Greg's Great war

by Terence Talagon

“Be kind Greg. These are tough times, and people are facing their own wars. Don’t forget to smile and treat everyone with kindness.”

These are words Greg heard from his mom that morning. At a young age, he was never patient and understanding when it came to people. “There are wars,” he repeated. He seemed to not understand what it meant, even in the face of one.

Greg has just been diagnosed with pneumonia. “It is a fatal disease, especially to younger kids,” his doctor said. Good thing he is almost a teenage boy, and with the help of antibiotics, a nutritious diet and some rest, Dr. Smith said he will surely recover.

He sighed in relief when the doctor assured him of that. “I will recover,” he grumbled, “but not saved from the cold, cough, and shortness of breath that comes with this!”

He has fought against the symptoms these past few days, but he was not alone in battling the disease. His body’s immune system has done its part in fighting off the pneumonia, as the doctor explained how it happens.

“Your body is like a sovereign kingdom Greg,” his doctor narrated. “It protects itself from germs and illnesses who want to invade and conquer your otherwise peaceful functioning organs.”

“Like a sovereign kingdom,” he muttered to himself before he spiraled into sleep in the hospital bed. The sickness has placed him in a deep slumber. That night, he dreamed of men in horses- with swords and shields and shining armors. He thought of those pneumonia-causing microbes as green thorny blobs who wore lion skins and weird horns on their helmets (they call it antigen in pneumonia language, he later learned).

There was a war indeed- Greg’s Great War, as it is called because it took place in Greg’s body. As of the moment, the war raged in the Lung region. The blood vessels deployed soldier phagocytes- friendly blobs that engulf and destroy the microbes. The phagocytes fought hard and brave against the incoming invaders, but they knew they can only hold the enemies for long. Realizing that they could use a little help, they sent messenger chemicals to their headquarters- the immune system, for backup. To speed up the defensive forces and slow down the advancing microbes, the immune system signaled the body to raise its temperature. Greg slept through a fever that night, but it was a fever that greatly benefited the kingdom in its battle.

Later on Greg’s dream, small birds flocked amidst the battlefield. Blue parrots, red hummingbirds, yellow falcons. There were even goldcrests and mayas in pink. These birds are antibodies who patrolled the kingdom, and when they detected the weird horns of the invaders, they perched on their antigens.

The invaders were in utter disbelief. They were shocked at the sight of the birds. They waited for something to happen. And behold, some of the helms fell off. They have used their weird horns in attacking, and without their valued weapons, some of them scattered in panic.

The rest of the microbes could not be deterred by mere birds. They shook the antibodies off and got into a defensive stance. They changed their old helms with scarier-looking ones and it held stronger in their heads. They went on attacking the birds mercilessly, killing most of them. A goldcrest tried to escape from one of the attackers but got trapped in an air sac. When he turned around, the microbe has already pointed its horn toward him and has prepared to charge. He closed his eyes and waited to feel the sharp edge on his flesh.

He opened his eyes to some beautiful music, and for a moment he thought he was dead. He realized he was still alive when he saw the microbe who chased him, just a few feet away. He was aghast; for they both heard a nightingale sang what would have been the first verse to a war hymn. Moments later, it was joined on by the parrots, and then the mayas who sang in perfect unison and harmony. The rest of the birds joined in the cacophony, creating a sound so loud and powerful it mongered fear in the microbes’ hearts. It was not just a song, and they knew it. It was a call for something stronger.

Just seconds later, reinforcements came. Thousands of lymphocytes arrived in the region. They were specialized soldiers trained in the Bone Marrow and Thymus regions. Those who came from Bone Marrow are called B cells. They are powerful mages whose job is to summon more antibodies and keep records of the slain enemies to remember how to deal with it if it attacks again. Those from the Thymus region are called T cells; some of which are helpers and some are killer T cells.

From the B cells’ cloaks, the antibodies sprang. “This will not be enough,” one of them shouted; as a microbe was inching closer to her. In a flash, a helper T cell dashed to her and shared some of his powers. In turn, they have activated a stronger B cell. The empowered B cell produced more of the antibodies, which perched on the antigen of the audacious microbe who dropped his unicorn-horned helm. He screeched away in panic.

Some of the antibodies marked the remaining microbes. Now that they are very visible, phagocytes easily identified and devoured them.

The war is almost won, and the microbes have either died or fled, but the kingdom is not left without casualties. Some cells were infected by the microbes and has to be disposed of, or they might breed more of them. The killer T cells initiated their deaths and took care of their bodies.

When the war was over, the kingdom’s B cells kept some record of the attackers. Now, Greg’s body has learned how to deal with them and they will have to think twice before launching another attack. The kingdom used this period of peace. They tried to recover from the attack, fortified the walls and strengthened the whole region.

In the morning when Greg woke up, he felt stronger and more positive. He recovered from his illness, thanks to his great immune system.

On his way out of the hospital, he saw some of the sick patients. He listened up close, and he heard the clanking of battle suits and swords. He remembered the ordeal his body went through last night. “They might be facing their own wars too,” he thought. “Sometimes, we couldn’t see it.”