Cream of Human Soup

It’s cream of human soup.


It’s a hot tub. You’re in a hot tub. Quite possibly you just had sex. I hope you don’t mind.


And that’s a ball gag in your mouth. There’s a buckle for it around your right ear. Not that you can reach it at the moment.


It really just keeps you from speaking out loud. You can talk to me here, in your head.


Heh. Just kidding. Right now I have all of your words.

“…! ….”

I need you to think about something for a moment. It might not seem important to you right now. That’s understandable. But the water is warm, not too hot, and soothing. Just relax for a bit and listen. As opposed to flipping out, lurching out into the cold, and, I don’t know, kicking your way through whatever obstacles and running down the road mostly naked in the freezing cold. It’s warm in this frying pan. Who knows what fate the fire would have for you? Just, you know, simmer down. And listen to me.


Think about mitochondria.


Seriously. Remember back as far as you need to. High school biology. Remember the model. Back to when the methane-and-sulfur-laden ocean was basically a single-celled creature twenty-five thousand miles in circumference. Self-replicating chemistry … replicated. Membranes were few and far between. All things were shared. All things. Even after membranes formed, they were permeable. Rupturing and reforming. The sea, the only sea, was cytosol. Eventually inside and outside formed, as a bilipd concept, some combination of structure and waste. Like seashells for mollusks, but quite a bit before then. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


If the words aren’t very familiar to you right now, just look at the pictures. And remember. You passed the damned tests, so that information is in here somewhere. Let the images form. Let them click together. And stop trying to shift the ball. You’re just going to hurt your tongue and bruise your lips on the strap.

The single-celled creatures we have now are hugely sophisticated compared to what things were like at the beginning. Even the humble amoeba is a huge city of interlocking networked systems, each separate molecule a tax-paying citizen making up individual organelles, captured from the grab-bag oceanic cytoplasm, on this scale. Once upon a time all of those organelle functions existed, inside and outside the membranes, as separate cooperating and competing and conflicting near-organisms. What was missing was a little organization. As puddles dried up and reformed, as pockets got encapsulated by rock and ice and heated and cooled, as some critical resource or other got scarce as things cranked along, as metabolic poisons concentrated in confined spaces, then alliances formed. Golgi apparati, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticuli (smooth and rough), nuclei, nucleoli, centrioles, autophagosomes, hydrogenosomes, peroxisomes … and mitochondria. Alliances formed. Either by capture or cooperation. These things happen.

Still do, four billion years later. Tasty lumps of human in cream of human soup. Just like you, here. Captured. Compelled. Stewing in your juices. Someone’s juices, anyway.

Allies. Slaves. Tools. Livestock. Bits of machinery, tools, weapons. Now in individually wrapped packages.

Mitochondria make it obvious, under a microscope. Those are little bacteria. They have their own separate DNA. They replicate on their own separate cycle. Rumor has it that they actually control much of what happens in their little host cells. They store and release energy and signaling chemistry. Sodium atom forklifts that push and pull molecules in the cytoplasm. Proteins for turning gene segments on and off.

Who would you be without them?


Right. Without them supplying energy and direction, you wouldn’t even be multicellular. You’d be a stack of squabbling amoebas, devouring one another for the energy it takes to keep living, continually swimming around in search of food. Short-lived, replicating madly, living and dying in bursts. Dying out, most likely, like everything else jockeying for a sweet spot in the food chain. They allow for settling down, for farming and agriculture, for working together, for organizing, for structure. For civilization. For organism.

Don’t think that I am singling mitochondria out for anything more than the analogy. Plants get by just fine without them. They have chloroplasts for energy instead, for photosynthesis. That sort of thing is fabulous as long as you have a kindly sun. I’ll admit I’m biased. The sun is four or five billion years old already, at half its useful lifespan. Plants should be seriously considering other options by now, but you know they’ll put it off to the last minute.

It’s good to see that you’re calmer now. Am I boring you? Putting you to sleep?

“…! … ….”

Just checking. Yes, you should be keeping an ear out. Right now your adrenaline is suitably high and your little heart is beating like a fawn’s when the wind brings the scent of catamount.

Keeping the organelle image in mind, I want you to think of something else at the same time. Here are some words. They should be familiar.

Ib. Sheut. Ren. Ba. Khat. Ka. Do you remember? The multipart organism posited by the Egyptians.

, the heart, the conscience. The bite of Eve’s apple, lodged in the thorax, to be judged for its grasp of good and evil and efficacy at explaining it to the rest of the anatomy, to be preserved for later, if light enough, or fed to Ammut the Gobbler, the garbage collector, Tawaret in her crocodile mask, for purification and recycling into the bodies of future children.

Sheut, the shadow, the shape on the ground, the shape made by the air around you, the cast, the representation, the echo made by light and sound and footprint and the written word.

Ren, the name, the tiny crowbar that lets you fit neatly and instantly in your entirety into the head of another until the holographic echoes attenuate.

Ba, the … me. The problem solver, the thought, the memory. The plotter, the planner, the judge, the king, the sinner, the sacrificer.

Khat, the meat, the bone, the blood, the fat, the animal machine, the beautiful sculpture, the temple, the house. As much as a line can be drawn, even in this unnatural dissociated state, the you, my beautiful little fawn.

Ka, the mystery, the slap that makes the baby cry. The winding of the watch, the greased downhill slope of time. Insertion into the light-cone, the causal domain. The meshing of the gears.

How many of these things had independent existence in the cyto-salt ocean until alliances formed? How many of these can exist, at least for a while, without the cooperation of the rest? Are there alternate forms of ib or ba or khat the way that mitochondria and chloroplasts fill one another’s shoes?

Why aren’t there ever questions like that, important questions, at the end of a textbook chapter?

Cream of human soup.

Look, I need you to die.

“…! …!”

You can do it so easily, MDMA- and ketamine-saturated, over-adrenalized. You’re nine-tenths there. Closer than that. I need the ka so I can form an akh, a … ghost, I guess. A spirit body. Something effective that can get us out of this trap. I need to get at time directly, something to give us a microscopic kick downslope.


I could just wait, you know, but then there would be less point. If you die ahead of time, before your time, there’s a chance that the injustice will right itself and I can come back to you. And I don’t want to wander alone. Not yet. Not without the parts I am leaving behind.

You keep the ren, the sheut. They will give me away. You keep the ib as well. Work out the reason for that alone, if you will. And if I screw this up, I will be a demon, a monster, until I am expelled into the blackness. And you will be smashed and broken, but blameless.

Now die.

“…! …! …!”


“…!! ! !”



Thank you.




Now wake up.

Wake up.



Timeloose, I caused a candle to tip twenty minutes ago. Smoke from a smoldering tablecloth, an altarcloth, has trapped him in his bed, and his khat will not rise. And I have marked his heart. I have left hooks in his name.

But we ought to leave before he pulls the rest of himself together, if you know what I am saying.

When we are safe, when you are sleeping in a bed again, I will lay a trap for what remains and feed him to Ammut.

Now run.


January 22, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  


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