…The smell of the cages hit her,then. She stopped, blinking. Boyce didn’t seem to notice the silence, the staring,the smells, but only stalked through the room, smiling faintly, looking from side to side.
“So these animals are for medical experiments?” Boyce asked. “To find cures for diseases?”
“Diseases? Not at all,” she said, stepping through the door. “At least you could argue that kind of animal testing is necessary—though there’s usually an alternative. But this is all about perfume and cosmetics, that kind of thing. They develop new cosmetics, test them on animals…they use extreme amounts of raw chemicals. Completely needless stuff. We have enough cosmetics in the world. Wedon’t really need them at all, really.”
He nodded, looking into the eyes of a small terrier nearby. “The suffering emanates from the constraint—as much as the pain of the experiments,” he said. “They’re becoming…” He seemed to think for a moment. “Psychotic. Becoming psychotic from feeling trapped in a smallspace day after day, endlessly. It’s worse than the physical torture—suchthings always are, as they reach into the creature’s Substantive Being.”
But then a supervisor in a lab coat burst into the room, with a security guard close behind; the guard had a gun in his hand, held down at his side. A spindly man with thin hair, the security guard had a look on his face he’d probably seen in a movie about commandos. The lab supervisor, a stocky graying man with a close-cut beard and a bulbous, red-veined nose, wire-rim glasses, seemed to shiver in icy fury as he stumped down the aisle between cages toward them. “You people are under arrest! You don’t want to get shot,you put your hands on your heads, right goddamn now!”
“You should let me say that,” the security guard complained, in a low aside. He pointed the gun at Boyce and bellowed, “Come on, hands on your heads!”
In a movement that seemed more polite than frightened, Boyce put his hands on his head. “Like this?”
“That’s…well yeah.” The supervisor broke off, shaking his head. He had an ID badge hanging around his neck that said, Silk Scents and below that, Roger Capwell.
“Okay now,” the security guard said,”You too girlie, hands on your head.” Everyone ignored him.
“Mr. Capwell—” Ama said. “The door just opened so I thought we could come in. We’re bearing witness to…to…”
She broke off, shuddering, as the pulses spread through the air, seeming to come from the space directly over Boyce’s head. She felt the vibrations palpably, in flesh and bone; felt them humming between her teeth, making her feel nauseated and elated at the same time.
Suddenly the dogs began barking and the cats began yowling again. The cages clamored with their sound.
Exactly then, the room came into focus. It had seemed in focus before. But she had only seen it fuzzily.
She saw, now, the dust on the spider webs on the orange girders overhead; she saw paint bubbles on the girders; she saw cracks in the concrete floor, and powdered concrete accumulated in those cracks; she looked into a cat’s eyes and saw the workings of its iris, the crystal-like lines, the simple, translucent glow of life itself. For the first time she saw life as a separate thing, as a field emanating from the animals in the cages and the four human beings standing between them; she saw pores on Capwell’s face; she saw small bits of foam gathered at the corners of his lips; she saw dandruff on the security guard’s shoulders; she saw fear and sadness in the guard’s eyes; she saw cat fur wisping by in the air, blown on the air conditioned breeze; she saw a faint tremor in Capwell’s hands; she smelled bourbon in the air, too, from Capwell; she saw a dog in a cage lying stiffly with its tongue lolling to one side, and she realized it was dead; she saw a fat fly buzz overhead and she saw the iridescent detail of its wings, their each beat visible. She felt her nervous system as clearly as a guitarist feels strings under her fingers; she saw her thoughts, like faint neon images, superimposed over her vision, one pursuing the next…
She turned to look at Boyce, saw the outline of a man and, within the outline, as within a man-shaped bottle, she saw a shimmering, living void…
[coming soon from eReads]