Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Microstory 818: Gum Up the Works

I watched with curiosity as the man I worked for began to tie a wire around his own rooster’s leg. I had only been working on this farm for the last few days, and had learned a lot, but this one was new to me. I was born and raised in the city, but when the war began, the only safe places to live were in very rural areas. Sometimes not even small towns were safe enough from the danger. I knew I had to adapt, and figure out how people survive around here. He wasn’t trying to show me what he was doing, but he wasn’t hiding it either. I asked him to explain it to me, and he said it was a teaching tool. He said roosters are as intelligent as dogs and pigs—which I wasn’t convinced was true—and he wanted to teach his to do things for him. I pointed out that this would be virtually impractical, as birds don’t have hands, but he wouldn’t listen to me. He was sure that an army of roosters could protect his lands, and perform simple tasks autonomously. All he was concerned with right now was conditioning the animal to follow his commands. The teaching tool was, as you may have guessed, designed to send a small but painful current up the rooster’s leg. Negative reinforcement, my boss called it. He’d read about it in a book. I was horrified by what he was doing, but was too afraid to say anything, or try to stop him. I learned long ago to accept these people’s way of life, recognizing it to be wildly different than mine, and that I’m the stranger here. One of the other farmhands, however, was not so tolerant, nor did he fear losing his job, like I was. While the boss wasn’t looking, the other guy replaced the wire with his gum wrapper. This worked for a little while, but then the boss wised up to what was happening, and went about fixing the problem. I’m not sure why the farmhand thought that would work in the long-term. The question was whether he would live long enough to regret it. As soon as the boss replaced the the wire on the rooster’s leg, he sent a test shock to it. The farmhand shuddered in pain, which surprised us all. The boss tested his makeshift device again, and the same thing happened. While the rooster was indeed feeling pain, so was the farmhand. They had somehow become linked to one another, so that when one felt pain, so did the other. A twisted smirk fell upon our boss’ face, as his head started filling with all sorts of nasty thoughts. A shock was easy to take, but what were the farmhand’s limits, and how could the farmer exploit him? I grabbed the rooster with my bare hands, and deftly removed the shock wire. “Run!” I screamed. We’ve been hiding out ever since, doing everything we can to protect the rooster, and hoping to find a way to disconnect these two, so that the human doesn’t die when the animal does. If it’s the only way, we’ll even consider defecting to the enemy.

No comments :

Post a Comment