Monday, March 24, 2014

Memory of Fear

+/- 9000 years ago, Syria

“They sleep!  He sleeps! They sleep!”

Lesh woke up.  The cries of the returning were loud, interrupting his dreams. Could it be…?

“They sleep! See!   Bor and Dar, they sleep!”

The entire village was being awakened, Lesh could see the fires getting bigger, and women coming out of their huts, cautiously, with torches.  Two hands of men walked through the cluster of huts, chanting as they did.  In the darkness, Lesh could see two groups of men moving slower; they were carrying two bodies. Could it be…

Bor and Dar had been brothers, hunting together since they were old enough to carry small spears.  Their mother had died birthing a girl, who also died with no one to feed her.  Their father had left them with his own aging brother, never to be seen again.  The two boys had become good hunters, starting with rabbits and foxes and birds.  Later they had killed wild boar and even a she-bear off far off in the mountains.

At some point, they had begun to steal and kill the cattle and sheep of the small villages scattered around the grasslands. And then one day, they killed the young shepherd in the village nearest to Lesh and his families.

From the three nearest villages all the able men had come out to hunt the brothers and make them pay for the death of the young shepherd, as well as provide meat for that village.  Four hands of men had gone; only two hands returned.  The rest were forever asleep.  The wailing and crying of the women had continued for many days.

Bor and Dar began raiding villages often after that.  Sometimes they would kill the sheep in cattle, leaving them to rot in the fields so the meat was wasted. Other times they would descend into the village and grab a young girl, or ensure more of the young men slept.  Children grew up in fear of the Bor and Dar. It was a time of terror.

Lesh had marked the water seasons on a stick, also marking those who forever slept because of these two rogue brothers.  The years were two hands, and the marks of young men was far more. Even some women were now dreaming the endless dreams, thanks to the viciousness of Bor and Dar.

Lesh gathered his things, and went out to the men.  The bodies of Bor and Dar lay on the ground, bloody.  No longer would they terrorize the village.  There were many dangers in the world, but these two were gone.

The men moved as Lesh approached the bodies.  Standing by Bor’s head, holding his sacred knife in one hand, and the long cow bone in the other, he raised them above his own head. Echoing their victorious cry, he said. “He sleeps!” The villagers shouted in unison, “He sleeps!” As Lesh moved over to Dar, a gasp was heard. Dar was not sleeping; he was moving and his eyes opened.  A terrible sound came from his throat and fresh blood came forth.

The village screamed, men fell back and women screeched, grabbing their children. Lesh looked down at the grievously wounded man, long enough for a blink of the eye.  Then Lesh took his sacred knife and struck at Dar’s throat.  Blood sprayed everywhere.  Lesh struck again and again, until Dar’s head was separate from his body.

“He sleeps!” he called out in his strongest voice.  “He sleeps!”  Slowly the screaming stopped. First the men, then the women began chanting, “He sleeps. He sleeps. He sleeps.”

In the first glow of dawn, the men first took the head off of Bor, to ensure he would always sleep, then buried both the bodies.  Always, this group and their sons would take off the head, so no sleeping man could return to destroy or even scare the village.

As the daylight grew, Lesh retreated back to his small hut.  The time of terror was at an end.  Taking another smaller knife, Lesh grabbed his wand.  Onto it he carved the faces of the two wild brothers, so their horrifying ways would never be forgotten, nor tolerated, again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Neighbors

Danube River valley  =/- 40,000 ya

            Muka trudged through the brush and trees in the gray light of dawn.  He stopped sometimes, using his spear handle to gently part the grass or low branches on a bush.  Then he would move forward again, his large head swinging from side to side, sniffing the air.  Almost every morning, just as it was getting light, he would walk like this, a different route every day.
            Approaching a small meadow, he slowed, inhaling the air.  Going completely still behind a small shaking tree, he peered between the branches.  There were four deer, quietly munching on grass.  Muka knew he could hit the one closest to him. She was small, but it would be enough to eat for him and the clan. He raised his spear slowly, taking one final sniff-
            --and stopped short. Smoke, different smoke, was in the air.  His own home was high on the ridge behind him, and all the smoke was going upward in the still morning.  This smell was different.
            The deer forgotten, Muka stood quietly, inhaling the air again, and looking for the signs of a big fire. It couldn’t be too large, as none of the animals or birds were fleeing the area. The deer had even been calm. The smell was strongest in the direction away from the meadow, and toward the fast water.
            Even more slowly, he followed the odor to the edge of the water. Hiding behind a large tree he looked up and down the edge. Now he was hearing some odd noises, like several little ones calling and crying out. Suddenly he heard a male voice, but making noises he had never heard. 
            Crawling out on his knees, he cautiously searched for the source of the noises.  He found them. The sight made him fall flat on his stomach, and his mouth was open.
            On the other edge of the fast water was another meadow, ringed with trees. In it were strange wood objects that were tall, like trees in the cold time.  A large fire burned in the center, and two tall figures were holding a pig carcass over the flames.  Several small ones were indeed running around and making all sorts of noise. Muka was sure there would be no game around for  a long ways with all these strange loud sounds.
            A tall figure, who sounded male, came among the small ones.  He made two of them follow him to the edge of the fast water.  He gave each of them a small sharp spear. Then he walked into the fast water up to his knees. Muka was shocked. When one entered the fast water, one fell in and was gone. This tall one stayed, standing still, not falling in.
            The tall one held his spear for what seemed a long time, then plunged it into the fast water.  When he brought it out, there was a water animal flapping on the end.  The two small ones stood in the water and watched, trying to copy the tall one.  One of them plunged his spear in and toppled over, falling into the fast water.
            Muka was startled and cried out.  Not sure how, he found himself standing.  The other small turned quickly and seeing Muka, froze. The tall one went into the fast water and helped the fallen small one back onto the land.  Muka gasped aloud.  This time the tall one heard it too.  The three of them turned and looked straight at Muka.

            Tapoh laughed as his son, Tipunu, tried to get the hang of fishing.  Tipunu came out wet, but with a smile on his face.
            “A fish, big!”
            “Tipunu learns.” Tapoh patted him on the shoulder, proud. Then he heard a strange sound.
            Across the river, his large face in shock, was a heavy set stranger. His hair was long and matted.  He wore no clothes and  held a very simple spear. Tapoh stared, and the stranger stared back.  After a long moment, Tapoh raised his hand in greeting.

            Muka scurried away, terrified. What were these creatures,  tall, with power over fast water and water animals?  When the tall one had raised his hand, Muka was terrified that he would have power over him as well. Muka ran the entire distance  back to his cave, his clan, scared of something he could not understand.