Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
“Wake up, sleepy head! It’s time to go.”
The boy’s sister shakes him awake. The crow feathers tied into her hair tickle his nose and she laughs at him. He rubs his eyes and pulls himself up into a sitting position, blinking in the bright morning light pouring in through the mouth of the cave where the clan spent the night. The rest of the clan is already stirring, shouldering spears and baskets, preparing for the day’s hunting and gathering. He stands up, stretches, and yawns and his sister hands him a basket. He is not old enough to join the rest of the men and some of the sturdier women on the hunt, but he will be old enough soon and he looks forward to it. He follows his sister out of the cave, feeling the warm sun on his skin, and the cool morning breeze in his hair. The warm days have come again, freeing him and the clan of the cumbersome, smelly and lice-infested burden of clothes. He takes a few steps away from the mouth of the cave and squats to defecate. This is another luxury that comes with the warm weather. During the winter, the clan has no choice but to relieve themselves within the dwelling, only adding to the general stench of sweat and smoke. “Hurry up!”, his sister teases, “the trees in the valley need feeding too!”
He finishes and follows her down the slope into the forest. It is a dark, dense forest and he is wary of it even in daylight. His sister teases him with stories about the forest nymphs: mischievous spirits with skin as smooth and brown as wood and hair like the leaves on a tree who seduce young boys and take them away to the other world. He starts at unexpected shadows and snapping twigs and she laughs at him.

The girl pulls her cloak tightly around herself, shivering against the cold. She edges closer to the fire, tended by old Tuumbo. Tuumbo has tended the fire for as long as she can remember. He is a holy man and his holy duty is to feed the fire and appease the unpredictable and volatile spirits that dwell within it. The spirits can be alternatively kind and cruel and they are always hungry and demanding to be fed, offering precious warmth, good food, and protection in return. If they are neglected, if the sacred hearth is allowed to go out for even one minute, they will react with vengeance. They will take the shape of young men and emerge out of the wilderness to snatch away the young girls, silently and without leaving behind any trace. This is what the tribe believes, and so Tuumbo keeps close watch over the fire. If he neglects the fire gods and allows the hearth to die, he will be offered as a sacrifice. The fire is warmth. The fire is life. And if life is to be eternal, so too must be the fire.
It is a small tribe, consisting of the girl’s father, his brother, their wives and children, and old Tuumbo. As the men set out to the steppe for the day’s hunt, the women make their way into the forest to gather edible fruits and plants, stones to be shaped into tools, and twigs and branches to feed the hungry fire gods. To them, a woman hunting, or a man gathering would be unthinkable, laughable even. The girl hangs close to the middle of the group, pulling her cloak even tighter around herself and trying not to drop her basket. She scratches all over where her skin itches under her layers of clothing. She hates her clothes and hates this cold place, and longs for her homeland. It had always been warm there, and there had been no need for clothes except during the rainy season when the women wove together cloaks and blankets of grass to protect themselves from the downpour. In the dry season, the hot sun warmed her naked skin and when the heat became too much, she would cool herself in the water hole among the antelope and zebras that gathered there to drink, smearing her body in a soothing coat of cool black mud. Here everything is different. Everything is cold and strange. The lions and hyenas are bigger and fiercer. The elephants and rhinos are covered in shaggy hair and smell strongly of musk. The cold weather has forced the tribe to clothe themselves in skins and they crawl with lice and stink. Only at night, in the relative warmth of their shelters can they shed their clothes and be free and sometimes it is just like old times again. They talk, laugh, mate, play, and groom, picking the lice and dirt out of each other’s hair. Sometimes, the girl closes her eyes and pretends she is still at home.

The boy follows his sister deeper into the forest. He always follows her lead. She knows the best spots. The best fruit trees, the edible greens, the berry bushes, the rotting logs and stumps that yield fat white grubs. The forest opens up into a clearing and in the corner, grow a cluster of berry bushes. They begin to pick the berries and drop them in their baskets. The baskets are half full when they hear the bushes begin to rustle and they stand stock still, silent, waiting. The bushes part and a young man steps out, followed by two more. The boy’s sister laughs. It is merely a hunting party from one of the neighboring clans. She puts down her basket and prepares to mate. If she satisfies them and they satisfy her, she may leave her home clan to join theirs. That is the way of the clan females. The boy continues on with his foraging, uninterested in a spectacle he has witnessed countless times before. He makes his way along the cluster of bushes, picking only the ripest-looking berries. A few of the berries are home to small white grubs and these he eats with relish, considering himself fortunate. So he goes, until a sound arrests his attention. A light rustling coming from the vicinity of the undergrowth. He slowly and silently sets down his basket and crouches, staring intently into the shadows. A few metres in front of him, almost hidden in the dappled sunlight and shadow on the forest floor he makes out an animal, a rabbit. An idea begins to form in his head. If he can catch and kill this animal, will the elders realize that he is old enough to join the hunt? He steals a look over his shoulder at his sister, but she is too preoccupied to notice as he quietly slips into the woods.

The women venture into the forest, led by the chief’s favorite wife Tula. She leads them with confidence and sure-footedness in spite of her swollen belly and the nursing child strapped to her breast. She instructs them on where to find and pick the best plants, particularly the silphium, a magic plant that can heal the sick and allow a woman to forgo the burdens of pregnancy and childbearing if she so chooses. She jokes that the other women should learn from her example and they laugh. The girl steals her way around a large tree, looking for more plants and finds a large cluster nestled between the roots. She crouches and begins to fill her basket.

The boy stalks the rabbit through the forest, a stone knife clutched in one hand, eyes intent on his target. A few times, it slips out of sight, but he follows the trail of pawprints, urine patches, droppings and nibbled vegetation. His sister’s mating cries become fainter and fainter behind him until they are lost altogether, but he does not notice. He will make his first kill.

Having exhausted the cluster of plants nestled at the base of the tree, the girl notices another cluster located at the end of a small clearing. She picks up her basket and makes her way toward it.

The boy sees his chance and charges at the little animal, but he is clumsy and the animal flees. His knife stabs harmlessly at the air where the rabbit stood seconds before and he desperately chases after it.

The girl has filled her basket to overflowing when she hears what sounds like a large animal coming towards her through the bush. She stands up and faces the sound, stock still and silent as she has been taught. A rabbit bursts out of the bush and runs past her and following it is a…

She freezes.

He freezes.

The thing is like nothing she has ever seen before.

The thing is like nothing he has ever seen before.

It is in many ways like a boy, it has arms, legs, genitals, and a head very much like a boy’s. But it is not a boy. The thing is naked, apparently heedless of the cold, and the first thing she notices is it’s skin. Inhumanly pale skin, like the skin on the palms of her hands, but stretched out over the whole body, covered in fine hair that is red like flame. The hair on the head is shaggy like a beast’s and hangs down to the shoulders, straight like a horse’s mane, not tight and curly like human hair. A low forehead slopes down to two inhumanly bushy eyebrows that nearly meet in the middle, overhanging a shockingly large pair of eyes, the piercing grey blue of the sky. Its nose protrudes like the beak of a bird with large, deep nostrils. A chill runs up her spine as a realization begins to dawn on her.

It is in many ways like a girl, it has arms, legs, and a head much like a girl’s. But it is not a girl. It is something other and inhuman. In spite of the warm weather, the thing is wrapped in furs, as if for winter, and what little skin he can see is dark brown, save for the palms of the hands. It is uncannily tall and thin with a soft, babyish face, with a freakishly high and round forehead, and a small, flat nose and its hair stands out from its head like a thick bush. The hairs on his arms and the back of his neck stand on end as he realizes just what the apparition must be.

She screams frantically, refusing to let the thing take her away silently and without trace like the girls in the stories.

She thing shrieks and he turns and runs headlong into the bush, away from the shrieking thing and back to his sister and her mates.

“What is the matter, girl? We thought you were being mauled by a panther!”
“Oh mother! I saw a fire spirit!”
“Surely not, child!”
“It is true, mother.”
“What did it look like?”
“It had skin as pale as death and eyes like a hawk’s and hair like flame.”

“You stupid boy! Why did you leave me like that! You frightened me! I thought a beast of prey had taken you when I wasn’t looking! How could mother forgive me?”
“Sister, I saw a forest nymph!”
“You really are stupid. There is no such thing as forest nymphs. I made them up to scare you.”
“But I saw one!”
“What did it look like?”
“It was tall and thin as a sapling and covered in fur with skin as smooth and brown as wood and hair like leaves of a tree.”

The women return to the camp with the story of the girl’s encounter. Old Tuumbo’s blood runs cold. Fearing for his life, he does not tell the tribe about the time three nights ago when he woke up with a start to discover that the sacred hearth had gone out and madly scrambled to restart the flame before the rest of the tribe woke and noticed. Instead, he advises the men and women of the tribe to stay at the camp, to not hunt or gather or venture into the wilderness for any reason for a period of eight days while he communes with the spirits. He orders that the girl be placed in her own solitary shelter for the duration of this period, isolated from the other women with a guard stationed outside at all times. It is for her protection and the rest of the tribe’s women. They will do as they are told and stay within the camp, sustaining themselves on the flesh of the bison that the men slew earlier in the day.

The boy’s sister tells the story of the wood nymph to the rest of the clan and they laugh heartily. The boy is adamant, insisting that the story is true, but they shake their heads and laugh again. He is a dreamer, they say. He continues to insist and becomes increasingly defiant until an elder spanks him and tells him to keep his mouth shut. The next day, his sister leaves to join the clan of the three males she mated with in the forest, and the boy is left mostly alone. He avoids the company of the other boys, who tease him, and ventures by himself into the forest. He hopes that he may catch another glimpse of the wood nymph, and maybe, just maybe, this time she might take him back to her world.
I haven't finished any Terra Fabulosus stuff since the last one, so I thought I'd share this short story with you in the meantime.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconsin-and-love:
sin-and-love Featured By Owner May 18, 2016
Wow.  now that I've finished, that was an amazing story.  You should totally continue this into a novel!
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner May 19, 2016  Student General Artist
I have considered that, but that would probably mean reworking much of it.
Reply
:iconsin-and-love:
sin-and-love Featured By Owner May 18, 2016
This starts off almost like a slash fiction.
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner May 19, 2016  Student General Artist
How so?
Reply
:iconsin-and-love:
sin-and-love Featured By Owner May 20, 2016
Well, I can't really put my finger on it, to be honest.
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner May 21, 2016  Student General Artist
I can sort of see it. But I haven't read much slash or fanfic of any kind.
Reply
:iconthedubstepaddict:
TheDubstepAddict Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Verry cool, but ehats mature content bout this?
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2016  Student General Artist
Well, I don't know if it really needs it, but there is the brief description of neanderthal sex with the "mating cries" and all. I don't know, do you think it's unnecessary?
Reply
:iconthedubstepaddict:
TheDubstepAddict Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I don't think it's mature. Every kid asks someday^^
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2016  Student General Artist
True.
Reply
:iconthedubstepaddict:
TheDubstepAddict Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah ^^

I'm right everytime!
Reply
:iconhublerdon:
HUBLERDON Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Neanderthals were covered in hair? I thought they looked like humans.

Great story, by the way.
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2016  Student General Artist
They did, but they could have been fairly hairy considering the cold climate. They would have resembled hairier modern humans in that regard, not like apes or anything. The girl is from sub-saharan Africa, and people from this region tend to have little body hair.
Reply
:iconhublerdon:
HUBLERDON Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Cool!
Reply
:iconwatcherinthepuddle:
WatcherInThePuddle Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Really nice story, stands out among other stories about human-neanderthal interaction.
One thing though, I feel like neanderthals having pale skin is a trope. Pale skin most probably evolved to get more vitamin D when farmers adopted poorer diets. Neanderthals, having probably meat rich diets, wouldn't need this skin. I imagine them having them Inuit like skin tone. Maybe darker, as they didnt live that far north. 
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2016  Student General Artist
Here's an interesting take: www.newscientist.com/article/d…
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2016  Student General Artist
That's very interesting. I'll have to do more research.
Reply
:iconzaubererbruderasp:
ZaubererbruderASP Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow, I really like this story. It seems you're really good at writing short stories.
Reply
:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2016  Student General Artist
Thanks.
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:iconthemorlock: More from TheMorlock



Featured in Collections

Stories and Fanfiction by stranger86




Details

Submitted on
March 16, 2016
Link
Thumb

Stats

Views
304
Favourites
11 (who?)
Comments
19
×