Short SciFi: The Mitochondrial Eve - Part I
The flies swarmed around her as she finished skinning the wild pig with her flint tool. She swatted at the flies around her face, shaking her head to keep them from crawling in her nose, ears and eyes, while she carefully pinched a tick on her thigh, expertly removing it without squeezing any infected fluid from the bug's body back into her skin. She could not tolerate the filthy pests on her body, though the other in-tribers were unperturbed by the insects and worms which plagued them. That was why, she believed, her body was relatively free of the open sores and scabs which afflicted the rest of the tribe. Of course, the rest of the in-tribers thought it was just more of her crazy talk.
The thick clouds of flies always accompanied her tribe wherever they went, feeding hungrily on the scraps of meat and blood which her people scattered throughout their dwelling places. The elders said that it was necessary to leave bits of meat and scraps on the earth to give thanks to the mother nature and let her share our feasts. She, however, thought this was a repugnant superstition. It filled the dwelling place with rancid rotten odors and attracted wild beasts in the night where they would attack the children as they slept. In some places, where the old meat had been gathered in dumps, it was alive with maggots and slimy worms. Her sisters, and the other women of the tribe, collected these crawling things and mashed them into a paste. Ever since she was a child, she could never swallow this disgusting slime. It was from that time on, that she had gained the reputation in the tribe as being strange.
She had seen eight dry seasons when the elders changed her name from "Moonlight Of The Meeting River" to "In-Triber Who Thinks Out-Triber." Although this had cost her the ostracism of the other children for the last five dry seasons, she did not care. She considered the elders a bunch of stupid flatulent old men, who consistently failed to read the omens of nature and kept moving the tribe into always more arid dwelling-places, where the wild beasts were more ferocious and the hunting was increasingly scarce. When both of her brothers were killed by wild boars on a hunt three moons ago. she was so upset she stormed into the elders' enclave and began screaming at them about their stupidity. This would not have been done by a warrior, let alone a mere woman. She was ritualistically beaten with tree branches by the entire tribe, including her mother and sisters, for her insolence. But the wounds soon healed, though not her stubbornly independent thoughts. None of the members of the tribe would speak or signal to her now. They only tolerated her in the tribe because the elders had enforced rules against exiling and stranding. Of course they had to, she thought: So many in-tribers had died recently because of their ignorant decisions, they could not afford to lose any more.
The hot sun had reached the top of the sky. The other women were completing their skinning chores and preparing to enter the mid-day shelter from the broiling heat. "Hunter Of The Horned Pig," one of the greatest warriors of the tribe approached her, as she was readying to seek shade. He dropped another fat wild pig by her feet and began to walk away. It was impossible for a woman to refuse to skin the catch of a warrior, yet if she were to comply with his wish, she could faint and die in the heat of the mid-day. Any other woman of the tribe would have risked her life without as much as a whimper to satisfy the warrior. But she was not just any woman. She ran after the warrior, screaming "No. No, No!" as loudly as she could. She caught up to him and started hitting him in the back and kicking him. "Hunter Of The Horned Pig," turned and raised his fist. Then the world went black.
The swelling of her face had almost completely shut one eye. She could barely see that she had been brought to the elders' enclave. The throbbing pain was drowning out the elders' chanting as they invoked the spirit of one of their stupid gods to grant them the power to reverse their rule against stranding an in-triber. They chanted and sang and danced and convinced themselves that the god had approved of their silly charade. Then she saw the face of "Hunter Of The Horned Pig" again. His ritual stick was held high. It came down with a sickening crash on her head and everything went black again once more.
The sun was rising over the far hills. The swelling on her face had subsided enough so she could see more dearly, but her head pounded as if the warrior's stick was still hitting her. Her head was caked with dried blood. She groggily rose to her feet. Her body ached as she was covered in scratches and gouges. According to the custom of stranding, she had been dragged there, unconscious, and left to die. A small rodent which had been nibbling on her ankle scurried away. She was in pain, but she could still walk. But where?
She did not recognize this place. These rocky outcroppings had never been passed by her in the travels of her tribe. Her throat was parched in thirst, and she could see some trees rising from the plain far to the south. She could find water there. She painfully hobbled towards the far-away source of life.
The mid-day sun seared down on her as she reached the shade of the trees by the bank of the river. With her last bit of strength she fell into the river, drank its cool water and let it bathe her scalded and scarred body. She lay there with her body in the river until the sun disappeared behind the edge of the plain.
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