فصل 04

مجموعه: کتاب های متوسط / کتاب: 2001 - اودیسه فضایی / فصل 4

کتاب های متوسط

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فصل 04

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  • زمان مطالعه 6 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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CHAPTER FOUR

The Leopard

The tools they had been programmed to use were simple enough. There was the hand-held stone and the long bone. With these they could kill, but they needed something else, because their teeth and fingers could not pull apart any animal larger than a rabbit. Luckily, Nature had provided the perfect tool. It was simply the lower jaw-bone of an animal, with the teeth still in place. There would be no great improvement on this until the invention of steel.

With these tools in their hands, they could feed on the limitless food of the grasslands and become the masters of the world. They accepted their new life easily, and did not connect it with the rock that was still standing beside the path to the river.

However, the group still had occasional days when they failed to kill anything. At the end of one of these, coming back to the caves empty-handed, they found a wild cow lying by the path. Its front leg was broken, but it still had plenty of fight left in it. Moon-Watcher’s group circled the animal carefully, then moved in and killed it with their long bones and stones.

This took some time, and now it was getting dark. Moon-Watcher knew it would be dangerous to stay any longer. Then he had a wonderful idea. He thought hard, and in time managed to imagine the cow - in the safety of his own cave. He took its head and began to drag it along the path. The others understood and helped him.

The slope was steep and the animal was heavy, but eventually they got it inside the cave. As the last of the light left the sky. They started to eat.

Hours later, his stomach full, Moon-Watcher suddenly woke up. At first he did not know why, but then, from a long way away, he heard the sound of a falling stone. Afraid but curious, he moved to the entrance of the cave and looked down the slope.

Then he was so afraid that it was long seconds before he could move. Only six meters below, two shining golden eyes were staring straight up at him. He was frozen with fear and hardly saw the powerful body behind them, moving silently from rock to rock. The leopard had never climbed so high before. It had ignored the lower caves and followed the smell of blood up the hillside.

Seconds later, the night became noisy as the other man-apes cried out in fear. The leopard made an angry sound but it did not stop. It reached the entrance and rested for a moment. The smell of blood was all around. Then it came silently into the cave.

And here it made its first mistake, because as it moved out of the moonlight, even its night-hunter’s eyes were at a disadvantage. The man-apes could see it against the moonlight outside, but it could not see them.

The leopard knew that something was wrong when the first bone hit the side of its head. It swung its front leg and heard a scream of pain as the leg struck soft flesh. Then something sharp went into its side - once, twice, and a third time. It turned round to strike at the shadows dancing on all sides.

Something hard hit it across the nose. Its teeth closed on a white object, but it was only dead bone. And now something was pulling its tail. It turned around, throwing its attacker against the wall of the cave. But whatever it did, it could not escape the bones and stones that were hitting it from all sides. The noises it made turned from pain to fear and then to terror. The hunter was now the hunted, and it was trying to escape.

And then it made its second mistake, because in its fear it had forgotten where it was. It ran straight out of the entrance at high speed - too high for the steep slope. It rolled and turned and cried as it fell. There was a heavy sound as it crashed into some rocks far below.

Moon-Watcher stood at the entrance to the cave. He listened to the silence as the last stones stopped falling. Then he started to shout and dance, because he knew that his whole world had changed. A long time later, he went back into the cave and, for the first time in his life, he had an unbroken night’s sleep.

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