Specimen by Faith Gardner


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Specimen by Faith Gardner


They did it for science. They shot me with a tranquilizer gun as I was leaving the cornerstore with a soda in my hand for science. They drugged and collared and tagged me with a microchip before I awoke hours later, groggy, on the corner of Broadway and 5th, abandoned, alone but in public, with an implant in my temple and an unremoveable plastic collar on my neck, for science.
     I was angry at first, confused, sore, at the lump in my head and the locked collar that lights up like I’m at some kind of rave. But my anger cooled some when I heard that they’ve done the same to hundreds of us. That they’re funded by National Geographic, that they only want to inform and be informed and educate and be educated. Obviously it was mortifying to discover the finger-shaped bruises on my thighs and throat. They weren’t gentle. They had made incisions wherever they pleased and stitched them back up again, which explains the star-shaped scars on my arms and legs. They pulled up my skirt and snapped photographs, filmed me sleeping, wiggled their fingers in my mouth and down my throat. I saw a clip of it on channel 273.
     When my heart got too slow, as I lay paralyzed in front of the cornerstore with my Sprite rolling in the gutter, passersby and cars gliding along the sidewalks and the streets, the scientists apparently shot me up with another drug, like adrenaline, that made my pupils shrink back to their normal size and my temperature normalize again. They exhaled held breaths. To lose me would have been a shame (for science). They were overjoyed to revive me, my body of answers. Hi fives all around. They almost took my life with the needle and then gave it back with the needle. I know now their end goal is just to know—a dispassionate desire to know what makes a woman a woman. They want to know and then spread the knowing.
     Sometimes I see the others and I don’t feel so bad. A woman in a department store, trying on scarves to cover her collar. The familiar fleshy bulge northeast of a waitress’s ear. Sometimes I see studies published in magazines and on the nature channel about the living and breeding and eating habits of women, and they cite us specimens as sources. I touch the lump in my temple, the microchip, I scratch at the dead skin trapped beneath the collar. I close the magazine and try to imagine the man somewhere, in some tower, tracking my movement through these city streets this very instant.

Faith lives in Oakland and has stories in or forthcoming in Word Riot, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and PANK. She can be found at faithgardner.com.