Your name is Jade and you are currently huddled in the fetal position, pressed as hard as you can in one of the back corners of your stainless-steel cage.
It's been a couple of minutes since your outburst and you've almost recovered your composure. Other residents shuffle and stir in the cages around you, but they've long grown custom to your nightly routine and no one wakes.
No one that is, except hybrid experiment 612.
"The night terror, again?" A monotone voice whispers from somewhere above you.
"Mm-hm," You whimper, slightly nodding your head even though you know the speaker can't see you.
"Do you want to talk about it?" The voice asks.
"Mm-mm," you shake your head.
"I'm here if you do." For a while silence follows.
Every night it's the same thing; you wake up screaming, hybrid experiment 612 asks if you want to talk about it, and you always refuse. But you always end up talking about it anyway and tonight is no different.
Moving to the front of your enclosure, you crane your neck to find the cage of hybrid experiment 612. Six-one-two… experiment… hybrid… How you hate those words! Hybrid experiment 612 has a name just like you do, and you intend to use it.
"Dave," You call out quietly. "Are you still awake?"
"Yes," The voice from before replies. Again silence follows. You'll talk when you're ready and Dave won't rush you, but for now you have nothing to say.
You look up at his cage while you let your mind wander. Dave's enclosure hangs is one of two that hang from the ceiling and is shaped like an oversized bird cage. But that's probably because he was one. Even in the dark you can clearly see the label on the outside of his crate;
'AVIAN HYBRID EXPERIMENT 612
This doesn't mean anything to you though. Hybrids can't read.
From your position you can see Dave's profile; his bleach blonde hair, his read eyes, his magnificent red and black wings and his clawed hands which he tries to hide between his knees along with his clawed feet.
Your heart aches for a moment. Although he'd never admit it, you know how much Dave hates his deformities, especially his hands and feet. They scare him and fill his heart with self-loathing because he thinks he is in no way a human, but some kind of monster instead.
Everyone here thinks they are a monster.
It's what you've been trained to think.
"Why do they do this to us, Dave?" You say like you have countless nights before.
"I don't know, Jade," Dave replies like a well-rehearsed actor.
"Do you think they do it for some greater purpose?"
"They might be."
Do you… do you think, if they do do it for some greater purpose, do you think that purpose is good?"
"I don't know…"
You decide to take a new route away from your normal conversation.
"If, perhaps, they do do this to us for some greater good, what do you think that greater good is?"
Dave was quiet a moment.
"I wouldn't know," he spoke at last. "But if that happens to be the case, then I hope whoever benefits from us better have suffered just as much, if not more." Now it's your turn to fall silent.
"I know you don't know why they do this to us," you say after a length, "But what do you think is why they do this to us? And don't say 'I don't know.' We all make up explanations to comfort ourselves."
"Why do I think they treat us like pieces of shit?" Dave asks to himself. "I think…… I think it's just because they can."
Your mind grows morbid as you think about Dave's cynical theory. He was right, in a sense. The scientists here could do with you whatever they wanted and often had. Who was there to tell them they couldn't? To them, hybrids could be treated however they saw fit. To them, hybrids didn't have rights or names. They weren't even considered people. To them, hybrids were just a number on a card along with a clipboard and data sheet.
"I think they must do it for something good," you mumble. "Because I like to believe that people are naturally good. They wouldn't hurt us if there wasn't a good, justifiable purpose behind it."
"Your soul is too kind, Jade," Dave says.
"Has… has anyone ever tired asking the scientists why they do this to us?" you say tentatively.
Dave thinks about this. "I can't say. I know I haven't." The room you are both in begins to grow lighter with the rising sun.
"I think… I'll do just that, then. I'll ask them," you say suddenly. Dave eyes you critically. You don't know why you said it, but you did and it scares you a bit.
Yet deep down, you knew you meant it.
"I want to know, Dave. We all want to know," You justify. "But if nobody's ever bothered to ask, then why not ask?"
"What if they don't want you to ask? You know what's happened other times hybrids start questioning orders." You shudder at the memory of hybrids crying for forgiveness after questioning orders. Those hybrids often came back with many lashes on their backs.
"I won't know the answer to that until I try, will I?" you resolve.
Before Dave can reply the lights flick on and the room begins to come to life as machines start to whir and hum and hybrids start to wake.
"Okay! Let's get today started! A scientist says as he enters the room. Hybrids' hearts stop. With the safety of the night over, the time they dreaded most was upon them again. They cowered in in silence, waiting to hear the number of today's first victim.
"First one up for tests today is…" the scientist clumsily flips through his notes as the experiments anxiously huddle in fear. "Hybrid experiment four-one-three!"
Your heart skips a beat. It seems as if karma heard your decree and decided to let you have your chance to ask your captors first thing that day. All around you, you hear sighs of relief from the hybrids who have been spared being the first test subject of the day.
At the sound of his voice, your cell automatically detaches from the wall, and the scientist begins to wheel you away.
You catch Dave's face as you turn a corner. He mouths to you 'good luck.' You nod in acknowledgement at him. You'll need all the luck you can get.
Fearful yet determined, you brace yourself for today's torture.