The Fillers (Part II)

Burning Field.png

Dear son,

We are safe one more day. After many losses, much pain and hunger, we rest at the headquarters. Tools and weapons have come to help us, but nothing gets easier out there.

Last month Fillers cornered us on Millennium bridge. I pushed, punched, made my way out, but Helen didn’t move. I thought the stress had finally got to her, but she knew better than I did. “Their skin”, she said. It wasn’t easy to pay attention to the ten faces that were suffocating us, yet I saw what she meant. Apart from especially empty, those faces were especially shiny. The few sun rays that came through the clouds reflected on them with a thousand glitters. Worth looking at, not worth dying for. I grabbed Helen’s hand and jumped into the Thames.

Helen had an idea, but she didn’t have the time or the energy to do something with it; none of us did. Still, every night she would go to bed later, and wake up earlier every morning. Two weeks later she held a pair of filtered glasses on her hand. They were nothing short of a marvel. The image of a person was no different, but the Fillers looked shiny through them, even in the darkest nights. Quite handy when you have to choose whether to shoot a running silhouette. It was a little victory, a compensation for past and future defeats.

The following week a huge mass of Fillers followed us to a potato field. We had barely collected some food when they came upon us. The potatoes would entertain them, but they would also make them multiply. With a can of gas and a couple of matches we burned the work of months. The explosives didn’t hurt, either. The fire got rid of some Fillers, but the rest followed us, not because they were angry, but because the only food within a five-mile radius was in our bags.

We ended up in prison. While burning crop fields was a crime a long time ago, now it’s considered humanitarian work. Prisons, however, are among the few places that still hold in one piece. This one was still full: nobody had given any order regarding the prisoners. Now the Fillers had come to the gates, and there was only one way out.

“You have to get them out. Now!”, I said to them.

“But we didn’t receive any order from the government”, said one of them.

“There’s almost no government left”, added Helen.

The guards nodded, but didn’t make a move. Nobody knew what to do, so I stood in the middle of the cell block and shouted at prisoners and guards alike.

“Listen to me! I don’t care what you did, nobody does, not any more. Whatever your crimes were, you’ve paid enough for them. We all have. We did some wrong in our lives, but we also did some good. If we deserved to be punished, we now deserve to be rewarded. But make no mistake: our reward is not a comfortable life. Our reward is this chance to fight!”

The guards opened the cells. Angry prisoners burst out of them looking for blood. Thankfully it wasn’t our blood they were after. They too had lost many loved ones to the Fillers.

It wasn’t an easy fight. Every time we took down a Filler six others surrounded us. I punched and I kicked until I was out of breath, and then I kept fighting. It was around midnight when we made it to the other side of the burned field. We ran once again away from the danger. That open field was our reward.

Love,

Dad

The Science behind the Story

The Fillers stand as a metaphor for cancer cells again, and all the considerations from part I still apply. The first new bit in this post refers to Targeted Cancer Therapy. This approach consists of creating new drugs that target only cancer cells, in contrast to chemotherapy. Normally these drugs act on the surface of cancer cells. That is why in the story the detection of Fillers through filtered glasses depends on the reflection of light on their skin.

Burning the fields in the story compares to Hormone therapy. This treatment reduces the natural production of some hormones that cancer cells use to grow. Inevitably this is also harmful to the healthy cells that use these hormones for their regular functioning.

Finally, the prison incident refers to Immunotherapy treatments. Most of these treatments stimulate white cells in the body. However, some of them also use viruses that fight cancer cells, and also make white cells more active (hence the pep talk to the criminals/viruses, who had caused some trouble before, and the confused guards/white cells).


Photo from Wikimedia Common, Public Domain.

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