OLD (A Prehistoric Short Fiction)

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Summary

Millions of years ago on Earth, Urk, an elderly prehistoric man, is left behind to survive on his own after his tribe abandons him. He must endure the dangerous wilderness of a primitive Earth and all the predators that seek to do harm to him. Can this old man survive on his own? What will he encounter on his travels and will he ever find his tribe again? This is a short story of an epic struggle. What life is like in a time where being old is a struggle onto itself.

Genre:
Drama / Other
Author:
Jeff Walker
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
2
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

Sands Of Time

Millions of years ago, the Earth was still in its infancy, a young planet still trying to take shape and spawning life as it continued to develop itself. Out of that wealth-spring of creation, came a creature that learned to adapt and also grow as the Earth did; the homo-sapiens, a being split into two sexes, male and female. They lived off of the planet’s resources; Plants, water, and eventually the other animal life that had been abundant with them.

Survival was the key to existence in this fledgling world. A survival that brought a revolving struggle with two key factors, life and death. In order for there to be life, death must occur, and from that death, life springs anew. An ongoing balance that this planet (and all that live upon its surface) requires daily. An evolution process that brings about change and growth. The weaker species are replaced with the stronger, much more adaptable kind; Through intelligence, ingenuity, and cunning against any adversary (animal or terrain), those are the ones that shall thrive and multiply as Earth continues on into its own future.

And it is here, in this prehistoric time, that we find a group of nomadic human beings in search of a place to call home. An epic journey that will spread their legacy and future across the planet. The only cruelty hindering their lives is the brief moments to experience it. Life on this world is limited, just another struggle that humans and all of creation must endure, nor can break free from––the spectre of death itself––time.

* * *

Walking through the vast barren wilderness of the African plains, in the heart of what is essentially the cradle of humanity, a tribe of prehistoric humans make the journey to find a new home to settle in. A mixture of men, women and children, varied in age. With nothing but a few animal skins covering their bodies for warmth and protection, the group endure the blazing sun as it heats the rocky terrain beneath their feet.

Amongst the tribe, trailing behind at a slower pace, an elderly man struggles to maintain the brisk stride the others are going. Out of breath and carrying a pouch of water on his back, the tired, frail-looking prehistoric man suddenly stops and drops to the ground. The fatigue of walking for so long has done him in. The urge to sit caused him to fall down slowly, as the pouch of water slipped off of his shoulder and came down hard onto the ground.

The others turned in surprise as they heard his moans. The tribe gawked in horror; not so much about the fact that he had fallen, but more so of the pouch of water spilling its contents onto the parched, hot, rocky-laden earth. This made them furious. High-pitched wails and bitter grunts came from them all, as the incident incited an air of turmoil.

The old man looked at the pouch and also howled in surprise. He quickly tried to stop it from spilling out as he scooped up the leathery water bag, that was fashioned out of animal bladders, and tried to correct his mistake. The leader of the tribe, a young muscular man with dark long hair, rushed over and yanked the pouch out of the old man’s hands. His scowl of anger was matched with the bearing of his teeth. They were large, misshapen, and yellowing near the gums.

The fact that he still had them all was a sign of health. The young always had a strong number of teeth, giving them the advantage of stripping off more meat and chewing on tougher plants for sustenance. As time goes, those would soon become loose and brittle, slowly they would come out and making it harder to eat and less likely for the individual to survive.

The old man had only a few remaining teeth, just enough to eat well enough, but he found it harder and harder with each passing day. To be old in this era is to be considered the lowest member of the tribe. There is little respect given to them. The youngest and strongest always lead, a never-ending power struggle that pushes out the former leaders. Once you become old, injured or infirm, the young ones rise to the challenge and take over.

“Urk! Urk!” the young leader grunted. He shoved the water pouch in the old man’s face and smacked his head hard a few times. “Uh-uh-ugh…”

There was little response. The old man lowered his eyes in shame. He knew he had screwed up. A good portion of the water had drained out and the leather bag was only now half full. He motioned to the youth, hands raised up in surrender; a form of apology and acknowledgment for his stupidity. The others behind reacted with disapproving loud bellows and shouts, tossing of dirt at him, and stomping their feet and hands onto the ground.

Forgiveness for this was not enough. Every drop of water was precious. Even with their primitive and savage minds, they all understood that food and water was the key to living another day. Wasting such things was an ultimate death sentence. The young leader kicked the old man hard, causing him to fall flat on his weary back. He then growled with rage thumping on his chest and baring his teeth at the old man.

The sign of strength was not lost on the elder. Once again the young leader growled, “Urk!” Perhaps it was his name, or some primitive form of giving him one. But, this nonsensical utterance wasn’t so much a name but more of a classification. ‘Urk’ tended to mean ‘old’ or ‘old man’, as the others repeated it as well. Urk looked terrified as he trembled from their aggressiveness.

Once he was a young, strong leader himself. He had led the tribe and battled those that challenged his authority as well. He remembered having many women vie for his affection and giving him pleasure for his bravery. Now, however, his time had diminished and left him weak, with no women to pleasure him anymore. The young had taken over, and his son (the one berating him) was now the new king among the tribe Urk had forged. It was the cycle of life.

Urk waited for the others to kick, spit, or throw rocks on him. He’d seen other elders be abused or killed in this manner. Even he had taken part in his day, by brutally punching older men and women for their lack of use. Young versus old; that’s just how it was. But as he cowered in fear, arms covering his face, awaiting the same fate, he noticed nothing was happening. He glanced over his limbs and saw the tribe walking away.

At first, he thought they were looking for a good rock or stick to bash him with, but as they walked further and distanced themselves, he soon realized his imminent torture was not to be. Urk tried to sit up, all the while gawking at his tribe, leaving him there. He wiped the blood trickling from his mouth and nose, and finally found the strength to stand up.

Urk howled at them in loud pitch, gesturing casually as if to imply, ‘come back’, he realized he was to be abandoned, outcast, and left to die in the wilderness. It was a strange thing to happen, Urk had known no other tribe to simply leave an old one like that. In his day, they would either kill them or let them be the first to be eaten by any predator they encountered. By allowing that to happen, the young could escape and the tribe could continue to thrive from their sacrifice. That’s how it was done, or how it was supposed to be, in his view.

Looking around where he stood, he discovered they left the water pouch, he reached down and felt the remaining portion of water still inside. Fingering it carefully, he wondered if there was enough to last the rest of the day. The sun was still at its highest peak, with few places to find shelter from the scorching rays on his delicate skin; the rocky valley was very open and exposed, nothing for miles around big enough for him to hide from the elements of nature.

The fear took over. He twirled around and tried to shout at the tribe. He wanted to join them again. But they were so far away now, he had a hard time catching up. His spirited sprint was more like a tired jog, the wounded left leg slowing down his pace, and the bruises inflicted on him caused him to wince in pain. Still, Urk tried his best, but the laboured breathing was a sign that he wasn’t physically able to maintain it for long. His body soon shut down from all the trauma and Urk slowly collapsed from the fatigue.

He couldn’t do it. He was too tired, to hurt, and much to his own dismay… far too old. Urk’s eyes fluttered from the sharp blue sky drenched in sunlight. The wisp of white cloud dissipated slowly as it moved from the staggered breeze, with distant birds gliding on the gentle wind, calling out to each other as they played about. While Urk kept to the ground, lying on his back, trying to maintain his breath, he turned his head slightly to see the tribe as they slowly faded out in the distance.

Dark dots that grew smaller every second he looked on. Soon, his eyes became weary and closed; sleep was taking over, and he tried one last time to call to them… but only a faint whisper escaped his lips. The tiredness took over, and he could no longer fight its hold on him. Perhaps it was best to have a rest. Yes, he could try again after a quick nap. That’s all he needed to do, just give his body a moment to heal and then––then he could catch up to them.

Without struggling to stay awake any longer, he willingly allowed himself to drift off and let the time of dreaming begin. The other world where anything was possible, even to an old man like himself.

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