Transcendence, p.38
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       Transcendence, p.38

           Shay Savage
 
Page 38

  Beh had fitted Fil in the sling she wore around her shoulders so he could nurse while we walked. Lee and Lah had decided to stay behind and hunt, but Kay was with us—running back and forth on the small trail that led from the tribe’s cave to the little cave we had lived in before.

  It had been late spring, and Fil had been born the previous fall. We had not been to the little cave all winter, and Beh seemed anxious to get there. Once we arrived, I built us a fire—in case she wanted to stay the night—and had Kay help me air out the furs that were still there.

  Beh had gone to the funny black container and pulled something out. It was not something I had seen before—a long tube with a bit of red at one end and black stripes down the side. Beh took it out and held it in her hands for a while, and once I had Kay settled on the furs for a bit, I went over to find Beh with tears in her eyes.

  I knelt before her and took her face in my hands, not understanding, but knowing she still needed me. I wrapped my arms around her and held her close to my chest, encompassing her and Fil together. She put the thing aside and wrapped her arms around my head, holding me tightly for a short while before pushing me away a little to pick up the long object again.

  Then, Beh had taken a deep breath and looked into my eyes. I didn’t understand what she was trying to communicate other than…regret. Sadness. Decisiveness.

  She took the object and held it against her arm. One more deep breath and she pushed part of it with her thumb. She winced, and I grabbed the thing away from her. There was blood on her arm—just a little bit, but I threw the thing out of the mouth of the cave while I fussed over her arm for a while.

  We went back to the tribal cave soon after, and that night Beh began to bleed. She bled for days—many more than she normally did—even more than after she had given birth. Her stomach cramped painfully, and she had me make her hot water, boiled and mixed with leaves from a plant she found, which seemed to help. I had been terrified, but eventually the bleeding slowed and stopped, and Beh was no longer in pain.

  I had known then that we would have no more children, and I spoil Fil because of it. I keep him with me almost all the time, afraid to miss a single second of his life. It has been easy since he is silent like me and doesn’t make all the strange noises his mother and other siblings like to make. His eyes are the same color as his mother’s, large and expressive. He is perfectly capable of walking back to our area of the cave, but I carry him anyway.

  Beh just grins and moves her head back and forth. She still makes sounds at Fil, and he will watch her mouth move and has repeated a few of her sounds. When he does, Beh is ecstatic, and Fil is just confused. I hold him close to me and touch his cheek with my nose.

  I’m familiar with his frustration at his mother’s constant sounds.

  We lie in our furs, Beh still teary-eyed and Lah sitting on the furs and staring at her hands. Sometimes she looks over toward the section of the cave that will be for Lee and Nay and sighs. Kay moves close to Lah and makes sounds, and Lah responds. Beh’s noises come out sharp and biting, and both girls quiet and lie down.

  I lay in the center, with Beh and Fil on one side and Lah and Kay on the other. If I lay on my back, I can reach them all. Lah lies the farthest away now—like Lee had before. She rolls to look to the mouth of the cave and away from me. She will choose her mate soon; I am sure. She and Lee will still be close, but everything will also be different now.

  My family is growing up.

  My bare feet are cold. I didn’t realize how cold it would be away from the cave with the wind whipping around off the lake. I probably did know, but I forgot. I seem to forget a lot of things lately, like the name-sound Kay and Gar gave their latest child. I just can’t seem to commit it to memory.

  Beh’s coughing makes me forget about my feet as I pull her closer to my chest, holding her as steadily as my old arms still can. She weighs almost nothing, which is good for my arms but also the reason I carry her. She is too weak to walk by herself.

  Lee knew we wouldn’t be returning—I could see it in his eyes.

  Holding Beh up a little higher on one side quiets her cough, at least for now. It never quiets completely, and it has grown steadily worse as winter approaches. Her arm around my neck barely grips at my skin, a testament to her weakness. She has hardly eaten and has only taken a few drinks of water in the past day. All the plants she has used to help me or someone else in the tribe feel better have made no difference.

  “Hoh!” I stumble on a tree branch lying across the trail and have to catch my balance to keep from dropping Beh. She giggles—the sound reminding me of the beautiful young girl I found so long ago—as she touches the side of my mouth with her finger.

  The laughter brings back the coughing, and I hold her close as I pick up the pace. I don’t want to arrive too late. I want to be in our cave when the time comes.

  I don’t know why, but I feel it is important to be there. It is where we learned about each other—where we truly became mates. It is where I put Lah and Lee inside of her and where they were both born. It is the place Beh always wants to return to at least once every summer, just to look around and go through the strange things inside the black container.

  Maybe she thinks of Dad when she does that.

  I stumble once more as I climb the slight ledge from the ravine to the mouth of our cave. I’m glad there is still daylight outside as I take a quick peek to make sure no animals have taken up residence since we were last here.

  The cave is empty.

  I turn sideways to carry Beh inside, but I can’t get the angle right for us both to fit through the narrow opening at the same time. I have to place her down on her feet and hold her up from behind as we both make our way through the crack. There are many older furs lying in the back of the cave where we used to sleep, and I lay Beh on top of them while I use her little shiny round thing to quickly make a fire.

  My back aches as I straighten up, tossing a few more pieces of wood at the blaze as I rub at my spine. I hear Beh calling out my name-sound and quickly move to her side, my own pains forgotten. I lie down beside her and pull one of the furs up around us. I cradle her frail body in my arms, holding her up a little as another coughing spell takes her breath from her.

  Once it has subsided, I lay her back down and curl up alongside her. She shivers, and I pull another fur over us. It seems hard for her to stay warm these days even though it’s not too cold yet. I shift as close to her as I can, letting my body heat soak into her. I hold her as the sun goes down, and the warmth of the fire fills the small cave.

  I think of the first day I saw her, sitting at the bottom of my hunting pit. I remember how obstinate she was at first, though when I think back on it now, I realize she was only confused and frightened. I remember when she first untangled my hair for me and the little wooden carving I had made to help with the task.

  I made another and gave it to Lah when she mated with Ty. Kay also received one when she mated with Gar. Many of the other men began to carve similar gifts for their own mates and daughters.

  I remember the first time I was inside of Beh, touching the soft skin of her back as waves of pleasure moved over me. I remember when I placed my hand on her belly and felt Lah kick. I remember when Kay was born and how Lee helped me cut the cord and place his new sister on his mother’s stomach.

  I remember it all.

  Beh’s hand trembles as she reaches up and touches my jaw. Her fingers are soft and cool, and I lean into her touch as she strokes my skin.

  “Beh…loves…Ehd,” she whispers, and her eyes sparkle at me just like they did the first time I tried to put a baby inside of her. It seems so long ago, but also so recent, as if time isn’t really relevant to the feelings inside of us both.

  But time still moves, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

  “Luffs Beh,” my mouth utters, and I am rewarded with her quiet smile and the touch of her
thin fingers on my cheek. “Ehd luffs Beh. ”

  For a long time, I just look at her eyes. They are different with her age but still the same. They still hold me captive, wanting to spend every moment of every day looking into them. She looks into mine as well, and a small smile stays on her lips. Her fingers touch my mouth, and her throat bobs as she swallows and takes another labored breath.

  “Khizz?” I reach up and push her silver hair away from her forehead.

  Beh’s smile broadens, and I move closer to press my mouth to hers. Her lips are soft and warm, just like they always have been.

  Slowly, she pulls away and lays her head against my shoulder. I settle down into the furs and look down at her face. I can feel her struggling breaths against my skin as I hold her close. She turns her face to me and gives me a final smile.

  Again, she turns into my chest, and I feel her lips press against my skin. Another labored breath. Another.

  No more.

  My eyes burn, and my chest tightens. I pull her to me, tucking my head against her shoulder and inhaling the scent of her hair. My nose trails over the textured skin of her neck, and I place my lips lightly against her jaw.

  I can’t stop the tears. I don’t want to cry. I’m too tired to cry. My life with Beh was beautiful, transcending everything that set us apart from each other and bringing us together with our family and tribe.

  I shouldn’t cry.

  I rub my cheek against her shoulder and tighten my grip. I wrap my arms around her and twist our legs together as well, just for good measure. I want to make sure nothing can separate us. I want to be positive we will remain together forever.

  I settle myself against Beh’s body, sniff her hair again, and let out a long, deep breath.

  Finally, I close my eyes for the last time.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR | EPILOGUE

  Many millennia later…

  “Elizabeth! Isn’t that your mom’s find?”

  I sigh, shrug my backpack further up my shoulder, and turn to see Teresa and Sheila coming up behind me. They both grab an arm to link through their own before dragging me to the next museum exhibit.

  The Prehistoric Lovers.

  “Is her group still being investigated for fraud?” Teresa asks.

  “Yeah, I guess,” I reply. “No one’s admitting anything, and they haven’t found any kind of real evidence it was planted on purpose. ”

  “What was planted?” Sheila asks. Her parents totally forbid any television watching or internet use, so she never has the slightest idea what’s going on in the world. I can’t imagine not having a television, or an iPad, or my phone. Just…no.

  I really don’t want to go into it all with them, so instead of answering, I lean over and push the little button near the edge of the exhibit that holds the skeletal remains of two prehistoric people, wrapped in a tight embrace.

  “The Prehistoric Lovers,” a soft, feminine voice begins. Mom’s voice always reminds me of when she would read to me before bedtime, and I smile as it chimes through the museum’s speakers. “The dig, located near Pecs, Hungary, was discovered…”

  Several other patrons join the group—some from my senior class and some just the usual museum visitors. The find received a lot of national attention from the get-go, but when its validity was questioned because of one of the items found at the site, the media went berserk. I don’t understand their fascination with the whole thing, really. I mean, it has to be a mistake, right?

  “…carbon dating establishing them far earlier than any other Homo sapiens’ remains discovered…”

  I look over the various objects found at the site. Most of it is the usual stuff. Aside from the actual, fossilized skeletons wrapped in an everlasting embrace, there is evidence of a cooking fire, including some bits of broken pottery that were found in a nearby lake that were thought to be the same age. The pieces aren’t really fired, like I learned to do at the YMCA last summer, just rough clay pieces. The break is strange, making a unique zigzag pattern down the center.

  “…controversy around the site began when a small, round button was discovered amongst the remains…”

  A spotlight comes on, and I have to roll my eyes. I can’t believe they are actually highlighting the thing that has made everyone question the entire find. The light reflects off a small, silver button with letters spelling out “JORDACHE” in a semi-circle around it.

  “…though no real explanation has been determined…”

  “Oh my God!” Teresa exclaims as she reaches down and grabs at the metal button of my jeans, which also happens to have “JORDACHE” stamped on it. “I always knew you had the fashion sense of a Neanderthal!”

  Teresa goes into a fit of hysterical laughter, and Sheila giggles into her hand. I’m sure she’ll try to use this as a way to get me to reconsider a shopping expedition to Atlanta this weekend. I have way too much homework, and between Mom’s find and Dad’s experiments, I’m the only one doing any housework these days, too. The dirty laundry is going to form its own system of government if I don’t get it washed soon.

  “…through the use of modern testing methods, the age of the button shows it to be of the same time frame as the rest of the finds at the site. Many religious groups are now using it as evidence that such dating methods are unreliable, and that creationism should be…”

  I tune out my mother’s voice and look over the rest of the display. There is more pottery, which is the part that excited Mom as much as anything. Apparently, no one was making pots back then. I would have thought it was obvious, kind of like the wheel. I mean, even I can make clay dishes, for goodness’ sake. There are also little crisscross patterns in one of the rocks, which Mom thinks were left by a woven basket of some kind.

  Seriously—how hard can it be to weave some reeds together?
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