Lucy: A Biography–Part XXX

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.

photo credit: M. Harrsch

Lucy’s story of survival

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 30:

Chapter 12–Part 4

Homo habilis Hunting

“The second image of man the scavenger, is both unfamiliar and unflattering… There is little nobility in man the scavenger.”

—Dr. Pat Shipman

Raza continued. “We followed Eagle until we picked up Saber-tooth’s trail. Her steps nudged the talus, disturbed the morning dew on plants, bruised the grass blades. By the time we caught up with her, she was closing on her prey.”

Raza’s fingertips dimpled like claws and slowed to a stealthy creep. Then, he raised his digits like horns and mimed Oryx catching Saber-tooth’s scent. “The deer exploded in speed and escaped. I thought we had lost our meal, but Saber-tooth didn’t give up. She continued and caught up, Oryx again grazing, thinking herself safe. Again she scented Saber-tooth and escaped, and again, we caught her. Over and over, until finally, Oryx was too slow.”

A collective sigh arose. They shared Saber-tooth’s victory. Every animal must eat.

“Only when Saber-tooth finished did we claim the Group’s share.”

A hoot of congratulations went up. Lucy never understood this. Hunting was their job for the Group, as Kee served by seeing the invisible, Kelda by having infants and Lucy by healing.

When the group settled, Raza turned to Ma-g’n. “Tell us about your hunt.”

Lucy’s hands froze in her lap as she tilted her head toward her friend. A muscle in his right temple throbbed as his mouth opened and shut in silence. He twisted his head, as though the first few words floated somewhere out of his reach, until he finally shut his eyes and seemed to come to terms with what he must say.

“At the edge of forest-that-spreads-darkness…” He moved his arm over his head, describing a particular stand of trees so thick Sun cast only a dim light onto the forest floor. “…small monkeys—many of them—flew through the trees.

Ma-g’n brushed his fingers lightly over his chest. “They traveled with the ease Leopard crosses the plateau.” He moved one arm up, flung the other off into the distance. “Kaavrm and I carried rocks, but before we could throw, the monkeys disappeared. Cousin Chimp chattered, laughing at us.”  He shrugged, his congenial acceptance of a worthy adversary.

“Before we could chase them, Cousin Chimp sounded a warning—wraa, wraa.” Ma-g’n’s danger call was so authentic, the screams of chimps fleeing their nests filled the thin air.

Ma-g’n didn’t seem to hear, just continued his story. “The shuffle of heavy paws echoed in the forest below. I hunkered into the canopy—”

“I returned to Camp for help.” Kaavrm spoke for the first time. He pointed inward, as though pleading.

Ma-g’n nodded absently. “The paws crossed under my tree, along the path to a clearing, and stopped. Voices chattered to each other. They made no effort to hide. I peeked through the foliage, and froze. I knew that stance… that shape… taller than us, with swollen heads on small necks, like fat melons grow on skinny vines. The creatures held sticks in one hand and cutters in the other. I smelled the stench of their furless bodies.”

“Man-who-preys?” A startled question from someone in the group as Ma-g’n’s hands described the creature.

Lucy gasped. “The one who followed Raza from my homeland?” Several heads snapped toward her. She heard whispers, You brought them here?

“How could you?” Kelda spit out, her hooded eyes narrowed in disgust.

Ma-g’n said nothing. His eyes focused somewhere far away, oblivious to the growing anger. Finally, the noise settled and he continued. “Flying-monkeys chirped, taunting Man-who-preys as Chimp does wild-beast, screeching and showering the intruders with leaves and nuts. Man-who-preys showed no fear as they locked onto Flying-monkey’s position, raised their sticks over their heads, and thrust forward with such great force, they almost fell. And a monkey dropped from the canopy.

A hush rippled through the group. No one could kill an animal in the canopy from the ground. That was a safe place. Not even Leopard could climb that high.

Ma-g’n’s face remained impassive, his eyes glued to the horizon. “Man-who-preys pulled Stick-that-killed-monkey from the carcass and threw it again, over and over until all the monkeys were dead or fled.” Ma-g’n’s face was now white and his voice hollow. “They huffed and hooted in pleasure.”

The group sat, stunned. When Saber-tooth killed Okapi, she did it for survival. This they understood, but killing for enjoyment—this never happened.

Until now.

“They started to eat, but fell silent, unmoving. From my position above, I saw what drew their attention. Others like us.”

Ma-g’n’s hands and body made the traveling gesture of peregrination. He traced footprints into the dirt, lifted his rhinarium to scent the air, and trumpeted. Tracking Mammoth.

“Man-who-preys collected their killing sticks and left—without the carcasses.” Ma-g’n’s meaning was clear:  Man-who-preys was so confident, he could abandon his kills. No predator they’d ever met did that. “I left the carcasses I couldn’t carry for Snarling-dog and Eagle.”

Nature rumbled with excitement. Her Lucy experiment had seen the next evolution of Man.

“Man-who-preys is you, Lucy, as predator.”

  Photo credit: San Diego Museum of Man

Part XXXI next week…

Want to be notified when Lucy: A Biography is published? Click here.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum and two tech-ed lesson plan collections for K-sixth, creator of two technology training books for middle school, and six ebooks on technology in education for K-8. 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, anAmazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blogger,  IMS tech expert, and a bi-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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