This story is by Aliyah Pathway and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Rat murderer” hear myself whisper to the cold, grey laboratory filled only with test subjects-rats.
“Don’t care what’s your name. You probably don’t have one worth mentioning,” heard my coworkers say before they left.
“Close the door you there. You’re mine right now,” hear the big boss say as he turned off the lights.
Such is my life as a female scientist in this calendar year of 1856. I was forcefully recruited as an assistant to the “head” of this animal experiment to see if undesirable creatures could be transformed into less bothersome pests. The head of this project is Eugene Branovch and he’s a monster. Someone should give him the drugs…
So chemical compounds are made and injected into rats. House rats to be specific. Some die from the interactions into their systems. Actually they all die since we haven’t been successful. This knowledge makes me sad…for the rats.
But I think that there’ll be one that’s a success-whether a better chemical compound or maybe just a special rat.
Or maybe I say that to keep my sanity doing what I loathe. I‘m basically a rat murderer but I try to help them. The way I see it is they’re about to get a boost to their systems. If only I wasn’t alone…
How did I get to this you might ask? At a time when a woman without a husband was either ugly, infertile, or a tramp. Well I did have a husband, a scientist. Hs name was Abraham and he was really smart and kind. We were a great match you could probably say. We were and I learned a lot from him about life and choices, but when he thought he’d figured out a mix to make the experiment work, Eugene found out, stole his manuscripts, and had somebody murder him.
That was the worst day in my life since I lost the love of my life and the only one who cared. Furthermore the “head” of my husband’s project chased me down to explain the manuscripts they stole.
I was alone and no one cared.
Sure, I worked in the center where they experimented on rats. But as the only female, my value was worthless to all the male investigators who just used my presence for fun. So much that they didn’t even bother to call me by my name-Taliyah. No, they just referred to me as ‘She’, ‘You’, or whatever they decided to call me.
And I was alone in this. Do you realize how much that deteriorates your self-worth as you hurt rats unintentionally? What’s more, the “head” and every other man in the center were pressuring me to make the chemicals work so they could achieve the goal that my husband claimed to have discovered.
I thought I knew how to make the compound like in my husband’s manuscript. But I didn’t think the center should claim my husband’s success and I couldn’t take the abuse anymore…
So I created a plan. But I didn’t have the chemicals or equipment where I lived for it to work. And the rats they had were all marked for record-keeping. I needed to get creative.
I didn’t dare tell anyone of my plan. Hoped it all worked out…and it did.
You see, on my way home, I saw a small street rat. Even named him Boris. I got the impression that I was guided to Boris and I held out the one cracker brought for a snack and let him eat it. Then he let me pick him up to take him to my home.
So then I decided to be as sneaky as the “head” and male coworkers of this program. Knowing my husband’s manuscript and the chemical blueprint by heart, I snuck some chemicals mixed in the exact proportion needed in a needle out of the lab.
At home, I then approached Boris hoping he would let me give him the medicine.
“Hey Boris, sweetie, please let me try this medicine on you. My husband perfected it so it should help you,” I encouraged the freshly-washed rat in my living room.
Rats, especially street rats, are built to shy from people, but Boris stayed still. I think he was guided by a higher power to let the medicine enter.
After 15 seconds, the injection was through. “Alright Boris, see that medicine was quick.” I knew the mix was correct, but I still prayed that the mix would work. It was designed to increase the senses of the rat. So I would know it worked if Boris could more effectively meander thru the stacks of lab papers and household mess.
After 30 minute recovery time when Boris laid down to rest, I noticed the improvement. “Hey Boris, you’re not getting caught up in the string I have on the ground for my braiding exercises to relieve stress. Normally, you get tripped up for a moment-” my breath catches in my throat when I see Boris attempt to look at the map had on the floor. Normally rat vison is poor but I could see him strain to view this foreign sight knowing the future laid ahead.
“So you want to travel the world too?” I think aloud. “Well, I know the missing supplies I took will get noticed and I can’t take being alone anymore…”
All I saw Boris do was just patiently stare up at me. I think he knew me and knew I would never hurt him like those men hurt me.
“Alright, that’s settled Boris. We’re leaving this town now,” I announce excitedly. Boris continued to look up at me. I think he knew the next steps for our lives were critical.
Packing up some clothes and as much food as could be fit in my backpack, I tried to remain focused on the mission. Picking up Boris, I looked into his eyes and just knew that he longed for the freedom of finding his way in the world again.
I could relate to that. “Alright Boris,” I started to say as the door opened. Upon stepping onto the main road, I lowered Boris to the ground. “Here you go. Stay safe,” I shared. Boris looked up once at me his thoughtful gaze reminding me of my husband’s.
As my husband used to tell me, “Honey, sometimes you just have to make the choice that doesn’t seem to make any sense but it’s the right one. Calling this my meaningful choices viewpoint, because if done for the right reasons they do work out for the best eventually.”
Following my husband’s rationale knowing that letting Boris go was right I said, “Maybe will meet again, friend. Remember my name is Taliyah”. Boris looked up at me and then he scurried into the street.
Maybe we will someday, I believe. He truly was the only friend I had then. But one day we might meet up again.
Until then, knowing that I had Boris for a time made me feel less lonely. So there’s hope that I won’t be forever alone.
So for now, I’ll be by myself again, but not in spirit. I’m going to start my life over and won’t let anyone call me by anything other than my name-Taliyah. Letting Boris go was my meaningful choice but reconnecting is my hope. And that is all I can ask for, right?