Tumour Wakes Up
Teratomas - a
freakish product of the human body and the stuff of nightmares. A tumour that
differentiates into all kinds of
tissues or in plain English - they look alive. Teeth, muscle and sightless eyes
await those unfortunate enough to witness them. Here is one now! Phill doesn’t
know he has a tumour, it isn’t killing him - it’s just growing away quietly.
The thing is, this particular tumour is a little different It already boasts
all of those standard features we know and love in an off-the-shelf,
run-of-the-mill teratoma, but now something is changing, unfolding, evolving...
It has reached a critical mass of nerve cells and it is waking up. It would
blink if it had eyelids. The synaptic transmissions flow in that strange
pattern that has eluded all of modern science and then... Consciousness.
Tumour likes his
new world. The acidic tang of his little universe feels great. Tumour
stretches, and its muscles twitch. Phil feels a strange jolt of pain.
“I must see the
doctor about that” he mutters to himself, wincing. Tumour begins his planned
invasion by slowly replacing the nerve cells around him with his own, corrupted
tissue. Phil feels a little unwell but carries on with his life as usual,
working as an investment banker late into the night, shifting money around, his
accounts growing with the same inevitability as the creature inside him.
Over time, Tumour
feels the edges of its body being agitated. White blood cells pound the
boundaries of his body, leaving debris in their wake. Retaliation comes
swiftly, growing like ivy, finding the lymph nodes and choking their blood
supply, devouring the dead tissue and claiming it as its own. It spreads around
the body unimpeded – dividing and conquering.
Lumps appear on
Phil’s body, and he starts to worry, he books a doctor’s appointment for a
week’s time. That is when Tumour crosses the blood-brain barrier and claims
Phil’s mind. Sight, sound, smell and touch flood into Tumour. At first dazzled,
then filled with wonder, Tumour comes to terms with the changes. Within a few
days, Tumour begins to understand the strange world in which it exists. It
knows it needs to act fast before it is carved out of Phil’s body. Tumour
begins to flood Phil’s bloodstream with a tide of endorphins. Phil calls the
doctor to cancel the appointment.
“Sorry to cancel but I feel great now!”
Brains are strange
organs. A human brain requires around 20 per cent of a human’s food intake, and
it needs it in the form of sugar. But Tumour is the new brain now, spreading
from head to toe, from thalamus to thumb, from cornea to coccyx. And he is
hungry. Phil can hardly keep up. Chocolate
and fast food populate Phil’s fevered dreams. He eats as much sweet food as his
stomach can hold but finds himself always wanting more. Tumour drives him
harder and harder to eat more and more until he stops sleeping entirely,
reduced now to merely feeding.
Fortunately for Tumour,
Phil lives alone so the strange changes that have come over him of late have
passed unnoticed. He was fired from his job a few days ago after he stopped
turning up. Phil has become completely isolated. To tell the truth, we should
probably call the body that was once Phil – “the vessel”. For Phil is now
little more than that. Tumour has total control now.
Even this isn’t
enough for Tumour. The thing about cancer is it rarely spreads to other
individuals. Transmissible cancers are freakish oddities in the natural world. Tumour
isn’t most cancers though; Tumour can think and feel and right now all it can
feel is a desperate urge to spread and grow. There is a whole world out there
waiting to be discovered.
Tiny lumps begin
to appear on the roof of Phil’s mouth. They are, for want of a better word,
foetuses — small bundles of stem cells coated in a sticky substance with a
nerve bundle at their core.
Now comes the
tricky part. Wielding its vessel like a master puppeteer, Tumour lands a job at
a burger joint. It is perfect. The kitchen is hidden from view behind a closed
door and he is the sole cook. Music blares out of the room at all hours so the
customers can’t hear him spitting his tiny offspring onto each and every burger
he prepares. Most will be dissolved in stomach acid soon after they are eaten,
but some, just a few, will latch onto the lining of the oesophagus or stick in
the mouth. From there they will grow and eventually metastasize into the blood
and from there... from there anything is possible.
I thought it might
be useful to start recording my thoughts so I can look back on the changes that
came over me. I am becoming quite accustomed to my new existence. Navigating my
vessel’s memories proved somewhat of a challenge but I have now mastered the
skills and knowledge that it built up during its life. I am, without a doubt,
the most intelligent creature on Earth. Just as my vessel became me, so humanity
shall itself evolve. I am not human; I am what comes next.
is a second-year molecular biology student at UCL who has published a range of
scientific papers and is CEO for a peer-reviewed journal.