Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Hour 5: Even evil fears

Dear diary,

Today has been a frenzy of scribbling and typing, as all tumor cells attempt to create a credible fake I.D. The air is full of tension and the usual darkness that surrounds us broken by the relentless flashing of photography (don’t ask me how we managed to get cameras down here. You should still be trying to establish how it is that I have a computer with a fully functional internet connection. Just accept that we now also have cameras, and read on). I took advantage of the sudden bursts of light to comb my filopodia (those long things sticking out of my body that make me look like an octopus) for my picture. I thought a fringe would make me look more amiable: after all, if Justin Bieber and those One Direction boys pulled it off, why shouldn’t I? Sadly, it seems I too have become a victim of the ‘please-tell-me-I-don't-look-like-that-in-real-life’ syndrome. Not that it is my fault! The photographer instructed (after an eternity of turning me this way and that, look up and down and at the side at the same time) to say 'cheese' right before he took the shot. As I have never heard of a thing called 'cheese' in my life, what I instead ended up whispering was 'what?!’. I think the result is quite clear in my picture. I hear my syndrome is a very common problem amongst humans, usually striking post-adolescent people who are about to take a formal photo that's meant to last them for the next decade. It is such a big problem that humans have had to make their IDs small enough to fit in a wallet, so that they could be hidden from view. Hence, I have decided that after the inspection my ID will remain hidden deep between my filopodia (and constantly rubbed until my picture fades).

Gosh, the inspection. It’s funny how even the most evil of things have something to fear. And if there is one thing us tumor cells fear, it is the immune system. You see, they are the ones who control what survives and what doesn’t in the human body. I’m guessing it could be compared to the human police force, only the human police is not as harsh: where you get a fine, or a warning, or even prison, we get death. There is no middle ground with the immune system. There is no bluffing, or pleading. They are not there to listen, or to be misguided: they are there to protect the body. And anything that is not meant to be in the body will have to be disposed of. Funnily enough, the immune cells have no eyes. Or ears, or noses for that matter. So how do they know what’s meant to be there and what isn’t? Well, they have a very simple, very ingenious system: they call it the antigen check. Now don’t be alarmed at the world antigen, it’s all actually a very simple principle: each cell, of every living being (human, animal, plant), or even of every non-living thing (dust, dirt) has an antigen (which is basically an I.D. stuck on top of its body like a flag). This antigen will be recognised by the immune system, allowing it to understand if it’s a foreign body (non-self a.k.a. terminate) or if it’s part of the body (self a.k.a. peace and love). For each antigen (ID), the immune system will have a specific soldier at the ready. Surprisingly, the immune system will create all soldiers particular to each antigen before each human is even born: these little immune cells will be at the ready, should you ever come in contact with whichever cell of whichever creature it may be, to protect you. It’s as if your police force had the ID of every person, born or unborn, ready in its files, just in case it ever came across you.

Lucky for me, cancer cells have discovered a way to go around this system: the standard norm states that if it belongs to the body, it gets to stay. Now, unluckily for you humans, us cancer cells are actually created by your bodies. Yes, we are mutated to something that barely resembles a cell. And yes, we are evil (at least most of us are) (not me! Not me!). But we are still technically from the body. Which means that, in most cases, our antigens will be the same to those of the other healthy cells. Hence, the fake I.D.s: if our antigens (I.D.s) state that we are from the body, the immune cells will have to move on. And we could be saved.  

I wish the theory it-self would be enough to keep us calm.  We are a trembling mass as we await the arrival of the immune cells. All seems quieter, or maybe it's just that for once, there is a complete lack of whispering. It's as if even the healthy cells surrounding us are aware that something is about to happen. One more heart-beat and then all goes still: they are coming.

Cell X

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