The Fillers

guy dark room

I love you, son. I thought I’d write that first. I don’t know how much time I have left.

Fillers have surrounded this abandoned house. Their breath condensates on the other side of the window. They don’t want to enter, yet they’ll still burst the door open. Helen and I left some Slime at a corner in Soho. The place was empty for a minute. Then Fillers came out of nowhere, rushing after us. I’m sure the Slime got to them, but it’s still dark and too early for it to react to sunlight. If I don’t make it out of here, I want you to know how this war is, how to fight when your hands can hold a weapon.

I was one of the first to spot a Filler. He bumped into me and everyone else on that street. He didn’t turn back, or listen to the angry shouts. He kept going, and kept eating from his shopping bag. He looked like any other man, he moved like any other man, but he didn’t listen or talk. He just ate and walked.

It wasn’t long until more of them appeared. They didn’t attack us, but they didn’t stop at anything to get their food. An unconscious force drove them around with no direction or purpose, and dragged them to consume more and more. They didn’t acknowledge each other, either. And yet, their women got pregnant faster than I’d ever seen. They gave birth in the street, and their children walked half an hour later.

Experts talked about an infection, others about some change in climatic conditions. The truth is nobody had a clue, and nobody dared to attack them. They were still human, or so we thought.

One day a crowd of them took Trafalgar Square. A few people got trapped between them. Fillers just took the space and squeezed men and women until they couldn’t shout any more, suffocating them, making them bleed from the pressure. That was the call to action governments were waiting for, but it was already too late.

The army first got rid of the ones on the coast. Soldiers dragged Fillers with bulldozers into the sea until they all drowned under the water. Some people said it was inhumane, but son, you should have seen the Fillers’ empty faces. They didn’t fight, they didn’t struggle. They just died as they had lived: trying to consume everything around them.

Filler pregnant women were the next target, as there were so many of them. People attacked pregnant women without asking first if they were still human. That’s where we lost your mum and your sister. Many women fell that day, and there was no one to blame but the anonymous crowd. No woman got pregnant after that, and our numbers went down ever since that day, while theirs grew and grew without control.

Then came the RT units. They bombed every place where Fillers gathered. They got many of them, but some of us, too. Still many Fillers were dispersed among us, and we had to fight them one by one.

A month later Helen came up with the Slime. Son, you must learn how to use it: it’s no toy to play with. Only use it at night time, away from the sun. Spread it through areas taken by Fillers until they get their hands on it. They won’t even notice. Then, the light from the Sun will burn them. Just remember it will also burn you during the day, as it has burnt so many of us already. You’ll learn the rest with time.

The door is about to give way, but it’s still holding. The first ray of sunlight is coming through the windows, and some flames are lighting our way. We’re still in the fight. It’s time to go for a morning run. I love you, son.

The Science behind the Story

The Fillers in the story are a metaphor for cancer cells. It is important to understand that cancer is not an infection, but a group of damaged cells that grow without control. Normally the symptoms appear when that large set of cells interfere with the normal functioning of an organ. As the Fillers in the story, they take the space and the resources without directly attacking healthy cells.

Pushing the Fillers into the sea compares to curative surgery. When the cancer is located in a certain area and hasn’t spread around the body, this can be a very successful treatment.

Attacking pregnant women reflects how chemotherapy attacks cells that are dividing fast. As cancer cells divide very quickly, this treatment gets rid of many of them. Regrettably, it also attacks other cells that divide often in the body. This is why the main character’s wife is also attacked in the story, or why hair cells are damaged in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The bombing from the RT military units is a reference to radiotherapy. In this case cancer cells are attacked by radiation. While it eliminates many cancer cells in an area of the body, it also inevitably damages healthy tissue.

Finally, the Slime is a reference to a technique called Neutron Capture Therapy. This approach consists of taking a harmless substance, normally boron, and attach it to the cancer cells. Then, the tumour is irradiated with neutrons, that are not dangerous to human tissue, either. When the neutrons meet the boron atoms, a reaction occurs and radiation is emitted, damaging only the cells around, that is, the cancer cells. The problem with this technique is that delivering the boron accurately to the cancer cells is still difficult to achieve.

Some of these techniques and many others have worked very effectively to heal many cancers, and this is the reason why life expectancy has increased so much during the past years. However, as the main character in the story, we are all still in the fight.

Photo from Pixabay. Used with license Public Domain CC0.


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