Short Story – Get Back – Issue 25


Z awoke to a most peculiar sensation. He was on his back but wholly comfortable. He even felt his skin crawl instead of the usual when his legs would do the moving. The sinister tickling was caused by his brood busily making their way across his pale pink torso. On further reflection, Z felt soft, somewhat vulnerable, suddenly realising that somehow, overnight he had been transformed into a human being.

He looked puzzled and to a degree fascinated by his peer group, then shivered with a monumental sense of alienation borne of the realisation that somehow he could reflect, contemplate and feel in his head.

Had he merely taken the metaphor of coming out of his shell too literally? Was his new condition a result of the other time when he became aware despite being a dung beetle?

His brood were naturally oblivious to his new state, other than scuttling hither and thither as though frightened of him and his human physique. He understood their panic as it was just so weird being able to contemplate fear, something hitherto a survival instinct triggered by visceral senses without any thought of actually being afraid.

What to do? He couldn’t continue to lie here naked amongst the dung in this humid forest. At least he couldn’t be immediately seen, even though he still felt a tinge of embarrassment without yet knowing why. Z also experienced a sense of guilt as he now looked down on his brood in the process of becoming erect.

Z wandered through the forest without discernible purpose, although a gnawing had begun in his gut. He had never considered hunger before but he was now feeling sensations of a physical need for sustenance.

Suddenly he became aware of the presence of others in the trees just ahead. He sank to the ground, somewhat relieved that humans had an instinct to survive, and listened. He waited a little time, intrigued by the drumming of his heart and the throbbing in his temples. He then raised himself up to a press-ups position…

A pair of high-pitched yet dull sounds rang out and instantly Z was struck in his side and spun onto his back.

This time he didn’t feel any comfort. Instead he felt only a searing pain in his abdomen before his mind dulled and began to stare at the roof of the trees. It was a lovely blue sky with the merest hint of cloud and there were sharp glints of light ricocheting off the leaves. The laser-like beauty of one of the shafts struck his eyes. He also heard the murmurings of voices, human voices that sounded so friendly, although it might have been the seeping of his wounds that gave him this warm sensation; a happy coincidence, we might say. He was drowning in a plethora of sensation.

As he lay there bleeding to death, he formed his first fully-fledged question: “What is it like to be a human being?”