This is written in the style of a lab report. A toxicity study looks at the effects of Borazadine on monkeys, with five males each experiencing one of four drug dose levels. Within the first day four out of the five monkeys on the highest dose die; the other one, 93990, is fine. As the days progress monkeys from the next highest drug dose level start to die, and the other monkeys start to sicken. Throughout it all 93990 sits there, persistently, impossibly healthy.
Not that the story acknowledges this impossibility directly. It’s told in the same detached, clinical style throughout, and nothing more than the bare facts of 93990’s survival is ever presented. It’s a quiet, ambiguous story, and all the more unsettling for it.
93990 by George Saunders
Availability: Print only
Word count: 2,100
First published: Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #4, 2000
Where to find it: In Persuasion Nation, collection, 2006, Riverhead Books
The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, collection, 2006, Bloomsbury Publishing
The Secret History of Science Fiction, James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel, 2009, Tachyon Publications