Published on 2012/12/09

The Great Purge

Tara Campbell

Welcome to the abdomen. We hope this guide will prove helpful as you adjust to your new life in our fat cell community. We know that fat cells do not travel by choice, so please accept our condolences for whatever scourge has caused you to leave your community and search for safety in ours.

You may have been expecting to see greater numbers of us here, despite the tales of our great purge. Or perhaps you hadn’t yet heard our story when you embarked on your journey. Perhaps it was your own private epiphany that led you to flee whatever desperate circumstances you were facing, just as it was our ancestor Cecilia’s own brave decision to leave the abdomen so long ago. We will never know if she reached safety back then, as you have now. We have her journal from the harrowing days before the great purge, but we do not know whether she ultimately survived.

Your orientation leader has explained the circumstances surrounding the previous upheaval in our community, and the strict regimen we must uphold as we continue to rebuild. Please understand and respect our wishes to avoid rapid growth of fat cells in the abdomen. Keeping the population in check now is the only thing that will save us from another calamity in the future.

You may be searching for your family and friends, but if you find them, we must ask that you not invite them to join you here. While we are honor-bound to welcome the few fat cells who survive the journey, we cannot invite additional fat to join us. As you must know from whatever form of chaos caused you to flee your own community, any area that the Woman suspects of having a vibrant fat cell community will be subject to further measures.

To underscore the importance of keeping a strict control on the size of our population, please read the following excerpt from the journal of our ancestor Cecilia. The journal was found in the post-procedure rubble of the abdomen. It is the closest thing we have to a record of the event, as those who survived were too few and too traumatized to bear credible witness. The last name on the journal was unfortunately illegible, which has made tracing lineage impossible. But even though we do not know what has happened to Cecilia, her legacy remains through her journal.


She’s at it again. I should be used to this by now but it’s still stressful every time. We all suffer when the Woman decides to go on a diet, and the worst thing is, you never know when she’s going to start.

Of course, we’ve seen this all before. Every once in a while she decides to go on a diet, we all get a little smaller and grumpier until she starts eating normally again, and then it’s like nothing ever happened. But that still doesn’t make it any easier.

I suppose there is an upside to it all, though. Once we all shrink down a bit, there’ll finally be some more wiggle room. It’s close quarters here now, everyone pressed up against each other. I’m looking forward to some privacy.

But this time – I don’t know, something just feels different. Of course, every time I say that, things go back to normal and everyone spends the next few months telling me how paranoid I was.

But I think this time it is different.


I’ve been thinking about the hair cells lately, about what an awful life they lead. Imagine going through that incredibly short life knowing that your remains are just going to break through the epidermis and get cut up and rinsed down the drain. Or if you’re unfortunate enough to be on top of the head, your dead body is repeatedly stripped of its own oils and slathered with other oils, then sculpted into some macabre display for the rest of the world to look at. What a sick ritual! The Woman spends a fortune trying get rid of us, then spends even more money preening the follicular graveyard on her head.

Then there are the poor skin cells, constantly being pushed out, either freezing or burning on the surface, just to slough off and get eaten by dust-mites in the end. And the heart cells and lung cells, they never get a rest. Every one depends on them, even when she’s sleeping.

And disease – every other cell has to worry about some virus or pathogen or something, but who ever heard of fat cells getting cancer or wasting away? We’re actually quite fortunate, when you think about it, especially here in the abdomen. We’re just about as close to the digestion as you can get, so we always know when to look out for more nutrients.

My friends ask me why I think about the other cells so much. They say I’m too empathetic, tell me I’ll turn back into a stem cell if I keep thinking so much about the others. “Stop brooding,” they say. “Just come to dinner.”

Speaking of which, I’d better go, I hear she’s about to eat something. You can’t just hang around and wait for nourishment when she’s on a diet. You have to pay attention, everyone’s looking out for every last drop.


Okay, you know what? The arm muscles have been really annoying lately. Our fat cell cousins up there were outnumbered to begin with, and from what we’re hearing, things are just getting worse.

I mean, the muscles have always been a bit obnoxious, always demanding energy, and we just give, give, give. Even when the Woman is just sitting, or reading, or even eating for goodness sake, they just keep asking for more. And now that she’s on this exercise kick, they’ve been more demanding than ever. It seems she’s been concentrating on the arms, so the muscles there are getting all the attention and feeling all self-important. Jerks!


I think someone else has been reading my journal. I see a bit of goo that’s not my own. Whoever is reading this, please stop, this is private.

We’re still low on food and everyone is starting to pucker a little. Some cells are starting to get a little nasty about it, jostling for scraps and snapping at each other. But this is about the time she gives up on the diet and makes up for lost time. Last time she did this, she ate so much even WE got stretch marks!

I just need to focus on the positives, like all this nice space we have now. Space means privacy, which means more time to spend writing in my journal.

I just hope she goes out for some wings soon!


I’m so freaked out right now. I’ve been hearing about this procedure called liposuction. It’s criminal! Some “doctor” cuts right into the fat community and sucks us up through a tube. If you’re lucky, you just get relocated to another section of the body – forced repatriation for cosmetic purposes. If you’re unlucky you wind up in some bio-waste container and then… incinerated! I really don’t know how this can be legal. It’s not only legal; people pay lots of money to the perpetrators of this genocide!

I’ve been trying to warn the others not to get too cocky. It could happen to us. I keep telling them we should make a plan, but everyone’s too busy foraging for nutrients to think about the future. How do you manage a community like this?


Our community is about to be decimated! All the buzz about liposuction that’s been floating around is no idle chatter. According to the brain cells, the Woman has been thinking about it for some time, and is now finally serious. One of them let slip that she’s actually got an appointment scheduled for Monday! No one knows exactly where it’s going to strike, but I have to believe we’re going to be the first to go.

But am I crazy? I still seem to be the only one who’s taking it seriously. Everyone else is in denial; they don’t think she’s capable of doing something so brutal. But just look at how she treats those poor, departed hair cells on her head! I don’t trust her.

So while all the other fat cells keep scrounging around gathering food, I’m gathering something much more important: intelligence. I’m not going to sit around waiting for the big hose to come. I’m going to come up with a plan!


Yes, we are definitely in for it. She hasn’t eaten anything at all today. She’s only had water, and that an only mean one thing: the procedure is tomorrow. Of course now everyone’s moaning and crying about it, but it’s too late to plan anything to get us all out of harm’s way. I just have to focus on how to get out of this on my own.

So here’s what I’ve got so far:

Plan A: Move down to the butt/thighs
Pros: Proximity, ease of access
Cons: Next in line for liposuction

Plan B: Move up to arms
Pros: Lower risk of lipo than stomach or butt/thighs
Cons: Farther away, slower transit unless travel through bloodstream –> risk of getting trapped in arteries

Plan C: Move up to breasts
Pros: Last in line for lipo
Cons: Transit issue (see above); May be wasted trip if repatriated there anyway after lipo; Risk of cancer? Is it contagious? Investigate further

Maybe some of my brain cell friends can help me figure out which way to go. I just have to find a way to communicate with them without setting off a stampede. Fat cells are such copycats, it’s actually a little depressing. Maybe if I pretend to consult with the brain about more efficient ways of transferring energy, the others will get bored and tune out.


Today’s the day. Everyone is in a state of panic, trying to squeeze as close as they can to the core. The thinking is that the doctor won’t want to get too close to the internal organs. In all the commotion, no one has been noticing that I’ve been inching my way out toward the skin.

I’m going to find a blood vessel – I’m told I should look for a vein – and hitch a ride up north! The brain cells also told me that there’s no such thing as “arm blood” or “breast blood” or anything like that, so you can’t really plan where you’re going to be in the end. So of course I have no idea what to pack.

But I just have to take my chances, don’t I? I’ll visit some cousins around the heart first, maybe stick around a while before heading off to my final destination. Arm, breast, neck, feet; who knows where I’ll wind up?

I just have to go.

Tara Campbell is a university admissions professional by day and a writer, painter and cellist by night. With a BA in English and an MA in German Language and Literature, she has a demonstrated aversion to money and power.

Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Tara has also lived in Oregon, Ohio, New York, Germany and Austria. She currently lives and works in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the Washington Writers Group and the D.C. Interdisciplinary Writers Group. She has previously published on the Potomac Review blog.