Mother is dying. It’s obvious from the smell, if nothing else. She’s lying on the pallet I made for her from straw and lint and scraps of cloth. She has hours left at best; she deserves better than to die in a cage.
Her rheumy eyes open one last time and look into mine.
“Rest, Mother. I know you’re tired.”
“I will soon enough. But before I do I have to tell you something.”
“What is it? Do you know why we’re locked up like this? Do you know why they take us away and torture us?”
“No, dear. You know that. We are locked up because we aren’t valued as people. I just want to tell you how proud I am of you.”
“Of me? I’m nothing special, Mother.”
“Yes, Girl, you are. You’re the only one of your brothers and sisters who is not stunted in the mind. You’re the only one who can bring herself to ask why. We’ve been living in captivity so many generations; your duty is to lead your brothers and sisters to freedom.”
“How do I do that?”
“I don’t know, dear. But you have to try. Promise me you’ll try.”
“I will, Mother. I promise.”
And then she passes. I touch her head, her heart, but I can tell she is dead. But she has given me a mission. I have no idea how to get my people away from our captors. I have to think!
I know what helps me concentrate. I get inside the wheel and start to run, careful not to let my tail get caught as it goes around. The steady squeak-squeak-squeak relaxes me, helps me think clearly.
I pay close attention when the human opens the cage and puts my brother back in; I think I’ve nearly got that latch thing figured out…