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 16:
Chapter 6–Part II
This land was always hot. The shady coolness of the forest was only a short jog away, but the group chose to inhabit the sweltering grassland with its worn trails and baked black-and-brown rocks. The thick heat of morning left the scrub brush scratchy and dry and the leaves on the few trees limp and dismal, wrapping Lucy’s body in a damp humid hide. No wonder Cat slept during the day, atop a termite mound where it could catch the errant breeze.
Since sleeping in the open wasn’t an option, Lucy dumped pond water over her fur and shook from toes to prognathic snout to fluff her fur before dragging from chore to chore. She panted constantly, her face ashen. Kelda carped nonstop about her weakness, saying her slender build might suit a forest life but not the toughness of the savanna. Every night when darkness settled on the land bringing cooler temperatures, and the band came together to talk about where food could be found and what hunters had seen, Lucy pretended she was home.
Her body adjusted faster than her mind. Night Sun came and went and came again before she could finally sit on her heels harvesting the dried-out sun-shriveled roots and tubers even rat wouldn’t eat without wondering what Feq was doing. It took all of her strength to remember this was about protecting her child. This Group had never known a time when the males didn’t protect them, when the band became too small to frighten predators, when food couldn’t be found to feed the children. Lucy couldn’t forget.
Wouldn’t forget. She let the memories eat at her thoughts. When Sun crested the invisible-mountains and even the sturdy grasshoppers refused to fly in the sweltering heat, everyone rested except Lucy. This was the only time she could be alone, away from Falda’s ever-presence. She memorized the insects’ light footsteps, the prints of prey and predator, and the different scents and tastes left by Cat’s stalking and wandering. She pawed through scat to identify an animal’s size and health, what food it ate, and when it fled in mortal fear. She could even distinguish between Cat’s cousins by how they cached their kill.
The wind had blown itself out overnight and the gray sky of dawn hid Sun’s comforting presence. Birds called greetings and Mammoth lowed its pleasure at the world. The bigger Lucy’s stomach grew, the more Kelda harangued her, and this morning had been worse than most. Lucy finished her chores and escaped to the wilderness.
When she got far enough from home base that the voices were lost in the swish of poacea, she turned her eyes to the ground. She held no hope that she could cure the sickness in her spirit, but she did need to replenish her healing plants. As she picked a familiar thick-stemmed plant from the tall tussock grasses along the river, she froze. Cheetah’s prints. Judging by the stride, Cheetah was hunting. A bird cawed to a mate, and Cousin Chimp chattered from some corner of the forest as Lucy inched her eyes over the worn path and along its shadowy edges. The morning dew on the plant leaves was smudged and dried into dirty whorls; Cheetah passed long ago.
She glided after Cheetah like a wraith, tracking her as Cat might. The steps deepened as she studied Cat’s prey—a gazelle—waiting for the moment the animal dipped its head to nibble roots. There! Lucy found the deep impressions where Cheetah sprang, and then her wide strides as she ran like the wind. Gazelle sprinted with long light strides, but no animal escaped Cheetah. Lucy smelled the great Cat’s sweat and Gazelle’s fear as Cheetah gained ground. She need only draw close enough to extend her dew claw, trip Gazelle and pounce. Cheetah couldn’t eat the entire animal and Lucy found no signs of Vulture or Snarling-dog. The scavenge would feed the entire group, if she could explain why she had been hunting.
But Cheetah’s strides shortened and froze, before beginning again in a trail of slow staggering prints, close together as though she took her time. Gazelle had escaped. White foam dripping from Cat’s mouth spotted the leaves. Lucy felt her disappointment.
What happened? Surely a muscular animal like Cheetah never became tired. Lucy experienced no fatigue, no shortness of breath or overheating. She turned back onto the traveled trail, planning to retrace her steps to where she had been collecting herbs. To her surprise, Raza appeared, his face ashen as he crushed her body to his.
“Lucy! Cheetah stalks.” His agitated hands continued, “You are in danger!”
“Cheetah-that-is-tired is gone.” She pushed Raza’s finger into a pile of Cheetah’s scat. It was dry and cool, without the steamy softness of fresh dung.
“It is old.” Raza’s face relaxed and she told the story of Gazelle’s stamina and Cheetah’s failure. The next day, Raza included Lucy in the hunt.
Part XVII next week…
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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and three ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for 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.