The Next Step Down

Ezra Azra

© Copyright 2024 by Ezra Azra
Photo courtesy of at Freefind.
Photo courtesy of at Freefind.

The health scientists were overjoyed. After over twenty years of laboratory experimenting, and countless setbacks, they had discovered the Turritopsis Dohrnii,
one kind of ocean jellyfish among about threehundred-thousand kinds.

In the ocean wild, some species of jellyfish have a natural lifespan of a few hours; some 18 months. In captivity, some live up to 20 years.

At youngest, some jellyfish are as small as a grain of rice; at maturity, less than half an inch. Some at maturity are 120 feet long and 8 feet wide.

Jellyfish have inhabited the worldís oceans millions of years before there were dinosaurs. All kinds of jellyfish are edible to humans.

All jellyfish have tentacles. The final number of tentacles is different among species; and changes within a species through the different stages to adult maturity. Some jellyfish have as little as four tentacles; some have thousands. All tentacles have cells with stinging chemicals injected into prey to be eaten, or, in self defence, into enemy attackers.

For the scientists, the most important fact about a jellyfish is that a few kinds, when traumatized by illness, or under attack by predators, or old age, or accidental injury, or extreme changes in ocean temperature or salinity, can revert themselves into an earlier body age when there was no trauma. That is, in times of stress that kind of jellyfish at five years old is able to instantly become what it was in body at one year old.

This is an ability that a jellyfish can resort to in only emergency times.

Among jellyfish, the Turritopsis Dohrnii is the only kind that has this ageing backwards ability throughout its lifespan. In other words, as long as it can avoid being eaten by predators and sudden death by accident, the Turritopsis Dohrnii can live forever. Hence its unscientific other name given it by scientists, the immortal jellyfish.

So far, it is the only life form on our planet that is known to be naturally equipped all its life with this capacity for biological immortality.

When it was discovered that the Turritopsis Dohrniiís ability to deliberately devolve into an earlier age is lodged in the stinging chemical in its tentacle cells only, the scientists set about finding a way to use this chemical to treat incurable diseases in humans.

Funding, Government and other, poured in continually for decades.

If an ill person could be made to transmute themself into a younger age before the onset of the illness, at that earlier age free of the illness, preventive measures could be applied.

Even more exciting was the discovery that the Turritopsis Dohrniiís DNA differs from human DNA by less than one-percent.

How this is possible could seem to be a mystery, since in outward physical appearance, the Turritopsis Dohrnii and humans have nothing in common.

Since there are so many similarities between us and Chimpanzees, we are not surprised that a humanís DNA is 98.7% the same as a Chimpanzeeís; differing by only 1.3%. In other words, genetically speaking, a human is not just like an ape; a human is an ape.

In nature, similarity of outward visible appearance is not necessarily indication or requirement of genetic parity.

Adult butterflies look nothing like the caterpillars out of which they metamorphose, and yet their genetics are exactly the same.

The adult moth looks nothing like its larva, in outward appearance. The fruit fly, nothing like its maggot.

Genetically, we are closer to Turritopsis Dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish, than we are to the Chimpanzee. In other words, if by its genetic count, a Chimpanzee is within a human family, it cannot be closer than a cousin because Turritopsis Dohrniiís DNA count renders it as close to a human as a human identical twin. The DNA percentage sameness between identical human twins is, like the Turritopsis Dohrniiís, less than one percent.

The wild-card possibility was that the Dohrniiís stinger chemical inserted into another animalís DNA could mistake remnants of an earlier species for memory traces of the animalís youth. That mistake would mean there was a fifty-fifty possibility the ill personís next step down would be a reversion to an earlier species instead of to an earlier body age of its own self.

In the species option, that, probably, for a person would mean Chimpanzee. After Chimpanzee, the next animal closest to us in the evolution sequence is much, farther down the natural evolution ladder. The rat; with whom we have 85% the same DNA.

After all, it is common knowledge among scientists that if not for their large size, Chimpanzees would be the more logical and productive laboratory surrogate-human experimentation tool than rats and mice.

Inexplicably, so far, ongoing sequencing of the human genome has not identified traces of Turritopsis Dohrnii in our species- evolution climb.

Laboratory experiments established that injecting the Turritopsis Dohrnii tentacle stinger chemical into animals low down the DNA evolution ladder, where confusion of earlier-species with earlier- body-age is virtually non existent, produced retroversion every time: butterflies reverted to their caterpillar forms; moths to their larvae forms; fruit flies to their maggot forms.

Because of the successes in their work with lower species, the scientists were not daunted by the many years, possibly, it would take to find a way to accurately direct the Turritopsis Dohrnii stinger tentacle chemical, injected into the human deoxyribonucleic acid, to hone in on the younger-age sequence, and to bypass an earlier-species sequence.

However, a sudden drastic downturn in world economics on account of suddenly erupting wars worldwide, meant that there was imminent probability that both Government and other funding would dry up if the scientists did not produce conclusive dramatic results involving human health within a few months.

The scientists decided they had no choice but to fast-forward plans to use humans in their experiments, instead of rats and mice.

The scientists opened a free-food cafeteria for homeless persons.

The main dish served was raw Turritopsis Dohrnii jellyfish tentacle soup, unidentified as such and subtly blended in with sashimi and sushi, those other two already well established worldwide raw-seafood elite gourmet specialties.

As was expected, the cafeteria was an instant huge success. The target clientele poured in from many parts of the country. Success was increasing so fast that the cunning expert chef-scientists, within weeks, discontinued the blend of other seafoods. Other parts of the Turritopsis Dohrnii were included in the soup. Free extra ketchup was offered, made of concentrated Turritopsis Dohrnii tentacle stinger chemical. The ketchup was truthfully labeled, ď100% organic spicy.Ē

Smoked, spiced Turritopsis Dohrnii tentacles was the other popular demand, offered simply as an optional general jellyfish side dish.

The name Turritopsis Dohrnii was never used; a trades precaution against theft of an imminent patentable reversion medicine.

So crowded was the cafeteria each night, that some scientists suspected that not all the diners were of the specifically targeted homeless ilk.

The Cityís homeless population skyrocketed. Adjacent to the laboratory, an informal housing settlement of hundreds and hundreds of people sprang up, a considerable number of them, undoubtedly, non-homeless shameless free-food skulking moochers.

Days and nights, the optimistic though apprehensive scientists kept diligent watch by surveillance cameras for the appearance of bewildered young persons dressed the same as missing adults who appeared in earlier surveillance films.

Totally unpredictable natural disaster struck.

One dark night in the early hours of a moonless night, an almightily destructive and deafeningly noisy electric rainstorm erupted, replete with frightening thunder and terrifying lightning; wall-to-wall, as it were; so to speak.

The laboratory and its informal settlement of thousands were completely demolished and washed away, within minutes.

Among the unfortunate people and animals swimming for their lives, was a very large number of bewildered rats, clawing and biting their way out of soggy human clothes.

Definitely mysteriously, and, perhaps disappointingly, not even one Chimpanzee in sight. 

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