The Saving by David Macfie
Grak shivered. He was standing on an exposed ridge that gave him a good way of seeing what was going on near the cave his small group used for shelter. His language was limited so many of the things he saw had no noise to give them a name. Mostly things around the group were described by the noise made by the living thing, together with mimicry of its movements or a scratching in the dirt or even a marking on the innermost places of the cave. Up and down were gestures as were directions. Distance was harder to communicate. But they were getting smarter all the time. New noises were invented for things every seeing time. When not-seeing came, the group rested in their shelter.
Grak was the leader and he was worried this seeing-time. His group had not fed for many seeing-times and were getting weak. He must find eatings. He searched the big place before him and noticed a small living-thing moving on the place at the end of his seeing. It looked broken and weak. He roused his group and they set off to try to make this thing an eating. They moved quickly but silently, males in front and mates following. As the living thing got bigger in their seeing, Grak noticed it was trailing one part and not moving well. He signed to his group, who spread out to make the living-thing closed in by the males. Grak was keeping out of the seeing of the living thing, and the others copied his care. Slowly they moved in on the eating. At the right time, when they were near enough, Grak signed again and the males rushed in as one. They knocked the eating over and held it fast until Grak ended it by hitting it on the head with a large stone he carried with him. Quickly the mates moved in and dragged the thing under a shade and stated to skin it. They used small worked stones that had been chipped to make sharp edges. Soon the thing was bare and the mates changed to larger sharpened stones to cut the thing into smaller pieces. They made carriers out of the skin and began packing the eating.
Grak was startled by a movement in the edge of his seeing. He turned and caught a glimpse of a small shaking of the cover. He kept his attention on it and very gradually he began to make out more of the shape that was making the movement. He signed to the males, who all turned towards the movement. Grak scanned the place they were in. He saw a large piece of one of the shade things lying close by. It was small at one end and large at the other. He quickly picked it up in his powerful grip and turned back to the moving. The thing he had picked up was hard to hold and strained his strength, but he was sure he knew what was coming and he could not meet it without help. He showed the males what he carried, signed to it and to them and they understood. Each picked up something also – something like he had or a large stone. He also signed what he was expecting. Now they watched and waited. The mates were nearly finished their packing and were making ready to go back to the shelter.
A huge shape burst out of the cover, making a fearful noise. It was lithe and Grak saw, with terror, the sharp weapons it had in its toes and the huge ones in its twisted and snarling mouth. It moved with mind-numbing speed and Grak knew he would only have one chance. He boldly stepped into its path, crouched and lifted his laden arms above his head. The beast was covering the space between them in great leaps. Grak waited until the beast made one last leap. He then swung the thing, he had picked up, with all his strength and hit the beast right between its eyes, with a meaty smacking sound. Then the beast hit Grak, knocked him down and landed on top of him. The males closed in and beat on the beast until it stopped moving. Then they rolled it off Grak, who rose shakily to his feet. Now there was more eating for the mates to skin.
Little did he know it, but Grak had just invented the club.