High above the hot Saharan grassland in an earlier time, a buzzard takes notice of a party of Homo sapiens led by their Homo naledi trackers — half stride in a wet gulch. Whenever humans were on the move, there will be blood. The buzzard found it was best to follow along and spent the extra energy to disengage from the easy thermal updraft.

Down below, a sapien named Iry was leading the party but after hours of steady pursuit, it was time for a break in the hot midday sun. Settling beside a shaded and pooled part of the stream bed, Iry knew they should be making the most of the height of the sun while the predators were least active but the heat was oppressive. Iry and the other sapiens could manage on but the smaller naledi, while impressive for their kind, were not suited for this type of marathon. They were talented trackers but couldn’t keep up with man’s build.

The sapien hunters rested their eyes after drinking their fill from the muddy pool and munching dried meat they brought along. The three naledi’s chirped and shuffled about some toadstools under a dead tree nearby. The naledi wasn’t as vocally apt as the sapiens and resorted to signing with each other and their other human counterparts. They signed and chirped among themselves as they picked the fungi, extra excitement was had at discovering a termite mound. Iry set watch as he set his spear at his side. Letting the others doze off in the shade, Iry rested his eyes but honed his hearing. Sight here could often deceive but acute hearing in a visual world gave opportunity. The area was alive with activity as birds of many kinds darted around, the air was bustling with squawks and calls. The deer they spooked upon entry into this space didn’t clear off too far as he could hear them just out of sight, back to grazing in the green tall grasses. The deer, much sharper of hearing, would serve as a good advanced warning should they take an interest in anything bigger than a honey badger.

In the early days, mankind wasn’t the only humans around. Our competitive advantage was our stamina and intelligence — complimentary to some, rivals to others. Hundreds of thousands of years before man’s best friend was canine, it was Homo. Being the newest on the scene, we learned that we could work with others like the Homo naledi — friendly, complementary, and naturally capable additions to a tribe. Others, like the ancient and primitive Homo erectus, were strong and fiercely independent. They had different sets of eyes, palettes, and societies. These apex man-apes have been on the scene for a long time and have been used to running the landscape. They didn’t respond to relationships, they hunted all, even fellow humans.

The cooperative party was originally double, on a rescue mission. But it quickly turned to a retribution mission upon coming across the quartered and butchered remains of their progeny at the hands and in the camp of the bloody erectus. After a clash that left half of the co-op’s original party dead or wounded, the erectus ape-men fled the scene into the wild where the hunt continued.

Thanks to the loyal naledi, erectus hadn’t been lost. At least three were being trailed from the camp. The co-op party didn’t know where they were headed. They had hoped to catch up to them before they met a larger troop. As Iry’s internal clock ticked he sat up to round the party to keep moving. Before he roused the crew, he took notice as the naledi sat in a circle among themselves eating quietly, even as fully mature they reminded him of his now late children, small and innocent looking. Iry drew his eyes down to his arm, to where his dark skin was interrupted by jagged pink scarring from the time he was there to protect his children in need. That one was feline. Now, he had to live with the time he wasn’t there. This time it was erectus.

Iry whistled and everyone was up and on trail again, naledi leading away by carefully watching and smelling the ground. The human co-op was quiet and efficient — master hunters and well-experienced together. Moving quickly and stealthily down the bank of the sunken stream bed —naledi tracking by scent and footprints, sapien watchful for other predators. Lesser seasoned parties would have lost the trace long ago in the soft mud of the active water source, animals have been crossing and mashing evidence throughout the day. Erectus was using choice spots to throw off the trail by showing false exit spots or intentionally using the water to conceal prints. However, these naledi were very good and motivated. The sapiens weren’t the only ones to suffer loss. Seventeen of them were carried off in the night, no survivors. These naledi mourned too in their own childlike way.

The day wore on, shadows grew longer and the sky hued orange and the party kept up their pace. As the sun began it’s final descent the naledi now committed to an off point, easily climbing out of the waterway to a slight trail of broken grass, single file. The mid-Saharan grasslands were characteristically flat, spotted with rocky formations. The trail led to a rare grouping of trees and a stark rock formation some distance behind it.

Upon climbing out of the sunken stream bed Iry exhaled sharply, seeing their mistake. While he couldn’t see them, he could feel eyes staring stealthily… ominously. They stood clear above the grass, even as they crouched following Iry’s lead, he knew they would have been seen from the tree cluster. This was a trap of design.

This prey was no ordinary prey. They were wittier than the rest of the kingdom, sly even. It wasn’t good enough to find them, you had to keep watch that they weren’t playing you. As Iry recalled the lessons of his father, his mind raced to undermine and reverse the ambush. The others stayed crouched, silent, waiting for their leader to move. If they stayed too long the assailants would know they’d been detected. As witty as erectus was, man too was clever. 

Iry stood up and yawned and stretched. The others looked at him as he stood at ease, looked at each other, and followed suit. The naledi barely stood above the grass. They looked puzzled but did as the sapiens did. Iry casually wrapped his arms around one of the companions with a celebratory smile but started laying out the plan through his grin. The sapiens started laughing, naledi puzzled – looking to Iry but missing the subtlety. Iry gave them directions with hand signals and they hopped slightly in the grass with new excitement before they started foraging nearby.

The party would take a quick break here but the sun is heading to the last stretch of its stay. Shadows getting long and dark. Other predators will be hunting soon and being in the open is the last place any hominid would want to be. While feigning carelessness they need to wrap this up soon otherwise without setting camp they will be at the mercy of the wild.

The naledi led as before towards the grouping of trees, close together and low to the ground. Sapiens upright but watchful, shuffling their feet in the grass. The perimeter of trees was dense with brush and thistles but there was a small game trail opening they followed in. Watchful of the brush on the sides, they passed without incident into the interior where the dense brush eased into a rather cleared undergrowth. The trunks of the trees and light grass gave a rather clear optic of the area. It was a shelter for game — much of the soil overturned from many feet and the bark scuffed up from horns and tusks. While the center was clear, the edges were impermeable and dark, only some light escaped from the canopy above but the day was getting long.

The confident feint the party was leading had now transitioned to cautious progress inward. A few paces in, one of the naledi abruptly stopped, close fist in the air and face intently at the ground. The other two signed quickly and looked around and back. The first, without looking back at Iry, signed that there was only one set of their prey’s footprints here. It was easy to fake foot impact in grass but the soil made clear intentions.

Iry was right, they’ve been played. The lone set of footprints went straight, through the clearing, into where the game trail funneled into a tunnel of foliage. The kill zone. The trap was set.

It was already darkening. If they pulled away now, they wouldn’t find shelter for the night far enough to make distance from their opponents. It would be a long night if it was just the animals of lesser intellect but Iry knew erectus would be looking for the kill at this point. There was no turning back. An ambush triggered before maturation was a benefit to the defender, which they now were. 

Iry knew well that success would require the team to save face. He gripped his spear forward and tightly, exhaled softly, and pressed ahead with bravado. The four sapiens formed a single file line while motioning the three naledi in step — two in front, two in back with naledi center.

It was quiet. The noise of the grassland birds now silent. A lone cricket on the left. Ten paces from the foliage tunnel now, no sign of erectus. The tunnel area darkened, dense on each side. Iry continues without hesitation. The soft padding of their feet is now the only noise. He’s the first to enter, while the tunnel is dark, he could make out the trampled dirt ahead. Ten paces in, the whole party is surrounded by dense thorns and foliage. While at first glance it seemed smaller, there was enough room to maneuver. The trail was made from larger game.

Fourteen paces, Iry closes his eyes and sharpens his hearing. The breathing of his compatriots was clear despite the attempts to muffle it. His heartbeat heavy. A number of mosquitoes buzzing nearby. He moved ahead blindly a bit more. Then, a shift.

On the right. So slight. Too easy to pass off. But it was unmistakable. An intentional yet subtle shift of a stance. No one else caught it. Time slowed.

Iry thought of his slain children, remembering their laughs and cries. He remembered his grandfather and father teaching him the very skill he now needed to unfurl. Iry the sapien repositioned his hands tighter and in an explosive pivot, hurled his spear left-handed to the right, into the dense plants.

The trap was sprung early. The proceeding moments brought the clash of hominids long pursued. Two naked erectus came out from more than twenty paces ahead on the trail in a fury, howling with vocals of ancient lineage that were part man, part ape. They hurled axes that critically injured one of the sapiens and caught a naledi in the head, behind the other sapien who dodged. The naledi was killed instantly. The sapiens had the edge with weapons and numbers but erectus was strong and fierce. One of the naledi was stout of heart and jumped into the fray but had four fingers taken in one bite which was then proceeded by a stiff forearm to the temple rendering an instant knockout. The other naledi held and mourned the now-dead individual who still held the axe head in his face.

An unforeseen erectus came in from behind but too late. This would be the fourth after Iry pulled his spear from the throat of the initial erectus slain to start the battle. The other two erectus had just fallen, the fourth comer engaged lightly but thought better of it and escaped further down the trail. Iry and another gave chase as the last erectus sprinted into the now dusk grassland. The last of them had made good ground before the sapiens entered the clearing but as primitive justice would have it, a big cat had taken notice of his hasty departure from the protection of the wood and ran him down. A high-pitched ape scream was quickly throated and that was that.

Iry and the other hadn’t come out far from the trail when they saw the pursuit. They looked at each other, stopped, and quietly and carefully crept back to the safety of the trees. Iry looked back over his shoulder toward the open — the last erectus was heading as the crow flies to the rock formation in the not-so-far distance. He could make out the evidence of an encampment, a slight glow off the rock at the base of the shadowed crag. As the duty of his forefathers, Iry would have to lead the advance to extinguish the flames of the next erectus camp. Iry exhaled as one does when he sets his mission. A motion from above caught his eye, a dark buzzard circling above.

For now, Iry would have to tend to his party to make it through the night. Wounds to be cauterized, their dead buried, and erectus dragged out in the open to keep the carnivores busy.

The sapiens may have been the newest hominid on the scene and would toil to subdue the wilds while competing with other beings for dominance ecologically, reproductively, and culturally. It’s clear to understand what it means to be called human today but that would have looked very different in the time when man ran with other man.

A shout out to the PBS Eons show for a great episode on the mysteries of the naledi, sparking the idea to tie them into this. Excellent series.






Fire – A Shorty

Sour black smoke bellowed into the air and carried harshly into the woods beyond the homestead’s clearing. The frontier cabin popped and crackled in the heat, interior flames not yet escaping.

Jean-Pierre wiped his hands off with a handkerchief as the home burned behind him. The owner’s voices silenced from asphyxiation after being locked in were just a momentary embellishment. Vive la France.

The Frenchmen and his posse were finishing up their mission for the crown, the second of the day — the eighth of the week. A compatriot fired a salvo of Mohawk arrows into the front door. Another couple into the window sill, with intended precision.

Jean-Pierre thought about his family walking away from the growing blaze. This was for New France. They would be something here. This new start would fix his family tree for the next generations. Blood on his hands meant food in his children’s. The British were just expendable to this cause. Everyone was.

He took his spare tomahawk and lobbed it into the wagon’s side quarter panel. His eye was caught just above his splintered intended target to see a little dolly in the wagon.

Jean-Pierre didn’t recall seeing a little girl in the carnage. Did someone get away?

“Philippe, did you see a girl?”

“Non, pourquoi?” answered Philippe.

Jean-Pierre held the doll up with a stern face.

“Captain Jean-Pierre! Captain!” One of the younger compatriots ran from the woods screaming frantically and waving his arms, difficult to see but it looked like he had blood across his face. The Seasoned One, a veteran of the frontier took an arrow from his quiver and set it to sail into the young man’s chest. He never liked the garçon and now he was giving up their position in dramatic flair, it only seemed right to The Seasoned One. It wasn’t the first time he made such a decision but it would be his last.

The rest of the compatriots lowered and listened, forming a parameter around the front clearing. Each one quietly checked their muskets and powder. They’re here. Zut.

This band of irregular calamities didn’t need the escaped girl to give them away. While she was rescued, the Mohawk war band had been in pursuit with intent to kill. Not only was the British bounty lucrative, but the French were also playing games and causing scandal with their legacy. That itself was enough.

The Frenchmen thought they were clever but they would pay for their work. The flames began to break through the roof of the frontier home.

Silently, with only the sound of the landing arrows and cracking skulls, the first two compatriots were felled. Jean-Pierre shouted a command but it was too late for the planned course. Eyes set on the tree line, they didn’t see the four Mohawk warriors who had been stealthily working through the grass for the past thirty minutes to position the ambush. Before the Frenchmen could react to the assailants it was indeed over before a musket shot was fired.

The little British colonial would be brought to safety and placed with a new family. The Mohawks would be paid handsomely for their bravery. The French would pay dearly for their trouble in the region but not without drawing blood.

This was the frontier in the New World. Brutal and rugged. Competitive and dangerous. Old versus new. Life’s formative measures spawn the seeds of progress at the expense of another’s life’s formative measures. The war was not yet ready to begin but it was coming soon enough. The land was too small for all the competitors – in the end, the blood of the coming French and Indian War and the subsequent Seven Years’ War, would pave the way for Independence from all crowns.

Fall – A Shorty

It has been over forty years since the last time a storm like this shook the Western Interior Seaway — winds howling, water capped white, shores battered.

A flash.

A bang.

A man falling through the rain and wind, tumbling to the sea below. Providence that he wasn’t so far up that he’d die on impact but high enough to crack pain on the awkward arrival to the surface.

The man’s plunge into the dark and tumultuous waters shocked him, only natural instinct pulled him up, thanks to a flash of lightning to guide which way to go. The swells were no friend as they pounded him again and again. He was aware enough to catch his breath in the lull. Try as he may, the current pulled him away from his heading, thankfully. Disoriented, he chose to swim away from shore but God was with him as the waves drove him ashore regardless.

Crashing on sand and coughing up water — exhausted from the struggle, he climbed into a haven of fallen trees and passed out.

Jack, the man, opened his eyes as a beam of light moved through the fallen tree’s limbs. While he was wet, he was very warm and comfortable.

Until he started to move.
His neck hurt, a product of the fall. Muscles and joints hurt, products of making it to shore. His head hurt, dehydration.

Jack cursed. A number of times. Kingsley was the target of his ire. He knew who put him here. He just didn’t know how. More cursing.

Jack climbed out of the trees to see what was before him. The hot sun overhead blazed the morning air. The sea before him was calm, gently lapping the shore. Birds high above rode the air quietly. The scene behind was a dense and lively conifer forest. The air, humid, thick, and floral. An air of paradise.

More cursing.

Jack sat on one of the branches, not knowing where to go from here. He was certainly thirsty, that would be his first priority. Next is to get a gauge on where he’s at.

Water was easy, some of the large ferns nearby pooled fresh rain from the storm. Check.

Jack trained early in his career in OODA loop — observe, orient, decide, act; essential for situational agility. Now, this was a situation.

Observe - Salty sea shoreline, hot temperatures, humid, wilderness. Ok, feedforward.

Orient - No injuries but fatigued. No food or shelter, weapon check – pistol secure, phone – soggy. Ok, feedforward.

Decide - Need more input, where is he? Any nearby settlements or landmarks? Looks like inland slopes upward. Need to scout and get a lay of the land. Feedforward.

Act - Time to move.

Jack began inland through the forest. He wondered where he was. Looked like northwest US or west coast Canada with a variety of conifers and ferns. But it was hot and humid. Maybe ninety degrees, plus. Not sure what to make of it, he needed more input. Every chance he had to drink stable rainwater he took it.

It wasn’t long before the ground began to incline, Jack kept a determined pace. He was mad at himself for losing his cool back on the beach. Jack knew his target had got to him first, he just didn’t know how. Whatever Kingsley was doing, he had used it on Jack. Whatever this is.

It was time for a break as he made the ascent to a long plateau. Jack was working hard through the damn forest. The bugs were gnarly. He had never seen dragonflies or mosquitoes like this. His watch had stopped working correctly, but it was an hour since he had left the beach.

A mist had crept into the forest, a still quiet fell upon him as he knelt catching his breath. The lively forest chatter had ceased. Running through the OODA loop’s observation, he could see the sea through a gap in the trees. Not so helpful yet but he could see the ground start up again in about fifty yards.

He scanned around the vertical lines of trees and a horizontal figure subtly caught his eye. Large figure — bipedal. Partially shrouded in mist, and colored to match the trees was a long and tall statue of a theropod. While its still tail and torso were a stark broadside presence, it was the long and slender head that was most curious — pointed in his direction, as if it were looking right at him.

It was looking right at him. Jack was frozen, squinting to see better when he noticed also that there were slight movements; the chest expanded and the eyes blinked. This thing was alive. It dawned on him that Jack had interrupted its course, wherever it was headed, it was now locked onto him.

Jack had been in many tough situations in the course of his life, well seasoned. He had never thought he would lay eyes on such a creature. Carefully he unholstered his firearm and slowly stood up. The beast was maybe twenty yards, still and locked on.

Jack didn’t have confidence in his 9mm to dispatch this forty-foot-long beast. The creature just stared with unrelenting eyes for what seemed like an eternity in the frozen moment.

All at once in a space out of sight in the forest, a crash of excitement and loud horns and yelps — a stampede of alarm, crashing through trees and brush away from the center of gravity between Jack and the theropod.

The gig was up, the carnivore was had and noticed. The surprise failed. The stalk was over. The predator stiffened up as it turned its head toward the hullabaloo.

Time to act, Jack turned and ran toward a tree he had observed that he would be able to climb quickly. This was the moment while the disappointed creature was distracted. He didn’t want to wait until it took its ire out on him for losing a meal.

He had sprinted fifteen yards and earnestly began to climb. Heart pounded in his chest and ears. He could feel his borrowed time and didn’t waste it looking over his shoulder. Sap from the conifer tacked his fingers as he climbed. Just a couple minutes into his sprint and climb he was already up high, he thought. Before he finished his thought a jolting snap just below his feet forced his eyes down to see the theropod’s snout inches from his foot. He didn’t even hear it coming.

The weight of the monster shook the tree as it slammed upon it, forelimbs scratching in frustration on the bark. An extra stretch and bite caught on the branches as Jack braced for death. Seeing he was still alive as the branches quickly failed around him under the pressure of its incredible bite force, Jack scrambled higher — slipping out of reach as its jaws closed tight. He could feel its hot breath blow up his shirt.

For the first time, he heard the stealthy theropod with a screeching roar that pierced his soul. Jack wet himself and cursed as he climbed higher out of reach. The pale white and shaken Jack was still alive. The frustrated theropod was still meal less and eventually gave up.

Jack realized he had dug his grave with his investigation. This wasn’t teleportation. This was time travel.

Nein. – A Shorty

June 30, 1934

It was a damp and dark night in Hamburg, the air especially heavy. The Sauberzweig home, tense.

Otto paced in front of the hearth, pipe in mouth, Hamburg gazette underarm. His lips, held the end of the pipe tight, like a Rottweiler who’d found his favorite bone. A few rounds of fresh and fragrant tobacco had already been expended — room cloudy and full.

Otto’s stern expression wore consternation and complexity. Frieda sat at the desk, writing with clarity to her sister in Düsseldorf.

They didn’t have much time.

Perhaps less time than they thought.

A knock on the door.

The Sauberzweig’s both stopped and looked at the door in the parlor, eyes ablaze.

Just four hours earlier, retired General Otto Sauberzweig marched into the Schutzstaffel headquarters in full regalia to protest the unlawful and treasonous murders the night before in Wiesse. Word travels fast underground. Germany hasn’t been right since Wilhelm, but it is fast becoming unrecognizable. Vicious.

Otto looked at Frieda, Frieda looked at Otto. Another, but more firm knock.

Otto took another puff of the pipe and walked slowly to the door and unlocked the bolts.

“Guten abend General. I hope you don’t mind our stopping by so late,” a young but strong man with a crisp brown shirt led a posse of four Sturmabteilung officers. “Do you mind if we step in?”

“Nein.” Otto coldly replied with one arm across the door.

“I see.” The lad let a slow smile grow on his face, eyes locked to Otto’s. “You see General, I’m here to pay an unofficial visit this evening and thought we could sit down as countrymen and talk. Perhaps Frau Sauberzweig could join us?”

“Nein.” Otto’s reply, was more firm than the last. This time, blowing a puff of smoke forward, into the face of the young lad, who didn’t break his gaze or smile. The young man’s face held a soft glow from the interior lights but the other three who stood behind were silhouettes in the night. They said nothing but stood at ease, unflinching.

The young officer stood a moment, staring at Otto, saving face — with the exception of a new fire in his eyes.

“General I must insist we speak, out here is fine enough for the moment.” Otto kept his gaze, only using his lips to readjust the pipe in his mouth. “I understand you stopped by headquarters today to express your, grievances. I must say, leadership finds your lack of confidence,” the lads blue eyes tightened, “abrasive.”

Otto’s face was dark from being backlit but his inhale drew oxygen through his pipe and illuminated the embers to draw a deep red glow across his Prussian mustache and fierce coal eyes.

“The lads and I are here to bring you,” while trying to peer over his shoulder, “and dear Frau the opportunity to change your mind.”

“Progress is being made General. We could use men of your talent to serve this great nation again. Your reputation proceeds you, and we can certainly never forget the sacrifices you once gave. But. Now is the time to serve again. An evil is growing in this country and our leader is fighting for us, for a New Germany. One we can all be proud of,” the lad’s voice grew with excitement as if for the first time he had some hope. Otto stood firmly, one hand on his waist, hidden back as his jacket hungover, the other placed across the doorway.

“General, doesn’t it bother you to see our nation slave to the world and ruined by rich rats?” Otto caught a glimpse of a subtle movement of the guard to the left as he adjusted his hands to grip a baton. “The tide is turning. You will need to determine if you are on the side of progress or on the side of decay.”

A veteran of the Great War, a proud Prussian, General Otto Sauberzweig led many brave men into hell. He saw countless dead and dying. Otto inhaled again, a fierce highlight of his eyes wiped the smile off the young officer’s face. The moment sat in the air. The silence deafening.

Another movement yet out of complete sight by the guard directly behind the led officer.

“So General, I ask, will you join me down to headquarters where we can clear up this little misunderstanding?”

A long still pause.

Otto had seen what this new progress had to offer, what it promised. Progress doesn’t necessarily mean goodness.


The young blonde officer, still eye locked, snapped his fingers and the other three quickly drew their batons. Within a second, a rapid draw and fire of a seasoned Luger P08, hid nicely from Otto’s hip, dropped all four Brown Shirts upon the approach. 

Frieda had taken a position in the side yard, Geweher 98 carefully aimed across the hood of the getaway car, just in case. Now that the guests have retired for the night, it was time to enact their planned escape to the free world —perhaps a little sooner than expected.

The “Night of the Long Knives” and its implication of Hitler’s rise can be explored with a couple of the quick links below. The story above is just a fiction, but there were many who did resist the Nazis, too few albeit.



3 Million – A Shorty

The fire grew intense — it needed to be on this cold early spring evening. The Man settled back into his seat after putting two more logs on. He pulled his fur overcoat tighter as he looked deeply into the flames. The light flickered and danced boldly across his weathered face.

The shore gently lapped as the water came up and retreated. Wave after wave created the white noise to trance the most active mind. The Man reflected, soul stretched farther than any man before him.

He exhaled sharply as a chill ran up his back and drew closer to the fire. The crimson light of the smoldering fire faded in the sand and rocks on the beach. His eyes followed the next source of light above him, the reflective shards of the shattered moon. Time trudged passed as The Man sat warming himself — feeling the searing heat felt on his knees and face but slow to warm his core.

The Man’s mind wandered as it often did to his time spent alone in life. He’s seen much. Loved some. Lost more. Fought some. Prayed more.

The fire crackled and popped. The orange and white embers at the heart of the flames oscillated color. The mature flame consumed with a peaceful allure.

The flames brought The Man’s mind back to sitting around the cooking fire with his daughters. There had never been anything better in life than returning from a hunt to his babies. They would run back and forth in their little moccasins from the fires back then, entertained by a simple stick game; how close could they run up with dried leaves on a stick and not have it catch fire. Then scamper backward giggling.

Life was much less complicated then, that was the life of living. No matter how much you’ve been given, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Outliving his daughters, tribe, country, kind, still sits with him all these years later. He holds onto the hope of seeing them again but he’s lost track of how much time he actually has left.


Since the life sentence was delivered by the messenger, The Man did his best. One sees much in three million years. Try as he may, death and age never found him. A hundred years pass since he was born as a Cheyenne and saw the rise of skyscrapers in New York. A thousand years pass to step foot on Ganymede. Ten thousand to see a genetic divergence from Homo sapiens. A hundred thousand to see the start of man’s final demise with the eruption of Yellowstone. A couple million more of watching and praying for lives lost eons ago.

The fire has since dwindled as he made yet another evening’s worth of reflection. The glowing hot tōtara embers radiated.

A set of footsteps approached in the sand and pebble mixture behind him in the dark early morning. The Man was unfazed. There was something that caught The Man’s attention, something he hadn’t heard in a long time, words.

He didn’t break his gaze from the coals, knees still roasting warm. Steam rising off him.

“Peter’s ready for you,” the messenger said in The Man’s native Cheyenne. A long pause without breaking gaze before The Man smiled. “You’re the last one,” the messenger continued in another language long extinct.

The Man rose from his seat and turned. Greeted his visitor and they walked away from the heat to go home.