Life as a microbe is easy.
All day you float among your bothers, flagella waving in the currents. Down here, near the boiling geyser, there is no night or day. The ocean protects you from the harmfull radiation that is sunlight. Down here there's plenty of heat, plenty of water and plenty of useful organic materials. You can sustain yourself with ease, you can be.
At some point you become two. You could have wondered whether the other was you too, or which one was you now. But you do not yet posses the structures that would allow you to wonder. So instead you just float on untill you cease to be.
Multicellularity takes some getting used too, but once you've got the hang of it you realize that in fact, very little has changed. the underground feels pretty familiar, tough instead of floating you now need to crawl. Food isn't in the earth around you, you have to move and look for it. Big deal. You can do that.
One thing you can't do is make more of yourself. You don't like that, because you feel like somehow that is what you are suppose to do. But when you first stumble upon another member of your species you know what to do. These intructions are new, unfamiliar, but you have faith. As she crawls off you realize that even though you can't make more of yourself, she can. And that you did well. From then on you move with a sense of purpose, and you do so with succes.
Though you of course do not remember it, some part of you longs for those dark days underground. Being an ant is hard work. It's running and searching and finding and pulling. Carrying heavy load on and off without a pause, without a stop. Danger lurks in every corner.
You want to reproduce. You know deep down that that is what you are suppose to do. But somehow you can’t. In this life you do not seem to have been given any intructions for it. The instructions that you do have come not just from within, they are given to you by others, in the form of smells, commands.
You obey, though you don’t know why.
They are family, you realize. Your existence seems pointless, once you die you will be gone, but they are there and they will be, and in a way, they are you. So it will be all right.
As the princesses of your tribe fly off with their brand new wings, ready to mate, you do not look at them with envy. Instead you cheer. For where they will land they will reighn and they will carry a little of you with them. From then on you follow all your orders, from within and outside, enthousiastic and with pride.
After spending so much time on land returning to the ocean feels like coming home. You are quick and agile, small and strong, and no longer moved by mercy of the current. Your hide gleams in the filtered sunlight and your fins propel you forwards trough miles and miles of open water. Oh, the joy!
You discover pain. The first time a seagull snaps at your tail you get away, but not unharmed. There’s a small cut on your side, some gleaming scales are missing. Loads of salt make the wound sting.
You heal, eventually. The scales don’t grow back, the bare patch a dull reminder. Survival isn’t purely for it’s own sake anymore. You’ve felt the pain of almost dying and that’s not something you want to feel again.
The seals are terrifying. No scales, no fins, their teeth oddly shaped but deadly. Their eyes gleam with intelligence so much more developed than yours. And big they are! Oh they are massive!
The tornado of silver bodies is the only thing between you and their jaws, so you swim along with thousands of others. You don’t realize it, but like this, your school looks far more impressive than the sealpack.
But that doesn’t stop them, they bite down on the wirlwind, ripping the small silver bodies to shreds. You beg for survival, for your speed nor strength will help you. Sometimes life is just simply Russian roulette. Luck and chance.
You make it, but not many do so with you. You swim along the survivors, hoping they will protect you but knowing they won’t.
They are not family, yet you feel connected to them. They are like you and you need them like they need you. Your faith interwoven, after all, you’re just a tiny flock of fish against the great big ocean.
You watch the eggs, great numbers of them, float away on the currents. And you wish them luck. Some are yours, some aren’t, but you can’t tell the difference.
After trading fins for feathers you discover love. Swans mate for life, and so do you. He is the most gorgeous bird you’ve ever laid your eyes on. With a long slim neck and sparkling eyes, feathers so clean and white they make the snow look dull. He is not family, yet your love for him runs deep.
You move to a cosy lake near a small village. There’s plenty of food and shelter and you are happy. You raise your first nest, with three hatchlings. You watch them grow up from eggs to chicks, and then you watch and guide them as their plumage bleaches till it is as white as yours. As you watch them fly of you feel the pride of a job well done, but you also feel deep sadness.
Though the real sadness is yet to come, when you wake up one day and find your mate laying on the road, slim neck snapped and snowwhite feathers stained with red.
All shatters around you. Angry with the world, with yourself and ripped apart by grief, you remain in the lake you consider home. Defending your territory with fierce determination. You eat, sleep and sit through many winters, alone.
Swans mate for life, but life can be cruel and unfair. Living without purpose doesn’t sit well with you. This, you know, is not what you are suppose to do!
Sometimes life is mercifull, even after you've messed up. A new mate comes along one spring morning. He is smaller than your previous mate, his eyes are brilliantly black and gleaming but his feathers are scruffy, never quite sitting right on the base of his wings. Yet he is furious and passionate, protecting and supporting you. The way he rubs his beak through your feathers is both a painful reminder and a welcome comfort. You did not think it was possible, but in time you come to love him, as much as you loved your last mate, or maybe more?
Together you soar the skies! Flying is as much a joy as swimming, maybe even more so. The land passing by beneath you and the clouds seeping through your pinions. Dancing on the currents, he is always there, besides you.
You raise new nests of chicks, sometimes five at the time. Some die, taken by winter or by foxes, a few even by cars, but many more live.
Sometimes when you float besides him right below the sunset you forget that he is not your first mate. That there was this other, long ago. You wonder if it is bad of you to forget the other. But you do not dwell on it. You are a bird, after all.
Though you of course do not remember it, some part of you longs for those white wings you used to have, for the ability to fly. Earthbound existence is tiring, especially since this new form of yours doesn’t seem to be very good at walking.
Yet over time you come to appreciate these new hands you’ve been given. Dexterous fingers that, though not very functional for locomotion, have such great potential in manipulating the world around you. Art, sports, music, you try everything! After all, you live only once, right?
Yes, the hands are great. Yet you still stare up at the sky with longing. And not just the sky. You stare out over the ocean with longing, and even up into space as the night falls. You’re not sure why.
You seem to long for everything you can not reach, but maybe that’s what makes you so human.
Mankind is briljant. Its hunger for discovery, its foolishness, its wisdom, its love. Friendship is the most gratifying thing you’ve encountered so far. It’s weird, rather random. They are not family, not offspring, you don’t really need them but at the same time you do, you need them more than air.
You learn too, and how! Now that you are sentient you’re definitely going to act like it! Language is such a lovely thing, others can literally tell you everything they know. You realize that mankind can only reach it’s true potential when working together, a single human is just another beast among the trees, but together they are fantastic.
You learn of evolution, of life and existence. You hear stories of creation, from gods to big explosions but you can’t figure out which sounds most believeable. You learn of the birds in the sky, of the fish beneath the waves. You learn of the worms in the ground al the way down to the tiniest microbes. You learn what they do.
Though all of them are equally fascinating, your favourite creatures remain the swans. With their gorgeous white feathers and their love and loyalty.
Swans mate for life. But what about humans? Humans mate for life, at least they try. You try too. It ends with a broken wrist, a shattered window and way too many tears.
You wonder what to do, and you can’t help thinking that it would have been pretty nice to have some instructions now. Anything, really.
But all the things you know, all your instructions, came from outside. Told to you in words, by other people. Yet, all those people, every single one of them, wanders along with you. Like you, they are lost, they can not tell you the way.
And inside, your brain, though so highly developed and brilliant, does not seem to have a purpose, no tips or tricks or a plan of attack. All instincts stay stubbornly quiet.
For the given instructions, well, they’re not called that anymore. They’re now called ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Good is what you are supposed to do while bad is what you are not supposed to do. Plain and simple. Yet what these two terms define is a point of discussion. Furious, heated discussion that causes grief and death among the humans that wage it. At some points it gets so terrible that you start to wonder whether good and bad aren’t both just bad. But then again, that makes little sense. If they are both bad then what are you supposed to do?
Life as a human is hard.
You wonder what your purpose it, what is the point of you?
And one night you find yourself in a forest, away from everyone because you had to, drinking anise flavoured poison because you can. As you stare up at the stars in longing your dexterious, manipulative forepaws claw at the ground and find something long and slimy. Bringing it to your face you see a long worm, wriggling desperately, trying to break free and return to its dark home beneath the surface. As you stare at the little brainless beast between your fingers you can’t help but feeling a pang of envy. Envy the little creature will never be able to feel.