ANDREAS COTTERELL:

 

NEAR FAST AS LIGHT

 

Science-fiction-history novel in non native english

 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

1

 

Onzo was a Neanderthaler. He lived some tenthousand years ago somewhere in what is now called central Europe, where exact, that would he knever know, between some river east and some river west, the plains in the north and mountains to the south, roaming in some endless forests, together with his few soul mates, in summers by chance meetings with other groups. They could speak, though there was not much talking. They spoke about game and places, about knotting nets, stonemending and spearshafting. About feeling goog and making love. But no chatting about other people behind their back. There was no chatting, just saying as it is. Later, the Sapiens invented that to be able to work together in large bunches of people, who would swarm over the planet and take everything everywhere in their endless greed. But first, there were the Neanderthalers.

Onzo had lived quiet some summers, how many, he would never know. He had seen the old ones die and the young raising up, so he was supposed to be old, though he felt not like it. His beloved Mirzi had died some summers ago and for a long time he had felt lost and useless, but now, suddenly it all was anew, a new spring showing up, and Onzo, for the first time in his life, saw the beauty of the world with longing eyes and thought, why did I never see that before? The blooming of the flowers, the fresh green, the singing of the birds, the brightness of the fire in the evening. And he sat there smiling, forgetting to cling his stones for the next blade. Young Sage smiled back. She had lately begun to crawl into his huddle at night, and now they often laughed for no reason, leaving the others puzzled. Azi and Ryna, Morr and Kimm, Meti, Remu and the old one, loony Mars and hunting Err. The young ones, who had not earned their name yet. There had been more of them once, but some girls would eventually carry new childs and they would raise in numbers again. Not that there was much counting. One two three for five on the left, and the same on the right. Many for everthing else.

Onzo made some fun of counting the stone blades, laid them together in grpups of five, building two eyes and a mouth with it. Sagi was laughing and Kimm tunred his head in disapproval. He had hoped for Sagi to love him, but she did not. At first, Onzo had feared, kimm would beat him up and take Sagi by force, but Kimm had sense enough, not to do so. Besides, Morr was glad to take him in at nights, so there was no enimity, just glancings and looking the other way. But Onzo thought, they had all got it wrong. It was not about making love with him and Sagi. They just had something in common, the way to see at things, a way to look. They werent even sleeping together, just huddling for warmth, and though he sometimes felt that longing, they simply did not mate for no reason. And that, after all, was, what was so funny about.

Only this night they lay awake and Onzo felt her breathing near him and a slight movement of the belly and it seemed that it all had to change soon.

Next day they went out to collect spring weeds for their stewsoup, but they had lost their ease. All too aware they filled their nets, avoiding and longing for glances, for words, which came sparsely and unfitting, so they let them be. All too soon they had been ready, and lingered for an excuse, not to go home. Onzo fought down the impulse of simply grab her and kiss and, at last, force himself on her. He knew it would do no good and that was not what he wanted. Finally he took her hand, holding her with a tender grasp, and she responded with getting slower. Then they stood and, holding close to each other, kissed. Her lips tasted sweet like honey, and while they were searching into each other, he felt that longing again with an urgent need, and had no idea, how to hold back from it. But still he did. That kiss was endless, tender, sweet, and it was enough for the moment. Then they released, he looked her in the eye and softly spoke her name: „Sagi!“. She smiled, and they kissed again. But as he searched with his hands for some skin of hers, finding his way under her furs, she finally closed down on him. „Not too fast“ she whispered, and though he knew, her resistance would not prove strong, if he tried for it, he obeyed. There was no value in getting to the point now and while doing so spoiling that magic band between them.

Somehow gloomily they went on home, going back to work, tending the soup, hewing the everneeded stones in shape. In that night, she let him explore her breasts, weighing them in his hands, caressing with his palms, playing with his fingers at her nipples, who stood erect and made her breathing heavy, but when he would reach downward, she would not respond, but gentle lay his hand back up again. Onzo felt restless for his longing lust, but as they finally huddled together, he did not dare to move, to be not pushing it. instead he lay awake and listened to her quiet, steady breathing. He thought of his lost love, Mirzi, but it was not alike. Mirzi was always at ease with sexuality. She often would come and search his embrace, and she nearly never refused when he had felt like it. It was easy with her, a fulfilled life of laughing and working and loving. But now, with Sagi, everything was a mystery. Had he ever caressed Mirzis breast like that? He couldnt think about it and his memory, which he had held so dear the last years, finally faded, for when he would recall her face, it was just Sagi, lying beneath him. Now, in her sleep, she joined in in the movement of his breathing and searched for the touch of the hips, so that for a moment his dick would move at her back, but he stopped, before he would get wild and spoil the moment.

Next days they were in love with each other. They held hands and kissed and excused themselves for the hunting party, cause Neanderthalers always lived free and did what they wanted, not what they had to do. So Onzo took his bundle and went with Sagi roaming through the dales and into the mountains, just to catch that one view, there you could see far across the lands. There was not much sense in going there this time of year, because the other tribes would not have moved yet, and so they could not expect to find some other group, having been unnoticed throughout the winter, from above there, which was the one and only reason, one would go up there, but Onzo felt, that there was a mystery about it, and he was about to explore the mystery with Sagi, who was eager in pursuing that idea, too. So they went for this two day journey, counting to be back for the Beltane feast, which was about to be on the next full moon. Days had begun to get long, but the nights were still icy, and Onzo hoped, he could start a fire with the little tinder, he had collected. But it would work out, even without fire, that one night.

They went straightforward for an hour or two, but when somehow got distracted. There was a field of ramsons to feed on, and then they found themselves sitting under an old, wellshaped oaktree, leaning at the stem of it. It was not really time yet for a pause, but their fingers found each other and they caresssed them, dreaming in the heat of the midday sun. And finally they talked, having just the few words neanderthalers had, but longing to exploit that mystery, that kept them together. „I love you“ he said, with words just syaing, we belong together, we are together, we mate. „I love you“ she replied and continued: „I love the trees and the stars, I love the sun and the flowers, I am in love with the world.“

Being in love with the world could hardly be said in Neanderthalish, and it took Onzo a while to understand what she had said, but as he got it, he smiled. „Thats beautiful“ he said. „I´m in love with the world, too.!“ And so they sat together under that old oak tree, and she leaned her head on his shoulder and he gently touched her hair and smelt for the sense of it. Later, they watched a caterpillar on his way through the grass. But neither wondered, what animals were doing with the time all day long, cause they would have no concept of using the time at all, and they didnt felt being different from that animals. They felt, they belonged to this world and in this world, as a part of it, but because they tool that for granted, they had no words for it either. That was what made it so funny to speak of being in love with the world. How could you be in love with something, that is not separated from you? Anyway, they dreamed like that throughout some midday hours, and only moved on, as the sun slowly came down into that western sky, and though they still walked for some hours, they did not catch up with what they had lost and had to leave that steep climb on the mountainside for the morning. They huddled together between some birches and did not make a fire. It would have been much work in the evening, so they just ate a slice of dry meat and crouched under their bearskinblanket. It was cold and kept getting colder and their bearblanket prooved too narrow for two, but Onzo, devoted to love as he was, did not care for himself and freezed on the back, while Sagi slept cosy and warm in his arms.

The next morning he could barely move, a wild pain in his back made him stiff and for the first time in his life he felt old, especially in comparison with Sagi, who felt fresh and powerful and went for some breakfast of raw birdeggs and ramson, which was growing all over the place.

The day was all pain for Onzo. He forces himself to go up on the hill, while Sagi acted not to wait for him, but forces herself to slow down. Anyway, it was Onzo who knew the way, for she had never done that trip before. Due to Onzos tempo, they needed the whole day to reach the top, which would normally have been just an hour or two in the morning. But once they started a fire, they felt at ease again. it was an amazing view above the endless forests, a wide stream somewhere to the left, it was like the whole world unfolding to their view, though in fact thex just could look from northwest to the east, the forest itself hiding the rest. Onzo explained, that they each year came up here and remove the siblings from the furs, to keep that view, and there were two more places, facing south and east, but there they didnt come up with the growth of the forest and one had to climb a tree to get a view. This was the only place, there you could sit by the fire and watch the world. They tried to find words for the feelings they got there, but it was not in their mind, that one could rule a people or a country, so all they came to was stating to be separated. „As if you would not belong“ said Sagi and Onzo added: „It is like being a star!“ But in fact, there was no such word as „would“ and all was stated as a fact.

Sagi collected an immense amount of dead wood, to build a fire which could last the night. She was worried about Onzos weakness, for in her youth life seemed to be an eternity, and now she saw how fragile this eternity was. I will give myself to him this night, she thought and regretted, not to have done that before. How could she not have seen, that their time was limited? But as she felt back to the past weeks, she saw that she had been different then. She was a girl then, and only seeing the world from above hab made her a woman. She tried to tell Onzo, but it was impossible to put that into words. So she kept on collecting firewoods, as if they were to spent a month there - and why not, she thought, why not stay up here for a while.

When the sun went down the sky reddened all over. It was such an amazing view, but as she turned to Onzo, to share it with him, she recognised him being fast asleep and, worse, sweating like in a fever. All she could do was tighten his blankets, sit by his sides, tending the fire and speak softly to him when he got half awake in some strange dream. Sometimes she would stroke his head, careful for not to wake him.

He slept through the night and the day, awakening once in a while asking with a feeble voice for some water.

The second night was worse. He moved in his dreams, sparked the blankets down, crouching into himself in some unexplainable pain, even crying and cursing. She took his head into her lab, tended him, let him sobb. At the end of the night she feared he would die. That was, then she pulled herself naked and crept under his blankets, to feel him, to spend him warmth. It all went too sudden. One moment she pressed her belly against his, his leg between hers and ere she understood, what was going on, he lay above her, parting her legs and pushing himself into her. She felt overwhelmed and it was a burning pain which made her cry, then he moved inside her, fast and feverish as he was, then he groaned, stiffened and finally lay quiet and heavy upon her. She struggled to free herself from him.

„I´m sorry“ he said. „It was just ...“ he had no words for what he had wanted to say.

„Dont be sorry“ she answered. After all, she was a woman now, and he would be part of her forever. But when the tears rose into her eyes and she could not help but weep.

She turned to the side as to hide her tears, but with her back she leaned into him and felt like belonging to that man and felt comforted as he held her. Her legs felt awkward, smeared with blood and semen, but soon she forgot about it and fell asleep in his arms.

Next day he felt better, could move and sit up, even eat something, but now he had a bad cough and snorted like a boiling soup. There still was no thinking of going home, so she went into the woods, collecting firewood, eggs and weeds. She would have liked some meat, but had to shaft a spear first, so she was searching for a suitable branch and hoping, her one stone she brought would keep sharp long enough for a decent point. But it took her hours to do so, and in the Afternoon Onzos coughing got worse and again she feared for his life, for he could hardly breath between his spasms, so she tended him instead of go hunting. As evening came with its marvellous red sky, he looked worse than ever, greenish in the face, all smeared with snot, puffed and bloated, formless. She pitied him, but it was also some sort of disgust, and for the first time she asked herself, if she would not be better of with handsome Kimm. She dismissed that thought at once, for she knew, Kimm could never make her laugh, but as that thought had caused her some pointless bad conscience against Onzo, it left her disturbed and distracted. As the night fell, she leaned her back against him and felt his dick rising, as she moved slowly her hips. He did not push it, like in his fever, he was in his senses again and just responded to what she was offering. And she did not offer much. Last nights experience had left her cautious and aware, and though she liked that touch of the hips, she liked it as it was and felt no longing for more. Then Onzo fell into coughing again and could not stop for minutes, he sweated cold and smelt awkward, like disease and decay and finally he shivered in her arms, let her comfort him into an uneasy sleep.

Next day she had lost her count about their days up here. It was a warm morning with a bright sun shining, who promised to bring forth the first day of summer. Sagi collected firewood for the ever burning fire, and went down to the small creek for water. Onzo still slept, so she took her spear and went into the woods to chance some game. She already had a place in mind, which could be promising. Hunting in a party was always easy. Some would chase the deer while others waited for it to run into their spears. Hunting alone was quite different. You had to catch it unaware, and that meant, sitting quiet while being alert for hours or more. So she leaned on that tree, facing against the wind and watched that narrow place, where she could hit the game. Of course it was an animal path, right through a huge thicket of brambles, recently in use as shown by many traces. All she had to do was wait and be alert. This is an art, that we today can hardly manage. Our mind is always working and distract us from reality. We got social minds, and to gain a consciousness for reality, we have to train meditation for years, and are still not able to simply sit without being distracted by our thoughts. You know, Neanderthalers had a larger brain than ours. But instead of chatting about other Neanderthalers, they used their brain for perception, seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling. Their senses were wide awake, and in comparism of a single human, the Sapiens would hardly match in anything with the Neanderthaler, except chatting. it is weird, that that useless, annoying chatting is the one advantage that we have, that made us able to kill every competitor that we ever had. However, Onzo and Sagi knew at that time nothing from the other human beings. As Sagi sat seemingly asleep by that old willowtree beneath the brambles, she sensed the hare, before she even had heard it, and she pinched the spear right through the body of that animal, before it ever knew what had happened.

As she came back to their fireplace Onzo sat tending the fire. He seemed apparently better, the warmth did good to him, and his bad smell was gone. She embraced him as to say hello, leaning over him, and he kissed her neck. Then she sat beside him. He had brought a firm trunk, which now served as a bank, and had even fetched water for to fill that little earthhole she had shoveled to boil their soup. She stripped the hares meat bare and threw it in, together with some ramsoms, which were in fact beginning to bloom and get bitter, but nature was freegiving in spring with lots of greenleaves to eat and theyenjoyed their stew till the last bite, which was, if not plentiful, at least enough. Satisfied they lay on their back in the sunshine.

„Now“ thought Sagi. Now he could do anything that he wanted, She wouldnt mind, no, she longed for it. Her hand groped out for him, but he was too far apart, and she reached him not and he wouldnt notice. She wanted to raise up to touch him, but she wouldnt dare, and she did not understand why she would not dare, cause it was just so simple and easy as anything else, turning to the side, reach out and touch him. But it felt impossible. She did not even dare to take a look. And her heart was beating like a stonehewer, so to say, and these were the hardest minutes of her life, not knowing how to do what she wanted. Cause that was love, and love has its own rules, and it was his part to start the longing, she could not interfere without damaging the spell. But he did not dare, too. He was fast ashamed about his feverish lovemaking the other day and still feared, she would despise him forever, bit know he heard her heavy breathing and knew what it meant, but still did not dare to move. Or to speak and spoil it all.

It must have been a little fairy, who pitied them and chanced their feet together for the faintest hint of a touch. She clung to it as once, just like he did. His foot, proved and worn out, muscular and firm, gave her an electrical sensation thoughout her whole body. her muscles tensed and she stretched herself on the ground, and fell vast open into relaxation while her feet was keeping touch wih´th his leg, now coming ever nearer to her. Then he turned to her, looking into her eye. His eyes were deep dark seas hiding the everlasting mystery and she felt like drowning into those seas, Their feet kept contact, while his hand lay her bossom free from that wrap she still was wearing. She was overwhelmed again and just let happen, but unlike the last time, he gave her time to catch up with him. He caressed her body, made her soft, made her weak, and as it hands reached her temple, she felt juices flow in her that she had never known. His fingers opened the slit of her lips down there and suddenly some spasms hushed through her, which left her satisfied and calm. She reached for his eye, which was intensily looking at her. But she had gone through that sea now and removed his hand from her temple, cause now it was quite unnerving like an itch. He half tried to bring his legs between hers, and suddenly she understood, that he was still unreleased and longing, and she was scared about having to match with that dark, intense power. „Relax“ he said, as to tend her fear, but she obeyed. She could relax if he told her to do so. She was in his hands, that was what she wanted, and here they were. It costed her a vast effort to relax into her fear, but once she managed to do so, it became very easy. She spreaded her legs like wings and he craled between them. As he came with ease into her and moved, it was loike the beginning and the end of the universe, all boundaries gone, and she understood her fear to be the fear of annihilation of the self, cause this was exactly what was happening, her self not just joining with him, but joining with the universe to the very center of being. But after that moment he quickened his tempo and her ass hurt scratching above the earth and then he leaned on her, leaving her hardly air to breath. She felt his meat inside her like a weapon penetrating her and so she started to cry out of her sudden reawakened fear, He would not listen or heed, he became faster and finally moaned, as his semen left his dick to fill her belly. He breathed hard, still laying on her, and as all became quiet, her feelings changed again. Now it was a regret that it had ended. She still felt his dick inside her, spent, shrinking, and she wished that it could grow again and move on, no matter the pain of the skin on the ground, no matter that dark, furios power, she would give her life to just feel that once more. At last he slipped out of her and lay back again on his back beneath her, while his semen puddled slowly out of her vagina, again leaving her dirty. But instead of blaming him for that, she was grateful and felt connected with him, drawn into a world she had never known to exist. Soon enough they came together again, kissing, caressing, become merged into each other again and into that world without time and space, that would be there new habitat. But they did not knew then, how little time they had.

 

 

2

 

Enoj was a Sapiens, who lived quite south of the mountains in the valley of a tribatory to the one great river Danube, there they all came from. Down from the Black Sea, from the warm lands beneath, the long forgotten South. Of Course Enoj knew nothing of that. He was born and raised in the same dale, summers up on the meadwos, winters in good shelters in the dale, roaming around, but never far, never leaving home. But of course he was part of that movement of men, and just like some ancestor, who developed this dale once, his thoughts raised about leaving that dale, which inevitable became narrow, as the people thrived and multiplied. There was the plan of the woman - it were always the women making plans, how could it be otherwise? - to sent a party in springtime into the mountains, to check out for new hunting places for some young people to develop. The mountains in itself were not really an obstacle, of course one could cross them, but if the ground became too steep, living became hard work, so they had got used to the thought, the mountains being the boundary of their world, only as need grew, they had thought about what could be beyond. So the women had talked and talked and finally decided, that some young men should use the summer to find out. And here they were, he, his brother Sunjo, grim and strong Halver and, as surprise and to the annoyment of the three young men, Runa, a grown woman, older than they were, mother of a deadborn child. „She´ll slow us down“ they complained, but there was no arguing with Lore, who in fact did all the decisions for their little community, for she had the trust of the women, and that was all she neededf. Men did not really count if it was about matters of talking. They were content to have their freedom in the woods, and so Runa was a threat for them, a punishment, a chain. They tried to argue, but failed utterly. No man could match Lore with words. „She is to go with you, for she will be able to tell us, what these lands are about.!“ „We can tell you!“ the young men proclaimed meekly and pointless. „The eyes of a woman are looking deeper than the eyes of a man!2 Lore explained as a matter of fact. „You can only scratch the surface, but I need one who can see!“

Especially Enoj felt insulted, for he thought it clearly possible even for men, to look beyond the curtain of materia straight to the center of things, but anyway he did not dare to state that. It always was embarrassing, if men tried to be like women. He just felt, that there was more about it, but would never dare to tell. As for Lore, she would not have been in her position, if it was not for reading peoples thoughts. Later, she called Enoy in private: „There is another reason to send Runa with you. She is feeling lost since her child was stillborn. I need to give her a greater task, or she´ll become despaired and a burden for all of us. I count on you to be kind to her. I know you can see beyond.“

So, here they were. They had left their dale at spring Equinox, though it still was bitter cold. But dry weather had made travelling promising, and so they went. They made a good pace, do to the uneasiness, the four of them felt among each other. The three man could not chatter manstuff, there were no dirty jokes to be made, no boasting or claiming about women or game, just the talk of going this way or that, go on or take a rest. Runa did not say anything at all, if not asked. She knew she was kind of unwanted, and just tried to be useful, despite the fact that she indeed was slowing them down, being exhausted at the end of the days. At nights, all four of them huddled together for warmth. They first had agreed to change places each night, so that everyone would in turn be inside or outside, but there was no point in treating her alike and thus slow her farther down because of a stiff leg or something, so they slept Runa and Sunjo as the youngest in the middle, Halver and Sunjo on the outsides.

Halver did not hide his hassle with her being with them, often being rude and sharp, but worse was Sunjo, who began to look at her with desire and embarrassed her with unseeming kindness or pointless chatting. So, at the end of the day, it was Enoj, who grew to be responsible for their group and who in fact was giving the orders. Which was in fact quite weird, to be superior to a woman, but so it was and here they were. Without noticing, they had crossed the border from the Danube tribaries to the Oder tribaries, and had, after a few weeks, seen more fertile hunting grounds than they had hoped to find all summer. The mountains had not been that high, and as they proceeded, the vales became broader and soon enough there was no more question of finding a place to dwell, but finding the best place to dwell. Getting close to fulfill their task, and due to the increasing warmth of first summer days, they began to relax and, finally, got a little bit at ease with one another. As they found a good camping place near a quite broad river, they choose to stay a few days and look out for their environment. They parted in twos, and Sunjo had to go with Halver, for Enoj trusted neither of them to go with Runa without causing trouble.

In fact, Enoj and Runa enjoyed the company of each other as the company of the one reasonable person around. In the first two hours of their day tour to the top of that mountain to catch a view over that land, Runa talked more than she had in the onehalf month of their entire tour. As they halted for a rest, she simply asked: „You wanna mate with me?“ Enoy was taking aback and refused. „It would do no good“ he answered, responsible for the group as he was.

„Oh, come on“ she said. „The others dont need to know.“

„They will know“ he said feebly, but she had came near him.

„Not if you dont tell them“ she whispered and kissed him.

They both were greedy. He just slipped in between her legs, uniting with her in doubtless certainty, first moving slow and conscious, then faster until he spent his fill. He did not knew, if he brought her fulfillment as well, nor did he care. They rested for a while, then they moved on, just like nothing had happened. Soon enough she chatted again like in the morning. Enoy never knew, what she was talking about. He could understand the words, but not the topic, if there ever was one. She talked about the people back home and the berrys up there, she talked about feeling free out here and then complained about Halver or Sunjo. Enoy sometimes answered „yes“ or „hm“ and if he once in a while knew something to say, he did not manage to interfere with her monologue, until she had left the topic and his supposed remark had become meaningless.

Finally they there done with the climbing of that mountain, just to find out, that there was another dale and another mountain in front. They climbed a tree to get a better view. Left of the mountain it looked like there could be a great plain, but there was no way of being sure of that.

„We have to climb that other mountain“ stated Enoj. „But not today. It is too far. We have to go back!“

„Dont think we get home to base today anyway.“

„Might be!“ They were indecisive. But as they pondered about what to do, Enoj saw something else. „Is that smoke?“ he asked and showed Runa, what he meant. She saw it, too, but there was no certainty. „Could be a plain there, could be smoke, we should go back and bring Halver and Sunjo“ he stated as a matter of fact, and that was exactly, what they were supposed to do. But as they had climbed down from that tree, Runa did not feel like going back.

„I´d like to go there“ she stated, „and see with my own eyes!“

„We will come back“

„With stupid Halver and glancing Sunjo. I am glad to be away from them!“ She had complained before, but only now Enoj understood, that their party was ill fated and about to fail.

„What´s wrong with them?“ he asked, but he knew. Runa said nothing, resolved to stay her ground, which would be, not to go back. But even so, he tried: You have to deal with them. It is like it is. We will go check this mountain with them, and if we succeed, we´ll be back home in a fortnight.“

„Lets just check that mountain, now that we are here.“

„I brought no tinder!“

„It is not too cold anymore. We won´t freeze too bad!“

„We are supposed to be back in the evening!“

„Well, when we are not. They can do without us. Probably they are glad!“

Eventually Enoj gave in. He had stated that Sunjo and Halver would be worried, that he had to check out for them, but all had failed. Arguing with woman is like fighting a river, he thought, pointless, for they win anyway. And once they were on their way, they stopped hurrying, but looked out more for the little strawberries than for the way.

Later that day, far from being the end of it, they found some kind of sheltered place between some huge stones, and collected straws to make themselves comfortable there.

Hunger proved to be their problem. They had found berries and weeds, but longed for fish or meat, but had brought no net for fishing, and noone could hunt with spears without the numbers or the time to build a trap. So they were starving in the evening, laying side by side for warmth, and although Enoj would have loved to love her again, she made no offer and did not respond to his longing movements.

„Let it be“ she whispered once, not unkind but decisive. „Wasn´t it enough?“ She wrapped herself closer in his arms for warmth, but kept her legs tight.

In the morning they woke early, stiff and hungry they went for some food. She found some eggs and he some snails, and though they had no fire and had to eat it all raw, at least they were satisfied and ready to move on.

 

 

3

 

Onzo and Sagi had made love all that night. Once they had overcome their first misunderstandings and trust moved in into their loving, and with trust came devotion. Onzo had fully recovered from his cold, and though they could have been gone back since days, they put it off from one day to another, rejoicing in their common pleasure. Sagi couldnt tell if ever a woman was as happy as her these days. She could not imagine. She always had understood love to be an emotional bond between man and woman, and she had seen people being despaired or releaved, well or ill tempered depending on the state of relation, and of course she had heard the inevitable sounds of the night, the laughter, the kissing, the moaning, even the screaming from time to time, and then the quiter, but indulging groaning of the men, before they were to spent their semen. She knew all that, but had never known, what happiness could come along with all these strange behaviours, and now that she understood, she still couldn´t help but thinking, she and Onzo were the first people ever to experience such a true love. When he went into her it was like becoming whole again, and when he looked into her eye, she saw the world reflecting in it, and when they lay side by side, spent and satisfied, looking into the bright stars above, it was like space and time dissolving in this very moment, to leave her bright and happy beneath him. And so she was.

But this day something was changing. She woke up and was worrying, not actually worrying, more a kind of missing the ease of these last days. First she had put it on the weather, for some clouds were ending the steady sunshine and by midday it was slightly raining, but there was more about it. Who would worry about a little rain? They had built a shelter these last days, not enough to stand a storm, but sufficient to stay dry in an occasional rain like that. As they huddled together, sitting side by side and watching the rain, she sensed his hands on her, searching the way across her flesh to her temple, but for the first time her body would not respond to it.

„Something´s going on“ she said, more to herself, but he agreed.

„Maybe they come looking for us“, he pondered, „though it is too soon. Maybe, if they found another group ...“

Another group, that could overthrow everything. They all were longing to find one, for they grew thin in numbers, but if they met one, she was likely to be expected to mate with one of their mans, if she liked it or not. She had the age. Fear and despair came upon her for a moment, before she realised, that that was just an imagination, they did not knew, what was going on, they only felt something. She tried to share that thought with Onzo: „Have you ever been scared by a mere idea?“ But it did not really make sense with the words, Neanderthalers had, and so she eased her concern into teasing him, and soon enough he lay on her again, making her forget all concerns and all worries. But even this was different, she had not forgot all, she had not given all, there was an alarm inside her head, and then he was finished, which she merely had endured in the last minute, instead of enjoying it, she just said: „We have to leave. Something´s wrong!“

„We will not make it today. Let´s leave tomorrow morning“ he answered reasonable, and though she was unhappy to stay, she agreed, feeling restless. Even before the rain ceased, she evaded their little shelter for to wander around the place, visiting the abandoned lookouts, watching and listening to the vast void of wilderness. At one time she believed to have heard something, another time she watched some birds stooping away from something, someone, down there in the dale from the far side of the mountain. So she fell quiet for to contact the spirit of that other being, whoever it was. Spirituality or thought-transmission are well misunderstood concepts nowadays, for there is none of it as long as the mind keeps thinking of it, and as we think all the time, we have no chance to experience it. But in fact it would be very easy, if we just could keep our brain from thinking. Every catowner knows the cat to know such things. Animals can connect with the spirit. We can´t but that is just because we are thinking.

Neanderthaler knew how not to think. So Sagi sensed the presence of the humans, kindhearted, trustworthy, cause this is the kind of things you get to know in spiritual contact. But despite of their kindness, the strangers felt to be very strange, and she did not get no communicative contact, for they seemed to be very distracted, lost in their thoughts and therefore lost in the world. Without thinking about it, she soon knew there they were and climbed down to watch them from nearby.

An she finally saw them, she was bewildered. They were humans, out of doubt, but small as children, weak and frail. And they did not sense her at all. They just moved on as if they were alone in the world. It would have been easy to surprise them and overthrow them, even the two of them, but Sagi felt more than rob her for their fancy pelt, which was accurately cut in shape and looked very comfortable. Instead she suddenly knew destiny, as she saw the face of that man, who would change her life entirely, if she did not run on the spot. „Onzo“ she thought in despair, for she had meant to love him but found herself to have forgotten completely about him. Now she realised the strangers to head, despite of their obvious disorientation, directly to their camping place. She hurried home, as she had begun to call it in her head. Then she got there, Onzo was worried too, not of her being away for so long, but of the things to come. They hid somewhere nearby on a tree and waited for them to arrive.

„We should just run“ she whispered, for now that she was close to Onzo, she feared for him and thought to save their world, even if it would never be the same, as she knew it to be. Onzo shook his head. „There is no way to avoid destiny! Let´s just face them!“ Literally, in Neandertalsprech he said: „No escape place, face!“

When Runa and Enoj arrived, they looked around for the people, who had left the fire burning, but as they failed to find them, they just kindled the fire and were sitting near it to catch the warmth, looking outside for to face the inhabitants.

Sagi and Onzo left their hiding place and showed themselves, after they decided, not to just kill them. There was no reason, just curiosity being stronger than fear. They were in the rush of love after all, feeling stronger than ever and familiar with eternity.

Of course there were no words for neither of them to speak or even just greet one another. All four of them stared in wonder and fear. All four of them had spears in their hands, but none of them would start to fight. As Sagi anticipated a fight, she had no doubt to win it, for they were obviously quicker and stronger, but the others would fight fiercely and not give in, if it came to that. Finally it was Runa, who lay her spear to her feet and backed up a step. Slowly Enoj followed her example. Then they let the Neanderthals approach and investigate their belongings, such as the pelt they were wearing, and a stone, a rope, a leatherbag, which they had lain before them. Some kind of trust aroused between them, and they settled down by the fire, Runa and Enoj on one side, Onzo and Sagi on the other, not speaking, just watching, alert and uneasy. But later they would share their stew and hand over gifts. Sagi couldnt help staring at the male, whose features were handsome, more delicate than she had ever known from her own people. He was beautiful beyond reason, Onzo in comparison clumsy and brute. That did not lessen her love for him, but she had to argue with herself to think so, cause being with Onzo was nearly an embarassement in these few hours of sitting silent and watchful. Nothing happened. except for the glances they were exchanging, curios and alert, the Neanderthalers mustering the other in open curiosity, the Sapiens more shy, hidden, secretly, looking the other way once caught looking, as being ashamed.

Enoj couldnt help but stare unto that strange woman with the deep forehead that hid her eyes. She was obviously stronger than him and that made him think, without helping it, how it would be to crawl between that two gigantic legs, to be held by her arms that simply could crush him. With her uncunning stare he thought her to read all his thoughts, so he began to shy away from looking her into the eyes directly, knowing how stupid it was to shy away, and therefore looking back again, forced, wilfully, offending, and thereby kindling his desire he failed to understand. It seemed wrong even to think of it, but he did not know, why it should be wrong.

 

As the light faded, they huddled into their blankets. „I´ll keep an eye on them“ Onzo said and stayed sitting erect at the fire, matching the glances of Runa, who also was about to stay put, while Enoj slept, or tried to sleep.

In the night, Sagi woke from a bad dream, in which Onzo was killed by some spearsmen, being hunted down like an animal. She wanted to wake him and run, but found hin still sitting watchful at the fire. „Had a bad dream?“ he asked. Sagi just nodded. „I stay awake now!“ It seemed so foolish to run in the night, she didnt even mention the idea, now that she was wide awake again. Runa, who seemed to wake up from a halfsleep, shook Enoj awake and lay herself to the ground for to get some sleep. But she had not made sure for Enoj to wake up, for she did not see the point in keeping watch. If the Neandertalers resolved to kill them, they wouldn´t stand a chance anyway. if not for cunning and tricks. She hoped they´d be able to run the next day. It seemed more useful to get that sleep, she decided.

Sagi saw all that. Maybe there are more of them, she thought, as she feeded the fire out of mere habit. They will kill Onzo, she thought with a strange certainty and without any regrets. As if he had had his life already and was gone. It all were soon to be gone. Weak and frail as they were, they definitely had better clothes, better craftswork, and if they could match their frailness with numbers, she knew there was no chance to stand against them. Not, that they couldnt fight them. But you dont fight the future. She walked around the fireplace and took an intense look at that strange man, breathing softly in his sleep, and she wondered about the delicate lining of his face, his fragile beauty she caught stealing from glimpses of fire, flames escaping the shadows. She longed to touch him, but did not dare.

Suddenly she realised he was staring back at her. They hold their breath for a moment, but after that their breaths mingeled together in a strange sound, and out of instinct she lay her finger on his lips. It all became very easy and surrealistic then. He unwrapped his blankets to let her crawl over him. It was all too natural, she spreading her legs over him and letting him in. They did not move, but breath. She felt his flesh smell inside her, then straighten and in spasms ejaculate. She knew in that moment that she had conceived, and as if the cosmos around them has lived all this with them, the new moon, thin but straight, sent his light on their place to gift her a silver glance of his eternal beauty, as him to look into her darken eyes, these wonders of a world older than his.

Somehow it had become light in that single moment, as a sudden crack out of the thickets nearby made her fast awake. Suddenly she realised that some mortal danger was coming upon them. All in a sudden she stumbled over to Onzo to wake him and run.

 

 

4

 

Halver and Sunjo did walk all day without finding a trace of Runa and Enoj. But they knew the mountain, they had been heading to, and then they had reached it, they saw the farther mountain promising to give a glance over that obviously flat land behind,

„They must have been going there“ Sunjo stated, and so they went on, quick and alert, and at the end of the day they saw that fire, but darkness fell before they could reach it, so they huddled together in some thickets, waiting for the dawn.

„Why do they have fire?“ Halver whispered. „They had brought no tinder, they wanted to be back before evening!“

Sunjo supposed, that Enoj had secetly brought some, in order to trick away Runa from him and have her to himself.

„You are paranoid“ Halver said to that. Enoj would not trick us!“

Sunjo said nothing, for he knew, Halver was right.

„And Runa wouldnt sleep with you anyway“, Halver added, thoughtless, provoking.

Sunjo felt embarassed. „Of course she would!“ he replied. „She was giving signs!“

„As far as I could see, the only sign she gave you was to leave her alone.“

Sunjo choked down his sharp answer, for it would have been ridiculous, after all. After a pause, he asked: „You think, she´d choose Enoj?“

„If one of us, then him. But I think she is barren since her stillborn child.“

„Of course she is“ Sunjo replied in sudden eagerness. „But one could awaken her again, I am sure of that. I´ve seen it in her eyes!“

„Don´t know, what you have seen. Anyway, it wouldn´t be you!“

„But Enoj?“

„Maybe! I don´t know. Women are hard to tell!“

Sunjo fell silent again. He lingered between selfpity and jealous hate for his brother, but would admit neither, so he just said nothing.

„I would like to fuck her myself“ Halver stated after a while, if only to provoke the younger lad, who more and more proved to be an annoyment. „I am just waiting for the right moment. I know she wouldn´t refuse!“

„Of course she´d refuse you. She does not even like you!“

„She acts like it to not admit that she desires me“ Halver fabulated. „You know nothing of women. They are not sleeping with the man they like. They sleep with the man who is able to match them. You have to be stronger than her, and of course you may not look at her with this longing glance. They don´t sleep with you out of pity or because they just like you.“ He put the word „like“ as if it were something disgusting. „They like babies and grannies. Is that what you are?“

„I got it“ Sunjo replied embarrassed. „Just stop it!“

„You remember Luiz?“

„Yeah.“ Sunjo did not want to hear more of it. Luiz had been a goodnatured girl, always reasonable, eager to help, handsome and crafty. Sunjo knew, that she was Halvers girlfriend once, but finally she went with some trader from another horde. Halver became grim after that, but he had his own story about it:

„You know, she never liked me. On contrary, she despised me, I took my freedom instead of orders from Lore, and if I was to be punished, she was the first to agree. So I followed her out in the woods to speak with her in private, and she was yelling at me, stated that she´d hate me for I was bringing disaster upon all of us. That was the moment I embraced her, and all her hatred and anger vanished, as we kissed. I took her leaning against a tree, and I can tell you, she was wet as a meadow in the morning and she came twice that day. She still hated me and would not talkt to me in public, but when she went to the woods, she made sure that I knew.“

Sunjo had heard the story before, though he didn´t knew what he meant with „she came twice“. Halver altered the story from time to time, and Sunjo thought for a moment, if it was initially more a rape than lovemaking, but he dismissed the thought, as Halver may be bold and disobeying from time to time, but not so stupid as to risk expallation. There had been a lot of talk those days, and he still had the remark of his brother in mind, who stated Luiz was escaping her feelings, when she went with that stranger. Sunjo believed it to be so or not, at least it was pathetic from Halver, to still linger unto that story, instead of just moving on. „But anyhow, she left you. Deal with it!“ he finally answered bluntly, but Halver was not done with talking yet:

„The point is, love is somehow unpredictable. It just happens, you cannot make it up!“

„I know! But I can´t keep from thinking of Runa“, Sunjo stated, if only to leave that subject of Luiz.

„I know! And therefore you don´t stand a chance!“

They stopped arguing and had to huddle up closer together for warmth.

 

Sunjo must have been fallen asleep without noticing, for Halver was shaking him awake. „Come on, dawn is coming, we go find out what´s going on there!“

They moved on through the thickets, guided by the crescent moon, alert not to make a sound. by the time they approached the clearing, colours were moving back into the world. They saw two people at the fire, wrapping their bundles.

„It is not them“ Halver stated.

„Look there, they are asleep!“ Sunjo pointed at the place, where Runa and Enoj lay.

„They might be dead. Why wouldn´t one keep guard?“

It must have been so, Sunjo thought, and a wild anger arose in him.

„I´ll take the big one“ Halver stated, „and you go for the smaller.“

„I cannot match that! Look at their amrs! They could kill a bear!“

„Just make sure that your spear is not missing!“

Then they left their hiding, screaming aloud to scare the strangers and overcome them before they knew what happened. Halvers spear went right through Onzos chest, and he died, before he even realized the danger. Sunjo was less lucky. Sagi threw herself on the ground, and his spear went through the air above her. Sagi jumped on her for to kick her down, but she was in her senses in time, grabbed his leg, brought him down to earth and broke his neck, as she got it between her forearms. Halver came too late to aid Sunjo. He stroked her with his stone on the head, and she released her grab on Sunjo, but he was already dead by then.

Runa and Enoj, being fast asleep before that assault, wakened to see Halver raping unconscious Sagi, for it all took just a few seconds. They yelled at him to stop, but then they finally had unwrapped themselves from the blankets and turned on him, he was already done with it.

„Sunjo!“ Enoy cried out and threw himself unto his brothers lifeless body, all crying, all sobbing.

„What have you done!“ Runa yelled at Halver, boxing into his ribs, but Halver just laughed, grabbed her arms and held her close.

„We saved you!“ he claimed. „Sunjo was too slow. It´s a pity. But at least you are safe now!“

 

Enoj blamed it all on Halver, straight from the beginning. The death of Sunjo and, even worse, though he couldn´t admit it, the rape of Sagi, who after all, turned out to be still alive. Enoj had to prevent Halver from killing her, and so they hurried, fearing some revengeparty, back on their way with the woman taken captive, a leathern rope slung around her wrist, which Halver would not give out of his hands, and so managed to make the entire way back to their basecamp.

So far they had taken to some order of need, but now Enoj and Halver yelled at each other and soon enough fell in some kind of fight, in which Halver overcame Enoj at once, who refused to give up and came back somehow, grasping, tearing, boxing. As finally Enoj lay on the ground and Halver was about to kick him knock, Runa jumped between them and hindered worse.

Enoj still would not forgive Halver, who laughed and stated him to be crazy, protecting that illbreed woman.

So it fell on Runa to decide what to do.

„We could release her“ she said. „They wont catch up with us, if she finds her way back.“

Halver disagreed: „And if they meet her halfway? It´s too risky!“

„When we take her with us. It will be a greater news for all tribes!“

Halver moaned, but gave in. „We´ll have to be alert!“ he just said and fell silent.

 

Still Enoj would not forgive Halver. Next day he insisted on leading her lash, and released her the moment, he got it.

„If she runs, kill her“ whispered Runa to Halver.

But Sagi did not run. She shivered. She had lived in constant pain that other day, and she felt so heavy a guilt for not escaping with Onzo on time, but to have been sleeping with the enemy. And there was the pain inside her, the assault right to the center of her being, there something was destroyed that would never heal. She stared at Enoj with hatred, but then she suddenly knew, that he had just couldn´t helped either. Her knees gave in and she fell on the ground for to sleep some fourteen hours.

They let her, cause after all they did not really believe them being chased, they watched out, but nothing showed up, so they gave themselves another day ere to break up for home.

 

Runa did not blame Halver. It had been just brave and straight to kill that strange man, and if Sunko had not missed his throw, he´d still be alive. The rape of the woman disgusted her, but not out of pity for that girl, but as an abomination of Halver. She knew herself the combination of bloodlust and sexual desire. Good hunting parties often led to mating, kill, mate, these two often went together. But that was no excuse for going for one, who after all could just as well be an animal, some kind of bear or something. Who would mate with an animal? Sure, that woman was human, but could he tell that in the rage of fighting? Anyway, she blamed him not, but admired his resolvement, his strength, his straightforward decisiveness.

She also could understand Enoj, who took that woman as a person, pitied and cared for her. But somehow she felt it to be pathetic. When they had faced the Neanderthals, Runa was scared to death, for she didnßt knew how to overcome them. She had lain her weapon down out of despair and to take the only chance they had: to put the fight off, till they´d been given an opportunity to win. All that evening she had felt the uneasyness of death approaching, just wondering, how it would show up. There had been only one way to stand that situation: to content with her own death. Worst case, she´d be dead, she had thought, and that gave her the freedom to act is if it would be just some meeting of foreigners, alert, but peaceful. She had tried to think of killing them in their sleep, but the male refused to sleep at all and even if, it was far too risky. They´d better be running. Why didn´t they run in the first place? But they hadn´t, being a bad decision or curiosity, no matter now. She held her stone in her hand for to protect herself, but she never needed it. She half realised to slip into sleep while sitting, and then she came to her senses again, she had lost her fear. They wouldn´t harm her, she thought, although not convinced. As she went sleeping she woke Enoj up, but if he really woke up, she did not wait to check. Perhaps it was better to sleep to be fresh in the morning, but to wake on a pointless watch, cause the Neanderthals would kill them anyway, if they resolved to do so.

Then Halver and Sunjo attacked, she first saw that big man fall unto the spear in his belly and at once was releaved from the fear of being killed. She was grateful for Halver about it. It was only after they had left the place, on their long march with the woman leashed behind them, that she begot second thoughts: The two strangers had not tried to kill them at all, they had done nothing but to share their place and their stew, and maybe, there could have been some sort of understanding. But after all, she dismissed that thought again. She mourned for Sunjo, whose flattering she had found annoying, but now she came to miss it. That male had been a threat, and even letting the woman live made her feel uneasy, for she feared her to be able to fight all three of them off at once. But once she was taken captive, killing was no option anymore. At least she was a woman. You could kill an enemy in battle, but not wilfully a defeated person. Still she felt uneasy. As Enoj had released her the other day, she found herself bound to Halver, feeling secure near him, and as the man, who did what needed to be done. She and Halver went ahead most time, scouting the way, let Enoj and that woman, slowed down by their injuries and defeats, trot on behind them.

 

It was on the second evening, that they learned her name. Runa, once accustomed to the thought, that that strange woman was to stay with them, she tried to make out, if ever there was some kind of understanding. „Runa“ she said, pointing at herself, „Enoj“ pointing at Enoj, „Halver“ pointing at Halver. But she would not respond. Halver brought in a bad joke, and Sagi shyed away once more, with ever watchful eyes behind her darkening forehead. It was not in her, to escape reality in some kind of mindprison, to block out the contact, as we are used to do, if we refuse to stand a situation. She had no virtual alternate social reality, she was bound to the moment as it was. Instead she lived with the constant expectation to be killed at the next turning of mood or whatever. She could run, and she thought every moment of that, too. If she took the right moment, she´d be away and gone before they ever noticed. And she would find her way home, no doubt about that, she knew exactly, which way they had been going, and how to find a way back. But all she could think of at home, was that Onzo wouldn´t be there, and what point was it then, to come back? it seemed that all of her life had been meaningless, roaming that vast wilderness without filling it, just living along, quiet, in sound contact with allnurturing earth. And now a new world was coming. The Neanderthals were the past, for these people here resembled the future, there was no doubt about that. So she stayed for to face the future rather than to face the past, with jealous Kimm and all the rest, hunting on days, fire in evening, couples in night. So she finally agreed on her new host, still aware of the possibility to be killed every next moment- She hated that guy Halver, whom she had known to hit her, but being unconscious of that actual rape, still just feeling the wound that has been struck, which had meant to be on her head, but the pain about it grew from deep inside. So she distrusted and disliked him, and everytime he spoke fiercely as to convince, she stretched ready to fight of any assault, that might have been coming. With Enoj, it was difficult, too. He would not dare to show any kind of inappropriate tenderness, and strictly claimed his mercy to be unpersonal. Of course she did not understand one single word of their chatting, in fact she didn´t even make out any words at all, their voices just coming as a rushing noise unto her, like the humming of a bee or the howling of a wolf.

And they were never sitting still. If they hadn´t to do something with food or fire, they sort of cleaned their place up or mended some pelt or stone or whatever. They never sat still. And if, they were chatting. They were chatting the whole day anyway and Sagi wondered how there could be so many topics to talk about, to make up a whole day. Halver and Runa were talking, walking ahead. Enoj was silent, as he walked behind Sagi. If there ever had been a bond between them, they put it all of. For there was no ease. They had seen death, and mourned.

Later that evening there was a sudden silence. Sagi realised that it was now that she could speak up, so she did. She called her name: „Sagi“.