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Costume Party
by Sly Squirrel
©2003 Sly Squirrel -- all rights reserved

They were bored.

It is really quite amazing to see what kids will do when bored to tears. The left brain activity of said children seems to shoot through the roof: playgrounds become army bases; forests become alien worlds; a basketball becomes a sphere of magical energy. Simply put, children manage to keep themselves occupied in any way possible.

It seems that the best place to see these traits is at family reunions. After a cheek-pinching session with Aunt Matilda, food with half the flavor, and a rousing game of Aggravation with their long-lost cousins, a child can quickly reach the critical point of boredom.

Thus the plot: they were bored. Five minutes had passed since the final game of Aggravation. Most of the older children were too busy playing adult card games to notice the boredom sinking in. The smaller kids, though... now they were a different story. Two of the rowdiest, Melissa and Mark, were bouncing off the walls with boredom.

It was time to start exploring the lost ruins of Great Amah Margie's temple. There were many dangers ahead of them: guardians who wanted them to sit and watch slide shows, doors whose latches were just out of reach, ladder cords that needed teamwork to pull down.

But they made it up those hallowed stairs and into the world of the unknown. Heat baked the two as they explored--but since when did kids care about comfort? All that mattered was the exploration of the hallowed temple, looking over each relic with wonder and intrigue.

They pushed every button, ran their fingers over every mothballed garment, and stepped into every crevice in that tiny space. Mark stubbed his toe on a piece of hard metal. He screamed, then looked at what he had discovered.

Melissa came over to help him uncover the find from its coffin of clothing. A small view screen came to life as they worked; it welcomed them with a canned electronic voice. "Hello! What bodily service can I offer you today?" A list scrolled across the screen.

"Wow!" screamed Mark. He poked and prodded at the letters. They flashed in response. What could a gigantic glass Tank do, he wondered? It was so big and bulky -- nothing like the newer handheld units. Those were always governed, anyhow: most of its changes were dumb practical stuff -- healing of cuts, that sort of thing. They were no fun ever since the big changes were outlawed.

In comparison this machine was... mysterious. Just what a bored child needed.

"Me first!" Melissa cheered. She stepped into the big Tank, all smiles. Mark played with the touch screen until he found something fun for his cousin to try on.

There was a pause. The machine whirred softly. After a time it dinged, and out stepped Melissa. She wore a gray trunk and long ears. Mark just had to laugh for a moment.

"An elephant!" Melissa screamed. "I'm an elephant. How incredible!"

"Don't forget who did it to you," Mark said.

"Of course! An elephant never forgets." She grinned, and the trunk poked its way to the sky. "You're next."

"Yay!" he jumped in, and the machine whirred again.

The parents downstairs heard the racket, looked up at the ceiling, and chuckled. How cute, they thought; the little ones were having a costume party of their own. A few grabbed their cameras, a few laughed, and fewer still reminisced about the good old days, when the Tank was the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Perhaps it still was, in the hands of youngsters. Children could make anything wondrous if only they tried.

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