Misty Diamond sat in her stall. Hay cushioned her haunches. She shifted her paws uncomfortably. The heavy weight of her swollen belly was hard to bear. Her throat burned and itched; liquid hadn’t flowed through it since the previous night, and already the sun had climbed high into the sky.
But she was too scared to go get water. Getting water required going out into the open… and that was dangerous. Especially when she was carrying more than just her own life.
On one half of the guinea pig cage, there was a short little corridor lined with stalls filled with hay. A bit like stalls for horses, but a lot smaller. You could only see into a stall if you stood directly in front of the opening, so it offered the guinea pigs privacy if they wanted it. On the other half was an open space where the food bowl and water bowl sat. Thin strands of grass grew here and there on the ground.
To get to the water bowl, Misty Diamond would have to emerge out of her stall and walk through the open space. The male guinea pigs in the cage, Theodore and Tyler, always gave her a beating whenever she appeared out of her stall. This was because they disliked her white fur. “So plain!” they jeered. “So boring!” Then they scratched her and bit her solely for the joy of seeing the blood stain her white fur red.
Anger smouldered in Misty Diamond’s heart as she recalled the ways in which Theodore and Tyler had abused her. She steeled her resolve and stood up. She padded out of her stall and into the corridor. She walked up the corridor and emerged out into the open space on the other half of the cage. The food and water bowls stood against the opposite wire mesh wall.
She trotted as quickly as she dared towards the water bowl. Her anger died down, leaving cold fear in its place. She felt horribly exposed. She really couldn’t afford to get beaten: not now, not when her stomach was so big. She glanced furtively from side to side and quickened her pace. Almost there – just two steps more – almost there – she reached her head down to take a quick gulp –
A strong paw grabbed a handful of her fur and yanked her back. She fell onto her side with a thump, belly bouncing awkwardly. She scrambled up again, hastily shielding her exposed underside. She looked up in fear. It was Theodore. He loomed over her, mouth stretched in a leering grin, all bulk and muscle.
Misty Diamond tried to nip around him quickly and fly back to her stall, but she wasn’t nearly as agile as she could have been because of her swollen belly. He blocked her easily. He laughed.
“Trying to get water, hey?” he taunted. Tyler, standing beside him, laughed an evil, high-pitched laugh. Tyler was much thinner than Theodore, and much less strong; hardly even as strong as Misty Diamond. But she could never land a blow on him as he always stood behind Theodore.
Theodore pinned Misty Diamond down on the ground, flat on her stomach, and climbed on top of her. Tyler cheered him on. Misty Diamond struggled ferociously. “Let me go!” she screeched. She raised her head with difficulty and looked into the corridor of stalls. “Help, you coward!” she shrieked at the invisible guinea pig inside. “I’m your blood! Come help me already!”
But the guinea pig who was meant to be her protector did not appear.
“Haha!” squealed Tyler mockingly. “No one’s coming to help you!”
At that moment, there came the sound of footsteps. Theodore and Tyler immediately stopped what they were doing and rushed to the door of the guinea pig cage. A human child was walking across the lawn towards them. Two bowls bearing food and water were in her hands. She was a pretty child. She had bouncy golden curls, sparkling blue eyes, a pointy chin and heart-shaped face and creamy white skin without a single blemish. Theodore and Tyler were foolishly in love with her. She bent down and her little hands unlatched the door of the cage. Theodore and Tyler joyfully pounced at her feet. She giggled. She put the guinea pigs’ lunch into the food bowl and poured some water into the water bowl. They slurped up the food, Misty Diamond forgotten about, while she sat down on the grass just outside and smoothed their fur gently.
Misty Diamond watched the clear liquid sparkle under the noon sun. The burning in her parched throat intensified. She walked carefully towards the water bowl. Just a quick gulp, she told herself. But before she could get there, the human child lifted a hand and batted her away.
“No, you don’t get food or water,” she said with childish seriousness. “You’re too ugly.” She went back to petting Theodore and Tyler. They both had mottled pelts of all shades of tan, from buttery yellow to brown dark as the darkest chocolate; she thought they were very cute. “I don’t understand why we don’t just throw you out. You’re too ugly.”
Misty Diamond slunk away, throat burning and stomach rumbling and heart fuming. She was angry enough that she could simply spring at the stupid human child and tear up that perfect skin of hers, regardless of how she’d be punished. But even if she didn’t care about what happened to herself, she had to think about her unborn children. Maybe later, she told herself. After I’ve given birth.
She went back into her stall. On the wall of wire mesh that divided the inside of the cage from the outside, there was a hole just big enough for her head to fit through. Every day, Misty Moon bent back the frayed strands of wire at the edges of the hole a tiny bit more, making the hole bigger and bigger. She’d first discovered the little tear in the wire mesh a few months ago. Her plan was to escape out of the hole once she had made it big enough. She’d regain her long yearned-for freedom and lead a new life free from abuse and discrimination. Theodore and Tyler didn’t know about the hole because they never came into Misty Diamond’s stall, saying it was stinky; they preferred to harass her when she came outside for food or water. The human child didn’t know about it either because she never looked inside, not even to put in hay. The only other being who knew about the hole was Antony, the other male guinea pig in the cage besides Theodore and Tyler. He was who Misty Diamond had been calling for earlier. Antony never abused Misty Diamond because she was his blood. But he never actively stood up for her either; ever since Misty Diamond’s mother had been killed by Theodore and Tyler while she'd been giving birth to her second litter, and him severely injured from trying to protect her, he had been too much of a coward to do it again.
As Misty Diamond painstakingly bent back single strands of wire at a time, she heard soft footsteps behind her. She froze, looking backwards slowly and warily. But it was only Antony. He padded up beside her and sat down. Misty Diamond shuffled away from him.
“Why didn’t you help me?” she hissed. She felt angry, but at the same time the hot lava was draining away, to be replaced by the bleak cold sorrow of loneliness and misery. Tears welled up in her eyes. She swiped at them furiously. “Why don’t you ever help me?”
Antony didn’t look her in the eyes. His eyes darted around in shame. He reached for a thread of wire and tried to bend it back. But it didn’t budge. His paw was shaking. Without warning, he pulled at it violently, and it snapped clean from the rest of the wire mesh. His paw came back bloody and shaking even more. “I’m sorry, darling.” His voice trembled and a salty drop fell onto the hay. “I’m sorry. I’m so useless.”
They worked in silence for a while. The hole was almost big enough for a guinea pig to wriggle through now. Indeed, a small one could, if they were willing to lose some fur. Neither of them had lunch, working furiously on the hole as they had never done before. The warm sunshine of noon faded away, replaced by clouds and a thin, miserable drizzle. The light blended from gold to grey. Afternoon flowed into dusk. Theodore and Tyler, seeing that Misty Diamond hadn’t come out of her stall for a while, got bored and fell asleep to a long nap. The only sounds were the pattering of little raindrops and the creak and snap of the wire mesh under Misty Diamond and Antony’s paws and teeth.
Out of nowhere, a sharp pain stabbed into Misty Diamond’s underside. She gave a screech and fell on her side. Fear flashed across Antony’s eyes and he held Misty Diamond’s paw tightly.
It took what seemed like an eternity. The sun dipped below the horizon and the stall was plunged into the grey shadows of dusk. The drizzle persisted, pattering on the roof and leaking in through the hole in the wire mesh. A stark white sickle moon floated amongst thin wispy clouds. Finally, a tiny white form slithered onto the wet hay.
Misty Diamond gasped in relief. She propped herself up and licked the newborn. It had pure white fur, just like her own, unblemished except for a tiny spot of tan on its nose. A strange warmth kindled at the bottom of Misty Diamond’s heart. She had never felt anything like it before. Was it love? She nudged the baby gently and it scrambled unsteadily towards her.
Misty Diamond looked up out the entrance of the stall to the sky beyond. The rain continued to drizzle down. Behind it, floating amongst a few strands of wispy grey cloud, was the stark white sickle moon.
“I’ll name you Misty Moon,” Misty Diamond whispered lovingly.
Misty Moon nuzzled her belly. Antony sat beside her, a smile on his face. Then Theodore and Tyler barged in. It was the first time they’d entered her stall in a long time. They were impatient to harass her after hearing her give birth. They couldn't wait until she emerged from her stall. It was as if a warm bubble had popped. Misty Diamond hissed in fear and outrage. Antony got up swiftly and stood in front of her and Misty Moon.
“Wow, does the newborn have white fur as well?” Theodore sneered. “You being ugly is one thing… why did you have to give birth to an ugly baby too?”
“Shut up," Antony said. "And don't come any nearer.” He drew himself up to full height. But still Theodore loomed over him.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” he hissed. Tyler, behind him as normal, nodded menacingly. They advanced on Antony, who stood his ground. They swiped and sliced at him. He managed to land a few blows, but he was no match for Theodore and Tyler. Blood spattered onto the ground.
It was the first time in a very, very long time that he had stood up for Misty Diamond. Misty Diamond realised for the first time how much she still loved him. She stood up unsteadily, shielding Misty Moon behind her, and shrieked, “Stop it! Stop it! You’re going to hurt him badly!” But Theodore and Tyler took no notice. They wanted to save her for later.
Blood sprayed everywhere.
At long last, they stopped. Theodore stomped on Antony’s blood-streaked flank one last time. “That’ll teach you,” he spat. Then he looked at Misty Diamond, trembling in a corner. “We’ll deal with you later, love. Don’t worry.” Then they spun around and strode out of the stall.
Misty Diamond crept up to Antony. He lay still on the ground, stretched out on his side, blood pooling around him and staining his fur. His deep black eyes stared up, unseeing. She closed the lids. Tears welled up in her eyes. So this was what he’d get if he stood up for her? No wonder he was always scared…
She turned back to the hole and bent back a few last strands of wire. It was big enough for her to fit through now. Good thing Theodore and Tyler hadn’t seen it in the darkness and chaos. She picked up Antony gently in her mouth and wriggled out the hole, the wire snagging her fur a bit. She laid him outside amongst the bushes behind the cage and hid him from view. If he woke up, he'd be free. If he didn't... well, he'd be free that way too.
She wriggled back into the cage to pick up Misty Moon. When she emerged outside again, she stopped by Antony one last time.
“Goodbye, Dad,” she whispered, voice muffled around Misty Moon's still-damp fur. “I love you.”
Daughter in mouth, she sped away into the night.