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.
Bain took the corner past the optic nerve towards the retina, trying to keep his mind off the last argument he had had with the red commander of the circulatory system. He spotted the eye-engineers as they put in some rods for night vision while gingerly ensuring that enough cones for coloured vision were in place. There had been some vitamin A influx through the intestines earlier in the day after a meal containing sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables and carrots, so they had supplies for some maintenance. Bain felt the human eye was one section he needed to keep an eye on. If the eyes failed to function well, the activities of the human body would be hampered, and the mother-body would no doubt be distraught. He took another bend, checking out the progress of work; glad that the optic nerve was secure and doing well. It served the wonderful purpose of transmitting the necessary light impulses to the brain through about one million nerve fibres for interpretation as images – a rather powerful influence for the nervous system.
As he walked along the corridor of the retina, he saw an unmistakably bright coloured cell approach him. He didn’t need to be told who it was; the dress sense and colour capture spoke volumes sharply contrasting his own plain white colour. It was Opta, who had now opted for the name “Iris” because she felt it was trendier. Bain couldn’t help but agree that she was just like every other eye controller he had heard of. Perhaps it was as a result of their everyday view of the outside world and the constant exposure to different colours that made them so showy, extremely fashion-centric and unbelievably vain. (In fact, it was said that one controller had almost changed the name “Iris” to “Eye-ris” but for the timely intervention of that body’s brain commander.) Anyway, whatever it was, Bain knew that from a distance, he would always be able to distinguish an eye controller from the rest of the body’s commanders and other unit controllers. Eye controllers were always very flamboyant, loud in their clothes colours, (which could change on an hourly basis depending on how they felt), and were always a deceptive form of target practice for microbes aiming for the eye since they could change outfits even in battle like the skin of a chameleon.
Iris smiled gaily at Bain, delighted to have the commander of the human brain in her precious territory.
“Commander,” she exclaimed, “How delightful!”
As much as Bain tended to criticise Iris’ almost blinding colours and occasional egotistic manifestations especially in the area of fashion, there was still something very likeable about her, something rather humane. There was a warmth Iris exuded and it was usually at its height when she was discussing or displaying the latest technology she had observed the humans acquire. In fact, Bain suspected that what she carried in her left pouch was not the regular cell communication equipment. It looked like… no, Bain thought to himself, it couldn’t possibly be. But when he looked closer at it again, it looked like a made-in-the body version of the latest human I-pad Iris had painstakingly discussed at the last meeting of commanders and controllers a few months earlier. She had even proposed her own “Eye-pad” franchise, believing it would be most profitable if sold to other human body eye controllers. No doubt, her engineers were doing all they could to keep up with their superior’s high appetite for the trendiest things in the human world.
And to think that he, as the commander of the human body did not even have such a sophisticated gadget. Arrghh! He wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other commanders already had their own cellular versions. They all thought he was too conservative and a bit old fashioned. Nevertheless, he was going to have some talk with Caeca, commander of the digestive system. The nutrient rations for the body were to be used to preserve the body and not feed Iris’ whims.
But when Bain focused again on Iris’ innocently radiant face, he couldn’t help but rethink his decision. Surely Caeca already had enough in supplies, which was probably why she could indulge the eye controller. And as they approached the lens, he noticed that Iris looked so happy, just like she had the first time she had seen that sophisticated human device, and painstakingly told them how badly the body needed one. Her arguments had ranged from making life easier, communication faster, work more efficient and a whole lot of other things. But Bain had tried to shelve it, insisting the cost would be too much for his department. Yet Iris, no doubt, seemed to have found some legal way of obtaining it. And that puzzled Bain as he wondered who she communicated with using the “Eye-pad”. Perhaps it was just for fashion he rationalised before he realised that he was getting too mixed up with personal communication issues.
Iris, totally unaware of Bain’s thoughts, walked with him towards one of the highly efficient muscles that changed the shape of the eye lens when focusing upon near or distant objects in order to produce a clear image. The muscles were in great shape with no need for concern. Satisfied, the two cells began approaching a special short-cut to the tear glands when Iris’ “Eye-berry” phone rang. She had got that custom-made as well, Bain could see, when the body commanders… and the mother-body, had refused to get a personal Blackberry phone for the body. He knew she would have an android-like phone hidden somewhere and perhaps another trendy phone from the inexhaustible world of technology – specially made to suit the fancies of the human eye controller.
Iris’ eyebrows went up slightly as the voice informed her of an impending strike from the outside.
“Eye-eye, copy that,” she said and then put the phone back in her right pouch. Turning to Bain, she spoke very matter-of-factly, her face expressionless, “Commander, there has just been some dust entry to both eyes. We do not know what to expect. The eyes have blinked several times in a bid to clear the dirt, hands have tried to rub off the dust as well and the tear glands will soon produce tears to wash out what is left. We don’t want you in the heat of battle or worse still; missing in action, Commander, so I will have to accompany you to the special security elevator that will take you straight to your office. You’ll be safe there.” Noticing Bain’s look of disapproval, Iris quickly added, “There might be some very ferocious germs in the dust, Commander and we wouldn’t want you to be caught in the cross-fire. You as a casualty would be too great for us to bear. We need you more in the brain, in the central control unit.”
Bain understood but didn’t like it. It was part of a drill they had rehearsed over and over again when the body had been a lot younger but it still made him feel like a coward being whisked away from combat. He knew commanders had to be sheltered and if necessary, quickly evacuated from danger in order to marshal more troops and destroy the enemy swiftly in the event of an attack. But what hurt him now was to see that he had to be protected while those young innocent cells that had been hard at work would have to face the enemy in battle. And some would lose their lives, just so that this body could continue living happily… with him as head. Such huge sacrifice!
As he walked with Iris towards the special security elevator as suggested, he wondered why there had to be fights, contentions and wars when peace was just such a sweet and desirable end. Why was there so much evil in the world, with so many cells trying to possess what really didn’t belong to them and destroying everything else in the process?
It hurt indeed as he reflected once again, that perhaps that was why it was necessary to choose the battles they went through early enough by preventing the diseases, by stopping the micro-organisms from breaching their territorial security systems. That way, fewer soldiers and even fewer cells would have to die or suffer the pains of yet another war.
He was still walking alongside Iris as they approached the pupil when she turned to check a discrepancy they had just passed. In less than a microsecond, Bain had been pushed to the floor before he heard the whistle of Iris’ made-in-the-body laser powered missile. It was the latest of its kind and Bain was beginning to worry about the technological advancements of the eye. There would soon be a need to investigate some free moving particles in the eyes that surfaced when they were closed in relaxation.
Regaining his composure albeit not very pleased that Iris was making him feel incompetent military-wise, he wondered why Iris had carried out the “cowboy” manoeuvre. Turning back, he saw the object of Iris’ fancy – a rather ugly yellowish virus – being dragged off by human cells for disposal while Iris blew the lid of her weapon and checked it to prevent any malfunction in future.
Bain hoped that one day, he wouldn’t be sitting down quietly in his office, trying to think of very important tasks when a drone would appear in his office, trying to smother a virus Iris would have spotted from her extremely sophisticated self-made eye-CCTV. He knew she wouldn’t kill him no matter how badly he offended her but he worried at the way she destroyed the microbes, without even a chance for interrogation. The only time micro-organisms had time to play around in Iris’ unit was when hands tried to help sort out some itchy feeling. And you could tell from a mile away how angry, upset and red-eyed Iris would be.
Dusting his pants slowly, Bain recalled the day eyes had been caught in the conjunctivitis scare. The conjunctiva, which was the thin clear tissue that lay over the white part of the eye and lined the inside of the eyelid had been invaded by viruses and had become inflamed. The viruses had raided with a beautiful strategy, starting off with an unexpected and highly irritating entrance, followed by unwelcome itching which caused hands to scratch intensely and which led to redness of the eye. This was followed by discomfort inside the eye, blurred vision and soon watery discharge from initially only one eye. It wasn’t long before the other eye was infected (thanks to hands’ transmission) and some bacteria decided to join the party organised by the viruses. Iris had been terribly upset, her fashion sense being flung out of the window as she wore grey most of that sad and combat-filled day before finally settling for red in order to mourn the red blood cells and blood vessels that had been damaged while scratching. And boy, had that infection rocked the body.
The brain could really not do much work as the viruses kept wreaking havoc, paving ways for ordinarily incompetent bacteria to take advantage of the situation and causing Iris’ visual powerhouse to be trampled by white blood cells who didn’t care a thing about her beautiful garden, stylish wardrobe, dainty colours or flamboyant technological machinery. All the white blood cells wanted to do was obey orders and those orders better be in line with their commander’s; because the only thing they were concerned about was getting rid of the sickening creatures that had invaded territories in the body they had no right to enter.
So while the viruses pranced about, trying to buy enough time to multiply adequately and enable hands or other means spread the disease through transfer of their viral gangs to other humans, the bacteria capitalised on the situation and tried to evade the white blood cells. Iris’ unit’s activities dropped considerably with vision being blurred. And as was always the case with intruders in the body, there was general discomfort in the body which became almost irritable as the fight raged on and some systems lost focus. It would take some days before Iris would regain control of her unit from the fierce looking white blood cells and the hideously annoying micro-organisms – the far more sinister looking viruses and the very hungry bacteria – that had paid her unit an unsolicited visit.
And after a good consumption of vitamin A containing foods, lots of water and great treatment from the doctor with a dose of advice about viral conjunctivitis being highly contagious (the need to avoid physical contact with others, improving personal hygiene and washing the hands frequently to reduce the rate of spread to other humans), Iris had come back feeling happy and grateful for the quick recovery of the eyes. And all the cells could easily tell her mood because her outfits for subsequent days were so dazzling, many cells could only wish the white blood cells also had orders to destroy a good chunk of Iris’ chic wardrobe and accessories.
Yemi Sanusi is a medical doctor with a Master’s degree in Business Administration 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.