Lucy: A Biography–Part XII

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 12:

Chapter 4–Part 4

Crossing the Great African Rift

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

—Kahlil Gibran

Flat savannas dominated the panorama, dotted with flowering shrubs, huge boulders, and the infrequent copse of trees. Graben valleys nestled between furrowed mountains and raised cliffs, everything stained in a patchwork of earthen colors. For a long time, she remained, studying her future.

“We are close…” and Raza pointed toward a smoldering mountain.

“The smoke signal,” Lucy motioned with her hands. Billowing, but not thick, with a few dark clouds around the blackened caldera. Lucy relaxed.

That’s when Rain started, driving squalls that flew faster than Cheetah chasing prey. The group took off at a sprint. Lucy could see no further than the back of Raza’s streaming head. He headed toward a murky hole in a murkier cliff wall. Lucy couldn’t tell how far it was until they tumbled into a cave that smelled of urine and decayed tissue. She blinked, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The first thing that came into focus was a littering of bone shards and molted fur.

“They’re old.” Raza pointed to blurred tracks covered with a thick layer of dust and rubbish.

Lucy frowned and stared sightlessly into the darkness at the cave’s rear.

“I’ll check,” and she left Raza grunting something to Baad. Snarling-dog used the same den over and over and could be hiding. She peered down the several tunnels she found. One was as dark as Leopard’s fur, but the other showed light. This was the canine’s escape route, used to flee predators. The prints even back here were overlaid with the wanderings of insects. She shrugged and returned to the group.

They settled onto their haunches, arms wrapped around their legs, and watched the gale turn the Rift valley into a roaring river. It pounded the ground outside, beating like a stick against a hollow tree trunk. A loud crack broke the rhythmic drumming as a chunk of the cliff snapped off and tumbled to the valley below. Bolts of light fractured the sky followed by a rumbling roar that echoed through the cave drowning out even the rain’s pounding.

They ate travel food, tipped their heads to collect mouthfuls of water that fell in a curtain across the cave’s entrance, and waited for the downpour to end. Only once did Lucy venture outside, to relieve her overfull bladder. All life sought protection from Nature. A row of birds crowded wing-to-sodden-wing on a euphorbia limb. A mammoth herd huddled, heads drooping together as the rain poured off of their bodies. A canis trotted along the edge of the plateau, tail dripping and tucked between its legs. In its mouth was a bedraggled rat.

As Lucy finished her business, a baby squirrel struggled to right itself in waters that puddled deeper than its young body. He paddled bravely with limbs not meant to swim.

“Squirrel, are you a tasty meal, or does your mother miss you?”

Lucy tossed the drenched animal up into the canopy and dashed back to her own shelter. At long last, Sun beat back the predator rain. Raza and Baad headed one direction to hunt, while Lucy trotted toward a cleft in the ground that, even from a distance, she could see overflowed with berries and nuts. She followed a streamlet that meandered through its base until she reached a culvert. As she bent to collect some unusual herbs, she froze. A shallow pant echoed from somewhere ahead. She palmed a rock and peeked around the hairpin.

A dik-dik lay in a muddy puddle. One dull eye caught Lucy’s gaze, but the balance of her slender head was hidden behind a heavy stick protruding from a gaping wound in her chest. She struggled to move, but every breath pumped bright red blood into a pool beneath her tiny body. Frothy pink bubbles billowed from her nose and snout, and her hind limbs shook with pain. Lucy shuddered. She hadn’t thought of death as pain. Death was life, and it arrived quickly, before ‘pain’ could gain its foothold. Or so Lucy thought.

One more breath rattled into and out of the dik-dik’s destroyed lungs, and then, with a final collapse, she died. Lucy remained hidden. No animal abandoned its kill, and she knew of only one creature that carried a stick such as this. She struggled to recall the name. Predator-who-preys… No… Man-who-kills… No… Man-who-preys. That was the name. Even from the safety of the Rift’s precipice, he brought fear to Raza.

For Lucy to protect her group—her group—she must learn from the greatest hunters. She hid until the natural savanna sounds returned and then followed the dik-dik’s path. Lucy sniffed for foreign scents, but found nothing. It had been eating alone when it fled. Where was its herd and what startled it? When the dark shadows began creeping up the sides of the rocks, Lucy gave up. Dik-dik’s death would have to remain a mystery. Lucy had been gone too long. She shucked the ungulate over her shoulders using the stick as a handle, and returned to the campsite.

“Here. Eat.” Raza pointed without turning when Lucy’s footsteps announced her approach.

“Dik-dik.” Lucy dropped the carcass into the communal pile and squatted at Raza’s side.

Raza touched the stick and barked something to Baad. Together they sprinted along the traveled trail left by Lucy’s prints in the soft ground. When they returned, their voices were low, their cutters ready in their hands, and their steps brisk. Lucy looked up as she finished reworking a rough stone into a chopper: It would have to do until better tool-making stones were found.

“You—you hunt with a stick?” Raza stuttered.

“She was already killed. I found no trail, as though the predator disappeared into the air like Eagle.”

Her words turned Raza’s face pale, and Baad gulped. The two males left again and this time didn’t return until after she had settled in to sleep. Even then, they placed their ground nests well apart from each other, walled in by thick brambled bushes that would alert them to trespassers.

Hyaena-dog called his brothers and Owl hooted at some forlorn mouse not quite tucked in for the night. All seemed normal in the rest of Nature’s world, but as Lucy drifted off, she caught Raza wide awake, staring beyond the perimeter of their campsite.

Part XIII 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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