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 21:
Chapter 9–Part II
Carrying Scavenge Home
“At one time, being able to read tracks and sign was a matter of life and death. Knowing where the food was and what the predators were doing could mean the difference between survival and extinction.”
Most days, Smoking Mountain was benign, spilling thin clouds of soot into the blue sky and tendrils of fire against the dark night. In its youth, this behemoth was just one of the many rolling berms edging the savanna, its snowy crown fading into the billowing clouds. It was stunning in a world of wonders. Year after year, it grew taller—just as Raza grew—and darker. By the time Raza brought Lucy across the Rift, a blackened shell encased the summit.
They hiked onward. The stalky brush scratched Lucy’s legs and tickled the skin under her arms. She longed for the forests of her youth, to lose herself in their protection. The grand green foliage with limbs for climbing and play areas for romping. If she closed her eyes, she imagined Feq resting on the branches, descending to the terrestrial floor to collect insects and roots, and selecting large leaves and branches for his night-time nest.
Here, she found only grass, hot sun, and danger.
Yet, Lucy loved this habitat. In her homeland, she could see only as far as the next tree and from canopy to forest floor. Sounds came from within the enclosure of the branches. Here, the terrain extended farther than she could travel in a day and upward as high as Eagle soared. It tingled with life and promise. From atop the berms that scalloped the land, she could see tiny pachyderms far in the distance and the horned ungulates as they wandered toward a water hole. Ostrich drank beside Chalicothere from a stream of clear water and Snarling-dog rested beside a herd of gazelle that might be food another time.
To the other side of the grasslands ran the Rift, one of many that fractured the earth. There was Narrow-valley-with-dead-animals, and Rift-with-no-bottom, and Rift-that-made-mammoth-fall, but all of these could be circumnavigated. Impassable-Rift splintered Raza’s homeland like a hammerstone cracks a nut, separating massive rainforests from emerging grasslands.
“The Great African Rift, Lucy. A fault so massive, it destroys the integrity of a continent. Long ago, it was called Rift-that-separated-grass-from-trees, and your ancestors crossed with little problem, undeterred by the dangers. As the earth continued to shake and crack, and eruptions reshaped the land, the gap stretched until it became Impassable-Rift, and Raza’s passage with you is the last.”
They jogged onward, never slowed, never sped up. The scavenge weighed down Lucy’s gracile body, but her thick-boned legs carried her onward. She didn’t grumble, or even consider it, as they pushed through scrubby brush and prickled branches, over the hillocks and berms that dotted the topography, and around small stands of trees.
Finally, they stopped at a pond.
“Wild-beast,” Lucy sniffed.
She gave the massive, long-haired animal ample room. Despite his stocky body and wide curled horns, he could outrun her if threatened. She had never seen him start a battle, or lose one once begun. Without a glance her way, he swatted his long tail through the droves of insects that accompanied him and ambled off.
Raza pointed out a dirk-toothed cat drinking a short distance from Wild-beast. Sabertooth’s great front teeth, bigger even than his cousin Smilodon, glistened red. He had just fed.
“We are safe if we keep our distance.”
Lucy doused her hair-fur as a Mammoth herd arrived. They bellowed their presence, flapping massive ears and waving their trunks, before plodding knee-deep into the muddy pond. Lucy had never seen Mammoth do anything other than eat, drink, migrate, and have babies. They never knapped tools or dug termites from a mound with a stick, or ate the meat of prey animals.
Thirst quenched, the matriarch picked up a trunkful of water and hurled it overhead so it splatted onto her back. Next, she sprayed behind her ears and under her belly, and began the same process on her calves.
Lucy finished her hydration as a Chalicothere arrived. It heaved its rhino body up against a euphorbia, digging its three-toed claws into the bark for balance. Settled securely, it stretched its Hipparion head with its jutting prognathic muzzle into the thick foliage and devoured the delicate new growth with noisy chomps and crunches. When it finished, it dropped to the ground and fixed dull eyes on the tiny primates less than half its height. It looked bored, eyes barely blinking despite the buzz of insects seeking their moisture. Its diminutive ears twitched at Mammoth’s slurping, but it didn’t turn. Its tiny tail swatted at the incessant flies, but the buzzing cloud scuttled out of range and returned.
“Why does it eat leaves when it could eat me?”
In fact, Chalicothere showed no interest in any animal around the water hole. Its prey was a stationary tree, feet rooted to the ground with no hope of flight or fight.
“We go.” Raza pointed out the unwanted attention their scavenge drew from Snarling-dog.
With Summer Sun sinking into the earth, the duo finally found the subtle tracks of their Group—broken boughs where families rough-housed, limbs emptied of fruit, darker soil puddled on the blanched earth where it had been disturbed by diggers. They followed a chasm to a flat plateau tucked between Cliff-that-can’t-be-climbed and the switchback along River-that-children-fall-in. Fresh footprints filled the width of the trail.
“The hunters-that-followed-other-signs have returned.”
Part XXII 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.