by Sarah Eaton
Janice-Katie wanted to leave. She wanted to scoop up a handful of mini-sheep and another handful of mini-goats and take them back to the home she shared with Mrs. Beck. She thought of the fear they must feel when the petals of the object whirred shut above their small, soft heads. The way they would buck and shudder. The way they would scream.
There were no windows in the laboratory, but Janice-Katie had always relied on an excellent sense of direction. Despite the many twists and turns through hallways that had led them to this room, she felt certain that she could backtrack and escape.
Mrs. Beck stared at Dr. Scoot, mouth agape. “You grow these animals to their full size and slaughter them? No wonder it smells like blood and bleach in here. I thought it was you.”
Janice-Katie wondered why the bunnies and goats and cows and pigs stayed. Was it similar to the feeling that made her certain her bones were turning to powder, and that if she tried to get up from her bed she would only collapse? There seemed to be no mechanism holding them in place. They nuzzled their companions freely. She closely observed Dr. Scoot for a few moments, not noticing any sinister posturing or conflicts between his words and gestures. He said he was a concerned scientist. So what if he was mad.
“We let them go, gently, before we put them in the Egg. That’s what we call this contraption,” he said, pride in his voice.
“You inject them with poisons!” Mrs. Beck said.
“No, no,” he said. “Mrs. Beck,” he said, “I do a lot of reading. Do you?”
“Who has time to clutter her head with things that are untrue?” she said.
“But there are many true things in books. I learned from books what a powerful emotion fear is. And I also learned about love.”
“Oh come on, Janice-Katie,” Mrs. Beck said. “It’s just another man who wants to ogle you. Let’s go home where the animals are sized normally. I’ll make some brownies.”
Janice-Katie stayed where she was. Sometimes she felt like she was overflowing with love. It electrified her fingers and made her antsy. Mrs. Beck thought it was anxiety, but Janice-Katie knew that the symptoms could mirror each other. At night, while she paced and flipped her hands, she thought of how many things mouths could do, and how much easier it was to move around than to stay still. She wanted to love one of those mini-bunnies. She wanted to put it in her mouth and swirl it around. She wanted to spit it out and cuddle it against her cheek. She wanted to kiss it and kiss it and kiss it and kiss it and kiss it.
Dr. Scoot placed his hand, palm up, in front of one of the bunny cubbies. The bunny hopped out obediently. It rolled over onto its back, exposing its downy yellow belly.
“Almost irresistible,” Dr. Scoot said. “They’re trained to do their cutest moves.” With that, the bunny flipped over and rested its head against Dr. Scoot’s wrist, gazing at Janice-Katie sidelong. “Kiss it, Janice-Katie,” he said. “Kiss the mini-bunny.”
She lowered her head and gripped the tip of its velvety little ear between her lips.
“No, not like that,” Dr. Scoot said. “Like you’re saying good-night.”
“This is how you kill them!” Mrs. Beck shouted.
“Why do you have to say everything out loud?” Janice-Katie said. “We all knew that.”
She looked at the baby bunny and thought about not kissing it. It was a base urge, kissing it, and she could resist if she wanted. She could just hold it and squeeze it gently.
Dr. Scoot dipped his head and stretched his lips into a pucker. The bunny raised its head. It was mutual, affection shared. It expired, limply. Tenderly, he placed it next to the cake, uttered an incantation, and the Egg sealed.
“That bunny died without fear,” Janice-Katie said.
“That’s right,” Dr. Scoot said. “And now I’m going to engorge it in the Egg. It will be rabbit-sized. We can make a lovely fricassee. You don’t have to be vegan anymore, Janice-Katie. You’ll eat love instead of fear.”
Mrs. Beck snorted. “Shows how much you know,” she said. “Mad scientists are the worst at facts. Her skin will be covered in pock-marks and cystic acne in no time if she eats that rabbit. It’s full of hormones!”
The Egg fell open, and the rabbit and the cake were large enough to feed a family.
“Janice-Katie,” Dr. Scoot said. “It’s an end to world hunger. Help me spread the word.”
“Ha!” Mrs. Beck said. “It’s not the word he wants you to spread.”
“It’s true, Janice-Katie,” Dr. Scoot said. “You are a very attractive older woman. We would make a good team.”
Janice-Katie looked around at the mini-animals lining the walls. Their watery black eyes roamed the room, not seeing her. They posed, paws covering eyes, then sitting like humans on a davenport. They leaned forward and twitched their noses. Dr. Scoot was no prize, but these mini-animals’ beating hearts would be hers to stop. She looked at Mrs. Beck, with her stooped posture and refusals. Mrs. Beck’s eyes snapped at the way this afternoon had turned from a walk to a threat. Janice-Katie felt a great surge of disappointment mixed with affection.
“Thank you for your offer, Dr. Scoot,” she said. “We will not detain you further.”
She considered stuffing as many bunnies and goats and sheep into her pockets and brassiere and underwear as possible, but she knew she would have to kiss them someday, and that when she did, they would die. She thought about how this should feel like a revelation and probably would if she spent some time slowing down her actions and paying attention to her breath, but the sun was setting. She had to get home.