Humans are Weird – Round the Flames
Two of the three suns had set and flames danced over the forest floor, swirled through the thick, dead grasses of the meadows, and raced across the few stubble fields of the humans. Despite their quickly depleting chlorophyll the remaining broad leaves on the trees provided an excellent view of where the flame burned or didn’t. Touches on the Extremity carefully eased tendrils up through the damp soil and duff to bask in what would be the last true warmth of the year.
In the more open grasslands that approached up the sides of the hills the fire had burned well out and the neural nodes there were carefully finding their place under the charred and tangled layers of the non-flamable portions of the native grasses. These would form the only protective cover that area had for the year and it was never a certain thing that it would be thick enough to enable a Gathering to safely pass the winter with frost to trauma damage.
The highland forest stretching up to the mountains and for kilometers along the crests of the hill was just beginning to catch light. Here, under the protection of the canopy shade and within the thermal gradients of the trees’ water wells Touches on the Extremity would be able to maintain both awareness and social interaction even without the convenience of the human habitations now scattered through the forest.
The humans themselves had abandoned the stubble fields to the flames and were intently focused on controlling the flames around their dwellings. Their significant mammalian masses were stumping around circles of intense heat as they supervised the burning of piles. Touches on the Extremity had long since pulled any living tendrils deep into the soil and could no longer directly feel the disturbances of the shallow trenches they had made in their primitive efforts to control the blaze. However the simple native mycorrhizae that caressed the roots of the great trees sent out plentiful signals that they were healing their slight damage and retreating deeper into the duff. By tasting their annoyance as the pheromones filtered down, Touches on the Extremity was easily able to trace a fairly detailed map of the shallow fire trenches.
The thumping of the humans’ bipedal weight told the Gathering where individual humans stood, or leaned against the trees even deep below the soil where pressure sensitive tendrils lay. The network of needle like leave that most of the inner trees wore did not give him nearly so clear a view of the humans as their broad-leafed cousins did, and the few, highly light sensitive, understory broadleaf shrubs that clustered near the clearings offered little perspective on the humans. Still the needle leaves were perceptive enough to note where fires actively burned verses where they did not.
All of this together gave Touches on the Extremities a very comfortable perception of the new mammalian neighbors as the day closed. The rhythm of their shuffling, stomping, treading feet was soothing. The trees sent out wave after wave of pleased hormones as the autumn fires burned away the detritus of the growth season. The entire forest began to tremble slightly as the evening wind touched its outer edges. The humans sang out one to another, warning the distant as their tended fires drank in the fresh oxygen and danced. The muffled noises reached Touches on the Extremity and awareness shifted to the flow of sounds.
It was then that a point element changed. The nearly random shuffling of bipedal feet around one of the larger branch fires suddenly became a discernible and rapid pattern. Curious, Touches on the Extremities focused leaf vision, hearing, and pressure sensitivity on the spot. It was a slow process this time of year with awareness so diffused and so many elements of the forest so sleepy. First the hot glow of the fire came into view against the already cold ashes of raked ground around it. To one side there was a scattered pile of slowly fading warmth. With focus, that resolved into cast-off human insulation layers, clothing Touches on the Extremities realized. That would mean that the mass of mammalian warmth gyrating around the heat of the fire was a human, brighter in the infrared spectrum than usual because of shedding the insulation layers.
This was unusual enough to really draw in Touches on the Extremities attention. The humans, despite their massive reserve of both bio-chemical heat and the chemicals needed to produce more, rarely exposed their skin to the temperature and flying parasites of the forest. Touches on the Extremities eased tendrils up into the cold roots of the closes broad-leafed shrubs. From wisps of retained infrared that clung to the human it slowly became clear that she had not quite forgone all the protection, leaving on a thin, membrane like layer of plant fibers. Observing that she was a known human Touches on the Extremities hard coded to learn and remember the humans’ names next spring, after a self introduction to the new arrivals.
She was not simply calling out conditions to her fellow humans, it slowly dawned on Touches on the Extremities. She was emitting low, constant sounds that sent a spark down a deep memory thread. The humans had done this before now. Memories traded lone ago activated. This was singing. Other species did this too. In that case the odd movement that had caught his attention would be dancing.
Weather or not the humans had meant to summon other humans three more slowly walked into the area of heightened perception. One of the eldest of the newly arrived humans and two younger, bringing with them a glowing orb or stores solar light. They reached the clearing where the branches burnt and stopped abruptly. The two younger humans drew in sharp gasps of air and the light from the orb reflected off of all five of their eyes as said eyes widened in response to the scene before them. The eldest human seemed to recover first.
“Mary Bell!” the human barked out. “What in tarnation are you doing!”
The dancing human stopped and for a long slow moment the four humans stared at each other without moving. Finally the dancing human, Mary Bell spoke.
“Dancing around a bonfire in my underwear,” she said.
There was another prolonged silence and the two younger new comers turned their eyes on the elder. The older human stared at Mary Bell with narrowed eyes reflecting in the firelight.
“And, why,” the older human demanded in a rough tone, “are you dancing around the bonfire in your underwear?”
This seemed to cause the younger human a moments pause but when she spoke her tones were confident.
“Cuz, the hard frost finally came and all them cussed bugs are dying off like mad!”
At this statement the hands of all four humans twitched as if to scratch at remembered bug bites. For several more moments the two younger humans stared at the older one, their feet shuffling on the ground. Finally the eldest human drew in a long breath and burst out in a harsh laugh. She tossed the light orb onto the ground and shrugged out of her heavy first layer of insulation.
“Fair nuff child,” she said. “Fair nuff.”
“What are you doing grandma?” one of the younger two asked in an uneasy tone.
“Didn’t you hear girls?” the elder woman said. “Dancing round the fire in my underwear to celebrate all the bugs dying off!”
With a mix of soft and rough laughter two dancers started round and round the fire. With some hesitation and much exchanging of wrinkled and flexing facial expressions the younger two joined them. Touches on the Extremities watched them dance around the fire in the chilling autumn air. It was a very interesting things to have neighbors on ones planet after all.
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What does it mean when your human friend says “Watch This?”? Why does this simple phrase seem to terrify any alien that has first appendage experience with humans? #HFY #HumansAreWeird #HumansAreSpaceOrcs #EarthIsADeathWorld #EarthIsSpaceAustralia
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