Escape From Lab 15 by Roy Barton

by Roy Barton

The light was fading fast as the last of the laboratory technicians took a cautious look around the rows of cages, before deciding that everything was satisfactory and all the animals were secure. He turned the lights off at the door and locked it after him, the sound of him whistling diminishing as he walked down the corridor outside. The room was now in almost complete darkness, with only a thin slit window set high up above the cages, near the roof letting the now twilight in. The only other source of light was that of a single glowing orange ember.

Jack had been thinking for days about escaping. It possessed his mind more and more with every day he was secured in his cage. At first he didn’t mind it, the perfumes made him smell nice and the cigarettes, though profoundly vile at first, were growing on him and helped him relax, especially the ones not sanctioned by the government. Now they really helped him relax !

None of that was a problem to him - it was the mascara he hated. I mean, what kind of all-male red blooded rabbit did they think he was ? The very idea that they could make him up like some seventies glam-rock artist simply reviled him. The stuff stung like hell sometimes too !

He took a deep draw on his cigarette as he contemplated a free life outside the lab and the only way of getting there was to escape. He knew he couldn’t do it on his own and so he took a chance to ask others to join him in his crusade.

He pulled in another drag of his cigarette before clearing his throat and starting to speak, in a voice he noticed was more gruff since his smoking had started

‘Hey,’ his drawling accent made all the others look toward his cage, ‘anybody interested in getting out of here?’

The question hung in the air for several minutes and seemed to echo off the walls of the dark, quiet lab. He waited for the cluster of cosmetic weary, nicotine addicted voices to reply.

‘Whoa man, you try doing that and they’ll fry your brain just to see how electricity works! Like, they don’t know already,’ came the first reply.

‘Or they decide you’re being uncooperative and shove you in a fridge just to see how the cold affects your vital organs,’ protested another.

‘Yeah,’ yet another voice said in the darkness, ‘if you do decide to escape the best rabbit to ask is already in a fridge. Tried to avoid experimentation over twenty times. We call him the cooler king ‘cos he seems to like the fridge!’

Jack listened to them all before speaking again. ‘Okay, if we get him out first then who’s gonna come with me?’ he asked.

This time the answers were more positive with several affirmatives issued from around the laboratory.

‘Well, let’s get outta here then!’ Jack proclaimed.

He took a final inhalation from his cigarette before flicking it across the room.

It landed in a gerbil cage. The inhabitant looked at the offending object in dismay and alarm as it started to smoke ominously on the straw bedding it had fallen on.

‘I think I’m in too!’ it squeaked, quite terrified of it's fate otherwise.

Altogether a band of about fifteen assorted small mammals and rodents began to devise a plan of escape. The first problem was the cages. They presented a formidable, almost impossible challenge, and after half an hour still no-one had come up with an idea to secure their initial freedom and they all fell silent.

‘Well, that was pretty damn effective.’ Jack observed dryly, in his now familiar dragged out voice. ‘For several thousand years the vermin world has consistently outwitted all attempts by mankind to wipe it out, and now, after a few dodgy smelling cigarettes and being plied with a few bottles of Yves St. Laurent, nobody seems to have a clue.’

Somewhere in the shadowy corners of the lab something had been observing the conversation with growing interest. As it sat there on the top row of cages it had heard the voices drifting up to it and waited patiently for a moment to step in.

As the silence increased once more it decided that this was the time. As it stepped forward to speak a shaft of moonlight crept across its’ cage and the form of a patchy, very large rabbit was highlighted to the audience.

‘I help…….I help good.’ It stated in a clear, deep voice.

Jack looked up at the cage. It was the biggest rabbit he had seen in his life. A monstrous creature stuffed full of growth hormones and muscle compounds. He could quite easily see how this giant could indeed help.

With a single swipe from its’ massive claw the cage door gave way and the large patchy rabbit fairly quickly appeared at Jacks’ cage.

‘I guess we got a plan after all.’ Jack announced.

In a very short time all the cages of the proposed escapees had been opened and they were all very grateful, especially the gerbil who had witnessed the smoke in his cage getting more acrid by the minute.

The next step was to pull the cooler king out of the fridge, which was positioned in another corner of the room. They assembled round it and could hear a dull, repetitive thud against one of the walls. It was fairly faint and during the day would have been drowned out by the general noise, but in the still and silent darkness of night they could hear it clearly. The first thought they all had was that he was alive, the second was wondering how he created that noise. The big patchy rabbit moved everybody back and no-one dared to disagree with the monster sized creature. It stepped up to the big set of double doors and put a king size paw around each handle. The chemical and steroid enhanced muscles flexed and rippled across its’ back and shoulders as it strained and pulled to remove the barrier.

The locks started to bend as the big rabbit exerted more and more pressure, using all it's strength, feeling the doors begin to buckle and give. A couple of extra rabbits stepped up and assisted in the exercise. Twisted pieces of lock flew in all directions as well as several rabbits as the doors suddenly ripped open.

Inside another rabbit sat in the blue chill of the freezer, caught in mid throw. A frozen gerbil in one of it's paws.

The gerbil that had previously escaped from it's burning cage suddenly thought it might be safer to go back there again.

‘It was dead already,’ the cooler king explained, lamely.

Jack had already turned his attention to the window. The only visible means of escape from the room was the only source of light into it. He had already discounted the door - not even the big rabbit could pull that open. So the window was the solitary way to get of there, but it was a long a treacherous climb up the rows of cages and the window was flush with the wall a little way above them.

The gerbil made the climb easily and waited on a cage on the top row directly underneath the window as the rabbits scaled up after him.

Jack felt a twinge of anxiety as his claws squeezed between the cage bars. He was slightly built and he knew that if he was having trouble maintaining a hold, then the others would find it more so, especially the big rabbit!

Cage wires bent and twisted under it's weight as it climbed up last. One snapped and it fell several rungs before grabbing onto another wire. It hung there for a few moments, before the mighty muscles flexed again and it continued it's ascent.

All the rabbits slipped and stumbled several times as they climbed higher and higher towards the thin slit of moonlight that shone above them. Jack was almost there, he could see the gerbil looking down at him anxiously just a couple of cages above him when one of his rear legs failed to grip hold of a bar. He let out an involuntary cry of shock and pain as his whole balance of weight shifted directly to the top of his body. His front paws being the weaker set of limbs, failed to hold him as the sudden counter balance hit them, and he let go of the cage and fell back and toward the floor, now a considerable way below him. If rabbits went to heaven then he could see it rushing up to him as quickly as the floor.

A mighty paw suddenly reached out and grabbed him, pulling him back in. Jack looked into the impassive face of the big rabbit, the dark eyes reflected nothing back.

‘Thanks.’ Jack said gratefully, his mouth dry from the fear that had gripped him. He knew no amount of words could show his gratitude to the giant that clung to the bars of the cages and onto his life. He knew that the pressure of plucking him out of freefall must have placed almost intolerable pressure on him but the behemoth remained expressionless.

They continued their climb together and maintained a silence as they concentrated their efforts on the task before them. The night was growing short and time had become another obstacle in their way.

Once more Jack was close to the top. By now all the others had joined the gerbil and Jack and the giant were the last to reach the summit.

A rabbit called Sam spoke gravely as Jack pulled himself over the last cage. ‘There’s no way out - the window is completely sealed, no latch or anything to open it.’

The assembly looked downcast at the news.

The giant rabbit was climbing up the last cage. ‘Is way out!’ he said, a trace of effort in his voice as he hung there.

Without a further word of explanation he reached out an arm the cage next to his. He heaved at it and the sound of tearing metal away from masonry could be heard, signalling that the cage was being parted form the wall. He pulled a couple more times and the cage began to twist and tear from the mountings. At the same time the cage bars he was hanging from began to stretch. With one last determined effort he pulled the cage out. He used the momentum of the swing and his shoulder as a fulcrum to swing the cage in an opposite arc towards the window. Muscles tore, cage bars gave way and the window shattered as the cage smashed through. Jack looked on in painful slow motion as the big rabbit lost purchase on the cage it hung on under the strain of the exercise and fell backwards. Large and small shards of glass followed his descent and Jack looked away just before the rabbit hit the ground with a loud, dull thud, closely followed by the sound of glass hitting and breaking on the floor.

The captives scented the freedom that came with the breeze blowing through the now open window and took their final, careful steps through it and to the freedom beyond.

Jack wanted to look back but couldn’t bear to see the broken body below. Instead he left with his feeling of freedom tainted with depression at how hard won it had been and the price that one in particular had paid.

*****

The room was quiet once more. Glass littered the floor and smashed cages lined the walls and a giant rabbit lay still, almost dead centre of the carnage. It would have been a death fall for most normal rabbits, but this was no normal rabbit. It had been far removed from normality by it's captors. For a short while it was motionless, then it slowly lifted it's head, flexed it's muscles and lifted itself from the floor. With total and single-minded determination it climbed a cage at a time and then twisted it's massive bulk through the small opening. It took a deep breath of it's first ever fresh air and savoured the noises out in the open and then it was running free.

For a different 'take' on animal experimentation - see Andrew's story "Break in at Lab 24".

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2009


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