CHAPTER SEVEN – AN ATOMIC WATCH

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

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