What use a leaking bowl

From a random writing prompt I found which challenged me to describe how an everyday article would be perceived by an alien: I want to do more writing and thought it would be fun to do some writing prompts while on vacation. This was composed on my mobile, which went better than I could have expected.

It is like a beach from home. The shore is a different substance and the water isn’t the same sort of water either. For a start, it doesn’t appear to be steaming at all. Some distance away I see a small flying creature land on the water and take off again, without coming to obvious harm. Astounding.

My footsteps leave prints on the ground and, curious, I gingerly pick up a small amount of this gritty stuff in my glove. Peering closely at it, it appeared to be tiny little rocks, for the most part. But not exclusively.

I need to refresh myself, but no idea how to do that. Banishment is going to be hard if I don’t figure this out really quickly.

I also have no idea if I am alone here. I’ve seen enough small creatures by now to not have been taken aback by that flying one. But nothing larger than my fist; and certainly nothing that has exhibited any sort of overt threat towards me.

I walk this way for a time without coming across anything interesting or of note, and no obvious candidate for sustenance. I am confident however in my prospects thanks to both my own resourcefulness and resilience, and because my people are neither careless nor vengeful and would not have marooned me to certain death.

(You of course may be confident of some success since you have the luxury of knowing I could not relay this tale without surviving long enough to commit it to shared memory.)

Taking full stock of my surroundings, I realize I am at their lowest point and so at a disadvantage for survey. I decide to turn inland. There is a wall of—I would call them trees, because that’s what they look like to me, or close enough. I guess, being here by myself for the duration, I don’t need to be particularly accurate about floral taxonomies. Whatever they are, they appear sufficiently spaced to permit my passage.

I briefly wonder if anything on those “trees“ will harm me, but decide to trust in my suit. In a few steps I’m pushing the first “branch” aside, and step into an unexpected darkness. Looking up, little of the planet’s single star’s light shines through the foliage. A tiny creature lands on me, then another. They are different from the larger one I saw earlier apart from their size. I expect their flight is different and so their structure differs as well. They fly off, or rather sort of float off, after a moment.

The floor is carpeted with droppings from these trees. This place certainly has its differences along with the similarities. I will have to watch my step while watching out for dangers ahead, around and above.

I move slowly.

The alignment of planet and star has shifted enough that the light is starting to fade when the trees thin and then stop and I find myself in the open. The ground here is soft and yielding yet firm and carpeted with a fragile green plant life that wavers a little in the breeze. Around the clearing there are structures which I have to assume aren’t natural, although I’ve barely had time to ascertain the physical realities of this place.

Again, my people wouldn’t leave me in an inhospitable place, so some assumptions are probably safe.

There is a stillness here that I have felt since… well, since Arrival, I guess. There is a breeze and I have observed several creatures. But they are of the lower orders and whatever creature built these structures, I have detected no other clue of their continued presence.

I reach down and grab a few of the thin green blades sprouting at my feet. They snap off as I pull so the roots are resilient. But looking behind me, my footprints are clear: I conclude that regular activity in this place would impede their growth. Having no sense of time here yet however I can’t really guess how long since the builders of these structures existed here. A while. That’s my closest estimate.

I am curious, and (for the moment) more importantly, I hunger, so I investigate further.

The structures are straight lines and right angles and the walls appear to be of a substance I haven’t yet observed here. They are topped with roofs which are apparently fashioned from some of the flora I have seen already and finished with some I have not, yet. The overall height is about half of mine so I suppose the inhabitants would have been a third. Each has one larger opening from the ground to a little higher than this and most have smaller apertures some distance off the ground.

I’m making many assumptions here. Bipedal animals do their height is greater than their width: I might bring some bias here but it also matches the proportions of these doorways, if that’s what they are.

I enter the first. It is bare. The floor feels like the clearing but without the green carpet.

The second is also bare but I note in one corner the ground is elevated in a squared off mound. This mound is flat on top.

In the third, I find a collection of detritus. It appears to have been pushed into a pile but elements or some other factors have scattered some remnants around the space. I spend a little time examining these scraps but they are too random, dry, small, and lacking scent or colour to be of much interest. I will return at leisure to examine this, but for now it serves no immediate need.

The fourth and fifth are bare like the first. The sixth makes up for all the others.

A light platform is elevated off the ground by means of four posts. On this platform is a collection of objects. The platform and its occupants are of various materials, none of which are familiar from my short time in this place.

Several appear to be in pairs and are organized together. The simplest form is a pair of flat sticks; on closer inspection they are a little more complicated than that and one edge is ground to a blade. It appears to be a knife. Next to that is another pair, similar on one end and at the other splitting into several branches which come to a point. Then there are larger objects, concave, and I believe they’re bowls. They are one colour but stained on the inside from, I must presume, the juices of whatever the inhabitants ate.

Under the platform, there is an object I hadn’t noticed before. It is also concave, but deeper, and larger than the others. It is also broken. With some difficulty, as I am already stooped in this diminutive space, I retrieved it from where it was either stored or had fallen. On closer inspection it is not broken. What I thought to be holes are not, or rather, they must be deliberate. They occur regularly and frequently all over this bowl-shaped object.

What could this have been used for? For holding food, certainly, so long as liquid was not a factor. Or it could have been used to collect waterborne food sources. The vessel does not bear the stains of the smaller bowls so perhaps it was never used for the same foods, or for not long enough.

I put it back. None of this is helping me find food for myself. I leave the structure, backing out bent almost in half, and gratefully straighten once outside in this alien world.

I turn around, and across the clearing is a creature, roughly a third of my height, staring right at me.

It is bipedal and of the same basic proportions as my own species, at a reduced scale. As I recall its legs account for roughly half its height, and of the rest two thirds torso and one third its head. It appears to have hands roughly similar to my own at the end of fairly thin arms Two eyes point in my direction and it holds some kind of pointed instrument at about mid torso in both hands. One hand wraps around the end held close while the other cradles the other almost under an aperture pointed in my direction.

Neither of us move for a moment. The other creature’s gaze does not waver. After a short time it slowly lowers the instrument until it hangs at one side and the creature slowly backs away without looking away, until it reaches the trees. It stops for a moment, looking at me, then steps behind a tree, turns around and begins moving at speed through the forest. I have no reason to pursue it and no interest in doing so. I suppose it might lead me to food. At this stage however I had hoped not to yet make contact with higher level life.

I climb up on one of the structures and listen carefully. I hear the one creature making its way through the forest, making little noise and moving rapidly away, but detect no other sounds indicating other such creatures, or larger. Nevertheless, I am anxious to leave this place. The question is: where?

Behind the structures, the land rises in a steadily increasing slope. I reason I stand a better chance of avoiding further encounters if I find a vantage point which is inaccessible to a smaller, weaker being.

I make my way through the structures and begin to walk, then clamber, then climb. I am practically panting when I reach a plateau which requires stretching to my full height and my highest jump to grab hold—on my third attempt.

I feel fairly safe here. The plateau is level and large enough that I have no fear of rolling off in sleep. I estimate it would be impossible for a creature a third and one of my size to climb up unaided and difficult to do so undetected by any means. And I have seen no flying creatures of sufficient size to harass me.

Finally, it offers me an excellent vantage point for my estimation of where I will spend the rest of my life.

But for now, rest. Despite my need for refreshment, it has been a long day already, and an effortful climb.


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