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- A poem about the emergence of modern humans -


That morning Froydlich stepped out of the cave
to gather kindling in a frozen world
even the friendly sunlight couldn't melt.
His children Xony and Kiyokit went
to fetch fresh water from the icy river
down in the valley, and his wife Winomy
knelt down to light the fire. As he approached
the wood he saw five figures in the distance;
they almost looked like people but were taller
although their heads were strangely small. They stumbled
across the wilderness as if they’d faint
at any given moment and supported
each other to make sure that none would fall.
And they were almost naked - in this land
of everlasting frost the only thing
they wore were hides they’d thrown across their shoulders
in which they faced the bitter elements.
Froydlich approached the family and asked them
if he could help, but they replied in language
he didn’t understand and which consisted
mostly of clicking sounds, and so he pointed
them towards the cave and helped the group to get there.
The mother looked the worst, and as her husband
and their frostbitten children warmed each other
beside the fire Winomy got some furs
to wrap around them; Froydlich heated up
some water to apply to all the frozen
spots on the woman’s skin until they turned
a healthy red, and afterwards he covered
her in a mammoth skin and offered her
some water and dried meat, but she kept drifting
off way too often to be able to
take drink or food. Despite her warming fleece
beside the fireplace she kept shivering,
and when she tried to speak her family,
just like their hosts, appeared to be unable
to understand a word. Then Froydlich treated
the others’ frostbites as they helped themselves
to meat and water. In the afternoon
Winomy stitched five mammoth leather garments
for their strange visitors, and in the evening
they sat around the fire; Kiyokit played
the bone flute while his sister Xony danced.
Winomy fiddled with the eagle talon
she wore around her neck, and Froydlich pointed
his finger at himself and told his guests,
‘Froydlich’, which left the others quite perplexed.
But after they debated with each other
they figured out that he had introduced
himself and, more or less successfully,
repeated after him, and when they’d learned
the other names their father said ‘Ulees’
and pointed at himself, and afterwards
he introduced his sons Kareem and Mac,
his daughter Kuna and his wife Sepune
who rested in the cave where on occasions
a family member checked on her. That night
the new arrivals slept in mammoth blankets
which, in addition to their clothes, restored
their body heat and let them rest at ease.

A piercing scream awoke them in the morning:
Ulees was kneeling at his spouse’s side
who, as they realised at once, was dead.
Froydlich brought out a mammoth’s pelvic bone
and, after breaking through the ice that covered
the ground, he started digging near the cave;
the smallheads seemed bewildered by his actions,
and, seeing Froydlich and Kiyokit take
his mother, Mac jumped up in order to
attack them, but Ulees forcefully held
him back and calmed him down. Sepune was then
placed in the pit; the others gathered round her,
Kiyokit played a pensive tune and Xony
collected flowers which she gently spread
across the lifeless body just before
their father filled the grave. That day the smallheads
stayed very much amongst themselves to share
the grief about their wife and mother’s loss.

Over the coming weeks the smallheads learned
the language of their hosts but kept on speaking
their own amongst each other which they did
exhaustively, and Froydlich and his children
wondered what it could be they had to talk
so much about. Meanwhile the water fetching
was done by Xony and Kareem who stayed
out longer than was needed for the task
despite their fathers’ teasing jokes. Kiyokit
and Kuna were on some occasions caught
exchanging glances and eventually
agreed to gather kindling in the mornings
together which invited speculation
that something very different had been kindled.

The ground was quaking in the early morning,
and while the smallheads were afraid and trembled
Froydlich jumped out of bed and took his children
up to the mountaintop where all his siblings
and cousins had assembled at the boulders
they now released to hit the mammoth herd
that crossed the narrow mountain pass beneath them.
The giant creatures trumpeted in panic
as they attempted to avoid the rocks
that tumbled down upon them, and a few
pushed others down the cliffs in doing so.
Stampeding past the mountain the survivors
soon disappeared, and everybody gathered
around the kill. The lanky smallheads joined them;
Kiyokit played the flute, and children sang
and danced around the quarry. Fires were lit;
at some fat meat was smoked to feed the clan
while others served to dry the leaner meat
for future use. As Froydlich used his blade
to cut a bladder off Ulees was watching.
‘Do you eat that?’ he asked him in disgust.
Froydlich just smiled and said, ‘Besides the meat
mammoths provide us with a lot of other
necessities for life, just like their bladders;
what do you think we use to carry water?’
Festivities continued through the day,
and in the afternoon the men climbed back
upon the mountaintop where they positioned
new rocks and boulders for the next occasion.

More and more weary smallheads were arriving
and taken in by other families,
and while Ulees quite often took his children
to visit them the others shook their heads:
‘They didn’t even know each other when
they came here’, said Winomy and looked puzzled,
‘what do they want from them?’ And Froydlich answered,
‘I’d ride a rabid mammoth to find out.’

Their daughters soon showed signs of being with child,
and Froydlich was delighted at the news.
‘I hope they will not get your tiny heads’,
he said and smiled. ‘And not your stocky built’,
Ulees replied and slapped him on the shoulder.

The meat was running out, and still there was
no mammoth to be seen or heard, so Froydlich
went to his relatives to see if they
had any they could spare but all the others
were running low as well; it was decided
to organise a hunt, and all the men
and women of the clan met the next morning
to plan it. One reported he had seen
a herd of aurochs in a nearby valley,
and soon the group, except for pregnant women,
children and elderly, had armed themselves
with blades and spears and headed for the valley.
They quietly made their way across the forest
and on the far side of a clearing spotted
the herd. The clan intended to sneak up
on them in order to attack them, but
the smallheads threw their spears at them and killed
some of the largest ones. The others watched
in disbelief, and after their initial
surprise they tried to copy what they saw
with heartbreaking results; the few who managed
to lift their arms above their heads projected
their spears a distance of a yard or two
where they fell flatly on the frozen ground.
‘You guys can’t throw!’ Ulees laughed out; the others
joined in, and their humiliated hosts
soon ceased their efforts; afterwards the party
cut up the aurochs for their share of meat.

The following summer Xony had a daughter
they called Monu, and shortly afterwards
Kuna gave birth to Loba, and the girls
were loved and spoiled by all their relatives.
Mac also found a woman; before long
all of the clan had smallhead family members.

The smallheads kept arriving and in time,
by far outnumbering their hosts, they came
to dominate the growing population
which now was struggling to find caves and food.
‘The mammoths won’t come back,’ somebody said,
‘and there is not much game around. It’s time
we started looking for a place that can
sustain us all.’ It was decided that
small groups of men explore the countryside
in search of a new home, and after days,
after the last one had returned, most people
agreed upon a mountain which, according
to its discoverers, provided plenty
of deer and aurochs and a giant cave
with space for all of them and many more.
That evening Froydlich and Winomy pondered
on whether they should go; their children were
determined to accompany their spouses,
but the idea to live amongst a crowd,
many of whom they didn’t know that well,
seemed quite intimidating. And besides,
this mountain was their home, and it was all
they’d ever known, and they felt quite uneasy
about a change. But certainly there was
the fact that game was scarce, and furthermore
they couldn’t bear the thought of separation
from their own children and grandchildren; lastly
they both agreed to come along, just like
most of the other members of the clan.

The day-long trek began at sunrise; children
were carried either in their parents’ arms
or on their shoulders and the elderly
supported by their families. A hunter
who had been injured and who was unable
to walk was carried on a stretcher. Slowly
the gathering approached their future home
where they arrived late in the afternoon.
The children were delighted at the sight
and started playing in the spacey cave;
Kiyokit took a piece of charcoal from
the cave’s discoverers’ extinguished fire
and showed Monu and Loba how to paint
the barren walls with it; the little girls
enthusiastically began to cover
the cave with pictures, joined by many others,
and soon the place looked like a proper home.

All this had happened many years ago.
Froydlich had aged like no one else; today
nobody had a living memory
of others of his generation - worse,
not even of his children’s generation.
He was the last one of his kind, just like
Kuna had been the last of hers. The cave
was filled with sounds of mourning and of grieving
because their leader had just died; what reason,
Froydlich had kept on asking, could there be
to have a leader? Soon the noisy clatter
became too much for him, and so he stepped
outside to watch the stars and stroke his beard.
His great-great-grandson Peix sneaked up behind him;
‘You’re weird,’ he flung his arms around his forebear,
surprising him as he was deep in thought.
‘I guess I am,’ he smiled at Peix, ‘but being
weird gets things done, and thankfully there is
some of my weirdness left in all of you.’


This poem is based on my theory of The Autistic Neanderthal.


© 6258-6259 RT (2017-2018 CE) by Frank L. Ludwig