There are these things that float up in the night sky, I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re real pretty, and sometimes they go shooting off and making a long fiery streak in the sky. Sometimes, on cool, clear nights, I can just stand outside and look up at them, wondering what they are.
At the moment, though, I wasn’t wondering what they were, I was seeing them inside my head, and some of those streaking ones were going round and round. That was just before my eyes closed and I collapsed.
My name is Magnon, Cro Magnon, Pea Eye, and somebody had whomped me good.
When I woke up, I was sitting on the floor of a strange cave, tied up tight with lianas. Whoever had tied me up had done a good job; I could hardly breathe! As usual in these cases, I kept my eyes closed, pretending to be unconscious, hoping to hear something, but all I got was mindless babbling.
Eventually I opened my eyes and looked around. ‘Boss, he awake!’ said a baboon.
A huge Neanderthal came over to where I sat and crouched down. He grabbed my hair and pulled my head up, knocking the back of my head against the cave wall. It hurt something fierce! ‘You remember Yag?’ he growled.
I looked at him, saying nothing. He looked up and nodded and one of the baboons slapped me on top of the head, and I saw those bright things again. Now he grabbed my hair and twisted it. ‘I asked you a question.’
‘Yes,’ I grated out, through the pain. ‘I remember Yag!’
He smiled, a surprisingly gentle smile, then slapped me with the back of his hand and I momentarily blacked out. This guy wasn’t only big, he was strong as a brontosaurus! I came to with my head reeling and vision blurred. ‘He was my brother, and you murdered him.’ Again, that strangely gentle smile.
I’d always known, at the back of my mind, that I would die a violent death: I’d dealt out enough of them myself. I just didn’t think it was going to be so soon.
He indicated the baboons with his head. They were looking at me and smirking, and I realised my bi-i-i-ig mistake! Letting these guys go. I should have sent them to the tar pits as well. ‘My friends say you’re a big fan of the tar pits.’
Fan? What was a fan? Did people wave me to keep cool? ‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘You like to send people to the tar pits. Have you seen how people die in the tar pits?’
‘Yeah,’ I grated out, ‘And I’d like to see you there!’ I couldn’t afford to lose my sense of humour, not now.
He stood up. ‘Well, you know what? Your wish is going to come true.’ That didn’t sound good. He crouched down again. ‘You’re going to see me when I throw you in. And I’m going to watch you struggle and slowly sink.’
‘You must be hard-up for entertainment,’ I quipped. It comes with the Pea Eye licence.
Suddenly he snapped. ‘You think you’re funny? Or do you think you’ll make me mad enough to just bash your head in with a rock? Yag may not have been on top of his game when he met you, but I’m not sentimental and trusting, like him.’
‘What’s your name?’ I asked.
‘What does it mean to you?’ he snarled.
‘If I’m going to die, I’d like to know the name of the man who kills me.’
He looked at me through slitted eyes. ‘It’s Amuffin.’
I shook my head and laughed, which was a mistake. First, it hurt like anything and second, he kicked me in the ribs. I was breathless for a while and, after I got my breath back, he said. ‘You think my name is funny?’
‘For a bad guy? It’s hilarious!’ He kicked me in the ribs again, and I rolled over in pain, but I’d managed to grab hold of a piece of flint. I had to keep him talking for as long as possible. He pulled me upright, then slapped me alongside the head. I spat out some blood. ‘Do you want to throw a corpse into the tar pits?’ I asked. I was sawing away at the lianas, but they were tough, and I had limited movement. Plus I didn’t want them to see what I was doing.
I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got loose: not in my weakened state and against a Neanderthal as formidable as Amuffin. Then there were all his baboons to contend with. But loose was better than tied - at least I could do something.
‘The problem with your brother wasn’t that he was stupid to trust me,’ I said. ‘The problem with your brother was that he was stupid enough to screw Og. They were partners and friends! His stupidity started there. He could have made piles of clams, but he got greedy and it killed him. If those Kimberlite Cops weren’t so useless and corrupt, your brother would be alive now.’
‘Those Kimberlite Cops kept my brother in business by looking the other way, so don’t try lay the blame on them. They were doing their job: being corrupt. You, on the other hand,’ he pointed at me. ‘You were getting mixed up in something that had nothing to do with you.’
‘The cops were paid to look the other way. I was paid to look out for the interests of my client. So we were both doing our jobs, but I was doing mine properly.’ I felt the lianas part and my wrists come free and almost cried out as the blood started flowing back into my hands. Now I needed a distraction.
‘What are those baboons whispering about? You should know you can’t trust them!’ I sneered.
He turned to the baboons. ‘What are you whispering about? If you’ve got something to say, I’d like to hear it.’
‘Nothing boss! We just talk, don’t want to make noise when you talk.’
He walked over to them, towering over them. ‘What were you talking about?’ There! I was finally loose, but left the lianas lying on top of me, so it looked as if I was still tied up.
‘Nothing, boss, promise! We was just talking about the clams we gonna get when we throw him inna tar!’ They were pleading and I could see they really feared him. I was about to use that fear.
‘You know, if he doesn’t trust you now, why do you think he’s going to pay you?’ I sneered, and Amuffin turned to me.
‘What did you say?’
‘You heard me! Or are you deaf as well as stupid?’
He pulled back his hand to hit me, and I rolled over and stabbed upwards, at his crotch, and he doubled over in agony. The monetary shock the baboons were in gave me the break I needed to get out of there. Pronto!
I hightailed it out of there like a velociraptor with a t-rex on his tail. It didn’t take long before they were on my tail, and I could hear them whooping and barking instructions to each other, and closing in fast. I came upon a fallen, moss-covered tree and crept into the hollow created by it.
They ran right past, making such a noise I could have called them and they wouldn’t have heard me. Once they were out of earshot, I was about to climb out, but something made me freeze. A megalania! One bite from him and it was zebra skins for me. They were venomous and then some!
This was obviously its den, and I had invaded it. And, of course, it was between me and the exit, with no way to get out. Its mouth was open and it was hissing, its tail lashing angrily from side to side. This was some scary stuff. Then I heard something else.
Silence. But not true silence; the silence of someone not making a noise. The forest was quiet. Even the baboons had disappeared into the distance. I felt the log creak as something heavy leaned on it. Very slowly a face appeared. Amuffin.
He smiled when he saw me. ‘Well, we meet again!’ He held out a spear. ‘Come out, slowly.’
‘You can come in and fetch me,’ I said.
He sighed theatrically. ‘You like to make things difficult, don’t you?’ He jumped down off the log and slid into the hollow, spear held in front of him and the megalania, sensing a new threat, turned and bit him on his thigh and he screamed as he pulled back out of the hollow, the megalania hanging on, sinking its fangs deeper and lashing its tail from side to side.
I got out of there while the megalania was distracted, then stood there, watching Amuffin in his death throes, and it wasn’t pretty. His spear had been discarded, and I picked it up and stabbed the megalania through the back of its head. It tried to turn on me, but its jaws were locked on Amuffin’s leg and I took one last look at the froth now issuing from Amuffin’s mouth and made my way out of there.
Now there was other business to take care of, but first I had to make my way to Crashamanka and get my wounds tended. I struggled on through the forest, being careful to avoid the baboons, but walking as fast as I could. Eventually I came out of the forest, orientated myself and made my way to Crashamanka. Now I would be ready for anything. I’m not a spiteful man, but those baboons had gone too far this time.
I limped into Crashamanka much later that evening, looking so bad that Skram, who had been playing A Whole lotta Lust, stopped and everyone looked up. ‘Boss! What happened?’
I called him into my alcove and closed the zebra skin behind me, then told him everything. ‘I need you to get hold of Blooey and get a message off to Pee Jin. Those baboons have gone too far. I’m not a specist, but the only good baboon is a dead one!’
Skram left, then appeared a moment later with a fermented pineapple juice and I sat back and though about what had transpired. We had to find a way to clean out the cops. They weren’t all bad, but most of them were, so nobody trusted them. And I had to get hold of Og and tell him what had happened because, if Amuffin was involved in Yag’s business, there was no knowing how deep it went.
It had taken me a long time to get rid of Kameleonise and his gang, but I’d finally done it, and been richly rewarded as well. Now I had to clean out this megalania’s nest and bring peace of a sorts to Pangaea. I decided to enlist the help of Olchap. He looked weird enough that people might take him seriously if he wanted to run things.
The zebra skin parted and Pee Jin was there. ‘You look terrible,’ he said.
‘Thanks for the compliment and the sympathy.’
‘Hey, you don’t pay me for sympathy or compliments: you pay me cause I’m good. What do you want this time.’
I shook my head and winced. My whole body hurt, but especially my head. Still, this was a time for action, not looking for sympathy. So I told him what I wanted and he nodded and disappeared – like that!
Blooey came in. ‘Was that Pee Jin?’ she asked.
‘He creeps me out,’ she said.
‘He creeps a lot of people out, but he’s the best at what he does.’ She shook her head and started looking at my various cuts and abrasions, tut-tutting and potting on various poultices and things, then went off to get me some food.
After that I slept as I would have if I’d been thrown in the tar pits. I was dead to the world and, when I awoke in the morning, the sun was high already, even though it was dark in Crashamanka. I sat up and groaned aloud. Everything hurt!
I got up and went outside where the sunlight hurt my eyes. I was impatient, but I knew I had to rest. I felt like I’d been trampled by a triceratops. There was nothing I could do about anything until I was healed.
By the time the guys came around to Crashamanka, it was about three days later and I was itching for action. Olchap was the first to speak. ‘What do you want us to do?’
I looked at them all, long and hard. Good folk these. Cros like me, some Neanderthals, a lot of gorillas and Olchap, who was completely different from all of us. ‘I’ve decide it’s time to clean up this place.’
‘I thought we did that when we got rid of Kameleonise and his gang!’ said Olchap.
‘I thought so too,’ I said. ‘A few weeks ago we got rid of Yag, but his brother, Amuffin, decided to take revenge, and I only just managed to escape. We should have thrown those baboons in the tar pits, along with Yag, but we didn’t, and they helped Amuffin capture me, and nearly kill me.’
I looked around. ‘We need somebody who can be in charge, who can clean up the cops, and I think Olchap is the guy we need. He’s so different that folk will listen to him, and with our muscle behind him, Pangaea will be safe again.’
‘I don’t know,’ said Pee Jin, who very rarely, if ever, ventured an opinion. ‘I don’t know if the folks will trust a white feller.’
‘What do you mean white?’ I asked. ‘He’s sorta pink, if anything!’
‘An’ he ain’t got no hair,’ said Skram.
‘Course he has,’ I protested. ‘On his head, some on his face, he’s just different enough. And listen to how he talks! Folks will listen to him.’
‘Pee Jin,’ I said. ‘Go out and gather as many folks as you can, and ring them to Crashamanka. Tell them drinks are on the cave.’ He nodded and made his way off and we all went into Crashamanka to have a drink and wait.
It was late that afternoon when I heard huge masses of folk coming up the hill towards Crashamanka. I went outside to greet them, as did everyone with me. They stopped and looked at me expectantly, milling around. I let the silence grow until the tension was unbearable.
‘Who’s tired of being bullied by the cops?!’ I shouted. They all roared their approval. ‘Who wants to see a change, and see it now?!’ Again they roared. I brought forth Olchap. ‘I want this guy to be in charge of the cops, and there won’t be any more problems. Who’s with me?’ They all roared again.
I turned to Olchap. ‘Well, if you want it, the job’s yours.’
So I led this mob down to cop headquarters, which was a huge warren of caves, where they could lock people away by rolling a boulder against the entrance of the little cave. ‘Ree Yaa!’ I called out, and a cop came out.
‘What you want?’ he demanded.
‘Your name Ree Yaa?’ He shook his head and I clubbed him. He sat down hard on the ground then got to his feet again. ‘Now go and call Ree Yaa, or we come in and get her, and if we come in there, there’ll be more trouble than you ever imagined in Pangaea.’
He got up and staggered back into the cave and, after about five minutes, a female baboon came out with a blue-painted coconut shell on her enormous head. ‘What do you want?’ she demanded.
‘You out,’ I growled. ‘Your time is up and we’re replacing you. You and your cops have been creating havoc and bullying the folks for far too long.’
‘Who are you to demand anything?’ she screeched. ‘I am the duly appointed boss of the cops!’
‘I’m your worst nightmare,’ I said and thought, wow, I’ve just made up a great word!
She suddenly gave a loud screech and the cops came rushing out of the caves, knocking her over and trampling her in their haste to follow her order. One of them swung a club at me, but I ducked and the momentum of the swing carried the club around onto his partner’s head, and he collapsed in a heap.
I pulled my gang back and the cops were involved in a melee that was normal, but had us laughing aloud. Two of them saw me laughing and charged me, but miscalculated and ran into each other before they got to me, bouncing off each other to lie sprawling in the dust.
Eventually they lay on the ground in a battered and bruised heap, with Ree Yaa either dead or unconscious, and we hadn’t laid a finger on them. There were a handful of cops who hadn’t taken part. They were standing back, looking embarrassed.
‘Are you prepared to accept Olchap as your new boss?’ I asked. They looked at each other, had a murmured conversation, then one of them stepped forward.
‘We were never like these other cops,’ said their spokesape. ‘But we thought we could make a difference by being honest. And we have helped some folks!’
‘I believe you,’ I said. ‘Are you prepared to accept Olchap as your new boss?’
‘Yes,’ he said, and I shook his hand.
I turned to the gathered crowd. ‘Who wants to join the cops and be honest and good cops like these guys and get paid for keeping peace?’ A number of hands shot up, mostly gorillas, and I called them forward.
‘You have to work with these guys and respect them, because they have experience and know what to do. I don’t want to hear any charges of specism, understood?’ They all agreed, then Olchap stood forward and they all promised to be loyal to their new boss.
One of the older cops said, ‘What about them?’ pointing to Ree Yaa and the now-stirring cops. I sighed. I hated doing this, but someone had to take responsibility.
‘The tar pits,’ I said.
‘All of them?’ They looked at me in amazement.
‘All of them,’ I said woodenly. It was the only way to deal with scum like this and make Pangaea peaceful place to live. They tied them up tightly and carried them off, screaming to the tar pits. I didn’t want to witness it, so I slowly made my way back to Crashamanka.
It was evening before everyone got back and, although drinks were on the cave, there was a near-mournful silence. What we had done was necessary, but not pleasant and the mood was sombre.
I was a Pea Eye without a wisecrack, but I’d made Pangaea a better place for all.