THE DIABETIC DISASTER
Insulina the Insulin Molecule pounded her fist against the door in frustration. She’d tried knocking politely, ringing the doorbell, waiting a minute, and then knocking again with some more doorbell-ringing in between, but the cell simply wasn’t answering. It was unheard of. Cells always responded to hormones, otherwise they wouldn’t know what to do half the time! She looked over her shoulder to see the Glucose molecules snickering at her expense, and tried to regain her composure.
She cleared her throat and tried again.
“Hello, ma’am? This is Insulin Molecule Three-Four-Six on behalf of the Pancreas. I have a shipment of Glucose for absorption and orders for you to initiate fat storage immediately.” She waited a moment, leaning forward hopefully just in case…
Insulina resisted the urge to rub her temples and turned around to face the crowd of Glucose taking obvious delight at the very awkward situation. She glared, and the gleeful looks slowly melted away.
“Just… just stay right here,” she ordered sternly, trying to maintain some sort of control over the situation. The Glucose brats shifted uncomfortably under the heat of her stare as she racked her brain for ideas. A few of the mischievous ones began inching away from the larger group, eyeing the blood rushing right by. There was no protocol for this kind of situation, no training given for an emergency like this—and this was an emergency, Insulina was sure of it. Cells not responding to Insulin Molecules? What was happening?
“Hey! Stop right there!” One of the Glucose molecules—probably a teenager by the looks of it—had slipped out of the tissue with a cry of joy as he was swiftly carried along between some red blood cells. Another molecule, with a rebellious look at Insula, followed suit. She watched him go with a sinking heart. Glucose types were already difficult enough to handle on good days; she couldn’t imagine the trouble they would get up to if left to their own devices for any length of time.
“If anyone else moves an inch, I’ll send you right back to Lord Liver,” she threatened before entering into the bloodstream as well, letting herself be carried back to Headquarters. She had no sooner approached the Pancreas than did she realize that she wasn’t the only one in need of some guidance; there was a crowd of Insulin Molecules hovering about anxiously. Insulina began shouldering her way through trying to reach the front but the sound of her own name made her lose momentum partway.
“Insulina! Over here, Insulina!”
Craning her neck over the many heads milling about, she spotted her sister Insuletta waving an arm enthusiastically, and made her way over. “Hey, Insuletta. What in the human body is going on here?”
Insuletta shrugged helplessly. “I’m just as confused as you are,” she confessed. “I went out on my rounds like normal, but some of the cells weren’t responding—”
“You, too?” For some reason, Insulina wasn’t surprised.
“Me and just about everyone else here,” her little sister confirmed with a dismayed look. “At first I thought I was just making a rookie mistake—I was so embarrassed!—so I came here to talk to a professor, maybe get some help, and turns out everyone else had the same idea …” She shrugged, gesturing to the crowd milling about.
“…So now we’ve got a crisis on our hands,” Insulina finished with a sigh.
“A crisis it may be, but it is also a very interesting time to be alive!” A nasally voice spoke up from behind. The two sisters turned to see their tall, lanky neighbor Insulary approach in all his bespeckled glory. “I, for one, am particularly enthralled by this new development. Do you really think the cells just woke up today and decided to make things difficult for us? Nay, my friend—this is a new age! A new beginning! In Insulakespeare’s famous words, ‘The world magnificent hath no—’”
“Insulary,” Insulina said warningly. Once their friend got started, nothing could stop him. Beside her, Insuletta giggled.
“…It’s called Insulin Resistance,” Insulary finished meekly. He blinked his watery eyes and readjusted his oversized glasses, looking at Insulina nervously; she tended to have that effect on him, the poor guy.
“What is that, some kind of cell revolution?” Insuletta asked.
“For someone who managed to score as high as you did in the Hormone Graduate Exam, sometimes you really astound me,” Insulina rolled her eyes. “Insulin Resistance, my dear, is when the cells become insensitive to Insulin Molecules like us. Grandfather told me about it once—apparently they used to teach about it in school, but it’s not in the curriculum anymore.” Beside her, Insulary nodded eagerly and opened his mouth to begin yet another lecture but quickly deflated under Insulina’s pointed look.
“But why? I mean, we’ve had such a cordial relationship with the cells for fifty three years—are they offended or something?” Insuletta wrung her hands in worry.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Insulina scoffed. “What could we have possibly done to make them mad at us? Ask them to store more fat? They love doing that already. If anything, we should be the ones offended! We’ve been working extra hours trying to compensate for the lack of new Insulin Graduates, and our overtime pay sucks! Someone should really tell the Lord that we need to recruit more Insulins. Do they have any idea how hard it is to manage Glucose Molecules? They’re such whiny little brats…”
Insuletta tentatively agreed. “Now that the cells aren’t up taking them properly, there’s nothing keeping them out of trouble; they’re everywhere. Traffic was absolutely awful on my way over; it’s like they’ve taken over the bloodstream.”
“Actually, you’re pretty much right,” Insulary piped up eagerly, eyes bright. Insulina rolled her eyes but motioned for Insulary to continue; he might spontaneously combust if he stayed silent for too long. “Since the cells aren’t using the Glucose properly, it’ll start accumulating in the blood. Meanwhile, Lord Liver will think that because our Human doesn’t have enough energy and isn’t metabolizing properly, it needs more Glucose so it’ll start making more…and then we’ll have more Glucose…but it won’t be used… so it’ll just start accumulating…” He trailed off as the girls simply looked more and more horrified.
“Do you mean to tell me that we’ll be soon flooded by those—those—” Insulina was at a loss for words, and for once Insuletta couldn’t agree more.
“Oh, my…” She said falteringly.
Insulary shrugged. “It’s called hyperglycemia,” he added helpfully.
“How do you know all this?” Insuletta asked, her mind trying to wrestle with this newfound information. Insulina threw her a scathing look, as if to say ‘We’ve got a crisis on our hands and you want to know that?!’
“I did some light reading,” Insulary said sheepishly.
“You call that light reading? Good grief.” Insulina looked at him strangely while Insuletta looked more and more impressed by the second. Oh Lord.
“I thought it might come up in the Graduate Exams!” He said defensively.
“Alright, you guys,” Insuletta interrupted loudly, trying to redirect the conversation back to the issue at hand before her sister began making doe eyes at their gawky neighbor. “What are we supposed to do about this?”
Insulary shrugged. “I don’t exactly remember,” he confessed. “I only read this stuff like fifty years ago or something. My best guess would be—”
“Shh!” Someone hissed fiercely from behind. Insulina turned to glare at the rude stranger but became aware of the sudden hush falling over the crowd. Everybody was craning their necks, trying to catch a glimpse of a figure climbing the stairs to the small stage set up in front of the Pancreas Institute. Lord Insulin was finally making an appearance. Insulary pushed his glasses up his nose to see better, and even Insulina looked humbled.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all for assembling here so efficiently,” the Lord began in a grave voice. Insulina felt her heard sink; this couldn’t be good. The Lord rarely made an appearance. He usually send one of the Noble Insulins to speak to the masses when an announcement was to be made, since he was so busy directing the Academy in training new Insulin Molecules.
“As you have probably noticed, the cells have undergone Insulin Resistance. This is a rare phenomenon in which the cells stop responding to our authority.” A collective gasp went through the crowd; Insulina, despite being somewhat prepared for this announcement, felt herself shiver. At least she didn’t have a gobsmacked look on her face. Beside her, Insulary nodded sagely.
“We had long since suspected that this day might come…But we shall not be cowed by cellular disobedience. We shall prevail!” The Lord stepped off the stage and entered the crowd, which parted before him like the Red Seas. Insulina and her sister plus their offshoot friend found themselves being pushed back against the press of bodies as everyone tried to give the Lord a respectable amount of space, but still remain as close as possible. “This is a sad day for us all. We have been regulating the metabolism of Carbohydrates and Fats of our Human for fifty three years, and nothing can stop us. We will do our duty until the very end!” The crowd roared in agreement.
“To this end, we have been increasing enrollment in the Hormone Academy. Beta cells have been attempting to produce more Insulin Molecules, and there have been more graduates of the Honors Insulin program to battle this insensitivity—but the truth is, we have been experiencing difficulty with maintaining our high standard of Insulin secretion lately.” He looked pained and his voice became grave. “It hurts me deeply to say this, but our secretion levels have been at an all-time low.” Insuletta looked horrified at what she was hearing and Insulina felt pity for her younger sister; being a rookie Insulin Molecule was hard enough without having to deal with a crisis. “I will be engaged in dialogues with Lord Liver to talk about Glucose management; as you might have notice, Glucose Molecules are taking over our blood highways. I am sure that we can tackle this problem is we remain professional, efficient and—”
Everyone turned to look at the flustered looking Molecule stumbling into view; Insulina, taller of the two sisters, craned her neck to get a better view. “I don’t recognize him,” she hissed in response to the questioning looks sent her way.
The Lord looked irritated at the interruption but gathered himself gracefully. “Yes?”
“Message from The Brain, sire,” the poor thing panted, holding out the missive for inspection. The Lord Insulin snatched it from his hands and scanned the message, looking increasingly troubled.
“I see…” He said softly, reading the message for a second time before pocketing it. He turned to face the expectant audience again, a grave look on his face. “My fellow Insulin Molecules,” he began, this time much more subdued than his earlier confidence. “I have some bad news.”
The entire crowd inhaled as one.
“As of this moment, we are in a state of emergency. Diabetes mellitus type 2 has been declared.” Insuletta gasped, hands flying to her mouth in horror. There was a stunned silence for a grand total of three seconds before chaos broke out. The uproar was nearly defeaning.
“My fellow Insulins! Please, I implore you! We must remain calm!” The Lord raised a hand calling for silence. When moderate quiet had been achieved, he continued. “As we know, the Lord Liver has been releasing inappropriate amounts of glucose into the blood even against our advice. Unknown to us, The Brain has been monitoring blood content and activity for some while now and has informed me that the blood glucose levels have now passed 7 mmol/L consistency. Despite the Beta Cell group’s best efforts to increase Insulin Molecule production, I am deeply grieved to say that we alone will no longer be a sufficient army to combat this new condition. As such, The Brain has decided to recruit outside help—” Insulina gasped; someone behind her fainted, “—and has advised our Human to engage in extracurricular physical activity…”
There was a mounting dread amongst all the audience as the Lord spoke his next words. Insuletta grabbed Insulary’s hand and held on tightly; he squeezed back.
“… But for all intents and purposes, we are at war.”