Billibong woke up at his usual time and went fairly rangy at not having his breakfast waiting. It was in all respects a normal start to the day in the lab. His screeches and howls woke all of the other animals as usual.
Fluffette seemed particularly put-upon by Billi’s early morning harangue. It was almost as though she knew this was her last morning and coveted that final bit of peaceful sleep. Put-upon was as good as it would get for Fluffette this day. She was denied her final meal for reasons she could not possibly comprehend despite considerable effort. She figured breakfast was being modified for some new test or preference that she’d be enjoying today. It wasn’t the first time she’d been surprised by a disruption of the usual feeding schedule, and her previous experiences were all good. New and delicious protein rich foods or gluten and wheat-free vegetarian fare always led to extra human contact and often a coveted walk. But today her handlers seemed less intent on petting and eye contact and rather keen to busy themselves with outside minutiae. She thought it odd that no music was playing in the lab and all of her human friends were too busy to give her any attention. When Doctor Friesen finally approached her it was with a sad face and unintelligible bad news. Of course Fluffette cooperated as always. She wasn’t about to modify her perfectly civil behaviour as the result of her humans having a bad day. On went her walking harness. As she passed the other cages, she ran her fingers along the grills, making that thrumming sound she loved so. She stopped for a moment at Billi’s place as he seemed somehow sad. She felt sad herself as once again, Billibong was being left out of the excitement.
“C’mon old girl,” Doctor Friesen said, as he led Fluffette past the other cages. He noticed that she hesitated at Billibong’s cage and had to give a little tug on the harness to move her along. Fluffette was almost fifteen years old, about two thirds of her natural lifespan, but far older than most lab apes. She had outlived her utility for long-term dietary experimentation and was unsuited for transfer to a retirement facility. Doctor Friesen knew that such animals could not be safely reintroduced to the wild and there was certainly no interest in funding such expense anyway. For nine years, Fluffette and Doctor Friesen had worked together in this lab and their work produced considerable data. Friesen was unemotional but noticeably vacant as he walked the mature female ape to the chair in which she would receive her fatal dose of sodium pentobarbital intravenously and close her eyes and drift off to points unknown. “We’ve had a good time, you and I,” Doctor Friesen said. “Lets get this little bit of business done. Then I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you in the month-end report.” Fluffette, remarkably, did not reply.