Short SciFi: The Mitochondrial Eve - Part II
She spent five days by the side of the river, eating the fruits and berries of the riverside vegetation and healing her battered body. She was again strong enough to travel, but there was nowhere for her to go. If she returned to her tribe, she would be killed immediately. Her only choice was to walk away from her tribe and try and find somewhere to survive alone. The river was wide and strong here. She deduced that she must be somewhere downstream from the meeting-place of the two rivers that she had originally been named after. The meeting-place was in the direction that her tribe now had their dwelling-place. She had to go in the opposite direction. to go as far away from her tribe as possible. for even if she mistakenly met a hunter from her tribe. he would be forced by tribal custom to kill her.
She began walking in the same direction of the river. Downstream. away from everything she knew, towards the unknown.
A moon came and went. She had been lucky enough to find the drowned and swelled body of a gazelle on the riverside. She gorged on the flesh and strapped a hind leg to her back to provide meat for her continuing journey. By the time of the second moon. she was strong and fit. The constant walking had made her legs powerful. She climbed trees to catch tree rodents and raid birds' nests for eggs. Her arms were getting thicker and stronger. She was proving that she could survive without her tribe. Even when she had been with her in-tribers, she had always felt alone. Now for the first time. it felt good.
As the sun went down behind a cover of clouds, she saw thin wisps of smoke far to the south. It was the fire of a tribe's dwelling place. As she sought shelter for the night, she was filled with apprehension. Would the out-tribers welcome a lone woman nomad, or would their warriors kill her on sight? Or would they be the short out-tribers, the brutish, stupid, ugly people with the sloping foreheads and big arms who spoke no language? The short out-tribers always tried to kill the tall people, but unless they caught you by surprise, it was easy to outwit them. They were ignorant. but they were strong, and could rip a warrior apart with their bare hands. Who would inhabit this dwelling-place? Only the new day would tell.
The morning sun could barely be seen behind a thick cover of clouds. A slight drizzle was falling. She walked along the riverside until the river ended, spilling into a huge sea-larger than any lake she had ever seen. She could not see the opposite bank of this great body of water. She dipped her hands into it and drank the water. With a start. she spit it out as the saltiness burned her mouth. She had never encountered strange water like this before.
She walked along the sandy beach in the direction of the dwelling-place's fire, which she estimated could be no more than a half-day's walk. The clouds receded and the sun grew hot, but there was a strange wind blowing in from the sea which tasted of salt. It cooled her and kept her walking comfortably. The smoke from the dwellingplace's fire grew closer, until she could smell the burning meat. She could not yet quite see the dwelling place on the far side of the beach when she heard a hunter's yell. It was not in her tribe's language, but it was unmistakably the shriek one hunter gives to signal his fellows that he has found prey. Soon, a band of tribesmen ran over the top of a sand dune towards her. As they approached she saw that they were all young warriors, fortunately not short out-tribers, but all lacking the facial scar-markings of men. Her blood chilled at this. In order to be initiated into the rite of manhood, all boys had to capture and inseminate an out-tribe woman. She turned and ran, but the boys soon caught up with her and brought her to the ground with blows. She fought back violently, but there were too many of them. She scratched and bit and kicked, but soon the force of the combined blows subdued her. The boys all took turns at her, punching and slapping as they penetrated her.
One of the last of the boys felt to be the weakest yet. His grasp on her was not as solid as the others. and she judged him to be vulnerable. She bid her time, then suddenly bit him in the arm, ripping out a chunk of skin. He yowled in pain and reared up as her hand flashed to his right eye, pinching it between her fingers until it popped like a bird's egg. Incapacitated. he screamed in agony as she wrested away from him and ran. A couple of the boys gave a half-hearted attempt to catch her, but soon gave up the chase. They had accomplished their ritual manhood goal and could return to their dwelling-place in honor. As she ran along the beach towards the river, all she could hear was the laughter of the boys, the howling of the injured boy, and the waves crashing on the shore.
She ran and ran until her strength was gone. She was in sight of the place where the river met the sea, when, exhausted, she fell face-first into the sand, unconscious.
She felt the waves of the rising tide lapping at her limp body. She felt the salt of the strange water in her mouth. She thought for a moment that she would drown, but lacked the strength to do anything about it. She felt as if she would surrender to the waves, give up her struggle for life and succumb to the calm death which invited her. She felt her body float on the sea. She opened her mouth for a breath and the salty water rushed in. She coughed, but she knew that the next breath would hold nothing but water. She prepared to die.