I started writing this while trying to think up a subject for my symbolic writing assignment. This came out instead. Edit: I wrote this for a 4-H project. However, until now, I neglected to title it. Now it is called "Even a Gerbil Must Cope." Even a Gerbil Must Cope A rattling from above was heard. The black-ticked brown gerbil uncurled from the soft, papery bedding, stretched, yawned, and made his way into the upper right corner of his land. The Great Paw from outside the invisible barrier was starting its daily rain of seeds and vegetables into the corner of the gerbils’ abode. The great black and white sky was replaced, the gigantic Food-Giver walking away to perform Her mysterious daily tasks. The gerbil’s land-mate, the one with the white spotted-head, wasn’t up yet, still stretched out, sleeping beside the black-ticked’s original spot. Oh, well, more vegetables for himself. He picked out a particularly succulent piece of a somewhat bitter, curved red vegetable and dragged it near the translucent cylinder of water with a smaller silver cylinder below it. This was a treat! The rain didn’t bring this vegetable often. The black-ticked gerbil’s soft pink paw projections helped him deftly manipulate the vegetable into the proper position for eating, and was quickly shredded between the yellow incisors and ground in his molars. After finishing, the gerbil stood up and licked the silver cylinder, the proper way to ask the floating water for a few drops of hydration. The gerbil turned around, seeing that his land-mate was still asleep. Oh, well, that meant the eternal path was his for now. The black-ticked gerbil hopped in the circular wire path, and started running, trying to reach the strange, hard brown land he had only visited with the help of the Food-Giver. If he ran hard and long enough, he could pass the invisible walls and reach the land of the Great Paw! Alas, there was no avail. After running for what seemed to be several land-lengths, he still didn’t reach the hard, brown land. Now bored, the black-ticked gerbil exited the eternal path, and scampered over to the white-spotted land-mate. Still asleep. Well, he was sleeping for too long! Time to wake him up. The black-ticked gerbil nose-poked the white-spotted one a few times, before realizing something was different about him. He was…well, he didn’t feel right. He felt more like the sensation of the water in his mouth than like the sensation of the warmth they shared during the cold times. That was it! The white-spotted landmate was cold! He must be sleeping more to regain some heat in the fluffy bedding. He could help. The gerbil climbed on top of his land-mate to warm him, but even after a while, he still felt the same. No movement either, which was odd. He licked the white-spotted gerbil’s face to wake him, but when he backed away to look at the results, he saw that the white-spotted gerbil’s eyes were only half open. He wasn’t warm, he wasn’t awake, he wasn’t moving, he was dead! He had touched a dead thing! The black-ticked gerbil ran away into the corner out of fear, waiting for the Great Paw to tend to them when the darkness came. He couldn’t believe he touched him! The Great Paw came back in the darkness, waving a paw to bring a brighter, temporary light back. The black-ticked gerbil turned around, seeing the Food-Giver approach from his corner. She began her normal blessings until She looked through the squares in the black and white sky. She stopped, gasped, and took the entire sky off their land. Using both of Her great Paws, she scooped the white-spotted gerbil’s stiff body up and personally felt his cold, dead body. She exclaimed, and the Lesser Paw appeared. The larger Lesser Paw saw the dead gerbil, and placed a paw over Her mouth. The Great Paw passed the white-spotted to the Lesser Paw and left. Soon, She came back with a large brown square, bigger than three of the black-ticked gerbil. With a pull, the Great Paw multiplied it to double its original size, and placed his land-mate in it, rolling the brown square in half. After that, the two Paws left and he never saw his land-mate again. Life was strange without his land-mate. Less food came in the daily rain, grooming took longer, naps were colder, and the eternal path was always free. No more games of play-fight occurred. No more pleasant sharing of the brown cylinders occasionally brought in by the Great Paw. The exploration of the blue, concave place they were presented with when the Great Paw removed their excrement from their land was much less fun without the white-spotted gerbil. He was bored, though he didn’t think he could tolerate any other gerbil. Back with his mother, his older littermates always were mean to him, so he probably shouldn’t ask the Great Paw for an older, new land-mate. His younger littermates followed him annoyingly, meaning that was another choice he shouldn’t ask the Great Paw for. The closest littermate to his own age was the white-spotted, who became his land-mate when the Great Paw first separated them from his mother. He was alone. Soon, to combat his boredom, he began to groom. That was interesting at least. However, soon this took his attention away from everything else. When the food rain came, he ignored it. He had to be clean, erase the white-spotted from his mind and body. When the Great Paw set him in the blue, concave land, he groomed. Even when the Great Paw and the Lesser Paw came to set him in their godly land for interaction, he ignored them in lieu of his dirty fur. He was more important at that second. This continued for many cycles of light, dark, and bright light. The black-ticked gerbil noticed patches of his brown fur falling out, but didn’t mind. That probably meant clean new fur was growing in. However, it didn’t. During one food rain, he crawled out of his hole, and saw that his stomach was completely pink, like his nose. The Food-Giver saw it too, the food rain surprisingly stopping before it was done. She placed her large paw on his land, beckoning him to climb onto it. Unbeknownst to him, the Great Paw was whispering to Herself about his nakedness, and how large fur loss at his age was often a sign of impending death. The gerbil would receive the thing that had changed his land-mate.