The Fire Bearer

                For untold millenia the pack of Homo Erectus had clung to the river flowing through the savanna.   To them the river was a living thing as were the animals, the sky, the land and the mountains.  When the river was angry its waters would roll down into the valley spilling over its banks forcing the pack to retreat.  Sometimes it would shrivel until it became just a muddy trickle.  Then the pack would move south to the great lake.  The marshes were rich in birds and fish but in its depths crocodiles lurked. From the mountains to the lake it offered life in a dry land.  The lands out of sight of the river could offer only death so their pack clung to the river side.

Scavengers they survived on whatever could be found,  with sharpened sticks and flaked pesr-shaped stone  hand axes they stabbed and sliced up small mammals and reptiles. They picked berries and gathered birds eggs. Insects, grubs and whatever else they came across, nothing was turned away. As night fell they crept into small huts of brushes and leaves pinned by rocks  huddling against the dark and roaring of larger predators than they.  Unable to see they could only huddle together until the light should return.  In the day time they could chase away a lion from its kill by screaming at it and pelting it with stones and sticks but night belonged to the big cats.

Not one of the twenty-three brow-ridged ,brown skinned  members of the pack had a name or even the sense of what a name was.  They lived with one another as other animals would to survive, sharing, fighting, playing and reproducing.  When death claimed a member they would prod it, feel puzzled and sad and then move on.  So it had been.  So it would always be.  Occasionally the pack would encounter groups of creatures such as themselves.  Each group would screech and holler at the other fling stones sticks and clumps of dirt until one or the other would move off.

The eighteen adults and five children of the pact lived in an eternal now. Their past extended no further back then the earliest memories of its oldest member, the prime male, who at thirty-odd years was now edging into old age.  As for the future, the pact new that dark followed light and that light followed dark.  Anything beyond that was useable and unknowable.  They flaked crude stone axes and erected small circular huts out of whatever brushwood was available.  These skills over the millennia  were all that marked them out from the other animals with which they lived.

For the past five days they had been encamped along a small stream trickling down from a cone-shaped mountain that rose behind three tiny huts about a meter high.  Here free of spike grass that cut their brown, leathery skins, they chased fish in the river and gathered fruits.  The remains of a wildebeast corpse discarded by lions had provided them a feast.  They had eaten well but soon they would have to move on.

Four feet tall, dark skinned at twenty he had attained over two-thirds of his lifespan.  He and his mate had birthed three children.  The eldest had been taken by a lion, the second had taken ill and had died in the spring.  The other, three years old, lay besidethem.  In the dawn they and the rest of the band would follow the stream bed into the mountains searching for water and trees.  He and his mate lived on the fringe of the pact,  part of it yet not strong enough to challenge others for a larger share of food.

The creature stirred in the dark.  He reached out for his mate lying on her, feeling her comforting warmth. Then beneath his head he could feel a strange trembling of the earth.  Then  came  hooves pounding and something else, a deep rumbling.  He opened his eyes. Through the opening of the hut he could see that the darkness had been streaked by a red glare.

On his hands and knees he scrambled out of the hut.  As he stood he spied the other members of the pact staring  at the mountain.  Once lost in darkness it now glared above them,  its summit reddened with fire. Fire meant danger.  As the glowing deepened the ground shook. Then came the explosion great gusts of flame shooting out of the mountain.  A crimson burning river of lava spilled down the mountain streaming towards the grasslands.  Screaming in terror the pack fled across the burning plain dodging firebombs as they ran.  Around them bushes ignited in flame.

The prime male snsiffed the smoke filling the air.    For the pack there was only one escape, to find the one foe that could stop the burning predator, water, not just a trickle but enough to give the pack protectionhe prime male only a little way down the stream lay a waterhole big enough to give them shelter but to get there meant a mad blind dash through the grey half-light..  A mad scrambling over burning grass and wet rocks would follow, many being hurt or worse before they reached safety.  He grunted at the pack  and turned to sprint for the water.

Following behind his mate and their wailing cub the younger male ran  In the dim light of the early dawn he could not see the protruding root. Over it he stumbled pitching to the ground.  As he rose to his knees he found himself looking at the broken branch of a leleshwa tree, it’s olive green bark charred by fire.  He did not call it a leleshwa tree of course.  He did not call it anything.  The only thing about the plant that interested him was that its leaves and stems were edible.   Now it offered not food but danger.  A red flame burned at the end of the branch.  Fire he knew to be a more dangerous a predator than a lion or a jackal. Instinctively he shrank away from it.. tempted to leap up and flee with his mate and cub.  Yet he remained watching the flame.  Around the flame  formed a small pool of light on the ground.

The prime male snarled as the younger male approached a burning stick held above its head.  Then the snarl softened.  It could sense no threat in the young male’s stance.  It had never liked the youngster or his mate.   Every other member of the pack he understood.  He could read what they were thinking in their eyes.  Nothing was hifdden, anger, lust, tiredness, distaste.  Everything was there but with these two.  Their eyes were sometimes restless, sometimes still.   Always behind them something hidden. He had never sensed  a threat in them.Nor did he feel it now.

It gazed in muted fear at the flame.  When the young male held the burning stick out to him he stepped back.  Then he checked himself.  To show fear would be to show weakness.  How could he not refuse it?  With a trembling paw he took hold of the firestick.  Thre younger male then knelt down and picked up another burning branch.  He rose and stood next to the pack leader.  A pool of light surrounded  them.  The pack leader now understood  why he had been given the branch.  He waved the flame above his head watched by the other pack members.  Another male shielding his face from the flame picked up another brand.

Reassured by the light surrounding the three males the pack gathered.  The pack leader led them through the burning grass and fleeing herds to the shelter of the river.    There they waited, the adults waist high in the water children clinging to them as the grasslands burned.

The prime male watched the morning light spread over the plain. .  Through the night they waited, the adults up to their waists in the warm briown water, parents holding their young ones against them asd the grasslands burned around them.  The torches no longer needed had burned out. The leader glanced over at  the fire bearer.  The gift of the fire had saved their lives and yet. Why had he not thought of it?  Why the runt. Something about him made the prime male uneasy. Sooner or later he would have to be killed. First he would have to find food for the pack. In the morning the pack waded ashore unto the blackened land.  As they stepped over the cooling ashes they could see a half-burnt corpes of a young antelope.  The pack fell upon it.  First thr prime male, then his mates and cubs.  Last to eat was the fire-bearer, his mate and cub.

The pack tore at the sweet half-cooked meat gorging themselves.  Then, hunger satisfied, the pack rested beside the leader, except for the young male.  He and his mate were searching for something amidst the scorched grass.  The pack leader watched them through half-closed.  If  they were looking for fruits they would find nothing.  Perhaos some eggs.  He turned his thoughts to a greater problem. The pack would have to move on.  Meat they had but fresh vegetation had been destroyed.  Worse, come night they would have nothing to build shelters with.  There would be no protection from the lions.

The fire bearer had found what he had been looking for.  Beneath a layer of ash live coals still glowed.  He brushed the ashes away and blew upon the embers. A wisp of smoke curled up between the young male’s hands.  He had found embers still glowing beneath the ashes.  He fed it with bits of dried sticks and leaves, blowing on it until it glowed,  Then carefully he placed it in the bottom half of a broken ostrich shell.  His stomach full, his mind elsewhere, the prime male paid him no mind.

As rhey marched along the river that day he would stop every so often , bend down and feed it more grass anhd leaves.  So he kept it alive until they stopped in a yellow copse of  trees that had escaped the flames.  In the clearing the young male placed the living embers on the ground.  On it he placed grass and twigs.  Soon a small red flame appeared.  Only then did the other pack members notice what he was doing.

Amidst mutterings and fearful glances they backed away from the fire. The young male  took little notice of them. The afternoon edged into evening.  As his mate erected a small hut he sat beside the fire trimming a sapling with a stone axe.  Having narrowed one end to a point  he  held it over the fire.

As he watched the fire bearer the leader felt troubled. The young male threatened him and yet he did not know why or how. In a later age the leader would have had the threat killed  but among this small pack of Homo Erectus the concept of one killing the other was inconceivable.  Each member was too vital to the life of a pack.  Yes the leader had fought other males to become leader but once her had fought the others withdrew  No one had been killed.

He chewed a slice of fish the prime male watched his two mates erecting a small hut. He then glanced over at the young male and his stick.  What was he doing, poking at the fire?  The fire bearer pulled the stick out and looked at the tip,  He placed a finger on it as if testing it.  Then apparently satisfied  he stood and strode over to the prime male.  The prime male rose, his lips sounding a defensive snarl.  The fire bearer knelt and pointed the blunt end of the stick at him.  Puzzled the prime male looked down at him and wondered what he wanted.  Then he took the end of the offered stick.  Ignoring the kneeling fire bearer he examined it.  The fire-hardened tip was firm and sharp.  A good hunting weapon he thought.  He    clasped the stick, grunted and sat down again.  The fire bearer rose and returned to tending the flames.  Other tribe members came up to the prime male and examined the stick. Then they  went off  to search for similar sized sticks.  Soon they were grouped around the fire hardening their sticks.

In the past as evening settled the creatures would crouch in their tiny huts and wait for the morning.  Now they sat around the fire cooking, making tools and staring at the flames. The fire bearer sat beside the lake With a small stone he had made a small opening at the top.  Then he and his mate had drunk the fluid.  Instead of throwing the shell he had kept it.  Now he dipped the egg into the lake letting it fill with water.  Once it was full he plugged the hole with a clump of grass and placed it on the shore.

Somewhere far off a lion roared.  The camp fell silent. Then came another roar one of the young males mimicking the lion.  Another seizing his spear jumped up.  Dancing around the fire he pretended to hunt the lion.  The other members of the pack hooted and laughed.

The prime male sat down beside the fire bearer.  He looked at what the fire bearer had been working on, an ostrich egg, the  hole at the top plugged by grass.  Inside he could hear the splashing of water.  Running through every memory of his was the river.  Not once had it ever been out of his sight. He put the egg down. Useless.  Why did one need water from an egg when there was the river.  Besides, carrying the egg meant one less hand, a hand that could used for defense.  What was the good of it?

The Prime male looked up.  In the past when dark fell the pack members would huddle in their tiny huts, waiting for the dawn.  Now beside the fire sleep could wait.  As he looked up he saw the fires in the sky.  They were so many.  Who had lit them.  Other creatures such as he?  He touched the fire bearer by the left shoulder and pointed at the sky.

“Who?”

The fire bearer looked up.  He thought for a moment.  “The dead?”

The prime male grunted and turned back to the pictures dancing in the fire.

 

 

 

 

 

Michael McCann

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Islanders : Departures

 

Gehlen felt Gem’s right hand touching him. She was looking down at the table trying to keep him from seeing her eyes.  He turned to Edward.  “Maybe you had better explain what’s happening.”

Edward nodded.  “Of course.” He rose to his feet. . “Within the hour the two of you will cross into this new world to join your lost friends You will bring gifts of knowledge that you have acquired” You will join all the lost ones. Instead of wasting away into nothing, your home will become part of a new world.”

Gem shook her head. “Heinrich maybe, but not me. The portal will begin to self-destruct as soon as I leave.  I won’t do that to you, Edward.”

Edward bent oiverr and kissed her forehead. “Forgive me, Gem,  but I’ve made a few adjustments in the programming. Something I should have done a long time ago. I am now the guardian, not you.  Your life…” he looked at Gehlen, “is elsewhere now.”

“But what about you,” Gem asked

“When my work here is finished, I’ll cross over. I promise.”

“How will you cross over?” asked Gehlen

Edward smiled.  “Always an inspector.  I’ll think of something.”

Gem placed her head against Edward’s chest “No you won’t,” she murmured. “Someone has to close it.”

For a moment Gehlen could not speak. “You know the one thing I always liked about machines. At least they never lied.”

His right hand absently stroking Gem’s hair Edward nodded.  “Must be the human in me.”

Gehlen nodded. “Must be.  Do we have to  destroy it?”

Edward nodded. “Yes.”

“But no one ever comes here.”

“Doesn’t matter. It is too dangerous to leave it to fate., You know that inspector.”

“Yes. I know.”

An hour later, laden with knapsacks supplied by Edward Gem and Gehlen passed  through the portal.  As ther air shimmered around them their last sight was a smiling Edward. “See you soon” he said.

For one last time Edwardlooked upon  Gem. Then she was gone.  It was not right he told himself. Machines should not cry.

***

Edward’s image image flickered out. The energy needed to hold the mounting heat at bay could no longer be diverted into holoprograms.  He estimated that the portal’s defenses could last a few more minutes, but no more than that.

It had taken three months to complete the transfers of materials to the new world.  The records had been the first to go, then tools, food.  Excess wiring and electrical switches, the trees from Gem’s garden had been transplanted, anything of any conceivable value. Up to the moment when she stepped into the portal for the last time, held up by Gehlen, Gem had been thinking of ways that would allow Edward to cross.

All had failed.  His life depended upon the portal. It would end with the portal. They could bring a program of Edward, a simulation, but not him. “It doesn’t matter” he had told her.  “I have had a good life.  Now you do the same.”

He knew now that the transfers complete he should have shut the portal down once they had left, setting it on self-destruct.  It no longer served any practical role. Instead he had left the portal room and had wandered the empty halls, looking into rooms he had not looked into for ages.

Now that was done. There was nothing else left to do but wait.  The upper stories were gone now claimed by the searing heat, with it the power to allow him to manifest himself as a solid three-dimensional being.  Now confined to the computer he could only wait. He calculated that the portal had another ten minutes before the heat claimed it.

At first he could not believe what he was sensing.  A fault triggered by the heat.

“Eloise?”

She nodded.

Then he did something else a machine should never do.  He stumbled over his words.  “H–have you come to take me away?”

She shook her head. “No.  I wish I could.”

“Then why?”

“I thought that you could use the company.”

Being to perspire she removed her outer clothing. Edward observed a pendent of iron stone suspended from her neck but made no comment.  His thoughts were elsewhere.  “You should not have come.”

She shrugged “Odd.  I haven’t been back here for so long and you never left.  Yet I feel that we’ve traveled the same road.”

“You should not have come back.”

“Where else can I go?”

“They need you.”

“No. Not anymore.”

Eloise sat down on the warm floor beside Edward’s console and leaned her head against the wall. “Even Gods don’t live forever.”

“Would you really want to go through with it again?” Edward asked

“If we could, why not?”

A minute passed.

“It will be good to see Tom again and Mathew.”

“Do you think you shall?”

‘Oh yes.”

“What about me?”

“You too, Edward.”

“What if you’re wrong?”

“Well, we’ll soon know.”

“I’m glad you came back.”

She closed her eyes.   “So am I.”

“Do you think that they’ll be all right?”

“Who?”

“The settlers?”

“Yes. I think so.” She wished that Tom had been able to see the planet, to know that what they had hoped for all those long years ago was now coming true.

“That’s something then.”

Another minute passed. Only one small red light shone on the console. Edward spoke, his voice now a faint whisper.  “Shouldn’t we sing a song or something?  It might help.”

Eloise looked up.  She had never heard Edward sing or express an interest in music.  What song?”

“One of Tom’s.  An ancient tune, a favourite of his. I always liked it.”

“Why not.”

His voice barely audible, Edward began to sing.

Oh Shenandoah, I love thy daughter.

Away, you rolling river.

Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter.”

Eloise remembered the words that Tom would often sing.

The red light blinked out. Louise hesitated for a moment and then resumed singing.

“Away, I’m bound away,

Across the wide Missouri.”

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Gracias Peru

Gracias Peru

In the early spring of 2012 Lyn and I decided to travel to Peru. We had not been to Latin America before and Lyn thought that we should see Machu Picchu before we got too much older. I must admit to some foreboding as we decided to go. Peru had a reputation for political inability, corruption and rural terrorism. To complicate matters I had a history of atrial fibrillation and was unsure how high altitudes would affect my condition but I had been to mountainous regions before. Travel had taught me that most fears tended to be unfounded so off we went. Almost as an afterthought Lyn bought travel insurance, the first time she had done so in all our years of travelling.

What is unknown we tend to generalize. It is so easy. Africa is poor. Asia is crowded. New Yorkers are noisy. Once I was told, “you know Africa.” I told the person that I knew what it was like to live in a small town in northern Nigeria in the early eighties and in a small town in Zimbabwe in the mid to late eighties but as for knowing Africa? There are over fifty countries in Africa, hundreds of ethnic groups. How can anyone claim to know it? Yet I was just as quick to generalize about South America.

Peru consist of four major areas the coastal plain, the highlands or Altiplano, the mountains and the Amazon jungle. We hoped to see three of them, travelling from Lima to Machu Picchu. Then we turn south back to Cuzco, down to Lake Titicaca. From there we hoped to go back to the coast through Arequipa . We would follow the coastal plains north to Lima. Then everything changed.

We had a good day at Puno. We looked out over Lake Titicaca, booked into a bed and breakfast, chartered a trip out on the lake for the morning. Then we went out to see the town. Four o’clock in the morning 19th of May. I had a A vivid image of pink. My right arm then began thrashing. Lyn Who is a practical nurse by training realized that something was very wrong. She dressed me sand then went out into the hallway looking for help. I remember two odd things. There was no pain, just a numbness paralyzing my body. Secondly and perhaps even odder I remained aware of everything that was happening. I knew that Lyn was dressing me. I knew that she was going into the hallway to get help. I knew that she returned with two men who lifted me up and carried me downstairs. I knew that I was being put into a taxi. There was nothing that I could do or say. It was only later, much later back in Canada that I finally understood what had happened. I had contracted pneumonia. Combined with atrial fibrillation and the thinness of the air in Puno. it had precipitated a brainstem stroke.

The taxi raced through the streets of Puno. Twice the driver tried hospitals. Twice we were turned away. Then on the third try we were admitted at the Pro-Salud Clinic . As a stretcher took me on Lyn paid the driver. He would not accept more than tem sols, equivalent to five dollars.

In the clinic I was placed on intravenous and a respirator while Doctor Rendo and his staff tried to determine what was wrong. Pneumonia was immediately diagnosed. The stroke became apparent after I mentioned that I was having double vision. Most of the time I was struggling to breathe. I felt myself falling with vivid images of people walking on their heads. Always I felt cold. Through it all I understood some of what was going on around me. Both Lyn and Doctor Rendo contacted our health insurance company and informed them of what was happening. I remember the doctor talking to Lima and to the Health Insurance convincing both that my evacuation was critical.

To complicate matters even more the stroke had paralyzed my throat muscles making it impossible for me to swallow. During thre three days in the clinic the only nourishment I remember is sipping a slice of orange Lyn brought me. Oddly enough, I did not feel hungry. Even so it was evident that I would have to be flown to Lima as soon as possible. On the fourth day several stout men wearing uniforms arrived. They hustled me into an ambulance and drove me to the nearest airport. I was placed on a plane (Canadian-made) and flown across the Andes to Lima. From Lima airport I was placed in an ambulance and siren blaring raced through Lima traffic to Ricardo Palmer Clinic in the San Isidro District of Lima. What followed were long days tied to machines, coughing up phlegm unable to move knowing little of what was happening. Endless days of being attached to machines unable to do anything except long for home.

Over and over the nurses repeated the same words. “Restez Tranquile.” Be still. Do nothing not that there was much that I could do. My entire right side was unresponsive. I could not move my right leg. My right arm heavy as lead. One brain seemed to be living in two bodies.

In such a situation the mind often thinks strange things. For reasons that I still cannot understand I had a great fear of being left alone in Lima. As the days dragged on I mentioned to Lyn that if worse came to worse and there was no prospect of my returning to Canada she should leave without me. She took my left hand. “We came on the same plane. We leave on the same plane.”

Three weeks after arriving in the clinic I was finally brought home on a direct flight from Lima to Toronto, the only time I ever travelled first class. In Toronto I was placed in a limo and driven to Kingston General Hospital. A week later I was transferred to Saint Mary’s by the Lake where I remained until the end of August.

Now at home I look out over snow covered lawn and remember. The doctors and nurses of Peru saved me, not because of what I am but because of what they are. They are truly the hands of God. I took a stranger that was broken and tended him until he was well enough to go home. I will never see them again but I will never forget. Gracias Peru.

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On Being Disabled

An Address to Medical Students 

I have a physical disability, a partial paralysis of my right side, affecting my right leg and shoulder and sense of balance It stems from a stroke that I suffered in May of 2012. The direct cause of the stroke was the eruption of a blood clot in my lower brain stem. The roots of the stroke lie with sleep apnoea and which I suspect I have suffered from since I was in my twenties.

The odd thing about sleep apnoea is that the sufferer often remains oblivious to it. I knew that I snored. Who doesn’t. It was not until after I was married that I suspected that there was something wrong with my sleeping pattern. Drowsiness during the day, poor concentration, physical clumsiness, are all symptomatic of apnea. Over a long period of time it can also contribute to a stroke. For very short periods the body stops breathing. It will then start suddenly pulling in air. Finally in 2008 it was detected and I was prescribed a C-PaP mask.

In the early spring of 2012 Lyn and I decided to travel to Peru. We had not been to Latin America before and we thought that we should see Machu Picchu before we got too much older. I must admit to some foreboding as we decided to go. Peru had a reputation for political inability, corruption and rural terrorism. To complicate matters I had a history of atrial fibrillation and was unsure how high altitudes would affect my condition but I had been to mountainous regions before. Travel had taught me that most fears tended to be unfounded so off we went. Almost as an afterthought Lyn bought travel insurance, the first time she had done so in all our years of travelling.

Peru consist of four major areas the coastal plain, the highlands or Altiplano, the mountains and the Amazon jungle. We hoped to see three of them, travelling from Lima to Machu Picchu. Then we would turn south back to Cuzco, down to Lake Titicaca. From there we hoped to go back to the coast through Arequipa and follow the coastal plains north to Lima. Then everything changed.

May 18. We had a good day at Puno. We looked out over Lake Titicaca, booked into a bed and breakfast, chartered a trip out on the lake for the morning. Then we went out to see the town. Four o’clock in the morning 19th of May. I had a vivid image of pink. My right arm then began thrashing. Lyn who is a practical nurse by training, realized that something was very wrong. She dressed me and then went out into the hallway looking for help. I remember two odd things. There was no pain, just a numbness paralyzing my body. Secondly and perhaps even odder I remained aware of everything that was happening. I knew that Lyn was dressing me. I knew that she was going into the hallway to get help. I knew that she returned with two men who lifted me up and carried me downstairs. I knew that I was being put into a taxi. There was nothing that I could do or say. It was only later, much later back in Canada that I finally understood what had happened. I had contracted pneumonia. Combined with atrial fibrillation and the thinness of the air in Puno. it had precipitated a brainstem stroke. What probably saved my life was that it occurred about four in the morning when I was in bed. If I had collapsed on a street the resultant internal bleeding might have killed me.

The taxi raced through the streets of Puno. Twice the driver tried hospitals. Twice we were turned away. Then on the third try we were admitted at the Pro-Salud Clinic . As a stretcher took me on Lyn paid the driver. He would not accept more than tem sols, equivalent to five dollars.

In the clinic I was placed on intravenous and a respirator while Doctor Rendo and his staff tried to determine what was wrong. Pneumonia was immediately diagnosed. The stroke became apparent after I mentioned that I was having double vision. Most of the time I was struggling to breathe. I felt myself falling with vivid images of people walking on their heads. Always I felt cold. Through it all I understood some of what was going on around me. Both Lyn and Doctor Rendo contacted our health insurance company and informed them of what was happening. I remember the doctor talking to Lima and to the Health Insurance convincing both that my evacuation was critical.

To complicate matters even more the stroke had paralyzed my throat muscles making it impossible for me to swallow. During the three days in the clinic the only nourishment I remember is sipping a slice of orange Lyn brought me. Yet I did not feel hungry. Even so it was evident that I would have to be flown to Lima as soon as possible. On the fourth day several stout men wearing uniforms arrived. They hustled me into an ambulance and drove me to the nearest airport. I was flown across the Andes to Lima. From Lima airport I was placed in an ambulance and siren blaring raced through Lima traffic to Ricardo Palmer Clinic in the San Isidro District of Lima. What followed were long days tied to machines, coughing up phlegm unable to move knowing little of what was happening. Endless days of being attached to machines unable to do anything except long for home.

Over and over the nurses repeated the same words. “Restez Tranquile.” Be still. Do nothing not that there was much that I could do. My entire right side was unresponsive. I could not move my right leg. My right arm heavy as lead. One brain seemed to be living in two bodies., one part responsive the other alien, belonging to a stranger.

Three weeks after arriving in the clinic I was finally brought home on a direct flight from Lima to Toronto, the only time I ever travelled first class. In Toronto I was placed in a limo and driven to Kingston General Hospital. A week later I was transferred to Saint Mary’s by the Lake where I remained until the end of August.

The Recovery

In my first days in Saint Mary’s I was unable to do much more then turn myself over in bed. To be moved to a wheelchair the nurses had to use a hoist. The stroke had left my brain bruised and swollen making it difficult to turn my neck The erupting blood clot had severely damaged my sense of balance. It had taken away my ability to control my right limbs and also left me susceptible to vertigo. To further complicate matters I had also developed pneumon8ia. From this level t my recovery began.

I had always imagined that a stroke would result in a coma and a loss of mental awareness. In fact I never lost consciousness and I was always aware of what was going on around me. From the time of the stroke three physical factors assisted in my recovery. I never lost feeling on my right side. The feelings differed from the left side and certainly in the beginning I lacked motor control. I often felt as if I was living in two different bodies but the feelings were there. The leg and arm could eventually be brought back under control. The second factor was that I had the great luck to be left-handed. The stroke had left my left arm unimpaired. This allowed me to write and to signal to people. It would also prove invaluable as I regained some degree of mobility. The third and most important fact was that the stroke did not affect my cognitive abilities. I could still think, understand my situation and develop methods and co-operate in programs that would assist my recovery. Instead of being a passive inert figure I could become an active partner in my recovery. One of the first things the PT instructors had to do was to get me to realign my sense of balance. They began with a mirror. With it they made me understand that my mind still clung to my old sense of balance which had shifted to the right. I had to relearn how to sit up. Then followed an intensive series of abdominal and leg exercises. This continued for over a month. In my own room I would practice standing usually leaning against the bed or window still. I would even make a tentative stepor two trying to get my right foot to co=operate with my left. Pushing at the edge of what I knew I could do I struggled to gain one more step, one more moment on my feet. Now able to move around in a wheelchair I removed the leg supports to propel myself by my feet feeling that it was a way to learn to walk again.

At home while still using the wheelchair I would practice standing and slowly began to walk again, graduating to a walker and then to a cane. By spring I could hobble about and with the assistance of a walker and my son I walked a block. It left me exhausted, struggling with every step, but I did it. The recovery goes on. For what progress I made I the doctors and nurses in Peru who saved my life, the staff of KGH, the Therapists in Saint Mary’s, the rock of my my life, Lyn and David my son. Their combined efforts made it possible for me to walk again and to enjoy life.

As a former English teacher I have always been interested in the meaning of words. During the time I spent recovering I considered what being disabled meant. A disability is a limitation that prevents an individual from doing something. In considering my disability it occurs to me that there is not a human soul anywhere who does not suffer from some sort of disability, be it physical, psychological, emotional, or educational. Disabilities should not separate people. We are all struggling to do the best we can within our limitations. Disabilities should bring us together, reminding us that they are merely part of being human.

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The Islanders : Louise

Almost three million years before Australopithecus had first stepped upon this world. For half a million years it had existed, scavenging for food, reproducing, slowly multiplying. But its numbers had never been great. The climate changed. Its food supply dwindled. Like so many other species before and after it, its failure adapt had meant its extinction. But it had also failed in another greater sense. It never evolved into another race. Man never came to this world.

Thirteen planetary probes had failed to find anything closer to man then tribes of monkeys. Louise stood by the banks of the great brown river that flowed through a land of deep rich soil covered in oak and cypress trees. A breeze cool and heavy with moisture brushed past her. She found it hard seemed to believe that after all this time that it existed.. Yet here it was. A world that man had never stepped upon,, rich as Earth had once been rich. Yes. It would do. As she waked along the great brown river she could the houses rising. It would be good to hear voices again.

***

Louise sat at a table in the canteen nursing a mug of coffee. She wore a brown jumpsuit and black boots. Her

graying black hair she had tied in a bun. She looked up as Gem, Gehlen and Edward entered. She stood and smiled.

“It is so good to see you again.”

She nodded at Gehlen, and embraced Edward and Gem.

“Why are you here?” Gehlen asked.

“I found it.”

“It?” Gehlen asked. Edward and Gem remained silent.

The wall in front of them flickered. Louise sat on a folding chair perched on grassy slope. Dressed in jacket, black pants and boots she seemed to be resting after hiking through the pine trees behind her. It had been raining. Her hair a sodden mat of black fringed her forehead. Behind her could be heard the pattering of raindrops and the twittering of birds.

you have no reason to trust me. Ithis I know. have been shameless in my use of you, especially of those I have known longest, Gem, Edward and Tom. I am not asking for forgiveness for that. Two things I can promise you. The first, and the one that most of you will be glad to hear, is that you will never hear from me again. The second is that you are about to enter a world better then any than any that you have ever known. The co-ordinates for this planet have been placed into the portal. They have also been transmitted to your home world. Once you cross over you will no longer be dependent upon this portal.”

The camera lens swung away from Louise sweeping past the trees and coming to rest upon a river valley. The green of the fields and trees bore a lushness he had not seen since before coming to Home.

The lens swung back to Louise who was sniffing a yellowish- white flower.

Odd thought Gehlen. She actually looked happy. Not just pleased or amused as he had often seen her in the past but completely happy.

It has taken so long to find this world. Do you remember, Edward, Gem, we assumed that it would be so easy. Earthlike worlds number in the millions. Well, they do. The problem was finding one never touched by a human hand.”

Gem, rising, leaned towards the screen. Edward motioned her to keep silent.

Louise continued. “The worse thing about living in a dying world is that it has no room for a dream. The portal was the last vestige of your race. We were its last keepers,the five of us. Even at that we knew that we would be the last. Three would leave for destined roles in a distant past. Two would be left for maintenance and protection of the portal. Protection from what? “

Louise turned to Heinrich. “What I have to say now is mainly for you Inspector Gehlen. To live without a dream, knowing that after you there will be nothing. Can you imagine living like thast Inspector?”

I think so.”

Saving the lost ones, using them to build a new world, a new historMathew wanted to save his sister, just one. Then came othersd. A few ayt first. The agency tried isolating them to aremote islands restricting rescue to dozens. Of course, we had other plans. We thought by an end run around history we could establisdh them on an earth long abandoned by humanity. Whatr we didn’t consider fully was why it had been abandoned. Depletion of natural resouces, soil exhaustion. As thr settlements grew we realized that the earth that had once sheltered us could no longer be home for more than as few thousands

As the years passed we asked if there could not be another Earth? Sam Habib with his discovery of alternative universes pointed the way. If we could find an alternative Earth on which man had never evolved. We kn ew that we could find but not how long it would take. How many parallel univertses there were. “

On million, threre hundred, eighty-two thousand, six hundred vand thirty seven, at last count” said Edward.

We could restore millions, not be rewriting the past of a former world, no, but by extending to a place it had never been before. We knew that somewhere in the vastness of space and time there had to be a world. But finding it?”

We never understood how long that would take. I’m sorry. I’m going on too long. All data concerning this planet is now being entered into your systems Edward. Once it’s done we can begin evacuation from the settlements. We will scatter the settlers on periods to avoid cultural conflict..”

Oh, I should add that the chosen have adapted well; an occasional cold and skin rash but nothing serious

Chosens” Gehlen asked.

The ones you call missing. We prefer to think of them as the chosen. They were selected to be first settlers on ther new earth.”

The air around her began to shimmer.

I”ve given Edward the co ordinates for our new home. Gem. Edward, you can begin demolition.”

Louise vanished.

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Islanders : The Visitor

The Visitor

Gehlen felt the white stubble on his face. An old man now, he looked back at Gem still asleep. She had also aged but only out of courtesy to him. That should bother him he thought but what bothered him more was that long after she was gone she would remain alone here, except for Edward.

“But this is my home,” she had told him. “Where else should I be? Besides we won’t be the only couple that has been separated.”

Not for the first time Gehlen wondered why he did not resent being here, brought here as he had been under false pretences. He should have left. Gem would not have stopped him and probably not Edward. Now he knew he never would.

When he returned to the bed Gem was sitting up watching a distant dhow slipping silently through the green Arabian Sea. They were vacationing on a holographic recreation of the early twenty-first century Omani port of Salalah.

“It was a beautiful world, wasn’t it?” she asked as he slipped back into bed.

“Yes. It was.”

“I know that you miss it.”

“Well, you can only be at one place at one time. I like it here.”

It had taken Gehlen a long time to believe that. He had told her the truth about her life, holding back nothing, including the life of Jane Christian.

“She must have been a remarkable person?”

Gehlen nodded. “Yes. She was.”

She had said nothing more.

As time passed she had revealed to him more and more of the secrets of the complex. “In ancient times people would place objects in the ground for future generations to open”

“Time capsules?”

“Essentially that’s what this place is.”

“So who will open it?”

She smiled. “I don’t know. Someone.”

He now knew that Gem had been transcribing and why, the original words of humanity’s great spiritual leaders and philosophers over the first five thousand years of written history.

“I’m trying to capture the best of what were humanity’s dreams. Someone should remember them.”

“And the worst? Should that be remembered?”

“I think that’s already been done.”

“But who are you writing this for? There is no one to read it.”

“Maybe someday there might be someone.”

“But why by hand? The computer can do it within a few seconds.”

“That’s not how they were written. If we do it too easily, we forgot it too easily. Besides, not every culture has computers.”

He had also learned why they were alone in the complex. “This world” Gem had told him “was the cradle of the human race. Like all cradles, once its occupant grew up, it was left behind and forgotten.”

“So what happened to humanity?”

“It moved out across a thousand worlds. For all I know it’s still moving out.”

“Then it escaped extinction?”

“Yes and no. Its descendents live on but the race that you know does not exist anymore. Like all other species it changed. The race that dreamed, that wrote those words, vanished a long time.”

Many things had been left behind and forgotten, left to moulder in forgotten closets. One had a papyrus roll curled inside a clay vase extracted by a time traveler from a burning house in a Jerusalem being pillaged by the Roman army. On it had been a gospel written in classic Aramaic. But the brushstrokes were rough, the work of a man more used to the physical labour of a carpenter then that of a scholar. A backwoodsman, abysmally ignorant of the world outside of his own land, knowing nothing of science and yet….as Gehlen read the transcribed words, words that spoke of mercy and love, of the dignity inherent in each human being he understood the need to preserve them.

Gem was now working on recording the words of Ahmoses, the renegade Egyptian prince and priest who had combined the Pharaoh Akenaton’s concept of Sun worship with the Habiru tribal concept of Yahweh. Unable to accept the restoration of the old gods, he had fled into the wilderness of Sinai.

Stowed now the cot Gehlen had once used. Closed the cubicle that had once been Gem’s room. Now they shared a two-bedroom apartment upon the ground floor just a step away from the trees and garden. They only had to look out the large back window to see the tiny lake and thick green grass fringing it, the last speck of water on a planet most of whose surface had once been covered with oceans. The spare bedroom Gehlen had converted into a library and study.

A steady beeping sound roused them from sleep. They opened their eyes to see Edward, dark tall and slim, 

dressed in a white Omani robe and turban, his feet in black, open-toed sandals. “Sorry to disturb you. We have a viaitor.”

Gehlen stirred. “Visitor? Who?”

“Louise.”

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Beginnings

Beginnings

They had been there but had left. A month. perhaps more, thought Judy. She stepped down from her hoverrcraft. Careful not to touch anything, she filmed the site. Now abandoned it had once been a temporary home to a band of Homo Ergasters. Three grass huts had been grouped around a hearth all now abandoned. Dried clumps of excrement littered the site. Judy noted that there seemed to be no communal toilet. No sign of shit with the huts though. A step towards civilization thought Eloise. Had they determined a connection between excreting and digestion, something even the most primitive cultures understood. It would be interesting to know she herself as was the custom with agents had made use of a bathroom before crossing. Another way of minimizing one’s effect on the local environment. Knowing that they might be useful in determining diet and health she took out a plastic bag and a pair of tweezers. She slipped two clumps of dried excrement into the bag, sealed and labelled it and then tucked it into her knapsack

Judy had crossed over about a kilometer upstream from the encampment. The camp’s location, determined by fossilized remains of hominid bones and a fire pit had been by an ancient creek bed. The agency had chosen late July when the African summer would be at its driest, knowing that the creek would be little more than a trickle, and that the band would probably have moved on in search of water and food. Following the rounded rocks that made up the creek bed Judy had hiked towards the camp.

She stepped towards what remained of the huts. Once grouped around a fire they represented the first known swellings built by human hands. . A few branches of acacia trees had been dragged over the ground and piled one of top of another, nothing more. Yet they had been the beginning of human architecture. On a shelf of rock jutting into the creek trickling past the settlement she had found something perhaps even more significant. Here Homo Ergaster had shaped stone axes. With these he had trimmed branches into spears. He had become a toolmaker and a tool carrier. There lay the problem. How did he carry them? That question among others had brought here to this tiny creek in what would later become part of Kenya.

Every animal species that makes use of wood or stone to get food discards that tool once the job is done. Did Ergaster do the same? If i did it could be argued that its action was instinctual. But was a hand axe instinctive? If it was it would have been abandoned as soon as it had done its job.

Three days before Judy had stood on the pebbled beach of an island in the middle of what would later become Lake Ontario. The island by her lifetime would become known as Pigeon Island. She had stepped through the portal into the bright sunlight of a late spring day. Her eyes watered from the light, her stomach from the surge of nausea that she felt whenever she crossed over. More experienced travellers told her that she would get accustomed to the crossing. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

“A bit like motion sickness,” Doctor Ramos had told her. “Nausea. Dizziness. Happens to everyone. That’s why anyone subject to vertigo is disqualified from being an agent.”

Her queasiness had been one of many doubts concerning her suitability as an agent. As she had lain on her narrow bed in her tiny cubicle of a room she had considered every reason why she should not be chosen to step through the portal.

At the end of their third years cadets at the School of Temporal Studies in New Horizons had to present a proposal for a Time Mission, something both practical economically and promising greater understanding of a specific part of the past. Student marks were based upon style of presentation and and practicality. Ninety per cent of the projects were dismissed as ultimately impractical. The remaining ten per cent were studied by the board of governors. Of these one would be chosen for practical implementation. The one chosen was that submitted by Cadet Wheeler.

Thomas Bascombe reached down and picked up a flat pebble. He sent it skipping over the waves. Foolish thing to do he thought as it skipped over the waves. A director should act like a director, not like a school boy. Yet he could not help himself. At least no one had seen him. Overhead a flock of geese winged northward. Early for them. Could be a cold winter coming. Somewhere on the north shore of the lake roamed a band of Algonquin. On the south shore Iroquois would be harvesting maize. Here on the islands flocks of birds were the only visitors. One of the nicest things about history he thought was being able to step outside of it.

Behind him the clear air shimmered. A woman dressed in blue jacket and slacks appeared. Cross cropped black hair, snub-nosed, a fringe of thin black hair covering her upper lip,a body too small for her head, a look of respectful suspicion in her small, black eyes, Agent Wheeler was not the prepossessing person he had ever met. Bascombe nodded at her and turned back to the lake. Saved as a baby from the Titanic she was one of the very few from the past trained as an agent. Only one per cent at most had the requisite skill and aptitude for the task. She must have something in her to have caught the attention of her teachers. Intelligence of course but that was not enough.

Judy blinked. Nervous she had expected to materialize inside an office. Instead she stood on a shoreline that reminded her of the coast at her mother’s home in Rivermouth. Then she saw Director Bascombe his back to her, tossing stones into the water . She waited politely for the man to notice her. When he reached down for another stone. She coughed. “Sir?”

Without looking at her the man tossed another pebble out into the lake. “Agent Wheeler. You’re probably thinking that I’m wasting my time. You would be wrong, Agent Wheeler. Time is infinite. How can you waste the infinite? Life though, that is something else.”

He turned and smiled. “You’re standing on P{geon Island. It’s in the middle of Lake Ontario. The year is 1500 AD, Terrestial Time. We’re completely alone. No one will come here for at least another century, except me and my guests. Let’s see. You were born in 1911. Yes?”

Judy nodded. “I won’t be born for several millennia. You come from a society thirty seven million years in the future with a mid to late twenty-first century technology. Time Travel does require a certain flexibility of thought, don’t you think?”

“Yes Sir.”

Bascombe nodded. “Judy Wheeler? We took you off the Titanic didn’t we?”

“Yes sir. I was just an infant then. Mother and I were traveling to be with father. He was working in Michigan. We were to meet him when we docked in New York.”

“Yes. I know. I suppose she doesn’t care much for me or the agency?”

“No, sir. It’s more complicated than that.”

“How so?”

“Well, my father and mother had only been married for three years when he went to New York. For years after the agency settled us in New Hope Mother kept hoping that they would bring father. Beings with the power to save thousand and give them new lives, what was so difficult about uniting a woman with her husband?”

“And you? Do you feel that way?”

“Time has its rules. I know that. Years later mother remarried. A good man, he gave her three children. She made a new life for herself. Part of her still misses father.”

“Natural enough. One of the hardest tasks we have is explain to older people why they can never go back to their homes. Very few,if any, ever understand it. I understand you would like to concentrate on anthropology after you graduate?”

“Yes sir.”

“In field work?”

“Yes sir.”

Bascombe nodded. “Of course. Come. Walk with me.” He led her along a path across a small clearing away from the shore They followed a grass path that led through a copse of spruce. In the middle of the trees was a small clearing. Here two camp stools and a small folding table had been placed. On the table was a coffee pot, two mugs, milk, sugar and a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies.

Bascombe asked her to sit. “As you know its customary to exchange a few words with an agent before they go on their first mission. Milk? Sugar?”

“Thank you, sir.”

“A cookie? My wife made them this morning.”

“Yes please.”

“I read your paper sugesting that we investigate Homo ERgaster technology. Interesting. Ausstralopithecus, Ramapithecus, apes with humanlike traits. Homo Erectus, Homo Ergaster, humans with diminishing apelike traits. With Homo Erectus came the firsts, the first making of tools, the first use of fire and possibly the first use of language. With these came other first, a sense of the past and of the future. A sense of self-awareness. The first humans. That is where our history began.” He turned to her and smiled. “Your words?”

Bascombe poured out two cups of coffee and placed two cookies on a saucer.

Too nervous to be hungry and yet not wishing to be polite Judy nibbled at a cookie. “They’re very good, sir.”

“Glad you like it. As you probably know there were 1526 victims on the Titanic. 333 bodies were found at sea. That meant that at best we could save just under twelve hundred people. You were one of those. Do you know why we chose you.”

“I was listed among the missing.”

“Exactly. Records indicate that your body was never found therefore your death was part your era’s normal history. Without some kind of documentation it becomes very difficult to decide who to save or not to save. Everything about the shipwreck had been documented so deciding who we could and could not save was not a difficulty. Now, getting back to your paper, you cl aim that we may have underestimated Ergastor technology. Why?

” Australopithecus Aransas it would seem was using stones to hammer and cut carcasses three million years ago. two million years before Homo Habilis. The popular image of Homo Habilis is that of naked creatures armed with nothing more than sticks Yet we know they possessed fire and carried stone hand axes. We know that because examples of both have survived. What we have is, at best, an incomplete image .”

“Explain.”

“All we know of their technology is what has survived, a few stone tools and remnants of fire pits. Yet they must have employed other things as well. Wood, bone, mud, ivory, feathers, perhaps even hides. None of these have survived. That does not mean they were not used.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. You could be wrong.”

“Yes sir. I could.”

“You are aware that in terms of brain size Homo Ergastor averaged at most 900cc. Homo Sapiens is 1300. How do we know Ergastor was intellectually capable of significant technological advancement

“They did it with fire. Why not with other things.”

Bascombe nodded. “And the only way to know that is to look. So that is what you are going to do; if you are willing. Are you willing, Cadet Wheeler?”

“Yes, sir. I am.”

“I thought you would be. So that is what you will do. Remember, Look, but nothing more. We know so little about the time you will be going to. Any interference on our part could be disastrous for our history as a species. Place microscanners, observe, record, examine artifacts. Draw conclusions. Avoid all personal contact. Observe, but do not allow yourself to be seen. Is that understood?”

“Yes sir.”

“I hope so. You will be on your own. At any sign of danger withdraw. We don’t want to have to explain a million year old fossilized homo sapiens.”

“Yes sir.”

Bascombe nodded. “There’s been some talk of creating temporal preserves, of moments in early history and prehistory off limits to travellers. What do you think of the idea?”

“Personally, sir?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think it would work.”

“Why not.”

“From the few remains that we have we can estimate that Homo Habilis existed for at least eight hundred thousand years. They existed from Africa to the Far East. A time period that vast, an area that large cannot be patrolled not with the resources that we have and not with our present technology. Plus we can assume that travellers from the future will have better technology than us. “

“True enough. Would you like to know why we chose your suggestion Agent Wheeler?”

“Yes sir.”

“Your passion for your subject. Where I come from, that’s a rare commodity. It reminds me of Mathew Foley.”

“Doctor Foley?”
“Yes.

There were actually several scientists working on Time Travel. He was the furthest behind. His theory was good but he lacked resources and support. Yet he was the one who won through. The others were working out of curiousity and scientific ambition, or doing it for patriotic reasons. Mathew was trying to save his sister.”

“His …?

“Susan Foley was a drug addict, consumed with hatred for herself, her brother and everyone else she knew. When she was four she had been raped by her father. That was the family she and Mathew came from. One night in Toronto her body was found stuffed into a garbage bin in Toronto. She had been tortured, her throat cut. The evening before she had left a message for Mathew asking him to call her. Mathew found the message the day after he heard of her death.”

“Mathew believed that somehow if he could reach back through time, he could save her. That is what he did. He did save Susan. But not as Susan Foley. He gave her a new life but he could not make her part of his life. Not without violating the timeline The only way he could save her was to give her a life on a timeline different from his own . ”

“So they never met.”

“I never said that. They did come together. Twice. When Susan was brought unconscious into our clinic Mathew was there. He remained by her side until the time came to waken her into her new life. The other, half a terrestrial century later. Susan had spent her life working at a mission school in Northern Botswana close to the Zambian and Zimbabwean borders. Mathew had one wish, to see her again before he died. So my wife and I took him there. He must have been approaching one hundred then. We knew it would be his last trip and advised against it. We told him about the danger to his health but he insisted. So we drove from Vic Falls into Botswana. We took a Mercedes posing as wealthy American Investors interested in making a donation to the mission. Mathew traveled in the back protected from the sun by tinted windows. They spent two days at the mission then left for America, or so they said. He met his sister and her husband both grandparents, their children and grandchildren. He toured the mission, the school and hospital. Then we left. Mathew died two weeks later knowing that his sister had freed herself from her past.”

“Did Susan ever suspect the old man was her brother?”

Bascombe frowned. “No. I don’t think so. You see, the famous Mathew Foley did not exist on her timeline. Anyway the reason I’m telling you this is twofold. The laws of time travel can be flexible, up a point.; The other is without Mathew’s passion for finding the lost souls of history you and so many others wouldn’t be here. Sooner or later you will have to decide if you should save someone. Remember Doctor Foley. Remember yourself and your mother.”

***

On her narrow berth in her tiny cubicle of a room, Judy penned a letter to her mother. Of a time before electronic messaging Mrs. Wheeler still preferred paper and ink. Letter written Judy folded it, placed it in an envelope, turned off her bedside light and fell asleep.

Thick soled calf high hiking boots, wide-brimmed hat strapped to her chin, thick walking stick in her right hand, Judy followed a narrow stream towards the supposed Ergastor camp.

Data from fossilized bones spoke of Homo Ergastor as living one and a half Million years ago in North western Kenya but when trying to find the band such knowledge was almost useless. A few thousand individuals living in tiny bands roamed a million square kilometres.

The agency believed that within an area of a thousand square kilometres there might be three or four roving comprising a total of fifty or so individuals. Armed with sharpened sticks and hand axes the bands scavenged what they could find, berries, fruit, nuts, insects small animals, possibly larger animals. . They lived in small brush huts, The woman might plait grass reeds into carrying bags for containing infants and whatever food they might scavenge. One woman. usually the matriarch, could possibly carry a hollowed beaten mud dish in which smouldered a tiny flame to be used to build a fire at night. All of this was theoretical. The purpose of Judy’s mission was to determine the reality.

As Judy studied the supposed images of Homo Ergaster on her note pad she thought of Adam and Eve. They too had lived naked in the Garden of Eden without knowing shame Only after eating of the Tree of Knowledge had they discovered shame. The concept of nakedness originated with the invention of clothing. Homo Ergaster never having known clothing had never considered itself to be naked any more than a bird or baboon did. If Judy were to appear before them they would consider her clothing to be part of her natural self, feathers moulting or a snake shedding its skin.

Beautiful slender bodies topped by ugly apelike faces. Based on fossilized remains the images showed slender dark skinned forms about a metre and a half high just a bit smaller than modern humans. From neck down one could not see a difference between Ergastor and modern homo sapiens but from neck up everything changed. Perhaps it was the incongruity of a apes head on a human body. Hardly the Ergastor’s fault. It was Homo Sapiens that found it incongruous and therefore ugly.

The second picture showed a group of Ergastors butchering a wildebeest. A third showed them returning with the kill being greeted by females and young scavenging in trees. Eloise considered these pictures possibly less accurate than the first. The creatures flesh tones were too light. Life- long exposure to the African sun would have darkened them more than imagined by the artists. Also the creatures were less apelike then the others. So which artist was correct? With the microscanners in place, soon enough she would know.

She turned off her tablet. Standing she glanced at the dead fire pit. The one material thing Ergastor was known to have not shared by any other creature was fire. Look for smoke. Sooner or later it would lead her to them.

She rose and walked back towards the tiny camp. A last look, a last shot and then she would step back through the portal. She was retrieving her tablet when she first noticed a flat browned strip of dried grass on the ground. She bent a little closer and then trying to restrain a mounting sense of excitement she photographed it,a tiny strip of plaited grass. The grass having been sealed inside a plastic bag and placed in her knapsack Judy then decided to take a second look at the remains of the grass huts. Wrapped around the crumbling leaves binding them to the fallen branches were strips of vine, crudely made but there. She photographed it and then pressed the red button. The air shimmered. She stepped through it and disappeared.

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