Stilt-bottom

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Insects have 6 limbs, higher animals have 4, and people have 2. Or so I thought.

A stilt-bottom is an intelligent being, but like a four-pawed animal, a stilt-bottom has a total of four arms: two ordinary arms attached to the shoulders and two "stilts" growing out of the bottom. The hands attached to the stilts are not useful for grasping because their fingers are so short. In fact, they are more like a bear's paws than like hands.

When a stilt-bottom walks, he lifts his bottom and rises up on the palms of his stilt-hands. Because his bottom is several links off the ground, he cannot walk like ordinary two-armed people do, stepping with both hands at the same time and then bringing the bottom forward. Instead he places one stilt-hand nearly in front of the other and repeats the process to move forward, much like the hind limbs of a four-pawed animal. A bony protuberance at the root of the stilt-hand aids in balance, acting much like the protuberances of the first knuckles. But unlike a four-pawed animal, the stilt-bottom's ordinary arms just seem to swing back and forth, mirroring the motion of his stilts. All of this is exaggerated in an unusual gait that stilt-bottoms occasionally use to move quickly by a succession of hops on alternating hands.

Over these stilts, some wear a garment like an upside-down shirt with no hole for the head. Others, especially females, wear something like a cape over their stilts. Some just wear a long shirt that covers the body and the stilts; this is more common among women but not unheard of among men.

Because stilt-bottoms walk on the palms of their stilt-hands, they do not wear overmitts on their ordinary hands. They do wear overmitts on their stilt-hands, but not the typical style of overmitts that curve to place the knuckles on the ground in a partial fist, with or without pockets for individual fingers. Instead, a stilt-bottom's overmitts are nearly flat on the bottom, allowing most of the area under the palm to stay in contact with some ground, though the finger end of these curves up a bit to allow one to lift the overmitt for the next step. These are often tied or buckled onto the hand so that they don't slip off. Some female stilt-bottoms wear specially shaped overmitts that lift the roots of the stilt-hands off the ground, forcing more weight onto the underside of the fingers.

When a stilt-bottom rests from walking, he generally does not lower his bottom all the way to the ground and sit on a mat. Instead, he sits on a high chair supported on planks that place it about two spans off the ground, just below the height of the stilt-elbow.

The languages of stilt-bottom societies always have separate words for the regular hands and the stilt-hands (universal 1181). Stilt-bottoms do not measure distances in eighteen-inch cubits, as we used to, or in eight-inch spans (also called links), as we do now. Instead, they measure with a unit of length that's a multiple of the idealized length of a stilt-hand from the fingertips to the end of the bony protuberance at the root, which is twelve inches or a link and a half. (This is the length of the overmitt; the actual stilt-hand is shorter.) What they call a "pace", or length taken in two steps, is sixty inches; their length closest to our pace is a "yard", or thirty-six inches.

Most adult stilt-bottoms are eight to nine links tall, roughly twice an average person's height. Because stilt-bottoms are so tall, they often don't see a four-link-three-inch person walking among them. People entering stilt-bottom territory have been known to get knocked by a stilt unless they wear a tall hat such as a stovepipe hat or a pointy hat. (PROTIP: Stovepipe hats are also good for carrying your papers.) We assume good faith and take this to be an accident.

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