By Yemi Sanusi
This is purely a work of fiction, a result of the writer’s imagination. Any similarity to any individual or individuals is not intended.
As Eva’s mother watched her daughter at play in the sunlight, she let out a sigh of contentment. She enjoyed watching her daughter play.
When she was pregnant, carrying Eva, she was a young woman and had been completely unaware of the presence of a baby in her womb.
But you couldn’t say the same of Commander Zee. Zee, the commander of her brain, had been fully aware of the baby’s presence and had deployed young Bain to head Eva’s barely formed body in her mother’s womb.
Commander Wo, head of the womb, nudged her assistant. “Easy, easy, we’ve got to take good care of the embryo. She’s our first, you know.”
Her assistant smiled. “So I noticed, but I’m wondering, Commander – how do you know it’s a ‘she’?”
“That’s what was agreed at the fertilization meeting the first day the sperm and the ovum fused and started discussions on what they wanted ‘Project Baby’ to be.”
“Oh, okay. So, what do we do for her now?”
“Nothing much, just ensure there is a link between mother and child through the placenta. I’m quite aware that she’s getting a new commander soon. That will make things easier for me. All we have to do then – which we’ve been doing for some time now anyway – is maintain transport of food and other materials across the placenta.”
“Sounds like good news to me. So, when does the new commander show up?”
“Perhaps in a week’s time,” Commander Wo said. “By then, every other cell representative should have arrived and the baby would have become recognizably human.”
Commander Zee knew that with the over three-week old pregnancy, she needed to get a commanding cell to the womb as quickly as possible. So she chose one of her young protégés, who happened to be a young male cell, and prepared him for the revered position.
“You have to govern properly,” Commander Zee told Bain, the new commander for the embryo, “or else, you’ll be overthrown by any means possible.’’ After a brief silence, she said, “You may go.’’
Seconds later, she glanced at one of her advisors and said, “I wish I could follow him and guide him.”
That was the beginning of Bain’s journey to becoming a part of young Eva. After so many months of preparation for different roles, going through different departments in the mother-body, he was now going to be head of the newly formed embryo that was expected to go through all the phases a human baby must experience in the womb. And after the baby stage, she was expected to grow into childhood, adulthood, and then old age.
As Bain was being transported in a blood vessel conveying red blood cells, waste products and other materials from the mother brain through familiar structures like the neck and heart, he felt a wave of nostalgia and a tinge of dread as he advanced towards the womb.
Although he was pleased with his new role, he knew he had great responsibilities to undertake, and with such little experience, he hoped he would be able to function properly and work well with other members of the embryo team.
Would he succeed in this new role? So many cells couldn’t wait for the answer to this question.
When Bain got to the womb, he met the head of the reproductive department, Commander Wo, who was quite preoccupied with the new “item” that had lodged in the womb.
She had been trained to wait for this embryo all her life. It was her duty to ensure its safe delivery as a baby and was quite delighted when Bain, the new commander, arrived for duty.
As she took him on a tour of the developing baby and its environs, Bain finally began to understand that what had occurred had been an “explosion” between an ovum and a sperm, followed by a fusion.
There had initially been some confusion in the womb because the occurrence had been unexpected, but normalcy had been restored. Now there were lots of activities springing up from all quarters.
For instance, excited cells busily carried materials to the gradually-forming human, and delegates from within the body paid homage to the “foreigner” and tried to ensure its safety, growth and comfort.
It took a while for Bain to get a hang of what was going on but he soon adjusted. With the help of Commander Wo, he gradually got to know the heads of each department, some of whom had come from father donation. He also got to know what each department did so that with each passing second, his understanding grew of what his responsibilities were as head of the new body.
When Commander Wo took Bain on a tour of the embryo, she showed him where his office was to be located. It was similar to Commander Zee’s office but was smaller and not fully formed.
It was white, and had nerves and blood vessels and young brain cells all looking very neat and actively working at their duty posts. A few looked familiar. They had been friends of Bain’s in the mother-body. Others weren’t so familiar and Bain assumed they were either contributions from the father or were mother cells he had never come across.
Anyway, he cordially greeted them all as Commander Wo took him around and introduced him.
“So this is your primary territory – the brain,” she told him. “It’s the Central Controlling Unit, which for humans is at the top of the head, far away from the distractions of most of the internal systems. This brain is not fully formed yet but be prepared. Like the mother brain, it will be made up of more brain cells, blood vessels and nerves, similar to people, rivers and telecommunication wires in the human world.”
As they advanced into the brain, Commander Wo added, “There will be five major departments, each of which will help you function well once they are fully constructed,” and she showed him the locations approved for the departments.
It wasn’t the end of the tour for Bain, nor was it the end of Commander Wo’s discourse. She told him, “The brain is similar to the seat of government in a country of humans. In fact, it is the seat of power, the centre of authority, that place where major decisions are made. You are the head of this government, Bain. Any decision you make can have great consequences. Use your position well.’’
Bain’s thoughts went awhirl, as he tried to imagine the decisions he would have to take.
They travelled slowly to other parts of the head, which were still being formed. Bain had seen the design of the body in Commander Wo’s office. It was like an architectural piece and he couldn’t help admiring how the baby was being formed – a stunning work-in-progress.
As they advanced towards the heart, Bain started feeling the pulsations that could make a difference between life and death. He could see the defenders of the body undergoing training, like cadets in a military school.
“Hart territory,” Commander Wo said, naming the territory after the head of the heart unit, who was also in charge of the circulatory system.
Commander Hart, as she was called, looked every inch in charge. Short, stocky and red, with a constantly busy air around her, she had been a donation from the father-body and was of very formal outlook.
Commander Wo explained that Hart knew her responsibilities were a vital part of the baby’s survival and couldn’t bear to fail. Hart was, in Commander Wo’s words, “an uncompromising perfectionist.”
Commander Hart took over the tour and led them through the heart, and Bain observed that even at this early stage, the baby’s heart was made up of powerful muscles like the equipment of a generating plant, labouring ceaselessly at pumping blood to the rest of the body.
The blood was so vital because it carried all the food and oxygen and construction materials needed by every department, and then carried away all the waste products and non-useful materials of these departments to keep them from being clogged with un-necessary debris.
Now the placenta acted as the bridge for conveying all these things to and from the body. But once the baby’s body was fully developed and finally out of the mother, the lungs would provide the oxygen, while the digestive system would provide the nutrients. Commander Wo likened the nutrients to foodstuff found in human markets.
Though there were so many cells in the blood – red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood clotters, among others – the heart was red in colour mainly because of the many red blood cells.
Hart pointed at the four sections the heart was divided into to ease its function – the left ventricle, the right ventricle, the left auricle and the right auricle. They made things easier for collecting and distributing materials.
However, there were other support systems for the circulatory system apart from the heart and blood vessels. These included the bone marrow, which produced the blood cells in times of deficiency, and the spleen, which destroyed red blood cells once they were 120 days old. These, like all the body cells, were works-in-progress.
From the heart, Commander Wo led Bain to the lungs. She said it was closer to the heart than all the other systems and jokingly added that she really didn’t want to travel too far before getting a breath of fresh air.
The lungs were two pink structures located on each side of the human chest to take in air, which contained oxygen necessary for human survival. Because of the body’s constant need for oxygen, the lungs were never short of red blood cell supply, hence their pink colour.
The head of the unit was Commander Pulmar, a really cute pink cell who spoke with the thinnest of voices. Pulmar looked very vulnerable – as if the wind could blow her off her feet any moment. She had also been sent in from the father-body, but unlike Hart, she was quite shy.
In fact Bain thought she was the exact description of a lady. Commander Wo likened Pulmar’s territory to a refinery where all the crude air comes to, is purified and converted, and then distributed through the circulating blood cells and blood vessels to other stations.
Caeca had been Bain’s friend in the mother-body so it was a nice surprise to see her heading the digestive unit. Caeca was off-white in colour and had rough edges on her cell. She was the humans’ typical description of a tomboy, ready to do everything that wasn’t feminine. Bain wasn’t greatly surprised to find her heading that department.
Commander Wo described Caeca’s territory as a factory. As the digestive zone, it was the food area – that place where food came in as raw material, was chewed, then moved down the factory line to the gullet and then down to the stomach and intestines, where useful materials and products were extracted to different parts of the body.
Waste was transported to the anus, which then passed it out of the body as faeces. The liver, Commander Wo explained, was like a policeman, helping to sift through materials like drugs, in order to decide what was useful to the body.
Giving Caeca a thumbs-up and a good-to see-you-again hug, Bain followed Commander Wo to the kidneys. Commander Kidman, head of the renal unit, was not in his office, so Bain and Commander Wo had to track him down the path of the kidneys’ medulla and cortex to the ureters, and on to the bladder. Finally, they found him in the urethra.
Kidman was trying to settle a dispute between some cells of the father-body who felt that the urethra should be as long as what is usually found in a male body rather than in a female body.
Mother-body representatives had downed tools, deciding to be uncooperative if the urethra wasn’t going to conform with the template they had already structured in their memories.
Bain and Commander Wo found Kidman in a serious logjam, with the cells of the father-body thinking he was taking sides with the mother-body representatives because he had been sent by the mother-body, while mother-body representatives thought he was playing to the fiddle of the father-body representatives because he was a male cell. Kidman was distraught.
Fortunately, Commander Wo had anticipated all that was happening. Rolling out the architectural design and agreement made by the father and mother decision-makers at fertilization – the beginning of Project Baby – she showed them the planned length of the urethra, designed for a female.
The father-body representatives apologized, and Commander Wo reprimanded the mother-body representatives for irresponsibly downing tools instead of showing respect to the head of the unit by properly addressing issues.
Commander Wo pointed out that if all cells working on the body downed tools as they did, the whole system would never achieve its primary purpose.
Bain couldn’t help noticing that Kidman’s usually brown colour changed to a darker shade as a result of his embarrassment.
As Commander Wo and Bain headed back to the kidneys with Commander Kidman, Kidman gave a brief description of his department and its functions.
“The kidneys are two complex bean-shaped structures, one on the left and one on the right. They are both involved in liquid waste disposal, acting as filters for the body. Usually, the kidneys get rid of waste products through the urine by the process of excretion, but they also regulate some parameters in the body, especially when there are changes in environmental temperature. Sometimes they help other departments with functions that keep the body stable.”
Hide, contrary to what his name portrayed, was in the most visible department but had been nicknamed Hide because of his bullish nature.
He was a tough negotiator. The skin was his department and he needed his negotiating skills to permit or ward off foreign elements attracted to his precious territory.
Commander Wo gave the skin the code name “Military”, explaining that everyday Hide and his men would be under one form of attack or the other. She said the skin would contend with micro-organisms, and sometimes macro-organisms, from the air, water and land. Hide, she said, would need to develop a really thick skin to function well.
Hide agreed, noting the importance of being in charge of the body’s external defence, and added that Commander Hart had assured him that in the event of any injury or break in the skin, her cells would be prepared to defend the body against trespassers, as well as ensure a speedy and effortless skin-repair.
“Micro-organisms can live in Hide territory if they are friendly enough,” Commander Wo told Bain, “but Hide must ensure that nothing enters the body through his territory, no matter how friendly they seem, except in special circumstances or as a result of illness.”
It was gradually dawning on Bain that all the departments were interdependent. No single department could actually exist on its own. The survival of one was dependent upon the survival of the other, and the death of one would lead to the death of the other.
If skin had a problem and heart couldn’t help, the body would die. If the stomach didn’t function properly, there would be no food for the body. If the lungs didn’t get oxygen, the body would suffocate and if there was no blood, no organ would get nourishment or information and no cell would be able to move from one point to the other. Bain realized that his role was to ensure team work and to make sure everyone understood it.
Commander Wo and Bain paid visits to Musc and Sketer – heads respectively of the muscles and bones of the skeleton. Musc and Sketer were two cells that kept very much to themselves but liked each other a lot because they had to work hand in hand to be effective.
Musc was a thick-set red cell with horizontal black stripes who looked like he had been doing push-ups all his life. He rarely smiled. Sketer, on the other hand, was a cream-coloured cell who looked like a wizened old man, his slow actions and movements making him seem many cell-years older than his actual age.
Both of them could be likened to transportation and infrastructure – aircrafts, cars, ships and trains. Without them, the body would be like jelly, with no structure or form, and unable to move and accomplish tasks quickly and easily.
Next to be introduced to Bain was Commander Axon, head of the spinal unit. He was in charge of nerves. Commander Wo explained that the spine was barely visible, that was why they hadn’t made a visit there immediately after leaving the brain.
Axon was proud of his department even though it could hardly be seen. He was a transparent cell who had been sent in from the father-body. He had a rather good sense of humour although his jokes were usually on the dry side.
Bain instinctively liked him, though he couldn’t explain why. Perhaps it was because his department was so important to Bain’s, a fact that became clear after Axon analysed how the nerves worked.
“Nerves are like electricity. They work directly with all the body organs, the most noticeable of which are the sense organs – or the members of external affairs as I like to call them,” he added with a touch of his usual dry humour.
Bain attempted a smile. Commander Wo didn’t bother.
“Once an impulse is sent to us,” Axon continued, “it goes to a specific section of the department, like electricity going through a transformer. Activities here are routinely faster than the speed of light.” Axon smiled proudly.
It was almost at the speed of light that Commander Wo left Axon’s department to take Bain for an exploration of the guys in “external affairs” – the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Skin also belonged to this category but had already been visited. Nevertheless Commander Wo stressed Skin’s inclusion to ensure Bain knew his sense organs thoroughly.
“The guys in external affairs are mainly focused on telling the body what’s going on outside,” Commander Wo explained. “They pay little or no attention to what’s happening inside the body, unless it’s to their detriment.”
She went on to describe them as diplomats, saying they had considerable aesthetic importance because they were the first things the outside world saw. To the outside world, they were indications of what was happening to the body. Like human diplomats representing a country, if they appeared wrong, what they represented appeared wrong, too.
Commander Wo described the eyes as an amusement park, a resort, a tourist’s guide to everywhere. Most cells had fun whenever they went to eyes. They could see everything that was outside the body. The eyes were indeed the body’s window to the world.
The ears, on the other hand, were like musical instruments, listening and catching the sweetest of sounds. Both eyes and ears played a lot on the heart’s emotions, depending on what was seen or heard.
As for the mouth, he was like the body’s chef, knowing the difference between sugary, sour, bitter and salty. “Many times,” Commander Wo said, “the mouth can save the body from trouble, but can also put it in serious trouble.”
The nose, ears and eyes seemed to have a special connection with the mouth and Commander Wo said it was through the mouth that most of Bain’s decisions would be known.
“It’s extremely important that the sense organs are well formed,” Commander Wo said, “because of their role as external indicators that something is internally wrong.”
Bain was gratified to see how actively involved in “Project Baby” every cell was – from gene experts who acted like architects and wanted to make sure there was no problem in the genetic make-up of the baby, to red blood cells who acted as construction workers, bringing in materials for the baby’s development; to the placenta representatives who acted as a bridge between mother and child, and all the mother-body representatives who paid regular visits to ensure that their organs and systems were not neglected in the baby’s formation.
Even the honourable Commander Zee showed up unexpectedly one day to see how things were going and how Bain was coping. She seemed pleased with the progress and went off to speak with Commander Wo. The next time Commander Zee would show up would be to discuss with Commander Wo about preparing for the baby’s exit.
Bain knew the time was ever so near.
Yemi Sanusi is a medical doctor with a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lagos Business School. She enjoys writing and hopes to make positive changes through her works. She is the author of ‘Heads and Tales’, a medical fiction.