Lucy: A Biography–Part X

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 10:

Chapter 4–Part 2

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 adjusted her climb and motioned Baad to follow, but it was too late. Eagle shrieked a harsh kloo-ee kloo-ee, tightened its ellipse and dove. The light-colored legs faded into the blue-white sky until she looked like a taloned rock hurtling through an aerial canyon. As she cleared the rim of the Rift, Baad thrashed his arms and Lucy flung a fist-sized rock. It thwack the raptor’s chest with an audible crack. Eagle squalled and withdrew to assess her damage.

Lucy snapped her eyes to Baad. He clung one-armed to a breach in the precipice, breath coming in ragged gasps as he flailed for purchase.

“Baad! Step down!” Lucy’s voice was tense as she pushed upward toward the male’s dangling foot and wrapped her fingers around the back of a rock bridge. Before she could reach him, he lost his balance, bounced off her meager shoulder and tumbled past. She grabbed his wrist, leaned into the wall and crooked her elbow to absorb his fall. It would be only moments before Baad dragged them down on top of Raza.

“Raza!” she screamed. Her fingers tightened around Baad’s wrist and her arm tensed until her muscles burned. Her throat tightened and her ears pounded as she struggled to hold his enormous weight. Suddenly, the strain on her fingers eased. She looked down and saw Raza. His face was a taut mask and his shoulder muscles roped as he pushed up against Baad’s solid frame. As the old male searched for a foothold, Lucy panted in and out, in and out, willing her body to hold on despite the burning numbness that spread up her arms. Just when she thought she couldn’t hold on, the weight eased: Baad had found a foothold.

No one spoke, the silence broken only by Baad’s shallow pants, until Eagle cried out again. This time, Raza flung a melon-sized rock that struck Eagle’s wing and sent her spiraling away to find easier prey. The group clung to the Rift a moment longer and then pushed onward.

The lower they moved, the faster Sun dropped, until it was almost hidden by the steep walls. Raza increased the pace until they finally dropped to the valley floor. Baad had collapsed next to Lucy, chest heaving and muzzle dripping. He jerked his head her way and offered a slight nod.

“I would have… joined… my pairmate except… for you.” He gulped, trying to catch his breath. “Next time, let me go,” and he left.

She watched his purposeful stride, shoulders hunched in memories of better times, until he disappeared around a switchback on the valley floor. Lucy imagined the full life Baad had lived with his pairmate and the wrenching futility he must have felt at her end. What wouldn’t Lucy give for more days and nights with Garv?

Raza walked to the pebbled center of the valley. “Rest before we continue,” he motioned.

Lucy scanned the rocky ledges and brush-covered slopes for predators. She found Snarling-dog’s scat left to mark his trail, but not his den nor any other scavenger.

“Eat. Drink.” Raza pointed out a small, but satisfactory streamlet. “Those who raised Baad and his sister Kee, my Primary-Female, were killed by wild-beasts. I am like his child and he like my Primary-Male. The Group would suffer from his death.”

The relationships confused Lucy, but Baad was clearly important to Raza. Only at times when his thoughts turned serious did Raza massage the stub of his finger.

“Kee was right to send me after you.”

The males left to explore the corridor, so Lucy crouched on her haunches to eat travel food from her bladder sack. They returned before she finished. As the males ate, Lucy left in search of succulents. She found them in the dark crevices offset from the valley floor. With her chert digger, she chipped away until the roots released and placed them in her neck sack. Next, she found a broadleaf plant, soaked its leaves in the streamlet and tucked it too into her sack. They could chew both for water as they traveled.

“We go.” Raza jogged past, followed by Baad.

They stopped when Night Sun arrived. Lucy breathed a quiet sigh. The luminescent orb remained as she remembered and the sprinkled lights shone as brightly. She couldn’t see the stars-like-crossed-arms, but the Rift displayed only a narrow strip of night sky between its dark walls. She imagined Feq as he made his nighttime nest, watching the same sky. Did he wonder about her, or was he relieved she’d left?

Shaking off the memories, she wandered beyond the perimeter of the makeshift camp. Night Sun, though a hand’s-width smaller since their departure, still illuminated the valley floor. Hot plumes of steam shot into the air like water thrown on a fire. Strange colored stones were scattered around like common pebbles. She held one as dark as night with a cold ashy flavor. Another tasted brackish.

The abundant peppering of sinkholes and boulders forced her to weave her way through the terrain. She didn’t understand these deep cracks. What caused them, and what was down there? Lucy slipped, but caught herself just in time. She’d seen groupmates fall, screaming as they caromed side to side down these openings, and never return.

Memories of the flash flood overwhelmed Lucy. It had crashed through a valley just like this and tossed Garv’s body through the foaming water like dust in a sandstorm until he disappeared. She forced these thoughts away; emotion had no place in her new life.

As she wandered, she found a trail of immense prints molded into the ground parallel to the cliff. She followed them to a scattering of pale-grey bones. Some rested on the surface of the valley floor with the dull sheen of old dirt, some were half-buried, and others just shattered pieces, their edges smooth.

The hair on her neck bristled and she melted into the darkness of the Rift’s overhang. What was it? From the shadowy darkness, she scanned the valley floor and up to the lip of the cliff, and stopped. She squinted. A tall figure—a male—stood silhouetted against the lighter night sky. He held a stick in one hand as his head swiveled back and forth through the gully. What was he hunting? She stepped further into the gloom.

“Why are you alone?”

Lucy jerked. “Raza.”  The snap of Raza’s head told Lucy that she finally had replicated his call sound. She motioned. “Up the cliff. Do you see it?”

Whoever she had seen was gone. “A tall figure with a vaulted head. He carried a stick. He searched for something.”

Raza’s gaze swept the rock face, back and forth and back again. “We must go.” Tension ripple through his face and chest. “Next time, get me,” he ordered, and pushed her toward the protection of their Camp. Here, again, she was only a female, and Raza refused to share ‘male’ information with her.

Raza selected a canted boulder for their nest. They gathered a wall of rocks to their front, shared arms and legs as pillows, and fell asleep to the chirp of nocturnal life.


Part XI 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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