Archive | October, 2016


29 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
There could easily be anger when two peoples meet….

The pissing stump was just visible between the trees ahead of Umbaga and Juju, who was still carrying Idju (who had closed her eyes and managed to go to sleep despite the jarring and swaying of being carried through fairly dense woodland), and Umbaga paused.
“We never get mushrooms again,” he muttered, “they make Umbaga see what isn’t there and feel sick!”
“Oh, but I will take some,” grinned Juju, “a tiny bit is good for you! But start chomping mushrooms down whole and hey, you wish you hadn’t!”
“What you need them for?” demanded Umbaga.
“When we eat meat, sun-dried and tasty, I sprinkle mushroom powder on them. It really the tasty bit!” smiled his woman. “Juju know best,” she added, and they both knew that last bit was said truthfully.
Umbaga reluctantly bent down and picked a small bunch of fresh mushrooms and looked at then distastefully. “Me remember bad dreams,” he muttered, “But if Juju say she want them then Juju have them! Come lover, we get home!”
The small family continued on its way, Umbaga dutifully pulling his teaser from the loin-leather he wore and pissing on the stump when they reached it. And that stump was truly aromatic anyway ” and not in a pleasant way.
When they arrived back at the cave with no further interuption Juju lay Idju down carefully on the child’s small bed, and then flopped down herself.
“Me tired,” she murmured, “me have early start!” This was a pointed reminder to her man that she had been so worried about his whereabouts that she had sacrificed quite a lot of her sleep-time in order to find him. “Me worried Old Man Tiger might have mauled Umbaga and left him injured,” she added. “Me worried that Umbaga might need Juju.”
Her words said a lot to Umbaga, and he lowered his head, apologetically.
“He chase me past pissing stump,” he confessed. “He chased me to mushrooms!”
Juju grinned craftily at him. “Me look at shiny present,” she murmured, and held out her wrist so that they could both see her watch.
It had a plain face, unmarked, except for an amber light that shone, small yet bright enough to be easily visible, where the 12 would be etched on watches in the far, far future. But they didn’t know that. They couldn’t possibly guess what the near future held let alone what the changes wrought during great chasm between their now and future technologies might be.
As they stared at it and wondered what the wonderful little light could be a white lit up next to it, equally tiny, equally beautiful, and in one of those moments that are the product of true inspiration Juju guessed what it was.
“It wonderful,” she sighed.
“Wonderful? How so?” asked Umbaga.
“It…” she wanted to say ‘represents’, but had no word for it, “It like the great big sky,” she said, “in tiny,” she added.
Umbaga thought she must be talking gobbledegook but also knew that in her gobbledegook there was occasionally a truth he couldn’t quite see, so he just looked at her, waiting for an explanation he knew would come.
“White light,” she said, “white light travel round thing and is the sun.”
And that had to be the total explanation because they were becoming suddenly aware of noises outside the cave.
They didn’t live in total isolation. They had neighbours, though some of them dwelt quite a distance off, wherever nature had carved a cave into the cliff face. So they rarely heard anything from those neighbours because distance saw to that, and any quarrels or outbursts of joy or laughter had usually faded to silence before they reached the Umbaga cave.
So the sudden burst of shouting was unusual, to say the least.
“What the…?” asked Umbaga, and he went to the mouth of his own cave to see what the trouble was.
And there was trouble.
Half a dozen of the men he knew full well as neighbours and friends were shouting at a figure that they had surrounded and were threatening with noise and the odd burst of swearing. Oh, foul language was as common then as it would always be, though possibly more limited in range, and it was in full use by Umbaga’s neighbours.
But it wasn’t the familiar faces that caused Umbaga to open his mouth in shocked silence, but the figure they were cursing. It was a figure that Umbaga knew full well after his adventure earlier that day. It was the strangely-dressed Melvin, and he had a face as black as thunder.
“You pathetic little primitives, get out of my way before I sort you good and proper!” he yelled, and, of course, nobody knew what he was saying or why he was shouting, so they shouted back at him, louder and considerably coarser, both in vocabulary and intonation. In a battle of decibels the natives would certainly win.
The situation looked ugly and might have become even uglier, but Juju had joined Umbaga at the mouth of their cave and she took in instantly what was going on, and her observations of the stranger had already informed her that he seemed very much like men everywhere, swift to make judgement and equally swift to condemn even when his judgement was faulty.
She wondered what had happened to rouse her neighbours to such a pitch of anger, for anger was largely unknown amongst the tribe. They didn’t really have time for it. Rather than burst into flurries that could easily lead to violence they sorted their differences out amicably and often relied on the womenfolk to pass judgements on the rare occasion when that sort of thing proved necessary.
So Juju took it onto herself to intervene.
“What all this noise?” she asked, her voice suitably loud and shrill.
The stranger couldn’t have had any idea what she was saying or what her syllables meant, but he answered the question anyway.
“Blasted savages are trying to chase me off, and I’m not going until I’ve got that watch back!” he shouted, his voice refined when compared to the coarse row made by the caves-people themselves.
And, miracle of miracles, Juju understood him. Maybe it was the unfamiliar feeling of the watch on her wrist or the way its tiny lights caught her attention, or maybe it was her memory of the attitude of this strange man when his woman had presented her with the watch in return for a few strands of hair, but she was pretty sure he wanted it back.
And she was equally sure he wasn’t going to have it. After all, she’d worked out what it did and thought that such a device, marking the passing of time when the sun was invisible behind clouds or at night when there was little light anywhere, would be very useful indeed.
“You not have it,” she said, firmly. “Shiny woman give it, and it mine”
As she spoke her neighbours moved slowly in on Melvin until they were almost touching him, and the expressions of their faces were far from comforting. This was, after all, a primitive time and these men were primitive, which wasn’t a synonym for savage, but might have got that way had the stranger become more threatening.
A fresh voice joined the throng, Aurora who had followed her man from their stranded space vessel. He looked to where her voice had come from and Umbaga might have burst out laughing had such a thing been appropriate, for Melvin looked as crestfallen and guilty as he knew he sometimes looked when he had done something stupid that he didn’t feel comfortable confessing to.
“Melvin, I hope you’re not showing any of your usual bad manners to our hosts,” she said, and the musical intonation of her voice seemed to captivate the small group surrounding a beleaguered Melvin.
“I’ve come to retrieve the watch before the stupid woman blows the planet up!” he explained. “You’ve no right to give such a precious thing to such foul and filthy people!”
Aurora looked around her at the group threatening Melvin, and laughed.
“Foul and filthy?” she asked, “You mean foul and filthy like this?”
Then she went up to one of the group that was still surrounding Melvin, a young man with hair that might have been fair had it been cleaner, and without flinching, without giving any impression that what she was doing was at all questionable or unusual, she kissed him full on the lips.
The rest of the group of natives stared in disbelief and the young man blushed bright red and might have become putty in her hands had she prolonged the kiss any longer than she did.
“There, my love,” she cooed at him with a harsh look at Melvin, “that’s what we call a kiss and if you care to take a bath you can have another!”
© Peter Rogerson 24.10.16



27 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
The function of the watch is explained, though neither Juju nor Unbaga can understand the explanation

Aurora smiled at Juju. Although she knew there was no chance of a shared kinship between them she felt a kind of connection with the primitive woman, because we’re both female in a world of males, she thought, and because we know best! Melvin, on the other hand, had an expression that was as black as thunder when he saw what Aurora had given the primitive woman. He clearly had his own ideas, and they didn’t always match those of the beautiful woman he was with.
“That’s too sophisticated for the likes of her,” he growled, “she won’t understand a blind thing about it and it might become dangerous in her hands. It’s atomic, for goodness’ sake, and atomic means danger.”
Aurora shook her head at him sadly, and then turned back to Juju.
“I know you won’t understand me but I’ll explain anyway,” she said quietly, “these watches were made to work on any planet anywhere and therefore aren’t calibrated to any particular length of day or solar orbit but are self-adapting to any conditions they come upon…”
Juju frowned, looked at the blank face of her new watch and then back at Aurora, questioningly. There was something strangely attractive about her new gift, but in her wisdom it crossed her mind that it might do a lot more than simply decorate her wrists.
Aurora continued her lesson, ignoring the scowl on Melvin’s face. “Once the watch has decided the time of day by detecting solar radiation the outer ring becomes illuminated and slowly the lit up part shows the proportion of the day that’s passed, so if it’s here, a quarter of the way round, it means a quarter of the day’s gone by. You’ll work it out. And I’ll bet you find it useful. Anyway, thanks for the sample of hair and if I find anything interesting by analysing the DNA I’ll try and let you know before we go.”
It was all lost on both Juju and Umbaga, of course. Both language and concept were way beyond their experience, but Juju nodded anyway. She knew there was nothing threatening about the way the woman was speaking, though she was equally aware that Melvin seemed to disagree with whatever was being said.
“We go,” she said to Aurora, “We go to cave-home and remember you.” She indicated the watch, “and remember ornament,” she added.
She took a couple of steps closer to Aurora, and smiled before gently kissing the other woman on the cheek in the universal symbol of friendly farewells.
“Urgh!” spluttered Melvin, and Aurora scowled at him, not for the first time.
Then Juju took her daughter from Umbaga, largely because she trusted herself rather than her man when it came to carrying the toddler, and the three of them trudged through the forest towards the mushroom clearing.
“Man following,” whispered Umbaga after a time. “Hiding here and there, but following.”
“Me know,” replied Juju, “Me saw him set off when thought we too far away to see him. Wonder what wants?”
“Maybe see we well away?” suggested Umbaga, “Maybe making sure?”
“Or maybe not happy with present,” retorted Juju, indicating her new watch, “maybe think we too simple for shiny thing lie this, with little light in it.”
“Maybe we are,” nodded Umbaga, “Umbaga have no idea what shiny toy does, and neither does Juju.”
“But Juju will work it out!” snapped his woman, struggling to carry their toddler as they left the cover of the forest and started crossing the clearing. “Juju will understand, and soon,” she added, “even if Umbaga can’t!”
“Clever clogs!” grinned Umbaga, knowing she was right and not minding the knowledge.
“If strange man and strange woman understand, then Juju understand – in time,” she said quietly, and glanced back. “What one woman understand so can another.”
The strange alien man was lurking at the edge of the clearing, watching them carefully, partly concealed behind a tree, and when he saw Juju glancing back he seemed to draw himself to the tree as if not wanted to be seen. But she could still see him. She could still make him out.
“Melvin!” the two stone-age people heard, and they caught a glimpse of the fascinating figure of Aurora marching up to Melvin with what could only be a look of disgust on her face.
“You shouldn’t have given that woman an atomic watch,” growled Melvin. “She might use parts of it to blow this planet to Kingdom Come, and we might still be on it unless I get the hyper-drive fixed in double-quick time!”
Aurora giggled suddenly, and as the two primitive people heard the music of her laugh they warmed to her.
“I’ll tell you what,” she said pointedly, “Let’s get back to the ship and I’ll give you one of the watches. You’ll have a week of Sundays to turn it into an explosion and create another clearing in this forest, and I’ll bet you can’t do it, not even with your degree in atomic physics and a woman standing behind you to help!”
“Why did you give it her?” he asked. “All you wanted was a lock of her hair and I could have got that for you easily enough.”
“I know you. Yes, using violence and making enemies when all we need is friends, you’d have got something to check her DNA! And don’t forget why they gave us a supply of the watches when we set out, anyway – as gifts should we bump into less advanced people and hey, what have we done? Bumped into a couple of less advanced people who’ve very little idea of what time it is!”
“I thought it was a bad idea back then, and I said so. And I wasn’t the only one, don’t forget. We’re supposed to be looking for the home planet, not cavorting with savages and making love to wild men!”
“Even though you weren’t the only one with bullish ideas it’s a good thing better men than you thought otherwise,” said Aurora sharply. “Now come on! You’ve that hyper-drive to fix before we can get away from here.”
“You fix it then if you’re so clever,” grumbled Melvin.
“It’s man’s work, as you’re forever telling me,” she retorted, “and anyway, you know you like that feeling of triumph when you’ve got something to work properly! But get on and put it to the test. Imagine how you’d feel if it was me who got it working again!”
“They arguing,” grinned Umbaga, watching though not understanding a word that drifted to them across the clearing. But no matter when and where in time and space a person comes from, body language and the tone of voices doesn’t change so very much, and he sensed that.
“And woman winning, by sound of it,” giggled Juju “But what you expect, if man and woman argue? Woman come out on top every time!”
Umbaga rather suspected that was the truth, so he took her by her one free hand – the other was cradling Idju – and guided her across the clearing and past the pissing stump and then onwards towards their home.
Behind them he was aware that Aurora had managed to guide Melvin back, through the forest trees and out of sight.
“I hope we get no trouble from him,” he murmured quietly, almost to himself.
“Me too,” agreed Juju, “but best keep eyes open, eh?”
“Best keep eyes open,” agreed Umbaga.
© Peter Rogerson 23.10.16


25 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
” In terms of intelligence, they might be countless generations apart, but Juju and Aurora seem to see things the same way…. “

“I warned you!” said Melvin, his voice suddenly more agitated than it had been, “here’s another one of them! I’ll bet we’re surrounded! I should have shot your friend there before the rest turned up, as a warning to them that we mean business and not to mess with us!”

“Don’t be so paranoid,” reprimanded Aurora, frowning, “can’t you see that it’s a woman? The breasts should give it away…”

“Yes! Vicious Amazonian creatures with a point to make,” gabbled Melvin, and he slowly raised his gun again, taking aim. “I’ll sort them while I still can.”

“With a child?” sneered Aurora, “you really are the limit, Melvin dear! Can’t you see it’s most likely his wife, if they get married on this planet, but certainly his woman if not, and she’s come to find him because she’s concerned for his safety. It’s us women who have to look after our men, you know, then as now!”

Meanwhile Umbaga had turned to face Juju and he could tell, by the look on her face, that she had been filled with worry and fear when she had set out, it must have been well before dawn, to find her man. For a moment he felt the precursor of love welling up inside him. Juju was, in his heart, the veriest princess of women, or would have been had he any concept of princesses or any kind of regal nonsense that the future might trowel onto layers of society.

“Umbaga chased by Old Man Tiger,” he explained briefly, hoping that would be enough and wanting to avoid any mention of his strange experiences in the clearing after eating a couple of strange mushrooms.

But Juju was nobody’s fool, certainly not Umbaga’s. As was common in those long-ago days she was the thinker in the family. The times of males using their superior strength in order to subdue the more thoughtful processes of the female had not yet arrived.

“You eat mushrooms,” she said, flatly, accusatory. “Me find bunch you picked, you silly man!”

“You know mushrooms?” he asked, “You know clearing and all those dreams?”

“Umbaga think Juju born yesterday? Silly man! Juju put tiny slice of mushroom on Umbaga meat whenhe have food, help him sleep nights instead of too much flashing of teaser … or bad dreams…”

“Hey, you two, what plans are you making?” called the strange male voice. “We’re watching you, so don’t try anything stupid!”

“Who them?” asked Juju, curiously.

“They here,” replied Umbaga, and then he smiled mischievously. “Woman has small milk-sacks,” he said coyly, “make Juju look big!”

“And man has huge teaser?” asked Juju, “well, Juju not bothered, Juju choose Umbaga and Juju keep Umbaga!”

“Come back here!” ordered Melvin to his woman, putting his gun down onto the ground, leaning it on something well beyond Umbaga’s experience, something shiny and big as the inside of a fair-sized cave.

Aurora had walked the small distance between herself and the two cave-dwellers, and she smiled warmly at them. There didn’t seem to be anything threatening about her when she spoke, though neither of them could understand as much as a syllable of her speech.

“I’m pretty sure that you won’t understand this,” she said quietly, “but my partner and I are a bit curious about who you are and where you come from … I wonder, could I ask you something special, a real favour? In return I’ll give you something nice … an ice-cream, maybe, or a watch to tell you the time?”

She could tell from the blank expressions on both their faces that her words had totally failed to cross the language barrier, and in truth that was hardly surprising because that barrier separated two groups of people who stood on ether side of a mighty evolutionary chasm.

“Melvin, bring me one of the watches,” she called out, “one of the atomic ones. I doubt there are any shops selling batteries in these parts.”

“Is that wise?” he replied, “they might use it to construct an atomic bomb or something else equally threatening to us!”

“Now you’re being plain silly!” laughed Aurora, “Could you make any kind of weapon from an atomic watch, with all your knowledge? And if you say yes I’ll call you a liar!”

“What they talk about?” demanded Umbaga.

“How do you expect me to know?” replied Juju, putting her child down onto the damp earth. It might have stopped raining, but the entire world seemed to have been washed by the recent downpour. “Now don’t Idju run away,” she cautioned, and the child, still very young, giggled back at her and ran in a small enough circle round them not to bring parental retribution onto her.

Melvin returned carrying something small and shiny, and Umbaga had never seen anything remotely like it before and he recoiled when Aurora held it towards him. Juju had been watching the other woman’s face and she smiled.

“It not hurt Umbaga,” she said quietly.

“This is an atomic watch,” said Aurora in a soft voice, “and it’s yours if you want it, in exchange for a small tuft of your hair. Look, I know you can’t understand a word I’m saying, but I’m going to say it anyway!

“If Melvin and I are right then you are two people from our own very distant past, possibly having regressed from when our forefathers left the planet that gave birth to the human race a long age ago, and we can prove it by using a machine on our stranded spaceship when we power up again, and looking at your DNA and comparing it to a database of our own. And in return for a few strands of your hair you can have this watch, which will tell you what time it is for the rest of your life!”

She held the shiny thing towards him and he took another step back, not sure what to do, and lost suddenly in a world in which something shiny seemed to offer a huge threat to him and confused his normal reactions.

Juju saw things differently.

“Here,” she said, “Umbaga pick Idju up and Juju see what woman wants. And this little shiny thing won’t hurt anyone, Juju knows.”

She stepped towards Aurora. “Let Juju see,” she said as Umbaga bent down and took Idju into his arms. The child gurgled contentedly.

The two women gazed at each other for a long moment whilst their menfolk looked on, both curiously and both with misgivings. And for both men those misgivings had more to do with an inbuilt fear of the unknown than anything more threatening than that.

“It would be really kind of you let me have a few strands of your hair,” murmured Aurora to Juju. “I seem to have read somewhere that mitochondrial DNA is passed down the generations from the females of the species, so I suppose it would be best from you.”

Then, knowing that everything she was saying and doing was well outside the experiences of the two primitive people standing almost trustingly near her, with their young child in her father’s arms, she opened a small bag that hung on a strap from one shoulder, and took out another shiny object.

“Let me show you,” she almost whispered, and she isolated a small lock of her own hair and, using the shiny object, snipped it off.

“A woman should never be without a pair of sharp scissors,” she said, and winked at Juju knowingly.

Juju knew how to wink, and winked back. Both winks meant different things. Aurora meant that she was confiding something only women would ever understand and Juju meant that she knew full well that they were both women, and despite all appearances they were equal on the world.

It was a precious moment, for suddenly a kind of language leading to mutual understanding had been created as Juju isolated a small lock of her own hair and held it for Aurora to snip off.

Then Aurora took Juju by one hand and slowly, without making any sudden movements, clipped the wristwatch onto the other’s wrist, and smiled.

“You may learn to understand this,” she whispered, “or you may not, though I’ve a feeling you’re bright enough! No matter ” it’s yours to keep, and if I may say it’s better for the woman to have it, because if you’re anything like me you’re the one with the brains!”

“Hey! That’s not right!” protested Melvin, but Aurora turned momentarily towards him and stuck her tongue out.

© Peter Rogerson 22.10.16


23 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
” Umbaga has come face to face with two very alien people who note that some of his physical features are very like those of their own males… “

“I think he’s rather sweet,” murmured Aurora, taking a very small and slightly nervous step towards Umbaga, trying not to look at all threatening.

“Just you be careful,” growled Melvin, lowering his weapon slightly. “You know how many stories there are of our kind being slaughtered on alien planets by monkey-men with no brains?”

“My dearest,” replied Aurora, “he’s carrying no weapons, he’s almost naked which means he sees no point in covering himself and, by the look of him and given a bit of a shave and shampoo he might well be taken for your cousin!”

“My cousin’s a girl!” retorted Melvin, “and there’s no way he’s one of them! But look, we’re stranded temporarily on this planet and we’ve bumped into a native who could be a member of a vast civilization. And that could be a threat to us. We’ve got to be careful how we handle this fellow, and that’s a definite fact!”

“I really believe he’s safe,” murmured Aurora.

Umbaga was beginning to feel left out of a conversation that contained no syllables that he recognised and which was obviously considerably more complex than any conversation he’d been privy to before. Why, whenever he spoke to Juju or one of his neighbours there were few words, just enough to convey a single thought usually, and rarely any discussion afterwards other than affectionate salutations … very affectionate if the brief conversation had been with Juju. There was no need for any more. The essence of the conversation had usually been a single idea and it therefore required a similarly limited number of words.

So, “Me Umbaga,” he repeated. And to make absolutely certain that the two dressed so oddly in fine material understood, “me Umbaga,” he repeated, doggedly.

“Umbaga?” repeated Aurora, and to Umbaga the sound of his name on her lips was like a brief symphony of heavenly music. Never had his name been uttered with such beautiful lyricism. He grinned at the strange woman and clapped his hands together in a single rap of applause.

“Me Umbaga,” he repeated again, and pointed at himself after he had uttered the first syllable of the brief sentence.

“So Umbaga, what a fine fellow you are and we’ll leave you in peace as soon as I’ve got our ship fixed, so be a good fellow and leave us in peace until then,” muttered Melvin. “It got damaged flitting past the rim of a black hole in order to gain extra speed,” he added, knowing the strange little figure wouldn’t understand, but wanting to impress him anyway

“Tush, Melvin,” said Aurora, smiling at Umbaga, “this young fellow has no intention of doing anything to interrupt your work, and he hasn’t a clue about black holes! But we must remember why we’re here…”

Melvin grimaced. “I never wanted to come to this third rate planet in the first place and the sooner we get away the better,” he mumbled, “Don’t forget what we’re doing in this sector of the Galaxy: we’re looking for the home planet, the place where our species evolved, and if we hadn’t suffered the turbulence of that near-disaster and being almost sucked into a black hole while we slept, and found ourselves in this back of beyond when we were woken up we might have found the mother home already and won the prize.”

“It’s not the prize but the history I’m interested in,” said Aurora, frowning. “And as for finding the original planet where mankind evolved, we’re expecting it to be ultra-advanced with a civilization that’s reached the pinnacle of evolution, aren’t we? After all, it’s had homo sapiens on it for longer than anywhere else and we’re expecting it to be superbly advanced, with supermen and ultra-women at every corner. But what if it isn’t?”

“Meaning?” asked Melvin, slowly.

“Meaning that there’s such a thing as regression,” replied Aurora thoughtfully. “We’ve all been led to believe that mankind has been on an upwards path, starting low and moving ever up the evolutionary ladder towards ultimate perfection, but what if that didn’t happen on the home planet? What if our ancestors had used up all the natural resources, which could be why some of them left in the first place, and started to sink back into the slime from which they had evolved in the first place, and became … like this fellow here?”

Umbaga was still standing where he had been since the woman first spoke and he was listening with awe at the conversation, a series of words and statements that he knew he would never be able to understand because everything about the two strangers spoke of unbelievable complexity. But the sounds the woman made as she spoke, the purity of her vowels and the non-threatening perfection of her intonation … Juju might be able to make a stab at working things out, but then, she was a woman and women were good at that. But he … he was lost and confused and merely waiting patiently until one or other of the two sophisticated strangers did something he could begin to understand.

Aurora looked at him, then turned to her male companion.

“I’ve an idea,” she said slowly and thoughtfully, “you didn’t see the fellow’s wedding tackle, but I did, when he urinated over there, just behind him. And it reminded me of something….”

“What? A slithering snake with a forked tongue? Something from your worst nightmare come to threaten you?” asked Melvin sarcastically. “Just like you to get an eyeful of what’s-his-name’s privates and treasure the memory!”

“No,” murmured Aurora, “I saw if perfectly well as you can imagine and to me, so far as I could tell, it was very like its equivalent part on your body! And his name is Umbaga, and it might be best if we used it so as not to make him feel left out.”

“Well, if his tackle evolved to do the same job on this planet as mine did on ours…” muttered Melvin, “I suppose you’re about to say it’s enormous and you wish I had one like it!”

“You’ve always been sensitive about size, but no,” grinned Aurora, “as far as I can remember it was pretty much identical to what you keep in your underwear, and I find that most peculiar.”

“You do?”

“Well, yes. Don’t you?”

“Not really … parallel evolution will find similar or even identical solutions to ordinary every-day things like urination and the need to dispose of waste liquids.”

Aurora shook her head. “You didn’t see it and I did,” she said quietly, “And don’t forget that I’ve seen yours no end of times, you’re always flashing it at me! If I say Umbaga’s is the same as yours then that’s what it is: the same. In fact, from memory I’d say this fellow must be biologically identical to human males as we know you and that can only mean one thing…”

“So you think the human race regressed … from us to that wretch over there?” asked an astounded Melvin. “Surely that’s not possible!”

Umbaga wanted to say something, to add sounds of his own to a conversation he had no chance of understanding and would have done just that when clear and precious, cutting through the morning air, came a very familiar voice.

“Umbaga! Umbaga! You man of mine! Where be you?”

He swung round and there was Juju, holding baby Idju in her arms, striding towards him purposefully through the woodland from the direction of the clearing.

“Umbaga not come home!” she said, loud and accusingly, “Why Umbaga not come home? Why Juju have to risk all to find you?”

© Peter Rogerson 21.10.16


22 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
” Umbaga meets two strangers, very different from him or anyone he knows. “

Umbaga shrunk behind a tree and stared into the pre-dawn gloom when he heard the musical voice ringing out with a gentility he had never associated with anything human.

His own voice, manly and curt, was rough, he knew that because he knew that was the way of male voices. There was nothing rough about his that wasn’t also rough about all men. And Juju’s voice … female, but moulded by the fact that she’d done a great deal of hoarse shouting all her life … was rough like a shin rubbing on old bark on the tree outside their cave might sound rough if converted into sound.

But this new voice must have come from somewhere very different from his small village, and its owner must be a rare person indeed.

He struggled to see what was what through the gloom, gazing at the light that had attracted him in the first place. It was like no light he knew of and it almost blinded him when he stared straight at it. In his world the only lights originated either in the sky with the sun by day and the moon and stars by night, or where random fires burned in the forest, fires that drove him away and filled him with terror. Mankind had yet to master that fear and use fire to help him. But there was nothing flickering and fire-like about the steady light that illuminated part of the forest beyond the clearing, in that corner of the Forbidden Territory.

This light was white and steady, and it scared Umbaga until he almost wet himself and would have done just that had he not released his teaser from its place in his loincloth (or loin-leather, which was a more accurate description of so primitive a garment) and squirted the sudden pressure onto the wet forest floor where it joined the last remnants of the rain that had fallen steadily until minutes ago. Fear did that to him, caused his bladder to release the pressure that had been building up since he’d stood by the pissing stump hours earlier, and he was fortunate not to splash onto himself in his haste. Even then he knew that the smell of urine on a person was far from acceptable.

The voice sounded again.

“Hey, Melvin, do you want to get an eyeful of what I can see?” it called out suddenly.

There was a brief silence and then another voice sounded. “What is it, Aurora?”

“There’s a bloke over there hiding behind a tree, and he’s got his old man out and, by golly it’s amazing, he’s weeing onto the ground!”

“What? You say there’s a native?” came the reply.

“Well, it’s not you or me and there aren’t any more of us within a light-year of this place so yes, I’d say he was a native, and very humanoid by the look of him, and really well equipped.” the female voice replied.

Umbaga listened to this exchange totally fascinated. The only voices he’d heard in his entire life were those of his neighbours in the small village settlement based in the chalk cliff-caves the other side of the forest as well as the occasional meeting he had with hunters from other villages, and they all used basically the same set of words. Theirs was a limited vocabulary consisting entirely of words that were essential from the point of view of communication, and few abstract terms had taken shape in sound and become part of normal conversation. But whoever he’d spoken to back home had clearly understood him and he’d equally clearly understood them. Such was the very basis of communication then as now.

And now here were two voices and he could understand neither of them. Added to that, he couldn’t see either of them, which put him at a definite disadvantage because he rather suspected that they could see him. Still, he thought, the timbre of their voices didn’t seem particularly threatening, and he had always associated a great deal of meaning to the tone of voice of the speaker rather than the actual words spoken.

He shook his teaser and slid it back under the folds of his loin-leather.

“He seems to have finished urinating and he’s made himself decent,” said the female voice, and he heard a rustle from the direction it had come from. Maybe the speaker was going to reveal herself, he thought. He rather hoped it would be female, for females knew stuff that men could only guess, and he might need help, lost as he was.

“What does he look like?” asked the voice that belonged to Melvin. “Is he tall or short, thin or fat, naked or dressed smartly in a suit?”

“He’s just about naked, though he’s got a scruffy piece of some kind of animal skin over his crown jewels, and otherwise, to be truthful he’s not unlike you when you strip down to your undies,” came the reply, with the hint of humour colouring the intonation that moulded the last few syllables.

“And is he armed? Might he be dangerous?” asked the Melvin voice.

“I’m going to take a closer look. He might see me, so look out for me!” replied the female.

There was more rustling, and then Umbaga gasped.

Into his line of vision and illuminated by the brilliant white light stepped, nervously, the strangest figure Umbaga had ever seen.

He didn’t know whether it was male or female though he rather suspected the latter because it had the suggestion of lumps on its chest, which was covered in the finest and most colourful material he had ever seen. In truth, the only material he knew anything about was animal skins, which tended to be grey or brown, though some of the women managed to weave a kind of ultra-coarse cloth from fibres they extracted from some reeds that grew by the river. Juju had always said it wasn’t worth the effort if he caught enough young deer for her to make full use of their skins before they grew old and rough, so he tried to.

This garment worn by the strange woman ended in a neat and very straight line what looked to be halfway down her thighs if her construction was anything like the women he knew back home, and sticking out from it were two of the smoothest and shapeliest legs he had ever seen – and even though he lived in the long ago of time he did appreciate nicely-shaped legs on women. But what really took him back was the sight of her hair. It was blonde and long, but not long like Juju’s which straggled and had lice in it along with the natural greases which were virtually impossible to wash out. No, this looked as if all there was consisted purely of hair – it was almost as if he could see every strand as he gazed open-mouthed at her.

The hair cascaded down past her shoulders and framed the prettiest face he had ever seen.

“By gum, me like Juju, but this something else,” he thought as he gazed open-mouthed.

“Well, he’s staring at me,” laughed Aurora, shaking her head and making her hair swirl.

Umbaga had hardly ever heard a woman laugh. Not much that warranted laughter or even giggling happened in the village. There were many injuries and even some deaths when hunters were out, and always the shadow of Old Man Tiger hung in the air like an ever-present warning that dangers can lurk just about anywhere. So when he heard this stranger laugh he shrunk down, trying to hide himself, wondering if he was suddenly in any danger.

“Come and look at this, Melvin,” she called, “He doesn’t seem to be a bad little fellow, and if there’s this one there must be quite a lot more. We’d best keep on the right side of him if we don’t want anything unpleasant to happen before you get the ship fixed.”

“And that might take some time,” grunted the male voice.

Then there was another rustling sound and some branches that had clearly been cut from a tree moved as another figure came into view.

He was dressed in a one-piece overall and in his hand he carried a nasty-looking gun.

“Hey, there’s no need for an arsenal!” protested Aurora, frowning, “this little fellow’s unarmed and the last thing we want to do is threaten him unless we find he means us any harm.”

“And how will we know that unless he kills one of us first,” said Melvin.” You know I’m not the gun-toting kind, but it’s best to take precautions before one of us bites a bullet.”

“Me Umbaga,” said the caveman, standing as straight as he could, “me lost,” he added.

Not one of the six syllables meant anything to the two facing him, but the man tilted his weapon towards the caveman threateningly.

But Umbaga knew nothing about guns being tilted or any kind of weapon being aimed, so the gesture meant absolutely nothing to him and he smiled as best he could and nodded his head in a friendly expression of love.

© Peter Rogerson 20.10.16


21 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
” Lost and alone in the pitch black of an unknown forest, Umbaga sees a light…. “

Dusk crept slowly unto Umbaga’s head, together with a throbbing he rarely experienced, and overpowering it all was the need for water.

He had never felt so thirsty, and he needed a drink. And he needed it now. His tongue felt like dry leather, and he hated it.

He looked around and after his thirst his second thought was where am I?

Slowly images of the morning when he had stumbled into the clearing and the taste of the lovely mushrooms returned to him, and he realised that it wasn’t a bunch of flowers that were still in his hand, growing sticky and looking slimy and revolting, but a bunch of long-stalked mushrooms, the very bunch that he’d picked to take to Juju.

He slung them down. They were unfit as a gift for anyone and certainly not his beloved Juju, mother of his daughter and light of his life. What had he been thinking to have gathered such smelly, slimy things for her?

That morning had been a blur. He had stumbled into the clearing and then everything had gone wild. His head had spun with strange, unearthly images and he had felt a strange, not unpleasant, delirium. He couldn’t understand it, but thank goodness he seemed to be back to normal, and the clearing was still all around him with its pretty flowers, now closing as dusk fell, and mushrooms slowly folding their open caps ready for a night’s slumber.

Night! Dark!

What had happened to the day? It had been short of noon when Old Man Tiger had chased him into the Forbidden Territory and now it was getting dark! Had he slept so long? And why?

He must have been ill. That was it. He must have been bitten by one of the nasty bugs that flew around the forest, probably concentrated in huger invisible swarms in the Forbidden Territory, which was probably why it had been forbidden in the first place, and made ill. Now he wasn’t ill, now he was better – but how much time had elapsed since the crazy events he could remember had ended in sleep?

The clearing was becoming darker. Night was falling, and he was too far from home to be able to get back safely in the dark. He knew the ways of the familiar forest, he could probably find his way through that all right, even in the pitch black of a moonless night, but he had to find his way to the pissing stump first, and that would be no easy task.

In which direction did it lie?

He had turned around and moved in a higgledy-piggledy way in a daft and macabre sort of stupid dance under a yellow sky and he had no idea in which direction anything lay. The sun had sunk and the sky was still vaguely light where it had set, but as he stood there pondering even that dim glow faded to black behind clouds that had swept in whilst he had foolishly slept.

And the clouds meant there was no moon.

He sunk to his knees and might have wept, but he was a man and did no such unmanly thing. Instead, he tried to work it out.

But his raging thirst got in the way.

He needed water. Urgently, while he yet lived.

And as if in answer to a prayer to the spirits he hoped lurked somewhere in the unknown a huge, fat drop of rain plopped down onto his face. He had no great supernatural belief – the world was complicated enough with out one, but that drop of rain might have changed things.

It was wet and cold and glorious and it, on its huge, fat own made a little rivulet that trickled down to his chin before dropping off. And glory beyond glories, it was followed by a second, then a third, then far too many to count.

He opened his mouth to the skies and raindrop after raindrop splashed in. And with raindrop after raindrop his raging thirst got sorted out! And the water made little puddles hidden by the darkness, but his groping hands could feel them and scoop life-saving water into his mouth. He became almost delirious with happiness.

By the time had had sated his thirst it was truly dark, so much so that he couldn’t see his hand if he held it in front of his face, and when thirst was just about satisfied he gave thought of getting back home again.

There is no darker more terrifying than that which is not broken by any kind of light. Where shadows cannot exist, where direction is invisible, where nothing is known except the heart beating wildly of the man who is lost in it. And that was Umbaga. Lost in impenetrable black.

Juju, he thought, and he knew what would be going through her head now that he had failed to arrive back home. She would have a mental image of the Old Man Tiger or any one of his equally vicious kin, hungry for meat and pouncing from their invisible hiding places onto her man and tearing him limb from limb, tearing great strips of bloody meat from his howling body before death claimed him and he was finally silent.

He had to get back to the cave. He had to rescue her from her own fears.

He didn’t know anything about love, but he loved her.

So tentatively and some might say foolishly he set off, nervous step by nervous step, in search of the pissing stump.

Two steps, and he fell over. Then a third step, and he tripped again. This would take forever and be more on his knees than on his feet. That thought gave him an idea, and he remained down, hands and knees pressing against the clearing floor, and slowly, painfully, crawled towards where he thought the pissing stump might be. Once there he’d be better equipped to find his way home. It wouldn’t be easy, it was a terribly long way, but at least he knew just about every bough and branch on the way.

He had crawled like that for ages when he knew he had to give up when he came to the little bunch of mushrooms that he’d discarded before he set off. He knew them from the smell they gave off and the slimy feel to them when he touched them, accidentally because they were hidden by the night. He then knew, with despair in his heart, that he had just spent half the night crawling in one insignificant circle.

It was then that he saw the light.

It wasn’t much of a light, barely visible unless you looked the right way between the trees at the far side of the clearing and chanced to get an unobstructed view of it. But it was a light, and any light was better than no light at all.

That light, whatever it was, could guide him. He didn’t know where it could guide him to, but it could guide him to something because, in the black of night, a light cannot exist all on its own unless it’s the glowing fungi in some caves, and this most certainly wasn’t in a cave.

Still on hands and knees he started crawling towards the light. Again, this was no easy matter because as he moved he changed the perspective and it vanished out of sight as an obstacle completely blocked it from his sight. But he got round that one by moving his head left or right until he caught a glimpse of it, and crawling some more. And what was particularly great and good was the way the light grew in size the nearer he got to it.

A great deal of the night had passed and dawn couldn’t be far off by the time he got so close to the light that it didn’t flicker at all, but remained steadfastly glowing, a beacon to lost souls like himself, but the like of which he had never seen before.

But it wasn’t the light that made him pause and almost rise up onto his feet and run away, blindly, into what remained of the night.

It was the voice, and when it spoke it was in a language more harmonious, more musical, than any stone-age voice could ever be, and yet, to Umbaga, it made not one iota of sense.

“It’ll be a blessing when you’ve fixed it,” murmured the voice, “and it’ll be a blessing when we can get off this pesky, filthy little lump of rock, and home.”

And to Umbaga it was the voice of an angel even though there wasn’t a syllable he could make sense of. It was the voice Juju might have had if she hadn’t been such a scruffy woman who lived in a cave.

Because it was a woman’s voice.

© Peter Rogerson 19.10.16


19 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
” Oh dear me …Umbaga, venturing beyond the range of his hunting grounds, finds a clearing in which strange mushrooms grow, and eats a couple of them. “

Umbaga adopted his best furtive style and faded as inconspicuously as he could into the strange woodland that seemed to stretch in front of him for ever. Not that he could see that far because trees have a habit of conspiring together and limiting the view of the sharpest eyes by blocking out anything beyond them. Umbaga knew this. And so did Old Man Tiger, though he’d sneaked away and was too far off to confirm anything even though no inhabitant of the lands around had sharper eyes than him.

Umbaga hadn’t gone far when he came upon a feature he was unfamiliar with ” not that he was familiar with much this side of the pissing stump, for fear of the unknown had kept him well away.

Suddenly the trees gave way to a clearing. Now, you’d expect there to be clearings in woodland, maybe caused by a fire following a lightning strike at the end of a long, dry summer or some other natural phenomenon that occurs where there’s plenty of dry timber lying around ready and waiting to burst into flame, but Umbaga didn’t know of any. His woodland, from the river to the desert, was unblemished by clearings.

This clearing was covered by a rich variety of plants, and it being summer many of them gave forth with a range of flowers that were wonderfully pleasing to the eye, and a wonderful sweet aroma filled the air. Even Umbaga sighed his happiness at seeing and smelling them. After all, underneath his hunter complexion, which by necessity was rugged and carried with it a few scars brought on by long hours crawling through the wild, there beat the softest of human hearts, and he loved the sight and scent of flowers.

“Must bring Juju here. She love flowers,” he sighed to himself, forgetting for a moment that he had entered the Forbidden Territory and wild horses wouldn’t have dragged her past the Pissing Stump. Indeed, those same wild horses wouldn’t even have dragged her anywhere near the pissing post because that would mean she would have to piss on it and she was far too ladylike for that. It was perfectly reasonable to expect a hunter with his man’s equipment to direct his urine onto a particular stump, but a female? A woman? A delicate and thoughtful member of the superior gender? Not a chance! She pissed in private, which was only right and proper and to be expected of one as bright as her.

He stood at the edge of the clearing and stared around him.

Flowers in bloom can be a captivating sight, and he was captivated until he noticed the mushrooms.

He loved mushrooms and even though they were never cooked when he ate them he still loved them. We must remember that cooking required fire and, so far, the lighting of fires was unknown. He knew of fire, of course, there were sporadic outbreaks here and there, but they soon went out and he had no idea what caused them, just that they scared the loincloth off him. He might, if he thought about it, find fire useful but he didn’t realise that because you don’t miss what you’ve never known, and he had never known a forest fire with its flames consuming everything in sight. The tiny fizzing fires he’d seen from afar were nothing in comparison, but, in ignorance, he couldn’t compare.

Not yet, anyway. But times change. After all, a forest fire had most probably created this delightful clearing and had he seen its smoking, flaming, raging birth he might have been a tad less enchanted and more wary.

He stooped and picked one of the mushrooms and felt and smelt its firm flesh.

Juju would like some of these, he thought. Juju liked mushrooms as much as he did, and although he knew some were likely to cause severe cramps in the stomach it was worth the risk just to enjoy those that didn’t. Juju knew which did what and he might have learned had he stayed at home doing woman’s work, but he was a hunter and out most weathers hunting.

Hunters have little time to learn about anything other than hunting. And hunters aren’t really bothered if the learning doesn’t improve their chances of survival in a dangerous world.

He sniffed the mushroom.

It smelt like any old mushroom anywhere, even though it was a little bit smaller than those he was familiar with and looked slightly translucent, which gave it an appetising appearance, especially as he knew he was hungry and even mouse droppings might seem appetising.

“Yummy,” he murmured to himself, and licked it.

Then he held it carefully in one hand and looked at it carefully. Nothing quite like this grew anywhere near the place he called home even though there were many kinds of fungi and he knew where to find them, but this one was unfamiliar and he wanted to avoid the dreadful stomach cramps that eating the wrong kind of mushroom can bring on. In his mind and in the limited language of the day there were only mushrooms that grew like this, and no word for toadstools.

“It small,” he told himself, and his mind wandered along the road that suggested that small couldn’t really do him much harm. Small was too … small .. and unlikely to harm him, and if it did the harm would be proportionate to small. So he put the whole fungus in his mouth and chomped on it, squeezing the juices from it between his teeth, and savouring them..

The word delicious sprung to mind, because he was hungry anyway and anything edible may well have tasted delicious.

He bent down and picked a second mushroom, stuffed it in his mouth and sighed his contentment to a universe that was turning strange.

And as he looked up the sky became extraordinarily a beautiful psychedelic yellow even though he had no such word as psychedelic in his vocabulary, and he giggled.

“What’s so funny, little man?” asked a gerbil in his head or on his shoulder or somewhere close enough to want to speak to him, and it was hard to find an answer because at that moment all he wanted to do is fly like the big green bird that was circling above his head. The big green bird, large as a hippopotamus with emerald feathers and a beak as large as a palm frond and yellow as the sky, flapped its gigantic wings and that was so funny.

Umbaga had never seen anything so funny, but the bird clearly wanted him to join it in the sky, so he struggled to climb the tallest tree he could see. It wasn’t easy, climbing that tree, because it wibbled and wobbled and swayed and moved like trees shouldn’t, and it was all so outrageously funny.

“Why are you laughing?” asked Old Man Tiger, dribbling through his bright purple teeth and scratching his testicles with claws that left trails of green blood behind them.

“You’ll hurt,” Umbaga tried to warn him, but the words came out upside down and he actually said “Glug glug,” which meant so much to him he started weeping.

Umbaga had hardly ever cried, not even when Idju had been born and Juju had gnashed her teeth in unbelievable agony and bled from her woman-bits. He should have wept back then, maybe, but he hadn’t. But he wept now.

And with tears rolling like mountain streams down his face Umbaga fell the full half yard from the top of the tree and landed safely on his head, his landing cushioned by an exotic pillow of flowering plants and mushrooms.

Still he wept, and the tiger which had fallen with him joined in, and tears as red as blood washed from its eyes and down its face as it curled up with a fluffy lamb and licked it all over until the lamb was an apple tree and the blood was sunset and Umbaga fell asleep.

“Umbaga sleep at night,” he whispered, and something told him it wasn’t even noon let alone night, but what the hell…? He was tired and before he went back to Juju he would pick a nice bunch of mushrooms and take them to her, and lick her all over before they ate their fill together.

So, half asleep and with the beginnings of a headache grinding inside his cranium, he picked his big, big bunch of mushrooms and lay down, closed his eyes, and fell into a troubled sleep as his mind sought the reality he was used to, and slowly found it.

© Peter Rogerson 18.10.16