“The Truth about Hamsters”

Cover by Jeanette Nadeau of Figment

Cover by Jeanette Nadeau of Figment

The Truth about Hamsters

(by Allison Rose)

Hamsters make the greatest pets. They’re cute, they’re fluffy, and they don’t take much effort to maintain. Mostly, they just stay in their cages, play on their exercise wheels, eat, and look so darn cute – or so they want you to think. I made a discovery one night about my hamster that made me reconsider this common conception of the domesticated hamster. What really goes on in those fluffy little minds of theirs? Do they really want to look cute and cuddly and live in a cage for the rest of their lives, or do they have … bigger, more ambitious plans?

It was a dark and stormy night, the perfect setting for ominous happenings. (Okay, it wasn’t exactly stormy, but the sky was quite cloudy, as though it might rain any minute.) My parents were out watching a movie, as parents often do when their only child has been giving them a hard time. (Well, they didn’t say that explicitly, but I’m smart enough to know this must be the case.) I’m nearly sixteen, and old enough to look after myself, so I was to stay home alone. My instructions, as always, were to lock all windows and doors, not leave the house after nightfall, and not open the door for strangers. Oh, and to remember to feed Gussy-Louise.

I suppose you’re wondering who this Gussy-Louise might be. For starters, I’d mentioned before that I’m an only child, but, excluding this fact, what kind of parents would name their child Gussy-Louise? (You’re probably wondering what my name is, for that matter. It’s Stevie, short for Stephanie.) Well, Gussy-Louise isn’t a person. She’s a hamster. I named her after my dog, Gus, who died right before I bought my hamster, and Louise after Linda Louise McCartney, whose cookbooks I adore.

Feeding Gussy-Louise is easy, because all she eats are fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as hamster food (I don’t know what that’s made of, but I’d like to err on the side of it containing wonderful, healthy things). I don’t mind cutting up the vegetables for her anymore, since I’m not so klutzy with my hands. I’ve also gotten used to cleaning up her cage, without batting an eye at the way she keeps it. Sometimes, I wish I was a hamster so I could get away with having a messy room, only I wouldn’t want it to be quite as messy as Gussy-Louise’s.

Gussy-Louise was in her cage, which is on the desk in my bedroom, riding to her heart’s content on her little exercise wheel. I opened a little hatch on the side of the cage that goes into her feeding bowl, and poured the hamster feed into it. Then, I reached my hand into the cage and put out the fresh fruits and vegetables. Finally, I refilled her water bottle, and went back to the kitchen to make my own dinner. (I washed my hands first, of course.)

After dinner, I did my homework in my room, and got ready to turn in for the night. Gussy-Louise, after a long workout on the wheel, was resting in a pile of straw. If I listened carefully, I thought I could hear her soft breathing, steady inhaling and exhaling. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale….

I still don’t know for sure if I’d fallen asleep at this point and this was all a dream, or not. Call me crazy, but from my bed, I saw Gussy-Louise sidle over to the exercise wheel and start to run, and run, and run, until the wheel was but a blurry spiral of motion.

All the while, I still heard the steady rhythm of her sleepy breathing, even though she was wide awake and must’ve been panting like crazy from running at such super-hamster speed. It started to get louder and faster until it sounded like a herd of elephants running a marathon high above my head.

Then, I felt something furry on my forehead. A little black hamster (not brown and white Gussy-Louise, who was still running the circular marathon in her cage) gazed into my eyes with its own little ones. It waved a black-and-white-striped paw from side to side over my face, like it was a Jedi using the Force.

And then, it started to talk.

Stevie,Steeeevie,” it intoned. “Watch the spinning wheel, Stevie.

Obediently, I turned my eyes back to Gussy-Louise’s exercise wheel, which was spinning at an impossible speed for a cheap, plastic pet’s toy, but not before I saw my bedroom floor. Hundreds, if not thousands, of hamsters were standing there on their hind legs, each one gazing at me like a hamster obsessed.

Look at it,” they all chanted in squeaky unison. “Look at it, Stevie.

I found myself, my mind, being drawn to the exercise wheel’s endlessly circular motion. Somewhere, (probably from the top of my head,) I heard a little voice say, “Free your mind. Let us control you.

Sure enough, I did.

At the black and white hamster’s say-so, I found myself kicking off the covers, climbing out of bed, walking over to Gussy-Louise’s cage, and opening up the access hatch. I only opened the hatch when I was cleaning out the cage, while Gussy was in another secure enclosure. (I knew better than to let her climb out and shred everything in sight.) Immediately, Gussy-Louise skidded to a very abrupt stop and waddled out of the cage.

Flanked by her fellow hamsters, Gussy-Louise and her hamster friends sat in a perfect semicircle. The black hamster, which must have crawled off of my head before, stood in front of them, and continued to speak in English.

“Fellow hamsters of the world,” the hamster exclaimed in a surprisingly deep, authoritative voice. “We of the Hamster Liberation Society have gathered here today, with our honorary member, Gussy-Louise, to discuss the importance of hamster liberation!

“If we get our way, hamsters will no longer be treated as second to humankind! No longer will we live in cages, be fed this horrible substance the humans call “hamster feed”, and forced to constantly run in circles for others’ amusement!

“Hamsters will unite! Hamsters will be liberated! Hamsters will one day rule over the world!” The black hamster held up a clenched paw in the air in determination. “We shall dominate the world!”

The crowd cheered as loudly as only hamsters can manage, shouting, cheering, and repeating the black hamster’s last words over and over again. Then, as I watched from by the cage, all the members of the Hamster Liberation Society launched into a high-pitched rendition of David Bowie’s song, “Changes”.

All of a sudden, there was a loud crash, and everything went black.

When I regained consciousness, I was back in my bed, the covers pulled neatly up to my chin. According to my alarm clock, it was five o’clock in the morning. The house was quiet, and outside my window, I heard the gentle pattering of rain.

Gussy-Louise, to my surprise, was back in her cage, munching away. I stumbled out of bed and made a beeline for her cage. When I tried to open the door, I found that the clasp that held the cage shut from the outside was still in place, like it had never been opened.

That’s strange, I thought. It was like there was no trace of last night’s events. Had it all been a dream? I closed the cage door again. I still don’t want to find out.

Nowadays, Gussy-Louise just sits in her cage, usually munching contentedly on a lettuce leaf or a piece of carrot. I took out the exercise wheel the next morning after the incident. She’s been getting a little fat, which can be somewhat problematic for hamsters, but there’s no way I’m putting that horrid contraption back in. In fact, I’m selling Gussy-Louise on CraigsList, and you’re absolutely welcome to buy her, but be forewarned: hamsters aren’t all they make themselves out to be.

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