Pigs in Mud is a story about my Stone Age Detective, Quest
The pigs episode might or might not appear in the published version of The Stone Age Detective, but it will give you a taste of the setting of the book and introduces four of the main characters. Five if you include the dog.
PIGS IN MUD
I told my older brother about my latest failures at hunting and the strain this put on my marriage. He was named Dark because he had the darkest hair and darkest complexion of anyone in our clan, although they said I was looking more like him every day. He was also born on the darkest night anyone could remember. At seventeen he was only one year older than me, but was already respected as a successful hunter and was everything I wanted to be. Dark suggested we should go hunting together. Just us. He would try to teach me a few things. We set out in a direction nobody had hunted in for a while, hoping there would be a good chance of finding game there. Climber the dog followed us. He was called Climber because he climbed trees. He was probably as glad as we were to get away from both our wives, whose moods had not been improving. Dark’s wife, Vixen had accused him of infidelity, and my wife, Doe, had become inpatient at my lack of hunting skills.
Our route took us close to an area nobody ever entered. They said there were evil spirits there. People and animals disappeared. We were not going to go into that area.
Dark found some tracks. Pigs. A big herd. We followed them for a long time. They began approaching the forbidden area. People said animals rarely went there. Perhaps the pigs knew it was now safer than before. Or perhaps they would only go to the edge. We followed. Cautiously. Climber got excited as he sniffed at the fresh tracks. Although we were in open country, we couldn’t see any pigs, or any other animals. We kept following the tracks.
We came to some trees in a dip in the ground. They marked the edge of the evil place. We looked at the tracks, then at each other. Climber kept sniffing and going forwards. Wouldn’t even a stupid dog sense danger? He didn’t seem worried. We went up to the edge of the trees. Squeals came from beyond. We crept forwards. There were a lot of pigs. In their midst a large boar’s head showed above the mud. Then it disappeared. Another was in mud up to the top of its legs. Then it too sank from view.
Dark whispered, “This is too good to ignore. Let’s get a couple at least.” He knocked an arrow to his bow, which he aimed at the biggest pig in sight. I aimed at another, which was nearer. A fox appeared, grabbing a small piglet and running off, with a sow chasing it. They all vanished in the blink of an eye. I hesitated. Dark loosed. I loosed. Two pigs ran squealing into the mud and disappeared.
I said, “I think we should go.”
Dark said, “Yes. Let’s retrace our steps.”
Behind us, our tracks were almost invisible in the shade of the trees. We started going in the direction of the light coming through a gap in the trees. Climber looked around, sniffed the air and began following us. Dark slipped, fell flat on his face and began to get up. Suddenly he disappeared from the waist down. I grabbed a hand and pulled. I knew he was heavier than me, but not that much. It was as if something was dragging him down into the mud. I pulled as hard as I could and lost my balance. I fell flat on my face, but onto firm ground. The gods or spirits had mercy on me. Dark said, “Can you stay there?”
“I think so.”
He took hold of me by one arm and the middle of my coat and began to haul himself up. I felt myself slipping towards him and grabbed at the ground. I found a big root which I hung onto. One leg slid off the firm ground and it felt as if it was being sucked into the mud, almost as if it didn’t belong to me. I put as much pressure on my other leg and the hand holding the root as I could. Dark crawled onto me, before crawling away in front of me. I made a huge effort, freed my leg and began to crawl. We crawled out of the trees onto normal ground. We were both covered in disgusting mud. It smelled far worse than any I had come upon before. Dark had lost his coat and his bow. We were just happy to be alive. Climber was not in sight. We called to him but got no answer.
There was no clean water around, so we set out for home as we were. As the Sun went down, it became colder. I let Dark wear my coat for a while, to get warm. He gave it back, just as I began to shiver. In the dusk, it was hard to make out landmarks and we got lost. We heard voices and called out to whoever owned them, hoping they were friends. Soon a hunting party from our village came to us. They commented on the smell. At least they knew where we were and guided us home.
Doe and Vixen were angry. My younger brother, Flint, was pleased to see us. So was Climber. Vixen said, “We were worried about you, when it got dark and you weren’t back, and the dog had come home without you. Where have you been? What’s that smell?”
Doe asked, “Did you kill anything? Did Dark teach you anything Quest?”
Our answers didn’t make things better. We failed to explain why we had entered the forbidden area. Dark, Climber and myself had to sleep outside that night. Dark said he thought things would improve when we got to the Northlands. I couldn’t see why, but I hoped he was right.
For more about The Stone Age Detective see one of my previous blogs.