• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 06
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The Death of Animals

Maybe it was too much Terry Pratchett?

It was my habit to read to the laboratory animals, after I'd fed them. Often, in the quiet evenings, after all the whitecoats had gone home, the spotlights were off and all the animals were safe in their cages, I would chat to the animals as I filled feed bowls and topped up water bottles. I always moved from the smallest to the largest; starting with the fruit flies and locusts, on to the many mice and rats, then the few cats and dogs. I saved the monkeys until last. The deer only arrived a short time ago, despite what people think.

After feeding, I would take out my latest novel. I liked to read aloud. The animals are housed in a converted chapel. The builders did not think to factor out the acoustics, so even a modulated voice travels. I like to think the words calmed and soothed those troubled animals. Certainly, the agitation would die down; the mice would stop scrabbling, the cats and dogs would sit and watch me. The monkeys would gather at the front and wrap their arms round the bars nearest to me; one or two would imitate my lips moving. I thought the Pratchett Death character was particularly well received.

I objected when the lab company took on the new contract. We were all allowed anonymous comments. I wrote that I thought the brain implants were cruel and unnecessary. What good would it do the animals to a have increased imagination? Better memory? Who would want to remember a life like this?

The comments didn't matter, of course, they never do.


The Death of Animals

I knew it was going wrong from the start. The animals cried at night. The two deer, brought in specifically for that project, were always troubled. Particularly the stag. The antlers becoming luminous like that bothered him. Then there were the breakouts. I'd never know the animals manage to get out of their cages before; now it happened regularly. There was the mass breakout over Christmas. I came in to find most of the animals milling round in the chapel. That was when the stag was found dead as well.

But it was the graffiti that got to the technicians most. No one likes to have 'Murderers!' written across the walls. 'White Coat Evil Heart' said another. The police were called and security questioned, but no one could explain how the graffiti was on the inside of the building. I was an immediate suspect, of course. Then my anonymous comments weren't so anonymous, were they?

They doubled the security and now I have a guard with me every evening, so the stories have stopped.

Yesterday, after the double public holiday for the Queen's funeral, when the technicians came back in, that picture was on the wall. 'The Death of Animals' was written underneath.

Like I said, I did read them a lot of Terry Pratchett.