Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Bill the Onion Root Tip Cell

Item two in the "old geeky things that Julia has written" series, here's an essay I wrote for AP Biology where we were supposed to describe the process of mitosis in an onion root tip cell. The assignment was probably not to make it into a narrative, but apparently that's what I did, as per the usual.

Once upon a time, in an organism far far away, there was a little cell named Bill. Bill was an onion root cell in a mysterious onion in Guam. He liked to do metabolism and produce ATP, and his favorite thing in the world was the electron transport chain because it tickled his mitochondria. However, he knew that these things were very important especially because they gave him energy to grow, synthesize new DNA, and make copies of his organelles. This wasn't nearly as fun as getting his mitochondria tickled, but that was okay.

He spent a lot of time growing, especially. He made it into a game with his fellow onion root cells - who could grow the fastest? Who could repdoruce the most DNA in an hour? Who can replicate the most organelles by 2 o'clock? They had a lot of fun with this. But they knew that all the fun and games were merely there to disguise the seriousness of the matter. They all knew that all the growing was merely preperation for the most important event in their life, their inevitable destiny - mitosis. Everything they were doing was never done for the sake of doing - it was all for a greater cause, like having fun learning Biology, pretending that it was all for the sake of learning, when in truth all the preparation was for the sake of the AP tests, a fate hanging over one's head like a dark cloud. Bill knew of this fear all too well, as did his friends, but they never spoke of it. Just an hour ago, when they were playing replicate-the-golgi, their playing was abruptly stopped when Jane, a good friend of theirs, suddenly realized that she had actually replicated all her organelle and DNA, and that it was time for her to divide.She began to condense her chromosomes, and her friends looked away, awkwardly trying to continue playing, while their thoughts were occupied with a nagging fascination with jane's strange but beautiful metamorphisis. They knew that their time would also come, in some approaching hour.

Bill time came at 6am. He had been involved in a frustrating game of duck-duck-lysosome in which he was behind, regardless of his ample supply of actual lysosomes. He began to make aster of his microtubules without even knowing, until he noticed a hush in his companions, and felt their eyes on him. Realizing what was happening, he tried to hide his condensing chromosomes, desperately longing for his time at play to continue. After his 19 hours of interphase, he was too used to fun and games. He was afraid of what was happening to him, regardless of it's inevitability.

The three hours it took for him to condense his chromosomes and make his nucleolus disappear seemed to be an eternity. The first step of a generally quick process seemed to be excruciatingly long, like preparing for a project is tedious compared to the actual process of doing it. Finally, however, it was finished. If bill were an animal and had a respiratory system, he would have breathed a sigh of relief. But he didn't have the time - his nuclar envelope disintegrated and spindles connected to each sister chromatid at the kinetechore. Some other spindle microtubules connected with each other and prepared for their task - the elongation of the cell. Bill did all this in terror - he was going to be ripped apart at the nucleus! To him, it was the equivolence of a human's ribcage taking hold of it's organs and preparing to pull.

Bill expected some sort of pain when his chromosomes were pulled to the center of his cell, but then realized that he were merely a cell and had no nerves. He silently begged the spindles to finish connecting to the chromosomes' kinetechore and to get on with their work. Thankfully, it only took them 24 minutes to do this, and then it was done.

Bill's terror mounted. He tensed as he awaited the pulling apart of his chromosomes. He wondered what his life would be like after he had finished the process of mitosis; would he be the same cell? Would he still play with his companions? What if he didn't copy his DNA properly - has he turned into a cancerous cell, destined to be the death of the onion? Did plants get cancer in the first place? How is he able to talk and think these things if he's a plant? Why is anyone writing about thinking cells? Is Julia on crack?

The pulling began.

It wasn't at all as Bill expected! It was like lying still for years and years, and then finally getting up and stretching your limbs. He suddenly felt so alive, and joyous at fulfilling his true detiny as a cell. He felt as if he were having an out-of-membrane experience, as he seemed to watch fro a distance his chromosomes being pulled apart, and dragged to the poles of the cell, which were moving farther and farther away by the non-kinetechore spindles. This took 16 minutes, but Bill wished it had taken longer, he so enjoyed the pulling apart of his chromosomes and the elongation of himself. In the back of his mind, he wondered what all the fuss is about - this was the best thing in the world! He understood now why he had lived for this, and why all other cells live for this as well. (well, he might have been thinking this if he weren't so absorbed in his bliss, or if he actually had thoughts. Of course, this would be a shoddy narrative if Bill didn't have thoughts, so let's just drop the subject, shall we?)

The process of anaphase finished, and telophase began; one hour of the reformation of the nuclear membrane, more elongation, and the reappearance of nucleoli.

1 comment:

Mrs. Misumi said...

Very creative. I (the teacher) am going to read it to my biology class!