Doctor Corinne Broadway, a highly esteemed in zoological research, is conducting experiments with Specimen 913, a sentient rat she has named Jeffrey. Jeffrey is not only able to calculate grade-school verb math problems, but he also shows manners. He asks for more challenging problems, but, as Corinne tells him, the protocol has already been determined by the people who are paying for the experiments.
Jeffrey is aware of something Dr. Broadway doesn’t want him to know. Others have informed him.
“Conversations between the peons here are not what you would call subtle,” he tells her.
This is an odd little read, with both characters caught traps they cannot escape. The lab rat is a lab rat whose existence is in the hands of his human handler. The human handler also must dance to tunes others call. Dr. Broadway knows the questions she asks Jeffrey pose no intellectual challenge to him, but she must ask them and no others because they are the ones those who pay for her research gave her. Having to act against her better judgment does not stop there.
I don’t think this story is intended as a slight to scientific research. If I were to pretend to peer inside the author’s mind and hazard a guess, I would say it’s more of a statement about the corrupting influence of money.
This is a sad but enjoyable little tale.
According to his blurb, when he’s not writing, author R.D. Harris enjoys time with his kids, watching cartoons, and retro gaming. His work has appeared in Terraform[Motherboard], Galaxy’s Edge, and Liquid Imagination. Even though he is a member of the Horror Writers Association, the only thing scary about him is his verb-subject agreements.
“Specimen 913” can be read here.
Title: “Specimen 913”
Author: R.D. Harris
First published: Theme of Absence, August 14, 2020