It has occurred to me that it’s been a while since I posted any of my prose on here. So I thought I’d share this little piece that I wrote back in October.
How it all began …
The forest was dying. Where once great trees had stretched unbroken from horizon, now long grasses swayed in the wind. What trees were left were solitary, stretching out long roots to seek out every drop of moisture from the arid soil, or huddled in little clumps where a hollow allowed a little ground water to accumulate. Only the banks of rivers and lakes still held narrow bands of thick woodland, squeezing their inhabitants into enclosed spaces where they must fight each other for dwindling resources.
But, if you were fast enough, smart enough, and wise enough to know where and when the next crop of fruit would ripen, there was still a life to be made here. The apes had survived, thrived even, when so many other species had moved on or died out. They had the agility, the intelligence, the wisdom to make sure there was always enough to eat. But with this new environment came new risks. No longer could the apes spend their whole lives in the canopy, moving from one branch to another, to another. No patch of forest was big enough now to sustain them on its own. They must move from one to the other, take their chances in the long grass to find the next fruit-laden tree. Apes were not built for grassland. Their knuckle walk was steady and serviceable, but never fast, and it kept their heads low, below the level of the waving grass that restricted their view to what was right in front of their eyes. It screened them too, but there were hunters on that grassland that could smell them from hundreds of metres away, and catch them long before they reached the safety of the next tree.
There was a young ape that liked to fool about, walking on its hind legs. The older apes disdained it, but the youngster did not care. It would do as it pleased, and when its troop made the trek from one clump of trees to the next, it would maintain this two-legged gait, enjoying a view denied to the others. One day, as they knuckle-walked along, oblivious, the youngster’s high pitched shrieks alarmed them. The big males gathered around the mothers and babies, and confronted the leopard that had been stalking them. Faced with a wall of teeth and and a hail of stones, and unwilling to fight for its meal, it retreated.
It was not long before all the young apes in that troop, and some of the older ones, adopted the habit of walking on their hind legs. And it was not many generations before their descendants became more successful, more numerous than those of others who still maintained the old knuckle-walking ways. They were adaptable, intelligent creatures. But they were still apes: what that odd habit of theirs would ultimately lead to was something utterly beyond their comprehension.