Lucy: A Biography–Part IX

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 9:

Chapter 4–Part 1

Crossing the Great African Rift

The significance of man is not in what he attains, but rather what he longs to attain.

—Kahlil Gibran

Lucy stared at Raza’s Impassable Rift. Craggy walls plummeted to a deep valley floor littered with boulders and chunks of ancient earthy crust. Layer upon striated layer colored the sides, turning brown-red to humus-black in the width of a finger. Eagle nested on rocky ledges, close to Mouse, his favorite food. Lucy caught the smudge of movement as whole rodent families scampered out and back to safety, like a gentle disturbance in the airwaves.

Compared to this infinite chasm, Lucy’s homeland Rift was but a chink in Earth’s skin.

While Raza and Baad planned the crossing, Lucy scrutinized the land abutting the far side of the Rift. In place of her verdant rainforests were endless grasslands, populated with massive boulders, rolling berms and tall golden forbs. Mounds of talus encircled the distant mountain Raza called ‘Smoking Mountain’, the same name as the precipice in her territory though it lacked the rutted slopes and rounded peak.

Behind her, Raza snorted in some noxious scent. Lucy sniffed, and gasped.

“Bitter-leaf!” Lucy plucked as much as she could find and stuffed it into her neck sack. Pounded into a paste, it soothed cuts. She had found many plants rare in her homeland along the traveling trail. The aromatic Cat-ear, when chewed to a sticky pulp could be pasted over cuts to reduce swelling. She’d discovered a vast bush of Blood-weed, whose absorbent blades she used during her bleeding, but the best was the bloom of Maniese to treat stomach sickness.

“Rain.” Raza looked out over the mottled terrain as he picked out some early wetness in the air. Lucy tried to smell what Raza did…

“Are you ready?” Baad leaned over her.

Startled, Lucy grunted in irritation with herself. “Did I sleep long?”

Baad seemed undisturbed and signaled something to Raza as they set out. They paralleled the Rift, stopping here and there as Raza studied the ground and stared across the Rift before ultimately continuing. Summer Sun had begun its drop down the far side of the invisible mountain in the sky before he found a sloughed section of crumbling earth that satisfied him, and they began their descent into the Rift.

Raza inched from one handhold to the next, forcing Lucy to slow her pace. This cliff with its shallow crevices and knobby stone outcrops was easy to her. She had honed her climbing skills scrambling up tree trunks and slippery boulders just ahead of danger. Maybe he wasn’t used to scaling vertical walls, or was it his damaged hand and knee that slowed him? Whatever it was, it gave Eagle too much time to study them.

“Raza! Have you crossed Rift often?” Lucy used the hand movement for ‘common activity done many times’ rather than ‘an activity that is done, but rarely’.

He glanced up, his faced filled with confusion, and shrugged.

“Is it my gesture for ‘common activity’ or intonation that confuse him?” Lucy tried to recall what he called Rift, but failed.

“I have done this many times,” she tried again. “I can lead.”

This time, Raza ignored her. They placed a foot here and an outstretched hand there, pausing to grunt instructions or warnings to each other before moving on. Sweat poured from Lucy’s head down her back and arms, making her handholds squishy and loose and her feet slip. Tiny insects crawled over her hands, up her nose and into her ears and mouth.

Eagle squawked, his voice echoing against the chasm walls and he followed their progress through his territory. Raza tried to find his lazy circle above, but the glare from Sun blocked it.

“What prey does Eagle see?” Raza shouted past Lucy to Baad.

“Eagle stalks us. Why doesn’t Raza understand this?” Lucy asked herself. Instead, she interjected, “We are unusual here. We look like prey.” Lucy used the vocal cues for ‘we’ and ‘prey’ learned from the chimps who shared her rainforests.

Baad called down to her, “Cousin Chimp. He lives in your homeland?”

Before Lucy could answer. Eagle squalled again, this time its danger call. Eagle was hunting. Lucy scanned the craggy walls, her eyes digging into the shadows for out-of-place movements, hoping she was wrong, knowing she couldn’t be. There, tucked into a nook, were Eagle’s chicks. The colors of their feathers, even their beak and claws, blended with the browns and yellows of the chasm, but Lucy found them when their wide open mouths, demanding food, warped the natural colors. Their mother would teach them if they survived.

“She fears we endanger her young,” Lucy barked, urgency in her voice. “We must move!”


Part X 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.comEditorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing TeachersIMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write AnythingCurrently, 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.

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