Does the day that changes your whole life, that particular day after which nothing is the same any more, when there is no turning back to how it once was, dawn like any other, ordinary day? Do we wake up with the revelation something is different, something new is written in the stars; do we think that dawn has already announced a torrent of something unusual to come?
That morning the dawn seemed neither special nor different to any other sunrise she greeted. She always awoke early while the rest of her tribe slept and the sun shattered across the sky. She would sneak out quietly to watch the day being born. She loved dawn and she especially loved when the morning winds carried a special scent of the future. When she wanted to explain the sensation to her tribal mates, all laughed and mocked her, as they often did, convinced she was losing her soundness. And mother grunted no matter what she did, so she decided to commit to sharing little.
She went out of the way as much as she could. For several moons now the village was driven by fear and haste, more disturbing every day. Something was gathering, leaning over their lives, and nothing was the same once They came. They resembled the Tribe, but were different. Somewhat taller, and not bent, They stood as if searching for something in the distance; long armed and tall foreheads. They easily picked the fruit off higher branches. They had narrow heads and brighter faces, sometimes with complexions so pale it seemed light could shine through. Their hair was coloured like grass dried by the sun. They spoke mildly, their voices not as course as the ones of the Tribals. But they carried weapons. The Tribe saw weapons for the first time when They killed cow aurochs. Later they killed a man from their Tribe and nothing was ever the same again.
Now the Tribe migrates, not knowing where to go. The world is obviously big enough, she knew that. Tribes will hide to remain unfound. Unless there are more of Them, she thought, careful not to reveal her thoughts to anyone. Some of the Tribals reflected that they should go wherever it was that They came from, for that must be a prosperous place. But why then did They leave, she pondered?
She did not want to leave and did not help in the preparation of the departure. Here is where she was born. Did the sun shine as beautifully at dawn elsewhere? Would the sun of a strangers’ sky warm her like this one? She doubted.
That’s why she wandered all day long. When not watching the sunrise or sunset, she wandered through the rocky hills, turning stones. Searching. She liked their different shapes. She found coloured ones, even translucent, letting the light shimmer through . Some stones seemed like light itself. One captured the sun and she wondered did the sun set in this very stone and does it rise from it? She would love to see the dawn born in her stone. There are others in different colours—colours of leaves, of muddy water, flowers, blood…She collected many. Others are bothered by her stones. They have no purpose, you cannot eat them, you cannot throw them and kill, for they are tiny with no weight. She is wasting her time, they said. And now she must leave her stones behind, though a select few she could surely carry. But how to decide which to keep and which to part with forever? It is why she didn’t want to go, and all the others could leave for all she cared. There is something within these stones, life that can't be seen, can't be understood—but she felt this force growing while swivelling them in her hands, raising them towards light, or holding them to her chest.
That day she found one unlike any other. A short flicker revealed his colours in the shade, hidden in the crack between the rocks below. Compelled she slid down the narrow passage to reach for it. Her tiny slim figure at last was an advantage, unlike the other times, when for the same reason men would not look at her. Cautiously she slid deeper between the two large rocks, lowering herself down the crack until at last, she dropped to her feet.
Her stone grew out of other rocks. She found one lying by her feet and used it to separate the stone. She hit it, careful not to break it. Once freed, she lifted it to the light. It started changing colours. Colours of the sky to colours of earth, as if it captured both worlds in its shades. She felt the strength while admiring its beauty—the two always went hand in hand.
When she tried freeing herself from the crack, she discovered she couldn’t. The opening was too high, the walls too smooth, polished by centuries of winds and rain. She was unable to support herself on the broad walls that narrowed into the hole she came through. She tried again and again in vain. Once more. Down the hole fear came and grasped her with brawny claws not letting her breathe. She cried out futilely. The tribe was too far to hear, for she had wandered a long way. In terror she realised no one would look for her. Maybe mother, she hoped, but knew she had to take care of her other offspring. She herself should have had children of her own like all her peers instead of wandering up the hills only to find herself in need of rescue. Everyone would believe that what they predicted had finally happened—that she had unnecessarily wandered off and been attacked by a sabre tiger, or a cave lion, though that beast had yet to be seen in these hills. Her foolishness lead to her end, they will all say. They liked being right, whatever the matter. Maybe They had abducted her, some might whisper. One more reason to leave, to run away at once.
She tried not to think about her hands trembling without control. She managed to regain some calm with long, deep breaths She had to find a way out, so she carefully explored her new home and at the end she found a narrow gap in the rocks, an entrance of some sort. It was dark inside, but since she had nothing to lose, she decided to crawl in. But she couldn’t part from the stone she came for, so she undid the vine that kept her animal skins in place and used it to tie the stone around her neck. The garment fell away, but here it wasn’t needed. When the stone touched her skin, she felt it pulsate as if it were alive.
She entered cautiously, for the edges were sharp, before she found herself in a spacious cave chamber, like the one the Tribe slept in. Even larger perhaps, but with a lower ceiling easily reached by hands. The cave was surprisingly bright. Through small holes daylight drizzled in and diffracted under different angles as if the sun claimed the underground. She stood below the rays of light, raising her hands unable to reach that part of the cave. Folding her hands like when praying, she tried to climb the rays, but her feet would not leave the ground.
She sat down. Hours became days. The world she had known was fading from her memory in this gloom washed away, as if it never even existed. The cave was cold, and she had begun to forget the warm feeling of the sun, and the animal skins she left behind. The memory of soft grass crumbled away under the hardness of the rock she was lying on night after night. She brokenly clung to her fading memories: the herds grazing on the fields, mammoths passing by, dignified and undisturbed, the night holler of beasts while trying to hide from the night predators. Is this world still true, was it ever, or is it just a mere dream she dreamt in this deceptive imperfect eclipse? Her whole life had been squashed into this dusk without end. Does the thud of passing hooves resemble the thunder in the summer rain, or were all these sounds invented by her wandering mind. Sounds, colours and shapes of the world faded away forever through the holes in the cave.
The nights brought more horror than the days. She lied surrounded by complete darkness, waiting for the light to assure her she was still alive, sleepless until the morning and wrestling with nightmares.
One new morning brought change. The cave was the same. She was the one altered. She felt the stone around her neck brought to life. His touch became soft and warm as the touch of skin, and although she could not see it in the semidarkness, she was sure it glowed. Something made her stand up. Voices flooded her thoughts, every voice followed by a shape, of a tree, creature, mountain, river, lake, sky… for the entire world was a sound, a sound that had always been, but that she had not been aware of till now. She looked at the walls of the cave—so much space for her world, places to make songs. It was suddenly clear despite the darkness.
She knew her next move, though it had never been done before. She collected dry branches. She found only a few, but enough. She set fire crashing two flints. The fire obeyed her always and came to her as a guest most wanted. She waited for the fire to burn up and saved the charcoal. She crumbled ochre and turquoise she found in the cave. Not needing her sight for she could easily find it with her hands. She was drawn to them unmistakably. She mixed the powder with water until muddy. When she finished, she eased to the wall and as if overcome by fever, she began something she never did before—to paint.
She drew shapes with charcoal, after reviving the fur of tigers and bears, antelopes and hinds with colour. Her hand was driven, sweat broke despite of cold—she could not stop. Then the scene from the Tribes life came to her. She drew Tribes living in caves, and hiding from beasts. She drew man, woman and child, a family she understood and hoped once to have, but never found. She even drew herself. The drawings sprang like a creek, and although trembling as if feverish, she did not cease. Her hands steadily found their way. The cave turned into a big sky inhaling the world she knew. Her world was now in these pictures down in the cave with her, more alive and present than ever. Because she would never hunt again, she painted herds and scenes of hunt. She would never hide again from predators but painted them on the ceiling. Never would she give birth to a child but she painted children of the Tribe. She painted until the last breath of the very first painter on earth withered away.
When Moris and Cris entered the cave, they were breath taken by the sight of the world they found hidden for ages. The ceiling of the cave was painted with hundreds of drawings. They pictured herds of running buffalos and bisons, tigers and bears hunting, and people extinct many years ago still living in those depictions. Only later, in weeks to come, once they have thoroughly studied their find, did they comprehend its significance and magnitude. Those were the oldest painted caves in the world, ever discovered, perfectly preserved. The lines were clear, and there were plenty of pictures as if they drew everything they ever saw. It resembled a library of people’s lives, who decided for whatever reason to turn this very cave, hard to access, into the log of their history.
It has been proven, beyond any doubt, these drawings were made by the first homo sapiens, that at that exact period appeared in this part of the world. This was just further evidence of their existence. It was assessed that several talented artists drew these sketches over a period of probably several years, judging by the number of paintings.
What was confusing was one skeleton in the cave. A woman, they concluded, by the shape of the pelvic and facial bones. What has she been doing in this cave alone, and why she died in it, remains a mystery, but only at a margin of this fundamental and astonishing discovery. The girl skeleton was long forgotten, placed in a coffin in the Institute of Science, unstudied. Even the thorough examination made years later, didn’t clear out the mystery of the circumstances and reasons why this women was in that cave. Even more confusing was the fact that the skeleton was a Neanderthal woman and on her chest rested a large Labradorite crystal. Whatever the reasons of her presence and that of the beautiful and miraculous stone on her chest, were insignificant compared to the great inspiration of the first artistic creation of Homo sapiens.
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