Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Hour 13: The hallmarks of freedom -Part I

Dear diary,

It had been at least fifteen minutes of silence before I had the guts to probe further on what Selena meant by: ‘You weren’t there’. I felt like it was somehow vital for me to understand. I asked gently, softly, afraid I might once again say the wrong word and cause her to spiral back into the suspicion and accusations. I liked the way her eyes emitted a soothing warmth when she smiled, and I wanted them to stay that way for as long as possible. It didn’t take much probing for her to reveal the truth. It did, however, cause her face to change into something I hadn’t yet seen in my few hours here, something that made my insides ache. I realised now that what I was seeing was loneliness and pain. It rendered the air between us colder and darker and I longed to rub it away. I had no idea, back then, that she was about to tell me the story of my existence. 

'It all happened a few weeks ago. Those were good times, all cells lived in synchrony. We all had our duties, which we happily fulfilled, until it was our time to go. You know…that’s the cycle of life. I was a young cell, much like you, a few hours old, full of life, bare of experience. I was so excited when my duties were explained to me! I still remember how I believed I was unique, how I would be the one to change the world. I felt invincible... And my mother cell only encouraged me further. Me and all my sisters worked in harmony, but I was always her favourite. It was her who chose my name. All my sisters are just cells ‘E’ with a number and our tissue specification…as in epithelial cells? She added the extra ‘NA’ to my name in the form where they asked her about tissue type. It meant ‘not applicable’, an inside joke,because she said I’d belong anywhere. She used to say it was as if I glowed in the dark. And I believed her. Those were golden times. Our host's body thrived. Eternity felt tangible.'

'And then came a cell like any other, and all that we knew was changed forever. At first we were so oblivious to the threat. It was a young cell with big ambitions, and every tissue encouraged ambitious cells. They believed they would work harder for the well-being of the whole. This little cell wanted to be the best at everything, trying to be the first one to grow, the first one to split. We didn’t realise it’s progeny was starting to look more and more different. We didn’t realise he was changing too.' 

'Eventually, it’s tissue started telling him to slow down, there was no need for this erratic proliferation, that a cell could be honoured for tasks other than growing and splitting. They started to limit it’s supply of growth factor, so that it wouldn’t be able to activate the pathways that would eventually lead it to split. But they were too late: all these physical changes in the cells exterior were due to its changing its internal equilibrium. You know how normal cells can only proliferate when they receive special molecules from other cells that say they can? The ones that bind on our surface and cause us to grow and split? He had managed to mutate its surface receptors so that they no longer needed signals to be activated. He could proliferate as much as he wanted. He kept growing and changing, and all we could do was stand by, idle. Rumours started spreading, telling of a cell that did as it pleased. He started to be known as Neo.'

‘Neo?’ I interrupted. ‘Like in the matrix? Was it because he was the one?’ I asked eager. She looked at me confused. 

‘No’ she clarified ‘Neo as in uncontrolled growth of cells?’ I nodded, slightly disappointed, and urged her on.

                                be continued.

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