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 Australopithecus skeleton discovered by Donald Johanson, Lucy is a Homo habilis. Her adopted child Boa is an Australopithecine.
Here’s Part 7:
Chapter 3–Part 1
When it is darkest, men see the stars.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“She is strong.” Wisps of their words floated back to Lucy. They never asked if she was tired. Why would they? If she needed rest, she would stop, and they would stop.
But Lucy worried about Baad. Sun had traveled a hand’s length further up the invisible-mountain-in-the-sky. They must be far beyond whatever danger worried Raza, and still he sprinted. Every time Baad passed her to talk with Raza, she smelled his trail of sweat and exhaustion and fear, but he never fell behind and never forced the younger male to slow.
A herd of Hipparion, elegant heads high, mirrored their path until they veered off, toward a water pocket formed where the river they followed jogged around a copse of aspen trees. Their chests heaved and sweat glistened on their lustrous coats as they slowed and stopped.
This must be the area watering hole. There, a Chalicothere, with its combination of rhinoceros body and equine head, tore vegetation from the branches of an acacia with its clawed toes and stuffed it into its wide mouth. A few steps away, a short necked paleo-hartebeest, its palmate horns more antelope than giraffe, splayed its squatty legs to reach the cool water.
“Crocodylus.” Lucy stared at a smooth stretch of water, where only bulging eyes hinted at the reptile below. Once, when she was a child, Crocodylus had grabbed a child of her group, thrashed his hapless body through the water before diving and carrying him into the murky black depths. All that remained had been a trail of pink and white bubbles. Raza pointed out the distinctive claw marks bisected by the sweeping tail, showed its entry into the water.
And raced onward. Why he wouldn’t stop here, where shade and water were offered, was a mystery to Lucy, but she didn’t ask, simply snagged handfuls of succulents for hydration and stuffed them into her neck sack to eat later.
She’d made this carry sack from Hipparion’s stomach, swished it through water to remove the ungulate’s last meal and rubbed it with pond mud to tamp down the scent that attracted Snarling-dog. Then, she had strung a white tendon, separated from the fibrous sinew that connected Gazelle’s leg to hip, through the top and around her neck. It had confused Raza at first, but after he watched her store travel food and her cutting tool, leaving her hands free, he now expected her to carry as much as both he and Baad combined.
The trio jogged onward in the windless air and the baking Sun, past sag ponds plopped amidst crenulated plateaus, and through debris collected at the base of volcanic hills. They dodged boulders and bounded over outthrow scattered incongruously across the flatlands. A gale came out of nowhere, kicking up a thick billowing cloud of sand and debris and almost knocking Lucy off her feet. She barked to Raza, but the wind carried her words away. She searched franticly for shelter. On one side of their traveling trail was the endless expanse of grasslands. When she turned the opposite direction, hoping to find a baobab or boulder or even a patch of scrub to huddle under, she found a towering wall of dust and dirt spiraling toward her.
She gasped and froze. This monstrous behemoth stood taller than the trees of her homeland and extended as far as her eye could see along the horizon. It roared like mammoth thundering across the plains, and billowed like Smoking Mountain when it spit fire and smoke.
Where did that come from? It licked at Sun’s base one moment and then without warning, turned light into dark like the blackest of the clouds that brought rain on a sunny day. Ahead, she could just make out Raza as he stopped. She tried to go forward to him, but the tempest blew her back, and then the wall of brown fog was upon her. It was all she could do to hold her balance as its swirling force beat at her from all directions. She dropped her head, coughing and spitting grit and then cupped her hands over her mouth. That seemed to work better, so she panted shallow breaths while the storm raged around her. All she could hear was the beating of great wings on all sides, mixed with the taste of dust and dirt and her own fear.
When she forced her head up, she could no longer see Raza or Baad through the murky soot. She shouted, but the storm was so loud, her voice blew back into her face. Grit and sand stung her face and made her slit her eyes, grating in her teeth and leaving its scent in her nostrils. A tree branch caught in the tempest slashed by within a hand’s width of Lucy’s head. She screamed and suddenly Raza had her hand. He motioned to his side and there stood Baad, buffeted by the winds but stumbling forward. If they could get to a tree, they could huddle around its trunk until the windstorm abated. Heads down, they pushed forward. Lucy walked blind. It was better than the stabbing pain of sand against her eyes.
A rabbit slammed into her side as it tumbled through the raging storm. She lost her balance and collapsed onto the gritty ground. Both males followed, and there they huddled in a tight mass, too tired to rise. They tucked their heads as mammoth did during a rainstorm as wave after wave of debris washed over them. At least here, she could breathe.
The dust storm passed as quickly as it started, in a rolling wall of dust and dirt, leaving them coughing and tearing. Dust hung like a fog, blocking all but feeble rays from Sun. Raza tugged them sideways, toward a lone boulder. Baad fell into a deep sleep while Raza walked to the bluff of a nearby berm and sat. Darkness settled around him until he became just a dark-grey shape among the spindled trees limned against Night Sun’s horizon.
Unable to still her mind, Lucy glanced toward Night Sun. It had already lost the shape of her tight fist. Now, it curved as though her stone chopper had sliced a piece from its edge. Lucy wondered who did that, time after time. Sometimes, it disappeared completely. Tonight, it had lost a finger-width of the size it started with when they set out. She hoped Night Sun would visit her new home.
She studied the sparkles of light filling the dark void around Night Sun. There were so many, like the grains of sand sprinkled over the barren ground. Garv had taught her how to read their trails as she read animal trails. They
migrated from side to side across the sky as the rains came and went. By watching their steps, she could tell how far she had traveled.
She found a group of the brightest specks that crossed each other as her arms did to indicate danger. Despite the full day of travel, they hadn’t moved far. When the days became dryer, they disappeared entirely, reappearing with the rains when the animals grew fat with babies.
She had once thought the tiny lights were flames burning the blackness, but they never got larger than the seed from a wildflower, nor did they burn themselves out like the grass fires. Garv had told her they were openings into another land.
The memories returned. That was the day Garv had beat on a bee hive until the insects burst out and followed his bellowing form. With the hive empty, Lucy had stuck her arms in up to her elbows and scooped big handfuls of honey onto a leaf. That done, she’d shouted to Garv as she scrambled up into the forest canopy. When he arrived, they sucked and chewed the leaf sponges she’d created until they finished every bit.
Then they’d sat, satiated, surrounded by layer upon layer of verdure. He had tilted her head upward until she gazed at the rich green leaves, so close she could touch them. They barely covered the next layer of darker shaded blades and buds, which in turn shrouded the plants above them, and so on. She followed the limbs and their lush growth upward until the canopy blurred into a black-green haziness so thick that only the rare shaft of light broke through the gloom, appearing as a bright light bounded by the darkness of the jungle.
“Maybe night is like this. Maybe the bright white holes are small because we are far away, as we are from the forest’s roof,” Garv breathed to her across the boundaries of time.
“That would make sense, Garv,” Lucy whispered silently.
She relaxed with the familiarity of the conversation and then rubbed her breasts and stomach with the juice from the same root bundle she’d shared with Baad, wondering what she had done that made them ache and swell.
She still couldn’t sleep. She would construct a bag for Raza—not as sturdy as one made from a stomach or bladder, but useful. She extracted a large leaf from her neck sack, smoothed it and perforated the top with her cutting tool, creating large holes spaced along the leaf’s veins. Then she selected a tendon from the collection around her neck. This one from the leg of Hipparion was long enough to encircle Raza’s thick neck and shoulders. She separated a shred as she would a section of stringy grass shoot, softened it by running it quickly from hand to hand, and strung it through the holes she’d made in the blade.
Part VIII 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 be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.