I knew as soon as I was coming close that I should not go on-that there was nothing to go on for. At first I sensed it; everything was too quiet. None of the small animals and birds were about, and the bushes themselves seemed to be holding still in fear. And when I came closer, I could smell it on the air-the fear was there, but also something else. Nothingness.
No, there was no reason to go ahead and every reason not to. I turned and as silently as possible fled back the way I'd come, trying to be as careful as possible not to spill the precious fruit I had been out foraging for from the loosely woven basket I was carrying.
I didn't run far, though. I had heard them, thrashing in the bushes around our clearing, and now that thrashing was coming toward me. I saw a rock outcropping off the path, over toward the cliffs where the Sharpspears lived. Normally I would not go any farther toward where they lived, the Meateater Sharpspears, than this path. But I needed shelter. I needed to hide. And the most likely place for that was by the rock outcropping in the direction of the Sharpspears' cliffs.
I turned off the path and started to move toward the outcropping. But the ground was uneven and hidden by low growth, and I was paying more attention to what was coming my way along the path than to where I was stepping. I placed my foot in a hole and fell, letting out a little cry that I knew might be the death of me. And when I arose, I could barely walk. My ankle was twisted-or worse. And all of the fruit had tumbled out of the basket.
I could hear them approaching, though, and I turned and hobbled as quickly as I could, away from them. I made it to the rocks and found a hollowed-out place, probably some animal's dwelling at some point, and I folded myself into this small space and tried to make myself as one with the rock and the bush as I could.
They were close now, and a chill ran up my spine. I could smell them now. Meateaters. My worst fear. The Sharpspears had come down into the valley. It would mean the end of the Gentle People. Our elders had sung of this. We all knew it was only a matter of time.
All of which meant nothing to me at this exact moment. Even any grieving I could do for my own would have no meaning if I joined them in the next few moments.
And then the likelihood of that happening exploded forth, as I moved my leg without thinking and came down at an odd angle on the already-twisted ankle and gave out a low grunt of pain.
The undergrowth came alive with noise, and the branches of the bush were parted, and the face of a feared Meateater and the tip of a sharpspear appeared between the spread branches.
Despite the ankle, I jumped up and ran at an angle away from the ugly face, not feeling the pain in the rush of adrenaline racing through me just to stay alive for a few more moments.
But there was another Meateater of the Sharpspears-a larger and fatter one-before me where I was running. I turned yet again and scrambled along the face of the rock outcropping, trying to slip away from them, as the two Meateaters raised their Sharpspears, went into a crouch, and began to close in to me. Their eyes were flashing with excitement, and they were grunting the pleasure of the kill. Their spear points were dripping in blood, blood of my clan, I knew.
But just then there was a bellow from beyond them, and another Meateater, larger by far, all muscle and power, hairy, with a gigantic poker between his legs and a heavy seed sac hanging down below his belly belt burst between the two others. He spread his arms wide, motioning the other two off, and they crouched down even more, leaned away from him, and backed off like beaten tamed animals.
Making to take advantage of Big Sharpspear's appearance-for this was the name I was to call him to myself, neither of us ever able to converse in anything but grunts and expressions and pointings, I turned again and made to run off to the side, along the face of the rock. But my run was no more than a hobble, and Big Sharpspear's legs were much more powerful than mine.
He reached me easily and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck with his massive, calloused hand and turned me. With a mighty blow, he backhanded my face with the other hand, and my head snapped hard around and I sank down to the earth in a daze.
Big Sharpspear picked me up and slung me over his shoulder, and I bounced painfully, belly against hard-muscled shoulder, as he trotted through the forest area and across the scrub fringe that none of the Gentle People had gone into and returned to tell of, and we were rising up the rocky slopes at the base of the cliffs and higher even by a narrow path cut in the rocks. In a short time we reached the yawning maw of a cave opening up behind a narrow ledge of rock looking out over the land toward the shining surface of the forbidden waters.
Big Sharpspear carried me into the cave, where, off to the side, there lay a pallet of rushes covered by the fur of a teeth monster and where Big Sharpspear rolled me off of his shoulder and onto my back on the soft, warm fur.
I was terrified. He was a hunter of the teeth monster-a successful hunter. And all of the Gentle People lived in fear of the unanswerable power and cruelty of the teeth monster, who attacked our clearings at will and carried off whomever it chose to feed on. How was I to protect myself against a Sharpspear who could sleep on the pelt of a teeth monster he had slain himself?
I couldn't. And thus, I put up no defense to what came next. In fact, this was little different than I knew under the power of the elders of the Gentle People. Big Sharpspear stood over me as I lay on my back on the fur pallet and looked down at me with hooded, lustful eyes that told me what he wanted. And he wrapped his hand around that gigantic poker of his and made it even larger and standing out from the bush of hair at the center of him. While he was doing this, he nudged the insides of my legs with his feet. I understood that he was demanding that I spread my legs for him. And in consideration of the size of his poker, he need not ask for that. I knew what was to come next, and I knew I wanted my legs spread as much as possible.
Big Sharpspear came down on his knees between my legs on the pallet, and with rough hands, he grabbed me by the waist and dragged my hips up over his thighs, and the breeding began. Brutal, splitting, deep reaching, producing in me waves of pain and pleasure that I answered with writhing and crying out and moaning and groaning. The most giant tree of the forest, if forced up inside me, could not have filled and stretched and worried me as his poker moving up inside me did. And when his bush was joined with mine, he began to pump me and to mutter and grunt to himself and hum a tune of victory. All of which seemed to please Big Sharpspear and spur him on to breed me not once, but three times before he was too spent to go on and rose from me
I was totally taken and exhausted and spent and just lay there, arms akimbo, my legs too numb to even try to draw them together again. But still, he did not trust that I would not try to escape. He left my side briefly and went into a chamber of the cave behind this one and came back quickly with strips of animal hide, with which, while smiling at me, and cooing to me to convey who knows what point to me, he tied my wrists together. And then, as I groaned-and cried out when he grasped my wounded ankle-he brought my legs together and tied them off at the ankles.
He did, however, rummage around at the corner of the cave and come back with a poultice of wet leaves and herbs that he wrapped around my swollen ankle.
And then, as night was forcing the retreat of day, he moved out to the rock ledge at the cave entrance, and my eyes went wide as he created magic, calling down from the heavens the god of consuming heat, from which we Gentle People ran when brush went all angry hot and yellow and red in the middle of the periodic rumbling storm. He had the consuming heat god in front of him in the middle of the ledge, as he crouched down and held a dead and plucked bird over it on a sharp stick, watching as the bird sizzled and turned blackish.
Soon, Big Sharpspear rose and brought the skewered bird over to me and pointed it at me. I whimpered and drew back from it-and from him-as best I could. He laughed then and put his mouth to the bird and sank his teeth into it and came away with a large chunk, which he then chewed noisily and swallowed.
I shrank away from him in horror and was almost sick. He indeed was one of the Meateaters-his smell alone as he was carrying me up into the cliffs and then again when he was breeding me had been enough to confirm this. But now there was no doubt.
He pushed the bird at my face again and muttered something guttural, which I took to mean he wanted me to slash at the bird myself with my teeth, but I just grimaced and turned onto my side, away from him.
I heard him laugh again, but now the laugh sounded more hollow, not so happy.
When night fell and the consuming heat god no longer proudly danced outside the cave entrance as before, Big Sharpspear came back into the cave, unbound my ankles, and laid down beside me. He put his arms around me, and I could feel his hands gliding over my body. I relaxed, knowing he was going to have me again-and again and again and again, if that was what he wanted-and that there was nothing I could do about it but be glad that while he was breeding me, he wasn't taking my life from me. He was arousing me, taking me to the other side of my fear. And he knew he was pleasing me, because my own man thing betrayed my interest. We were both breathing heavily, and I was sighing my surrender, as he laid a hand on my belly and pulled my hips back into his lap, and my opening onto his hard penetrator.
This time when he bred me, I opened more quickly and willingly to his great tool working up inside me, and when the rhythm of his pumping started, my hips, almost involuntarily, moved to join him in the dance of the breeding. And when I moaned, he sighed. And when I sighed, I felt his lips on my body. And when I gave up my seed, he laughed a low, pleased laugh, and then I felt his seed flowing deep inside me.
The next morning, he untied me and took me out to a corner of the ledge and let me unburden myself. Then he carried me back into the cave chamber and tied me up again and left me there.
For some time, I worked hard to free myself-and I finally succeeded. I then scrambled on hands and knees over toward the cave entrance and, bypassing the ring of the home of the consuming heat god, which was now all black and sending up wisps of smoke, I moved toward the edge of the ledge and peered down the steep incline of the narrow path leading to the flat scrub lands below. I had almost built up the courage to try to pull myself down the path and somehow hide in the scrub land until I felt able to move back into the forest in the night, when I saw them.
The two Meateaters from the previous day. The ones Big Sharpspear had taken me from. They were moving up the trail, crouching and looking up. The lead one saw me peering over the edge, and he gave me a cruel smile and a deep-throated laugh.
I started clambering back toward the cave entrance, my mind racing on whether I had seen anywhere to hide or take a last stand in there, wondering if it would be folly to withdraw to the chamber beyond the chamber, when I was overtaken by a hand grabbing my injured ankle and, as I yelped in pain, flipping me onto my back just inside the cave entrance.
I looked up at the two Meateaters standing over me, grinning their nasty smiles, and I knew instantly from the hardness of their man things what they had in mind.
The fat one moved around me, went down on his knees, and reached for me with both hands. He was strong, and much bigger and more powerful than I was. He lifted me off the ground with his hands wrapped around my waist and turned me. Facing away from him, looking into the sneering eyes of the other Meateater, and pulled my channel down on his fat taker. I cried out in pain and terror-and at the taking. He wasn't long, but his man thing was plump, and I was not prepared to receive him. I fought against him, but the struggling only lodged his penetrator more solidly inside me.
And then the other Meateater moved in toward me on his knees. He grabbed my hips with his hands and tilted my pelvis up toward him, and his hard man thing was entering me as well, on top of that of the other Meateater. His was longer than the first, and I gurgled and grunted my pain and frustration as he was the one who began to move his taker in and out of my channel. He hands went to my throat, and he was squeezing me there, and I was fighting for air, and seeing all of my ancestors pass before my eyes, knowing that this was my day.
But then it was the two Meateaters who were yelping in fear and being dragged away from me and beaten mercilessly.
As my eyes came into focus, I saw that Big Sharpspear had returned and was fighting both of the other Meateaters-and mastering them with little effort at all. They were lucky to manage to scramble away from him and down the pathway from the rock ledge outside the cave entrance before he had brought his sharpspear around for a killing blow.
I saw him struggle briefly in indecision. Whether to follow them down the path and dispatch them when he caught up to them or to check to see how I fared. Something inside me began to change toward him when I saw that he quickly chose to stay with me. I felt his hands glide over my body, feeling for damage, and having found none other than the red welts on my neck, he gently picked me up and returned me to the pallet.
He surely saw the bindings that I had managed to shed myself of, but he gave no indication of whether he thought I had escaped them myself or that this was the work of the two Meateaters. He must have decided on the latter, as he did not bind me again, perhaps thinking that I might have defended myself better if I hadn't been bound.
He laid me gently on the pallet, and I could see that his man thing wanted to breed again. I steeled myself for having him deep inside me again. But he didn't take me, and I surprised myself by feeling a pang of disappointment that he didn't. Instead, he went back to the mouth of the cave and returned with a reed basket full of an assortment of fruits and berries.
He offered these to me one by one. At first I was afraid he had picked this way to dispatch me, because some of the berries were poisonous. But when I separated the fruit and berries and frowned at the collection of those that were inedible, he seemed to understand. And he never brought those back to me again when he foraged for my food. And as I ate, he went back to the cave entrance and resummoned the consuming heat god and cooked his own meat over it.
All the time he ate, he watched me. His look was a tender one, but his penetrator remained hard, so I knew what he was thinking the whole time. He had brought me food that I could eat. He had saved me from the other Meateaters. And I knew now that I would not try to escape again. Down there, in the scrub lands, lurked those other Meateaters, all of whom wished me harm. I knew now that I would never feel safe away from Big Sharpspear's sight. I knew this was not a safe or a hopeful situation either. But I had always lived by the minute. There was nothing different in this.
And, so, when Big Sharpspear rose and moved slowly to me, a question in his face, not sure how he would be received, I turned toward him and raised up on my knees, and when he reached me, I held my hands out to take his man thing and leaned forward and opened my lips over the tip of it and began slowly swallowing it. He moaned, his eyes full of surprise and wonder, I'm sure never having experienced this special ritual of breeding that the Gentle People had perfected.
But then, shortly after, when I laid back and opened my arms to him, his smile and the strength and heat of his entering of me, and the quickness, the first time, of his release of his seed, told me that he thoroughly enjoyed this new form of breeding pleasure.
All seemed to be well-at least for a few cycles of day and night-but then there came a day when Big Sharpspear started to act strangely, and I began to fear what was in the chamber beyond the first one in the cave.
There came a day when the fruits and berries Big Sharpspear had brought me had been consumed. But when he made to leave the cave to replenish our supplies, I began to tremble and cry. He seemed to understand that I didn't feel safe, and, having checked the poultice of leaves and herbs he'd wrapped around my ankle and determining that the swelling had gone almost completely down, he signaled that I could go with him.
He was very thoughtful and attentive, and we moved slowly, him supporting me with his strong arms when needed. His hands stayed on my body longer than necessary when he guided me, and I could see from his poker that he would willingly lay me down and breed me again at any excuse.
I found that was what I wanted now too, but I was afraid the ankle would last only so long and that we had better do our gathering as quickly as possible and get back to the cave before dark.
Big Sharpspear had brought his spear, the magical one with the hard, gray tip on it that allowed him to bring down game with only a few tries. He did so with grace and power, and I admired the way he moved. I also began to wonder if the Gentle People too, would become Meateaters if we discovered the magic of the sharpspear. And the magic of controlling the god of the consuming heat too-and the power to bring down the teeth monster. There was no end to the wonder of the Sharpspears. And, when thinking of Big Sharpspear, in particular, there was wonder too at the power of his man thing moving inside me.
We gathered game for Big Sharpspear and fruits and berries for me-and I showed Big Sharpspear which were the edible nuts as well. Then, while we were in the forest, he moved into a dimly lit dell and pulled up some of the moss growing there and put it in the basket with the fruit. I tried to take it out again and to signal to him that it wasn't edible, but he became agitated, insisting that it remain, so remain it did.
I assumed we were ready to return to the cave then, but Big Sharpspear didn't stop the hunt there. On our way back to the cave, he stopped along the base of the cliff. He was looking for something, but I didn't know what. But then he exclaimed in a happy sound, and I looked up on the face of the cliff. He was running his hands along seams of lumpy sandy dirt between the layers of the cliff rock. And when I looked at them, I saw that they were in different colors. Red, brown, and yellow.
Big Sharpspear untied several hide pouches that had been hanging from his hide-strip belly belt and took the tip of his sharpspear and began to shave off this lumpy dirt into his pouches, one for each different color of dirt.
I sat on my haunches and watched him in awe. Some more magic, I wondered.
And then I became more sure this had something to do with magic, but less sure whether it was good magic.
He seemed excited, keyed up, when we arrived back in the cave. Twilight was falling as we got there, and he almost absentmindedly settled me on the breeding pallet and pushed the baskets of fruits, berries, and nuts at me, letting me select my own.
He hurriedly summoned the consuming heat god and wolfed down a half-cooked small animal of the scrub lands.
Then he started the most strange of rituals, one that would go on for evenings to come. He usually came to me at this time of night and stood before me, as I paid homage to his poker with my lips and then lay down for him. But this evening after his meal he paid no attention to me at all. Instead, he took out his pouches of lumpy dirt and took up a rock with an indented bowl shape in it. He sprinkled some of the dirt from one of the pouches into the depression in the rock. After that he took up the shoulder bone of a large animal he'd hunted. I had always thought this was a weapon, and I shrank from him when he took it up, ever mindful that my time was surely coming at some point soon. But he didn't dispatch me. Rather, he went over to the mouth of the opening into the chamber behind this one and crouched down and began to beat the lumpy sand dirt in the rock bowl with the shoulder bone. He was looking at me and smiling and humming while he did so. And I was thinking how strange the rituals of the Sharpspear people were.
And after he seemed satisfied with this part of the ritual, he rose, with the rock bowl in his hand, and went over to the side of the cave, where our drinking water trickled down the cave wall from a fissure overhead. There, he filled the bowl with water, and, smiling at me in passing, he took the bowl into the back chamber. He returned and repeated this ritual in other rock bowls with the other two pouches of dirt.
The third time he came back, he took up a big staff of wood, which briefly made me fear for my life once more. But, without looking at me, he held the head of the staff inside the consuming heat god, until the god flared up in anger. Then when the staff came out of the god's grasp, there were two gods, one on the rock ledge outside the entrance to the cave and the other lapping around the head of the staff.
The cave chamber now was alive with shimmering light. There were seams of sparkling color running through the walls of the cave and several places where water seeped down in small rivulets, and the glow from the angry god bounced around the wall and made it come alive.
I thought Big Sharpspear would come to me then, but, although he did bend down to me in passing, holding the angry god-tipped staff over his head, instead of reaching for me, he put his hand in the fruit basket and brought out the patches of moss that he had insisted we bring back.
Then he took the staff and disappeared into the back chamber and I again was in near darkness, with only the consuming heat god at the entrance to the cave reflecting light back to me. I lay down, sadly, wondering what magic Big Sharpspear was summoning forth, and worrying about myself-and, most strangely-worrying about Big Sharpspear as well.
I slowly went to sleep, as did the consuming heat god at the cave entrance.
Sometime in the night, Big Sharpspear did come to me and breed me. And he did so in a new excitement and exuberance I had not experienced from him before. Deep in the breeding, he pulled me up with him as he rose to his feet. I was connected to him at our pelvises, and I wrapped my legs around his thighs, under his big, firm buttocks, as he walked us out to the entrance of the cave, and he bred me deep and strongly as we both looked up at the twinkling dots of consuming heat gods in the night sky.
When he put me back down, he didn't come down to me to sleep, me in his embrace, as he had been doing at night before this strange ritual started. Rather he went back to the cave entrance and pulled several twigs, with blackened ends, out of the dying consuming heat god and carried them into the back chamber.
He did this for four days. And I was afraid that he had gone mad.
And the more I thought about it and the longer he did it the more sure I was that he had gone mad and that something terrible was happening back there in that forbidden chamber, something deadly. My worst fears were realized the night he came to me and I woke with the fingers of one of his hands before my face. They were dripping in a bloody-red fluid. I sat up and screamed, knowing my time had come.
Big Sharpspear looked surprised and then concerned. And then when he saw the blood red dripping on his fingers, he laughed and wiped his fingers off on the teeth monster hide. Then he stood and picked me up in his arms and carried me toward the back chamber.
I cried and whimpered, not wanting this to be my day, not wanting now to leave him. Not knowing how I had displeased him. Beside myself in wanting another chance to please him and stay as we were before these four chilling days.
When he carried me into the back chamber, my eyes opened in wonder and awe. The staff tipped with the angry consuming heat god was wedged into the rock wall and was sending light reflecting all over a chamber slightly smaller than the one at the cave entrance but with much thicker veins of the sparkling earth between the white-gray rock.
That's not what caught my attention, though. The inside walls of the cave were covered with wondrous, colored scenes of animals and men in motion. Literally all of the walls were alive with action, depicting the lives of the Meateater Sharpspears. The paint-in rich reds, and browns, and yellow and defined by tracings in black-on the wall beside the lighted staff, however, was still wet.
Big Sharpspear set me down on the rock floor of the cave, and I slowly approached this obviously still-unfolding scene. I knew now what all of the ritual was about. Big Sharpspear was creating a scene on the walls of this inner sanctum. And not just any scene. He was a master depicter. I could clearly see that he was painting our life together from the scene of his having taken me-saving me, I now knew-to our first breeding and the attack of the two Meateaters and his learning of what I could eat and our trip to the outside world for our food-and for the colors he was painting with. And I could see now, looking down at the lumps of moss with paint on them, for the brushes. The twigs with the blackened ends were there, obviously used for the outlining.
And, in the last frame, still being painted, appeared the gigantically big Meateater Sharpspear and the small man of the Gentle People-joined as one contentment on their faces. He had the smiles on the faces of both outlined with the charcoal but not yet colored in.
I saw that there was another fur-covered pallet in this room, and I turned and pressed on Big Sharpspear's chest until he realized that I wanted him to lie on the pallet on his back. He smiled as he laid down. I didn't have to prepare either his or my penetrators-I had realized days ago that we needed only be in close proximity to both be ready for the breeding. And then I mounted his man thing with my channel and rode him into paradise, my eyes feasting on the magnificence of his wall paintings and wondering what this new, strange, happy feeling of belonging and wanting meant. But knowing without a doubt that the feeling was one I wanted to keep and that it all centered on this big man I was filled with--my Big Sharpspear.