Caged

Kendra Engelbrecht, Fiction, 8th Grade

There’s a certain energy that can be felt in the pet store at night.  It’s when the hamster cage awakens. Sounds of exercise wheels and loud squeaks echo throughout the building.  Martin, a small tan hamster digs his way out of the tunnel he had built. His bedding materials were beginning to be very dirty and need of a change, but he knew it would have to wait a little longer before his bed would be changed.  He could already hear neighboring hamsters gossiping through the tunnels to other groups of hamsters. There are four levels to the hamster cage. The top of course was home to the albino hamsters, the second level belonged to the teddy bear hamsters.  On the third level of the cage was the golden hamsters, Martin’s home. The fourth level was separate from the rest of the levels and only had 2 tunnels that connected to the rest of the cage. This is where all the ¨extra¨ hamsters lived. Ones who just weren’t good enough to be put up for sale.  If a hamster wasn’t in perfect health, or didn’t like to run on a wheel, they were sent down to the first level with all the other “misfits.”

Martin rarely saw any of the other levels of hamsters.  He could hear their voices echoing through the tunnels every night, spreading rumors about everyone but he knew that the teddy bear and albino hamsters has much more privileged lives than the golden hamsters.  He would see the pet store worker come to the cage and give the albinos fresh new bedding every day. The teddy bears would get whatever was leftover from the albinos, the goldens would get a small amount of leftovers and the misfits would be lucky to get some recycled bedding once a month. The misfits had more inhabitants on their level than all other levels combined but still had less space, got less food, and half the resources of the albinos alone. Every once in a while, a hamster would speak up about how they thought to give more food to the misfits, but they were brushed away for such an absurd idea.  “Where would the food be taken from? Us?” an albino said. “Because that isn’t happening! We worked for this food and they don’t do anything but take us space and make our cage look unclean.”

“She’s right!  Why do we even let them stay in our cage when they’re the ones who made themselves misfits.”

Martin overheard many conversations like this happening more and more every day and he began to alienize the misfits, thinking of them not as hamsters but as disease.  They were a burden on the hamster society, for the hamsters had to give them at least some resources that could’ve been given to the albino, teddy bear, and goldens. No other level had ever visited the misfits, but they had heard of the smell and condition the level was in.  Martin was a little curious to at least see it, but frightened of what it might be like.

Every once in a while, a hamster would speak up about how they thought to give more food to the misfits, but they were brushed away for such an absurd idea.”

The cage awoke to an announcement over the store intercom.  “Hello my name is Ethan and I am a teddy bear hamster. I would like to spread a message to spread a message of equality to all of you.  How can you sit around every day knowing that our brothers and sisters are starving alone and no one is doing a thing to change it! Join the movement to push towards equality for-”  He was cut off by the mic and heard an albino come onto the speaker.

“I apologize for that technical problem.  I assure you it will be corrected shortly. Thank you.”

Murmurs could be heard all through the tunnels.  Every hamster in the cage was talking about what had just happened.  Many of the albinos were very upset because they were scared some hamsters might join the movement.  Which was true in fact, many of the teddy bear and golden hamsters were talking about joining the movement.  Martin was the first to sign the list. He then was swept up into a crown which flooded the tunnel that headed right down to the misfits level.  Only then did he realize the level of poverty there truly was. Then Martin saw it, two little hamster children playing in some filthy bedding, their fur was matted and looked like it had never been washed.

Then the screams began.  The albino hamsters began to attack the misfits claiming there needed to be a cleansing of the population.  Then Martin saw an albino sprinting towards the two innocent children playing together. He knew that he had to change this screwed up world.  As the albino dove towards the little children, Martin lunged and was met with a scratch from his neck to back. Blood began to pool beneath him.  As his eyes fluttered shut he saw the kids being taken to safety and he knew he had done the right thing for the first time in his life.