My previous travels have been forgotten, yet I know what is happening to me. The only life I’ve ever known was one of high expectations and disappointments. My dreams have been treated as mere fantasies and I’m expected to go wherever the flow takes me. Surrounded by others like me, I know that I’m not alone; yet I feel a longing towards something more than just routine cycles around a fixed path of mazes. I want to be a brain doctor, and I know that this isn’t just some crazed teenager phase I’m going through. Every time I pass the carotid arteries I hold my breath in anticipation. Alas, I feel as though I will never make it to the top.
I make my way up the gloomy street Inferior V.C. The narrow alley is charred. The rows of apartments and shops have been decimated. A strong current rushes past me, taunting me forward. The rough hem of my ruined shirt dances in the waves. I move on-ward. There’s an intersection ahead. I squint my eyes to try and make out the street name: Superior V.C. I narrow my eyes as happy strangers rush out of the street they’ve been traveling down. They are all fat and smiling. ‘Superior’, I thought, ‘one day, I’ll be walking out of there, de-oxygenated, yet happy.’ Their laughter dies as they see us approaching them, us in our tattered clothes and dreaded silence. Mothers grab their young ones and pull them away from us as we near them. At some point they will have to integrate with us, for we are all going to the same place: The Right Atrium.
We all funnel into the small, damp, chamber. I clutch my designer ‘Hemoglobin’ purse to my chest. The walls tremor as more of us file in. We are all hushed; this is real silence. There’s a distant sound building up, the tremors turn into small compulsions! The walls are collapsing in on us! I hear a scream leave my mouth as I am thrown forward and I tumble ahead. I see a small flap in the distance that appears to be swallowing others up. I can see their faces, they all wear the same terrified expression. I am nearing that dreaded flap now, I see TRICUSPID scrawled in graffiti on the walls near it. I close my eyes and hug my purse (for I have no companion to comfort instead). This all seems so familiar and yet I feel tears welling up in my eyes. There seems to be a suction now, emanating from the flap (witch I now see is actually three flaps)! It’s pulling my legs down into its black hole! I can no longer resist the drag. WHAM! I hear the flaps slam shut just missing my limp body.
I’m in a new cavity now; it’s bigger than the first. The walls are erect and seem stronger than those of the Right Atrium. I collapse on the ground (I’m not the only one who has done so) and stare upward at the ceiling of my cage. I can scarcely see the words RIGHT VENTRICLE etched out on the ceiling. I slowly prop myself up and gather my belongings back into my purse. I pause when I reach for the Carbon Dioxide molecule. The filthy thing has latched onto me like a leech ever since I gave my Oxygen molecule to “The Leg.” I think about trying to scrape it off and leave the wretched thing behind, but every time I try, it just seems to bind closer to the iron hair clip I keep in my bag. I stand up and gaze at the groups of people surrounding me. I see a group of other inferiors along one wall of the Right Ventricle and I float over to greet them. They are very welcoming, they make room for me in their circle and we discuss where we are going from here. One of the boys I met said that he met a Sickle Cell back in the Right Atrium. I didn’t believe him. My mother used to read me bedtime stories about Sickle Cells, how they were bad creatures who ate children who misbehaved. Of course, after I turned eleven I stopped believing in Sickle Cells (as did the majority of us). The boy insisted; he kept saying that even though most of the cells in this body bought accessories from hemoglobin A, some people still shopped at HBS. I didn’t say anything to his face, but I thought he was very stupid.
Memories were slowly trickling back to me about my previous ventures through this vast pump. I knew that at some point we would be thrown back into turmoil as this chamber squeezed us through another small valve. I knew that chaos was going to strike soon for I could feel the slight vibrations of the walls. I bid farewell to the inferiors and weaved in and out of the clusters of frantic people. Suddenly the ground gave a sharp thud, I felt as if an electric shock had rippled through me. Now there was madness. Families huddled together; many where crying and some were even trying to grab on to the papillary muscles and chordae tendinea to keep themselves from being thrown in through the next valve. I didn’t know what to do. Was I supposed to wait to be thrown forward with the next tremor? Or should I willingly force myself through the valve to spare myself the discomfort of being squashed. I was neither crying nor wallowing in self pity as I made my way towards my chosen destination. I fed myself to the devil. I walked right in front of the valve and waited. As soon as the walls started closing in on us, and the wails of terror turned into screams, I pushed my body through the pulmonic valve.
I guess my idea was stupider than I thought. I didn’t realize that another chamber was not awaiting me on the other side. I had stepped onto a roller coaster, a water slide, whatever you want to call it. It swiped my feet out from under me and I sped down the long, smooth, tube. I was tumbling in every direction, being thrown into smaller and smaller tubes until I barley fit. Somehow I knew what I had to do. I reached into my purse and grabbed the carbon dioxide molecule. I held my hands above my head waiting for something extraordinary to happen. And finally, all was well. I felt better than I have my whole life, it’s like the sky had been lifted off my shoulders. Air rushed by as the blessed oxygen molecules showered down around me. I frantically grasped at the air until I finally closed my fingers around a perfect, comforting oxygen molecule. ‘Yes!’ I thought ‘Finally!’ Someone barreled into me and shoved me out of the tube I was stuck in, I progressed through a maze of wider, and wider tubes until I was, finally, pitched out onto a nicely paved street. I gathered myself and looked around at the buildings surrounding me, to try and find a clue to where I was. “Pulmonary Vein Train Station” was emblazoned on a majestic, pillared, building ahead.
We were sheparded onto a sleek, crimson colored train. The atmosphere was one of bubbly laughter and commotion; we were all bobbing up and down in our seats, reminiscing over the oxygenated excitement that had brightened our days just moments before. The short train ride led us into the Left Atrium. Despite all of the happiness surrounding me anxiety was slowly tearing my soul apart. I was closer to the aortic arch than I had been in a long time. My destiny could be shaped one way or another all depending on which artery I was to leave the aorta from. Would I be fated towards my dreams, or away from them? I was a nervous wreck.
There was no screaming as the Left Atrium contracted. Instead of tumbling over one another we bounced off each other and playfully dived through the Valve labeled ‘Mitral.’ We were happy to be let out in a huge, wide chamber where we were free to dream and shout about where we were to go next. I heard young boys tell stories about traveling to the liver, and some girls dreaming about going to the right pinky finger. I found a nice padded area on the firm, resolute, ground. I sat there hugging my knees to the chest. I rocked back and forth, others skirted around me in fear that I was a mad-woman. I could not be bothered by their trivial discomforts. Was I about to live out my dream? I silently prayed to the brain that he would choose me to care for him. The words ‘Brain Doctor’ and ‘Carotid Artery’ now consumed my thoughts and floated around in my membranous head.
The ground shook, this was it. This was all I had to live for. This contraction was the most powerful I have ever experienced in my life. I was roughly thrown forward I slammed into others who, in turn, ricocheted off the walls. I barely noticed as I was thrust through the aortic valve. My thoughts were focused on getting into either the brachiocephalic artery, or the left carotid artery. I tried to maneuver myself to get to the top of the aortic arch and ‘YES!’ I made it into the brachiocephalic trunk! But I was going too fast; I was spinning out of my fixed path. I no longer had control over where my body was going. Before I could comprehend what was happening to me, I whizzed into the Right Subclavian Artery. ‘NOOooo!’ I heard a voice yell out, that was my voice. I had missed the Right Carotid artery; I was losing sight of the only precious thing left in the world. My hopes were getting farther and farther away from me as I tumbled down the arm.
And all was dark.
I am an old red blood cell now and I realize — Life isn’t one thing after another. It’s the same thing again and again. I never made it to the brain.