long ago..... :D
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