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


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