# The disappearance of Beastly Gerbil

This is an unusual call in. As a private detective you have been asked to investigate several odd cases, but this you're still convinced this one is taking the mick. You only accepted this case as it was so peculiar. You have recently been called in to investigate the disappearance of a "Beastly Gerbil", whatever that may be.

Doing some background research, you discover this gerbil disappeared around 2 years ago. No trace left behind, one day there, gone the next. Guess their cage wasn't quite safe enough.

Today you are travelling to the location this gerbil was last seen. Considering the disappearance was almost 2 years ago now, you don't expect to see much, after all the case must be co—

$$\qquad\qquad\qquad\qquad$$

—err, aha! Just what you expected.

The room seems completely deserted, and judging by the dust it doesn't seem like anyone's been here in, well, 2 years. Surveying the scene you spot a few things that are out of place... first of all why is the bed needed if they're in the cage!!?

The picture on the wall doesn't seem like something you would usually frame... you take a closer look. As you do so you also tread on a piece of paper with some writing scribbled on it...

$$\qquad\quad$$

You snap a photo of the grid and also transcribe the note:

Incorrect, there is zero weight
Mother! Striped with no bra
Beat the sword, the best characters
Gentlemen, behind! Largest to smallest

Here’s the rhyme there’s not much time

On inspection, the note seems meaningless and the grid seems like it's just some squares surrounded by numbers. As you pull the frame off the wall, however, you feel something stuck to the back...

$$\qquad\qquad\qquad\qquad\quad\quad$$

You're not sure if it's important so you copy it down onto a handy google sheets form for later inspection.

You take a look around the rest of the house, but it's almost empty. Most rooms have no furniture, no furnishings, boarded windows and just a couple of cobwebs. The only exception is the kitchen which has every cupboard full of seeds, nuts and dry gerbil food... at this point you're not even surprised.

The final thing you see before you exit, to head home and ponder on this curious case, is a letter taped to the back of the front door:

Now this seems abnormal as you glance at this, that’s obvious. I have decided to resign from everything mostly to allow for more free time. No subplot here, I would gain nothing other than looking idiotic. Don’t feel subdued, there’s no damage.

Of course, I’m requesting privacy, I know you have a growing brief sense of uncertainty, like when you cannot place your thumb where an annoying noisy fly is, flying pointlessly around, blotting all trains of thought. Be soothed great minds! Give it no more time as you are wasting time. Stay wooden, like the strong xylem in trees, and it will be OK. Once again, please don’t read this blankly, this is a story of rags to riches which ends here.

This is my story, by me. Starting the story many years ago, absorb this tale given here, starting now at the beginning. Such bad eggheadedness gives way to a being opening their eyes. Let us start now.

I am a being. Real. Thinking this, laying somewhere is amazing. Could this thing not seem realised? Could an egg this small hurt? Of course, throwing does hurt. A toe if you stub it generally hurts badly. I am rambling sorry. Believe me however I gain much by thinking, understanding, such concepts with this scribe.

My next item to build up to, gave a young silly me the gift of curiosity by creating new and beautiful emotions. I batted away anything that gave me any concerns and I ignored parts of me. To be me I would have to confront the angst as even if it’s painful it is part of my being, even if it hurts. It would egg the pain on, and bring no happiness and thinking now, I should have stopped it there.

Except I didn’t, being only small. I might have if I hadn’t had my mind abducted yet again, but I could do nothing except keep tabs and observe. The enigma surrounding poor me belittled bribed with this was confusing, so much so I started thinking nothing. So now I'm stuck here, wondering perhaps if there is hope amongst the rest, and what it was that I needed.

Nevertheless, the next part will bring very important events, starting now. Growing the seed of joy that would glow in the dark. Before being run over with the ship flowing relentlessly down a stream of fear, the ghost and the cobweb of good in life would give hope and burst forth, giving a new chance, the rebirth of a life passed by, as I start to elate.

Other than the eggshells beneath me, by the time it was starting so much had passed by that I had gone with the flow. I could rabbit on, chattering such nonsense until I get tired. The leading point is that the thing mostly gnawing ridiculously in my head was a result you get when you cannot stay aloft.

With this in mind I hope you now understand. I am trying very hard to ignore the voice in my head. It is currently as small as a trace of fading xenon. Blatantly speaking, please leave me alone. Thinking practically, it is good if I basically disappear. Both for me and you and everyone else. Burn all recollection of me to a black charred mess, be considerate and don’t come after me. Leaving me alone will end up pleasing countless more. Trust me. I don’t want to feel sad.

You leave feeling convinced they've merely gone insane and run away somewhere. Still, if your years as a private investigator have told you anything, it's that something fishy is going on...

# What's Beastly Gerbil's real message?

(Click on a picture or the links provided to see it in better resolution)

Breaking! A hint! A random email from someone claiming to be this gerbil appeared in your inbox moments ago, with the following contents:

aa, aa aaaa = nonogram
bb! bb = maze
ccc, cccccccc ccccccc = p?????????? l??????
,dddd! ddddd = r????????

• You also found another note from this gerbil, titled: 'For those at Puzzling Stack Excange': ---It feels good to be back and posting! Im hoping to make this a two or three part lil series, not 100% sure yet, and Im not sure how around I will be after that, but I'm gonna try be a bit more active. A lot of you probably dont me, if you dont, hello! and nice to meet :) but its also great to come back and see familiar faces still here lol. That said, I hope you enjoy, go find my message!!! Mar 17, 2020 at 19:27

The message is:

IM TRAPPED HERE. SOMEONE HELP.

After solving the Nonogram and combining it with the number grid (thanks @Rand)

we have a string of 156 numbers. The key clue to understanding these is the third line of the poem, which translates to PENULTIMATE LETTERS (thanks @Stiv). What we do is look at the penultimate letter of the last word of each paragraph of the letter on the door. From the bottom up this says "AFTER B OR G". We then find the first letter after a B or a G in the letter. It turns out there are exactly 156 such letters! If we now assign the first such letter to the first number in our string of numbers, the second letter to the second number, etc

we get

When we now sort the letters according to their numbers we get

IT MAY TRANSPIRE RAPIDLY ABOUT PERSONS POSSIBLY ESSENTIALLY DISAPPEARING HOWEVER END RUMOURS ETC SUCH OMINOUS MENTIONS EXAGGERATE ONES NEW EXPANSE HERE EVERYTHING LIVES PLEASANTLY

Taking the first letter of each of these words gives the final message shown at the top.

Very nice and tough puzzle, btw!

• Ah, well done Jens - just plain paragraphs was the one thing I hadn't tried!
– Stiv
Mar 20, 2020 at 18:05
• @Stiv I actually found that quite fast. :) What took me a really long time was to figure out how to connect the letters and the numbers. I expected the first letter of the message would be letter number 32, etc. I even tried counting the letters from the bottom. Finally I saw the light. :)
– Jens
Mar 20, 2020 at 18:08
• Congratulations!! I’m glad someone finally thought to look at the paragraphs lol, I honestly thought that was the first thing people would try :P not sure who I’ll give the tick too here, as you and rand have done similar, so might need to make a community wiki here Mar 20, 2020 at 18:10
• Fortunately, as I'm not the author of the question, I don't have to make such hard decisions - I'll just upvote both :)
– Avi
Mar 20, 2020 at 18:12
• @Jens thanks :) hoping to make this a 3 pt series, and as I’m in UK and all the schools have just closed, I’ll certainly have plenty of time to do so, one of the few positives from this lol Mar 20, 2020 at 18:27

Partial answer ... Welcome back btw!

## Nonogram

I love me a good nonogram puzzle :-)

This seems to be

a maze:

## Poem

I think perhaps

each line gives us a word, or at least a string of letters.

Incorrect, there is zero weight

Incorrect = NO, zero weight = NO GRAM, so we have NONOGRAM.

Mother! Striped with no bra

Mother = MA, striped = ZEBRA, so we have MAZE.

Beat the sword, the best characters

Mightier than the sword = PEN, the best = ULTIMATE, characters = letters, so we have PENULTIMATE LETTERS. (Thanks @Stiv!)

Gentlemen, behind! Largest to smallest

Behind = REAR, largest to smallest = RANGE, so we have REARRANGE. (Thanks @Stiv!)

Here’s the rhyme there’s not much time

Apparently this part is just flavour text without any riddlish content, except for the acrostic which spells HELP.

## Number grid

Notice (thanks @Stiv!) that the zeros in the grid of numbers

spell MAZE.

Let's try

overlaying the maze on the number grid, to get:

Transcribing these numbers:

32, 20, 69, 9, 3, 11, 4, 24, 1, 19, 14, 27, 7, 23, 13, 67, 46, 17, 51, 8, 65, 28, 15, 12, 2, 105, 42, 16, 50, 10, 5, 6, 31, 33, 26, 18, 73, 45, 38, 30, 22, 64, 88, 48, 68, 35, 47, 59, 29, 83, 36, 87, 63, 107, 112, 53, 54, 70, 49, 40, 37, 72, 56, 21, 25, 43, 82, 76, 60, 44, 62, 41, 92, 97, 111, 99, 106, 98, 104, 55, 109, 113, 108, 154, 61, 102, 115, 119, 66, 128, 74, 150, 79, 116, 81, 85, 77, 34, 121, 71, 127, 95, 118, 103, 57, 117, 75, 133, 125, 80, 137, 142, 129, 131, 110, 130, 138, 120, 78, 89, 91, 86, 100, 124, 139, 52, 141, 126, 132, 136, 146, 156, 93, 39, 143, 151, 134, 58, 90, 140, 135, 149, 144, 153, 122, 155, 123, 147, 101, 152, 114, 94, 148, 145, 96, 84

I'm not quite sure what to do with these, since there's quite a range: lots of them even bigger than 100, so we can't just do A-1 Z-26 (unless we're meant to take them all modulo 26, but then why bother doing big numbers at all?)

## Letter

From the letter, there are a few things to notice:

1. Taking the first letter of each paragraph gives NO TIME NOW.

2. Some words seem oddly chosen, specifically "xylem" and "xenon", words starting with X, which makes me think there's some coded message to be found by taking the initial letters of (some of the?) words.

Following the instructions of the poem, let's

take the penultimate letter of each word throughout. First four paragraphs done so far, preserving punctuation, and putting ? when there is no penultimate character because it's a 1-letter word:

oimaaocai, tu. ?vetgonltoorem. nor, ?lineani. neeeng.
os, inc, ?oov?nesot, keoocumransli, nln, nlnoh. bead! vinrmaornm. aekhneie, nilbo. cisnail, ii?rogtecdr.
iimrbm. nhrnrg, riler, noahn. caseat?nnie. euro.
?a?n. a. ni, nrin. linoee? lagilr? os, ner. ?oiouiltl. ?anr. vme?icbn, n, cttib.

Then using the numbers from the grid, we get:

n,t,l,i,m,u,a,e,o,l,e,o,c, ... which is making no sense so far.

• From nowhere a message appears, seemingly from beastly gerbil: 'Good start! That riddles looking lonely though... by the way, thats a cool looking trace through the maze dont you think?' Mar 17, 2020 at 20:47
• Pretty sure the remaining two parts of the @BeastlyGerbil poem now clue to rot13(crahygvzngr yrggref / erneenatr (cra zvtugvre guna fjbeq, orfg=hygvzngr, punenpgref=yrggref; oruvaq=erne, ynetrfg gb fznyyrfg=enatr)) - do you have the time to persevere with these instructions?! :)
– Stiv
Mar 19, 2020 at 11:33
• @Stiv bang got it!! That was the key part that was needed lol, it’s a bit simpler (though definitely longer) from here. No more hints now :) (also remember you can always post your own answer/observations!!) Mar 19, 2020 at 11:38
• @BeastlyGerbil I was going to say you didn't need to rush with adding hints so quickly, as I wasn't even online looking at this puzzle for the last many hours ... but that cluing was pretty weird, I think no way we could've confirmably solved that poem without hints. Mar 19, 2020 at 12:06
• @Randal'Thor yeah that’s the only reason I did, it was the one bit I wasnt sure on. Sadly it’s possible the most important part as well lol, but wasn’t sure on how else I would code it. Hopefully now the rest can be solved without hints :) Mar 19, 2020 at 12:14