Lucy: A Biography–Part XIX

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 19:

Chapter 8

The Hunt

“It seemed to me that Homo habilis, a tiny little guy, ninety pounds, armed with wonderful tools like this was an unlikely creature to be a predator and to be a major hunter. In fact, one could even say it was a ridiculous idea to imagine.”

—Lewis Binford, archaeologist

Lucy glanced up. “Eagle claims this scavenge. She warns us,” Lucy translated with subtle gestures.

The raptor shrieked, her voice echoing off Smoking Mountain and through the Rift valley, calling her cousins to eat. Her strong wings spanned wider than Lucy’s arms as she floated on summer thermals. She wouldn’t begin her death dive until Sabertooth moved toward the trees.

“We are fast,” Raza whispered as he fingered his cutter, the grip adjusted to the missing fingertip. His stout body bowed over his lava-damaged left knee. The overbuilt right knee flexed, ready to launch at Cat’s leftovers. Lucy nodded subtly, never doubting their success. “We wait.”

Raza hunted better than any male Lucy had ever seen. He understood predators, Raptor’s hunting dance and Snarling-dog’s voices—his huff of contentment and celebratory yelps. The long hollow bay when he claimed a territory and the warning bark when he found food. He knew when the attack should begin.

Lucy had the patience of wind eroding boulders. She could wait hours, or minutes, and always be ready at the right time.

She focused again on Cat.

“We will see, Lucy. Eagle dives at one hundred miles an hour. You are slow, but smart, and in this new world, the spoils no longer belong to the fastest.”

A rumble rolled through Lucy’s belly, but she ignored it. The concept of ‘hunger’ didn’t exist in her world. She knew how much she had to eat to survive. She hunted until she found enough food and spent the rest of her days knapping stones, resting, grooming and thinking.

The orange sun hung over Lucy’s head. Her left ear burned, followed by her shoulders and back. Muggy heat radiated up from the earth. Sweat dripped down her legs, off her nose and down her abdomen. She wanted to cool her body in the slight breeze above the grassline, but instead, hunkered down, oblivious to ants crawling over her feet and the mice scurrying past. She glanced at Snarling-dog for a sign he too felt the heat, but all he did was pant.

“He is eager.”

Lucy yearned for the cool canopy of her big-leafed jungle. She used to lose herself in the buzzing, chirping, and slithering life, its cadence perfectly matched to the rhythmic thump in her chest.   

“It’s time,” Raza motioned.

Eagle’s circles had tightened and she angled her wings. Something she saw signaled that Cat had finished. Lucy tensed, leg muscles ready, arms set to push forward.

“Lucy, I made your brain much larger than Cat’s and Snarling-dog’s. How can I persuade you to be the predator?”

In frustration, Nature rolled a rock that snapped a twig in the midst of Cat’s drama.   

“What was that?”

Cat’s ears perked and her snout wriggled as she searched for a scent. Whether it was predator or prey would dictate Cat’s next action. The feline ambled toward Lucy and Raza’s hide-and-wait location. She hesitated, snuffling and sniffing, and rotated her head side to side as she searched for the source of the crunch. Lucy stopped breathing. Whatever lurked in the grasses might be no threat to Cat, but could be to the hominids. Like a snake or a ground sloth.

Another crunch caught everyone’s attention, now forward of Lucy’s hiding spot, and moving toward Cat. A rumble escaped Cat’s chest. The hair rose on the nape of her neck, as it did on Lucy’s. Three sets of eyes dilated, searching for the hidden threat. For a full pant, and then more, the only noise was Cat’s throaty purr.

Without further preamble, a shrew darted from the thick reeds, almost under the nose of Sabertooth. He zipped around a swiping paw, just escaping the snapping jaws, and headed with a single-minded focus toward the carcass. A small part would feed Shrew for days. As Cat turned, Shrew grabbed a glob of meat and raced toward the opposite side of the clearing. Cat pounced, missed the agile animal, and gave chase.

Raza, Snarling-dog and Eagle all leaped at once. Raza pushed off with a blaze of speed toward the carrion. He couldn’t outrun Eagle, so he counted on Lucy to slow the raptor’s approach. One hand readied his cutter and stretched out to wrench lose the foreleg. Eagle squalled her alarm, and began the death dive. Snarling-dog delayed a beat and then he, too, charged.

Cat, oblivious to the melee behind her, continued after Shrew. Raza had covered half the distance by the time Eagle emitted its distinctive kree to warn off scavengers. At the edge of the meadow, a squeal went up as Shrew lost the footrace to Cat and a sharp claw raked his furred side. With an intelligence well beyond his tiny brain, he dropped the morsel—which deterred further interest from Cat—and scurried under a log.

Raza reached the bloody carcass just as Lucy loosed her first rock at Eagle. A resounding thunk told Lucy she hit where she aimed. The raptor slowed, confused by the attack and screeched a warning. Many times, smaller hominids—youngsters—froze when Eagle attacked, allowing the needle-sharp claws to puncture their necks and carry away. Raza was too heavy, but Eagle’s talons could eviscerate his belly or shred his face, ending the threat.

All of this flashed through Lucy’s mind as she launched another rock. Crack! And this raptor, too, backed off, re-evaluating. With speed honed from years of practice, Raza sliced through the gristle of the shoulder and flung it toward Lucy as she charged in behind, barely slowed by her unborn child.

“Arghhh!” He snapped a fulsome growl at the lead Snarling-dog. The canine paused, unsure of this predator, and decided to await reinforcements just steps behind. In one smooth motion, Raza slashed loose the untouched marrow-rich shank, shouldered it and ran as Eagle spread her vast wings to land. To attack them now, she must forego the scavenge, and this she would never do with Snarling-dog so close. Eagle lurched their direction, her beak crashing closed on empty air, as she settled atop the bloody corpse. Another and another of the great raptors arrived, until the oryx became a lurching mass of feathers, shredded meat and blood.

Cat stared at the scavengers, wondering at their furious activity.

Part XX next week…

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and three ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco blogger, 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.


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