By Jonathan Thompson
The rain finally stopped after days of humid heat. Birds flew from the canopy making a rainbow in the sky. The dew dripping from all the leaves gave the trees an almost jewel like sheen. A young boy in a group of people huddled together for the night opened his eyes and began to rock his mother awake. Pretty soon everyone arose and got out from the shelter covered by humongous broad leaves they spent the night in. There was an man with a bandaged arm who got in front of the group and in their language asked them, “Is everyone present this morning?” After some quick scrambling, all 14 people, young and old stood up in a circle or were held by an adult.
They looked very much like us in their body shape, proportions and faces. However they did seem a tad short, the tallest in their group was only 4 feet tall, with most of the adults being around 3 and a half feet. Speaking of which, their feet was different as well, an opposable thumb in place of a big toe like that of tree dwelling ape. They all possessed a tail covered in hair sprouting from their lower backs. Of course these traits were perfectly common for the species known as homins. These folk in particular shared frizzy black or brown hair, had either tawny or medium brown complexions, and monolid eyes.
After a quick glance of the group, the male leading the count assured them, “Alright everyone, we made it another night and still no one left behind. We should be proud of ourselves.” He took a quick stroll toward the edge of where they spent the night to get an idea of their location. The wide branch that the group had slept on was so high that he was able to see well across the forest floor and find various other large trees, bushes, and vines.
Again facing his crew he instructed them, “Alright, the amount of animals on the floor is low so we can forage for food lower in the understory than usual. The children and pregnant women should still stay higher, within the forest canopy. Sound good to everybody?” Some indistinct chattering took place between the adults, but only for a moment as they nodded in agreement.
He continued, “Good, before we leave, everybody go the edges of the branch to pee off the side, I need to speak with the grown ups for a minute.” As the kids left to do their business, the adults came together. One of the men asked, “Preecha, when will we be close to water? Our rations finished from last night.” This time an expecting mother responded, “In that case we should find more succulent fruits to eat.” Preecha nodded in agreement, “We should be able to get to a water source before night fall if we continue east. Any questions?” “Ahem”, responded a single voice. “Yes Somachi?”
Somachi was an oddity in the group, younger than the other adults, evident by the childhood chubbiness of his cheeks and belly. Unlike his cohorts his hair was unkempt and he lacked the body paints adorning the grown ups limbs and groins. He continued, “I think I should help with looking for food in the floor and understory with the rest.” Preecha walked up in front of the young man and looked down as he rested his hands on Somachi’s shoulders. “Listen son, I know you’re a man and can forage and hunt with the rest of us adults. But there’s not that many of us left, so we need to protect the children and the women with their own. So I need to ask you, as a man, can I trust you to look after the lives of our people?” After an unflinching nod, his father continued, “Alright now everyone else make sure to urinate and whatever so we can find water and a place to rest.”
Once everyone finished their business, they left their previous rest stop by leaping from their branch and made their way through the jungle according to their roles. The children crouch walked on top of stables branches with the expecting mothers flowing their lead. The grown men and single non pregnant woman swung by their arms from branch to branch, vine to vine swiftly through the jungle. Somachi watched them pass by as he leaped across the treetops just above the kids and their mothers to stay nearby. The children would find sometimes stop to pick a fruit, nut or even pry open some tree bark to find larvae or caterpillars underneath. For the youngest ones, the women nearby would check to see if they were safe to eat or ripe enough to carry. The grown vine swingers could cover more ground and collect much more food in their arms.
After what was likely an hour or two of travel, the entire group stopped at the top of a rather large tree. Here the women with more on the way, Kim and Pakpao, took the various vines they collected and weaved some basket nets. “So Kim, when you get to the corners what do you do about the stray fibers?” asked Pakpao. Kim was more experienced with life in general and basket weaving was her specialty. “I find it easier to simply bite off the longer ones”, she replied. Once they were finished, every adult member of the band came to collect a bag to store their spoils from the forest. The kids gave what they found to their parents collection. Taking the time to a quick head count for good measure, Pakpao noticed something wrong. “Wait, I think there’s one missing.”As the elders overheard this, Kim went about through the group of kids. She looked for a certain child but was unable. “Has any body seen Lawan?” Remembering the name, Somachi quickly stood up a told Kim, “I remember seeing her picking up grubs with a stick a bit before. I’ll be right back to see if she’s there.” He then quickly grabbed on the first branch in front of him and swung back towards where they came. Once he got to the particular trees he remembered, under him he found the girl everybody was looking for. She was poking a termite mound with a sap covered on the forest floor, lower than where the children were allowed to forage. Just as Somachi was going to scold her, he noticed something waiting in the bushes behind her.
Copying its strategy, he slowly climbed down from the branch to the ground and crouched toward her, keeping his eye on the creature doing the same. As soon as he got a glimpse of its true identity, he froze and heart tripled its tempo. His body didn’t want to move, his feet stayed put like they were set in stone.
A green speckled amber raptor twice the size of the girl who saw her as its prey. Lawan, who was proud of herself for finding this sweet spot, had no idea about the predator stalking her. As the dino reared back and pointed up its razor sharp claws on its toes, Somachi’s eyes grew the widest they’ve ever been. In a single moment, he fought his paralysis, jumped for the girl, and rolled the both of them away from the tree trunk in a split second. The raptor missing its target pounced onto the tree and got its toe claws stuck within the bark. Astonished by his luck, Somachi stared at the stuck reptile, until the toddler in arms started to cry out. Somachi tried to comfort saying, “Don’t worry he won’t get you with me around.” Got your stick?,” he asked her. The trembling girl raised her bug covered glazed to show him as she failed to hold back the tears dripping from her face. “Good, hold on to me like you did that stick.” Just then a few growls behind them made Lawan jump into Somachi arms and wrap her tail around his thigh. “Ugh, always come in packs”…he groaned as two more of the carnivorous dinosaurs walked up to them.
“And me without my sling”, he though to himself. “Unless…” with that Somachi raised his free palm towards the beasts before him. Something began to radiate from his hand as if it emanating a thin blue flame with violet highlights. As one of dinos took a single step towards them, the esoteric flare on his hands rolled into his palm to form a thicker looking light blue orb. Somachi pushed it into the beast’s leg, striking a physical blow that caused it back up.
The raptor once stuck in a tree managed to pull its claw from the tree bark in time to block Somachi from behind. Flanked by carnivores from both sides, Somachi gets desperate and tries to generate another energy sphere until one lands right in the freed dinos snout. “Hey, I didn’t make that one.” he looked from all sides of him before staring up above.
In the tree tops was every single adult in the band not counting the pregnant women. The 5 members all had their palms raised, a light with the similar flame. Preecha gave the order, “Consecutive magic bullets! Fire!” and the proceeded to rain down the energy blasts on the predators. In the confusion, Somachi took the opportunity to leap up to the same tree tops while the 4 men and woman continued to pelt the raptors with their blasts until they all made a hasty retreat.
Once they finished their assault, the little girl with her stick ran to the woman who helped with the firing. She hugged her with everything she had and sobbed, “Mommy, I’m so sorry I went down to the ground. I just wanted to give you something no else had.” Lawan’s mother held her close in response, “It’s alright now baby girl, your safe and sound.”
As everyone headed back to their campsite, Preecha held Somachi’s shoulder from behind. Holding his head down, Somachi answered, “I know, I should have kept a better eye on all of the kids.” His father did a quick shrug and responded, “True, but when you released your mistake, you did whatever you could to fix it. That’s what separates the boys from the men. Now come on, let’s met up with the group.” As father and son swung and leaped back home, Somachi though more about what else being a man meant.