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Just a little white mouse (animal testing article)
There is a large room. In that room are dozens of mesh cages, each containing a little white mouse. The room is a crude concrete cellar, There are no windows, only harsh fluorescent lights, The concrete walls are painted gray, and there are a couple of people in lab attire and rubber gloves walking about the room and depositing nutritional tablets into the cages. There is a staircase up into a lab, with a clean, white, table and cabinets. There is only one window, looking out on the pleasant view of rows and rows of nearly identical concrete buildings.
I’m in a strange metal thing-- it is woven together and in a cube around me except for a door in the front. Or at least it could be considered the front, it could also be considered the back. There are rows and rows of things like this, mesh cages with white mice as sad occupants. I enjoy climbing the walls, for that’s the only thing interesting to do. Under the mesh bottom of the cage, you can feel the cold white counter. I’m cold, for the vents on the wall three cages down don’t seem to give up their blowing and blowing. the only sound in the echoing room is the whining and stirring of the mice, waiting for something to happen, even the horrors, for the same walls, the same roof, the same mice, things only seem to change when the humans come down. They’ve always seemed alien to me, their stride on two legs, their rubber hands, their hairless bodies, excepting the tuft on the tops of their heads. Large and clumsy, they stride into the room and stumble around until they adjust to the light, which they keep dimmed, for they perform the horrors elsewhere.
I’ve only been up there once, where they put something soothing on my back, and set me in a penned up space on the table where they took turns staring at me and scribbling on thin white sheets with a strange stick that seemed to leave a mark, for when they picked me up to wash me off I noticed the scribbles on the sheet. then they took me back to the cage and fastened the top. The horrors are referred to as such for sometimes they take a mouse up, and they come down without a leg, or don’t come down at all, and the humans come down to either remove the cage or put in a new mouse.
One human always comes down each day. The time is confused here for they keep the lights dim and dimmen them even more after they feed us. Then they come after a time, and brighten the lights again, and give us the tablets I refer to as food. The food keeps us full until they feed us again and dim the lights. A pattern, unless in the middle of the day the humans come and open a cage, usually not anywhere near me, more near the front of the room, or the front in relation to the door. They usually come back unharmed. My whole life has been in this place. This room with the walls, this cage. This cold room, with all the mice surrounding me, and a short childhood-- in that I mean that my mother was separated from me early-- that’s the earliest memory I have. The cold rubber hands separating me from the warm body of my mother. I was put in the mesh cage, and left there.
The cage opens, and the thrill that always burns through me at the first thought of freedom exhilarates me as much as it always does, but fades quickly. Nothing happens until the human picks me up. The cold rubber hands are firm in their grip. The other mice watch as the human, I think it’s a she, walks down the rows and up a flight of stairs. She stumbles a moment, and the grip tightens a bit, making me struggle to breath. Shaking her foot a bit and saying something harshly under her breath, she exits the room through the white door. Then we enter a room similar to the one I remember from before. The woman is holding on to me too tightly, and only when I cease to struggle from lack of air does she seem to realize the lack of air I’m suffering, and loosens her grip enough for me to breath. She sits down on a chair near a table similar to the one that they put me on before for the soothing thing on my back. I don’t know what’s going to happen now. Maybe they’ll cut off my leg. Or maybe I won’t come back. Or come back with no fur and horrible twisted scars all over. Attempting to stop thinking up horrid endings for myself, I examine the unnatural rubber hands that the woman had. I soon figure out that they are actually only covered with a thin layer of rubber, and that if I bite it really hard it peels off a bit. The woman soon notices and tosses her head back, the corners of her mouth turned upwards, shaking. She said something, I think directed to me, but I’ve never really been able to understand what they mean, only enough to know they are communicating with each other.
Soon the woman was greeted by another woman, I think a bit older. This woman exchanges a few greetings with the other, and the woman gives me to the other woman. She takes me to the table, and sets me down. I run to the edge of the table, and try to see. Is there a way down? No. It’s smooth all the way down, and I’m not willing to fall all the way to the floor. Her gloved hands pick me up, and gently place me in a cage, different from the one I’m used to. It has bigger gaps in between the metal bars and isn’t bendy like mine. she then carefully takes something out of her pocket, holds it up, and examines it. It’s a long pointy metal thing-- I think there’s more but her gloved hands are hiding it from me. I am scared, I don’t like thin pointy things. I feel so small and insignificant beside her. She’s so much bigger than me, and has a huge advantage, not only size, but the table with smooth sides is impossible to go down, the usual escape would be running, but I’m stuck in the small square meter of space and if I fell I would surely break most of the bones in my body. I am so scared. She comes toward me, and I shiver. I might meet my last breath in a few minutes. Or worse.
I feel the thin needle go through my skin, and into me. A strange feeling, not exactly pain, but strange and invasive at the same time. I feel cold, and a shiver runs through me. Afterwards I’m left shivering on the table. She takes some of the strange sheets and scribbles with a stick.
I sit here, wondering exactly what to do with myself, on this table that is as unnaturally white as the counter underneath my cage. At least in my cage I can climb the mesh instead of sitting here, in this place I don’t know, with the strange person staring at me and scribbling.
I decide, while I have no food or water with which to amuse myself with, or mesh cage to climb, I should just sleep. But there is no comfortable place to go. I think I will die today. I think I will. I’m hungry. I just wish, even though in the cage is torture, nothing to do besides climb the walls and eat, I wish I were back. I don’t know what else there is, don’t know if there is anything besides the world I grew up in. I have a nose, so I can smell that the humans have been other places besides these walls. I want to go! They can go other places but I can’t. I wish I could go. But as of now I want to be back in the confined space, if I were allowed. If I suddenly could reach the ground, run, run, run, run. Run. I only ever ran when once a man was holding me and loosened his grip a bit too much, so I ran. It felt like everything melting into nothing, that it would be possible to run straight into the air, to glide and not to fall. There was a huge commotion and flashing lights and someone caught me and I was sad. No other word to describe it. It was like my life had ended, which in a way it had, because nothing memorable had come after that unless you count the time the human accidentally gave me two tablets instead of one. I couldn’t finish it so the next day she saw it and chaos commenced, and they took me out of the cage and examined me, but dismissed it and took away the old tablet, replacing it with an new one that tasted foul for some reason. I ate it anyway when I was hungry. It tasted like nothing I’ve tasted, but that was when I discovered that taste varies at all. I wonder how far it goes.
She finally stops scribbling and picks me up in her hands, and, this time without stumbling, walks down the stairs, and deposits me in my cage. I felt as if all the air in me had been let out, and that I could breath again. I hadn’t realized I couldn’t. I lay, shivering, and fell into a blissful sleep.
I wake up to find that the tablet was already in my cage, and that the other mice have already devoured theirs. I quickly eat mine and feel oddly dizzy and confused. I guess it’s because I slept until after the woman came to give us our food. Right now it could be any time at all. I wonder what to make of it all.
The same woman who took me to the room last time, walks down the aisle and looks at each of the cages, adjusting the label on the front sometimes, I guess to see what it had there. Once mine flipped over and there was a symbol on it, I had no idea what it was for.
She walks up to me, and looks at the label, and looks at her hand, which had a symbol scribbled onto it, under the glove. She opens up the cage, and picks me up. I try to get back in, remembering how frightened I was before, wondering what comes next. I fail. This time I relax easily and don’t attempt to escape, let her take me upstairs, let her place me upon the unnaturally white table, and don’t struggle. Hopefully they don’t hurt me. I don’t know what’ll happen next. I’m tired of this. There is a foggy glass thing with something I didn’t notice before. It’s on the wall, and it seems to lead to something. I wonder what’s out there. I wonder what the dirty glass is hiding from me.
I look, and see there is a large concrete thing, next to another concrete thing, all lined up with more concrete. She rolls me over again. The needle comes in, again. I feel cold again, and slightly dizzy. She brings me back to my cage. I lay down.
The tablet comes, but I don’t eat it. I tried climbing the mesh, but it felt as if someone was pressing in on my head and my vision grayed, and when I tried to go farther, everything went black.
I next open my eyes when the woman comes again. She forces my mouth open, and pours something foul, something terrible, into it. I try to bite her finger, but end up with a mouthful of rubber, which tastes a bit better. There was complete silence, almost deafening. No clinking sounds, no anything sounds. One, long, high pitched note was playing. And it never faded, even when she put me back into the cage.
I fall asleep
I wake up, and I can’t stand up. I don’t eat the tablet. They come by and scribble every day now. She puts more of the foul stuff in my mouth.
One day, I awaken. Then the dizziness takes me over. I feel I will never get up. My heart is pounding so hard it seems like the whole room is shaking. Everything’s shaking. Then it slows down. Everything slows down. The woman comes again, and brings me to the room. She puts another needle into me. I’m tired. So tired. I don’t even want to run anymore. I don’t have any energy.
Suddenly it seems like the white table is the most comfortable thing on earth and I fall into a sleep.
The white mouse lays there, silent, still, and the girl pokes it. She grabs it, and puts it in a plastic trash bag, and, without a second glance, pulls off her rubber gloves, throws them with the mouse, and leaves for her lunch break.