! In your next and future life ...
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In your next and future life ...

Laboratory animal KR7343 cringed as the hands reached for it. KR7343 wasn't too bright; it didn't understand the world of shining metal, smooth plastic, and wire mesh that it lived in but it knew what the hands meant; they meant that the time of pain was here again. It snapped at the hands; the hands evaded it as always. The hands carried it to the bench. KR7343 knew that bench; it was the place of pain. Straps were fastened, electrodes were attached to shaved spots of skin, and the time of pain began again....

"Where is that damn boy!"

Lewis Spanzoni cringed. His father's face reddened as he shouted, "Goddamn it, you were supposed to be here an hour ago to help. Come here boy." Lewis shrunk within himself as his father reached beneath his blood-stained butcher's smock for his belt. His mother fluttered, protesting silently and ineffectually as she always did. Lewis vowed to himself that this time he wouldn't cry.

When Lewis was ten he tortured a cat. He had a secret place, or so he thought, where he could enact a bloody ritual. He was caught. His father was told about it and Lewis got the worst beating of his life. The cat and its bloody entrails went away into the land of nightmares, never to be thought of consciously again....

He was a bright boy. His teachers noticed and they talked to his mother about him. Mrs. Spanzoni was a frail reed in the face of her husband's anger but she protected and encouraged her son as best she could. The boy didn't blossom - he was too quiet and withdrawn to blossom - but something in him responded. He did well in his studies, well enough to win a scholarship to college. His father protested - he saw no need for the boy to get more schooling when there was work to be done in the shop - but for once Mrs. Spanzoni stood up to her husband and Lewis was allowed to go to college.

College was a shock. It was too quiet. There was no red-faced angry man there shouting at him. He didn't open up socially; he'd never acquired the habit of making friends and he didn't know how to start; it didn't even occur to him to make friends. Instead he became another faceless member in the crowd of students hurrying to and from class.

His great crisis came in zoology class when he had to dissect a frog. The smell of formaldehyde nauseated him. Almost he couldn't do it. Something in him, almost a voice, him not cut. The course was required though and he had to do it so he did. When the knife went into the dead corpse he felt a sense of relief. This was all right; this was permitted. He never had a problem after that.

He majored in experimental psychology. Some people go into psychology as a path for understanding themselves. Lewis didn't. The siren call of insight had no allure for him. He endured the lectures on the inner workings of the psyche and never joined the cliques of students practicing insight and analysis on each other. The laboratory didn't excite him but it made him feel comfortable; this was home; this was where he belonged.

He graduated with honors. His mother was very, very proud of him. His father was puzzled; he didn't know what to make of this cuckoo's egg he had sired. He didn't protest when Lewis said that he was going on to graduate school; indeed he seemed almost relieved. Lewis didn't fit in his world; he had grown too big and too strange. Lewis took their blessings dispassionately. His body may have been present in the house he had once called home but his mind was far away and he was impatient to join it.

Dr. Lewis Spanzoni was as content as a man like him could be. His dissertation on the problem of pain had escaped the archival pit where dissertations are buried and had made its way into the journals. The pharmaceutical company recruiters had marked him as a hot candidate and had snared him for the testing laboratories.

Dr. Lewis Spanzoni was a happy man. The series of animal tests in sequence 7B for the new analgesic were definitely promising. He spoke to his lab assistant, "bring in the experimental animal." When his assistant had fetched the animal, strapped it in, and had attached the electrodes, Dr. Lewis Spanzoni leaned over it with the knife, ready to begin cutting. Just as he did so, he felt a crushing weight in his chest. He dropped the knife and fell to the floor.

The time of pain had begun again.


This page was last updated April 9, 2001.
Copyright © 2001 by Richard Harter

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