That music came from the stars.
Outer planes. The boy looked upward and forth toward the sea, beyond the distant horizon. Aloft, astral microparticles formed cupid-like figures, with pointed arrows against the galactic broth. Below, tiny waves carved spheroid projections of planetary aggregates around seashore tiles, resembling a grayscale terrazzo. Fornicating forces at the mid-sea generated a palisade of thrust against the spirit of the airstream, a slowly-vaporizing whirlwind, vacuumed out of the stardust. The ocean glaze was blanketed by the cobalt sky, mirroring the image of long-forgotten clouds in the middle.
Hypoechoic signals from resident underwater mammals travelled in the water, passed through the middle-atmosphere and beamed right onto the boy’s inner ear cortex. These transitions were intertwined with proximal sounds of unknown, incoming flight maneuvers from feline creatures preparing for landing. The resonance was translated as an alarm pheromone, evolving through the child’s brain.
The boy, then, rushed to the water to incept his foray. And not a moment too soon, he vanished underneath. Embraced in a familiar playground, the seaborne “brook” led him just towards the whalephant mouth, while the monster was osmotically balancing with the electrolytic constituent of the surface, somehow managing to maintain a façade of thirst. Deterministically, the small boy was swallowed from a whalephant, deeply ensnared in a nirvana state, during the passive process of electrolyte exchange. Trapped within the pitch black burrow, suddenly the boy felt the warmth of the interior mucosal steams, bubbling from the esophageal walling, beyond the whalephant pharynx. He felt the rejuvenating beat of the nearby arteries, hosting the dense, sweet bloodstream and pressed his palm on the tic-tac pulses, ejecting himself via inertia, deeper and deeper into the abyssal channel of the gastrointestinal tract. Orbiting in an almost astronautic pace, the boy intuitively closed his non-experienced eyes, released his muscular tension, and opened his heart to the creature, so that they could together become one.
And then he was lost, waiting to be born for a second time, at a future threat, since he was nothing more than an alarm pheromone.
Approaching the futile fight, against the dying? The prophet asked. He, then, performed an incision, bringing the scalpel beside the intervertebral disk, between the first two cervical spines. Avoiding the nerve endings from the posterior plexus, he kept moving underneath and downward to the white matter, aspiring to reach the pinnacle of his faultless technique. This gave RX242 the climax of pain, a soothing twinge.
“I am orbiting only a few trillion strings away from the time-target”, RX242 whispered and then fell unconscious. The nervous breakdown charged his spineless body, leaving a shade of exhalation, like final words of a long-forgotten poet. A lungful of secrets. Exhausted. Energy-depleted. Like pretending to live a life he has always been dreaming of, especially, during his docile and modest childhood.
He was merely a child before breeding this rasping feline progeny. His progeny…
His little army!
I’m going to fix you! You will thank me! The prophet reassured him, familiarizing RX242’s dream pictures with a subtle mid-tone in his voice. A welcoming apparition, it was. Once he had a mother! Was this song of hers, what he remembered now?
It sounded like that, but he could only remember the gist of it.
… to be a river!
… from another mother
…you’re my lover!
The whalephants patterned in a war mode formation, together, directed by the small child which in fact served as a pure alarm pheromone, imminently released from their proximal jawbones. This allowed them to intellectually sense the co-occurrence of freshly-landed felines on the outland terra, providing an ample justification for the alarm.
The leading whalephant leaned forward; its enormous body tilted momentarily in the waterbed and initiated a formula of events towards the rest of the flock. The cohort crafted a net-shaped stride, rising from the back and moving forward, forming a rhombus-like parade, so as every single individual would have access to any incoming transition, by the leader at the core. Sooner or later, the leader whalephant would have digested the full information given from the child. As a logical sequence of events, the child would have become a thinking process for the whalephant memory; the memory would become an action potential, diffused in a sun-like manner at a vast velocity, and with avid concentration gradients along multiple axes around the creatures and then whalephants would have been capable of protecting the planet from the invading felines.
This process took, in fact, only a few seconds; by that time, the modus operandi was perfectly clear. Whalephants were granted with cognitive reasoning for a short period of time. Theoretically, this timeframe would be more than enough to dispose of the emerging threat. Subsequently, the nature of the threat was recognized; whalephants pictured clearly the alien felines wandering around in the vegetation, squeaking at coral bushes and being tamed by caressing forest zephyrs. The felines were mutually coordinating their transmitting growls in a concentric mode, screening the whole region, hoping to track down potential inconsistencies of the wavelengths that would betray the presence of the time-target. The felines remained in a close proximity to each other, to better amplify their signal and succeed in their mission, in the best possible way. The adjacent trees, eternal recyclers of the middle atmosphere, roared in a futile attempt to resist the powerful and authoritative feline aura.
Typically, after immunosurveillance was activated by the child, “soundantigen” presentation could be easily performed at the sites of antibody production within the whalephant marrow. The “police” pheromones were now under the procedure of massive production from the bodies of the entire whalephant flock. Given the nature of the threat, police pheromones would soon overflow the whalephant bloodstream, raising the systolic pressure to hazardous levels, those approaching a lethal stroke. But, the whalephants would be on the safe side, as long as they were keeping the defense formation, feeding each other with the protective film, decalcified from their upper jaws.
This process would allow them to simultaneously release huge amounts of energy against their enemies!
“Will you please take good care of my dismembered back?” RX242 squeezed, almost in panic, “I just felt that cut!”
It is indeed strange, this malignant tumor; trying to incorporate itself into the grey matter and stay attached there. A medical mystery! Sparse colonies, here and there. Hmmm… We might need to find another way through it… Get ready for another trip! I am going to stay close to your grey matter, for a while. I am going to try something innovative, in here.
Com’ on. You like it. I know you like it! The prophet said, while injecting more anesthetic into RX242’s vein.
“How is that? How do you know?”
Once… once I was there, lying on the bed, too. Time was of the essence at that point. My progeny had just landed on a new, unknown planet. That planet was empty of life. Vacant. But, where there is nothing, there is always something to grow, right? Waiting for its own existence. It was a perfect chance, a perfect opportunity to build my empire! To find my place in the universe! You know, it’s very hard not knowing where you belong… After that moment, I knew! I knew where I belonged…
His hands were shaking. This was way too stressful for a pure memory! He stayed tuned for a moment, releasing the anesthetic beyond the safety valve, almost down to dangerous levels. To this extent, he realized, he was once a maker like RX242, himself. A multidimensional architect… struggling against handfuls of nervous system tumors, as well. This was the fine They had to pay! This was the weight They had to lift!
How lucky he was! His own procurator was a true catch; a demonic and remarkable prophet. He was always one step ahead, foretelling about incoming tumors, even before they bring out their symptoms. This is why he, himself, was able to live for so long and construct this entire circus of love and hatred, life and death! But now, he could not but wear the mask of frustration. RX242’s chances for survival were scarce, and he could even file printed evidence for that. But the shame mainly came from the fact that this was his very first tumor; no matter the case was not medically fascinating, still… it was giving him a hard time. His own master was much more worthy than him… He was respected.
After I fully recovered from my first brain tumor… he whispered to RX242’s ear, I found so much creativity within my lungs, I wanted to breathe it out, I didn’t have the stomach for idleness anymore. I could witness striking colors and distinguish the most complex modifications in them, bearing sounds from animals that never existed, and probably never will. I could hear inner voices, howling for a desperate urge to be born, begging for a place to flourish, such a dreamy setting! That moment, I knew I could father everything! I was ready for that; I had been prepared for it…That was when my first progeny popped out, the whalephants! Beautiful and elegant creatures, oh God!
RX242… Are you listening?
He was sleeping there, comatose.
After the police pheromones were activated, the whalephants deployed a first-line mind attack, efficiently surpassing the external echoic barriers from the feline frontal lobe filters, causing severe bleeding out of their nostrils. The telepathic assault caught the felines by surprise, so several of them fell down, deep into lethargy, unable to endure the instant shock vibration. The rest of them rallied together, to produce an assembly awakening, and be better prepared for dodging the oncoming assaulting waves. The assembly awakening successfully stabilized the hemorrhagic state of the still-standing felines; yet, offering a defensive net around them, like a handcrafted, carefully-woven blanket. The leading felines growled stonily to produce a diversion net; thus giving some time for the group to reorient itself geographically, prepare physically and mentally and begin working out the nature and potential source of the threat.
It turned out to be a vascular war, between the two species.
The whalephants charged via a second line of echoic waves, similar to the first one, hoping to finish up the story, but this time it was completely absorbed by the diversion net. As soon as their echoic wave hit the net, a reactive reflection was diffused into the middle-atmosphere causing a chaotic retaliation pattern, wavering a myriad of baritone projections. Random stiff echoparticles returned to the whalephants in a boomerang fashion, consequently injuring and literally fragmenting most of the whalephant eardrums; the latter could not but fail to intercross their routes, and erroneously change their flexible formation into a non-stochastic nautilus-like shape. Even worse, some of the creatures got lost into the void of the ocean, and being unable to re-rail onto the predestinated course, they fell off route and got pushed deeper into less-oxygenized areas of the bottom of the sea, into trackless trip zones; these were condemned to lose their association to the whole and their communication with the main body, like synapse-deficient neurons. These misplaced whalephants had not only gone insane but furiously, they were navigating without any direction-based rationale towards an infinity sequence.
The leader whalephant realized that the flock was in jeopardy and would soon shatter into individuals, signifying the end of the war. As a reflex, the reasoned whalephants neared themselves to an urgent, social adherence and collectively decided as one mind, to release a “unifying” pheromone, readjusting as many of the cast-outs as possible, to their initial biostructure.
Soon, millions of naked divers appeared at the whalephant teeth, and started swimming away from the creatures’ mouths, forming curvy strings and body chains of variable length around them. Destined to search for the lost mates, assisted by the whalephant march, they pulled their muscles, in pacts, to reach deeper levels. The divers patterned as fractals that looked like frost crystals or streaming pixels, dots in a row, drained by a pressurized fountain. In moments, the parade was spread around and far beneath the visible stroma, targeting the furious whalephants that lacked their geographic array and sided away from the main core.
The divers approached as many lost whalephants as they could and swirled around them. The gargantuan creatures, which measured at least ten thousand times more than the human body, were covered on all sides by the diver fractals. Myriads of divers started caressing the infuriated whalephants, still going at no specific direction, left on their own fate. The whalephant skin, rigid as built cement, fortified by anti-plasticity cell layers, was totally immune to the human touch and the diver caress would have an effect only after surpassing the critical threshold. This is why numbers mattered in this case! At some point, multiple diver touches, like tiny needles stacked in a hardened skin, got to the threshold allowing the acupuncture effect to occur, so the whalephants could re-obtain social reasoning.
The divers managed to heal more than half of the whalephants from their madness! The whalephants, listening to the hypoechoic calls, were able to relocate their family and soon were welcomed again to their strategic positions. The divers circled the entire flock and made it disappear from vision. Infinite numbers of divers were now swimming on the side of the whalephants and created an amplifying filter around them.
The revenge impact lasted less than a second. The amplification was so strong, that the next round of echoic waves made the felines all fall down, among the flowers. Ashes and dust.
The prophet stood there motionless and with mouth open. Tears dropped from only his left eye; the right one did not have a functional tear-producing apparatus, it couldn’t produce any physical tears, since he once had a malignant, highly-invasive tumor infiltrating his eyeball, removed from that place. Following a slow motion head tilt, he first looked at his wrist; there he could relive his real name, carved eternally via a signet ring and fire charcoal, sealing his identity with his own connective tissue that gapped the old wound. RX185. This was him! Nothing more than two letters and three numbers. A code chip. Then he turned his look at RX242’s lifeless body, lying onto the surgical table; past and glorious moments of his own dignity were now about to be gone.
Now, that RX242 was down to an irreversible coma, he had to unplug all life-support medical equipment and file up his final diagnosis. On top of that, sooner or later the interstellar specialists from the bureau of ethical medicine would pay a visit and investigate the case, creating a bureaucratic landscape in the wing, spreading around responsibility ‘cherries’ to everyone that could bite.
He sat as conveniently as he could in the pit, and felt the freezing aura of death in his belly and back. He then pressed the recording option on the black box, attached at the surgery room to initiate his descent into the ground-state truth.
This is a remarkable case of a tumor, which has never been witnessed in our department, “interstellar medical case-reports” before. The planet, I had to deal with, had a very sophisticated form of communication developed among the creatures that guarded it. This form of communication soon evolved into a highly-sophisticated system to provide a robust and concrete defensive wall against the mind-bred felines that my patient attempted to use as entry point and build-up his own memorable universe. However, my unfortunate patient couldn’t comprehend the nature of the complex intertwining of life units in this unknown territory… and unfortunately died in a futile attempt to establish his dominance.
I decided to call the newly-developed form of communication between the whalephants, as pheromone signaling, since it astoundingly resembled ancient forms of communication, in planets that housed insectoid lifeforms; these insects, for instance the so-called ‘bees’ were communicating with chemical factors and specific types of dancing with each other, since they had developed specific genetic backgrounds and specific phenotypes to serve the higher cause of the beehive which was its own survival as a full organism. Alert pheromones and other types of pheromones have been detected and isolated by our scientists in these insect communities.
It is still not clear what the nature and source of pheromones in the community of whalephants is; I suspect the co-existence of a symbiotic organism, which in this planet is a species, which name itself as humans or terrans. These terrans serve as the mediating factor for the conversation of whalephants in groups and assist them in surviving in this semi-waterworld. What do the humans gain out of this symbiotic relationship remains to be elucidated, though. And how, and when did the humans start to exist in this odd planet is also a mystery, since our medical pioneers did not observe any shift in the parameter of intelligence on planet Earth. In any case, I think that, for sure, an addition or mild change in the definition of ‘pheromone’, as currently described in the textbook of interstellar medicine is required.
The definition now writes:
A pheromone is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual.
Since, I have concluded that humans are not simply chemical factors, but an intelligent multicellular life-form of unknown origin, the pheromone definition should be rebuilt upon a diverse set of fundamentals. I will leave this to my successors, which hopefully will do better work than I did.
In the case that my opinion still matters to you, I would definitely propose that a new medical unit should immediately start discussions and scientific research over this new type of imminent threat, the ‘pheromone-dependent tumors’. I know not of the whereabouts of this malignancy, but I know for sure, that it will be a real challenge in terms of therapeutic management. Brace for impact.
To this bitter end, I would like to apologize to you RX242! I failed you. I now am ready to face the consequences of my incapability to prove myself as a true doctor of our universe. I am sorry to you Enlightened Force! May my whalephants be destroyed at some point! May a new patient prove to be stronger than me in terms of self-esteem and creativity… So miracle it is that imagination of world-keepers is nothing more than a malignant spread! The whole universe is malignant! Our sick minds are malignant! Tumorous, it is!
Log out. My last thoughts.
The prophet stood up and kissed RX242 goodbye. He then moved out of the surgical wing, alone and gloomy. There, standing in the borderless tunnel of light, shadows of four-five entities, the ethics investigators, were unhurriedly approaching, like zombies balancing in sunbeams. Their ship had just landed at the rooftop stardrome, seconds after RX242 died and they were already en route towards the main corridor.
These damn bastards were pretty fast! The prophet thought and was paralyzed in his crude state of mind, the one he earlier adopted; but now had already accepted.
The ethics investigators had their typical blue aura, soon turning into a purple one, after it was mixed with the newly-produced red around their phosphorescent blue circlet. This pointed out that these faceless creatures did not consider RX185 as ethical and their motives were not apparently naive. RX185’s adrenal glands already started making him nervous, while seeing a ghost party approaching him with eyes flickering as dim lights; like Charon thriving for a soul.
He knew not of what was going to happen to him. He was only hearing rumors that the ethics investigators push you to your very limits, balancing between sanity and insanity in the mental prison, up to the point you become a vegetable and want to die.
That is quite a destiny! The prophet thought.
He then smiled in embarrassment and agony, whispering an old song at the same time to create a diversion in his dark thoughts. His voice, though, stopped just behind his teeth.
In memories that came, I want to be a river!
Be born again from another mother
Leave my previous one to step aside
And tell my newer one that you’re my lover!
And then, unlocking his heart and body, he waited to get arrested.
Biological & Medical Terminology (alphabetic order)
Antigen Presentation: a process in the body’s immune system by which specific immune and immune-modulatory cells, capture antigens (specific substances from foreign bodies, e.g. intruder bacteria) and they are ‘presenting’ these antigens in lymphocytes (specialized types of cells that will produce antibodies and fight down the intruder). In this story adaptation, the term ‘soundantigen’ presentation is utilized, meaning that a same process is initiated but the intruder is a specific sound.
Bone Marrow: a flexible tissue found in the interior of the bones, a site where most of the immune reactions take place, such as antigen presentation.
Connective Tissue: Soft body tissue, whose main purpose is to heal wounds by producing collagen over traumatic areas.
Decalcification: A process by which most organisms liberate calcium from the bones. Calcium is essential for many metabolic reactions but also to transmit signals within the body. For this reason, decalcification is a mechanism occurring in all live organisms not only when there is calcium deficiency, but temporarily when an organism needs to transmit large pieces of biological information as signals. In the latter case rapid decalcification allows the signal to be amplified very quickly. In this story adaptation, calcium to initiate this process is obtained by the proximal jawbones, since it has been postulated through many scientific observations that underwater mammals (e.g. dolphins, whales) communicate with each other with transmitting sounds, originating from their jawbones.
Immunosurveillance: a process of the immune system, whereby specific immune cells reside in parts of the body that theoretically are not supported by the immune system (e.g. away from the bone marrow). Typically, these immune cells act as police cells, because they detect cancer cells and kill them.
Osmosis (osmotical balance): a passive process during which ions (or electrolytes), like sodium and potassium pass through semi-permeable membranes from high to low concentrations. Some water mammals actually exchange potassium and sodium with the sea when they need it for their tissue homeostasis.
Pheromone: a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual.
Signaling: a biochemical pathway which is deployed as a consecutive series of biological events, resulting in a specific outcome (e.g. to increase the levels of sugars in the blood, etc). In this story adaptation, pheromone signaling is a series of events, triggered from pheromones and resulting in a social-biological outcome (social reasoning).
Vascular: regarding blood vessels.
George S. Karagiannis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece at 1984. He finished the School of Veterinary Medicine and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto in Canada, studying the molecular mechanisms of cancer metastasis. He enjoys writing science fiction, mainly in the sub-genres of (1) hard science fiction, (2) bizarro and horror sci-fi and (3) apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, but more often blending all those, together! His favorite science fiction author is Philip K. Dick, whom he has been reading since he was introduced in the field. He is also an abstractionist/surreal artist and his blog can be found here: http://abstractsur.blogspot.com/. He has a very short and recent publishing history and his personal site can be found here: http://karagiannis-sci-fi.blogspot.com/.