Finally after ten years, I am close to publishing the heart-rending and fast-paced biography of Lucy. Written in the spirit of Jean Auel, this is the paleo-historic saga of our earliest ancestors as lived through the eyes of a female Homo habilis.
Since Donald Johanson uncovered the tiny three-and-a-half foot clawless, flat-toothed Australopithecine, we have asked, Who is she? And how could she survive in a world of mammoth predators and unrelenting natural disasters she had no understanding about? This book answers those questions as well as more fundamental ones like, Where did God come from? Why did man create his first tool? How did culture start?
Here’s a summary:
Lucy: A Biography follows three species of early man (Australopithecus, Homo habilis and Homo erectus), as they fight for the limited resources of Pleistocene Africa. Lucy, of the species habilis, blames herself for the death of her family and agrees to mate with a stranger (Raza). As they journey to Raza’s homebase, they are tracked by two deadly predators: Xha, of the smarter and more powerful species Homo erectus, and the violent and unforgiving Nature, a sentient being who meddles with fate and Lucy’s future as though it were a chemistry experiment. The story is carefully researched to shared the geography, climate, and biosphere that would have been Lucy’s world 1.8 million years ago, when man was not King and nature ruled with a violence and dispassion we call ‘disaster’ today.
Every week, I’ll post part of this story.
A note: While I took Lucy’s name from the infamous Australopithecine skeleton discovered by Donald Johanson, Lucy is a Homo habilis. Her adopted child Boa is an Australopithecine.
Here’s Part 14:
Chapter 5–Part II
Life on the Savanna
Night Sun had just appeared as a yellow sliver over the horizon when Raza’s hoot was answered by a whoop from beyond a towering cliff. Lucy edged closer to Raza and gritted her teeth as hominids appeared first singly and then in a vast milling throng. Suddenly, her plan felt wrong. What had she been thinking? Why would they welcome her, a stranger with a child?
The travelers entered a flat barren area, littered with the boney remnants of scavenge on one side and debris from tool knapping on another. Beyond that was a darkening pond, shimmering with Sun’s last warm rays before it dropped to sleep below the horizon. Now hominids spilled from behind trees and boulders like ants scurrying from their hill, and forced the trio to move ever-more-slowly forward. Excitement overflowed in a babble of spacious hand gestures and expressive facial movements, but paused at Lucy. Even the children, giggling over whatever game they had created for the day, shot sly glances her way before chasing happily after each other and ending up in a wriggling mass of arms and legs in the warm dust.
Lucy breathed in shallow pants as her gaze careened through the quiet crowd. Broad muscular shoulders topped squashed trunks and truncated legs. Leering eyes faded into skin as dark as the kinky black fur covering their heads and bodies. How odd she must look with her huge eyes and skin the shade of Dik-dik’s fawn, her thick wealth of straight black hair glistening and swaying against her shoulders with her every step.
“Raza never said anything… Nor Baad…”
She slumped against Raza, but her head stuck above the crowd as though she’d mounted an overlook. This group would never welcome her. Where would she go? In her horror, she barreled into an old female hurrying toward her. Thin hair billowed around a kind face lined by untold migrations in the searing sun. Her eyes crinkled with pleasure as she reached her arms forward.
“He found you!” She touched bent fingers to Lucy’s face. “You are different. That is good.”
Lucy struggled with the movement for ‘different’. Like Chimp? Or Cat? “ ‘Different’?”
The elder ignored her comment, as though her mind had moved on. “The one on the berm—that wasn’t your child’s Primary. Garv has lost his way. This was another.”
Lucy gasped. How did she know? “I saw him again, after. He came with stick-that-killed-dik-dik. He had no fear.”
Kee nodded, sadness flitting across her face and settling into the fine wrinkles around her mouth and eyes. She folded Lucy into a warm embrace as a ropey, winter-lean male approached. He had long curled fingers and arms that dangled down to knobby knees. Kee barked what sounded like ‘Ma-g’n’.
“You have met Raza’s Primary-Female, Kee.” His voice was mellow and smooth as he tilted his head up to meet her eyes. She struggled with his words.
“Primary-Female?” Raza and Baad had used this strange term.
“ ‘Primary-Female’ is the one who birthed Raza and cared for him until he became a child of the group. He values her above all females.” He cocked his head as a smile spread from his full lips to sunken cheeks to laughing eyes. “Do you have such a person in your group?”
“Yes. We call her ‘Mother’.”
Baad grunted Ma-g’n’s call sign and motioned him to where he stood with Raza.
“I must go.” Ma-g’n paused, as though wishing to say something. “Your stride speaks of strength. I welcome you to our group.” He squeezed her arm with a warm soft hand and left.
As he joined Baad, a young male approached Raza. He had powerful shoulders and thick muscles over his chest and back. Dark fur sprouted just a hands-width above his brow line. His eyes were hooded and his shoulders drooped. He glanced toward Kee and she gave a slight upward nudge of her head. That’s when he noticed Lucy. A mask snapped over his face hiding whatever bothered him behind a welcoming smile. The din of conversation hushed when Raza greeted the male.
“Vorak…” Raza’s hunting partner. Raza had spoken of him.
“Raza, your Primary-Male…” Vorak’s youthful hands faltered.
Raza’s skin paled and pain rolled across his face. As quickly as it came, it disappeared, and his eyes became the flat black of obsidian staring from the inscrutable façade Lucy had become used to during their travels. He patted Vorak’s shoulder and turned to greet the rest of the group.
“Kee…” Lucy wanted to return to Raza’s side.
“His Primary, my pairmate Hku, died peacefully. Many don’t.”
Raza’s Primary-Male Hku was lucky to have lived out his life.
“Come.” Kee guided Lucy to a small group of females, just enough to forage food and watch children. “We have work.”
Lucy squared her shoulders and forced her mouth into a smile as each female was introduced. They would become the essence of her days forever more, as important to her as food. Despite the friendly greetings, Lucy felt separated by more than just appearance. The memories that shaped her every breath, that made her old though she had barely passed her first blood, none here would understand. Who in this group had come close enough to death to smell its pungent scent? Who had lost everything except a second chance at life, whose very price came too high for those they loved.
As she scanned the short compact bodies, with their wide faces and white-rimmed eyes, she had no doubt each had a past, but did it haunt them with a cacophony of memories? She felt like a water-mammoth she’d once seen, driven from his herd, limping laboriously through the riverain trees bleeding from a deep open gash on his hind-quarters, glancing back in a vain hope to rejoin old friends until he finally melted into the low trees and chest-high grasses. Did he recover before death’s arrival, or did the vultures scavenge his carcass before he recovered? Was that her end?
Before beginning the work, she needed to release her water. Kee barked to an older, frowning female to show Lucy where this was done. The female glared, turned and disappeared. Before Lucy could follow, a younger female Kee called Falda took Lucy’s hand and led her to a separated location hidden within a sandstone cliff. Here, she silently took care of her business and returned to begin preparations for the meal.
Part XV next week…
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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and author of two technology training books for middle school. She wrote Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.