©2016 C. Henry Martens
The embers died under the starlit sky, and the light breeze cooled. Darkness filled the void off the edge of the cliff the camp was on. The sleeping forms were lying thick toward the only exit, the path beyond. The thong binding Gund’s hands came away as it parted against the rough volcanic rock, and he quietly moved to untie his feet.
He had been watching the new people for the last two days, since being surrounded and taken as prisoner with his hunting companion, Cludge. Ingrained racial memories were sharp, and Gund used his in an opportunity to inspect the new people closely. Although he could all but live the meetings his people, Wind Over the Grass, had over the many millennia with the newcomers, since the Hurry-Hurry People had become evolved, Gund relished this once in a lifetime experience. There were just so few of the Hurries, a growing number but still few, and the numbers of his own were diminishing.
Racial memory was not to be doubted. The strange Hurry-Hurry had over the last hundred thousand years exhibited their differences as though unaware that their behaviors had consequences. Now the Neanderthal, Gund, was privileged to inspect them for himself.
Long, long ago… in the dreamtimes when the world was younger and the animals were giants, the Wind Over the Grass people had come to the North Country and made choices. They could see the earth, and understood how it operated under rules creating perfect harmony. They knew that they were a part of the song that made all living things. The earliest memories of the Wind People were in awakening to the knowing of it. As time passed they discovered the wisdom already inside themselves, and without discussion they came to know the balance of all things, and how they lived in paradise because of it, and the racial memory became part of them. The decision to accept what is became inherent, part of them. The intelligence that they were blessed with was directed at appreciating what there was, so any tools they made were rudimentary, and jewelry or decoration gleaned from the natural world. They killed to eat, they gathered roots and fruits and herbs, and they walked from sunset to sunset seeing what the earth offered. Long, wordless, chanting songs became part of the memories, telling stories of things long gone and sights rarely seen… and of the changes in the world as the earth made opportunity for some and obstacles for others. The memories began half a million years before the new people came to visit upon the earth.
Turning down the offer of meat earlier in the evening, a chunk of Cludge’s thigh boiled in a bag of his own skin, Gund had looked into the Hurry man’s eyes to see if he could understand. It was clear that communication was impossible between their brains, their feelings, their inner being, and was limited only to vocalizations from mouths. Having little use for words, Gund’s tongue felt thick and unwieldy whenever he was forced to speak.
Feeling sorry for the Hurries, Gund wondered at the displays of waste that they thought nothing about.
Early memory of the first encounters with the Hurry-Hurry displayed animals hardly more than apes. The Hurries were naked, which of course was perfectly acceptable, but they knew nothing of covering themselves against cold. They knew nothing of fire, or the use of tools, or of pigments to color their bodies, or singing to welcome the day. The Hurry mimicked the Wind People in their chance encounters and learned quickly. The Wind People didn’t mind. The newcomers were another manifestation of what the earth offered and were to be appreciated. The Wind People shared what they had and wished the best for the new Hurry-Hurry People, but it became apparent that the Hurries had no wisdom. They were not connected to the earth.
Traveling in small bands, both types of upright apes would come across each other infrequently. The Wind People remembered the encounters, but the Hurries had no memory and only occasionally vague stories that had been passed down by verbal repetition.
Wind People harvested the abundance of what was provided, so they were surprised when the Hurry-Hurry seemed discontent to do the same. They were thieves and would make off in the night with anything they could carry. The Wind People wondered about this until they realized that the Hurry People thought things could be owned. Ownership had never occurred to the Wind People in a world of plenty. Whatever the Hurries stole was not owned… it was just to be shared.
Over time, things changed. The Hurry People began to refine their tools, and now a hundred millennia after the two people’s initial meetings, the Hurries carried bows and atlatls. They used them to kill more than they needed. They also burned the land and trees, and built unnatural shelters which they discarded to blemish the land whenever they had decimated the game in an area. And their numbers were growing. They had no regard for what they destroyed, and they had an immense urge to procreate, not understanding that there is a balance to all things.
To the detriment of the Wind Over the Grass, the attitude of the Hurry-Hurry changed toward them as well. Where once the two peoples would share a hearth, a meal, and even occasionally a bed, the relationship became violent. The Wind People had offered calm and wisdom to the new people, but the Hurry had never understood what was inside the Neanderthal brain, and in the Neanderthal heart. The Hurry-Hurry now saw the Wind People as vermin, or perhaps worse, something to eat.
Mulling over the differences he had now witnessed personally, Gund verified in his own mind that the racial memories were accurate. The Hurry-Hurry were as out of place on the earth as the memories had shown. They would breed, and they would build toward complication. They were unsatisfied with paradise and would eventually overrun the Earth’s capacity to heal. Beyond that, they believed themselves entitled, and to that end were perfectly willing to be violent.
The embers of the fire were almost dead, only a very few coals showing under deepening ash. The night was dark, and the stars shown down in a display that Gund knew was an infinite universe of worlds. He breathed in deeply, appreciating the scent of the world he owned more than the new people ever would. Then he moved to the edge of the cliff and stepped into the void.
The last thought of the soon-to-be-extinct man was a sincere desire for the best that could happen to his former captors.
He hoped they would evolve, but he feared that they would not.
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