Written because of a Critiqe Circle exercise:
Imagine that there is a race of sentient beings that hibernate for half of their planetary cycle (or a year for those writing Earth-based fantasy). How would these beings evolve? What would their forebearers look like. What would their cities look like? How would they cope with being "defenseless" half of their lives?
Write a small synopsis of a "Day in the Life" of these beings. Include vivid descriptions of any oddities that such a way of life might bring about. Do these beings like to sleep? Do they hate it, but cannot ignore their biological makeup? Do they pray to the Sandman? Use your imagination!
(See...it pays to watch the Discovery channel ;) )
–Lonestar66, Critique Circle member
(This solution is highly based on my own demonology for my fantasy worlds, and will as such not make much sense at several places as I'm comparing this specie with my "mainstream-average demon". Sorry it does not fulfill the prompt very well, but somewhere along the line it turned into a serious “discovery” of a new branch for my own fictional geography) WARNING! Occasionally very suggestive content as well as blatant begging for coitus. Nothing explicit but disturbing non the less.
The [...] specie of demon (unlike your average "I-sleep-when-the-heck-I-want-to-even-if-it's-inconvenient"-demon) stands out in demonology in that they fall asleep and awake on a set time - not unlike humans. However, unlike humans they don't exactly follow the day-night sleep cycle, but the seasonal cycle. Of course, just like average demons they will take “naps” every now and then for the benefit of bonding within the family and cuddle. But the typical deep, coma-like sleep will kick in on a specific time of year. On top of that, when it’s all summed up they sleep significantly longer than the average demon – roughly half of their lives are slept away compared to the normal 25% (which is still a bit more than the human sleep percentage). As they are located in the [—-] area, they will fall asleep around the time of late summer when the heat spell kicks in. Then they'll sleep all the way through the autumn/winter storms to wake up a few weeks before spring. In other words, with the characteristic deep sleep this pattern so greatly resembles that of hibernation that only biological actualities gives away that this is a rest of a typically demonic trait and not de facto the kind of hibernation many animals and a few nymph-type species go through annually.
Like other demons, they live infinitely until killed and without aging once adulthood is reached (with a slight reservation for the definition of being "alive", just like any other demon specie of this category, old examples will occasionally decide that the world isn't worth getting up for and instead sleep more or less infinitely, as well as a reservation for the term “aging”. They will look older in their own demon way, but the body does not suffer the decay that the human body suffers). Thus, they don't as much evolve as they lay back and watch how the rest of the world change. Most of them can't even be arsed to make a change of attitude for centuries (lazy laid-back bums!) and as such, they look pretty much the same, century after century.
On matter of their looks, they do have a slight nymph-ish streak in their appearance (think of the Na'vis from "avatar", but with an olive/greenish skin instead of blue and no “tentacle-ish hair-thing” or tail). This was previously used to explain why they follow a seasonal sleeping schedule rather than the normal "I'm tired ergo I sleep" schedule, as it is suggested by their appearance that they are closer related to now extinct local nymph tribes than the demon family. Their overall appearance may best be described as that of a lanky Christmas tree. Green, brown and overly decorated as well as strikingly thin for their length (which lies close to human average height due to the mix of short nymphs and tall demons)
As for their living habitat, for as long as anyone can remember they've lived in the ruins of the once great city [***]. Of course, someone might have been able to tell how long they'd actually lived there if they'd had any interest at all in writing stuff down, or at least care enough about their surroundings to ask how they got there/tell their youngsters of how they ended up there. EITHER WAY, they live there now, and will continue doing so for as long as they please. However, as most demons, they are completely uninterested in improving their surroundings or even commit basic maintenance, so the ruins are allowed to fall apart as time goes on. The demons aren't very troubled by this. They didn't build the city after all, and surely they'll get by even if the ruins were to get swallowed up by the woodlands completely. A minority of individuals tries to point out every now and then that the ruins are a very good home and it would be such a shame to let it go to waste when it really wasn’t that much trouble to pull up a few weeds and perhaps stabilize load-bearing walls. This minority is frequently given the response “well, feel free to fix it if that’s what you want to do. Not my problem”.
After all, the ruins doesn't so much serve a purpose as living quarters as they are one humongous playground where they can spend they days wasting energy as they please. Note that even if they inhabit an area with mostly intact walls, they still inherit the average demon’s typical lack of privacy and will copulate wherever they please as long as they are not disturbing anyone. Also note that "not disturbing" is meant in the same way you would be disturbing someone by singing karaoke in a library. Rarely will anyone be bothered about seeing a sexual act "live" the same way most humans would, embarrassment is simply something that happens to other species it seems. Granted, this does saves them the trouble of giving sexual education. Telling the kids to stay off the serious acts until they are adult is usually considered enough. Experimenting is encouraged, under the condition that the partner will be positive enough to the experiment that they won’t try to brutally execute you afterwards (a far more possible outcome among demons than humans, although most demons seems to be overall more “soft core” than humans, a great dissatisfaction for those who thought that hiring in a demon would spice up the harem). As with humans, it is considered rude to interrupt copulation or greatly affectionate cuddling. If you want in on the fun, ask before the act starts. Even demons can have the mood ruined.
Naturally, the ruins also serve a second purpose related to their sleeping pattern. Below the ruins there are spacious catacombs (although a demon would probably interpret "catacomb" as a brush intended for feline fur-care and instead refer to the underground area as "tunnels") where the demons are well protected from just about anything during their hibernation. Few sapient species would dare past the skeleton heaps, and many of those that do pass would back away by the sight of old enviro-effective curses scribbled all over the walls. That said, the big rock blocking the entrance will most likely stop anything from going down there uninvited anyway. The environment outside the ruins is characterized by the jungle-like forest that grows ever deeper in lack of human maintenance. Nymph-type demons are generally more appealed with deep woodlands where their outstanding agility, flexibility and movability in hard terrain come to its best, so it’s no wonder that these demons are more than pleased with the ever-thickening lush. However, the observant should already have noted that these woodlands doesn’t really qualify as “jungle” due to the mentioning of snow. This area is not tropical, but come late spring/early summer and I bet you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. What really emptied the former city of its original inhabitants was first and foremost the extreme weather of the [—-] area. Unlike what many may think, the current inhabitants did not kill the entire city population. At the very most there would have been a small residue of exhausted and strained human inhabitants there when the demons’ ancestors arrived. The harsh climate was more than enough to wipe out humanity. The only season that can really be called durable for the average human is the spring and early summer, in between the extreme heat and cold but remarkably dryer than the mildew-rich autumn. It’s the melting snow as well as very light rainfall that tints spring and early summer green, although the second half of summer is one long heat spell, characterized by severe drought. Then comes the autumn with it’s heavy and lengthy rains, and an ever increasing cold that peaks in mid-winter with overwhelming snowstorm, only interrupted by lighter snowfalls and the occasional storm without falling snow (although no one would be able to tell on the ground, as the winds would blow up the upper layer of snow). Taking all this in consideration, we’d have to applaud the humans for surviving long enough to build a city… However, there are plants and flowers that lived here long before humans learned to walk upright, and these have adapted in remarkable ways. The demons are “new in town” but are so hard to kill that it doesn’t really matter.
Like the average demon, they don't reproduce often (as a compensation for not ageing) so maternity doesn't become an annual problem. However, when pregnancy does coincide with sleep, the unborn will go on low-energy consumption just like the mother. You could say the whole thing is "on hold" until the mother wakes up and biology can take its course again. However, since reproduction is so scarce it also holds a high level of superstition compared to most other aspects of demon life. Thus mothers-to-be have a whole array of quirks that can be compared to household remedies. Someone once said that if demons have one superstition, it is pregnancy, and that it’s also the only aspect of life they don’t want to go poking in. Ever.
A Semi-Normal Day in the Ruin (the falling-asleep day) : (unfinished) Edit
It was so early in the morning that it was technically still night, but the sky was faintly brighter than it had been a moment ago, even though the sun was still several hours away. In what once was a small shop when the ruin was still a city, two demons lay half awake by the light of a small fire and a small brazier. The fire is a bit to the side, and its light is slightly dimmed by the cauldron over it, but the brazier is close at hand and grants a warm shine on the two and their belongings. A few bowls, bottles and bags, a parcel of assorted dried foods, two blankets, a big fur, various clothing items held together by straps and stings and an impressive amount of smaller weapons and ornaments. All topped of with a set of oversized goggles.
Reie, a small-built demon with feathered wings, could hardly hold back a yawn as he stretched out over Süle, his slightly older and more refined lover and moreover the owner of the goggles. Reie had already divided their stuff in two piles, one for everything leather-y, thread-y or wood-y, and another for everything else. Before the last light of day, they'd both go down underground to sleep, but first he had to make sure that their things would survive the months of neglect. Last year they had lost a much-needed and otherwise well done leather bag to the mould because it hadn't been properly prepared and this year he wou-
"Should you really be eating that now?"
Reie shot his lover a sour look and swallowed the stringy piece of dried meat he’d been chewing on. "Why not, I'm hungry now and we won't be eating for half a year!"
"Sure hon, but wouldn't you rather save it 'til we wake up? You'll be even hungrier then. If you have to eat, stay on the short-date items. Like the fresh food." Food in general was Süle’s department in their relationship. Süle found (and if necessary killed) food and Reie ate it. Perfect task distribution.
"Already ate it last night, and this is left from last year I think - tastes like a plank. And if I'm hungry when I wake up then I can just chew off your arm, right?" Reie tried the most charming smile he could master with a small piece of the meat lodged between his teeth.
"Don't even think about joking of that. I would never sacrifice my arm for you. At the very most you can have my left hand, nothing more!" Süle grinned at the last, affectionately pulling Reie's tousled hair a little.
"Should you say, eating away on the food I've graciously brought you and then threatening to devour me as well! Have you no shame hon?"
Reie grimaced at the mock indignation and went back to the items he had lined up. The weaponry was already well-maintained and only needed a brief looking over, but the leather/textile/wood stuff would need a through coating in an oily fluid extracted from a few special plants that had been heated for a few days. That is, right now that "fluid" was more of a glue, but it was important to slowly reduce the guck before adding a milky nut-based liquid to thin it all out.
“Your lovely irritability aside, hand me the guck will you."
"I would love to, if not for a tiny little detail; you see you're topping me, in case you haven't noticed. Go get it yourself; maintenance is your job after all. That's why I got your share of food for you!"
"Touchy you are, Süle," but Reie did get up, as he had intended to do all along, pleased with how easily teased his the older demon was at this time of year.
"Oh I swear, you grow more and more childish for each year. Aren't you supposed to wake up as a more mature individual every spring?"
"Oh, but I do, and then I spend all my waking time going back to my charming childish ways that you love so much" Reie replied, before putting the cauldron of goo down by the stuff that was going to get prepared, and unceremoniously flopped back down on Süle.
"OUFF! Do you have to do that? Shouldn't you sit up when you do important work?" "Don't sweat it, I do this every year. Thin it out, dip shit down and wait for it to dry. If I can sneak some body heat off you meanwhile then all he better."
"Oh shut up, as if we're not going to 'sneak body heat' off each other non stop the upcoming months."
Reie grinned at the thought. No matter how much they bickered, no - it was probably because of the bickering that he liked Süle so much. Sleeping for weeks and months was well spent time if they could lie curled up against each other. Süle was warm, soft and surprisingly cuddly - everything Reie asked for in a bedmate - and somehow their bodies would automatically align like two bones in a joint. Perfect match.
Several hours later they were both busying themselves with trying to make a bed out of a dusty hole in an underground stone wall. Their possessions were pushed furthest in, and then it was a matter of adjusting the fur and blankets to some kind of bed in the narrow space. Reie mentally checked off a list of things that should be done now. Food for next year – check. Belongings maintained and packed – check. Sharp objects wrapped well – check. Jewelry undone, untangled and packed – check (although he had to admit that he felt more naked without them than he would without his clothes). Everything was cleaned, prepared, packed, taken off or…
“We haven’t had sex!” Reie shrunk a bit as his outburst caused some nearby elders to burst out laughing.
“We had sex yesterday hon, where do you really get all that energy from at this time of year anyway?”
“But we’re not going to have sex until spring.”
Süle tried to look stern, irate or possibly just firm, but it was hard to tell since the underlying amusement shone through until finally it all gave way for a low, gentle laughter. That really didn’t ease Reie the least. Süle was, as far as he was concerned, always beautiful – but laughter was a rare occurrence that made the normally somber demon look a lot more… playful. Now he wanted to get his hands on the other more than ever. However, when Süle sobered and declared it to be bed-time, Reie obeyed. It was tricky to find a good position where Reies wings wouldn’t go squash, so he ended up in a three-quarters prone position, partly draping himself over Süle.
“First thing we’ll do when we wake up is have sex, right?”
“Asoon as we’re awake, ‘bove ground, unpacked, fed ‘n cleaned.”
“Good enough. Love ya.”
(they don't particularly "like" or "dislike" sleeping, by that time of the year they'll be sleepy, and go to bed as naturally as you and me. It's inconvenient, but as the seasons roll, all they want to do by then is to figuratively tuck themselves down and go for some serious marathon-snoring. They do not pray to the Sandman, but by technicality they belong to the deity [xxx])