Human (Story by R.C. Peris)

They had been extracting blood for years after the human genome was mapped. Who are we? What culture or race is the oldest among us? It’s not surprising scientists identified an African culture or collection of people as the most ancient among us. It is not fantasy that humans emerged from Africa and spread to some of the most inhospitable places on Earth. The culture (I really can’t say tribe as it’s too political and screamingly racist) is called Moomastok. They are in Kenya and are primarily hunter-gatherers though a few have plots of domesticated plants like yams. They don’t care about the rest of the world. Coca-Cola was foul to them. Films were boring unless there happened to be animals in it or plants they liked to eat. I showed them a Spielberg movie and all they noticed was a chicken and a berry bush. They have no written language and each night they gather around a fire and tell stories. Some ancient and some new. It was a culture of storytellers. They wouldn’t listen to anyone unless it was in the form of a story. So I told them, “Once upon a time there was a man named George Washington…” It went on from there. I might have mentioned a cherry tree but they thought it very odd a child would chop down a tree and not tell a lie. Everyone in the tribe lied. It was part of their storytelling. They refashioned their lives into interesting stories. The Moomastok were also dancers. They danced every night. Only the infirm stayed still but they watched and some bobbed their heads. Scientists took interest in the dancing. Why do humans dance? Did it help us from an evolutionary perspective? Taka, a woman in her thirties and pregnant with her fifth child, got me to dance with her. I mimicked her movements. The people clapped. Cavalor, a chief, poked me with a stick.

“You’re you. Dance another way,” he said. I listened to the drums and began my own movements. Researchers from Harvard and MIT were there and I knew they disapproved but I kept moving my body It was liberating. Exciting. I was telling a story without words. Humans are strange and different because we tell stories – past, present, future. And the story is only important if you share it.
I went back to Boston and wrote. Not on my dissertation but fiction. I twisted my life and spat up tales of triumph and woe. There was a postscript in all my books. I AM HUMAN.


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