Hunting & Gathering

~ a short story

From contingent and chaotic origins, on the plains of now-distant fate, four stepped over the grass with caution. In the lead of the pack, it is upon their shoulders which rest the destiny of their people. In the near distance, the eyes of predators, unseen but awaiting a slip, watched from the brush. From the sun battering down onto the dry grounds, their spears glimmered, unbloodied for now. Out of streams ran the life-giving force through patches of greenery, where the more mild wild grazed. And watched them too.

For it was among them that all this would soon change.

Hunting for satiation, gathering to energize the next set of steps, the observant group wandered. Traveling over the bulk of the continent, our tribe sifted from makeshift copse to half-shadowed clearing, urged along by a mix of instinct and fear and hunger. The far-seeking rangers and the scout-warriors braving the coming frontier bleed debts to service the mass. It is they, alongside the elders, that must track their trek. Remembering the knowledge of their past, they go further. Compiling their continuous escape from death over the strange and dangerous lands, four faces gaze the horizon with righteous poise.

Asar excelled as a chieftain, guiding the tribe with the power of a lion, the foresight of a falcon, and the grace of stag. Commanding by the ethos of everyone contributes, everyone decides, it was his stance that every single member was an integral node to the whole. The whole tribe. Its security, its prosperity. Its future. All of it relied upon all. As a pointman of the orchestra, Asar drove them forward, speaking to the multiplicit reality of their collective choice of where and how to proceed. Out of necessity, everything was shared, resources and labors, ideas and stories. The tribe traveled under his stewardship fruitfully thus far; his organizing principles remained as thus: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Everyone’s safety depended upon everyone’s freedom; everyone’s absolution required everyone’s contribution.

Vio, the orator and matriarch, presided as a secondary, foregrounding actor to the tribe’s kratos, but foremost as her caregiver. And her storyteller. From plain to plane, telling one berry from another, one leaf to the next, one track from another trail, Vio spoke of these patterns as poetry. Art was better recalled than commands. Before the congregation, she sang songs of day and night, of the shadows and the fire, of Man amidst the stars. It is her that creates and calls to these stories, shared continuously, reinitialized and recontextualized into new forms and unto fresh themes, that must survive, even if their bodies were to perish. For she understands that it is these myths that build trust. And build their future. As a tribe, as a people.

Igga, farseeker, travels to the bounds of the land. It is there, at the edges of mortality, in the throw of instincts once more, that she sought out her thrills and fortunes. In trials of physical and mental competition, Igga cut a swathing work ethic into the most able-bodied; she whipped the scouts, the warriors, the leaders of the tribe into shape. It was among the most fierce that she chiseled her own ethic. Through her arenas of cutthroat races and hunts in the fields and jungles, the tribe excelled as rivals paced rivals in fits of zealous struggles and counter-struggles. What she sought most of all in her seeking was not just fresh lands, but new capabilities, ascensions within the form and spirit of her comrades. As they progressed so did her innovations for new challenges to summon before them, to stretch the cycle and build the next physical, mental, spiritual transformation.

Geir set about from the beginning with implementing law unto the people of the tribe. Order was his game, ‘conflict resolution’ his continuous objective. He fastened it through punitive and restorative means, with all witnesses and victims and culprits with their piece to say unto the congregation. Everyone was always a stakeholder to every ruling, so everyone participated, watched, judged. And if possible, understood, forgave. Geir was an officer and a judge; necessarily so, Geir was a simultaneous friend and foe to everyone in the tribe. His style of enforcement was his own, but the codification of the tribe’s interactive bounds, its rules and self-governing laws, were developed in concert with the mass, under the guidance of Vio and Igga and Asar’s own thoughts and experiences. Together, they comprehended the best way they may live together. An ongoing procession of decisions and consequences, causes and effects, as always. Geir’s demeanor was cold steel; it was a precedent he set alone, so as to carry the burden of such necessary evils.

Together, we know their greatest test is that of survival amongst the elements and the predators. Hunger and sickness strike hardest at the feeble-winded, while the slow-bladed or less fleet-footed of the group are slain and devoured by the bloody-fanged predators of the age. It is the beasts from outside of the collective that aim to feed upon the heart of Man; not to extinction, but unto evolution. Generations of Man selects such traits from such faces from the tribe, in order to stay upright, one step ahead of the wind and the water and the maws. In order go on, Man learns, improves, grows.

But also within these faces, bounded by instinctive pressures, under their masks of naturally-selected throughlines in thought and action, lie the self-destruction of the species. Asar, Vio, Igga, Geir. It is persons like them that will come to shape the future, far beyond the hunt and the gather. In our Act III, past Cognitive and Agricultural and Industrial and Computing Revolutions, in the afterscape of humanity’s existence upon this planet, it will be some among their archetypes that will set about creating the bloody conditions, then executing and perpetuating upon them to end the play once and for all.

It is their spirits that still call out to us from underneath the weight of so many dead eras, generations, ages, revolutions. Millions of fingers claw incessantly at our heels, with desire or warning, we cannot glean. It is their choices and their inalienable, inevitable changes that still drive us onward today. For regardless of how “advanced” we may think ourselves to be, how far beyond the wilderness planes of merest survival, frantically scanning the horizon for berries and for lurking predators, we are still prey in the eyes of the wild. And we are forever a part of that wild.

Our ending fate lies within our origins. Inescapably, naturally, we will be our own enders. We will earn our own extinction, conscious comrades in arms, as the only side-steppers of the immortal, instinctive order. For our origins are just that: chaotic and contingent. So too will be our ending. Here today. Tomorrow? None may know the time or place, but a tomorrow will certainly arrive without us. ~