Hunger is real. Hysteria is real. People, isolated, grow lonely. People,
stung with nettles, hurt and cry; stung repeatedly, bleed; left bleeding, die.
A dead lover
Two dead lovers
Take the subjects to dinner and explain the experiment, its hypothesis,
procedures, results. Discuss the conclusions you’ll draw from their data. You
should find the subjects curious and attentive. Encourage questions. Illustrate
complicated points with parables. Show them they’ll have a good time.
Decorate the auditorium with crepe paper and scissors. You may need tape.
Subjects enter the auditorium at 19:14. The meatloaf sits on the buffet,
covered, warm. Check IDs as they enter. Turn unauthorized citizens and renegade
scientists away. Smile. Distribute rosaries.
When asked, fourteen subjects would not eat the meatloaf, despite repeated
assurances it did not contain the flesh of a ground-up lover. The other subjects
ate enthusiastically, licking their own and each other’s lips.
Nineteen subjects, when pressed, would not dance, would not even stand at the
edge of the dance floor snapping their fingers, shuffling their feet. They were
taken to a corner and shown flashcards. We showed these subjects a brown man and
a yellow man and asked them to discriminate between the two.
"Define brown," they demanded. "Define yellow."
"Brown," we told them: "The ground, muddy rivers, chocolate.
Feces, but don’t think of that. Yellow: lemons, buttercups. The sun,
popularly, although the sun is orange. Yellow is a favorite color."
Three subjects favored the brown, fifteen the yellow. "The feces,"
the fifteen told us. "We could think of nothing else."
One subject, a hippie chick, spoke up. "Free Brother Man!" She
ranged about the auditorium, burning everyone’s bras.
Curious what the subjects thought of the experiment so far, I approached one
subject, a sputtering elderly man, at the punch bowl.
"I find this experiment not unlike other experiments I’ve taken part
in," he said. He drooled as he spoke; was sticky with drool and spittle.
"At first no one dances, but you make them, with pleasant yellow lights and
music and encouraging cooing sounds. At first people crowd the buffet, forking
crumbling pieces of meatloaf onto tiny paper plates, dripping Italian dressing
on their lettuce and radish slices. Or they mill at the punch bowl, jokingly
insisting the experimenters have ‘spiked’ it, their true experiment to
determine the role alcohol plays in making life bearable." He slurped from
a thin dark flask labeled ‘VODKA.’
"Some lovely research in alcohol studies," I said.
The old man spat vodka into the punch bowl.
Arms wrapped around me from behind, a body pressed into me, hands fumbled
with my belt.
"I’m out of bras," said the hippie chick. "The bras are
cinders. Now I need panties, briefs and boxers."
Back at the lab, not one subject wanted to sleep in his or her sleep tube.
We learned nothing previously unknown, nothing we could not infer from
preexisting data. The experiment, like all others, is successful.
1 "Why, certainly burning tongs hurt," she said, "
–– But how much?"