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Lecture 1. Introduction

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“Welcome to ‘Interrogating Humanity’,” the lecturer said from the front, pulling up a slide with the intended learning outcomes.

George started copying them onto his notebook, enjoying the feel of crisp clean paper under his fingers, the smooth way his brand new pen wrote.

“On this module we will examine what makes us humans,” Dr Miller continued promptly, “explore what, if anything, separates us from other species, and challenge social and cultural norms of behaviour…”

There was a bang from the back and everyone turned to look. George noticed the girl sitting in front of him jump, her brown eyes wide with genuine alarm for a moment before she visibly composed herself.

“…such as being on time to things,” Dr Miller finished drily, glancing at the clock meaningfully as the newcomer entered. If George had been late to the first class, he would’ve been mortified and apologetic, but this guy only grinned – wow that was a lot of teeth – and waved a hand. “Sorry,” he said, offering no explanation and heading toward…

Aw shit.

“This seat free?” they guy hissed at George, not waiting for reply as he sat down next to him. “Mitchell,” he added with an appealing Irish lilt, proffering a hand and a smile that was several degrees smaller than the one he’d tossed at the room. There was something hesitant about it, like perhaps he wasn’t quite as suave as his entrance implied after all.

It would’ve been rude not to accept, so George shook the guy’s hand, whispering his name in return. The girl with the big eyes turned around, her smile shy but sincere. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Annie. Don’t you live in the Windsor Halls as well?”

Mitchell nodded and now that George thought about it, he did remember seeing both their faces before. Fresher’s Week was such a blur though that it was no surprise none of them had properly spoken before despite sharing a residence.

“Well, it’s great to see everyone is eager to get started on the discussion task,” Dr Miller was commenting from the front, staring pointedly in their direction. George flushed and ducked his head down, but the lecturer didn’t seem interested in embarrassing anyone in public. Instead, she put up a new slide saying: “Here’s something to get us started. In your groups, debate the following. You have five minutes. And the rest of your lives, really, but let’s begin with just five minutes.”

George looked up to read the question. It said: “What does it mean to be human?”

All three of them groaned, turning to each other with equally confused expressions. Where the hell did you even start with something like that? Annie shrugged helplessly, her nose scrunching adorably while Mitchell was frowning with a surprisingly broody expression like he was personally insulted by the topic. George hid a grin, suddenly looking forward to the module much more than he had originally. Seemed like he was in for an interesting year. And some interesting company.