The afternoon wind was blowing cold over the grass plains. Few trees grew here anymore, and recent flooding had exposed large rock outcroppings here and there. What foliage that did grow was quickly stripped from the trees and bushes by the local animal population. Roving herds of herbivore mammals took down all the grass, leaving mostly barren ground. Slung between two mountain ranges, the glaciers had carved a path like a road through them, leaving a thousand mile-long flatland in its wake. Sheltered from the East and West, it did however serve as a channel for the winds that blew down from the Northern pole of the planet. This trough trapped the winds and accelerated them through the flatland channel. The result was trees growing horizontally, none standing more than 30 meters high. The melting ice and snow rushed down from both sides of the separated mountain range, and flash floods were common, taking everything in their path.
The only saving grace here was a large pond fed by underground streams coming from the gradually receding glaciers in the distant mountains. It drew all the wildlife for miles to its life-saving waters. A form of truce was understood while the various predators gathered here, with only the occasional starving sabertooth tiger taking advantage of the walking free meals to take down an old or sick mammoth. The resulting carrion would feed the meat eaters for days, with vultures and smaller mammals scavenging what the big ones left behind.
There was only one predator more fierce and cunning than the saber tooth.
This killer walked not on four legs, but upright on two. Homo sapiens sapiens. Man. Having climbed down out of the trees of the forest, these pre-humans lived loosely in family arrangements, hunting as a group for meat and wild fruits and berries. The group fed top down, with the largest male establishing his claim to leadership through killing or severely maiming any other male trying to take control.
The matriarchal alpha female ate after all the males had had their fill, with the old and young getting anything that was left over. Not having had any kills recently, the group was hungry and agitated, with fights breaking out between the males, and the females struggling to feed their babies.
With the coming of winter, the air was bitter and the wind unrelenting. Little shelter existed to get out of the weather, so many times the group simply huddled together behind a rock pile or outcropping for warmth. One such rock grouping at the base of a wash basin was being slowly uncovered by the steady erosion of water, and now stood some 10 meters tall. As the water had rushed around the rock it had uncovered a small cave opening that snaked back inside the hillside for some 30 meters. It afforded more than a little shelter. It was here the families had established as their home, and fiercely defended it from the other groups of pre-humans struggling to survive.
One female crouched down in a corner of the cave, clutching her crying baby in her arms. They had not eaten in 3 days, and her teat milk was almost dried up. The baby would need solid food soon, and the mother in her already-weakened condition would die if she did not find sustenance soon as well.
If the lack of food did not kill the family, the cold and freezing wind certainly would. Several older members of the family had succumbed to starvation or exposure. Their bodies had been dragged away from the cave and left in the open. It was like ringing the dinner bell, with carnivores for miles gathering to clean the carcasses of any protein they could. This in turn actually promoted attacks on the family from the various cats and roving scavengers who saw the huddled humans as a second course.
The female’s instinct for survival was beginning to kick-in. Her baby needed
food or it would die in days. Pulling it from her arms she held it out to another sleeping female. The baby turned and grabbed the female around the neck and woke her, startling her and scaring the baby. Then she settled back and let the baby cling to her as they both drifted back off to an uncomfortable sleep in the freezing air.
The female rose and left the shelter, to find something to fill her belly. She reached for a hand sewn pouch made of animal skins that she used to gather fruit or berries in. Taking a pointed stick that she had sharped on a rock face, she carried the makeshift weapon hoping to skewer a small animal that she might be able to run down. Anything to feed her baby.
Having evolved from her more primitive ancestors, she was hairless except for her head, a long scraggly reddish color that blew in the wind as she foraged for food. The animal skins she covered herself in barely covered her body. She was always cold, but had gotten used to it.
She was the smartest of the group, male or female, and had proven a lifesaver many times by seemingly anticipating an animal attack and having the group prepared. The end result in many cases was that the attacker became the prey, the unwary victim of a group attack and kill. The meat and skins served as sustenance and clothing, and the bones and teeth became tools and cutting edges, and adornments.
The dominant male of the group still commanded authority over the family, but he allowed this female a loose kind of co-management, understanding her skills helped to keep them alive. He always saw that she ate, even if the other females went hungry. He needed her strong to continue protecting the family.
But even her almost 6th sense was not having any success lately, as the colder weather saw the birds migrate south to warmer climate, and the larger carnivores were expanding their territory looking for smaller prey animals. And so it worked down the chain to the smallest rodents and prairie hole animals, all struggling to exist without becoming the main course for something else.
On she trekked, half-stooped over in a crouch, ready at once to drop to the ground, or take off at a full run to chase down a meal. The family needed fresh meat. They had come upon a rotting carcass a week back, and the meat had gone bad. In their hunger they ate it anyway, and two members, both male, had died from the spoiled meat. Others were now very sick, and in the freezing air they would not survive long without food.
Her head moved constantly back and forth, scanning the horizon for signs of life. Here the plain was more plentiful with grass and brush, some of it burned out from a recent lightning strike that had ignited the dry brush and set the surrounding grass and trees on fire. The group had come upon this after smelling the smoke, and tried to bring burning sticks back to their cave for warmth. But the embers quickly died in the wind, and once again they were cold.
The female was approaching a thick patch of dried grass almost 2 meters tall, blowing lazily in the cold wind as though it enjoyed it. As the plain began to give way to a sloping hill, rock outcroppings dotted the landscape. She had long ago learned that digging in these grassy areas would uncover grubs and other surface creatures that burrowed into the ground for warmth or protection. She moved toward the largest of the rock faces, an area she had had success before in digging up worms and termites for food.
To her left she caught movement, and in a split second turned and thrust the spear forward. The wild boar shrieked as her spear entered the left side of its neck and exited the right side. It pulled back in pain pulling the spear from its neck and began wildly thrashing about. She jumped on its back and thrust the spear downward through the base of its skull. The force of her thrust pushed the spear through the bottom jaw of the boar and into the ground under it. Instantly the animal stopped its thrashing and went limp. It twitched reflexively as the life went out of its body. Holding onto the spear with both hands, she waited until the boar ceased moving. Then slowly she rose off the animal, still holding the spear. Placing her foot on its skull, she pulled up hard yanking the spear from its head.
It was a yearling, medium sized, but still a good kill. It would feed her family for a week. She stood breathing heavy, staring at her prize. Once again her instincts had helped her. Many of her group had been skewered or killed by herds of wild boar. She emerged from battle without a scratch.
She was admiring her work when a noise directly behind her startled her. She turned in a flash and raised her spear ready for another kill, but this time stopped. She was frozen.
Standing 10 meters from her was a figure. Only slightly taller than herself, it stood straight and motionless. The setting sun was to its back, allowing her to only make out its silhouette and the glint of gold in its glowing eyes. It cast
a long shadow on the ground that ended near the spot where she was standing. She could make out no features, and in spite of being downwind from it, she picked up no scent other than the smell of the plains.
Her normal reaction would be to attack it. But she found herself frozen in place, fear in her mind of the unknown actions the figure might take against her, but unable to move a muscle to fight or flee. She simply stood there facing it, unable to even utter a sound.
Suddenly, as if a spear had pierced her skull, she dropped to her knees and howled. Her mind was being assaulted with images of her surroundings and her group members. She was unable to control the thoughts, almost as if they were being drained from her brain. The pain was intense, she wanted to beat it out of her own head, when suddenly the pain stopped. A single image now remained in her mind, she was unable to shake it.
Fire. The burning trees from the last storm. The warmth it brought them for a short time in the cold of the plains. Her mouth began to water as she remembered the heat against her body from the flames. It had been an event, with the group dancing around it like it was a God. When the last smoldering ember had died back at their cave, it was as if a member of the family had died. The pure joy and feeling of protection the simplicity of fire meant to them gave way to despair with its death. The God who gave them life had taken it back. Surely this meant they were fallen out of favor, and doomed to starve.
One of the males had drawn a crude recounting of the event on the inner wall of the cave, compelled to tell the story of the God who had forsaken them.
Here the female stood, facing this figure, the only thought in her mind the simplest of all: survival. Another stab of pain assaulted her mind. The figure finally moved, a single lifting of its right arm. The figure was pointing at the rock outcropping she had just done battle with the young boar in front of. Without a sound she finally found her feet and moved up to the rock. With her still-bloodied spear she began to pry at the loose rock jutting out from the main rocks. Small shards broke off and fell to the ground as she continued to dig at the rock face. She did not even know why she was digging, she only knew she had to.
Finally in response to her digging, a large section of the rock broke loose and fell to the ground, splintering in hundreds of pieces. The figure now moved to the smaller shards, taking small deliberate steps, always facing her in anticipation of her attack on it.
Kneeling down, the figure selected a larger piece of rock, and took it in its hand. Without knowing why, she reached for a shard exactly as it had. Now they stood facing each other as if preparing for battle, each with a sharp tool of destruction their hands meant to cut the throat of the other.
But instead of attacking her, the figure moved over to the rock face where she had been digging. It raised the rock shard in its hand and swung down against the rock face, striking it hard. The contact with the rock face shot a spark from the rock that flew to the ground, glowing red for several seconds before dying in the dirt.
The female was shocked and jumped back several meters, uttering a defensive cry of fear and warning at seeing this spark from the God coming from the very rock. Her eyes darted from the rock to the figure, unable to make sense of it. Again the figure raised its arm and struck the rock, this time sending several sparks in all directions. Again she jumped, but this time not so much. Her fear was still real but her curiosity was overpowering her fear. A third time the figure struck the rock, this time showering them both with sparks, some that landed in her matted hair, sizzling it. As she batted at the smoldering hair, the figure stepped back from the rock face. Giving her space now, it simply stood facing her. Slowly she approached the rock, fearful that sparks would jump out from the God that this figure had angered. Nothing happened. She stood for minutes – waiting, nothing. Turning to the figure, pleading in her eyes, it raised its hand that held the shard and pointed to the rock.
Cautiously she moved to the rock face, holding the spear in her left hand and the rock shard in her right, as if expecting the God to attack her. Staring at the rock for several seconds, she felt compelled to strike it. She brought her arm down with the shard against the rock, splintering pieces of it from her hand and cutting her palm open. Blood spurted out of the wound as she dropped the rock and grabbed her hand.
The blood dripping from her hand covered the rocks on the ground. She knew it would bring predators who could smell it miles away. The unrelenting wind would carry the scent quickly. She had to get to safety. But she was unable to leave the rock. She turned to the figure, who motioned to the rock she had dropped. Slowly she kneeled down and picked it up, her hand still bleeding. She gripped it in her hand and swung at the rock face again, this time holding onto her piece. The impact exploded dozens of large glowing sparks shooting out in all directions.
Startled that she had been able to steal these sparks from the God, she turned to the figure almost triumphantly. Quickly she ran over to a section of dried grass and pulled it out of the ground, grabbing clumps of it to bring back to the rock face. Placing the grass as the base of the rock, she turned to the figure again, who now stood again motionless before her.
She turned back and struck the rock with her shard, again sending sparks flying. A crude smile came to her face as she began to understand. She reached down for a handful of grass, dropping the spear like it was no longer needed. She held the grass up against the rock, and struck it again. A few sparks splintered away from the rock, some striking the grass. Again she struck and again, until a large glowing ember embedded itself in the grass she held in her hand.
She now dropped the rock and cupped the smoking grass in her hand, gently blowing on it. The ember glowed with each breath, each time brighter than the last. Sensing the inevitable, she blew again patiently. The smoke began to dissipate as the glow increased. Suddenly a flame jumped to life in her hands. She dropped the burning grass and batted at her slightly singed hands.
She stood in front of this miracle that she had created. She had battled the Fire God and made him give her its life. SHE had done this. And she now knew she could do it again. Fire meant life. Life for her family. For herself. For her baby.
She rushed around frantically now grabbing grass and small branches, tossing it onto the burning grass. The flames shot up higher, and soon she had a blaze going in front of her. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes as she realized she had discovered the means to save her family. What she had done would change their very way of life. Now her family would never be cold again. Fire meant protection from enemies, both animals and other human hunting parties. He who had fire had life. Hope. A future.
Understanding that the rocks of the God brought life, she unslung her pouch and began selecting larger chunks of the magic rocks and dropped them into it. They sparked slightly as they fell against each other. She smiled as she watched them glow briefly. This would change everything.
She turned in the direction of the figure, but it was gone. Looking around quickly, she saw no one. The quickening darkness was broken by the bonfire she had created by her own hand. Moving back to the dead boar, she picked up her spear and thrust it through the boar’s neck. She was small, but she was strong. Grunting once, she lifted the boar up by the spear and gripped both ends with her arms, slinging it onto her back. Kneeling down, she balanced the boar on her shoulders. Picking up several burning sticks in a group, she rose again and began the slow trek back to her family, and the safety of their cave.
Now they had a chance for survival. She could sense the nighttime predators watching her, but staying away from the flame of Life she now carried. She moved quickly, anxious to get this miracle back to her cave. To her family. To her baby. She would tell the story for years to come of the God who came to her and showed her how to make fire. Artists would draw these scenes in their caves — scenes of battle and challenges that resulted in victory and life for her and her family.
The figure stood motionless watching her hurry back to her cave, until the glow died on the horizon. It turned back to the rock face. Kneeling down, it slowly picked up one of the rock shards that had been covered in blood from her bleeding hand. The figure reached into its green form fitting suit and removed a small device. Touching the face of it with a long green finger, the screen lit up. The figure held the rock near the device. The device began blinking and making cooing-like noises. After several seconds it stopped and emitted a single tone.
The figure stood and turned in the direction of the cave, nodding slowly. Placing the rock in a pouch on the side of its suit, it began moving west away from the rock face and the slowly dying bonfire, in the direction of the heavy woods. It disappeared inside the heavily tree-covered area. For several minutes there was nothing except the crackling fire. Then from inside the wooded area a blinding light sprung to life. Not a flame, but pure white light. The light began to rise without a sound straight up through the trees. It stopped several hundred meters in the air, hovering silently over the plains of what would in about 300,000 years be known as the State of Indiana, of the United States of America. Then it resumed its slow climb, with a low hum accompanying the glow from its engines.
Then it was gone without a trace, leaving the living plains, and the glow of the dying fire that had, for the first time, been made by the hand of man.