Topic: Ow, the Last Neanderthal  (Read 730 times)


Bert Preast

« on: July 27, 2022, 05:48:20 PM »
Ow, the Last Neanderthal

(A tribute to and inspired by the excellent film, "Ao, le dernier Neandertal", also known as "Ao, the Last Hunter")

It is commonly supposed that the last of the Neanderthals disappeared some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.  However, recent research only now coming to light shows (ahem... probably) that the last of the Neanderthals was with us just a mere millenia ago, in the vast and untracked forests and marshes of the far north of what we now know as Finland.  This is the story of Ow, the last Neanderthal...

LONGFACES

Ow had been born to a small clan many weeks travel to the south, and as a boy had been traded to another clan.  This was normal and accepted, as small clans usually had to redress the male-female balance to remain viable.  Ow was very angry and depressed to be leaving his twin brother Wo, but he had no choice in the matter.  The chiefs had decided. 

Ow's new clan was similar in size to his old one, and he made the best he could of his situation.  He continued learning to hunt, to tan hides and to make and maintain tools.  He was still young when the first contact with the Longfaces came, tall and wiry men who did not seem interested in trading.  Ow's clan had nothing they wanted nor lacked for.  Soon came conflict, and in a dispute between two hunting parties a man of Ow's clan was badly wounded.  The clan chief decided that they must leave their cave, and head north, away from the Longfaces.

This became the pattern for Ow's clan over the next few years, they would find a cave and settle but soon the Longfaces were spotted and the clan moved north again and again.  Ow grew big and strong during this time, and was acknowledged as the clan's best hunter.  The chief was getting too old for hunting now, so the provision of meat was left to Ow and the two other adult males of the clan, Boorh and Unk.  The clan had moved so far north that they had reached the sea, so the hunting grounds they had now were all they were likely to have ever.

The clan sheltered in their cave over the worst of the winter, but as soon as the first signs of spring were seen Ow, Boorh and Unk trekked out through the deep snow looking for some much missed meat to eat.  With a snowstorm whirling about them, they crossed paths with a bear, but a far bigger bear than any had seen before.  It was white all over, with demonic red eyes as it came for them.  The three men fought, Unk going down almost straight away as he closed with the monster, a swipe of its paw taking most of his throat out. 

Ow and Boorh checked, appalled, but they could not let this abomination live so close to their clan.  They attacked at the same time from either side, the monster spinning and roaring its pain as their spears struck home.  The wind scoured the snow, blinding them as they fought.  Ow felt the smell of the bear close, too close, then he was falling back as it bore him down with its weight.  His spear rolled away and he drew his flint knife from his belt, stabbing in a frenzy of bloodlust as the weight of the monster crushed him.  There was a heavy blow to his head, then the world was spinning and darkening.

He awoke perhaps an hour or perhaps a day later, still trapped under the weight of the bear.  It was dead, and its stink made it almost impossible to breathe.  Ow called out for Boorh, but no answer came.  He struggled, slowly managing to work himself out from under the monster.  He stood shakily, his head aching and his body bruised black and blue, but everything seemed to be working.  A few steps away he found the body of Boorh, his furs torn to rags from the bear's claws and his face cold and lifeless.  Whether he had died of his wounds or the cold, Ow could not tell.  He stumbled home to the cave in misery, knowing he was now the only fit hunter of the clan.

Getting close to home, he was immediately alerted by the lack of smoke in the air.  He threw off his heavier furs and ran, entering the cave to see the carnage.  The clan were all dead; the chief, Ow's woman and his baby son.  All of them.  Ow bayed and howled his grief, everything in his life destroyed, laying here bloody before his eyes.  He heard something moving behind him and turned; two Longfaces were in the cave with him, spears readied to finish him.  His grief became rage, his hands around the point of a Longface spear.  He pulled hard, drawing the Longface close, then stuck the nut right on him.  "Fackin' 'ave that you 'orse-faced cahnt!", he exclaimed in the rather profane language of the earlier and uncultured hominids.  The man dropped instantly, insensible with his nose smashed. Ow could see that the other Longface was frightened now, backing away while circling his spear-point warily.  Ow kept closing, then scooping a handful of ash from the hearth he threw it into the face of his opponent, charging in at the same time.

The Longface was blinded by the ash and fell backwards, his spear clattering to the floor of the cave.  Ow grabbed a large stone from the hearth and was astride his enemy, ready to dash his brains out.  The Longface looked up at him beseechingly, and Ow found that he could not do it.  To kill a living creature when he had no use for its meat or skin was just... inconceivable to him.  He knew what the Longface had done, but still he could not kill him.  With a roar of frustration, he rolled away.  The Longface, wide-eyed with terror, grabbed his inert companion and dragged him frantically from the cave.   

Ow lay exhausted in the cave for hours, tortured and drained by his exertions and emotions.  He did not care if the Longfaces returned to kill him, he did not care about anything anymore.  Eventually his rational side regained some control, and he carried the bodies of his clan and laid them gently over the hearth, piling them with wood as he went.  He set the fire, then squatted wailing as every one of his family and friends burned.  The smoke drove him from the cave and he walked, crying and raging and ranting as he went, for many miles.

Ow was now alone, the last Neanderthal.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2022, 10:00:16 PM by Bert Preast »

Bert Preast

« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2022, 05:49:24 PM »
ESCAPE

Ow walked and walked until fatigue overtook him, finally collapsing sobbing under a spruce tree for some meagre shelter.  He lay there overnight, dozing and hallucinating, the snow blowing into his face to give him no rest.  At dawn he hauled himself up and took stock.  He had nothing on him but his clothing, his deerhide boots, his fur coat with hood, and his prized woolly undies.  His bow, knife, axe and spears were back at the cave, but he preferred to make some replacements rather than return to that place.  He knew these lands, and knew that to the west were only more Longfaces, and to the north the icy sea.  He had to go east. 

He went east for a full week and more, far from the Longfaces and their violence.  He followed the coast for the most part, sleeping under trees, his hands numb with cold.  He would not stop until he could go no more; and sometimes as he lay in the snow hallucinating with fatigue he heard music, a pipe and a drum.  It was his twin brother, Wo, calling him, of that he was sure.  He resolved to make a home here in the farthest reaches of the northeast, and prepare himself for a long journey south one day.  South was where he had last seen Wo, so many years ago, and he felt confident that his brother would guide his footsteps when the time came. 

As he journeyed the forests thinned and then he was at the last treeline.  To the east lay nothing but windswept frozen tundra, where no man could find shelter.  Ow grunted, then turned back west.  He had spotted some likely looking caves on his voyage, and he went to explore them.  On his travels so far he had ignored all game he had seen, only wishing to put distance between himself and the Longfaces.  He was no stranger to hunger, but now he felt himself weakening and knew he had to get food.  He stopped to make a stone knife, then picked up a few rocks that looked good for throwing and headed out onto the frozen marshes.

After wasting energy chucking rocks at birds, Ow made out the dim form of an elk through the snow.  The creature had spotted Ow, though, and would not let him close.  For hours Ow stalked the creature, trudging wearily through the thick snow, until cold forced him to give up the chase.  He retreated to a cave to build a fire.  He tore a strip from his hood, and used it to bind a sharp stone to a sturdy branch, making himself a crude axe.  Shivering through the long night, his hunger pangs woke him incessantly.

When enough light came, he shuffled wearily from the cave to see if he could find the elk again.  Cresting a rise, fortune was with him.  The elk was standing still, facing away, not 10 yards distant.  Ow muttered a charm and hefted a rock, launching it with all his might.  The elk heard the movement and began to run; but the rock struck hard at one of its hooves, laming it.  Ow had never been so weak and tired, but he sensed this was his opportunity.  He gave chase.

Ow was slowing, his muscles aching and his head spinning with the exertion.  He kept going, he could see the elk was slowing too, and hear its laboured breathing.  It was staggering now, and Ow was alongside it.  He bought his stone axe down on its head and it fell in a flurry of snow and mist from its mouth as it bellowed in pain.  Ow struck it again and again, until he was sure that the job was done.  He lay over the carcass and wheezed for air, enjoying the heat of the body while it lasted.

Regaining control of his breathing, Ow got painfully to his feet and began to skin and butcher the elk.  The skin tore in places, but he had enough to make a cloak and some handwarmers, both of which he desperately needed.  Much of the meat was wasted too, but Ow was past caring.  He shoved the wet raw meat into his mouth with shaking hands, swallowing it down in great gulps.  His first food for weeks.  He felt the meat giving him its strength, then he grunted as his stomach cramped and he was vomiting violently.

Ow lay whimpering in the snow for a while, reflecting that after a long period of fasting it was not a good plan to pig out when one did find food.  Recovering, he gathered his bounty and set off back to the cave to do some cooking and tan the fur.  It took a week before Ow was feeling strong again, which he spent making javelins, doing hidework, and most of all eating roast elk.  He had only a day or two's meat left now, but he was not concerned.  Now he felt ready to hunt.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2022, 09:57:17 PM by Bert Preast »