Saturday, July 23, 2005

State of Nature

An Epic Saga of Life Before the Body Politic. Maybe.
Episode 1: Ayra Gets Lug's Goat

The first rays of the morning sun struck through the cave entrance onto Lug's face, waking her. She looked around cautiously, assessing the new day. Obviously, she was still alive; that was a good start. No great beast loomed in the cave entrace, ready to strike her down and tear out her throat as soon as she moved; that was good too. Cautiously, she stood up and moved towards the opening. So far her day was turning out well.

Lug's first tasks for the day were to feed, water and milk her goat. She walked down the hillside to the crude goat-pen she had built to confine the goat and protect it, somewhat, from the great beasts of the forest. When she reached the pen, the goat was gone. Lug checked the ground for tracks and found the imprint of goat hooves and human footprints leading away to the south. "Goat taken," she thought. But who had taken it?

The tracks led her to the fringe of the forest, where Ayra had his cave-of-sticks; a hut of fallen branches bound together with braided ropes of dried reeds and liana. It was a rickety structure but Ayra was happy to call it home. It was the only cave-of-sticks in the world; the product of his own hard work but also (and this is much, much more important) the product of his mind too.

Lug's goat was tethered to a stake driven into the ground near the entrance to the cave-of-sticks. Lug started to untie the rope from the stake; the goat bleated and Ayra rushed out of the hut, club in hand.

"My goat!" Ayra shouted, "You leave her here!"

"My goat!" countered Lug, "I give you beer for her yesterdays." Actually, it had been the best part of what we would call a week but in Lug's era temporal concepts were still a little rudimentary.

Ayra sneered. "Look in cave-of-sticks," he said, "You find beer, you take goat."

Lug searched the cave-of-sticks. There was no beer there, of course, so she left wishing that she had thought to bring her own club. She set off back to her cave to fetch it and on the way back met her friend Mog. She told Mog how Lug had taken her goat.

"Ayra done that before," Mog told her. "Gave me goat for nuts, took it away again. Said same thing too. No not same thing 'cause was nuts not beer. Said I could have goat back if I find any nuts in his hut."

"Ayra is ..." Lug began, then paused, stumped by the problem of expressing a simple concept beyond her primitive, pre-social-contract vocabulary.

"... big turd." Lug finished, a little lamely by modern standards.

"Lug not look like turd. Smell like one sometimes." Mog responded, unaware that Lug had just invented metaphor. This would lead to trouble tomorrows.

Further along the track, they met Blig. He too, had traded with Ayra for the goat yesterdays but "not same thing 'cause was berries not nuts, berries not beer."

"Ayra is ..." Lug began. Once again she was stumped by the absence of a key concept from her intellectual framework, "... big arsehole!"

"Lug arsehole same as mine. Same as yours." Mog responded as oblivious as before. Blig said nothing but his mind was already playing with the possibilities of Mog's new figure of speech.

"All get clubs!" cried Lug. "Meet here. Get Lived-Longer-Than-Most-But-Not-Long-As-Some! Fix Ayra good."

They each went their separate ways and got their clubs. It was Lug, as their leader for now, who went to fetch Lived-Longer-Than-Most-But-Not-Long-As-Some. (The story of how Lived-Longer-Than-Most-But-Not-Long-As-Some earned his name in an era when life was generally "nasty, poore, brutish and short" might be worth telling on another occasion, were it not so blindingly obvious.)

Once they had all gathered with their clubs, Lug, Mog, Blig and Lived-Longer-Than-Most-But-Not-Long-As-Some went to pay Ayra a visit.

Next: Something Wicked This Way Comes (the Judgement of Lived-Longer-Than-Most-But-Not-Long-As-Some and what came of it).

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