Once upon a time there was a cave. It was a warm cave, with a steam vent from the old volcano. The old volcano loomed over the cave, which was part of it. But the volcano was so covered in thick forest that it didn’t look like a volcano, but rather an old man snoozing away as his green beard drifted along over his foothills and down into the valley below.
It was a quiet cave, tucked between the roots of two great, old trees, who slowly and silently fought for sunlight with each other over the millennia. Unless you knew the cave was there, it was just another jumble of low bushes and a few tumbled rocks.
And the cave had been occupied for most of its long, long life. More than the normal cave occupants of spiders and earthworms. And more than the occasional hibernating bear and wandering chipmunk. This cave had been occupied since time immemorial by something resembling humans before humans resembled humans.
Now Og occupied the cave. He was the last of his clan, as the clan hadn’t seen any other clans at the last great meeting. Every five seasons the clans had gathered and in the last ten gatherings no other clans had arrived. So Og, then a child, gradually had nursed each of the older clan members until their deaths. Now he was readying for his eleventh gathering, going alone in the hopes of finding another clan to join. Perhaps he could even tell them of his clan cave and they would want to come and live there with him.
Og traveled for many days, eating the dried meat he had stored for the journey. He was getting older, but he was still strong and could run for day after day on the thick hides of his feet. But when he arrived at the clan gathering place, no one was there. Og waited for five days, but no one arrived. The only sign of a temporary dwelling was the one his own clan had made the last time they had come to the gathering place.
It could not be. Og decided to seek out the other clan dwellings. He knew that there had been several to the south. Perhaps they had simply decided not to go to the gatherings and to keep their own clan or to trade between clans. Og had brought things to trade with him in a leather parcel, so perhaps he could trade in the south.
Again Og traveled for many days. Then he came across the strangest thing. A long, flat stone, painted in the middle, stretching out of sight through the forest in both directions. Og touched the stone gingerly with his foot. It was warm from the sun, and made of tiny stones stuck together. Og could not think what could have done such a thing. It was a God path, and one did not tread on the paths of the Gods. Og was not certain which of the clan Gods could have made such a thing, but he turned and ran alongside the path. Somehow running alongside the paths of the Gods made him feel less alone.
Then Og heard a rumble. Something was coming along the God path, a great thing loaded down with torn up trees like a great beetle carrying its dung. Og stood respectfully off to the side of the God path and made the three fingered salute of his clan toward this great God beetle.
As the beetle neared Og it slowed and stopped. A great belching and grinding emitted from its front. Og wandered if the God beetle was hungry and reached in his pack to offer the beetle some of the last of his dried meat.
A man climbed out of the beetle. He was dressed all in one color and his forehead jutted forward like the bill of a duck. He approached Og and made strange sounds. Og offered the God beetle man his jerky. The man took the jerky and looked it over. He took a bite and chewed thoughtfully. Then the God beetle man gestured to the beetle and motioned for Og to follow him. One did not refuse the Gods, so soon Og was seated inside the head of the beetle and traveling at enormous speeds along the God path.
Og thought this must be how the other members of the clan had been gathered up by the Gods. His body must have fallen back in the woods suddenly and he was now traveling to the spirit realm. Og felt sad that no one would sing the mourning song for him, so he sang it to himself under his breath. He spent most of the time with his eyes closed, because surely they would die at any moment. But the man next to him chattered on in his strange language. At one point the man poked at the beetle and the beetle began to sing in a woman’s voice to Og, and Og tried to escape. When the Gods called with a woman’s voice they were calling the clan to death. The man saw Og’s terror and poked the beetle again. The woman’s voice stilled. Og felt much relieved.
To speak of what Og felt when he entered the great lighted gathering of the Gods would be to somehow desecrate the memory. It was many moons before Og could understand that the beetles and the men were only a great clan that had taken over his lands. Four seasons passed before Og was released from a great white place full of pain and misery. Then Og became friends with others who had long hair and admired Og. He had learned words like “back to the land” and “hippie,” but did not understand what they meant. But these people listened when Og talked about his cave.
Soon Og led the others to where he had seen the first God beetle truck. From there many followed him into the woods, but many fell away over the days of running. Still more left the group when Og went from the gathering place toward his cave. By the end, Og had only five with him, and his cave welcomed them. And the cave was occupied again.
- Beetle Sculpture (magpiejaybirdandmew.wordpress.com)
- Beetle on flower macro (anthonli.wordpress.com)
- Caramelized Herb Tomato Pesto (cali-zona.com)
- Pining for a beetle genome (eurekalert.org)