I think of myself as Fennel, that is my name, but those in the white coats—researchers, they call themselves—refer to me as “120112A” after my birthday (the First of December, 2012). The “A” means that I was the first of the litter to be born (out of the gate, as it were) that day—my three siblings, emerging right after me—second, third, fourth—are known, in the same researcher dialect, as “120112B,” “120112C,” and “120112D” respectively.They, however, think of themselves as Unicorn (B-brother), Wishful (C-sister), and Stream (D-sister), respectively. And, I (A), as I said, think of myself as Fennel.The four of us live in a big plastic tank. It’s like living under a big rectangular and transparent dome, where several fluorescent suns shine through a plastic sky. Unicorn doesn’t agree, he rarely does. He sees our home as a plain, upside down water-less fish tank. Not very imaginative, Unicorn. Then again, I might be over-ditto.We are lab rats. That’s precisely what we are. It is a precarious occupation and, historically speaking, not conducive to your long-term health. Frankly, I don’t recommend lab-ratting as a career, should you have a choice.Next door to ours stands another big plastic tank covering another four lab rats, two boys and two girls, just like in my family. One family per tank.Our self-assumed family name is Winter. Our neighbors’ family name is Spring. Why? Because we’re a little older—two weeks older to be exact. And since winter comes before spring, well, there you have it. Not very creative, I know, but it works for us.Their research names are “121512A,” “121512B,” “121512C” and “121512D.” A and C are the brothers. B and D their sisters.They think of themselves as Forest (A), Rain (B), Cliff (C), and Mist (D) respectively; Rain and Mist being the girls.As soon as we emerged—we had hardly hit the white, soft, sponge and cotton carpet of our tank—Mother (Wishful says her name was Ocean, but where she got that from I haven’t a clue) was removed by the white coats and retired or simply disposed of, I’m not sure which, they don’t share such information. I have my suspicions, though.They never even gave us a chance to say Goodbye, or even Hi for that matter. All in the name of science.These days the white coats are trying to make us Winters mate with the Springs. Unbeknownst to them, however—to the researchers, that is—we’re on a mating strike. Both families are. No rat making here. No Sir. No Ma’am. No way.This is how that came about.