Welcome to The Spot Writers. The August prompt is based on a photo taken at a local zoo. There was a fence leading to a “no admittance” area, but about 12 inches at the bottom had been bent upward, allowing admission of… people? animals? And where does it lead? The Spot Writers’ task: Write a story involving a fence that has been snuck through—as a major or minor plot point.
This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. She had revamped a previous version of this story, which was 561 words, into a 100-word story that won third place in an online contest. She then revamped the 561-word story into this 630-word story for purposes of this prompt. (Summer has taken over her life, and she didn’t have time to write something new.)
Cathy’s first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, is available from her locally or on Amazon, to (thus far) great reviews.
by Cathy MacKenzie
Squeaky sprints as fast as he can, around and around, going nowhere on a trip to somewhere, he thinks, when in actuality he’ll spin for all eternity or until he dies. Sure, I don’t know what he’s thinking. How can I? I can’t delve into a hamster’s mind, especially one as dumb as he is, but he must think there’s a destination at the end of his trip or why would he exert himself?
He’ll have a heart attack if he keeps this up. But, of course, Squeaky wouldn’t know that. Squeaky doesn’t have brains. Squeaky lives for the sake of living: eating, drinking, sleeping, running. That’s the extent of his life, really.
Finally, he jumps off the wheel and rests.
Sometimes I wonder about my life. Most days, I spin on another wheel to nowhere. I have no destination, no light at the end of my dark, long tunnel. I’m similar to Squeaky in that respect although he has light when he runs. I run in darkness, eternal darkness lit by an occasional spark of life. When that spark shines, life is worth living; when it’s snuffed out, my purpose is gone.
At least Squeaky has purpose with his eternal spinning machine to look forward to whenever he desires it. Surely, even as dumb as he is, he’s aware the machine sits in his cage. I suppose when I’m on my treadmill in an attempt to tone my body I’m like Squeaky, treading to nowhere, huffing and puffing. I hate the trip, though, and only occasionally keep up with my daily goals. Squeaky, I think, enjoys his travels. He must, or why would he keep hopping on?
I can’t keep up with the treadmill. It’s too hard, too boring, too useless. I’m not losing weight. There’s no benefit. I don’t even hop on once a day, could never ever compete with Squeaky’s numerous daily runs.
While I stare at him in his cage, I wonder if he’s happy. Would he like to be free? I stick a finger between the metal bars, and he leaps toward it. He’s not one of my friends. He’s wild and untameable. He’s never been free, never had social contact with anyone but me. And I’m an ogre keeping him caged. But Squeaky doesn’t realize that. This is the life he’s always had, so he’s happy, I think. One never misses what one hasn’t had.
I’ve had certain things. And I miss them. I miss everything.
The window is open, without a screen to mar the outdoors. It’s a low window, and a light breeze drifts in like the useless sigh of an angel. The view is of the cemetery behind my house, and behind the cemetery stretches the forest: endless trees sprouting from Hell and reaching toward Heaven. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. For both of us.
When I unlatch the door to Squeaky’s cage, he’s motionless. He stares at me for a second as if he’s in shock and then glimpses the swinging door. He’s confused. He spies the open window out of the corner of his eye, and I picture another set of wheels turning in his head. Perhaps Squeaky’s not as dumb as I thought.
He glances at me again before examining the door and the open window. He snarls. He darts out of the cage and bounds out the window.
He stops at the edge of the cemetery where another metal mass rises before him. Does he think he’s in a larger cage? But then he sees the bent and uprooted metal fencing, and even though he’s small enough to jump through the gaps in the enclosure, he races underneath and disappears behind a headstone.
“Bye, Squeaky,” I whisper. “Perhaps I’ll see you again.”
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/