skulls

Juke… a name in later eras, a grunt in his own… was feared by all who heard its guttural utterance… Juke the Brute, the Bully, the Hooligan… Juke who broke the Rule, then picked his reeking teeth with its splintered bone… who bent his mates to ground then mounted them from the rear… who learned to club his enemies when brawn would not suffice… Juke the Clever, the Cunning, the Sinister, he who spread malevolence far and near, led the monkey mind astray incorrigibly, tainted future Ages with his oil-spill sperm… Juke the Fluke, the Mutant, the Spoiler… Juke whose vice begot Original Sin—in the long run, in the starting blocks of a race lasting sixty million years (and then some), bound for a box-canyon, led his hapless followers into Oblivion… Juke the Stud, the Father, the Fallen Angel… Juke the Primogenitor, of your ilk and mine, once:

upon a hungry time, or a lazy time, or during adolescence (Juke a juvenile), witnessed an elder sister’s giving birth… to a stillborn (as often happened when food was scarce)… leaving it where it dropped, from her crotch, on a bed of bloodied fern fronds… which, in his sibling’s wake, younger brother nuzzled… nibbled a tentative taste… then hastily devoured. That harsh season saw many such issues. Males of the troupe lost weight, as females lost young—males with one exception; Juke, it came to pass, gained vim and vigor.

Would such a diet convert an omnivore to a carnivore? Could cannibalism corrupt chromosomes, deeds deform genes? Or was Juke’s a quirk from birth unexpressed until given an opportunity? Whatever its root the shoot grew fit and huge. Hormones mobbed Juke’s bloodstream, pumped up his muscles, glossed his auburn coat to an eye-catching sheen, made him strut—puff-chested and semi-erect—snorting, tearing up turf, roaring at random, his ego, like his testicles, gorged and inflamed, goading him into spates of unchecked aggressiveness… which led, at length, to his challenging the troupe’s most formidable breeder, whom Juke, perforce, overcame—then summarily beat to death.

Never before had ascension—so fatally—been achieved. The troupe split. Mothers, preoccupied with their offspring’s survival, sided with Juke, sensing that his would be the traits to prevail… and rightly so, for those who balked went unfertilized, while rivals veered into orbit or submitted without a fuss, confusion run rampant, irrespective, both camps shocked and oppressed by the new world order.

Drought released its strangle hold. Plenty returned. Meat resumed its place as an infrequent supplement (temporarily)—a staple only for Juke, his harem, and their bloodthirsty brood—while those who had abstained regrouped sans further persecution, the Trees of Life and Knowledge went back to producing apples alone, and Time prepared to turn a less putrid page.

Whereupon two of Juke’s reunified troupe wandered off (both from among the former dissidents), their lineage-saving elopement accomplished sight unseen.

 

When Ian started...

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