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#OutofOfficeQuotes 30: "The endlessly reproducing cells of Henrietta Lacks..."

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Nerves shredded by the cheap coke, Hook swigs vodka from the bottle and turns on the radio, tuned by fish-boy to what sounds like a pneumatic drill with less melody. Hook looks for a dial, can’t find one, remembers he’s in the digital age, presses a button and scans the ether, settling on a talk-radio station whispering right-wing lullabies.

Hook’s concentrating so hard on driving under the influence that at first the intercutting monologues on the radio pass him by; then he stops at some late-night roadwork snarl-up (Ukrainians in orange vests shining search-beams, digging tunnels home) and realises the callers are talking about the monster.

‘…news once again, scientists involved in the examination of the creature’s remains now say they believe it to be The Devil. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that’s what senior zoologists, palaeontologists and marine biologists are saying right now. Have your say here on 92.2…’

On closer listening, it seems the allegation’s been made by a scientist no longer involved in the dive; apparently he felt an incredible sense of unease every time his boat floated over the search zone, and several members of the team claimed to have fallen ill. Since then this particular scientist has been struck off. Naturally, the late-night crazies who frequent the station take that as yet another ingredient of yet another conspiracy.

Calls come pouring in: it’s God’s way of testing humanity’s faith; it’s Gaia’s brain, more powerful than any super-computer and able to influence thought, to warn society of the perils of global warming; it’s the endlessly reproducing cells of Henrietta Lacks; there is no monster, it’s the government’s way of diverting attention from the mess they’ve made of everything.


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