ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END
Spring, as ever, even in Neanderthal times, followed hard on the heels of winter, and my wonderful old ancestor Owongoo and his beautiful and occasionally violent wife Mirumdoo, decided to move on.
They were motivated by a desire to find a new home for themselves, a comfortable cave in which they could pass their declining years in love and contentment.
So they set off, Blood-tooth, their pet and very amenable wolf at their side.
There is nothing so splendid as a verdant Earth in spring. The greens are greener than ever, the skies bluer than you remember them and the air cleaner. And rather than rush along, they sauntered. It didn't matter whether they covered a mile or a dozen miles in a single day, all they really wanted was the peace all around them to continue for ever.
And, of course, it didn't.
There were other folks around, those that their unhappy and very dead friend Doreena had met and been rejected by. They were very much alive in the world, and they were also following a similar course to that randomly chosen by Owongoo and Mirumdoo.
And, when Mirumdoo was humming a little love song and Owongoo was playing catch-my-tail with Blood-tooth, the two parties came face to face.
There's something we ought to know about Neanderthal folks, and that is they possessed huge wisdom on account of having the most enormous brains of any biped on Earth. The other group, the self-named Homo Sapiens, were vastly inferior in the intellect department. I know that sounds awful, us being Homo Sapiens as well, but you can't look the truth in the face and call it a lie. Or you can, but it wouldn't sound convincing.
The leader of the other group was called Fred, and he was constantly being followed by his chum Barney. You might have thought that the latter was stalking the former had it not been for the jolly repartee between the two, and the way Fred kicked Barney on the shins whenever the mood took him. Other than they they were a friendly enough group, and they hailed Owongoo and his delicious spouse with a great deal of bonhomie. They were, in fact, positively effusive with their bonhomie.
There was a language problem between the two groups, though Owongoo could just about make sense of what the others were saying. As I have said, he was well endowed in the brain department and used the intellect that nature had given him to good effect.
“Well hail, comrades!” called Fred.
“How do you do,” replied Owongoo, a little uncertainly.
“You Neanderthal scum?” asked Barney, sneezing, and Fred kicked his shins with a great deal of violent anger.
“Doreena told us about you,” said Owongoo, wanting to create a connection between the two disparate groups.
“Doreena lying bitch!” scowled Fred.
“Doreena knows stuff,” added Barney in the middle of a violent coughing fit. “Doreena had god!”
“I'm afraid Doreena's dead,” said Owongoo, with assumed sorrow on every line of his face.
“That good stuff!” muttered Fred.
“That sad,” added Barney, his nose dribbling onto the ground.
“You our friends,” grinned Fred, “how lying bitch die?”
“I killed her,” said Mirumdoo, with quiet confidence. “She wanted my man, and I wasn't having that,” she added.
“You good woman!” grinned Fred. “You kill lying bitch: very good!”
“Very sad,” spluttered Barney.
And the conversation came to an end. There was, after all, a language problem and making sense of Barney would always be a struggle, what with all his coughs and sneezes.
And that would have been the end of the relationship. The Homo Sapiens went one way and the Neanderthal couple went another.
As Owongoo and Mirumdoo walked slowly along, laughing and singing and generally being silly in the way only a loving Neanderthal couple could be silly, they heard Barney sneezing and coughing until he was too far away to be heard.
But Barney had left a parting gift.
He left a very primitive, very early and very unwelcome influenza virus.
The next day Owongoo fell ill. He fell very ill. His temperature rose to an unbelievable high. Mirumdoo tried to nurse him, but she became ill, too.
The Neanderthal's might have been superior to the Homo Sapiens in most ways, but in one they were dreadfully inferior. They were devastatingly susceptible to that early influenza virus.
It attacked them, and was victorious.
If anyone asks you why the Neanderthal folks died out when they seem to have had all the physical advantages, then you can tell them it was the flu that did it.
And if you were to accidentally find yourself in present day Portugal you might, with a little bit of luck, stumble on the fossilised bones of two loving people from a far more innocent age, lying arm in arm as the illness claimed them sorrowfully one by one and with their wolf-dog by their side.
And the world lost two treasures, two of my wonderful ancestors.
Meanwhile, back in his old homeland, their son, Owongoo Junior, cast his seed upon the womenfolk of two species, and perpetuated a line that would, after countless millennia, lead to a slave in the far-off Roman Empire, Owongus and his cherished lover, Mirumtia, of whom much more later.
© Peter Rogerson 17.07.12