An excerpt from Chapter 5 of Children of Time. In this passage, Alappa, a Neandertal woman, helps her son Uut prepare for a deer hunt.
“Now paint.” Alappa handed the baby back to Robun. she walked over to a hollowed stone that still held rainwater. She dropped several lumps of charcoal into the water and ground the charcoal with a stick until she had a thick paste.
Alappa then mixed whitish clay and ashes to make a pale, almost white paint. Then she made a thired shade by mixing charcoal with light clay. “Uut, come.”
Uut closed his eyes as Alappa painted his face. He could feel himself becoming a deer under her fingers. She painted his heavy browridge white, and his wide nose black, like a muzzle. Then Alappa covered Uut's broad chest with the light-colored paint, and his back with the darker gray, to match the winter coat of the deer they would be hunting.
Uut watched Alappa turn Narn, Sanuf, and Uwan into deer too. Then Alappa painted Robun. Alappa and Robun sprinkled paint on the new spears, too.
“Spears look like deer, find deer.” Robun’s eyes shone with anticipation.
“Now we hunt.” Narn spoke solemnly. He handed a spear to each of the other hunters, saving the shortest and lightest one for Uut.
Alappa stood on the terrace and watched the hunters descend the steep path along the side of the cliff, then down into the narrow valley and across the wadi. By the time they disappearred into the shadowed forest, they were no more than dark specks. “Meat soon, Robun’s baby,” she crooned to the little one who slept in her arms.
Uut ran over the rough ground easily. He breathed in the pungent scent of sun-warmed pine needles. He was following so close behind Narn that Narn stepped on Uut's long shadow…
As he walked, Narn silently pointed out heaps of round scat and scraped trees that showed where deer had passed. Narn walked lightly, turning his head to sniff the air and listen to the sounds of the forest. Uut becan to feel that Narn was a deer, wary and shy, looking for a safe place to spend the night.
“Over there,” whispered Narn, pointing to a shallow ravine to the left of the path.
Uut and the other hunters followed Narn down into the ravine. They understood that they would hide there behind low-growing scrubby oak trees until the deer returned along the game trail to find shelter in the forest.
Uut crouched down between Sanuf and Robun. He held his spear upright and kept his eyes on a spot where the trail curved toward them. Uut hoped the deer would come soon. He hoped they would choose this game trail.
The hunters did not talk to each other as they crouched in wait. The sun sank lower, and still they did not move or talk. The paint on Uut‘s back began to itch. He squirmed and tried to scratch himself on the bush behind him. Robun put a stern hand on Uut’ shoulder to make him hold still. She glared at Uut and shook her head sharply.
Uut stopped squirming. But the longer he crouched in the bushes, the more his back itched. Uut wanted to jump up and shout and roll in the evergreen needles on the path. Robun kept her hand on him. Didn’t her paint itch too?
Uut was about to scratch, deer or no deer, when he felt Robun’s fingers tighten on his shoulder. Uut held his breath. He heard the sound of breaking twigs. The deer were coming. Uut strained to escape from Robun’s firece grip. Shouldn’t they jump up now?
Sanuf put his hand on Uut’s other shoulder. Now Uut was pinned from both sides. Sanuf jerked his head toward Narn, telling Uut that Narn would signal when they were to leap out.
Narn was crouched on one knee and one foot, ready to spring. He held his spear in both hands and kept his eyes on the bend in the trail.
Uut let out his breath with a lound whoosh. Sanuf pushed Uut down, angry that his noises might alert the deer.
Now? Uut looked at Narn, Narn looked only at the curve in the game trail.
Then, in a cloud of musky dust, a huge buck thundered past the ravine. Uut felt he could have touched its broad antlers.
Narn crouched as still as a tree trunk, spear at his side.
Two hinds followed the buck.