2018 NYCM Short Story. Group 80. Comedy-a eulogy-a thrill seeker.
I had a week to write a 2500 word short using the prompts above. I started several times before my muse threw this idea at me on the last day.
Although the mystery of many of mankind’s original activities remain shrouded in the fog of time. This is the story of several of these firsts, including that of the Earth’s first thrill-seeker, Eulo, gee he was great.
Long before the planet’s nations were carved from the open earth, before humans planted crops in anticipation of leaner times, and before mankind tracked the seasons or even recorded the passing of time itself people lived in clans. These prehistoric families wore clothes made from the beasts of the land they hunted, or were hunted by.
When not searching for food or shelter, these primitives spent their time resting from their arduous lives.
This is the tale of the first man who felt the need for something more, a reason to roll out of the dark and cold of his cave each morning. He was looking for a thrill. He sought the sheer joy of being alive another day in the sun and to savor every minute above the dirt.
The setting sun cast long shadows across the field where a group of twenty people dressed in fur and hides were gathered around a mound of stones.
Standing at the head of the pile, Barbok, the clan elder held a torch and spoke. His voice deep due his advanced age of twenty-nine.
“What can I say about our brother Eulo, but gee he was great.” He looked down at the heap in front of him. “The sun warms us and the dark chills us, we pass our sun in the hunt, our dark in sleep, but not Eulo.”
In the first known use of air quotes, Barbok said, “His need was more, he used his sun for what he named, ‘fun.’ We all need this, fun in the sun.”
The people looking at Barbok shrugged and whispered among themselves at this new word and his wiggling his fingers when he said it.
“He now lies below the dirt. Lost to the sun, the dark now to be with him always.”
The people grunted and nodded in agreement. Some continued to use air quotes for no particular reason.
Barbok lead the crowd into a large cave. Each adult carried a torch to light the cavern. Once inside, they gathered around a small fire. A short woman with curly bright-orange hair, periodically stopped sketching on the walls to plunge a stick she was holding into the flames, renewing the charcoaled tip. Next to the fire lay several other burnt sticks of various sizes, and another stuck in a tortoise shell full of crushed red berries.
Barbok spoke, “Our sister, Frudie draws better than any we have known. She show us on the walls the suns of brother Eulo above the dirt.”
Unknown to her at the time, by doing so Frudie created the world’s earliest recordings of epic fails.
Barbok walked to the wall and held up his torch, illuminating the first scene.
It was a mere sketch, not much better than a modern grade-school child could draw with only three colors of crayon: red, black, and slightly less-black. In the scene, a round boulder with a hole through the middle and a thick stick poking through, had what appeared to be a man’s head sticking out of one side while his two legs stuck straight out the other, one of his arms wrapped around the top of the stone.
“Soon after Eulo invented what he name, wheel, he roll down big hill and try to jump over swamp where many-toothed monster live.” Barbok pointed to the next scene. “Here is drawn where he fall off wheel and arm snap like tree.”
Most in the crowd cringed, several snickered.
“Eulo not give up, he wrap arm, make new wheel and try again.”
Barbok steeped further into the cave and held up the torch, showing the next drawing.
The sketch—drawn a little better than the first—depicted a stick-figure Eulo, his right arm encased in a bark textured sleeve, and a large, snake-like, creature with huge teeth intertwined in a battle to the death. Random splotches of crushed berries adorned the drawing showing blood spewing from man and creature.
Oohs and aahs came from the people listening to Barbok. Some pointed to the teeth and shivered in fear.
“Eulo not afraid, he fight the monster and chase it back under water. He crawl out with many marks on skin, but he laugh and he go in search of more fun.”
A couple of the assembled crowd nodded their heads and wiggled their fingers while repeating the word.
Barbok began telling the next story as he moved along the wall.
“Eulo always look for new things to try. When we find the water walls crashing into the end of dirt, all of us run back into trees. But not Eulo, he find split tree and jump into stinging water.”
Frudie’s skill was improving as she drew, her next sketch was of Eulo, his body now drawn with a round body, arms and legs, and a full head of hair and beard, hung upside down in mid-air over a tree split lengthwise. Both were engulfed in crashing waves. His left arm was drawn bent at a 90 degree angle just below the elbow. The waves were streaked with swatches of red.
“We thought brother Eulo was eaten by the water but it spit him back to us with many more marks on skin. His other arm now like broken branch.”
Some in the crowd moved closer and touched the wall, they looked at the waves, the blood and the split tree, and smiled.
Waving them away, Barbok continued his tale. “It take until into dark for Eulo to open eyes and speak. I ask him what happened, how it feel to be eaten by water and given back to us.”
Again using air quotes for emphasis, Barbok said, ““Eulo look me in face and smile, he say, “gnarly dude.””
The crowd begin to jump up and down wiggling their finger and repeating the words “fun,” “gnarly,” and “dude” excitedly among themselves.
“Clan. Clan!” Barbok shouted to quiet his people. “We have many more to see. Listen to story of Eulo.”
The people hushed but continued to mumble among themselves.
Turning to continue around the room, Barbok stopped at a single image. Holding his torch closer, he called out, “Frudie. Come here. What is this?”
The image on the wall was of a woman’s face surrounded by rings of red curls. Her skin freckled with small dots.
Frudie hurried over and looked at the wall, then at Barbok. Her voice full of pride in her accomplishment, she said, “It is self, Frudie. I call it selfie.”
Barbok’s face skewed and he looked between the woman in front of him and the wall. “Selfie?” He asked?
“Yes.” She beamed. She pointed at the wall and her face.
Barbok held the torch closer to the drawing and touched the small red dots, then turned to Frudie and touched her freckles.
“Humph.” He snorted.
Looking at his people he said. “Here is Frudie. Selfie.”
A few in the group clapped and repeated, “Selfie.”
He patted Frudie on her head and continued his tour of the cave.
““After Eulo arm go back straight and he strong again, he decide to cut all branches off tall thin tree to make long stick. He tell me, “Barbok you are brother, I tell you true, I am afraid of fire that flow like water from hole in hill. I must beat fear. I must jump over fire water.” So that what he do.”
He lit the next drawing with the torch; this illustration was the best yet. Eulo’s face looked like Eulo. He was screaming in panic and pain, but there was no doubt as to who was being burnt alive.
At the top of a mountain, Eulo, mouth agape, clung onto a pole hanging over a fiery red volcano. Smoke billowed from the peak, flames licked at his feet and halfway between the ground and Eulo, the pole was on fire. As was the back of Eulo’s zebra-print loincloth.
The people backed away from the realistic drawing in fear. A single voice from the back of the group whispered, “Duuude.”
Barbok calmed them. “Brother Eulo’s stick broke and he fall down big hill. He smell like furry animal held over fire pit to eat, but he here to feel the next sun.”
The crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief and followed Barbok to the next part of the wall.
Stubbing his toe on another tortoise shell filled with crushed blueberries, Barbok looked at the wall and saw that Frudie had drawn and colored a large bright-blue square, in the middle, in stark white contrast, was a side silhouette of a legless bird in flight.
“Frudie.” Barbok called, “What is this?”
She rushed over again and looked at where he pointed.
“It is bird, Barbok.”
“I can see it bird Frudie, why you draw bird, or not draw bird. What is the meaning of shadow of bird?”
She smiled, “I talk to others like me who draw in cave. We decide to leave as message to others like us.”
Barbok studied the design. “What do you call this bird?”
“Tweet?” He huffed and walked to the next stop on his tour, “Well, that will never catch on.”
Frudie shrugged and scurried back to her work adding the finishing touches to the final painting. And by now her talent had grown to the point that these were indeed cave paintings. The earth wouldn’t witness another creative genius like Frudie for tens of thousands of years.
Barbok said “My last story of Eulo is the one he best at doing, and the one that end his suns.”
Lighting the wall for his people, Barbok took a deep breath at the sight. His brother Eulo sat as a God on the bare back of a wooly mammoth. Eulo’s features, as were those of the mammoth, were rendered in photorealistic perfection. Each strand of hair was distinct, their muscles seemed to ripple with power. The grass a distinct green although Barbok saw no evidence of any mixture of that color in the cave. Behind the mammoth Eulo sat upon, in seamless distance-perspective, another mammoth was staring at the pair. This second mammoth, in anatomical perfection was a male and he was very excited to see the animal Eulo was riding.
Fighting back tears, Barbok spoke in a thin voice. “Brother Eulo love to ride big furry animal while the rest of our clan run and hide. Every sun we see him on same animal out in grass smile on face. He very happy to risk his suns.”
He coughed to compose himself and continued. “One sun he out in grass and other big furry come near him and take a liking to animal Eulo on.” Barbok lowered his voice, “I mean the way a woman and man in dark take a liking to each other. Wink-wink.”
Since the beginning of time, just as a head-nod stood for yes and a shake of the head for no, the phrase, ‘wink-wink’ has been the universally accepted term for humans in the act of making baby humans.
“Well, the other big furry jump on top of furry Eulo on and squish him flat. We run and grab Eulo while furry animals are busy, and drag him back to cave. Eulo sleep for many suns. We pick him up to put him under dirt, but he make smelly wind noise so we know he be in the sun again.”
The crowd hung on his every word, their eyes glued to the painting in front of them.
“”Eulo rise with next sun. Smile on face, he ask if “his big furry is hurt?” I laugh and say to come and see.”
Again, Barbok’s voice quieted as he looked to the ground. “Eulo so happy he jump out of bed and trip on small furry animal we let live in cave.”
Barbok turned to the last painting. Frudie had just finished the final touches and jumped out the way.
Behind him, Frudie had drawn the inside of the very cave they were in.
In the foreground, a small campfire lit the scene. Eulo was again in mid-air. Below him a sabretooth housecat held a bloody rat in his jaws; its face skewed into a grimace so lifelike one could almost hear its screams. In flight after tripping, Eulo was still wearing the finely bristled cave-bear fur he had been covered in. Below the surface of the blanket, the shapes of his hands were evident trying in vain to break his fall.
Eulo’s head, in contact with the dark brown coloring of the floor, was bent at an impossible angle. Red, deeper than any Frudie had previously used to show blood, poured from his neck.
Placing his torch into the fire-pit, Barbok spoke, “Brother Eulo, had much fun, but at the end of his many suns he passed under the dirt just by getting out of bed.”
Barbok declared to his clan that from this day, when a clansman’s last sun was past, they would gather to tell the tales of the happy suns that came before. This act would serve to honor our brother, always. “Eulo, gee he was great.”