What It Means to Be Human By Rufus Harman

Short fiction by Rufus Harman, selected by students at Treasure House School as part of the MIROnline Youth Takeover. 

Yes, butterflies in your stomach. Or pupae. Or larvae. They live there and they die there. They slowly dissolve into you. Then you rot, and they burst out of your twitching corpse, beautiful and radiant. This is what it means to be human. To hide all of those beautiful insects that live inside you. Cocooning yourself, ‘til you’re nothing but a big fat dirt pile.

Say you’re a little boy. It’s a hot day. You jump in the swimming pool. And, there’s that wonderful silence before you hit the water, and that magical silence once you’re submerged. The sun shines white in your eyes as you slowly descend deeper. Your skin cools, and all the sand and dirt inside you spills out of your nostrils. Is it that easy to be a human? I don’t think so. I think if we all had our way, we would stay there at the very bottom, like a rock, or a pebble, until our lungs float out of our mouths. Until our eyes retreat into our heads.

So, what then? I think; therefore I want to become a snail, a wise man once said, smoking the pipe that belonged to his father. Many artists and philosophers have tried to locate the core of what it is to be human, to be alive. Shovelling dirt and faeces into their mouths and throwing it all over our glorious culture is what it is. That’s not me trying to be rude, that’s just the truth.

I’m not saying this to depress you. I sincerely hope that, one day, you’ll ascend, you’ll frolic in pure white fields of beautiful, pillowy clouds, feeling nothing but pleasure forever. Grinning stupidly, that strange, glowing thing called happiness smothering your senses. But is that really possible? Is that the truth? To be honest, I don’t know.

Let’s take this letter as an example: “You’re so far away that it sickens me. I lay weak and useless in my petticoats, waiting for you. Mother says that it will be years until you come back to me. But now I am happy, because today I have decided that I am to become a worm, my love, and then I am to be squashed by your many fleshy boots, my love.” (This may well be the “human condition”, so to speak.)

I’m not so perfect really, my darling. You know that. I’m just a big, eely tentacle, lashing out because I’m scared of being vulnerable. If you ask me how I feel, I’ll tell you the truth. I’ll tell you that it feels like I’m trapped. I feel like I’m guilty and need to be punished. I have lost interest in things that usually interest me. I move slowly and lethargically. I feel like a chicken eating little seeds of shit off the floor. Yes, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Just a big fleshy sabre.

Talk to a “perfect” person, you’ll either find that they are big cold meat slab, or that they are better than you. It’s not easy to live knowing that, but you have to. You have to keep living, because otherwise you’ll die. Can you live with that? I can.  I’m really just an old seagull, snatching every crumb of validation I can find from the floor, or from discarded Tesco shopping bags.

Everyone wants to be better. No one wants to be a little gob of dirt. A little greaseball. But we all are, and that’s ok. That’s ok.

You’ve gotta work hard to achieve your dreams. You’ve really gotta step it up. Turn a new leaf. Grind, and pull your arms right out your body. Maybe take a cold shower, or maybe just smash your head into the earth, and dig up all of its beautiful, tender secrets. Really reconnect with nature. Flop your genitals onto the sand. If that isn’t possible, you’re fucked. That’s it, really.

So this is what it means to be a human: to have God’s hands pull your soul screaming out of your body. All those floppy antennae sticking out of your fat, greasy body, looking for affection. That big, cancerous lump called your brain that makes you exist. Yes, scream for me, my beautiful, beautiful ape. Scream for me.

Rufus Harman is currently studying in his 4th year of secondary school. He is interested in music and is trying to learn the guitar. Rufus has liked writing and reading books for a couple of years, although English has been his favourite subject for longer. His two favourite books are probably Catcher in the Rye, and Naked Lunch.