The orange glow of the sun brought warmth to my face and body and quickly aroused me from my slumber. I awoke to the familiar view of the valley below us. Snow caked every tree as if nature was trying its best to hide the color green from our vision. The trees stood tall but still appeared minuscule from our perch on the ridgeline above. Our village was nestled into a hollowed-out portion of the formidable mountain above us. Our rickety houses consisted mainly of sticks and mud except for the grand common space. Large mastodon tusks lined the rough stone staircase towards Chief’s house and the path maintained a constant orange hue from a series of torches.
The common space was alive with the incessant buzzing of villagers conversing among themselves on the dirt floor that surrounded the slate speaking platform. A few minutes after I arrived, Chief finally emerged from his dwelling. Chief called out to the villagers assembled before him. He raised his hands and shouted, “My family we have come across a familiar problem that must be dealt with quickly. Winter has once again lasted longer than expected and we find ourselves in dire need of food.” Murmurs rolled across the crowd like a tidal wave as all of us knew what Chief was asking. “My family,” Chief started up again in a powerful voice. “I am asking again for a team of hunters and gatherers to descend into the valley to collect as much food as possible for the village.” Another older fellow took the stage next to Chief. He held a piece of drawing slate and a carving knife. The other man somberly questioned the crowd, “Do we have any volunteers?” A few murmurs rippled through the crowd before a few hands shot up from the usual folk. The first hands to go up were from the typical warriors and hunters who always volunteered themselves for anything that would bring them closer to death. I envied them for their bravery and desperately wanted to show the village that I could be an equally valuable member. About ten hands had appeared before I nervously decided that I was going to reach for the sky and volunteer myself.
I was the only girl of the group, but so far I had proved myself as a skilled huntswoman on the various species that lived on or above the ridgeline, but I knew the valley would be fraught with challenges I had never experienced before. Our group of tattered fur pelts descended through the snow into the uncertainty that lay ahead. With each step we took, the environment around us transformed. The sparsely existent trees of the ridgeline exploded into a dense conifer forest that shielded our view in all directions. Soft, white snow hung off the tree branches like a robe which greatly disoriented us as we tried to find the easiest route to the center. As we continued crunching along through the snow, the familiar pine fragrance of springtime flooded our nostrils, signaling that we must be close to the center of the valley.
Sunlight pierced through the narrow slits between branches like a thousand freshly forged swords. We followed the glistening light through the forest until a branch was pushed aside, revealing the valley before us. The valley had been shielded from the harsh storms that plagued the ridgelines and only maintained a dusting of snow throughout even the worst winters. As the sun warmed the Earth, small flowers in purples, yellows, reds, and blues scattered themselves across the valley; their heads poking up through the minuscule layer of snow. The flowers were accompanied by hordes of small bushes and trees; all of which provided either fruit or roots we could harvest.
We knew we had to be quick as the conifers provided shadows for all kinds of animals to hide behind and a group this big would surely draw some notice. We set off scratching through the snow, collecting roots and berries. After a short while of digging, one of the huntsmen signaled us to come to him. He pointed to the ground and with a quick glance, and I instantly understood why he called us over. There on the shavings of snow were the tell-tale toe markings of a big cat, so big in fact, that his tail dragged along the snow behind him. I looked at the huntsmen with a look of wonder. He stared back at me, though appearing to look through me, “saber tooth,” he whispered. At that moment a look of fear rippled across his face of stone. His mouth moved to say something, but he quickly shoved me to the ground. At that moment an enormous saber tooth tiger soared out of a snowbank and crushed the huntsman with one swift clench of his jaw. The other huntsmen and warriors shrieked and split up in a wild scurry in a foolish attempt to save themselves. I stayed still hunkered down in the snowbank. The tiger chased the others around and one by one killed them all.
As the sounds of shrieking faded, I emerged from the snowbank, grabbed my spear, and began to collect the food the others had dropped. I treaded softly across the snow and silently slipped back into the shadows of the conifer forest. The path back to the village snaked its way along the steep cliffs of the mountainside. I was nearly at the village when a low, rolling growl filled my eardrums from the ridgeline above me. I looked up and saw the tigers’ fangs flicker in the light of the setting sun. I dropped the food bags and grabbed my spear just as the tiger lept. I closed my eyes, pointed my spear, and screamed. I felt a punch to my chest and tasted the all too familiar metallic taste of blood. I opened my eyes and was surprised by the tiger laying motionless, skewered on my spear. I finished the steep hike up to the village and collapsed to a hero’s welcome at the gate. The murmurs once again rolled through the crowd as they gazed upon the massive saber tooth tiger that stripped the lives of so many from our village.