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 23:
Chapter 10–Part 1
The Return of the Hunters
“…the most important survival tool is the mind. …We do not have the legs of the deer, the fur of the rabbit, or the claws of the cat. But we have the will and intelligence to adapt to almost any natural environment on earth.”
—Tom Brown Jr.
Ma-g’n left Raza with the other hunters and went to collect water for the meal. He stumbled, gasping as pain pierced through whatever lay behind his eyes deep inside his skull, steadied himself and then continued across the barren dusty center of the camp. Kaavrm’s high-pitched bleat stopped him. He was wining as he did when defending himself, trying to cast blame on someone else. In this case, Ma-g’n heard his own name.
“Ma-g’n sent me to get help.”
He glanced back. Kaavrm stood alone, as usual. Even Falda ignored her brother, her head dipping as she chopped corms for the end-of-day meal. A guffawing chorus drowned out whatever Kaavrm said next. His soft red mouth hung open, mid-word, and his beady eyes skittered through the clearing, from one hominid to another, in search of an ally, but found none.
Ma-g’n winced, but not from Kaavrm’s accusation. If it made the lonely male feel better to blame Ma-g’n, that was fine.
The throbbing in his head had become almost intolerable. He stumbled again, trying to breath through the inferno now lancing through his skull like the molten river flowing from Smoking Mountain. It was harder and harder to concentrate on what he needed to do. Where was Lucy?
He wasn’t the only one waiting for Lucy. Even from across camp, Baad’s wrists looked swollen and red. They both needed Lucy’s healing herbs. For that, and so much more, Ma-g’n was grateful Lucy had joined their group.
Raza waved a dismissive hand at Kaavrm. “After such a good hunt, let us all enjoy.”
True. There had been other hunts—hunt-where-Cat-ripped-leg-open, and hunt-where-no-meat-was-found, and hunt-where-snarling-dog-stole-meat. Compared to those, today was good.
Baad’s son Ahnda wriggled through the crowd toward Raza. The youth’s face retained a child’s smoothness, though the darkening had begun around his mouth and nose, and a hint of muscular shoulders broke the smoothness of his torso. Still, Ahnda had a long way to go before he would join the band’s hunters. Wielding a cutter to strip a carcass before Eagle and Snarling-dog killed him was only part of growing up. The rest required a quickness of mind, gained only by hunting among the habitat’s predators.
Ahnda bounced on the wide balls of his feet, pointing. “Raza. How did you capture this oryx?”
Was this why Ahnda, too, had been waiting by the greeting boulder? To ask Raza about hunting? Baad was Ahnda’s Primary, but Raza was his mentor. The boy’s knapping and hunting and tracking were acceptable only when Raza said they were.
But no. Despite Raza’s safe arrival, tension still etched the youth’s face. Something else concerned him.
“We eat and then tell the stories, Ahnda.” Raza chuffed the youth’s head and the boy sprinted toward Lucy, somersaulting the last distance and toppling against her leg.
“Ahnda-without-Yoo. Where is One-closest-to-you?” Lucy chastised.
Ahnda spun around and spotted his sibling Yoo, a denuded stick behind his neck, imitating Raza with the oryx haunch. The image was comical to Ma-g’n. Yoo paled at the sight of blood and wanted no part of carrion, preferring food gathered from the fields.
“Do we have a new hunter?” Lucy barked as she dropped the meaty hind quarter of Oryx next to a half-eaten waterbuck, a runt chalicothere, the chewed bones of a dik-dik and some strange monkey-like animals.
“Or is it hunters?” and she pointed at Dar and Sweena, both jumping up and down on their stubby toddler legs like grasshoppers, gamely trotting after Yoo. Behind them was Brum, still a youth but with a maturity far beyond his subadult status. He would be a daunting adult when he learned the skills a hunter must know.
“Sweena! Dar! Come!”
Kelda. Lucy flinched at the churlish voice, but remained silent, despite the glare Kelda drilled into her back.
Ma-g’n picked his way around the sleeping and grooming area, past the shallow trough where food was stored under a layer of noxious-smelling shrubs—a trick they’d learned from Snarling-dog. In this way, they could eat from a large carcass day after day, until it turned green. He hurried by the discarded shards of the group’s stone knapping, testament to the toolmaking that took so much of a male’s time. Here, the males forged the flakes and cutters and choppers used daily by every Group member. Except during meals, it was always busy. Finally, he crossed through the tussock grass to Lake-at-edge-of-camp. This was the group’s water hole, where they cooled themselves from Sun’s heat and gathered succulents to carry on scavenge hunts. He soaked the leaves he carried in the pond water, folded them over and then over again, and retraced his path back to the waiting group. A meal was always better with these sodden leaves.
“Vorak. Is this yours?” Raza pointed to the monkey-creatures Ma-g’n had brought.
His partner shook his head and grinned, displaying even white teeth. “Those,” and indicated a pile of long unbroken bones, chewed barren except for shreds of meat. The marrow was the richest part of scavenge, and most predators couldn’t crack the tough leg and hip bones.
Raza smiled back, the tension easing around his mouth and eyes. Vorak not only was almost as good a hunter as Raza, but he made people happy. Ma-g’n wasn’t sure the group would have survived the loss of the children, and then the females, if not for Vorak. He exuded confidence, from the deep pools of his dark eyes to the widespread stance of his callused feet; everyone felt safer knowing Vorak was there.
Except his mate. Kelda complained to anyone who would listen that Vorak used her only to provide children to the group, that he cared nothing for her. Vorak never disagreed.
“Lucy! I have water!” Ma-g’n beckoned.
As Lucy headed his way, a hoot echoed across camp. It was Brum, a short thick-boned male with wide sloping shoulders and dark imposing fur. Ma-g’n didn’t have to look to know the same scowl etched his face that had been there since his mate disappeared. If not for Raza’s quick thinking, he’d have no son, either. That day, a time not so long ago that Blum didn’t think about it with every breath he took, had begun like every other on the primeval landscape. When Vulture squalled its death dive, everyone assumed the raptor sought small prey—a rat or mouse or some defenseless prey too dumb or slow to escape the predator’s claws.
No one thought about Gleb. It took Blum a breath too long to remember his mate—who would have pulled their infant to safety—didn’t do that anymore. She’d been stolen by Man-who-preys just after Gleb’s birth. The vulture focused on the infant, gurgling and bouncing and swatting at a wildflower, oblivious to the evil bearing down on his warm protected world. Brum howled, but Raza acted. He charged into the vulture’s path, roaring like a charging rhino as he waved a leafy branch in the air. The vulture stalled, just long enough for Raza to drag Gleb from his path. For this, Brum would be forever loyal to Raza.
“Drink,” Ma-g’n offered a water-laden leaf to Lucy. “Rest.”
She sucked the blade, chewing from tip down to stem. As the redness left her face and the sweat dried in salty white patches on her skin, she extracted a bundle from her neck sack.
“I found it.”
Ma-g’n accepted the sticky bark with a nod. It stunk like feces, but was the only thing that brought relief from the pain Ma-g’n had thought would never go away. He stripped some pulp from the bark’s underside, stuffed it into his mouth and chewed. The rest, he stored in his neck sack.
And waited for the herb to work.
Part XXIV 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.