Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Hour 6: The blind wanderers

Dear diary,

They came gliding like ghosts in the darkness, an army of cells of so many different shapes and sizes that for a few moments I was lost in wonder, and forgot all fear of what was to come. The first cell appeared like a beacon in the dark, and then there were many, until their presence over-came all of my senses. Slowly they made their way towards us, attracted by the debris of the cell that had died what seemed like a life-time ago. All cells, good and bad, stayed as still as statues, their ID clearly in sight, hoping the procession would move on and leave them unscathed. As I waited, I wished I had been born on the other side, a few mm away, from a healthy cell. I wished my nucleous was not damaged and mutated. I wished I could have deserved to live. And then whispers pierced the air, violating that deafening silence around us. Like sirens they were wails breaking our reverie: “Police! Nobody migrate! Keep your junctions were we can see them!”.  As if we could have migrated if we had wanted to.

It seemed like a life-time before they reached us, but it can’t have been longer than a few seconds. Their bodies started pressing onto the tumour mass, as they anchored them-selves to facilitate their wandering. As they glided along, they checked IDs like a blind person fumbling in the dark: the blindness was not their weakness, but their strength, allowing them to concentrate on controlling our antigens and ignore all forms of deception. All too soon, I saw an immune cell edging towards me. As its filopodia touched my membrane, I recoiled at the slimy-ness of its touch. Slowly, I felt it pull it-self across my surface, greedily searching for my antigen. I thought of looking into its eyes, hoping it would look into mine and see the goodness of my intentions. Then I feared it might also see the truth, that I didn’t belong in this body, and so I shut my eyes tightly. Finally, I realised the immune cells didn’t even have eyes. Meanwhile, its extensions were still probing my membrane, hunting hungrily. In my terrified state, all I could think of was of Harry Potter’s dementors, and how they sucked the happiness out of you until they could reach you and inhale your soul. This was my dementor, and so I started hoping I didn’t have a soul. And then the immune cell shifted covering my whole membrane, shielding me from life. I could not breathe. Panic choked me and I thought this must be it, it’s over. Instinctively, I moved, one last desperate effort to save myself. Stupidly, I thought to fight dementors you need to find a happy thought and produce a patronus.  What was my happy thought? I looked back of what life had given me and flashes of cells showing off their cell cycle states flooded my mind. I remembered my will to be different, to do some good. Maybe this was the best I could do. Maybe dead was the best I could be. So I smiled, grateful for the few hours I had been granted.

And suddenly I was free, and there was oxygen, and the immune cell was gone. Was I dead? Tentatively, I opened my eyes and looked around. My membrane seemed intact, with no traces of the immune cell. I closed my eyes in giddiness, and welcomed the familiar sound of blood rushing through the veins. Hopeful, I looked around at my literal other-half. I found her staring at me, grinning. At first I was only shocked she was not ignoring me, as she usually does. I must be dead after-all. Then I noticed she was pointing at something so I looked down and saw my ID. My ID! It was still intact albeit for the slimy remnants of where the immune cell had inspected it. Only then it dawned on me: the immune cell must have gotten hold of it when I moved trying to escape!  So I was alive. And I had passed the inspection. It had worked! I was alive! I was alive! I was saved!

I felt light-headed with relief as I turned back to my other-half, who was still grinning at me. I searched my mind for the right thing to say and when words failed me, I grinned back. We stayed like that for a few seconds, both smiling broadly, so happy to have been spared that we forgot all hostility. Finally, my other-half turned away, resuming its formal positioning. However, I couldn’t help but notice that this time, she was not as shifted away from me as she previously was. As if she had forgiven me, slightly, for wearing the same membrane. As if that moment of camaraderie will not be easily forgotten. And for the first time, I felt hopeful. Maybe everything will be alright after all.

Cell X

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