From the way the diffused sun beams splashed onto his few exposed tendrils Notes the Passing Changes was vaguely aware that the clouds over head must have been a roiling mass of gleaming gray chaos. The effect was subtle, needing the contrast of a substantial shadow blocking the rays for contrast to note, such as the long one cast by the lumbering approach of a human. Such formations were something beautiful beyond any other light display Notes the Passing Changes had the chance to enjoy. However it was only in rare moments that it was safe to catch glimpses of the phenomenon.
Even the leading edge of such a cloud formation on this world carried the threat of wind storms capable of ripping the majority of the detritus that formed Notes the Passing Changes’s biomass from all but the deepest of the forests, shredding years of memories away. Or it heralded a rainstorm that would flood the lowlands and risk a soggy rot that might corrupt any tendrils that were not specifically optimized for water. A particularly wild storm might gather up the ambient electrical potential of his very tendrils and blast the land around with enough power to fuel an interstellar engine. Notes the Passing Changes found an idle tendril thought curling around the fancy that part of his biomass might still be alive in that mass of glass and charred biomatter, but he sternly pulled his attention back to the task at hand.
This time the storm had not brought winds, rain, or electrical discharge in its front, at least to no profound degree. The bare trees in the orchard did tremble as their branches caught the brief gusts of wind and their roots translated that movement clearly into the damp soil they clung to. Notes the Passing Changes could even feel ever so slight a charge difference build up, and then dissipating before it would even be a threat to the fragile electronics the humans carried let alone his study tendrils. No, there had been only one gust of wind of any strength, and it had born down on the rise he had pulled the greater mound of his more advanced sensory tendrils up onto to protect them from the flooding that hadn’t come. His most sensory rich filaments had been sitting there under an, upon pondering, thick but far too loosely piled layer of duff.
The one gust of wind had swirled the leaves into the surrounding trees. This would not have been a problem had that been the only meteorological event to occur, but just as Notes the Passing Changes had reached out his tendrils with the most tensile strength the ground began to tremble with little impacts, then there was a searing pain in one tendril followed by another. He instantly paused in perplexity. By the time he had processed the situation, this was a hail storm, his mass of tendrils was throbbing with building waves of pain. He could simply burrow down into the soil, but he had chose this spots because the bedrock heaved up through the porous topsoil providing an island against the flood that hadn’t come. There really wasn’t time to get all of his mass back down the few thin paths back to where it had been safely under the firmer detritus layers before and he had never adapted himself to occupying solid rock. Recalling the scattered leaves would expose even more of his tendrils to damage and the temperature of the surface layer was rapidly dipping to the freeze-thaw barrier as the hailstones collected.
Notes the Passing Changes was composting the situation as the pain grew more intense when the previously distant shadowfall and foot beats of the human were on top of this gathered mass.
“Don’t let me step on you!” Pat shouted as he sprinted to the base of the nearest trees to catch the escaped leaves and flailed his arms around in what Notes the Passing Changes could only perceive as a directionless manner.
Then the human stood and moved towards the undersoil hilltop.
“Clear a path for me!” Pat shouted.
The human paused at the edge of the visible knots of tendrils and waited. Notes the Passing Changes tried to devote enough mental attention to the human to figure out what he wanted but the pain was still intense.
“The center!” Pat shouted again. “Clear me a path to the center of this so I don’t step on you!”
Notes the Passing Changes was able to process that and dutifully pulled his tendrils out of the way despite the pain it caused. He did not know what Pat had in mind but the young human had proved himself clever at solving problems and compassionate towards others. It followed the paths of logic to trust him. The weight of the human pounded down a few times, and then there was a flush of warmth and a cessation of new pain in his central portion atop the undersoil hill. Notes the Passing Changes was still processing this sudden and partial change when he noticed that Pat was back at the edge of the forest flailing about in the detritus once more. Then Pat was back at the top of the undersoil hill, then back at the forest edge. With each pass another section of Notes the Passing Changes tendrils felt the warmth and the release from pain, and now that he could pay attention, could taste the bitter, teaming flavor of top layer detritus on duff level tendrils.
That completed the contemplation loop. Pat was using his mammalian agility to rapidly preform an emergency detritus transplant. With each armload Notes the Passing Changes was able to play closer attention to the human’s behavior and to respond helpfully. Another gust threatened to lift away this reclaimed protection and Notes the Passing Changes was even able to voice a suggestion.
“Bring branches!” he called out with some tendrils that were permanently in the local trees.
Pat gave an exclamation of consent and began bringing up various deadwood for weight. His own suffering diminishing by the moment Notes the Passing Changes used some of his more sheltered tendrils to calculate how much pain Pat might be in. However he could see now that Pat was in his full “outdoors” layering and was unlikely to be able to even feel the impacts of the hailstones. This was supported by the fact that when Pat passed into the quieter under layers of the forest Notes the Passing Changes could hear the human muttering, almost chanting what sounded like fragments of some sentence, whatever it was, completely unrelated to the situation touching his attention. Comforted by that knowledge Notes the Passing Changes concentrated on getting his sensory tendrils safely out of the impact danger and as comfortably as possible arranged under the small logs and branches.
“That is more than sufficient,” Notes the Passing Changes finally assures the perspiring human, who was off-gassing enough carbon mass to attract the attention of the local trees.
Pat gave a pleased gasp and staggered over to drop his last armful of leaves over the now covered tendrils. Then he staggered back to the forest and sat down on a fallen trunk that was know to both of them as a comfortable conversation spot. The canopy was high here and the log was easy to vibrate.
“Are you hurt?” Pat asked.
Notes the Passing Changes pondered his answer, trying to taste what the human would find relevant.
“There is still some lingering pain in my tendrils,” he admitted, “but the echos fade quickly and there will be no lasting damage.”
“Good, good.” Pat got out between breaths.
“May I ask how you knew to come aid me?” Notes the Passing Changes asked. “My attention has been far from the human habitations since the main harvest ended and I did not think to call for help.”
“I was just out wandering,” Pat said, leaning back against a tree hard by the log.
Notes the Passing Changes considered what he knew of this half of the young pair.
“I hope there is no rejection in your union,” Notes the Passing Changes offered.
“What?” Pat said in a startled tone, his eyes snapping open. “You mean-I don’t-”
The confused look left the human’s face and he suddenly laughed.
“Do you mean because I am out of the house in this weather you think that maybe Sandy gave me the heave to?”
“I do not recognize all of those terms but I suspect you understand my growth,” Notes the Passing Changes agreed.
“No,” Pat said shaking his head. “I am just trying to remember something and came out here to think it out.”
“Ah, was the associated memory tendril damaged or misplaced?” Notes the Passing Changes asked, feeling a wash of sympathy.
“Neither?” Pat replied after wrinkling his nose, “maybe both a little bit?”
“Would you like to share what tendrils you have?” Notes the Passing Changes asked.
“Well,” Pat began, reaching up to scratch under his hat. “It’s like this. I know I read this story somewhere about this animal, you know our megafauna symbiotes the canines?”
“I have heard many humans grow eloquent on the subject,” Notes the Passing Changes didn’t try to hid the dry bite to the comment and Pat laughed in reply.
“We do go on about our good boys,” he admitted. “Well I am sure that I read an old, old story about one. Thousands of years ago. There was this volcanic eruption you touch? A lot of people died, and a lot of dogs too, and there was a story about one dog with a silver collar. I was sharing the story in the base and someone mentioned that they thought it was a false myth. You touch? Supposed to be history but really just a story someone made up.”
“Did you attempt trace back your sources?” Notes the Passing Changes asked as he flexed his sore tendrils carefully under the awkward scattering of logs.
“That’s the problem,” Pat said. “I can’t remember the dog’s supposed name. I can’t find the story. I can’t remember the name of the story. I can’t even remember where I first heard it. Neither can the other guy. We’ve searched the local library, and it’s a good library with a lot of information on the historic event so it should be there, even if it was just a story.”
“But you have not been able to find a trace of it yet,” Notes the Passing Changes observed.
“The nail on the head,” Pat said nodding his head vigorously. “So I came out to dig though my memories out here with the brisk wind to clear my head.”
“Well it certainly cleared mine,” Notes the Passing Changes observed, making sure to put a rueful note in the log voice.
Pat started and burst out in a laugh.
“Was that a joke?” the human demanded.
Notes the Passing Changes thought this humor a good note to end on and pulled his attention away from his smarting tendrils, there were other places he could probably shore up his defenses if the lovely clouds were going to make a habit of flinging ice balls at the ground.
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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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