Features | Written by William Meikle 23/01/2014

Original Fiction: METASTASIS


@cancer Well hello liver. You look good enough to eat. LOL!

John had started the @cancer persona on Twitter as a coping mechanism. Talking was his preferred method of conflict resolution, but his illness never talked back. By giving it a handle and conversing with it online he found himself better able to face the ravaging effects it was currently putting him through. He used it as a mirror against the disease; personifying it gave him a chance to at least argue with someone, to give vent to his sense of injustice.

@john12 @cancer I’m going to beat you.

@cancer Bring it on ROFLMAO!

John’s cancer persona turned out to be malicious, sarcastic, and immune to criticism; all of these proved to be popular traits on Twitter. The persona started to gain followers; a trickle at first, but as it got bolder and more aggressive, so its follower number grew apace. It began to enjoy the fame.

@cancer Hey, fresh meat for the grinder. LOL. THX for the mammaries.

@John12 I’m still going to beat you.

@cancer Bring it on sonny. And send more folks my way while you’re at it. I’m hungry LOL.

Over the following weeks, John suffered daily chemotherapy in the mornings, and the increasingly raucous taunts of his @cancer persona in the evenings.

@cancer Can’t catch me Ha Ha Ha!

@john12 Just wait. In a month or so I’ll be in #remission.

He had no real idea in mind when he used the remission hash tag beyond the fact that he knew it sometimes drew more people in to the conversation. He wasn’t prepared for quite how many. The next night his follower count was up by almost thirty. @cancer was doing even better, with over a hundred new followers, most of them cancer sufferers themselves, all eager to talk about the chances of remission.

The @cancer persona mocked them all.

@cancer Poor deluded fools. I’ll have you all for breakfast. #remission

To John’s dismay they kept coming back for more, in ever increasing numbers. The #remission hash tag became a trending topic and by the end of John’s first month of chemotherapy, @cancer had ten thousand followers while @John12 was being ignored, even when he used the #remission tag in his posts. To make matters worse there was bad news on his blood count tests, and the doctors were suggesting a more aggressive approach might be required. Surgery was mentioned as a distinct possibility.

@cancer HA! HA! Told you so!

@John12 I’m not beaten yet

@cancer Give it up baby. No #remission for you

Many of @cancer’s new followers seemed keen to egg him on to greater heights.

@jackthelad Hey @cancer Check out #hospitals Lots of new meat for you LOL

@cancer THX man – always good to spread the love LOL

The @cancer persona hit a hundred thousand followers on the day John went in for surgery.

A week in hospital did not improve John’s temper any, and on his return to Twitter @cancer was livelier than ever.

@cancer Liver yummy! Still think you’re in #remission Johnny boy?

John was too tired for any comeback. But the rest of the Twitterverse were more than eager to converse with @cancer. What began as a means for John to deal with his illness had become a global phenomenon with a virtual life of its own. John watched as more and more people fed hash tag populations to @cancer and its follower count grew to massive numbers. It was gleeful.

@cancer More meat for the grinder. FEED ME! LOL!

John got more bad news later that week. Metastasis became a word he never wanted to hear again. It had got into his bones now, a silent killer feeding and growing inside him.,

@John12 @cancer Happy now you bastard?

@cancer Hey, nothing personal man. I’m just doing what comes naturally ROFLMAO

The rest of the Twitterverse seemed unaware, or uncaring, of John’s condition. They did, however, seem to be having a lot of fun with @cancer. Campaigns were set up to drive followers to the persona, feeding it new hash tags, new populations. #remission became the hottest topic in Twitter history and @cancer’s follower count just got larger and larger until it rivalled even the hottest of celebrities.

@cancer Ha! Lady Gaga eat your heart out.

John got sicker as @cancer thrived. The chemotherapy wasn’t having the desired effect. The frustrated doctors tried an extended course of radiotherapy.

@cancer Hey, catching me some rays man! I’m walking on sunshine!

The follower count numbered in the millions. John got a large number of increasingly pleading emails from people wanting to use the persona for advertising purposes.

“You’ve got a world-wide phenomenon on your hands. The potential is huge. Time to cash in.”

But he couldn’t bring himself to take up any of the offers, despite the ever larger amounts of hard cash on offer. It would have felt like taking money from fellow sufferers.

@cancer Fool. I could make you a millionaire. All you have to do is keep feeding me.

Everyone else did that job for him. Reporters caught on to the fact there was a story and soon John was besieged. He became a prisoner in his own home.

He got sicker still.

Two months tops, the doctors said.

@cancer hit four million followers halfway though John’s last week. He started to see it sending out messages. He knew it was his account, knew that he was in control. But somehow @cancer didn’t care. It was holding conversations with people all across the planet. John’s illness had him confused, unsure whether he was still in charge or not.

He got proof right at the end.

Cancer cases soar, the headline said.

“Tell me about it,” he whispered. Those were his last words.

Just before it took him he got a final message from his alter ego, now sitting atop the Twitterverse with more than ten million followers.

@cancer THX man. I never could have done it without you.