1. The Forbidden Cave

1. The Forbidden Cave

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



Life was never easy in the valley where Uggah lived. It never had been even though some seasons were easier than others. The future would romanticise him and Magga, his woman (there was no such thing as marriage in those days, so she would never be his wife) but his life was far from simple.

In stories he’d be a caveman, though he didn’t actually live in a cave. There weren’t enough caves in the valley for everyone to have one, and he’d simply built one of his own. It was mostly big boulders (heavy, but he was strong enough to roll them around, and he’d filled in the yawning gaps between them with silt and rubble), and with the help of Magga it became quite a decent home, though if there’d been cold and windy seasons it might have got uncomfortable at nights. But where they lived, in what the future would call part of Africa, there were very rarely cold winter nights. Life was balmy most of the time.

And it could be fun, especially when hunting was plentiful and he and Magga had plenty of time to play a host of games that others could only guess at because they played them too. The games often led to pregnancies among the sweet females (and the sour ones), but human learning had yet to associate the one pleasure with swelling bellies.

There was one particular lesson his parents had drilled into him. Up a hillside, on the way to the Plain of the ead where the recently deceased were taken so that their flesh could return to whatever circle of life might want it, there was a small and, they said though nobody claimed to have entered it, poky old cave. They had to describe it as poky rather than show him, because they claimed that it was the most evil place on Earth, and they called it the Hellhole. Nobody in living memory had gone there, and if, every so often, someone went out and never returned, the Hellhole was blamed.

Go up there, lad, and we’ll never see you again,” grunted his father in the language they mostly used in those days. It was mostly grunts, but heid understood it, more by intonation than actual syllables.

And you’ll end up in eternal fires, so be warned,” added his mother, just to make sure that the message went home.

So every time he went past Hellhole he steered clear of its creepy yawning entrance and continued to the Plain of the Dead to say goodbye to this or that friend or relative who had passed away recently. Mostly there were only bones left after carrion foul had taken their fill, but he knew who the bones had belonged to, and if on occasion he wasn’t quite sure which pile of bones was which person, it didn’t really matter as long as he spoke reverently to them and wished them well in whatever Afterlife they were enjoying.

And stories grew up about that Afterlife because there had to be a purpose more vital than amorous games in the right season to the daily grind of existence, or else why were they there at all? Other creatures didn’t seem to worry about life, he’d yet to see a tiger do more than growl and yawn and go to sleep when its belly was full, but he and his friends often had grunted debates concerning purpose, and that led to assumptions about an Afterlife.

So Uggah grew up to be a man with a vague notion of some kind of Afterlife and its vaguer possibilities, and when he was firm of groin he attracted a woman of his own, to bear him children if he was lucky, and it was important to have a great many children because death could strike without warning via wild creatures stronger than mankind and their tremendous appetites for meat, or disease or even poisoning. Some plant-life was toxic, but if that was all he could find, well, what could he do? Eat it and hope he’d got it wrong. Sometimes such weeds made a fellow sick, but occasionally laid him waste and he was carted off by loved ones to the Plain of the Dead

So he courted Magga, and they shared his strange home and discovered they could do wonderful and magical things together, things that they never guessed caused her belly to swell with a new generation even though there was enough evidence. But simple play and complex childbirth were acres apart, and they had good reason to keep it that way. Fun was fun and birth was painful.

It wasn’t long before he had ten children of his own. At least, it would have been ten, but half of them lay on the Plain of the Dead before they reached their fifth birthday, not that birthdays as such were celebrated in days when the concept of the calendar was yet to dawn on the cave-dwellers. It was hard to measure the age of a child when you had no form of measurement to use. Days were easy, and with ten digits on his hands and ten on his feet, so were longer periods. But years? How could they calculate years? The seasons helped, so a child would be three or four summers old, but there was no precision in such a vague measurement, no way of recalling a specific day.

He was a good and caring father and like his parents before him he taught the youngsters about the evil cave, not that he knew one thing about it from personal experience.

You must steer clear of Hellhole,” he said as sombrely as he could, “for it leads away from your happy life to an evil one, and if you venture into it we will never see you again.”

It was all hearsay, of course. He knew of nobody who had ventured into Hellhole, and if any had they kept very quiet about it.

Then came one terrible day.

A sickness had come along the valley, and many were laid low and some, quite a few, actually died. Two of Uggah and Magga’s daughters passed away, warm and happy and playing one day and cold and still and dead the next, and Uggah, in great sadness, carried the two little bodies to the Plain of the Dead where they could be reclaimed by the gods who regulated the circle of life. He went alone, for Magga had the other youngsters to care for. And that very loneliness may have been his undoing.

He lay the tiny bodies down on firm ground and stood, head bowed, and gazed at their stillness, the way their dark skin refused to glow with the brightness of life.

Then he returned to his home, and the weather changed with a suddenness that was rare in those balmy days. Rain, suddenly and without any warning, lashed down from skies suddenly daubed with black, as if great vessels in the overcast heavens were being emptied onto the land. It beat against him, and he looked about for shelter.

There was the Hellhole, and nothing else.

Fearful that the beating rain might wash him away altogether as it formed a river cascading from the Plain of the Dead to the lower lands where the people lived, he sneaked into the very entrance to the Hellhole where he should be safe enough if he went no further into its eerie depths, and might keep from drowning.

But there was mischief afoot.

The rain seemed to know where he was and blasted at him at the craziest angle, forcing him to retreat a little bit further into the Hellhole.

His mouth suddenly watered as he smelt what must be some kind of meat cooking, and other things he couldn’t identify, all wafting towards him from the depths of the forbidden cave.

Then he passed, not far in so he could still see the battering rain outside, and became aware of a slight change in the light, a sort of flickering that spoke of fires, maybe, and his naked body was still uncomfortably wet from the rain. Maybe if he could warm himself … maybe if he could move a smidgen closer and dry his soaking naked flesh...

He took one step further, and a voice he couldn’t understand, a lovely, heart-warming voice, said “what on Earth … there’s someone in the closet, and he’s coming out of it...”

© Peter Rogerson, 19.11.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on November 19, 2020
Last Updated on November 19, 2020
Tags: caveman, life, death, time


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..