by Roger Ley
The Land Rover stopped, and Riley pointed. The prehuman footprints
showed clearly, impressed into the flat, dry, African rock surface. It
was the third day of their family safari in the Great Rift Valley
“We can spend a few hours here but we need to get to the next lodge
before dark,” he said.
“These footprints are half a million years old boys,” said Estella
to her sons. Hank slipped off his flip-flops and tried one print for
size, predictably his younger brother Cliff did the same. “Look Dad,
they fit,” said Hank.
“It looks like a family group, two adults and two juveniles,” said
Estella slipped off her sandals and stepped into the smaller adult
set. She looked good in her shorts and tee; he’d always admired her
Nordic looks. After some encouragement from the boys he did the same.
They tried walking forward, but the footprints were too far apart.
“I think they were running Dad,” said Hank. They all jogged forward,
the hard stone became soft and damp. They were running across the mud
at the edge of the lake, chasing the antelope they’d been following for
the last four hours. It was tiring and slowing down.
The skin bag of flint tools banged against his side, tied with a
thong around his waist. He’d wrapped the flints with grass so they
wouldn’t rattle. He hoped to be using them to process the antelope
soon. The liver would be first, easy to eat and full of blood. The
woman looked across at him and grinned, she knew the end of the hunt
was coming. Her white teeth contrasted with her dark skin, her
dreadlocks flailed around her shoulders as she ran. They were all
sweating freely and covered in dust, but they didn’t need to carry
water this close to the lake.
He gestured to each of the juveniles to move around and flank their
prey. He listened to the world around him and scanned ahead, hearing
the birds call, the grunting of the antelope. A dust devil rose from
the plain in the distance. There was a cluster of rocks ahead, some as
big as an elephant. As the antelope passed one, part of it detached and
jumped on to its back. The hominids stopped as more lions appeared and
made short work of their kill. Three of the younger ones, who would
have to wait their turn, were looking towards the hunters and sniffing
At his gesture the family turned and ran back in the direction
they’d come. Their tracks in the mud ran parallel to the ones they’d
made before. The ground was soft but hardened into flat dry rock as
“Well,” said Riley puffing, I didn’t realise there were tracks going
in both directions. Our ancestors were running both ways, I wonder what
that was about.”
They sat and replaced their footwear. “Okay boys, get in the car,
you're in a heap a trouble,” said Riley. Nobody laughed, it was an old
“I wish you wouldn’t keep saying that Martin, we’ve heard it so many
times before,” said Estella.
“Car start,” Riley sighed as the engine whirred into life. “We need
to get to the next lodge before dark,” he said.
“Yes, and you said that before.”
“Car go,” said Riley, and the Land Rover set off.
* * *
The hominids washed and cooled down in the shallows. The lions had
lost interest and returned to their kill. The female pointed at a fig
tree a few hundreds of paces away. She gestured that the fruit was
ripe. The male motioned to hold back and went ahead with his pointed
stick, he circled the tree, checking for leopards. There were none. He
gave the “all clear,” and the family got on with the serious business
filling their bellies with fruit. They found a bird’s nest with two
hands of big eggs and shared the crunchy half-developed chicks. It
wasn’t real meat, but it was good. The warm night fell, and they slept
in a huddle under the tree.
© 2018 Roger Ley
Roger Ley was born and educated in London and spent some of his
formative years in Saudi Arabia. He worked as an engineer in the
oilfields of North Africa and the North Sea, before joining the nuclear
industry and later pursuing a career in higher education. His stories
have been published in various ezines. His time travel novel
‘Chronoscape’ carefully protects causality by using a branching model
for the Timestream. If you go back and change things you start a new
Find him at: rogerleywrites.blogspot.co.uk
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