You ever been outside in a hailstorm? One of those serious kinds, the ones that smash windows and dent cars. You take a chunk of ice to the temple, and abruptly it feels personal, like the whole weather system is out specifically to get you.
Know what sucks more than that feeling? Being right about it.
Lemme back up, though. I want to start this thing at the beginning, tell you about who I was before I found out I was a bacterium. Quick version: I was an idiot.
Here’s me, Dan Everton: standard white American male, 30 years old, standing 6’0”, carrying about 40 extra pounds, which I tell myself is at least half muscle. My belt tells me differently, but what does a stupid piece of leather know? Cows are dumb enough when they’re alive. I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to take opinions from meat. I could handle myself just fine in a fight if I had to, and that’s what matters.
I know a lot of the opinions I’m putting out here right now sound dumb, all right? Like I said, I was an idiot. I’m just telling you how things were then. You filter it through whatever translation matrix you need. If you can’t follow this part, you’re never gonna stick with me through what’s coming up.
I’ve got a job that’s beneath me, night watchman at a fossil museum. The pay’s lousy, the hours are night shift, and a lobotomized monkey could do the rounds, but I’m just killing time there while I make a little money, maybe get an associate’s degree from a community college, figure out what I want to do. No rush; this isn’t my life, but it’ll do for right now. I mean, it’s been doing for the last eight years, so it’s obviously gonna keep on fine.
It’s a funny thing. If someone’s settled down, that’s a good thing, yeah? They’re supposed to be in a good place, comfortable, where they want to be. But if you’re “settling,” that means you’re giving up, going for what you’ve got instead of what you dreamed about. So how do you get to be settled without settling?
Don’t answer it; it’s a stupid question. The kind of thing I’d kick around at night in between museum rounds. That’s the sound of a brain spinning its wheels, the wide-awake equivalent of dreaming; a brain so bored that it starts generating nonsense just to have something to do.
Pretty great cosmic joke, really. There’s me, going nowhere, doing nothing, ready to comfortably hate it for the next forty years or until I kill myself from arteries clogged with half-muscle. And then, bam! I’m the target bacterium.
I’d love to say it was destiny, fate, God, karma, anything like that. But does the scientist care where in the petri dish he injects his solution? It’s just whatever happened to be under the microscope. He doesn’t go through the bacteria to find which one is most deserving, which one will learn the most from this. He just looks into the microscope, lines up with whichever one is closest, and kicks things off. Asking “Why me?” is missing the point.
So, there’s me. Feet tucked under the desk, bank of monitors in front of me that might as well be photographs for all the motion they’re showing, playing Candy Crush on my phone. Just finished my rounds, got another twenty minutes until it’s time to go walk my useless circuit again, so I’m tuned out. Doing nothing, thinking about nothing. I suddenly get this weird feeling, like an all-over ice cream headache, and then it’s gone before I can really process it. And then this guy tears the front door off of its hinges.
At first, I don’t even realize that there’s a guy there. I just hear this noise like a car wreck at close quarters, and I jerk my head up to see the glass-and-brass door from the front of the museum flying straight at me. My first thought is that someone’s just driven their car into the front of the museum, and I’m gonna get killed by dumb bad luck. And while my brain is sitting there trying to figure out what’s happening and why, I’m about to get creamed by a door.
Fortunately, my body decides it wants to live, and cuts the power to my knees. I go down in a heap, the door levels the far side of the security desk, and I struggle back up to gawk at the mess.
“Man,” I think. “Close call!” And then all of a sudden, I’m flying through the air, tumbling as I go. I smack into the wall back-first hard enough to crack the tiles, about eight feet up, and slam down to the floor. That’s when I first realize that this isn’t a car wreck, because there’s this missing link pounding across the floor toward me, roaring.