Caged Compassion | Ted Inver

Doctor Atis believes in what he is doing. Doctor Atis believes he is a compassionate mate. Doctor Atis is about to be put to the test.


Caged Compassion

By Ted Inver

For the Rat in a Cage Award

 

“My job puts food on our table, Belle.”
“Mine could too.”
“Maybe.” Doctor Atis’ heels clicked across the kitchen floor. “But your witchcraft needs much more practice before it can go beyond the breadline and secure our baby’s college fund.”
“If we have a baby.” The look on Cibelle’s face stopped him pacing.
“Mi amor,” He pulled a chair close, taking his wife’s hand. ‘Not only does my research guarantee our present, it promises us a future, one with a family.”
“I know, Gabriel” She said, sniffling. “But why on animals?”
He wiped a tear that made a break for it. “It’s the only way.”
“It doesn’t have to be. Plenty of children need adopt-”
“How many times-” The chair slammed, punctuating his rise. He took a breath. “We’ve not come all this way for nothing. We will get pregnant, I promise.”
“Gabby,”
He resumed pacing.
“Gabriel, mi amor, I believe you, I do, but there are other methods”
“Magic?” He slowed. “Belle, witching uses animals too, you know? Eye of newt…”
“You’re joking, right?”
The doctor broke a smile, which earned him a bear hug once she’d leapt from her seat. Still Gabriel was fidgety; he should’ve been in the laboratory by now.
“Seriously though, that’s where magic progresses beyond medicine.” Cybelle said as he pulled away. “A compassionate oneness with all Earth’s denizens.”
“Animals can’t feel compassion, they care about food and mating, that’s it. Now,” he grabbed his coat, “whilst you’re honing your craft, allow me to practice mine—the one seeing results.”
“That’s unfair.”
“Sorry but it’s true.”
“Breeding and harming one species to aid fertilise an overpopulated other?”
“Now you’re being unfair! I’m doing this for us, Belle. My experiments are humane, they don’t feel a thing.” He head out the door. “Merda, life’d be easier as one of them!”
“Mind what you wish for, Gabriel.” She called down the hall. “Tonight’s the supermoon.”
“Then get harnessing its power, witch. I’ll employ my own!”

*

Doctor Atis had been warned about the blood moon raising hormones but he’d never expected Cibelle to attack his already-threatened profession. After his breakthrough integrating human cells into pigs’ brains, public outrage sparked funding cuts to everything but fertility research. When activists hooded him with paint, he’d resorted to night shifts.
“Hypocrites! None’d be here now, without science.”
Looking out his laboratory window, he tried to remember the San Diego skyline, before the buildings scraped on up. Passing behind them he saw the moon, reaching full eclipse—a hue empathetic to his turmoil. Why would his wife question him when he was so close?
“Please, man in there, show me where I’m going wrong.”
Looking back down, the doctor made the final snip of a procedure he could’ve done in his sleep. Afterwards, he put X2709 in the recovery cage, then slumped into a chair and waited.

*

The rat woke to an inferno of confusion and pain. He squinted in the hot light until a cage came into focus. His heart jolted and he attempted to stand on his hind legs. They gave way and he stumbled onto his front, fire ricocheting around his body before localising back to his lower abdomen. He didn’t want to look, instead choosing to drag himself to the perimeter. The plastic floor teared at his injury, provoking alien screeches from him that trebled his pulse. Reaching the end and hauling himself up by the caging, his fears were confirmed.
There he was—sat, passed out! His gut-throbbing sharpened as he shouted to wake himself up. But instead of exiting his nightmare, he watched the human stir; wriggle his nose; rub his eyes with the back of his wrists; then fall off the chair. He stood, only to topple backwards, smashing beakers and tools.
“Be careful!” The rat squealed, bringing the crawling human over, sniffing at him.
“That’s right, boy. Hola.” The rat pointed at the cage door, grimacing at his hideous paws. “Help!”
The human nibbled at the metal.
“No use your hands, you idiot!” His squeaks came out clipped; if there was ever a time to believe in animal communication, it was now.
The human responded with a frown, then dropped out of sight. Nauseous, the rat sunk to the floor in agony, massaging the wound above his missing testes. What did he ever do to deserve this?
His thoughts were as tormented as his torso but, seeing the window, he remembered. “Moon, come back! This is not what I meant.”
He might’ve laughed at how the following tirade of expletives sounded in lengua de rata but his desperation took over with an oral assault on the metal bars, until he passed out in a froth of platitudes and apologies.

*

When he woke, the cage was open. The human, however, was gone.