lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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Hi everybody!  This story was prompted and sponsored by Unimaginative of We Hunted the Mammoth, who wanted an example of human diversity if the Toba Volcano had never blown.  UPDATE: the bonus sketch is now up!  Enjoy!

The Weather Tellers

In Maba’s world, there were a huge variety of peoples.  There were the Small People to the southwest, who made all the best devices and mechanisms but had a government bureaucracy defying description.  There were the Strong People to the northwest, who made the best musicians and wandered to herd their sheep and goats.  Then there were the Sun People, which everyone avoided since they were notoriously violent and undiscriminating in their diet.

Maba came from the Weather People.  Her people were a valuable part of the land, because it was they who could feel the earth’s turns and the sky’s whispered threats.  All the other peoples came to Maba’s family with important questions: when would the next rain come?  Would the winter be harsh?  Was that smoking mountain a danger?

The knowledge did not come cheap, but the Weather People were wrong far less often than anyone else, so everyone saw it a worthwhile expense.  Their abilities insured profitable farms, and so all Weather People were held in high esteem.

Except Maba, who was running away.

She was dashing low across the grassland, trying to be silent and invisible in the night, when she collided with someone doing the exact same thing from the exact opposite direction.

There was much yelping and muffled shrieking and baring of teeth until they saw each other’s clutch of belongings (Maba’s sack; the stranger’s wicker backpack) and recognized each other as runaways.  No longer in fear for their lives, they calmed down, and Maba saw that the stranger was a Strong girl, probably not much older than her—at least, so she guessed.  Strong People were so big and robust that it was sometimes hard to tell, even in daylight.

“You… Weather People?” the Strong girl asked, her tongue clumsy. (Strong People spoke through whistling, but they understood other peoples’ languages better than the reverse.)

“Yes, I’m running away,” Maba said. “You?”

“Yes.  I run too.  I hope to be Weather People.”

“Why?” Maba asked, but she could tell by the girl’s furrowed brow that the explanation was probably difficult for someone speaking a second language. (Or possibly third or fourth; Strong People moved a lot.)

“You,” the Strong girl said instead. “Why you go?  So I know better.”

Fair enough; she wanted to know the people she was trying to join.  Maba sat cross-legged in the grass and put down her sack; the Strong girl was already crouching down.

“We aren’t all weather tellers,” she explained. “Only some of us, and it takes a lot of training and practice.  My family is one of the big weather teller bloodlines.”


“They don’t do that anymore so much, but they do break your knee.  They have to; it’s part of how we feel the weather.” Maba rubbed her (still unbroken) knees and felt the lack of a walking stick that all grown weather tellers carried. “But I’m a mediocre weather teller, and I think they won’t waste a broken knee on me.  The only use for a mediocre weather teller is a teacher for younger, better ones, and I’m the youngest of my bloodline, so have no one to teach.  I’m an embarrassment.  So I decided to leave.”


“I… I don’t know yet,” Maba admitted.

It was embarrassing to admit, but the Strong girl just nodded.  But then, her people were nomads.  Maybe leaving without a destination was an ordinary part of her life.

“What about you?” Maba asked.

The Strong girl ducked her head and flopped down and extended a leg, and Maba gasped.

The Strong girl had been so occluded by the darkness that Maba had just assumed she was running crouched like her.  Now, though, she could see that the girl’s legs were unnaturally short, and one looked twisted around.  Not good in a tribe of nomad herders who were constantly on the move.

“My knee is already break two times,” the Strong girl said, tapping her leg, obviously groping for words. “I… I feel weather?  Know weather?  A little.  But Weather People do better.”

“So you want to be a weather teller,” Maba said. “I’m sorry, but they’d never let you.  You’d need to be part of one of the bloodlines, or you’d never find a teacher…”

She felt the epiphany like a thunderbolt; she even smelled it on the air and felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up.  She was of the bloodline!  She could be a teacher!  And it was a perfectly acceptable thing for one in her family to do, so she wouldn’t be an embarrassment anymore… well, not in the same way.  Teaching someone from outside the bloodline was a risky proposition, but it had been done in the past.

She had a purpose.  She had a friend.  Maybe she didn’t have to leave.

Maba stood up and shouldered her sack again. “Come on,” she said. “I can teach and introduce you.”

The Strong girl did not smile—her people didn’t—but she made a pleased whistle and stood up to heft her pack again.

“What’s your name?  I’m Maba.”

“Maba.  Thank you.  I’m,” a swooping whistle, from high to low.

Maba tried to imitate it; if High-Low was appalled by her attempt, she didn’t let on. “Nice to meet you.”

They went home together to face the Weather People.

Date: 2014-06-13 12:06 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-06-13 04:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What a delightful coincidence--I was listening to The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt on the way to work today and was pondering the population bottleneck caused by Toba. Assuming you mean the Sun People to be the behaviorally modern Homo Sapiens who survived Toba, Haidt has a different take on the loss of human diversity--that the reason our distant ancestors survived was not because they were more violent, but because they cooperated better. (Plus, I imagine, they had a huge dollop of luck.) It's disturbing, to say the least, to ponder humans who were even worse than us at living together. I guess we have an idea of what that might look like with the brilliant but very selfish modern chimps. I find your vision more comforting.

Let the science/speculation fall where it may, I adored the strange-to-us customs of these different peoples and the ways that those who don't quite fit find community and purpose. Nice story, and I'd love to see more of this non-Toba world.
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