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The Road Not Taken

  • The Road Not Taken
    The Road Not Taken

It was a perfect day. The sun was at its best—scorching enough to warm your face but not your tea. Sperman stretched himself and sat in his bed, curled up among his blankets, looking through the window. Outside, people were still finding their way to their respective destinations. He remembered his first day’s meal and the long nap that had followed. Those were the days. He highly doubted if he could ever be that carefree again.

It had all started when Sertoli reappeared the day after his previous instruction overload.

“I hope you’ve had good times, Sir,” Sertoli had asked with a benign smile and a slight bow.

“Why, yes, my boy! After my long journey to the ridge, I think I could now make ten of them again”, he had exclaimed, only before adding quickly, “I mean, I hope I’m not planting any ideas in your head, though!”

Sertoli, being the humble servant that he was, gave an artificial chortle and proceeded to do what he does best—a paragraph of incoherent words strung together delivered in a monotonous unforgiving tone of a complacent order.

“I’m glad you are well rested Mr. Sperman. For, the following days are going to be a tad busier. As I’d told you on your arrival, you have several important decisive steps ahead. Added to that, you also have to keep up with all the processes that are asked of you. Blah...blah...blah…”

Sperman had zoned out after that. He had only caught some well-known, fancy-sounding words like, ‘replicator’, ‘cell-cycle’, ‘mitosis’ and ‘Ribosomer’. But, the most worrying fact was that it was the last would be seeing Sertoli.

Since then, he had fed his unique code into the replicator. The replicator had taken his codes and had made another exact copy of them. Further, yesterday, he had started the Ribosomer that had read his codes and translated them into proteins which are now ready to be used in the cell-cycle process. The cell cycle—the most arduous journey which was to be done today.

The bed looked welcoming for more sleep. The warmth of his blanket engulfed him and he just sat in his bed thinking about what is to become of him in the future. The more he thought, the more anxious he became. Unable to stand the weight of his own thoughts, he jumped from his bed and peeked into the nearby Adler’s room. Adler was still deep in his sleep.

“Poor guy. Must have worked a lot yesterday,” Sperman thought and went over his usual morning routines.

After a unusually long shower and short breakfast, he sat down to kick start cell cycle. He switched on the ‘Spindler’. The machine roared into life and began working with a distinct hum. It had direct connection with the Ribosomer, so the appropriate proteins for the spindle fibres were aptly supplied. Not knowing how to pass time, Sperman traced the monotonous working of the Spindler. But his mind wavered wildly.

By the end of this cell cycle, he would have another identical persona of himself. One should stay here while the other should move one floor down to become A2. He still hasn’t thought about what he was going to do. What with all the hurry, he did not have time to consider his decision.

On the one hand, he could be well off, staying back and enjoying the various comforts of life like timely food and lengthy naps. On the other, adventure awaits him in every step down. The catalogue had read that after identical three stages, there is a new process called Meiosis.

All his life, he had encountered only mitosis. Now, his curiosity would definitely murder him lest he finds out what meiosis is! His mind was fighting a battle between comfort and adventure. Between being confined within four walls and being out there exploring the world. Between what would be logical and what would be daring. Between reality and his dreams.

Spindler was giving a different sound now. Sperman came back to reality with a jolt and checked what was happening. The process had been successful. The fibres were in place. The checkpoints in the process were all crossed without much ado. All that he has to do now is to wait for his identical twin to materialize. Soon enough, the spindler and the ribosomer both stopped, producing an ominous silence. He soon saw what he had expected to see. It was like looking at a mirror. Well, he had given the replicator his pair of 23 unique genetic codes—46 in all—so he better look identical.

As they both stood not knowing what to do, there was a brief knock at the door and in came Sertoli.

“Well, well, well! Look at both of you! So identical to the last detail! You have done a wonderful job, Sir. I came here as soon as I saw your mitotic cycle coming to an end,” he said being visibly excited.

“So Sir, now that you’ve made a copy of yourself, one should make a decision as to which one of you wants to go to the next floor. That person would get transferred one floor down while the other would stay back on the same floor. Now, this same rule is followed for the next three floors. Remaining instructions will be provided once you reach the fourth floor from the top - that is when you become an official A4 Sperman”

“Also, Sir, everyone in your room will be making the decision at the same time and mostly you would end up sharing your room with the same neighbours. I hope your decision is ready. The counter near your bed would beep in some time and you could then input your choice. This way, the entire floor would decide at the same time. Any questions, Sir? ”

“Nothing Sertoli. Thanks for your assistance. I hope I’ll see you soon as an A4!,” winked Sperman at Sertoli. The latter left the room confused as to how Sperman made his decision so quick.

In the nearby room, Adler was just talking to his twin and he faintly heard that he was planning on staying back. Sperman rushed to meet his friend.

“Hey mate! I heard you are staying? Is that true Adler?”

“Yeah my man! Think I got accustomed to this luxury that I just want my rest of the time unmatured, till the time arrives of course. You’ll always have my twin for company. We are essentially the same. But I’ll miss you Sperman,” said Adler and hugged Sperman.

“Yeah, I know, it is rough terrain ahead. I just hope I could make it!”

“Just remember. Only ‘U’ yourself can make, a Sperman into a Superman.”

With that, there was a loud beep and Sperman entered his decision on to the counter. What followed was just a recount of what happened since his arrival to the A1 floor. He would be escorted to the next floor and would work diligently for a couple of days to get the processes going. In all the floors, his decision never wavered as to if he should proceed or just take some rest. At long last, he reached A4 and was on the verge of finishing his Ribosomer work when Sertoli entered the room.

“Hello, Sir! How good it is to see to you after so long! Hope everything is going well?,” Sertoli asked.

Sperman, tired from the continuous cycle of spindling and twinning, was happy to meet a familiar face. “Well, Hello Sertoli! Yes, everything looks fine. I was just expecting you. Tell me, what instructions do you have for me now that I’m an official A4”, Sperman teased Sertoli mimicking him.

Sertoli chortled to himself and said, “Well, I’m here to guide you, Sir. I’ve nothing but instructions and knowledge to pass on. So, now that you are an A4, the decision becomes a little serious as there is no going back. Until now, there was always the possibility of staying back and enjoying life. But now, once you decide to go further, there is no turning back. So, I’m here just to advise you to sit and think about it before jumping the gun.”

Sperman thought to himself. His decisiveness hasn’t changed all through the last three floors. In no circumstance has the comfort of staying back had beckoned him. He might as well go further and see what the world is upto.

And so the decision was made. The counter beeped the next day. He was transferred now to floor B where he found a memo saying,

‘Congratulations! We all admire your daring heart to take the plunge. This floor’s instructions are similar to what was done before but the next floor is when the fun really begins. So, we hope to see you all soon there. Adios!’

“Gosh! Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any more monotonous” exclaimed Sperman.

More Ribosomer. More spindling. And one more cell cycle. Just one more Mitosis. Sperman waited with his identical twin brother for further instructions. He took deep breaths to prevent his heart from racing. Both of them, being identical as they were, paced around the room like a PhD student who had just presented his thesis! The knock finally came. Sertoli stood there beaming at them with pride.

“My dear B-Sperman. There you are. Crossed the barriers. Braved the chasms.”

“Not really, I mean I was just following instructions. But, go on. Fought the terrors?”

“Yes, you do deserve a good pat on the back. But, before that, let me just brief you on meiosis. I know you haven’t come across meiosis before. It is not any different from mitosis except for one thing. For mitosis, you would be feeding in all of your 46 unique codes (a pair of 23) which are copied and fed into the machine so that your twin too has the same 46 codes as you. Also, at the end of mitosis, there would be two identical persona. But, in meiosis, there would be four at the end. And, all four of you would not be identical to each other in any sense.”

“Um..Question! How can we not be identical when we are giving our own unique codes inside the replicator?”

“Good question. In meiosis, there is a scrambling process. Consider a jigsaw puzzle. Mitosis is like copying an entire intact picture into another persona. But in meiosis, we scramble up pieces of your code within each set. For example, the first pair would have two codes. We take pieces from the first and put it into second and vice versa. This happens for all the 23 pairs. And, might I add, this is a very random process that the meiotic computer would take care of. Towards the end, your initial 46 codes would be reduced to exactly half or 23 codes.”

“Okay, that sounds interesting, I guess. And frankly, quite scary too. Anyway, let us get on with it!”

“Oh and also, in the first part of meiosis, your codes will be reduced but the second part is just another mitosis. So, finally we will have two pairs of Spermans, each pair unique in their codes. Now, off you go!”

Both of the Spermans went to the newly installed meiotic PC and fed in their 23 pairs of genetic code after which Sertoli helped them into a nearby room. Time passed. Soon, Sertoli came from the room accompanied by four Spermans of two different codes. Though they looked alike, their unique codes gave them their own personality quirks and traits.

Sertoli was moved to tears when he saw the result of his mentoring. Four healthy Spermatocytes.

“Sirs, I have to say this is a very emotional moment for me as it is for you too. You are in the precipice of making a change. For now, you have passed the first process of spermatogenesis. There is another, might I add, a gruelling one, that would make you what you have always wanted to be—the Sperm. I will be seeing you shortly but for now, I would advise you to take some rest. I think meiosis would have left you all quite confused and weird. Take some time to find who you are and close your eyes into slumber.”

For there are four Spermans now, but let us focus on one of them.

Sperman could sense a change in him. The code he had received was not his original one. His 46 codes have definitely been scrambled and reduced to one half (23) and his gut feeling couldn’t be wrong in telling him so. He retired to his bed and tried to sleep. But, he couldn't. Now that he was on his journey, where is he going to end up? How significant will his 23 codes be? How many more transformations before he could mature? Tune in next month to know of Sperman’s final journey into genesis.