Adversity’s Peace

A story by Ronald Randazzo

They intended to kill him.  He was worthless after they blinded him.  They tested a reagent in his eyes.  It’s called a “Draize test.”  They smeared a harsh solvent into his sensitive corneas to see if it would cause a negative reaction.  (They knew it would.)  But, due to the harsh requirements of the scientific method, it had to be repeatable, reproducible, and measurable, which meant that it had to be performed many different times in many different animals, before it could be proven to be effective to their funding clients.

So as to get their money’s worth (animals aren’t exactly cheap for researchers when you have pensions and profits to worry about), he would be used for a few more experiments.  Or so that was the original plan.

But on one day in particular, while performing a particularly heinous procedure during one of those experiments, they struck a raw nerve.

Who noticed?  Nobody did.  The “scientist” who was performing the procedure was momentarily perturbed by a rapping at his door.  He almost spilled his coffee on his new pants, and so he lurched over as he was sawing and the blade wrenched kind of haphazardly in an awkward direction, severing a crucial neurological passageway in the tiny, helpless guinea pig.

IT didn’t matter.

(“IT” was what they called the specimens; the guinea pig in this particular undertaking.)

No more blood than usual.  Not a whimper from the anesthetized beast.  They didn’t always anesthetize them.  Sometimes they needed them wide awake.  It was crucial.  Sometimes they used a local anesthetic to dull the pain.  Sometimes not.  But when the little beasts cried, it was usually time to use more of the nerve agent.

This one could not cry.  He could not even emit a whimper, or a gasp.  In fact, this particular guinea pig could only purr.  He could only purr as though he were always content, due to the neglectful cut from the ill-tempered man with the desolating chromium blade.  He hit a nerve in this animal.

No, this doctor was not a beast.  Not according to the emotionally inept bipedal inhabitants of the world he lived in.  The ones who signed his diplomas and paid his wages.  This one was a man, not a monster:  a human being.  A scientist, in fact.  And facts are all that matter, isn’t it so?  A man with a PhD, and a terrifically sharp instrument used for gashing, severing, and clipping innocent tender meat was king in this world.  And that king would tell you that facts were all that mattered, and those facts were always signed:  PhD.  And if you didn’t have the legal right to have those letters by your name, then you didn’t matter, and that included pretty much anyone.

This tiny beast, this guinea pig, had become golden to the researchers!  He saved them a lot of time and money.  He was very patient.  He caused no one any grief.  Ever.  He required very little anesthetic and so they hardly ever gave him any.  They didn’t need to!  Because he only purred.  And they used him, and used him, and abused him.  He paid with his flesh countless times what they earned from his abuse.

He was their bread and butter.  They didn’t put the guinea pig on a fork and poke it into their mouths, but that’s only a technicality.  The suffering of the guinea pig was food to them.  His flesh and body sustained them.  So they ate him.  And in the same respect, this scientist was an incisor, was he not?  Was not his job to make incisions?  Sure it was.  So he was an incisor.  He was a tooth.  And he chewed, and chewed, and chewed that poor little animal, and his colleagues did likewise, and together they made up a mouth.  A very gluttonous, apathetic, wide, all-consuming mouth.

This mouth assigned a number to him, this petite, furry little guinea pig:  a number in a language only humans can pronounce.  But we won’t call him by his number, because we would prefer to be beasts, wouldn’t we?  To be beasts and distinguish ourselves from that puny little man and his band of heartless colleagues.  We will call this little animal “Adversity,” because adversity was all he ever knew.  It’s more meaningful than “IT,” more memorable than a number, and it suited him to a T.

There was one scientist who found that this favoritism for routinely choosing Adversity over all the others was a very wrongful activity.  It was wrong what these men were doing to him, choosing him many times over his animal siblings.  We shall call this woman the “Negative One.”  She had some sympathy for Adversity, though she didn’t call him by that name.  She didn’t know his name, only his number.  Nobody knew his name.  But you and I do now.

When they would pick Adversity out of his cage, Negative One would think to herself,

“Why that one?  Why always that one?”

They didn’t experiment on the guinea pigs evenly.  Adversity was chosen much more frequently over the others.  Mostly, he was chosen purely out of habit, because they were used to choosing him, because he was easy to abuse.  But this doctor knew that she herself was not innocent, having done things she could be called out on.  And she knew that the other scientists would not listen to her even if she were to complain or criticize them for their improprieties.  She knew what she would be up against.  They would gang up on her and squeeze her out of her profession by aggrandizing any minor matter of contention that ever presented itself.  And she really needed her job!  She had bills to pay, children to feed, and a pretty expensive yacht to maintain.  And so she said nothing.  Ever.  Even though she knew what was being done was wrong.  She was a part of the mouth.  And this is what the mouth said:

“Screw IT!”

Sure, there were some laws.  There were some regulations meant to protect the research animals.  And even if you perfectly enforced those laws, experimenting on them would still be cruel and inhumane.  But there is not nearly enough protection, and the laws on the books are being broken all the time.  And there couldn’t possibly be enough oversight for all the research that goes on.  It’s impossible to stop this abuse by the hands of evil men, at the hands of evil men, and even many of those men who create, approve, and enforce those regulations are evil and/or corrupt.  Everybody knows that you would go to prison for doing these kinds of things to animals if you didn’t have a license to be able to do them.  Everybody knows there is no excuse for evilness and cruelty.  But somehow, people feel that because this is sanctioned by the government, it is right.  It’s not.  Most people could not perform these kinds of heinous activities with their own hands in good conscience, and that tells you a lot about the men who are doing them.

When Adversity was allowed back into his cage with the other specimens, his brothers would always ignore him.  In fact, they kind of despised him, because while they were suffering and trying to comfort each other, and sympathize with each other, Adversity always seemed to be pleasantly content.  Adversity tried to connect with them, because, of course, he needed them more than anyone else did, but it was hopeless even to try.  It was as though he were trying to communicate with them through a thick sheet of bulletproof glass.  He could not express the pain he was always in.  He could find no comfort for his sorrows.  And he could never, ever cry.

The other prisoners looked at him like he were some kind of a monster.  Perhaps, to them, he looked even more horrific and cruel than the doctors looked.  Because, even though the doctors were the ones causing them all the suffering and pain, the faces of the tormentors always seemed cold and distant and they always came and went.  But Adversity’s face, for the most part, was ever-present to them, and he seemed to be the one who was most amused by this whole ordeal.  He seemed to revel in their afflictions and their misery.  It was as though he proudly flaunted the facility’s logo right in their very own home.  And all the pups hated that logo:  a cruel, nasty crocodile face with an angular, toothy, insatiable grin.  Whenever possible, the other guinea pigs showed Adversity their backsides.  They hoarded all the food from him.  They bit and chewed his body.  They heaped agony upon agony unto Adversity.  It was more than the poor little guinea pig could bear.

But he did grin and bear it, for he knew of no other way.

Image from the National Cancer Institute (Wikimedia Commons)

Adversity knew nothing of hope.  Adversity didn’t wish this agony would stop, for he knew not what a wish was.  He didn’t pray for forgiveness, for he knew nothing of prayer.  He didn’t know why knives hurt his body, or what it meant anymore to be stroked lovingly by someone who cared.  He didn’t truly know!  He was sometimes absentmindedly petted by the doctors just before he underwent surgery by the knife.  Though he had a sort of obscure memory of being petted by someone who cared, a very, very long time ago, he no longer understood the true intentions of those people.  He remembered a birthday party that was thrown for him by folks who actually seemed to care, whatever “care” meant.  He knew what care felt like.  It may have even felt like love.  That birthday was his happiest memory, and all he ever had to hold on to.  But now, he only wondered if those who used to rub his satiny fur, and who seemed to truly love him in a past, and now utterly inaccessible, distant semblance of a pleasant life, had actually secretly been hating him all along.

He didn’t know why his fur was now matted with blood, or even what blood was, or where it came from, and he didn’t know what bandages were used for, or those little wiry sutures like barbed-wire that pricked at his skin.  He only knew it burned when he gnawed at those sharp little bristles, where they hinged to his raw, decimated flesh.  But he didn’t know how to stop gnawing at them.  Sometimes, it felt better to gnaw at his own feet and chew away some of the skin and fur from the bottoms.  Chewing his feet seemed to cause some kind of temporary relief in itself.  Or, perhaps it balanced out the pain.  Or maybe the biting confused his mind into feeling less pain.  He didn’t know.  It just seemed to work.  Sometimes, but not always.

September 29th was Adversity’s fifth birthday.  That’s old for a guinea pig in this kind of captivity.  The only cake he received this day was some gritty, pasty, topical substance they caked on his raw flesh.  They doused his skin before surgery with some antibiotic soap, which burned, so that he wouldn’t get infected.  They wouldn’t want him to die!  The others are replaceable, but not him.  As we’ve said before, this particular “IT” was golden.

There were no birthday candles for Adversity on this day, save for the sharp flashes of light that burst in his head like so many fireworks going off repeatedly.  If there were any candles that day, they must have been those instruments that seared his tender young flesh.  He couldn’t know, because he couldn’t have seen, because as we had stated from the offset, Adversity was blind.

They had to saw through some bone to get at his heart.  This can be understood both literally and figuratively.  They had to tear some tissue, and cut some ligament.  No complaints from IT.  How could IT complain?

It seemed to Adversity as though he couldn’t even squeal in his own mind, though he had tried to, and often.  Nobody knew what went on inside there.  Nobody cared.  There was research underway to read minds.  Maybe technology like that could have prevented this, if anyone ever cared.  But they probably wouldn’t.  One need only look at the way they treat animals now to know this.  Mankind as a whole is soulless.  This gruesome research that went on in the laboratory took precedence over that other mind-reading research which could have alerted us to Adversity’s agony (though mind-reading, of course, comes with its own inexorable can of worms).  This research took precedence over that research because hurting Adversity pays the bills NOW.  It pays the bills of the doctors, the shareholders, the staff, and especially the clients, the latter whose happiness always came first, or at least that’s what the clients were told.  And even the government profited from Adversity’s agony, to be sure.  All these useless eaters feasting on Adversity’s flesh.

In a past life, when Adversity lived with a family who seemed truly to care about him, a family with children, and joy abound, there was a little blue knitted sweater that they used to drape over him to keep him warm.  And it warmed him in more ways than one could possibly imagine.  It warmed him even now.  He remembered that sweater fondly.  It paled in comparison to the loops of crimson-speckled gauze that stuck to his matted coat.  It paled in comparison because he wore this new one with pride.

In an act of divine justice—and someone must have been watching that day—Adversity’s heart suddenly stopped beating.

It shouldn’t have.

Science could not explain why.  There was simply no medically sound reason for it.  Or, at least, there wouldn’t be any if anyone had ever cared to look for one.  But they didn’t, and instead they burned his body.

So, why must Adversity’s death have been divine?  Quite simply, because had the scientists done the right thing by putting him down humanely (and it was way past due that they should have done so), that would have afforded them a little bit of dignity that they never, ever deserved.

One could say that Adversity took his own life:  that he died of a broken heart.  But that would not be accurate, because his heart had already been broken a long, long time ago.

* * *

This story is dedicated to all the animals who ever suffered from vivisection and the cruelty afforded by the supporters and perpetrators of animal-based experimental research.