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A Book In Time: Connor and his Mammoth
“Oh geez! That smells horrible!” exclaims Connor.
“Ja-a-arod! What are you brewing this time?”
Connor walks quickly past the study, down the hall into his own room. Slamming the door in disgust, he picks up his science homework in an attempt to get his mammoth project done before dinner. A sudden wailing from his sister's room next door interrupts his already fragile concentration.
“Oh no, not now, Riley!” Connor yells.
“I'm trying to get some work done here.”
Riley's cornet wails on but otherwise there is no reply from his sister.
“Why do I even bother?” moans Connor.
His nerves frazzled, he throws down his homework and grabs his current storybook, about mammoths and the Ice Age, off the bedside table.
“The boy in this book is lucky,” whispers Connor. I bet he didn't have a sister and a brother making constant racket and gross smells.”
Connor lies down in bed and reads his book. His mind relaxes.
“It sure would be cool to get some first-hand information about mammoths for my project.”
Drip, driip, driiiip. Fat drops roll slowly down long, slender icicles, and the sound of water reverberates from the book. Turning the page, Connor, feels a gentle, frosty wisp of air touch his cheek, causing goose bumps on his arms. As he reads further, the words transmit a multitude of sensations. The fresh scent of a cold, crisp morning excites his nostrils but an underlying, less pleasant odor, wafts in on intermittent puffs of air. In the distance, a trumpet soulfully pierces a more ancient intonation. The sound of running water, not from a tap, but from a rushing river can be heard. Beginning shallowly from a distance, the sound gathers momentum seeming to pass beneath the spot upon which Connor sits reading.
Engrossed in the drama unfolding in his book, Connor is not yet aware of the changes unfolding slowly in his room. The underlying pungent odor becomes stronger as he greedily absorbs the words before him. He imagines it must be his older brother Jarod, still conducting his smelly experiment. Appearing to emanate through the walls in his room, the trumpeter's notes sound strangely like his sister's cornet practice and grow louder. The walls in his room appear to become translucent and an ancient, though misty view becomes visible. Rays of sunshine shower a glistening mountain of white. Straddling the glacier is a sea of grass dotted with tiny yellow flowers. Feeding on the tundra is a herd of large beasts. With a raised trunk, one creature again sends a soulful vibration through the walls of Connor's room. Connor looks up and is astounded at the vision before him. Peering down at the illustrations in the book and again at the scenes emanating from his wall, he is astonished. Thoughts of his siblings' activities being the cause of these sensations vaporize. Suddenly, goose bumps break out on the flesh of his arms as a breeze again chills his skin. This time, however, he examines the bumps only to find that changes are taking place to his clothing.
He was wearing a red plaid shirt and blue jean coveralls. A closer look at his clothing reveals that the fibers are unraveling and changing in texture and color. The thin, whispering sound arises from the reweaving of those fibers as a new outfit is created. A rumbling emanates from the disappearing walls in his room and his changing clothes are forgotten. Connor quickly looks up through the thinning mist that was his walls and he sees the outline of a large, slinking creature. It is a Smilodon with two long, curved fangs. Connor is entranced by its silky movements and watches in fascination as the towering beast stalks the herd of furry elephants grazing in the distance.
The drama unfolding before Connor is identical to the one in the story he was reading. Still clutching his book, Connor again is called to look down on himself and he yelps in surprise. The changes to his clothing are now complete. His comfortable, familiar clothing no longer recognizable, he touches the tunic he now wears and examines the clothing of the boy in his story. They are the same! The tunic and his pants are soft suede and beige in color. Covering his feet and calves are moccasins made also of the same kind of animal skin. Around his waist is a leather strap with a large pouch attached. A slingshot is firmly pulled through the same band. If he is now the boy in the story, Connor wonders if the mammoth of the tale will appear. When he next looks up to survey his room, he is not surprised to see that it is now gone entirely. His world is now the world of his storybook.
From where he stands, Connor overlooks an immense, lush valley with hundreds of yellow wildflowers. The early morning sunshine feels warm on his face despite the icy cold air. The herd of mammoth he saw while still part of his room grazes peacefully on the rich grasses of the valley floor. Without thinking, Connor places his book inside one of the pouches.
Wanting a closer look at the mammoths, his favorite prehistoric creature, Connor begins his descent to the valley. He chooses a gentle slope and walks quickly at first, eager for adventure. Halfway down, the terrain becomes more treacherous and Connor slows, choosing his footing more carefully. Coming across a very steep decline, he hesitates. One slip and he could seriously injure himself. However, his curiosity overcomes his sense of danger and Connor carefully makes his way down, creeping backwards like an infant climbing down stairs on unsure legs. Suddenly, the terrain becomes steeper still and Connor begins an uncontrolled slide with pebbles and dirt shooting out from under his feet. Connor panics and digs in with his heels but can't stop. At the end of the slope the ground becomes vertical and Connor flies through the air falling a short way. Whacking his head on the valley floor, his bright new world becomes enveloped in blackness.
Snuffling noises and something wet and slimy probing his face awaken Connor.
“Yuck, stop that!” sputters Connor
The sun is now burning bright overhead so at least a few hours must have passed since he crash-landed. Still groggy and confused from his ordeal, Connor opens his eyes. Staring back at him is a huge, shaggy creature with beady little eyes. The wet and slimy something probing his face is a shaggy trunk attached to the face of this creature. Connor yells in surprise and fear. The creature backs away in panic giving Connor a better view of it. The animal has a coat of short, reddish brown wool interspersed with long, course black hair. Its furry trunk and body tremble.
Bruised but not hurt otherwise Connor slowly stands on wobbly legs. His room is gone. His mother is gone. Tears well in Connor's eyes and slowly slip down his ruddy cheeks. Realization of his predicament sinks in for the first time. His head throbs horribly but no one is here to comfort him. Blood oozes from a scraped elbow and a gash on his forehead. His mum would have comforted him and bandaged his wounds but who would take care of him now? He had enjoyed the solitude away from the annoyances of family life. Now he had no family to protect him.
“Hey! What are you doing? Connor brushes the cool tip of a trunk away from his forehead. The young mammoth again reaches forward with his trunk, tentatively this time; brushing the top of Connor's closely cropped blond hair. The trunk moves down Connor's body pausing at a bruise here, a scrape there.
“I think I'll live, boy. You can stop now.”
Looking closer at the creature, Connor realizes he isn't very old.
“Where's your family boy? Are you lost?”
Connor bends down and clutches a handful of grass. Connor watches while the young mammoth munches on sweet Arctic grass.
“I guess we can take care of each other. The book said your name was Tamut, so I guess that's what I'll call you.”
Their exhalations make icy puffs in the afternoon air. In the distance are the snow-covered peaks of the glaciers, seen earlier from his room, their ice crystals throwing off bright shards of light. With some trepidation but more excitement, Connor explores his new world with Tamut. Folding his legs under his massive body, Tamut encourages Connor to climb aboard. But how does one mount a mammoth? Even lying down, his shoulders are just within grasp of Connor's fingertips. Walking back fifteen feet, Connor runs toward Tamut building speed. A few feet from his target, Connor jumps. He stretches his arms towards Tamut's back. “Smack!” He connects with the mammoth's side. Grappling for purchase, tufts of reddish hair come lose in Connor's hands. Sliding down Tamut's side, Connor lands unceremoniously on his rump.
“Ow! That hurt. Glad there was no one to see that first class act.”
Scratching his head, Connor thinks.
“What do I try next? Something to step on should work.”
Gazing around, Connor sees an outcropping of rock just a little higher than Tamut's shoulders. Standing and rubbing his injured bottom, Connor then walks over to the outcropping. He climbs to the top, a feat in itself, he thinks, as his feet slip on loose stones which tumble to the ground. At the top, Connor calls to Tamut.
“I hope you've figured out the plan boy.
Tamut ambles over to Connor and lies down again with his back parallel to the rock face. Slowly, Connor steps on to Tamut's back with one foot. Grabbing a fistful of red hair with one hand he gently moves the other foot onto the mammoth. Grabbing hair with the other hand, Connor bends down and slides one leg at a time around the mammoth's neck. Connor feels himself slip to one side but before he can panic, Tamut raises one leg to steady him. Adjusting his position, Connor holds on for dear life as Tamut raises himself to his full height.
Connor relaxes and begins to appreciate his predicament.
“Wow, I can't believe I'm here!” Connor exclaims as he views his surroundings. “It's exactly like the pictures from my book.”
“How did I get here anyway?” he exclaims.
Connor barely has time to process that last thought before Tamut takes off at a run. Not being accustomed to the jolting movements, he grasps tightly to his steed's long hair. They race faster still. Cold air fills his lungs, not having time to warm in his nostrils and his hair slaps up and down on his forehead in rhythm with Tamut's strides. The excitement of the moment enraptures Connor and he bellows loudly in pleasure.
Also enjoying the brisk run, Tamut follows with a loud trumpeting that is answered faintly in the distance. Gradually, Tamut slows and stops and Connor pants from the exertion of staying on his beast. They are in a small clearing with two caves nearby. Both are hungry. On either side of Tamut's head, just behind his small ears, lie two pouches connected by a leather strap. A look inside them determines their contents: berries and dried meat. Connor ties these pouches around his waist and positions himself on his knees. Seeming to anticipate Connor's next move, Tamut is still. Swinging his legs over the hump of Tamut's head, Connor uses his arms to slow himself and slides down Tamut's trunk. Having curled the tip upward to prevent his rider from plunging to the ground, Tamut gently lowers Connor until his feet are firmly planted on the ground. Connor makes his way to one of the nearby caves and plunks himself down, leaning against the rock for comfort. He watches with interest as Tamut begins grazing. Using his forefoot, the mammoth scrapes the grass loose from the ground. He grasps a pile with his trunk, curling it upward to push the food into his waiting jaws. Connor lazily watches the mammoth. Connor's stomach gurgles impatiently.
“I'm starving! But what is there for me to eat?”
Connor wishes for a moment that he was home with all of its comforts. He dismisses that thought and remembers his project.
“The people of this time were hunters and gatherers. They lived on roots and berries and wild game. Surveying his surroundings, Connor notices a clump of bushes near Tamut. A couple of birds that look suspiciously like Blue Jays are pecking at the branches. Walking over, Connor notices branches heavy with ripe, red berries. He begins salivating. The birds fly away as the human runs towards them. Stripping berries from the branches, Connor eats until his belly is full, his fingers and face stained red and dripping juice. A small, winding creek gurgles nearby and Connor rinses his fingers and face free of the stickiness. Cupping his right hand, he scoops the frigid water and drinks deeply of the delicious glacial runoff. Having satisfied his hunger, Connor looks around his immediate area and the mouth of a cave captures his curiosity.
Indeed, when he stands back and views the cave, the face of an old giant with a toothless, mocking grin, daring him to enter, peers back at him. Considering his adventures so far since his room became part of the Ice Age, Connor is not to be daunted by this seemingly small challenge. Looking back, he signals to Tamut to indicate his intent and walks into the giant's mouth.
Dampness, heavy in the air, creates a vision in Connor's mind of that giant salivating over the new morsel entering its lair. Fear begins its invasion. Presently, however, his curiosity is stronger and he pushes on in his exploration. A few moments later, Connor reaches the back of the cave where the coals of a small fire still glow and the invading fear is forgotten. Something glitters near the fire. Bending down, Connor sees an amulet carved from crystalline stone. It is strung on a leather string with colorful clay beads. Connor picks up the treasure and puts it in his pouch. Further examining his surroundings, a sight, both wondrous and sacred, looks down on him from the high walls. Magnificent paintings, bright red and charcoal in color, of camels, bison, aurochs, horses and mammoths, like Tamut, dance on the rock. Connor moves closer and, touching a figure, is in awe of the artist. His hand feels wet. Further examining his fingers, he sees red ochre the color of blood. The glowing coals and the red ochre on his hand suggest that the artist is not long gone from his creation. A sense of foreboding again washes over him. What if the artist returns and is angered to find him here? Perhaps a cave lion or cave bear is creeping behind him! The fear now heightens his other senses. The whistling wind echoes hauntingly in the enclosed space of the cave. Scratching sounds of tiny mammals are amplified in his mind into towering ferocious beasts. Suddenly, pictures of his safe room flood his thoughts. How will he return home? He doesn't even know how he arrived in this time. Panic threatens to overwhelm him but he manages to push it to a recessed corner of his subconscious. Connor turns to make a guarded retreat from the cave. He has not traveled far. Parallel lines of light streaming into the cavernous mouth mark the exit and freedom. Although it is still cold, rivulets of sweat trickle down and drip off the end of his nose. At any moment, he fears the unseen enemy will pounce upon him, preventing him from ever reaching home. His heart pounding, Connor inches along the rock wall towards the comforting light streaming from the mouth of the cave. His muscles begin to ache from the adrenaline rush. He hears a crash. A whirring sound, like a multitude of wings, echoes through the cave. Freedom will not come from this exit, however. The light disappears as a form steps into the cave. The artist returns to his creation. Connor's eyes open wide and he sucks in his breath. Friend or foe, he can't take a chance. Although fear threatens to paralyze him, Connor knows he must move now. Keeping his back against the wall of the cave for protection, Connor inches his way back towards the fire. Turning the corner, Connor moves faster eager to find escape. Passing the fire and drying artwork, he moves to the back of the cave. A hole! It is just big enough for him to fit through. Lowering himself to his hands and knees, Connor begins to squeeze through. He has only his left foot to pull out. Connor feels a hand latch on forcing him back in. Connor pulls hard and his moccasin slides off his foot. He shoots forward and throws his hands in front of him, scraping them on the rocks as they absorb the impact. A voice bellows from within the cave. Without looking back, Connor gets to his feet and runs.
Both his chest and throat ache from the exertion as Connor races to the grassy clearing.
“Get…down…Tamut. We…'ve go…t to go. Now!” Connor yells still running at top speed.
Still munching on grass, Tamut lowers himself. Moments later, Connor, without breaking his stride, jumps up. His hands land on Tamut's back and his swings his left leg around making a perfect landing.
Grabbing hair in both fists, Connor urges Tamut into a gallop. Once out of sight of the caves, his heart begins to slow. In response to Connor's relaxed posture, Tamut slows to a walk.
Surveying his surroundings he notices a cave nearby. The young mammoth still stands nearby and Connor tries to move closer. Panic shows in the animal's eyes and it turns to run. Suddenly Connor hears a rumbling, deep purr and then a roar as a sleek animal bears down on the mammoth. The young animal, seeing his danger, turns in Connor's direction and blindly gallops. Without thinking, Connor reaches for the slingshot hanging from his waist and grabs a rock. Arming his weapon he aims at the mammoth's pursuer and fires the rock. He makes a glancing blow on the animal's shoulder. Startled it slows down and focuses on Connor. Grabbing two more rocks, Connor reloads and aims for the head this time. Shooting the rock, Connor soon hears a heavy 'thunk' as the rock hits the large cat between the eyes. Dropping down, it lies on its side and does not move. Connor pants heavily from the exertion but stays where he is. Five minutes pass and then ten. Still the big cat does not move. Neither are there tell-tale signs of breathing. From the large canines protruding from its mouth, it appears to be a Smilodon. It is just like the one that he saw in the mist while still in his room.
“My room; I wonder if I'll ever see it and my old life again.” wonders Connor.
Connor again feels a familiar wet and slimy feeling on the back of his neck. Turning around, he is surprised but happy to see the mammoth whose life he'd just saved.
After regaining his composure, his fear forgotten, he is eager to continue his adventures.
For many tireless hours, Tamut and Connor explore the glaciers of Tamut's world. They run with herds of auroch and bison. With Tamut's herd-mates, they roam a while by the rushing river. Daylight becomes twilight and the couple slow and become still. Tired and sated with their adventures, Tamut and Connor rest in a clearing. Tamut sits lying to one side and Connor rests in the furry crook of his warm body. Although thrilled to have experienced life in a different time, Connor is now thinking of home and feeling more than a little homesick. His hand rests against his pouch and he feels the book he put there seemingly a lifetime ago. He brings it out and opens it to the first page. He sees a picture of the room he left behind. Longing for home, he begins to read the story, about his home and his life, to Tamut. Smells of his mother's cooking soon float into the world he now inhabits. Eventually, Tamut's world becomes wavy and translucent. The familiar sensation of threads unraveling and reweaving tickles his skin. A vague outline of walls materializes and familiar pictures loom in the space of the present world. He looks up at Tamut who also appears out of focus and lacking in substance.
“Good-bye Tamut,” whispers Connor sadly as the image of his friend vaporizes.
The walls of his room gradually become more solid. Connor finds himself leaning against the furry comfort of his stuffed mammoth, in his own clothes and in his own room with the familiar sounds of his mother singing in the kitchen and the whispers of his father and siblings. It has been a grand adventure indeed, but it is good to be home.