Amygdala (The Fear Chronicles - Part 1)
This is a … let’s call it Spin-off of “The Zombie Chronicles”, my first longer story on Steem. Just like the story back then, this one has been inspired by @apsu . I blame him for the loss of productive time that came with writing this.
Dr. Leroy Smitty could feel it, he was close. So close. Years of experiments would finally pay off; he’d finally receive everything he deserved. His employers would be very satisfied with him. Maybe he would even finally receive one of the prestigious research grants for which he kept being rejected!
Dr. Smitty watched the mouse he had just injected with his experimental bacteria strain. It seemed normal, sitting on its hind legs and cleaning its face. Maybe a little bit stressed from the injection, but that was to be expected. Who liked being grabbed by the neck and stabbed with needles, after all?
Then, a twitch. The mouse jumped on all fours and started running around the cage like mad, scratching on the plastic walls, as if it was trying to dig its way out. Dr. Smitty smiled triumphantly as he put on thick gloves that would protect him from potential bites. He grabbed the mouse by the root of its tail and swiftly placed it in a cage with three other mice.
The effect was immediate, and the bloodbath horrifying.
Not quite in line with the guidelines of the ethics committee, Leroy mused. It was a good thing he worked outside of their jurisdiction and wasn’t required to follow their requirement of “humane” treatment of his lab animals. Rough laughter escaped his throat. As if any animal experiment was ever humane! People justified it with furthering medical research, and while Dr. Smitty agreed that it was important, he didn’t try to sugarcoat the fact that animal research was still highly unethical.
Not that it concerned him much, his goals had always been considered unethical by close to everyone he told about them. That was life as an excellent scientist, he was sure. Someone willing to push the boundaries of “ethics”, discarding his own morals so that the rest of humanity could live in blissful health.
The squeaking in the cage had stopped. A glance at the mess confirmed for Dr. Smitty that only his treated mouse had survived, and it was now sitting between the corpses of its brothers, the previously white fur stained red. It was still shaking, but the running around had stopped.
“Interesting”, Leroy commented and wrote this observation down. He wondered if the mouse was just tired, or if the aggression subsided with time. Something to test? Maybe. Then again, he could just as well move to human trials at this stage, the general concept of his novel bacterium had been proven. No point in wasting more of the expensive lab animals.
Leroy grabbed the second, still full vial of the solution containing his life’s work and moved to an adjacent room. The cages in here were considerably larger but looked very similar to the ones the mice resided in. Clear plastic, the floor covered with wood shavings. A small padded area to sleep, a large water bottle, food.
The humans sitting in the middle of the cages, staring blankly at the walls, seemed a lot less happy than his animal test subjects.
Dr. Smitty didn’t have any pity or empathy for them, they were all death row prisoners. Injected publicly with a sedative to mimic the lethal injection, and then moved to his laboratory for human testing. Sometimes, living in a country that didn’t give a fuck about what his citizens thought was very useful. Pure Capitalism in action.
“Now, who of you behaved worst last week?” Leroy walked through the rows, and hollow eyes followed him. Hopeless. Broken.
He preferred the occasionally joyful mice.
The choice fell on a burly man in his late 20s. He had thrown his foot at Dr. Smitty the week prior, and the scientist had not appreciated that even a little bit. He smiled at the man, then pressed a button on the door to the cage. Immediately, it filled with a gas that caused the inmate to pass out. A second button cleared the air and allowed Dr. Smitty to enter and inject the man with his bacteria.
This time, Dr. Smitty didn’t wait for the effect to kick in before moving him to a different cage. He didn’t want to handle an aggressive man twice his own size and weight.
With anticipation, Leroy watched the cage that now contained his test subject and a frail older man. How long had the other one been on death row before being delivered to Leroy’s lab? He didn’t know. He didn’t really care either. Those were no longer humans to him, they were tools.
The younger man woke up.
At this point, the bacteria in his bloodstream would have crossed the blood-brain barrier and lodged themselves deeply in his amygdala, manipulating his fight-or-flight response to modulate permanent aggression. It was only a matter of time until …
Blood splattered against the cage, and Leroy laughed. It worked! It worked in human models!
The test subject banged his hands against the cage walls, running around in circles, until he suddenly stopped and sat down in the middle, shaking. Like the mouse before him, his aggressive behaviour stopped momentarily. Fascinating.
It was time to show his superiors.
“And you’re saying this new drug will give us a battalion of super soldiers that won’t stop at anything?” The Supervisor asked.
“Please, let me show you.” He had already put his test subject back to sleep, and all that was left was moving him to a different cage.
Dr. Smitty opened the door to strap the man to a transportation device, when he opened his eyes, jumped up, and screamed at Leroy.
The scream of a man terrified out of his mind.
Before Leroy could react, the test subject ran past him, out of the door, past The Supervisor, through the door … and was gone.
“What”, The Supervisor said, “the *fuck.”
Leroy’s hands trembled.
He should have continued his mouse trials.
He should have observed his test mouse for longer.
“I am afraid”, he whispered, “that after activating the fight response, the fear response closely follows.”
“So you created a drug that makes people panic.”
“It appears so.”
Without another word, The Supervisor left the room.
Signature by @atopy