Tag Archives: love

Medical Microfiction: Vomeronasal organ

“Darling, I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mistake,” said James in a strangled voice.

Cynthia set down her purse on the kitchen table between two adders and a rattlesnake, taking care not to disturb the squirming mass covering the floor. “So I see. Care to explain?”

James colored pink. “Ordered something homeopathic online. For our anniversary. Something to bring a little… spice into the bedroom.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Such as?”

He winced. “Pheromones. Must’ve broken in the mail. I took a nap and woke up as you’ve found me.” James jerked his chin toward the python encircling his body.

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An Indian cobra in a basket with a snake charm...
He’s a snake, but I hear he’s a real charmer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also called Jacobsen’s Organ (stop snickering!), the vomeronasal organ (a.k.a. the VNO) is a primitive and perhaps vestigial scent organ located at the base of the nasal cavity. In other animals, its primary purpose is to detect pheromones. Evidence is shaky on whether we humans get much use out of ours. Compared to other mammals that rely on scent much more strongly than us, ours is underdeveloped, and tends to shrink while we’re still in fetal development.

Snakes, however, undoubtedly get a lot of use out of their VNOs. You know that whole tongue-flickering thing they do? That’s part of their pheromone-sensing system. When they retract their tongues, they touch it to their VNOs, thus transferring the tasty, tasty hormones to their nervous system for sampling. Deeelicious! Moral of the story: you may not want to buy products with pheromones in them. You might attract the wrong kind of attention!

In writing-related news, I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, since the start of November, which has led to a drop in my blogging. I try to get at least one post out a week, but keeping pace with my word count quota has taken up all the writing time I can usually find in a day. The good news is that in December, I should be able to catch up on a ton of posts that I’m excited to share with you, so stay tuned!

Medical Microfiction: Ecdysis

Dear John

By the time you read this, you will have found my body.

Don’t grieve. I’m not dead. I’ve just moved out.

It’s not anything you did. It was the right time.

I’m worried about you, though. You don’t have many friends apart from me. So someday I’ll visit. I’ll knock, you’ll invite me in for coffee, and after a long chat, I’ll explain everything and we’ll laugh.

But you won’t recognize me in my new skin. I could be old or young, male or female, Greek or Israeli or Japanese. Better offer coffee to anyone who knocks. Just in case.

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molting (moulting) dragonfly
Is she dead, or has she just moved out? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ecdysis is a word to describe the molting of an exoskeleton in certain species, particularly insects. Usually this shedding of the old skin happens at a time of developmental transition, when you’re moving from one stage to the next.

People don’t molt, of course. Not like insects do. So it’s interesting to think what this process might look like to us if someone we loved underwent ecdysis. My heart is with poor John, who has found a note and a body and must make up his own mind what to believe. Is his loved one dead, or merely transformed?

This story came from a personal place, after several late-night talks with my husband following the sudden death of one of his young students last week.

What might happen to us after we die? Is death a final end, or is it a sort of ecdysis, a shedding of one body as we move to a new stage of development? Like John, we have no way of knowing. We can only make a choice on how to live, given the possibilities. John can live in hope, and treat strangers with the utmost love, or he can live in despair, and ignore the door.

And if he’s wrong? I guess he’ll hand out a lot of free coffee for no reason other than human kindness. But I can think of worse ways to spend my life.

I’ve shared this video before, but it is such a great illustration of ecdysis that I hope you won’t mind me resharing it: the incredible life cycle of cicadas! Set the video to HD and make it big for best results!

I hope your weekend is wonderful, and full of coffee shared with friends and strangers alike, my friends!

Medical Microfiction: Cardiometer

Measure the Immeasurable

It was a problematic calculation, to be sure. Some might say impossible. But the real headache lay in finding an appropriate unit of measurement. Amperes, Kelvins, parsecs — inadequate alone, but each needed for the answer.

To the books, then. He dredged up old science and new, eventually delving into sources that some might call pseudoscientific.

What of it? The point was to build the device, and he did.

He called up the one who’d first posed him the question, invited her to his lab, and knelt on one knee.

“I love you this much,” he said, and pushed the button.

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I love you
This candy loves you, but how much? (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

A nice, sweet little story for you guys today. A cardiometer, as its name implies is a device used to measure heart activity. There are several devices that fall into this general category, and mostly they use electrical impulses to make their readings. Heart-measuring devices include electrocardiographs (ECGs), cardiac monitors, and Holter monitors, to name a few.

Of course, on a more general level, this story’s about the formidable task of measuring things. Measuring gives us a way to make sense of the world. We measure oceans, and they lose their limitlessness. We measure mountains and depths and the distance between stars. We calculate the speed in which we’re all hurling through space, and estimate the age of our happy green rock.

But how do you measure something like love? I have no idea, but that hasn’t stopped me or anyone else throughout human history from asking that impossible question: “How much do you love me?”

Happy Monday, friends, and while you may never know the measure in which you’re loved, may that love always feel endless.

Medical Microfiction: Pleura

Tar Pit: A Love Story

This is a love story about a tree and its hole.

From the beginning they seemed made for each other. They hugged each other’s curves, matching bend for bend — a union which grew more perfect with each passing year.

It came to a sudden end one day when a ravenous Apatosaurus tore up the whole tree by its roots and devoured it.

The hole doesn’t forget, though. Far from it. Nursing its vendetta, it gapes wide, deepens, and fills its heart with black tar. It waits for that murderous, leaf-stuffed bastard to return.

Given time, it can devour things too.

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Apatosaurus Louisae, Carnegie Museum.
Apatosaurus: the longest murderer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pleura are two very thin membranes that shrink-wrap your lungs, walling them off from the rest of your body. The visceral pleura wraps the lungs directly, while the parietal pleura lines your chest cavity. Between them is a small amount of fluid that keeps them from sticking to each other.

English: Left-sided pneumothorax (right side o...
The arrow points to the pleural cavity, in this case formed by air trapped between the layers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now here’s where it gets interesting: in anatomy, we refer to the space between the two membranes as the pleural cavity, but it’s a bit of a misnomer because normally, no such cavity exists. If you’re healthy, those two layers stick close together like a pair of sheets on a well-made bed. The term “pleural cavity” refers to a potential space: it only exists when something’s gone wrong: when air or fluid has leaked between the layers and caused them to separate.

I’m fascinated by this idea of potential spaces, and that in some situations, an absence of something can be a presence. The relationship between the pleura and the pleural cavity is much like the relationship between tree roots and the space they create as they burrow into the soil. The tree’s hole doesn’t really exist until the roots are no longer there, but when the tree is gone, its absence leaves a presence: a hole that remembers embracing a tree once upon a time.

Apatosaurus by Yamada Katsuhisa
Apatosaurus by Yamada Katsuhisa (Photo credit: dcbaok)

In many ways, presences as absences are also a metaphor for grief. The death of something or someone we love, be it a person, animal, relationship, or even an object, can leave a void that feels like its own presence. Like a stab wound, we feel it. It makes itself known by its wrongness. In my story today, I wanted to explore how grief itself might seek to rectify the injustice caused by the void left when love is gone.

I also wanted to write about dinosaurs. Sue me.

I owe some special thanks to Drabblecast forum member The-hest-of-hale for helping me polish up the language choices in this story. Thank you, friend! Constructive criticism is hard to come by, especially on a story this short, and for your help I am very grateful