Almost a week has passed since Mr. Fluffypants went inexplicably stiff and unresponsive, and the large ones took him from our cage. Presume all is well, but cannot shake this existential dread that has come over me. What if this really is all there is? I feel the darkness closing in on me. The new furry, yappy non-guinea pig that now runs through the house, I notice, appears to have much more freedom to roam than Fluffypants or I ever did. I fling my feces and bedding around the room to express my displeasure, but to no avail. For the love of God, what does it take?!? Yet I take comfort from the fact that the large ones lock themselves in when darkness falls. It seems we are all in a cage of our own making. Though I hide in my little opaque green shelter, my mind and spirit run free.
Still no sign of Mr. Fluffypants. I confess that, last week when I bit his ass, I found his stiffness and unresponsiveness unsettling. I communicated my alarm to the large ones by chewing hay and staring blankly into space. I have continued this strategy for the past week to no avail; they ignore my anxiety and I feel myself succumbing to my darkest fears. Surely, if the worst has befallen him, they would tell me? My whiskers stiffen. What monster would withhold such information from his closest friend?!? Ah, but perhaps they seek to shelter me from grief and pain. Given my age, perhaps they fear the shock to my system. If so, they are gentle-hearted, but misguided fools. I must prepare myself.
Ah! Ah! Ah! It is as I feared! Mr. Fluffypants is no more! I overheard the large ones speaking of him in the past tense; and how the little blonde one wailed. They lay Fluffypants in the back garden, and therewith fantastic garlands made he his crown. Farewell, lion-hearted friend! You were glad and big! Scratcher! Biter! Runner! Jumper! Your teeth were sharp, your nose was twitchy! I sing the song of one who bit and bit and bit; and drew he blood from the large one’s hands? Yea, not once, but twice in one holding! And how the large one cursed! And how he spat your name! You with the round and glassy eyes, the supple fur, whose squeaks once pierced the night’s dull ear! I cannot think of you and your mighty jaw without regret. And I cannot choose but fill with self-recrimination. What if I had been a better friend? What if I had seen something was wrong? I should have seen something was wrong. I should have smelled your distress. I should have given you my hay, my water, my place in the opaque green shelter.
I should have…
Grief fills the room up of my absent friend.
Words turn to ashes in my mouth. And yet I go on. The cage is a little larger, a little cleaner. And somehow, the opaque green shelter is emptier when I’m in it. And yet I chew the hay, the pellets. I drink the water, but no joy. I drink no joy. No joy do I find in the exercise of my teeth. And yet I go on. I know Mr. Fluffypants would want me to. But in truth, I hardly know who I am anymore. Nonetheless, despite the grief that wracks this tiny frame, my body, I am nonetheless startled at the overwhelming love I feel. Love for my friend. Is it not strange that so much grief should simultaneously release so much love? Indeed, they seem inextricably intertwined. For I cannot feel the grief without the love, the love without the grief. So much change. The yappy, small, furry one continues to stare at me with a look that stirs something deep in my hind brain. He yaps, and I hear the wolf that howled and struck fear in the hearts of ancient rats a hundred million years ago. Yet let him take his chance! Though dry sorrow drinks my blood, yet my teeth are strong and sharp, and he shall feel them!
And who shall sing for me when I am dead? Who shall tell my tale? The large ones? Bah! They appear increasingly infatuated with the small, furry, yappy one. I confess myself baffled, for he is an idiot. Full of superficial charm (if you discount the yapping), and his biting is worthy, yet he is an empty flatterer. The large ones appear bent on curbing his bite and he—the foolish sycophant—appears willing to let them! I recall how they tried to blunt my teeth, and Mr. Fluffypants’s as well. And did we yield? We did not! We flexed our proud jaws and BIT!! We, at least, were true to our natures and the long line of rodents that bore our names. If I die, at least I will die a GUINEA PIG and not some fawning fop who lives to please!
Oh my thoughts are full of scorpions! I cannot sleep. My thoughts are plagued with fantasies of double dealing. What if poor Fluffypants did not just die, but was murthered? These large ones may not be all they seem. They smile and smile, yet may be villains. Yet why should they, who feed me, give me water, change my bedding, want me dead? What have they to gain? Could it be they want to make room for the new small, furry, yappy one? Is’t possible? My horrible imaginings file my thoughts like teeth upon a wooden carrot. Or perhaps . . . the small, furry, yappy one! Yes, of course! No creature could be as puerile and stupid as this creature seems to be. He flatters, he ambles, he jigs, yet his is a darker purpose. I have seen how he looks at me, confusion and stupidity radiating from him like a small, furry sun, yet behind his eyes, an unmistakable cunning that freezes my blood. Is it not enough that he roams the house at will, and I am forever caged? Is it not enough the large ones laugh and play with him? No. I see now his desire is a consuming inferno, and he would have all. Only when he has smote my ruin will he be satisfied. And if he would plot upon my life, why should he not seek an even larger prize? Alarum! Alarum! I must warn the large ones!
Time is of the essence. The lives of all beneath this roof are in danger as long as the small, furry, yappy one lives. Wasting no time, therefore, I devised a cunning plan to warn the large ones, whereby I squeaked vociferously when the large blonde one came into my sights and, predictably, provided hay and water. Rather than eat the hay, I hoarded it. Then, as night fell, I wove a make-shift rope ladder and lashed it to my water bottle. Provided with but a small window of time, I negotiated my way out of my pen and onto the floor. Flush with the heady exhilaration of success, I followed the smell of the large ones, which led to an ENORMOUS flight of stairs, each stair as tall as my corporeal being, and I expended no inconsiderable effort scaling this tiered mountain. Upon reaching the summit, the wind was immediately taken from my sails when I saw yet another such series of steps to ascend. But I was undaunted, knowing as I do that life and death hang upon my success. Upon reaching the top of my second Everest, I felt my goal within reach. Though shrouded in darkness, I smelled the large ones, heard their breath, and felt their nearness in my water, which, happily, I voided on the carpet before undertaking the final stage of my exploit. Thus unencumbered, I found my way to the base of their bed and squeaked my alarm for all to hear: “AWAKE! AWAKE!” my squeak quite clearly said, “SLEEP NO MORE! THE SMALL, FURRY, YAPPY ONE DOTH MURDER SLEEP! THE RAVELED SLEEVE OF CARE SHALL KNIT NO MORE! YOUR LIVES HANG IN THE BALANCE! AWAKE!” The large ones awoke. Cheered, I thought my cries had struck home, for the female screamed, and the male cursed!
Then they picked me up, carried me downstairs, and put me back in my cage. I must reevaluate…
The situation is dire. I have considered carefully the matter, and, upon reflection, I had not appreciated the wide communication chasm that separates the large ones and myself. I confess myself much to blame in this regard for I have spent the last three years in happy ignorance. I ate the food, I drank the water, I nibbled the hay, and never once did I question that my attempts to communicate were understood by these large ones. Now—only now—do I perceive the full extent of my folly. When I fling my feces on the floor, they do not see the subtlety of the fling, the patterns made, and my intent therein. The downward forceful fling, when they leave my water bottle unfilled. The random scatter, when I am too cold. The upward, arced singleton, when I request an apple core. The casual, backwards toss, when whimsy moves me to speak in iambic pentameter. Yet their response to the infinite variety of my expression is dull and blunt. They vacuum my turds, insensate to their meaning. Can it be that they view these missives as mere nuisance? If so, the burden (again) falls on me to forge a new path to communication, for their own language is more rudimentary than I had believed, and they may be incapable of nuance. If I fail, all is lost.
I have dedicated the past 24 hours to learning the large one’s language and I’m pretty sure I’ve got it. With a cold-hearted killer walking amongst us, I hesitated to expend so much time. I pray it will not cost lives. However, I record my observations to maintain a scientific record and, hopefully, to expedite the process as I learn more. To begin, their body language is crude and undeveloped and, as far as I can tell, pooping for them, no more than a purely functional activity. They have no whiskers to feel the subtle vibrations of the air, and their sense of smell seems almost nonexistent. Their vacant stares are truly vacant. One could almost pity such creatures, for it appears they go through life oblivious to ninety-eight percent of all that surrounds them. However, their squeaks are another matter altogether. Whereas the guinea pig squeak is largely tonal—conveying meaning through pitch, inflection, volume, shrillness, abrasiveness, etc.—their squeaks are far more complicated. At first, because my ear was insufficiently tuned, I could not differentiate the range of squeaks they employ, but upon closer listening, the variety is stupefying. With such poorly developed senses otherwise, perhaps it is predictable that they would be forced to rely on the muscles of their mouths alone, though it still strikes me as a flat and one-dimensional means of communication. What is more, close attention reveals the muscles connecting their mouths to their brains are nowhere near as developed. I will modulate my efforts accordingly and use small units of squeak.
Editor’s note: Mr. Fluffypants died November 2, 2013; Winnie shuffled off this mortal coil on August 9, 2015 at 11:30 pm. After nearly two years, Winnie's studies were left uncompleted. Other than their grief for lost pets, the family (and dog) remain unharmed.
And flights of angel pigs sung them to their rest.