Vol. 3 No. 1
Run the Spearmaker
by Kris Neville
Time: At the Beginning of the last Ice Age
The morning of the day of the miracle, the hunters assembled at the spot, not far from the river, indicated by Forw. He insisted that the Women come, too, and the Women brought the Children.
All knew the stakes. This was the final confrontation between the tribe and Forw. The judge was Harsp. His the decision: Forw shall live, Forw shall die. The Hunters seated Harsp separately, so that they might watch him.
Run joined the Hunters.
Forw was not in evidence. The hunters were all assembled. To one side, the Women. The Children ranged near to the Women's hands, regarding the men with respect.
Where was Forw?
Had Forw run away? Had his cowardice overcome him? Time progressed. Still Forw was missing.
Run felt his body lose its tenseness, slow degree by slow degree. Forw was always a coward. He wasn't man enough for his last bluff. He knew he couldn't bring off any kind of miracle in plain sight, before such a sophisticated audience as this, an audience containing Run, himself, smartest of all the men in the tribe. Forw doubtless had thought upon the matter at length, and at the end, had fled rather than face them.
At first the Hunters talked about what Forw might do. He might command thunder. Or fire in the sky. Or bring snow. Or make the earth shake. Or the sun dim.
Still, all these things they had seen. True, not on command, but they had seen them done. They had seen the wind carry branches. They had seen the sky turn to fire at evening. Would he command one of these? It would prove, perhaps, that he knew magic to control these Forces. But, while terrifying, what would such control prove in actuality?
It would prove that he might be dangerous, and they should kill him quickly. It would say nothing of what might then happen. It would not prove that the Forces had said: Do not beat the Women and Children.
No Nothing short of the sky itself, opening, and the thunder crying, "Love the Women:" would convince these sceptical Hunters beyond the possibility of doubt.
Harsp's position in the matter was thus unfortunate. Run felt compassion. No matter what decision Harsp came to, he would finally be proved wrong.
I always told him, thought Run, that thinking would get him in trouble. He would not take my advice. This is what it has cost him. His only hope is now that Forw will not come at all. His salvation is in that. This should teach Harsp a lesson he will not quickly forget.
There was open grumbling now, "He would not wait like this if he knew the miracle were a true miracle." "He is embedded in fear, like a wound in mud." "It's a moment more of life for him before he faces us!" "The coward!" "He keeps us here, from the hunt, merely to live a while longer:" "Perhaps he will not come at all!"
The Hunters, worked to a fury of anger, began to, cry: "Forwl Forw: Forw!" The whole jungle roared echo to this impatient cry, and it came back from the cliffs along the river: "Forw! Forw!"
They'll kill him now, thought Run with satisfaction, the moment they see him.
Standing, Harsp cried in the loudest of voices, "Let us organise and hunt the coward down!"
And at that moment, Forw appeared from the jungle. Gone the weakling stance. Gone the cowardly fear in the cave. Here was a man transformed inwardly with a strange confidence. His skins were limp upon him, yet they did not detract from his dignity. His body moved with the twisted rhythm he could never escape: but now the movement inspired fear rather than contempt in the Hunters. He was altered into something not quite human.
Forw walked slowly, dragging, swaying, drawn erect against the difficulties of his body, overcoming them, bending the body to a will that blazed without compromise from those eyes that swept the rest of his face into shadow. He ascended the slight rise before the Hunters. He seated himself. He picked up a stone knife lying on the ground. All was silent.
Beside him, the Hunters now noted, was a depression. They could not see into it, since he was slightly elevated. His hand vanished into this depression. It came up with a fish.
The Hunters, astounded, looked at each other. What was this foolishness? Was he trying to convince them he had pulled a fish out of the ground? Any fool could see through that! The merest of tricks! He had merely put the fish in there in the first place! Was this the contempt he held them in, to attempt such transparent deceit?
They all looked to Harsp for the signal. Kill the contemptible creature at once!
Harsp bent forward, hesitating. Was that all he was going to do? Remove a fish from that depression? It was insane: There must be more. Harsp must hold his hand. It was too soon to judge.
Forw cut the fish into two pieces and motioned the Women forward. He gave the pieces to two Women.
"What's he getting at?" whispered Lirk. "I don't see what he's getting at at all."
Forw reached into the depression. Out came a second fish. He gave this to a third Woman. Out came a third fish. He worked upon it with the knife, slowly, methodically. He motioned more Women forward. He distributed the pieces of fish to Them.
"How many fish has that idiot got?" thought Run.
Forw brought out a fourth fish. The knife moved. Pieces went to the Women. A fifth fish came out, a, sixth. A seventh fish, cut into three pieces.
"I've never seen so many fish!" gasped Lirk. "Where did he get all those fish?"'
Eight fish, nine fish, ten fish: with the knife making cuts, How many fish were there? Look, the Women are still taking pieces of fish. All the Women now have fish, and there is fish to spare. There are many, many, many, many fish! He has brought out an innumerably large quantity of fish from that small hole in the ground. Perhaps more fish than there are in the whole river.
Gasps of astonishment came from the Hunters. It is not possible. One fish, yes: Even two fish: Once in a great while, by accident, the Women might catch one fish. One could stretch credulity a little and say, in one day, the Women might catch two fish. But more than that? Impossible: And here is Forw, pulling fish out of that little hole until all the Women are fed.
And look! The fish are not dead! They are fresh fish! See the Women eat them? They have just been taken from the river! Look! Yet more fish!
Out came the eleventh fish. It wiggled and was still alive! The Women were eating fish faster to keep up. Their mouths were stuffed with fish. Their hands were filled with fish, and still fish came.
A twelfth fish came out. He cut it into many pieces and held out the pieces to the men! Plainly, he would sit here all day pulling fish out of that little hole. The men's stomachs turned at the thought of eating the fish he held toward them. Was he going to make them eat it? No! No! Please! Stop!
Forw turned slowly at the waist and offered the fish to the Women. The men let out a long sigh of relief. It was over. They were exhausted with tension. Then Forw reached in and brought out another fish. It was more fish than anyone could eat, and still the fish came. Would he continue to pull fish out until there would be no place to stand but for fish? It was insupportable! He had made his point! Why didn't he stop?
Forw regarded the thirteenth fish before him. He did not use the knife upon it. Rather, he waited until the tension was just short of unendurable. Would he pull out still another fish?
No. Forw stood slowly.
"There are no Forces!" he cried.
They all knew he lied, There had to be Forces. No man in the world, nor all the men in the world, could assemble that many live fish together. Any man that couldn't see that was just plain dumb! What was he up to?
"Of course there are Forces!" they cried. "There have to be Forces!"
"There are no Forces!" answered Forw.
The following silence was so painful it hurt the ear drums. It went on and on. It seemed silence would never end until the assembled multitude, each in his own way, exploded under the tension of waiting.
Then, at last, he let them down, gave them relief, gave them reassurance, restored to them the logic they had forsaken.
"There is only one Force!" he cried. "It commands you to Love the Women!
And he turned and walked away.
The Hunters collapsed upon themselves, their bodies rivers of clammy perspiration, now growing chill in the breeze that came. They hardly knew what to do with themselves, whether to move, whether to stay. It was some time before anyone thought to look toward Harsp.
Limply he gestured, He shall live.
Later, he told Run, "If I'd have told them to kill him, they would have torn me into more pieces than the fish."
Days later, when the Hunters returned from the hunt, Run was sitting disconsolately, his spear work untended.
Harsp came to his side. Run was moving the pile of pebbles aimlessly.
"It doesn't matter," said Harsp. "You can never figure out how many fish there were."
"I know that. I know that. But then the Mother kept cutting them up, too!"
Run's initial resolve was to keep to himself the secret of the seed. But as he thought the matter over, would his wife, Lernar? Soon the new knowledge would travel through the mouths of the women into the ears of the men. Run's role in the revelation would forever remain unacknowledged. The need for recognition was too great. At the first opportunity, Run relayed the information to Harsp. Impelled by honesty and a secret guilt, he brought out Lemar's own contribution: so that it became their joint discovery.
Harsp went at once to Forw. The theory was outlined. As it grew from his lips, Harsp's own contribution to its development assumed overriding proportions. "So," he concluded, "you see, Lemar has carried the Child of Run. Lorei now carries the Child of mine. And Forw, your Child is carried in the belly of Cari."
"My Child?" said Forw.
"Whose else? Has she not always been in your sight? The Child can be none other but yours." Harsp reviewed this statement. Certainly a more true statement, or one more obvious, had never . been advanced.
His eager candor, his innocence, disabused Forw, in a flash of insight, of his lengthening suspicion.
"The Child is not mine," said Forw.
"It can be no other's!" Harsp insisted.
Upon this proof the whole force of Harsp's argument turned. No demonstration could be too lengthy. Harsp therefore proceeded to cover Forw with the necessary words. No one else had an opportunity to impregnate Carl. Did not Forw keep her ever in his sight? Had she ever, once, strayed during the day or while the Hunters were at the cavesite? Never! There was no alternative explanation.
Into Forw's eyes,. as Harsp talked, came a strange, wild light. "Praise the Lord!" he cried at length. "Praise the Lord! You are right, Harsp; you are right!"
Harsp relaxed. The point was made; the issue was won.
Carl was not nearby, so Forw called to a woman to bring her. In time, she came, large with Child, sullenly.
"You are with Child," said Forw. "The, Child has been planted in your belly. But you have not been with man. Is this not true? Did I not warn you, you are not to lay with man! You have not lain with man?"
Can readily admitted the truth of this. She was apprehensive: had that fool Run let slip their conjoining? She prepared to deny it, suspecting the possible depths of Forw's wrath.
"Praise the Lord!" cried Forw. The light in his eyes was brighter now. His whole face was suffused with an almost luminescent pallor. "I knew it was true! I knew it was true! This is the true sign, the final proof. The last unbeliever must now forsake his unbelief! Come! Here! Admit it now! Don't lie! The Lord of the Jungle came to you in the silence of the night and lay with you and got you with Child! Confess! Tell all! How did He come to you? Tell me! Describe it!"
Carl was motionless. As feared, Forw had already learned of the discovery made by Lemar and Run which even now the women were in a dither of excitement over. Trapped in the final proof of her infidelity, she smiled now and passed through the entrance way Forw had laid open to her. Her own fertile mind could not but grasp the advantage which would accrue to her status when all knew that she had had sex with the Lord and bore His Child in her belly. Again she mounted the pedestal of superiority which the sharing of women had deprived her of.
Forw was snapping at her, demanding details. "Why were you afraid to tell me before?" Harsp had fallen back.
And Cari tried to think. What did the Lord of the Jungle look like? Was He a man? Did he possess the necessary physical equipment?
In truth, knowing Forw for a fraud, she had never attempted to envision the substance of his imagination and give it reality. The Lord of the Jungle was words, nothing more.
"What was it like?" demanded Forw, dancing with excitement. "Well, first," she said, "there's these words --"
"Praise the Lord," cried Fore. "Is this not true, Harsp, is this not eternally true? In the beginning there were these words. I knew it In the beginning, there was this word, and the word was God! Praise the Lord!"
Harsp nodded his head.
"And God came to you like the wind at night, like the mist, God came to you as a spirit and entered you?" demanded Forw.
"This is true," said Cari. Already she was elaborating the details in her mind. Here was a tale she would be able to repeat until the end of time and each repetition would grow in the telling. She could scarcely restrain herself from interrupting Forw, who was already piling detail upon detail with regard to this singular encounter.
A secret smile came. A great burden lifted. Fear that Run might some day expose her was gone. When she was through, no one would dare believe him should he attempt it.
"And this son of God," cried Forw, "will stay at the cave and will help me and will talk to God, his Father, and in time he will replace me and guide our tribe in the ways of righteousness"' He will succeed me! Praise God!" Forw was seized and inflamed by the passion of a convert.
"But what do you think It's going to look like?" asked Harsp. "Will It be born in the form of a vapour, of a mist?"
Forw's enthusiasm faltered to a halt. Horrifying thought!
This Thing in her belly might replace him entirely. The Lord might bring It forth full grown, in all Its powers. Had the Lord stolen from Forw his just reward? Ah! When this Thing came, gone was the role or Forw forever.
And so, in that moment, Forw, in profound bitterness, came to hate God as well as everybody else.
Cari, who knew that she carried a normal baby in her belly, did not disabuse him of his suspicions as to its form. Let the suspense increase.
Later, when Harsp described this new miracle to Run and speculated on the form the son of the Lord would assume, Run started to say, "It's just another baby." But caution made him hold his tongue.
Then he said, "It will walk upon the water and control the winds and be one with the soaring birds. Oh, age of miracles!"
Cari gave birth, eventually at high noon. The sun was directly overhead. The three wise men of the tribe, Harsp, Run, and Forw, stood beside her and watched.
Harsp and Forw were covered with fear, awe, and apprehension. Run was calm. The baby came, and it was a small, red, squalling object. A male.
Forw gave a mighty cry of anguish, a scream that echoed in the forest and startled the women almost into flight.
Forw stared at the infant and knew that he could never be able to establish, to his own satisfaction, whether or not there really was a Lord of the Jungle, unless he could first know for certainty, once and for all, whether or not Cari had learned from him how to lie. And he could never, never, never, to the end of time, solve this puzzle.
So he looked down on the Infant and hated It, too.
* * *
Spring came to end the terrible winter; the snows melted by slow degrees, leaving the ground moist and new.
Kling Harsp joined the hunters to restore their pride in themselves, brushing aside his son, the Prince, without concern for his feelings. Harl was made again into a small infant while his father rallied the hunters with great words:
"We have survived as a Tribe the time of bitter trial. We are men strengthened by adversity. Great is our Tribe; great our hunters. Has not the Lord, himself, favoured us with promises? Let us ever remember the welfare of the Tribe. This is the precious thing to all of us. Do not expect the Tribe to do for you; rather, ask of yourself what you, mighty hunters, can do for the Tribe. In our Tribe, truly, we find ourselves and become whole. In my breast beats this great love of Tribe that dims my eyes with tears and chokes my throat so that I may hardly speak. What great, pure, true, unselfish love is this Can there be any among you who does not feel as I? Is there one so base born as to prefer his good over the good of the Tribe?
"If there be such a one, let me not hear of him, lest I should fall upon him in great wrath. He should be shunned by all men of virtue. If there be any among us who should talk against this great civilisation we have built, if there be any that talk against this natural order by which we live, according to the will of the Lord let him be cast out! If any, in complaining of the snows and the hardships, mutter against the Tribe and its leaders, answer him resolutely. He cares only for himself. He is selfish. He is discontent. He is not satisfied. He is served as he deserves by the Lord, by the Tribe, by his fellows: as his own merit dictates. He can gain no stature from his own worth and would tear us down to his level. Let there be no such talk"
Leta had taken to hiding from her father and increased in disobedience. Harsp would seek her out to punish her with harsh shakings and furious hugs. "Let me alone!" she cried. "Keep your hands off me!"
Yet she knew into Harsp's thoughts, and he was consumed with a burning rage: how sweet above all things this forbidden thing. Only in her could he find the true release for the hot power within his body. No consequence was too awful to restrain him, and yet he held off. For she knew, and he waited her move. She knew. She must feel the same burning within herself that he felt she must come to him -- so that all might be done in silence, in secret. The time would -- must -- come.
Lorci, his wife, said: "Harsp, we must do something about Leta. It is time that a husband is found for her. In her treatment of me, she causes much dissent ion in the family and great unpleasantness. We must mate her among the hunters, that she may leave our meals and sleep away from us."
"She's too young," Harsp snarled. "She is not of the years to know man. Besides, she is a comfort to me, woman. Would you deny me this childish pleasure in my daughter? Do you ever wish to bring evil to our family and dissention? Let Leta alone, she knows her mind."
Lorci moved among women, seeking to find a mate for Leta. "It is good that we see our daughters, when they are of an age, married. It would be an honour, indeed, to marry the daughter of the King, would it not? Let one of your children come forward to take her. Do not fear her father's wrath. No. Listen. Do this and I will give you this special seed grinder Run has made for me and that I value above all things. I will give this to Leta, that she may prepare bread, that she may feed her husband in time of hardship. Truly, is she not a fine woman already? Has she not been a dutiful daughter, well trained to please men, of a quiet, loving disposition. Oh, a thing of precious rarity..."
One day, Lorci was horrified to find both Harsp and Leta absent. It was approaching the time when the sun is most high. The air was delicious and exciting with the perfume of growing things. In panic, Lorci rushed to the edge of the jungle. Where were they? Not in the thickets perhaps where there were leafy, secret enclosures, perhaps they had hidden there!
She plunged into the jungle. The noise she made was most loud and alarming. She became still, but for the powerful beating of her heart. She moved, then, as quietly as the wind, more quiet than the wind. Often she stopped to listen, tasted the air. Then she heard voices, soft, indistinct. Catlike she came closer and closer:
There they were, tangled together in the sex act! The sunlight dimpled over their thrashing bodies. It was so far from her expectations as to produce in her the chill of a winter night and with a great cry she sprang forward. The male leaped to his, feet and fled.
Way looked up from the ground into the eyes of her mother. Way! Way, not Leta! Way and an unknown child!
Lorci screamed in anguish -- and relief.
Way, trembling, came to Harsp for judgment. In him burned such awful, quiet rage that no words were invented for its expression. This rage had components like sharp knives, and so his thoughts flinched and flinched again and became bloody. There was no clear channel for them to escape into.
He started quietly: "What have you done?" he asked. "Is this thing true, what you mother has said?"
With downcast eyes, Way was silent. Her trembling now ceased and her body held itself with stiff defiance. She said no word.
"Does Lorci lie? Speak!"
"She does not lie," said Way.
"So! My own daughter! To do this thing! Tell me about it. Let me hear it from your own lips. Call Leta in. Let her hear, too. I will be told all the sickening details of this monstrous act. Tell! Talk!"
"I lay with a man," Way said. "It's not the first time. What do you want from me? It's true."
"Is this the example you set for your sister? Would you have that sweet child, Leta, do as you have done? Have you no pride?" He was blinded with rage.
Way now looked up and met his eyes. There was quiet defiance in her. Harsp faltered in his thoughts and there was a sudden panic.. He must not allow her to talk. God knew what that wild thing might say, what awful accusations might tumble from her lips. Leta could not hear this No, she must be protected.
"Get out!" snarled Harsp at Lord. "Out. Leave us! Out, I say."
"She's your own daughter, your flesh and blood, your seed," Lorci said. "Stay this wild rage in you."
"More yours than mine!" And he sprang upon Way, knocking her to the ground. "Out, Lorci!"
She faced him but could not hold her position. She fled in panic for her child.
Harsp stood over the girl. Blood trickled from her cut lip. "Kill me if you wish," she said. "Lorci speaks truly. You have made me. I am your seed. Do what you will: it is to yourself that you do it."
And suddenly the rage trembled to confusion and despair. Something was wrong, somewhere, and a monstrous, unheard of thing had happened to him. No, not to him, to the whole Tribe: the wickedness of women, as Forw had said, pervaded all. He was smothered by it. These creatures who shamelessly flaunted man's desire were aliens. Without them, men were good. But when they came, they brought evil thoughts and strange passions with them. They urged man to disobey the Lord, his God. They cared nothing for the Tribe, nothing for the future, only for themselves. Truly in their shamelessness, they brought sin and evil into the world.
Harsp was filled with disgust. Nothing more. "And what now, woman? You have by your evil desire brought shame upon us all. You will be found out. All the Tribe will know. They will see your belly grow large, and they will talk. Who has she lain with? Look, Harsp's daughter is with child! Who will support this child? What hunter will get meat for you and this child?"
She lay looking up at him without answering.
"And they will ask who is the father. Yes. There will be much speculation on this subject. And I fear their thoughts, mightily do I fear their thoughts. Who can defend himself against such thoughts and idle speculations? No man will be safe from such fearful gossip. Get from my sight; Go!" .
He kicked her savagely as she half rose.
"You are no child of mine. You could not be a child of mine!"
Later, Harsp told Lorci quietly, without emotion: "The twins are not mine, neither Leta nor Way, but from some other seed. And Cari, too, is this not true? Only my son Harl do I know. You have deceived me with others and burdened me with the guilt of a stranger -- no. Don't bother to deny it. I know it is so: deep in my very bowels. We need never speak of it again. But I know, I know, and I shall never forget this knowledge. Have you not always been shamelessly with the hunters, always seeking their company, and what have you done behind my back? Way, she is your child, and has learned this from you.
"King Harsp,"' Lorci sobbed, "this is not true. I love you only. You are my life. Beyond you, there is nothing, This is the whole truth."
"You lie," said Harsp. "Things can never be the same between us again."
* * *
...Hison worked desperately on the great Temple from the first rays of morning to the last at night. It would not be finished. It would never be finished. He went to Forw.
"Forw, I have worked long upon the Temple. The blood of my hands are upon its rocks and in the very clay which seals it up. I have in it a room for you, where you were to be walled up against eternity. Give me but another passing of the season and it will be done,
"Let us wait, Forw. Surely, speed is unseemly. If the Lord has said we must go, does he give the time of our going? Let us stay. Here at the cave. Where will be your tomb, far from home? There will be no spot to mark you. Have I not done this thing for you? Have I not laboured beyond memory on this tomb? Now, are we to leave it behind, empty? I planned for you, Forw, for my brother, Fil, for my mother, Cari, for all of us. This is to be used, to serve us. Surely we cannot leave it here, empty. Let us stay, let us wait, let us fill the tomb. This is the meaning, this is the end of our work. All else is ashes from the fire, nothing."
"I have thought of my entombment," said Forw. "This has been a matter of concern to me, and I have raised it with the Lord. Can I leave this great work of Your Son idle, alone, unfulfilled? And the Lord has said, 'Great is the love of Hison for man, but in this he has been cruelly betrayed by their evil nature. I sent him into this world to build this Temple: and men will take it with them in their minds to the end of time. It will cease to be of stone and mud, of water and blood, and will become a great memory and a mystery surpassing understanding.' So the Temple will be with us, wherever we assemble. Thus saith the Lord.
"As for Forw, His faithful servant, the Lord has said, 'Long not within your soul for this mighty tomb. This is a thing of the world, the flesh. This is vanity. On the time of your departure, the following instructions must be obeyed: The earthly body will be carried into the jungle and placed upon a great altar of branches and dried vines and leaves and wood. There shall be wood of the various trees, which I must teach you, and the size of the altar shall be four times the length of a man and twice the width of a man. The altar will stand to the height of a man's shoulders and the top of it shall be covered with dried grasses gathered by the women. Of the grasses, there shall be these types: those which make large seeds, those which make small seeds, those with broad leaves and no seeds, and those which bear white flowers. The body shall be placed in the centre of this altar and at each of the four corners shall be started a fire.'"
"But to do this," said Hison, appalled,"would result in the body being consumed by flames: What can the Lord be thinking of?'
"This is the point. This is the object. For in this fashion will the Lord destroy all earthly remains of His servant, Forw. To the things of the flesh, flesh, but to the things of the spirit, spirit. So will this earthly flesh be translated into the bosom of the Lord, so will the Lord receive His great and faithful servant.
"And so Forw will return to God, from Whom he came, and so will Forw's spirit be lifted up in the Hands of God as this earthly body is melted to nothingness."