Anne B. Walsh - Do you believe in magic?
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Anne's Randomness

Who moved my apple?

Because as far as I'm aware, cartoons and popular belief aside, mice would rather eat fruit than cheese. Today's Fiction Friday offering is a little bit sci-fi, a little bit weird, and definitely on the shorter side, but I hope that you will enjoy it anyway. It's totally unconnected to anything else I've written, but it's words and that's what counts today.
 
As for other writing news, well, there isn't any at the moment. Story ideas continue to pile up inside my head, and story words continue to refuse to be put on the page. It is a very frustrating situation, which I really did not need at this point in time, given the frustrations involved in all other aspects of my life. But no one out there asks if you need or want these things. They just arrive.
 
With that in mind, please enjoy today's Fiction Friday offering. Leave a comment if you like, and I will approve it as soon as I am able. Thanks, as always, for reading, and I hope to hear from you soon!
 
*****
 
The mouse crept timidly along the floor of the maze, twitching her nose to catch the scent of the sweet, delectable bit of apple which awaited her at the end of her run. Two turns to the right, three to the left, and she should be there—
 
"WRONG!" thundered a voice as she placed a paw around the corner which had surely been the correct one only the day before. "GO BACK AND TRY AGAIN, AND PAY ATTENTION THIS TIME!"
 
"But—" the mouse started to squeak in protest, then sighed and pulled back, retracing her steps. Now that she looked up, she could see that the colors of the walls had indeed been changed here, muted blue where they had once been a bright red.
 
"AND IF YOU HAD BEEN LOOKING WHERE YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN, YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT," the voice battered at her. "BAD MOUSE."
 
"Yes, yes, bad me," the mouse sighed, shaking her head to rid herself of the ringing in her ears. "But looking up for the colors takes so much time, and you shout at me if I take too long to run the maze as well!"
 
"OF COURSE I DO." The voice sounded smug. "HOW ARE YOU EVER GOING TO LEARN IF I DON'T SHOUT AT YOU?"
 
"It might help if I knew what you wanted me to learn," the mouse muttered, finding the proper turn and taking it. "Other than 'do what I want, when I want it; don't bother me with questions, but do it the way I want it done or else; if there isn't a way to do it, make the way, and find your own materials, I'm not in charge of getting you things...'"
 
The voice either did not hear this, or did not bother to respond.
 
*****
 
Notes on Experiment 11878: Constant Frustration
 
In repeated tests where learned patterns were changed without notice, though with cues and solutions available if the subjects performed complex behaviors which are not natural to them, a small percentage of subjects thrived, but the vast majority responded in one of two ways:
 
Slightly more than half of subjects became afraid of all choices, even ones which were quite familiar and had not been changed, showing reluctance to make any choice before checking and rechecking for given cues. This adversely affected time and efficiency statistics, as well as decreasing the number of tests which can be completed with these subjects on any given day.
 
A minority of subjects, but still a significantly large number, began refusing to leave their area of comfort without the application of negative stimuli and, when placed forcibly into testing, exhibiting passive resistance behavior which indicated that their desire for the reward of food no longer outweighed their dislike of the testing process. In extreme cases, a few subjects have withdrawn entirely from contact with the outside world.
 
The effects of constant frustration on mice would seem to be almost entirely negative.
 
But of course, mice are not humans.

7 Comments to Who moved my apple?:

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tricia on Friday, January 23, 2015 11:37 AM
brilliant! :) Love your writing, Thanks for sharing this gem.
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greatlakesmolly on Friday, January 23, 2015 12:21 PM
OK, that was thoroughly nasty -- and very good. All the world's mice thank you for shining a light on the cruelty that the credentialed smarties inflict upon them -- and I'm not talking just about scientists. I suspect some of the people all of us work with are the same kind of experimenters -- or should that be tormenters?
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NotACat on Friday, January 23, 2015 12:48 PM
Gosh, the way you pull all of this completely out of thin air, with no recourse to bitter experience of an office-like environment… I applaud you, not only for your skill with words, but for your restraint in not going on some kind of murder spree whenever something like this is pulled on you by the latest in a long line of stupid pointy-haired bosses ^_^
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Alex Conall on Friday, January 23, 2015 12:50 PM
Drawn in absolutely no way from life, obviously.
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Scott on Friday, January 23, 2015 1:37 PM
Of course. Surely humans must respond to frustration with increased productivity, because that would be so much more convenient.
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Geoffrey on Friday, January 23, 2015 10:49 PM
Mouse 84277 was not timid as he stuck his nose out into the next intersection, smelling his reward around the corner to the right. Perhaps he was getting closer. A noise overhead seemed to indicate the scientists were frustrated with his progress, but it wasn’t particularly loud, and 84277 paid it any mind. “Mouse 84277” wasn’t a real name, of course, but it was how the scientists referred to him, and though he rarely listened to their clues or suggestions, it was still the only name he would respond to, when he had a mind to do so.

A sharp pain in his paw caused him to pull back from the intersection. He sniffed at the floor, his whiskers just touching the electrified net that had been laid out here. The background buzzing was growing louder, more annoying and annoyed, and 84277 made an extra effort to ignore it. Regardless, this intersection would have to be written off as a dead-end, even if he could smell the goal right around the corner.

Another mouse, 46423, had complained about today’s puzzle, which she seemed to think had something to do with the coloration of the walls. They were in different groups, of course, but they spoke through the cage walls separating them from time to time. She was getting frustrated with the constant experiments and the ever-changing rules, but it was simply the lot of mice like them. He could sense that she was slowly pulling away from all experiments, and if she continued like this they might pull her out of testing altogether, which would probably please her. But then she’d get no treats when she completed a test, which would not please her.

Colored walls… interesting, but ultimately useless. 84277 left the electrified corridor, limping back the way he came and then into another passage which led to a dimmer pathway that went up and over large sections of the maze. No wonder the usual rules he used hadn’t been working. Really, though, colored walls? 84277 let out a squeak as the fresh fruit came into sight and he ran toward it.

Aah, sublime. Not his favorite kind of apple, but what mouse would complain while eating succulent fruit? Perhaps 84277 would try to get 46423 transferred out of the control group. The researchers only got paid if their tests worked, and that meant the test group needed to perform better. He knew they didn’t mean to do it, but they often traumatized the control group causing them to underperform. What lax testing standards! It embarrassed him to even be part of such a sloppy experiment, which was one reason he never tried too hard.

Finishing with the apple, 84277 looked at the walls one last time before heading back. “Seriously, colored walls? Don’t you know mice are color-blind?”
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Anne on Monday, January 26, 2015 10:27 AM
Literalist.

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