April 24

World Day for Laboratory Animals


I kept telling my bud, Toby, it’s not like they’re all gonna be puppies and fluffy bunnies. Mostly rats and mice, was my guess.

But he was firm. A life is a life, he told me. Somebody has to take a stand.

I thought it was enough that he’d gone vegetarian for a few weeks. The way ol’ Tobe used to wolf down a half-pounder, he probably saved a hundred cows through diet alone.

But see, once Toby gets an idea in his head, it’s hard to shake it out. Somehow he got curious about this fenced-in facility outside town. You know: posted warning signs, an armed guard at the gated driveway, and all these guys in lab coats driving in and out at all hours.

Honestly? Yeah, I think Toby camped out a couple times with binoculars or those night-vision kinda goggles. That’s how he figured out a way in.

We can do just like those activists do, Toby said. Sneak in the place and let the animals out of their cages.

He told me about it, because he was hoping I’d help. I was all, Stop right there, I’ve heard enough — because he was talking about trespassing, right? But then he went on about stuff he’d found online, experiments done on animals. Drugs injected into them, ointments rubbed on their fur or in their eyes, strange substances tested in their food or water.

The animals could be in a ton of pain, Toby said, and the lab guys don’t even care. As he talked, he teared up like they’d put some burning ointment in his eyes.

And he said how a lot of those animals ended up dead, and the lab guys just throw the bodies in the garbage.

That’s when I knew he was thinking about puppies. Me, I imagined a trash bag full of dead rats and thought, Good riddance.

So, no thanks. If they’d stolen some poor kid’s pet, that might be a different story, but I wasn’t gonna risk my freedom to set loose a bunch of vermin.

But ol’ Tobe was all broken up, like I said. So I wasn’t going to help him, not exactly. But I said I’d tag along. Maybe stand guard.

He seemed to appreciate that. In my mind, I wasn’t doing anything terrible. Just helping out a friend.

I let Toby lead the way, since he had the night goggles and the tool box. All I had was the flashlight app on my cell phone.

The more I think about it, ol’ Tobe musta cased the joint pretty thoroughly. He knew the weak spot in the fence, the placement of security cameras, what times the guards changed their shift or went on break. I held back the section of fence, so Tobe could slip through. That’s the worst I did.

He scurried through, that heavy toolbox swinging to one side and putting him off balance. He ducked from one dark patch of lawn to the other, more agile than I’d ever expect him, and eventually he was out of sight.

I might have noticed when he reached the building. Or maybe I just saw a back door open and shut, and that meant Ninja Toby had made it inside.

According to my phone, I waited out there 10 minutes. It seemed a lot longer, though. Every little noise, I thought it might be Toby making his way back.

Yeah, I heard a lot of snapping of twigs, thumping on grass. Then some strange animal cries that definitely weren’t Toby. I don’t know what they were.

I guess maybe you do. I guess that’s why I’m here.

If I promise I didn’t see anything, can you give me back my friend? I mean, even if I did see one of those things, nobody would believe me. I must have been hallucinating, right? No way I’d see arms shaped like that, scales and feathers that color. That terrible smell of sulfur, and hooves and a forked tail.

And wings. I must have fallen asleep and dreamed, because I don’t see how things that big, shaped like that, could possibly fly.

I’ll keep quiet, I swear. And I’ll make ol’ Tobe stay quiet, too. I swear he’ll have learned his lesson, not to mess with things he doesn’t understand.

That’s a good lesson don’t you think?

Can I at least talk to him? I want to make sure he’s okay. God, maybe I want to yell at him a bit, too, tell him what might have happened, him going in there all reckless, opening those cages. Who’s to know? ¬†Who’s to know what horrible chaos he might have unleashed on the world…