One More Time Around

A despondent and dull red blood cell mechanically follows routine, but glimmers of memory remind him that his struggles are part of a meaningful cycle, and a brighter moment is just around the corner.


Log line: A despondent and dull red blood cell mechanically follows routine, but glimmers of memory remind him that his struggles are part of a meaningful cycle, and a brighter moment is just around the corner.

I’ve been sluggish forever. What’s the point? Twisting through these tunnels with this smelly crowd... Most are like me, but then there’s the odd perky one, who I like even less.  But they’re not bright for long. Their day will come. Soon they’ll take a wrong turn onto a narrow path, returning broken. Join the zombies. 

I think I used to be bright like them, but that was a long time ago. Was it just a dream? Now everything’s dull and grey.

We creep along like twigs in a crowded stream, going where pushed without rhyme or reason. 

“Good morning,” cheers a bright young one, bouncing up to me. She has this broad smile for no reason. 
I don’t say anything, feeling too tired to respond.

“Isn’t it beautiful?,” she continues. I don’t want to know what she’s talking about.

She sees my blank look. 

“This beat. This rhythm. I love it!”

Silly creature. She’ll get hers soon, I think as we drift apart. 

“Have a great day!,” she cheers again. 

As I said, the few bright ones won’t stay bright for long. 

I guess I shouldn’t complain. I don’t want anything, and I’m not alone...

But what kind of life is this? What did we do to deserve this? Where did I go wrong?

Mole people all around. And that’s me too, creeping along to nowhere.
“Excuse me,” says another one with bright eyes.

“Come a little closer,” I think. “Let me pop your silly little bubble.” 

“Where are you going?,” he asks me.


“I'm new to all this and I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do.”

I pause. “I'm not going anywhere.”

“I was told there's something important for us to do.”

“Try squeezing off into one of those side paths…”

“Thanks for your help!” He says as he bounds out of reach.

Why did I tell him that? Was I just being mean? Odd, but it seemed like the right thing to say.

I still feel sluggish, but I start to notice a few things.

We aren't the only creatures in the tube. A few small, spiky creatures also float along. Like firefighters, they seem alert, waiting to be useful.

There also occasionally are these big, white, goopy creatures, like something out of a movie. Edgy, on alert, like soldiers near the front. They seemed like they could hurt someone, but I wasn't scared. Like policemen around a riot, they seem ready to do some damage and take someone out.

There also are other bits floating along with us, tiny rounded cylinders that clump together like passing clouds. A few times I saw the big white globs jump into action, like sharks to a school of fish, descending quickly on some of these growing clouds of rods.

What are they doing to them? It looked like the white globs were surrounding and eating the little rods, or shooting at them.

I get the idea that some day this will happen to me too, but I’m not alarmed.

I saw all this from a disinterested distance, as if looking through gauze. I’m still dull and tired, but starting to feel a little better.

Another strange thing I notice is a beat in the river. The water doesn't just flow smoothly. A pulse pushes us along.

It does seem like we were part of a dance. We aren’t just dragging along, as I thought. We pulse together as we moved. Dom–dom–Bum, dum–dum–Bum. I’m still too tired to smile, but that bright one this morning was right, and it seemed to be getting louder!

I turned a corner. What’s that? Our pipe leads right into a huge labyrinth, a narrow, tangled puzzle. Like a whale’s mouth, and there’s no way around it. We flow into tiny tubes and combs. 

Things are worst that I thought. We can’t just float along, we have to struggle. Tortured for no reason. Strange thing, I get the feeling I’ve done this before. What’s the point? Whose game is this?

Before I can think about it too much, we’re doubled over, bent this way and that, squeezing and turning through tight spaces with no end in sight. I wonder again: What’s the point? Why not just relax and give up?

Going around another sharp corner, I notice that the walls are spongy and filled with those big white blobs. Before, in the blood, they were rare. In these walls, they‘re packed in, peering down, watching us as we struggle along. A chill passes through me. 

The look on their faces, watching us, waiting, and the absence of the rods, gives me the idea that we‘re lunch. Again faint flashes of memory. This is some kind of testing ground, and I’ve been here and made it through before...

Then I see I’m right. In the narrow grating next to me, some old-timer, an erythrocyte (lot) older and (a lot) more tired than me, can’t make it. He just can’t bend and squeeze anymore, and, like a lamb to slaughter, instead of struggling, he gives up. A white glob, like a big spider, crawls out from the wall and surrounds him. Without protest, the old red blood cell is gone, his body melted down and taken apart.

That was peaceful enough, not violent, just a gentle passing. And my doubting questions are answered. I know this isn’t for me. No way. It’s not my time to give up. 

I find new strength, and I am going to use it to get through this maze...

RBC story continued

I made it out of the maze and was back in the tube.

“Whew, we made it,” a red blood cell next to me casually said.

“Yeah, I didn't know I could bend like that.”

“It was a stretch,” I agreed. “I'm sore all over.” I looked over at the friendly neighbors. The first was about my age, maybe a little older, with a calm, rosy face.”

The other was a much younger cell, bright red and very pretty. She was the kind I would have impulsively hated not long ago.

“Wow, I thought I might lose it and give up several times in there.”

“Me too. I know what you mean. At one point I got angry and tired and just wanted to give up.”

“I'm glad we didn't.”

Looking at her, I was glad we didn't too.

“What's your name?”

“Reggie,” I answered.

“And what your name?” He asked her.

“Priscilla,” she answers. “What’s yours?”


“Well Tom and Reggie, it's nice to meet you both.” I think everyone was in a good mood after getting through that long ordeal. We swam together, turning this way and that.

The pulse, which I guess was always there, only you got used to it, like the pull of gravity, was considerably stronger and growing. It wasn't just a beat, but a force, bouncing us with each tick and pushing and sucking us forward. (Was this my imagination?) It sure seemed stronger and louder.

If you didn't relax, it was kind of scary, like nearby thunder.

“Let's hold hands,” Priscilla said.

Tom and I didn't have to be asked twice. Our hands darted out and, Priscilla between us, we swayed together with the pounding current.


“Row Row Row your boat,” Priscilla led.

“Gently down the stream,” Tom and I chimed.

I was still tired, but I wasn't thinking about it, especially with Priscilla around, that's for sure.

“The itsy-bitsy spider…”

“Climbed up the water spout!” We all three cheered.

We sang along, the beat growing.

“In the jungle, the mighty jungle,” Tom led.

“The lion sleeps tonight!” Priscilla and I answered.

(I noticed we were yelling now.)

“Wait a minute,” I yell. “Why are we yelling?”

He's right,” Tom growls back.

“It's gotten so loud,” Priscilla yells. “What's going on?”

“I want to hold your hand!” Priscilla leads

We were bouncing with the pulse, squeezing her fingers. “I want to hold your haaaannd,” Tom and I answer. 

The beat, loud and still growing, pushed us through the water. The light confidence we had felt after the maze evaporated. The beat’s getting scary now, but that old bitter old feeling was beat out like a dust beat out of a an old rug with a broom.

“Don't let go,” Priscilla said squeezing our fingers.

“Don't worry,” I assured her. “We're going to be all right” I was starting to feel stronger and wasn't afraid of the growing pounding.

We turned a corner and I knew right away that up ahead was the source of all this beat. Like a wall of speakers at a loud rock concert, a large structure loomed ahead, vibrating, beating on the liquid in which we traveled. It was like a big balloon, or fist quickly growing–expanding and collapsing–shrinking ba-boom, ba-boom.  A flap door opened and closed in rhythm, opening when the ballon expanded, to suck us in, and closing when the balloon collapsed. When it expanded, our liquid rushed in through the open flap, and we were sucked in with it to an entrance room, which had a curvy, undulating texture of the inside of a conch shell. Our hands couldn’t stay together; our interlocking fingers torn apart. With our entrance flap shut, when the entrance room collapsed, we were spit through a short open corridor, into a similar but larger room. 

“What's going on?” Priscilla called out to me. “Don't be scared,” I called back across to her. “This is something good.”

I wasn’t scared. I faintly remembered all this - past, present, and future folding together like I always suspected it does. I’ve been here before, or had sensed the future, like a smell wafting backwards in time, or some crazy thing like that.

This is the part where things turn around for us, like the tired guy waking up after a long rest, or the weak guy returning to the beach after building his muscles, or the bedridden sick guy finally getting up better, miraculously rejuvenated after almost giving up.

Like walking into a haunted house in a scary movie, which I see in Priscilla’s eyes, the flapping doors close shut by themselves as we enter, but unlike a scary movie, the inside room is cavernous, organic, beautifully carved with folds and tubes, and a flap opens up in front of us, which we are rapidly pushed through. The sound is almost deafening, but I realize we are made for this!

This is the beginning, the first half of our rejuvenation! Now this large room collapses, the entrance door shut, exiting door ahead flapping open, which we shoot through. I hear not only sounds of the very loud mechanism, like the sound in the belly of a large ship’s motor, but along with all the scared screams and elated yelps of my fellow travelers. As we shot out that larger room enclosure, we all exclaim loudly with terror or joy. It just seems like things to do.

I still feel dull, but energized now, like the tired college student after studying late into the night with several cups of strong coffee. And for some reason, racing through the pulmonary artery, I knew my dull period was about to come to an end. Heart, lungs, rejuvenation double punch. I was about to become/join one of those bright eyed ones that I had sarcastically sneered at for so long. That’s why I sneered, I suddenly realized, I was jealous and cut off from my true nature, which they uncomfortably reminded me of. Now suddenly I was filled with good cheer and loved everyone. I had lost sight of Tom and Priscilla, but it didn’t matter. “All together now, all together now.”

As somehow expected, a strange beautiful, new, huge item soon loomed up ahead. It looked something like a gigantic Christmas tree from some mall for Giants, only the trunk hung upside down. Instead of needles or leaves, it was filled with thin-skinned, hollow grapes covered with fine-veined little tubes, tiny root hairs, which rooted decoratively in every direction. The whole display reminded me of a ceiling-to-floor exhibit of undulating, tissue-thin jellyfish I’d once seen at an aquarium, but the jellyfish were stationary/anchored i place.