The Subject of Debate

This is a story I wrote in March 2005, as part of my coursework for a Masters in Science Communication. It was the only time I got to write fiction for the course and I was rather pleased with it, on the whole. As well as rehearsing some positions around ethics in research, it was an exercise in writing an ending with a twist. Is it predictable?

Sami is to be destroyed. I am sitting quietly in a corner of the lab when the news filters through. It will be done humanely, of course, but it is still hard for us to hear, especially for Dr Oliver. Especially as Dr Oliver is the one to do the deed.

Sami is a chimpanzee. Dr Oliver has been working with her for over seven years, and she has made remarkable progress. Together, they can share rudimentary communication – or so it appears. And in many respects, appearance is everything. Perhaps it only ‘appears’ that I am myself having a conversation with Dr Oliver.

“It’s not fair, Rabbit.”

I am Rabbit. It’s a nickname I have acquired since coming to the lab a few months ago. I have no say in the matter, naturally, but I don’t mind. I’ve come for six months on an informal basis, recommended by my previous lab head. I do as I’m told, and I’m certainly not going to complain about a nickname.

Something about the ears.

Anyway, I’ll be over and out of here soon enough, and I’m not going to spoil my time in the most famous lab in the university by kicking up a fuss over a stupid nickname. Rabbit it is.

I can’t think of anything to say in reply to Dr Oliver, so I nod and hope that he’s not expecting me to resolve the issue. It is far too complicated for me to deal with. I can’t even look him in the eye. I know how much Sami means to him: not just as an experiment, but a friend, almost. Much more than a pet, at least. Part of the team. And now she is condemned.

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