“How long have we been waiting?” Sully asked for the 11 millionth time in as many microfluid exchange pulses.
“It happens when it happens.” Grant consoled. “How about some Bangers?”
“Muuuuuuuh…” Sully muuuhed “ I guess. Yo, Randy- keep score” Sully warped his southernmost perimeter wall to alert Randy.
Bangers was the only intercellular game known in wallverse, at least as far as everyone adjacent to Randy, Sully, and Grant were aware.
“Serving!” Grant said confidently as he tightened his spiral clusters to flatten his tendon membranes on Sully’s side. He released a single corner tendon and started the wave.
“Jerk!” Sully began oscillating tubes at the opposite corner to Grant’s release, then tried to correct but was late intercepting the wave and sloppily chased it across three adjacent membranes before finally poinking it out with well placed oscillation.
“Slow” Randy muttered.
“No, dumb- he served on the wrong side.” Sully defended.
“You’re dumb- there is no wrong side, you just always serve from the same side so you always lose- also you’re slow.” Randy jibed.
“Shut up- my serve!” Sully griped. He aggressively tightened and snapped the same corner tendon he always served from. Grant poinked out the wave before a complete phase. Sully seethed and fluttered a tendon indicating he was ready for Grant’s next serve.
Grant obliged and released a wave from a different corner. Sully misfired and sloppily chased it again. “Dude- you serve wrong!” Sully complained.
“Sul- that’s the game man.” Grant said.
“I don’t do that when I serve!” Sully defended.
“Dumbass!” Randy interjected, laughing.
“It’s just how Bangers works, you don’t have to serve from the same side, not knowing where it comes from is what makes it hard.” Grant explained.
“It’s too hard, it’s stupid. Make up a new game.” Sully demanded.
“What? You make a new game, at least Grant made up something to do, you don’t even play it right” Randy said angrily.
“Guys, it’s cool, I’ll work on a new game.” Grant said reassuringly.
Grant focused himself on making up a new game. He wasn’t sure how to focus making one up because last time it was a complete epiphany, he was just poinking with his membranes and it came to him that he and his neighbors could engage one another for entertainment by manipulating patterns on their adjacent walls using a defined set of rules to acquire points.
No one had ever heard of such a thing. It took some time to explain even the basic concept to his neighbors. Up to that point they had simply been aware of one another and exchanged whatever information was necessary to conduct intercellular business. Grant’s game was an instant hit.
Randy said that the neighbor opposite Grant said that the game was causing a lot of problems in some regions by distracting people from their duties, and in others it had caused all out intercellular warfare. But Sully said that was probably just gossip because his neighbor said nobody even liked the game because when people played it right it was over too soon.
“Are you done with the new game yet?” Sully inquired incessantly.
“I don’t really have any ideas.” Grant said.
“Just do what you did last time.” Sully suggested.
Grant didn’t see the point in explaining the problem with that suggestion, so he just went back to poinking his membranes for inspiration.
After a while Grant started to become bored, which he was used to. But he also became frustrated with his boredom, which was kind of new. Frustration just isn’t something cells are equipped to deal with individually. Cells have a well defined function and very little incentive to think beyond it. There shouldn’t be much to be frustrated about.
“It was easier before I made up the game.” Grant said aloud, though he wasn’t sure who he was addressing.
“Yeah, but it keeps things interesting.” Randy offered.
“Not really.” Sully added.
“Were things not interesting before?” Grant pondered. He genuinely couldn’t remember if he’d ever even thought about whether things were interesting before the game. He only knew they were less interesting after the game.
“Waiting isn’t very interesting.” Randy replied.
“No- it’s basically the same.” Sully corrected.
“So what if we just- stop waiting.” Grant proposed. A heavy, confused silence ensued.
“Like, play another game?” Randy asked.
“No- just, stop waiting. Do it, do what we’re waiting to do.” Grant clarified.
“Dude?” Sully said.
“Dude…” Randy agreed.
“It’s not time, Grant. We wait until it’s time, it’s what we do.” Randy assured.
“But we haven’t been waiting- we’ve been poinking, and that’s been more interesting than waiting, so maybe waiting is the real problem.” Grant surprised even himself with such a graceful leap of logic.
“That’s insane.” Sully retorted.
“So was Bangers, remember? You said it was insane, now we play it all the time.” Grant said.
“That’s different, that’s just doing something while you wait. We’re still waiting.” Randy said.
“I don’t expect you to understand, I- just see things other cells don’t. Like the game. I saw it when no one else ever had.”
“Okay- that was a good one. We all love Bangers, but dude- we still have to wait.” Randy said.
Grant thought about it for a long time. Randy had always seemed intelligent enough, but maybe this was just the limit of his imagination. Grant knew what he knew. He wasn’t sure how, but he knew it. And he had the confidence of a cell who had once redefined cellular life as he knew it. Seemed perfectly reasonable that the same cell could redefine it again, and also reasonable that no other cell could understand like he did. So there was nothing for Grant to do but show them. It’s what visionaries do.
So with perfect certainty in his genius and purpose, Grant stopped waiting. The cacophony of objections from adjacent cells was quickly overwhelmed by their instinctual sympathetic contractions. Each cell sequentially smashed membranes against bladders and tiny floods of chemicals washed over one another initiating a maelstrom of reactions through parts of the cellverse Grant had never even heard of.
Just then, deep in a subterranean nuclear forest within an asteroid orbiting a rogue planet, a bubble of carbon crab flatulence rose from a pool of lithium.