SPark, the Purple Dragon (bladespark) wrote,
SPark, the Purple Dragon

Another Kids Are Weird sci-fi story.

And my kiddo gives me infinite material for them.


Emily stood at the very top of the play structure in her favorite park. The park was her favorite for lots of reasons. Because her friend Pthiz was usually there. Because it had a really good see-saw and she could get Daddy to go on the other side sometimes. But also because it had the tallest play structure with the best slide of any of the parks in town. It was a three-story play structure, so the top was taller than Daddy's head, and the big slide did a whole circle and then twisted the other way too before reaching the ground.

Pthiz stood next to her, his main manipulators holding very, very tightly to the metal railing that kept them both from just falling off the itty-bitty platform.

"Come slide," said Emily, tugging very gently at his secondary manipulator. "It's fun!" Pthiz twitched and clicked, and Emily let go of his weird, jointed hand, remembering what Daddy had said about the clicks being kinda like crying. "Are you scared?"

"We're so high! I break my shell if I fall."

"It's a slide, you don't fall, you slide."

"No way. I go down the ladder." He shook his head a whole bunch of times, and his antennae flutter, flutter, fluttered.

"I'm gonna slide," stated Emily. Pthiz being a scaredy-bug wasn't going to stop her. Emily went to the slide. She looked down. It was a long, long, long way down. Pthiz was right, she'd break her everything if she fell. Her heart was racing, and she tightened her own grip on the bar above the slide's top. But she didn't stop, she used the bar to swing herself onto the slide, then pushed off.

Air rushed around her. The polymer slide was hot through the fabric of her pants. She was jolted as it twisted first to one side, then to the other, swirling her around.


She landed at the bottom, laughing madly, while Pthiz began slowly descending the ladder that climbed to the uppermost platform, clinging to the rungs with all four manipulator limbs.

Akitl, watching her son climb down, flicked her antennae down in nervousness. She knew he was very good at climbing, and had gotten even better since playing with the human child, who showed her tree-dwelling primate ancestry very clearly as she swarmed over the play structure's many climbing features, but it was hard not to be a bit nervous at seeing her small, fragile offspring so high up, even if he was climbing very slowly and carefully, and had eight limbs to hang on with if something went wrong.

To distract herself from worry, she turned to the human sitting beside her, Emily's father Steve. "So the noise she made just then was a sound of pleasure and not distress, yes?"

"Yes, she's having a lot of fun. The big slide is her favorite."

"I've seen her go down it many times. I still am puzzled by what benefit she gains from it, though. It seems like a pseudo-falling, to descend so rapidly."

"Yep, that's it exactly."

"But why? Surely as a partially arboreal species, humans are afraid of falling?"

Steve chuckled. "Terrified of it. It's a common human nightmare, to dream you're falling to your death."

"Yet she enjoys the simulated falling!"

"Weird isn't it?"

Akitl's antennae twitched, not even certain what position to fall into. "Is this like the spinning and the being dizzy?"

"A little, I suppose. Though I've always felt that being dizzy has more in common with the adult human fondness for alcohol and other mind-altering substances. Those often induce dizziness too. The adrenaline rush of fear is something else. It's very exciting."

Her antennae falling into a by-now familiar position of incredulous amusement, Akitl said, "It seems a little too exciting to me."

"Oh, you haven't seen anything yet. You ever heard of skydiving?"

"Dare I ask?"

Steve laughed. "It's a pastime of certain adult humans. They jump out of flying vehicles, thousands of feet up, so that they can fall. They have parachutes and counter-grav units, of course, so they survive the experience. But every now and then something goes wrong and somebody dies doing it. Doesn't stop them, though."

Akitl's antenna rose sharply in shock. "You engage in a recreational activity that kills members of your species?"

"Yep. That's just the beginning too. We have lots of dangerous hobbies, and an entire genre of media called 'horror movies' that are intended to scare us silly. Like you keep saying, we're a strange lot. It's very easy to get addicted to the rush you feel from danger, and like a lot of addictions, you have to keep increasing the dose. Going down a slide like that, even one in proportion to my adult size, would hardly be exciting for me at all. It'd be fun, but I'm sure nothing like the rush Emily is getting. I'd need to do something more extreme to get that kind of fun, at this point in my life."

"I am astonished," said Akitl. She noted with some relief that Ptiz had now reached the ground. She also noted that Emily had climbed up using a different route and was at the top again. Another "Wheee!" soon echoed as she once more slid down the high slide.

"It gets even weirder, you know."

"I am braced for further strangeness," said Akitl, her antennae returning to their amused set. Steve laughed again.

"The human arousal response is nearly identical to the human fear response."

Akitl blinked, and her antennae flicked up in surprise again. "You are afraid of sex?"

Steve's laugh was even louder now. "No! Well...sometimes, actually. But no, not usually. Sexual arousal just has the same symptoms, the faster-beating heart to prepare for physical exertion, the deeper breaths, all that. Some people even deliberately engage in adrenaline-boosting fear and pain activities as part of or as prequel to sex, to enhance the sensation. Though even other humans consider those who do this a little bit odd. It's lost a lot of the stigma it used to have back in the day, though."

"So Emily is... Ah..."

"Oh no, she's much too young to get that kind of thrill. She's just getting plain old pure adrenaline. It's been a while since I got much of it myself, really. I've heard there's a paintball course over in New New York. Maybe I should see if I can get a babysitter and free up some time to play a round."

"Paintball?" asked Akitl, wondering what further strangeness she was about to discover.

Steve bared his teeth in a cheerful grin. "Yep. Allow me to explain..."

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