“All those beauties in solid motion
All those beauties, gonna swallow you up
Hi hi hi hi hi hi
One time too many
Too far to go
I – we come to take you home”
– Swamp by the Talking Heads
The lyrics of Swamp were pounding in my brains as I cleaned up what I could and threw the rest of the mess into the autoclave bag. At least I hadn’t knocked over all the flasks. Maybe there was some hope for this experiment.
“Poor cells,” I crooned, “you don’t know I’m trying to kill you, you just happily drink your sugary media and work on dividing.”
“How strange it must be,” I mused, “living life as an immortalized cell line. Do’in nothing but going to through mitosis again and again. Crawling around the dish looking for something to do.”
Ah, wait a minute, crawling around the dish?
They certainly were.
I closed my eyes and saw cells crawling everywhere, out of the dish, onto the floor, and out underneath the closed door of the tissue culture room into the hallway.
I threw open the door (just to check, mind you). The creepy janitor was outside. (Stalking me? oh well, can’t worry about that now.)
Run! I yelled. Run!
He stared at me and I imagined a growing mass of tumor cells metastasizing up his leg.
He started yelling too, when I swamped him with a bucket of bleach! That would do it, and maybe even take away the smell. He did have awful B.O.
What should I do? Frantically, I ran away and tore up the stairs to see the scruffy guys who’d given me the cells.
All right, what’s going on! I confronted the scruffiest one, the American from Oregon.
Haven’t you read Frankenstein? he laughed.
Don’t you know that you’re crossing a dangerous boundary when you work with immortals? We gave you immortalized cells that were derived from an embryonic stem cell line. You are tampering with knowledge that man is not meant to have! Bwa ha ha ha ha!
I ran away, crazy laughter echoing in my brain.
“Click click – see ya later
Beta beta – no time rest”
“I – we come to take you home”
They never found the janitor
or his body.
The secretaries were convinced that they’d seen him on America’s Most Wanted and that he’d skipped town.
And my late nights in the lab are through.