A short story submission from Marinda Rees.
The mouth of the cave was circled in a rosy hue and framed with sparkles of rainbow colours flashing from the gift stones that were embedded in the cave roof and entrance.
Lilli watched this beauty through her still sleepy eyes and then her gaze fell on Og sleeping in the far corner of the cave.
Powerful, big, strong Og, the wise man of the tribe went walk about as a young man and through all his experiences and meetings with others he learned great lessons. Being wise already, his wisdom just grew and grew. After every visit from the others he taught everyone many more lessons that were of immense value and life was forever better. They now knew how to make fire, be hygienic and not mate with their own but to wait for the ‘Switching feast’, when those of right age join other tribes. Also how to bury their dead.
Lilli jumped up and light-footed stepped around the sleeping forms. She made her way to the; now well lit; entrance. Outside she first made her way to the small stream running a few meters away from the cave. Stepping around the dry branch screen she squatted down and her urine momentarily coloured the flowing water. Og taught them to use this spot as their toilet and that the flowing water bore all the illnesses that could be caused by the bad habits of not being clean, away. He also had deep holes dug there that everyone used for defecating. These would then be later filled and a new one dug. He also taught us to wash our hands at a small waterfall that was cascading down a rock face nearby.
Lilli splashed some of the cold water onto her face and immediately started looking for a fresh supply of the white flowering herb that she used to make morning tea with. Last night she had noticed that her pouch of dried little flowers was almost empty.
After scurrying ; head down; along, in search of the plant, she looked up and gasped when she realised that she was in a forbidden area. In front of her was the majestic upright stone circle. In awe she stared at the huge, heavy upright stones. Og had given strict instructions that no one was ever to go near. Deciding that she had enough leaves and flowers for the tea, she quickly hurried back to the cave. She made a fire with rubbing sticks together and in her family fireplace she hung the strong skin water bag on the wooden tripod, so that the water in the bag could boil. She made a gourd full of tea by steeping the flowers she picked in the boiling water. She then picked the flowers and leaves out of the gourd, mixed a little sweet honey into the gourd as well and filled her parents and her brother’s smaller gourd cups and woke them up with the wonderful, aromatic brew.
Another day in Lilli’s young life had begun and if she then knew what lay ahead she might have crept back into her sleeping mats and stayed there.
Og suddenly appeared in the mouth of the cave. Lilli had not even realised that he was not in his sleeping place anymore. She shivered when she thought that he might have seen her in the forbidden area. His wrath was scary and feared by all. She quickly poured the last of the tea into a cup and scampered over to him with this offering. He took the drink and with a friendly good morning and thanks, he made her gratefully realise that her straying had gone unnoticed.
“’The Switching Feast’ will soon be here Lilly dear. Only another year and you will also be taking part. I do hope all the necessary arrangements are being readied.” Og thought about everything that had to be done before the big day and after giving Lilly the empty cup, turned and went outside.
There were also two other caves next to their sleeping cave. The closest one had a big circle of flattish stones; that was used as seats; in front of it and was only used when it was the switching feast. The young boys or girls that were leaving with one of the other visiting tribes to get married, went into the cave and left the handprints on the walls of the cavernous cave as a last reminder to their parents and a token of good fortune for them. Then they made a loyalty vow to their new tribe and after a blessing from Og and after receiving a necklace of gift stones they first washed their mud stained hands and left the cave to follow the others to their new home. The other one was a bit further away and was used by the woman of the clan, Only a female was allowed to go in. When she had started her first moon blood she would go in and make herself a hole, cover it with soft leaves and sit on it till the bleeding stopped. She was provided with food by other woman of the clan who also put a sturdy big round stone behind her back. The one very bad thing was that for that time you could not really lie down to sleep. Woman that was about to give birth also came to the cave and because I was the clans medicine woman I was always called to give something for the pain. Afterwards the holes were covered over with dirt and then with a flat stone.
It was Nada; Lilli’s mother’s turn, to make the poor prisoners in the big hole their first meal of the day and Lilli was quickly and quietly helping her Mom with it. There was this young boy in the hole that she couldn’t wait to see. His name was Darl. Handsome, soft spoken Darl. He had joined the tribe after being found by Og wandering in a faraway forest, very hungry and frightened. Og caught him while he was practising with his throwing stone, near the stone circle and put him into the hole for fourteen stripes. In the hole there was also Grog, caught trying to take someone else sleeping mat and Tyf who didn’t finish his tool making task as he promised. An Elderly man named Ern was there for refusing to gather honey as ordered. How long they had to stay there Lilli wasn’t sure. That decision was in Og’s hands. Being the only clan member that could count; how, is unknown; he had given Rory who sat at the top everyday, a stone tablet with every prisoners mark on it and the amount of stripes that showed his or her stay time and by crossing off a stripe each day, he knew when to let the rope down if the time was right and the prisoner would climb up and go home.
Darl only had four stripes left and Lilli just knew they would be having great fun together once he was out of the hole.She was so deep in thought that she startled when her mother put the big gourd filled with warm meat in her hands. Carrying the skin of tea Nada beckoned her daughter to follow and the two of them set off toward the hole.
The hunters were all standing in small group, drinking their morning brew and savouring the fresh morning breeze. It wasn’t fully light yet and dawn was blushingly chasing the night shadows away. Armed with sharp pointed stone spears, axes and hunting and butchering tools they all waited for Og to come and lead them on their journey. Darl, Tyf and a couple of other young men were on one side, tensely looking around for assurance that this, their first hunting trip will be successful. “All ready?” grunted Og, and with an arm wave and a finger pointing east he set off and his hunters followed.
Darl saw it first, the woolly Rhino with the big horn on his nose. This is good. If we as the first-timers can kill it we will be praised and be honoured as the great young, first time hunters. Tyf will be the leader of those of us that form a concave semi-circle in front and I will help those in the back of the animal, to chase it into the circle. Then with our spears and throwing stones we will be able to kill it. Darl got those around him to understand this by drawing with a stick in the sand and hand signals. Tyf understood Darl very well and interpreted to the others exactly what was needed.
All the young hunters did every move right and the rhino was soon cornered in an ever-tightening circle and speared from all sides. Unfortunately the Rhino’s woolly coat was very thick and slippery so many a spear bounced off without doing any damage. The Rhino charged, probably realising that the only way out of the ever-closing circle was to run straight through the threat. Unfortunately Tyf was the one that was right in the storming beasts way.
Bending over Tyfs’ bleeding bruised, broken body Darl was trying to think of what Lilli would do first. She has become the clan’s medicine woman after her calm, thorough handling of the sick or wounded came to Ogs’ attention. He really wished she was here now. Some of the stronger hunters in the group had charged after the angry, bewildered Rhino and the remaining few stood around looking and feeling quite helpless.
The Neanderthal Og-clan’ tools just weren’t as efficient and well-made as usual and when Og joined the bewildered group he first made a mental note of giving the toolmaker a very stern talking to and secondly got the men to make a sturdy carry-bed on which to carry mangled Tyf back to the cave so that Lilli could treat him as well as she could. Everybody was tearful and silent but got to work quickly. Even Lilli and Darl were quiet and she gave Tyf something to drink for the pain and after cleaning his wounds made herb poultices to put on them. She also made a strong, hairy leaf, potion that will help the broken bones to heal.
A Couple of days later Lilli and Darl met at the sleep cave and in whispered tones they made plans to sneak up to the stone circle and try and see why Og doesn’t want anyone near. They overheard that Og will be joining the hunters in two stripes and they decided that then would be the right time to put their plan in motion. They will leave; with the excuse of herb gathering; a little before sunset, so if necessary they could use darkness to sneak back in to the cave.
Lilli gasped and tried to hide behind Darl as the big round machine; with the many little fires on the sides, that was going round and around; noiselessly sank down on the big stone circle. A big metal staircase descended inside the circle and two tall figures emerged. They spoke in a language that neither of the two youngsters understood. Only the name Og was heard, when it was uttered by one of the tall men.After a while one of the tall ones went back into the round machine and after the stairs had gone up it silently ascended into the sunset sky and disappeared. Left on the ground were a couple of bags and the two youngsters crept forward slowly so as to have a closer look.
A Scowling; so bad that a thundercloud was almost visible above his head; Og had appeared just a little way behind the two young ones. He thundered down on them and in a roaring voice and demanded,” what do you think you are? doing? Why didn’t you listen when I forbade anyone here? Lilli and Darl looked up at Og’s very, very angry face. No excuse would even sound remotely viable, so silence was the only reasonable way out.
Og grabbed both the youngsters by an ear and in sullen silence dragged them into a nearby cluster of trees. “You would both have eventually joined another clan in the Switching feast, there to marry and have children but because of your not listening and obeying you will from this moment on be my eternal slaves and be by my side always. Never leave me without asking first.”
Og bade them to follow him and they walked back to where the other tall sky man stood. Og and the man, seem to be arguing and then the man picked one of the bags up and opening it showed Og the contents. The tall one then pointed to the two youngsters and in an almost staccato guttural voice turned to Og and spoke.” Who are they?” Og explained the whole story and after listening the man approached Lilli and Darl and put his cold, long finger on their mouths.
Then he before their eyes he disintegrated in a flash of light and whirled up into the sky. A Bewildered Lilli touched Darl on the arm, opening her mouth to say to him that she must be dreaming because everything was so unreal. Not a sound came forth and then Darl found that he could not speak anymore either. They both glanced at Og with a beseeching appeal. “ You are now silent and will stay silent till they from above decide that you can speak again.” Pointing to the bulky bags he ordered the two to pick them up and follow him.
He led them to a small opening in the rock face and stooping slightly Og went inside beckoning the to youngster to follow. After a short downward way they were in a huge cavern. Og had lit a fire in the centre of the cave and the flickering light revealed many bulky bags.“Now that you have seen almost all, I will tell you a little about everything. In the bags are diamonds or as you know them ‘Gift stones’. At the switching feast all our young ones, that are going on to a new clan, there to marry and have pure children, are each given a necklace for future good fortune. On our friends from the sky’s planet ‘gift stones’ are in abundance and after making the necklaces they bring them to us for the Switching. They taught me the good in this custom to prevent sickly, impure children due to inter clan marriages.
Except for the fact that her ‘not being able to make a sound’ state, was scary, the beauty of the ‘gift stone’ necklaces was breath taking. It was a single stone on a silver thread that consisted of interlinking loops and it shone brilliantly. She was sorry that she would never have one of her own, being bound to Og the switching ritual will not come her way. Maybe it was better so. She has seen men mounting their wives and had always been disgusted by it. How the men’s little worms become big thick snakes, how they force the women to kneel on hands and knees and then how they thrust their snakes; from behind; into the woman. Sometimes it takes some time but normally only after much grunting and movement the man gives a final push and then throws the poor woman face down onto the floor.
The tall ones has given Darl and Lilli their speech back and then started teaching them their language and also taught Darl the right ways of a wise man. It was as if they knew that Og’s death was near and that they needed someone to be their ally and the clans’ new leader. The two young ones had kept the code of secrecy and now after Og’s death the honour of clan Wiseman had fallen on Darl’s shoulders.
At the cave entrance stood three very tall figures that in the dawn light appeared cloaked in brilliant white robes. Suddenly one spoke in a demanding voice,” get up and follow us.” We all scrambled up yawning and with lots of eye rubbing going on, everyone filed outside into the still cool, morning air. A Healed Tyf made a beeline for the water area because his bladder was making urgent calls for relief but he was briskly called back and he meekly; although uncomfortable followed.
We were led to the upright stone circle and into the big round machine that was resting on top. When we were all in, the big door closed silently and we were herded into a big round room. There we were separated into three groups; men, women and mothers with babies. The men were directed to a room that had ‘Training Room A’ in big; bold black letters, written on the door. The woman were to follow two tall, beautiful alien women into ‘Training Room B’ and the mothers with their babies were to go the hall marked ‘Domestics’. After their names, approximate ages and skill levels were noted down; they were shown to their quarters.
Initially not being all together really bothered the clan, but they soon adapted to it. Having running hot or cold water that came out of a tap amazed and filled them with childlike wonder and bewilderment and the flushing toilets were a source of great fright and astonishment. Darl, a man of 25 now and very wise for those years, had to give them all a harsh talking to before the taps stopped being opened and closed and the flushing toilets came to a silent halt. The beds with their sheets and pillows were left unused because everyone still slept on the floor. Lilli and Darl shared a tiny room and Lilli just couldn’t get used to the fact that by pressing a button a light would go on or off and that she didn’t have to make a fire to brew early morning tea.
Although these two have never slept together it caused them to be in close proximity most of the time and their great love for one another caused deep sensual stirrings. One morning Darl had crept out of bed to make tea with which he wanted to wake Lilli with. He put the tea down and was leaning over her, softly calling her name when there was a sudden tilt and he fell promptly on top of her. Lilly woke up with a start and was wriggling and pushing Darl away when their fires of desire started. Unsure at first but then instinctively their lovemaking became sweet and tender with Darl not behind but on top of her and it was wondrous and satisfying. Lilli’s mother had at the right time showed Lilli how to prepare a brew that would prevent pregnancy and she made sure to drink some every morning. She would love to have Darl’s baby but now was not the right time.
Soon afterwards the men were all fetched and taken to their training area. First they were schooled in correct word use, rudimentary mathematics and very basic hut building and toolmaking skills. Then they were shown farming methods and fishing skills. Some of the men of the clan; such as Tyf, that was still having trouble with walking; excelled in all the teachings, Tyf was told that soon he will be completely healed and will then be able to walk straight and normal. The operation details were explained and he didn’t know whether he was excited or scared about it.
The days passed quite fast because the teachings were so many that everyone was fairy exhausted by the end of each day. Darl and Lilli could due to tiredness not even make love. She was actually grateful because her supply of the tea she drank to prevent pregnancy was running low.
Various people of the clan learnt about agriculture from Darl as he was very good at it. As the head agriculturist they also taught him animal husbandry and veterinarian skills. Lilli again was taught medical/herbal uses for all known ailments. Others learnt all about mining/smelting and then some others on how to make strong weapons. Pottery was also given a quick overview. The woman were given some easy cooking lessons, how to handle and adhere to hygiene and baby care.
Then one day everyone was informed that every lesson has been finished and that they are all going to be given a great big farewell party that evening. Everyone was filled with joy and excitement and a little bit of curiosity about what their future holds . Tyf was well and fit and ready to be Darl’s right hand man.
The evening went very well and then the alien commander asked if there were any further questions or requests. After being taught about wedlock procedures Dano was the one that bought up the possibility of a wedding ceremony. The commander smiled and asked if there was a couple or couples that would want to be joined together in marriage. Darl looked at Lilli and they both beseechingly looked at her mother that just smiled broadly and nodded her head. Immediately Darl approached the commander and asked him to marry them. A couple of others also wanted to be joined and after the commander had given a thourough speech about the importance of wedlock and that Darl will henceforth be their duly appointed person to oversee and perform marriages he made them say their vows up to till death them do part, and then announced them husband and wife. After that every one joined in a big celebration and farewell dinner.
The next morning Darl and Lilli were all smiles after a very busy night. A funny goosebumbpy feeling all over Lilli’s body and a feeling of breathlessness at the thought of Darl’s skilful touches and his fulfilling lovemaking made her morning bright.
After every one was given an armband with several small diamonds in they descended into a beautiful valley with a clear river flowing through it. Then the tall ones told them to go, build huts, marry, have many babies. fish, mine then hunt with their new weapons and farming was most important,
“Be proud and happy as you are the ones that is going to start a new age, the Iron Age!” “Farewell.”
About the author
This is me, Marinda. I currently live in Ann Harding Chesire Home for the disabled and I am very happily married to someone who is also in a wheelchair. I started writing when I was 40 and now my creative juices just keep flowing. I completed a course in creative writing age 41 and will keep on writing to share the joy thereof.