Homo naledi By P.J. Wren
March 14, 2016 Comments Off on Homo naledi By P.J. Wren
Our hunting party had been following the herd through the grasslands since the start of the dry season. We had walked for days without water. We crested each hill with the hope of a wet valley below. At last, Esa spotted a patch of green grass among a stand of odd dead trees. Green meant water, real water, not just another shimmering mirage.
We rushed to the valley, pushing each other, not noticing the sinkhole until someone nearly fell in. Our thirst drove us further down the slope to the shallow pool where we dropped on our grateful knees to drink.
After we refilled our gourds, Esa noticed movement in the trees. His eyes scanned the highest branches, and I matched his gaze.
“Apes?” I asked. “Here?”
Esa frowned. “Not apes, but … We’ll stay tonight.”
That night, as we rested under the stars, Esa remembered that his grandfather had taken him as a boy to a cave. In the flickering light, Esa had watched his grandfather draw pictures of odd ancient trees. In the trees he’d drawn creatures like us, but smaller. Like apes, but upright with long curved fingers gripping the highest branches, but also reaching upwards, as if to pluck the stars from the sky.
Esa’s grandfather called them the Old Ones.
The next morning, within hours of waking, we had captured all the Old Ones as they came out of the trees to drink. There were fifteen of them, weak with hunger, many too old or too young to walk far. We could have left them to the vultures, but Esa said no.
Esa thought of the sinkhole. One of our boys shimmied down and found a dry cavern below.
With the gentlest touch from our spears, we killed them.
We carried their bodies to the sinkhole, not on our backs as one would carry an animal but cradled in our arms, to drop them in, according to our most sacred rite.
© 2015 P.J. Wren
P.J. Wren is a scientist by day and a writer of short fiction and poetry by night.