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on Our Human by Adam_Troy Castro

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to achieve monstrousness in the eyes of such a monster would have been victory of a sort.~
Cover art for  Our Human under fair use Fan's of the stories involving Castro's favorite monster, Andrea Cort, will know of Beast Magrison from Emissaries from the Dead and The Third Claw of God. Magrison and his followers had used mind control techniques to inflict Magrison's Fugue on billions of Hom Sap's on seventeen different planets. Billions died. Major military action was needed to stop the plague's spread. The surviving cripples require intervention from AISource to live fractured fragments of lives. "But we couldn’t call what lived on those worlds anything but damned."* Humanity, according to Cort, "all lived in paranoid fear of his return".* He was a pervasively insidious monster, such that Diplomatic Corps investigations into the Confederation Executive Branch had uncovered, "a link to . . . Magrison, among the members of the first family."^ The Confederation's Diplomatic Corps would pay-- let us say "much" to learn of Magrison's location. Our Human is the story of where/how Magrison, so menacing and mysterious a monster in the Andrea Cort stories, ended up, and how his final victims die.

The story tells the tale of a group of searchers on a nameless planet, driven by the hope of collecting the reward for Magrison's capture with which to redeem their lives. Like Cort and Magrison, the searchers, from a variety of worlds and of varying species, are monsters according to the lights of and outcasts from their own societies. They are, like Magrison, exiled, disgraced, and impoverished on a nameless world. Unlike Cort, they are still seeking redemption. For his part, the most ardent seeker dreams of, "the palace he would have built for himself . . . a curtained place where a Kurth of distinction could luxuriate."~ This contrasts with the miserable, pestilential quagmire of a swamp-jungle in which is located the mud village rumored to be Magrison's place of refuge/exile. The jungle is "so inhospitable that the smallest steps exacted their price in blood."~

The story begins in medea res, with two of the searchers, a human and a Tchai, already dead, perhaps of one or more of the abundant pestilences that permeate the swamp-jungle that passes for a landscape. (Significantly, the word "morass" comes to mind.) Two remain, the Riirgaan Mukh'than and Barath, a Kurth. The Riirgaan is a smallish, nuanced, inscrutable, humanesque fellow who knows his way about the planet. The Kurth, forced into subsistence labor working on a human mine as a beast of burden, is a big, brutish, direct-action sort who bulls his way forward on all four limbs when the situation so warrants. In due time, but not soon enough for Barath, they come upon the village of Trivids that regards Magrison as "Our Human".

Magrison has grown old among the Trivids, living in their midst through four of their generations. They are a people who venerate him as a sort of totem. Life was good or at least not too bad there for him. Before his exile, he had used advanced mind control techniques to brainwash his human followers into fanatical devotion, loyalty, and adherence to his program. None of that is in play with the Trivids. They value Magrison for the unique person/monster/totem he is. He had thus evaded the consequences of his monstrosity for sixty years, Hom.Sap Mercantile reckoning. Among the Trivids, he had lived as full a life as a member of their community as could an alien outcast . (The lives of those suffering from survival of Magrison's Fugue, as described in The Third Claw of God, lie in stark contrast to his life among the Trivids.) Further, his presence/quintessence has become the Trivid villagers' spiritual center of gravity. Their world, "ripples with the weight of the burden he carries".~ The strangeness of his evil, his thoughts, and his past permeate the emotional milieu of the natives in a psychic miasma in such a way that "he rendered [them] different and strange just by the act of living among [them]". He has become integral to the emotional and spiritual woof and warp of their lives.

Thus the bounty hunters have located their prize, but can not bring him to the Diplomatic Corps to receive the reward and adulation due them. The Trivids cannot and will not give him up-- cannot and will not allow them to take him. His all permeating, pervasive presence "brings so much wonder, so much terrible strangeness into [their] lives." Exasperated, Barath is completely thwarted. He casts about for a solution, but is dreams of success quite literally go up in smoke. In the end, the moral miasma that permeates everything about Magrison incites the final passion play of betrayal and revenge. (Thereby hangs the tale.) After both Mukh'than and Barath have given/received their mortal wounds, the reason for the Trivids' devotion is exposed/exposited in full. It is an apotheosis of the evil and the monstrous-- none can match his evil and all feel redeemed by comparison with his presence. "Don't you see that that's what makes him such a treasure to them? How much it must comfort such a people, to claim ownership of such a demon?"~

The Trivids, who for their part live lives so otherwise disconnected from the monstrosity of off worlders, cannot distinguish between the human Magrison, the Riirgaan Mukh'than and the Kurth Barath. They have pretty significant sexual trimorphism in their physiologies, so one can excuse their not seeing the significance of that which is to the reader obvious. Or perhaps their discernment sees past physical traits to the truth contained by the inner nature of Magrison and his final victims. They indeed wonder and marvel at the physical differences between the three, but at last return to the inner monstrosity of each, deeming them all "human". "[They] have heard what humans are. And [they] know one when [they] see one." ~

Humans have a bad reputation among non humans in this story. The Riirgaan, no one's idea of a saint and yet so petty a monster says, "They have always raised so many monsters among their general population that they've grown talented at finding those who choose to hide."~ Of course, all of Castro's Human Confederation stories deal with monsters of one sort or another, Andrea Cort being the star monster. It is little wonder that he has presented three monsters of varying flavors for our consideration in this story. Or five if one counts those who died off stage. In The Third Claw of God , Andrea seems to have found redemption and so much more. One wonders if, however unworthy we might consider him, Magrison has done so as well. He lived as full a life as any of the villagers, the monstrousness of his past leading not to their condemnation and hatred and judgment, but to their acceptance and even veneration. The Trivids have achieved a redemption of a sort, if only by comparison. Speculating about the redemption of Mukh'than and Barath would give away too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that Mukh'than seemed happier about the story outcomes than did Barath. But then, from the Riirgaan point of view, "those who hunt monsters destroy themselves by searching for justice".~

*from The Third Claw of God
^from Emissaries from the Dead
~from Our Human