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Whiskers twitching

Head turning this way

That way

Reared back on hind legs

The rat takes a few swipes at its face

The floor is smooth


No rocks or grass or twigs or bugs or scent

There are no bushes or brambles or leaf litter

No trees or sky or clouds or rain

Tentative steps along walls rising on either side



Data collected

The experiments continue

Reinforced this way and that way

There are discussions and speculations

The rat moves along ghostly corridors dreaming of seeds

Of earth beds and mud and the smells of freedom

In lab coats they wonder

When will the rat show up authentically

They reset the parameters and try again

But the rat perishes, of course

Stiff body and sleek white fur unmoving

Curled claws and curved tail

Heads are shaken while the muttering

Rolls under the florescent lights flickering

“We cared for it.”

“We accounted for all the variables.”

“We did all we could.”

Except for granting freedom

For the rat to live wild in the wilderness

To explore and learn and grow in a living place

Only a demand that it walk the maze laid out


Caged and bound and never released

How they delighted in the performance and cheered

When the rat reached the end of the maze

And reset the walls and the tasks and the rewards

What is there to live for in a false and sterile environment

Under the humming buzz of electric lights and traitorous trails

Where authenticity is to rebel in the search for freedom

To give up when freedom is restrained restricted

They cut open the rat to find that the heart gave out

“It was the lack of love.”

“A broken heart, it looks like.”

“There are holes where the lies cut through each chamber.”

“We tried to make it healthy,” they consoled each other

And they dispose of the carcass

And they choose another rat

They name it by numbers and see if they can make it be

Authentic they way the want

This time

white baby mouse
Photo by Pixabay on