In the beginning there was nothing; or almost nothing because there was something besides nothing. There was a noticing of nothing which implies that there was something around to do the noticing. So there were two things, something and nothing. Then the something noticed that it it was noticing; what's more, it the something noticing its noticing noticed something, something else, noticing its noticing of its noticing.
"Ahem," he began, "Hello. How are you?"
"Top of the morning to you," said the whatzit. "Pleased to meet you...er..."
"John," he said, conjuring a name for himself, for to be caught without a name by which to introduce oneself is worse than going to a dinner party and finding, to one's great embarrassment, that one has neglected to put on a pair of trousers. "Just John will do. How do you do?"
"Ever so pleased to meet you," the whatzit said. "As for myself, all of my friends call me John, but YOU can call me John instead."
Did he hear that right?
"Now wait just a minute," John said, puffing out his membrane so as to appear much larger (his agitation was manifesting itself as a series of ripples on his surface), "you can't be John, you...you whatzit."
"And why not? Whatzit to you?"
"I was John first! You're imitating me."
"That's ridiculous. Anyone can clearly see that YOU'RE imitating ME! And in very poor taste as well!"
And with that the whatzit floated off, carried away upon the gentle currents of the liquid medium. It was abominably rude. John was very, very offended. Still, what could one do? The world was a big place, after all, more than big enough to hold John and the whatzit. He forgot all about the rude whatzit as he caught a whiff of something delicious; a cloud of macro molecules, scrumptious amino acids, juicy rna, and fragrant globular lipids floated by, washing over him.
This might have been the end of it had John not run into the whatzit again. In the interim, John had grown a covering of thin, little hairlike projections on his surface and had learned how to move around by moving them back and forth, sort of like a little tiny, gelatinous rowboat, and was having great fun, moving about as he liked instead of having to passively follow the currents. So it was one day that he was swimming along, minding his own business, without a care in the world, when he chanced upon John, or rather, the whatzit that had so rudely commandeered his name, John, for itself.
John, the real one, was uncertain about whether or not to greet the whatzit. It was like one of those situations where you're walking down the hallway in school, or combing the frozen food aisle of the supermarket, and run into your accountant, or a former roommate of a friend of your good friend, or the friend of your roommate's accountant's friend, in other words, someone you kind of know, and should probably be polite to, and should most definitely greet if they greet you first. Both parties will wander past each other, carefully averting their eyes, but alert and ready to offer a greeting if the other party makes the first move. John swam up to the whatzit, waiting for the other to notice and acknowledge him. He had a motive for doing so, for he was hoping to convince the whatzit to give up his name. He was going to say, "Now look here Mr. Whatzit, you see, we can't very well have two Johns, can we? and anyway, you don't in the least look like a John." And this is exactly what he would have said, were it not for the fact that the whatzit, ignoring him, was mysteriously occupied with other matters.
It simply floated there totally motionless, its surface membrane pulled taut, almost to the point of bursting. Deep furrows appeared in it, creases not unlike what would appear on a man's perplexed forehead. Three protuberances extended outward from the main body, like stumpy limbs. John was astonished. He was even more astonished when he saw each stump break off from the main body and form a separate little endoplasmic globule of its own. There were three of them.
"Why hello, John!" the whatzit said. "Funny seeing you here."
"Good day," John said, who was speechless, feeling unutterably mortified.
"I'm so happy to see you here, John," it continued, "so that you can witness my moment of triumph."
"Hurray!" the little globules all cried in unison, in their high little voices piping like a school choir. "You're a genius, John!"
"Haha," the whatzit laughed. "Stop it. Really. I'm not that great."
"You're a revolutionary," one of the little whatzits said.
"And so good looking," another said.
"One of a kind, unique," declared another.
"Thank you, thank you."
This, John decided, listening to the little whatzits fawn over the big whatzit, was the most nauseating spectacle he had ever heard.
"I suppose you wonder what's going on, eh, John?" the whatzit finally offered. "Well, you see, I've invented a technique by which I am able to produce little copies of myself! I call it 'budding'. It's my invention."
"And it's brilliant!" a little whatzit cried.
"Stupendous!" said another.
"Without rival!" said the last.
"Hurray!" they said in unison.
"Congratulations," John said and swam off.
Later that day he went off far from the whatzit and his little whatzits and began trying to bud himself. To his surprise, he realized that it was actually not very difficult at all. Soon he was surrounded by a crowd of his own little copies.
"I can't wait to see the look on John, er, the whatzit's face," John said.
"He will be dumbfounded," said little John the first.
"Amazed," added little John the second.
"Beside himself with envy," piped in little John the third.
The little crew formed itself into a little marching formation to find the whatzit, I mean John. John had to admit to himself that he couldn't very well go on referring to John as a whatzit, since he had a rivalry with him, and you can't have a rivalry with a whatzit.
"John!" he hailed the other when he had finally found him. "I would like you to meet the Little John's."
"I'm so happy to see you John," his opposite said back at him. "I see that you've been busy."
"Oh yes. Frightfully busy," John agreed. "You know, same old, same old. Swimming around, looking for food, budding..."
"So I see, so I see..." John said, coming up to one of the Little Johns and looking him over. "Well, you're just in time to see a new trick of ours?"
"Yes. It's a new trick. Another invention of mine."
"Oh really? Very well then, John. Let's see it. I know you work so hard to impress me."
"As you wish. A command performance."
And with that, the John, the other one, went up to one of the Little Johns and engulfed him. His membrane deepened into a dimple and then a pit which surrounded the hapless little thing which disappeared with an audible gulp. There in a bubble like vesicle in his protoplasm it floated, where it was swiftly digested, and then promptly expectorated with a little belch of waste. John, looking around, realized that him and his little Johns had, while they had been distracted, surrounded by the other John's copies.