“I am told it is a state of being that identifies as a mythological creature.”
He frowns at me, which usually means that he is giving a tremendous amount of thought to what I have said, but is displeased with that. “So…like….if I feel like a dragon….I can be a dragon?”
I shrug and put away the mixing bowls. “I suppose so. I really have no idea how it works, and not being a human, and actually being something upon which many such creatures are based….my perspective is a bit different.”
Rebecca takes off the cartoon animal hat that the child has put on her head and smoothes her hair. “I know about this! I read about it on Tumblr. But yeah, it’s gotta be weird for you, I bet. Like…yo…you say you’re a vampire…but like….”
“Please let’s not devolve into vampire jokes.”
He is still frowning, but she waves her hands as she swallows the last of her drink. “No! No! I mean, that’s just one myth but there’s others! Like…goblins and whatnot.”
I let out a sigh and turn back to the sink to finish the rest of the washing. “For once, I wish that someone would find a happier myth to compare to me.”
She snorts. “You eat people.”
“So do ants,” he is quick to defend.
“Well you get what I’m saying, right?”
I make a face that she cannot see. “Yes, I have advised some of them, to whom I have spoken at some length, that they are in fact identifying as something based on me. It does not appear to matter. I have enough trouble carving out my identity from this uncaring world without adding Tumblr to it, and yet…that is the experiment.”
In my periphery, his frown evolved into a narrow eyed stare. “I have a question.”
“You always do.”
“Does that mean I can identify as you?”
I turn to look at him. He is giving me his mischievous tilt of the mouth that he knows melts the hearts of the females he manages to impress with his masculinity. I roll my eyes heavenward.
“If ever there was a human…”
“He makes a great point though! I mean…okay…” she spreads her hands across the kitchen island as if laying out a small stage peopled by fleas. “So like….you know, because you’ve been alive, that those things aren’t real, or like, you’d have seen them if they were or whatever…so like, I mean…you know that all those people are just owning your mythology.”
“I don’t even own my mythology. Humans wrote it. You deal with the blasted shit!” I toss down the sponge.
“Well what I mean is…they’re not really “other” are they? They’re just….your-kin.”
I suppose, in a way, I can see why a human would not wish to be human. I may despair of killing and eating you, but that is because I like you. I would not wish to be one of you. That seems a lamentable fate. For some time now, I have seen otherkin and all such identifiers as merely an extension of feeling unwelcome in one’s reality, or uncomfortable being a meat sack with an expiration date. Perhaps it is more than that. Perhaps it is an extension of the thing that began the experiment in the first place.
An aside, if you will.
I mean no disrespect. Not even a little. Those of you who identify as “otherkin” may carry on however it pleases you to do so, so long as none of you dragons begin demanding virgin sacrifices. I care not. What concerns me is the obvious conundrum and how it feeds into my argument with your species- to whit:
You are obviously human. I have a nose, excellent hearing, exceptional senses. I can tell that if I stabbed just here, you would cease to be…whatever you claim to be. I therefore cannot comprehend how there is any point of contention in saying that this “otherkin nature” is wholly and utterly in the mind. And please read me carefully when I say, I ascribe it no value judgement. I did not say such would be a “diseased mind”. In point of fact, I think the sum total of humanity has a diseased mind.
“I can get wanting to be a dragon and like…living like a dragon, or like how you think a dragon would live if it lived in a human body, but…I don’t know,” Rebecca mutters. “But I mean…like aren’t they sort of sucking up that fiction? Trying to be you? Trying to be a monster? Like…aren’t they trying to absorb the things that frighten humanity?”
“I doubt any of them would say they ever chose to be what they are. They often regard it with the same deference as a sexual identity.”
He shakes his head. “But they’re human. By definition anything that makes a human feel inhuman is a personality disorder.” I give him “the look”. This happens when he says things that are unqualified with facts or makes assumptions about me. He usually finds it alluring in some way. At the moment, he is still frowning, however, and shakes it off. “And how exactly does a unicorn live if it were in a human body, huh?”
“I suppose…however it is that they choose to live.” I sip my coffee and cut a fresh piece of pie.
“So, I could claim to identify as you, live however I chose, and that would be how you would live if you were in a human body?”
I am undone. There is very little I can say. The fact is, if I was suddenly transposed with a human, I imagine I would live a life very similar to his- well, with copious apologetic donations to various Human Rights organizations.
“But what do they think about people just making up a mythological being?” She lifts a finger. “Like what if I invented my own creature?”
“That would be ‘fiction-kin’. Apparently the qualification of a mythological creature is something made up by a long dead human and written about by other dead humans. If a modern human makes it up, it is just fiction.”
“But they’re all just fiction!” She shouts in exasperation.
“So then its all one thing!”
“And it’s all nuts.”
I cannot help but chuckle helplessly into my mug. I spend several hours every day attempting to fathom half of the things I see on television or the internet. The arguments over memes, the needless pigeonholing of politics along the lines of personal experiences that have little to do with the sum total benefit for humanity, the dissections of certain cannons – such that there is now a phrase “head cannon”- which to me sounds like a method of suicide. You bicker over which invisible sky entity said what to which dead person in which book written by an imprisoned fortune teller in a dead language that only six people on the planet can translate. You kill each other over the stupidest of things, and while you think it has gotten better, I would argue it has gotten worse. This is what happens when the collective mind of humanity has difficulty metabolizing all the fiction it sucks down its gullet and attempts to reconcile that to the outside world.
I would argue that if one were to consider the whole of humanity as cells in a brain and contextualize all trends as single amorphous thoughts, you would see that this is how a mind grows up…and into a disorder. First you believed everything that seemed the least bit feasible, you then underwent education, you ignored those programmed ideas, but then returned to them to simultaneously protect, idealize, romanticize, or remake them until they no longer have discord with your concept of the universe. But you are still learning, and as undeniable fact presents itself, those dreams and wishes of what magic might be are pushed even deeper into your psyche…until it becomes a secret identity, a lens through which you view existence, a modifier of all fact before it even reaches your brain.
I stand before you unamused, yet filled with dark humor, as one who has always been a mote on the currents of your frenetic clash with all that is quantifiable. I snicker because no doubt, I will one day have to contend with someone actually assuming they are me, and not simply a cousin of mine.
My two friends see this as one inexplicable quirk of their species, a subset of human they will immediately classify as “other” and then ostracize. One portion of the mind being shut off by the other. They do not realize that they do the same thing, even in daily life. Every time Chef assumes my feelings to bear even a slight resemblance to his romantic urges. Every time she talks to the child about Santa Claus. Any time any of them, even ironically, use the word “God”. It is happening all around you, and you defend it with the vicious paranoia of a mind with a complex.
Meanwhile I, saying this to you, shall be either lauded or shunned by degrees, as is the custom. And I am familiar with the process in a way that still remains irksome despite the years.
“I’m gonna just make up an animal,” he says to my silent but obvious musings. “Because it’s all myth.”
“Ooh! I feel like I might be a sloth-bear.”
“Those are two real animals,” I point out.
He grins, “Yeah, don’t you know at least one of them has to be old-fake and not new-fake? Like a platypus and a unicorn.”
I think on my several unicorn-loving acquaintances and wonder what they will think of this progression.
“What would you call it?”
She chews her lip. “A Plunicorn?”
“I am almost certain that already exists,” I say.
They exchange a look of disbelief. Oh ye of little education, how inaccurate and uninformed is your self-image? But I suppose if one cell could conceive of the other cells accurately, it might decide to never deal with those assholes again, and completely shut down the body.
“No way!” They exclaim at once.
I take out my phone and search. Within seconds I have hundreds of references to people who have used “plunicorn” as their name on any number of sites. I hold it out to them.
He is unimpressed. “Well, shit…a plunicorn could be a fucking unicorn from Pluto. Let’s call it a platycorn!”
Wry expression in place, I call up the search and show him the first thing to pop on screen.
His mouth falls open.
“If you can imagine it, then someone else has, and the felicity of information transit means they have already given it to someone who can draw, and that someone has sent it to 7 billion people. And now there are probably thousands of humans who identify as this stupid poisonous Narwhal. You underestimate your own insanity.”
Jaws dangling, they fall into their cups and leave me in peace.
Much later, when the children are unconscious, and he is twined around me beside the fire pit, his chin resting on my shoulder, he begins to whisper a mea culpa in my ear on behalf of his entire species throughout time.
I shush him.
“No, I’m gonna say it, because I think you need to hear it. I get it, I think. I get what you’re feeling when you hear shit like that. To you it feels like your identity is being stolen, even while other people tell you that you either cannot exist or that if you did you’d be hated. That’s a rejection on every possible level while they turn you into all their good and bad jokes all at once.”
There is nothing to be said. That is precisely the way it has felt, and while I have tried to be objective and view it from the outside, it sometimes still stings.
“But you’re missing something.”
“And what is that?”
“We are different species. You’re seeing us the way you see us, not the way we are. It’s the exact same thing we’re doing to you. Your entire theory is based on your perspective, and I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying that you haven’t considered that maybe we actually just think this way. That we tackle all the shit we hate about reality in the same way every time. Maybe it isn’t a mental illness soaking into all we do. Maybe it’s a process that gets applied to everything even a little bit similar. There’s more of us than there are of you, but that doesn’t make our way better or even logical.”
I stare at him and feel myself grow cold in his arms as I reframe all I have been thinking for the last few centuries from this new vantage.
If he is correct, that would mean that humanity would take the inexplicable forces of nature, turn them into fictions, absorb and insert themselves into the myth and then rework it and mash it until the gods were tiny friends about their size who sometimes can be killed. If he is correct, certain men will comb derelict houses looking for traces of a spirits until their entire fortune is decimated, meanwhile broadcasting their conjecture into millions of homes so that the human mill can churn and churn until mortality has been transformed into something that can be borne. If he is right, monsters will amplify and warp us to suit their worst parts, then make the rejection or absorption of us into their newest self-awareness exercise, until somewhere, some child reads my journal, and decides that through a curious twist of an imperfect grasp of science, he is me.
“That is a very inefficient and ineffective system,” I breathe.
“No shit. In case you hadn’t noticed, we aren’t exactly the epitome of evolution.”
“It is amusing to hear you tell yourself that you are.”
“Well, it’s just the same thing, isn’t it? Maybe it’s the first thing. The first fiction we ever ate.”
Indeed. When man decided he was obviously smarter than his neighbors, he must have spent centuries trying to feel less alone. Perhaps that is the heart and all the other machinations weave around that delicate organ, protecting it from the onslaught of chaos. You need to be special. Otherwise…you are an accident, and the universe is a fickle thing. It is a beautiful, glorious, bizarre, life-giving and toxic thing.
Kind of like a platypus…if you crossed it with a unicorn.
Perhaps you’re not insane. Perhaps you’re just not as rational as some of us. I wonder what you would do, if I ever actually began to believe in the costume I wear, if one day, I simply looked in the mirror and said “I identify as human.” Perhaps I already have done, by assuming you think anything like me, or are even capable of it. Perhaps we will never understand each other, and perhaps that means we should both take off our costumes and “be ourselves” instead of trying to define what that self is in relation to perceived societal norms. Perhaps we should all confront reality for what it is, and fight that in a more direct fashion.
But then again, platycorns are apparently quite adorable, and who wants to deal with reality? Let’s continue to invent spells and imagine fairies, instead of examine all the stupefying reality that actually does exist. Fairies are easier, because I can make them think and feel whatever I want, while I cannot explain gravity or make you see my opinion as valid.
Forgive the sarcasm. It comes from years of annoyance. Please don’t be tempted to think that my examination of you in any way dims my appreciation of you as a species. It does not. I suppose I shall simply have to accept that you are this way. You have brilliance in you and perhaps your fictionalization of the entirety of existence is simply that which makes you creative.
If you want to make up a person’s that suits you, well, whatever. I suppose we all do every time we step out the door.
But, as someone said recently, it is easy to pretend to be an asshole and then excuse your bad behavior by saying “Well, I guess I’m an asshole.” Don’t identify as an asshole. That is a terrible fiction to tell one’s self.
Go with the platycorn.