Thursday, August 10, 2023

Herbie the Hamster: A Short Story

A couple years ago in early 2021, I woke up one morning with a character by the name of "Herbie" on my mind and a desire to write out his story, though I didn't know yet what it was.  An hour or two later, Herbie's story was written.

This was the first and last time something like this has happened to me - where I woke up with a named character and an overwhelming desire to write out a full story about it.  During this period of my life, it was a rather dark and confusing time - I was trying to piece my mind back together again, basically - and I viewed this little bit of creative writing as something like a gift given to me.  It lifted my spirits just a little bit to write Herbie's story.

In any case, I hadn't thought about this short story for quite some time, but I found myself remembering and thinking about it yesterday afternoon.  It made me smile again to think about good old Herbie, and to reminisce about my circumstances at the time and what drove me to write out his story.

I thought why not post it here.  It's a very short story, so should only be be a couple minute read.

Herbie the Hamster

There are many, many hamsters in the world, each with their own stories and adventures. This particular story happens to be about a hamster named Herbie, who lived in a nice home, with woodchips, food and water whenever he wanted, and even a nice wheel that he could run in.

The walls of Herbie’s home were made of glass, so shiny that it reflected back to Herbie his own little world so that he could not see or really even imagine anything outside of the place that he lived. He knew there was a wall there, for he had bumped into it enough times, but what it was there for and what was on the other side, he hadn’t the foggiest idea.

As time went on, this began to bother Herbie. Just knowing that this wall was there, and that there must be something on the other side, unknowable to him, made him think. He wanted to see what was out here, but how? He tried climbing up those glass walls, but they were so slick that it was no use.

He thought maybe he could jump out – that if he got strong enough, with one mighty leap he could clear the wall. So he exercised and worked out, imagining what it would be like to finally soar through the sky as his powerful legs drove him higher and higher. But, after months of his best and most diligent efforts, Herbie could barely clear his food bowl, let alone jump high enough to clear that wall.

He was beat, and he knew it, and nothing could be done to change that. He accepted his fate, content as he could be. There were still things to do here in his home – counting and comparing the sizes of woodchips, hiding parts of his food and trying to find them later, and, of course, running on that hamster wheel.

But there was always that nagging thought or wondering about what was beyond that wall. It never completely left him. He mostly imagined it to be good, and that all the things he wished he could do or could dream about here in his own home would be available “out there”. Sometimes, however, it was overwhelming to think about. What if it were bad or dangerous out there? What if there wasn’t an out there, actually, after all? What if it was just more of the same, just bigger – like more woodchips to count and measure? The spells wouldn’t last long, but just frequently enough and just long enough that it felt like it was always there. He didn’t know what to make of this “outside” – good or bad.

But what did it matter, anyway? He wasn’t going out there, regardless. He had exhausted his options, and he had accepted his fate. There were still more woodchips to count – more than he’d probably ever get around to counting in his lifetime, anyway. And that was something.

But then one day it all changed.

Digging in his woodchips, he came across a strange looking object. Round and small. He didn’t know what to do with it, actually, but something told him that it was special. He hadn’t come across anything “new” like this in awhile. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time anything new had happened at all. He determined, for some reason, that this new thing was more like him than anything else in his little home, so he gave it a name. He figured it might have the same kind of needs he did, so he made a bed for it to be comfortable in. He packed food around it, and made sure to keep it well hydrated. And he talked to it, and he pretended that it talked back to him.

Then another amazing thing happened.

One morning, as he went to check on this friend and tell it about how the woodchip counting had been going and of the other interesting things he had been up to, he noticed something different about his friend. He looked different. Something small and green was coming out from the top. At first, Herbie didn’t know what to make of this. But his friend still seemed happy sitting there, and so he decided things must still be OK. It wasn’t the first time he had seen something change (though not quite like this!), and curiosity, rather than concern, became the dominant feeling.

After that, the changes seemed to accelerate. His friend got bigger (and started to smell really nice, too!). Long green shoots were spreading everywhere and tender leaves were uncurling. Herbie had definitely never experienced anything like this before! Curiosity gave way to amazement, and amazement, in turn, gave way to sheer joy. He could barely keep up with the changes his friend was undergoing (and he felt like something was changing inside of him, too!)

He didn’t know why he did it, but one day Herbie took a little nibble off one of his friend’s leaves. Just a tiny one. His friend didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he felt that his friend rather enjoyed it – like it was part of what he liked doing, a gift that he offered. And it tasted good! After that, he would mix leaves in with his food, and his meals tasted so much better than they ever had before.

His friend continued to grow and spread, and what was once – as he thought about it in hindsight – a rather colorless world of tan and brown, was now brimming and overflowing with green. A jungle of green. And that beautiful smell! He was amazed at the transformation his friend had gone through, how this had transformed the place he lived in, and (if he had been able to notice as clearly with everything else going on) how it had also transformed him.

He was not sure what gave him the thought, but one morning as he sat there surrounded by his friend, basking in the wonderful smells and tastes, he looked up. It was at this moment that he realized that his friend had grown so much that he now ran over the top of those glass walls. Those walls that he had tried so hard to climb and failed, his friend had found a way to succeed. He congratulated his friend (as he was still in the habit of talking to it – even more so now than before actually), and said how happy he was here in his home now, how he was so grateful for everything his friend had done, and how he was so proud of his friend for even finding a way over the wall!

And then his friend spoke back, and simply said, “And now its your turn”.

Herbie stood there for a bit, not knowing exactly what to make of this. On one hand, he felt the thrill of excitement at the chance to finally go over that wall, and on the other hand, he felt a pang of fear about what was still so unknown about what was out there. Now, in that moment, the thought of going over that wall became something too overwhelming to think of. Good or bad, he didn’t know if he could do it – as he thought about it, maybe he was just meant to stay here and enjoy everything his friend had already done for him.

“No,” his friend said, “you were meant for out there. Not to stay in here.”

“But I might miss it here,” Herbie replied.

“Once you are out there, this place also stays and remains a part of ‘out there’. You don’t have to leave it, see? It doesn’t go away, but rather just becomes added to something even better.”

And Herbie thought some more on this, and said, “But I don’t know what is out there,”

“I do,” his friend said, “I am now over this wall and can see all around. I know you will like it.”

“But how do you know?”

“Because of how much you enjoyed this little transformation here. You have loved it. There is even more of this out there. More of a good thing is never a bad thing, when it comes to these types of good things. Trust me.”

And Herbie decided to trust his friend. He grabbed on, and slowly began to climb, though haltingly at first and with some shaking in his legs. He kept going up, his friend now supporting every step as he made his way up that wall, inching ever closer to the top.

And then he noticed it.

As he got closer to the top, the smell that he had enjoyed so much before became even stronger. It was coming from outside! The smell, that sweet, beautiful aroma his friend had provided for him in his home, was now mingling with scents and wonderful fragrances that were now pouring in from up above. And though he could not yet see anything, or catch a glimpse of what was out there, his trust in his friend grew, and he started to climb faster.

And then he was there, just under the top. He paused. Despite the sweetness surrounding and filling him as he perched there, he didn’t know if he was ready to take that last step over.

“Go on,” his friend said gently. “Trust me. You will see.”

So Herbie closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then made that last step to now finally stand on top of that wall.

And then he opened his eyes and looked out.

And he did see.

And it was good!

1 comment:

  1. "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible."