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Ender Ippolito, 9, Portland, OR

Going Viral

Ender Ippolito, 9

Hello, my name is Sam Flu. You might not know me personally, but I’m pretty sure you know my kind. Right now I am going to school. I am on the school bus (water droplet) with my best friend Eric Coronavirus and his buddy Meg Polio. Eric is very nice and likes to be mischievous. Meg likes to eat protein. She gets 14 extra servings at lunch. She is pretty but not nice. I don’t like her. She also likes Eric, I mean likes. We are buckled up in the middle of the water droplet. Inside the droplet we feel safe and protected by an impeccable force field.

The inside of the bus is completely clear and transparent, which is why we can see that we’re heading towards a cut in the human's belly button to enter the body. Our destination is Third Grade A, Room 9, which is a mucous cell in the small intestine.

Once we go through the skin, it becomes very dark. We bounce and bob in the body fluids and head to Room 9. The bus parks right next to our classroom. We climb off and squeeze through small holes in the cell membrane to get inside the cell.

We realize immediately something is wrong.

“No one is here,” I say to Eric. I look around the room at the teacher's desk, located at the nucleus, and his chair that’s empty.

“Maybe it’s a surprise party,” Eric answers.

“Are you sure?” Meg asks.

“Nope.” He shrugs.

“Oh no!” I exclaim when I see the clock shows 7:00am not 8:00am. We are early, very early. No one else is here. Only the three of us.

We sit down on centrosome chairs and look around at the walls that are covered in last year’s paintings. Most of them show circular art – a picture with circles glued on to it. But there’s also a copy of a really, really ancient painting with viruses attacking cells. It always makes me so happy and proud when I see that picture. Next to that picture is a poster of all the class rules:

In a matter of seconds, Eric starts to tap noisily on his desk. I give him a look that means “cut it out.”

Eric gives me the “do you know what I am thinking?” face.

I know what he wants to do; he wants to break rules. The only question is which ones and how many.

“Well we cou—,” Eric starts to say.

“Don’t even think about it,” I interrupt.

“Why not? No one is here,” Eric says.

“Just because nobody’s here doesn't mean we should break the rules!” I sigh.

“I agree with Eric,” Meg says.

“See, I told you!” Eric says.

I ignore Meg. I’ve never liked her and wish Eric felt the same.

“Let’s leave out Mr. Goody-Goody. Which rules should we break Eric?” Meg says and grins at him.

I groan. “Fine! I’ll do it. Just as long as it doesn't include making a mess,” I say, not wanting to be left out.

“I want to infect cells! Let’s do that!” Meg jumps up and spins around in the cytoplasm.

“Ummm, well I guess we could do that, but is it fun enough?” Eric says.

“I think it’s too much fun,” I warn. Why couldn’t she have picked an easier rule to break?

“Just enough fun,” Meg says. Eric nods.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I say.

“Stop wasting time. It’s already 7:20!” Meg skips to a doorway. “Two out of three so we are going to infect cells.” Meg smirks at us. “Follow me.”

We squeeze out of the mucous cell through the gaps in the membrane and enter a different mucous cell that has not been inhabited or infected by our Virus School District. Immediately after we enter, an alarm sounds.

“What is that?” Meg screams and hides behind Eric.

“Go back! Go back to the classroom!” I yell and we quickly slide out of the cell into the tissue fluid.

An army of white blood cells are waiting for us, blocking our path to our classroom. There are hundreds of white blood cells waiting to attack. They look like a twenty-foot thick crowd of round white jelly blobs. They also look mad and have tanks with ammo.

The alarm gets louder.

“This is your fault,” I say to Meg.

“Me? Why me?”

“This human probably had a polio vaccine.”

“It could be your fault then. Flu shot,” she huffs.

I know that Meg knows she is screwed if she can’t get back into the safety of our classroom. She will not survive if she stays out in the tissue fluid. Eric, on the other hand, is likely safe from the white blood cells. Vaccines for Covid are not common yet. And me? I have a 50% chance depending on if this kid had the Flu shot already. I’m hoping he didn’t.

White blood cells march toward Meg, ignoring Eric and me. Alright, lucky for me and Eric the kid only got the polio vaccine. Of course, not so lucky for Meg. She runs away, darting behind other cells. She finally lands on a blood cell and tries to hide on it. But the white blood cells recognize her. They’ve been trained by the vaccine to spot polios. She’s surrounded and Eric and I watch the white blood cells put antibody ammo into guns. Guns raised, they start shooting at her. She’s dodging, but I know Meg can’t dodge the antibodies forever.

“Sam, we need to help Meg,” Eric says.

He rushes in before I can stop him. I wait because I don't want to help her. It’s her fault we’re in this mess. But when the white blood cells go after Eric, I know I have to help him. He’s my best friend and he’s in trouble.

I see another mucous cell drift by and race inside it. I go straight to the Nucleus and start hacking into the computer. I open the terminal and try to change the access account:

Owner: Sam Flu

Password: @SaM*4.







Please choose a function:

Movement, Reproduction or ammo

SamFlu@celltop: Movement

⇇◯⇉ ⇊

Yes! I’m in! A joystick forms from the cell material beside the keyboard. When I push the joystick forward, the whole cell moves forward, and when I pull the joystick backwards, the cell moves backward. Even though I am worried about Eric out there, I can’t help but smile. All I need now is to see the outside. Let me fix that.

SamFlu@celltop: Create windshield


A monitor forms right in front of me and I can see everything 360 degrees around the outside – like Meg and Eric getting captured by the white blood cells.

No time to lose, I think and quickly ram my controlled cell into the middle of where the white blood cells are holding Meg and Eric. The white blood cells scatter like bowling pins. I get out of the cell and run to Eric and Meg. I drag them to my controlled cell.

“Sam? You came for us!” Eric exclaims.

“You guys are heavier than you look,” I yell over the alarm that is still blaring.

Once I drag them both inside the cell, I help them get the white blood cell cuffs off.

As soon as Eric is free, he runs to the joystick. “Dude, can I drive this thing?” He asks. “No, you've broken enough rules,” I say.

“What about me?” asks Meg. I scowl.

Just then, we see on the monitor that the white blood cells are back on their feet. They are moving toward us.

“Be quiet, I need to concentrate on driving,” I tell them as the white blood cells swarm around outside. I drive right through the white blood cells and speed toward our third grade classroom. We are just fast enough to stay ahead of the confused white blood cells chasing us.

I park the cell next to the classroom.

“Quick, get inside,” I say to Meg and Eric.

“What about you?” Meg cries and tries to grab my hand. I wonder, why she’s being so nice to me now. Why is she smiling at me? Oh no! Does she like me now?!?!

I push her toward the doorway. “I’ll be there. I just need to do something.” I’ll deal with that problem later. When they leave, I sit back down at the computer.

SamFlu@celltop: Initiate self-destruct



SamFlu@celltop: Y

As soon as I hit enter, I run out of the cell that’s about to explode. Fortunately, the army of white blood cells still don't notice or care about me. Just as I slip into my seat, the teacher comes into the classroom.

“My, my, you guys are here early,” he says, giving us a curious look. “What have –” Suddenly, the whole classroom shakes from a loud BOOM!

“What was that?” Our teacher sprints to look out the window. “Did you see that explosion?”

Meg, Eric, and I look at each other and nod. “Uh, no we didn’t see anything,” we say.


The End

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