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Fiction

Lab report

From the LabLit short story series

Dave Haan 3 August 2008

www.lablit.com/article/402

The specimen considers the implications of its continuing survival

Preventing the technician from dissecting the specimen: the technician wears a white frock, a neat but nondescript necktie and a serious expression. The hem of the frock has a black stain, like a stray sheep. The folds of the garment conceal the stain in the gathering of frock and composure. The technician stands with folded arms, displeased by the interruption. The specimen is grateful for the reprieve. It begins to develop a disproportionate sense of self-importance, believing that the intercession was made on its behalf. It contemplates its relation to the agency of its albeit temporary salvation. The technician vigorously protests that formal scientific procedure is not being followed. He loosens the tie around his neck. A label attached to the tie proclaims it to be 100% virgin wool. The specimen questions its purpose, which remains mute. The technician declares that someone will have to answer for the delay, but that he must await proper authorization. The stain, which seems to be the result of an earlier mishap, is shaped like a bowtie, or an hourglass. The technician unfastens his smock, then dismantles and reassembles the malfunctioning apparatus. The specimen keeps a vigilant watch. The stain will not wash out. The technician does not believe the problem to be insoluble. The technician consults the manual, scribbling notes in the margins. The specimen considers the implications of its continuing survival. The stain remains indistinct in the shadows cast by the fluorescent lights. The technician runs projections on the outcome of his examination, computing estimates of statistical error. The specimen begins to analyze its immediate surroundings on the lab bench. The freshly cleaned glass and metal of the apparatus gleams under the fluorescent lights. The technician washes his hands with distilled water, then prepares a slide of a cross-section from a previous experiment. The stain, indiscernible unless examined closely, might also be likened to a Rorschach. The technician calibrates the instruments hooked up to the apparatus, following recommendations from the manual. The fluorescent lights flicker indecisively. The technician dates and initials the tags hanging from the instruments. He removes his tie and crams it into a pocket in his smock. The stain lies underneath the opposite pocket. The specimen begins moving to the other side of the bench and tentatively peers over the edge. The technician marks the time in the little space left in the margins of the manual. He removes his frock and drapes it over the corner of the bench, next to the apparatus. The stain is revealed from within the folds of the loosely hanging garment. The technician pretends to look the other way as the specimen makes its way around the apparatus. It climbs onto the smock and slides down into the pocket over the stain. The manual has nothing to say about this turn of events. The technician gathers the smock under his arm and walks out the door, flicking off the lights as he leaves.