Science Short Story – The best laid plans…

So, how do you spend your Sunday afternoons? Lounging around reading the paper, glass of orange juice, bits or no bits, it’s been a while since I knew what day it was. I like to think it’s a Sunday afternoon, that somehow makes me feel calmer.

I don’t recall much before I came to live here, mother’s touch, sibling play fighting. That doesn’t bother me, my life isn’t really defined by my origins. There is no use for sentimentality here, when I first arrived I screamed and screamed yet nothing. Nowadays I don’t scream at all, there just comes a point when you have to accept your life’s lot and get on, nobody likes a whinger.

Whilst, in all likelihood, today is not a Sunday my general routine is likely to remain pretty stuck in the mud. I wake up, might be day time, might be night time, no way to tell. Quick snack, drink some water, do what every creature on this earth has to do and I’m ready to go. Ready for what? Good question! Typically, absolutely nothing. I wander round my little patch and take in the mind numbing monotony. I guess I probably boredom eat a little more than I should, but can you blame me? Some would say that I shouldn’t complain I’ve got food, water, shelter, I should be grateful. It’s hard to feel grateful when you are stuck in a confined area. I don’t buy into any of that Stockholm Syndrome crap. “Oh no I’ve fallen in love with my captor!”, please just give it a rest, Daddy will pay the ransom and you be canonised by Hollywood, while I’m still sat here gnawing on the bars.

Sometimes, I do get out a bit, when he decides I should. My captor and tormenter is this big, bald, overweight guy who speaks a completely unintelligible language. His hands also stink of alcohol sometimes, but I’m not one to judge. Oh and ‘out’ I don’t mean hit the town, although sometimes it feels as though I have. He will inject me with something and then set me some kind of task or challenge.

What that involves varies greatly. One day I’ll be transferred to another area where I am put into a big circular tank with unclimbable sides and left to fend for myself. There is usually a hidden platform I can stand on somewhere in the tank but the first time it took ages to find, really thought I would drown! After that I just used visual clues from outside the tank to work out where it is. Although sometimes I have noticed he will swap or remove these items. I’m not sure if he’s taking the piss or genuinely out to get me.

Another activity they sometimes get me to do which is even more sinister is to just put me in a box and string me up and leave me there. Some days I struggle a lot, somedays I just feel so down or hazed by whatever they have injected me with I just hang there. To be honest, it’s not very fun. The blood rushes to your head and you start to see things, although that could be the drugs. After what feels like an age he usually takes me down and I get returned to my little caged cell.  

Why do all these things? I have my theories. General hatred of others, exercising childhood demons, pure boredom I have considered them all. However, the current one I favour is espionage. Why else would he submit me to torture like exercises? I’m sure I was a good spy so I don’t want to talk. But, I don’t remember who I work for so it’s hard to remain loyal. Although I suppose I am, seeing as anything I would tell him would be lies, not that he’d understand! So you see, I’m in a bit of a tricky situation, an amnesiac spy unable to speak the language of his captors.

I know I ranted before about preppy Dad’s paying ransoms for their kids. But, I am kind of hoping that there will be some kind of swap deal between us and them. Bit of a pipe dream, but I’ve got fuck all else to hope for, I certainly can’t bargain my way out or break out by force.

When the lights are turned off I can hear others, scratching, screaming, crying. Occasionally I’ll strike up a conversation with a neighbour; I can’t see them but doesn’t mean you can’t get some kind of social interaction. We will talk for hours, discussing our situations and what we remember of our pasts, it seems that amnesia is universal here. Then, eventually, usually after just enough time to feel as though you get to know someone they are gone and never return. Where they go I don’t know, will one day they come for me, I don’t know that either. Part of me hopes that they do, just to break the monotony, but let’s be honest the unknown is pretty scary.  

I’ve tried to escape before, it was no ‘The Great Escape’ but I gave it my best shot. One day I was transferred into a large bizarre metal box type thing, don’t really know why. My captor was observing from above, so I ran around to explore what this place was and realised that the walls were just low enough that I could jump and climb out. So, I bided my time and waited till my captor wasn’t watching and made my move. Most of what I know about this place comes from what I saw in my brief dalliance with freedom. It felt a bit like a whirl wind romance, my heart started to flutter and stomach went on a bit of a rollercoaster, but all the time I was very conscious that I was one small step away from screwing it all up and being alone again. I ran hiding behind boxes and obstacles trying to stay as low as possible, but I wasn’t fast enough. He grabbed me and picked me up and threw me back into here. I’ve been here ever since.

What will happen to me now I don’t know, but don’t worry about me. Us spies are a resilient sort, there will be other opportunities to escape, I am just hoping that more of my training will kick in when the time comes…

—————-

How much would it cost for you to give up on your dreams? When you grow up as a kid, you want to be anything and indeed could be. I wanted to be a train driver, well a Thunderbird first, train driver second. As the years passed though I went through several different ‘ideal’ professions, ranging from stand-up comic to film director, yet somehow I ended up here. 7 bizarre ideological leaps, the loss of a waistline as well as a head of hair and I’d gone from a Thunderbird to scientist.

Back when I had my bags packed for Tracy Island life was simpler. My only worry was whether or not my friends would come out to play. Mortgage, love life, eating healthy and saving the planet, those are pressures I face now.

I was talked into science by a father tired of the unpredictability of business and a mother who wanted to tell her friends about her son ‘the scientist’. I don’t blame them for it, I wasn’t strong enough to say no. Besides, I always had an interest in science and enjoyed it, but I just never saw it as being my life’s work. Even if I had wanted this profession when younger, my perceptions as a child greatly differed from how research really works. I imagined it as full of explosions and excitement. However, there is a lot of generally nothing happening.

My area of ‘expertise’ is neuropharmacology, which means that I look at the effects of different substances on the brain and behaviour. My general routine is get to work, read some papers, make up some solutions and incubate, read some papers and then test them, read some papers go home. Am I likely to change the lives of average Joe/Jane public, no, am I likely to even revolutionise my own niche field, no. 

The grass may not be greener but I would like to escape this area I seem to have entrenched myself in. Just some variability would be nice, just make a break and run for it before my science background catches up with me! I don’t think I’m brave enough though, maybe a few years ago I could have quit and started up something else but now I’m not so sure. Leaping into the void of potential unemployment and abject failure such a big unknown it scares me.

What of my life outside the lab? Well, to be honest there’s not really a huge amount to tell. I have a good group of friends, I do ok in my love life. Cook Sunday lunch for my parents, take the dog out at 6:45 each evening, I play the Cello. That’s actually when I’m happiest. Picking some obscure and difficult piece of music and spending weeks perfecting it, it gives me a greater sense of achievement than science ever does. After all isn’t that what we want, a sense of achievement, I don’t think that’s too much to want.

Yeah so that’s me, and that’s pretty much my life. If I ever get given the big red book it will be pretty thin and I wouldn’t expect many glamorous celebs walking down the stairs to hug me and tell me how long it’s been. After this moment my life will likely continue as is, I’ve got to get a brain from a mouse I’ve been testing for a while, I hope to find some evidence of structural changes indicating psychosis, and get some good data for a paper. But, as with the rest of life, in research ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’.

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2 thoughts on “Science Short Story – The best laid plans…

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Science Short Story – The best laid plans… « B Good Science Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. That was quite a unique take on scientific testing on animals. I like how the story didn’t really take sides. Though the perspective of the mouse/rat was more like something from a fantasy story, making it difficult for me to take that side seriously. The scientist in this story was really quite interesting. I’ve never thought of scientists that way. I’ve always thought of them as enjoying their working in trying to better humanity and save the environment and so on, even if testing on animals is required to do so. But this person doesn’t even enjoy his field of work and the whatever’s going on in the rat’s head doesn’t cross his mind at any point. He’s just doing the job he’s stuck with like an unfortunate office worker.

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