World War Zero
A short story about the dawn of the San Bushmen, the fathers of modern man, and how a scientist imagines their world as it was 50,000 years ago, at war with Homo erectus, the quintessential apeman. Check for full story at scribd.com
Africa, the birthplace of every living human. Our genetic time machine reads the mutations, called markers, on our chromosomes. They accumulate over time at a predictable rate. They are like mile markers on the highway of evolution. The genetic time machine has revealed a small tribe of the oldest living representatives of our earliest Homo sapiens ancestors.
The San Bushmen are directly descended from the people that left Africa 50,000 years ago who gave rise to all moderns humans. The San are the sole remaining survivors of those explorers that stayed behind in Africa. They have the eyes of asians, the high check bones of Mongolians, the mid-brown skin that can change to darker or lighter, and most importantly the high forehead that makes room for well evolved frontal lobes. They are a composite of many races. They have a human mind.
Their numbers are dwindling and they may soon disappear entirely. They are threatened by progress because they are a wild people of the bush. The world is shrinking around them. Organizations have even been in the business of saving them. They must be saved from extinction. To have survived the world of Homo erectus, the quintessential apeman, only to be exterminated now at the dawn of our understanding of their legacy against the backdrop of human evolution is yet another admission of our incompetence as stewards of the Earth.
Like the “The Clan of the Cave Bear” books that include encounters and interbreeding of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, I think there is a story in sub-Saharan Africa. The poor little San people just recently evolved (some say placed there by God) facing a world full of brutal huge Homo erectus. Sometimes they get raped and have mixed children like Ayla and her half neanderthal child. Imagine being their slave. Think “den of the orcs” of Tolkien lore.
Some made it out of Africa before the interbreeding between the ancestors of the San and a 700,000 year old gene pool took place in Africa 35,000 years ago, and gave rise to all modern humans indigenous to regions outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
Chapter 1 The San
The San were a beautiful new race of people. Inquisitive, gentle of heart, and imaginative. In their eyes you could see the twinkle that is human. It mostly resided in the frontal lobes of evolutions new prototype brain. The San had evolved from a particular branch of Homo erectus. Over tens of thousands of years the ancestors of the San had used their gradually evolving brains to out smart their apeman competitors. They traded brawn for brains.
They mostly stayed away from apemen, but the San’s more advanced culture, the product of enhanced language and other cognitive skills, provided them with advantages in planning, weapons, and other technologies like stone making and weaving. The larger and more organized tribes of the San could hold their own against apemen in most encounters, but apemen were smart enough to use advantage of numbers and surprise tactics against the San.
Among Homo erectus there were no dreamers, just stone slow realization. Force was their logic.
The smaller tribes of San feared and hid from apemen like they did lions, for they were as deadly and cleverer. Sometimes they did not kill but stole the San. This made the San fear the apemen with the limits of their imagination. To some they were the demons of the world. Unlike with animals, fire brought them to you. It was a simple thing for apemen to capture your fire and cook you over it.
Because of the apeman threat, smaller tribes of San kept to brushy areas, the bush, to avoid them. They lit fires only in the deepest of forests. They hunted small game like hares and dik-dik. They could not make permanent dwellings or use the same areas for long because apemen were great trackers and the San were greatly prized.
Chapter 2 Planet of the Apemen
Homo erectus was the longest lived species of human. In their beginning they were scavengers, but towards their end they became the first human big game hunters. They were like us from the neck down. Their leg bones show traits common among today’s Olympic athletes, indications that they were adapted to running. They could run long distances, cooperate in packs, and make tools, and thus were like wolves with weapons. Their species had spread across the Old World. They were the top dog of their world.
Into this “planet of the apemen” came Homo sapiens, evolved from Homo erectus. It was evolution’s latest bid to improve upon the Homo erectus design. It was not the first. Homo neandertalus had evolved form Homo erectus as well, having a brain size equal to modern humans. Neanderthals and Homo sapiens would have their pivotal encounter in Europe starting around 35,000 years ago.
Compared to Homo sapiens, Homo erectus had some disadvantages. Their shoulders could not rotate to the degree that sapiens could and their hands were set in a palm-forward configuration while standing and so they were not as good at throwing spears. As such, they could not kill at a distance, opening them more danger during hunts to injury or death.
But most importantly, the brain of Homo sapiens is about 1/3 larger that Homo erectus, putting Homo erectus at a great mental disadvantage. Their minds simply did not have the hardware to compete with the more intuitive and imaginative Homo sapiens. The main advantage they had over upstarts like Neanderthals and Homo sapiens was the claim they had on the land as top dog.
For a new species to evolve from Homo erectus it would have to both survive and genetically isolate itself from the gene pool that it arose from. For this common impediment in the history of the evolution of new species, nature had a solution known as geographic isolation.
If a gene pool could isolate itself in an environment where Homo erectus were uncommon or altogether not present, it would have the chance to evolve “away” from the Homo erectus gene pool it was derived from. The cold ice-age climate of Europe, where Neanderthals evolved and became top dog is thought to have been one such environment.
So where or how did Homo sapiens evolve in Africa where apeman had ruled supreme for an age? The answer lies with the Bushmen. In this interpretation, apemen were runners of the plains. Homo sapiens were hunters of the bush. These two ecological niches allowed the emerging Homo erectus-sapiens gene pool to form and remain in enough genetic isolation as to prevent the main Homo erectus gene pool from swallowing it up.
As time went on, the brain of of out ancestors improved and grew larger than the brain of Homo erectus to the degree that they had acquired an adequate advantage over Homo erectus to begin the great Homo sapiens takeover. To topple top dog, you really have to bring something to the evolutionary table.
Chapter 3 The Apeman Advantage
Tribes of apemen walked the savannas like troops of baboons. There they would walk the open plains that they sometimes defended as their territories, on the endless quest for food. Their mode of life or ecological niche was similar to that of baboons except apemen were not nearly as adept at tree climbing and therefore were regularly engaged in direct combat with predators.
On the savannas the only real threat to tribes of apemen were prides of lions and packs of hyena, either of which could decimate a poorly defended tribe. To cope with these two greatest predatory threats, apemen were equipped with a strong herding instinct and tribes tended to be large, usually comprised of 100 individuals or more. In addition, apemen were both physically and mentally adapted for the task. The combination of large numbers and fierce predatory capabilities meant the apeman diet consisted of a far higher percentage of meat that that of baboons.
A well equipped apeman tribe could own the day, but night was the kingdom of the lion and hyena. Night vision, sense of smell, and hearing of apemen and men were hopelessly inadequate to effectively fend off predators at night. Fire was the only real defense against a night attack. Tribes that did not build fire for night defense were at a relative disadvantage compared to those tribes that did and thus their chances of survival were comparatively less. Thus, evolution selected for fire building apemen.
All apemen, including females and younger individuals, would forage for anything ranging from eggs to insects and flowers to roots. They would also hunt for smaller game that they could corral and capture. Only the males of the tribe would hunt big game. The planning of the hunts and other movements of the tribes were rather instinctual in nature – one thing usually just led to another as events unfolded and threats and opportunities arose.
The biggest evolutionary advantages sub-Sahara African apeman had to survive the evolutionary contest he was apart of were his relatively large brain compared to anything but man, the upright configuration of his body plan, and the hairless, sweat gland rich skin. Besides the obvious advantages offered by intelligence such as tool making, the two legged or bipedal style of walking provided huge savings in calories consumed per ground covered compared to his four legged or quadruped ancestors and competitors.
The advantages of his hairless body was the way it could shed heat. Overheating causes incapacitation and can be deadly to all animals. Animals use evaporative cooling to shed excess heat. A dog or lion will pant, for instance, and a kangaroo will lick its fur to cool themselves. Apemen skin had evolved to shed heat more effectively by coating his skin with sweat. Water could then evaporate from the total surface area of his body for maximum cooling.
His efficient walking design combined with his highly effective heat-shedding skin allowed apemen to walk and run over great distances in the heat of the day when most predators must rest in the shade to keep from suffering heat exhaustion. Apeman hunting technique was simple: walk and run prey to exhaustion. Modern sub-Saharan tribesmen use the very technique to this day. Many grazers are simply not able to shed heat effectively enough when pursued by apemen or men in the hottest part of the day and eventually brain temperature rises to debilitating levels, enabling an easy kill.
As powerful a new tool as it was in the lab of evolution that is the biosphere of the Earth, the apeman brain was not capable of what we would call logical deduction. For the most part, apeman logic was a fuzzy sense of behavior association – like a simple computer program reacting to data input and outputting behavior for grooming, hunting, fighting, sex and the like. But, like with modern man, there were apeman “geniuses”.
The apeman geniuses were the ones who invented shaped stone, the spear, and controlled fire. Like with modern chimps, apeman was smart enough to learn the art of tool making. But while the chimp tool makers may be chimp geniuses, a simple stick to prod ants out of holes was a no-brainer for an apeman. While the average apeman could never figure out how to achieve these acts of invention, they were well equipped to learn.
This bell curve of intelligence is a product of Darwinian Carnage. Is it a case of an ideal distribution of leaders and followers selected for by evolution or simply a natural distribution of intelligences? In any case, this intelligence strategy that evolution was experimenting with was the driving force behind our evolution. It hadn’t happened with the dinosaurs even though they were top dogs of their world. Something in mammalian brain evolution enabled far greater intelligence capability.
I think the most logical answer was our nocturnal heritage. In the dangerous shadow of the dinosaur top dogs, mammals had to use the night for the necessary tasks of life. In the night, more advanced sensory capability would be an obvious advantage. This means more advanced brains for processing more data - the most basic form of intelligence. Dinosaurs had captured the top spots, but evolution was not able to crack through to an intelligence barrier perhaps because of some structural impediment. There appears to be no intelligence barrier as yet encountered in the mammalian line.
The most important behavior that evolution developed in Homo sapiens was that of teaching. Domesticated chimps can be taught to do surprisingly complicated tasks, well beyond anything observed in nature. Chimps learn by imitation, but adults do not make any effort to teach. As such, ideas come and go and so progress in not possible.
This teaching behavior led to the most important invention of man aside from the spear and science - writing. This has enabled man to progress beyond the limits of any single mind. To build ideas upon ideas, experimentation upon experimentation.
A single mind can only hold so much in perspective or understand so much detail at any given moment. For a single human mind, writing can allow a person to lay out his thoughts and organize and build upon them. So a piece of paper or a computer is a fantastic way to mentally evolve beyond our natural capabilities, in a sense. In the future “chips” will be imbedded in our brains and given more advances, our minds will be transferred to artificial vessels.
All this speculation begs the question: so where did apeman fit intellectually in the gap between ape and man?
Chapter 4 Eureka!
The San had a weapons advantage over the apemen. They used bone spearpoints and thinner shafts, which gave them several advantages such as greater and safer throwing distance. The San could carry more “ammunition” and make more shots because their spears were lighter than the heavy stone tipped spears the apemen made. However apemen were up to 7 feet tall and were quick footed and could disable or kill a San man in a moment with his bare hands.
With their heavy spears and heavier physiques, apemen specialized in close encounters when it came to hunting both animals and the San. Both species were fairly evenly matched in wooded habitats where the San could evade the apemen because of their small stature, but on the open plains apemen would surround the San and eventually over run them. But then Wysan made an intuitive leap.
He could tell that there was some power in wood. Not just fire. Wood fascinated him, like any scientist some 50,000 years in the future could become fascinated by his research. That fire was inside wood made it a spiritual substance to the San. How it grew out of the earth was another wonder of its mysterious nature. It was the most important resource in their world. Wysan explored its properties when he had the time and notion. He had lately been experimenting with the springy properties of branches and twigs.
He had the idea that he might be able to make a sort of weapon. He tried flinging rocks by bending back a long branch he stuck in an animal hole while holding a rock against the top of the branch. Rocks could be flung a fair distance in that way. However he found that this worked less well than throwing rocks so he tried to think of something else. Then one day he decided to make a present for Dawn. Inspired by his love of wood, Wysan had the idea to make a favorite decoration of the San.
They had inherited the craft of jewelry making, like many other crafts, from their parents and grandparents. The San loved to learn new things. But what really made them especially human was their love of teaching. Through the process of handing down knowledge, men would someday set foot on the Moon.
The latest craze that had been spreading among the tribes of the San was a piece of artwork that was reminiscent of Native American dream catchers. A framework of wood was used to display loved trinkets such as carved bone, feathers, and flowers. They liked to hang them from trees around their camps. They called these devices wind spirits. Although Wysan had never attempted to make one he was sure that he could.
His first vision was that of a perfect circle made of wood. He wanted to mimic the shape of the sun for Dawn. He could not recall how the thought emerged from his mind afterwards, but the way he choose to make the circle led to the greatest innovation in history up until the age of gunpowder. Instead of tying together a framework of wood into rough circle, in his mind’s eye he imagined a perfect circle of wood.
His wood of choice was from the most spiritual tree of the San, the Acacia. The shape of Acacia trees inspired visions of purposeful design. To the San it seemed to have that quality of “art” that they admired. Along with other mysteries in their world, the Acacia hinted that unknown powers were at work behind the scenes. Although the San had yet to devise religion, they had a sense of wonder and awe of the awesome beauty and power of nature that was more pure of heart than many religions that would come after.
When Wysan attempted to tie a single branch of Acacia together into a circle it would always break. He knew that there were more flexible woods he could work with, but he did not want to give up on Acacia. He was disappointed that a single piece would not do it, but he figured that two pieces should work. He bent a single branch into a half circle and tied both ends together with a length of string made from strips of Acacia bark that woven and twisted together. He found he could change the shape of the curve of the wood by shortening or lengthening the string. He had to get each half of the circle just right for it to match up.
While pulling on the strings he felt that power in wood that he had recently been playing with once again. In a flash Wysan saw the vision. He picked up a small branch and held one end against the middle of the the length of string of one of his half circles. He pulled back on the string while holding the bow. He steadied the arrow between his thumb and forefinger and let go. It was the first arrow ever shot in the history of the earth.
Chapter 5 Cheetah!
Wysan smiled broadly. Then he could not contain his pleasure at this discovery. He burst out laughing and jumped up and down. He looked around. He hoped nothing had heard him. Wysan had made the perilous journey across open ground to the Acacia tree that was about a quarter mile from the bush were he made his home. He now felt he had been too daring to linger so long, but it was his favorite place in the world.
A sense of dread came over Wysan. He spied the area around him for possible threats. ”I think something heard me!” He thought. There, not more that 200 yards away in the opposite direction of the Bush were two adolescent cheetahs. Wysan scanned for the mother. He could climb the tree and better defend himself as cheetahs were not the most adept cats when it came to climbing. “But if I climb I’ll be trapped and if the mother shows up I’ll be stuck here for too long and then other things might show up.” Wysan reasoned.
He loved cheetahs the most of all cats. The few instances he had seen them run were etched in his brain. The speed of cheetahs defied Wysan’s imagination. They were not like lions and leopards which regularly took San, and so Wysan did not get that feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach when he saw them.
Cheetahs preferred open country where they could use their speed to advantage. They took smaller game and did not like to risk injury more than any other predator. Their speed was just too critical for their survival and their bodies too fragile for combat. Nature had made them lightly built for speed. They usually tripped up antelope and then quickly gave their prey a suffocating bite to the neck.
Wysan could tell that they had heard him. They were looking in his direction with that cat “radar” that told you that you were their object of focus. He expected they would seek for the source of the sound. “Wysan! You fool.” He reproached himself. “You have to go now! But don’t run. That will only excite them. You have to keep them in a state of cautious curiosity after they see you.” Wysan knew he had no chance of not being seen once he broke cover. His only chance was to fight them off if they got too close.
Gathering up his belongings, he quietly placed them in his “backpack”. It was a dik-dik skin made into an elongated pouch about two feet long and six inches round, framed with wood and adorned with a skin flap for a lid. He slid the leather strap over his head and one arm so the pack rested across his back. He picked up his spear and touched the point. His adrenaline was running so high he did not feel the pain as it punctured his finger. He automatically licked the blood. His spear was as tall as he was, 4 feet and 6 inches. Taking a deep breath, Wysan forced himself to move.
Walking as calmly as possible, he headed toward the bush as if nothing was wrong. He did not want the cats to draw the conclusion that he was prey. Every few steps Wysan glanced around him, especially in the direction of the cats. There they were! Both were walking toward him in a state of confused curiosity. He knew they would not let him reach the bush without finding out what he was. “Maybe they are too young to have run across San before” He hoped. “I’m sure I could fight off one.” His mind raced as he looked for solutions to his predicament. “But two?”
He thought his best chance lie in bluff and discouragement. “If they’re not too hungry they won’t try too hard to eat me. I just have to fight to the bitter end if they force it.” Wysan realized that he needed more ammunition. Scanning the ground as he walked he picked up several rocks about the size of his fist and cradled them in his free arm while holding the spear in the other. “I’ll just stop and stand my ground when they get too close.” Wysan was within one hundred yards of the bush when the cats got around to catching up. This two legged thing had really got their attention.
He was so close to the clearing that he had to fight the urge to run for it. They would only jump on him and, even if he managed to get closer to the bush before turning to face them, he would only exhaust himself pointlessly. He needed all of his strength, skill, and courage to win this. Turning to face them, he gritted his teeth and stuck the shaft of his spear into the soft earth at his feet. This was it. The cats snarled and hissed as they both sized Wysan up. He waited for them to get within twenty feet before he threw the first rock.
It hit the ground right at the nearer cat’s front paws. It jumped wildly into the air and took several paces back, not sure what this meant. Meanwhile the other cat which had been circling around Wysan now came in for the kill. He barely had time to grab his spear and lunged with all his might at the advancing cat. Wysan’s spear tip would have entered the nose of the cheetah, but it moved with lighting speed and nearly knocked Wysan down when it struck the spear with its paw.
The cat resisted charging long enough for Wysan to step back and grab another rock. “Let’s see if you’re fast enough slap this away” Wysan yelled with rage. With all his might he threw the rock at the nose of the cat which was now a mere six feet away. This one hit the cat squarely in its snarling mouth. It tore away with lighting speed at the pain, shaking its head and licking its lips when it reached what it thought to be a safe distance from Wysan. He had obviously hurt the cat with that throw. Turning to face the other cat, Wysan could see that it was it was now distracted by its sibling. Finally, it turned and trotted over to the other cat.
Wysan used this opportunity to exit the scene. Turning back to the bush he took a few steps and stopped. Scanning the ground near where he had struck the cat he searched for the object he had noticed flying from its mouth. There it lay! The cheetah‘s canine tooth. He quickly picked up the prize and walked casually to the bush. He wanted the cats to believe that the battle was over and that Wysan had won.
Chapter 6 In The Bush
Back in the bush, Wysan marveled at his luck and good fortune at escaping with his life and recovering the cheetah’s tooth. His mouth was parched and he was chilled by the sweat that had beaded all over his body. His tribe had a number of hidden camps that they used while hunting the broad expanses of bush.
At some of the camps they had cleverly hidden caches of water, food, and other essentials. He decided he would make for the nearest one in the direction his tribe last encamped. More than anything he wanted the time and safety to come to grips with all that had transpired in the intense moments since his discovery.
Wysan’s home was like an isle of bush in a sea of savannas. There were many such fragments of bush scattered across that region of Africa. His was about 10 miles in diameter and was by no means the largest. He had travelled with others of his people to visit other tribes that lived in nearby islands of bush. The nearest was a rather larger island some 5 miles of savannah to the southeast.
Roughly halfway in between these there was a system of watering holes that filled into a wide network of pools and lakes during rainier half of the year. Wysan’s tribe and the tribe that claimed the bush to the southeast regularly hunted and fished, taking waterfowl, eggs, small crocs, turtles, and the like. In the dry season, when the waterline dropped it became far too dangerous a place for the San because lions would lay in wait for thirsty prey.
Fortunately for the San, they had learned to dig into the beds of dry watercourses to reach groundwater that was often only a few feet below the surface. Some of these watercourses crossed the bush and the concept of the well had been invented through the pursuit of water. Just another example of the advantages intelligence brings. Apemen had not mastered this innovation, they fought with lions over water rights.
Only a year before he had wed his lovely bride during an annual celebration held at the main camp of her tribe in the bush to the southeast. Now he wanted more than anything to see her again and tell her about all that had happened. When he reached the nearby camp it was late evening. He was about a half days march to the camp where Dawn and the rest of the tribe were when he set off for the acacia tree the morning before. He had planned to do some hunting after the visit to the tree, but he could not take his mind off of his discovery.
After test firing a few more sticks and reliving his amazement and glee, Wysan set his mind to work. He asked himself what type of wood might be the best to make a more powerful bow. Then he thought of his spear shaft. They were slender enough to bend, but they were never used that way. His tribe had a stash of supplies at the camp and he tested each and chose the shaft he thought would work best. Looking through the stash of string and rope, he picked one that was strong yet thin.
“Great, I now have a working...hmm, it sounds like bow. I call thee bow. Now for the sticks...hmm, a better word might do...I think I like...arrow because they sort of row though the air.” Wysan said to no one.
Chapter 7 Inner Space
Wysan finds that his camp has been raided by apemen. He pursues them at his risk and finds that several females have been made captors. All of Wysan’s tribe except these few have been eaten by the apemen.
Wysan is determined to rescue Dawn and the others, but he realizes that even with his fantastic new weapon he would have no chance alone, unless by stealth. He decides to arm volunteers of his kin to the southeast and elsewhere with his weapon and launch what was to become the first “World War” in the history of mankind...World War Zero.
To convince the men to go on this great war of extermination, they will need to be assured of their loved one’s safety while they are away. With so many young men gone, their families would be more vulnerable to attack by animals. Wysan struggles to solve this problem. Wysan smokes the buds of the most sacred weed and has waking dreams - the dreamworld:
“My mind is so often clouded with the thoughts of what my people, my family...” He sobs, “and especially Dawn, whom I can never get out of I mind. What they all must have suffered at the hands of the demons, and what suffering continues for Dawn.”
To escape the pain, Wysan tries various remedies and discovers there is one that quells the madness that has taken over his mind. “Now I can think without distraction” He smiles, “I believe the answer lies in wood...there is magic in wood that we all have learned of. I think there is more that I can yet discover.”
In his minds eye he resolves a vision. It is a never before imagined concept. A gigantic invention made of wood and string that people can fit inside of - many people. So many parts! A world inside! Safety from the top cat of The Bush, leopards! If covered with skins it would even provide safety from the apeman demons, for a time:
“In my minds eye I can vaguely see things made of sticks. The bow seemed so amazing at first, but now I can “see” other possibilities...many sticks...many strings. I will practice with smaller sticks first. Like how I discovered the bow when I was trying to figure out how to make Dawn’s wind spirit.” Wysan smiled, “This will be like exploring a new world...”The Unknown.”
Wysan begins with a collection of sticks of different sizes ranging in length from 4 to 12 inches, and a spool of string the ladies make and use to sew cloths. First he tries tying several into hoops and then, through experimentation, discovers that by tying together hoops of the same kind he can arrange them in such a way to make a hollow ball. “The space inside is what I’ve been after. I’m on to something! What could I use this thing for? A toy? Art? I want to put an animal inside. But...I mean to keep animals out? This can do both!” Thus, Wysan discovered the cage (and the hamster ball too).
In the bush the leopard was the cat to be most feared. Lions and cheetah preferred more open ground, but leopards were specialized to stay near and hunt wooded territories that included the San’s natural habitat. Nearly as many San were taken by leopards as by apeman, and so the San had a healthy respect for them. On rare occasions, the San would stumble on the cubs of leopards and they would sometimes play with them before killing them, their skins welcomed additions to there attire.
Wysan considered the possibility of keeping a leopard confined to a cage, but realized that they were simply too dangerous, even as an adolescents, to be practical pets. Then he remembered the caracal. It was a much smaller cat, about the size of a bobcat. Caracals have the coloration and physique of pint-sized mountain lions with huge tufted ears. Their life style is similar to the serval, taking mice, hares, and being able to leap up to catch birds in flight. They can even ambush smaller gazelle.
“Yes, mused Wysan, that would be some trick. To raise a caracal from kitten to adult. The kittens were usually killed when stumbled upon. That is when children did not beg to play with them. But the kittens could not be watched forever and predators would normally get to them if left tied to trees if no one was about to defend a camp. That’s why San seldom tried to keep animals that way. It just wasn't logical to risk losing a perfectly fine skin.
“With a cage, we could leave them while foraging and they would be safe while left behind. Wysan giggled, the children will love it. I will build one before striking out to raise another army”. Then he thought about Dawn and how he wished he could have a normal life raising children with her. “But perhaps, that is not now my fate” he resigned.
Turning his attention back to the task at had, Wysan started on a larger cage. This time he collected branches about two to three feet in length. The ball shape did not work on these stiffer branches. Tying the ends of the branches together the first shape he stumbled upon was that of a cube. Wysan was fascinated by the regular shape of the cube and felt that it was some how akin to a perfect circle, though he could not explain it. Wysan then tied other branches to the cube until the openings were too small for a kitten to escape. Pleased with himself, Wysan marveled at his invention and its peculiar form, “the space inside...like nothing I’ve ever seen”.
“But, how shall I put the kitten in and take it out again? I could untie a branch or two...yes that would work. But what if I removed one side? Yes, I’ve got to try that.” Carefully untying some of the cords at one side of his cube, Wysan found that he could swing that whole side out of the way as if it were on hinges. “So the whole contraption I’ll call a cage and this swinging part I’ll call a door.” Wysan played with his invention for some time while imagining the possibilities.
After constructing this amazing cage large enough to hold a caracal kitten, Wysan connected another dot. Snares had been used by some of his friends before the apemen raided his tribe. The advantage of a snare is that you don’t have to actively hunt or even be around to catch prey. But, like keeping a animal tied to a tree it was just as likely as not that your catch would end up in another animal’s mouth before you returned to check your snares.
“But, how can I make the cage complement the snare?” he asked himself as he furrowed his brow. He thought there might be some solution here. “I need to trap the animal in the cage somehow, he suggested to himself. “A door that could close behind the animal after it enters would do the trick. A trap door! but, how to devise? Hmm, I’ll need to play at round with that to figure it out.”
Wysan used trial and error and found a way to run a string from the door of his cage, across and down to the other side of the cage, but to make room for the animal the cube would not work right. He then made a longer cage with a rectangular shape to make more room for the door to swing down. When an animal grabbed a bit of food tied to a string, the force pulling the string would release a stick that held the trap door open. The door would swing down, trapping the animal. “Viola! I shall call this type of cage a trap cage and the door a trap door”, Wysan spoke out loud.
“Now, for something large enough for people to sleep inside, Wysan clutched the tooth hanging around his neck, not knowing why. “I just have to make it bigger!” Unable to control his enthusiasm, Wysan began collecting larges branched of wood some 4 to 8 feet in length in order to make a cage large enough for people to fit inside. By the time he had a working model, the sun was setting, casting red light on his glorious creation. Wysan strode around the cage and then finally walked in side and closed the door behind him. “Now I’m in a cage, he laughed.”
Chapter 8 Dawn
The leader of the apeman tribe that raided and annihilated Wysan’s tribe was Og. At 7 and 1/2 feet and 300 pounds he was the tallest and the most muscular of his tribe and was possessed by a quick temper. He was leader not just because he was the biggest and most viscous of the 30 adult male apeman of his tribe, but because Og possessed a better than average intelligence, for an apeman, as well. He knew when to threaten, beat or kill the other adults of his tribe to maintain leadership and not simply dominate for pleasure and satisfaction as other apeman were prone to as part of the pecking order that was a natural part of the normal social behavior of apeman. Most of other adults had learned to fear Og enough to know not to anger him.
Born of brutality, a force of some 30 adult apemen armed with spears was the most terrifying sight the San knew. Even prides of lions and packs of hyena respected threats or attacks by apemen, usually over kills or water rights or the defense of their kind. Apeman tribes were on par with lions and hyenas as deadly forces on the savanna's of Africa, with clashes regularly occurring. As is the case between lions and hyenas, most confrontations were limited to threats and posturing than actual combat.
Normally when apeman took San alive, their life expectancy was measured in hours. This was because the brutality and uncooperative nature of apeman lead to them being abused to death soon after capture. But Og had claimed Dawn and so no other apeman dared to touch her. Besides his natural curiosity and the sense of possession and dominance that satisfied him, sex was Og’s primary motive for keeping Dawn alive. As such, Og raped Dawn daily during her captivity.
The intelligence of apeman was about halfway between chimpanzees and man. Aside from those things that improved the apeman chances of survival, the added intelligence was often employed to invent clever forms of cruelty. Indeed, like is the case with man, cruelty was a way for apeman to express his inventive nature. This miraculous invention of evolution that is intelligence spawned both the spear and the pleasure of using it.
Although it is true that Og saved Dawn form certain death among the apemen, he abused her cruelly to the point of death many times. Og controlled Dawn through striking and strangling. If the anguish and never ending fear at her existence had not been enough to destroy her mind, the physical abuse had permanently damaged her brain through both strikes to her head and by lack of oxygen through near suffocation. Within days of her capture, Dawn had been reduced to a mere shell of the once cheerful and loving companion of Wysan.
Chapter 9 Know Thy Enemy
When Wysan was ready to show his new inventions to King Bamasan, the leader of the San of the bush to the southeast, he traveled to what was their capital village. The bush was about fifteen by twenty miles wide. Upon entering the village, Wysan set about building the King a new abode, the likes of which had never been seen before. Wysan wanted to impress the King so as to win his favor. He wanted to convince Bamasan that the invention of the bow and arrow was reason enough to declare war on the apemen.
Wysan debated with King Bamasan as to the strategies they might implement to destroy Og’s tribe and rescue Dawn, that is if she still lived if they made war upon them. War was not a new concept to the San. There had been conflict among the San before, however, no attack had ever been launched on an entire apeman tribe before. So, despite the gifts of knowledge of the bow and arrow and the trap and hut that Wysan had given to the King’s people, there was still considerable (and understandable) trepidation to on the part King Bamasan yet to overcome.
While smoking the sacred bud with the King, Wysan recalled a story about a mother cheetah that he had witnessed some months before while under his favorite acacia tree. He had seen the mother and her three cubs from a distance and had been quite entertained by their interaction and playfulness. It surprised Wysan how much they seemed like San children playing under the watchful eye of an elder. But then something alarming happened.
An adult male lion had strode into view. What’s more, the lion seemed to have spotted the mother and her cubs. He had herd of accounts of lions killing other cats, including even their own kind. It was believed among many San for this reason that male lions killed merely for the pleasure of it. So, it surprised Wysan when the mother only watched the lion approaching until he was no more than 50 yards away. The lion was walking slowly, so Wysan hoped he was not bent on killing the cubs, as he had grown rather fond of them.
Then something very interesting occurred. The mother stood up and began walking toward the lion while challenging him. Wysan thought her very brave indeed but feared it would be over in an instant when the lion got hold of her. But as the lion responded, the mother cheetah began to limp sideways at a right angle to the direction the lion had been striding. Now Wysan guessed at her strategy as silently stared, holding his breath. “Yes, take the bait. Please!” he had whispered.
To his relief the lion stopped in his tracks, apparently trying to make sense of the strange circumstances. He gazed from the mother and back to the cubs which were now scrambling to get out of harms way, but in a sort of confused and aimless way. The mother feigned a challenge once again. This went on for what seemed an eternity to Waysan. And al the while the cubs were still no more than a few seconds from certain death. At last, the lion took the bait. The lion gave chase in a less than determined pace and finally gave up. After he wander off, the mother cheetah rejoined her cubs.
“A very interesting tale, Wysan,” said Bamasan. “But what lesson does it have for our war on the apemen that stole Dawn and massacred your tribe?
“I believe that like lions, apemen are dangerous but not so smart” Wysan explained. “ I think we might be able to trick the apemen into doing something that would be to our advantage.”
“Hmm, that is interesting. Yes, I think you are right about apemen less intelligent than we are. What do you propose?” asked Bamasan, now intrigued.
“I think we might be able to lure the apemen into a kind of trap”, Wysan began to lay out his plan. “We know that they will attack us if in small numbers. And we also know that they will not usually attack us in the bush if we are well defended and aware of them. I suggest that we, or rather a few of us, cross their path near some dense bush and that these few can lure them into. In the bush, we can make a small clearing where many of us can hide. Then, when the apemen are all inside the clearing, we can assail the apemen from all directions”.
“That is a very good idea, Wysan”, Bamasan seemed impressed, “But how will we time our meeting with the apemen?”
“Well, I was thinking that like prides of lions, apemen tend to cover the same territory over and over again. Just like we San tend to inhabit and defend and occupy the same territories, apemen become a little predictable in their roaming. The must go to a waterhole almost daily, for instance, and in the dry season as we are now in this means they must cross over the same stretch of land between your kingdom the bush of my people.” Wysan grimaced a little at the thought of the extermination of his tribe.
“I am very sorry for your loss, Wysan”. said Bamasan. “ So you think we might set a kind of trap in a part of the bush near to the same trails that lead to the apemen’s watering hole?”
“Yes, Bamasan, answered Wysan, refocusing on the crux of his argument. And, if it means anything to you, as the rightful inheritor of my land, I would grant you and your people all rights to it as an addition to your kingdom if you would commit some of your warriors to battle.”
Bamasan smiled. Even though he knew the transfer of title to what had been the bush of Wysan’s tribe would be a more complicated process of negotiations with neighboring tribes in the region, he was grateful that Wysan appreciated the enormity of the request he was making on him and he thought that the grant of Wysan, especially given the impression Wysan’s gifts were making on his people, might bring to bear considerable weight in future negotiations. In fact, if the could pull off this extermination of the apemen, then Bamasan’s claim to Wysan’s bush might then be near incontestable.
Bamasan weighed in his mind the pro and cons of Wysan’s plans. At worst he could loose many warriors and maybe even his own life in the battle. But, what would be gained if they won would be a far safer world for his people, room to expand into new territory, the expansion of his kingdom, and the fame and glory it would bring to his rule. All the San would know of the legendary feats of Wysan the miraculous and Great King Bamasan. “Alright, Wysan”. Bamasan replied, returning from the fantasy forming in his mind. “Where do you propose we make this trap?”
Wysan launched right into it, “I have observed the savanna for many years and I have noticed patterns. This is the dry season and in past years I’ve noticed that apemen have been forced to visit the waterhole to the north of your kingdom, along the same watercourse my tribe and your tribes have used in past wet seasons. While making observations from the fringes of my bush I have observed this. They come from the west and cross near to the northern expanse of the bush. It is why we have feared camping to close to the norther expanse. While tracking the raiding party, I discovered that it was from a gap in northeast side of the bush, where there is a long narrow clearing that ends in a trail, that the raid that they had launched against my people began and and also it was there that they left the bush with Dawn.”
“I think that it would not be difficult to entice them to attempt the very same sort of raid again, especially if it appears to them that a few of us managed to escape them and have foolishly wandered outside the bush. They will feel emboldened, I think, and see such few as easy picking after the slaughter. I hate to say it, but they completely destroyed my tribe and as far as I could tell without a single loss of their own.” Wysan paused to let the words sink in thinking it might be too much to ask of Bamasan.
Impressed a little at Wysan’s understanding of the situation, his observational history, and his tracking abilities, Bamasan asked, “What is the smallest number of men do you think we would need as bait to entice the apemen?”
Encouraged and delighted at Bamasan’s use of “we” and his apparent willingness to consider the undertaking, Wysan answered, “I could ask that you risk no more than three or four on this most risky venture, because if the runners misjudge the timing and the apemen overtake them, they won’t stand a chance on the savanna, and there is no way I would send any force out of the bush to rescue them, for that would be suicide.”
“Yes. I agree. And how large a force would we need to man the trap itself, do you suppose? Asked Bamasan, now with an even more concerned expression on his face than before. “Do you know how many apemen were on the raid that killed your people”?
“I counted a force of about twenty that entered, although the number of apeman warriors in the tribe as a whole was about ten stronger. So, I would say that you should commit as many men as you can gather, Bamasan”, Wysan boldly answered without hesitating, “we must completely overwhelm them. They must have no chance of winning.”
At this, Bamasan furrowed his brow. After a few moments he replied, “I have about eighty men in total I can call together, but I would not leave the women and children undefended. And if things go bad and we are annihilated, who will carry on?” Not expecting Wysan to reply at this, Bamasan decalred, “I will commit no more than half of my men, but I will go to command the war party myself. Is that good enough, Wysan?”
“You are wise and brave, King Bamasan. My heart soars at your words!” Wysan passed the pipe back to the King.
Bamasan inhaled deeply, “That leaves us the question of who will be the bait, or the runners as you put it. I think I know who might be the most trustworthy among my people, certainly the bravest. Three, men actually. Have you heard of “The Three”, Wysan?” Bamasan asked with a quirky smile on his face.
“As a matter of fact, I have. Are they not the three inseparable triplets that people have spoken of in tale?” Wysan queried.
“One and the same. Or, should I say three and the same?” Bamasan laughed. “As a matter of fact, you remind me of them. They are the adventurous sort. Always going off to visit distant relatives or to see what’s on the other side.” Continued Bamasan, gesturing with a hand. “Why don’t we ask them. Anyway, I think you should meet them.”
Chapter 10 The Three
Bamasan got up and stepped outside the hut that Wysan had constructed for the King. “Where are the three?” He called out.
In response Wysan could hear several calls go out “The Three, The Three, where are The Three? The King want’s The Three.” After several minutes, Wysan could hear footsteps approaching.
“We are here” three voices rang out, in near unison, followed by laughter. It was the The Three. “Of course we are here. One voice answered. “Yes, where else would we be?” Said another. “We came to learn of the new inventions everyone is speaking of. What on earth is that mess of branches, Bamasan? Is it a stockpile for the miraculous bow and arrow everyone is talking about?” The King was very fond of his royal hut.
“It is better than that Omzi.” Replied Bamasan. “Step this way and be prepared to be amazed once more.” The wooden framework of the hut, which was a 10 foot square by 5 feet tall with a roof tapering to its topmost to a point with a circular opening five feet above the top of the walls. The walls and roof had been covered with a mix of skins and grasses such that it was not possible to see inside without difficulty.
As Wysan stood up, The Three entered the hut, followed by the King. For many moment, while their six eyes adjusted to the dimness of the inside of the hut, Wysan studied the astonished faces of The Three in the light of the small fire at the center of the hut.
“We have traveled far and wide and have seen many strange things,” Alzi managed, “But we have never seen things as we have seen to day. What do you call this contraption?”
“I call it a hut”, answered Wysan, offering his forearm. “It is a much larger version of something I call a trap or a cage, which is for catching and holding animals, alive.” Wysan lifted up his first model, which lay near the wall of the hut.
“The bow and arrow, the hut, and the cage or trap, are the inventions of Wysan”. The King introduced The Three, “This is the eldest, Alzi, the second, Bezi, and the youngest, Omzi. They were born only minutes apart, but the ages of The Three were respected as would be with any brothers. Each of The Three took Wysans forearm and bowed in turn, with Wysan bowing in return. Wysan may have earned considerable respect for his inventiveness, but for Wysan, The Three were legendary.
Before we begin discussions, I would like to pass the sacred bud around. Are any of you hungry or thirsty?” The King asked as he passed three adorned ostrich eggs, which had been carefully opened and corked, and were now filled with a flavored water. There was also a large shallow bowl made of woven grasses that contained nuts, fruits, and dried meats. The king was very proud of his luxurious possessions.
The Three ate, drank and smoked until they were content while Bamasan and Wysan told them of all that they had discussed up to that point. However, neither of them wanted to ask The Three if they would like to be the bait or runners. As it turned out, The Three came to the conclusion that they would be most suited to the task as most San men would be too inexperienced and indeed too terrified to play a game of cat and mouse with a tribe of apemen.
“Wysan, we saw an amazing thing at the waterhole you speak of last dry season. As usual the herding animals were forced to stay with in a couple of miles of the hole as it is the only source of water for many miles around. A pair of wild dogs had made a kill on an impala and had gotten part way through it when two hyenas muscled them out of it. We thought that would be the end of it as it often goes that way. But the a jackal showed up, unable to get near enough for a bite, it began to call out. Jackals are lone hunters and scavengers so we wondered at why it had started calling.” Alzi looked at Bezi.
Bezi continued, “Soon after, two lionesses came trotting in, apparently alerted to the kill by the jackal’s calls. The lions chased of the pair of hyenas and began to dine, with the jackal still waiting for a chance. But it did not end there. The hyenas began to whimper away and soon reinforcements arrived. The lionesses decided to retreat when the original two and three more hyenas entered the scene. It was during the confused scrambling of dogs, hyenas and lions that the jackal made its move. It darted in and grabbed and ran off with a bone and some meat.”
Omzi made the point, “So you see, it is possible for a smaller and weaker animal to use cunning to gain an advantage. So, it seems that, like the cheetah in your story, the jackal must use its wits to survive. We know we are smarter than apemen, so we must do the same, I think, if we wish to survive.”
“I am glad that you all see this”. Wysan sounded relieved. “I fear and hate the apemen more than anything in this world, and not just since my people were massacred by them. It seems to me that they are part animal and part man. They are more dangerous to us than leopards not just because of their pack behavior, but because they can think just well enough to make fools of us when we drop our guard.”
“We know them well and we know you are right, Wysan.” Alzi agreed. “What is worse is that they, unlike animals, seem to take what we would call a sick pleasure in causing pain and suffering like bad children. Only they are monsters by comparison. For these reasons we have both feared and studied apeman the most of all creatures on our journeys. I hate to tell you this Wysan, but we have seen San and apemen together more than once.”
“What!” Wysan sounded incredulous. “When, how?”
The Nature of Evolutionary Design
Apemen were not aware of why it was happening. They were not as smart as that, but across the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, a disturbing selective force in evolution was causing apeman tribes with a greater tendency of attacking the San to have the advantage by gradually causing an increase in apeman brain size though interbreeding with the San. Although most San would be killed in any interaction, a small percentage would be impregnated, there offspring raised as apemen. Gradually, through this kind of “gene snatching”, apemen were becoming smarter and smarter.
As far as the size difference was concerned, the operating evolutionary pressures were for smarter and bigger apemen. It was simply a question of natural culling. Bigger and smarter apemen, like Og, were what was hot in apeman evolution. Indeed, Og was the latest, the state of the art, as it were, in apeman evolution. And he loved killing and mating with the San. Before his life was spent, Og would father numerous apemen and a few apeman-San hybrids, continuing the trend.
By this twist of evolution, the apeman gene pool was trying to play catchup at the expense of the San. So, ironically, the gene pool from which the San had sprung was now trying to drag it back down, potentially by genetic contamination and certainly by predation. The bush, the geographic barrier that gave the San the genetic isolation to allowed them to evolve, was being breeched by increasingly intelligent and San-hungry apemen.
It may seem an odd thing for evolution to “design” such a remarkable thing as the San brain, and then threaten to dilute it, or even engulf it by mixing it with the less evolved gene pools from which the remarkable organ came. But evolution is not actually a process of intelligent design, but rather a process of trial and error, with no CEO at the helm, with survival enhancing developments being selected for, via reproduction.
To give an example of evolutions inherent inefficiency, the acacia tree leaf eating giraffe has a evolved a remarkable long neck. As part of this package, a nerve that controls the voice box and valving for swallowing and breathing runs from the brain to the muscles of the voice box near the head, but not directly. Like in all land animals, the nerve takes a very inefficient, circuitous path from the brian, around the major blood vessels of the heart, and then back to a point in the neck near the head. In giraffes, this non-direct “engineering” solution has taken this inefficiency to the point of extreme absurdity by requiring that the nerve be more than twice the length of the neck, when the nerve could have been mere inches in length to achieve the same wiring effect.
The reason for this inefficiency lies in the nerves origin. When the nerve was first used in fish, the distance from the heart and the gills was minimal. But when land animals evolved from fish, the gills were replaced by lungs and necks evolved to allow the head to move around. The swallowing muscles and the associated nerve in question was reassigned into the voice box at the base of the head. As the distance between head and heart increased, the nerve was necessarily made longer to continue the connection. That the nerve is routed around the major blood vessels of the heart is for no particular reason other than proximity.
It would be logical to simply reroute and shorten the nerve, but it would require greater genetic change to essentially untangle the nerve than to simply lengthen the nerve. That evolution will take a simpler road, or what might be thought of as the path of least resistance, is highlighted by this case. More to the point, evolution is not inherently “wise” and paths taken through evolutionary history have been and will always be, in part, a matter of natural circumstance and consequence. Just consider how mass extinction events, with humans on the verge of creating yet another, have influenced evolutionary history.
Chapter 11 Scouts
After saying there goodbyes and receiving many parting gifts and wishes for good luck, Wysan and The Three set the following morning for Wysan’s bush. They each carried with them packs enough to sustain them for a week, a bow and quiver containing twenty bone tipped arrows and a long and sturdy spear. They had hopes of reaching the northeast clearing that the apemen had used on the raid by early afternoon, a trek of some twenty miles as the crow flies from Bamasan’s main encampment where they had spent the last week making plans with the King and practicing the bow and arrows with the warriors. From the clearing they would use trails that only Wysan new of to bring them to the northern most part of Wysan’s bush.
As the four of then exited the realm of Bamasan, they turned in a final farewell and waved goodbye to the King and his entourage that had accompanied them to the border of the bush. They would be expected back in one week if things went according to plan. If the were not back within two weeks, King Bamasan would abandon all plans for war with the apemen and Wysan’s bush would be considered unsafe for occupation by the San.
The sun was shinning on there backs as they crossed the savanna heading in a northwest direction. Wysan’s intention was to reach the acacia tree where he had the insight for the bow and arrow and where he narrowly escaped losing his life by chetah. He always kept the chetah’s tooth around his neck, tied with a leather thong. It was a reminder of both the best and worst that life had to offer, as well as a great conversation piece. He loved the speedy cats and so loved the opportunity to share his ent
© Copyright 2016 Martianice. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Science Fiction
Short Story / Science Fiction
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