CHAPTER EIGHT – BEING FOLLOWED

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

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