Mystery in the Moonlight © Nina Otulakowski March 2023
As she was about to leave the house, Jen’s mother asked her if she was on her way to get vaccinated.
Mother, she said, that’s like asking me to take the cow to the market. It’s a bit twentieth century, maybe even nineteenth. You get vaccinia virus from cows. I’m heading off to meet Bri and Suzanna for the latest gene therapy. We might just view the gene pool while we are in the queue.
That’s why we used to go to Church in my day, her mother said. I hope the traffic is not a nightmare with the Pope visiting town. See you later.
When Jen got back her mother asked how it went. Not so bad, said Jen. I had an immediate reaction but that’s common they said. I guess it means I’ve had something that works. I’m better now but I still don’t feel right. They gave me some capsules to take.
How were Bri and Suzanna?
They were worse. Bri might have to go to hospital. Could have been a bad batch, I guess.
Not sure I want you taking those pills, her mother said. When Jen headed off to bed, after checking she was asleep, her mother looked at the capsules. She opened one, smelt it and then threw the rest out the window.
Jen was slow to get up in the morning. Thank-Goodness, she thought, it’s Sunday. I can lie in. The light outside her window suggested a gray day, overcast, nothing to get up for.
When she did get up, her mother looked tense. How are you, she asked Jen. Not so bad Jen replied.
Well, I’ve got something weird to show you. Opening the front-door, she said, come over here and look out.
It Must Be a Genestalk © Nina Otulakowski March 2023
When Jen looked out, she saw the most enormous plant, or something she guessed must be a plant, but she had never seen anything like it. It wasn’t there yesterday but now it stretched up into the sky, through some clouds and beyond. It had big square leaves that looked like pieces of paper with writing on them. Looking closely, almost stories of some sort it seemed.
What could have caused this, Jen thought. Turning to her mother, she asked for the pills she had brought home from the clinic. I’d like to climb up this thing, but I still feel pretty washed out.
Ahem, her mother said, I threw them out. I’d say they landed just about where the roots of that whatever it is must be.
What do you suppose it is, said Jen. Were they genetically modified pills of some sort, do you suppose? If so it’s a Genestalk.
Come inside, her mother said, and I’ll brew you up some tea with sugar.
A hour later, Jen said to her mother, I’ve no idea what you put in that tea but I really do feel I could climb up that Genestalk outside.
I’ll give you a flask of my special tea to take in your knapsack, said her mother.
Jen set off. Climbing and climbing. Luckily the dense foliage, or folio, or whatever, kept the sun off her. Up she went, through the clouds. As she came out of the mist, she saw what she guessed was a castle. How very strange. Who would have thought a cloud could support something like that. Maybe I’ve arrived in some Metaverse.
She made her way over to the castle and finding a semi-open door slid inside. She’d never have been able to push a door like that open on her own.
Inside she came face to shin with an enormous woman, who asked her in a deafeningly loud voice, who she was. Jen told her she had climbed up a strange plant. And now she was ravenous. All she had had was a flask of something her mother had made. Did the woman have any crumbs she could spare.
If the crumbs were the size you might expect from the woman’s size, Jen thought, there would be more than a meal in one crumb.
The woman said her name was Michelle. She did have crumbs. But her husband, Barney, was much bigger than her and would be home soon. If you’re lucky neither of his pals Eric or Albert will be with him.
Albert’s the one in the picture on the left. He takes care of the finances. That’s them over there, Michelle said, pointing to huge, framed pictures. Albert had glasses on while he was counting out what looked like gold coins from a large cloth bag.
Eric, Michelle said, was the public relations person for their little operation as she called it. Eric was holding a magazine of some sort, Jen couldn’t make out the name. He was saying Nothing to See Here Folk, move along now.
As far as Barney is concerned, Michelle said, there is no tastier morsel than a Lilliputian girl. Take this crumb and hide in here. When he has the breakfast I’ve made for him, he will fall asleep and I will help you escape.
For the time being, Michelle thought, she had seen one too many of the little folk mangled, a little relish put on them, and then gobbled up. This little one seemed pleasant and was his favorite color – he preferred them to the pink ones – but it was coming up to Lent so time for a bit of abstinence.
The room began to shake as enormous footsteps clattering down on stone headed their way. Michelle whooshed Jen into a pot with some crumbs and closed the lid.
Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum
I smell the blood of a Lilliputian
Be she alive or be she dead,
I’ll grind her genes to make my Bread.
Don’t be silly, Michelle said, that’s the leftover odor from the one you had yesterday. Some of them can be very smelly. Here sit down, I have some wonderful porridge for you and your favorite grog.
Barney sat down and started eating, swallowing huge amounts of grog to wash the porridge down. After he finished he let out an enormous burp that shook the pot Jen was in and then what sounded like an extended fart. Must be smelly out there she thought.
Instead of falling asleep, she heard him ask for his goose and his harp. She could hear Michelle moving around and then putting a box on the table, which she opened up and took out – a harp. The harp began to play sweetly. Jen peeped out through a crack that let the light come in and was amazed to see it was a double-stringed harp but instead of single strings, side by side, they came as doubles arranged in what seemed like a helix.
She saw Michelle bring a goose in, which settled herself down snugly close to the harp and closed her eyes. A while later the goose stood up and there was an egg, which the giant picked up and turned around in his hand looking at it. There was lettering on it. RSV, my precious, he muttered. Well done. Imagine those Lilliputian girlies down below. That must be about 5 gene therapies now for each time they get pregnant. Soon they will be mine, all mine. And with that he fell asleep.
Jen crept out. She was now full and didn’t want to overstay her welcome but she did ask Michelle what the goose was laying. That’s where the gene therapies come from Michelle said. They grow in the egg yolk.
Jen thought for a moment. Rather than incubate them for ages and slowly build up a stockpile, she asked, would it not be quicker to kill the goose, take out the genes and string them alongside the strings on the harp – the vibrations should do the job much quicker.
Michelle listened and said that’s not a bad idea little girl. I’ll think about it, now you run along. Which Jen did.
She reached the Genestalk and began climbing down through the folios – there were so many. She really must read some of them. Perhaps tomorrow. Some of them she noticed had RIP at the bottom. Rip van Winkle or what?
Back in the Castle, Barney woke up saying he could still smell Lilliputian and he’d bet it was one of the colors he preferred.
You’re silly, Michelle said, but I was thinking while you were snoring. We’re making a lot of money as it is from the gene therapies but have you ever thought we could make even more and faster by chopping open the goose, taking out the genes, and stringing the harp with them. It’s the harp that makes the final product. The goose is just an incubator. That’s an old-fashioned way to do things.
Barney thought. A smile came to his face. That is not a bad idea Shelley, you beaut. Let’s do it. Bring the goose here.
They carved the goose open on the kitchen table. Staring at the goose’s insides they realized they didn’t know what they were looking for. There did seem to be long stringy things that looked a little bit like the strings on the harp. They took them and strung them alongside the harp strings.
Barney ordered the harp to play. The new strings, however, were moist and every time one of the harp’s helices brushed up against them, it snapped. Ping, ping, ping, the harp strings snapped and then disintegrated until there was only a teenchy little one left that couldn’t reach the very very short goose string they had hung beside it.
By this time, Jen was back on earth. She had been ripping folios as she went stuffing them in her empty satchel.
Back in the Castle, Barney and Michelle began to realize their loss. What a crazy, dumb idea was that he bellowed. It wasn’t mine said Michelle. There was a Lilliputian here, you were right, and she was the one who suggested it. Sounded good at the time.
Where is she, he snarled.
I don’t know, said Michelle. She said she had climbed up a Genestalk.
Where is it, Barney asked.
I don’t know, Michelle said, lets look out the door – she came in the side door.
They looked out and thought they saw something waving in the distance. Barney asked for his Ropes and set off through the Gray of the cloud toward it. When he got there, he bellowed that he was going to climb down.
Down below Jen and her mother heard what sounded like thunder. The Genestalk began to shake.
Get me the saw mother, Jen said. Her mother came rushing back with the saw and they both started on the trunk of the Genestalk. Enormous though it was, the saw went through the trunk pretty easily.
As they got to the final bit, the trunk groaned and began to topple over. Barney came down with it. He landed right on top of a Cathedral’s spire, which could be seen in the distance. This went in through his belly and came out the far side. Nothing else happened for a moment it seemed but then the spire snak down into the Cathedral below. Sad to say the Pope was inside saying Mass at the time.
Augusto Roux © Nina Otulakowski March 2023
Jen asked her mother to help her gather up more folios. She had worked out what they were she said when she noticed Bri’s and Suzanna’s names on two of them near the top. They were accounts of gene therapy injuries. They were there filed away on the stalk where no-one would ever read them.
Brianne © Nina Otulakowski March 2023
She had had an idea, she said, as she slid down the Genestalk. She would make a movie about her friends and others. I have a great name for it, she said, Anecdotals. I can get Kim to do the marketing.
She called Brook. This all sounds like a fairytale, Brook said. Nope, said Jen, fairytales end with the little folk suddenly getting rich. I think I might be richer as a result but not in money terms – it will be in relationships. Maybe I can become a social capitalist.
Social capitalist? Brook asked.
You know, the stuff you have when you share with others and trust develops between you.
Oh! By the way, Brook said, I used to know a Barney once who worked in the gene therapy business. Mark my words, not someone to be on the wrong side of..
I took a snap of him from inside the pot, said Jen. Did he look like this?
That’s him, that’s him, said Brook.
Ah-ha, said Jen, I feel a good story coming on.
Later chatting to her mother, she asked, what was in that brew you gave me. It really helped me get up there. I wouldn’t have managed otherwise.
Nothing Coca-Cola didn’t do once upon a time, her mother said. Or maybe that was a fairytale.
This was written before the controversy blew up about some words in Roald Dahl’s books of modern fairytales.
The marketing companies working to our Life Science (Pharmaceutical) companies have no scruples in using these fairy tales as templates to whip adults – not just children – into place – see Reds Under the Bed and Little Red SSRIding Hood.
Reds under the Bed was produced to scare mothers into not letting their sisters or parents visit their new born baby unless they had GSK’s pertussis vaccine. We are about to be blitzed with something similar aimed at scaring mothers into banning family members unless they have had RSV vaccines – Yellow and Other Virus Perils. And Remind Your Sister to Get Vaccinated.
For those who want to know the Stories behind this post, see Brianne Dressen, the first entry to the Cause and Effect forum and Augusto Roux, the second, along entries for Karunya Venugolapan, Nina Otulakowski, Suzanna Newell, William and Kate, Cody Flint, Shane Cooke, Anette, Frances and B, the Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
There is a treasure stove of many more invaluable True Stories in Jennifer Sharp’s Anecdotals – a must see.