Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a lot of it, but nowhere near as much as was heading my way at this minute. And the worst was, there was nothing I could do about it, because I was kinda tied up at that moment.
My name is Magnon: Cro Magnon, Pea Eye.
When I say kinda tied up, it’s only a way of expressing an insouciance I didn’t feel. I was tied up so tight I was having difficulty breathing. And for the uninitiated, breathing is an important part of living. Not that the apes who’d tied me up seemed to have been initiated into that little secret.
They were sitting in a semi-circle, watching me, and the looks were definitely not the look of love. For some reason these baboons had it in for me, and because they weren’t saying anything, I couldn’t figure out why.
‘Okay guys, what gives?’ I managed to grunt.
They just continued glaring at me with hostility, and I was at a loss for words as well as loss of breath. I heard a shuffling outside the cave and a huge hulk filled the entrance of the cave. It was the biggest Neanderthal I’d ever seen and, as I saw him, I knew exactly what was going on.
His voice rumbled from deep inside his chest, like a volcano about to erupt. ‘Mr Magnon, we finally meet. I can’t say it’s a pleasure.’
I just couldn’t help myself, after all, without a quip a Pea Eye better look for another job: ‘I can’t say that either. I have to breathe through my nose to talk and the smell coming from you…!’ I saw those bright things again as one of the apes hit me on the head.
‘Always with the jokes.’
‘I guess you’re related to Yag and Amuffin?’
‘You guessed right. I think I’m going to send you to join them down in the tarpits.’ He lifted my head by my hair and said, ‘You like tarpits, don’t you, Mr Magnon?’
‘Only when I’m putting your brothers and other scum in them,’ I grated out, and was rewarded with another bang on the head: more shiny things. Sometimes I had to realise when to stop with the quips.
For once, I was on my own, with no chance of help and no way to get out of this mess. The baboons watching me were related to the many baboons I’d thrown in the tarpits, so there was no chance of using one of them to get me loose. It looked like zebra skins for me, and I suppose it was inevitable, really: These dangers come with the job.
The Neanderthal came over to where I lay and put his foot on my face, then leaned on it, grinding my face into the wall of the cave. I tried to roll away, but his apes grabbed me and dragged me across the cave floor where there was no chance of escape. They were not silent now!
They were whooping and yelping and carrying on as if this was some great sport they’d invented, and even Neanderthal boy smiled grimly. I yelped out in pain, but also exultation. They’d dragged me across a piece of obsidian, which had cut my arm, but also a few of the strands. I felt around under me, while trying to ride their kicks and eventually felt it in my hand. I worked at the lianas while rolling around, avoiding their kicks.
‘Enough!’ said Neanderthal boy in his volcano voice. They backed away, their desire for revenge even higher now than it had been. I was rolling around in pain and sawing at the lianas, which were coming away, one by one, but far too slowly for my liking.
‘I don’t want him dead the easy way,’ said Neanderthal boy. ‘I want him to drown in the tarpits, the way he made my brothers and yours do.’
‘What’s your name?’ I grunted, trying to keep them preoccupied while I cut the remaining Lianas.
‘What’s it to you?’
‘If you’re going to kill me, I think it’s only right I know your name,’ I said, mildly.
‘Poudle.’ I burst out laughing, in spite of my pain. He grabbed my hair and twisted my head around to face him. ‘What’s so funny?!’
‘Your name! You and your brothers should have been in a show for dames: Yag Amuffin Poudle. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard!’ The laughter wasn’t forced, but I continued long after it was no longer funny: I wanted him in the right position.
He picked me up off the cave floor by my bearskin: he was incredibly strong! ‘What’s so funny about our names? I’m gonna hurt you real bad before I throw you in the tarpits.’
‘Lotsa guys have said that, pal!’ I said and slashed through those stringy things behind his ankles. He screamed and dropped me, collapsing in a heap. I took advantage of the baboons’ momentary shock to skedaddle out of there. I like that word; I think I’ll use it again.
It didn’t take them long to get over their shock, or him to get over his and he was shouting, ‘Get after him, you fools! He’s getting away!’
Now I know baboons can climb, and well at that, but I didn’t let that bother me. I scrambled up the hill before they recovered and as they came scrambling out of the cave, rolled rocks down on them. They scattered out in panic, with two of them killed or seriously injured by the rock-fall. I scrambled further up the hillside, but I knew if I stayed there they’d catch up with me, and then it would be zebra skins for sure. Not tarpits, just brutal, savage death.
I threw stones into the bushes up ahead and went off to the right and down. They yelled and chased the imaginary me up into the hills while I went back to the cave. Poudle was lying there, writhing in agony and, before he could turn his head, I picked up a rock and whomped him on the head. It was a blow powerful enough to kill most guys, but he turned his head and said, ‘You!’ before dropping his head onto the ground and slowly lifting it again. I hit him again and he subsided with a sigh. I tied him up with some lianas and, sore as I was, dragged him downjungle to Olchap’s little caves.
‘Olchap!’ I called out. ‘I’ve got a little gift for you!’
Olchap came out. ‘I say, what’s going on here, then?’
I sank down onto the ground and told him the whole story and he listened avidly, before declaring, ‘My goodness Cro, you’ve changed! Just a season ago, you would have taken him up to the tarpits; now you bring him to me for justice. Wait till you see what I’ve got lined up.’
Two of his cops dragged Poudle into one of the little caves and rolled a big rock in front of the entrance. Olchap looked keenly at me. ‘Are you alright, old thing? You look as if you could do with some treatment.’
‘I’ll let Blooey treat my wounds as soon as I get back to Crashamanka. Let me see this special thing you’ve got lined up.’
He took me into this cavern where there were rocks lined up and an Orangutan with a white rabbit skin on his head, sitting behind a big, rectangular rock. I turned to Olchap. ‘What’s this?’
‘All this time we’ve been making the laws ourselves, and I decided to we need someone wiser than us to decide on the fate of people who break the law, and who’s wiser than an Orangutan? Folks respect their wisdom and accept their decisions. We’ve got two of these Orangutans; we call them judges.’
‘What does it mean?’ I asked.
‘It’s a word we use in the north of Pangaea and it means wise one, so I thought it would be a good name for them.’
I shrugged. ‘As long as it works out: I’m tired of being beaten up every few weeks because someone doesn’t like my face. Oh, and I think I’ll need some of your cops to escort me to Crashamanka. There’s a whole buncha angry baboons on my tail. Maybe your cops could round them up?’
He shook his head. ‘No good, old thing, we don’t know what they look like. When you’re feeling better, perhaps you and your gorillas can round them up and bring them here, then the Judge can decide their fate.’
‘Any chance of the tarpits?’
‘No chance at all, but for someone who deserves it, and it must be the judge’s decision, we hit them on the head with a rock until they die.’
‘Yeah? Well, believe me, these baboons and that Neanderthal deserve to die. They were torturing me before throwing me in the tarpit.’
‘That’s for the judge to decide, old thing. Now, I’ll give you an escort to see you get home safely.’
I looked at him long and hard, then shook his hand. I’d made a good choice when I’d proposed him as chief of the cops. I slowly made my way up to Crashamanka with an escort of cops and, when I finally got there, went into my alcove and collapsed.
Blooey came in a moment later, concern written broad across her lovely features. ‘Cro! What happened to you?’
I told her, in detail, leaving out nothing, and she was near to tears as she dressed my wounds. The deepest one was the obsidian gut, but baboons have sharp nails and, when they kick, they inevitably claw you as well, so I was in quite a state. I asked her to get hold of Pee Jin and tell him to wake me when he got here.
‘But Cro!’ she scried, ‘You need to sleep!’
‘Plenty of time for that later, sweetie. We’ve got to get rid of those baboons before they become a threat to the whole neighbourhood.’ I lay down and she covered me with a bearskin. ‘Call me when he gets here.’ She may have replied, but I was already asleep, so I heard nothing.
I don’t know how long I’d been sleeping when I was aware of a presence in the alcove and I rolled off my stone onto the floor and came up in a crouch, club in hand. ‘Relax, Cro, it’s me.’ It was Pee Jin.
’Why didn’t you wake me?’
‘Because Blooey told me what happened and you look terrible! There’s nothing we can do right now, anyway.’
‘Yes, there is.’ I told him my plan and he smiled.
‘I like, I like!’
‘Okay. Get moving and I’ll go back to sleep. And, thanks, Pee Jin. For everything.’
‘That’s what you pay me for!’ And just like that, he was gone.
I tried to get back to sleep, but I was wasting my time; my mind was wide awake. I got up and went to the bar. Skram was playing this new song All Bite Now. It was supposed to be a love song about how people in love bit each other, as a sign of their affection. I thought it was stupid. What was wrong with a club?
I stood at the bar and sipped on my drink, feeling a strange sense of peace creeping over me. I was home, with folks I cared for, deeply, and we were busy cleaning up Pangaea. I particularly like the idea of those Orangutans with the rabbit skins on their heads. Trust Olchap to think of something so classy.
Next morning, bright and early, Pee Jin was there with my trusted gorillas. I greeted them all, told them of my ordeal and my plan to solve this problem. They looked at each other in suspicion, then looked over at the two quetzalcoatlus waiting, with benches on their backs.
‘Me no bird,’ said Fossey. ‘Me no fly.’
‘Guys, it’s safe: folks do it all the time, and it’ll only be for a short distance, cause I have a good idea where those baboons are hiding out.’
‘We put in tarpits?’
‘No. We knock them out and give them to Olchap. He’ll put them in those little caves. And they won’t come out of there for years!’
They grumbled a bit at that, but accepted it. The quetzalcoatlus were waiting patiently, and we got onto the benches, armed with green coconuts. ‘Okay!’ I shouted, and the quetzalcoatlus took to the air and, I must admit, I was scared. We were pretty high above the ground and it seemed to go by in a blur, then I saw the baboons, still looking for me, by the looks of it, and told the quetzalcoatlus to slow down and fly a little lower.
Well, those baboons didn’t stand a chance! We pelted them with coconuts and they went down, one by one and, no matter which way they ran, we followed them, and pelted them some more. Eventually they were all unconscious and we made a harness of lianas and slung them under the quetzalcoatlus and flew off to Olchap’s place.
He came out and gave a low whistle. ‘I’m impressed, Cro, really impressed! You should consider coming to work for me, we’d clean up Pangaea in no time.’
I shook my head. ‘Thanks for the offer, Olchap, but no, I’m happier working the way I work.’
And it was true. As much satisfaction as I gained doing the kind of work I’d done today, and the pain I suffered and danger I endured, there was no better life than that of a Pea Eye.