Shingle Cells
By: Copper Rose

"Are you comfortable Les?"

"Yes, and you, Shing?"

"This spot we've chosen behind Santa's liver is a perfect place to hide."

"That's what I thought. Will you let me know when you're ready to replicate?"

"I'm ready now."

"Hold on, maybe we should wait."

"What for?"

"I've been listening to what's going on up there. Santa's been talking about who's been naughty and nice."

"We're viruses. Are you sure you can listen?"

"Yes."

"And you understand?"

"Yes. Humans haven't figured out that I have learned how to read the information provided by the nucleic acid inside my cell and that I can communicate with you, another virus, or that I can hear them as well. The information provided indicates there's a storm coming and it's causing Santa to become very distressed."

"What does that mean?"

"It means we're going to get a shot of extra adrenaline if Santa gets totally stressed out. The nucleic acid says extra adrenaline always comes when someone gets upset, scared or depressed."

"Extra adrenaline? Are you serious?"

"If what I'm hearing is correct, then yes, I'm serious. It makes sense after all the things the people in the rest of the world have been doing."

"Like what?"

"Well, for instance, in some places, there is this thing called Halloween where they spend all their time scaring the bee–jeebers out of each other. Which means adrenaline laced with ACTH and cortisol."

"Why would they do that? That's crazy. But then, adrenaline laced with ACTH and cortisol is one of my favorites."

"Yes, and then they eat a bunch of candy they trick other people into giving them, including the little children."

"Which means adrenaline laced with something else?"

"No, usually just more cortisol, but it wreaks havoc with their insulin levels."

"Is that the roller coaster ride we get to go on?"

"Yep. Then right after that is another holiday where they let all their crazy aunts and uncles out of the closets. It stresses them to no end."

"Really?"

"Yes, and then on top of that they have to cook something called a turkey that always turns out too raw or too dry and someone is required to complain. Usually something called a spouse. And then they participate in something called buying Christmas presents at ridiculously discounted prices the next day—and not just any presents but the exact right kind of presents."

"Does another type of hormone get added to that?"

"Testosterone, even in women. Now that is a fun one because they start to fight! For us, that creates an amazing adrenaline–based cocktail. There's also another kind of stress that can start it all off—something they have to get done by the end of the year—dental work that usually starts in September and then they get something called a dry socket after something called a root canal."

"Is that the thing that can have such a wonderfully horrible smell?"

"Yes."

"I could live in a place like that forever."

"I don't know about forever, but I do know humans track time by something called months, using something called numbers. For them the thing with the dry socket equals four months of non–stop stress accompanied by copious amounts of adrenaline mixed with all kinds of other hormones. That's a long time for non–stop stress. Add on top of that extra stress from the crashing of a computer or cell phone to add even more adrenaline and we've got a perfect environment in which to not only survive, but thrive."

"And if they keep giving us extra adrenaline during all that time, it means…"

"…we can replicate even faster and our numbers will grow. It will be harder for them to stop us. Who knows, maybe it will even allow us to copulate someday, instead of always having to replicate on our own. That will give us a tremendous advantage when it comes to overtaking cells in human bodies. We could have babies that could grow up to replicate. We could take over the world instead of just living behind Santa's liver at the north pole!"

"Then we should start replicating now."

"Well wait a minute, I've been hearing murmurings of something called milk and Christmas cookies."

"You mean, like, more junk food?"

"Yes, and you know what that means."

"After what you just told me, with the addition of sugary foods we'll get extra shots of adrenaline and then we'll be able to replicate even faster. Oh, this is going to be a great Christmas for us! It won't be necessary to copulate."

"This is going to be so fun!"

Shing paused. "But if we do that, will they be able to identify us if they decide to go to the, what did you call it that one time?"

"A doctor."

"And they would put us under what?"

"A microscope."

"Could that happen?"

"Probably not. Humans aren't very smart."

"Then let's do it."

"Alright! We can really ruin Christmas if we can replicate like rabbits."

"What does that mean?"

"I'm not sure, but Santa referred to it when he was talking about the naughty people."

"Okay, Les. I'll go first. But can we do a trial run so I can see what it would be like if we did end up under the microscope?"

"Sure."

So Shing wiggled into place and Les followed behind. They laughed at the image they represented.

ShingLes!

"And what do you say, Shing?"

"Have a very 'carrier' Christmas, Santa, and hopefully many more people also! Ho Ho Ho!"

"All those good boys and girls are going to be SO disappointed if we can time this just right."

"I know. They'll become infected once they touch the presents Santa gives them."

"I know, isn't it great?"

"And we'll be able to host jump if Mrs. Claus gives him a kiss while we're in the process of replicating and the blisters are in full swing!"

"I know. It just never ends!"

"Shall we sing our theme song together?"

"Yes! Let's!"

And so Shing and Les sang loud and clear as the Christmas stars shone brightly overhead. "Shingle Cells! Shingle Cells! Shingles all the way!"

"Okay, Shing, are you ready to go and fry some nerve endings and create some glorious inflammation?"

"Ready whenever you are!"

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