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 13:
Chapter 5–Part 1
Life on the Savanna
“…the speech of primitive man…resembles an endlessly complex, accurate, plastic and photographic description of an event, with the finest details.”
A rumble shook Lucy awake. Night’s shadows were disappearing and Lucy could see the first faint yellow light of dawn through the mouth of the cave. Raza had just risen.
“Hipparion. We are off their path.” Raza stepped out onto the flat grassland as a high-pitched snort vibrated through the thin morning air.
“Argh!” He screeched as he dove backward, almost toppling Lucy as wave after wave of frenzied hooves pounded past the narrow cave opening. Sharp neighed commands of the lead stallion split the air and a choking dust filled the tiny cavern. Lucy pressed her palms against her ears until the cacophony receded to a dull roar of thundering feet and colliding bodies. When she finally cracked her eyes, she saw nothing but dust.
“Raza!” She batted at the blinding cloud, but could find no sign of either Raza or Baad. Instead, as her vision returned, she faced what looked like a wraith—a spindly-legged, brindle-colored foal standing knock-kneed in front of her. It was taller than Baad with liquid brown eyes under a fringe of dark lashes. Its elegant head canted sideways as though weighed down by the thick flood of glossy main. Its mouth hung open and it emitted a heady scent, part sweat and part fear, as it stared wide-eyed at Lucy.
“Raza—” Before Lucy could finish, the entrance darkened with the feral presence of an enormous ebony stallion. Powerful muscles rippled under his lustrous hide. His hooves were planted wide under strapping shoulders and his damp breath clouded in a wet mist before vanishing in the dust-laden air. He whinnied and shook his head as though to warn the hominids they wanted no part of him. The colt snorted, turned with a swish of her silken tail, and the two dissolved into the clamoring flow of the herd. By the time the three ventured out, all that remained of the equines was the insidious memory of wanton wildness.
Raza barked to Baad and they sprinted toward a distant overlook. Lucy started to follow, but stopped at the trampled remains of stick-that-killed-dik-dik. She had not had time to study it and now it was too late. A few steps further, she found the crumpled body of squirrel.
“You’re mother should have taught you better.”
Lucy tossed the mangled flesh into her sack and hurried after the males. By the time she caught up, the Hipparion were nowhere in sight and Raza had switched to a jogging pace used to track herds. Lucy found the reason across the clearing: A family of Snarling-dogs loped, tails aloft. They must have spotted some injured paleo-horse, or a youngster not quite protected by its parents, and hoped with time it would become dinner. Lucy was used to following Snarling-dog’s lead. What he didn’t eat, she would, even if it was only marrow hidden deep in the long bones.
The hominids and canines trotted onward, effortlessly and tirelessly, as Sun crested the invisible mountain range. Their pace was steady, heads raised, ears tweaked to every sound, eyes scanning the shadows for danger, until finally Raza veered toward a distant forest while Snarling-dog continued across the flat plains, now hunting alone.
The trio stopped to sleep when Night Sun appeared, but started again with Sun’s first shaft of light. The closer they got to home, the more Raza shared about his Group. His barks and grunts were foreign, but Lucy had learned much from talking with Baad. Raza’s Group used hands and faces to describe what their voices spoke, and there was an order to the words and thoughts that made sense. She had grown to appreciate the clarity communicated by a mixed polyglot of signals, but wondered why they were so vocal when quiet hands were safer. In the end, it didn’t matter. All she wanted was a home for her child.
“Lucy. Tell me about the herbs you collect.”
Lucy was surprised he noticed. She removed a hairy root bundle from her sack and handed it to Raza. He rolled the plant between his fingers and puckered his nose. She smiled.
“It stinks, but swallowed, it cures stomach cramps.”
She extracted herbs one by one from her sack and described their healing properties. While he listened, he focused on her body. Garv swore she was more hunter stalking prey than female foraging roots. It was something about her weight balance over her front foot, the bend of her arms to catch a fall or reach for her cutter, the turn of her head as she subconsciously scanned the horizon, her ears searching out every noise. He had said it with pride, but others spat the words out like spoiled meat.
“You listen for every sound. Do you think you are in danger?” Raza used Lucy’s gesture for ‘danger-predator’ with the vocal sound for ‘food for scavenge’.
“Danger? Why would I hunt scavenge where danger lay?” A quizzical look engulfed Raza’s face. She shrugged and asked, “Is your home base safe?”
He cocked his head as he unraveled her question. “Primary-Male always finds a safe Camp.”
Lucy didn’t understand ‘Primary-Male’. While Raza’s voice grunted the sounds, his hand rotated open-palmed over his chest, a clear indication of that rarest of ‘friends’ who required two hands to describe—one to form a circle with an open-palm over the stomach and another to cover the first as it climbed the invisible mountain over the abdomen. This kind of trust was earned by few. She gave it to Feq, the only one who accepted her departure without questions.
“You will be pleased with him.”
Part XIV 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 out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.