Back in TimebyMorrigan_©
This chapter was edited by CaptainsSiren.
The sky was cloudless, which only meant that the weather forecaster had hit the winning prize with the latest prediction. Isabel had a huge smile on her face while she was preparing her backpack with the picnic stuff. After two, long years of tireless study and devotion, she had graduated with her Master Degree of Anthropology, and so she had decided to take a little vacation.
Web research had shown her numerous options -- from going on a relatively cheap sex tourism trip in Thailand to renting a private yacht in some cozy place around the Mediterranean. However, she didn't like lying on a beach like a seal. She preferred a cool climate and the forest view. And being in Germany provided her with the best opportunity for her dream vacation. She decided to book herself for a weekend stay in a small family hotel in the Black Forest near the source of the Danube, planning to spend the two days wandering around the meadows and the forests, and enjoy a complete rest before her return to the office.
So, now Isabel was here, carrying a backpack full with a day's load of food, and saying 'Bye' to the very friendly lady that kept the hotel as she went out.
She put a hat on her head and the pack on her back, and headed out, walking the hilly road to the nearby meadow. The few cows that were lazily chewing the lush green grass paid her zero attention.
Isabel felt great, walking briskly, and feeling the blood circulation in her body accelerate with the faster pace. After an hour, she reached the forest and started climbing the path to the closest hill. It took her a better part of the morning to finally get to the small lake that the innkeeper mentioned to be very beautiful with a great view toward the Alps in the distance.
Staring at the snowy tops of the Alps, Isabel was in complete agreement. The view was breathtaking. She could stay here all day round and feel in complete union with Nature.
Near the lake was a massive cliff, and she spotted something that looked like a cave entrance. She thought of exploring it, but she remembered the tour guides and their instruction not to enter unknown caves because doing so could bring you an encounter with bats, rabid animals, and all other kinds of joy.
She put a blanket on the grass, and, removing the hat, laid there looking at the forest and other beautiful views..
The surroundings were so peaceful; she didn't notice as she was lulled into sleep.
A loud, hammer-like sound made her jump, and Isabel suddenly was wide awake.
'What?!' she looked around, noticing that the sky was dark blue with heavy thunder clouds gathering fast over her.
'Tell me about good weather for the weekend!' she thought angrily. Just what she needed -- crappy weather on her first day of vacation.
She stood up and folded the blanket into the backpack, mentally cursing the weather forecast when the first raindrops started to fall. She was pondering the idea of quickly walking back down when the rain got heavier, and then the first lighting landed just ten meters right of her.
'Ok, it seems that, bats or not, I'll eventually explore that cave!'
She quickly covered the distance to the cave, having a few heart attacks while two more lightning bolts hit the ground -- one just over the place that she had been sleeping.
Isabel was running when she reached the cave opening, and, without looking for any bats, she just jumped in.
Once in the cave she just stood there, trembling at the thought of finding a bear, or some other animal. After ten seconds had passed and nothing came to eat her, she fished out her flashlight and carefully examined the cave. No bats, no animals, just small spots of moisture on the walls, and some dry leaves on the floor. She saw no other chambers, which meant that this was not part of a bigger cave.
Turning around, she was just about to sigh with relief when she found herself looking at an ominous looking ball of light hanging in the air at the cave opening.
Isabel screamed and ducked to the floor, hitting the dry leaves a second before the fireball exploded, turning off the world around her.
Waking up was a slow process, and at first she could not understand why she was sleeping on cold rock. Then, in a flash, the memories came to her, and she bolted upright, trying to estimate the damage of the lightning. Isabel ran a careful hand over her body, but nothing seemed out of place -- her jeans and camping shoes were intact, which surprised her. The pink t-shirt also didn't have any traces of burning, which surprised her even more. She opened the backpack and found her handbag mirror, and looked at her reflection.
Everything was in order with her there, too. The same milky white skin, black hair, and blue eyes she remembered. Isabel was quite proud of her good looks, and finding that they were untouched lifted a weight off her shoulders.
Putting the mirror back and standing up, she finally looked around the cave and observed that the walls were covered with a thin ice layer.
She looked disbelievingly at the ice. 'Maybe the lightning has caused some sort of condensation?'
Then it occurred to her that it was actually freezing cold in the cave.
She ignored the cold, and heading to the cave entrance, she glanced around, ready to duck any more lightning.
Suddenly, she was absolutely dumbstruck.
In front of her was a heavy snow cover. She took a step on the puffy stuff, still not believing what she was seeing. Walking on the snow was not easy, but she reached the approximate place where she had been sleeping on the blanket. The meadow now was a big snow field, and the lake was a big piece of ice. Looking south, she noticed enormous ice mountains gleaming under the sun. The sky had light fluffy clouds; the sun was shining just above her, which meant that it was still around lunch time.
She put on all the clothes she had with her -- which was her longsleeved t-shirt and the hat -- and started walking in the direction she knew as a path.
'What has happened here?', she wondered, trying to walk as fast as possible in the knee deep snow. 'A sudden Ice Age like in the movie The Day After Tomorrow? Or am I having hallucinations because of the ball lightning?'.
The last seemed the most logical explanation because she just couldn't believe that a sudden Ice Age would happen in the ten minutes after her coming here. Isabel was practically jumping over the deep snow when she reached the place where, just two hours before, she had started her journey, and where the cows had been munching the grass. Now, the meadow was covered with a light snow, and she could see there were no forests around; neither the picturesque village, nor the hotel, existed. Everything was simply a hilly steppe covered with light snow.
She could see that down at the foot of the hills there was no snow, and some small figures were moving, which meant that, down there, somebody was alive.
She started walking faster, and after an hour Isabel was at the foothills, where there was no longer any snow. The grass was almost ankle high, like a new spring grass, and she noticed a lot of creeks crossing the vast grassland. Obviously, they were fed off the icebergs that were now where the Black Forest should be. Along the creeks there were small conifer forests.
'What is this place? This isn't a sudden Ice Age -- it can't be. Except if I was out much longer than I thought.' She tried to find her mobile phone, but she must have dropped it in the cave, and Isabel had no desire to go back. She realized she didn't seem aged when she had looked in the mirror, and she wasn't even hungry, which meant that it was still before lunchtime.
A shadow crossed over her, and she looked up to see a giant eagle flying above her. It was huge, even in the distance, and had approximately a five meter wingspan. She hurriedly sprinted to the nearby conifer trees, trying not to think of the bird above her. Finding shelter under the spiky branches, she finally faced the reality of her situation.
'Is this a Megafauna eagle?' She peeped under the branches, and the eagle was still there. She had read about the Pleistocene Megafauna, when giant versions of present day animals existed, and when the mammoths roamed the huge steppe that had been Europe. She heard its wild shriek before the eagle dove to the ground for a strike, and then it lifted back into the air with something like a giant deer in its claws.
She tried to remember the classes of Ancient Fauna, and could only remember about the sabre-tooth cats.
With the eagle now busy with the deer and quickly flying in another direction, Isabel crawled out from under the branches and took a look around. She noticed several deer that seemed more frightened than she. In the vicinity were more herds of deer, or some bigger animals that Isabel wasn't too keen to investigate closer.
Isabel took a deep breath and tried to calm herself.
'Ok, so this ball lightning explosion has caused some crack in the time-continuum matter that has led to me being stranded back in time,' she was thinking, still not taking her eyes from the sky, or the nearby steppe, and trying not to think of giant eagles, sabre-tooth cats, or other carnivorous creatures.
'So, even if I climb back to the cave, I won't be able to return because this portal requires a huge amount of energy to work. Maybe these openings in time are something that happens in the wild, we just haven't discovered them. Yet'
The facts, despite that she had just made a Nobel Prize discovery, didn't sound very optimistic in the current situation. She started walking in what she thought to be southward, trying to figure out what to do. 'South seems like a good idea when you are in the Ice Age', she decided.
After a few minutes, Isabel figured out that what she thought to be numerous creeks lined with small conifer trees was actually a huge marshland with lakes and a lot of bogs. The wetland was at the foot of the ice glaciers, forming a border between the icy wilderness and the drier steppe where she had spotted the herds of animals. She was walking along one of the creeks with stable banks for almost an hour when she heard a muffled scream. Carefully, she scanned the sky -- no traces of giant eagles -- and then jogged toward the source of the scream that was coming from the treed area near a lake.
Isabel cautiously went to the bunch of trees. Crawling under the branches and trying to ignore the needles on the ground, she approached the site. She heard one more scream, this time more like an animal grunt, and then she saw what had caused it.
Between the marsh that was spread before the trees and a small creek, she saw a pack of four hyena-like creatures about the size of a large dog surrounding a man who was waist deep stuck in the mud.
'So, I am not so far back in time as I thought because Humans have already arrived in Europe!' Isabel was so happy at that fact that for a moment she forgot about the surroundings. 'Let's see -- the first Humans came to Eastern Europe 32,000 years ago, which means that I'm maybe 30,000 years back in time.'
The knowledge of her time location had a calming effect on her, and she looked again at the stuck man. He was about thirty meters from her. She couldn't see his features clearly, but he seemed like an adult male. He was trying to fend off the hyenas with a long stick with something tied on the end of it.
'Probably a stone spear!' The scientist in her woke up immediately. She couldn't just leave the hyenas to finish the man. After all, his presence meant that somewhere around there are more humans and she wouldn't be alone.
Thinking fast, Isabel grabbed the first stone she found and quickly gathered few more, putting them in the front pocket of her backpack, which was not heavily stuffed. Then she took up a branch that had been chopped from a nearby tree and headed toward the hyenas. Her mind was frightened, but she was determined, and surviving in the Ice Age required swift actions.
The first stone hit the head of the closest hyena, and Isabel heard a bone cracking sound. The hyena went limp on the marshy land. The other animals focused their gazes on her, but Isabel didn't give them time to think. Throwing the next stone, she hit one the hyenas in the front leg, and the other two reconsidered the idea of staying any longer. They began a slow retreat, which turned quicker when Isabel started shouting at them and launching the last stones.
She was breathing heavily with the surge of adrenalin. 'The Animal Rights Organizations would have probably lynched me for my behavior!'
She turned around, trying not to look at the eyes of the dead hyena at her feet, and looked at the man. He had stopped moving, and was looking at her with surprise. She noticed that he had red hair that was in sharp contrast with the mud on his body. She put the backpack down and extended the branch to the man, making gestures to him to grasp the branch.
At first he seemed reluctant, but then slowly extended one much muscled arm and tried to grasp the end of the branch.
'Oh!' She realized that between the end of the branch and him there was at least a foot of distance.
Quickly, she looked around, and then remembered that she had put a rope in her backpack. She quickly unfolded the pack and took out the rope, then tried to throw it at the man.
The first try landed just out of his reach, so she tried again. This time he grabbed it, making a grunt. She grasped her end of the rope and pulled, but he was unmovable. She started to sweat and removed the second t-shirt she had put on up in the mountains. Isabel pulled again.
Again nothing, and she looked at the stuck man, wiping the sweat from her forehead. He was speaking something to her, and she stopped, trying to figure out what he was saying but not comprehending a single word.
He spoke once more, and then he noticed her expression.
With gestures that resembled a pantomime she had seen once, he tried to explain something.
Following the movements of his hands, she deduced that he was imitating tying up something around a stick.
'Maybe to tie the rope around a tree?', she pondered, trying to connect the words with the gestures.
She looked at his eyes, noticing they were light blue and seemed very beautiful. Then she spotted the prominent brow ridge above them and froze.
Scanning the rest of his face, she noticed his jaw line seemed odd -- it was elongated backwards. His skin, that was not covered with mud, was very white and pale, and he had a slightly longer nose. His upper body was extremely muscled like the bodybuilders she had watched on the TV.
She realized her stare had stopped him from his mimic-gesture form of communication, and now he was watching her cautiously.
'God! He is a Neanderthal!', she realized, looking again at the blue eyes.
She dropped the rope and made a step back. Stunned, she sat down on the ground and took her head in her hands.
'What am I going to do? He is a Neanderthal, which means I have been stranded at least 40,000 years back in time!' She knew that there were theories about Neanderthals surviving to at least 30,000 years ago in present day Spain, but they were just theories. And then she remembered reading about Neanderthals being cannibals. 'I'm stuck here!'
Isabel tried to back up, and looked over at the man. He had stopped moving. Now, he was watching her with a stony expression on his face. She felt a slight tingling in her head and tried to focus.
'Ok! Neanderthal or not, he is just a man.....human...whatever...that needs help.'
She stood up again, and felt something wet on her face. She hadn't noticed until then that she had shed tears.
With trembling hands, she took up the rope and indicated to the man to hold the other end. He grasped it, eyeing her with a strange expression on his face. She went to the nearest tree that the length of the rope allowed, and tied it around the trunk. He was waiting patiently, and when she was ready, he started to pull himself out the mud. She noticed his biceps were extraordinary as he managed to pull himself out up to the thighs with just a few movements.
The trunk started to make crunching noises, but was holding up. He had pulled himself out to the knees when the first cracks appeared on the trunk. When he was free the tree was almost bent completely down. With very graceful movements, he basically crawled on the surface of the mud and soon reached the dry land.
She was watching him warily, but made no move to run. She knew that it was pointless. To run where -- to the hyenas, the saber tooth cats and the giant eagles? 'At least with the Neanderthal it could be less painful to die,' she thought.
Isabel was standing there, waiting for him to make the next move with acquiescence. He eyed her carefully, and then went to the creek and cleaned the mud from himself. She saw he was still holding the stick with the stone blade. Then she noticed he was dressed in something like trousers, made of pieces of tanned animal hides, and stitched with bones like buttons along the length of his legs. He had boot-like shoes on his feet, and something like a belt with a scabbard holding a bone knife.
His upper, muscled torso was naked, and for a moment she admired his sculptured pectorals. Now that he was not covered with mud, she noticed that he had no beard. His face was cleanly shaven, and his shoulder-length hair was elaborately tied behind him with hide bands. He was about six feet tall, which surprised her as it was far beyond the average five feet five inches height she had read about the Neanderthals.
Then she remembered a lecture about Ancient Hominids, and the professor explaining that the early Neanderthal average male height was about 175 cm while the late Neanderthals were almost 10 centimeters shorter.
Which meant that she was at least 60,000 years back in time -- which meant that there were still no Cro Magnons in Europe.
She went still when he approached. He untied the rope, inspecting it curiously. Then he carefully touched her and retracted his hand, like he was dealing with a frightened animal. Putting the rope at her feet, he made a gesture to follow him.
'Well, at least I will see a Neanderthal tribe before being eaten.' She tried to cheer up as she stuffed the rope back into her backpack and started to walk after him.
He was walking slowly, turning from time to time to look at her.
She noticed everything in him was very much masculine, watching the play of the muscles on his back. Strange, but she didn't smell any odor from him, even when he had approached her. Combined with his clean shaven face, it looked like he was very keen on his personal hygiene.
The weather was cool, but sunny. Isabel could see the glaciers on her left side, so she knew they were walking west. After about two hours, she estimated from the position of the sun, she started to feel hungry. She stopped walking.
"Hey!" Isabel tried to say it calmly. He turned and looked at her with human-like raised eye ridges.
She sat down on the grass and opened the backpack. He was watching her curiously when she took out the box with the food and opened it -- slices of cheese, ham, several tomatoes, apples, plums, and even a can with fresh cherries, one baguette, and a bottle of mineral water. She put the tablecloth on the ground and set out the plastic cups and knife before slicing the baguette in two.
She handed him one of the halves, and saw the strange expression that went through his features. He took it, and said something very melodically, touching his forehead in a gesture like a nod. Then she gave him pieces of the cheese and the ham, and they started to eat in silence. She watched as he almost wolfed the food down, which likely meant he was very hungry.