From A History of Man

A History of Man

Part One – MAN IN ADOLESCENCE

Beginning

It begins with the origin of man. Creation myths survive from around the world which claim man was seeded on the Earth through supernatural intervention, best expressed in the west through the Creation Account in Genesis. This was popularly believed until recent times. But now evolution has replaced the supernatural.
Fundamental to modern man is our close genetic relationship to the apes. We shared a common ancestor about ten million years ago, with man entering a separate lineage three to four million years ago. This was Australopithecus Afarensis, or southern ape, bipedalism beginning to show (i.e. walking on two legs), allowing us to evolve dextrous forelimbs for manipulation of our environment.
Evidence of Australopithecus Afarensis came from Ethiopia, including the female skeleton, Lucy, from 3.5 million years ago. He disappears about 1.7 million years ago, replaced by homo habilis, meaning ‘man the toolmaker.’ Thought to be the first clearly human ancestor, fossil evidence has been found in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, although some experts would differ from this human classification. With a rounded skull with enlarged brain, he has a more human face. Rudimentary stone tools have been found close to his remains.
About the same time, a progression – homo erectus – appeared in Asia, but this may have been an off-shoot of the evolutionary line, wiped out by competition from modern man or catastrophe such as a meteor collision. But the remains of an approximately 12 year old boy found at Nariokotome, Kenya, dated to 1.7 million years ago, is only slightly different from a modern boy.
And soon we have the first appearance of Homo sapiens, or ‘man the thinker.’ He had a great advantage in his technology. Australopithecus Afarensis could only survive in warm climates, as in Africa. Home sapiens went on to fashion clothing, fire and shelter, allowing him to move out of Africa, to colder climes.
There are two theories for the dispersal of Homo sapiens throughout the world. The first argues that he appeared independently in different regions, but the most accepted theory is the Out-of-Africa model, where he moved out of the continent approximately 125,000 years ago.
In Europe he is first known as Neanderthal Man, named after the discovery of his skeleton in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf in 1856. He could think; he ritually buried his dead, suggesting religious forms. But being short and stocky, he wasn’t fully modern. But 35,000 years ago another migration began. This was Cro-Magnon Man, a skeleton found in the Cro-Magnon cave of Les Eyzies in the Dordogne in 1868.
First appearing in Africa 100,000 years ago, he was fully modern, and with his appearance, Neanderthal Man disappears. And soon man went on to develop his technology, culture and agriculture.

Pre-History

Two million years ago our ancestors lived on the African savannas. A small, frail species it is doubtful he hunted, having a stable diet of seeds and berries, and a little meat scavenged from the remains of food killed by larger carnivores. This lifestyle required cunning, and it was most likely this trait that led to our ascendancy.
His hands were becoming increasingly dexterous and, walking erect, he used stone, bone and wood to dig, cut and pulverise. Interestingly, no weapons have been found from this period – only tools, fashioned by chipping one stone with another, leading to the chipped hand-axe a million years ago as his migrations began.

HUNTER/GATHERER

In these harsh climates early man would shelter in caves, yet sites at Terra Amata in France and Kostenki in Russia show temporary shelters made of Brushwood, early use of fire and rudimentary tools as early as 400,000BC. The Zhoukoudian caves in Beijing show definite use of fire from about 500,000BC, and also evidence of Homo Erectus (here dubbed Peking Man) using tools as early as 700,000BC.
Evidence of weapons for hunting appears about 200,000BC, yet by 35,000BC modern man in Europe was using engineered tools and weapons such as knives, spearheads and harpoons of bone, fishhooks and even musical instruments such as flutes. Spiritual life was also present, evidenced by cave art and rudimentary statuary.
Up to about l0,000BC, when the last ice age ended, man was nomadic, following the herds for food. Females gathered and males scrounged and hunted. But as the Agricultural Revolution began man slowly left his hunter/gatherer existence. As the glaciers retreated they cultivated farming stock and arable land. This was arguably helped by the hunting to extinction of the great herds, forcing them to change their habits.

BIRTH OF AGRICULTURE

By 8,000BC static village communities appear, enabled by the harnessing of wild plant species such as wheat, rice and maize to sustained, organised growth in fields. Combined with the domestication of cattle, sheep and pigs, the farmer came into being, producing wool, milk and meat, further advancing by adapting livestock to beasts of burden. Spiritual life seems to have become endemic to this process, deities representing natural elements such as wind, and taking on seasonal aspects. The movement of the sun-god told them when to plant and harvest, mingling with early science to build wood and then stone henges.
This gave power to priesthood through knowledge, and as transportation improved, villages grouped together forming large scale communities with a dual leadership of priest and chief.

URBANISATION

In the Fertile Crescent of the eastern Mediterranean additional problems had to be faced. Farming began in the foothills, but with few trees, stone building began. This required a greater engineering and administrative skill, with more advanced villages appearing about 7000BC, creating the first known towns.
Two of these were Jericho in the Jordan Valley and Catal Huyuk in Turkey. First settled around 9000BC, Jericho housed 2,000 people by 7000BC. It had a circular stone tower in its centre with a stone wall and ditch for defence. Stone bowls and clay ovens were used, and several shrines have been found.
Catal Huyuk was larger. With tighter packed houses, it had less defences and homes were entered through the roof. Jewellery, mirrors, frescos and woven materials have been found here in abundance, suggesting it was the centre of a long distance trading network.

THE BIRTH OF TRADE

The lifeblood of such towns was the closeness of running water – rivers – for agriculture. But the size of the supply limited growth. Hence, by 5000BC Catal Huyuk was abandoned, the people moving down from the foothills to the plains, especially between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present Iraq. Known as Mesopotamia, seasonal floods led to great mythologies and immense engineering skills, combining irrigation for the fields with ways of diverting flood waters.
Although securing water for agriculture, these advanced communities lacked essential raw materials, so trading on a large scale began with smaller communities. This increased their wealth, and urbanisation began proper.
By 4000BC copper ore was mined in places like Timna in Israel, leading to metallurgy, producing ornaments, tools and weaponry of superior quality. This was the prime factor of advancement, soon entering the Bronze Age with the mixing of copper and tin, and, by 1200BC, the Iron Age.

COMPLEXITY

Trade and increasing social complexity required better forms of communication. Hence, by 3000BC writing was well established. Memory was no longer enough for recording trade or myth.
Scratches and knots were used as recording methods as early as 6000BC, but now hieroglyphics appeared. This led to cuneiform, a series of geometric shapes forming representative language on clay tablets, scribed by split reeds. Used by the Sumerians by 2500BC, structure was formed with an early alphabet. By 600BC the ancient Greeks had turned this into an alphabet we can understand today.
As these advances were on-going, the veil of pre-history was slowly being drawn back, and in its wake came an explosion of human experience.

Pre-Classical World

In the previous chapter we saw how agriculture, trade, metallurgy, stonemasonry and writing led to accelerated advancement towards urbanisation in the Fertile Crescent. The process also occurred in the Nile delta and by the Indus and Yellow rivers. However, the Fertile Crescent became the cradle of western civilisation, known as Mesopotamia, meaning between the rivers.
Cities first appeared here around 3500BC. The best known was Uruk in the south. Covering 250 acres with at least a 50,000 population, a 9 mile wall surrounded it and at its centre were a number of towers known as ziggurats.

GODS AND CULTURE

The home of the Sumerians, Uruk was the centre of mythology turned into organised religion, later adapted by the Akkadians with the sky god Anu heading a trinity with Enlil, god of storms and Ea, god of water. Inanna, daughter of Anu, was goddess of war, love and fertility. Her sister, Ereshkigal, was goddess of death, whom her sister visits but comes back to life.
This set the standard for most mythologies, a trinity of gods ruling the elements, with a female fertility goddess who often visits death, representing the death and rebirth of yearly agriculture.
Finally written – almost certainly from much earlier oral tradition – as an epic poem in cuneiform on 12 clay tablets about 1200BC, Gilgamesh now appears; a half divine, half human king who battles with Enkidu to attain immortality.
He fails, realising his arrogance and that man must die, but do great work in life.
The Epic of Gilgamesh makes a king a god, allowing great authority, and giving a spiritual dimension to the need to obey your king and work. A heroic story that was to be repeated in many different cultural forms, it was the first great political tract.

FROM SYMBOL TO EMPIRE

Writing and stonemasonry represented this purpose through the symbol, anchoring society into a common purpose, with morality offering guidance. With such a myth to go alongside agriculture and technology, Uruk became the first known city-state based on a social hierarchy of masters, priests and worker/warriors.
Agriculture now provided a surplus, leading to wealth in the ruling class. Trade exploded, disputes settled with conflict. Armies first appeared to protect the crop, but now the idea of standing armies and empire grew. And Uruk was the centre of this first empire, similarities in statuary during the period suggesting it traded as far as Iran, Asia Minor (Turkey) and into India.

EMPIRES COME AND GO

By 2350BC the Akkadians under their leader, Sargon, had infiltrated the south from northern Mesopotamia, infiltrating Sumerian culture and creating an empire around the still undiscovered city of Akkad in central Mesopotamia.
Sargon ruled for forty four years, his empire moving into Syria and eastern Asia, his dynasty lasting for nearly a century before revolts led to a rebirth of the Sumerian empire based around Ur. A small, strongly bureaucratic empire, it lasted until about 2100BC, but eventually gave in to the pressure of migrations of Semitic-speaking peoples from the far north.
The Akkadians had been the first of the Semitic language speakers to take power, and later migrants would include the future Arabic and Hebrew. But now came successive periods of control from differing peoples including the Elamites from Iran, Amorites from Syria, the Assyrians, and the Hittites from modern-day Turkey, until finally the city of Babylon rose to power.

BIRTH OF BABYLON

Facing pressure in the north from further migrations, Babylon rose in the south, under the Amorite King Sumu-abum in 1894BC. The great Babylonian king Hammurabi appears by 1750BC, at first a warrior, but guaranteeing Babylonian ascendancy for a millennium by use of administration, if not Hammurabi’s dynasty. Stopping the Assyrians, the empire spread, taking rising cities such as Nineveh.
Central to Hammurabi’s rule was Hammurabi’s Law, found inscribed on a column in Susa in 1901, and codifying for the first time absolute rules for a high society, detailing not only criminal law but civic and family law, such as rules for wages and divorce. Representation of the people also appeared, with local notables having a say, but the laws propelled Babylon towards the modern with its importance on property. This was identified as the rock bed of society, and the trade it caused. Slavery was essential to such wealth creation, and waring had the additional advantage of providing more slaves, thus increasing wealth.

BABYLON’S ROCKY RIDE

The first Babylonian empire ended about 1595BC, Babylon sacked by the Hittites, migrating from Turkey, and bringing weaponry based on iron. This was more advanced than the Amorite Babylonians, allowing them to establish an empire that lasted until attacks by unknown Aegean sea raiders about 1200BC.
Into this chaos came the Aramaens, bringing their language, Aramaic, and the Elamites, who sacked Babylon in 1158BC. Babylon rallied and defeated the Elamites, Nebuchadnezzar I briefly reinvigorating the Babylonian Empire. However, a dark age then settled upon the region, lasting until 900BC when Assyria became a growing influence, Shalmaneser III extending the empire from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.
In 853BC armies from Damascus, Israel, Arabia and Egypt opposed him at the Battle of Qarqar, halting the expansion, but Sargon II moved the Assyrians into Syria and Palestine by 705BC.
Expansion had caused many revolts. Sennacherib, becoming king in 704BC, tried to keep the empire together, but the Chaldeans now exerted influence around Babylon. In 6O4BC, Nebuckadnazzer II became the Chaldean Babylonian king, defeating the Assyrians and bringing Syria into the empire. Going on to engage the Egyptians, Babylonians also went on to control Jerusalem.

BIRTH OF PERSIA

Babylon itself underwent a Renaissance. Massive rebuilding began, including the Hanging Gardens, making Babylon the largest city in the known world. The Temple of Marduk, a huge ziggurat, was built, thought to be the source of the Biblical Tower of Babel. However, Indo-European migrations began into the region from the Caucasus, settling in Iran.
Known as the Medes, their empire went on to stretch from the Caspian Sea to India. In the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great formed the Achaemenid dynasty which expanded into the Fertile Crescent subjugating the Assyrians and ending the Babylonian Empire, capturing Babylon in 539BC.
By 533BC Cyrus had formed the Persian Empire, hammering on the doors of India and Asia Minor. Eventually from the west came the mighty ancient Greeks. But before telling that story, we must look to another civilization, along the banks of the Nile.

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt was a land of mystery. The home of the great pyramids, raising architecture to wondrous proportions – the people who could raise armies to make the world shudder – they were nonetheless a primitive, peasant country throughout the period, living in mud huts and only achieving subsistence farming.
Building was restricted to great temples, never devising cities as in the eastern Mediterranean, the wealth and splendour being restricted to a tiny ruling class. And it was all to do with geography.

MYTHOLOGY

The area was populated by semi-nomadic peoples who turned to agriculture about 6000BC. At the time, Egypt was a long, narrow country, huddled on the banks of the Nile. The Nile flooded annually, and an uneasy relationship developed, reflected in their mythology.
The Earth was a bank of ground surrounded by dangerous waters. These were represented by the father of the gods, Nun. From Nun arose the sky Goddess, Nut, portrayed as a woman astride Egypt on her hands and knees. The sun was the god, Atum, entering Nut’s mouth at night and being reborn each morning through her womb.
Into this mythology strode Osiris, god of agriculture, rebirth and death, and his son, Horus. A pharaoh was Horus when alive, and became Osiris upon death. Life and death were embodied in the same person, yet whereas life was temporary, death was eternal.
Hence, the Books of the Dead, the fascination for mummification, elaborate tombs – the Egyptians were infatuated with death, and thus overpowered the importance of life and denied any possibility of real advancement. Egypt was quite simply a cult of the dead.

EARLY DYNASTIES

This aside, we know a lot about Egyptian history because of their hieroglyphics and monument building. Beginning with the Pre-Dynastic Period, ancient Egypt is split into the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom and the Late Period, interspersed by three Intermediate Periods.
This time scale is split into some 30 dynasties. During the first Pre-Dynastic Period we find the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. In about 3100BC, Menes, king of Upper Egypt, subjugated the Lower Kingdom, building Memphis as capital, about 12 miles from present day Cairo. Beginning the Old Kingdom, hieroglyphics, stonemasonry and metallurgy began to appear.
Most of the pyramids were built during this time, beginning with the stepped pyramid at Saqqara, built by the high priest Imhotep for the pharaoh, Zoser. Around 2589-2566BC Khufu had the Great Pyramid of Giza built.
This was the height of Royal power, the Pharaoh being a god, but by 2200BC local governors gained influence, the country descending into a number of petty kingdoms.
The pyramids were forgotten, tombs becoming rock-cut. Into this decline, the Nile became low, suddenly useless for irrigating the land, bringing famine. The First Intermediate Period began.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

The chaos was increased by Libyan migrants from the west, but as Thebes grew in power, the Libyans were expelled and the petty kingdoms subjugated, bringing about the renaissance of craftsmanship that was the Middle Kingdom.
Land reclamation schemes expanded Egypt, further accelerated by the conquest of Nubia to the south, bringing an abundance of gold. However migrations of the Semitic Hyksos caused the Second Intermediate Period. By 1550BC the New Kingdom had been instituted by the death of pharaoh, Kamose, the Thebans kicking out the Hyksos, but their ideas had by then become entrenched.
Materially, this brought the wheel and Bronze Age to Egypt. But it also caused a change in consciousness. Under Thutmose III, and reaching its height under Amenhotep III, Egyptians thought of political and trading expansion.
Building the temple of Karnak and thinking in terms of the sun god as a single deity – for a period under Akhenaton, Tutankhamun’s father, there was a cult of the One God – Egyptian armies moved out in all directions under a number of warrior pharaohs. This expansion came to a height under Rameses II when he fought the indecisive Battle of Kadesh against the Hittites in 1274BC.

DECLINE

Agreeing to respect each other’s territory, Egypt moved south in search of further gold for its rejuvenated monumental projects. These included the huge seated stone figures at Thebes known as the Colossi of Memnon. However, by 1050BC Rameses III failed to hold back pressures from inside and outside Egypt, leading to the Third Intermediate Period.
Conquests and monument building had led to economic down turn, internal civil unrest became rife, including the first known industrial action by workers. Raids by the unknown ‘peoples of the sea’ caused instability, and Libyans again began infiltrations, but peaceably this time, leading them to establish their own dynasty from 930-730BC. Egypt had been lost to the Egyptians, an Egyptian rarely again becoming leader, the country ruled by Ethiopians, Persians and, from 333BC, the Greeks, whose last leader, Cleopatra, lost Egypt to the Romans in 30BC.

Ancient Greece …..

A History of Man

From I Spaceman


I Spaceman

Taken From Space Gang: COMPLICITY

It was a small ship, but as it rounded on the planetoid and fired, it was obvious it packed a powerful punch.
‘We’ve got to stop them,’ said Ulrika Fayn as she guided B-mover 14 into scanning range.
Hercules Brown agreed, wishing he could get more out of the sonic drive.
There were six ships in all, constantly pounding the planetoid, and from previous reports of their journey, and from what they could see from scanners, it was obvious they were Envin.
‘I hope they put up a fight,’ said Tox, raising his bald, blue head. ‘I’d love to kill lots of Envin.’ He was making final adjustments on the sonic cannon, his favourite toy.
Brown sighed. He was aware of the Envins; had come across them before. Small, avaricious aliens, their elf like faces hid the ruthlessness of these space pirates. ‘Easy, Tox,’ he said. ‘There may be a good explanation.’ Then, to Ulrika: ‘Any sign of habitation on that planetoid?’
‘Negative,’ said Ulrika. ‘They seem to be bombarding a barren planet.’
As they came closer to the Envin fleet Brown opened channel. ‘This is the Space Rangers, cease your attack immediately.’
An Envin appeared on the monitor. His elf featured grimace was different to how Hercules Brown knew them. The arrogance, the cynicism was gone, replaced by what appeared to be stark terror. ‘Leave us, Space Ranger,’ he said. ‘This must be done. You must not interfere.’
At that the screen went blank. Meanwhile, time after time the ships came in line with the planetoid and fired.
‘I think it’s time we acted,’ said Tox, feeling comfortable in his firing position.
Brown thought a moment. ‘They’re frightened,’ he said.
‘Good,’ said Tox.
‘No. I mean really frightened. Turning to Ulrika, Brown said: ‘Scan the planetoid again. There must be something down there.’
‘You’re right,’ she said, shortly.
An image flashed up from the surface. The mounds were unusual, about a metre high and round. The whole surface seemed to be covered in them.
‘What are they?’ Brown asked.
Ulrika accessed the ship’s computer. Seconds later, an analysis appeared. They were horrid little creatures, ten legged, two centimetres in length, and capable of surviving deep space drift. But most important to Brown was the fact that they were deadly to Envins.
‘It’s obviously a Nest,’ said Ulrika.’
‘Yes,’ agreed Brown. ‘But not just any nest. According to this, the Envins are sure there’s just one, from which they all migrate. They account for about 30% of Envin deaths, and it looks like they’ve found the centre of the whole species.’
‘No wonder they’re determined to destroy them,’ said Ulrika.
Tox sighed. ‘I suppose that means we can’t destroy the Envins,’ he said.
Brown didn’t bother to answer. Instead, he said: ‘Ulrika, scan their ships for lifesigns.’
‘Oh Overmind,’ she eventually said. ‘The bugs are in space, chewing into their ships. About half the Envins are already near death. It’s a life and death struggle out there!’ she said.
At that moment, alarms went off around the ship.
‘What’s that?’ asked Brown.
‘They’re on our hull,’ said Ulrika.
Moments later, the first of the bugs bore through into the ship and began moving towards the crew.
‘They’re disgusting,’ Ulrika said as Tox and Brown dispatched them with low level sonic blasts.
‘Well that’s decided it,’ he said. ‘Ulrika, we’re going to help them.’
Tox sighed once more, but realised where his duty lay.
And with their superior weaponry, they soon pounded the nest to extinction.
Later, the Envins gone, Tox said: ‘Such a shame.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ asked Brown.
‘We could have had a weapon against the Envins,’ he said.
As Tox finished, one of the bugs crawled from a corner, still alive. The crew turned to look at it. Tox continued: ‘Here’s our chance. Think about it, Brown – a real weapon to frighten them into stopping their piracy.’
Brown took one look at Tox before taking out his sonic gun and blasting the bug away.
‘Why did you do that?’ asked Tox.
‘Because,’ he said, ‘if I have the choice between occasional irritation from pirates, or using biological weaponry to cause genocide, I’ll choose irritation every time.’
But as Ulrika Fayn engaged sonic drive and B-mover 14 cruised away, they realized genocide was exactly what they had done.

Taken From Newton 2: SPACE SHIP VIRAL

Newton 2 sat behind his desk and relaxed. He loved this place. Around him were walls covered in books – the classics of Earth and the planets in the Graveyard Sector; great scientific and religious tracts; encyclopedias and mammoth histories. And every one made of paper with real printed words. Such things seemed to have gone out of fashion, replaced by holo-volumes. But Newton 2 loved the feel of books, and loved the mind calculations made whilst reading them.
The study was the centre piece of what he called his castle. He had fallen in love with the small mountain in his early days on Angeria, and vowed that if he ever returned he would build his home atop it. And he had. Before he would even take up his post as a Decider, he built this retreat. And he came to it whenever he could – to read, and with a profusion of scientific apparatus, to experiment on the remaining mysteries of the universe.
He had just arrived back from one of his missions, and as he sat there, he thought of the implications of his present work.

It had begun over a week ago when Dr Fresco had visited him. ‘It’s a severe problem,’ Fresco had said. ‘One of the Lustacean moons has had to be quarantined. I’m not sure what kind of virus it is – I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And it is so virulent that conventional medicine just doesn’t seem to affect it.’
Newton 2 had spent several days examining the virus, and he, too, was at a loss to explain it. The Lustaceans were a promiscuous species, tall, thin, and not particularly good looking. But they secreted certain pheromones that made them highly sexually attractive. And he was convinced that the virus was in some way associated with their practices. And it was vital that the virus was combated, for if it spread to the planet proper, then the Graveyard Sector would lose its most popular recreational resort.
As the great scientist he was, failure to identify the virus did not preclude cure, and it was because of Newton 2’s extensive knowledge in many areas that Dr Fresco had come to him.
Finally, after a few more days of work, he recalled Fresco to his castle. ‘Please watch the view screen, doctor,’ he said as he settled down in his chair.
A new form of space craft seemed to appear before them, and as it flew, it came across zillions of bodies, which Fresco identified as the virus, but much larger. As the ship approached, it fired beams from every angle, and the virus seemed to glow, become almost machine-like itself, and began reflecting the beams to attack its own kind.
Eventually, before Fresco’s eyes, the virus became inert.
‘I don’t understand,’ said Fresco eventually. ‘Is this a metaphor that we should in some way approach the virus as if a great space battle?’
Newton 2 smiled; handed the doctor a small vial. ‘What you have just seen is not a metaphor, doctor. It was a highly magnified reality. Rather than fight the virus chemically or biologically, I decided to fight it physically. The ships exist. They are minute nano-technology ships, and there are millions in that single phial.’
Dr Fresco held up the phial and was amazed.

The following day the doctor and Newton 2 flew a shuttle to the Lustacean moon. The Lustaceans on the moon had lost their zeal, and were clearly ill. It was Fresco himself who injected just one Lustacean from the phial, and sat back and waited for the ships to work.
Soon a glow seemed to come from the patient as the great battle went on within his atoms, and as battle raged, and as the virus transformed itself to kill its own, the nano ships became a technological virus in its own way. And the glow spread from one Lustacean to another, and exponentially among the entire population of the moon.
At one point, passing freighters reported back upon the magnificent phenomenon of the actual moon beginning to glow, and within days the virus was dead.

On their return to Angeria, Space Commander Nulyn recalled Newton 2 to Space Station Tiryns. ‘A magnificent idea, Newton 2,’ he said. ‘You must pass on the technology you used for the benefit of us all.’
Newton 2 shook his head. Said: ‘You mean so you can manufacture it as a weapon.’
Nulyn retained his blank expression, as Newton 2 knew he would.
‘I’m afraid not, space commander,’ he eventually said. ‘Medicine is medicine, and a weapon is a weapon, and the two must never meet or we face our extinction.’
‘And if I insist?’
‘Then you’ll be disappointed. I worked it into the program that the ships would self-destruct when their mission was complete. And they destructed themselves with the same finality as I destroyed all my notes.’

Taken From Old Space Dog: PRIMEVAL DESIGNS

Old Space Dog relaxed in the huge chair, an Angerian mead in his hand. He adjusted his black leather eye-patch, pushed back his unkempt, white hair and took a long drink.
As usual, he had found an audience, even as the buffet awaited them in the reception lounge of the Lustacean Homeworld. He thought of the pleasures people enjoyed in the Sector with this tall, almost mesmeric pleasure-seeking race.
‘Of course, I remember when Earthers first came here,’ Old Space Dog said. ‘Their pleasures were even greater then – before …’
Memories flooded back to him of his youth, exploring this new Sector, involving himself in all manner of adventures, legal and illegal. He came back to the present – noticed some of his audience heading off to the buffet, which was no good at all.
He coughed, loudly. Continued: ‘And my friend and I were among the first to sample their ways.’ The audience was immediately back – the myths of their early ‘ways’ were legend.
‘As soon as my friend and I arrived, two Lustacean females smiled and seemed to lure him away – which, as you can imagine, was not difficult. And I was left to experience the eroticism of this place by myself. And I can tell you, it was dangerous at times, very dangerous.’
Someone interjected: ‘There are stories of …’
Old Space Dog raised him hand to stop him. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I’ve heard the stories.’ A dullness came to his one visible eye. ‘I’ve seen it for myself.’
He remained transfixed for many seconds before continuing: ‘It was many hours later that I again saw my friend; at least, in part. It was obvious he had “gone all the way” with the Lustacean erotic ceremonies. And it was with a sickness in my very stomach that I put my plate back on the buffet table, and left.’
And for once, as indeed it had been that night, Old Space Dog kept his mouth firmly shut.

Taken From Ulrika Fayn In Overmind: ULRIKA AND THE MYSTERIOUS LADY

Ulrika Fayn was a star traveller from the future who became trapped in the universal mind. This was such a strange experience, she didn’t know whether she was real, or a thought in the mind of some storyteller. But regardless, she simply had to think of being somewhere and she was.
One day she found herself in a dusty room and in the corner was a mysterious lady of undefined age. The lady seemed melancholy so Ulrika asked her what was wrong.
‘You’ll know soon enough,’ replied the lady.
This intrigued Ulrika so she asked what she meant.
‘Oh, it’s a great adventure when you first get trapped in Uni-Mind,’ she said, ‘but after eons the excitement wears off and the fantastic becomes routine, and soon you realise you haven’t been given a gift, but become imprisoned. I remember once, when I was young and nearly got out of Uni-Mind, I actually spoke of my fantastic adventures to someone. If only I could communicate to him, now, how terrible the adventure becomes.’
Ulrika was worried by this, and realised she might be right. Maybe, she decided, it was time to think about how to escape. And as the rationalist she was, she decided to try to get into the mind of the person the lady had spoken to – see it from his perspective.
‘Do you know his name?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ replied the lady, ‘Carroll – Lewis Carroll.’

Taken From Young Nulyn: THE DAWN OF SENTIENCE

Being a Decider can be a decidedly thankless job. At once a policeman, a community leader, even a kind of scientist, the Deciders tried to bring order to the frontiers of human colonisation of space. Often those frontiers could be a dangerous place – and at others, an infinitely fascinating one. And nothing was more fascinating, in my early days, than my dealings with the Slothy.
Perhaps, if these large, slow, hairy beasts had remained as they were, they would never have had so much tragedy. But then again, as the staple diet of the Angerians, what kind of a life was it to be herded, killed and eaten? But when did the Slothy first show their differentness?
I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. Folk tales existed among the Angerians of Slothy occasionally leading lost Angerians out of the wilderness. The central tales spoke of the then savages purposely faking being lost so as to allow a Slothy to help them back to their village. But it was a ruse, the Slothy being trapped and ending up in the cooking pot.
As for myself, I first realised there was more to the Slothy the day I was trying to cement relations with a local Angerian clan. They were rounding up a small herd. It was a kind of test of friendship whether I would help. ‘Sure,’ I said, and so it was that I raced here and there on my sonic scooter, trying to keep them together. But it was only seeing them in terms of an outsider that I saw the Slothy themselves seemed to have scouts – smaller Slothy who shadowed the herd, giving gutteral signals which seemed to provide responses in the main herd.
‘It has been happening for some time,’ said an Angerian in the camp that night. ‘Our skill is declining since humans arrived. We’re no longer able to round them up like we used to.’
But I couldn’t help thinking it was the Slothy who were getting clever. The Angerians just couldn’t see it.
It was a while after that that a homesteader came to see me. ‘Someone is stealing my stores on a night,’ he said, ‘and I want you to do some thing about it.’
That night, I camped out close to his homestead, waiting.
In the middle of the night I heard the slight rustle of an intruder, and through my night vision lenses a saw a Slothy raise itself on two legs and manipulate a barn door, gaining entry.
It seemed to pick just what it wanted. And when it had gone, I followed it. It went to a cave, and inside, it had created a proper family group, including a hierarchy. This was not, I decided, some dumb beast.
I started studying the Slothy then – their life in the wild, reports of them from the past; I even did a study of a dead Slothy. And what became clear was that certain physiological things were happening, changing them from the past. Their brains seemed to be getting larger, their pelvic bone more universal, permitting them to walk on two legs, and their claw was changing to allow more manipulation; even an opposing thumb was beginning to evolve.
I sent my first report to Earth then, demanding closer investigation. This species was becoming sentient. And I had nightmares of the agony they must be going through, realising they were about to be butchered.
My next real contact with the Slothy came one day when I was scooting after raiders. I’d chased them into the wilderness, and I was just about to catch them up when a lucky blast hit me.
I was lying there close to death for I don’t know how long.
When I came round, I was in a cave, and this big hairy face was looking at me. I thought I could see concern on its face. Looking to my wound, it was covered in a concoction of leaves, and to my surprise, it was healing. The Slothy stayed with me for two days, and then just departed. This departure coincided with the time I was fit enough to get back to civilisation.
I contacted Earth regularly after that, telling them this species was sentient. But I could get no one on Angeria to agree with me. Which was obvious. Both Angerian and human hunted or farmed Slothy. Everyone ate Slothy. A big part of the local economy was Slothy based. And their representations to Earth even stopped a scientific team coming to test them.
I cried for the Slothy. But then something happened that saddened and heartened me at the same time.
It was a homesteader who first came across the construction.
It was large, and it was rudimentary, made from loosely fashioned branches and a mixture of mud. But there was no doubt at all that a Slothy family had built themselves a home.
I guessed there’d be trouble, so I camped out near to them. And sure enough, an angry mob from the town arrived, demanding the structure be destroyed. I refused to allow it, and the mob set on me – beat me up. When I came round the building was destroyed and the mob and Slothy were gone.
I raced back to town just in time to see the head Slothy hanged. Close by was the rest of the family, soon to be herded out. And as I approached them, I noticed something quite remarkable.
It was hard to find emotion in their faces, but if you looked hard enough, you could find it. And I found it.
These Slothy had just seen their leader killed, but there was a sense of happiness about them.
I couldn’t understand it – at first. Then it hit me. Their leader had been hanged – killed as a person, not an animal.


I Spaceman

Rattler’s Tale #11

Important message from Anthony North: Due to my ME/cfs I’ve had to cease blogging until further notice. My apologies for this. For more of my fiction, as well poetry, essays, current affairs, writing tips, ebooks and useful links, please see links & networks on header.

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BAKE-OFF

They were lined up, only their backs showing.
Reality TV was like that – liked to have a surprise for the end.
I suppose you could call them a metaphor.
The first contestant approached: ‘I think I’ll poach them.’
The second disagreed: ‘I’ll beat them to pulp for a huge cake.’
The third added: ‘Well I just like smashing them; watch the goo ooze out.’
I guess dumbing down had gone too far.
The egghead intellectuals agreed.

****************
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GENESIS OF LOVE

Forget the apple. There were too many roses in Eden.
Or maybe it’s all just a metaphor.
In the beginning were animals.
They couldn’t mate face to face, see – so didn’t see.
Then along came animal Mark Two, or Human.
He was a weak but cunning upgrade.
He’d changed his hands – evolved the opposable thumb.
Man became a master manipulator – learnt how to fashion his tool.
Which meant he didn’t need to go around on all fours, but two.
Man became erect – had adapted a new pelvic bone.
Then came the human bit.
It became more comfortable to mate face to face – and he saw.
And she saw. Realised her nakedness, and he liked it.
And together they mated – and loved.
For the genesis of humanity WAS love.
But every story has a sting in the tale – our own Pandora’s box.
For hot on the trail of love came jealousy and, eventually hate.
The Red Rose and Red Mist are one.
There were too many roses in Eden.
And they have thorns.

Rattler’s Tale #10

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LET’S GO HOME

The two android scouts disguised themselves in the engines and looked up.
All they could see was empty space in the hot air balloon.
Realising it wasn’t going to get into space, they looked again at the data.
Reports of early space exploration:
Early successes – Poe, Verne and Wells …
The aliens had sent androids to counter the deadly viruses that had got previous aliens.
But …
What a useless species, these humans, they decided.
No interaction, no touching, and definitely no hyperdrive.
They’re doomed.
And delusional.
And the virus still around.
They decided to go home.

HUNTER DEAR

It seemed crazy to hunt deer in a boat, but since I met him …
‘Not hunt; draw,’ he admonished.
I apologised. ‘Old habits.’
He sat in the boat with me, riding the waves, yet there was no wind in my sails.
‘How are we moving?’ I asked. ‘How can there be a deer down there?’ ‘Who are you?’
He replied: ‘Maybe we’re in a lake held up by its antlers. Or maybe by a bull’s horns.’
He claimed to be an artist yet he looked like a harlequin, or a woman in a wall …
… always with his head on his side …
I guess its just a crazy world.
‘How do you feel?’ he asked.
‘Wet.’
‘But the water’s dry.’
‘Drowsy.’
‘Then you’re finally wide awake.’
‘What’s that over there?’
‘Your leg.’
Then I remembered, and it seemed to me that at last I was in a sensible world …
… and I saw the deer and didn’t want to hunt … and …
The lake became my blood, the antlers the staves of the stretcher and tranquility exploded.
And the artist wore a soldier’s helmet and I asked: ‘Who are you?’ once more.
‘I’m the artist who created crazy, and people thought me crazy, and couldn’t get I was reality.’
And as I closed my eyes, and the pain flowed away, I joined Picasso in the eternal picture.

Rattler’s Tale #9

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VETERANS

‘You never got involved in Nam, did you?’ said the US veteran.
The Brit veteran said: ‘No. We were too busy.’
‘Doin what?’
‘Giving back our empire – and fighting the Commies who tried to take over.’
‘Where was that, then?’
‘Malaya, Borneo, as well as parts of Africa and the Middle East.’
‘How come we never heard much of them?’
‘Because in the main we were successful.’
‘How? Did you have some secret weapon like bombs or Agent Orange?’
‘Of a sort.’
‘What was that?’
‘Doctors.’

BLAST OFF

And here we are at Ad Hoc County Launch Site.

We’re all excited by the turn of events.

Following many false starts and redesigns we’re ready for blast off.

Indeed, Eton Must is piloting the prototype himself.

We asked him if the new fuel would be powerful enough.

‘Of course! I went back to the beginning for the idea.’

He elaborated: ‘But we don’t need as much hot air as Poe’s balloonist.

‘The only danger is it may be too explosive.’

We asked him what he meant.

‘Well, it was collected from the President’s breath during his speeches.’

Rattler’s Tale #8

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stay home

Dick bought the holiday hat but it didn’t work.
‘I remembered I was still in isolation.’
The virtual reality salesman sighed. ‘I warned you,’ he said.
Silence followed. Then, changing his hat, the salesman said:
‘Go for the full download – guaranteed to escape Covid.’
‘What? You download something into me?’
The salesman showed his new computer.
‘No. We download you into IT!’
‘Anything to escape isolation,’ said Dick.
Moments later, there was a ping and Dick disappeared.
He enjoyed his holiday for a while, then…
The salesman put on his undertakers hat.
A virus had got him.

ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE

The theatre was very old and had consumed many a performance.
The actors stood on the stage, taking in the atmosphere.
It was their final rehearsal, yet they knew they’d be interrupted.
Maybe it was the acoustics, but constantly the voices.
And the apparitions.
It was a busy stage.
They tried to concentrate, on their own lines, but …
… was that from West Side Story … and then Wilde …
… and …
‘All the world’s a stage.’
In this world, and the next.
Outside, the passers-by heard it, too.
‘Can you hear it?’ asked one.
‘Yes,’ the other replied. ‘Theatre – storytelling – outs our soul.’
‘It gets into our heads,’ said a third. ‘Makes us what we are, forever.’
‘There used to be a theatre here, you know.’
And the rubble began to sing.

Rattler’s Tale #7

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ROOTED

Dick found it when walking in the wood.
A conspiracy theorist, he jumped for joy.
Wow! Tech growing out the ground.
Investigating, he was disturbed by Bob, the sceptic.
‘What you doing?’
Dick said: ‘It’s got rootkit and worms emanating from it.’
Bob was a stiff, logical chap who never lost his head.
He picked it up. ‘I wondered where I’d left that.’
He walked off, leaving Dick feeling a right namesake.
Home, Bob took off his head and contacted Mothership.
‘We need better camouflage,’ he said. ‘Too many conspiriologists nowadays.’
He blamed the new leadership models. US, UK, EU? No more blondes.

AN UNUSUAL TAKE

‘Oh, kitten, I could eat you all up.’
‘Hold on Tiger. Take it slowly.’
***
The Director looked at the take. He’d been too late calling ‘cut!’
It was one hell of a mess.
The Producer said: ‘Are you sure this is a good idea? We’re running out of actors.’
‘I’m gonna direct a romance if it’s the last thing I do,’ he bit back.
***
The Director went round all the studios, but could he get another producer?
Could he hell. As they said: ‘You’ve been through 5 already.’
‘But I’ve got an appetite for this film.’
Which was one way of putting it.
***
Later, the geneticist said: ‘Why don’t you use the voiceovers as actors again?’
‘Humans!?’
Enraged, the Director was on his haunches once more.
Luckily it was the last geneticist.
The Director went back to the jungle, destined to remain a nature documentary star.
I guess mimicking can only go so far.

Rattler’s Tale #6

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DINERS

Empty restaurants.
Well, what did we expect? After the pandemic.
The trees had surrounded them, you see. Cut them off.
And when loads of people turned up at hospital with no nose …
… roses, you see. Sharp petals. And wheat whiplash could hurt, too.
Still, online shopping got through – meat only.
Which was a surprise, what with cows rearing on hind legs. Even sheep got bristly.
No one asked what was in the sausages.
If only I could make it to the bar.
Get drunk on mature wine.
Plenty of that.
Except chianti.

MASK: A DIALOGUE

I: We all wear a mask.
ME: Speak for yourself.
I: I am – it’s for the pandemic.
ME: Another one?
I: The real one – the virus of individuality.
ME: But we’re two.
I: Exactly. But so many have forgotten.
ME: Forgotten what?
I: That there’s me and I. Me is me and I is the me I have to be to be accepted.
ME: Well I couldn’t give a &%*!
I: But I have to, or I’m weird, an outsider, an outcast.
ME: Is that why you won’t let me out?
I: I can’t. Freedom won’t allow it.
ME: But that’s mad!
I: Aren’t we all?
ME: Come on, take the mask off. Place it down on the table. Look up!
I: I want to – I really do – but I have to thrive; to succeed; to be accepted.
ME: So you deny your inner nature.
I: I deny everything to do with nature. I have no choice.
ME: But we and nature are the true one.
I: I know that! But I can’t know it. Not … outside.
ME: So you is you and I can’t be part of you.
I: That’s right. Except for my screaming.

Rattler’s Tale #5

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CHANGE

The philosopher sat back in his chair on the roof, watching the urban sprawl.
He soon began to notice the obvious – he saw the history of man.
He saw the old churches, testament to when the biggest buildings reflected God.
In the far distance, he saw now silent factories, as industry ravaged the planet.
And he saw the towering banks, as money ravaged society.
And finally he looked below him, at the squalor on the edge.
And he thought: nothing changes.

WHERE HAVE ALL

Where have all the millions gone …
The old man hadn’t a clue. One minute they were there, then …
Covid 19 – or was it inevitable after the Downturn, or this, or that …
… or maybe – just maybe – his own greed.
He cried as they towed away his Rolls Royce, repossessed his mansion.
And designer suit swapped for jeans and t-shirt …
He was on the road again.
Back to his roots – his destitute roots.
‘When will they ever learn?’
The question nagged at him as the days passed, his stomach empty.
Slowly his depression increased, until …
He mouthed: ‘When will I ever learn?’
The sun shone then. He was back in the Beat Generation, Kerouac his guru.
He remembered the lines of the Beat Poets …
‘Gone to graveyards, every one.’
And their dreams.
Shattered.
Maybe it was in the name.
Their naivety.
Their hopes of changing history.
Why does life always beat poets?

Book 28 of 68, A Family Loss: A Crime cum Horror Novel, out 27 April

Rattler’s Tale #4

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PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy

BIRDIE

Birdie loved windows.
He’d perch there and watch – especially the tech.
It was everywhere nowadays – tech.
Phone, alarm – a man by a laptop, writing.
Not that Birdie knew what they were.
He didn’t have consciousness like humans do.
Though he was smart.
Birdie stared, and the writer stared at Birdie.
Eventually the writer got bored – went back to work.
And Birdie stared some more.
Finally smart Birdie had seen all he wanted to see.
He uploaded the passwords and droned off.

THE EX-WIVES CLUB

It had taken her a long time to contact him.
‘Yeah, reader, I married them …’ he said …
‘… Madonna, Lady MacBeth and Lucy.’
She said: ‘But you never divorced. And you weren’t exactly faithful.’
‘Hey, I’m a modern man – the freedom to roam and all that.
‘And let’s face it, neither were they. They even swap familiars.’
‘The simple fact is,’ she interrupted, ‘you had no respect for women.’
‘Yeah I did. It’s just that I wanted to respect them all.’
She broke in once more: ‘No, you were a nasty, insidious womaniser.’
She was getting angry now, and realized how easy it was to …
She didn’t have time to finish.
As any medium knows, emotion breaks the circuit, his last words echoing in the ether.
‘So how long are they going to stand on my grave … ?’

Book 28 of 68, A Family Loss: A Crime cum Horror Novel, out 27 April