There are times in life when you’ve thought you were going to die so many times that you decide that maybe you don't care after all. This was one of those times. As I looked into the panic-stricken faces of the cancerous and healthy cells around me, and listened to their whispers of fear, I decided that this, frankly, was getting quite old, and I hoped that starvation would just get on with it and kill us already. Who knows, maybe there would be an afterlife and in that life I could be born as something better…like a healthy cell. Or as a human even, imagine that? I hoped that my good intentions would at least spare me from coming back as a cockroach. Not that I had ever seen a cockroach, but from what I’d heard, they sounded disgusting.
And so I settled down, closed my eyes, closed my pores, and waited to die.
Except it was taking quite a long time. And this whole: 'Starving! Can’t breathe!’ thing was really quite uncomfortable. Nevertheless, death: here I come.
They say when humans drown it’s like going to sleep. Gosh, I wish cells could sleep. Or drown for that matter. Ah well. Choice was made. To the afterlife I go.
I would love to be able to tell you that this was it. I drifted peacefully onwards, into the light, or wherever it is that you are meant to drift off to, but alas, as you probably guessed, it was not the case. And it was not for lack of trying. I had entered such a deep state of meditation and acceptance that I had probably convinced all my neighboring cells that I had died. All except one, of course. Cell Ex relentlessly nudged me with all of his filopodia, to the point that at a certain stage I felt like he was more on me, then next to me. Talk about invading my personal space. And of course he kept distracting me with a steady stream of whispers, fearfully narrating the comings and goings of our current predicament. I'd like to see you pass away peacefully, when the cell you have just split from and have since tried to ignore the existence of, kept saying things like: 'I can't breathe. Are we dying? X, I'm hungry. Oh my, is that an oxygen molecule? Oh no, never mind. Quick hide! I think that one is an immune cell. Phew ok, all good. So how about that food I asked? Jeesh, look at that cell, what is it doing? Is that..Is it singing? X, look! X? Are you dead? I think I hear music. Maybe that cell is singing. Oh, look, the other one is doing it too. Should we sing too?' You'd think a lack of air would prevent him from talking. I should be so lucky.
So there I was, at peace, IGNORING HIM, when suddenly, I started to hear the singing too. Only it wasn't singing, it was more like music, a light melody, almost tuneless, floating towards us. There was something endearing, almost enchanting in its notes, like a wolves lament to the moon, or the whisper of the wind as it blows through the trees. The melody remained light, but so hypnotic, and I found myself opening my eyes, even if just to ensure that it wasn't a welcome from the angels. I noticed then that my former half had fallen silent, as had all other cells surrounding us, and I watched in wonder as more and more cancer cells started emitting their own melody. The gentle thrum grew steadily louder, captivating more and more of the sorrounding cells, and I found that all I could do was listen, entranced, and strangely moved.
And then it happened, but could that really be? The blood vessels, which had been steadily appearing further and further away as our mass grew in size, seemed closer. Was our mass moving? Were we shrinking? I watched, stunned, as the blood vessels moved progressively closer, like tree roots hunting hungrily for nutrients. Meanwhile the music continued, beautiful temptress, urging them forward. They reached us like a tidal wave, clinging onto our bodies, sorrounding us from all sides, and for a moment all we could taste was the sweet relief of a new breath, working its way through our system. The thrumming stopped, and as the new blood vessels settled, there was a sudden, victorious silence.
They call it angiogenesis, you see. When the cancerous cells enchant the blood vessels to start growing again, to come closer, like snake charmers, flirting with death. Their new proximity meant our salvation, our survival, our progression. A new beginning. I looked at the cells sorrounding me relish in their newfound comfort, realising once again, that I had escaped my own demise.
But then why did this feel like the beginning of an end?