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CHAPTER TWELVE – DOWN TO DNA.

28 Nov

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
” Still on the stranded spaceship (which is no longer stranded) and about to make a discovery concerning DNA… “

It was two days before Melvin had made repairs to the drive of the stranded space-ship. Most of the time he’d spent scratching his head and wondering why this or that didn’t work only to end up concluding it must all be down to a computerised control box hidden safely out of the way of anything hot under a hard-to-get at cover, which he replaced as a single unit from the spares cache and which worked straight away.

“Bloody thing,” he moaned to Aurora, “I’m fed up with this ship, and that’s a fact! But now I’ve fixed it we can be off, and good riddance to all those trees.”

“So I can use the equipment now?” she asked.

“What equipment?” he growled.

“The woman’s hair. I need to examine it closely. I think the results could be more than interesting.”

He gazed at her, confusion written on his face. She knew he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the box, so she thought she’d explain what she meant in terms that even a moron would understand, not that her opinion of his intelligence was that extreme. She knew him for what he was ” a hard-working practical engineer with a limited view when it came to the abstract.

“I thought we were going to return to our search for the home planet…” he began, but she interrupted him.

“If I’m right we’ve found it,” she said shortly, “If everything turns out to be the way it seems then this little world that we landed on to effect repairs is miraculously the home planet and our search is over,” she added.

He gazed at her, his eyes wide as if he knew he was looking at a mad woman.

“You mean this arse-end of existence?” he asked, “this primitive backside of life? You just can’t be serious! You simply can’t!”

“Why not?” she asked. “What’s so very wrong with the idea that we’ve located the home planet where our species evolved?”

“Just look at it!” He waved one arm at the porthole window, indicating the verdant growth that seemed to cover most of the planet. “How could you possibly think that anyone living here could build enough vessels to go out to the stars and populated half of Creation? You’re talking nonsense! Our home planet will be sophisticated, there’ll be great centres where the people live and even greater cetres where they work and play1”

“We’ll see,” she purred in that tone of voice that he recognised so well. It was the tone of voice she used when she made a statement that would subsequently be proved to be exactly right whilst he was exactly wrong.

“Well, you won’t be right this time,” he grunted. “I can see that as clearly as I can see your face! By the way, have I ever told you that you’ve got a nice face…?”

“Now what’s on your mind?” she asked, curiously. “After all, it’s a long time you said anything nice about me, but it is good to hear.”

“I used to.”

“Yes, in the early days before you decided that I got on your nerves,” she said, smiling. “You didn’t like it when I got on your nerves, did you, but I couldn’t help it. The fault was more yours than mine…”

“How do you work that out?” he asked, irritably.

“Look, Melvin, we’re two different people who look at things in two different ways and I suppose that sometimes, because of my education or something like that I manage to see a little deeper into things than you do! It doesn’t make me better than you, just different. Anyway, I’m a girl and everyone knows that girls are brighter than boys!”

“Are you calling me stupid?” He sounded enraged though he knew he shouldn’t. Something at the back of his mind told him the unpleasant news, that she was most probably right. All of the big thinkers on most of the major planets were female, and if men somehow got a look in there was a sudden outbreak of violence and wars. It was almost a trademark of male-dominated cultures.

“I would never do that, Melvin,” she said quietly. “You’re not at all stupid, though sometimes you don’t see all of the possible consequences of what you harp on about. But you’ve got really good qualities, you know. You’re a first rate engineer with a magic touch…”

“I could have done done it quicker this time, if only I’d thought…”

“Exactly.” She removed the strands of hair that she’d asked Juju for from the drawer where she’d carefully put them days earlier, and took them to a sophisticated-looking machine a single pace away from where she was standing.

“And what do you mean by that?” demanded Melvin. “Why ‘exactly’”

“Think about it,” she replied, a little sharply. “Now give me a moment …”

She carefully slipped one of the strands of Juju’s hair into a tiny drawer and pressed a few buttons on a control panel. The machine came to life with a gentle hum and the flashing of several tiny lights. It was a recent development and could do things that had hitherto taken ages in mere minutes, and it had been included on all of the little ships searching for the home planet because it represented the one sure way of absolute certainty should any major discovery be made.

“This should answer a few questions,” she said quietly. “I’ve a feeling me might find something vaguely familiar about the DNA in this hair. This won’t take long!”

“Are you trying to suggest that cavemen like the imbecile we saw the other day had enough technology to blast off into space and conquer Creation?” mocked Melvin, disbelievingly.

“It was suggested that it’s possibly that, once the brightest and best had left the planet, those who remained might have regressed to the point of being little more than savages,” she murmured. “And if that’s the case it’s perfectly possible that the two charming people we met the other day are our cousins, only they no longer have the same spark of ingenuity that sent their forefathers to the stars. This test will show us because even though it’s one heck of a long time since the exodus from the home planet it’s a short time in the course of evolution. Not much will have changed in the DNA and we’ll see a distinct relationship between us and them!”

“I’m sure I’m not related to those morons!” snapped Melvin.

“Maybe you’re not, but I wouldn’t be surprised it I was,” sighed Aurora, gently tapping on an inset button on the machine in front of her, then turning a dial the slightest bit to the left.

“What? You?” sneered Melvin.

“It’s back to the atomic watch I gave the woman,” said Aurora in the tone of voice he least liked because it sounded as if she was explaining something to a wayward child.

“What about it?” he couldn’t help asking.

“Didn’t you notice the look in her eyes when she examined it?” asked Aurora.

“I tried not to look at her filthy face,” he snapped back.

“Oh dear. More fool you then. But I did look and there was one thing that was clear as a bell. She understood what it did. I watched her as the light traced the part of the day while we were there and every time she glanced at it it was clear she understood what she was looking at and what it was showing her. So if these people are the remnants left behind when our own ancestors set a course for the stars then I don’t think their intelligence suffered much. After all, it’s quite a quantum leap from magic mushrooms to atomic technology! What did happen, I suppose, is they found a better way of living. For them.”

Melvin shook his head in disbelief. He’d seen Umbaga and Juju with their child, and he’d been threatened by a large group of their neighbours, and as far as he was concerned it had been very much like being in the company of wild creatures stripped of any sign of intelligence.

“Anyway, we’ll know in a few minutes,” smiled Aurora, and when he looked at that smile he knew just how beautiful she was ” beauty and intelligence, two qualities that he admired but occasionally detested in equal measure.

But the machine into which she’d carefully placed a single strand of hair was beeping quietly, and he knew they’d know for certain soon enough.

Yes, they’d know that the beautiful Aurora had at last got something wrong and he was right!

© Peter Rogerson 27.10.16

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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

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

CHAPTER SIX – JUJU IN THE MORNING

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