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The Interrogation

Kelly Jennings is a member of the Boston Mountain Writers Group. Her short fiction has appeared in many venues, including The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and the anthology The Other Half of The Sky. Her second novel, Fault Lines, is forthcoming in 2018.

Why should I? What makes you think I care about your record? Not like anyone will survive to link to it, is it?
No! I'll do it. I will. I'm doing it! Sweet cock, don't be so touchy.
What? Cock? I can't say--all right, all right. Peste, you people--all right.
My name is Kiran. Property of Gershwin Station. No idea how old I am. Twenty, twenty-two? You people ain't tell us that. When we're in the racks--all right, dorms, when we're in the dorms we ain't get told our decant, plus you keep shifting our mix, you know, moving us from one cohort to the next, so we never get a fix on our age. Or make friends either. That's why you do it, I hear. No friends, no trouble.
No trouble's what you're all about. It's why you spliced this kitten factor into our g-sets. We start work at ten, we're dead at thirty. No need for pricey healthcare, much less pensions.
Hey. You've got my file there, right?
No, I'm just--you know my decant. You could tell me. If you did, I'm saying, it would make me sweeter. Readier to talk. All I'm saying.
Shit. Don't--you don't have to--stop it. Stop. I said I'll tell you. I will.
I don't know what you think I can tell you, though. I work gardens. I mean, we ain't scientists. If we did any sabotage, which I ain't say we did, but if we did, it's be like pissing on your roses. Breaking tools. How's a kitten like me build bioware?
Of course I know you think that's how it happened. I just don't know how you can believe that. You've made sure we don't get schooling. Most of us can barely read. But you think we can do genetic engineering?
Anyway, you know as well as I do what really happened.
What? What did I say?
Oh, please. Everyone knows how it happened. Did you think it was secret?
Here's what cracks me up--no, it does. I'm laughing so hard I might wet myself--why ain't any of you ever consider what might go wrong?
Don't! I'm telling you, will you just--I am! Just quit. Listen! If you'll stop, if you'll put that thing away, I'll tell you everything. All right? All right?
Peste, why are you all like this?
Here's what we think happen--us kittens. You built us all to be so pretty, and so young. You deliberately gave us thirty-year lifespans, so that we'd never get wise enough to rise up. And then you made every one of us sterile, to keep us from polluting your genepool. Your human genepool.
Then you put us everywhere. In all your factories. In your prep schools and universities. You put hundreds of thousands of us in your kitchens and gardens and houses. You didn't think this through, did you? Didn't think any of it through.
I mean, we ain't educated, us kittens. Just trained. But we do work with toxins and cultures and trash. We know about sanitary procedures. Quarantine protocols. We know how easily they fail, is what I mean.
So how you ain't see that this viral splice you planted in us, this fix that makes us die at thirty, how easily that might mutate? How your virus might jump species, and get loose in your human population?
I mean, especially the way people will sleep with the help.
So now it's everywhere. That's what I hear. The kitten splice, infesting your population. That's what I heard. All through your population. Seventy or eighty percent, is that what your last survey shows? All of you carry the kitten splice now. You Peste, you'll all be senile at twenty-nine, dead at thirty.
Just like us.
No, sure, I can see why you think it's not funny. Come up in the dorms, though. No parents, no family, no friends, no idea how long you'll live. No hope. Listen to peste like you telling us every day of our lives how lucky we are that you house and clothe us, how grateful we should be to you for every bite you feed us. Then watch while you cut your own throats.
But you're right. Funny ain't what this is--that's not the word we want. I do know the right word, though.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Author Comments

Writing a story in the form of a dramatic monologue is not usual for me, though I have loved the form ever since reading Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess." I wouldn't say this story is a homage to him, exactly; but the dark turn at the end may owe something to that poem.

- Kelly Jennings
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