Medical Microfiction: Dromomania

That's a lot of medical terms!
That’s a lot of medical terms!

Those of you who know me may have witnessed my wailing and gnashing of teeth over the last few months as I’ve struggled through the first round of medical and anatomy-related classes. I’m happy to report that as of this week, the pain is over, at least for the semester. But what to do with all these medical terminology flashcards?

I was going to chuck them into the recycling bin, but since there’s over 2,000 of them – all made painfully by hand over many a late night – it seemed like a shame to waste them. Especially since so many of the terms are so odd.

Polyorchid: a person with more than the “usual number” of testicles. (The wording is strange, no? Do they mean the “usual number” for your species?)

Ankyloblepharon: congenital fusion of the eyelids.

Pseudosmia: the subjective sensation of an odor not actually present.

There’s got to be a use for these flashcards. So the wheels started turning.

I recently got hooked on the wonderfully weird speculative fiction podcast, The Drabblecast. The podcast features a weekly 100-word short story contest (they call these stories “Drabbles”). While I’m studying, I’m constantly looking for fun ways to procrastinate, and one day I decided to write a medical-themed Drabble. This was the result:


Inspiration. I am flung into the frenzied thoroughfares, exiled from thee, my heart, on a quest to bring life to the distant ends of this world.

I ride my bright craft down the thundering course where the river ever-narrows: tributary, brook, rill, and at last, a far shore where I deliver sustenance to the starving.

Expiration. How will I return to thee, my heart? Bereft of the breath of life, I let the current bear me back to you, longing for the peace I find only in your atria.

Home, but not for long. Every sixty seconds, a new journey.

Red Blood Cells
Red Blood Cells (Photo credit: estonia76)

“Dromomania” is the uncontrollable urge to wander. I thought it a perfect idea for microfiction! I also used “inspiration” and “expiration”, which are medical words for breathing in and breathing out. I’m fascinated by the double meaning in these words. Breathing in as being filled with purpose, breathing out as a kind of death. I imagined the journey of a red blood cell from the heart to the extremities like one of the ancient Anglo-Saxon poems about exile and a longing for home. (In particular, The Seafarer.)

Like red blood cells, I’ve lived a transient life. Since birth, I’ve never lived anywhere longer than four years, and this has left me with my own case of dromomania. I have ambivalent feelings about it. On the one hand, I look forward to the new experiences that my wanderlust will inevitably drive me toward. I often think about up and moving to random places, just because. On the other hand, I never really have a sense of being “home”. Is home my nationality? Is home my birthplace (outside of the country in my case)? Is home where I’ve lived the longest? The place I liked the most? Where the people I love are? What if my loved ones are scattered all over the place? Does “home” have to be a geographical location?

To a red blood cell, home is where the heart is.

At least now I know what to do with these 2,000 flashcards. Look for more medical Drabbles on the horizon.

What’s “home” for you? Do you experience dromomania? …How about pseudosmia?

9 thoughts on “Medical Microfiction: Dromomania

  1. There must also be a certain affection for the insides of bones where the marrow dwells. If not home, might an erythrocyte find it reminiscent of a school or playground where a human child spent a majority of development?

    1. Mmm, I like this idea. The bone marrow’s a childhood home. Can erthyrocytes “go home again”? I’d assume bone marrow’s got access to the blood supply at large; maybe it’s like commuting past a place you used to live, but never getting to stop in and say hi.

      1. Ooo, I like the estranged visitation idea because the erythrocyte is differentiated/the child is grown.

  2. Very interesting subjects here ,… like the parallels you draw between dromomania , cells, and wandering…certainly could have many permutations.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for stopping by! Amazing that such epic stories are playing out in our own bodies with every breath we take. This is why I adore science!

      1. You’re welcome, but it’s deserved! Those ‘epic stories’ you see in the micro realm are non obvious, (to say the least), I’m drawn into your intricate stories/visualizations on the body. I enjoy science as well!

  3. There is that them of home again.

    Home is quite interesting to me especially when one brings it up as you have in your writings. I really like your personal connection with describing the medical term.

    If you think about cells in general concerning home, they do travel around the body…but I suppose the entire body is their “home.” instead of one certain place. But then again, if we are talking about specific cells, I suppose maybe one can think about them having a specific home, too, (like skin cells, etc.).

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