Lords of the World
Restlessly tossing and turning in bed at her home in a rural town, Mrs. Földi had strange visions. The months old cough of the forty-five-year-old worker and mother of one was steadily worsening. All the medicines prescribed by her doctors were useless — nothing could eradicate the new germ called UMN.
While she was trying to get some sleep, the bacteria held a conference in the Nose. Almost every body part sent a representative to this crowded organ; even remote, poor parts mustered up a delegate or two. This meeting followed in the footsteps of a number of previous conferences, one time in the Thigh, another time in the Belly, discussing the necessity of releasing less toxins into the cells.
At one time only the dwellers of wealthy organs produced toxins, while inhabitants of the poor regions were most affected by them. Lately the rapidly multiplying populations of impoverished regions also began manufacturing more and more poisons as a side effect of their activities. Although some densely populated, well-off parts, such as the Nose, were inclined to make certain concessions, the delegates of the rich parts were generally only present as a bogus demonstration of goodwill. Their focus, as always, was on profits and power struggles with rivals.
The conference went on for a long time. Finally participants were bullied into accepting a phony resolution, as representatives of the Ass, the most powerful, most aggressive part, blocked any meaningful agreement. An illusive treaty was adopted to gradually decrease toxin emissions to a level a few minutes before. Even this was in vain: The Assians, who made up five per cent of the population but used twenty-five per cent of the energy stolen from Mrs. Földi, soon refused to honor the agreement.
Philosophers of UMN bacilli have long debated how they emerged in the body of Mrs. Földi. Inhabitants of different organs had told colorful tales which have fallen out of fashion when the doctrines of the Nose gained ground. The germs of the Nose had, a few months before our story, gotten very numerous, swarmed all over the body and began producing toxins. Original inhabitants all over were killed off, used as slaves, or, more recently, converted to the Nosian faith.
Nose-dwellers initially held that Universal Mind (whom they envisaged as a huge bacillus with stern cilia) created them out of nothing. Having perceived themselves as the only true embodiment of the Creator, increasing their numbers was a Holy Purpose, taken for granted. Even when the theory of gradual development from inferior forms to the sublime state of UMNness prevailed, the holiness of their kind remained an unquestionable principle. Once they realized the world had bodies other than that of Mrs. Földi, some began to speculate that their ancestors may have arrived from another, faraway land. Leaders immediately began constructing plans to conquer those distant worlds.
A long time before our story some bacteria achieved enlightement. They directly perceived their Oneness while still retaining an individual form. A few of these wise ones tried to teach their cohorts — late descendants used their names in the wars against their neighbors.
The ancient ones, such as the original inhabitants of the Ass had lived in harmony with other creatures. They believed every being, including other bacteria, viruses, amoebas, protists to be equal. They held that even Mrs. Földi was sentient whose needs must be respected. These primitives were the first to be exterminated by the soldiers migrating from the Nose. The new arrivals used the resources of the new land to build an empire with a colossal army. They fabricated little capsules out of cell membrane and sent two bacteria to Zsolt Földi junior. A few seconds later the explorers returned with glory and a sample of molecules from the bald, pimpled head of Zsolt Földi. “Victory!”, the tinkering Assians cheered. “We truly are the lords of the cosmos! Our conquest of the universe is imminent!”
Mrs. Földi woke up. She sat up and drank a glass of water. “What a nice dream I had”, she said to her husband. “I was a whole world, full of little creatures living inside me. They were growing, multiplying, making love, fighting, they had poets, warriors, philosophers. I’m feeling a bit better now. Maybe I’m on my way to recovery. Just don't let little Zsolt catch this strange disease!”
Mr. Földi caressed her back with tenderness. “I don’t think they can'“, he mused. “It seems they can only propagate themselves in your familiar warmth.” He put the covers over her. “Now go back to sleep, my dear.”
Inside the UMN continued multiplying. The poisons they released into the cells kept increasing in variety and quantity. The heat became heavier. More conferences were held, more wars fought, more trips made with the omnipresent smokeblowers. The fever of their host increased.
Lie-machines were lying more and more loudly. “It’s not warm!”, they roared. “This seeming rise of temperature is a part of a longer rhythm. We are between two cold spells, a decrease in temperature is soon to be expected. Modern bacilli install cell-conditioners. Buy one of these superior cell-conditioners now! Install it in your cell and experience the pleasant coolness immediately!”
Cell-conditioners, while lowering the temperature of the target cell, produced more toxins and further warmed the tissues of Mrs. Földi.
Fortunately progressives also became more and more active. Enlightened, long-term-thinking, caring bacteria joined forces with their compatriots from all over the body. Their numbers grew; they were busy working, propagandizing, making their own lie-machines, travelling with their smokeblowers to spread the word of love, to attend more and more conferences. They knew the Universe to be on their side. Such a great species cannot become extinct!
The next day Mrs. Földi died. With her perished the quarreling UMN bacteria, together with all other microbes: flagellates, quick ciliates, pretty amoebas and all other life forms.
Two ciliates managed to crawl onto a mortuary worker at noon. This story was related to me by their descendants.