An audio reading of this short story is available here.
Adabelle awoke on the cold concrete floor and struggled to her feet. She was young, barely 3 years old, and without a scrap of education was unable to express her thoughts in what we would call words. But she felt.
The room was damp and cold, and her bones ached like one many times her age. The white slabs of her bed were caked with the dried blood of yesterday. There were no toilets, and the room smelled accordingly. She shivered and huddled in the corner. She had no clothes to speak of. Around her she could hear the others beginning to stir.
She had been torn from her mother at a monstrously young age, and truth be told she did not remember her, only the dim recollection of a scent and a kiss. Her tormentors had taken her to a government experimentation complex hundreds of miles from where she was born, and it was all she knew.
A shrill whistle sounded as the doors opened, and the occupants of the room cried out in terror. A man in uniform strode confidently towards Adabelle’s cell and stopped before it. “This one.” The man’s smaller assistant rattled with a pair of keys and opened the stiff, aging door. He grabbed Adabelle roughly by the neck and threw her out, where she fell awkwardly and scraped her knees. “Move!” Adabelle did as she was told, and hobbled towards the main door. She had quickly learnt not to express her pain through sound. The men loved it, and would kick her again and again to hear her despair.
The day usually began with Adabelle being restrained on a metal bench and given a sedative before other substances were injected; all while a man stood taking notes and a camera recorded the scene. Adabelle couldn’t know, but they were testing a new drug with potential for accelerating brain functionality in their own race. Today though, the sedative wasn’t applied, and Adabelle immediately knew something was different. She was terrified, but kept silent, lest they hear her beating heart.
The uniformed men swapped stories and jokes as they tied her down. “Can you believe Franz passed out when I was showing him how to perform artificial insemination yesterday? What a baby.” Satisfying themselves that the restraints were taut, they turned to a spectacled man in a white coat. “What are we doing with this one today, sir?”
The man looked up from his clipboard and squinted at Adabelle. “New combat gear just came in from HQ, state of the art. This helmet is supposed to defend against supersonic projectiles, even fired at point blank range.”
The larger guard, already sweating a little in anticipation, gave a smirk. It was usually his job to carry out the experiment while the other man stood by as back up. “Think it’ll win us the war, sir?” He said.
“If it’s as good as they say it is. Which I guess we’ll find out by the end of the day, courtesy of our friend here.” The men roared with laughter, and the big guard landed a punch in Adabelle’s ribs for good measure. It was only her head they needed today. As she regained her breath, Adabelle was dimly aware of something being strapped to her head. The men put on ear protection, and one of them grabbed what looked like a long metal rod.
“Clear!” Before Adabelle could react, a deafening sound erupted through the room as a pneumatic metal slug collided with her head. She couldn’t think, and she let out a weak grunt. “Clear!” Again the slug hit her head. This time she felt it less, and the edges of her vision started to cloud and darken. If she knew numbers, she would have lost count of how many times she heard that cacophony.
Hours later, she felt herself stirring, ears still ringing.
“Aw shit sir, I think we went a little too hard. She’s toast.” A bright light filled her vision as the spectacled man looked down at her, torch in hand. The helmet was removed, and she felt rough hands touching her bruised head. Forgetting herself in the moment, she let out a short squeal of pain and was rewarded with a swift punch.
“Success. But I guess not even a German helmet can protect a soft, weak head like this.” A thumb pressed down on Adabelle’s skull, and the men laughed. “I think she’s done. Take her outside with the others.”
Adabelle passed in and out of consciousness as she was dragged outside by her legs. The guards grabbed and threw her into the back of a truck. With a start, Adabelle noticed she was in a cage with more of her people of different ages, all bruised and defeated in their own way, and that she had lost sight in her right eye. The truck shook to life and began moving. A short time later, it pulled up at another facility, where everyone in the truck was thrown out and forced up a ramp into a building. The building was full of machinery and technology reminiscent of where she had spent her life, yet somehow different. It smelled of… death.
“By damn I love technology!” The driver cried out as he drove his prisoners up the ramp. “Who would have thought we could kill a thousand in an hour? Unthinkable!”
“The gas chamber isn’t working today.” Said another man in uniform. “Take them to the killing floor.” The driver’s face fell.
As Adabelle entered the building, she looked up with her good eye and could see dozens of people observing the procession from a gantry. Many were in uniform, some were in white, and a few were in civilian clothes. There was a range of expressions from amusement, to hatred, to indifference. Only one man looked as though he might be outright sad. A single tear rolled down his cheek. His lips began to move, and if Adabelle could speak, perhaps she might have been able to make out what the man was mouthing.
“You poor souls. We have learned nothing. To you and all the others, we are Hitler.”
The guards in the room had whipped themselves into a frenzy and were kicking, punching and prodding the prisoners along with whatever they could lay their hands on. They were rounded into a small, long pen in the middle of the room where they couldn’t turn around. A man came along with the same metal rod and began firing slugs into the unprotected heads of the cows in front of him, whistling as he walked. “I’m gonna get you, I’m gonna get yoouuu.” Thunk thunk thunk. Adabelle’s turn came, and in a panic she angled her head away. The slug only glanced her skull, and the man walked on, still singing his tune. Adabelle felt the slug still stuck in her skull, and the warm rush of fluid down her face. She knew in that moment the meaning of hell.
The sound had ended, and the floor tipped to her right as the bodies slid down the slick floor to a lower level. One by one they were strung up and raised off the ground. Many were paralysed but completely aware when the final blow was dealt and their life left them in pulses. In that moment, Adabelle wished death on her tormentors, just as they wished death on her and all of her kind. And they gave her just that.
You can see my previous animal rights focused short story here, Salvation and Salivation.